see chap. 1 for notes, warnings
+ Chapter 8
Then Duo stopped.
"I'll circle around to the Gundams and check our perimeter there." He snapped. "You make sure no-one's attacking the safe-house, and help the others evacuate."
"... Acknowledged." Wufei thought that was mighty helpful of Duo. Showed that maybe he had his head in the right place after all, if he was thinking of the Gundams first instead of hanging around the safe-house hoping to be grouped up with Yuy when he left. He normally wouldn't leave Nataku's safety in charge of anyone but in this instance... maybe he should encourage that.
Wufei knew the others were in or near the safe-house, preparing to evacuate. There hadn't been that many enemy soldiers, they'd only seen four or five people, but it was probably an advanced reconnaissance party. Once OZ knew where they were, mobile suits and armoured troops were inevitable. Better leave now and have a chance to shake them off quickly.
No one had encircled the safe-house yet. Wufei stuck his head in the door, snapped ‘All clear, hurry!' at Trowa and Quatre who were efficiently packing and dismantling the installation. Wufei grabbed his own things and Duo's he knew the braided pilot would not come back to retrieve his few possessions now that he was near his Gundam, he would prioritize evacuation of the machine- and waited, weapon drawn, for the others.
They were almost to the clearing when he realized Trowa was carrying Heero's things as well as his own and that the perfect soldier hadn't followed them out of the safe-house.
"Where's Yuy?" Heero would be the first to abandon his things to get to Wing, but he'd not passed them on his way to the clearing. Where... ?
"He went to check on the Gundams when the alarm was first tripped." Trowa told Wufei in curt tones. "He and Duo will be leaving as soon as we get-"
"What?!" Wufei swore in mandarin. "He managed to corner him?! Now they'll be stuck together for days!" He glared at Deathscythe who was powering up, along with Wing. Behind him Quatre was already running towards Sandrock. Trowa had stopped to stare at the Chinese pilot.
"What do you mean?" ‘Corner him'? Trowa was suddenly worried, remembering Heero's bad mood. Did Wufei know something about it? Come to think about it, he'd seen Wufei and Heero arguing from the kitchen window, and they'd both looked pretty upset. At one point Wufei had shouted and Trowa thought he'd heard Duo's name. Well, Wufei shouting about Duo was far from unusual, but now, Wufei seemed to be really worried about something.
A stream of mandarin was his only answer as Wufei swung up the zipcord towards Nataku's mechanical embrace. Trowa frowned and left to get Heavyarms. It was too late, Wing and Deathscythe were about to take off. If Heero injured Duo... Quatre would be horrified, as hurt as if the punches landed on him instead. Trowa glared at Wing and hoped the perfect soldier wasn't planning anything more than chewing Maxwell out for whatever the braided youth had done now.
In the woods, the man paused. He signalled to the four others behind him to crouch down, and they complied, lifting their weapons as they watched the leader attentively.
The man drew an small dark cylinder from the pocket of his military fatigues. He looked around carefully, ears prickling to the strange silence that had fallen around them. Then he lifted the object to his lips, shifting his gun to rest on his hip as he did so. The sound from the object shattered the silence, throbbing like a wounded warning siren.
One of the other men frowned.
"Emmet, that doesn't sound anything like a "
The entire world heaved and shuddered from several blasts nearby. The men yelled lips moving in apparent silence as their voices were high jacked by the tumult- and hit the forest mulch as two objects ripped the air above their heads, barely clearing the tree-line.
Before they could even lift their heads, another three objects hurtled overhead on a slightly different vector, waves of pressure from the sheer mass flattening them to the ground, showering them with leaves and bits of twig and a sound that was almost a physical presence.
A moment of silence...
A branch cracked overhead, and a few more twigs showered down upon the huddled figures.
Finally one of them lifted his head and stared at the leader who was cowering in a pile of last season's dead leaves, his army surplus fatigues quite mulched and his deer rifle forgotten in a puddle.
"Bloody hell, Emmet..." The slightly concussed hunter could barely hear his own words for the ringing in his ears, not that he was making much sense. "What kind of moose call are you using?"
Quatre had already selected a new safe-house, a fallback position that he'd been saving for a rainy day. And it was. Raining that is.
The house was a two-bedroom bungalow near an abandoned private airfield. It was a good hideout because the rusty old airplane hangar could have been built with the intention of hiding a bunch of Gundams. Quatre let Sandrock power down by itself and left the others to manage unpacking supplies while he went to check and activate the security net his Maguanac friends had installed on a previous visit a few months ago.
"I'll send Heero and Duo the coordinates as soon as I finish checking things in the house." He shouted over his back as he left through the hangar door.
"At least they won't be alone together long." Wufei muttered as he dropped his bag on the tarmac and turned back to Shenlong for the next load.
And ran smack into a silent Trowa who had appeared like a ghost behind him.
"Barton! You're as bad as Maxwell, don't sneak up on people like that!"
"You're worried about Duo being alone with Heero."
"Damn right!" Then Wufei bit his lip and swore at himself silently in mandarin. He wasn't about to expose Yuy's problem to the others...
"I can see why. They'll be here in an hour and we can run interference between them then." Trowa said calmly.
Wufei's eyebrows shot up.
"Yes, it would be hard to miss." Heero was the legendary five-hundred pound gorilla, you kept a careful eye on him and his moods. Especially when he appeared to be mad at someone. And especially when that someone was a hyper braided boy who was never as careful around Heero as he should be.
Wufei was mortified. Had it been that obvious? He'd have stayed completely ignorant if Yuy, in his understandable annoyance and stress, hadn't slipped up... But Trowa was the infiltrator, a silent presence at their back who spent his time watching and listening rather than talking; if anyone would have noticed Duo's lustful pursuit of Heero-...
"Barton, we have to do something!" His anger was reigniting. Maxwell had promised-... but he was pretty sure his offer to check the Gundams had been intentional so he could leave with Heero. "This is... unjust!"
"Well we can't do anything until they get back. I just hope nothing happens in the meantime." Trowa shrugged, laconic in the face of factors he couldn't control.
"Ha-happens?" Wufei blanched, then caught himself. "Heero will kill him first!"
Trowa's eyebrows shot up. "It's-... that bad? I don't know how far this has gone... ." He didn't know the specifics. What had Duo done? Was it bad enough for Heero to finally make good on all his threats?
"How far did you think Heero would let it go!" Wufei's cheeks blazed.
"I-... Heero didn't look that angry about it, Wufei." Whatever ‘it' was.
Wufei blanched again. "Are-are you suggesting-" He shook his head sharply. No. No way. No no no way. He didn't even want to think about it. "Heero is just doing what he thinks is best for the team. He'll put up with a lot for that, he's a dedicated, single-minded warrior."
"It can't be what's best for the team, to harm Duo. I know he can be annoying sometimes, and... hurtful-" Trowa kept a firm control on his voice. "But he's our comrade."
"And he has to be made to remember that! Don't worry, Yuy will only rattle his teeth if things get to a head. Although he has my permission to do worse!" Wufei suddenly frowned. At the back of his mind, he realized that... he didn't really mean that. Part of his attempts to get through to Maxwell was worry about their team. He had a feeling that Yuy was the kind who would put up with a lot with complete indifference until you reached a certain point... and then-... then things could completely flip around, and get very ugly indeed.
Duo... Duo wasn't his favourite person right now Wufei scowled at the memory of insults directed at him as well as at Yuy- but he didn't want to see the braided menace with a hole in his head.
Trowa was frowning at him, wondering which side he was on, exactly, since he didn't seem to be making much sense either way. Just who was Wufei worried about here?
Wufei scowled, realizing he'd probably shocked the stoic pilot, who seemed to get along with Duo fairly well. "I mean... well, I hope it doesn't go too far, but Duo has a good bruising coming to him, that's for certain! How he can insult Yuy that way... pursuing him in the middle of a war, when all our attention should be focused on the liberation of the colonies, not our-our hormones! I don't think Yuy will kill him; he didn't look murderous about it, just resigned. He might give Maxwell a good hiding if he thinks he's going too far, but I don't think he'd-... but I know for a fact that he does mind Duo's libidinous pursuit of him, Barton!" Wufei added to the blank face. "How could he not! And if you heard what Maxwell said to me! You would-"
Wufei stared at the hand that had appeared in front of his face, one finger slightly raised.
"I'm sorry." Trowa's voice
was as calm and flat as always, but his eyes were glinting slightly in
the dim light of the dusty hangar. "Can we rewind this back a little bit
and start again?"