Souls + Chapter 6
Best Laid Plans
Trowa was changing Heero's
dressings a few mornings later when a news report came on about a Gundam
attack in central China. Both boys froze, eyes rived on the small view
screen mounted over the trailer's tiny dining table across the room. A
battlefield image flashed across the screen.
"That's Wufei!" Trowa said, recognizing the suit at once.
Heero grinned. "So we're not the only ones left on Earth, after all."
Trowa finished bandaging Heero's chest, poured them each a cup of coffee
and returned to sit on the edge of the bed as they watched the rest of
the report. The Gundam attack coincided with the OZ takeover of China.
It had escaped after doing considerable damage, and its whereabouts were
"Yes!" Heero cheered, then grabbed Trowa by the arm and gave him a fierce,
happy grin that sent a shiver down his spine. "You see? It isn't over
yet. You'll fight again, too. This isn't over!"
Trowa tried not to stare. Suddenly Heero was looking at him like a friend,
a comrade. When had that happened? He covered that hand with his own and
smiled back. "When I do, I hope I can show the same level of commitment."
"I was taught to follow my emotions," Heero replied. "That's all I do."
Trowa smiled. He'd thought at first that Heero didn't have much in the
way of emotions, but that had changed over the past few days. Heero was
still quite weak, and his left arm wasn't right and was giving him a lot
of pain, though he never complained. But he talked more, even joked a
little. He'd even made Trowa laugh once, and Trowa couldn't remember the
last time hes'd done that. It had felt good. So had the look in Heero's
eyes as they'd shared the joke, and the way Heero looked right now, hopeful
and relaxed in the bed next to him. Maybe they were friends, after all.
Trowa savored the moment, knowing from harsh experience how fleeting these
were. He wasn't so sure about Heero's advice, though. If he followed his
emotions, or at least his natural urges right now, Heero would probably
break his jaw.
They watched for more news of Wufei over the next few days but none came.
The following week, however, a new opportunity suddenly presented itself.
"I have great news!" the ringmaster announced at the cast meeting. "We've
been invited to perform at an OZ base! It's a fantastic opportunity for
Trowa hid behind his bangs and nodded, mission plans already taking form
in his mind. The others were surprised when he offered to come up with
a special act, but the ringmaster agreed.
Catherine hugged him. "You're usually so quiet! It must be something really
spectacular for you to volunteer like that!"
"Oh, it will be," Trowa assured her.
Heero was suitably impressed with Trowa's plan, or as much of it as Trowa
shared. Trowa spent several nights doing recon at the base and went over
the findings with him. Heero was smart and thought along the same lines
as Trowa when it came to strategy. Both of them had been trained for infiltration
and spying. Heero still didn't welcome direct questions, and Trowa wasn't
the sort to pry, but the way Heero talked and the ideas he came up with
let Trowa see that they were two of a kind.
One element of his plan he kept to himself. The ringmaster and the others
thought he was planning a great debut act; it would also be his grande
finale. Lying in bed that last night, he recalled how Heero had looked,
the fierce, defiant look he'd had as he'd self-destructed. Trowa smiled;
his own moment had come, and he'd do Heero one better. He'd take a lot
of OZ soldiers with him when he went.
Heero grew increasingly impatient as the time of the show approached.
He didn't say much, but Trowa knew it was bothering him not to be in on
the action. "I should back you up," he insisted, flexing his bandaged
shoulder. "My arm is fine. I can shoot."
"No, it's not. It bleeds every time you move it too much and I can tell
you're in pain, no matter how stubbornly you try to hide it. I work with
animals, remember? I don't need someone to tell me they're hurting. You
give it away every time you move. And you're still too weak to run. You'll
only be a liability like that. I can handle this."
Heero slumped back and looked away, but he didn't argue. Trowa understood
Heero's frustration and sympathized. When he was ready to go, he took
his spare pistol from its hiding place and handed it to him, along with
a bag of ammo clips.
"Just in case," he told him, and was rewarded with another one of those
amazing, fierce grins. Trowa grinned back. It was a shame they hadn't
meet sooner, or in better times. They could have worked well together.
"I'm leaving you the car keys and some money. Just get away and concentrate
on getting better so you can fight when your time comes."
Heero nodded and hid the gun under his pillow. "Good luck. Do some damage.
I'll catch up with you soon."
// Yes, you probably will, // Trowa thought.
The tent was packed with OZ soldiers that night. They were a great audience,
cheering and clapping for every act. Catherine got lots of whistles and
catcalls, but she was used to that and just gave Trowa a wink as she threw
her knives at him with her usual unerring aim.
Trowa always felt calm during the act, but tonight he felt a special stillness
inside, and smiled back at her. // Good bye, Catherine. You've been
a good friend. I hope I don't cause you too much trouble. I hope you get
As arranged, the tent went dark as he moved Heavyarms into place. When
he was in place at the controls, he sent the signal and the lights came
up, spotlighting what he hoped everyone would think was a clever fake.
It worked. No one suspected a thing. They all continued to laugh and crack
jokes right up to the moment that he raised his gun and blasted the first
fuel transport plane from the sky, right on schedule.
It was glorious chaos after that. He took the base completely by surprise.
Most of the suit pilots had been in the audience, and he met only light
resistance as he targeted the rest of the transport planes on the ground
and took out the storage tanks. A few Leos and Aries mobilized against
him and he laughed as he mowed them down. It felt so good, being at the
controls like this again, feeling Heavyarms respond to his every desire.
He gorged himself on destruction, loving the satisfying concussion of
enemy explosions, careless of his ammo supply. It didn't matter if he
ran out, not this time.
He positioned Heavyarms next to the command center, so the detonation
would take that out, too. He was ready. He felt so calm. It all would
have gone perfectly according to plan, too, if he hadn't suddenly caught
sight of Catherine down there in the wreckage.
"Trowa! Trowa, what are you doing?" she yelled up at him.
"Get away from here!" he shouted back. Damn, he hadn't anticipated this!
He'd moved away from the circus tent on purpose, assuming the other members
of the company would have the good sense to run in the opposite direction.
But there she was, right in front of him, completely oblivious to her
own danger. And she looked furious!
// It doesn't matter, // he told himself.
It shouldn't matter!
But it did, when he saw a Leo rise up behind her and take aim. He vaulted
to block the blast and somehow he made it in time, taking the blast himself
and destroying the enemy suit. Looking back, he saw that she was alive
and still on her feet. And still angry, too, by the look of things.
"Catherine, stay away! I'm going to go through with this."
But she wouldn't go, and in the end he could not be the cause of her death.
He'd had to let her in.
She sprang in through the hatch and punched him! Knife throwing had made
her strong and she had one hell of a right hook. She practically took
his head off. Half his face went numb as he fell back in the con chair.
She stood over him and chewed him out in no uncertain terms. It was clear
she'd figured out what he'd intended to do.
"What about your mother and father?" she demanded. She didn't pause long
enough for him to tell her that he had no parents to care; no, she just
charged right on. "Don't you think your life is a little too valuable?
What a selfish decision! Did you even give a thought to the people you'd
leave behind? You're the most pathetic person I've ever met!"
Of course she didn't understand. How could she? She wasn't a soldier like
him. Like Heero. But somehow, to his chagrin, her words struck a chord.
And then she cried and his resolve crumbled. She was crying. For him!
He'd thought there wasn't a person left alive who'd give a rat's ass what
happened to him, and here she was, a girl who'd only known him a few months
but treated him like family, crying for him. And suddenly his own eyes
were burning, too, at the thought of how he'd hurt her. It didn't make
any sense to him, but the feeling was too strong to deny.
"You didn't think about us, the people you'd leave behind to live in sorrow!"
she sobbed pummeling his chest half-heartedly.
Those words struck home, too, and for a moment it wasn't Catherine he
saw there, but Quatre and he knew in his gut that if he killed himself,
it would make Quatre sad, too, even if he understood why Trowa had done
it. He'd seen what sadness did to those trusting blue eyes, the pain it
The will went out of him. He didn't know how he was going to face Heero,
but this was over. He'd failed, but there was no going back now. He hugged
Catherine, trying to comfort her, even as his own heart broke with shame
at his own weakness.
By some miracle, no one from the circus was injured, and they all managed
to scatter and get away. Trowa found them and Heero alive and well in
it, a few miles away. Together with a silent, fuming Catherine, they managed
to get Heavyarms and the transport away from the base and by dawn it was
loaded and ready to go.
Catherine hadn't said a word to them all night, not even when Trowa gave
her a halting, carefully edited account of who he and Heero really were,
and why he'd been hiding out at the circus. He expected her to hate him
for that, but she saved all her ire and resentment for Heero.
"You're the one who brainwashed my Trowa!" she said, glaring in the transport
window at Heero. "I won't let you off so easily the next time!"
She jumped down without a backward glance, but Trowa realized that she'd
said "next time." Like she planned to see them both again. Like they were
still friends. He shook his head. He was forgiven.
"It was that girl's tears that kept me from self-destructing," he admitted
glumly to Heero. "If you were in my shoes, you'd have done it, right?
Now you should know why I admire your strength."
To his complete surprise, Heero just shook his head. "I told you before,
the only way to live a good life is to act on your emotions." It almost
seemed like he was smiling as he stared out the windscreen at the road
ahead, although with Heero it was hard to tell sometimes.
Trowa stared at him a moment, then gave a soft laugh and threw the truck
into gear. "Let's get going."
They drove most of the day in silence. Then, out of the blue, Heero announced,
"I need to find General Noventa's family. I need to make amends to them
for what I did."
Trowa glanced over at him in surprise. There was a lot more to this dark,
quiet guy than Trowa had imagined. Gazing at that determined profile,
Trowa caught himself wishing again that things could be different between
them. But then he also realized with a pang of amazement that in his own
awkward, uncomfortable way, Heero had just posed a question.
"You're still in pretty bad shape," Trowa noted quietly, hoping he wasn't
misinterpreting the situation. Dealing with Heero was a lot like working
with the big cats; you had to pay attention and trust your gut instinct.
"I could drive you. It's not like I have anything else to do at the moment,
Heero shrugged, but Trowa was sure he saw something--relief maybe--in
those dark eyes. "I'll need to get to a computer somewhere, do a search."
Trowa nodded, keeping his eyes on the road. He'd been right. Heero wanted
his company, but couldn't come out and just say so. "No problem. Some
of the family lives in southern France, I think. We can be there in a
couple of days, if you're up to helping with the driving."
Heero folded his arms and nodded with that "mission accepted" look and
Trowa felt another of those strange, strong pangs in his belly, almost
like what he felt when he let himself think about Quatre, but not quite.
He tried to imagine Heero letting himself be kissed and couldn't. //
That's OK, // he told himself, pushing the image away. Heero was his
friend and for now at least, neither of them had to travel alone.
That was enough, he told himself, but their first night on the road proved
him a liar. In the trailer it had been logical for them to share the one
bed, but as they prepared to settled down under the stars that night,
Trowa saw that Heero made a point of sleeping on the opposite side of
the campfire. It didn't matter, Trowa told himself. Besides, they'd have
to take turns on watch anyway, but it still hurt a little, the way Heero
had waited to see where Trowa laid out his blankets, before setting up
his own bedding.
// Message received ,// Trowa thought, angry with himself for caring.
It wasn't like they'd really shared the bed, just opposite sides of it.
The few times they had touched it had been by accident and Heero had scarcely
noticed, or looked a little annoyed. No, it didn't matter. Still, it took
Trowa longer than usual to get to sleep that night.
They broke into an IT firm outside Nice and found the addresses of a number
of Noventa relatives. The general's granddaughter was right there in occupied
Marseille and Heero managed to find her while Trowa found and destroyed
a number of OZ troops. In the end, Heero's idea of atonement proved to
be offering the young girl his gun to kill him with, to avenge her grandfather's
death. She'd called him a coward and walked away.
Heero climbed into the truck with Trowa, his face expressionless but his
eyes filled with pain. The scenario would be repeated eleven more times,
ending at last in Sicily at the house of Noventa's widow.
"You did all you could," Trowa told him as he came back out through the
ornate gates of the Noventa estate looking no happier than when he went
They were walking back toward the harbor warehouse where they'd hidden
Heavyarms when they realized they were being followed by someone in a
dark, expensive sedan. Heero was still limping, in no shape for a fight
or a chase.
"Guess it was just a matter of time before someone tracked us down, moving
around like this. I'll take care of this," Trowa murmured, motioning for
Heero to take off.
"Thanks." Simple, but heartfelt.
They turned down a side street by a marketplace and Heero faded back behind
a market stall. Trowa glanced around, "borrowed" an unattended motorbike
and drew their pursuers away. By the time he got back to the warehouse,
Heero was waiting for him. But so was an OZ officer, a woman with eyes
almost as intensely blue as Heero's, and equally stubborn. She wasn't
there to capture them, it seemed, but to issue an invitation from Zechs
Merquise. It seemed he wanted to resume his duel with Heero.
The next thing Trowa knew, against all better judgment, they were on their
way to Antarctica.
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