Author: CeeDee
see # 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer

Future of the Past - #7
Sariel

(Command of God) Working along side of Raguel, this seraph is given the role of deciding the fate of angels which stray from God's path. He is also credited as being an angel of knowledge, as an angel of death, and one of the leaders in Heaven's armies, his name being written upon the shields of one of the fighting forces.

+

At first, there were only voices.

"... too long already."

"... should have been dead." Sally.

"...sure there isn't any brain damage?" Heero.

I slowly surfaced to consciousness, listening to the sounds around me. Where was I?

"There was minor damage, but evidently... the scans show somehow... it seems to have repaired itself." Sally, again.

Gradually, I became more aware. I felt burning pain at each breath I was forced to take. A breathing tube.

"We'll have to wait and see." Sally.

It all started to come back to me.

Battle.

Space.

Accident.

Explosion in the cockpit.

Smoke.


My fingers twitched, unconsciously trying to grab at controls that were no longer there.

"He moved." Heero.

"Muscle spasms." Sally.

Too much smoke. Not normal, impossible. Flight suit not closed airtight. It was, when I checked last. I furrowed my brows. Something wasn't right.

"No." Heero's voice, again. "Look, he moved." Fingers on my forehead, gentle fingers. "He's waking up. Duo? You hear me? Open your eyes, Duo."

I choked on the tube. Panicked. It had to come out. Now.

"Calm down, Duo. Relax. You are in medical." Heero voice persuaded me. Fingers continued to lightly stroke my face. "Breathe with the flow. It helps you. Calm."

I gave up resistance, slowly opening my eyes. I blinked furiously at the light. There was a face above me. Heero. It took me another minute before I could focus on that face. He looked horrible. He had dark shadows under red-rimmed eyes, and he needed to shave. Badly.

A bright light shone in one of my eyes and as I averted my head, annoyed. The gentle fingers on my forehead were snatched away. I frowned. I wanted those fingers back, it had felt... nice.

"Duo. Look at me." Sally leaned over me. "Do you know where you are?"

I nodded, once.

"Do you remember what happened?"

I nodded, again.

"I'm going to remove the breathing support."

I took a deep breath on my own as the thing came out of me and promptly had a coughing fit. My throat hurt. It hurt to breathe. "Water," I managed, hoarsely. Heero reached over, got me a cup, and held it to my lips. I took a few careful sips and the cool liquid soothed my throat.

"How?" I managed afterwards.

"Your mobile suit malfunctioned." Heero said.

I rolled my eyes. "No shit," I croaked. "How'd you get me out?"

"You ejected the cockpit from the suit. Trowa picked it up and brought it back to Bethor."

"I don't remember doing that." I rasp and furrowed my brow, tried to remember and came up blank.

Heero shrugged, expression painful. "We did CPR in the hangar. You weren't breathing."

"Actually," Sally said, "You were flat lining as you arrived in medical. I revived you. But, your brain was without oxygen long enough to cause brain damage."

I looked up at her, alarmed. "What?"

"You should be dead. A babbling idiot, at least." She shook her head, "not that you weren't already," she continued teasingly.

"The alteration?" I asked scratchily, aghast, skipping the insult.

"I think so." She was earnest again. "I didn't think you'd make it. Under normal circumstances, you'd be comatose; a constant-care patient, depending on life support. But..." she trailed off. "It took your body six days to repair the damage, with medical support. You really are hard to kill."

"Six days?" That was amazing. To come back from the dead, literally.

I tilted my head back to look at Heero. "So," I rasped, "something happened to you, too? You look like hell."

He averted his eyes, embarrassed.

"No," Sally said, "the idiot hardly left your side. It took two of your gang to convince him to go to sleep, once in a while. They took turns, watching you."

"Oh." I blinked. That was... surprisingly nice. "The suit?"

"The suit is lost." Heero said.

"Enough, now." Sally interrupted us. "I'd like to make a few tests on our patient, here. Go to sleep, Heero." She dismissed him with a wave of her hand. "He'll be fine, now. You can talk later."

He nodded, reluctantly got up from his chair at my bedside and hesitated, his hand reaching out to mine, laying on the sheet. But, before he could touch me, he snatched his hand back, turned abruptly and left the room.

I stared after him until Sally cleared her throat. I looked up, wide-eyed, and she smirked at me. "He really was worried, you know?"

"Uh-huh," was all I could manage.

"So, you up for a few tests?"

I groaned.

+

"I'm feeling paranoid." I complained, huffing. "He's avoiding me. I know it." I sat with Quatre on the bridge. We were going over the last fine-tuning in our plans. "Every time I go somewhere, Heero was there a few moments before, but he's gone when I get there."

"He's busy," Quatre said. "He and Trowa simulated your accident. Ripped a suit apart. Put it back together. Tried, simulating the explosion. Won't do if it happens again, with someone else."

I shook my head. "It won't."

He sighed. "You think it was no accident."

"It wasn't." I shook my head, vehemently. "Look, I checked the seals of my flight suit before we went out. They were tight. The seals disintegrated afterwards, as if the smoke did something to them. It wasn't normal smoke. I passed out faster than I should have. And there was too much smoke all at once, for it to be only a few circuits. There should have been sparks, before all of that. Something to indicate a minor malfunction."

Quatre shook his head. "There's no proof..."

"Only because the suit is gone. And what about that accident in the machine room the other day?" I continued. "None of the parts have ever fallen out of the overhead haul before. I just have to thank my speed that I was able to jump out of the way in time."

"The chain link was exhausted."

"You bet," I said. "No one else is this accident prone. Someone wants to kill me, Quat."

"Who would have a motive, a reason?" He looked at me. "The personnel Howard brought with him was hand picked. The Maganacs wouldn't do such a thing, and the Preventers are all trustworthy as well. Where is the motive?"

"Maybe they want me out of the way so that they can steal the ship. Une said it herself, 'it's a threat to peace'. If they want it badly enough..."

Quatre shook his head. "She is vehement, but if she wanted it, she would take a more direct approach. She has means."

"A mole within Preventers? Someone working for an organization, undermining the laws? Someone who wants... power?" I spoke my thoughts out loud.

"We can't exclude that, if you are right. But then, you can't exclude one of the sweepers, either." He folded his hands in front of him.

"Or one of the Maganacs." I amended.

He looked slightly offended at that, but nodded, finally. "If your suspicion is right." He looked me in the eye and continued, "But then, if there really are attempts on your life, it could be anyone on this ship. It could be one of us, too."

I blinked at his conclusion, stunned. "Shit, Quat. Don't say that."

He shrugged. "Do we really know each other anymore? Did we ever?"

I opened and closed my mouth a few times. "No. It's not one of you. I trust you. We may not really know each other that well, but we've been through enough shit that I know none of you would ever turn traitor." I smirked, "Besides, Bethor would have detected it, if one of you were a traitor."

He raised an eyebrow, "You sure?"

I nodded firmly, without hesitation. "Yeah. I am."

"Good," he leaned back and smiled slightly. "I was afraid our... unusual handling of the situation a few weeks ago had destroyed that trust. You've been distant. I'm still sorry about that. We should have trusted you in the first place."

I grimaced as I remembered the 'test' they had put me through. Reaching for my braid, I tugged, sad suddenly. "Yeah."

"Okay." He took a deep breath, "Assuming your theory is correct, then you should be shadowed by one of us. Maybe... Heero should bunk with you."

I barked out a laugh. "He's been avoiding me the last several days and now you suggest that he bunks with me?"

Rooming with Heero would be... uncomforatable. How could I possibly sleep in the same room with the man I lusted during my hand sessions? I shuddered. "Besides, I think he's... uncomfortable with my, uhm, sexual orientation, I think. He reacted... strangely the other day as I, uhm, I'm bi, you know? And he's straight. He wants a girl, he told me."

Quatre looked amused. "He told you that?"

"Yeah," I nodded.

He raised his eyebrows, still looking amused. "Really."

"Uh-huh. Maybe not in so many words, but, yes, he did."

"I see." Quatre looked at his hands. "Heero isn't straight. He's bi, too, at the very least."

I looked at him, agast. "What?"

"Wufei's too, bi, I mean. Trowa and I are gay."

I closed my open mouth with a snap. "Oh."

"You know that gay, or bisexual, people have an gene, that distinguishes them from straight people? You've heard about the medical studies made, back in the nineties?"

I nodded, still stunned.

"We all have it." He looked up, smiling. "So, Heero is, at least, bisexual, too, if not gay."

"But Heero..." I trailed off.

"You sure he told you he wants a girl?"

I looked off in the distance, recalling the conversation we had in the cantina. "I thought... because of Relena..." I blinked, thinking hard. "He looked... put off, as I told him I... never was with Hilde..." Fuck. He had flirted with me. Sat at my side, as I was comatose. And I had been so blind. "Heero... oh, shit."

Quatre looked smug.

"You knew!" I accused him. "You knew, and didn't tell me..."

"It is not my place to tell what is told in confidence," he said, earnestly. "And I didn't tell you anything now. It's all your own conclusion." He paused a moment as if thinking over his next words. "But," He said slowly, " I won't stand by and see you toy with his feelings. If you're out just for fun..."

"I wouldn't..." I bristled, and trailed off. "Trowa told you about the other day, at the bar?"

He nodded.

I got up. "I have to think, Quat. This is... I don't know what..." I shook my head and fled the room.

+

It was my turn to avoid Heero. I was nervous. The rest of the day cycle I latched onto Wufei or Trowa, to avoid being alone. I tried not to think about my conversation with Quatre. But, I couldn't help it. It was all I thought about.

Heero finally turned up on my doorstep, duffel in hand, looking uncertain. I waved him in and turned on my heel with a murmured excuse, fleeing to my Ezgadi.

Here I felt safe. Safe from any attempts of my life, safe from... Heero. I stretched out on my bed. I was confused. If Heero really wanted me, why hadn't he said so already? He knew I was bi. I'd told him. Maybe he was afraid of rejection. Afraid of having his feelings stomped on. He loved someone. Love. Did he love me? Was he in love with... me?

I groaned, as it came to me what an impression my past behavior must have had on him. It sure didn't look as if I was capable of an earnest commitment. Like the one Quatre and Trowa had. But was I? Was I able to? I sure wanted Heero, lusted after him. That I already had established for myself. Without any question.

I remembered times in the past, when I tried to get in touch with him, with the others. The worst of my disappointment had been from Heero's choice to ignore me. Okay, I was disappointed by the lack of response from the others, too, but from Heero... it had hurt.

And then... later, somehow I had been dull, indifferent to relationships. I never even tried for such a thing with anyone else. Just... one-night-stands. I rubbed my hands over my face. Had I had feelings for Heero back then, already?

Yes. If I was true to myself, I had. I'd buried them deep, but... was it more than just attraction? Could I picture Heero on my side, as more than a friend? For more than just sex?

I recalled the feeling of wrongness when I had kissed Steve in the bar. How easy it had been to turn him down, despite my libido. I was absolutely uninterested in looking for other partners among the bunch of males and females on this ship. I was... hooked.

Did I know, for sure, it was me Heero was after? Quatre had seemed to indicate that. But, could I be sure? No. What if I discovered I was in love with Heero Yuy and it turned out it all was a big misunderstanding? It would break my heart again. Again? I flung my arm over my head. Yeah. If I was honest with myself, again. What did that mean? Was I in love with Heero?

I huffed. This was ridiculous. Here I am pondering my non-existing love life, and very shortly the Earth is going to be invaded by aliens, which we are going to have to fight. We all could die. I could be gone, even if we survived. Vanish. Cease to exist. Because... because my parents were from the future.

What would Heero do, if I ceased to exist? He would be sad, certainly. As would the others. What would he do, if I started something now, something more than friendship? What would I do, if he ceased to exist?

I... would be crushed. But I would feel like that anyway if something happened to him right now. And later, if he was gone, I would curse myself for not grabbing a chance to be with him. I sighed.

Okay. We'd have to talk. At least that. Now. I got up and slipped into my clothes again, attempting to leave Ezgadi and have a little chat with Heero, as just then my com pinged.

"What?" I said gruffly.

"Duo?" Howard asked. "We're ready. Engines are ready to go. Want to make a test ride?"

"Now?" I asked, annoyed.

"What better time?" He answered. "You've anything else planned?"

I shook my head, then nodded. "Maybe."

"Then postpone it. Meet us at the bridge, now."

"Hey," I pouted, "Aren't I the one supposed to give the orders?"

"Aye, Captain," he chuckled. "Regarding your orders...as soon as we are ready, we make a test run. That's now."

"Okay," I huffed, "you win. I'll be on my way over."

That chat with Heero will just have to wait.

+

Sitting in my chair, I overlooked the bridge. It was crowded. The nine stations were each manned, and the bridge hummed with life. We were ready. I gave the command, and we watched the screen as Jupiter got smaller. Bethor was in motion, again. There was cheering heard over the speakers as we picked up speed. They'd done a good job with the repairs, the techs. I was proud.

We set course to Saturn. The plan was to circle Saturn in a wide ellipse and then settle in a course circling around Earth, at halfway distance between it and Mars. Bethor recommended it as the best route to detect and intercept the Xetoins when they enter our solar system. No one knew where they were going to appear.

The star ship, Bethor, was as fast as its shuttles. It was astonishing. I stared at the screens, projecting space, tactical star maps, astrometry data, ship structure data and felt... depressed. One more step in direction of fighting, of a war. Looking around, I wondered which of the crew here would lose their lives.

I stared at the back of Commander Wright's head. He was standing in the middle of the bridge in a military stance, feet shoulder width apart, hands crossed at the small of his back, eyes trained on the screens. I could practically feel the greed for power radiating off of him. He was so eager to command the ship. I certainly wasn't opposed to him being one of the first ones to die. But Commanders, sadly, usually sat back behind the line of fire.

He obviously wanted me gone, so he could take over completely. But would he fall back on means like murder? Even if it seemed to be an accident, now that I had expressed my suspicion, I doubted the other four would let it go by without an investigation.

I looked over to Rashid. He, like the other Maganacs, would do nothing against Quatre's will. So, if it came from them, it had to be Quatre. No. I could exclude them, they were loyal to the bone.

Then there were the sweeper's techs and pilots. They were true to Howard and me, I used to believe. They had no motive. I really didn't want to go there.

The Preventers were still my main suspects. They had a motive. Or one of the dickheads from the government. It was possible that they had a spy here, among the people. Or more than one. I shuddered at the thought.

To find out, we had only to implant all of them with a com unit, and let Bethor dig in their thoughts. But I didn't want to. It would reveal Bethor's real ability to them. It was bad enough that they saw the ship as such a threat. More of this futuristic shit would stir unforeseeable reactions among them, and their superiors. Until now, only the five of us, with Sally and Howard, were connected directly with the ship. The rest of them used regular com units, if they needed them.

It was between giving Bethor's secrets to God knows who, and hope that they don't try to take the ship right then and there or find the one who is out to get me, without the ships help. Bethor was essential to the survival of Earth's population. I wasn't.

Someone pinged me and I activated my com.

'Unauthorized entry in freight area two.' Bethor whispered in my mind.

I looked to Howard, startled. He, too, had gotten the message, it seemed. He looked at me, frowning. Freight area two had been remodeled for building the Gundams. We had made it look like it only housed mobile suit parts. Crates and mounds of unidentified metals. The Gundams were not yet assembled.

Nonetheless, entry was only authorized with any of us five or Howard accompanying. I jerked my head in direction of the door, and he got up, heading out, while I pinged Trowa, informing him to follow as backup. I watched as he quitely nodded to his console, while keying in a few commands.

I stood and stretched. "Well, I'm outta here. Holler, if there're any problems." I announced to the room in general, while I casually left the bridge. Once the door closed behind me, I broke into a run down the hallway to freight area two.

"Bethor, identify unauthorized intruders." I ordered while running.

"Print profile used indicates tech Kayla Manson. One person." It answered.

I shook my head. Kayla had been on the bridge with us. "Negative, Kayla is on the bridge." I caught up with Howard and grabbed his arm, stopping him.

"Someone used Kayla's handprint to mask his entry. Its not a mistake. I go in alone... I don't want you to get hurt. Wait for Tro." I told him. He opened his mouth to protest, but I silenced him with a raised eyebrow, tightening my grip on his arm.

"Okay," he said, "be careful."

I nodded and continued down the hall, stopping at the door. "Bethor, is the intruder still inside?" I asked the AI.

'Affirmative' Bethor answered.

I palmed the pad and the door slid open with a swish. I grimaced. The sound was overtly noticeable in this big, hollow area. I dove through the door and took cover behind one of the crates.

"Hey, buddy," I called out, "I don't think you should be in here." I peeked around the corner and saw... parts and crates. This was going to be hide and seek.

"Oh, come on, you're cornered. No way to get outta here. Give it up." I stuck my head out and a bullet flew past my ear. Shit. I jerked back and, keeping low, crept around the parts and crates in the direction the shot had come from. It was about time Trowa showed up here.

I heard a metallic sound and peeked around the corner. There. A dark figure in full flight suit and helmet. He stood at the control pad for the outer freight doors. He wanted to space me. Fuck, fuck, fuck. Frantic, I looked around. I was midway between him and the door to safety. No way I could make it back in time.

'Bethor,' I thought frantically. I lunged forward, to another crate, trying to stop that dark figure from opening the outer doors. 'Lock down freight area two.'

'Manual controls overriding system functions' Bethor answered.

Shit. Shitshitshit. 'Activate magnetic lock down.' I thought, as I made a leap to cover the last part of the distance to him. At least try to save the Gundam parts from being spaced. It was like slow motion. As I was airborne, he turned, leveled his gun at me and palmed the control to open the outer freight doors with his other hand.

I heard a shot and felt the impact of the bullet in my right shoulder. Searing pain shot through me, and I heard the freight doors slide open, accompanied by a whirl of air and flying non-metal things. I was about being pulled out into the vast darkness. I clawed at everything solid coming in my reach, but the draw was too strong.

'Emergency protocol,' I thought frantically, 'seal hull break. Energy shields.' I heard alarms shrilling. Or was it my imagination and I heard just the blood roar in my ears? It felt as if my insides wanted to break through the pores in my skin and my brain wanted to crawl out of my ears and eyes at the pressure. I took a few painful hits from flying objects. And then, it was over.

The pressure was gone. The air was thin, but quiet. I lay on the floor, not five feet from the open freight doors, and stared out into space, gulping for air. My ears rang and there where white flecks dancing before my eyes. Bethor had erected a shield in front of the hangar opening. Great. I was ready to pass out, again.

"Duo!" Trowa came sprinting in my direction and knelt down beside me, putting pressure on my wound. It hurt. "We couldn't get in. The door was sealed."

"No," I gasped, "he's still..."

A shout came from the direction of the door and we turned our heads. We saw the intruder wrestling with Howard. But the old man was no match for the intruder. He went down, and the figure vanished. I groaned. Trowa looked pained.

+

"Three strikes." I was mad. I was in medical. Again. "He's out."

"We have to file a report," Wufei said. "There will be an investigation. You can't do it on your own."

"Why not?" I replied, sullenly. "It's my ship. A Captain has the right to judge over the crimes done on board his ship."

"You are a civilian." He said. "Commander Wright..."

I groaned. "Oh, please. Stop it."

He shook his head. "He is the one in command, by law. It is the first open attempt on your life. And, in Wright's opinion your suspicions about the other... accidents are just that, Maxwell. Suspicions."

I shook my head. "He's only getting bolder, Fei. You know I'm not making this up."

He sighed. "We know that, Maxwell. But we have a trail now. This man, he had knowledge about the freight area. He picked it on purpose, faked a handprint. Maybe he knows about the gundams. He knows you. He wanted you, personally, to show up there. To kill you. This minimizes the amount of people we can suspect." He shook his head. "But I'm still at a loss about the motive. Why he wants you out of the way. What for?"

I mulled that over. Not one of the Preventers or government representatives should know about that. That means it was one of the few sweepers or Maganacs. One of those we trusted. "Well, shit."

"And," he lectured me, "we can't do anything overt, now, if Commander Wright knows about the attempted murder."

"It was hard to cover up, with the ship wide alarms, and you all rushing to my aid with him in the midst of it." I pursed my lips. "How are we going to set up a trap? Preventer guards are going to follow me anywhere?"

He narrowed his eyes. "Don't know, yet. Quatre is plotting it out."

I nodded and there was silence. "Uh, so, where's Heero?" I hadn't seen him since I had let him stand in the middle of my quarters, fleeing to my Ezgadi. I was a little... disappointed about that.

Wufei's lips curled in a little smile, looking at something only he could see. "Plotting."

"Him, too?" I asked.

"Hn," Wufei hummed affirmative. "They have their heads stuck together. Heero's in full mission mode."

I grinned. "In spandex and tank top?"

Wufei looked startled. "What? No, he's clad in jeans and t-shirt, I think."

I shook with aloud laughter. "Ow, shit." That was so not a good idea. "Man, it was a joke." I chuckled.

He scowled.

"Y'know, you have to loosen up a bit, Fei, man." I shifted to a more comfortable position. "I'm tired of being a guinea pig of our advanced healing abilities for Sally. How about somebody else taking over for a while? Someone like... you?"

"You do it very well. No need to change." He smirked.

"Thanks." I grimaced. "It's really amazing. Sally said the wound should heal by tomorrow. Three days for a bullet hole. If she weren't so greedy to look at it every hour or so, I'd be outta here, today."

"She needs to monitor the process closely."

"Joy." I winked at him. "I'd say she'd rather be closely monitoring you."

He... blushed, face unreadable.

"Fei?" I smirked at him. "Ah, don't you deny it. Do I notice something... developing?"

"That's none of your concern, Maxwell," he said, gruffly, getting to his feet. "Besides, people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones." He shot that over his shoulder as he exited medical.

I shut up, frowning after him.

+

Commander Wright, it turned out, wasn't the brightest with investigations. I didn't want to know how he made it to his post. Maybe he had other qualities, but then, they had yet to show up. Eager to have something important to do, he had attached himself to the case and caused nothing but confusion. His men were frustrated. The rest of us were sarcastically amused.

I was shadowed by a Preventer 24/7. Okay, they didn't bunk with me, but it put a dampener on my mood to pursue things with Heero. He was... closed up, distanced. There was next to no progress in revealing the killer, and it seemed to bug him. Okay, it bugged me, too. And the others.

It was obvious that there would be no more attempts, as long as I had an agent tailing me. I started to get in a foul mood and very short tempered. I shouted at Kayla for no good reason, and she broke out in tears, yelling back at me. I tossed a plate of food across the cantina, because there was no mustard on the table. I accused Howard of sabotaging the progress with the Gundams. And, I insulted one of the diplomats.

"Gah!" I shouted, standing in front of the big observation screen. I was itching to do something really, really stupid. Like killing my momentary guard. It was extremely frustrating. I felt like I was in prison. Never before in my life had I been guarded so tight. Not even while in an OZ prison.

"Quatre, progress?" I asked impatiently for the umpteenth time over the com.

"Yeah." He answered. "He's okay with our plan, finally."

After it was close to three weeks, with no progress. This last one, with Quatre and Heero trying to persuade Commander Wright into letting Wufei and Heero take over guarding me, so that I could act as bait.

Not that I couldn't have evaded the lot of them, if I had really wanted too. But I was a good little citizen and tried to be a good boy. 'Tried to' was the main factor. I felt my control slipping. I felt trapped. It did no good that my senses, sharpened by my unusual upbringing, considered this as the worst possible scenario. Being trapped.

I shuddered. "About time."

"Uh-huh." Quat responded.

"So," I asked, "Am I free to perform my escaping act now?"

"As soon as you are ready."

I grinned. I was ready three weeks ago. "'Kay, Quat. Tell Heero and Wufei to meet me on Ezgadi after our stops." I turned slowly and gave my guard a lopsided grin. "We're going to your Commander. I've had enough of you. Nothing's happened, nothing will. The moron only wanted to space spare parts. I just was at the wrong place, at the wrong time."

The guard nodded and shifted in his stance as I rushed past him. Most of the agents were of the same opinion. Maybe that was a one of the reasons the investigation had been so lax. Or, maybe they just didn't like me.

I stalked down the hallways, ranting loudly about the 'imprisonment' without reason and the 'wrong time, wrong place' thing if we met people, and that it was time I was released from confinement, until we reached the commander's 'office'. He had confiscated one of the cabins as command center. I entered without knocking first and he looked up from his desk, offended, but I was the Captain. I do not knock at his door.

"You know your story?" I asked him.

He bristled. "Of course. You pouted and went bunking on your ship."

I nodded to the commander. "That'll do."

Okay. I wouldn't call it 'pouting', but it would do, indeed. The story would spread, and the assassin would come to me, like a moth to the light. I intended to end it. We had little time left, and I was eager to go out and pilot my new Deathscythe Hell. Howard and his techs had preformed a miracle by completing the suits.

Trowa and Wufei had been out already with their Gundams. They were beaming. Okay, maybe it was a little exaggerated to say that, but Trowa had a new spring in his step and his head held up just so, and Wufei radiated contentment. I wanted that, too. I felt I had earned it after three weeks of having my movements restrained.

He cleared his throat, interrupting the silence. "You won't kill him. We need an interrogation. Maybe there are organizations..."

"Yeah," I drawled. "We've thought of that."

He nodded, mute.

I decided I had been in here long enough for a 'heated discussion' and opened the doors to the room again, waving the guard in. I grinned at my ex-guard, as the Commander informed him of his release of duty, and sauntered out, feeling freed.

God. I took a deep breath and wandered first in the cantina, where Wufei sat, drinking a tea, to announce loudly the end of my 'imprisonment'. I went to the bar. Heero stood there, leaning against the counter, nursing a beer of his own. I hesitated. I hadn't really spoken to him, despite us bunking in a quarter together, since I had decided to take things to a new level. Okay, since I had decided we needed to talk. I donned a grin and sauntered over to him, snatching the bottle from his hand. "Hey."

"Get your own." He said, gruffily.

The grin froze on my face. The scene reminded me of another evening. Only, then I had grabbed the beer from another person. "O~kay," I said, slowly, vividly having the scene replayed in my head when he had stood in the middle of the bar, his hands balled to fists and that... expression on his face. "Sure." I held the bottle back to him and he took it back, never meeting my gaze. I frowned.

"Here, pal." A hand clapped me on the back and another, still unopened, bottle appeared in front of my face.

I turned my head, face still frozen in that smile, and saw one of the sweepers. "Hi, Ben. Thanks." Taking the bottle I twisted the cap and took a few deep swallows.

"You all by yourself again? Got rid of your shadows?" he teased me.

"Yep," I answered, forcing a cheerfull facade. "I convinced the Commander that one of you drunken morons wanted to make a prank by spacing our spare parts, while playing with a gun, you assholes. Would have been a bitch to collect them back, though."

He grinned at that, but shook his head. "A bad prank. Even drunk."

I shrugged. "Yeah. Care to tell me who it was? I'll skin his hide and let him drift in space for a week locked in a suit."

He laughed out loud. "Would if I could, believe me."

"Thought so." I made a face at him, emptied the bottle and slammed it on the counter. "I've had enough of you all. I'll bunk in my ship. See you."

I waved to the air as I made my exit and took a deep breath as I strode through the hallways on my way to the hangar. Wufei should be there already. I pinged him.

"02?" he asked.

"On my way. Incoming in about three minutes."

"Roger." He confirmed.

I grinned to myself. We were on a mission. As I entered my ship, I found the barrel of an automatic stuck in my face. "That's only two minutes," he said, holding his gun away.

"Yeah. Sorry about that, dude." I made a fake apologetic face.

He shook his head. "Don't mock me, 02."

I steered him to Ezgadi's galley and ordered a tea for him from the replicator. "So, news got around?"

"Like a brushfire," he said.

"Good." I took a sip of my soda. I shouldn't have downed that beer that fast. "I'll have a sandwich, you want anything?"

He shook his head. "Not before 01 is here." We had decided that I would play sitting duck in my ship, with the two of them there to guard me. One of them out in the hangar, one here inside with me. Quatre and Trowa would switch shifts with them in six hours.

He suddenly stood up. "Roger, 01."

I frowned. Why had Heero not contacted me, or even both of us? "Heero's here?"

He nodded absently and went to the door, watching the open hatch, hand on his gun. There was a rap on the hull and Heero stuck his head in. "I'll take position outside. Switch with me in three."

"Roger." Wufei answered and Heero vanished from sight.

I blinked. He hadn't even acknowledged me. My stomach began to flutter in my belly and my throat went tight. What was that? I swallowed, hard. My appetite was gone all of a sudden, and I slowly sat the rest of the sandwich down.

Wufei did a double take. "You alright?"

I looked up at him, blinking. "I'm fine. Why?" I murmured.

"You went pale all of the sudden."

I took a few deep breaths. Why had I been so thrown off by Heero's behavior? Not long before, he had been warm and friendly torwards me.

The Heero I saw just a moment ago had been the old Heero. A chill ran down my spine. I shuddered. Had it all been my imagination, that he was attracted to me?

I got up. "I'm... going to my cabin, Fei. You're right, I'm... not feeling so well." Ignoring his puzzled face, I stepped out of the galley and into my cabin. Falling down on my bed, I flung an arm over my face. Shit.

What had happened? Heero was acting like he had in the past, when he botched a mission and was determined to make it all better by giving his best in order to protect. But he had it all wrong. Nothing had been botched, yet. We hadn't even gotten that far yet. I thought hard about it. Everything had been smooth. The only thing that had happened was the attempted...

I licked my suddenly dry lips. I had been hurt, twice, and he hadn't been there, both times. I groaned as an imaginary light bulb lit up. Both times, it had been Trowa who... not Heero. If, and the emphasis was on if, he was really in lo... attracted to me, he would feel as if he had failed me. And that would trigger determination. Protect from a distance. As he did now. I felt like blowing something up. Something huge.

But, what if I was wrong? If he was not attracted to me, he would still do his duty to protect me. God, but it was tearing me up.

My thoughts turned to my ship. I was the one Bethor had declared as its last crew member, therefore Bethor was obeying me. What would Bethor do if I was dead? It would... well, hell. Why speculate?

"Bethor," I said, "would you attempt to finish your mission if I should die?"

'Positive.' The AI answered.

"Why is that?"

'You presented individuals able to take over the mission from you.'

I smiled at that. "Yeah. I did, didn't I? The mighty Gundam pilots. Nobody's going to fuck us."

'That statement meets not my recently analyzed recordings. They are pointing to the contrary.'

I choked. "You are spying on Trowa and Quatre?"

'I monitor all body functions of individuals connected with me. Present data indicated no necessary medical interference needed, in spite increased heart rates and blood pressures of individuals Trowa Barton and Quatre Winner during interaction.'

I couldn't help it. I burst out in uncontrollable laugher. I rolled around on my bed, chortling. "Jesus," I gasped, as I was able to calm down a bit, "this is rich, Bethor." I was instantly in a better mood. "Just... don't let them or anyone else know you spied on them." I snickered helplessly. "They'd dismantle you and take you apart, bit by bit and byte by byte."

'Affirmative,' the AI replied.

Wufei stuck his head in my cabin. "Duo?"

I saw his questioning face and instantly burst into another fit of laughter. I shook my head helplessly. "You," I tried to calm down, "really don't want to know," I ground out between chuckles. "Bethor..." I buried my face in my hands and took deep breaths, "just made a... joke." I had to snicker again. I looked up at him and grinned widely. "You wouldn't find it funny, trust me."

He shrugged and vanished again.

I sighed, still grinning. That interlude was just what I needed. I felt better. I didn't feel the need for explosives anymore. I stretched and decided to take a nap. And promptly fell asleep.

Wufei woke me by rapping on my door. "I'll switch with Heero, now."

I grunted, and decided to take a shower, since I had slept in my clothes. I got up, snatched a change of clothes and towel and went to the bathroom. I made a quick affair of it, sensitive of Heero's presence in Ezgadi.

Dressed, I walked back to my cabin. I was toweling my hair when I became aware of another person in my cabin. I lowered the towel and looked up, staring straight into the wrong end of a gun, trained at my head.

I froze and my gaze traveled along the barrel of the gun straight into a pair of familiar grey eyes. Where the hell was Heero?

[part 6] [part 8] [back to Singles a - k]