Title : The Killing Tide 20/21
Author : Dalton (AngelDalton6@aol.com)
Rating : R
Category : AU only in the fact that this takes place 10 years after Endless Waltz
Warnings : Swearing, angst, violence and death.
Disclaimer : Gundam Wing is the property of Sunrise, the Sotsu Agency, and Bandai. No infringement is intended upon their rights. (5/06/2)

Noventa shivered as the cool air finally began to chill him, numbing the pain in his body. Here stood the man he had idolized, envied and hated from the time they had met, when Billy Noventa had learned Heero Yuy accomplished what he could not--his grandfather's death. Noventa slowly broke from the frozen grip of awed surprise and smiled at the man who stood before him like an angry god with a gun as his bolt of vengeance.

There was quiet thunder in his god's voice. "Where is she?"

Noventa's smile became almost beatific as he realized Heero and Relena had not met in the disorganized darkness of the hangar. He still controlled the outcome of their fated meeting. Noventa spread his hands out to the side, displaying the knife, but not releasing it. "If you shoot me, you'll never know."

A bullet ripped through Noventa's left shoulder, breaking the bone that Relena's nail had already chipped. Noventa recoiled from the blow, and as he straightened up, his arm hung lower than it had before. "Strike one. Two more and you've lost her, Mr. Yuy."

Heero did not fire again, but kept the gun aimed at Noventa. "Take me to her."

"That's too easy." Noventa began to feel the pain in his arm, and he shoved the irksome feeling away with a roll of his shoulder. "Since you have nothing to lose, why don't you show a little generosity to a fellow Preventer and grant a small concession? Give me something worth the price of my cooperation."

Heero's voice was as cold and direct as the barrel of his gun, now trained on Noventa's chest. "No deals, Noventa. You wouldn't keep a promise."

"And you would?"

Heero's eyes widened for just a moment, long enough to betray a glimpse of guilt. "What do you mean by that?"

Noventa felt a rush of adrenaline at Heero's reaction. It would not have been a surprise if the almighty Heero had broken a few promises, but the idea that the man might have felt remorse for them tickled Noventa. Though it was just an assumption, Noventa decided to play with this untested weakness. "A man with your background would have made his share of false promises. Oh don't tell me you aren't aware of how many people you've blessed with lies. You're a hypocritical man, condemning me for your faults. Is this silence your denial or admission?"

Heero brought up a second hand to hold his gun. "Stop stalling, Noventa. I don't owe you any answers."

"Yes, you do! You owe me. You promised me." Noventa could tell he had struck a nerve with Heero.

Heero's doubt was beginning to show in the way he hesitated before speaking, his tension apparent in the clenching pulse along the sharp line of his jaw. "I don't know--"

"Yes, you do." Noventa was risking another shot by prodding Heero in such a way, but he felt carried along by inspiration. "You promised me something long ago. But you took that promise away when you walked out of my dead grandfather's house. You cheated me. You strutted around begging for martyrdom in the guise of retribution, and you ran when you met someone who would have granted it to you. You owe me. You owe me so much more than answers." Noventa paused, his heaving breath loud as thunder in his ears. He watched Heero like a scientist watching for change in the contents of a Petri dish, and he was not disappointed with the results.

Slowly, like dawn coming over the horizon, the intensity changed in Heero's eyes. "Marshall Noventa," he said hesitantly, experimentally. "Is that what this is all about? The deaths of my... You killed them, because of an error I made ten years ago?"

"Yes." Noventa lied, reveling in the despair of the killer he had tried to emulate and obliterate for the past ten years. He laughed, giddy with the turn of the tide. "Do you know how long I've wanted you to realize that? How long I've waited to hear you, the perfect soldier, admit how imperfect you are?"

Heero shook his head. "I admitted that when I first saw you, and you rejected my offer."

"No, no." Noventa corrected his idol. "You hadn't truly believed then, and I didn't refuse. I opted to wait until you could fully understand the depth of your mistake. You should have returned to me, but the war got in the way--then peace interfered. So I had to remind you of your promise. I had to bring you to me." Noventa sighed. "So many lives wasted, when all I wanted was one."

Noventa watched the effect of his lie flash through the widening eyes of the man before him. None of what he said was true. He had begun killing before he ever met Heero, starting on stray animals at the age of nine. It was only recently that he had graduated from mutilating animals to killing humans. Heero's visit to his grandfather's house ten years ago had only introduced Noventa to a new challenge, not a path of vengeance. The death of his grandfather was a goal Billy had made for himself, but Heero had beaten him to it. Noventa never dreamed he would be given another chance to conquer a great man.

"Everyone..." Heero's voice sounded thick, and he held his gun loosely at his side. "Everyone you killed was--"

"Was a desperate cry for you to keep your promise." Noventa's body nearly hummed with anticipation. Heero was falling into his trap. The lies would damn him, but he already considered himself above divine judgment.

Heero stepped forward, the cold returning to his gaze as he shoved the gun butt-first at Noventa. "Then end this now."

Noventa smiled as he felt the lightning of those words burn through him. "It'll be...my pleasure." Noventa swiped the weapon from the gullible man, smiling as he brought it hard across Heero's jaw.

Heero staggered to the side, surprised by the blow, and as he turned back, Noventa could see he had done a good job of slapping some emotion onto the man's face. Noventa would have preferred to see fear, but was consoled by the challenge to bring it out of the stubborn pig. Heero's shock quickly turned to anger, but Noventa did not give him time to act. Again the gun slammed against the side of Heero's head, knocking him off-balance. Noventa smiled as Heero fell to his hands and knees--on all fours, as a pig should be. He wanted to take more time to enjoy the sight, but he knew Heero would not stay down for long. It was a shame. He had hoped to get more out of the finale.

As Heero began to rise, Noventa struck him again and was pleased when blood sprayed from the man's lips as he fell. Noventa cursed the fact that he had not worn shoes, but kicked Heero harder to make up for it. Heero stopped struggling, but he was not out. Though half-blinded from a swelling eye and dazed from the constant blows, Heero tried to stop Noventa's descending foot, but Noventa easily shook free. Heero was finished--it could be seen in his eyes as he glared up at Noventa. A pure hate emanated from that once-handsome face, but Noventa knew hate alone could not save the beaten man.

Noventa stepped back, regarding Heero with an admiring stare. "You are quite an impressive man, Mr. Heero Yuy. But you were right. You're not greater than I."

He lowered the gun to the level of Heero's hard expression and was quite surprised to hear the weapon go off before he pressed the trigger. He was even more surprised when his wounded leg gave way beneath him, dropping him to his knees. Noventa looked up, his leg throbbing with the pain of the new wound. Leaning against a large crate was a man who should have been suffering a slow death in the darkness of a forgotten wine cellar. "Well, well. Isn't this a surprise? You're doing well for a malnourished cripple. I should have taken more than your toes."

Wufei defiantly pushed away from the crate, refusing its support. "You will steal nothing more from me. Raise your gun, coward; I will not face a weak opponent."

Noventa grabbed onto the side of the forklift to stand, his grin reappearing. Wufei's appearance brought a new challenge, but it was one that could easily be won. Though the light was bad, Noventa could see the pain on Wufei's tight face as he shifted on his feet. After his days spent in Noventa's care, it was amazing the man could stand at all. Noventa snorted. Though Wufei was armed, his aim would be affected by his weak condition. He would not be much of a threat. "You're a picky little pain in the ass. Why don't you just shoot me? Unless you don't trust your aim. Should I come nearer? Should I turn around? Though it's not very chivalrous of you, I do believe my back was your intended target."

"You son of a--"


Heero's voice startled Noventa. He had thought the man unconscious, but Heero was awake and moving. Noventa watched in growing admiration as Heero struggled to his feet, teetering from disorientation. The fellow was not going to go gently into that good night, and that realization refueled Noventa's desire for play. If he worked things right, he could have so much fun with Heero. Noventa glared at Wufei. The cripple was in the way.

Staggering up from the floor, Heero took up a position between Noventa and Wufei. "Wufei, leave now."

"What?" Wufei spat out in frustration. "What are you doing?!"

"I told you I'd take care of this."

"This isn't taking care of things! You're giving him what he wants!" Wufei waved his hand in an arc before him as if trying to sweep Heero out of the way. "Get out of my way and let me kill him."

Noventa held onto the forklift, taking advantage of Heero's interruption to consider his options. Through the crook of Heero's arm, Noventa could see Wufei perfectly without being seen clearly in turn. It would not be hard to get in a good shot from behind the wall of Heero's back and bring down that obstinate cripple. Noventa carefully raised his gun and aimed.

"It's not your turn, you cheating little prick." Duo's deadly cold voice hissed in Noventa's ear. "Let me show you how Death likes to play."

The cold feel of metal tickled Noventa's brow, and he froze, glancing at Duo standing by his side. Though the man looked pale and beaten, Noventa could tell this one was not going to waver in body or mind, no matter what tricks were planned. Noventa's luck had run out, but he would not feel he had lost if he could manage one last thing. All it would take was one shot--one blow and the final pig would be his. The others could kill him, but Heero would have lost his life before then, and Noventa would have proven who the better man was.

"It doesn't matter what you do now. I'll have the last one." Acting quickly, before the men could figure out his move, Noventa pulled the trigger.

But Heero had turned, raising his gun as if he knew what was going to happen. It did not matter. Noventa's move had come first--of course. He was the master. Noventa's angelic smile twisted demonically as the bullet flew.

And missed its target.

Noventa felt the world shift out from under him in thundering protest, and he dimly realized he had fallen. Another boom roared through his body, and this time he knew the gunshot for what it was. Through a haze, he searched for his tarnished idol. He needed to see Heero; he needed to know if Heero had been the one who shot him. Death was an acceptable loss that could come by any hand, but not by Heero's. He could not be bested by Heero. He could not.

Noventa's ears were still ringing when a third noise, this one like a distant rumble, followed the second shot. He had no time to see--no time to curse--the betrayal of the killing tide, as its deadly wave greedily claimed him.