Author: pyrzm
Summary: 03 joins OZ. Contacts are made. 03+01, 02 alone, 04 inferred, 03+06 and fond memories.

Lost Souls + Chapter 12
Under a Traitor's Mask

Trowa spent considerable time pondering what deep cover meant for this mission. He had no formal training in it, but he supposed he'd been under cover of sorts from the moment he'd taken another man's name and mission. So deep, in fact that Trowa Barton was the face he saw in the mirror now, and that face didn't give much away.

He knew that was one of his greatest strengths. When he'd first joined the circus most the people there had found him cold. Catherine Bloom had watched him for a time, then come down solidly on his side, though he'd never given her the least encouragement. But she claimed to like his quiet way and what she called his natural talent.

"You're mysterious, Trowa," she told him after he'd done his first solo acrobatic act and received a great round of applause from the crowd. "Some people make the crowd love them by smiling or flirting, projecting some colorful persona. You're just the opposite. You don't care about the crowd and that makes them want you even more. You're like some handsome, standoffish cat that everyone wants to coax into their laps. Getting you to smile is like winning the lottery. It's a good persona. Between that and your natural artistry and athletic ability, you can really make something of yourself in this business."

Trowa had been baffled by her comments at the time. "I'm not acting. I'm just quiet."

Catherine had laughed and pinched his cheek. "Yes, but you work it so well!"

He thought about that now, alone in the shuttle, as he prepared himself to meet OZ face to face. He'd make it work for him again.

+

Getting to OZ was easy enough. They were recruiting suit pilots among the colonists. No one knew his name or face. When Trowa Barton presented himself to the recruiters, no one questioned his forged papers showing that he was a licensed construction suit pilot who'd been building colonies and satellites, and that he was eighteen. For all Trowa knew about his own past, he could be. In any case, it helped to be tall.

He and twenty-nine other young hopefuls were taken to a training base for two week's indoctrination, simulator work, and basic training. He kept to himself, didn't make friends or enemies, and quickly developed a reputation for being shy and aloof. As Catherine had predicted, this won him a few admirers and his looks attracted a little of the usual sort of attention, too. He was just pleasant enough to everyone, played dumb to the comeons, and kept his pants zipped.

After their brief training they were thrown into Leos and sent out for target practice on training drones. It was being televised throughout the colonies, as recruitment propaganda. He pretended to be very proud to be a part of it.

Trowa held back at first, but even so, he was still far better than any of the others, most of whom couldn't find their ass with both hands, much less hit a moving target. Seeing an opportunity, he cut loose, wowing his instructor and drawing the notice of the officers observing their maneuvers.

He thought he was home free, until the instructing officer made him stay put for one last test. He suspected he'd tipped his hand when he saw what it was.

"Let's see how you do on this last target," the instructor said, sounding less friendly than usual.

+

On L-1 Duo mingled with the nighttime crowd in Main Square, watching OZ's big show on the giant monitor. He'd checked out of the hospital sooner than the docs wanted. He couldn't stand those places and he figured he'd get better out moving around, not cooped up inside.

Turned out he'd been wrong. He kept forgetting to take the pills they'd given him and now he felt like shit. He probably had a fever again, too. Duo paused, leaning against a lamppost to catch his breath. The crowd surged around him as he hunched deeper into his stolen black jacket and pulled the brim of his stolen black cap lower. Heero would probably kick his ass if he could see him now.

Duo sighed. He was worried about Heero. Damn worried. He'd watched the news obsessively, looking for some indication that he'd carried out his raid. The tiny room Duo had rented didn't have vid, so he hung out here mostly, watching the giant screen like a regular colony drone. It as risky of course. There were posters up everywhere with his face on them, and a very tempting reward. He hid his braid under the jacket and kept his cap pulled down. It was kind of a turn on sometimes, walking right by those fucking posters, watching people studying them, probably thinking how they'd spend all that blood money. Fuckers, all of 'em. Yesterday he'd bumped into a woman on purpose while she was reading one. She'd hardly spared him a glance, the stupid twat.

Duo shook his head to clear it. If he wasn't careful, he was gonna fall on his face right here in the street and he didn't want anyone to have the satisfaction of catching him like that. Still, watching the people in the square tonight eating up OZ's bullshit, listening to kids his age bragging about how they were going to join up, he had the irresistible urge to yank off his hat in the middle of the street and scream, "Here I am, you stupid numbfucks! Wanna hear what OZ really has planned for you? Step right up!" He shook off the thought. It was probably the fever talking. And Heero would probably just let him deal with the consequences this time, if he went and got caught again so soon.

He made himself concentrate on the vid screen overhead where the new colonial pilots were trying to show off. Duo shook his head in disgust. Those candy-ass greenies couldn't fly or shoot for shit. Well, all except one. Trainee One was kickass. Duo found himself admiring the guy's style in spite of himself. The OZ officer running the show noticed, too, and at the end he singled that one out for a special target.

The space cams panned to a nearby debris field, where two little bumper ships were nudging some large metal panels aside to reveal- his Deathscythe!

Duo's legs nearly gave out under him. Of course, it wasn't like he didn't know Scythe had been captured, but shit! Seeing him there like that, dead in the sky, still all fucked up from that last loosing battle? It hurt like hell, hurt to realize what was about to happen.

"Hang in there, buddy!" Duo whispered as tears stung his eyes. "You won't go out without a fight, right? Those Leo rifles will just tickle a little."

But Trainee One knew his shit. He changed weapons to a beam cannon, took aim, and blew Deathscythe to bits in front of Duo's eyes.

"NOOOO!" Duo turned away, fists clenched, heart torn with anguish.

People turned to stare at him. Someone muttered something about traitors. Duo staggered away, his unsteady gait no act. No one followed.

He'd loved that suit. It had been an extension of himself, a companion even though he knew it was just a machine. But had been *his* machine, goddam it! Duo felt like they'd torn off his own arm. He felt naked and small. For the first time, it felt like he might actually be out of the war, after all. He wished Trainee One was here right now, so he could beat the life out of him.

+

The ever suspicious Lt. Nikol had noticed Trowa's hesitation, but he recovered quickly,

"Hand me your beam cannon," Trowa said, calmly as he turned his suit to face Nikol, who was training that very weapon on him now. "That suit is made of Gundanium. My Leo's weapons are useless against it."

"Give it to him, lieutenant," the instructor ordered.

Nikol reluctantly released the weapon. Letting his own gun drift free, Trowa grasped the cannon, locked on target, and blew his comrade's Gundam to pieces. It was necessary. It shouldn't matter, since it was captured anyway. It was the right thing to do and he told himself he felt nothing, but in spite of all that, when it was over he found his own tears glinting in front of him, as they had that day he'd found out Quatre was alive. He hit the suit scrubbers, betraying nothing to anyone monitoring him.

"His breathing and heart rate haven't changed! Outstanding!" someone reported.

"Well done, Barton!" the instructor called. "I just got a message from Chief Commander Une. She wants to see you at once. Come in and get changed, pronto."

"Copy that. Coming in." Trowa smiled thinly. Showtime.

+

He was surprised to find himself having tea with a soft-spoken, dark haired young woman who talked of nothing but peace in the colonies. So this was the face OZ had used to dupe the colonists. Trowa was on his best behavior, actually going out of his way to be respectful and charming. She responded at once. He pushed a little more, talking aggressively of how he wanted to fight.

For some reason, that spooked her. Nikol got suspicious again, but Une either didn't believe the guy or didn't care. Trowa was dismissed, and told to report back in two hours; he'd been chosen by Commander Une herself as one of five test pilots for the Vayeate/Mercurius program.

Trowa's face gave away nothing of his elation as he bowed and went to prepare. Out of sight of Nikol, he paused and let out a pent up breath, then rolled the tension from his shoulders. It all seemed too easy. Something had to go wrong, sooner or later.

He hated being right.

+

He and the other test pilots were taken to a high security lunar base, and Trowa found himself face to face with Dr. S, Heero's mentor J, and three other scientists, whom Trowa assumed were behind the making of the other Gundams. Dr. S made eye contact, but didn't give any sign of knowing him. However, he made sure that Trowa was tapped to pilot the nearly complete Mercurius.

It was interesting to see the two suits in reality, after studying the schematics S had sent. They were huge, almost at big as the Tallgeese, and bulkier than Gundams. The red Merc's remote shield system was already operational. The blue Vayeate, still legless and suspended by chains from the gantries, was already armed with a huge new beam cannon.

J was explaining their capabilities when the Vayeate suddenly and unexpectedly powered up. Still hanging from the construction gantry, it raised the cannon and fired at the Mercurius. One of the scientists deployed its shields just in time, but the blast was deafening and everyone was thrown to the ground. The Vayeate broke loose of the chains that held it and crashed to the ground. Trowa was first on his feet, and the first to see an armed and deadly Heero Yuy leap from the cockpit of the broken suit and take aim at the closest scientist.

Taking advantage of the moon's forgiving gravity, Trowa drew his sidearm and executed a long, spinning leap that would have gotten a standing ovation under the big top. Taking Heero by surprise, he pointed his gun at his head before he could fire.

Heero saw nothing but his uniform at first. Then those furious dark eyes met his and Trowa saw the briefest flash of dismay there. It lasted only an instant, but it was long enough for Trowa to feel like a shit. He had no idea what Heero thought, whether he believed Trowa had turned traitor or understood that they were here for the same purpose. It mattered to Trowa far more than it should have, what Heero might be thinking of him, but there was nothing to do now but play the hands they'd been dealt. Heero gave him an icy glare and dropped his gun, then stood and put his hands behind his head. Dressed in his old shorts and tank again, he looked like what he was; a skinny, wiry kid with a very angry attitude. Trowa hoped the OZ soldiers all around them would be taken in by that appearance, enough to give Heero an opening at some point.

Trowa motioned him to start walking, and turned him over to the chagrinned security guards. Heero didn't spare him another glance, just walked away with his head held high.

Trowa spent a restless night in his new private room in the pilot's dormitory, wondering if Heero would be executed, and if he'd die hating him. It hurt to imagine it, after all the time they'd spent together. Then again, he could only imagine what it had been like for Heero, having it be Trowa who captured him, seeing him wearing the OZ uniform.

+

The following week passed slowly. Heero was being held in the high security cells, and there was no plausible reason for Trowa to get to him. He and the other pilots drilled each day, and whiled away the evenings playing poker and watching television. They were in the rec room one night when a special report came on the colonial CNN affiliate.

"A tragic act of insurrection occurred today on Colony L-4," the commentator said. "Amal Winner, renowned philanthropist, pacifist, and influential owner of Winner Enterprises International was killed while apparently sabotaging a resource satellite. Seen here at a colonial reception only two days ago . . ."

Trowa caught the name and looked up from the magazine he'd been reading. It fell limp in his lap as he found himself looking at Quatre. The little blond was dressed the way he'd been in that picture Trowa had saved, and was standing beside a very tall, dark haired man with a drooping moustache dressed the same way. Trowa knew him from the research he'd done on Quatre. This was his father, the pacifist who hadn't forgiven Quatre for the path he'd taken, going to war. "He must have taken after his mother, looks wise," Trowa thought distractedly, drinking in the sight of him. Winner was busy speaking with some dignitary; Quatre had that same wistful, lost look as in the picture.

He forced his attention back to the report. There had been some sort of rebellion; Winner had defied the people's mandate to work with OZ to establish peace. He'd tried to destroy the colony somehow, something to do with a large resource satellite, and been killed when OZ defenders had been forced to respond in order to protect the colony.

"What's wrong, Barton? You know the guy or something?" one of his fellow pilots, Paige, asked. "You look like you saw a ghost."

"What? No, I just can't believe that anyone calling himself a pacifist would endanger an entire colony like that," Trowa said, picking up his magazine again and forcing himself to focus on it. To his credit, his hands weren't shaking at all.

The commentator was speaking with some colony representative now, who was deploring Winner's actions, but attempting to sound sympathetic to the family. Apparently one of Winner's daughters had also been killed in the attack, someone called Ireya. Trowa fought to keep his expression disinterested as a picture of a young woman flashed on the screen. She looked like Quatre, but older with darker blond hair. She looked kind, like him, too. She looked like someone who hadn't deserved to die young and violently. He listened intently for word of Quatre, but only those two casualties were reported. The rest of the family was in seclusion. Trowa hoped he was finding some comfort there.

An uncle, a man named Ahmed, was acting as spokesman now. He was saying something about the Winner heir, who was still underage, and too young and grief stricken to assume his father's role in the family or corporation. No, the boy was not available for comment.

// Oh meli, I'm so sorry! // Trowa thought, feeling helpless and sad, and trapped in his own situation. His only two friends in the world were in trouble and he couldn't help either of them. He managed a yawn, then excused himself and went to his room. It was all he could do to keep from calling L-4, trying to contact Quatre, but all communications were monitored. He couldn't risk it.

He slept badly, tossing through one nightmare after another. Some were about Quatre or Heero, with him either being unable to help them, or attacking them for some unknown reason. Others were replays of his own personal theater of horrors: That Day. No one smiled or laughed with him this time, they just died.

He got up before dawn, showered and dressed for the day. Lieutenant Nikol found him slumped over his third cup of coffee in the mess a few hours later. "On your feet, Barton. Commander Une has an assignment for you." He spat the words out like they tasted bad, and the look in his eyes left no doubt where Trowa still stood with him.

Heero was in the briefing room when Trowa came in. He looked grim and unwashed, and his arms were shackled together in heavy gundanium cuffs. He spared Trowa a single glare, then ignored him.

"We're going to have you test out the new suits' capabilities on a live target," Une informed them. "You're our best pilot, Barton, and we all know young Yuy's skill level. You'll be flying the Vayeate, Barton. Yuy will be in the Mercurius. You'll have remote control of the self destruct mechanism in his suit. If he acts suspiciously in any way, you are authorized to blow him up."

Trowa saluted smartly, careful not to look at Heero. "I understand, Commander. What's the target?"

"I think we have a worthy opponent for you both." She motioned them over to a tracking screen, which showed several OZ ships in pursuit of an unidentified craft moving at incredible speed. I only know of one suit that can move like that," Une said. "Gentlemen, unless I'm greatly mistaken, that's Zechs Merquise in the Tallgeese. No other suit moves like that. I want you to engage him. Capture him if possible. If not, destroy him. I'm sending a squadron of Taurus mobile dolls to back you up, but something tells me you won't need them. Not if you're both as good as I think you are."

This wasn't the soft-spoken pacifist he'd met the other day. She was in full uniform now, with her hair up in two tightly coiled braids. She had glasses on now, too, and her eyes glinted dangerously behind them. Trowa wondered if there was some bad blood between her and Merquise that went beyond his defection from OZ. This sounded personal.

"How can you hand the Mercurius over to him!" Nikol exclaimed angrily, pointing at Heero.

"I don't think you have to worry about that, sir," Trowa said quietly. "I believe Yuy has fought against Merquise before. I suspect he'll welcome another opportunity, won't you, Yuy?"

Heero spared him another cold look and said nothing.

There was no predicting what Heero might do. Given his complete disregard for his own life, he probably wouldn't let the threat of detonation stop him from trying to create some sort of havoc. Trowa didn't need him fucking up this mission any more than he already had, but he didn't much like the idea of being his friend's executioner, either.

He watched for an opening as they suited up and prepared to go, hoping to get Heero alone somehow and talk to him. Once they were in the suits their conversations would be closely monitored. Heero was considered too much of a threat, though, and they were under close guard right up until they reached the suits.

Grabbing Heero by the arm, Trowa looked him in the eye and said in his most disdainful voice, "You better watch your step out there, kid, if you ever want to see blue skies again. Don't try stonewalling me out there. Copy that?"

Heero looked at him in silence for a long moment, and Trowa hoped it wasn't just wishful thinking to see a glimmer of understanding in those dark blue eyes. Then Heero pulled his arm loose and growled, "I copy. Just stay the fuck out of my way, *green eyes*."

Trowa gave him a parting sneer and climbed into the Vayeate's cockpit. Heero had gotten the message. They were on the same side.

Trowa kept things neutral as they headed out. As soon as they were well away from the base Heero activated his beam saber and ran through some practice moves.

"How is it?" asked Trowa, keeping his voice carefully neutral.

"Not too bad. The operations are practically identical to the Gundam's."

"That's not surprising. Hey Gundam pilot, how would you fight a mobile doll?"

"First I'd get behind it, to make sure I was out of its firing range," Heero replied, then did exactly that, darting behind the nearest one and slicing it in two with his saber.

"Hey, hey! Don't over do it or I'll have to blow you up, Heero!" Trowa warned, pointing the beam cannon at him to underscore the situation.

Heero ignored him. "The weak point of the mobile dolls is that the basic capabilities are identical to the manned models, right down to their mobility and reaction times. The rest depends on how well a human pilot can fight them. Personally, I have a harder time with space mines." He turned off the saber and unleashed with his gat, exploding another one. "We don't need the mobile dolls. I'll handle that white suit on my own."

They flew in silence until Trowa's proximity sensor beeped. "We've caught up with the target. I'll send the mobile dolls ahead of us." He programmed in the Tallgeese's schematics; the Tauruses took off like a swarm of evil black hornets.

"What he's doing way out here?" Trowa wondered aloud.

"You got me," Heero muttered, sounding bored.

The dolls engaged Zech's suit and although he held his own, it was clearly a struggle. Trowa hung back with the cannon while Heero flew in for close engagement.

// It's like they're taking up right where they left off in Antarctica, // Trowa thought, admiring them both. But then an odd thing began to happen. Merquise had been firing on the mobile dolls, but against Heero he seemed to be fighting a defensive battle. He dodged and blocked Heero's swings, but did little in the way of retaliation. It was almost like he didn't want to hurt him.

Curious, Trowa fired at an angle, making it look like he'd missed Merquise by accident, while instead taking out three of the mobile dolls closing in on Zech's blind side. Merquise jerked around in his direction, registering the presence of a second enemy. Trowa did it again, firing dangerously close between him and Heero and taking out two more dolls.

Merquise continued to fight, but now it had to be obvious to even Heero that he wasn't fighting back, just defending himself. Trowa took out three more dolls. Heero had caught on, and finished the last two off with his saber.

Merquise opened a hailing channel. "I haven't got time to play games with you. Just go ahead and haul me in."

The sound of that deep, rough voice sent an unexpected little thrill through Trowa. He squashed it quickly and kept his cannon up as Merquise popped his hatch and came out with his hands up. Trowa could see through the faceplate. It was Merquise, all right, and no mask this time.

Trowa opened his own hatch and saw Merquise's eyes widen in surprise.

"I never would have guessed you'd sneak into OZ," he said softly.

"I'm Officer Trowa Barton," he said, cutting him off quickly in case they were being monitored. "I don't believe we've met, have we Zechs Merquise?"

Heero had already taken up a position on Tallgeese's left shoulder, covering Merquise from the back.

Merquise looked up at him, then back at Trowa and nodded. "I go by my true name now, Milliardo Peacecraft. I've come from Earth to visit you as a goodwill ambassador."

Trowa heard Heero's hiss of surprise over the com link. Peacecraft? Trowa thought of those blue eyes, and that long, thick blond hair. He'd heard rumors of Relena Peacecraft's long lost brother, another survivor of the massacre of the Sanque royal family. The things Zechs had told him that night at Barclay, began to take on a whole different significance. He also remembered how he'd said he hoped he didn't have to fight Trowa, and the way he'd stroked his hair as he'd said it.

"Barton? Hey, Barton!" Heero snapped.

"Return to your suit," Trowa ordered, sounding as cold and military as he could. "We're taking you to Commander Une."

Peacecraft made them a slight bow and went it.

When they were underway back to the base, Heero opened the secure channel. "What the hell was wrong with you back there?"

"What are you talking about?"

"You were just staring at him."

"He didn't have his mask on, that's all." Trowa closed communications and sighed. And I could see those eyes. And I remembered the feeling of those long bangs brushing across my belly, and those lips on my cock, and those hands in my hair. And I wouldn't mind feeling all that again sometime. Not one little bit. Not that you'd understand that, Heero, you frigid little--!

The sudden bitterness of that last thought surprised him. Where the hell had that come from? Trowa pushed it all down, buried all emotions safely away. By the time they got back to the base and delivered their "ambassador" to Une, his mask was safely in place. The performance would continue.

[ch. 11] [ch. 13] [back to Pyrzm's fic]