Author: girl_starfish
Rating: pg13
Pairings: 3+4, background 1+2 (not a lot in actual story for some very good reasons).
Genre: AU, drama, chibi-fic (but not the usual sort).
Warnings: I pick on Treize some more.

Mission Implausible + Part 8

Heart pounding, Duo took a look round at his captors. Treize was looking with distaste at the dirt on his usually spotless white gloves. Zechs was yawning, while reading the plans to the church again. Noin was trying not to look as if she was staring at Zechs's butt. Une was looking over Zech's shoulder at the plans to what had been Maxwell Church. This might be a good chance to get out of here.

Carefully, moving slowly enough so as not to attract undue attention, Duo sidled through the wreckage moving in the opposite direction to where he'd seen Wufei. His number one priority would be to get away from the OZ troops. Wufei should be able to find him easily after that.

Just as Duo had reached a wall that might have provided him with enough shelter to make a decent getaway, he slipped on a pile of loose shingle.

Une immediately hurried over to him. "Are you all right, dear?" she asked, helping him up.

"I'm fine," Duo said. His knee stung, he'd scraped it, but he wasn't going to say so. He didn't want more fuss.

"Let me dust you off--there, isn't that better?" Une said, patting him.

Zechs sneered. "Baby."

"I know you are but what am I?" challenged Duo.

Zechs smirked. "I'm the rubber and you're the glue. Whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you, so there."

"Zechs," Treize sighed wearily. "Could you refrain from taunting the prisoner a moment?"

Two of the guards they'd left with the cars were approaching.

"General Khushrenada, we don't wish to intrude but we've questioned the inhabitants. It appears we are not the only people to have inquired about the church."

"Ah-hah!" said Zechs. "This confirms my theory. The brat was planted by the Rebels."  

Duo glared at the smug look Zechs sent him--this all fit into the blond's belief that he was faking his entire story. He wasn't lying-- but he couldn't explain any of this--how come the church wasn't the same--how come the reports said it happened five years ago when he knew it was just a couple of weeks--

"The thing is, sir," the officer said earnestly to Treize, "that all the people we asked agreed that no inquiries were made before today and the accounts of the person making the inquiries tally exactly."

Treize read the paper handed to him. "Noin, Une? Does this ring any bells? Young male of Asian descent, shoulder length black hair in pony tail, formal manner of bearing, wearing loose fitting black trousers and a red jacket--"

"Pilot 05," Noin growled.

Duo could have groaned. This was so not good--

"There's a good chance he's in the area," the soldier continued. "Shall we look for him?"

"I think that wise," Treize nodded, blinking in surprise as Noin jumped up and down, waving her hand in the air like a schoolgirl. "Uh, Noin?"

"Permission to join them, sir?"

"Granted," Treize said frowning. "Just remember, he is more useful to us alive, Noin--"

"Acknowledged." Noin saluted crisply, then skipped after the departing officer.

"How long has it been since she had time off?" Treize wondered as she left.

"Too long, obviously," Zechs replied.

"We should get going," Une said taking a firm hold of Duo's hand-- he'd chosen that moment to try to make a getaway again. "This is no place for a child."

"I don't want to go," Duo sulked.

"Tough," Zechs told him. "You're staying with us until the General says you can go."

"Why do you call him General anyway?" Duo muttered sullenly as they left. "He's not the real General."

"What do you mean by that?"

"Geez, you stupid or what?" Duo asked Zechs scornfully. "Everyone knows the real General Khushrenada got excavated years ago."

He bumped into Zechs and blinked. They'd all stopped walking and were staring at him.

"What?"

"Excavated?" Zechs questioned.

"You know." Duo made a shooting motion with his hand. "One of his closest colleagues shot him in the back. Bam!"

"Assassinated?" Treize suggested weakly.

"That's the word!" Duo nodded eagerly. "It was really cool! There were parades and parties and we got the day off classes!"

"What are you talking about?" Zechs snapped, slapping Treize on the back. "General Khushrenada is right here and very much alive!"

Treize winced. "What was the exact name of this General? I am sure there are a lot of Khushrenadas out there--"

"Geez, you really are stupid, aren't you? Treize was the one that got assassinated first--and then there was this old goon who tried to use his daughter to get power--they all got blown up--boom!"

"No need to sound so cheerful about it," Une reprimanded the child, dusting him off by way of reproof. "Those are other people you're talking about--"

"But no one liked Treize--he was a detonator--you know, someone who likes to boss everyone around?" Duo continued happily. "Everyone was really happy when he died `cause we thought we would be free again. But we weren't. The other OZ people took over. General Chewberock is in charge now."

"Tsuberov?" Zechs snorted. "As if."

"Now, now." Treize waved Zechs aside. "Let the child speak. This may be important." He was paler than usual. "I trust," he said, attempting to keep his voice calm, "that the people responsible for the death of this noble General were properly reprimanded?"

"You kidding? They were given medals--services to the universe. All the General did was get people killed--we were happy when he died. Sister Helen said that even old Chewberock and his taxations are better than the General `cause Chewberock never tried to make people think they were fighting for a noble cause."

"Taxations?" Une asked, hoping to divert conversation onto a path less distressing for Treize-sama.

"You know, the taxes--meat, bread, vegetables, dairy-products, water, air, light, life, living in outer space," Duo rattled the list off quickly. "I need to go to the toilet."

"You can go when we get back to the base," Treize said, concentrating on the information he'd just been given.

"That's too long. I need to go now."

"I don't think this neighbourhood would have the necessary facilities- -" Treize looked around at the untidy slum.

Duo rolled his eyes again. "What are you talking about? I can just go over there."

"But--that's unsanitary--"

Zechs patted Treize on the back. "Look at this neighbourhood. You think the people here care?"

"Someone should go with him," Une said. "To check he's all right." She looked meaningfully at Zechs. There was no question about Treize going--he looked faint enough already.

"Fine." Zechs sighed.

Duo had other ideas. "I'm not going if he's going."

"But, you should have someone with you. In case something happens," Une soothed.

"I don't like him," Duo pouted. "And anyway I can't go if there's someone watching--"

"Just be careful then." Une patted him anxiously.

Rolling his eyes again, Duo set off over the rubble.

"On the streets--" Treize repeated faintly. "People live like that?"

"It's called poverty," Zechs said shortly. This entire day was grating on his nerves. "Not everyone was born into a family manor with crystal chandeliers and servants, you know."

"Duo, you'll call if you need us?" Une called.

There was no response.

"Duo?"

Zechs and Une eyed each other and drew their weapons.

"Treize-sama, it might be best if you return to the car," Une said, as she and Zechs scanned the surrounding area.

Unfortunately Treize was not in the mood for taking advice. "Need I remind you," he began, nettled, "that not only am I your superior, I have been in as many battles as you--"

Gun fire ran out, suddenly, nearby.

"Block him! Don't let him get away!" Noin screamed.

"Damn onna!"

Zechs looked back sharply to Une and Treize. "Heads up--they're coming this way--"

Just as he said that Wufei and Duo rounded the corner, skidding on the loose gravel. Wufei had Duo on his back, piggyback style. The child's weight was not much to him, but it did slow him down--enough so that although he scrambled to a halt the moment he saw the three OZ officials in front of him, and though he made a dash in the direction of the road, Noin and the search party had him surrounded.

Panting, Wufei looked round desperately for an opening--there was none. Captured--

He slid Duo off his back. "Get ready to run," he said softly, sizing up the Oz officers surrounding him. "I'll create a diversion--you get out of here--"

"No!" Duo grabbed his hand. "I'm not leaving you!"

"It's not safe," Wufei protested. "Go."

"The hell I will," Duo said.

Wufei was distracted then by Treize speaking.

"Pilot 05--what an unexpected pleasure it is to see you today--"

Much as Wufei would have liked to snap something rude at Treize, there was a child present and he restrained himself. However he couldn't help responding, "I'm sorry, I should have phoned first?"

Zechs snorted as he stepped towards the Gundam pilot with a pair of cuffs. "Drop your weapon and put out your hands, Pilot 05. You co- operate and no-one will get hurt."

This was just possibly the worst situation he could be in, Wufei thought grimly as he held out his hands. Oz could use Duo against him very easily--and he couldn't let the child be hurt--

"No!" Duo screeched swatting Zechs hands away. "You can't hurt Wufei! Leave him alone!"

"Out of the way, brat," Zechs pushed Duo aside. A minute later, he yelped, dropping the cuffs. "He bit me!"

Wufei had a hard time keeping his face impassive. He took advantage of the momentary distraction of those arresting him to kneel down to talk to Duo. "Listen to me, Duo. Don't antagonise them--we're prisoners, our lives depend on how pleasant they're feeling--"

Duo's eyes widened as the full implications of their situation caught up with him. He scrubbed furiously at his eyes. "I won't do anything to get you in trouble, Wufei. I'm sorry--"

"It's not your fault," Wufei told him, holding out his hands for Noin to cuff him (which she did with great delight).

"Come away, dear." Une took Duo by the hand.

Duo obeyed reluctantly. "What's going to happen to Wufei?"

"Let the child go," Wufei said. "Now you have me, you don't need him."

"It's true," Une said. "A military base is no place to raise a child, and we don't need him to help us locate the Gundam pilots now that we have one. I'll look into trustworthy foster parents--"

"No need, Une. The child will remain with us," Treize said in a tone that settled everything. "I have a feeling that his presence will ensure that our captive Gundam pilot is co-operative."

Wufei was grim. His worst fear had been realised. Noin blinked, a little of her triumph fading away. Zechs looked concerned. Une looked downright murderous. Surely Treize wouldn't use the child against the Gundam pilot? That was just . . . inelegant.

Oddly enough, the only one happy with Treize's announcement was Duo who was glad he wasn't being taken away from Wufei.

+

It got worse.

When they returned to the OZ base, an officer who had obviously been awaiting Treize's return approached them, bowed, and said "General Khushrenada, the information you were looking for has arrived."

"Ah, good," Treize said. "Send it to my study, I shall read it over in private."

He waved the others on without him. "See the Gundam pilot is given suitable accommodation, will you Zechs, Noin? And Lady Une, I leave the care of our younger guest to you."

Une's mouth was thin as she and Duo went to the dining hall. Treize hadn't said anything to her about this--what was more surprising was that he hadn't said anything to Zechs either--at least that's what she surmised from the blond's disgruntled expression.

Duo had demanded attention then. "Where are they taking him?" he asked, watching as Noin and the soldiers with her led Wufei down a different passage to the one they were taking.

"Come along," Une said firmly. "We need to get you fed."

"But--" Duo cast a look back at Wufei, and passed some inner resolve. He went with Une obediently.

He was far from happy, Une realised. That was understandable-- commendable even. Her expression softened.

"We'll visit him later. I promise."

Duo blinked up at her, startled.

They'd reached the dining hall. It was full of soldiers on leave--who stood and saluted instantly, straightening uniforms surreptitiously at the sight of OZ's most feared leader--then staring at mute shock at the diminutive figure beside her.

Une acknowledged the soldiers with a curt nod, and sat down at the Officers' table, drawing up a seat for Duo. She hailed a passing soldier and ordered them to let her know when Treize went to dinner and then ordered meals for herself and Duo.

Despite her own worrying thoughts, Une was not too distracted to notice that the child ate less than usual, and that he seemed distracted too. Une thought it best to leave him be--her recruits would attest that she was not good at gentle kindness such as the situation required--until she caught him hiding half his hamburger in his shirt.

"We're not starving him, you know," Une said. "He'll be fed adequately."

"But--the way Noin looked at him--" Duo said, caught unawares. "You hate him!"

"Be that as it may, we are not entirely without honour, or compassion." Une glared at a nearby recruit who happened to snort suspiciously at that statement. "We will not mistreat a prisoner."

"This is my fault," Duo whispered, a tear running down my cheek. "If I hadn't run away--"

Une wiped that tear with her napkin. "Hush. It's not your fault, Duo."

There didn't seem to be more she could say than that. She couldn't promise it would be all right--she couldn't guarantee the pilot's safety--or even the child's.

It had never before struck her just how much war impacted on the innocent--this child, so much like pilot 02, might never be free of it--

"Colonel Une, sir? The General has ordered dinner in his private suite."

At last, Treize was out of his study. She could only hope that whatever information he'd received was still there. She stood.

"Escort Duo back to my rooms and see that he has a guard. I have business to attend to, Duo, I'll see you later," she told the child.

Treize had given Une and Zechs free run of his office, and Une was easily able to gain access to the General's study. She ransacked the drawers efficiently and quickly, easily ascertaining that whatever he's received, it was not immediately accessible--unless it lay in the one locked drawer. She cast about for a key, but found none.

Abandoning the search, she instead drew up the computer records to check the history.

She was in the middle of doing this when the door opened. Une froze-- caught in the act--there was no way to explain this.

But instead of an angry Treize-sama or a smug Zechs she found herself facing a very startled looking--

"Duo?"

The child looked as though about to bolt. Une scooted forward and shut the door, blocking his exit.

"What are you doing?"

[cont]