authors: Mel &
minor scene change (from person to person at the same place, someone waking
up from a dream, etc): ----------
major scene change (at another place, some time later, etc): * * * * *
flashback starting or ending: ~*~*~*~
electronics (phone, TV, intercom etc): <<Tadah!>>
+ Part 4
<<Well... he's sure changed.>>
"Changed? What do you mean, he's changed? What's--"
A hand came over Wufei's shoulder and twisted the phone away from him.
"Where are you?" Heero growled.
<<Uh... in low orbit.>> There was just enough of a pause to
make a point, then he continued. <<I'll be landing at New York Port
in about three hours.>>
"Where did you see Duo Maxwell?"
"We'll meet you at the port." *click!* "Duo's on
L2. We're meeting this guy at New York Port. Who is he?"
"YUI!" Wufei was shaking, furious. "Why the hell--
I was asking him about Duo, damn it!"
He sneered, beginning to turn away. "We'll find out what you've done
to him soon enough."
Heero staggered back a step, but didn't fall; he wiped at his mouth, looked
at the smear of blood on his hand, then glared at Wufei. "That was
your one free shot. Wanna try again?"
Quatre leapt in between them, shoving them apart. "Not now,"
he snarled, eyes cold and hard. "This isn't going to help
Wufei didn't even seem to notice Quatre; he stared past him at Heero,
white-faced and trembling. "What I've done?" he choked
out. "What about what you've done, Yui? You were his best
friend, nearly his brother, his lover -- what made you drop
all that and ignore his silence for eight months? You only tried
to find him when you wanted him for something. In eight months, you never
once thought he might have wanted you?"
Heero started forwards, fist raised, but Relena clutched at his arm and
hung on. "Heero, NO! Quatre's right, this isn't going to help!"
Trowa spoke quietly, hanging up the phone. "Quatre, your shuttle
will be ready to go whenever we are. I've arranged priority clearance
from New York to L2 as well; we'll get jumped to the head of the departures
queue." He glanced calmly over at the frozen tableau. "If you
two are finished for now, we should get our stuff and get ready to go."
When Captain May walked through the gate from the cargo section of New
York Port, he nearly turned around and walked straight back out. It was
a perfectly natural reaction, considering what was waiting for him.
Quatre and Relena were sitting down, wearing civilian clothes, and just
didn't seem threatening anyway; but Heero, Trowa and Wufei had changed
into Preventers uniform before leaving for the port. Trowa stayed leaning
against a pillar when the captain came in, but Heero and Wufei both tensed
up and glared as if they were about to pounce. (They'd been doing this
to everyone who came through the gate for the last half hour; a lot of
people had quickly examined their consciences to see if the Preventers
might possibly want them for something, one man who was wanted
had tried to run and been collared by Trowa, and five people had gone
to the port administration to complain.)
"You'd be Chang Wufei, then?"
"Yes," Wufei said tensely. "Captain May?"
"That's me." The captain was about forty-five or fifty years
old, a 'comfortably padded' man with a friendly, cheerful face. His grey-streaked
brown hair was plaited in a thin tail down to the middle of his back,
and his short beard had two white streaks running down from the corners
of his mouth.
"We've reserved a small meeting room," Quatre said, standing
up. "If you'd come this way...?"
Comfortably settled in the meeting room, introductions made and hands
shaken -- well, Quatre's and Relena's, anyway -- Captain May planted
his hands on the table and looked around. "Well then. Before you
start asking your questions, I think I should ask one of my own. Is Barton
-- Duo Maxwell, whatever his name is -- in any sort of trouble?
Because I'll tell you, all this," he indicated Heero and Wufei sitting
stiffly, arms folded, and Trowa leaning against the wall at the back of
the room, "isn't what I was expecting from the alert. It said 'missing
person', not 'wanted dead or alive'."
"Duo's not in any trouble that we know of," Quatre assured him
quickly. "He's a personal friend of all of us and we're worried about
him. That's all."
He raised an eyebrow. "Oh? Do the Preventers usually assign people
to look for their own friends? Come to that, isn't this a police job?
I don't know that much about the Preventers, seeing as you're new and
all, but I don't think missing people are what you look after."
There was an uncomfortable pause before Trowa spoke. "Quatre told
you the truth," he said, "but you're right; if this were a normal
missing persons case, the police would be handling it. It isn't, and they
aren't. That's all we can tell you."
The captain thought about that for a moment, rubbing his thumbs along
the edge of the table, then nodded. "Right. What do you want to know?"
"Everything," Heero said coldly.
"'Everything' is rather a lot, Mr Yui. Could you be a little more
specific, or do I start with 'One day, mummy and daddy May decided they
wanted a baby boy'?"
"If you could just start from how you met Duo, that would be fine,"
Quatre put in quickly, hoping to head things off before either Heero or
Wufei could snap and start choking the informant.
"About five p.m., day before yesterday, he came into the cargo section
here, looking to work his way to L2. One of my crew is--"
"Here?!" Wufei almost shouted.
"That's right. I've got a short-term contract for several runs from
New York to L2."
"My flight arrived here at four-thirty on Tuesday afternoon,"
Wufei said slowly. "Heero and I must have been walking out... just
as Duo was walking in."
Trowa walked over to the table and set his laptop down, flicking it open.
"I'll check the security camera records," he said quietly. "Go
"'One of my crew is'," Trowa prompted.
"Ah! Yes. One of my crew is currently serving thirty days for a drunk-and-disorderly;
the 'Jenny's only a three-man ship, so that's a serious manpower loss.
Besides that, he's my mechanic, and the only person who's ever been able
to keep the 'Jenny's cargo lift working smoothly for more than two hours
at a stretch. Sometimes I think he's rigged it to act up so's I can't
fire him... anyway, your friend turned up just as the damn thing jammed
for the tenth time. 'Are you any good with this sort of thing?' I asked,
'yes,' he said, and I told him 'all right, make it work long enough to
load the rest of the cargo and you're hired'. Ten minutes later, it was
working perfectly, and it hasn't broken down since; so I took him along
with us to L2." He grinned. "Along the way, he fixed every damn
squeak, click and whine he could reach without going EVA; we didn't have
a suit to fit him, or I think he'd've realigned my secondary communications
array as well. It's only a ten-hour trip! That boy's good."
"If you left for L2 two days ago, why did you say over the phone
you'd last seen him 'eight hours ago'?" Wufei asked.
"I gave him fifty creds to stick around and help us load for the
return trip, in case the cargo lift started playing up again. It didn't,
but he hung around and helped out until just before we lifted."
"You said he'd changed. What... what did you mean by that?"
Wufei swallowed painfully, looking down at his clasped hands.
"Well... you said the picture was only ten months old, right?"
At Wufei's nod, he continued. "He looks to have lost some weight.
I'm not sure how much; he wore this ratty long coat the whole time, even
when he was crawling into one of the maintenance spaces. I would've thought
he'd appreciate a square meal, but he hardly ate a thing when we had dinner
along the way. And he looked like he hadn't had a good night's sleep in
"Did he say why he was going to L2, or mention any places he was
planning to go?" Quatre said, after it was clear Wufei wasn't going
to ask any more questions.
"No. Hardly said ten words the whole time, and that's including 'I
need a berth to L2'."
Quatre and Relena stared incredulously at each other, then looked back
at Captain May as if he'd grown a second head. Heero glared at Wufei;
Wufei just sat, head still bowed over his hands, and closed his eyes.
"Found him," Trowa said calmly. He immediately had four people
looking over his shoulder.
A figure wearing a ragged black trenchcoat and a baseball cap, facing
away from the camera, looked up at an illuminated signboard; then he flicked
a long brown braid over his shoulder, and moved off to the left.
Quatre pushed forwards and tapped at the keyboard, rewinding to the point
where Duo first appeared on the screen. "Come on, Duo, look
at the camera!" he muttered.
Trowa shook his head. "He doesn't. This is the only clear view of
him before he moved out of the passenger area into areas that aren't covered
by cameras. All the other shots were blocked by departure boards, pillars,
The blonde sighed, straightening up. "Well, avoiding cameras was
second nature to Duo during the war; we shouldn't be surprised that he's
kept up his old habits."
"You didn't hear that," Heero snapped, glaring at Captain May.
"Hear what?" He spread his hands, smiling innocently.
A soft gasp from Relena pulled Heero's attention back to the screen, to
see himself and Wufei pushing through the crowds. "You were right,
Wufei," she whispered. "You nearly walked straight into him.
Two minutes earlier..."
Wufei turned away.
As his shuttle taxiied out onto the runway, Quatre leaned against the
window, gazing moodily out at the snow flurries that had begun falling
Snow... Duo hates being cold, but he can have more fun in the snow
than anyone else I've ever met.
"Come ON, Quatre, hurry up!"
"I'm coming, I'm coming! I can't find my gloves!"
"Here," Trowa said, holding them out in one hand; the other
hand was still holding a book in front of his face.
"Oh, thanks! Do you two want to come?"
Heero looked up from his laptop and Trowa lowered the book slightly; their
eyes met, and they traded identical smirks. "No," they chorused,
returning to their respective occupations.
"Oi, 'Fei!" Duo yelled up the stairs. "Wufei! Wu-man! Wu~u~u-chan!"
"What is it now, Maxwell? And--"
"--your name is WuFEI, yes, I know, but it got your attention,
didn't it?" Duo grinned. "Wanna come with Q and me? We're building
snow forts and having a snow fight!"
"I don't think so, Maxwell."
Duo shrugged carelessly; Quatre almost missed the disappointed, hurt look
that flashed over his face. "Your loss, Wuffie. See ya!" And
he bounced out the door.
It didn't take them long to build their forts, a carefully-measured snowball's
throw apart, and soon they were exchanging volleys, shrieks of laughter
and shouted threats. As he ducked behind his fort to avoid an extra-large
slushball, Quatre glanced over towards the house and glimpsed Heero and
Trowa standing at the window, watching; then as he bounced up to return
fire, the front door opened and they emerged, shrugging into their jackets.
Trowa smiled at Quatre as he strode over, Heero joining Duo. "It
looked like you two needed reinforcements."
"What I need right now is covering fire," Quatre grinned.
"WAHAHAHAHAHA~!" Duo cackled, jumping on top of his snow fort;
amazingly, it held together. "The Icicle Alliance has received reinforcements!
With Sir Heero's able assistance, victory is assured! Shinigami will ACK*pfft*!"
Quatre had gotten him full in the face with a well-aimed shot; Duo teetered,
swayed, then toppled backwards, landing flat on his back in the snow.
Being officially 'dead' didn't shut him up, though.
"Aagh! I am slain! The flower of young manhood is cut down in its
prime. I regret that I have but one life to give for my snow fort!"
"Baka," Heero growled, flicking a couple of shots towards the
opposing forces; Quatre could still hear him even after he ducked down
again. "This is a snowball fight, not an opera. You don't get a dying
"Hee-chan!" Duo sounded aggrieved. "You could at least
swear to avenge your fallen comrade!"
"Oh shit," Quatre said.
"Yep," Trowa agreed.
Heero vaulted over Duo's crumbling fort and charged.
"Eep!" Quatre squeaked, throwing snowballs as fast as he could
snatch them up; Trowa was doing the same, but Heero jinked and dodged
as he ran, avoiding them all, then swept both hands forward and launched
a deadly-accurate double shot, forcing his opponents to duck.
He didn't stop running; he shoulder-charged Quatre's fort and tipped it
over on top of them.
When Quatre floundered up out of the debris, sputtering and wiping snow
out of his eyes, Heero was marching back towards the still-prone Duo;
he stopped by his 'fallen comrade' and smirked. "Ninmu kanryou."
"Oh Sir Heeee~ro," Duo exclaimed dramatically, "have you
truly avenged my death?"
"Yes. And I'll give you a decent burial, too."
"--what? AAGH! NO! Hee--" *FWUMPH!* Heero had
picked up a large chunk of the derelict fort and dropped it on top of
Duo jumped up, plastered with wet snow, and leapt at him. "ROWR!
The Abominable SnowDuo rises from the grave to get you, you--"
Heero sidestepped and grabbed his braid as he lunged, tugging him to a
halt. "Hn. Duo, you're wet, your lips are blue, you're shaking like
a leaf, and your bangs have turned to icicles. Get inside. ...I'll make
you hot chocolate," he added grudgingly.
"Cool! Thanks, Heero," Duo said cheerfully, moving as if he
was going to sling his arm around the other boy's shoulders-- then
he dropped a handful of wet snow down Heero's collar, and bolted.
Heero jerked, eyes wide, and squirmed as the slush trickled down his back;
then his eyes narrowed, and he followed. "Duo... omae o korosu!"
"Not 'til after I get my hot chocolate!" Duo yelled back.
Quatre laughed breathlessly as Trowa pulled him upright, then tramped
towards the house in their wake. A movement at one of the second floor
windows caught his eye, and he glanced up in time to see Wufei turning
away, a look of mingled longing and regret on his face.