Author: pyrzm
see ch. 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer

Broken Warriors + Chapter 101
At Risk

January 4, 198
Waldorf-Winner Hotel
New Riyad, L-4 Colony
7:30 a.m. L4T


Quatre stood in front of the hotel mirror, scowling at his reflection. Piercing jewelry removed-all of it, not just the pieces that showed-- dressed in the expensive, stylish gray business suit, with his hair freshly dyed back to plain blond and cut more softly around his face, he looked more like his wartime self than he had in months. A taller, older version, to be sure, but still more like Quatre Raberba Winner than Kat Winner-Barton.

He hated it.

"I like my other outfit better," he grumbled, glancing over at the black leather pants and black, cropped CdN tank top that Trowa had vetoed. "I'm sick of pretending to be someone else, just to please them! It doesn't do any good, anyway! You look great. I look like an accountant."

"A very attractive, stylish accountant, meli." Trowa came up behind him and reached around to straighten the knot of Quatre's elegant Italian silk necktie. His own black silk suit and black collarless shirt were more avant-garde in cut. He smiled at Quatre in the mirror and kissed him on the cheek. "Keep the mission in mind, 04. We don't want to go scaring the straights now, do we? This is just camouflage for moving in enemy territory."

Quatre turned in his arms and rested his head on Trowa's shoulder. "I know. I'm so glad you're here!"

Trowa hugged him close. "I just hope it's not a mistake."

Their status was questionable. Quatre's family was using their relationship and history against them. According to L-4 civil law, same sex marriages could not be legalized here. But under ESUN law, unions sanctioned on other colonies or Earth must be honored everywhere, a statute that was still bitterly debated here. Quatre had given up his L-4 citizenship when he broke with his family two years ago, but he'd been a minor then by all statutes and his uncle and older sisters were calling into question the emancipation he'd been granted at the end of the war. On L-4 he wouldn't be considered a legal adult for another year.

His lawyer, Isobel Cardoza, was famous for representing rich and powerful clients in cases like these and her record was excellent, but there was too much at stake for Quatre to be anything but unsettled as he watched the clock tick toward the appointed time.

"Do you think Heero and Duo would mind if I called?" he asked. "It's still so early there."

Trowa took him by the elbow and led him to the vid phone on the desk. "Call. You know they're up."

+

New Orleans, LA
3:35 a.m. EST


Marie brought a tray of coffee and fresh sugary donuts up to the upstairs parlor and joined Heero and Duo in front of the new large screen television. She'd personally overseen the equipping of the new kitchen and gone back to work there before the last painter had left. Too worried about "Mr. Quatre's" fate, she'd spent the night and been up cooking for most of it.

Heero gave her a smile and took charge of the coffee pot. He and Duo hadn't slept either. They'd seen Quatre and Trowa off the previous day, then spent the day going over contingency plans and moping around the too-empty house. It was almost a relief to have Zero Hour finally coming. It had been a long week.

They'd had the television on all night, listening to the press wind up before the hearing that would start at 5 a.m. New Orleans time. It was cold and rainy and dark. Heero lit a fire in the fireplace and sat on the sofa with Duo under a blanket.

"They saying anything new yet?" Marie grumbled, settling in an armchair with her coffee.

"No. Same old garbage," said Duo, flipping between the local channel and GNN with the remote.

Heero resisted the urge to grab it away from him. As usual, most the news commentators were concentrating on the more lurid details of Quatre and Trowa's past. There were the expected clips of Quatre's breakdown rant on the steps of WEI, shots of him entering clubs and hospitals and rehabs, the infamous Vanity magazine cover, stills of the couple in their risque circus outfits, and of course, endless replays of the four of them clubbing. To anyone who didn't know the truth, it probably did look like Quatre was leading a very dissipated life. It made Heero feel very helpless, just sitting here, unable to do anything at all.

The vid phone beside him rang just then and Quatre appeared on the screen. He was smiling, but Heero could tell how tense he really was. He wondered if Trowa had made love to him, as Heero had suggested.

"Good morning." Heero moved over to make room for Duo in front of the monitor. "How are you doing? You look very respectable."

Quatre wrinkled his nose. "Thanks, I guess. I'm nervous as hell, but I think I'm ready. The judge we're meeting with knew my father. Maybe that will help."

"Hang tough, 04," Duo told him. "Hell, you're the smart one, right? And you could always charm the pants of anyone you wanted to. Just bat those baby blues at him and give him the innocent act. He won't have a chance." He glanced down at his watch. "Hey, it's time. Good luck, buddy! We love you!"

"Love you, too." Quatre gave them a high sign and signed off.

Duo switched back to GNN just in time to catch the start of Dr. Batoosingh's live interview with Larry Watts.

"Good morning, Dr. Batoosingh. Thanks for joining us so early," said Watts. He was one of the better talking heads, in Heero's opinion, and handled more serious stories with decorum.

"I am most happy to do so," Batoosingh replied, calm and unflappable as ever. Heero wondered if he had his pad open on the table beside him, ready to take notes on the interview the way he did in sessions.

"Now, doctor, perhaps we should begin by explaining to our audience that you have never treated Quatre Winner-Barton, but know him through some of the other Gundam boys, who are your patients."

"That is correct, Larry."

"And which ones, if you don't mind my asking?"

"Doctor-patient confidentiality does not allow me to say."

"Of course. Sorry. But you feel you know Quatre well enough to speak about his emotional status?"

"I do, and I do so with his express permission, and that of his partner, Mr. Barton-Winner."

"I see. So, in your expert opinion, doctor, is there any merit in the claims some of his family are making, that he's not mentally competent?"

"I find such claims utterly absurd, Larry. Mr. Winner-Barton has always struck me as a most intelligent and resourceful young man, wise beyond his years. He did suffer a nervous breakdown after the war, as so many young pilots did, but he sought appropriate medical help and has pulled his life together most admirably. His relationship with his partner strikes me as a very healthy one."

"How then do you explain pictures like these?" More clubbing scenes flashed across the screen, focusing mainly on those of Quatre making out with Duo and Heero in clubs and on dance floors.

Batoosingh smiled. "Mr. Winner-Barton's lifestyle may not be as sedate as some would like, but I have seen nothing in recent months to suggest that it is in any way destructive. Quite the opposite, in fact. Quatre and his friends are young, and they enjoy a rather unique history and social life together, but in my professional opinion, their behavior falls well within a broad definition of normal. There is no mental illness involved in the dynamic."

Duo chuckled, cuddling closer to Heero. "Good thing he doesn't know about Tokyo."

"Hush!" Marie said, shaking her head. "Whatever you boys get up to, I don't want to know either. Ain't nobody's business, that's what I say. Those folks of his got no right, nosing around in his doin's. That child's had enough heartache for one lifetime. You all have."

"Amen to that," Duo murmured, raising his coffee mug to her.

The feed cut to a feed of the street in front of the L-4 colonial high court building, where Quatre and Trowa had just emerged from a long black limo. The sidewalk was jammed with citizens and reporters being held back by a police line. Some in the crowd were holding up signs clearly in support of Quatre's right to privacy, while others condemned his relationship. The camera zoomed in on a bearded young man holding a sign that showed a picture of Quatre in club clothes, caught in mid pelvic grind with Duo, over which was scrawled in huge red letters, "Abomination!"

"What is this, the fucking dark ages?" Duo exclaimed, quivering with indignation.

Heero shook his head and tightened his arm around Duo, feeling another disquieting wave of helplessness. He wondered if it was his own emotion, or something he was picking up from the others over all that distance.

Quatre had on his game face, though, Heero noted proudly. There was no hint of hesitation or fear as he calmly made his way toward the stairs, smiling at a few well wishers and ignoring the others. Trowa strode along beside him, one hand resting protectively in the small of Quatre's back. He looked looking taller and thinner than ever in his classy black Dolchi suit. His expression was unreadable as always, but Heero recognized the way he was scanning the crowd for potential threats. Some people were cheering them, others shouting epithets.

"No wonder he wanted to keep it a secret at first," Heero said, rubbing a hand up and down Duo's arm to calm both of them.

The vid phone rang again, and this time it was Wufei, and he looked furious. "You are watching the news, I assume." Those slanting black eyes were flashing with outrage, just like the old days.

"Yeah. Can you believe it?" asked Duo.

"No! What a shameful exhibition of intolerance. Poor Quatre! He doesn't deserve such treatment!"

Heero thought of how Quatre had acted when he told him about the hearing. It had been as if this is exactly what he thought he did deserve. "Would it have been any different on L-5?" he wondered, thinking of all Wufei had told him.

"There were no laws forbidding homosexuality. It simply wasn't recognized or discussed. One had to be discrete, no doubt, but this? This is ludicrous!"

"Jesus, look at 03. If looks could kill!" said Duo.

"Stand by. They're going in," murmured Heero.

Heero and Wufei left their connection open as Trowa and Quatre disappeared inside. The reporters began interviewing people in the crowd, most of whom were against Quatre. After a moment Heero seized the control from Duo and killed the sound. "Enough. Their opinions are meaningless.

+

"Fornicator!"

"Dirty faggots!"

"Shame on you!"

By the time he had Quatre safely inside the courthouse, Trowa would have given his right nut for five minutes in Heavyarms with a full ammo load. His jaw ached from gritting his teeth. This was a mission, and he knew how to control himself, but it had never been harder. Not when he could feel Quatre flinching at every harsh insult. The old wounds in that tender, conflicted heart were being ripped wide open again, and his love was bleeding.

He slipped his left hand into his jacket pocket, palming the contents to calm himself.

Miss Cardoza met them outside the judge's chambers with the bailiff and several armed officers. She gave Trowa an apologetic look. "I'm sorry. The judge insists on keeping it to only those directly involved.

"I am directly involved," Trowa gritted out.

"It's all right, Trowa," Quatre said, squeezing his hand. "It's enough to know you'll be right out here waiting for me." Rising on his toes, he kissed Trowa soundly on the lips and gave him a defiant wink as several of the security guards looked away in disgust.

Quatre and his lawyer went inside and the heavy door shut with a dull, final sound. Trowa sat down on the polished wooden bench beside the door and rubbed his left ear, surreptitiously activating the tiny hidden earphone keyed into the pin sized transponder in Quatre's lapel. Everything came in loud and clear.

+

Quatre followed his lawyer inside to a comfortably appointed office. Deep leather armchairs were arranged in front of the judge's large desk. The judge, his uncle, sister and their lawyer were already in place. Quatre nodded to them as he took his seat, not liking the way his uncle was smiling at him.

He remembered Judge Al-Quar from his father's parties and fundraisers. He was a white-haired man, very tall and thin, with a pointed white beard and thoughtful dark eyes under his shaggy eyebrows.

"Hello, Quatre." The judge rose and shook his hand. "I am sorry to meet you again under these circumstances. I assure you, I have looked into your case most thoroughly and will strive to be fair to all."

"Thank you, sir," Quatre said. "I must tell you, it's most upsetting to be here. I have already made it clear that I'm willing to give up my shares of WEI to my three younger sisters and sign away my vote in the corporation. I don't want anything from them at all, except to be left alone."

Al-Quar shuffled through a stack of papers on his deck and held up a document. "Yes, I have your signed affidavit before me. It is part of what concerns me."

Quatre's heart sank. This was not going to be easy. "You doubt my motives?"

"This is a competency hearing, Quatre, not a corporate negotiation. The issue before us is whether, over the past three years, you have been acting of your own volition, and in your own best interests. As a minor-"

"I have been an emancipated minor since the war's end, and under ESUN law, I am no longer one, since I turned eighteen," Quatre said stiffly. "As a citizen of L-3 . . ."

The judge held up a hand. "Your lawyer has presented your arguments to me already. The time after the war was chaotic, and the rights of the ESUN versus colonial autonomy are still under dispute. You were a minor by all statutes when you were recruited by the Gundam scientist, and you left home against the express wishes of your legal guardians, your father and eldest sister."

Fatima gave him a triumphant look. "You broke Father's heart. He never would have agreed to let you go, so you just ran away! You were still disobeying and betraying him the day he died."

"Fatima, please," the judge cautioned.

Quatre gripped the arms of his chair and struggled not to give in to grief at the memory. "It's true he disagreed with my choices, but the last time we spoke, I think he understood, even if he could never agree with what I'd chosen."

"That is not at issue, either," said the judge. "You acted in direct and willful disobedience to your father's express wishes and under the law, you should have been found and brought home."

"We might not be sitting here at all if that had happened," Quatre's lawyer retorted. "Quatre's part in ending the war is undisputed."

"So you say!" Uncle Ahmed sniffed. "He did not act alone, and we have only the word of outsiders and other wayward minors."

"That is also not on the table for dispute," the judge said sternly. "Having carefully examined all the facts presented, I do not believe Quatre was old enough to make such a decision without significant coercion. A young, impressionable, kind hearted-boy, offered the chance to go off on a grand adventure, with the added allurement of the Gundam itself . . ."

"You're wrong!" Quatre said as calmly as he could manage. "I knew exactly what I was doing, and why! I'd do it all over again if I had to."

The other lawyer, Omar Obeno, held up a familiar looking dossier. "Quatre was among a group of prospective pilots specifically targeted by the insidious men of Operation Meteor. He underwent extensive psychological profiling. They knew exactly how to turn him from a respectable, misguided child into a renegade!"

"I must object, your honor. My esteemed colleague is twisting the evidence with his own pejorative opinion," Cardoza interjected. "Every suit pilot in every army underwent similar vetting. Only those deemed strong were allowed to pilot mobile suits. The fact that Quatre passed all tests with flying colors should be seen as a testament to his outstanding maturity."

The judge gave a noncommittal shrug and turned to another file. "I have here a compilation of psychiatric and medical reports, dating from March of 196 to July of 197. Posttraumatic stress. Emotional break down. Drug abuse . . ." He pursed his lips disapprovingly. "Venereal disease. Arrests for drunkenness, drug abuse and public indecency. A charge of prostitution. Now you perform nude in a show that has already been banned on this colony?" He looked up at Quatre and shook his head sadly. "My boy, I know you were raised better than that!"

"The prostitution charge was dropped. It was a false claim, filed out of spite by a man Quatre refused to date," his lawyer countered.

"But the rest? Quatre, these are not the actions of a stable mind."

"His work with Circus della Notte is an artistic performance. It may not meet the standards of this colony but it is highly acclaimed elsewhere," Cardoza said. "As for his earlier troubles, Quatre is hardly the only veteran to go through a period of such behavior. All of those factors are directly traceable to post traumatic stress syndrome. His diagnosis is well documented, together with the record of his treatment and release by Dr. Emma Standish. Since that time he as proven himself a responsible, productive citizen. He has held a steady job-"

"A job he was given by the very man who seduced him, and kept him under his control and in his bed, at considerable financial cost to this family, I might add," said Ahmed indignantly.

"How dare you!" Quatre was on his feet, barely able to contain himself. "Trowa did not seduce me, and I have always been with him of my own free will! He saved my life and my sanity!"

"Quatre, please! This isn't helping!" Cardoza whispered, tugging him back into his seat.

"I'm sorry, your honor, but please try to see it from my perspective," Quatre said, clenching his hands in his lap. "Trowa is more than just my hus-ah, partner. He's my best and dearest friend. He saved my life many times, during the war and afterwards. But for the past two and a half years my uncle and sister have done nothing but drag his name very publicly through the mud, accusing him of all sorts of terrible things. Not once in all the time I've been with him have they tried to get to know him. This isn't just about the Winner money, although I'm sure that's a big part of it. No, they can't get beyond the fact that I'm gay and I love him! And-and I'm afraid that you can't understand that, either, sir. How am I supposed to get a fair hearing under these circumstances, with such cultural bias against me? I'm not sick, I'm just different!"

"Quatre, answer me this. Was Trowa Barton not among the many men you had sexual relations with during the time before you received mental health treatment?"

"Yes, but-"

"And you yourself have stated on the record that he was the first man you had sex with, at a time when the effects of this wartime stress were already beginning to manifest?"

"That had nothing to do with it!"

"And that even while claiming he loved you, he encouraged you to go to sex clubs of the most extreme sort, and to consort with other men. That he watched you commit sexual acts with other men?"

"I-yes, but-It's not the way you make it sound." Quatre felt his face going red. Of course they knew all about that. His sister's spies had been very skillful, right from the start. The judge probably had photos in that thick file in front of him. "You can't understand what it was like, trying to handle so many changes at once. I did have PTSD, but I'd also tried to force myself to be someone I wasn't when I came back. I tried to be the good son, the dutiful Winner heir. If people here could have accepted Trowa as my lover, then I might not have broken down at all! Afterwards I admit, I was out of control. No one could help me except Trowa, and believe it or not, he did that by standing by me in those clubs and making sure I didn't go too far. And he didn't cast me aside for it. He's the reason I got help, and he's the one who got me through it."

"Really? Then how to you explain this? Your honor, these photos were taken less than two weeks ago." Obeno slapped a sheaf of large pictures down on the desk and Quatre felt his heart sink a little lower. They were surveillance shots of the spin the bottle game at the hospital. Shocked as he was, his quick mind had already registered that Zechs didn't show up in any of them. Apparently even the almighty Winners didn't dare take on the Peacecrafts.

"This took place at Tokyo General Hospital," Obeno explained with evident pleasure. "Witnesses there will testify that they heard Barton encouraging his so-called partner to lewd congress with these other boys." He slapped down more pictures of the four of them piled on top of each other in the cab, obviously drunk. "They later shared a room at a hotel, and witnesses there will attest to hearing the sounds of sexual activity."

"Hearsay, your honor, and a clear invasion of my client's right to privacy!" Cardoza objected.

Quatre took a deep breath, telling himself to be thankful no one had managed to photograph what had gone on in that room. "I know how my life must look to you, but nothing we do is illegal! Please try to understand-- I'm not an ordinary person. I never have been. My life is anything but ordinary. It may even strike you as immoral, but that doesn't make me crazy!"

The judge just shook his head and gave him a pitying look. "You were still under psychiatric care when the two of you went through the union ceremony on L-2, were you not?"

"Yes. Treatment was going well."

"But you acted against the express advice of your doctor, didn't you? We have a signed affidavit from her, saying she did not feel you were stable enough to make such an important life decision."

"She was wrong! I've talked to her since. She admits that she was wrong. What is the date on that affidavit?"

"That's immaterial. Hindsight does not change the fact that at the time, you ignored the advice of your own mental health expert and-" Obeno paused with a look of disgust. "And married this man. You were only sixteen, still a minor under all statutes."

"Emancipated minors are free to enter unions on L-2," Cardoza countered.

"Only if they are mentally competent. Quatre failed to provide the necessary waiver. Only a bureaucratic oversight, or perhaps special treatment due to his fame and status, allowed the union to be entered into. Their so-called union isn't even valid by L-2's questionable standards!"

Quatre felt like he was sinking into a nightmare. He remembered the pretty young clerk who'd winked at the oversight and promised them it would never be a problem.

"And let's not forget the fact that Barton was eighteen at the time of their union. A case could be made for statutory rape."

"Stop it!" Quatre yelled, slamming his fist down on the desk. "Trowa didn't know his real age until a few months ago. Nobody did. He had no birth records and a dental scan wasn't done until last October. That's a matter of public record!"

Obeno was undeterred. "Yes, it is. Thereby opening him to a charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, fraud-"

"Fraud?"

"Are you denying that Barton has benefited financially through his relationship with you? That your not inconsiderable allowance has been spent in supporting him, buying him expensive clothing, trips, and the like?"

"I shared willingly with him! He never asked me for one credit."

"That remains to be seen," said Obeno, looking altogether too smug. "And there remains the matter of the statutory rape charges, as of today. You are still eighteen, are you not? And under L-4 law-"

"I'm not an L-4 citizen, god damn it!"

"Quatre, please!" Cardoza pleaded.


The judge shook his head. "I'm sorry, Quatre, but it is the ruling of this court that you were not of sound mind when you were emancipated, or when you entered into the union with Trowa Barton, rending both those legal proceedings null and void."

Quatre sank back in his chair. "No!"

"I am not doing this to be cruel, I promise you. I have only your best interests at heart, and the memory of your dear father. But I am not blind, either. I do not take quite such a dim view of young Barton's motives, as do your relatives. Therefore I am tabling the fraud and rape charges, until such time as your current mental state has been evaluated."

"Whom do you want me to see? A psychiatrist? That's fine."

"Let me finish, Quatre. It is the ruling of this court that, acting in your best interests, you should be placed in protective custody, away from all outside influence, and undergo a period of observation and therapy, after which I will hear expert medical testimony as to your state of mind, past and present."

"Protective custody." Quatre felt faint. "You mean you're keeping me here?"

"Yes, Quatre. But in addition to that, I am disregarding your financial affidavit. WEI will acknowledge and respect your share of the corporation, and your votes will be counted in absentia-"

Quatre was on his feet again. "I don't care! I don't want it! Please, just let me walk away from this, as I proposed. They never have to hear from me or think about me again!"

"That is not in your best interests, Quatre, and such wild offers are not working in your favor, as to your mental state."

"Why, because I'm spitting out the silver spoon that was put in my mouth when I was born? Is that all that matters? Money? I'm quite capable of making a living. I don't need any inheritance!"

"You may feel differently later, Quatre. I cannot let you throw this away now. It would be irresponsible of me. It is the ruling of this court that you be made a ward of the court and taken directly into protective custody. You will be transported to the New Riyadh Veterans Hospital for observation for a period of no less than sixty days, whereupon your status will be reevaluated by the court."

Quatre took a deep breath and tried to calm down enough to keep the tears at bay. It wasn't as if they hadn't foreseen something like this as a possible outcome. "Miss Cardoza, would you please read my prepared statement?"

His lawyer opened her briefcase and took out a folded letter. "I'd like this read into the court record, Your Honor." He nodded, and she read it out very slowly and clearly for the benefit of the recorder. "'I, Quatre Raberba Winner-Barton, citizen of L-3 Colony and the Earth Sphere United Nation, declare myself a political prisoner of the government of L-4 colony. I declare that all efforts to detain me on L-4 are done against my will, and in direct conflict with ESUN law. Signed and dated this day." She handed the letter to the judge and provided Obeno with a notarized copy. "The moment you take Quatre from this room, your honor, copies of this statement will be relayed directly to the L-3 Embassy here in New Riyadh, to ESUN headquarters, and to the press."

"Political prisoner!" Fatima exclaimed. "Do you hear that? He's not only a weak minded degenerate, he's paranoid and delusional!"

"Please be quiet, Ms. Winner," her lawyer warned. "Surely your honor, you see how ridiculous this is? Are you going to allow such a farce? This will embarrass L-4 in front of the whole world!"

The judge studied the letter, shaking his head a little. "Only if his claim has merit." He laid the letter aside and folded his hands before him. "You must do as you see fit, Quatre, but so must I."

+

Outside in the corridor Trowa unclenched his fists and took the tiny communicator from his pocket. Turning it on, he said very quietly, "Situation red."

+

In New Orleans, Duo relayed the message to Wufei in Sanque.

Wufei acknowledged it with a grim nod. "Understood. Be careful. This is a delicate situation."

"Hey, ain't we both just the soul of tact?" Duo sneered with a Shinigami grin.

He signed off and followed Heero out the door for the shiny new motorcycle waiting downstairs.

"You boys aren't going to try and get any weapons through colonial security, are you?" Marie called after them, guessing where they were headed.

"We are weapons," Heero growled.

+

In Sanque, Wufei signed off the vid phone and pushed it across the table to Zechs.

He calmly keyed in the number and smiled at the pretty receptionist. "Hi there, Elsa. Don't you look lovely today? Is my sister available? It's rather urgent, actually. A bit of a situation brewing."

+

Trowa had already memorized the plans of the building and knew exactly where to be waiting when Quatre was brought out to a waiting car. From his vantage point in the shadows of the alley where the back door let out, he saw how small and lost Quatre looked, surrounded by several security guards. Trowa waited until he was exactly between the doorway and the car, then turned the ignition on the big rented Harley, gunned the engine to a defining roar and skidded out, aiming directly for Quatre. The startled guards scattered. One of them tried to pull Quatre to safety, but he wiggled out of his suit jacket, took a running start and vaulted over Trowa's head to land on the seat behind him.

"Go, go, go!" he shouted, wrapping his arms around Trowa's waist.

Trowa opened up the big bike and roared out of the alleyway, veering sharply onto the street, which the police had so thoughtfully cordoned off. With no traffic to contend with, they got a good head start on the police as they streaked for the L-3 Embassy just six blocks away. Sirens erupted on all sides but Trowa had carefully scoped out their escape route. Leaving the street, they flew through a small park, veered the wrong way down a narrow one-way street, gunned it through a playground and the lower level of a parking garage. They were in sight of the Embassy gates when two squad cars appeared from opposite directions and blocked the way.

"Hang on!" Trowa threw the bike into a sharp skid, wheeled around, and ran up onto the sidewalk next to the high stone wall that surrounded the Embassy grounds. Keeping one eye on the cops, who were on foot now and coming on fast, weapons drawn, he braked to a halt, climbed off, and bent over, hands cupped in front of him. "Up!"

Quatre didn't hesitate. In a move they'd rehearsed hundreds of times over the past few years, he took a few steps back, ran to him and planted a foot in Trowa's hands. Trowa threw him up with all his strength and, with a little help from L-4's forgiving artificial gravity, Quatre vaulted easily to the top of the wall and clambered up.

"Come on, 03, hurry!"

Trowa glanced back at the cops. They were less than fifty yardrs away now, and shouting at him to halt. With a grin, he backed into the street, took a run, and flipped up into the air into his best spinning leap, landing with his usual flourish on the wall beside Quatre.

"Sorry, gentlemen, but that's all the free show we can provide today," he called down to the flabbergasted cops. He reached into his pocket, produced a few silver tickets, and threw them down in a glinting flutter. "If you want more, come see us in New York. My treat. Be sure to tell your friends."

"Nice touch!" Quatre laughed as they climbed down a large palm tree into the embassy courtyard.

"Thanks." Trowa grabbed him and hugged him hard. "I thought it would play better with the press than my first choice, which was shouting, 'Don't ever fuck with the Gundam boys' and flipping them off."

"Wise choice. I'm sure Duo will do that as soon as they get here, but people sort of expect that from him."

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