I Know Who I Want... + Part 15 (cont)

"She doesn't know us all," Duo objects. "Heero, ok, they were married for three years. But what does she know about us?"

"She knows I'm the infiltrator," he says calmly. "She asks about my role with OZ, with the Barton forces. She knows something of... my role in the last war," he says, almost smoothly enough to cover the involuntary hitch in his voice when he obliquely refers to his incarceration.

"She knows about Quatre destroying the colonies during the war. She knows that you and Quatre were on Barton's colony when it exploded, and that you were presumed dead," he continues relentlessly, directing his comments to Duo. "She knows that I was a mercenary. She knows how Quatre's father died. She knows about Wufei's wife. She knows about New Edwards." He shakes his head. "She knows about everything that we've done in the last seven years that we don't want to be reminded of, and who knows how much else she's managed to ferret out in the past year?"

We're all silent, imagining all of these private horrors being dredged up in the middle of a courtroom.

"Who knows what she's got," Trowa repeats, the cold flatness of his voice adding an eerie chill to the already unsettling words. "And knowing her, she'll use it all."

"So what do you want to do?" Duo demands. "Give up? Not go? I don't understand... "

"It's a little late for that," Trowa says calmly. "We just need to acknowledge what we're up against here."

"This is my fault," Heero says flatly. "If I hadn't... "

"Knock it off, Yuy," Duo snaps. "How in the hell were you to know what she'd do?"

"Assigning blame is useless," Quatre agrees. "And we aren't going to help anything by torturing ourselves with what might happen," he adds gently, looking at Trowa. "We all need to sit down," he emphasizes calmly, "and rationally discuss what we can do together to get through this as best we can."

These eminently rational words hover in the midst of this most irrational company. Finally, Trowa sighs almost inaudibly, and moves to sit in the last empty chair, positioned next to Heero's.

Quatre smiles at him, and the tension eases considerably. "Now, we all are going to practice," he begins. "We only have four days. We'll each be working with a lawyer, who will ask us any and every question they can think of that Relena and her team might fire at us. We memorize the appropriate responses... "

"Memorize responses?" Duo interrupts.

"We don't lie," Quatre assures him wearily. "We just learn the correct way to phrase the response."

Duo grunts, but subsides.

"She'll probably try to drag it out as long as she can, but I can't imagine that even she can drag this whole thing out more than a week or two."

Duo groans loudly and melodramatically. "A week or two?" he demands. "What in the hell will take that long?"

"Evidence, examination of evidence, testimony, witness statements, questioning of witness, cross-examination of witnesses, recalling of witness," Quatre recites. "And like I said, she'll try to stretch it out."

"When do you think it will start?" Heero asks.

Quatre looks faintly embarrassed. "Probably Tuesday," he says vaguely.

Duo peers suspiciously at him. "What do you know that you aren't telling us?" he asks.

Quatre sighs. "The judge will call for a trial, and he'll set it up for the next day," he tells us with certainty.

"Does she own the judge?" Duo half-shouts.

Quatre shakes his head vehemently. "No, she... "

"Do we own the judge?" Heero asks, trepidation in his voice, as though he's not quite sure whether that would be a good thing or not.

"Nobody owns the damn judge," Quatre growls. "Since she's the monarch of Sanc, she can't legally or morally use a Sanc judge."

"Like that'd stop her," Duo mutters, disgruntled.

"He's one of the World Court judges," Quatre informs us, pointedly ignoring the interruption. "He's... Well, he's not exactly happy to be on this case. He thinks, and I quote, ‘It's a damn fool waste of my valuable time.'"

"I like this guy already," Duo announces.

Quatre smiles. "That's actually pretty good for us," he agrees. "He won't want the trial to last any longer than it has to."

"So how long do you think it will take?" Duo presses.

Quatre shrugs. "Like I said, probably just a week or two. I hope you realize how abnormally fast this is moving," he tells us all seriously. "If the people involved didn't have such status, this could drag into years."

"Great," Duo drawls, not sounding overly enthusiastic. "So what's your best estimate?"

"Well, if it starts Tuesday... " Quatre hesitates, his opinions warring with his inherent caution against making any firm guesses. "I would guess it'd be wrapping up by the end of the next week."

There's a depressed silence. Despite Quatre's assurances that everything is moving very quickly, that sounds like a very long time to us.

"So, we work with the lawyers until Monday?" Trowa asks quietly.

Quatre nods briskly. "And Monday night, and every night after the trials," he informs us. "Now, the rest of this will depend on the progress of the trial, but by the end of next week, we can begin phasing in our plans for the Preventers."

"What plans?" Duo asks, blinking at him. Quatre in high gear is kind of hard to follow.

"Next Monday there is a ball," Quatre tells us all. "It's not at the palace - it's at the World Council headquarters in this city. That would be a good place for us to make an appearance... maybe make... "

"Make what?" Duo asks him as he trails off. Duo sounds curious now, rather than tired or angry or suspicious. It's hard to watch Quatre strategize and not end up impressed.

"Dufasion and I were discussing this the other day. He thinks - and I agree - that it would be a good move if we all somehow demonstrated how committed we are to the Preventers, as visualized by Dufasion's faction."

"And how would we do that?" Duo asks, grinning.

Quatre takes a deep breath. "By joining them," he says in a rush. "If we all publicly commit ourselves - say, at the ball - to joining an organization run in the model Dufasion and his people have designed, we show that we are all truly behind that model, that we believe in it. It's a gesture that would mean more than just a verbal endorsement."

"I'm not a Preventer," Trowa says flatly.

We all turn to look at him.

"I don't like parties. And I have a job," he reminds us. "I work in the circus. I'm not a Preventer."

"And we can't serve on the Preventers if we're on the Council," I remind Quatre.

"Well, I know you want to give up this seat anyway," Quatre tells me, flushing slightly . "You're only doing it to help me."

I smile. He's right.

"And I... " he shrugs. "My seat can go up to a vote in the colonies I represent."

My smile widens into a grin. "And I suppose Gisella... "

"It'll be an open election," he defends. "If Gisella wants to run, she's welcome to. So is anyone else," he emphasizes.

I shake my head in amusement. Gisella, the fifteenth of the Winner daughters, has a rabid interest in politics. She's hinted for months that if Quatre ever wanted to give up his Council seat, she'd be thrilled to run for it. The colonists, who have all benefited from the success of the Winner corporation, and who still suffer guilty consciences from their actions in the war, will trip over themselves to elect any Winner who runs for office.

"She'll make a good Councilwoman," I concede. She will, too. She's smart, fair, and has a much thicker skin than Quatre does. She'll be able to take the abuse the Council deals out and return it in full measure.

"If she wins," Quatre reminds me acerbically. "If she even runs."

I grin at him again. "We should order the name plate for her seat," I muse. "So it's ready when she gets here... "

Quatre makes a sound of exasperation and turns away from me. "You can all think about this and decide later," he tells the others seriously. "You don't have to be in the Preventers forever," he adds. "But we need to somehow convince people of how strongly we believe in this. We need to make a gesture that is dramatic enough, if you will, to overshadow all of the ugly stories about us Relena will be throwing around. If we make a united showing like that right there at the ball," he continues, "right in the middle of the trial proceedings, it could even weaken Relena's case."

I look around the room. Duo looks resigned, Heero intent. Trowa still has that damned blank look on his face, but the effect is marred by the tight white line of his lips pressed firmly together.

"We'll be at the ball," Heero decides. "I don't know if we'll be making any great announcements, but you're right about going."

Everyone's attention is focused on Heero, but I'm looking right at Trowa, so I see the anger flash in his eyes. It's gone almost immediately, so quickly that I'm not even sure that I really saw it.

"Ok." Quatre leans back against the sofa and closes his eyes. "Debriefing over. I'd suggest plenty of R&R tonight, gentleman, because it's battle formations from here on in."

I close my eyes. I have an uneasy feeling that things are even more tenuous than we all realize. I hope Relena is all we have to worry about. I don't really want any of us to fall victim to friendly fire.

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