Author: Mel, Christy, Redcap the Violence Muse & Stormdancer the Angst Dragon
Category: AU, Fantasy
Pairings: 1x2, 3x4, 5x?
Rating: NC-17
Warnings: Yaoi, language, angst.
Disclaimer: Not ours yadda yadda... no money yadda yadda... don't sue yadda yadda
Feedback: Yes Apology: Mel's sorry that she brought a virus home from work and gave it to Christy. Christy's sorry that she took the damn thing instead of saying 'no thanks', and the Gundam boys are sorry that they're stuck with the two evil onnas.

Demon of Justice + Chapter 21
But I Am Right

Quatre folded his mobile phone closed and tucked it into his pocket, a relieved smile on his face. "That was Heero. The surgery went well and Duo's awake; apparently he had some sort of reaction to the anaesthetic, but it's been taken care of and he's fine."

"That's good," Trowa said simply, walking past him with a stack of boxes balanced in his arms. "Could you get the door?"

"That's all you're going to say?" Quatre asked wryly. "'That's good'?"

Trowa paused, looking up at the ceiling and nodding thoughtfully as he considered. "Short... to the point... true... yes, that's about it. Door?"

"I realise you're not an overly demonstrative person, Trowa," the blond pilot sighed, "and I like the fact that you don't go over the top about the least little thing, but once in a while--"

Trowa dropped the boxes on the table, spun around and grabbed Quatre, pulling him close and kissing him passionately; then he pulled back half an inch, gazing into startled blue eyes. "Yippee," he murmured, deadpan. "Now will you open the door?"

"...I think I'll go and open the door for you," Quatre said eventually, blinking. "Yes. Um. All right..."

"Thank you," Trowa chuckled softly, releasing him and picking the boxes up again.

"Whew. Perhaps I should try to get you to be more demonstrative more often!"

"Don't I kiss you enough?"

"I didn't say that!" Laughing, Quatre opened the front door, revealing Relena walking up to it.

"Good... good morning, Trowa, Quatre," Relena said hesitantly, looking down at her hands. "Is Hee... ah... are Duo and Heero in?"

She's looking for both of them, not just Heero?"Actually, Relena, they're at the hospital," Quatre said without thinking, then winced inwardly. Oh, great. We're still supposed to be in hiding! It's bad enough having her come visit us here, but if she marches over to the hospital, it's sure to be noticed--

"Oh!" Relena's hand flew to her mouth, and for a moment she looked as if she was about to cry. "Is it Duo's knee? Is he all right?"

"He's fine! He had to have surgery to fix a ligament, but he'll be fine," Quatre assured her, now thoroughly confused.

"Are you all right, Relena?" Trowa asked quietly, putting the boxes down again. "You seem rather upset."

"I'm fine," she said quickly, then wavered. "Well... I will be. I really do need to talk to Duo, though; do you know if he's allowed visitors, yet?"

Trowa shook his head. "His surgery was this morning, so only immediate family are allowed today. Heero got in by force of personality."

Relena winced slightly. "I was hoping to get this over with before I lost my nerve," she muttered, barely audible, then managed a shaky smile. "It's good that someone's with him. Nobody should be alone when they're not well... You're, um, moving?" she asked, changing the subject.

"Well, Duo's going to be on crutches for a while, with his leg in a brace, and this house isn't really suitable--" Quatre started.

"Can I help?"

"Um... there's really no need..."

"I mean it," she said seriously. "I really would like to help. There must be something I can do!"

Quatre looked helplessly at Trowa, and got back a nearly invisible shrug along with an 'I don't know, what do you think?' sort of expression. "We're not taking much more than personal possessions," he said slowly, reaching into his pocket. "We're going to need to get furniture, and Duo made a list of what he'd like. If you give me the receipts, I'll pay you back," he added quickly, holding out the crumpled note.

"I can do that!" Relena had a relieved smile on her face as she took the paper and smoothed it out, quickly skimming the short list. "Where should I have it delivered? And what sort of cover story are you using? Are you going to be living under different names? I should know, in case somebody asks questions."

Only Quatre's long experience at functioning smoothly in tense situations, no matter what surprises turned up, allowed him to keep talking instead of gaping wordlessly. Relena has never cared what our cover story was! he thought incredulously, as part of him, operating on autopilot, told her their new address and watched her write it down. She's marched into schools and businesses and asked for us by our real names so many times, it's amazing she hasn't gotten us killed yet... actually, it's more amazing that OZ never caught on. If they'd just assigned a squad to follow her around, we would have had a serious problem.

"Duo's records at the hospital are under his real name, and he'll have to go there fairly frequently for a while, so he can't use an assumed name. Trowa and Heero aren't well known, so they should be all right, and even if I'm recognised it should just lend colour to our cover story." He quickly filled her in on the 'rich kids taking a year off' story that he'd come up with, and she smiled.

"That should work," she agreed. "What about Duo's knee?"

"We tell the truth," Trowa shrugged. "He fell down some stairs. Duo won't lie, but if he just refuses to say anything more and the rest of us imply it happened at a ski lodge, people will think he's too embarrassed to talk about it."

"I've got it," Relena nodded, looking at the list again. "I should get going. Thank you for letting me help." She started to turn away, then hesitated. "I..."

"Yes?"

"I need to apologise," she said quickly, forcing herself to meet their eyes. "To Duo and Heero most of all, but to you, too, for the way I've behaved ever since we met. I've chased Heero like a, a groupie, and I've ignored the rest of you except when I thought I could use you to get closer to Heero, and I'm sorry. I won't be doing that anymore." She dipped in a sort of half-curtsy and walked away before they could respond, her back slightly straighter than before. As she walked back to where Pargan waited with the limousine, she read the note again. Scrawled in Duo's exuberant handwriting, messy but readable, it was short and to the point.

'Large bed, thick FIRM mattress, lotsa pillows/ --four posted/canopy?/ bookshelf, desk, dresser/ bowl chair or whatever it's called-- papasan?'

"Where to now, Miss Relena?" Pargan asked, holding the door open for her.

"This address first, then a good furniture and homewares store," she told him, settling into her seat and handing him the new safehouse's address. "We have a mission, Pargan!"

----------

Quatre and Trowa watched the limousine pull away, then turned slowly to each other.

"Trowa... do you have any idea whatsoever what that was about?" Quatre asked.

"No. Unless she stuck her finger into a light socket and jump-started a previously unused portion of her brain, that is," Trowa added. "She's never seemed to have any awareness of the possible consequences of what she does as a private person before. As a politician, yes, but that's never carried over into her personal life."

"She feels incredibly guilty about something," Quatre said positively. "Every time Duo's name came up, she flinched. But what could she possibly have done to Duo that would make her feel that bad?"

"Don't forget that she seems to be giving up on Heero, too... unless that little apology just means she's going to be chasing him with consideration for other people's feelings now."

"Does that mean she's going to become a conscientious stalker?" Quatre suppressed a giggle, starting to see the funny side. "Normally, I would have been reluctant to give her our new address, but if she is going to pay attention to our cover story, having her turn up can only help our impersonation of spoiled rich kids."

"And you were so startled by her new attitude that you didn't think of not telling her," Trowa said bluntly.

"Ye--esss... it was a bit of a shock, to say the least."

"Let's just hope this doesn't backfire on us." Quatre raised a questioning eyebrow at Trowa and the taller pilot elaborated. "Imagine Duo's reaction if he gets out of the hospital only to find that everything in his new room is pink."

* * * * *

"He's sulking."

"Normally, I would be the first to agree with you, Sir Uthmar," Gunnar said politely, "however, I'm sure there must be an alternate explanation for Sir Vaijon's current behaviour. An Almerhas of Almerhas, after all, does not stoop to such a plebian occupation as sulking."

"What would you say he's doing, then?"

Uthmar's second-in-command seemed to consider the question for a moment, scratching thoughtfully at his chin through his beard. "Hmmm... brooding, perhaps?" he suggested. "Cogitating? Ruminating, even?"

"On the evils of the world, no doubt," Karthan put in sarcastically, "one of which is the fact that he has been disciplined for arguing with lesser beings-- a dwarf and a peasant-- who have unaccountably been placed in command over him. His one hope is that Torframos will eventually realise what a monumental mistake he made when he elevated such unworthy mortals to the lofty stature of Champion, and will replace them with a more deserving specimen."

"Would you two mind not doing that?" Arwen asked plaintively. "I'm starting to feel nauseated."

The object of their 'discussion' was currently acting as a forward scout, ahead of the main column with a small party of foot soldiers. He wasn't in charge of the party, which would probably have reconciled him to the situation; no, his job was to periodically ride back until he was in sight of the main group and signal to let them know that the scouts hadn't run into anything hostile yet. It wasn't a particularly prestigious job, carrying little danger and less responsibility, and every time he rode into sight, his stiff, offended posture and curt gestures made his displeasure clear.

"Normally, if I assigned him that duty simply because he was available and it needed to be done," Arwen muttered bitterly, "he'd be acting like an uncomplaining martyr, surrounded by an aura of noble self-sacrifice as he diligently performed a duty that's so obviously beneath him. --Hells, I'm doing it now, but it's true! If he's assigned a task that's 'beneath his station', he does it, but he radiates well-bred tolerance and patience so hard that I want to kick his immaculately tailored ass! He can recite the Order's precepts perfectly, including the one that says your birth means nothing once you join, but part of him is still convinced that the only reason he still hasn't been raised to the high rank he was bred for is because the commanders of the Order haven't yet noticed the shining glow of nobility in his eyes!"

"Coming out of his backside, you mean," Uthmar said blandly, and Arwen lost the breath he was drawing in to continue his rant in a startled guffaw of laughter.

"Whoo!" he gasped, wiping at his tearing eyes. "I needed that. Thanks."

"Has anyone ever just come out and told him where he's going wrong?" Karthan asked curiously.

"Sir Terrian did," Arwen sighed, still chuckling.

"Obviously, it didn't work."

"Well, I wasn't there, but from what Sir Terrian said when he assigned Vaijon to me, I gather the knight-probationer was rather offended by the implied slight to his honour." The human Champion shrugged. "Apparently, he honestly believes that his attitudes are not elitist, and he doesn't treat low-born members of the Order differently from the noble-born members."

"He's blind," Karthan said decisively.

"Totally," Uthmar agreed, nodding.

"You said you thought exposure to Prince Wufei might rattle a little sense into him," Arwen said hopefully, glancing sideways to where Nataku was pacing along beside the column, carrying Naiya and Terrin carefully in one enormous hand. "Do you think he might have an idea or two on how to deal with him?"

Before Uthmar could answer, Gunnar snorted derisively. "Trust me, Sir Arwen; Wufei's got far more important things on his mind right now than one human idiot who wasn't spanked enough as a child!"

----------

He was right. Wufei wasn't thinking of Sir Vaijon at all; he was far more occupied with the fact that he now had to deal with two Dark Gods that were out to get him, one way or another.

One wants to kill me, and the other wants to subvert me, he thought morosely, watching the passing scenery without really seeing it. I think I'm more worried about the second one! People have been trying to kill me for the last couple of years, so it's not too surprising that I'm used to it by now... and given that it has to have been very clear that I'm not interested in serving him, the fact that Krashnark hasn't given up is--

=Yes?=

Wufei stiffened in his chair, hands clenching on Nataku's controls, and a faint yelp was picked up by the external microphones as the Gundam wobbled slightly. "Get the hell out of my head!"

=I thought you called me,= Krashnark 'said' in surprisingly calm, reasonable tones. =While you're deciding whether or not to become my Champion, I have to be available to you at any time to answer whatever questions occur to you. Thinking or speaking my name will attract my attention.=

"I thought that you would have taken the hint when I tried to stab you," Wufei growled, glaring upwards. Although the mental voice didn't seem to come from any particular direction, 'up' seemed an appropriate place to focus on. "No. I don't want to. Now leave me alone!"

=But you haven't had time to gather enough information to base a reasoned decision on,= the god argued. =You don't have a full understanding of what you're turning down, so I cannot accept your refusal yet.=

"Would you say that if I'd said 'yes'?"

A deep, rich chuckle. =Probably not, I have to admit.=

"Then the argument is invalid," Wufei snapped. "If you won't apply a restriction to your own desires, you can't honourably apply it to people who disagree with you." There was no immediate reply, and he pressed on. "I know enough about you to know what I want. You're the god of ambitious war, correct?"

=...I see that you've been taking the opportunity to talk to your companions. Now that you can,= Krashnark added pointedly.

"I didn't ask for your gift, so don't try to get points for giving it to me! I don't want to lead a war of conquest. If you were a god of-- of justified war, or something like that, I might be interested. You're not. I'm not. Go away."

=No. If you could just see your soul the way I do, you'd understand. It's a clear jewel-green, burning hot and bright,= Krashnark told him, 'voice' softening, =with a spark of my own crimson in the heart of it. You are my destined Champion, whether you want to admit it or not. It only remains for you to pick up my sword.=

"...My soul is green?"

=Yes.=

"Red and green," Wufei said coldly, "clash. I'm still saying 'no'!"

=Red and green look just fine together on your machine-armour.=

"I didn't choose the colour scheme." He grimaced irritably, rubbing at his forehead. "There's no point in actually arguing with you, is there? You're going to ignore any justification for refusing you I can come up with, and keep coming back until I say 'yes', aren't you?"

=Of course,= Krashnark said complacently. =Yes is, after all, the right answer.=

"You're just like Relena," Wufei muttered in a disgruntled voice. "Incapable of understanding any fact that doesn't fit in with what you want."

There was an almost tactile 'feel' of a puzzled frown. =Who is this Relena?=

Smiling sourly, Wufei concentrated, bringing up his memories of Relena's most irritating moments and focusing on them. "Since you seem to be eavesdropping on my thoughts anyway, here; take a look."

=I was not eavesdropping! I merely know when you focus on my... name...= The mental 'voice' trailed off, radiating first shock, then offended pride and anger. =I am not like that!=

"That's how you're acting!" Wufei shouted. "Neither of you will take 'no' for an answer!"

=She doesn't even notice it!=

"And you won't believe I'm serious!"

=You just don't understand--=

"That's exactly what I'm talking about! You're both so certain that you're right, everyone who disagrees with you in any way is automatically wrong, and you can't even see how patronising and insulting that attitude is! Give me credit for a little intelligence, at least, and a will of my own!"

=But I am right,= Krashnark protested.

Wufei threw up his hands in exasperation. "I refuse to continue this conversation. You're obviously incapable of rational thought on the subject. Go away."

=Very well. I'll talk to you again, later.=

"I wish you wouldn't," Wufei grumbled, but somehow he could tell he was alone again. He sat and fumed in silence for a few minutes, then abruptly snorted. "Well," he muttered, "one good thing came out of that, at least. I'm not scared of him any more."

And if I ever get to see Yui again, I will never, ever, be unsympathetic about his problem with Relena!

* * * * *

Quatre tapped gently on the door to Duo's room and peered around it, smiling. "Duo? How are you this morning? We would have come to see you yesterday, but we didn't finish moving things until after visiting hours were over, and-- what are you doing out of bed already?!"

"Getting measured for custom crutches!" Duo said happily, balancing on one leg with Heero supporting him from behind. "Come on in, guys, and have a look at the catalogue. Some of the style selections are way cool!"

"Okay, try this," a man said, passing a pair of adjustable forearm crutches to Duo from his seated position on the floor. "See how the length feels."

"Pretty good," Duo said judiciously, shifting his weight onto the crutches as Heero carefully let go. "Maybe a little long?"

"Move around a bit," the man told him, watching critically as Duo swung himself across the floor. Behind them, Quatre and Trowa carefully edged into the room, ending up beside Dr. Modi, who nodded cheerfully and passed them a slim, glossy catalogue.

"Your technique is pretty good," the man on the floor said abruptly as Duo turned to come back, "but you've got the crutches too close to your body. Try taking a wider stance, more braced; it's a lot more stable."

"I catch the ends on things when I do that," Duo objected.

"That's why you slow down and take a little more care when you're in confined quarters! You're not trying to win a race, you know."

"Wanna bet?" Duo did try the wider stance, though, and grudgingly admitted it was more comfortable.

"Less likely to whack yourself in the knee with your own crutch, too," the man grinned, waiting until Heero was supporting Duo again before taking the crutches back and quickly noting down the measurements marked by each of the adjustment points. "Okay, you're fitted and we've got your colour and pattern choice; we'll get your crutches to you before the good Doctor let's you out of bed again! See ya!"

"See ya, Steve!" Duo called, carefully swinging his legs up onto the bed and settling back.

"Before I leave you with your friends, Duo, just a couple of quick questions, please," Dr. Modi said, stepping forward and probing gently at the skin around Duo's bandages. "Colour is good, yes, no unusual heat or swelling, excellent... Is the knee giving you any pain?"

"Aah, it's fine," the braided teen said dismissively, and the doctor fixed him with a stern look.

"Allow me to make myself clear. I did not ask if it was bothering you; I am well aware that you and your friends are unnaturally indifferent to pain."

"You've been talking to Sally," Trowa said dryly.

"Exactly. At this point, you should be feeling some pain, and if you tell me you are not I will have to start worrying about nerve damage. Now. Does it hurt?"

"Yes," Duo admitted, rolling his eyes.

"Excellent! Does it hurt much?"

"Kinda."

"Even better. I will see you this afternoon for your knee-bending attempt. Try not to upset any more nurses' notions of the way patients are supposed to behave before then, please. Goodbye."

"Any more?" Trowa asked, amused, as the door swung shut behind the doctor.

"There have been a couple of incidents," Heero said blandly. "Apparently, patients are not supposed to send their friends out for pizza at seven AM because they don't like the available breakfast options."

"Reconstituted powdered scrambled eggs," Duo muttered, making a face. "On soggy toast. Yuck. You wouldn't feed it to a dog, because if you tried, it would bite you."

"Well then, I'm sure this will be appreciated at least as much as the more traditional offerings of fruit and flowers," Quatre said, pulling a couple of takeaway bags out of his backpack as Trowa produced a milkshake out of his. "I was positive someone would smell the onion, but we weren't stopped." He started to unpack the contents onto Duo's meal table, then hesitated. "Ah... I have one 'mother hen' comment to make, Duo, and then I promise I'll be good and not fuss. I hope they're giving you some sort of painkillers for your knee!"

Duo grinned wickedly. "Well, they tried."

"That was the other incident," Heero explained. "Patients are also supposed to whine and moan and beg for pain medication, it seems, not cheerfully refuse because they've 'had worse and never bothered before'."

"You've got to admit, Heero, the look on her face was priceless."

"Horrified, I would have said," Heero mused, face deadpan, but with a glitter of humour in his eyes.

As Duo started in on the burgers, Quatre settled into the visitor's chair next to the bed and Trowa pulled Heero aside and handed him a small duffel bag. "If you're going to be staying with him until he gets out, I figured you'd need a few more clothes and things," Trowa said quietly. "How is he?"

Heero winced slightly, dropping the bag on top of the low cot that had been brought in for him to sleep on. Normally used to let a parent stay with a young child without taking up another patient bed, this one had just quietly appeared after Dr. Modi had seen Heero settling in the chair for the night. "As far as being in hospital goes, he's all right," he said quietly, dropping his voice until it was barely audible over Quatre's as the blond teen started filling Duo in on everything he'd missed. "Once he found out that the doctor was going to back him up on anything he wants to do or not do that doesn't endanger his health, he relaxed a lot. But... he didn't sleep well last night. I think he was dreaming about Wufei. He kept saying 'look out', over and over."

"There's not much we can do about that," Trowa replied sympathetically, just as quietly.

"I know that. I just wish... it seems like he blames himself for what happened, and he shouldn't." Heero muttered. "Hell, I'm the one the damn thing was aiming for--"

"Don't you start, too," Trowa groaned softly. "At this rate, we're all going to end up with guilt complexes. Can we just agree to blame OZ and leave it at that?"

Before Heero could answer, they were interrupted by Duo nearly choking on a mouthful of hamburger. "She did what?!" he sputtered, staring incredulously at Quatre.

"She apologised," he repeated, spreading his hands and shrugging.

"Heero? You've got to hear this," Duo insisted, waving him over.

After the full tale of Relena's strange behaviour the day before had been told, Duo sat back against his pillows, scratching his head.

"Something is very wrong here. She asked about me, seemed worried about me, and apologised for the way she's been behaving? Oh, and she also wanted to help us maintain cover, not to mention volunteering to shop-- again, for me, the person she ignores whenever possible."

"Yes," Trowa said calmly, and Quatre nodded. "We thought it was weird, too."

"It's beyond weird!" Duo exclaimed. "I'm starting to think pod person here! --Oh, and just to let you guys know, if all my stuff turns out to be pink, I may kill her. Did you check the back of her neck?"

"...What?" Quatre blinked, bewildered.

"That's how you tell if someone's a pod person. They're attached at the back of the neck while they're growing in those big bean pods, and it leaves a mark."

"Duo!"

"I'm just saying it fits the observed facts! She's either a pod person or a badly programmed clone," Duo insisted. "Relena Dorlian- Peacecraft, Queen of the World, does not express sincere concern, or ask to talk to me. She's real good at worrying about the problems of people she's never met, but when it comes down to individuals she knows personally, her Friend-To-The-World act tends to slip."

"All I know is that's what she did and said," Quatre sighed, then checked his watch. "And speaking of Relena, she called me just before we got here to say that things were going to be delivered at about eleven, but she can't be at the house to let them in because she'll be stuck in meetings."

"Not that she'd be able to let them in anyway, since we didn't give her keys," Trowa muttered.

"So, we need to get going," Quatre stood up and leaned over to hug Duo. "I promise, if it's pink, we'll send it back!"

"See you, guys. Let me know how it goes!" Duo waved, Heero nodded, Trowa snitched a french fry and waved it in a vague gesture of farewell, and then they were gone.

Duo took a drink of his milkshake, staring into space as he thought, and then turned to Heero with a smirk on his face. "Actually, it's got a great ring to it, don't you think? 'Relena the Pod Princess'."

"Catchy," Heero agreed, deadpan.

----------
TBC...
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