Author: Maldoror
Disclaimer: Gundam Wing belongs to its owners (Bandai, Sunset, and a whole host of others, none of which are me) and I'm not making any money off of them. Not a single peanut
see chap. 1 for more notes

AN: I realized from a few reviews that I went a bit fast in explaining the various plans the guys have set in place (see, I do pay attention to comments!) This story and the plot has been in my head for roughly two-three years. So I might go a bit fast over some details. I tried to make them clearer in this chapter! Tell me if it works.

The Source Of All Things + Chapter 26
Five Threads Of Fate Weave Together.

"This is fucking insane. You know that? Sit here."

"..."

"Oh stand if you want. Trust me, you'll wish you were sitting down soon."

"..."

"I love a man of few words! You do know, gorgeous, that serving as the conduit will take a lot out of you. Leave you quite exhausted actually."

"..."

"But that's okay! Ol' Svale will be glad to nurse ya back to health! You know what, handsome? Sponge baths are my specialty!"

"..."

"What does it take to get a rise out of you, kid? Come on, tell me. I'm taking notes."

"..."

"Why do you bother, Svale." Quatre's clear voice carried over the stones of the cirque.

Svale left Heero in the circle she'd scratched into the ground with her staff. It didn't look like much but it didn't have to; it was as pregnant with power as a loaded gun, and Heero was standing in the barrel.

The old crone bounced over to Quatre, planted her staff between two stones and scrambled up so she could stare into his eyes.

"Remind me why this is such a brilliant plan again?" She hissed.

Quatre looked through her - he knew that annoyed her, and worried her, but there was too much at stake to cater to her. He had to keep his eyes on the lines twisting like whips, lashing at their future.

The cirque was one of three in the sanctuary. They were at optimal distance apart, in a loose triangle, two beneath ground and one above. When the power rang between the three of them, it would create a wave that would resonate throughout the planet's crust, propagate to the magnetic field and set up the spell project by the Source beneath the sanctuary. All it needed was a power source strong enough to make the whole thing ring.

Center had enough power. But it was scattered about her. Svale's ring - despite looking like a crude sketch of an octagon done by a six-year-old - had the ability to gather it. But a human mind had to concentrate it, pool it until it could be unleashed, or it would dissipate as soon as it was gathered.

"Look, Quatre." Svale ground out. "I'm taking you on your word when you say Heero'll survive-"

"Might survive."

"But it's the other bit I'm worried about. Stopping the Dragon from turning us all into chopped liver while Heero gathers the energy for the spell."

Quatre shrugged, although it was true that that part was still a mystery to him too. "Fen should be powerful enough to slow him down."

"But not if the Dragon summons Jusan! Then nothing could slow him down short of a black hole up the butt." Svale countered, her wrinkled old face creasing even more with worry.

"Svale, Master S tells us that the herald has been on the planet for the last three hours. So far he's not summoned Jusan." Quatre pointed out.

"Nothin' indicates that that blissful state of affairs will continue once we start collecting Center's energy. Some of it will bleed off into the cirque while Heero's gathering it. I did my best to insulate the circle but it's inevitable. It will cause a few reactions in the cirque. That kind of power gathering will stand out like a troll at a leprechaun convention. Jusan will know we're up to something, and he'll be able to pinpoint our location; he'll order his herald to cast the summoning spell and then he'll obliterate the planet."

"I...think not."

"Oh good."

"But he will send his herald here to kill Heero and stop us."

"Oh bad."

Svale stared at him blankly. "Quatre...do you really think Fen has the power to stop the Dragon?"

"I don't know, Svale. Too many variables. Let's go see if Heero is ready and take our posts." Quatre walked slowly towards Heero, cutting the conversation short. Svale leapt down from her staff and ran right up to the warrior for a good-luck grope - hopping right over the crude line in the dirt to glomp his leg.

"Svale!" Quatre stared at the scuffed line. "Your circle -" He ducked as Svale passed over his head in a gentle curve. Heero must be worried about all this too, Quatre thought absently. That was nowhere near the strength of his normal Svale-hurl.

Svale was back on her feet with a bounce, as unhurt as if Heero had struck the planet's core with a wet towel. Being a warden had some advantages.

"Be careful of the circle." Quatre said weakly as Svale looked ready to make another attempt at a goodbye hug.

"What, this thing?" Svale tapped the line in the dirt with the end of her staff she'd picked up. "It's nothing special, kid. Just a bulls-eye, so Centre knows where to drop the load."

"Oh okay. No, Svale, leave Heero alone. He needs to concentrate."

"Oh all right." Svale was looking at him from the corner of her eye. He wondered if he was going to get a goodbye tackle as well, and got a small fraction of Zero ready to read the lines along which he should dodge.

"Say, Quatre...this Dragon...you say he's going to be coming here as soon as he feels Heero start the spell, right?"

"That's the most likely outcome, yes. Jusan will want him to stop Heero from-"

"Is he hot?"

"...I beg your pardon?" Quatre had been sifting through the lines around Heero, trying, despite knowing it was impossible, to see the strands of the young warrior's fate, to get that little bit of assurance he hadn't condemned his friend to death. But Svale's question effectively derailed his thoughts.

"Hot! Cute! Is he delicious! Beddable! A hunk! A hottie! A-"

"Why on earth do you want to know that?" Quatre felt like his eyes were going to pop out of his skull.

"Well is he or not?!"

"I don't know - I guess he's good-looking but...I only saw him for a minute and I was busy with - why on earth does it matter whether he is hot or not!"

"Just want to make sure he's not breaking my lucky streak of gorgeous guys that keep popping up to see me! Besides it'd be a shame to get killed by someone ugly."

Quatre was left with his mouth open...and a very intense vision - not involving Zero one bit - of the arrogant oriental young man he vaguely remembered being treated to the full fury of Svale's kind of greeting. The horrified Dragon in his mind was trying to shake Svale off of his leg only to have her latch on to his torso and Quatre had to repress a chuckle.

"So he's still there."

Quatre blinked, to find Svale up her staff at eye-height to him, looking into his face with the wisdom of one who has seen too many winters.

"Wh-what?"

"There's still a bit of Rabbit in there. I'm glad. Don't get dead, kid. I hate funerals."

She was gone before he could answer. He stared at the diminutive form rocketing across the cirque. He hadn't realized...she'd been calling him Quatre for days now.

Maybe there was a message there...don't get so lost in the future you forget to look at the present...because you can lose track of what's actually happening, and pay the price...a fact she'd adequately demonstrated, Quatre realized with a grimace as he rubbed the spot where the old bat had managed to pinch his buttocks while he'd been distracted.

Quatre turned towards Heero. He was standing in the crude circle with his usual lack of expression and his arms crossed on his chest. Not for the first time, the healer wondered what could possibly be going through his mind.

"Good luck, Heero." He whispered - knowing it wasn't required or wished for, but wanting to say it anyway. Then he walked away to take up his position. He, Fen and Trowa had to protect Heero from the Dragon who had already tried to kill him once; when Heero started acting as the conduit to Centre's power, he'd be vulnerable.

Quatre rifled the strands of the future in his mind. He hadn't told Svale - hadn't told anybody - that at present there was no way Fen, he and Trowa could stop the Dragon for any length of time. The warrior bearing Shenlong would kill them all before Heero had a chance to complete the spell. Unless something else happened. Quatre felt pretty confident something would, though he didn't think he was going to like it.

Then there were the two other pressing questions; if, by some miracle, they were actually able to oppose the Dragon successfully, what would stop the herald from summoning Jusan to obliterate them all? It was strange the herald had not done so already. Zero was baffled by this, it went against all logical and tactical data. An indication that something was missing in his information...

And of course there was the other big question. The one Quatre and Fen had thought of but carefully kept to themselves...

The spell was going to resonate throughout the core, amplifying the shield spell from the Source beneath the sanctuary. Once cast, it would stop the Dragon summoning Jusan, cutting the link between them. If the Scourge came here in person, it would eliminate a considerable amount of his power. That was all good. But the shield had a weakness; the Source that generated the spell had to exist and continue casting the spell that resonated throughout Centre. Jusan might realize this. So even if, as unlikely as it seemed, the sanctuary's defenders managed to slow down the Dragon enough to allow Heero to cast the spell, and stop Jusan's summoning...

...what would stop the powerful Dragon from obliterating sanctuary and Source all together, as well as a weakened Heero, thus destroying the newly-cast shield and opening the gates to total destruction?

---

Good luck.

Heero processed the words.

Either an empty expression meant to indicate that Quatre did not wish him to die. Or an actual form of spell. Considering that Quatre had a powerful tool at his disposal now, allowing him to see the future and shape it, the best conclusion was the latter. Heero nodded firmly at Quatre's departing back. He didn't need any magic, but it couldn't hurt. Maybe it would help.

That was what Trowa had been telling him. It was...an alien concept. Well most things were alien to Heero since his beginning. But this one was even more alien than most and struck at the very core of Heero's universe.

Letting...people...help him.

The why and wherefores of people helping him were beyond Heero like quantum physics were beyond a beetle. He was already struggling with the first part of the concept. Letting people help him.

The world had been simple to start with. Trowa had been The Guide. As long as he followed Trowa, he would find his purpose. He never questioned that. Quatre...had been an addition to Trowa. He'd understood the first time he'd seen them together that they functioned as something of a unit. There was a bond between them that went much further than flesh (though he'd categorized sex as part of that, he knew what that meant now). It meant that one without the other would be much less. He had been satisfied when Quatre had been given the weapon. He had seen the healer evolve, change. Become stronger. It was the nature of things, and Heero had approved. He had to protect The Guide until he reached his goal, and this strengthening of part of that unit could only make that easier.

Apart from the Guide, everybody else on Centre was either a negligible entity or target practice.

That easy.

The world, it turned out, was full of strange creatures and situations that made it a lot less easy than he first thought.

There's more to fighting and winning a war than being the strongest...we would be so much stronger together...

Duo's words played in his mind. He remembered every gesture, every intonation, the slight lift of the lips, the gleam in the blue eyes - Heero remembered everything that ever happened to him perfectly, and would not have believed anyone who told them this was unusual. The concept of forgetting was one of many that were a closed book to him; actually, in this and many other matters, Heero didn't even know his way to the library.

He didn't know the extent of his ignorance. If he had it would not have worried him. Knowledge of such things were not necessary to the mission.

What Duo had said, however...and what Trowa had explained to him...

Friends. To complement your own strength, use the strength of others you can trust. Trust being defined by what Trowa or Quatre said. They were The Guide after all. If they led somewhere he had to follow, or risk losing them.

Of course his guides didn't really know where they were going; they weren't supposed to. They would lead him, all unknowingly, from one danger to the next, from one lesson to the next, until they reached their goal and Heero was strong enough to finish the mission.

Heero, who knew what lay at the end of the mission, felt...a touch of emotion when he thought of that. Emotions were also something he'd been struggling with, along with the concept of friend. They were supposed to guide him too; anger was supposed to help give him an edge. Unease was supposed to tell him when a danger was perhaps too great for his growing strength, indicating he should back off. Hunger and thirst reminded him to take care of his body.

That easy.

Well, emotions, like the world, had turned out to be somewhat more complex than he'd been led to believe.

He didn't know what to do with this new emotion that clenched his throat whenever he thought of the future, the end of the mission, and what it meant for Trowa and Quatre. It felt like unease...but it was not related to any threat to Heero. He...didn't know.

This didn't bother him. If he didn't know then it was probably not related to the mission. If it was, he'd figure it out sooner or later. That was the way it worked.

One thing he felt no anxiety about was the task the Guide had appointed to him today. He didn't understand the looks they were giving him; actually, the looks seemed to match his strange emotion that haunted him when he thought of the future, but they seemed to feel it for him, now. Trowa had told him he had a good chance of dying.

Heero shook his head ever so softly. The Guide could really be blind.

This wouldn't kill Heero. It was what he'd been made for. Or, if it did kill him, then the mission really was a failure before it had ever really truly started!

It was why he had agreed to this. He hadn't been worried about this conduit thing. He'd wanted to fight that strange, powerful young man who had attacked him before. Especially if he had become stronger still! Now that would be something worth doing!

But, in the end, it would only add a bit to his strength. Which had been all he'd ever thought about until Fen and Duo had shown him how creatures less strong than himself could still neutralize him.

Trowa said the Dragon had something - Heero hadn't bothered with the details - that could defeat them all. Some kind of spell that could not be fought, could not be parried, that would make Heero's strength useless.

It made him curious to find out what it was but he had to trust the Guide. He could fight this herald after he'd countered this spell, and for that he needed to become a conduit for Centre's power.

Trowa had been surprised he's agreed so quickly, but Heero considered this practice. A way of testing himself, judge how ready he was for the final step of the mission.

"Well, we're about to start, handsome!"

Heero ignored her. He always did. She was one of those things in the world that just didn't fit. He knew a lot about her. He knew her real name - which wasn't Svale. He knew how old she was - it was considerably more than five hundred and sixty five years. He knew some of her purpose - which didn't really jibe with the way she acted. But despite all he knew about her, she was strange beyond anything he could imagine and he didn't like it when she touched him. He kept ignoring her or hitting her, which should have been a good way of getting her to leave him alone, but somehow it had not worked yet.

"The others are in place. Listen, people can come in and out of the circle, like I did earlier; it's not a barrier, it won't protect you. But you can't leave it or you will interrupt the connection, and disperse the energy. You got that?...Lift one eyebrow for yes, two for no... You're one big pain in the ass, boy. Okay, here it comes."

Heero forced himself to relax. He knew what to expect from being a conduit, and he did not fear it. His emotions, his notion of self, were not developed enough to let him be anxious about this; he didn't fear his own extinction, the way Centre was going to displace his mind - temporarily if what Trowa said was true - and make him non-existent. That was what being a conduit meant, at least in Heero's knowledge and that was considerable. He also knew it would be excruciatingly painful, at least until the displacement had occurred. The pain might drive him to his knees, though, mulishly, he decided to test his own strength by seeing if he could remain standing until the process was complete.

He let his arms hang loose, his neck relaxed, his eyes drifted close....

Then he opened them again.

He should have known the weird old creature would screw this up. A person so odd, so chaotic, just couldn't be reliable. He turned to glare at her.

The crone was sitting on the dirt with her short legs stretched out before her like a child, her staff leaning to one side, looking at him curiously. And there was a slight light glowing around her.

Heero blinked.

Not just around her...he turned, stumbled, eyes widening. Every sparse blade of grass that had managed to invade the barren cirque was glowing, gentle phosphorescence like a halo. And...Heero stared. He could see every ant, beetle, worm lurking in the grass. Being who he was, Heero was always aware of any entity around him. But normally his mind was bent to his mission, and it would focus on what was essential; signs of danger, or something to fight and kill. Now however...

Heero's eyes widened...

...he could see it all...all at once...Svale and the beetles and the blades of grass, and everything beyond, slowly rising into his consciousness, it was all there, and it was all just as important, just as crucial to...

Heero swayed...this-this wasn't how it was supposed to-....

...to the tapestry that was unfolding in front of his mind's eyes. He'd seen it before, distantly, but he'd only ever concentrated on what mattered but he...

Blue eyes unfocused...this wasn't what he'd expected to happen-...

...but he had never realized that it all mattered, it was all part of the whole and it was all...

Slowly, he sank to his knees...

...it was all...

...beautiful...

"Told you you'd be better off sitting down." Svale whispered, but her voice was kind - part of the pattern, all part of - and she got up and left and Heero continued to stare at the endless, graceful cycles; beautiful cruelty, earthy kindness, death and life and ever repeating wheels - the wheel turns, that was what Trowa meant when he said - there seemed to be a lot of sex involved too. And it all revolved and turned and...

Heero's eyes widened further...

...He'd always assumed it would not include him, after all, he was alien to it. Yet somehow - the energy from the many, many cycles around him started to trickle into the circle as he opened his soul to them - somehow Centre didn't mind that he was not part of her patterns. She was quite willing to use him, adopt him, integrate him, touch him...welcome him ...

Heero didn't notice Svale leave in silence. Nor did he notice the ship, shaped like a large blade, landing a few hundred meters to the south.

---

Wufei leaned against the console, staring at the haphazard heap of stones strewn about a few hills in front of the etherripper.

"Looks like a temple." The brute - Wufei's first officer - said slowly.

"It's Jishin." Wufei's eyes were darting over the different viewscreens showing the hills and mounds. Huge sanctuary, he thought, never seen one this big. But in ruins.

"Jishin?" The brute's forehead wrinkled into a frown, perhaps in an attempt to roll whatever synapses he had together. "Them's magic users. Dangerous ones."

"Only if you're afraid of ghosts." Wufei sneered, a cruel smile twisting his lips. "Jusan wiped the damn Tricksters from the face of the galaxy over five years ago. Hey you." The co-pilot flinched. "This place doesn't look like much. You sure you directed us to the right area?"

//Yes//

Shut up! I wasn't talking to you!

"Yes sir. The magical emanations Lord Jusan told us about definitely originated here." The co-pilot pointed at a strange assembly that looked half like a radar and half like a clepsydra full of quicksilver - some kind of mana reader. Wufei was aggressively disinterested in anything that had to do with magic and that included the voice in his head.

//Yes, yes, we all know how you feel about the link between us.// Jusan said shortly. //But now is when you need my help.//

I am not summoning you! I told you that when we landed on Centre- Hell, I told you before I even left the Libra! I'm only summoning you if they try some stupid magic against me. Otherwise I'll fight my own battles. On my own!

//If you let them cast the shield you won't have any choice. The link between us will be severed and you will be helpless in the face of magic.//

My race fought many magic users, including the damn Jishin while they were still around! Magic is no more dangerous than any other weapon to a warrior who knows himself.

//I admire your confidence, but I'd rather not put it to the test. And you don't have much time to avoid it. Do you see that light over there? In the circle at the top of the central hill?//

"No." Wufei ignored the startled look the pilots gave him.

//No? Good grief, Chang, I'm using your eyes and I can see it...does it take you much of an effort to be this close-minded about the magical or is it a gift?//

"Shut. Up."

//I'm afraid that's not an option now. They've started gathering the energy to cast the spell. Apparently they are using Centre's gaia-matter. Interesting. I wonder who- oh, of course. This Heero is their conduit. I can see him. Feel him. He's a strong one. But strange...huh...fascinating...I wonder...//

Wufei ignored the speculative voice in his head. He almost shoved the co-pilot from his seat to get a better look at the viewer. The screen showed the huge mass of rocks and had focused in on certain parts where it had picked up movement. On a slight rise near the top of the hill, some figures had gathered, facing the etherripper. In the middle of the stone circle another figure was kneeling. Wufei felt a prickle of battle fever heat his body; it was, indeed, Heero. The warrior was on his knees and looked - Wufei frowned - completely stoned, which wasn't exactly what Wufei had been expecting but he was certain that would change once he challenged his enemy.

// sigh you don't listen very well, do you. He'll look like that even after you've stuck your fist through his body. He's being used as the conduit. He's gathering Centre's energy to cast the shield and its occupying his entire mind, and being. You need to kill him quickly - or at least drag him from that circle - before he does so. Hurry up, he won't be able to fight you, or even lift a finger for days after being used for-//

"He what?!"

//...what?//

"I came flying here in this tin can to fight him! What do you mean he won't be able to?!"

//Well, if they're using him as a conduit, then he'll either die, or be completely drained for days-//

"Gods dammit! I am not letting that happen! I came here to reclaim my race's birthright the honourable way! I will fight him to the death for it!"

//...and just how-//

"I'll drag him out of that circle and wait for him to get better if I have to nurse him back to health myself! And then I'll kill him!"

//...right. Well as long as you stop him.// Even to Wufei's incensed mind, Jusan sounded somewhat bewildered.

"Er, sir?" The pilots were now firmly convinced he was insane, Wufei gathered by the way they were staring at him, but he couldn't care less. "What-what do we do?"

"Stay here and keep out of my way!"

"Yes sir!" The pilot said fervently as Wufei spun and marched out of the cockpit.

---

"Here he comes." Fen murmured. No one else commented. Svale popped up besides Trowa but was too out of breath to say much.

The figure in the white tunic walked down with swift steps from the ripper's hatch. He was quite some distance away, but every movement spoke of anger. Same as last time we saw him, Quatre reflected, he must have quite the temper. He watched in silence as energy gathered around the slim figure and lifted him gently in the air, to send him angling towards them. It was strangely graceful even as it was deadly.

"Er, kiddos, what's to stop him from flying straight over us and hitting Heero?" Svale muttered.

"He's too good a warrior to leave an unknown enemy like ourselves at his back." Quatre said absently.

"Ah well that's good to know-"

"What Quatre means is that he'll kill all of us first before moving on to Heero." Trowa added, his own eyes on the lines of fate and intent converging on their little group.

"Oh...well, as long as that's clear." Svale said a bit weakly.

The dragon landed a dozen meters away, and crossed his arms over his chest. His eyes flickered over Quatre and Trowa, centered on Fen.

"So, you are the ones Heero has chosen to defend him?" A voice like liquid honey purred, all strength and arrogance. "I hope you don't think you stand a -"

"By the hairy balls of Basht! Rabbit, are you blind?! What did you mean, he's ‘good-looking'! He's goddamned gorgeous!"

An embarrassed silence tripped over that remark and fell heavily between the two parties.

The Dragon had completely overlooked Svale's diminutive figure to start with. Boy was he looking at her now.

"Good looking?" Trowa asked Quatre out of the corner of his mouth, his eyes fixed on the simmering Dragon.

Quatre stopped rubbing the bridge of his nose. "Erm...she asked-"

"Hey! Pretty boy! Wanna join us? Fen here decided he'd rather be on the side of cuteness than against it!"

"Svale." Fen's strangled protest was ignored.

Quatre wondered if he could really see a glowing red light swirl around the Dragon or if that was just Zero's way of warning him to duck.

"Remove that...thing from the battle field or I will kill it." Chang said in a voice thick with fury.

"Oh honey you can kill me any time you like! You can kill me all night long!"

He's our enemy, Quatre reminded himself sternly, fighting down his urge to apologize for her. The healer knew Svale was doing this just to gain a few more minutes - behind him, he could feel the power gather in the cirque. Much, much faster than they'd estimated. He somehow wasn't surprised Heero would outdo all their expectations. At this rate, they only had to hold the Dragon off for thirty minutes, maybe less...

He could see the Dragon tremble with anger even from that distance. But they were an honourable race, he remembered from what Fen had said, and he visibly couldn't bring himself to shoot an old lady. The dark eyes turned on the rest of them in barely contained fury. Oops. Well, they'd gained a few minutes.

"What was Heero hoping..." The Dragon sneered. "That four pitiful warriors and...that thing...can keep me from killing him?"

Trowa and Fen braced themselves, while Svale paused in her heckling and frowned.

"He's cute...but he's rather stupid." She cackled. "Or at least he can't count. Why'd he say four warriors? I'll ignore the 'thing' comment. Men don't appreciate the charms of a mature woman until they've tried them. And then they can't look back!" She leered at the Dragon who appeared to have taken the path of least resistance where she was concerned and was trying to ignore her.

Quatre sighed. This...was maybe the hardest part. He put a hand on Trowa's shoulder - the shaman started under his touch - and, trying to keep his voice neutral, said: "He didn't miscount, Svale."

Trowa and Svale - and even Fen, who had been concentrating on the Dragon - turned to look at him in surprise. Quatre delved deep into the cold, calm analytical part of him that Zero had helped bring out, to curb any trace of emotion from his face and voice as he turned, that restraining hand still on his lover's shoulder, and said: "I see you decided to join us, Duo."

"You know I never miss an opportunity to party." Duo smirked from behind them.

---

Wufei was...well, furious barely began to describe it.

"What are you fools doing?!"

None of his supposed enemy turned around to even acknowledge him.

//They don't seem to be very interested. What a thoroughly amusing group!//

He should just kill them all. Yes, one blast. If only they'd turn around! He'd been brought up in a rigorous culture of honour. Not only was it dishonourable to kill non-combatants - even that foul-mouthed harpy - but it was also not fair to shoot his enemy in the back. Which they'd all turned towards him when the slight, young man dressed in black had spoken. They seemed to be arguing amongst themselves now! Wufei ground his teeth.

//It could be a distraction. This young man...this Heero. The amount of power he's channelling over there is tremendous. He'll be able to cast the shield much quicker than I ever thought.//

Who cares! Wufei raged internally.

//Wufei, we've been through this. If he casts the shield, you will no longer be able to summon me. It'll block the link we've formed. And I will not be able to attack when I arrive in a few months' time -//

I'll kill him, don't you worry. Or at least drag him out of there.

//Before he casts the spell.//

Yes yes yes!

What on earth was preoccupying those fools that much! How could they be stupid enough to ignore a fully armoured high Dragon - rapidly approaching the point of spontaneous combustion - and turn their backs on him to stare at that- at that -

Wufei's snarl and thoughts strangled themselves as he caught sight of two violet-blue eyes.

...

He shook himself and quickly went back to being furious, ignoring that strange feeling of familiarity that had startled him for a second.

---

Duo was leaning against a rock as if he'd just strolled by for a chat. Quatre wondered if Duo had control of the situation or if he expected Quatre to be able to stop Fen or Trowa attacking that annoying smile.

For the second time, the healer reached up and lowered Trowa's crossbow as it pointed at Duo's heart. "Trowa...we can't have a fight on two fronts."

"You're right." Trowa said in a tight voice. He turned back to the Dragon behind them, raising his voice while keeping his tone polite. "Will you excuse us for a few minutes? We've got someone to kill here but we'll be with you as soon as possible." He ignored the enraged inarticulate noises behind him and turned back towards Duo who'd raised an amused eyebrow.

Fen sighed. His eyes lost the gleam of fury that had lit them like sunshine on ice when he'd first turned around.

"Barton..." He said softly.

"No." Trowa said, in a dead calm voice. "We cannot trust him. I refuse to fight with him."

"We don't have a choice, Trowa." Quatre said, his voice soft and sympathetic, his mind finding the best tone to get Trowa to calm down quickly, and accept this; he hated using his abilities on his lover - deeply, intensely - but the urgency of the situation demanded a little manipulation. Duo, wisely enough, said nothing, just sat there with a quiet smile on his face, arms loosely crossed over his chest and his long leather-clad legs stretched out before him.

"Love...what's done is done." Quatre whispered. "We'll deal with it later. Right now, he's here to help. And we need that. Desperately."

"Actually, I'm just here to watch you guys and cheer." Duo drawled.

"What?!" Quatre spun away from Trowa - who lifted the crossbow again - to stare at Shi No Kami.

"Yeah, I'm not really one for a big fight. You know, testosterone, fists swinging, face to face in a fair fight, rules of engagement and all that...right Fen?"

Quatre and Fen were both still for a second, then exchanged glances and relaxed. "Right." Fen muttered, the word tearing themselves reluctantly from between clenched teeth.

"Trowa." Quatre said, giving the arm beneath his hand a gentle shake. When the shaman glanced at him reluctantly, Quatre lifted his chin towards the cirque. "There's not much you can do against the Dragon, we have to rely on Fen. I need you over there, to protect Heero."

"I am not leaving you here with him!"

"I'm quite safe. Trust me."

"But-"

"Please!"

Blue eyes and green locked. Trowa drew a shuddering breath and released it. His eyes flickered towards the Dragon's ship...from which half a dozen men had appeared and were taking a long path around the defenders towards the cirque and Heero.

"Very well." He said, voice as flat and cold as ice over a raging torrent. He spun and headed towards the cirque. Stopped near Duo.

"...I don't even need to make any threats, do I?"

"Won't touch a hair on his pretty head, Tro." Duo replied without looking up.

"I wish I could trust you but I can't seem to forget what happened last time I did that. Must be the knife in my back with your name on it, acting as a reminder."

"Well what is it you always say? The wheel turns?"

"We say that when people die, Maxwell."

"Go and defend Heero or that wheel will be spinning for him."

Trowa ran towards the cirque without further hesitation but Quatre could feel the shaman's heartbeat, an angry, anxious thread, ringing throughout his own body and making his soul ache.

---

What the hell are you doing, Jusan!

//What you weren't, Wufei.//

I will deal with this! Tell those men to get back in the ship!

//No. Don't worry, they won't kill your precious Heero. They'll just drag him out of the circle. He won't be able to stop them. Then the spell won't be cast, and you'll have all the time to pound these fools into the mud and move on.//

Do. Not. Interfere.

//Remember your place, Wufei. This may be your battle but it's my war.//

"I'm the one fighting it. I should know." Wufei snarled. He turned towards the men who had finally decided to face him. One was armoured, the others were unknown entities. The armoured one faced him with the determination of a man ready to die to stop him. The others showed no fear either, only grim resolve.

"We all are." Wufei said, nodding in salute to his enemy. Then he attacked.

[chap. 25] [chap. 27] [back to Maldoror's fic]