Genre: Action, Adventure, Humour, AU
Pairings: 3x4, 2x5, eventual 1x2x5
Rated:NC17 - for language, lots of violence, yaoi, sexual content
Feedback: Please! Particularly what you like/don't like about the fic.
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
This chapter is dedicated to the people who poked and prodded me to get
off my rear end and write the next chapter. Thanks for reading and encouraging
me! This chapter is all yours.
Source Of All Things + Chapter 40
Chemistry was easy. Heero had
no problems with chemistry. You added two elements and they reacted. Sometimes,
a catalyst was needed. But other than that, the reaction was always the
same, always controlled, always predictable.
Link up a few atoms of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen together
into chains of ribonucleic acids, and suddenly things were infinitely
more complicated than they needed to be.
In Heero's opinion, that was where the universe of matter had started
to go wrong. This new chemical reaction called Life had a will of its
own; it played poker with the laws of physics and probability, and always
tried to cheat.
And humans were the worst of the lot.
Take this one, for instance...
The fist thudded against Heero's armoured forearm, and he retaliated instinctively.
Wufei's eyes widened - he jerked his head sideways and Heero's riposte
whistled past his right ear. Heero's moment of satisfaction was brief;
Wufei's knee had already impacted into his thigh. Heero staggered, which
placed him within striking range; he wrenched himself out of the way and
fell back a step.
Though the two warriors were made from the same chemical components, Heero's
design was forty-seven percent more efficient, giving him added strength
and agility. They both wore Dragon armour, but Wing was superior to Shenlong.
And Wufei had flaws in his concentration. Heero was possessed of a concentration
that could chew rocks.
Yet Wufei was surprisingly close to Heero's level.
The man seemed driven by the need for revenge. Heero didn't understand
revenge. Killing someone who had harmed you so that they wouldn't do it
again was as logical as two oxygen molecules hooking up. But Wufei wanted
to avenge people who were already dead. Juusan could no longer harm them.
So Heero really didn't see the point. But this exercise in futility seemed
to be what was giving Wufei the burning energy to keep up with Heero.
Normally, Heero didn't care about concepts that did not affect the Mission.
But in this instance, and very annoyingly, Wufei was in fact part of the
Mission. Heero's Guide had explained how using others was a way of increasing
your own strength; a form of weapon. It made sense, until you actually
had to work with a bundle of temper and contradictions like Chang Wufei.
"You look hot, Wu."
Wufei froze, his fist raised, his eyes going wide.
Heero frowned at the interruption. Yes, the day was warm. The fact didn't
deserve a comment. Neither did it deserve Wufei's sudden distraction.
What was strange was that Duo himself suddenly looked flustered; he scrunched
down a bit on the rock he was sitting on.
"I meant, it's sunny," he muttered, after clearing his throat abruptly.
"And you guys have been at it for an hour. Don't get heat-stroke."
It hadn't deserved one comment. Heero couldn't imagine how even Duo could
believe it deserved two. The Jishin wasn't meeting their gaze. He was
examining one of the rocks that had strayed from the sanctuary with something
like hostile intent (as far as Heero could see; when it came to understanding
human emotions, he only had a set of very rudimentary concepts to work
Wufei's glare was downright poisonous. He did look a bit hot, now; his
face was flushed. And he'd forgotten he was in the middle of a fight with
Heero, the latter groused inwardly.
"I told you to keep your comments to yourself, Maxwell. Go away and play
with that disrespectful stone creature that's always hanging around you,"
Wufei sneered, glaring pointedly at the pocket where the small golem usually
"Can't," Duo drawled, his eyes dangerous. "It's taking a nap. It gets
downright grouchy when it can't get its fifteen hours of sleep a day.
Almost as cranky as you can be."
"Come on, Wufei. You've had your fun. Why don't you go have a drink, stick
your head in a bucket of cold water or something, and let me have a go
with Deadly over there. I need to practice too."
Heero started to look around for something 'deadly'. An annoyed glance
in his direction from Wufei's hot, black eyes told him who Duo had meant.
Duo was even harder to understand than Wufei, and not only because few
of his words actually made sense. The magic-user was a knot of screaming
contradictions in Heero's view of the universe. Duo was also fuelled by
this 'revenge', even more than Wufei. His aura was a maelstrom. But the
actions that resulted from this chaos were coldly calculated and finely
manipulative. That was like turning lead into gold, as far as Heero was
concerned. Heero would have avoided this strange, incomprehensible man
if he could; Duo was a distraction. But Trowa had said he had to fight
alongside Duo as well.
They were both distracting. Working with them was difficult; it demanded
a mental agility Heero didn't have or particularly want to gain. He was
also afraid that their strength could become necessary to him; their presence
might become something he had to rely on. The thought wasn't as abhorrent
as it should have been, strangely enough, but he couldn't afford it. By
necessity, he would be finishing the Mission alone after all.
As for relying on them…taken singly, they were powerful fighters. But
putting them together had rather alarming consequences. Wufei's finely
honed obsession seemed to dissipate into meaningless flares of annoyance.
And Duo's cold focus wavered, leaving him unreliable and prone to wild
changes in behaviour.
If either of them had had that effect on Heero, he would have killed them,
or gone away. That was the logical course of action. Well, not only did
these annoying heaps of carbon and water not bother with the logical,
they seemed perversely drawn to follow each other around, aggravating
the effect (and each other). Duo would reliably show up to watch Heero
and Wufei practice. Wufei would frequently go and check the Jishin's progress
when the latter was working on the sanctuary's defences, in preparation
for Juusan's arrival.
Either they'd ignore each other. Or they'd cooperate passably well. Or
one or the other would let loose some kind of barb, as if deliberately
trying to attract the other's hostile attentions, and suddenly they were
glaring at each other, words drawn like daggers, locked in an argument
full of sarcasm and half-worded insults directed at each other's ancestors.
So far, Heero could not see any difference in the chain of events that
led to one conclusion or another. It was like adding sodium to water and
ending up with salted water one time, and an explosion the next, with
no visible cause.
What was stranger was that despite repeated clashes, they never killed
each other. And the next day, they'd be at it again.
Heero had heard Svale talk to Trowa the other day. She'd described them
as 'two cats in a bag'. That was the first time in his short life that
Heero had actually understood a metaphor (he'd been both somewhat proud
and a bit disturbed at the fact).
Maybe it was like oxygen and hydrogen. Maybe they just needed a spark,
an explosion, and then things would stabilize.
Wufei glared at the annoying Jishin specimen that was trying to interrupt
his practice. Fighting with Heero was exhilarating; the man was a machine.
Physically he had no flaws. And mentally, he was learning how to use Wing's
defences in leaps and bounds, as if he'd been waiting for this kind of
tool all his life.
The Dragons admired strength, and respected it more than the ties of race
and country. It helped to ease the pain of seeing one of his race's armour
on someone else's back. Wufei could think of few, even in the ranks of
the Dragons, more worthy of wearing Wing. It was an honour and a privilege
to hone this warrior into an even greater weapon.
He didn't want any interruptions, particularly this one!
"Yuy and I are busy preparing for Juusan's arrival, Maxwell. Do not interrupt."
Duo's eyes narrowed. "Chill, Dragon. I haven't forgotten about the Scourge,
trust me. But I'll be fighting him too. Or had you forgotten that."
"You'll be on the sidelines, blocking his magic while Heero and I do the
fighting," Wufei corrected him coolly.
"Since I don't think you two will do more than slow him down, I better
practice my fighting as much as I can," Duo retorted in a biting tone.
"We'll slow him down," Wufei whispered menacingly. "We'll slow him down
dead. Have no fear of that."
He glanced automatically at Heero, to include him in that statement, and
realized that his erstwhile opponent had turned away and was heading towards
the edge of the bowl-like depression where they trained.
"Sort it out between the two of you."
Wufei and Duo both stared at the retreating back. Heero barely paused
at the lip of the depression.
"You are distracting each other, and wasting time and energy. I need you
focused. Do whatever it takes to disperse this tension between you before
I return, then we will continue training."
An interesting little silence lingered in the training ground after the
stomp of Heero's boots had faded.
"...did Heero just tell us to sort our shit out by having a match?" Duo
finally asked, his voice strangely cautious.
Wufei nodded shortly. The gesture probably looked a great deal more certain
than he felt.
"At least, I hope that's what he meant..." Duo muttered, voicing Wufei's
own slight apprehension..
Heero might have had a point about staying focused, but he'd made them
both sound equally guilty, Wufei thought, bristling. Wufei wasn't the
one who started the arguments. He'd been making efforts with the Jishin.
Despite repeated provocation, Wufei had kept to their unspoken agreement
to not escalate any baiting into a full-blown fight, or even a shouting
match. Wufei tried to ignore the bastard's innuendos and implied insults.
Of course, Wufei's own behaviour was irreproachable the stupid Jishin
just couldn't seem to handle criticism, or even constructive advice, which
was just one more moral failing of his, in Wufei's eyes. Duo Maxwell was
a planet-sized irritation, but-...
Wufei shook himself abruptly.
Heero might have been abrupt, but that was his way. Who cared anyway?
What Heero had actually done was hand Wufei the perfect excuse to take
this bloody Jishin down a peg or two under the pretext of a training bout.
Was there even the slightest downside to this?!
A glance at the Jishin showed his thoughts reflected in the suddenly cruel
smile. The disguise of worn leather rippled and slithered into a new configuration;
the mage's battle-suit, sleek and black, buckled tight with no loose cloth
to grab, the long gloves open at the palms to not hamper the lethal bursts
of energy. The material over Duo's weak points solidified further, hardening
like chitin over his crotch, abdomen, upper torso and forearms.
Wufei met and matched the darkness in those blue eyes and fell into a
The breath of uncertainty that Heero's words had first caused disappeared
in a flare of fighting spirit, anticipation and adrenaline.
Duo held himself loosely. He looked relaxed, but Wufei spotted a familiar
flicker at the Jishin's back; the end of the braid, now roped in dark
leather, was dancing back and forth, alive with excitement.
"We haven't done this in awhile," Duo purred. "You don't mind, now, do
"No," Wufei answered, keeping Duo in his sight as his opponent slowly
started to circle him. "It will be good practice. Juusan will also use
magic and sly tricks. I might as well get used to it with you, first."
It was a wonder he'd never thought of this before.
"I can't say it will do me much good, since you're nowhere near the Scourge's
level of power," Duo yawned. "But hell, it'll be fun. Let's dance."
That was the only warning Wufei got, not that he needed any. He dodged
under the first hurled energy bolt and sent a surge of power to Shenlong's
energy field to counter another. The bolt fizzled in a burst of light;
Wufei darted forward instantly, hoping to catch the Trickster momentarily
blinded and off his guard.
Duo danced backwards; distance was to the magic-user's advantage. Wufei
pressed him, not letting him get away. A swipe of energy from Shenlong's
wrist clamp sent Duo dodging off to one side. Wufei hadn't been trying
to hit him- merely corner him-
He sent a surge of power into the rear plate of his armour, propelling
him towards Duo.
The slim, black shape twisted and leapt backwards, somersaulting gracefully
out of reach.
Fast and slippery as a snake, Wufei growled internally, whipping around
and sending another beam of power flaring out. He had the gratification
of seeing Duo's eyes widen. The Jishin's dodge was clumsy - Duo stumbled-
The black-gloved hand smacked into the ground, in a move that looked too
ungainly to be anything other than - a bluff!
Wufei cursed and leapt aside, but too late; the rock and soil beneath
his feet had twisted and turned to some sticky quicksand, sucking at his
boots. He staggered- the sand turned to concrete in an instant.
"You don't mind if I use a bit more magic than the last time we tangoed,"
Duo drawled, "I was only using a fraction of my power back then, to stay
off of Juusan's radar. Oh, did I forget to mention that?" He stood up
and brushed off his hands, not even bothering to press home an attack
against the pinned Dragon.
"I don't mind, Jishin," Wufei growled. "In fact I insist you use your
magic. Go ahead and do your worst. You can teleport, too. No need to jump
all over the place like a flea."
"I decided not to. I want to give you some sort of advantage," Duo murmured,
lazily examining the tips of his glove for remaining dirt. "Won't be any
fun for me otherwise."
Wufei would have cheerfully murdered him at that point.
He focused the anger. It cut him, it burned; it turned into a weapon.
Shenlong hissed and powered up. The thrum of energy that rippled through
Wufei loosened the rock holding him; he ripped him away from the trap
and hurled himself at his enemy.
Duo twisted away from the grab- and then fell back under a flurry of blows.
Strike- parry- blow- dodge-
The rhythm of the fight was a riotous heartbeat.
Magic clashed against energy field. Fists smashed against black armour
Wufei felt whole. He was one intent. Duo filled his world, became the
goal. No longer an annoyance Wufei had to force himself to ignore; no
longer an irritation - always there, always dragging his attention to
blue eyes dark soul mocking grin- always always- always challenging, always
demanding- always always-
Duo's fist - glass and razors - brushed his cheek, a savage punch that
did not fully connect.
Wufei twisted and kneed- Duo grunted and fell back.
A trickle of blood caressed Wufei's cheek, curved around his jaw like
the touch of a warm finger- ignored. They hadn't set the parameters of
the match, but it went without saying that it wouldn't stop at first blood.
Wufei grabbed his opponent- pinned one shoulder, missed the arm. Duo's
harsh breathing rang in his ear. The cruel, delighted smile hadn't wavered.
Wufei twisted the shoulder; bring him to his knees! Duo seemed to melt,
to bend and twist and - Wufei had to let go to block a vicious short stab
at his gut.
He caught the wrist- Duo kicked, managed to loosen his arm and struggle
backwards. The black figure darted away, one hand rubbing distractedly
at the spot where Wufei had held him. Wufei tore his eyes away from the
long fingers curled around the slender black wrist, and wondered why he
hadn't pressed forward and taken a decisive advantage.
A flash of anger banished the momentary distraction.
"Stop playing around, Maxwell!"
Duo had retreated to a prudent distance. He straightened and turned, relaxed
and ready for another round. "What do you mean, Chang?"
"Come at me like you mean it," Wufei growled. "You have the magic of your
entire race at your disposal. Why are you leaping about like a bug?!"
Duo's eyes narrowed, gun-metal blue. "You want me, Dragon? One hundred
"Definitely," Wufei hissed, ignoring the possible innuendo; that dangerous
light in the Jishin's eyes hinted that for once, the words could be taken
entirely at face value.
The answering smile was as bright and sharp as the beloved sword Wufei
had lost over a year ago.
Duo dropped, lithe, cat-like, into an attack position, energy swirling
in his palm-
- and vanished.
Wufei's mind triggered Shenlong's sensors instantly. A green-blue lattice
covered the world in Wufei's vision-
- and a red ripple in the air appeared over his right shoulder-
Wufei spun and struck- his fist met a warm, pliant body.
Arms that had been reaching out to him scrabbled against Shenlong in shock;
Duo managed to twist and ‘blink' away, reappearing ten feet away gasping
and rubbing his abdomen.
Wufei stayed where he was; he crossed his arms over his chest and smiled
slightly; maybe it was just a bit of a smirk.
"My race developed a very sensitive radar that can track disturbances
in the ether, from a ship ripping out into normal space, down to the ripple
of a teleporter reappearing. Oh, did I forget to mention that?"
Duo gave him a venomous glare and an amused smile, as if those two things
went together perfectly, as if the man's entire being wasn't one single
aggrieving, annoying contradiction.
"Nice. Very nice." Duo chuckled. The praise sounded perfectly honest.
Wufei felt hot and irritated for no reason he could discern, and decided
that the praise of a twisted Jishin was probably worse than an insult.
"Is this the best you can do, Trickster? Is your race that decadent and
feeble?" he snarled.
Duo's eyes narrowed as his smile broadened. Maddening creature. "No. If
I wanted to, I could blow a hole in this planet the size of your ego.
Or the size of the moon. Whichever's biggest."
Wufei sniffed, though indeed he believed every word. Well, not the bit
about his ego, of course, but-
"I'm restraining myself to the amount of power I think I'll have when
I'll be busy spending most of it blocking the Scourge," Duo drawled. "It's
important that I learn how to pace myself with the little left. And you
know what, Dragon?"
Duo shrugged, a gesture that rippled across his body, like a black cat
stretching lazily as it watched the mouse, sensuous and-
"You know what? It's still enough to kick your ass."
Wufei blinked at the empty space. His moment of distraction almost cost
him the fight. It wasn't Shenlong's sensor that told him to duck, it was
He fell straight to the ground; Duo's blast - point blank right behind
Wufei - glanced off his shoulder armour. Wufei used the momentum to roll
away from the kick he knew was coming; knew it because that's what Wufei
would have done, a warrior's reflex to press the advantage. Shenlong's
damage indicator had flickered to orange. Minor cracks in the shoulder
piece; the Gundanium was reenergising and repairing itself; the bolt hadn't
been powerful enough to kill, but it would have knocked him down, and
Wufei staggered to his feet, dodged left to avoid a punch, and then used
his Dragon Scale's boosters to lift him straight up and vault over his
attacker, giving him room to manoeuvre.
Duo was faster than a falling shadow. Wufei was defending himself before
his feet touched ground.
Blow. Counter-blow. Wufei's boots might have hit the stone; he couldn't
tell. His body was a thing of energy and instinct, orbiting the crashing
fury of his heartbeat. The flurry of attacks was faster than thought.
He stopped thinking and let the dance take over.
Duo managed to nearly pin him against a rock; the spirit armour was cool
to Wufei's heated body. He could feel it through layers of cloth where
the Scale didn't protect him. Duo was breathing heavily. A faint smell,
sun on warm rocks, tickled Wufei's nose. The Jishin was barely sweating,
In the heat of battle, the faint admiration slipped through the net of
Wufei's strict and disciplined mind.
Time to show him what I'm capable of. He can't dismiss me...
"What's the matter, Dragon?" Soft tickle of air against Wufei's ear; a
breathless chuckle. "Is this the tough mechanists who were so sure they
could kick our asses back during the Twilight?"
Keep laughing, Duo...keep laughing...
Wufei's mind, body and chi melded together with Shenlong. One harmony,
Duo yelped as he was tossed aside by the blast. Wufei was already on him.
Won't let you dismiss me...
A punch got through Duo's defences. He folded over, and Wufei grabbed
the front of the sleek black cloth near the neck, twisting the tight material
to get a grip. The Dragon felt almost light-headed from the burst. His
body thrummed and purred, still wanting battle.
"What's this, bone-eater?" he parodied. "Is this the arrogant Tricksters
who claim to be the oldest and strongest race?"
Duo's eyes twinkled despite the near-stranglehold on his collar. "Bone-eater?
Are you mechanical apes still calling us those fairytale names? Do Dragon
children hide under their quilts and fear us like the boogieman?"
"No, and I don't fear you, either," Wufei growled, twisting. Duo was off-balance,
and Wufei's hold kept him that way.
"Maybe that's through lack of knowledge, my pretty Dragon..."
Suddenly the cloth Wufei clasped twisted under his hands, slithering free.
And his wrists were gripped in a vice stronger than stone, lifting him
away with deliberate ease and slowness. It interrupted the considerable
rant Wufei had been about to launch into, regarding Duo's last words.
"...maybe you should learn what Jishin actually means?"
"Don't know, don't care, don't intend to learn," Wufei growled as he tried
to rip his hands free, but it was like trying to move a mountain. He kicked
- only to find his arms wrenched straight out, his body yanked forward
by the wrists so that it slammed into Duo's, restraining his range of
movements. His hands were held away from his body by a grip like the rock
of ages, pressing the two opponents chest to chest. Wufei snarled and
tried to step back, to regain his balance, but he was quite caught.
"In the old tongue, which was old long before your ancestors heard tales
about changelings and Tricksters eating the bones of children -"
Energy started pounding around him in a tight circle. Wufei's warrior
instincts mobilized, working on breaking the deadlock-
...He could feel Duo's breath against his cheek, even through the growing
tumult around them. It caressed his skin. The spirit armour was cool;
Duo's lips radiated heat as he spoke, his breathing quickened by exertion...
- maybe a head-butt right into that arrogant face- give Wufei the opportunity
to rip his hand away and-
...the grip around his wrists felt unbreakable, but not bruising....holding
"In the old tongue," Duo whispered, tilting his head slowly, "Jishin means
The ground screamed and cracked; a fissure twisted itself in the stone
beneath Wufei's feet. The earth's growl rang in his bones, wild and dangerous
and as exhilarating as fighting a sleek, black shape like a shadow-
Shenlong hummed; a deep, steady counterpoint to the chaotic rumble. Wufei
was gathering up every ounce of power, every molecule of his energy- no
choice, no question, no doubt- the forces around him ripped the ground,
cracked a stone ten feet away, but he was not afraid. The build-up was
phenomenal, rising up swiftly between them, in the air where only mingled
breaths seemed to dwell-
- Duo's grip had loosened- they were grasping each other's hand like wrestlers.
The unleashed energy tried to rip them apart - neither of them gave ground-
Until someone grabbed Wufei by the shoulder, and threw him several feet
He grunted as he landed hard. He growled, and then choked as Shenlong's
warnings suddenly registered. He desperately tried to stabilize and disperse
the massive amount of power running through the Gundanium structure. His
processor was flashing a few numbers in his eye - actually, it had been
printing out alarming figures for awhile now, blithely ignored. Wufei
managed not to go critical, and stared at the gauge slowly creeping down
again. He was dazedly impressed. He'd never realized he could get that
much energy out of his armour.
Blinking through the red haze of the warning screen, he realized that
Duo had also been tossed aside. The Jishin was on his knees, about ten
feet away. He looked as bemused as Wufei. The tremors had subsided. Duo
shook his head, blinking; the braid fell over his shoulder to thump into
the rock with a noise that sounded loud in the crystallized silence.
The whole area was covered in a film of dust, shaken up from the ground.
Heero rose out of the smoke like an angry god.
Like a bewildered and angry god, Wufei corrected himself, still a bit
Heero clenched his teeth as if he wanted to bite the words to pieces.
"That was not what was supposed to happen," he finally growled. "You are
not to injure yourselves."
Injure...? Wufei staggered to his feet. His reasonable side - which had
apparently been taking a coffee break during the fight - informed him
that the amount of power he'd gathered could have blown him and Duo to
The fact sat there, in his mind, but meant nothing to him. He hadn't been
about to release that energy. He...hadn't the foggiest idea what he'd
been doing, really. He wasn't stupid enough to let his grievance with
Maxwell compromise his sacred duty of revenge- what...
What exactly had been happening here?
That was obviously what Heero was wondering. Or rather, not wondering,
in that odd, blind way of his. He looked cross, but there were no questions,
no attempts to understand, to mediate or inflame. Wufei was beginning
to know Heero's fighting style well, but the man's thought processes were
still mysterious to him.
"You will not do that again," Heero growled. "It is stupid to not focus
on the threat. You will stop distracting each other."
Wufei wondered if he was imagining the note of befuddled exasperation
in Heero's voice; apparently, the strange young man had learned there
were limits to his powers. This was something even the mighty warrior
couldn't fight, beat or control.
Wufei was damned if he knew what 'it' was. Still dazed and throbbing with
exhaustion, adrenaline and excitement, Wufei discarded the question. This...hadn't
In a move that was almost embarrassing it was so synchronous, he and Duo
turned away at the same time and headed out of the bowl in opposite directions.
Wufei felt, in a distant way, that he would spend all night glaring at
the ceiling, reinventing that strange moment until it made sense, and
worrying about what Duo- Maxwell would think- it was easier not
to dwell on it at all.
There was an irritated growl behind him; Heero had probably just realized
he'd lost both his sparring partners.
The plan had been only partially success. To say the least. Fortunately,
Heero had shown up in time to stop the two annoying humans from killing
each other and thus reducing Heero's overall fighting force.
But some success was measured by the fact that since yesterday, Wufei
and Duo had been assiduously avoiding each other. The sanctuary had been
remarkably calm and free of angry debates.
That meant the situation had stabilized, Heero decided. If it hadn't,
he'd have them do it again, except this time he'd keep a closer eye on
He glanced at Duo. The Jishin was lounging in a chair near the dinner
table, staring up at the ceiling. The little stone golem was blinking
sleepily on his shoulder, and giving its master the occasional puzzled
Wufei was leaning stiffly near the door, as far as he could get from Duo
and still be in the same room. His arms were crossed over his chest, and
he was glowering at nothing.
Heero realized he wasn't the only one scrutinizing the pair. Quatre was
also looking from one to the other, with that deep, remote light in his
eyes, a stare that seemed to see right through solid matter and into the
Forbidden. Heero was expecting some dire prediction of the future; instead,
Quatre just smiled. The healer leaned towards Trowa and whispered something
in his ear. Trowa was leaning back against the wall, long legs sprawled
out before him on the bench they shared. He looked asleep, but he still
snorted softly and muttered: "You didn't need Zero for that".
Heero eyed the distance between Trowa and Quatre, measuring it down to
the millimetre. For awhile, Heero had been honestly worried that his Guide
was breaking apart; that the two units that composed it, Trowa and Quatre,
would become unstable as-...as Wufei and Duo, for example. The idea had
chilled him. His Mission was hard enough as it was. He had no idea if
he was ready to meet the Thirteenth Aspect, but the confrontation was
now inevitable, and he'd have to do his level best to defeat Him and then
fulfil the Mission.
But according to Heero's observations in the past few days, the problem
seemed to have resolved itself. The pair had spent a day and a night locked
away, apparently in an effort to regain the balance in their relationship.
Heero, armed with only rudimentary understanding on humans and their bonding,
judged that they had not been entirely successful. Quatre still liked
to wander off on his own sometimes, looking preoccupied; he'd give anybody
who approached a long, blank stare until they left, even Trowa. And Heero
caught Trowa watching the healer on occasion, as if he were cautiously
circling something both essential to him, yet dangerous.
Hopefully they wouldn't drift apart- Heero caught himself. 'Hope' was
not a word he used; until recently, it wasn't a word he even understood.
He considered it a weakness. Things either were, or were not. The future
arrived at its own pace, and you could only influence it from the present
by your actions, not by wishful thinking.
There was no hope in the future. Heero knew it. There was nothing but
"Ah, I think I hear him!" Svale chirped, thumping her mug down on the
table and nearly squashing imp, who'd wandered over to sample the cheese
and biscuits the crone had laid out.
The windows rattled faintly, then the hum of Howard's spaceship became
"Good," muttered G, who'd been observing imp with fascination since the
little thing had poked its head out of Duo's pocket. "I hope he's got
something for us."
The Wardens had been working together assiduously these past few days,
trying to track down the last Hearth Stone the sanctuary spell required.
G had rounded them up that morning, telling them that Howard had come
across a clue, and was flying in to discuss it with them.
When Howard appeared, he was wearing a tight mauve space suit with big
yellow and pink fish painted on it. Heero had virtually no aesthetical
sense to speak of - he was barely aware of the lack - but something still
made him frown as his eyes caught on that.
"Hi guys! How you doing, kid?"
"Okay," Duo answered; his voice was around five decibel lower than usual,
Heero noted. In his corner Wufei scowled, as if Duo's single word was
a provocation, but he'd tensed and hunched his shoulders almost defensively.
Quatre snickered quietly, covering it with a cough. Svale chortled for
no reason, and Trowa sighed. Heero decided they were all unreliable heaps
of irritating carbon and wished, not for the first time, that his Mission
didn't involve these distracting people.
"Good, good." The man in the loud, ugly suit hopped over to the table
and grabbed an ale. "I see you were ready for me."
"Tell us the news first, you drunkard, or you won't get a drop!" Svale
"Drunkard? Coming from you, crone, that's more irony than I can handle
sober," Howard growled, before taking a long pull at the liquid of fermented
hops and barley, the attraction of which Heero couldn't begin to understand.
He'd tried it once and found it bitter and nutritionally inadequate.
"What did you find?" Trowa asked, before Svale could attack Howard with
"Plenty. We have a trace on the power source we need. It fits all your
specifications, G. The problem is finding it."
"What do you mean?" G asked, eyes narrowing. "If it's magical, H can divine
it's location through a link with Gaia-"
"It ain't magical, that's why you guys couldn't find it in the first place."
"A techno item?" Svale spat. "What good is that? We need magic, not nuclear
"It's not that kind of item," Howard growled. "It's an Ether-based Condensator.
It stores power, whatever power you feed it, and it can absorb a certain
type of magic. If we can find it soon, we can feed it magical power for
a few months, and it will store it and release it steadily for a few years.
I got in touch with J before coming here; he says it should work the same
as the stones."
"You said you needed to find it?" Quatre asked.
"Yes," Howard sighed. "The Condensator was invented by this group of techno-holies;
extreme religious Cabalists. Their community suffered some kind of disaster
a while back. They're scattered around, and we're trying to find them,
or preferably their invention."
"They don't sound like they'd give up their gizmo willingly," Svale muttered.
"Hell no. These guys are nutters, and I'm speaking as a Cabalist myself.
They invented this thing, and now they virtually worship it. Even though
it's useless if you don't feed it ether-carried power. They don't even
call it a Condensator. They call it the Orb of Ophed, or something similarly
"The Orb of Ophed?" Quatre interrupted sharply.
"Yes. It's not big, and it's round, I'll give them that, but you should
give things their proper scientific name, you know-"
"But...the Orb of Ophed..." Quatre's eyes widened. "Wasn't that that thing
those men who attacked us months ago were looking for? The thing-"
"The thing Duo said he'd stolen from them and pawned off for the price
of a bad beer?" Quatre finished a bit weakly, with a glance at Duo who
was banging his head against the table.
Humans, Heero thought with an internal sigh. They could make just about
anything more complicated than it needed to be.
[chap. 39] [chap. 41] [back
to Maldoror's fic]