5-9-2001

Title: Crossed Wires
Author: AstroKender
Pairings: 2+3, 3+2
Rating: Alternate Timeline
Warnings: not much in this part...maybe foul language.
Spoilers: Hmm...nope. Not really.
Notes: This is a small fic I've wanted to put out to reflect how much Duo and Trowa seem to clash during the series. Important! This doesn't go along with the series. There may be some similarities, but don't try to pin it to a specific time or you'll get a headache. This is purely a 'what if' kind of thing.
Feedback: AstroKender@aol.com
Disclaimers: I own nothing...Don't sue.

 

Duo sat back in his chair with a frustrated sigh. First his Gundam gets blown up by that cretin, and now this. It couldn't get any worse. Flipping his braid over his shoulder, he glared at the man on the computer screen.

"Let me get this straight...you //want// me to get captured?"

"Exactly. The new DeathScythe is almost completed. You want to pick it up don't you?"

Duo's hands flew up in the air in exasperation. "Of course I do!"

"DeathScythe Hell is being held far beneath the moon's surface, directly under the OZ base. To get to it, you need to get caught breaking in so to speak."

Duo made a show of steepling his fingers. "The new DeathScythe is under the OZ base."

"Yes."

"OZ doesn't know this."

"Right."

"You want me to get capture by OZ so I can escape with DeathScythe."

"Correct."

Duo shook his head. "Man, I don't know what kind of crack you've been smoking, but I sure wouldn't mind some right about now."

Professor G rolled his eyes. "Listen carefully Duo. I've been captured by OZ. But due to some 'dissention' in the ranks, I've been given the opportunity to rebuild DeathScythe. It was but a benefit and a curse that you escaped the original DeathScythe's destruction."

The American snorted. "Thanks. I love you too."

"You know what I mean. If you had been captured then we wouldn't be in this situation."

//Yeah, my head would be on some pike in front of some Romafeller's mansion.// "Fine. I get caught. Escape. Then take off with my new toy. Is that all?"

"You will meet up with Trowa Barton. You two are working together for this assignment." Professor G stated.

"No way! That guy is an ass! Can't I work with Heero on this one?"

"Pilot 01 has no experience at enemy infiltration and it would take to much time to get him involved. 03 is already incorporated into the OZ ranks, and has quite a high status. You will be working with Barton."

Duo kicked his desk in annoyance. "Aww, man! That guy hates me! He'll probably set me up just so he can watch OZ use me as a human piñata."

The professor's one visible eye narrowed. "Trowa Barton has his orders as well. Seeing as you are the key element in the operation, he can allow no harm to come to you. Dr. H has explained to him the penalty for failure."

Duo shook his head. The old man was a damn over protective bastard, that's for sure. The American just wished he'd stop talking about Trowa like he was expendable.

"I don't know how well this plan of yours will work. Me and Tro are like crossed wires, every time we get near each other, sparks fly."

"Your mission is to make it work."

"But he's the one that blew DeathScythe up in the first place!"

"All that is mute now. He did what he had to do. By the time you are captured, I will have been executed. These will be my last orders for you."

The braided boy's eyes widened. "What are you talking about? I thought you were safe there? The dissention of the ranks and all that."

The figure on the screen shook his head. "My time has run out. My contacts have given me all the time they could. I should have been killed weeks ago. Don't go and pull any foolish stunts like trying to rescue me."

"B-But Professor..." Duo looked around desperately. "You just can't give up."

"I've done my part boy; the rest is up to you. You will refer to Howard from now on."

"Dammit G, you can't do this!" Duo punched the desk in anger. "The war is still going on! We still need your help to end it."

"Duo, I'm old and tired. I don't have the energy to fight anymore."

"You damn selfish son of a bitch!" Duo tried to ignore how his eyes watered. "Think of someone other than yourself for a change!"

"I did. Why do you think I rebuilt DeathScythe? You couldn't survive the war without it. Become the God of Death once again. End the war and you will have made me proud."

The connection was severed and Duo's eyes narrowed. With a howl of fury, he sent the monitor flying across the room. Stalking out the door, he crashed into Howard. The old man put his hands out to steady him, but Duo pushed him away.

"I take it you know?"

"I need a shuttle prepared with a full tank and two days ration. Gimme all the artillery you got and I want everything ready in fifteen minutes. I'm leaving for the moon. Tonight."

"But Duo! Your mission isn't supposed to take place for two more days." The old man made the very big mistake of trying to block the braided boy's path. Duo leveled his eyes at him. There was no hint of humor in those cobalt depths.

"Don't try to stop me Howard. Not if you value your life."

Howard had everything ready with five minutes to spare.

***

Trowa's eyes narrowed as his mission parameters scrolled across the screen. They couldn't be serious to actually pair him up with that joker. Worse, the guy was to be treated as indispensable to the mission. Trowa sneered. H was just going along with this because it was essentially Professor G's last request.

The old man deserved to die for training such an incompetent fool, Trowa thought with a sneer. He instantly berated himself for it. Duo probably had never had to endure the hardships the others had gone through. It wasn't his fault for being an innocent. But that didn't mean Trowa had to like him, or that the boy should be trusted with a seven point four ton machine of death.

//And he calls himself the God of Death. He probably had never even seen a man die up close, let alone have any motivation for fighting besides sheer enjoyment.// That type of person had always turned Trowa's stomach. There was no glory in battle, just painful, useless death.

With a sigh, Trowa turned back to the computer screen. He sent a quick reply before making sure to totally erase the email from the system. It wouldn't do for the wrong people to find out he wasn't quite what he claimed to be.

"If that guy screws this up, I'll kill him, Professor G or no."

***

"Colonial! An unidentified shuttle has appeared approximately three kilometers from gate 5B."

Colonial Une strode over to the view screen. "What? How did a shuttle make it this close without our noticing it?"

"It must have some sort of cloaking ability."

"Life forms?"

"Just one is detected."

"Who in the world would be foolhardy to try such a stunt?"

"I don't know ma'am. Should we arm the station lasers?"

The light glinted off the woman's glasses in a disturbing manner. "No. I want whoever was foolish enough to barge in here to be taken alive. Don't send out the mobile dolls. Let him enter the base and then surround him. Have Barton lead the main troops."

"Yes ma'am."

"And remember, I want this person alive."

"You are going to let this person inside the base?"

Colonial Une turned and regarded the speaker with a disapproving stare. "Are you questioning me, Lieutenant Trant?"

The lower ranked officer shook his head. "The intruder is a Gundam Pilot; I'm certain of it."

Colonial Une gave him a frightening smile. "Good..."

***

"Halt! We have you surrounded!"

The intruder took one look at the men surrounding him and laughed. Taking a detonator from his flight suit, he quickly pushed the button.

Trowa threw himself to the ground as half the corridor erupted in a blazing inferno. Quickly crawling to the nearest control panel, he made sure the area was sealed of to prevent depressurization in any of the major areas of the base. "Damn fool." He muttered to himself.

"Sir! How did he manage to plant so many explosives so quickly?"

Trowa looked over at patrol in detachment. He cared little if these men lived or died. They were the enemy after all. But for some reason, it made him uncomfortable that the enemy was not much older than he was.

"The intruder is a Gundam Pilot. He must be captured alive at all costs. You men go down the east corridor and block off his access to the mobile doll control room. The rest of you spread out and find him. He couldn't have gotten far."

Trowa's emerald eyes narrowed into mere slits. He knew exactly where Duo was going.

***

"You damned fool boy. Couldn't you have listened to me just this once?"

Duo grinned down at the huddled form of Professor G. "What? And ruin my reputation?" He carefully helped the old man to his feet. "Come on, I'm getting you out of here."

"I might have something to say about that."

Duo whirled around and pointed his gun at the speaker. Trowa lounged against the cell's doorway, unimpressed.

"It seems your protégé needs a lesson on following orders."

Professor G slowly stepped between the two boys. "There is nothing wrong with thinking for yourself, 03. I just wish he wasn't so stubborn about it."

Trowa inclined his head in acknowledgement but continued ignoring the braided boy that still had a gun to his head. "It took some doing, but the preparations are complete. You will be hidden under a panel of Lady Une's shuttle until she reaches her destination on L1 for her 'peace talks'. There the pilot guide you out of the port and then you'll be on your own."

"I'll contact Dr. J. That old fool should have something up his sleeve by now."

Duo lowered his gun in confusion. He looked from Professor G to Trowa and back again. "What are you talking about? Are you escaping?"

G's eyes glinted underneath his mushroom-shaped hair. "The opportunity has arisen for me to slip from the noose, so to speak. That's why I told you not to come rescue me."

"B-but you said you were going to be killed! Why didn't you tell me Trowa was going to get you out of here?"

"I didn't know for sure if I'd be able to escape. It was better of you to think of me as dead than let my situation distract you from your mission."

Duo spun around in a circle, cursing. "What a crock of shit! Here I was, worried for nothing, and you had everything laid out in the palm of your hand. I swear G, you're determined to give me gray hairs before I'm sixteen."

Trowa pushed himself off the doorway and regarded Duo with an impatient glare. "If any of my men find you here, all the work for his escape will be for nothing. Now get the fuck out of here so we can proceed as planned."

Duo glared back at him. "We'll if I had been let known of the plan beforehand, we wouldn't be in this situation."

"If you would have followed orders-"

"Enough!" G commanded. "I have no wish to be shot. Duo, make your way towards the mobile doll control center then allow yourself to get caught. Trowa, make sure they don't kill him."

"Fine!" Duo hunched his shoulders and shoved his way past the Latin boy. Trowa nodded to Professor G.

"You leave tonight. Be ready."

G nodded. "Take care of him."

Trowa hesitated slightly before nodding. The cell door slid closed with a metallic clang.

***

"Oomph!" Duo fell to his knees as yet another blow connected. He took a twisted sort of pride though, that he had taken down at least fifteen of them before they pounded him into the tiles.

"That's enough." Trowa pushed his way through the mass of bodies. "Lady Une wants him alive."

Duo looked up at him with his one good eye and spit with uncanny accuracy. "Prick. Getting a little squeamish at the site of blood?"

Trowa unflinchingly wiped the bloody spittle off his cheek. "Grab him." He ordered two of the closest men. "He's no threat."

Duo smirked. "Tell that to Une after you explain that I killed over a dozen of your men."

The fist struck home before he could brace himself. Hunching over in agony, the braided boy felt the darkness claim him. "Bastard..." He muttered before giving in to unconsciousness.

Trowa subtle cradled his injured hand to his chest. Giving the body one last kick for good measure, he walked away.

"Take him to the lower levels and stick him in a cell under maximum security." He called back to his officers. "Colonial Une will want to see him before she leaves."

***

"So how long do I have to rot in this hellhole?" Duo groaned as he struggled to sit up. The room didn't offer much of a view. Just four titanium walls and a half-inch thick door which was currently standing between him and freedom. Of course, he could always take his visitor hostage, Duo thought as he peered at Trowa's lanky form. //Nah...He'd just kick the shit out of me. Better stick to the plan.//

Trowa watched him carefully, fully away of the wild plans flying through his head. "Three days. I can't do anything until Une gets back."

Duo flopped back down on his cot. Ouch. Big Mistake. Une's act was pretty convincing. She had her boy's work him over pretty thoroughly for 'information about the Gundams'. At least Professor G should be long gone from here by now. "That chic's psycho. Are you sure she's on our side?"

"If she wasn't you'd be dead right now." Trowa said, exasperated. "Now all you have to do is stay here for three days until I come to get you. Don't cause any trouble."

Duo made an effort to look innocent. "Who? Me?"

Trowa rolled his eyes and turned to leave. "Hey Tro!" Duo crawled awkwardly after him.

"What now?"

"Can you do me a favor and take these things off me?" The American dangled his shackles in the air. "Their damn heavy and those bastards took my lock picks."

Trowa gave the braided boy a small smile. "Suffer."

"Bastard!" Duo pounded on the door as it slammed in his face.

"Hey! Quiet in there!" A burly guard stuck growled from outside.

"Aw fuck off, inbred!" Duo yelled back. He lay back down on his cot, more carefully this time, and stared ruefully at the ceiling.

"This is going to be the worst mission I've ever been on. I can feel it."

***

"Sir! Sir!" Trowa bolted upright from his bed as someone began to bang on his door.

"Enter!" He glances blearily at the clock, it was barely past two for God's sake!

"Sir!" A nervous boy slipped inside, saluting. "I'm sorry to bother you Sir but me and some of the other officers thought it was important so they sent me to tell you."

Trowa was already slipping on his pants. "What is it, Private?"

The boy took a gulp of air and started again. "It's the prisoner sir. The Gundam pilot."

The Latin boy's eyes narrowed. "Did he escape?"

"N-negative Sir. He-he's being assaulted, I believe. By some of the other officers." The Private looked a little green at this fact.

"What!?" Trowa was on his feet in an instant. Not even bothering to put a shirt on, but making sure to grab his gun, he gestured the boy out of the way and began running down the hall. The boy trotted quickly behind him.

"Most of the younger officers didn't approve but the ordered us to stay quiet about it." The young man shook his head. "But I couldn't allow what they're about to do to happen, even if it is to a Gundam pilot."

Trowa nodded at the jittery boy. "You did good. Now gather up about six more men. We may need to subdue some of our own officers. Lady Une would not tolerate this." //And I won't either.// He made it to the stairwell and picked up speed, taking the steps three at a time.

He finally made it to the lower levels with an impressive leap. He quickly rolled to his feet and dash to the door at the end of the hall. There were no guards outside it, which the Latin boy took to be a bad sign. Finally reaching the metal door, he flung it open with a heave.

Duo sat panting slightly in the middle of the bodies of six full-sized men. He leveled one cobalt eye at Trowa's equally breathless form. "What took you so long?"

Trowa swiftly knelt to check the condition of the nearest man.

Duo's eyes hardened. "They're all dead."

"You haven't even been here a day and already you've endangered the mission twice!" Trowa glared at him.

Duo glared back, unfazed. "It wasn't my fault. They came to take what I wasn't offering."

Emerald eyes widening, Trowa finally took a good look at his prisoner. Duo sat there awkwardly, his shackled arms carefully cradling his ribs. His priest shirt was in tatters. It looked like someone had tried to tear it from his body. But that's not what made Trowa see red.

Duo shifted awkwardly under that cold stare and struggled to pull his pants up over his hips. Clearing his throat, he looked away. "What?" He asked gruffly.

"Did they...?" Duo's eyebrow lifted at the Latin boy's strained tone.

He looked back up to see Trowa staring at him, his fists clenched so tightly the knuckles had turned white. Duo could almost see the vein throbbing on his forehead.

"No. But not for lack of trying." He kicked at the nearest body and watched as its head lolled to the side at an unnatural angle. "They won't be trying anything ever again." He stared at Trowa for a moment before beginning to laugh. "Did I interrupt something?"

Trowa looked down at himself incomprehensively. Seeing his bare chest flashing in the low light, he blushed. Seeing the Latin boy relax slightly, Duo allowed himself to laugh harder.

"I was trying to sleep like any normal person at this hour."

Duo grinned. "Then go on back to bed. I'm sure your flunkies can take care of this mess."

Trowa shook his head; sleep was beyond him now. He tried to get a closer look at the American's injuries but he kept squirming around. Sighing in exasperation, his hands grasped Duo by the shoulders to hold him still.

"What are you doing?" Duo's eyes widened.

"Making sure you don't need any medical attention."

The braided boy shrugged him off. "Don't trouble yourself. Most of this is from earlier anyway."

"Fine." Trowa pushed away from him and carefully navigated his way through the bodies. "I'll be outside if you change your mind."

"Trowa?"

"What?"

Duo hesitated. "Thanks for worrying about me, man."

Trowa didn't turn around. "I wasn't worried. I have to make sure this mission gets completed to the best of my ability. So stop causing problems."

"Yeah, sure. Right." Duo huffed to the now closed door. He lifted his arms to scratch an itch on his nose and was surprised when his shackles fell away. He stared at his free wrists thoughtfully for a moment before shaking his head.

"That guy..."

***

Trowa leaned his head back against the cold metal wall in exhaustion. He had been keeping watch over the American's cell all night and his felt like DeathScythe had run over him...and then backed up for good measure. But he didn't trust the job to any of his men. The younger ones may have warned Trowa of the threat, but they didn't stop it. So after seeing to it that the bodies had been disposed, while secretly enjoying the terrified expressions of the younger officers, he had sent a man up for his shirt and settled down for a long and boring watch.

It had been quiet inside the cell for the remainder of the night but the Latin boy resisted the urge to look in on the prisoner. Looking at his watch, he figured he could check the on the boy once before heading up to breakfast.

"Lieutenant Trowa Barton."

Trowa turned to see Lieutenant Trant striding up the hallway. The taller man had two lower officers with him.

"What do you want, lieutenant?" Trowa struggled not to let his hatred of Trant show on his face. The man was a fanatic. And he was dangerous.

Trant smirked down at the Latin boy. "I see I wasn't the only one put on special assignment. How is guard duty coming?"

//I will not deck him I will not deck him I will not...// "You've been given a special assignment?"

"I'm afraid that's classified information, Barton." The dark haired man brushed imperiously past him and towards the prison cell.

Trowa blocked his path. "What business do you have with //my// prisoner?"

Trant regarded his rumpled attire in disgust. "Don't worry, I'm not going to harm you're little plaything...I just need to use him for a couple of hours."

//Screw protocol...I'm going to fucking deck him.// "What for?" Trowa growled out.

"Have you ever heard of the ZERO System, Barton?" Trant gave a bark of laughter at his look of confusion. "No, of course you haven't. It's a top secret project know only to Oz's most elite officers."

"Then how do you know about it?" Trowa smirked.

Trant's dark eyes narrowed dangerously. "Don't push me Barton. You're in over your head. I have clearance from Colonial Une herself to perform my job by any means necessary. Now stand down."

Trowa had no choice but to step aside. If Une knew about this, then it would look bad for the Latin boy to object. He already looked way to sympathetic towards the prisoner as it was. The banged boy attempted a bored statement.

"Fine. Whatever. Just don't damage him."

The dark haired officer shoved by him and stepped into the dark cell, his two flunkies following him. Trowa repressed the urge to follow them and forced himself to relax and as he leaned casually against the wall.

"Barton! What is the meaning of this?" Trowa started as Trant strode out of the cell, his statement stormy.

"All this fuss over that?" He pointed to the cell behind him. "That pilot's half dead. He's no used to me like that!" Trant scowled and gestured for his men to follow him as he stalked away.

"Lady Une will here of this, Barton." Trant called back to the stunned boy. "And then you'll have to explain to her how you let that Gundam pilot get in such sorry condition."

"Half dead? Duo..." Trowa quickly rushed through into the cell. He stopped in dismay.

Lying on the ratty bunk was the braided pilot. Sweat poured down his face as he rolled and mumbled incoherently. His muscles seemed to twitch in pain and his face was twisted up into a grimace.

Trowa stepped hesitantly over to the seemingly small and broken figure. He reached out a trembling hand to sweep back the braided boy's sweat plastered bangs. His skin was burning to the touch.

"Duo?" Trowa whispered softly.

Suddenly a hand shot out and clamped over his wrist. Two bright and very lucid cobalt eyes twinkled up at him. "Boo." Duo gasped.

After a minute of forcing his breathing to regain some semblance of normality, Trowa angrily jerked his arm out of the American's grasp.

"Duo, you prick! You scared the shit out of me!"

Duo wheezed as he attempted to laugh and breath at the same time. "Gotcha."

Trowa sat numbly on the cell floor. "But your temperature is so high...and you're sweating..." Realization slowly dawned on him. //I've been conned...//

"Yeah, well. A few hundred laps around this little cell will do that to you, Tro-man." Duo sat up slowly, massaging his aching calves.

Trowa glared silently at him.

"What?" Duo asked defensively. "I figured that to make sure no other creep Ozzies, no offence, tried to come in here and mess with me, I'd best play sick and helpless." Duo gave his best charming grin. "Then they wouldn't expect it if their little play toy came to life and bit them."

The Latin boy seemed unimpressed as he continued to drill holes into duo with his eyes. Duo's own eyes widened as he watched him.

"You...you worry really worried about me, weren't you Trowa?" He slid off the bunk and wrapped his arms slowly around the lanky boy. "It's okay, Trowa...I'm alright."

"Are you sure?" Trowa's voice sounded muffled against Duo's shoulder.

"Yeah man. I'm fit as a fiddle."

"Good." Trowa's arm drew back and he delivered a devastating punch to Duo's midsection. The braided boy flew away from him with a whuff of expelled air. Trowa stood and glared down at him.

"Why'd the hell you do that for?" The American groaned, clutching his aching middle.

"I stayed out there all night guarding your sorry ass and you pull a stupid stunt like that? God, I could kill you!" Trowa began to pace angrily across the floor, pausing now and then to give the braided pilot a withering look.

"Okay!" Duo huffed. "Maybe it wasn't the greatest ideas I've had, but it was better than sitting here and waiting for the next Joe shmoe to come in here and try what they did last night!"

"I wouldn't have let that happen." Trowa shouted.

"Oh yeah?" Duo yelled back. "Then why the fuck were those three in here?"

"I...I don't know."

Duo gave him a sarcastic grin, crossing his arms over his chest. "You don't know?"

Trowa paused in his pacing, attempting to gather his thoughts. "He said it was classified. Something about a ZERO System..."

"ZERO System?" Duo's brow furrowed. "Never heard of it." He turned suddenly serious eyes on the Latin boy. "Do you think that it could be some kind of new weapon of OZ's?"

"I don't know..." Trowa bit his lip. "But whatever it is, Une knows about it...and that means Treize does too."

"This could be bad..." Duo whispered. "Maybe we should forego the plan and get the hell outta dodge."

Trowa shook his head. "No. The mission is still important. You only have two more days in here then you're free. Don't mess this chance up."

"Yeah, sure..." Duo waved his hand negligently. "Whatever."

Trowa glared. Striding over to where the American sat he grabbed duo by his priest's collar and lifted him up. "Any more shit from you and I'll cheerfully hand you over to Trant for whatever god-forbidden reason he wanted you for."

Duo's eyes narrowed. "Why do you automatically think the worst of me?" He asked, making no move to free himself.

"Because I know how your kind works. You get your thrills putting yourself into the line of fire and ignore anyone who might get shot in the process."

Duo's fists clenched, and there was a cold fury in his eyes. "You don't know shit about me!" He yelled at Trowa's uncaring back " If you would just take the time-"

"I have no interest in knowing you further. I just want to complete this mission and be done with it." With that, Trowa walked out of the cell, slamming the door shut behind him. Not even thinking of letting the Latin boy get the last word, Duo ran up and yelled at him through the cell door's grating.

"Man! How did Quatre ever put up with your sorry ass? Rashid was right, he should have shot you when he had the chance!"

***

Trowa sighed as he juggled his burden while punching in the codes for Duo's cell. The door opened with a whoosh and he peered into the shadowy depth, ready for any surprises. He looked over at the cot and he felt his eyebrow rise.

Duo was sprawled across the small mattress, one knee leaning up against the wall as a stray arm was flung over his eyes. A soft snore floated out between the boy's slightly parted lips. Trowa shook his head and set a tray of food down on the ground before walking over to stand above the prisoner.

"Hey, wake up." He shook the American lightly.

Suddenly Trowa was thrown against the wall with Duo's arm pressed against his throat. The braided boy opened his eyes and peered at the Latin boy in shock.

"Trowa? Gods man, don't sneak up on a guy like that! I could have killed you!"

Trowa stared at him impassively. "I highly doubt that." Duo winced as the barrel of Trowa's gun dug into his side. Aimed for his heart, the boy was good. Duo shrugged and released the banged boy, and walked over to the far corner of the room.

"Enjoying your stay?" Trowa asked sarcastically as he sat on the edge of the cot.

Duo snorted and unzipped his pants. "A toilet would be nice. But I guess I can't deny the advantages of a well placed drain." He said as he relieved himself.

"I brought you some food. And some water. I figured you'd be dehydrated after that little stunt you pulled this morning."

Duo fastened his pants and went over to inspect the tray. "What can I say? I had some nervous energy I had to get rid of." He sneered down at his food. "No silverware..." He let out a bark of laughter. "And styrofoam dishes. Come now, Tro? Can't even trust me with plastic?"

"I'm not taking any chances, you are too unpredictable."

Duo grinned and grabbed the large bottle of water. "I'll pass on the rest, but thanks for the water."

Trowa frowned. "You need to keep up your strength."

"Aw, Tro, worrying about me again?"

"I could personally care less about what happens to you." The banged boy glared. "But Doktor S warned me of certain...recriminations should you not come out of this mission alive."

Duo's statement darkened. "Where does that bastard get off threatening you? Someone should teach him a lesson on respecting people in charge of giant machines capable of mass destruction."

Trowa was shocked that the braided boy would come to his defense so vehemently, but shrugged it off. The other boy's reasoning was beyond him. "You should eat."

Duo took a swig from his water. "No thanks, man. Never was much for prison food."

Trowa glared at him. "Look, I didn't lug that tray all the way down here just so you could turn your nose up at it. Now eat the damn food."

"Okay, okay! Geesh..." Duo picked up the nearest plate and blinked. "A hamburger?"

Trowa snorted and stood. "You're an American, aren't you?"

Duo opened his mouth to give a scathing reply when suddenly a deafening boom resounded through the base. He stood quickly, trying to keep his balance as the floor trembled beneath him.

"This is not good..." He muttered as the ceiling above him groaned ominously.

Another explosion was heard as the ground heaved violently. Duo lost his balance and fell to the ground. "Is it a meteor shower?" He shouted over the din.

Trowa was saying something to him but Duo couldn't make it out. A sudden cracking sound drew the braided boy's attention to the ceiling above him. He watched, frozen, as the panels spilt and cracked overhead and slowly started to fall.

A heavy weight suddenly slammed into him as a large piece of panel crashed into the floor where he just was. Duo looked at the figure on top of him. Trowa looked down at him grimly, his body shielding Duo from the smaller bits of debris.

"Trowa..." Duo's voice was lost in the clash of metal on metal.

Suddenly the shaking stopped and the Latin boy grabbed Duo's arm, yanking him to his feet.

"Where are we going?" Duo demanded, dragging his feet.

"I'm going to find out what's going on."

"But why are you taking me?"

Trowa stopped and stared at him. "Do you want to stay in there?"

He took Duo's silence as a negative and continued to drag him along. Soon, they came upon a handful of his officers as they ran around frantically. One young man, the Private that had warned Trowa about the men attacking Duo, ran up to him.

"Lieutenant! Thank God we found you! We are being attacked!"

"Attacked? By who?"

The officer looked nervously at Duo before turning back to his commanding officer. "It's a Gundam sir. One we haven't been able to identify."

Duo and Trowa stared at each other for a long moment before the Latin boy flung him at the young officer. "What's your name, Private?"

"Uh...uh..." The young man tried desperately not to flinch as he reflexively caught the braided boy. "Jeremy sir. First Private Jeremy Johnson."

Trowa nodded. "Good. Private Johnson, keep a hold of him so he doesn't escape, and follow me." Trowa strode down the hallway.

Jeremy stared fearfully at the deadly prisoner in his arms. Duo couldn't help it; he gave the officer a malicious smile. The Private quickly released him and drew his pistol, pointing it shakily at the American. He grabbed one of his fellow officers. "I need some wrist cuffs." He demanded, his voice cracking. "Hurry!"

***

A now shackled Duo was hastily shoved into the communications room. Trowa looked up and nodded as Private Johnson gave him a hasty salute.

"That's all, Private. You may leave."

Jeremy looked from his commander to his prisoner. "Sir! I can't leave you alone with this guy! He's dangerous!"

"That's an order, Johnson."

"Sir, I'm afraid I have to ignore that order. The prisoner is a Gundam Pilot and should be watched as closely as possible." The officer looked stricken but firmly held his ground. Trowa had to admire his courage. He glanced at Duo, who gave him a meaningful look that seemed to say 'it would look suspicious for you to have me around with no guards.'

Trowa sighed. "You're right, Private. Please keep and eye on him for me."

Jeremy smiled, relieved. "Yes, sir!"

"What is our situation?" The Latin boy asked as he walked over to the consol and began typing furiously.

"The base is being attacked by an unknown Gundam. It has struck the base twice with some sort of beam rifle. We've sustained heavy damages to West sector G and H, at least four levels deep."

Trowa nodded. "Down to the prisoner's cells."

"Correct. We've sent out a troop of Mobile Dolls but this Gundam seems to be able to destroy them like they were nothing. Our ground cannons have held it off temporarily, but not for long."

"Bring the prisoner forward. We may be able to use him to halt the attacks." Trowa gestured.

The officer did as he was told and Trowa pressed a button that made the screen in front of them come to life. Duo's breath caught as he watched the scene before him. A Gundam, similar to Wing but immensely more powerful, moved as fast as lighting as it destroyed everything in it's wake.

Trowa opened a communications line. "Gundam Pilot. Throw down your weapons and surrender. We have one of your own here and if you don't comply we won't hesitate to kill him."

Duo's eyes narrowed. That better be a bluff...

A soft laughter filtered through the speakers. "What is one more sacrifice for 'the good of the colonies'?" the voice purred scornfully.

Trowa's eyes widened. He recognized that voice...

Just then Duo broke out of the young officers arms and ran forward. "Quatre!"

The screen suddenly lit up with a visual of the inside of the strange new Gundam's cockpit. Aquamarine eyes peered coldly from underneath pale blond hair. The eyes softened slightly upon seeing American's shackled and bruised form.

"Duo..."

Quatre's eyes moved over to rest on the Latin boy and he gasped. "T-Trowa?" The blond stared, wide eyed, at his former friend, now clad as the enemy.

Trowa's eyes narrowed. Drawing his pistol he walked over to Duo and pressed the cold metal to the braided boy's temple.

"Quatre Raberba Winner. Surrender now or I will shoot him."

***

Duo carefully turned his head around so he could stare incredulously at the Latin boy. Trowa wasn't even looking at him; his eyes were fixed on the image on the screen. Quatre's eyes narrowed.

"You're bluffing. Even you would never do such a thing. And besides, if he were that expendable to you, he would be dead already.

Still not turning his eyes away from the Arab, Trowa fired.

Duo winced as he felt a searing pain flash across his cheek, but he dared not move. //This guy is fucking crazy!//

"I never bluff." Trowa said coldly as he reached over and turned Duo's face towards the screen, so that the blond could watch as the blood trail down from a gash on the braided boy's cheek.

"Next time I'll aim more carefully..."

"You bastard!" Quatre seemed to loose all reason. "It because of heartless pieces of shit like you that my father's dead!"

A warning light signaled and Private Johnson ran over to check it. "Sir! The enemy's beam rifle is aimed once again at the base." The young man paled. "Sir! It's aimed right for this sector!"

Quatre's visage looked sorrowfully down at Duo. "I'm sorry you had to be stuck in the middle of this. Goodbye."

"Quatre wait!" Duo slammed his arms up, knocking away Trowa's pistol. He quickly hit the Latin boy upside the head with his shackles, sending him to the floor, before rushing the other officer.

The Private fumbled for his gun, but Duo was much quicker. A quick blow to the neck, and the young man slumped to the floor, unconscious. Duo ran up to the control panel.

"Please Quatre, don't fire until you here me out!"

Aquamarine eyes looked back at him in agony. "They killed my father, Duo! They have to pay."

Duo shook his head. "I heard it on the news. I'm sorry Quatre. But it wasn't the Colonies fault! OZ has them blinded."

"I know that! I realized it after I blew up that colony..." The Arab whispered. His eyes hardened. "That's why I'm here. I'm going to destroy OZ."

Duo shook his head. "You can't take on OZ all by yourself! Were a team, remember?"

Quatre looked over where Trowa was struggling to stand up. "Not him. He betrayed us. He should die a traitor's death." His eyes shifted to Duo. "But you, you don't deserve that. Get out Duo! Steal a shuttle and get out of there before I destroy it!"

The braided boy shook his head sadly once more. "I can't do that Quatre."

"W-why not?"

"I can't abandon one of us. I can't leave Trowa to die."

"But he's working for OZ now!" Quatre shouted. "He's the enemy!"

Duo knelt down and helped the Latin boy to his feet, ignoring his questioning looks. "It for a mission, Quatre. He's been working undercover."

Quatre's eyes widened. "W-what? Trowa?"

The green eyed pilot stared up at Quatre, a dark bruise already beginning to color the side of his face. "I would never betray you, Quatre..." he whispered, leaning heavily against the braided boy.

Duo looked up at the blond once more. "Look Quatre, OZ isn't what we once thought it was. It's now broken, disjointed. Soon, It will fall altogether; you just have to give it time. We now have allies on the inside, allies besides Trowa. If we attack OZ now they may reunite to protect themselves. If that happens, we're finished."

The blonde slumped against his harness, looking very exhausted and lost. "Then what am I supposed to do?"

"Go to earth. Give that new Gundam to Heero; it doesn't suit you. Then find the Maguanacs. You need time to grieve...and to heal."

Slowly, Quatre nodded. "I'll do that...but what about you?"

Duo grinned over at the Latin boy beside him. "I have my own mission to finish."

"Take care of yourself then. And Trowa? I'm sorry..."

The Latin boy nodded silently.

"Till we all meet again. Quatre Raberba Winner out."

The screen erupted into static as the Gundam flew off, it's target abandoned. After making sure Trowa could stand on his own, Duo walked over to the unconscious soldier.

"Poor kid, he's going to wake up with one hell of a headache." The braided boy said, absently wiping the blood from his cheek.

"Duo?"

The cobalt-eyed boy paused, but didn't turn around. "Yeah?"

"Thank you."

Duo whirled around, a cheerful grin plastered on his face. "If you ever shoot me again, I'm gonna fucking knock your head off..." His words belayed the fake smile.

Trowa nodded solemnly. "I apologize. I-I thought it would make him stop."

"Well you can take your apology and stick it up your-"

A sudden moaning from the floor interrupted Duo's blistering retort. Looking down, he watched as the unconscious OZ officer slowly began to stir. Grumbling, the braided pilot walked back over to Trowa.

"You got one punch to knock me out, and don't even think about hitting me in the stomach."

Trowa's eyes widened. "What are you talking about?"

Duo rolled his eyes. "The prisoner broke free and attacked you and the other officer. You had to subdue me somehow! Or do you plan on having your cover blown so soon?"

"Your right." The Latin boy nodded. "I'm sorry." He slowly drew back his fist.

"Oh, shove it, Bart-"

His breath was quickly knocked out of him as Trowa's fist slammed into his stomach. Duo slipped to the floor with a curse.

"You...are a prick." He croaked before giving in to unconsciousness.

"I know." Trowa allowed himself a small smile as he carefully threw the boy over his shoulder. He looked over at Private Johnson, who was just now getting up on his hands and knees.

"Are you alright?"

Jeremy shook his head slightly to clear it. "Ugh...I feel like-" He looked up. "The Gundam! We're under attack!"

Trowa shook his head and shifted his burned slightly. "The Gundam pilot retreated. We're safe now."

The young officer shakily got to his feet. "Would you like me to return the prisoner to his cell sir?"

"Negative. The entire cellblock has been damaged. And you're in no shape to handle a prisoner. I will be taking him to my quarters and putting him under watch. You should go to the medical center and have a doctor look at you."

After taking a close look at the unconscious pilot, Jeremy nodded. "Yes, sir. But first I'll get you some cuffs so you can chain the prisoner down."

"Good thinking, Private. I don't think he'll be too happy when he wakes up."

***

"Ugh..." He ached all over.

Unwilling to open his eye to the cold light of reality just yet, Duo took a moment to absorb his surroundings. He was on stomach, laying on something soft, pliant: a bed. Cool air caressed his bare skin. Wait a minute! Bare? Needing some tactile conformation, the braided boy attempted to lower his arms but was jerked to a stop. Giving a couple experimental tugs, he realized that he was chained to the headboard. Wiggling around, he decided they had at least left him the decency of his boxers.

Muttering an oath he struggled vainly to scratch an itch on his below his eye. Rubbing his face against his bare arm he encountered a small patch of resistance. Some one had bandaged his cheek.

//If he thinks that will score him some brownie points with me he has another thing coming.// Duo thought vehemently.

Hearing a door open, Duo snapped his eyes open. He watched silently as Trowa walked over to him, a small bundle in his arms. The Latin boy tossed his burden on the bed and reached over to unchain Duo's arms.

As soon as he was free the cobalt-eyed boy launched himself at Trowa. But the other boy seemed to expect it an, with in minutes, had him pinned back down on the bed, his own lean body holding the braided boy down.

Duo glared into dispassionate green eyes. "What the fuck do you want from me Barton?

"I thought you could use a shower." The banged pilot replied, swiftly refastening the cuffs to Duo's wrists. "You smell like shit."

Duo had to admit a shower sounded heavenly about then. "Fine. Get the hell off me."

After making sure Duo wasn't going to attack him again, Trowa swiftly removed himself from on top of the American. Duo wasn't sure, but he could have swore he saw a faint tinge of color flood the other boy's cheeks.

"The bathroom is in there. You have fifteen minutes to wash. If you're not out by then I'm coming in after you."

"Fine, fine." Duo muttered. "Just get these cuffs off."

"The cuffs stay."

Duo stared at him. "What? How the hell am I supposed to take a shower with these things on?" He waved the heavy manacles in the air.

Trowa looked entirely too smug. "I'm sure a man with your talents can handle it."

"Fuck off." Duo shot back. He raised his hands to his bandaged cheek. "What am I supposed to do about this?"

Trowa strode over to him. Grabbing a corner, he ripped the bandage off. "I'll redo it later."

"Fuck!" Duo cursed, holding his stinging cheek. "Shit! God damn it Trowa!"

The Latin boy looked at his watch. "You've got thirteen minutes left."

Still cursing, the American flipped him off before stalking into the bathroom, slamming the door behind him.

***

Fifteen minutes later Trowa was pounding on the door irritably. "Times up Duo! Get the hell out of there!"

"Give me another minute!" Came the muffled reply.

Trowa jiggled the handle. "I've already given you two! Now come out here right now!"

"Fine!"

The door flew open and out stalked a very wet, and very naked, Duo. His braid hung over his shoulder in a sopping mess and his cuffed hands carefully held a bunched up towel over his lower regions. He stopped in the middle of the room, water pooling into the carpet under his feet.

"Do you know how hard it is to shower in handcuffs? Let alone dry yourself? I couldn't even get the towel wrapped around me!"

Getting an eyeful of the American's bare cheeks, Trowa smirked. "So I see..." A laugh began to bubble up Trowa's throat and he shoved it down desperately.

Duo whirled around, his face red. "Stop looking at my-" Cobalt eyes widened as he noticed Trowa's shaking shoulders. "You're-you're laughing!"

"No...I'm not..." Trowa held his sides carefully; sure they would split from suppressed mirth.

Duo turned an even brighter shade of crimson, and then unable to help himself, joined the taller boy's laughter. For the first time since they'd been assigned to the mission, the two boys felt the tension between them ease.

Getting himself under control, Trowa walked over to the bed. "I had to throw your clothes away, they were little more than rags. But I found these for you." He gestured to the bundle he brought in earlier.

"Umm..." Duo looked from his cuffed hands to the bundle of clothes.

Hesitating only slightly, the Latin boy removed a key from his pocket. He walked over to the still-dripping boy. "Alright. Raise your arms."

Duo bit his lip nervously. Raising his hands meant dropping the towel that was the only thing protecting his last bit of dignity. Muttering softly to himself, he allowed the white cloth to drop and raised his shacked wrists. Face burning, he glanced up into Trowa's face only to note that the Latin boy's eyes did not leave his own. The cuffs fell to the ground with a dull clank.

"Thanks." Duo swiftly climbed into the gray hooded sweatshirt and drawstring pants, both three sizes too big. He fingered the OZ embroider bemusedly. "Ah, irony."

Trowa smirked and reached down to retrieve the wrist cuffs once more. "I'm going to go and get something for you to eat."

Duo flopped down on the bed, intent on wringing out his braid. "Yeah, my last meal kinda got interrupted, huh?"

"I have to chain you back to the bed now."

The American sighed. "When are you going to realize that I'm not going to do anything to screw up this mission? I swear I'm not going to go anywhere, just lay off the cuffs for awhile." Duo rubbed his raw wrists tenderly.

Trowa stared at him, indecisive.

"Look! You can lock the freaking door!" He said in exasperation.

"Like that could really stop you." Trowa muttered. But nonetheless, he sat the restraints on the desk.

"I'll be back soon. Try to get some rest." He tossed the boy a small box. "And bandage your cheek before it gets infected."

Duo smiled softly. "Thanks Trowa."

Trowa didn't reply until he had reached the door. "I think I was more comfortable when we were at each other's throats. It's easier to hate you then not." With that comment, he swiftly slipped out the door.

"I know what you mean." Duo whispered to the empty room.

He looked around idly. Trowa's quarters were small but immaculately kept. Clean and bare of any mark of individuality. There wasn't so much as a favorite book set out to tell Duo more about his silent partner.

Silently rising off the bed, Duo snooped through the dresser. Clothes, manuals, gun oil; this guy was duller than Heero. Fingering the soft material of a spare OZ uniform, Duo's hand brushed against something hard.

"What the-?" Pulling the object out, Duo stared at it curiously.

It was a ceramic clown mask, well, half of one anyway. Duo caressed the smooth surface. What was Trowa doing with this? Walking back over to the bed, he sat down, still staring at the cheerfully painted face.

"I guess we all have our masks..." He said to himself. "But this looks more like the mask I wear." Trembling fingers slowly lifted the mask to his face. He glanced at the mirror across the room.

Duo shuddered and looked away quickly, disturbed by what he saw. A cold-hearted killer under a cheerful grin...the mask slipped from nerveless fingers to fall to the floor, where it shattered in two.

"Shit!" Duo gasped. "Trowa's gonna kill me."

He swiftly bent down to grab the broken pieces but in his haste he gripped the broken edge, cutting his hand. He stared numbly at the blood dripping down the cold ceramic surface.

"Now the mask is as tainted at I am..." He shook himself of his morbid thoughts as a voice stammered nervously over the intercom.

"Lieutenant Barton, Sir!" Duo recognized the voice of Private Johnson. "I-Lieutenant Trant cornered me and demanded that I tell him where the prisoner was relocated. I couldn't disobey a direct order so I-I'm afraid he'll be there any minute. I'm sorry Sir!"

"Why am I thinking this is not a good thing?" Duo moaned. The braided boy rose up just as the tall form of Trant stormed into the room.

"Umm...Hi!" The American waved weakly.

***

Trowa walked briskly down the hall, a small tray in his hands. The Latin boy was anxious to get back to his room and to Duo. That thought startled him and he halted mid stride. Why was he so eager to spend more time with that American? They could barely stand each other. Why did he feel so nervous when Duo wasn't near? Trowa shook his head, a small frown appearing on his face.

"Lieutenant Barton!" A voice called from behind him. Turning, Trowa stared at the flushed face of Private Jeremy Johnson.

"Yes?"

"Did-did Lieutenant Trant take the prisoner?"

Emerald eyes flashed in puzzlement. "What are you talking about?" The hands holding the tray of food clenched reflexively.

Jeremy paled. "You mean-you weren't in the room when I called?"

"What call?" Trowa's eyes narrowed. "I've been in the mess hall. Tell me what is going on."

"Trant-I mean, the Lieutenant, was headed to your quarters. I'm not sure what he wanted, only that it involved the Gundam pilot."

Trowa was careful to make sure his face remained expressionless. "I see...Well then, Private, would you please follow me?"

Jeremy saluted. "Yes sir!"

The auburn-haired boy forced himself to walk sedately towards his quarters even though his instinct was to run. Jeremy easily kept in stride with him and even glanced over a few times questioningly, as if wondering why the Latin boy wasn't moving any faster.

They reached his room with in minutes, but for Trowa it seemed more like hours. He stood outside the door and listened intently, trying to gauge their situation. He immediately picked out Duo's irate voice.

"OW! Damn it! Do you have to be so rough? I thought you said you needed me for something! I ain't gonna be much use if you keep manhandling me like this. Ouch! Shit! Not so tight!"

Trowa barged in the room, Jeremy trailing anxiously behind. Furious green eyes took in the scene before him. Duo was being pressed face down into the mattress, as Lieutenant Trant viscously grabbed the boy's arms and shackling the behind his back.

"What is the meaning of this?" Trowa snarled.

Trant looked up from his position on top of the braided boy. "You! You've got a lot of nerve Barton." He raised a dark eyebrow as he took in the Latin boy's bruised cheek. "What happened? This little bitch," He punctuated the word by shoving Duo deeper into the mattress. "Wasn't willing to warm your bed?"

Trowa started to reach for his gun but stopped himself. He mustn't compromise the mission. Duo had to get DeathScythe. The American struggled against the man's grip. "This 'little bitch' is about ready to tear off your balls and shove them down your fucking throat!"

Trant rose off the bed, dragging the cursing boy with him. "You're coming with me. Now shut up before I gag you." He looked down at Trowa. "I could have you court-martialed for this."

"It's not what is seems to be." Trowa stated quietly.

"Oh really?" Trant sneered. "What I see is that you have an unbound Gundam pilot in your room on your bed in OZ clothing! I'm taking custody of the prisoner and you are hereby confined to your quarters until Lady Une returns."

The Latin boy said nothing and continued to stare at Duo. Green eyes seemed to ask him a question. //Do you want to escape? I won't stop you.// Cobalt eyes flashed in apology. //No. I'll be alright.//

"Private, I want you to remain here and guard Barton's quarters, make sure he
doesn't leave."

Jeremy's brown eyes widened. "Y-yes sir." He hesitantly pulled out his gun and aimed it for the Latin boy's chest. "I think you should go sit down sir."

Trowa raised his hands in surrender. Trant tossed him a smug glance, then shoved his prisoner out of the room. The door hissed shut behind him. Private Johnson wearily lowered his gun.

"They are going to use him to test the ZERO System. I heard some of the other officers talking about it, but I wasn't sure." He glanced at Trowa. "But now I'm positive."

Trowa carefully lowered his arms. "What is the ZERO system?"

"I don't know. All I can tell you is that three Privates were given a special assignment. They were forbidden to say anything about it but in their eagerness they did let it slip that it had something to do with the ZERO system. Then they disappeared. That was over a month ago."

"You think someone silenced them?"

Jeremy shook his head. "I think there is something strange about that system. I think it did something to them." He raised his head, looking defiantly into Trowa's eyes. "That's why we've got to get your friend away from Trant."

The Latin boy's eyes widened. "F-friend? What are you talking about?"

"You're one of them aren't you?" Jeremy looked steadily at the floor. "I could tell as soon as we captured him."

Trowa swallowed nervously. "One of what?"

"A Gundam Pilot."

***

Trowa's eyes narrowed and he quickly began thinking of ways to dispose of this new leak. If word got out that he was a Gundam Pilot; if Trant found out, his life was forfeit. Jeremy raised his gun once more, his brown eyes calm.

"I know you think you need to silence me, but I have no intention of telling anyone your secret." He tossed his gun at the banged boy, who caught it reflexively. "If you kill me you'll never get the help you need to free 02."

Trowa looked down at the gun in his hands. "Why are you doing this?"

Private Johnson stood proudly. "We of the Treize Faction were taught not to regard the Gundam pilots as our enemies, but as our worthy opponents. We believe in none of the backstabbing and trickery prominent in the main body of the OZ organization."

Trowa threw the gun on his bed and sat down. "So you know about the aid Treize and Lady Une have been giving the Gundam Pilots." Jeremy nodded.

"Yes. And I know why pilot 02 is here."

"What?"

The dark-haired man leaned up against the wall. "He's here to get his Gundam, right? The new version?"

The Latin boy stared at him, stunned. "How do you know all this?"

At this Jeremy blushed. "Well, ever since I was little, I've wanted to be a spy. So I learned a few skills here and there, even though I hardly ever get a chance to use them."

Trowa stared at him silently for a long moment, before busting out laughing. Jeremy blushed and ducked his head. His laughter trailing down to a slight chuckling, Trowa stood and approached the young OZ officer.

"I'm going to do what a Gundam Pilot was told to never to." He stuck out his hand. "I'm going to trust you."

Jeremy smiled and took the offered hand. "Thank you sir. I'll do anything I can to help."

Trowa nodded. "Do you think you can find out where they took Duo-I mean pilot 02?"

The young man nodded. "Give me an hour."

It was decided that Trowa would stay in his quarters until Jeremy returned. A young soldier stood unobtrusively outside his door, so that if Trant came by, the Latin boy wouldn't seem unguarded.

So Trowa could do nothing but wait. Sighing, the green-eyed boy gazed around his sparsely decorated room. It was a mess. "Duo...." Trowa muttered as he began walking around, straightening things compulsively.

Walking around his bed, he bent to pick up a towel when something caught his eye. The towel dropped from nerveless fingers as he fell to his knees, staring at his clown mask: broken and spattered with blood.

He reached out to touch it, but his hand jerked back as if burned. He raised trembling fingers to his face, tracing the contours in astonishment. He felt his lips curl up in a small smile as a single tear fell down his cheek.

"He broke my mask...."

***

Jeremy walked the halls nervously, alert for any approaching footsteps. Casting cautious looks both left and right, he moved over the large red doors in front of him. He swiped a carefully made card through the electronic lock and the light blinked green as the door hissed open. The OZ officer swiftly ducked inside.

This was the moon base's information center, closed to all but OZ's top officials. It had taken the young Private months to discover the layout and work out the shift changes of the guards. This was the first time he had broken into such a classified area and the young man found his palms damn with sweat.

Glancing at his watch he confirmed that he had ten minutes before the next shift arrived. He only hoped that would give him enough time to find where they were holding the Gundam pilot.

"Lets see here...the electronic files would have to many firewalls to break in such a short time, so I'm going to have to look for a paper trail."

He walked over to the nearest filing cabinet and began shuffling through folders. Old battle tactics, MS designs, new weapon proposals...wait! Skimming through the weapons compartment, Jeremy searched for any files on the Zero System. Finding nothing, he sighed in frustration. Time was running out.

Eyes continuously shifting to the door, Jeremy searched through the file names for anything that seemed more than just basic OZ designs and operations. Ready to give up and count his losses, his dark eyes caught on a small folder that he had skipped over the first round. Pulling the file out, Jeremy stared at the foreign word.

"Epyon...."

Giving the folder's contents a quick once over, he paled. He had found what he was looking for. But that something was bigger and more frightening then he had ever imagined. His watch beeped in warning and Jeremy quickly closed the folder, stuffing it in his shirt.

The young man quickly straightened any evidence of his passing and snuck from the room. He had to get back to Lieutenant Barton, and quick.

***

Trowa frowned at the diagrams in front of him. "This is worse than I thought. I was ordered to infiltrate this base because it was rumored that OZ had developed a new weapon. But I'm sure not ever S new of just how big OZ's plans were."

Jeremy sifted through the papers, grabbing one. "Here is the map showing the location where Epyon was built. I'm assuming it resides there still. I didn't even know these lower levels existed!"

"Damn. This is very close to where DeathScythe is being kept. We have to get Duo-I mean pilot 02 free and out of here as soon as possible. We can't let his Gundam be discovered."

Jeremy leaned back, worrying his lower lip between his teeth. "It says here Epyon was designed by Treize. I can't do anything that would go against his will." He shook his head. "But why would he build a Gundam? And such a sinister one at that!"

"Treize doesn't know what he has created." Trowa spoke softly as he looked over the information in his hands. "This isn't a machine, it's a monster." He looked over at Jeremy, who still seemed torn. "Look, you don't have to do anything else. I know where Duo is being kept now. I can manage the rest."

The young Private shook his head. "No. I want to help, Sir. I never did approve of Trant or his methods. Besides, I want to find out for sure what happened to my comrades."

Trowa nodded. Looking at his watch he jotted a number down. "It's almost midnight. Go and get a few hours of rest then meat me at this corridor at 0400 hours." He handed the paper to the taller boy.

Jeremy saluted "Yes, sir!"

"Please, call me Trowa." The Latin boy begged, sick of hearing the appellation.

"Yes sir-uh, I mean Trowa."

//Hang on Duo. I'm on my way.//

***

Duo's hand twitched as his eyes moved sightlessly across the room. Sweat poured down his face as his jaw clenched, fighting to break free of the Zero System's powerful pull. Sensors were taped to his temples and chest, monitoring his body's reactions.

//'My enemy...who is my enemy?'// Duo's fists clenched as he tried to ignore the sinuous voice of Epyon. //'You must kill you enemies! Leave none standing! The only way to achieve your objective is through bloodshed!'//

"That's...not true." Duo whispered.

"What isn't true?" Trant leaned towards him, excited. Tell my what the system is showing you Gundam pilot! Tell me!"

Duo shook his head mutely, refusing to talk. Anger, Trant slammed his fist onto the consol, stopping the program. They had been at this for hours and the pilot wouldn't reveal a thing. Trant glared at the figure slumped over Epyon's control panel. He should just kill him and get it over with. But he had to find out Epyon's secrets!

Sighing heavily, the OZ officer walked over and grabbed Duo by the hair, yanking him from the cockpit. Looking around for somewhere to chain him, he suddenly grinned. Who ever said he didn't have a flare for the dramatic?

Duo groaned as he slowly regained consciousness. He was standing, chained with his arms above him to some kind of tube. His eyes wandered the room till he caught site of Trant, twisting some wires together by the room's door.

Trant looked up. "Ah, your awake." He studied his work and grinned. "I think you might want to reconsider telling the secret to the Zero System."

"Why is that?" Duo growled as he stomach did a nervous twist.

The dark haired man grinned and pushed a small button on the consol, causing a small laser beam to shine across the bottom of the door. "Because, if someone accidentally steps through this trigger, that beam saber you're chained to will spring to life and, well, their won't be enough of you to clean up."

Duo's eyes widened. "Your insane! Lady Une would never allow this type of action."

"I don't give a damn about Lady Une's likes and dislikes." Trant glared. "I just want to know Epyon's secret. You tell me what it is and I won't get clumsy and trip over the laser beam."

Duo shook his head. Go to hell, Trant! You could blow the whole base with a stunt like that!"

"All the more reason for you to tell me. You wouldn't want your little soldier boy to get hurt would you?"

The braided boy gritted his teeth. "What? You mean that prick that captured me? I could careless what happens to him." Trant shrugged.

"Nevertheless, I'll be back in the morning. If you don't tell my what I want to know then..." He stepped teasingly over the laser. "I'm locking the door so one of the guards don't accidentally trip over it. We wouldn't want that to happen, would we?" Laughing, Trant left the room, the door sliding shut behind him.

"Arrogant fuck.... Just wait till I get loose!" He tugged on his bindings experimentally and swallowed, hard. "If I get loose...."

***

Trowa crept stealthily down the corridor, a nervous Jeremy following close behind. They were in the base's lowest levels, taking the memorized route to where Epyon was built and hopefully still being held. There they would find Duo.

"Are you sure you want to do this, Jeremy? You could always go back above and claim ignorance."

The black haired man shook his head. "I honestly want to help. OZ isn't what it used to be." His dark eyes glanced at Trowa's shadowy figure. "And besides, I want to see for myself this new Gundam."

The Latin boy nodded solemnly as they rounded a corner. A smaller hallway receded back about fifty yards and then suddenly stopped in front of a small steel door. The two snuck over to it carefully, holding their breaths as they listened for any noise on the other side.

Trowa pressed the release switch and frowned when the door failed to open. He looked over a Jeremy. "Locked."

The young man nodded and produced a thin key card, obviously homemade. But as unprofessional as it may have looked, it got the job done. One swipe and the heavy steel door slid open.

"I'm going to go back towards the main corridor and make sure there's no guards lurking around." Jeremy whispered, soon disappearing around the corner.

Trowa nodded in approval, patting the two-way radio at his side reassuringly, and began to step through the doorway.

"Ack! STOP!" A familiar voice cried. "Shit! Please don't move! Stop, stop, stop, stop, stop!"

Trowa peered around the door in confusion. "Duo?"

"No, it's the fucking Easter bunny!" Duo shouted. Trowa eyed him warily. Maybe he had been hit in the head. "That bastard Trant is abso-freakin-lutly nuts! Get me out of here!"

"Well, that was what I was trying to do...." Trowa took another step into the doorway.

"STOP!"

The green-eyed pilot looked at Duo in exasperation. "What?"

"There is a laser beam running across the doorway, set to trigger this beam saber I'm strapped to. If you hit it I'm vaporized."

"Huh?" Trowa looked down. Sure enough a small red line flickered across the entryway.

"What, you think I was hanging here for looks? Now step over that thing-CAREFULLY-and get me off this giant cigarette lighter."

Trowa did as he was told and then hurriedly rushed to Duo's side. Halfway there, though, he paused. Looming over him was something from a nightmare. The Latin boy's fists clenched reflexively as he stared up at the crimson colored metal demon.

"Is-is this...?

Duo hung his head against his upraised arms. "Yes. That's Epyon."

"How could something like this have been created right under our noses?" Trowa whispered.

"We kinda had other problems, like staying alive."

The lanky boy just shook his head and made his way over to where Duo was chained. The longhaired boy looked down at him in relief and jangled his shackles impatiently. Trowa smirked up at him.

"So, I'm guessing by all the noise you've been making that you're fine."

Duo rolled his eyes. "If you call being strapped to a beam saber by a lunatic Lieutenant who probably tortures small animals for fun fine, sure, I'm just peachy." He looked up to where Trowa was pushing a small wire in the cuffs of his manacles.

"No key? Great. I feel like I'm in a James Bond movie, although this is too cheesy. I must be re-living Get Smart."

"What are you talking about?" Trowa muttered around the wires he held in his mouth.

"It was a really old TV show. The main character, Maxwell Smart, did the voice for Inspector Gadget and-oh, never mind!"

"Maxwell Smart?"

"Yeah."

"Those two words don't go together."

Duo looked at the Latin boy's smirking face and glared. "Oh, shut up!"

Just then Trowa's radio beeped. "Trowa!" Jeremy hissed. "Trant is coming! Get 02 and get out of there!"

"Shit! I can't get these cuffs off!" Trowa gave up picking the lock and began tugging on the chains frantically. Duo kneed him away.

"Who do you think you are, Heero? Look, just give me one of those wires and hide. Trant probably won't stay here long. I'll pick the lock then we can both get out of here." Footsteps resounded through the hall and Duo glared. "Hurry!"

Trowa quickly slipped a thin wire in Duo's hand and cast about for someplace to hide. Epyon's hatch sat open invitingly but the Latin boy shuddered at the thought of even touching such a sinister weapon. Growling as he heard someone pause outside of the door Trowa ducked into the only place he could think of to hide.

"Are you crazy?" Duo whispered harshly as Trowa slipped into the depths of the beam saber's casing. Trowa just shushed him as the door slid open, a dour looking Trant on the other side.

"So, Gundam pilot, have you considered my offer?" the man asked, not moving into the room.

"Go to hell, you herpes chewing, Tijuana crack whore!"

Trant's statement darkened. "Ah, ah, ah...." His foot hovered over the laser beam threateningly. The OZ officer smirked as the longhaired pilot blanched. "Now, let's try being a little nicer, shall we? I wouldn't want that smooth skin of yours to accidentally get a little...crispy."

"Why don't you come over here and say that?" Duo grinned. "Or are you afraid of a little helpless Gundam pilot that has killed more men than you could ever meet? You clock's ticking; Shinigami's gonna getcha."

"Spare me you're theatrics." But for some reason, Trant was scanning the room intently. Panicking. Duo knew he had to do something before they were discovered. His mind quickly supplied him with an old chant, used to scare earth children.

"One, two; Shini's coming after you."

Trant glared at him.

"Three, four; you better lock your door."

"Shut up."

"Five, six; get your crucifix."

"Damn you!" Trant sputtered, loosing his concentration. Stepping over the beam, he strode towards Duo threateningly.

"Seven, eight; you're gonna meet your fate.... Nine, ten; death comes for all men."

Furious at Duo's mocking voice, Trant raised his fist to strike him.

The blow never landed.

Trant stared in astonishment as a hand caught his fist; that hand attached to one Lieutenant Barton, who seemed to appear out of thin air. The Latin boy stared at him calmly, but his green eyes seemed to burn like lava. Trowa's fist flew towards Trant, connecting with his nose at a bone-snapping velocity. The OZ officer crumpled to the floor in a heap.

"That's what you deserve, you plague infested, sewer rat from hell." Duo spit on the body.

"Enough insults." Trowa insisted. "Get yourself out of those cuffs while I hide this in case anyone comes."

Duo's hands twitched as he worked. "Already halfway there." He looked to where the Latin boy was dragging Trant's body behind Epyon. "Is he dead?"

"No. But after what I have planned, he will be."
"Heehee, I love it when you're sadistic." Duo quickly freed one wrist and set to work on the other. Trowa looked over at him and smirked.

The lanky boy was already heading back over to Duo when Jeremy barged through the door, unknowingly stepping through the laser. Duo was still standing in front of the beam saber, massaging his aching wrists. Time seemed to slow to a crawl as Trowa moved on instinct.

"DUO!"

"Wha-OOMPH!"

The two boys landed in a heap, skidding to a halt a few feet away from the deadly beam saber. Trowa covered Duo's body desperately, bracing for the blast of heat and pain that was to come.

"Umm...Lieutenant Barton?" Jeremy asked weakly after a moment of silence.

Trowa's head shot up. There stood Jeremy, right in the middle of the laser beam that was supposed to trigger Epyon's beam saber and...nothing. Underneath him, Duo began laughing hysterically.

"Man, that Trant is a dumbass! He probably couldn't screw in a fucking light bulb without a manual!"

Trowa glared at Duo's giggling form as he blushed hotly. Transferring his glare over to Jeremy, he barked. "Get out of the doorway, Private, before we blow our cover any further!"

Jeremy hurriedly obeyed, trying hard to control his snickering as the Latin boy fought his way out of the tangle of Duo's arms, legs, and braid. Trowa left the American writhing on the ground as he stalked over to the beam saber, glaring at it.

"No wonder it didn't work. This saber is a back up weapon. The real beam saber is much more advanced and still attached to Epyon's side." He pointed. "This one probably doesn't even have the battery cell in it yet."

Duo finally rose to the floor and strolled over. "Well, shit." He shook his head. Looking over at a wide-eyed Jeremy, he grinned darkly. "How are you liking your first glimpse of the devil?"

"We've met before Mr. Maxwell..." The dark haired soldier began. Duo laughed.

"Not me, PJ. That. Epyon. Home of the ZERO System. Future destroyer of millions of innocent lives. Satan wrapped up in a pretty crimson package."

"Oh..." Jeremy looked again over at the dark Gundam and shuddered. "It's horrible." Staring at it, his mouth tightened into a firm line. "We can't allow it to leave this base."

"My thoughts exactly." Trowa nodded, grabbing two semi automatic rifles from a storage cabinet in the corner. He threw one to Duo.

"Epyon must be destroyed." The Latin boy met Jeremy's chocolate colored eyes. "And we need you to do it."

***

"Trowa...." Duo looked startled. "Are you sure?"

The Latin boy nodded. "We still have a mission to complete. You must get to DeathScythe. We can't be in two places at once."

"Lady Une is probably back from her meeting on L1." Jeremy mumbled. "Maybe I should go and ask her what we should do...."

Trowa walked over to the young man. Grabbing his chin, he forced Jeremy to stare at Epyon. "Look. That is the embodiment of all that is wrong with this war. If it isn't destroyed, this war may continue on until there is no one left alive to fight. Lady Une would understand. As would Treize."

Jeremy nodded, slowly, and Trowa released his chin. Squeezing the officer's arm reassuringly, he stared up at the courageous young man. "We need your help, Jeremy. This is too much for us to handle alone."

"I'll do it."

"Great!" Duo grinned. He gave Jeremy a good-natured pat on the back before his expression turned serious. "Now listen, PJ. This isn't any old mobile suit. This is a Gundam, made of Gundanium alloy. It's not gonna be easy to destroy. You need to get the most potent explosives you can get a hold of. And you need to place them carefully at the joints of the arms, legs, and neck. Put all the remaining explosives inside the cockpit and set the detonator to give you enough time to grab Une and evacuate this base. Do you understand?"

Jeremy nodded. "I understand. I'll do my best."

"We're counting on ya, PJ. Now get going."

Duo gave him a quick shove and the OZ officer was soon through the doorway and rushing down the hall. Duo watched carefully as Jeremy stepped once again through the laser beam but the beam saber did not ignite. Duo shook his head.

"All worked up for nothing...."

His gaze roamed over to Trowa, who was hunched over a sheaf of maps and diagrams. Duo's cobalt eyes softened. Trowa had risked his life to knock the American out of the beam saber's path, even if it had turned out to be a dud. The longhaired boy couldn't help but wonder why Trowa had sounded so afraid during those few, panicked moments. He doubted it was for the sake of the mission.

"Thanks, Tro."

The Latin boy looked up questioningly. "For what?"

"Well, I guess the thanks should really go out to Professor G. I wasn't too thrilled a t being partnered with you, especially since you blew up DeathScythe, but now I know that there is no one else that I would have rather worked with."

Trowa smiled softly for a moment, before shaking his head. "If you're done being sentimental, I'd like to go over our route to your Gundam." Duo chuckled to himself and kneeled next to his partner. Trowa stared at him for another moment before looking down at the map.

"I never did apologize for that." He whispered.

"Huh?" Duo glanced up, surprised.

"I didn't want to destroy DeathScythe, I knew how much it meant to you. But I really didn't have a choice. Lady Une wanted proof that I would follow her orders, no matter what."

"Hey, what's past is past." Duo shrugged. "Let's just concentrate on getting off this rock, with my brand-spanking-new, kick-your-Gundam's-ass-any-day-DeathScythe Hell."

Trowa laughed, relieved. "In your dreams, Maxwell."

Duo grinned and together they poured over the charts in front of them. Trowa absently noted that the longhaired boy was pressed close against his side and that their hands kept brushing as they pointed to one area of the map or another. Fighting the warm rising in his cheeks, Trowa spoke.

"The way I see it we have two alternatives. Option one is to take this corridor here," he pointed towards the door. "And head back the way Jeremy and I came for about 300 meters. We then take the left branch of the adjacent corridor until we reach the crossroads. Taking another left and then entering the second door on the right, we enter a utility closet. Under the floor panel is a ventilation shaft that leads directly to the loading bay that DeathScythe is being held."

Duo scratched his head. "Or we could just enter the shaft from here."

"What?"

The American reached over Trowa and pointed to the map. "We are here." He pointed at a different area. "This is where the utility closet you're talking about. And this is where DeathScythe is being held. See? The point's all line up. So that means by all reason that the ventilation shaft should run under this room as well. We can take it straight to DeathScythe."

Trowa looked from the map to Duo and back to the map again. "Well, I'll be damned." he smirked. "I guess your head isn't just there to hold your braid after all."

"Jealous?" Duo cackled. "Come on and help me look for the hatch."

Nodding, the HeavyArms pilot rose and began to scour the ground for any tell-tell signs of a trap door. Duo did the same on the room's opposite end. After long moments of fruitless searching, the longhaired boy paused.

"I forgot to ask, what was option number two?"

"Steal two mobile suits and blow holes in the base until we found DeathScythe."

"Now that would have been fun." Grinning, Duo resumed his search.

The American was beginning to think that the way his luck was going, the hatch was probably hidden beneath Epyon's painted posterior his steps suddenly sounded louder, more hollow. Looking down, he stomped, and grinned as he heard a faint echo.

"Hey Tro! I think I found it!"

The Latin boy walked over and peered at the panel beneath Duo's feet. Sure enough, he saw fours screws in each of the corners. "I think you're right Duo. Go and get a Phillips screwdriver. A big one."

"Gotcha."

Duo was rummaging through the numerous metal cabinets when he happened to glance over and spy a pair of shiny, black military boots. His eyes followed them upwards to a pair of legs, past the gun aimed at his head, and up towards the stern face of an OZ soldier. He blinked and his eyes moved back to the gun.

"Umm.... you wouldn't happen to have a screwdriver, would you?"

The burly man's aim didn't waiver as he reached for his radio. "I've found the Gundam Pilot, unbound. No sign of Lieutenant Trant. You boys better get in here."

The radio was suddenly shot from his hands. Duo tackled the officer and quickly knocked him unconscious. Grabbing the man's gun, he slipped it into the waistband of his borrowed sweatpants. Looking back at Trowa, he nodded his thanks and the Latin boy lowered his smoking rifle.

"Sounds like were gonna have company soon."

"Then let's get out of here before they come. Got that screwdriver yet?"

Duo bent back over, sticking his head in a cabinet. "Still looking."

Trowa mumbled something about all that hair slowing him down and stood impatiently over the hatch while he kept his eyes focused on the doorway. The laser still glowed brightly across its path. A new thought suddenly striking him, he turned to Duo. But at that minute, the American crowed in triumph and straitened up suddenly, cracking his head against the cabinet.

"Ouch! Shit, that smarts!" He hissed, tenderly running his head. Squinting, he held up a screwdriver halfheartedly.

Trowa rolled his eyes. "That's the most use your head has gotten. At least you're experiencing some kind of smart."

"Bite me, Barton."

Hearing the sound of a good number of soldiers heading this way, Trowa shook his head. "Later. For now just get over here and unscrew this."

"So you're telling me to get down on my knees and unscrew something? I'm afraid it doesn't work that way, buddy." Duo grabbed his discarded rifle and quickly trotted over wherein Trowa promptly slapped the back of his head. "Ow! What was that for?"

"Just keep and eye on the door, Duo." Trowa swiftly snatched the screwdriver out of the braided baka's hand and knelt down, swiftly loosening the screws.

Trowa had undone the last screw when the soldiers rushed in. Five of them trotted through the doorway, each interrupting the beam that flashed brightly across it. Trowa's eyes widened and he grabbed Duo's shirt, pulling him down.

A loud humming noise filled the room before the large beam saber in front of them ignited. Trowa shielded his face against the wave of heat that washed over him and peered intently between splayed fingers. Of the five soldiers that had came into the room, only three remained; the other two had apparently been standing too close to the beam and had been vaporized.

"So much for the no battery theory...."

Beside him, Duo watched in amazement as the powerful beam saber sliced through the steel wall like butter. It looked as though the beam was stretched completely across the outside corridor. Duo brightened.

"Hey, we just have to finish off these three guys and we're set!" He shouted over the noise of the deadly saber. "No one can get passed that beam!"

Trowa nodded. "Let's take them out now, while they're still disoriented."

"Right."

Two rifles arched up in perfect synch and fired. The three remaining soldiers fell quickly, not even returning fire. Duo grinned and grabbed the dropped screwdriver, quickly prying the loose panel out of the floor. He peered down into the dark abyss below.

"It looks about six feet down to the ground." He smirked, gesturing grandly. "After you."

Trowa shook his head. "We can't just go stumbling around in the dark. We need flashlights."

"There's probably one in Epyon's cockpit. Hold on a minute." The American quickly jogged over to the sinister looking Gundam. His nose wrinkled up in disgust as he climbed into the hatch, opening the storage compartment.

"Boy, will I be glad to see you in a million pieces...."

Finding not one, but two flashlights, Duo grinned and hopped out and down to the floor. He tossed one of them at Trowa. "Let there be light, huh? Piece of cake."

Trowa smirked slightly in reply and leapt down into the dark ventilation pipe. Switching on his flashlight, he looked around with interest. A steady breeze whipped past him, tugging on his clothing and blowing his bangs even more into his eyes. He looked up to where Duo was peeking over the side of the opening.

"I'm not sure how to put the panel back over the hole."

"Just leave it. Like you said, no one can get by that beam saber until the battery dies. We should be safe for a few hours at least."

"Okay-dokey. One God of Death dropping in." Grabbing the edges of the hatch, he lowered himself into the shaft, hanging for a moment before dropping with a thunk beside the waiting Trowa. Flipping on his light, he waggled his eyebrows. "Shall we?"

Trowa nodded. "DeathScythe's hold is that way." He pointed to where the air was coming from. He smiled slightly as he watched Duo's eyes gleam in anticipation. Side by side, the two boys started forward into the darkness.

***

"Come on!" Duo's hands flailed wildly, his flashlight creating weird patterns on the walls. "My Gundam is much cooler than yours! I mean, really, what use is a mobile suit that can only shoot up and to the left?"

Trowa just shook his head, proceeding through the ventilation shaft silently. Beside him, the American continued his rant. "And what about the bullet thing? You enter a battle and then Wham! Five minutes later you're out of ammo. I don't know about you, but I'd have a serious discussion with Doktor S over that little fact."

"Your Gundam isn't exactly flawless." Trowa pointed out. "As I recall you seem to have some trouble self detonating when the situation calls for it."

Duo scratched the back of his head ruefully. Straightening suddenly, he beamed. "That's just cause G is so smitten with my impish beauty that he can't bear the thought of something happening to me." Catching Trowa's dubious expression he slumped.

"Yeah, well, you're not exactly a looker yourself." Duo muttered.

"Your eyes are too big." Trowa stated without looking at him.

"Your nose is too long." The American made an exaggerated gesture over his face.

"Your hair-" They both said simultaneously.

Duo chuckled and Trowa couldn't help but join in. The braided boy smiled up at him. "You're eyes...they're nice. Well, one of them is anyway." He amended.

Trowa glared at him with his one visible green orb. He sighed. "You're nose...it's cute. It's small and it turns up kinda. It makes you always look snooty."

"I do not!" Duo's eyes crossed comically, trying to get a glimpse of the offending feature.

Trowa only smirked.

"So how long do we have to walk down this thing anyway? It's like a claustrophobic's worst nightmare."

Trowa bent his head, thinking. "About two miles, I think. Too bad we don't have some sort of ride, like a motorcycle or an ATV. We could cover the distance in no time."

"Yeah, but it'd be too loud. We'd blow our cover."
"True."

They walked on in silence for a while, each lost in their own musings. The wind buffeted them constantly, making Duo's braid fly out behind him like a banner. Finally, tired of hearing his own stomach growl, the cobalt-eyed boy spoke up.

"So what's your favorite shampoo?"

"What?"

"You know, what shampoo do you like to use?"

Trowa looked over at him like he was nuts, before shrugging and gazing back to the endless cavern in front of them. "Whatever's available."

"You've got to have a favorite." Duo insisted.

Sighing, the Latin boy mentioned the first one that came to mind. "Peach, I guess."

"Peach? Cool. Mine is coconut."

The Latin boy began rubbing his temple with his free hand. "Is there a point to this conversation?"

"Not really." Duo grinned. "Just trying to pass the time."

"Oh.... Well, then can we talk about something a little more relevant?"

"Sure." Duo thought hard. "Ummm.... Do you drive?"

"Drive?"

"You know, a car? We might need to use one if we ever get off this rock."

The Latin boy inclined his head. "I know how to, yes."

A couple more minutes passed in silence. The steel panels of the wall seemed to move passed them monotonously. Seeing that Duo wasn't going to say anything else, Trowa found himself oddly compelled to speak up.

"Do you?"

"Huh?" Duo glanced up, surprised.

"Know how to drive?"

Duo looked away, playing with his flashlight aimlessly. "I driven a truck once, when I was about ten. I was stealing a mobile suit for these creeps that had taken over the orphanage I was living in. But when I got there, the church had been blown up by the Alliance, and everyone was dead. I haven't gotten behind the wheel since then."

"Oh."

More silence. Duo cleared his throat self-consciously.

"So, uh...." Trowa floundered. He wasn't used to making idle conversation but he wanted to relieve the tension that seemed to have filled the small space around them "Do you have a favorite food?"

Duo grinned, relaxing. "Yeah. I like fruit."

"Fruit? I'd figure you for a sugar junkie."

"It's okay, I guess." The American shrugged. "But when you haven't eaten for nearly two weeks, nothing tastes better than a snitched apple." He said nonchalantly.

Trowa looked at him with new eyes. What had begun as a silly conversation had revealed more about the longhaired boy than he had ever known. Curious, the Latin boy kept the conversation running. "You did that often?" he asked.

"What?"

"Stole to eat."

"Yeah, I guess." Duo shrugged again. "It was either that or starve. I was pretty good at it too. But I usually gave my share to the littler ones."

"I never knew."

"What?" Duo cocked an eyebrow at him inquiringly.

"That you had it so rough."

The American snorted derisively. "Well, I don't exactly broadcast it."

"I meant you don't show it." Trowa said patiently. "Sure you're dark at times, but that's to be expected from a Gundam pilot. But you're not like WuFei or-"

"You?" Duo questioned, his eyes glittering darkly in the dim light. Trowa paused in mid-step, then nodded slightly.

"So just because I'm not silent and moody, I must have had it easy? That's pretty shallow thinking, Trowa."

"I guess it is." Trowa continued walking stoically. Duo sighed heavily and jogged after him. The minutes ticked by sluggishly.

"So...um...what's your favorite brand of coffee?"

"Whatever's available."

Silence.

"What's yours?"

Duo smirked. "Maxwell House."

Trowa rolled his eyes.

***

Far above them, in the cold depths of space above the moon base, a menacing form hovered. The moon's pallid light reflected dully off of the mobile suit's titanium white surface. The green visor glittered malevolently from the shadows of the suit's metal brow.

Inside, the pilot's blue eyes narrowed coldly. Checking the information on the screen, he nodded. Epyon was definitely here. And it would be his, even if he has to destroy the base to get it. The giant suit raised the deadly Dober gun.

Zechs Marquise caressed the controls in front of him. "You have served me well, Tallgeese. But the war is escalating. Events are not going as planned. It's time to move on to bigger and better things. It's time to test this ZERO system Treize was so bragging about."

Zechs smiled suddenly. "So, my old friend. Should we call ahead or should we just knock?"

Banking swiftly, Tallgeese flared its thrusters and barreled towards the base. Halting a few hundred meters away, Zechs watched in satisfaction as the base began to react to his arrival. His COM unit beeped frantically as Lady Une attempted to hail him.

"Zechs Marquise! State your purpose here or I'll be forced to send out the mobile dolls!"

"Ah, Colonial Une, as charming as ever. Please allow me to announce myself properly."

Tallgeese suddenly fired, the Dober gun sending a devastating blast hurtling towards the base. The space station shook violently on impact and the blonde man could hear the shouts over alarm over the COM unit, as well as Une's frantic attempts to restore order.

"Greetings. My name is Zechs Marquise. And you have something I want."

***

"What was that?" Trowa asked in alarm as his feet tried to slide out from under him. Duo shook his head mutely as he leaned on the opposite wall for support. Above them dust and debris fell freely through wide cracks in the ceiling.

The shaking stopped and Duo drew in a shuddering breath and choked. "Do you think Quatre went crazy again and came back to destroy the base?" He asked between coughing fits.

"I doubt it. You seemed to have talked some reason into him and he seemed like his old self again. I believe he followed your advice and went to Earth."

"So who do you think is attacking us? The American asked as he watched the ceiling warily.

Before Trowa had the chance to answer, another blast hit the base, this one closer than before. The wall beside Trowa buckled and he stumbled backwards frantically. With a shriek of twisted metal, the wall ripped apart, a large metal support rod hurtling through the gap.

"Trowa, look out!"

The Latin boy felt himself being shoved and his flashlight skittered across the debris-covered floor, plunging the shaft into darkness once more. He heard Duo scream in pain and then the sound of metal crashing against metal, then...silence.

"Duo?"

"Duo!"

***

Heart catching in his throat, Trowa listened desperately for a reply. He heard a low moan off to his left and fumbled frantically for his flashlight. Nerveless fingers suddenly brushing against the desired object, the Latin boy raised it hurriedly, searching for his partner.

"Duo?"

Lying on the cold floor, Duo winced as the bright light stung his eyes. "Have a heart, Tro." The American grunted. "I'm in enough pain as it is."

The emerald-eyed boy sighed in relief and crawled over to the other boy. Duo lay on his side, his left arm cradled protectively against his torso. His teeth bared in a grimace as he shifted into a sitting position. "Are you okay?" Trowa asked worriedly.

"Yeah..." Duo muttered. "But I think my arm's broke."

Trowa cursed. "Why did you pull a foolish stunt like that anyway? You could have been killed." The Latin boy gently pried Duo's arm out where he could see it. Rolling up the sleeve of the stolen OZ sweatshirt, Trowa winced in sympathy.

"You've definitely broken you're Ulna, but not badly. It hasn't punctured the skin."

"Ewww! Do you mind not getting so graphic?" Duo turned green, refusing to look at his arm. Trowa shook his head grimly.

"I'm going to have to set this."

"What?" Duo's eyes widened. "Oh, no! I don't think so! Stay away from me you sadist!" The American tried to frantically pull his arm out of the other boy's grasp, but only succeeded in causing himself more pain. He banged his head against the wall in resignation.

"How do I get myself into these situations?"

Trowa gripped Duo's arm tightly at the elbow and at the wrist. With out warning, he yanked, snapping the bone back into place. To his astonishment the American didn't scream. Afraid the boy had fainted, Trowa peered closely at his face and his green eyes widened as he watched the blood trail down from Duo's bitten lip.

"I'm sorry." His hand came up automatically and wiped the blood away. Duo nodded wearily; sweat beading across his brow. Trowa cast about for something to use as a splint.

"Broke my flashlight too..." Duo muttered. "Use that."

Trowa found the flashlight and laid it beside him and grabbed Duo's sleeve, ripping it off at the seam. Using his teeth, he tore the fabric into strips before using them to firmly tie the flashlight to the American's broken arm.

"It's the best I can do for now. I made sure to take the batteries out so it wouldn't be so heavy. Try not to jar it by doing something stupid, like getting between me and flying debris with my name on it." Trowa said sternly, but he squeezed Duo's uninjured arm in gratitude before helping the longhaired boy to his feet.

"Heh...it teaches me never to try stopping a rampaging metal rod with my arm again." He waited for Trowa to pick up his flashlight and their guns before adding. "Next time I'll use your head. With as much hairspray as you probably use, it's much harder."

Trowa gave him a mock glare, as he discreetly made sure that the boy was able to walk on his own. Seeing that the injured boy could handle himself, he felt around in his pockets and pulled out the two-way radio Jeremy had given him, making sure it hadn't been damaged during the confusion. Duo looked at him curiously, the pain in his arm momentarily forgotten.

"Jeremy! Are you there?"

The line crackled before the young man's worried voice filtered through. "Lieutenant Barton?"

"What's going on? We were damn near killed by that last blast."

"It's Zechs Marquise. He's here for Epyon, and he isn't taking no for an answer. I was on my way to the weapon's department when he struck. Right now I'm with Lady Une. I told her what was going on and we're using every Mobile Doll we've got to try and stall him."

"Listen Jeremy, Zechs will destroy this base without batting an eyelash. He knows that Epyon would be able to survive all but the most powerful of explosions. You've got to get Lady Une out of here."

There was a sudden rustling noise and then Une's voice blared through the speaker. "Barton, we need time to evacuate this base. I won't just leave my men here to die."

Trowa rubbed his temples hard, thinking. "I don't know how you'll be able to get everyone out, Une. Zechs is sure to attack any carriers you send out." Duo's eyes narrowed thoughtfully and he bent over Trowa. Placing his hand over the Latin boy's, he moved the radio up towards his mouth.

"Hiya, Lady! Pilot 02 here. I think I know a way for you to get all you're men out."

"Go on."

Duo's expression turned deadly serious. "Listen, Zechs is only after Epyon. He's not going to go on a needless killing spree. Trowa is right, he will attack any carrier that you sent out, to make sure Epyon isn't in it. If you want to escape, you need to do it in small crafts, where there will me no mistake whether or not Epyon is aboard. I'm talking private shuttles, space Leo's, hell, use the Mobile Dolls if you have to! This is a military base, you should have no problem finding the resources."

There was silence on the other end for a long moment. "You think that will work?" Une asked, hesitantly.

Trowa nodded to Duo. "As long as you stay far from Tallgeese and make no threatening gestures, he should let you go." The Latin boy said. "The space fortress Barge isn't too far from here and it's big enough that even Zechs would hesitate to attack it."

"Right, we'll get started immediately." Une spoke firmly. "Une out."

"Trowa?" Jeremy's voice wavered through the speaker.

"You need to make sure Une gets out of here. If something happens to her, Treize won't hesitate to counter attack and we'll end up caught in the middle of a massacre."

"But Epyon..."

"Leave it." Trowa's tone implied he really didn't like the idea. "There is nothing we can do to stop Zechs from getting his hands on it. Just focus on getting yourself out of here."

"No."

Duo glanced at Trowa in surprise. "No." Jeremy spoke again, firmly.

"Zechs cannot be allowed to take Epyon. You said it yourself, Sir, that that suit is the incarnation of war. It is too powerful to let fall into the wrong hands. I'm going to destroy it."

The two Gundam Pilot's looked at each other wordlessly. What Jeremy was proposing was a suicide mission. Duo again grabbed the radio, his blue eyes troubled.

"Are you sure about this, PJ? You might not have time to escape. And if Zechs catches you...you'll be toast."

"I'm positive, Duo. I want to do this."

Duo shook his head. "Well, best of luck to you buddy. You're not too bad for an Ozzy."

Jeremy laughed weakly. "You too, Duo. Even though I thought you were quite scary at first. You're still scary now, but at least I know we're on the same side."

"Be careful, Private." Trowa said. "You're a good man."

"You too, Sir. Private Jeremy Johnson out."

"Whoa! One more thing, PJ!"

"Yes?"

"You have got to chance that last name. It sounds so uncool."

There was a stunned silence on the other line. "What?"

"You know, you're a big shot now. You need a cool name. Something more impressive than another word for penis."

"Umm..." Jeremy sounded dumbfounded. "So what do you suggest?" He asked hesitantly.

"Hmm..." Duo made a show of thinking hard. "How about J. J. Maxton?" Trowa raised his eyebrow incredulously. Duo ignored him.

"Umm...I'll think about it, Duo." Jeremy said finally.

"Great!" Duo grinned. "Catch ya later buddy! Shinigami out. "

Duo looked over to where Trowa was still staring at him. "What?" Trowa shook his head.

"Maxton?"

Duo blushed and stood swiftly. "So are we ready to go or what? We're sitting ducks in this air shaft."

The Latin boy nodded. "Since Une will be focused on the evacuation, she won't be sending the Mobile Dolls to confront the Tallgeese. That means he'll attack the base again. We have got to get out of here as quickly as possible."

The two began jogging down the debris-strewn passageway, trying to move as fast as possible in the near darkness. Duo kept his broken arm close to his body, trying not to jar it. How he wished for a bottle of painkillers right then!

***

"Duo."

"Duo!" A hand reached out, jerking him to a halt.

"Huh?" The American glanced up, his eyes clouded in pain. "What's up?"

Trowa looked at him in concern. "We're here. DeathScythe is in the cargo bay right above us."

Duo looked up to see a metal grating in the ceiling. He couldn't make out much about the room on the other side except for it was huge. It was definitely big enough to store a Gundam. He glanced over at Trowa and nodded.

"Boost me up."

The Latin boy cupped his hands out and Duo placed one foot carefully on them. With a heave, Trowa straightened, bringing the American in reach of the grate above them.

"It's not bolted down." The longhaired boy mumbled down to him in relief. "Just hold me steady for a minute and I'll push it out of the way."

Trowa remained silent, but he never wavered. Duo swiftly lifted the grating and shoved it squealing across the floor. Standing on tiptoes, he peered out of the opening. The bay was dimly lit, but his eyes unerringly found the object he was looking for.

"There it is!" The braided boy pulled himself into the room suddenly and Trowa rushed to follow.

There, in the center of the room, stood the towering figure of DeathScythe Hell. Wings spread archaically, the black mobile suit looked like the incarnation of Death itself. Duo was in love.

"Oh wow, Tro! Check out those wings! And look! G kept the Buster Shield!" Duo grabbed his arm like and excited kid. "There are the Hyper Jammers, so I'll still have my cloaking ability. That will come in handing when we're trying to get past Zechs...." He paused, looking over at Trowa seriously. "You are coming with me, aren't you? I mean I'm sure we can both fit in the cockpit."

Trowa shook his head. "My mission is over. I have brought you to DeathScythe. Now I have to go back and figure out how to stop Zechs. Treize doesn't want him dead, but he is complicating our plan greatly. Unless he's stopped, peace will never be attained."

Duo bowed his head. "Then I guess here is where we part ways." He stared up at Trowa through his ragged bangs. "It's been fun, buddy. We should do it again sometime."

Trowa gripped the longhaired boy's shoulder reassuringly. "Yeah...we should."

Duo shifted from foot to foot awkwardly. "Man, I hate goodbyes. I never know what to say when it really counts."

"Then say you'll be careful." Emerald eyes stared deep into his own. "And you won't do something stupid, like try to self destruct. Even though it won't work anyway."

Duo grinned. "Will do. And you tell that bastard S that if he threatens you one more time, he's gonna have a very angry God of Death at his doorstep. And while you're at it, make him do something about that ammo problem."

Trowa gave him a small smile. "Will do. You going to be able to pilot that thing with your arm?" Duo nodded.

"I'll put it on autopilot till I get closer to my destination. I'll probably hide out on L2 for awhile till this heals." He waved his broken arm carefully.

"Right." Trowa's fists clenched slightly at his sides. "Well, you better get your ugly mug out of here before Zechs turns the moon into Swiss cheese."

Duo turned and began to carefully climb up DeathScythe's slick form. "Alright, Bang-boy. Go fight you battle before I decide to give you a haircut."

Trowa watched him ascend silently. Reaching the cockpit, Duo gave him a small wave, which he returned with a firm nod. "I'll go open the bay doors." He called up.

Turning, he walked towards the room's entrance, where he would stay in the air lock while the bay doors we're open. He was about halfway there when he saw a flash of motion in the corner of his eye. Hearing a gun shot, he dove to the ground reflexively and felt a white hot pain sear through his abdomen.

Duo glanced up from DeathScythe's controls when he heard the shot. Jumping to out onto the Gundam's still-open hatch, he watched as Trowa fell to the floor, a dark puddle of blood beginning to surround him. Duo's heart seemed to explode with pain as a scream ripped past his throat.

"NO!!!"

***

"I knew you were up to something Barton," Trant spoke, as he crawled up through the opening of the air vent. "But I never figured you for a Gundam pilot."

Trowa lay on the floor, trying to staunch the flow of blood from his stomach with one hand, while casting about for a weapon with the other. He cursed himself for leaving his rifle over at the foot of DeathScythe. Green eyes glared at Trant in hatred.

"I should have killed you."

The OZ officer rubbed his broken nose gingerly. "Yes, you should have. Now I am going to make you pay for your crimes against the OZ organization." He turned suddenly, keeping his gun trained on Trowa's head. "I wouldn't if I were you, 02. Or do you really think you can shoot me before I finish off your boyfriend here? I thought not." Trant sneered. "Now drop your gun."

Trowa tried to rise up and rush him, but the pain in his abdomen was too intense. He fell back with a groan. The Latin boy watched as Duo swiftly popped the clip off his rifle before tossing out to the ground far below DeathScythe. It landed with a loud clatter before skittering into a far corner.

"Right. Now the one in your waistband, if you please."

Cursing, Duo removed his other gun, and disposed of it as he did the first. His eyes roamed over Trowa anxiously, assessing his condition. It wasn't good. Another blast hit the base and Duo crouched low to prevent himself from falling off of his Gundam. Zechs' attacks were coming more frequent now. He had to think of something, and fast.

"You shouldn't have left Epyon unprotected, Trant. Zechs will do anything to get it."

The OZ officer glanced up at Duo haughtily. "The Lightning Count is being held back by Une's Mobile Dolls. By the time he gets anywhere near the base, I will have escaped, along with Epyon."

Duo shook his head. "Une has called off the Mobile Dolls to assist in the base's evacuation. You're defenseless now and soon Epyon won't even exist."

"What are you talking about?" Trant moved away from Trowa, his gun pointing at the longhaired boy perched precariously on the Gundam's hatch. Duo smirked down at him.

"What's it to you? You never figured out Epyon's secret anyway. Even if it wasn't going to be destroyed, you wouldn't have been able to pilot it."

Trant's eyes widened. "Destroyed? Impossible."

Duo leaned his uninjured arm on his knee casually. "Yup. 'Fraid so. As we speak, a friend of mine is setting high-energy explosions along Epyon's weakest points. I give it another fifteen to twenty minutes before it blows into a million itty bitty pieces."

Trant's arm dropped limply to his side. "No..." he whispered.

"Of course I'd be willing to make a deal with you, if you're interested in having Epyon in a more...functional condition."

The OZ officer raised the gun back up swiftly, pointing it again at Duo's heart. "I do not make deals with Gundam pilots."

The blue-eyed boy shook his head in mock sadness. "That's too bad. Remember, this Gundam pilot knows the secret of Epyon." His eyes turned serious. "And I'll tell it to you, if you let my friend go."

"Duo, no...." Trowa moaned, trying to stay conscious.

"Shut up!" Trant barked back at him. He glanced back up at Duo, his eyes narrowed. "Barton can walk out of here any time he wishes. Now tell me."

"Ah, ah, ah.... I'm afraid that isn't good enough. You've got to let me set DeathScythe here on auto pilot and let Trowa escape from the base in it."

"Forget it."

"I will even radio my friend and tell him to abort the mission to destroy Epyon," Duo bargained.

"No." Trant remained firm. "That Gundam is too important to let it go just like that. No deal."

Duo stood swiftly, glaring down at him. "DeathScythe is nothing compared to Epyon! Don't you see that suit has the power to control the tide of the war? Why do you think we were going to destroy it?"

Trant was silent for a moment as he struggled with himself. His fist clenched tightly at his side as his words were forced from gritted teeth. "Fine. You set the controls, then come down to the floor. You can then use a pulley to take Barton up. I will let him escape with your Gundam but you are going to come with me. You will tell me everything I want to know plus you will contact the person that is setting the explosives and demand that he stop."

Duo nodded. "Deal."

Trant pointed his gun at Trowa. "I'm warning you, try anything funny and Barton here will be nothing by a grease stain on the floor."

"I hear ya."

Duo stepped back into DeathScythe cockpit with a sigh. Things were not going as well as he hoped. He certainly wished that Trowa would be okay enough to last the trip to the nearest colony. The longhaired boy's hands roamed lovingly over his Gundam's controls.

"G sure did a wonder with you this time, buddy. It looks like you have loads of cool new stuff to toy around with," he said softly as he programmed the autopilot as well as the cloaking device so Zechs would not detect his Gundam. "I hope I get the chance try them out."

Trant yelled up at him impatiently and Duo promptly finished his task. He then opened up his storage compartment and rapidly shifted through the supplies he found inside.

"C'mon, I know it has to be in here somewhere...." He cursed as Trant once again called up at him, this time threatening to shoot Trowa in the leg. "I swear I'm going to kill that-aha!"

Duo hastily pulled out a magnetic grappling hook and stuffed it into the pocket of his sweatshirt. Grinning, his eyes glinted maliciously. "Just wait, Trant. Your death will not be pleasant."

Hopping out of the cockpit, Duo grabbed the hatch's pulley and quickly repelled down DeathScythe's metallic form. Landing, he walked calmly over to Trowa, completely ignoring Trant's existence.

"Are you alright, man?" he asked, as he helped Trowa to his feet. The Latin boy slumped against him weakly.

"I'm fine," Trowa whispered. "But Catherine is going to kill me. I definitely won't be able to perform at the circus for awhile."

Duo supported him steadily as they began to walk over to DeathScythe. For Trowa, each step was agony. He continued speaking to keep his mind off it. "I never did tell you I was part of a circus. That's why I had the mask in my room," he whispered. "You owe me a new one of those you know. They're not cheap."

"I never thought I'd live to see the day when you were babbling, Trowa." Duo gently propped the Latin boy up beside DeathScythe foot as he tore off his remaining sleeve. Bending over, he stuck the balled up cloth underneath Trowa's OZ jacket and directly over the wound. He hand came away stick with blood.

"That bullet is probably still in you." Duo's voice cracked slightly. "You better get it check out as soon as you get to the colony."

Trowa stared up at him. "Don't do this, Duo. Trant will kill you once he gets the information he wants."

The American shook his head, and reached down for the radio at Trowa's side. "There is only one person in this room that is going to die soon, and it isn't you or me. Just promise me you'll be in better shape the next time I see you." He tucked the radio into his pocket. If all went well he'd need it later.

"Duo...." Trowa seemed to struggle with himself. Suddenly he jerked to his feet, despite his wound. "I'm not going to abandon you here. We're partners and we're in this together." The Latin boy swayed and would have fallen if not for Duo's strong arms dashing out and supporting him.

"You're mission is finished, remember?" Duo reminded him gently. "You got me to DeathScythe. Now I need you to get in my buddy here and try not to get too much blood on the new upholstery." He held Trowa close with his good arm as his other grabbed DeathScythe's pulley and wrapped it around Trowa's wrist twice, before sticking the handle in the lanky boy's hand. He made sure that the wire wouldn't cut into the Latin boy's skin when he was being pulled up.

"Duo, please...." Trowa's one visible green eye glistened. Duo stared at him silently for a moment and then pulled him closer with his good arm, acting on instinct.

Grabbing Trowa's face with his other hand, he dipped his head down and kissed the boy, hard. He pulled away quickly before the Latin boy could respond, and pushed the button to activate the pulley. Trowa could only stare down at him, wide eyed, as he slowly rose into the air.

"Bon voyage, Tro-man!" Duo called up. " If you scratch DeathScythe's new paint job, I'll kick your ass!"

Duo felt the hard press of metal against his head and turned slowly to face Trant. The OZ officer stared down at him coldly, gun aimed between Duo's large blue eyes. "Let's go," he commanded.

Duo nodded and began to walk slowly towards the airlock that stood off to the side of the main hold. Glancing back, he watched as Trowa struggled to climb into DeathScythe's cockpit. Finally seating himself, the Latin boy carefully buckled his harness, before raising his eyes to meet the braided boy's. One hand lifted lightly in farewell and Duo, recalling a similar instance mere minutes before, nodded his head firmly.

Trant rudely pushed him forward as DeathScythe's hatch closed, hiding Trowa from view. Duo reached the air lock and turned to face Trant. Behind the OZ officer he saw the green eyes of his Gundam flare to life as DeathScythe powered up. Duo smiled grimly.

"I'll tell you Epyon's secret now."

Trant stared at him incredulously. Dark eyes narrowed and he stepped into the airlock, reaching over to press the button that would close the doors. Duo's hand shot out and stopped him. His cobalt eyes glittered.

"The key to piloting Epyon is to have no fear of death. I could pilot it because I am Death, Trant. Your death."

Moving before the taller man could react, Duo's hand slammed into a large red button on the wall. Alarms blared in warning as the bay doors above DeathScythe began to open. Duo smiled grimly. "Goodbye Trant."

The air in the hold was suddenly released and the two men were both sucked towards the cold depths of space. Gritting his teeth, Duo ignored Trant's piercing scream as he reached into his pocket. Pulling out the grappling hook, he aimed it toward the air lock and fired. The metal cable flew through the air and connected with the wall, the powerful magnet holding it in place.

Just as Duo was about to be sucked out of the hold, the line ended. Duo bit back a scream as the force of the sudden jerk snapped his broken arm back out of place. Concentrating, the longhaired boy pressed a second button on the grapple, and the line slowly began winding him back towards the ground.

Duo hung on tightly, praying the line would hold. He looked out from between his arms to stare into space's yawning abyss. He saw a brief flicker of light and sighed in relief that Trowa had not been able to override the autopilot. DeathScythe was now fully cloaked and on its way to the nearest colony.

Even as Duo felt his grip slipping and believed he would be sucked into space with Trant, the grapple finally reached its end. Duo looked over at the air lock's control panel, a mere foot away. To Duo, those twelve inches seemed like a mile.

Bracing his foot against the wall, the American used it to push himself towards the control panel, out of necessity letting go of his grapple. As he was sucked backwards, he quickly smacked a bright blue button as he passed it. The air lock doors closed swiftly and he slammed into them, sliding to the floor in a heap.

Panting, Duo slowly crawled over to the controls and closed the bay doors. The warning lights silenced as air once again rushed into the hold outside. Duo collapsed to the floor in relief.

"Whew...I almost lost my pants with that one!"

A blast shook the base and his statement sobered. He was running out of time and he had to get off the moon, quick. Fumbling in his pocket, he pulled out Trowa's radio.

"Jeremy! Are ya there, pal?"

The base was now rumbling continuously and Duo knew it would only be a matter of time before it gave under Zechs' assault. Jeremy's voice suddenly crackled through the speaker.

"Duo? Why are you still here?"

Duo almost fainted in relief. "No time, PJ. You've got to tell me, have you destroyed Epyon yet?"

"I'm afraid not." The officer's voice sounded discouraged. "I can't get past the beam saber that is still blocking the entrance to the hold! I'm sorry I failed you guys."

"Not to worry, PJ," Duo laughed consolingly. "It all worked out for the better. Abort your mission. There has been a change of plans."

***

Trowa slowly walked across the damp grass of colony C421. He glanced back at the circus tents behind him, making sure Catherine had not seen him leave. She hadn't left him alone for hardly a moment in over two weeks, fearing that his depression would consume him.

But Trowa was stronger than that. "I'm not going to throw my life away just because...." Bowing his head, the Latin boy walked father away from the base camp and towards the main road.

One month ago almost exactly, Trowa was stuffed, wounded and shaky, into the Gundam called DeathScythe. Unable to disengage the autopilot, the green-eyed boy was forced to watch Duo Maxwell's last confrontation with the OZ officer Trant. Trant was sucked out into space and then the bay doors had closed. That was the last time he saw Duo.

Sitting in the cockpit, safely cloaked from Zechs' sharp eyes, Trowa was forced to watch as every mobile suit carrier that left the base was destroyed. And after there was no one left to fight, Tallgeese completely destroyed the moon base.

Only half conscious, Trowa had landed on the closest colony of the L1 cluster. He was quickly taken in and assisted by Dr. J. and Professor G. How they had known he was coming was still a mystery. He was bandaged up efficiently and given a hot meal.

A week later there was still no word from Duo. Professor G had already taken him for dead, and the old man suggested that Trowa do the same. After three more days, the Latin boy reluctantly agreed and, leaving DeathScythe with the scientists, he left for his home in L3.

And here he stood, one month later and still dwelling over a comrade long gone. But, he could help it. Duo had been... a real friend. Trowa didn't have many of those. And now he had one less.

"Damn...." Tears that have visited him so often recently once again ran down his cheeks. Shoulder's hunched, the lanky boy lowered himself to the curb and cried, uncaring of who might see him.

The first thing he heard was a roar of a motorcycle as it whirled around the corner, followed by the deafening boom of some old earth rock music. the singer shouting something about being an 'American Bad Ass'. Groaning softly, the Latin boy rose and prepared to find someplace quieter to mourn when the motorcycle suddenly squealed to a halt right next to him.

Looking up he stared at the cycle's rider, whose face was covered by a large black helmet. Leather clad hands reached up and unclasped the helmet's fasteners, then lifted the heavy headgear up and off of the rider's head. Said rider shook his head in relief, causing a long braid to whip around him wildly. Two overly large cobalt eyes fixed their gaze upon Trowa casually.

"Catherine said I could find you here."

Trowa stared at the American in disbelief, tears long forgotten. "D-duo..."

"Hey Trowa. How's it hanging?"

Dragging his fingers through his hair and forcing himself not to shake the other boy, Trowa replied with forced casualness. "Up and to the left."

Duo laughed uproariously and Trowa found himself grinning uncontrollably. Tossing appearance to the wind, he lunged at the longhaired boy, only to find Duo one step ahead of him. Dropping the kickstand of his motorcycle, the American jumped off the seat and gathered the other boy into his arms. They hugged each other tightly, neither quiet ready to believe that the other was there, safe.

"How's that bullet wound of yours doing?" Duo asked, when they finally pulled away.

"It healed up pretty quickly, though the area is still tender. Catherine hasn't been letting me do anything more strenuous then feeding the lions so I've been going more than a little stir crazy." He breath deeply, unused to talking since the braided boy's disappearance. "What about your arm?"

Duo waved his left arm, which carried a thin splint. "The cast came off last week. As long as I don't do any handstands, I shouldn't have a problem."

Trowa smiled. "Handstands are more my area anyway." His statement turned serious. "Where have you been all this time? Everyone thought you were dead."

"Well," Duo took a deep breath. "To start from the beginning, the beam saber that I was strapped to prevented Jeremy from blowing up Epyon. I radioed him and explained to him my situation and what I planned to do. I sent him to go prepare a dozen mobile suit carriers to launch as soon as I gave the signal. I then jumped back into the ventilation shaft and high-tailed it back to the chamber where Epyon was kept." Duo sat down on the curb and gazed at Trowa a moment before continuing.

"I gave Jeremy the signal and told him to take a single person shuttle and meet me at a small abandoned resource satellite in the L5 cluster. The mobile suit carriers were launched, and while Zechs was busy destroying them, Jeremy and I snuck out the back door, so to speak. I've been spending the rest of my time hiding until things cooled down."

Trowa's eyes widened as realization dawn on him. "You took--?" Duo nodded solemnly.

"Since then, Zechs has been to occupied with the White Fang to actually seek it out. But he knows it's still out there. So I have one more mission to perform before I report in to the Professor."

Duo stood, dusting off the back of his jeans. Glancing up at Trowa coyly, he batted his eyelashes melodramatically.

"So, I was wondering if you'd like to come with me to get rid of a little extra cargo I've been packing around. You know, a certain red spawn of Satan? It's a smooth ride and all, but it's not my style. I'd prefer a darker shade of Gundam, that is if you haven't dented my poor baby too badly."

Green eyes stared at Duo carefully. "On one condition."

Duo looked up, startled. "What's that?"

"I get to drive."

Duo looked back at his motorcycle in confusion before laughing. "You like the ride, huh? A little gift from the Sweepers."

"Well, the motorcycle is nice, but that's not why I want to drive." Trowa carefully seated himself on the bike's sleek black body. Duo stared at him, dumbfounded, and he couldn't help but laugh.

"I'd trust my life with you during battle any day. But trusting you not to drive us off a cliff is another matter entirely."

"But this is a colony, Trowa!" Duo protested. "It doesn't have any cliffs." Regardless, the longhaired boy carefully climbed up behind the green-eyed boy, wrapping his arms around the other's waist firmly.

Trowa started the engine and glanced back at him. "You ready?"

"Sure!" Duo grinned. "But I'd like to see how you're going to put that helmet on with that hair of yours."

The Latin boy lifted the kickstand. "We're Gundam pilot's Duo. We don't need helmets."

Duo's grip tightened at the bike suddenly shot forward. Resting his head against Trowa's back he sighed. "I guess we've survived worse." His braid flew out behind them merrily, waving goodbye to the circus tents behind them. Carefully sitting down a bucket of water, Catherine watched them disappear with a smile.

 

Owari