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

Broken Warriors + Chapter 102
Headline News

January 4, 199

"Hurry up, they're going to replay the footage!" Heero called from the rented shuttle's passenger cabin.

Duo locked in the autopilot of the Zoroaster for L-4 and floated back to join Heero. He was already strapped down on the leather couch in front of the large screen vid. He pulled Duo in, keeping him in place with an arm around his waist.

Heero had dressed up for the occasion, wanting to present a strong image. He wore dark slacks and a crisp sapphire blue shirt under his leather jacket. Duo, on the other hand, had angrily opted to flaunt his style. He'd foregone makeup, but his jeans were tight and worn, his ears and right hand heavy with jewelry. His left hand was bare except for his engagement ring. He wore a long black leather duster Heero had given him over a black linen shirt unbuttoned halfway down his chest to highlight the wide black leather choker he wore around his neck with the Shiva's eye pendant. The shirt was his only concession to Heero's concerned appraisal that morning; his original choice had been a cropped, tight, hot pink tank with the words "BETTER THAN PUSSY" emblazoned across it in big glittery red letters. That had been a gift from Quatre.

"I want to look like your boyfriend, not your pimp," Heero had growled, forcibly helping him out of the offending garment. Duo had grumbled a little, but conceded when Heero pointed out that they didn't want to play into the hands of Quatre's relatives by showing up looking like total degenerates.

He fidgeted restlessly with his pendant now as he settled in to watch the news. Heero took his hand and held it, stroking his lover's knuckles with his thumb to calm him. "Did you take your meds?"

"Yes, for the millionth time! Did you?"

"Of course. Let's see what's going on before you get any more upset, OK?"

The local news services had pieced together surveillance tapes from the courthouse, various police cruisers, and the embassy. Short, rapid fire clips showed Trowa roaring out of nowhere on a huge motorcycle to free Quatre from the police escort at the courthouse and Quatre's leap onto the bike. There were a few grainy shots of them ripping though city streets, and then a very clear shot of the pair gracefully vaulting the embassy wall. Duo laughed out loud at Trowa's parting shot to the cops as he tossed them some tickets.

"Holy mother loving shit! He can be such an arrogant prick! Makes it even hotter that you tapped that, huh?"

But Heero was frowning. "Quatre pushed off on his good leg when he jumped the wall, but that's still a very strenuous series of events. I wonder if he refractured anything?"

"The lower gravity probably helped, not to mention adrenaline. You and I both did more with worse injuries than that, ya know." Heero gave him a look and Duo shrugged. "OK, so we can't compare anyone to you, Super Soldier, but I got through a lot of shit and I wasn't modified, just tough. Kat is, too. Remember how he kept fighting, after that Catalonia bitch skewered him on Libra? Don't worry, Heero, Kat's tough, and he's got Trowa there to look after him."

The scene on screen changed to an interior shot at the embassy. Behind the dapper GNN reporter, they could make out a large courtyard filled with palm trees and flowers.

"This is Jack Cotter reporting live from the L-3 embassy here in New Riyadh. Despite L-4 government attempts to restrict our presence here, the ambassador, Walter Sorenson, has granted open access to the press. In just a moment I'll be broadcasting an exclusive live interview with former Gundam pilots and circus innovators Quatre Winner-Barton and Trowa Barton-Winner, now cast in the role of star crossed lovers. As we reported earlier, a colonial high court attempted to rescind Quatre's emancipation, which in turn calls into question not only his citizenship, but also his civil union. Sources close to the Raberba Winner family have maintained for some time now that the Winner heir, youngest of his family, was not mentally competent to make such legal commitments, and that he should undergo treatment for mental illness. Earlier today, the judge attempted to make him a ward of the court and to undergo observation to establish once and for all his mental state.

"Winner-Barton's lawyer, Isobel Cardoza, immediately issued the following statement on her client's behalf: 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."


"Damn straight!" Duo yelled at the screen. "Where the fuck do they get off, calling him crazy?"

Heero fended off Duo's braid, which was whipping slowly but dangerous at his face in the zero-g of the shuttle. "He did have a breakdown."

"Who didn't? But he's OK now, and he was fine at the end of the war, when he got emancipated. He was saner than any of the rest of us, except maybe Trowa. This is so goddamn fucked up!"

"Hold on. There they are."

The vid showed Quatre and Trowa in a tastefully appointed, very modern reception room. Quatre was lying on a white leather chaise, still impeccably dressed in his suit and tie, but his right leg was incased in an orange pressure splint. He looked pale and a little glassy-eyed. Trowa was a grim black clad presence beside him. On a sofa nearby sat three young, impeccably dressed women who had to be some of Quatre's sisters. They all had the same pale blond hair, blue eyes, and gentle, attractive features.

"Kat told me once that he was the only natural born in the family," Duo remarked, staring at them. "Looks like Mommy and Daddy used the same recipe for the test tube babies. Pretty, though. Good thing for Kat Tro isn't into girls. Man, 03 doesn't look too happy, does he?"

"Hn." Heero could care less about the sisters. His attention was focused on Quatre. "He did hurt himself. He appears to have been given pain medication, too."

The reporter took a chair beside the chaise and the camera zoomed in on the five of them.

"I'm here with Quatre and Trowa, as well as three of Quatre's sisters who were not involved in the competency hearing. This is Maia, Jasmine, and Qualla. Thanks for speaking with us. I know this is a difficult time for all of you. First of all, Quatre, what happened to your leg?"

"Well, as you know, I was seriously hurt in early December when a bomb went off at our home in New Orleans," Quatre replied, lucid but a little dazed. "I've been undergoing rapid heal therapies of various sorts, including regen, and it's been going well, but I'm afraid I wasn't quite up to the kind of activity it took for us to get here. I refractured it coming down off the wall outside."

"I'm holding the L-4 government responsible for this," Trowa said, his voice soft but deadly. "He was forced here by the most frivolous of lawsuits, and then illegally detained, forcing the strategic extraction you witnessed."

"And you didn't want to go through legal channels, Trowa? It was rather dramatic."


"Fuck that!" Duo muttered, twisting his braid.

Trowa sneered, too. "'Legal channels' put him in jeopardy in the first place, trumped up charges that lured him back so his relatives could have him committed. It had to be here, of course. No other court in the Earth sphere would have handed down such an egregious ruling. Quatre was shanghaied, and I had no reason to imagine that legal forces here would be of any help. As soon as the judge handed down that ruling, he was forcibly taken away. He was not allowed to communicate with me or anyone else, and his lawyer was not allowed to accompany him. I had no choice but to believe that Quatre would be held in secret, with no way for anyone to act as advocate for him. I could not allow that to happen."

"Was that your assessment of the situation, Quatre?"

"Absolutely. Homosexuality is still classed as a mental illness here. Treatments for it include electroshock and hormone therapy, mind altering drugs, harsh aversion techniques, and other highly controversial methods. I very much feared I might not be the same person when I emerged from all that, especially since the only people who would have any say over the treatment I would be given would be the very people who had me locked up in the first place. As Gundam pilots, Trowa and I were both trained to make quick situation assessments, and to act on them. Fortunately Trowa was able to extract me before I disappeared."

"Did either of you have any inkling that this could be a possible outcome of the hearing?"

"I was personally assured that it was going to be nothing more than an advisory hearing," Quatre replied, and a wounded look came into those big blue eyes. "Compulsory custody was never mentioned. However, I had every reason to believe that this was the outcome my uncle and sister were trying for, and so Trowa and I did have a contingency plan in place. It's a good thing, too, or I wouldn't be talking with you right now, I'm sure. My lawyer and some of my sisters are already assessing what criminal charges I can bring against them and the L-4 government, under ESUN and L-3 law."

"L-3 law?"

"I have been an L-3 citizen since '96. The court here is playing very dirty and underhanded tricks. In order to overturn my emancipation and marriage, not to mention my change of citizenship, they first have to prove me incompetent, and to do that they had to lock me up with L-4 doctors who would play along. Nowhere else in the Earth Sphere Union would anyone try to make that claim. I will fight this as hard as any battle during the war. My life is on the line here, together with everything Trowa and I have built together. We're supposed to be in New York right now, setting up the new Circus Della Notte performances there. We're already in the red, thanks to the bombing. This delay is costing us thousands as we sit here."

"We will be suing for damages," Trowa put in. "We have every intention of making this as costly and embarrassing as possible for everyone who has taken part in this farce."

The reporter turned to Quatre's sisters. "Jasmine, I believe you speak for the part of the family filing a countersuit on Quatre's behalf?"

"That is correct," the blonde woman in the middle replied. "Quatre has made every effort to reconcile with the rest of the family, even going so far as to offer up his shares of WEI. This is clearly a vendetta against him, because of his unconventional relationship with Trowa."

"But you have no problem with that relationship?"

"What one wishes for a loved one, and what makes them truly happy are not always the same thing. Trowa Barton has proven himself to be a good and honorable young man. We bear him no ill will. He and Quatre have made a good life together."

"We grew alarmed for Quatre's safety when we learned that we would not be allowed to testify on his behalf at today's hearing," Maia added. "We also believe we have substantial evidence of judiciary impropriety in the proceedings. We are fully prepared to pursue any avenue necessary, and, I might add, we have very deep pockets and good connections to do exactly that."

"That sounds almost like a threat, Ms. Winner."

Maia demurred charmingly, even while her eyes went hard. "We are not vindictive, just committed to protecting our only brother."


"Wow, you can tell she's related to him. She's going Zero on their asses!" Duo noted happily.

The interview wrapped up and then Wufei appeared on the screen, speaking live with a GNN affiliate in Sanque.

"I am outraged," he said, looking exactly that. "Quatre Winner-Barton is not only perfectly sane, but one of the kindest, most honorable, and most generous people I have ever met. The same is true of his husband, Trowa. I cannot believe that this level of bigotry still exists in the Earth Sphere. It is shameful!"

"You yourself are gay, are you not, Captain Chang?" the interviewer asked.

Wufei favored him with a withering look. "All the Gundam pilots are, as you well know, as well as many other suit pilots. It was a factor in our selection, a strength. To see Quatre treated in this--this medieval fashion, after all he's done, both as a pilot and a private citizen? It's beyond me to understand."


"Man, he's come a long way, hasn't he?" said Duo. "He just looked that guy in the eye and said, "yeah, I'm gay" like he wanted him to try and make something out of it. Fuck, I wish he had. I bet 05 would have decked him!"

"I'm not sure that would have helped." The coverage had gone back to a rehash of the dramatic motorcycle escape. Heero found the remote and killed the sound. "I'm glad that all of Quatre's family is not all like Fatima and this uncle. Quatre's family is very important to him. It would hurt him terribly to be estranged from all of them."

Duo squeezed his hand. "Good thing for you I'm not jealous. You really love him, don't you?"

Heero hugged him close. "No more than you do, and considering what happened in Tokyo---"

"Yeah, yeah, I know. I just don't see you going all warm and fuzzy like this over Tro, that's all."

Heero shrugged. "I love Trowa, too. It's just different with him and me. I can't explain it. But you're still--"

Duo stopped him with a kiss. "I know, baby."

Heero felt all of Duo's pent up tension in that kiss, and knew it had nothing to do with the Tokyo event. He and Heero were both fiercely protective of their friends, and frustrated at being so helpless for the next few hours do to anything to help them. Duo was really wound up. He was tired and stressed from not sleeping; his body was tense all over and he was currently strangling his braid. Heero rescued it and captured Duo's hand, studying his profile carefully. Duo's eyes were hard, his jaw working as he clenched his teeth. "What's our ETA?"

"Three and a half hours, or thereabouts. I'm still waiting on the touchdown OK from New Riyadh Shuttle port, though. They may not let us in."

"Oh, I think they will." Heero pulled Duo into his lap and reached for his belt buckle. "Three hours is a long time with nothing to do, and we haven't slept in over forty eight hours. I think we could both benefit from some stress relief and a nap."

Duo gave him an incredulous look and tried to twist away. "Now? No, Heero, we should be monitoring the news or--I don't know! Something!"

Heero held him fast. "Wufei assured me everything is going according to plan on their end. There's nothing to be gained by torturing yourself, Duo. I need you clear when we get there. You need to relax."

Duo sat stiffly in his arms, looking ready to argue, but Heero tightened his grip on him, making it clear that he wasn't going anywhere. It worked. Duo relaxed slightly and kicked off his boots, sending them slowly spinning across the cabin. "Stress release? As in some zero g nookie?"

"Unless you'd rather be spanked."

Duo looked mildly tempted, but shook his head, giving Heero a sly, sidelong look. "I take it I'm not the only one who'd stressed?"

"Well, it has been several days since we've had time to think about it," Heero reminded him, slipping a hand into Duo's now open fly and easing the erection out to stroke it. "I can't even remember what color your toenails are painted today."

Floating above Heero's lap now, Duo wiggled out of his jeans and yanked off his socks, showing off the tawny gold nails in question. Quatre had painted a purple lightening bolt on each big toe, too.

"Very nice," Heero said, grabbing a foot and letting Duo float free of his lap as he kissed his toes. "I don't want to show up with semen floating everywhere, so I hope you're in the mood to swallow."

Duo licked his lips and leered at Heero, braid coiling sinuously around his head as he unbuttoned his shirt and let it float away, leaving him in nothing but his choker and jewelry. "And just when am I not?

With a low growl, Heero unbuckled his seatbelt and discarded his own clothing. Floating above the leather couch, cradled in the nothingness of space, they held each other close and sucked each other off.

The sex was very good and had the desired effect. Heero strapped them down together in a bunk and set the alarm for an hour. Duo was already asleep, and Heero soon followed. When they woke up again, he felt more relaxed and clear headed than he had in twenty-four hours, and Duo looked better, too.

"What are you grinning about?" Duo asked as they retrieved their floating clothing. Getting dressed in zero g had its challenges, particularly if you weren't tethered down. Duo was currently struggling into his pants upside down.

Heero shrugged, already in mission mode. "I'm glad we didn't oversleep. You better brush your teeth."

+

They were cleared to land, but a squad of airport security and local police met them as they emerged from the pressurized gangway into the main reception area, barring their way.

They weren't the only ones, however. Wufei had alerted the local media of their arrival, and word had spread. A huge crowd, many of them close to Heero's age or younger, had assembled behind the police line. There were lots of signs. Some weren't too welcoming, but others had slogans like "Free Quatre!", "Leave the G-Boys Alone!", and "End Sexual Discrimination in Space!"

A police captain came forward to meet them, backed up by a dozen armed men. It looked like they were expecting trouble. "I'm sorry, but you'll have to return to your shuttle, gentlemen."

"Why?" Heero asked, icy calm. "We are ESUN citizens and we've broken no laws."

"You've been designated as political undesirables."

"Undesirables? Since when?" Duo demanded, loud enough for the nearby reporters to hear. "In case you've forgotten, we fought to save your sorry asses, not so long ago. Are you telling me you guys are turning your backs on us again? What is this, 195? We're just here to support our friends, who are being illegally detained here, and we ain't budging until we see for ourselves that they're all right!"

The crowd was eating it up, along with the press. A cheer went up in support of Duo's words. Then someone there started chanting "Libra! Libra! Libra!"

Others took up the rallying cry, trying to surge forward and break the police line. It might have turned ugly then, if a large force of Preventers in riot gear hadn't shown up, with Sally Po and Une herself in the lead.

The agents fanned out, reinforcing the police line, but Sally and Une strode over and took on the police chief.

"Just what the hell is going on here, Captain?" Une demanded, in full hard assed bitch mode, Duo was glad for once to see. "Why are these men being detained?"

"I have orders--" the man began, but she cut him off at the knees.

"They are here under ESUN auspices, as part of a special Preventer investigation into the unlawful incarceration of Quatre Winner-Barton. You will release them at once! That order comes down directly from Relena Peacecraft, and I believe that overrides your previous orders, does it not?"

The cop looked ready to chew glass, but he backed off. Duo gave Sally a wink as he and Heero fell in with them.

The crowd cheered again and parted for them to leave. Dark vans were waiting and took them directly to the embassy.

"So we're Preventers again?" Heero said, sitting next to Une.

"You're whatever Relena says you are, I guess," Una replied with a dour frown. "If this keeps up, I'm going to put you back on active duty."

"Over my dead body," Duo growled.

Heero nudged Duo's knee with his own and gave him a warning look. "What's the situation?"

"No change so far," Sally told them. "Quatre is safe for now. The L-4 government doesn't have the authority to pull him out, unless they want to spark a real incident, but they're standing by the ruling. So far it's a political stalemate."

"Has Relena made a statement yet?" asked Heero.

"No, she wanted to wait until we're in place. But our orders are to get them both out with no violence."

"Kinda ironic, isn't it?" said Duo.

"How so?" asked Une.

"Well, Relena's not exactly gay friendly, but now she's got to pull strings to protect their rights."

"That's not the real issue here. L-4 has been a thorn in the side since the formation of the ESUN. When their laws conflict with ESUN policy, they claim they're being oppressed."

"This kind of thing happens a lot?"

"Often enough. It's a rich, powerful colony, and their trade is important to the Earth sphere economy. The Winner Corporation is a big part of that economy. This could be a real mess."

"Quatre doesn't want any part of it. He just wants to be free to live his own life."

"Well, if he was some little nobody, that might not be such a problem, but he's not. Now we have to sort this out without causing a major incident."

+

A huge crowd had gathered around the embassy and the police were out in full riot gear. In addition to those either supporting or condemning Quatre, Duo saw signs calling for L-4 independence from the ESUN. This group appeared to be the largest, and jeered the Preventer vans as they approached the embassy gates. Bricks and stones were thrown, several of them smashing into the windshield of the van Duo and the others were in.

"Fuck, this is serious!" Duo exclaimed, wishing he were armed.

Une glared out at the crowd. "The agitators for colonial independence are clearly seizing on this incident for their own ends."

They got inside the walls safely and the gates swung shut against the surging crowd. The reporters were waiting in force, and the question shouting was deafening as they emerged from the van.

"This is totally fucked up!" Duo shouted before Heero could stop him. He wasn't out of control, though, just outraged.

"Are you and Heero here to get him out?" a reported asked.

"We are here to support our friends," Heero interjected. "As you can see, the Preventers are involved, to make sure that this proceeds lawfully and without violence. Duo and I will do whatever we can to assist, but as I said, we are here mostly to support our friends. Quatre is hurt. He needs to go home, receive proper medical care, and rest. The sooner that happens, the better."

"We are not leaving without our friends," Duo stated, standing shoulder to shoulder with Heero.

Trowa met them at the front entry. His hair was over his eyes and his expression was guarded, but he touched them both on the arm and murmured, "Thanks for getting here so fast. Things really went to hell in a big way."

"You were great!" said Duo, throwing an arm around his friend's waist in full view of the photographers.

"It was a simple mission."

"Quatre hurt his leg, though," said Heero.

"Not during the escape. We were already on the ground here when he tripped over a sprinkler head in the garden and twisted his leg. It's only a hairline fracture, but he's really depressed about the setback to his recovery. He'll be glad to see you guys, though."

He led them to the room where Quatre was resting. Trowa had remained grim and distant in front of the reporters and Une, but as soon as he'd gotten his friends into the room where Quatre was sleeping and shut everyone else out for a moment's privacy, he let Heero pull him into a brief hug.

"How are you holding up, 03?" Heero whispered, stroking his hair.

"Fine. Better now that you guys are here." He hugged Heero, then went to Quatre, who was asleep on the chaise. The others followed.

Duo leaned down and kissed Quatre softly on the forehead. Quatre's eyes fluttered open and he smiled.

"Hey, Q-ball. How's it hanging?"

"I'm a bit dopey, I'm afraid. I messed up my leg. So stupid!"

"Yeah. Tro told us. Lousy luck."

Quatre shook his head and rubbed at his eyes. "Just when I thought I was going to be able to perform again, too!"

Trowa settled beside him and put an arm around his husband's shoulders. His touch was gentle, but here was murder in his eyes as he looked up at his friends. "I want to hurt them. Hurt them bad. This is so fucked!"

"You got that right. We're going to get you out of here, one way or another," Duo assured him.

There was a tap at the door just then. Une and Sally joined them and quickly debriefed them all.

"Aside from your escape here, you've done nothing illegal," Une said. "That's good. You were wise not to use violence of any sort. As far as the world press is concerned, your actions were justified. I've spoken with Relena and she agrees."

"I've prepared a report on the G-factor," Sally told them. "I just need your permission to use it."

"Do you think that will do any good?" asked Heero. "It's common knowledge that we're gay."

"I don't know, but I'm ready to throw anything at these narrow minded bastards." Sally's blue eyes were snapping with anger. "For Quatre, of all people, to be subjected to this! It's maddening."

A uniformed Preventer knocked and came in. "It's time, Commander."

There was a large television in the room and Trowa turned it on.

Relena stood at a podium in front of a large ESUN flag. She smiled at the reporters in the audience, but ignored the barrage of questions. They quieted and she looked up into the camera. "By now I'm sure you have all been following the situation on L-4. Quatre Raberba Winner-Barton and his domestic partner, Trowa Barton-Winner, have taken refuse in the L-3 embassy, after a court ruling that sought to overturn several important legal events. The most serious of these is the challenge to the ESUN ruling which gave Quatre emancipated minor status after the war. It was the belief of the council and myself at the time that Quatre, and all the Gundam pilots, could not reasonably be considered minors, after their service and experiences during the war. In light of their dedication, it was the least we could do. Based on this ruling, Quatre chose to enter a civil union, and to change his citizenship, all his right under ESUN law.

"The government and courts of L-4 have chosen to flout ESUN law, claiming that a colony has the right to deny an ESUN citizen his basic rights under ESUN law. I have met with the council and it was the unanimous opinion that this is in direct opposition to the spirit of the Earth Sphere United Nations, and sets a dangerous precedent. The Earth Sphere was established specifically to end the conflict created by individual governments. While we respect the individuality of each country and colony, in issues of basic human rights, ESUN law must take precedence. Therefore, it is the ruling of the ESUN human rights court that Quatre Winner-Barton's emancipation, and all legal actions after that event, be upheld and maintained. He is to be allowed to leave L-4 at once. If the colonial government or court refuses to release him, they will face heavy sanctions. I have authorized Commander Lady Une and the Preventers to conduct him safely back to Earth." She paused, letting the photographers capture her look of sad dismay. "On a personal note, I would like to add that in my opinion, Quatre has been very badly abused. He has been a true friend, not only to me, but to the entire Earth Sphere. I am most distressed that members of his own family would choose to treat him in this ignoble fashion. Are we so quick to forget his sacrifices, and the terrible hardships he endured to protect the very colony that has now sought to take away his freedom? Is it right that he and Trowa should be treated like children, or criminals, and deprived of the very rights they fought to protect for the rest of us? This cannot be allowed. We must be willing to embrace the differences between us, rather than letting them divide us."


"Way to go, 'lena!" Duo crowed.

Heero nodded. "That couldn't have been easy for her, considering how she feels about our sexuality."

"This wasn't about that," Une told him. "This is about the law, and the sovereignty of the ESUN. If L-4 is allowed to override ESUN rulings like this, then it opens the door to every other nation who wants to reassert their national policy. The ESUN is too new to allow it. However, I do think she's beginning to get used to the idea that you're all gay. You can probably thank Zechs for that. He's made it very clear that if she forces him to choose between her and Wufei, she will lose. I have it on good authority that the Sanque Parliament is planning to uphold their marriage without sanction."

"That's good news," said Quatre. "That's all been hard enough on Wufei, without an entire government opposing his happiness."

Trowa kissed him. "And you'd know, meli. I'm going to get you out of here and we are never setting foot on this fucking tin can again."

"They're not all against us," Quatre reminded him, leaning against Trowa's chest. "You saw the signs this morning. There are a lot of lovers just like us here, who want freedom, and people who are tired of the old ways. I think this will do them all some good."

"You are too kind hearted sometimes, mio amore," Trowa murmured, still too angry to think in those terms.

Things were quiet for a while, then the L-3 ambassador and Quatre's sisters came in to join them.

"I have mixed news, I'm afraid," Ambassador Sorenson told Quatre. "The L-4 government has agreed to uphold your emancipation and let you leave. However, your sister and uncle have invoked a clause in the WEI corporate charter. Only citizens of L-4 can hold controlling shares of the company. By maintaining your off colony citizenship, you are relinquishing your rights in the company. Because this is corporate law, there is little ESUN can do to prevent it. It is legal under the corporate charter."

"I'm aware of that, and I expected as much," Quatre replied, resigned.

"It's not fair!" said Duo. "They still get to push you out!"

"It's all right, Duo. I expected as much, and I'm OK with it. I'd already offered to give up my shares, anyway. But it's also in the charter rules that my shares be distributed equally to the other members of the family. That will keep things even. Fatima and my uncle are no more in control of the company than they were before."

"That will change, if I have my way," said Jasmine. "This has played out terribly for the company in the press. Stock prices for WEI are plummeting. Many people don't want to do business with a company that discriminates on this level. I think that will give me the leverage I need to push Fatima out."

"You do whatever you want. I'm just glad to be out of it. And this means they can't pursue any of those absurd criminal charges against Trowa, either."

"What charges?" asked Duo.

"It doesn't matter."

"Fraud," Trowa told him. "Statutory rape. Contributing to the delinquency of a minor."

Duo sputtered, beyond words.

"These charges cannot be pursued, can they?" Heero asked, looking to Une.

"It was all predicated on Quatre's competency and L-3 statutes regarding the age of consent. That's all moot now."

"It's still a matter of public record, though," Trowa murmured.

"Forget it, love," Quatre told him firmly.

"The charter requires that you be paid fair market value for your shares," Maia reminded him. "You will still be very well off." Quatre started to object, but she held up a hand. "No, you will take the money. It is yours by right. Father would want you to have it. I know you will do good things with it."

Quatre sighed, then smiled up at Trowa. "Looks like we won't have to move back to that smelly little L-3 trailer, after all."

Trowa kissed him. "No danger of that. The New York show is sold out, even with the delays, and London and Paris still want us, not to mention L-2 and L-3. We may have to add show dates to all of them. And of course, we have our strong silent partner." He smiled over at Heero. "We're going to be fine."

"The press is asking for a statement," the ambassador said.

Quatre groaned and sagged against Trowa. "I'm so tired! Can we just let one in, please? That guy, Cotter, he's OK. You guys can do most of the talking."

Une touched a hand to the small com earphone she was wearing. "Excuse me, will you? I need to check security."

The GNN reporter and his cameraman were summoned, and Quatre endured the quick set up with poorly concealed weariness.

Cotter gave the lead in, then turned to Quatre, now sitting up, but still leaning on Trowa. Heero and Quatre sat beside them. Quatre's sister Jasmine sat on his other side, on hand on his shoulder.

"You must all be very relieved at the outcome," Cotter said.

"We are, Jack," Trowa replied. "Quatre and I are very grateful to Relena Peacecraft and the ESUN council for doing the right thing."

"Quatre, I see you were hurt in the escape. How are you doing?"

"I'm very tired and my leg hurts," Quatre replied, and then stopped as his voice threatened to break. Trowa tightened an arm around him as he fought for control and Jasmine stroked his hair. Quatre blinked hard, fighting tears. "This has been very difficult. Very difficult. I am so glad to have the support of some of my sisters, and my friends. I am glad that ESUN law has come down on the side of human rights over tradition bound bigotry. All I want now is to go home and get back to work. There's an old circus saying: the show must go on. And it will. Oh, and one other thing." He took Trowa's hand and his sisters, holding them tightly in his lap. "I've been thinking about this for a while now, and all that's happened today has made up my mind. From now on, I'll be going by the name Barton, my married name. I mean no disrespect to my family but the Winner name has too much pain attached to it now. Besides--" he managed a smile. "The whole Winner-Barton, Barton-Winner business was just too cumbersome. This will be easier for everyone, including you journalists. And now, if you don't mind, I want to go home."

Cotter thanked them all and left.

As soon as he was gone, Trowa turned to Quatre. "Meli, are you sure that's what you want? At least Winner was a real name, yours by right. Barton is just a name I stole!"

"You've always been Trowa Barton to me," Quatre told him, still holding his hand and his sister's. "Jasmine, I hope you're not hurt. But you and Qualla both took your husband's names when you got married. I just wanted to do the same."

Jasmine kissed him again. "You will always be our little brother Quatre, no matter what your last name is. Nothing will change that. You have my blessing, at least."

"And ours, my darling," Qualla assured him. "But Trowa, you must try and take better care of him! First a bomb, and now this! We thought such times were past for you two."

"I will, I promise," Trowa said, giving her a genuine, unguarded smile. "I'll spend the rest of my life doing exactly that."

"Quatre Barton, eh?" said Duo. "Yeah, that'll be easier to say. And it suits you, especially since it looks like you two are still married all legal and tight."

"Until death do us part," said Quatre. "Now can I please get out of here before anyone changes their minds?"

Une came in again with an armed escort and she looked unhappy again. "There may be trouble. The pro-colony factions aren't very happy with the ESUN ruling. The protests are growing all over the city. I've called for a chopper. I don't want to chance getting caught in a crowd on the street.

"I see," said Heero. "Duo and I came unarmed, but I think it might be better if you provided us with weapons."

"And me," said Trowa. That deadly look was back in those green eyes.

Une provided them each with a pistol and a small automatic rifle and they acted as close escort as Quatre was carried up to the helipad on the roof on a stretcher.

They lifted off without incident, but looking down, Duo could see the crowd gather thickly outside the embassy, and the scuffles that were already breaking out there with police.

The shuttle port was mobbed. The chopper set down inside the security fence on the private strip where the Preventer shuttle was docked.

"What in the world is going on?" Quatre asked, trying to sit up.

"It's all right, meli. We're almost there."

They were within sight of the gangway when an explosion rocked the docking bay and a ball of flame blossomed from the side of the huge armored shuttle. The concussion threw them all off their feet.

The Gundam pilots were the first on their feet, closing in tightly around Quatre with weapons drawn.

"What the hell happened?" growled Trowa, shielding Quatre with his own body.

Une listened to her earpiece, face darkening ominously. "God damn it! It was only a shoulder mount rocket, and the shooter was taken down, but the shuttle is disabled. I'm sorry, Quatre, but it looks like you're going to have to wait."

"No fucking way!" Trowa exclaimed angrily.

"That's probably just what they want," said Duo. "Look, Heero and I came up in a fast shuttle. I can get us out of here. You just get us over to our ship."

"Is your ship armed?" asked Une.

"Armed? No, of course not. It's a civilian charter. But I can out fly any pursuit. Just watch me!"

"It's too risky."

"It is more risky to remain here," said Heero. "If they could get a rocket launcher through port security and get close enough to a Preventer ship to hit it, then I think we should not underestimate their intentions toward Quatre. He is not safe here." He brought his weapon up, not pointing directly at Une, but the message was clear. "With all due respect, Commander, I think we are better prepared to protect him than you are. We are taking him out of here, with or without your help."

"Get that weapon out of my face, Yuy. Of course we'll help you. Come on!"

The Preventer squad kept close around them as they ran down the shuttle port concourse to the private shuttle bay where they'd left the Zoroaster. A smaller contingent of protesters had gathered outside the airlock. Duo and Trowa fired warning shots over their heads and they scattered, screaming.

With Heero in the lead, they hurried Quatre into the prep area. Heero and Duo went ahead and swept the shuttle for potential sabotage, but it appeared that the terrorists had overlooked their ship, concentrating their efforts on the Preventer's arrival.

Une helped get Quatre safely on board and Trowa strapped him into the bunk. "I wish I could offer you an armed escort in space. Are you sure you'll be all right?"

"Hey, it's me flying, right?" Duo scoffed.

"We'll be fine," Heero said. "Now get the hell out and make sure we have security on the ground in New Orleans. We'll need an armored transport, and security forces standing by at New Orleans general. I want a 24-hour guard on the house, too. Can you give us that?"

"Yes. You'll have everything you need. Now you better dust off. Good luck, boys. We'll talk about you and Duo coming to work for me later."

Heero saw her out and sealed the hatch. "Not too fucking likely," he growled.

"Get us out of here, 02," said Trowa, strapping into the seat closest to Quatre.

Heero took the co pilot's chair as Duo powered up and blasted off. They met no resistance as they left the colony bay, but he flew like a madman anyway, taking evasive action just in case. Within minutes the colony was far behind them. He remained at the controls as Heero unstrapped and floated back to check on the others.

"How are you doing, Mr. Barton?"

"Just fine," two voices answered as one.

[chap. 101] [chap. 103] [back to pyrzm's fic]