Author: Mel and Christy (Yes, Christy has graduated from Principal Beta Reader and Suggester of Cool Lines. She just couldn't keep away. Buwahahahaha! --er, never mind.)
Pairings: 3x4, and more to come.
Warnings: Yaoi, language, crossover, AU, magic.
Disclaimer: We regret that we have but one life each to give to fanfiction! ...and that we don't own any of this stuff.

Alarums and Excursions + Part 6

Wufei jerked awake less than an hour after he'd fallen asleep, part of him still hearing his grandmother's voice. He'd been dreaming of a warm spring day, sitting in the garden, listening to stories.

"...you must always remember the debt owed to Lord Haan, for it may be you who he calls upon to repay it..."

That one wasn't a grandmother's tale, he thought muzzily. That was one of the stories she told me from our clan history. It can't be this Haan, though, he's barely older than me... and I think that story was very old, from back when we still held lands on Earth.

Perhaps an ancestor of his?

No... it's far more likely to have been about a Chinese. 'Haan' and 'Han' aren't that different.

The sheets rustled as he turned over, wriggling into a more comfortable position, then the room was silent again. For about five minutes.

*Didn't the story say that 'Lord Haan' was a foreigner?*

Swearing half-heartedly under his breath, Wufei pushed the covers back and got up. "Sometimes I wish I hadn't inherited my father's scholarly curiosity," he muttered, padding across to his desk and reaching for his laptop. "Researching dubious ancient history in the middle of the night... but if I don't at least set up the search, I won't be able to sleep."

Automatically he began to log into L5's computer system, then froze, thinking. If I just run a search, anyone who checks the access records is going to be able to see that I was looking up ancient history... and old myths, too, because I'm not sure that was a historical story. I certainly don't have to answer to anyone over what I choose to access, of course, but... I can just imagine getting an email from Master O, asking how this data is going to help me against OZ.

Sighing, Wufei began to set up a covert 'search worm', programming it to get the information he wanted and send it to him under the guise of someone else's access. This could take days, and it will be far more difficult to explain if I get caught... but I shouldn't get caught.

Probably.

* * * * *

Wufei might have slept better after at least beginning to satisfy his curiosity, but Quatre didn't have any easy way to relieve his problems. He lay awake for most of the night, sinking into an uneasy doze from time to time, but coming fully awake every time his unwelcome bedmate moved.

I think it would actually be better if Haan snored, he thought with weary humour, somewhere near dawn. At least then I'd have a constant reminder that he's there!

It turned out to have one possible advantage, though. As morning broke and they moved off again, Haan backing Ryuukossei out of its tight quarters with the same skill he'd shown driving in, Quatre found no difficulty slipping into the proper 'arrogant, irritable and dangerous' attitude to suit his disguise. He didn't normally get short-tempered after a bad night's sleep and felt (briefly) shocked when he realised what was happening; but, after all, it was more like four nights of poor sleep, and unusual circumstances, and...

Actually, his momentary feelings of guilt about his uncharacteristic loss of control were just making him feel more annoyed.

"You're doing fine," Haan murmured, glancing at his passenger as the truck swung around a bend in the road and the OZ checkpoint became visible in the distance. "Like I said, you can do more than you expect."

"Sleep deprivation helps method acting," Quatre said acidly, rolling his eyes. "Wonderful. We must remember to tell Hollywood."

Haan wheezed almost silently, shoulders shaking as he suppressed a belly laugh. "Heh. I thought you were a bit restless. Still tense?"

"Sort of. And no, it's still not anything you can help with." Unless you can somehow turn off whatever it is that makes you a psychic hole in the world. I doubt it. And even if I thought that you could, I'm hardly going to ask you to try. I can see it now... 'Excuse me, Mr. Haan, could you please let me use my sixth sense on you? I realise almost nobody believes in functional empathy, but I'm not crazy, really...'

Passage through the roadblock turned out to be almost an anticlimax. The OZ soldiers scanning the truck saw nothing more than what they were meant to, and the major in charge barely glanced at Quatre as he went over Haan's answers to the questionnaire.

I see what Trowa meant,Quatre mused, watching the officer's eyes slide over him and away for the second time. Part of his attention was occupied by imagining that he was looking at a spectacularly incompetent clerk, in order to keep the proper expression on his face, but even in his current overtired state he had no problem multitasking. He was alert and interested, and then it just... drained out of his expression when he saw me, like watching someone lose twenty or thirty points off their IQ.

Ew. That's a very uncomfortable thought!

"I wish I knew how you did that," he said under his breath as Haan put Ryuukossei into gear and drove past the raised barrier.

"I know," the smuggler replied, concentrating on the road.

"But you're not going to tell."

"Right."

Biting his tongue to hold back a snappish retort, Quatre counted to ten before he continued, choosing his words carefully. "I understand your position. However... would you be willing to sell information regarding how we can protect o
urselves from someone else using whatever that is on us?"

"Um." Haan blinked, obviously surprised. "Hadn't expected that question. Ah... I don't think I can tell you how to defend against it without telling you how to do it... but since I invented it, and I haven't passed it on to anyone else, you shouldn't need to."

"Given the number of times in history where the same thing has been invented by two or more people simultaneously, I hope you will forgive me if I don't find that particularly reassuring," Quatre said acidly, then winced. "I'm sorry. That was uncalled for. I'm tired, and it really bothers me that I can't-- never mind. I apologise."

----------

'Can't' what? Haan wondered, glancing sideways at his passenger as the normally blond teen sat back, rubbing at his eyes. Whatever it is, it really must be eating at him if it's making him act this differently from the first couple of times I met him. "I don't think it's really necessary," he said aloud, "but apology accepted anyway."

"Thank you," Quatre sighed, managing a faint, false smile. There was near silence in the cab for the next few minutes as Haan thought, running over every aspect of Quatre's behaviour he'd observed.

"Is it anything to do with me?" he asked eventually, and was rewarded by seeing Quatre jump, eyes widening.

"I-- no-- that is-- it isn't--"

"It is something to do with me," Haan concluded, not without humour. "You're a rotten liar when you're tired; better keep that in mind."

"It still isn't anything you can alter," Quatre said doggedly, blushing as red as his dyed hair.

"You might be surprised. Try me."

"I'd rather not."

Haan shrugged expressively. "Your choice. If you're worried about upsetting me, I can tell you I'm fairly unshockable... though I'm sure Duo will do his best to prove me wrong."

Quatre shook his head silently and settled back into the seat again, mouth firmly closed.

=stubborn boy,= Ryuukossei observed silently. =stupid. talking is good. haan wants to talk, i want to talk to haan, big metal wants to talk to boy... stupid boy should want to talk too.=

Stifling a sigh, Haan tapped his fingers on the steering wheel in an abbreviated pat, and drove on.

* * * * *

"...dunno. What do you think?" came faintly to Wufei's ears as he ducked under the camouflage netting and started down into the gully where the remaining Gundams were hidden.

That's Duo's voice, he thought coldly, coming silently to a halt, but who is he talking to? Heero's back at the safehouse, and we're maintaining comms silence except for 'all OK' calls when each of us gets out of the cordon, so... Mind coming up with one scenario after another, most involving Duo held at gunpoint by an OZ patrol and stalling for time by talking as fast as he could, Wufei crept closer. A few taps of metal on metal came from somewhere out of sight, then Duo's voice again, slightly muffled. "...sorry 'bout... forgot you haven't met..." Wufei stopped again and listened intently, straining to hear the reply, but there was nothing but the wind in the trees above.

"Jeez, 'Scythe, I swear you blow out hydraulic lines on purpose, just so I'll have to spend time working on you!" Duo laughed, suddenly loud and clear.

Wufei slumped against the boulder he was hidden behind, torn between laughter and relief. He's talking to his damn Gundam, he realised, resisting the urge to beat his head against the rock a few times. I've heard him do it before-- I should have realised-- damn but he gave me a fright!

"Yeah, yeah, I know, I'd find excuses to come out here even if there wasn't anything to fix," Duo continued cheerfully, oblivious to the fact that he now had an audience. "Anyway. I wish you could give me some advice about Haan. Wu-man and Trowa seem to think he's okay, but Heero's being a jerk and Quatre's twitching like he just stuck a fork in an electrical socket. I hope he's okay... he should call in this evening, if nothing goes wrong."

There was a short pause, as if Duo was listening to an answer. "Wu-FEI, yeah, I know. I like playing with his name."

Behind his rock, Wufei's eyebrows shot up.

"Yes, I'm sure he understands I mean it in a friendly sort of way! Jeez, 'Scythe, you're such a mother hen sometimes... 'Fei's a cool guy. He wouldn't take offense at something that wasn't meant to be insulting unless I really stepped on my dick."

Suddenly realising that he was, effectively, eavesdropping on Duo having a private conversation, Wufei backed up quickly and silently to the edge of the gully and started down again, kicking a stone ahead of him to warn the other pilot that he had company. This time, Duo had his gun trained on him as he came around the boulder, but put it away as he called a greeting.

"Good morning, Duo."

"'Morning, 'Fei! Shenlong actually need any work or are you just here to polish?"

"Computer diagnostics," Wufei told him, smiling involuntarily in response to the braided teen's grin. "And my name is Wufei," he added, automatically following their established pattern.

"Ah, polishing the electrons. Gotcha," Duo nodded; then he flicked a sudden look over his shoulder at Deathscythe, and his smile faltered. "Uh... Wufei..."

"Yes?"

"D'you really mind it when I mess with your name, or do you just call me on it because you're going along with the game?" he blurted out uncomfortably. "I mean, if it really pisses you off, I'm sorry..."

Duo is apologising to me because of a conversation he had with his Gundam?!

"...I don't mean it as an insult."

"I realise that," Wufei said slowly, hoping his face showed nothing more than mild surprise. "If anyone else did it, I would mind... but if you stopped, you wouldn't be 'Duo'."

"All right!" Duo cheered. "I knew-- uh, I hoped that was how you felt. Thanks, Wu-man!"

"Wu-FEI," the Chinese pilot corrected him solemnly, smirking. "Don't bother to thank me; I have electrons to polish."

Duo almost choked on a laugh as he realised that Wufei had just thrown his own joke back at him, and Wufei escaped into Shenlong's cockpit before he either lost control of his expression or said something that would let Duo know that he'd been overheard. I certainly can't blame him for talking to Deathscythe, he told himself, settling into his seat and activating the computer systems. I'd have to be a hypocrite to disapprove. He isn't the only person who... who's projected a personality onto his Gundam... if it is a projection.

The familiar feeling of being watched intensified, and he glanced up with a twisted smile.

"Which is it, Meiran?" he asked softly. "Am I imagining you, and deluding myself into believing that you might be real; or am I feeling you, and pretending that you're just my imagination?"

There was no answer, but somehow it felt as though the watching eyes had blinked.

* * * * *

[cont]