Author: Maldoror
see chap. 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer

//THIS// is Heero's entries on his laptop.

Trial and Error + Chapter 5

//Operation 'Equations'

Mission duration: 6 days 6 hours

Operation 2x3

Need to consider sdrfl-//



"Tell me what happened, Chang."

Their previous hostility was forgotten. Wufei was driving like a fiend towards the palace grounds while Heero checked and fitted a full clip in his pistol.

"Mokotto." Wufei muttered, as he sped around a corner on two wheels and sent a flurry of pigeons shooting off with the determined air of birds who'd decided to rediscover their migratory roots. "We're spread too thin, Yuy. She was up most of last night at the meeting preparation guarding Relena, then when Simmons came down with a cold-"

"Mokotto should have called one of us to replace her instead of taking duty herself!"

"Well she knows we were both off and needed to rest for that big tour and gala tomorrow." Wufei answered sharply. "Relena had no functions today, she was going to work at her desk quietly. Mokotto thought-"

"I didn't hire her to think!"

"Give her a break, Yuy." Wufei snapped. "Indications are Relena wandered off by herself when Mokotto fell asleep in her chair. She may be on the grounds somewhere-"

"May be!"

"I'm perfectly aware of the risks, Yuy. But that dumb woman should know better than to leave like that!" Wufei slammed his fist on the steering wheel and lapsed into mandarin.

Heero was happy Wufei was with him on this. Everyone else admired Relena so much, they just couldn't be strict with her. So much fawning would have gone to the head of a lesser person but Relena was steady and wiser than her years - these kind of stunts put aside! This wasn't the first time it had happened either. She'd managed to wheedle grown men twice her age, who should have known better and who were charged with her protection, to let her slip out of the palace incognito to wander around New Port City market or go to the movies.

That was why her guardians were spread so thin; there were so few people Heero could trust. Trust with the all-important duty of protecting a motivating force for peace. Trust not to let that motivating force twist them around her little finger and let her get away with something dangerous.

She never tried it with Heero of course but she did put every new bodyguard to the test. Simmons and Mokotto were alright; reliable and caring, and maternal and sweet enough that Relena had not wanted to get them into trouble. And of course Relena had met her match in Chang Wufei. The first time she'd tried to break out of the palace while he was on guard, he'd caught up with her at the back door, hauled her all the way back to her office in an arm-lock, handcuffed her to the desk and called Heero to tell him in no uncertain terms that Yuy could 'guard the crazy woman himself' from then on. Fortunately Heero had managed to persuade him to stay, realizing he'd found the perfect watchdog for the headstrong minister. Of course that had made Relena furious, she had not spoken to Heero for days after that, and neither had a sullen Chang, and they were certainly not speaking to each other. Heero had had a wonderfully quiet week but it hadn't lasted...

The car roared through the gates and screeched to a halt halfway up the long drive.

"You take left, I'll take right!" Wufei barked.

"Wait, let's check the arbor and rose garden first." Heero put his gun away. There was a marked lack of excitement from the gate guards and the palace staff in the distance.

"Waste of time! I'll go-"

"Indulge me, Chang. This way." Heero led at a very fast run, mind already on search patterns if they failed to find her.

He sighed with relief and annoyance when they approached the arbor. Relena was sitting on the handrail talking to someone in a preventer uniform.

She looked so young and carefree. The man was leaning over her, not too close but not that far either, it looked slightly flirtatious while still very polite. Heero found himself slowing to a walk.

Two years ago, he and Relena had agreed that they were both too essential for the all-important peace to have a private life. It hadn't been quite as solemn as a pact, more a tacit agreement. When Relena celebrated her twenty first birthday, they'd take stock of their lives and reconsider but until then, business only.

It had been no sacrifice at all for Heero, he didn't have any hobbies or interests outside maintaining the peace anyway. He had not thought it too big a sacrifice for Relena either. But for the first time in two years, as innocent, longing blue eyes turned towards him slowly, he wondered if it had been the right thing. She was just a young girl, and she'd suffered a lot as well. Should he really have discouraged her from making male friends? Men were always attracted to her and he hadn't wanted her distracted from her own mission, so he'd made every effort to insure her staff and personal bodyguards were very serious or female, or preferably both. Had that been fair? Considering she'd stayed in the grounds and was talking to a preventer, should he really be all that angry about her slipping out of the palace and flirting with someone?

He might have wavered, if only for an instant. But Chang Wufei proved to be made of sterner stuff.

"Are you mad, woman?! Do you realize the entire palace force is looking for you?"

Relena started and almost fell off the handrail. Her companion stopped her from tumbling with a considerate hand on her elbow.

Her gracious thanks turned into a squawk as Wufei marched up and grabbed her hand, jerking her away.

"Agent Chang-" The preventer started, a bit shocked.

"You-" Wufei spun and glared - Relena stumbling helplessly behind him - and then gave the man an evil smile. "Agent Yuy will be dealing with you. I'll be walking her Royal ex-Highness back to the palace she should never have left-"

"Wufei!" Relena screeched.

"- without proper attendance and her bodyguard!" Wufei jerked Relena just as she started to protest again. "Now are you going to walk, woman? Or will I have to carry you like a three-year! You're certainly acting like one!"

"Oh!" Relena gasped, completely speechless. Wufei dragged her away at that point. From the way two spots of color were dancing on her cheeks, Heero estimated that Chang had about ten seconds to get her out of earshot of anybody who might be shocked at what kind of language Relena had picked up in her short acquaintance with Gundam pilots.

Heero turned towards the young man - a couple of years older than himself but most people under the age of thirty seemed young to Heero. "Agent Daniels."

The preventer gave him a measuring glance. Heero noted that he didn't appear particularly intimidated. An overview of what he knew of the man had flashed through his mind as soon as he'd recognized Hugh Daniels, memorized data reassuring Heero. This was a recent addition to the Sanq Preventer branch, and he was on loan to the palace to cover their shortfall on ground and general security. He was a competent agent, a good shot, an excellent mobile suit pilot, and he'd been described as very able, though prone to boredom and conflicts of personality. Heero didn't see how the last fit, the slight, abashed smile and warm eyes were quite friendly.

"Agent Yuy. I'm sorry about that-"

"You should have called it in." Heero felt some of his anger return.

Agent Daniels blinked. He had deep brown eyes, almost black, and tanned skin which contrasted with fair shoulder-length hair the color of old honey.

"I did, Agent Yuy. I warned the staff ten minutes ago, as soon as I found her wandering around the arbor."

That explained the lack of panic. Heero ground his teeth. "Someone neglected to warn Chang and myself."

"I'll look into that, sir." Daniels said quickly and seriously. Heero was glad the man appreciated the problems a lack of communication could cause.

"Thank you. Report to me anything you find. About..." Heero glanced towards the yew alley where Wufei and Relena had disappeared.

"I hope you didn't think I was forward, sir. I was only entertaining Minister Darlian for awhile before I walked her back. She seemed a bit despondent when I ran into her."

Great, someone else's happiness to worry about. Heero managed to stop from rubbing his eyes wearily. "I appreciate that, Agent Daniels-"

"Hugh, please."

"What?" Heero's thoughts were momentarily derailed. Then he frowned. "We use last names only, Agent, avoids confusion."

"Daniels, then. No need to call me Agent, most days I remember what my job is."

Heero wondered how he'd offended the man, then realized Daniels was smiling. Oh right, a joke. The easy manner and the smile reminded him of Duo; it used to be that kind of personality would turn him right off but he'd built up some immunity now, even some appreciation.

"Very well, Daniels. You can call me Yuy as well." He'd never gotten used to people calling him 'sir'. "Now about Minister Darlian-..." He paused, wondering how to continue.

"No evil intentions, si-...Yuy. The Minister is a charming young woman but she is under my protection and I wouldn't consider anything inappropriate. Besides, I wouldn't be interested."

"You just said she was charming." Heero pointed out severely.

"Um, yes, she is. But I happen to be otherwise inclined."

"You're married?" That hadn't been in his personal data.

"No." Daniels said carefully. "I'm actually not in any relation right now, my boyfriend and I parted ways a few months ago."

"...Oh." Once more Heero felt he'd missed some obvious indication but Daniels had been nice about it and clued him in without embarrassing him too much. "Right."

"I was watching the premises, Agent Yuy." Daniels added quietly. "I was in communication with the guards at the gate, and I had called in at the house to-"

Heero waved aside his explanation. Daniels had been aware of their approach from a creditable distance, and had had his back to the arbor's pillar in an adequate defensive position. And...an idea started to unfurl a tentative sail in Heero's head...The man seemed a lot nicer and more patient with Relena than either Heero or Wufei...Relena had a lot to deal with these days, she shouldn't have to contend with grumpy bodyguards on a constant basis as well.

Heero was used to making rapid decisions. "Tell me, Daniels, would you be interested in taking turns of duty as the Minister's personal bodyguard in some functions? Chang and I are stretched a bit thin, and I think the Minister might enjoy the occasional conversation."

"I don't think I'd want to have a conversation with the minister while I'm supposed to be guarding her." Daniels responded carefully, which was of course the right answer.

"Well, you'll find that that's never stopped Relena from talking. You'll learn to tune her out automatically." Heero confided. "Of course in high risk situations you'd be working with Chang or myself as well."

"Ah? Well then, I must say I'm tempted, Yuy. I think I would like working with you." Daniels smiled warmly. Heero noted that Daniels would make a much better person to accompany Relena to balls; he was ready to bet the blonde could diplomatically refuse to dance with any lady who asked him to without offending them. Heero had never managed that and on two regretful occasions had actually made them cry.

"Minister Darlian will have to agree but that shouldn't be a problem. I'll run it past your superior officer." They continued to discuss it while returning towards the house.

Heero's sharpened senses picked up the echoes of a disturbance before Daniels did. He sent the other man to walk back to the house by himself and approached the yew tree alleys wearily.

He couldn't make out the harsh whisper, but he easily caught the answer.

"How dare you!?" Relena's voice was normally well-pitched and soothing but she could get quite a screech going when she wanted to.

The admonishing whisper - the sound of a normally hot-tempered man trying to speak calmly - bit off a few more words.

"You-...who do you think you are?!"

Heero thought the answer - he picked up the word bodyguard though he didn't catch the rest - was adequate but apparently Relena didn't think so.

"And do you think that gives you the right to determine who I choose to talk to?" Relena snarled.

"As a matter of fact it does." Wufei snapped back aloud this time.

Heero was trying to find them in the yew alleys, which were muffling their voices and making directional spotting difficult. He really wanted to interrupt this before it got out of hand; the way Relena was stressing her words was making his soldier's instincts prickle. He'd been right about Daniels, a little ease and diplomacy with Relena wouldn't hurt, and it would relieve Chang before the man developed an ulcer.

"You-...that is the most-...how dare you?!" If the normally articulate Relena was falling back on repetition and clichés, she must be fast approaching the end of her rope... Heero heard Wufei snort.

"Don't get me wrong, Minister, it's the sneaking out of the palace and talking to a man who has not been vetted by security that's got me upset. Next time run it past Yuy and have him escort Agent Daniels up to your parlor before you flirt with him."

Relena made a strangled noise and there was a muffled thud just as Heero rounded the right corner and saw them.

Peace principles momentarily set aside, Relena had tried to slap Wufei, and would have actually managed it if she'd had ten years of intense martial arts training and the element of surprise. Wufei was holding her wrist - without breaking it, Heero had to give him credit for that - and was looking down at her with a mocking sneer that was just going to add fuel to the fire. Heero cleared his throat loudly.

Relena turned towards him, then her face crumpled, she wrenched her wrist from Wufei's grasp and ran to her friend. "Oh Heero!"

"'Oh Heero', right." Wufei muttered sardonically behind her back. "Your knight in shining armor appears."

"Heero!" Relena threw herself into his arms, tears in her eyes. "He's being such a- such a beast!"

The beast was glaring at her. The man did take missions very seriously, Relena's little escapade had probably annoyed him considerably. Heero himself wasn't feeling much in 'knight' mode either. He saw Relena swallow as she caught the look in his eyes and suddenly realized there were two of the world's most dangerous men glaring at her as if she were ten years old with her hand trapped in the cookie jar.

"Maybe we should talk about this diplomatically..." She said weakly.

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