Author: Bane's Desire
see chao. 1 for warnings, disclaimer

A Grudging Seduction: Chapter Fourteen
Let's Go Down to the Water and Pray.

That night began almost identical to the previous one. They successfully snuck out of the dorm, took the taxi and walked to the position where they had done their observation of the factory the night before. Together they watched as the night-shift crew arrived and the swing shift left.

It wasn't until just after three in the morning when the slight burbling sound of a motor in low gear could be heard in the early morning air. Heero nudged his dozing partner, bringing him to attention, and together they watched the approach of a small boat on the water. It's engine was cut a moment before it sidled up to the dock just outside of the factory. Through the night-vision binoculars they watched a man, looking like the same one they'd seen the night before, step out of the boat and tie it up against the dock. He then proceeded to take the short walk to the dock-side entry and once again keyed in the security code, bypassing the security that was stationed around the building's exterior without any gesture or word exchanged.

The two pilots exchanged a look, wondering again who the newcomer was and what the man's presence indicated. Five minutes later, he reappeared, exiting the building with several boxes stacked in his arms. He returned to his boat, climbed onboard and deposited his armload onto the floor, then returned to the dock to untie the rope from the moorings before he jumped back in and started the motor. Slowly, he turned his craft around and made his way back the direction he'd come from.

"A go-between?" Heero asked, his voice low.

"Probably," Duo answered. "I wonder how many nights a week he shows up here? This is the second night in a row. It could be a nightly occurrence."

Heero shrugged. "I don't know, but if he is a regular, then he's our way inside."

Four more nights of surveillance followed. The man in the boat did indeed return each night at precisely the same time, a mistake on the part of OZ, if he was their man. The two pilots used that and other observations they'd gathered to form their plans for getting inside the factory and taking the information required to complete their mission.

The long nights of watching the comings and goings at the Messato plant were followed by torturous days in which both teens struggled to deal with the lack of sleep. They habitually returned to their dorm room two hours before classes, showered, dressed in their uniforms and slept until the very last moment, waking up with just enough time to eat a couple of protein bars, stashed in their backpacks, and get to their first class of the day.

A quick meal was eaten at noontime before they escaped to their room and napped for part of the hour then returned to attend their afternoon classes. Homework was done immediately after their classes ended for the day and they ate their supper with their classmates in the cafeteria to allay any suspicion. Yet as soon as they could, they retired as quickly as possible to their room again where they slept until ten p.m. The one advantage their new and busy schedule brought was that Relena was pretty much absent from their lives, which came as a relief to both pilots.

That relief was short lived, however, when one week after they'd begun their nighttime surveillance, a sharp knock sounded on their door near the hour of eight p.m. Heero was roused from his sleep by the sound and sat up, looking over to Duo to see him rolling over onto his stomach as a result of the disturbance.

Seeing his roommate wasn't going to take care of the problem, Heero reluctantly rose from his bed and went to the door to jerk it open, already irritated, to glare at Relena, her hand raised in preparation of knocking again. She dropped her arm and smiled shyly at the blue eyed boy, ignoring his frosty reception.

"There you are," she began, her eyes sparkling with delight. "I haven't seen you around lately, Heero, and I wondered if you were alright?"

"I'm fine, Relena," he replied coolly.

"Where have you been? I haven't seen you in the cafeteria or the common rooms."

"I've been busy," he growled out in exasperation at her presence.

"I was wondering if you would like to go out for an ice cream with me?"

"I'm busy."

She raised a doubtful eyebrow. "Homework?"

Having had enough of her game, the Wing pilot grabbed hold of the girl's left arm, barely noting her yelp of alarm, and pulled her into his room and firmly shut the door. Pushing her against the door, he leaned forward to capture her full attention. "I've told you we're here on a mission," he hissed in a low, acerbic voice. "You need to leave us alone to do what we came here for."

The blue eyes blinked innocently. "I was only trying to be a friend, Heero. I don't understand why you're being so hostile."

"Did you spread the rumors circulating about Duo?" He asked, changing the subject. "That he was a prostitute?"

The slight blush on Relena's cheeks answered the question for him. "I didn't say anything that wasn't true," she replied defensively. "Some of the other students and I were talking and they asked me what I knew about the two of you. I mentioned that 'Clark'," she sneered at the name, then continued, "had come from L-2. I never said he was a prostitute. Someone else must have come up with that. One of the girls knew something of that colony and said a good looking guy like Clark must have used his looks and charms to get off that filthy colony. Someone else must have taken her comment and spread it. You know how rumors in a school start off as nothing and are fueled into a prairie fire."

"He never prostituted himself." Heero hissed, his anger at Relena's nonchalance towards the nasty rumor was transmitted by his grip on her upper arms, causing the girl to wince. "And for you or anyone else to say such a slanderous thing is clearly indicative of a jealous, vindictive and shallow person. Hardly the traits one would expect from a so-called pacifist."

Anger sparked suddenly in the girl's eyes. "How dare you say that to me," she whispered tightly, her body shaking slightly from suppressed anger. "What gives you the right to judge me?"

"Unlike how you judged Duo?" Heero managed to keep his voice down regardless of his anger. "He's my friend and comrade. Your denigrating words hurt him, and in hurting him you hurt me."

"Why would you choose him as a friend over me?" she asked, her own hurt and anger was now displayed on her face. "I.. I care for you, Heero, maybe even love you, yet you choose to associate with someone beneath you. I could give you anything you'd ever want, why don't you want me?"

"Because you're a spoiled little girl who won't look at the bigger picture," he answered with a deep weariness settling in on him at having to deal with the girl yet again. "Listen, Relena," he said more calmly. "I obviously don't have the type of feelings for you that you have for me. You have to accept that. Besides, you can't possibly love me; you don't know anything about me. You could never understand what my life is like; but my fellow pilots do. I choose to associate with them because we are a team. We watch each other's backs and patch each other's wounds. The five of us understand what it takes to do what we must to win this war and how difficult it is sometimes it can be. You can't possibly understand me or what I truly do to love me, Relena. I'll venture a guess that you're simply suffering from a severe case of infatuation."

Relena looked like she'd been slapped in the face. "I know what I feel," she stated with conviction, her hand dramatically placed over her heart. "And I might have some advantages in life due to my parents, Heero, but I've suffered, too. I've lost my father, my mother lost her husband and then I learned that I lost a family that I don't even remember. This war has cost me more than anyone I know."

"What you've lost is a pittance in comparison to what Duo and some of the other pilots have lost. Yet you have no compassion for him or have the decency to acknowledge that he fights selflessly for his colony, for its freedom. Frankly, Relena, you have yet to prove to me that you aren't as self-centered and arrogant as your actions dictate, and until you can overcome those weaknesses, you have no place in my life or in this war. Leave us alone, Relena." His voice warned. "We have a war to win."

"Hey, what's going on?" A sleepy voice from the bed questioned.

Heero turned his body slightly so that Duo could see with his half-open eyes who it was he was talking to. "Relena decided to pay us an impromptu visit."

Duo's eyes shifted from Heero's to the angry looking girl. He then turned to look at the digital clock on his desk that displayed the time as being eight ten. "You woke me up," he stated in an unhappy, complaining voice. "I've got two more hours to sleep, so would you mind keeping it down?" He then turned away from the both of them to face the wall and pulled the pillow out from under him to place it over the top his head.

"We're both tired," Heero stated to the girl, pinching the bridge of his nose to alleviate the dull ache centered there from lack of sleep. "Don't bother us again."

So many emotions and unsettling feelings filled the girl's heart. She was angry at Heero's accusations and feeling guilty because she knew some of what he'd said was true. Remorse was also felt for letting her jealousy of Duo lead her to say some things she now regretted. And still jealously filled the girl's thoughts as she recalled Heero's words of praise in defense of the long-haired American. But above all she felt, it was Relena's sense of regret that was the most prominent of the feelings she was experiencing, and it prompted her to try and make things right. "I'm sorry, Heero," she began, honestly contrite. "I've made some mistakes concerning Duo, and when I came here this evening, I didn't know you were resting. Is there anything other than staying away from you that I can do to help?"

Heero thought a moment, initially wanting to just tell the girl once again to leave them alone, but the practical side of his brain urged him take up her offer and test the sincerity of her apology by allowing her to be of some help to them. "If we fail to turn up for classes for more than a day, I want you to contact one of the other pilots. Tell him when you last saw us, how long we've been missing and that our mission probably went sour. I'll send one of the others an e-mail with the mission particulars so they'll know where to start looking for us."

Relena nodded, looking solemn with the responsibility being given her. "How will I contact them?"

"I'll give you Zero Four's e-mail address. But you must promise to memorize it, then destroy it. It's imperative that it doesn't fall into enemy hands."

The blond girl nodded her head enthusiastically, her face somber. "I promise, Heero." She seemed sincere in her offer to help, and Heero hoped that giving her this task to prove herself and putting his trust in her wouldn't endanger himself, Duo or the other pilots.

Turning to his desk, Heero quickly jotted down Quatre's latest temporary e-mail address and handed it to the girl. "Only send it if we have missed a full day of classes," he reminded her.

"I won't let you down," she told him, just before he ushered her out the door and returned to his bed with the hope of catching a little more sleep.

+

Dressed all in black with their weapons hidden underneath their clothing and jackets, the two pilots hid in the familiar shadows and alertly eyed the large building they'd studied for over a week. There was a tenseness in the way they held their bodies, knowing that any moment they might need to act.

Then it came, the slow rumbling of the approaching boat's engine that signaled that their mission was about to commence. Moving quickly from their hidden location, the two gundam pilots silently moved according to their pre-determined plan. Duo went around the far perimeter to the north end of the factory, keeping to the shadows with his gun up and ready, the silencer attached, as he sought out the shadows of the two guards on his end of the building. Heero, in the same state of readiness, positioned himself likewise south of the factory, hidden not far from the docks and careful to keep both corner guards within the range of his handgun.

The small water craft drew closer to the dock, signaling both pilots to commence with the next part of their plan. The small, muffled ping of the silencers being shot were lost in the sound of the low rumble of the docking boat's engine. The four bodies fell one by one without a warning cry, and the two teens, hidden by their dark clothing and quick movements, rapidly pulled the guards' bodies out of sight of the boat's captain.

From around the corners, on opposite ends of the building, they watched the man jump out of the boat then lash the boat line to the dock pilings, anchoring the craft in place. The lights of the factory were dim, allowing the pilots to ease themselves around the corners, unseen by the man approaching the lone western door. They observed him keying in the code numbers into the security box to the left of the door, not noticing the lack of guards nor the approach of his own death just moments away. A beep sounded from the security box and the man fished out a set of keys from his pant's pocket. Studying them for a moment, he picked one key out and inserted it into the lock. The door swung open easily for him and he entered, still ignorant of the two silent shadows only a few steps behind him.

Appearing as nothing more than phantoms of the night, the two teens stood poised on both sides of the door, waiting. The minutes passed with tense slowness, but eventually the door did open and Heero sprung forward, immediately grabbing the man carrying boxes, and putting a hand over his protesting mouth he muffled any sound the panicked man made while dragging him and his armful of goods to the darker side of the building. Duo grabbed hold of the closing door before it shut completely and held it open by his fingertips only a scant inch from being completely closed. He waited there, poised and ready for anything until Heero reappeared at his side several minutes later. In his hand there appeared to be a circuit board which he indicated with a curt nod was the one they were looking for. With his eyes shifting towards the door, he signaled that it was time to go inside and get the computer information they needed.

Duo took the lead and soundlessly eased the door open a bit wider and slipped through, knowing Heero was right behind him. His eyes blinked rapidly, trying to adjust to the contrast between the dark outside and the brightness inside the factory. From what he could see, the majority of the factory floor was filled with work stations and employees who diligently bent over circuit boards with soldering tools in hand, making final adjustments. On the wall to his left were several darkened offices of which only one had a light on. Through the lit window he could see two men casually conversing with each other.

Keeping low, Duo made his way towards the closest dark office, the noise and the chatter of the work room reassured him that at least the workers were busy and less likely to notice himself or Heero as they made their way along the wall, sometimes in plain view.

The door to the office he chose was locked, but the lock pick lodged in his hair made quick work of it and it opened easily. Duo entered with Heero following on his heels. With the room's light remaining off, Heero used the dim light coming through the lightly tinted window facing the factory to select and turn on the computer and waited while Duo stood guard for the system to boot up and display the main page on the monitor. Kneeling on the plastic floor mat that surrounded the desk, he moved the mouse and quickly searched the files, looking for any information dealing with the circuit boards and what new modifications were being made to combat and destroy the gundams.

A disk was slipped into the proper slot and several more followed as information was transferred to them. Ten minutes later, they were done. Duo, crouched down in front of the door and inched it open, checking to see if the way back to the building's door was clear. With a signal of his hand, indicating it was safe, he slipped out and led the way once more towards the door they'd used to enter the building. They were halfway there when a shout was heard and an alarm sounded, causing chaos to erupt amongst the employees. Several men bearing guns came charging into the room, their eyes scanning the work area while two of them broke away and directed their attention to the offices.

"Go!" Heero hissed, seeing their chance of getting out narrowing. Duo gave him an answering nod and crouching over, gun in hand, he dashed towards the door with Heero just behind him.

"There!" A shout rang out from behind them, alerting both teens that they'd been spotted.

Duo reached the door and pulled on the knob only to find it immobile. It was locked. He looked up with shocked dismay to see a digital lock to the right of the door that was a separate security system from the set up on the outside of the door. They hadn't planned for this contingency and his gut clenched with the realization that they were screwed.

"Move!" Heero hissed just as the report of a gun echoed in the large metal building and a bullet embedded into the fabricated wall next to his dark head. Duo turned and immediately began to return fire, satisfied to see the soldiers scrambling to find shelter. The Wing pilot took that opportunity to aim his gun at the doorknob and shot at it several times, the metal violently splintering off. Duo felt several shards embed into his arm but didn't let it distract him from firing off another round, keeping the soldiers/security hiding behind the now overturned work tables while Heero worked frantically on the door mechanism.

There was no time for relief to set in when at last the weakened door was kicked open by Wing's pilot for the gunfight was still going on behind him and Duo continued swearing under his breath with each pull on the trigger of his gun. Then despite not knowing what was waiting for them on the outside of the building, the two darkly clad teens flung themselves through the door and ran out into the night. Heero took the lead this time, and as the crack of gunfire sounded behind him, he made a split second decision and ran towards the boat docked to the nearby pier, calling for Duo to follow.

He jumped into the boat while Duo paused on the dock and crouched low to work the knot free of the post. The keys had been left in the ignition and Heero started the boat's motor. He waited until his partner finished untying the boat and threw the rope in. The braided man stumbled clumsily over the boat's edge to hide himself behind the side of the boat.

Heero wasted no time easing away from the dock and ignored the low speed requirements for all boats moving within the bay. He maneuvered the water craft away from the dock and far enough out to fully open the throttle. The engine's gurgling timbre rose dramatically in volume and pitch as the boat swung around in a tight circle then shot out into the dark harbor, away from of the factory's lights, stretching out several dozen feet onto the seemingly black water. Bullets pinged off the side of the boat and into the bay, but did nothing to slow the progress of their escape.

With the wind whipping his hair about his face, Heero tried to focus on the dark waters, leaving the boat's one light off in order to keep their whereabouts uncertain. He kept up the speed for several moments, ignoring the nagging worry he felt about not knowing anything about the bay or how to navigate it. He turned his head briefly to see Duo still on the deck, huddled into a ball. "Are you alright?" he shouted back.

"Took a shot to the arm," Duo replied in an equally loud but pained voice. "I think it's just a scratch."

"Keep down," Heero ordered his partner before turning forward and easing back the throttle slightly and slowed the boat to a more moderate speed. With eyes squinting to make out the area surrounding them, he peered into the black, ink-like surface of the water. They were currently gliding across the surface of the black water of the bay and he thought to himself that it was as void of light as space had ever been. With the motor purring smoothly, he guided them towards a distant light on the other side of the dark stretch of water, hoping for a dock where they could ditch the boat and make their way back to school before sunrise. With any luck they would be on their way to the new safehouse in a day or two, its coordinates having been sent to them the day before by Quatre.

With the complete darkness surrounding them, brought about by the moonless night which had aided them in making their escape thus far, Heero didn't see the large floating buoy bobbing benignly in the water until it was too late to avoid it. A sickening crash and screech caused by the craft's metal sides abruptly colliding with the metal buoy was barely heard by the two teens who were thrown forward with the impact. Heero's body slammed into the dash board and steering wheel and then fell onto his back in an unconscious heap. Duo, having remained on the back deck of the boat, was also flung forward, but he fell harmlessly onto his side. Unfortunately, it was the side with the wounded arm that hit the deck with considerable force. He almost lost consciousness, and probably would have had it not been for the fact that the cold water from the bay began to flow into the damaged boat and quickly soaked his clothing. Feeling panic begin to set in, he moved forward and grabbed hold of Heero as the water steadily rose and the bell of the buoy clattered loudly in the wake of the crash, announcing to any pursuers exactly where they were. He clutched the unconscious boy to his chest as the water rose and the sarcastic voice in his head whispered that the situation couldn't be any more screwed up than it was at the moment. With teeth chattering from shock and the cold that assaulted his flesh, tightening his muscles and his outer skin with countless goose bumps, he chattered grimly to himself, "Shit, I hope those t..t..t..wo swimming les..s..sons Howard gave me are gon..n..na be enough."

[ch. 13] [ch. 15] [back to Singles a - k]