The Beginning's End + Part 13
"Three days," Wufei snaps, his black eyes darker than ever with anger. "We're supposed to commence this attack in three days, and now you're telling us that you're unsure whether the carrier will be able to transport all the troops over to the colony's space?"
"It's not like I've been sitting on the information for months," Une snaps. "The problem was just brought to my attention too."
"So we're supposed to…what, exactly? Ferry the troops over? Have them sit on XV7889 and wait for us to make a few more trips? Why don't we just run ads on some of the interstellar networks announcing the date and time of our projected assault?"
They continue to bicker. I stop listening. I don't really care.
That's unusual, and it bothers me slightly. But I haven't been able to care about much in the past few days. Not since I realized that Trowa really wasn't coming back.
The only time I've really been able to feel anything has been when I'm with Heero. He seems to understand, and gives me just what I need. Pure, physical comfort. He touches me, and lets me touch him. He holds me when I want him to, and even when I tell him I don't. He talks about nothing, like I usually do. I don't really listen, like he usually does. We both feel obscurely better for the non-conversation. For a little while. Then we feel guilty for feeling better. Then we feel sad again. Then we need comfort, physical comfort…and the whole thing starts up again.
Yeah, it's been a real laugh riot here at Good Guy Central.
I glance up, trying to gauge the progression of the argument without listening to it. Une and Wufei are both glaring at each other. Quatre is speaking soothingly. I bet he gets damn tired of that. Heero is looking at me.
I smile at him, my old broad grin. He frowns. He knows it's phony.
How has he come to know me so well in so short a time?
I mean, he's known me forever. But how has he suddenly figured me out?
Well, mostly. Noone totally has me figured out. Not even me.
I smile slightly at that thought, and the expression is genuine this time. Heero's still watching me, and he relaxes slightly. He even looks away. Call the press.
The argument heats up, and the raised voices catch my attention.
"…will not let this attack be compromised! Do you understand, Une? I don't care how the hell we get there, I don't care if I have to do it myself, but I will destroy him!"
I stare at Wufei, startled. His face is dark with anger, his breath is coming fast, and he's actually trembling with the force of his emotion. He glares defiantly at each of us, and turns and strides to a corner of the room, unwilling to face us and the understanding we have finally gained from his outburst.
He doesn't want to destroy Barton's force because of the threat they present to the Earth or the colonies. He's not doing it to protect the peace. He's not even doing it for honor or justice. Wufei is out to destroy Barton because of Trowa. Because Trowa was his friend, and Wufei loved him.
And Wufei feels that that is too personal or petty a reason to fight a war, that war is a thing that should be embarked upon only for a great and glorious cause.
I'm torn between a desire to applaud him and smack him. Doesn't he realize that fighting for Trowa - for friendship, for love - is one of the best reasons to fight at all?
How did we all get so emotionally repressed?
Well, whether or not Wufei realizes it, he's right.
It's time I got interested in this war.
Suddenly, just as I make this momentous decision, alarms begin to blare incessantly.
We all jump, startled.
"What the hell is happening?" Heero demands.
"Commander Une!" A pale soldier bursts into the room. "It's the Gundam! The Gundam is approaching!"
I always did have the damnedest sense of timing.
I'm awaked by a tremendous crash, then a burst of pain as I'm violently shaken. I open my eyes. I look around, at the bright metal, the flashing lights. There's another crash, another upheaval. I shake my head, scowling.
The Gundam! I stole…Barton!
A wave of panic sweeps me. I won't be captured again. He'll have to kill me…but the mission…I have another…
Suddenly awareness returns. With it, comes debilitating pain. I've been sliding in and out of consciousness since I escaped. I have little memory of the past hours, but I must be near…
I check the coordinates. Near? I'm there! I've made it to the base. Soon, my next mission will be accomplished…and then…
I can't check a scream as the Gundam reels from a third impact. The safety restraint is holding me in place, but the force of the collision jars every one of the wounds on my body.
I flick on the exterior cameras. There it is - the base! As I stare at it, I see a flash of light from one side. They're firing on me!
"Son of a bitch!" I shout, yanking on the control to dodge the blast. The machine responds reluctantly, sluggishly, and I barely manage to get out of the way.
"Well, isn't this just wonderful," I mutter under my breath. My vision is swimming. I'm on the verge of passing out. This is just great.
I irritably program in the frequency we use for communications. I hope they haven't changed it in my absence. It would be a not-very-amusing irony for me to have escaped death at the hands of my enemy, in his ship, only to be shot down by my own side.
"Come in. Come in, Preventers Base," I call as crisply as I can, hoping that they'll pick me up.
I am going to be very pissed off if they fire at me again.
"…hear me? Come in, Preventers Base."
I frown. Who is that? The voice is raspy, scratchy. It can't possibly be familiar - but somehow it is.
"Is that the Gundam?" Heero asks intently, scowling as he stares at the camera images of the huge machine outside.
"Seems to be," Une replies, frowning slightly.
"He's trying to reach us," Quatre murmurs.
"Establish contact," Wufei orders tightly.
"This is Commander Une. Identify yourself," she commands crisply.
"Identify myself?" the voice repeats. It sounds incredulous.
"Identify yourself or you will be shot down," Une warns.
"You're going to shoot me down?" the unknown pilot repeats. He sounds, if possible, even more incredulous.
I start to shake, and fall into a chair. That voice. It can't be. It's impossible. A swell of hope so strong that it physically hurts courses through my body.
"Establish video contact, Une," I interrupt harshly. She looks at me, surprised at my tone of voice. My fists are clenched with the effort of trying to control myself.
Wufei and Heero stare at me suspiciously. My eyes meet Quatre's, and I see a dawning hope - and fear - that matches my own in his eyes.
"Pilot, establish video contact," Une orders.
A loud sigh comes from the transmitter. The monitor flickers, and suddenly the picture is there.
We all shout, all at the same time. The words are all different, but the shock, the amazement, the disbelief, the joy are all the same.
He looks terrible, awful, half-dead.
But he's not dead.
"This is Gundam Pilot 03, requesting permission to enter the base," he says. His voice is suddenly immeasurably weary.
I can't move, can hardly breathe under the weight of the enormous, crushing sense of mingled relief and bewildered astonishment I'm feeling.
This can't possibly be real.
Trowa's alive! He's… "Trowa's alive!" I shout, jumping out of my chair suddenly. "My God, he's alive! He's here!"
Suddenly we're all shouting, all beaming, slapping each other on the back like we've done something worthy of note. Une is still speaking, giving Trowa landing figures, ordering the cessation of fire and the opening of the base.
I hardly hear her. Trowa is alive. He's come back to me. And whatever has happened, we will never be apart again. I won't lose him again.
I have to get out. I have to see them.
I was so intent on getting to them, on warning them, that I really didn't think of what that would entail.
They'll want to know…They'll ask me…
They can't know. I can't tell them! I won't!
I just need to warn them. To tell them that they have to stay away from Barton, that they can't let him take prisoners, that they are personal targets.
They'll ask me how I know. Maybe they'll realize…
I gag, the shame that twists my stomach is so intense.
I force myself to relax, to calm the shudders that rack my body.
They can never know.
I will tell them what they need to know, and then I will leave. They can't see…can't touch me. Especially not that. I can't allow my friends to touch me…not after…
I hope I can pull this off. I have a fever, I know I do. I can't think. I can hardly see straight. I need to do this…then my final mission will be complete.
I open the hatch and step out. I grab the wire, and slowly let myself down, not allowing myself to look below. I know they're there, waiting for me. I can't look at them too closely, can't let myself continue to feel this sense of relief that I have returned to where I am safe. I am a danger to them, in more ways then one.
I hear sounds, voices greeting me, shouts of welcome. I've barely gotten both feet on the ground when a body slams into me. I feel arms go around me, holding me tightly, hands pressing hard against my back. A white flash of pain explodes behind my eyes. I turn the scream of agony into a roar of anger.
"Don't touch me!"
Abruptly, the body is gone, and there is absolute silence surrounding me.
My vision clears, and I can see again. Quatre, Wufei, Une. Heero. They look shocked, bewildered. Duo. He looks stricken. Tears stand in his eyes. I know suddenly that it was he whom I pushed away.
I'm sorry. God, Duo…No. It's better. I couldn't have him touch me, can't even stand the thought of polluting Duo with the essence of Barton still hanging so heavily on me.
"I got the Gundam," I tell them, rather inanely.
"Excellent," Wufei says softly. They're all staring at me. Can they see? Can they tell by looking at me what has happened? "It is Heavyarms, then, as we…"
"It is not Heavyarms!" I half-shout at him. That wary, confused expression rests on all their faces again. "It's crap," I tell them heavily. I can't bear to have them think that this misbegotten creation of Barton's is anything like my Heavyarms. "It's top-heavy. It's awkward. It has no balance. It's slow. It's crap. It's not Heavyarms." My voice raises steadily throughout my speech and I have to stop myself before I'm screaming.
"Ok," Wufei says neutrally, nodding slowly at me.
"How did you get it? Are there more of them?" Une presses.
I turn my head to look at her, scowling as I try to focus on her. Commander Une, demanding her report. "I took it. I don't know," I reply, answering both her questions as shortly as possible.
"It is Barton, then?" Une demands, continuing to probe.
I have to hold back the hysterical laugh that threatens to erupt. "Yeah," I say flatly. "It's Barton."
"Is he dead?"
‘No." Christ, what the hell does she want from me? I know everyone has an inflated opinion of the abilities of Gundam pilots, but there's only one of me.
"How is he alive in the first place?"
"He said one of Dekim's men pulled him out of the trash heap S had thrown him into," I snap. "Are there any more damned questions I can answer for you?"
"Are you all right?" The question is asked in a small voice. "I was…we were really worried about you, Tro-chan."
The voice is Duo's. I move my gaze to him. He's staring at me with a worried, but hopeful expression on his face. He called me Tro-chan. He was…he was worried about me. I let this thought sink in. He…
Suddenly, Heero moves. He's standing next to Duo, and, at my continued silence, moves a little closer to him, angling his body slightly. It's a very… protective… gesture. I look sharply at him, then back at Duo.
Duo follows my gaze to Heero, then his head snaps back to me, realizing what I'm thinking…the light is his eyes is bright, fervent…guilty.
I stagger slightly, banging my back painfully against the foot of the Gundam. My God. All that time - all that horrible, awful time - he was with Heero. They were… together. They didn't care at all. As soon as I was out of the way, they had each other.
My gaze rakes over them, and they both shift uncomfortably. I'm right. They did.
Barton was right. They don't care about me at all.
But you left, a voice in my head points out. And you told them - you told Heero - that that was what you wanted them to do.
A wash of anger drowns out the reasonable voice. I don't care. They betrayed me. Again. And I hate them.
The reasonable voice laughs mockingly at this obvious lie. Of course I don't hate them - either of them. This wouldn't hurt so much if I did.
But I have to get out, get out now, while the strength of the anger can still carry me out on my own two feet.
My mission. I have to warn them, though, before I go. I can't fail the mission.
"You have to watch out, all of you," I tell them in as flat a tone as I can manage. I'm so tired. "Barton is out for you - each of you - personally. Don't go out in the front of the battle. Do not let him capture you."
"Why not?" Une demands before the others have a chance to reply. I feel an extreme flash of irritation. "What are his plans?"
"He plans…to attack," I reply stupidly. I can't get into his…real plans. I can't say it, can't think of it, can't stand it…I force myself to press down my budding hysteria. "He has White Fang," I tell them.
"White Fang!" Une hisses over everyone else's exclamations of shock. "How do you know? When did they align? What do they…"
If you don't mind, Une, I'll postpone the report until later," I snap. "I need some sleep."
"But what do you know about…"
"I said, I'll tell you later! You have your precious Gundam - now leave me the fuck alone!" I shout, stumbling past all of them, refusing to look at any of them, especially at them. None of them try to stop me. They're probably too shocked. I don't usually yell. Or maybe…maybe they know, know about Barton, and they're disgusted by me. Maybe they don't want to stop me.
After all, it's rather obvious that none of them need me. Not when they have each other.
I head down a long hall, hoping vaguely that this is the way to my room. I'm so tired…so…I feel myself start to sag, but I don't have the energy to stop myself. I stumble ungracefully to the floor. The floor feels cold…but the rest of me is hot…as hot as the blood I feel flowing from the ruin of my back…