Title: Mission Implausible 5/?
Author: girl_starfish
Rating: pg 13
Pairings: Some 3+4, past 1+2 (not a lot in actual story for very good reasons)
Warnings: background yaoi & not a cute chibi fic.
Category: Drama, AU, angst (hopefully), dodgy sci-fi tendencies.

Mission Implausible + Part 5

Two days later preparations were almost complete. The pilots had decided that they would tell Duo of their plans tonight. It was not something they were looking forward to.

It did not go well.

There were tears, pouts, pleading and sulking -- and that was just from Quatre. Duo behaved a lot worse.

"But why won't you take me with you?" he wailed, clinging to Quatre. "Did I do something wrong? Do you not like me anymore? I'm sorry about the freezer -- that was an accident -- "

"The freezer?" Heero asked.

Wufei detached the child from Quatre before the blonde pilot could give in. "Think about this," he said to Duo, trying to calm him. "We can't take a child into a war zone. It's far too dangerous."

"I'll be really, really good," Duo said. "I promise."

To Heero and Quatre's considerable surprise, Wufei hugged him. "I know you would, but that's not the issue. No matter how well behaved you were, you would still be in danger if you came with us. Now, we've found a friend of ours who is happy to take care of you until we come back and -- "

"If you don't want me anymore you could just say so," the kid said, pulling away from Wufei resentfully. "You don't have to lie to me."

"Wufei doesn't lie," Heero said. "We're going to come back for you."

"Whatever," Duo said. "Like I haven't heard that before."

"Duo," Quatre pleaded. "We care about you a lot. That's why we want you to stay behind where it's safe -- "

"If you cared about me you wouldn't be leaving me!" Duo screamed at them. "I hate you all!"

He ran to his room.

"Oh dear," Quatre said. "Maybe we should -- "

"NO," Wufei and Heero said in unison.

"He'll be fine with Howard," Wufei said. "He seems very capable."

Heero was worried about something else. "Do either of you know anything about the freezer?"

The basement was under twenty centimetres of water.

"Oh dear," Quatre said. "It's too late to call a plumber now."

"Leave it," Heero said. "There's nothing important down here."

They went back to the kitchen where Wufei was sitting with the Wind in the Willows. "He doesn't want a bedtime story," Wufei said. "He's really upset by this."

Quatre nodded unhappily. "I hate leaving him like this, but what can we do? The operation needs all of us -- "

Heero was silent. Was his Duo out there, waiting for them to find him? Did he feel equally abandoned?

None of them slept well that night.

-- oOo --

Wufei had been given the task of taking Duo to Howard's. Heero had been ruled out on the grounds of Duo not liking him, and Quatre because neither Heero nor Wufei thought they could trust him not to give in to the child and let him stay.

Duo sat on his bed maintaining a sulky silence as the pilots packed an overnight bag for him. While Wufei chose his clothes and Quatre agonised over what toys to include, Heero filled a box from the pantry with canned food in the hopes that it would make Duo feel better.

He ignored Quatre and Heero when they said goodbye to him, and didn't even look enthused at the prospect of riding on the back of Wufei's motorbike.

He was silent throughout the stringent safety check Wufei did of his bike, and through having a helmet buckled on him. "Everything all right?" Wufei asked him as he settled Duo on the bike.

"No."

Wufei rolled his eyes. "You're behaving like an onna."

"Good."

The ride to the docks where Howard was waiting went smoothly. Wufei parked the motorbike then lifted the child down. "Howard will be around here somewhere," he said. "I'm sure you'll like him, even if he has no dress sense."

"Spare me, Wufei. You're abandoning me," Duo said coldly. "Don't try and be nice."

Wufei knelt by the child. "Is that what you think? We brought you here to abandon you?"

"It's not like it hasn't been done before," Duo said.

Wufei was thrown. Duo's jaw was set, he didn't think it would be any use trying to reason with him. Just as Pilot 02 was stubborn, once Duo made up his mind, very little would persuade him to change it. Fortunately Wufei had an idea. He went back to the motorbike. He had a bag packed with his own essential travel items, Quatre and Heero taking the rest of his stuff with them. This bag he brought hack to Duo.

"It would be useless to try and argue with you," He said. "So instead I'm going to prove to you that we're coming back to get you." He drew his prized katana blade from his pack. "You see this sword?"

Duo rolled his eyes. "Yes."

"This was given to me by my father. It belonged to his father, who got it from his father and so on. It is irreplaceable," Wufei held it out to Duo. "Take it."

Duo stared at him. "You're not giving this to me?"

"You are correct," Wufei said. "I'm not. However, I will offer it to you as security. I'm going to trust you to look after it until I return to get it and you."

"Seriously?" Duo asked, taking the sword at Wufei's nod. "Man, Wufei -- "

"Just don't try using it as a can-opener or anything? And don't drop it. And don't hurt yourself with it -- and above all else don't -- "

Wufei fell silent as Duo took his hand. They were friends again.

-- oOo --

Howard walked into the dock, scanning the lounges. They'd agreed to meet in the part of the building set aside for the passenger craft. Ah, there was Wufei, watching as a flock of seagulls were fed chips by a child who looked an awful lot like --

Howard raised his sunglasses, but the apparition didn't go away. So was he going crazy in his old age or what?

The kid spun around, running back to Wufei. The Chinese pilot shook his head and pointed and the child ran off in the specified direction. Howard replaced his glasses and walked over to Wufei. He hadn't imagined the kid. Which meant --

He didn't know what that meant.

"So," He drawled once close enough to Wufei. "They cloning you pilots now?"

Wufei shook his head. "It's a long story. The child has not been told how much he looks like Duo, and you and your crew must not inform him."

Howard whistled. "That's going to be hard. From what I saw, even at a distance the kid's the spitting image of him."

"He's rather more than that," Wufei sighed. "Let's just say scientists and alternate universes do not mix, and leave it at that, shall we?"

Howard raised an eyebrow but didn't get a chance to comment further. The kid was back.

"I found the rubbish bin" he announced then spotted Howard. "Is that -- ?"

"This is Howard," Wufei said. "He has very kindly agreed to let you stay with him while we complete our mission."

"Hi," Duo said. "What happened to your hai -- "

Wufei slipped a hand over Duo's mouth. "He's a little shy around strangers," he said. "You'll take good care of him."

Howard looked from Wufei to Duo, struggling to free himself and raised an eyebrow. "You got all your stuff?"

"He has his backpack and this," Wufei handed the box to Howard. "I'm afraid I must leave you now, Duo. Take care and behave well for Howard."

Duo nodded. "You'll be back soon, right?"

"As soon as we can," Wufei bowed good-bye to Duo and Howard and left.

Duo watched him until he disappeared among the crowds of people. Howard was investigating the contents of Duo's box. "Canned food? Why'd they give you canned food? And who needs 5 cans of creamed corn anyway?"

"Quatre says it's important for me to eat my vegetables," Duo said, his voice wobbling. Although he believed Wufei it was very hard not to feel worried as he was left with a stranger for who knew how long.

Howard snorted. "Vegetables, hah! Real men don't need vegetables -- hang with us kid, we'll put you right."

Duo ventured a smile. Maybe Howard would not be so bad.

-- oOo --

"It will be another hour before Trowa arrives for the rendezvous,"

Quatre noted that evening. "Until then -- well we can order something or go somewhere else and come back."

Heero shrugged. "Up to you." Although the pub was a little too noisy for his tastes it was a lot warmer than it was outside. It was also where Trowa would be, and there was the chance that he might arrive early.

"You know -- I might phone Howard. We've got the time -- and I do hope Duo is settling in okay."

"Good idea," Heero said. It would be well to take advantage of the anonymity of the pub's phone while they could.

He watched as Quatre dialled. "Hi Howard, is Duo around? Hi Duo -- how are you?"

Heero paused. There was something ever so slightly wrong -- something just out of place --

"That's good. So what have you been doing?"

He scanned the bar. Most of the patrons seemed to be engrossed in their own activities, chatting or watching the TV screen but one -- one was watching him.

"That sounds rather dangerous. Are you sure Howard's okay with that?"

He was an older man, grizzled and dour looking, thumbing a well-worn photo. He tucked the photo away as he approached Heero and sat down at the table opposite him.

"Maybe I should speak with Howard -- "

They eyed each other a long moment, then the man broke the silence.

"Can I buy you a drink?"

"I don't drink," Heero said.

To his surprise the man chuckled. "Didn't think you would. That's what he said."

"He?" Heero frowned.

"I met him a few months ago -- don't know when exactly, I don't keep track. He needed a favour, knew I held a grudge against OZ -- well, we came to an arrangement. I have some rather important cargo, cargo that OZ would love to get their hands on. He said to deliver it to nobody but him or the person who could give me the other half of this photo."

He put it face up on the table.

Heero knew the photo instantly. It's been taken from an assignment that had required both Duo and him to infiltrate an OZ function -- both wore tuxes. Duo had said this was an occasion they couldn't let pass unnoticed. Photo-Heero was remarkably not scowling -- he looked quietly satisfied.

The reason for this was made clear as he brought the other half of the photo from his pocket. Duo, his arm looped through Heero's grinned at the camera. He couldn't remember now what Duo had said, only the feeling of warmth it had provoked in him -- the same feeling as when, the next time he'd had to leave on a solo mission, Duo had presented him with his half of the photo. "We'll each keep a part," he said. "So you know that I'm thinking of you, and so you can look at it and think of me."

"That's him all right," the man said with satisfaction. "Get your friend and we'll go."

Heero went over to Quatre. "We need to leave."

Quatre nodded. "We'll talk about this later," he told Howard. "What is it?" he asked Heero as he hung up. Heero jerked a thumb towards the older man.

"He has something of Duo's."

Quatre's eyes widened. "Let's go."

The man led them out of the pub, down a couple of streets. "No names," he said. "Better that way. You can't betray what you don't know."

"Did our … colleague give you any information?" Quatre asked as he and Heero followed.

"Said he needed to go underground for a while, had some stuff he couldn't take with him. He knew about my daughter -- asked me if I wanted a chance to really piss off OZ. How could I refuse?"

Heero caught Quatre's eye and nodded. That certainly sounded like Duo. But what would he have left?

"Here we go," the man said. "One of my warehouses. I run a freighting business. When OZ moved into the area they wanted me to do a contract for 'em. Didn't get a chance to say no. Then one of the bastards roughed up my daughter. What can you do? Police have been disbanded, not a court around who will accept a case against OZ -- afraid." He waved them inside. "This is under my brother's name, OZ doesn't know about it. So -- " he hit a light.

The place was bare apart from a pile of crates in one corner that almost reached the ceiling. Heero tried to hide his disappointment. He'd hoped that Duo might have hidden himself here --

"What's in the crates?"

The man smirked, patting one of them. "You see here, gentlemen, about three hundred crates of pocky."

"Pocky?" Quatre asked, confused.

Heero, who knew what pocky was, and knew Duo, sighed. "He asked you to guard pocky?"

"Naw, the question you should have asked is not what is in the crates, it's what is under them." The man smirked and stood back. Exchanging glances, Heero and Quatre stepped forward and lifted a box out of the way. Beneath it a black metallic surface gleamed.

"Deathscythe?"

"I didn't hear that," the man turned his back. "I don't know about anything other than the pocky."

"Is there anything else?"

"Nothing at all to my knowledge," the man shrugged. "He hasn't contacted you?"

"Not recently," Heero said. He nodded to the man. "I'll organise someone to collect this in about a week or so. Will it be all right till then?"

"Not a problem," the man said shutting the door as the pilots filed out.

Quatre and Heero walked back to the pub in silence.

As they neared the building, the Arabian pilot asked "Are you okay, Heero?"

Heero grunted in the affirmative. His mind was already racing through the possibilities. Duo had been here --

Duo had been here.

-- oOo --

[cont]