AUTHORS: Mel & Christy (and their muses)
WARNINGS: Language? Violence! 'They Might Be Giants' songs! Collateral Damage!
PAIRINGS: 1x2, 3x4, 5x?
DISCLAIMER: They still aren't ours. We tried theft, but the security systems were too good. Wufei was slightly injured during the making of this fic, and Duo got a concussion, but they got better. (And Trowa just brushed his bangs back into order.) No money is being made from this fic, and if there was we'd just spend it on more tapes, so that's OK.

Demon of Justice + Chapter 7
I Can't Say

Quatre wandered towards the kitchen in his pyjamas, yawning behind his hand, vague thoughts of breakfast in his head.

Coffee first. Definitely coffee first... hm! Smells like someone already made a pot...

He walked in the door and jerked to a halt, eyes wide in surprise.

-takatakatakatakataka-

"Heero... how long have you been up?"

"Didn't go to bed." Heero took a gulp of coffee from the mug sitting next to his laptop, set it down, and continued typing.

-takatakatakatakataka-

"What are you doing?"

"Mission plan."

"A mission? Should I get Trowa?"

"No. This is a personal mission."

-takatakatakatakataka-

Quatre frowned. "Personal?"

"Hn. ...I have to get Duo back."

-takatakatakatakataka-

There was a rather long pause before Quatre replied. "You're writing a mission plan... on how you're going to make up with Duo?"

"Yes," Heero said, in an 'I-just-said-that' tone.

-takatakatak*shhhCRASH!*

One fast sweep of Quatre's arm sent Heero's laptop skidding across the table to smash on the floor. The pieces slid to a halt in the doorway just as Trowa was about to walk in; he blinked down at them, carefully took a long step over the bits of plastic and metal, and walked over to the coffee pot, pouring himself a mugful and leaning back against the bench to watch.

"Duo is not one of your fucking MISSIONS, Yui!" Quatre snarled. "He is a flesh-and-blood person who needs more than a frigid machine to make him happy! What were you doing, planning your attack?! Deciding how much affection to apply, when and how? Love is not a mission, Heero; and if love isn't what you feel for Duo, he's better off with you out of his life!"

Heero looked across the room at the remains of his laptop, then slowly raised his eyes to meet Quatre's. He swallowed, and spoke in a surprisingly soft voice. "So... what should I do?"

Quatre gestured impatiently, running one hand through his hair. "Oh, for... talk to him, Heero! Decide how you feel about him and tell him. Be honest with him!" He crossed his arms across his chest, glaring at Heero. "Of course, first you've got to be honest with yourself. This is not raising my estimation of your chances."

Heero blinked at him, looking confused and rather lost; Quatre snorted and spun on his heel, throwing a parting comment over his shoulder. "I'm amazed we're even having this 'discussion'! We should be celebrating the end of the war, or mourning Wufei; instead, we're playing supporting roles in the Heero Yui soap opera!"

There was a long silence.

Heero stared down at his hands.

Trowa finished his coffee.

Finally, Heero stood up; Trowa watched from under his bangs as he walked over to the doorway and crouched down, picking up the biggest piece of his laptop and turning it over in his hands. "I don't believe this," he muttered softly. "This thing was supposed to be impact-resistant!"

"Was it weatherproofed?" Trowa asked calmly, putting his mug in the sink.

"Of course!"

"Enough to survive, say... a cyclone?"

Heero twisted around to look at him over his shoulder, a puzzled frown on his face. "No... Dr. J couldn't do too much without making it look too distinctive."

Trowa strolled past him and out the door, a faint smirk on his face; he shrugged. "Cyclone Quatre strikes again."

----------

Okay, I'll find Duo and...

...and...

...and what?

Heero leaned on the windowsill in his room, staring past the computer bits on his desk at Duo's empty bed. Well, planning what I'll do first doesn't seem to be an option. The only way I know to plan something this important is apparently not appropriate...

...besides which, I don't want Quatre to break my spare laptop too. And I think he would.

So... find Duo and play it by ear.

Duo wasn't in Wufei's room; his bed hadn't been made, but the covers had been pulled sort of straight.

He wasn't in the bathroom.

Nobody was in the kitchen.

Quatre and Trowa were in the living room; Heero backed out of there in a hurry.

Heero eventually found Duo in the underground hangar, balancing precariously on a ladder as he poked at Deathscythe's battle-damaged left knee. Swallowing nervously, he moved up behind him on silent feet and opened his mouth to speak -- then paused, as Duo shifted his weight, wincing slightly, and started talking.

"Hell, 'Scythe, we're a right pair at the moment, aren't we? We've both popped a knee joint, both got a bunch of dings and cuts... though I think I win in the visual stakes, seeing as Gundanium doesn't bruise." He sighed. "At least I can talk to you, hey? You're a great listener, 'Scythe, don't think I don't appreciate it."

Duo rummaged around in his toolbox and pulled out a handlight, shining it into the access panel and craning his neck to get a better view of something; Heero watched, dry-mouthed. I should say something... let him know I'm here...

"If Wufei were here, I'd talk to him. He actually takes me seriously, y'know? We have real conversations.. in private, a'course, since in public he's gotta do the whole aloof thing. I'd say he was stupid if I didn't do something like it myself. But he's not here. And I can't really talk to Trowa and Quatre about this, since they're not exactly impartial... well, Wufei wasn't -- isn't! -- impartial either, but he can... I dunno... leave his own feelings out and think about something logically when he wants to give me advice. So anyway, here I am talking to you. You're not gonna give me advice, but talking things out helps me think. And, hey... at least you won't hit me or hate me for showing what I feel."

Heero flinched. Oh, hell...

"Love sucks, 'Scythe. Really, really sucks. I mean, sure, sometimes you get people like Quatre and Trowa, who understand each other; those two hardly have to speak, they understand each other so well... which is great for bang-boy. Okay, Trowa does speak, but he keeps it for the important stuff... so yeah, I guess he whispers sweet nothings into Quatre's ears. He'd figure that was important. But me? Noooooooooo, I have to go and fall in love with Mr Perfect Soldier, Heero Yui."

Heero's eyes widened as he listened, frozen.

"I don't think there's a heart in that 'stone cold killer' body. Sure is a sexy body, though... you know, 'Scythe, sometimes I just stand there at night and watch him sleep?"

What the... he does that too?!

"I just can't help myself. The number of times I've wanted to just lean over and kiss him... the number of times I've nearly done it... I guess I like flirting with death, huh?" Duo abruptly smacked himself on the forehead, making the ladder wobble. "What the hell am I talking about? I'm Death! But hey, some poet once wrote something like 'Death loves a soldier', so I guess it still fits." He chuckled softly.

If I don't say something now, I never will, Heero thought desperately. I have to say something... tell him I... I...

"I really love that baka... but I can't tell him. And I really can't keep going like this." Duo sighed, leaning on Deathscythe's leg. "Jeez, Duo, get a grip! Get over it! Yeah, right, that's sooooooooooo easy to say. But if he's never going to love me back... then I just gotta let go and move on, right? Give up on him." He sighed again, shoulders slumping as he pushed himself back upright. "Just... give up."

NO! No, no... shit! Say something! SAY something! Say it! say it! say it! SAY IT!

"Duo, I--I love you!"

----------

Lost in thought, unaware that he wasn't alone, Duo was taken completely by surprise.

"Duo--"

A strangled yelp escaped him as he jumped and started to turn... totally forgetting, for just that crucial moment, that he was standing on top of a wobbly ladder. His left foot slipped partway off the step; he threw his weight onto his other leg, trying to save himself, and his damaged knee couldn't take the sudden strain.

As Duo started to fall, grasping for a handhold that wasn't there, the rest of Heero's sentence registered.

"I--I love you!"

Say what?!

Then everything went black.

----------

Heero slapped the intercom button with an open hand and yelled into it, "Trowa, Quatre, get to the hangar now! Bring the medical kit, Duo needs help!"

When the other two pilots ran in, he was hovering over Duo's crumpled form with outstretched hands, desperately wanting to touch him and make sure he was okay, but terrified of making his injuries worse. Shit! Shit! SHIT! No matter what the hell I do, I end up hurting Duo! SHIT!!!

"What the hell did you do to him now, Yui?!" Trowa yelled as he skidded to a halt next to Duo, hands already unsnapping the catches on the medical kit. "He kissed you again and you punched him out, is that it?"

"No! I told him I loved him and he fell off the ladder!"

"You told him you loved him while he was standing on a ladder?" Quatre asked incredulously. "Did he at least know you were there before you spoke?"

"I don't think so..."

"For the love of Allah, Heero, you have no people skills! Assassination does not count as a people skill!"

* * * * *

The villagers had explained the danger to Wufei not a moment too soon; the day after Nataku was hidden, one of the older children who'd been posted as sentries came running into the square, out of breath.

"Hold up there, take a breath and tell it slow," Royce commanded as the boy wheezed and stammered. "What have we got, and where are they coming from?"

"Five on tall horses," he gasped out, "Lord Yithar and his men. Seven on foot... *wheeze* ...four very short. Brown tunics. Gold thread on the front. Couldn't make out... *wheeze* the symbol. Sorry! Coming up the road from the west... they were at the big oak tree when I saw 'em."

"Thanks, lad; well done. Go get a drink, you look to need one." Royce turned to Cord, frowning, as the boy wobbled off. "Gold on brown... that'd be one of the militant orders?"

"Sounds like the Order of Torframos, I'm thinking," Cord said slowly. "They wear a gold pick on a brown field, and that'd fit with four of them being short; Torframos is the patron of miners, and he likes dwarves."

"Fair enough. And coming from the west, that means they went to the canyons first. It's a good thing we didn't try to hide Nataku there!"

"Aye, and it looks like we've a Champion to deal with, not a mage. That's something to be thankful for."

"Oh? Why's that?"

"Champions usually come one at a time, and while I don't know too much about what they can do, I do know mages. Mages come in packs, and some of 'em can read minds. They won't do it without a good cause... but finding a demon would be a very good cause. I'd rather deal with someone we can lie to."

Royce's eyes widened and he whistled softly. "Ye-esss... that would be best. Ah... is there any reason why you didn't mention this before?"

"Could we have done anything but fret about it?"

"Point. Good point."

----------

Wufei watched from behind a screen of leaves as the party entered the village, two of the ones on foot breaking off to investigate the tracks he'd left all around the area yesterday.

As he watched the riders dismount and start talking to Royce, his eyes narrowed and he found his hand inching towards his swordhilt. The ones who arrived on foot seem to be acting politely enough... but the others... He scowled as two of the men remounted and rode out into the fields, carelessly trampling the remaining grain as they waved the women working there back into the village.

I think I need to be closer, Wufei thought grimly. This has the potential to go wrong whether they find me or not.

----------

[cont]