<sweats> Been a while, ne?
Crossover, GW/FY, spoilers for FY, AU, OOC, yaoi, unashamed Tamahome-abuse, angst, handcuffs, etc.
Previous parts of this so-lengthy fic may be found under Lys ap Adin at http://www.geocities.com/fenris_wolf0
Okane and Omae o Korosu
Nuriko winced as he saw Heero approaching him from the other side of camp. The he busied himself in grooming his horse, trying to seem as if he wasn't aware of Heero.
"Heero." Brush, brush, brush. Concentrate on the horse, not Heero.
"I think... you and I should talk."
"What's there to talk about?" Don't look up, don't sound upset, don't sound interested.
"You're angry with me. I want to know why, and what I can do about it."
"Did I ever say I was angry, Heero? I'm not angry. Why should I be angry? Nothing has happened between us - absolutely nothing." Don't get upset. Don't reveal the emotion. Above all, don't cry in front of him.
Heero grunted, sounding annoyed. "Then what, Nuriko? What did I do? Why have you been ignoring me?"
"I haven't been ignoring you, Heero." No, I've been watching your every move and hating myself for it. Because I don't want to hate you.
"Fine. I can't force you to tell me." Heero sighed, running a hand through his hair irritably. "Whatever I did or said in that illusion, I'm sorry about it. And as for that kiss -"
"Are you sorry about that, too?" Why am I torturing myself like this?
"No. Yes. Maybe." Heero sounded hesitant about saying even that much.
"Pick one, Heero, and have done with it." Masochism. Definitely masochism, or maybe just a reason to kill off this stupid thing hope.
"I don't know. I'm sorry it hurt you. But I like you, and I'm not sorry about that. But I have Duo at home - this isn't even my body. So I have no right - k'so. I'm no good at this." Heero threw his hands in the air, remembering the times he'd caused Duo to do the same, and just glared crossly at Nuriko. "Do you have any idea what I'm trying to say?"
"Aa. I think Mitsukake could use some help with the tents, Heero." Go away, please... I don't have any self-control.
Heero stared at him. "Fine." He walked away, pausing briefly mid-step. He never once called me Hee-chan.
Nuriko stared down at the currycomb. Baka. Nuriko no baka.
The orders came in almost as soon as Quatre submitted the mission report.
Safehouse possibly compromised. Relocate immediately as
per normal procedures.
Quatre swore quietly.
"Nani?" Trowa asked.
"Safehouse move, effective five minutes ago," Quatre replied, confirming the encryptions and the source as genuine.
"I'll tell the others."
"Hai." Quatre began shutting down the computer, fingers moving quickly.
Wufei was already packing when Trowa found him. "Moving?" he asked. Trowa nodded. "As I expected. Transportation?"
"No special orders."
"Duo?" Trowa said into the dark living room.
"I'm awake. What?" He flipped on the table lamp.
"Orders. Moving to a new safehouse."
"Shit. What about His Royal Snippiness?"
Trowa blinked. "..."
"Damn." Duo sat up. "You're driving?"
"Hate to ask you to do this, Tro, but do you mind if he rides with you?"
"It's fine. Probably the best plan for now."
Duo smiled in relief. "I owe you one, Trowa."
Trowa's eyes softened slightly in understanding. "Get packed. I'll go get him."
"No, I'll have to pack for me and Heero anyway. I'll do it," Duo said quietly.
Tamahome sat up as the bedroom door swung open. "Who - what?"
"It's me. Shield your eyes," Duo said curtly. He waited three seconds and flipped the lights on. Tamahome yelped in agony. "Get up and dressed, we're moving out."
"Huh? What the hell are you talking about?" Tamahome growled.
Duo explained as he pulled a pair of duffel bags out of the closet. "We're leaving this safehouse; OZ may know we're here. It's security." He began filling the bags, tossing in clothes, a few personal items, and Heero's stuff, all in a carefully rehearsed method. "Trowa's giving you a ride. Get dressed, we're leaving as soon as possible."
Tamahome's eyes hardened. "Don't order me around, teme."
Duo rounded on him suddenly, so fast that Tamahome didn't have time to blink. "Listen to me, Tamahome. I've put up with your shit for two days now, and haven't said a word about it. But I am not going to let you get away with endangering me, my friends, or our mission just because you don't fucking like me. Got that? Now get dressed."
"Go to hell."
Duo shrugged. "Been there, done that. Once last chance, Tamahome. We can do this the easy way... or the hard way. Get. Dressed."
Tamahome gave in. "At least I'm riding with Trowa," he spat.
Duo nodded. "Yeah, I really owe him for the favor of putting up with you." He zipped the duffels closed. "Ja ne, Tamahome-kun!" He bounded out the door as Tamahome gritted his teeth.
Amiboshi crested the top of the bluff overlooking tiny river village and smiled despite his troubles. It was nice to know that no matter what, he'd be able to count on a surrogate home of sorts with Kaika's family... No, if only Shun'u would have come back with him...
The hairs on the back of his neck prickled suddenly, as he sensed a flicker of too-familiar ki. Heart sinking, he turned slowly. "Nakago-sama."
"What remarkably good health you're in, Amiboshi." The blond affected great surprise and delight - at least, for him. "Why, we thought you dead."
"I'm not going back with you." Amiboshi glared. "I'm not going to do it anymore. What you're doing is wrong, and I won't have any part in it."
Nakago's eyes narrowed. "Such insolence does not suit a boy like yourself," he said coldly. "You are Seiryuu no Shichiseishi, and you will serve Seiryuu no miko's purposes -"
"Am I serving her? Or you?" Amiboshi flared.
Nakago smirked. "That's the beauty of it. They are the same thing." He glanced down at the river valley. "Such a pretty little village, so quiet. So unprotected."
"You - bastard." Amiboshi clenched his fists. "You wouldn't dare!"
"Do not presume what I would and would not dare, Amiboshi," Nakago said dangerously. "I trust you will be returning to camp with me." A statement of fact, not a question, Amiboshi noted.
"Of course, Nakago-sama. I could not fail to do otherwise." Amiboshi quelled his rage, for the time, and dutifully followed Nakago to the waiting horses.
Tamahome shook his head. "No. Absolutely not. I am not going anywhere near those things!"
Trowa and Quatre exchanged Looks. "Tamahome, be reasonable," Quatre tried for the last time.
"I am being reasonable! Those things are monsters!"
Wufei muttered, "I suppose that's apt, in a sense..."
Quatre sighed, dropped his duffel, and started rummaging through the bag. "Tamahome, I really didn't want to do this," he said sadly. "Wufei, Trowa, would you hold him still, please?"
"Huh - let go of me! What are you doing?" Tamahome sputtered as Wufei and Trowa obeyed Quatre's orders. "Oi! Let go! What the - teme, get those away from me!"
Quatre closed the padded handcuffs around Tamahome's wrists with two small clicks, handing the key to Trowa.
Wufei looked at the two of them steadily, as they both flushed red. "Do not tell me anything, I really don't want to know about it," he said gravely, walking away.
Duo ambled into the hangar and blinked at the cursing, handcuffed Tamahome. "Anou... when we get Heero back, can I borrow those?" he asked cheerfully.
"Sure," Quatre agreed, relieved that Duo had foregone the opportunity to have a little fun at the expense of his and Trowa's dignity. "I'll help you load him into the cab, Trowa."
Duo crossed the space to Deathscythe, whistling and already planning on something nice to do for Trowa as a thank-you gift. He could hear Tamahome's volatile curses all the way into Deathscythe's cockpit. Duo nodded decisively. Yes, he'd get Trowa a very nice gift in repayment.
"Ne... Nuriko no da?" Chichiri approached his fellow seishi as the sun went down.
"Hai, Chichiri?" Nuriko smiled brightly at the monk.
"How are you no da?" Chichiri settled himself on the broad, sun baked stone that Nuriko was using as a seat.
"Fine, Chichiri. Why do you ask?" Nuriko knew he wasn't fooling either of them.
"Things... seem tense between you and Heero na no da..." Chichiri paused. "So I wondered no da."
"Everything is just fine, Chichiri," Nuriko said slowly. "But thank you for asking."
Chichiri sighed. "Daa... I guess you'll talk about it when you're ready no da."
"It shouldn't be that much longer till we reach Sailo," Chiriko mused.
"Good thing, too." Tasuki glared at his horse. "I hate this damned animal."
Heero thought about venturing a few pieces of advice about horsemanship, but decided against it. Tasuki's antics were just more entertaining, making the otherwise monotonous trip more amusing.
Miaka sighed. "I can't wait to get Tamahome back," she said dreamily. "I miss him so much..."
Heero snorted, though he had to admit he understood her viewpoint... He missed Duo, and had so many things to say to him...
Chichiri, at the head of the column, stopped abruptly, shoulders gone tense. "Something's wr-"
Lightning crashed down from the clear night sky.
Okane and Omae o Korosu
"Are you finished now?" Trowa asked, when Tamahome - an hour and a half down the road to the new safehouse - finally lapsed into silence after a lengthy tirade.
Tamahome glared at him. "I hate you people."
"Sorry about the handcuffs," Trowa said, making an effort at being social.
"But you're not sorry enough to get rid of them, ne?"
Trowa glanced briefly at the other boy, eyes blank and considering. Then he shrugged. "...you're not much of a threat, I suppose."
"Oi!" Tamahome sputtered, insulted, before remembering that for now, if Trowa thought him innocuous, that was for the best. "Take them off... please?"
Wordlessly, Trowa pulled the truck over to the shoulder of the highway, fishing the keys out of his pocket and unlocking one side of the handcuffs, which he promptly snapped around the door handle. Then he put the truck back into gear and pulled back onto the highway while Tamahome blinked owlishly at him.
"You guys are paranoid," he muttered, looking torn between laughter and launching into another rant.
"Aa. It's our job."
"This is one hell of a messed-up world," Tamahome muttered darkly.
Trowa snorted. "That's true. Get some sleep, you need it."
Tamahome muttered a little under his breath, but busied himself with contorting himself into a vaguely comfortable position. Somewhat relieved, Trowa sighed and relaxed for the rest of the drive.
The analytical portion of Heero's mind immediately sprang into action, even as he fought to calm his horse. Lightning, from a clear sky - Soi? Miaka was screaming as her own horse, panicked, bucked and reared. Heero growled, desperately trying to soothe his horse enough to be able to reach her.
Lightning crashed again, painfully close, accompanied by the sound of rising laughter. Definitely Soi, Heero noted detachedly.
From the sounds of the voluble swearing, Tasuki's horse had already thrown him. "Rekka shinen!"
There, to the north, fifty feet, holding the higher ground. Heero forced his horse around, looking for Miaka and finding her clinging helplessly to her saddle, face white and set. Making a tactical decision, Heero left the fight for the other seishi. In this world, he wasn't as effective a warrior as they. Saving the miko now best served his purposes. At least Tasuki is distracting the enemy.
Apparently, Nuriko had the same idea about getting Miaka off the terrified horse. By dint of sheer strength, he caught the horse's bridle and held it; Heero took the opportunity to pull Miaka to safety. It was just in time, as more lightning thundered down. The horse reared, knocking Nuriko aside. Heero offered him a hand up, pulling Nuriko to his feet, then looked calmly at Soi. "I really wish I had a gun," he said absently, noting the clear way she was outlined against the sky.
Nuriko was much less interested in Soi. He looked past Miaka, to the figures behind them. "Amiboshi - Suboshi!" he hissed.
"Gomen nasai," Heero heard one of the twins say softly, before something hard slammed into his temple.
Soi smiled faintly, dodging another gout of flame and retaliating with a lightning strike. Too easy... you make it too easy... She played with them for a little longer, ensuring that the brothers had plenty of time in which to abscond with the miko and the stranger while the rest of the group focused on her. Then, satisfied with a job well done, she laughed and fled.
"Tasuki, don't no da!" Chichiri yelled as the bandit started to sprint after Soi. "We've got bigger problems no da!"
"Eh?" Tasuki paused. "What the hell are you talking about, Chichiri?"
"Miaka and Heero are gone na no da."
"What the - " Tasuki swore as he saw Mitsukake helping a groggy Nuriko sit up. "Where'd they go?"
"Suboshi and Amiboshi took them," Nuriko mumbled.
Tasuki groaned in disbelief. "We're in deep shit now..."
Tamahome woke up to an insistent shaking. "Wake up, we're here."
"Huh?" Tamahome sat up, stretching stiff, sore muscles and trying to blink the confusion from his eyes. "Where are we?"
"The new safehouse," Trowa explained, uncuffing the restraints.
Tamahome looked around in the pre-dawn light, finding the forested area considerably more comforting than the strange urban area of the last safehouse. "Oi... you didn't stay up all night, did you?"
Trowa shrugged. "Go on inside. Wufei probably already has breakfast ready."
Tamahome realized he was hungry... he hadn't eaten since his most recent falling-out with Duo, after all. While Trowa went to see to his gundam, Tamahome hopped out of the truck. He toyed briefly with the idea of slipping away while Trowa was distracted and escaping from these strangely adult boys while he had the chance, but discarded the idea. He was next to helpless in this world, injured, penniless, and clueless. It would never work.
He trudged inside, immediately catching the scent of food and following it to the kitchen.
"Good morning, Sunshine - oh, it's you." Duo's cheerful statement faded immediately. "Where's Trowa."
"Mm. Hungry?" Duo pointed to the stove. "It's not much, but it'll fill you up."
"What is it?" Tamahome regarded the stack of flat cakes suspiciously.
"Maxwell specialty - pancakes." Duo winked at him. "Trust me. They're good. I've been making them since - well, it's been a long time."
"Fine, whatever. I guess I'll eat." At that moment, his stomach growled loudly.
"Coffee?" Duo put a pile of pancakes on a plate, doused them with syrup, and handed it to Tamahome.
"No." Tamahome grimaced. "I don't know what you see in that stuff."
"A guy has to get his boundless energy from somewhere." Duo smirked. "Are you going to stare at those things all morning?"
"Hn." Tamahome took a cautious first bite - the texture was light, almost melting in his mouth, and nearly too sweet.
Tamahome grunted and continued to eat.
Duo accepted the praise and busied himself with the dishes in the sink. At least Tamahome was being civil for a change.
That was how Trowa found them a few minutes later. "Duo. You're up early."
Duo made a face. "I let Wufei sleep in. You guys have earned it, ne? There're pancakes on the stove."
"Coffee?" Trowa asked, piling the pancakes onto a plate and digging in hungrily.
"Fresh-brewed. Are you planning on staying up?" Duo looked puzzled.
"Heavyarms took some damage."
"Oi, get some sleep, I'll look into it," Duo offered. "I owe you a favor, remember?"
Trowa hesitated mid-bite.
"Even Heero says I'm good with my hands," Duo added with a leer.
Tamahome nearly choked on his pancakes. "Hentai!"
"And damn proud of it," Duo chuckled, watching Trowa as he devoured his breakfast. "What do you say, Tro?"
"Don't change any of my system calibrations."
"Got it. Oh, by the way, Quatre's in the third bedroom on the left."
"Aa." Trowa stuffed the last bite into his mouth, handed the plate to Duo, and headed out of the kitchen, presumably to bed.
Tamahome gaped. "They're - are they - "
Duo rolled his eyes. "Yeah, Quatre and Tro are together, too."
Tamahome's face twitched. "You're all... gay."
The other boy snorted. "Not Wufei, although the rest of us have tried and tried to get him to join our weekend orgies."
The plate dropped out of Tamahome's nerveless hands.
Duo doubled over laughing. "God, if you could see the look on your face! ... Relax a little. We don't have orgies, okay? And none of us is after Wufei's ass."
"You people are sick," Tamahome grumbled, picking up his plate and fork.
Duo tossed him a wet rag for the syrup. "What's so sick about taking love where you can find it, Tamahome? We're soldiers, and we could die the next time we have a mission," he said quietly. "We're just trying to survive as best as we can."
Regaining consciousness, Heero kept his eyes closed and his breathing even as he took stock of his situation.
He was sitting, with his arms restrained above his head. There seemed to be light in the room of some sort, perhaps from a lamp.
"I can tell you're awake, you know."
Heero lifted his head slowly to stare at the speaker, taking the opportunity to scan the room. Miaka was about three feet away, apparently still unconscious. The speaker loomed over them both, and Heero had to blink a little. Blond hair, blue eyes, armor... "You must be Nakago."
He smirked. "Astute of you."
Heero stared at him impassively, all the while trying to figure out some sort of escape route. The silence grew, until Nakago snorted. "Not one for bravado and speeches, are you?"
Nakago smiled faintly. "You're interesting, Heero Yuy. We will talk more later." He moved to stand over Miaka, thoughtfully.
"If you harm her, I will kill you."
The Seiryuu seishi snorted again, kneeling. "I've no interest in harming her... I'm much more interested in..." His voice trailed off. "She doesn't have the shinzaho."
Heero rolled his eyes and voiced his feelings on the matter. "Baka. She'd be an idiot to carry it around with her."
The blond turned, fixing a dark glare on him. "Where. Is. It?"
Heero smirked. "Go to hell." Duo's right... That is therapeutic.
Nakago moved swiftly, backhanding him. "I will not tolerate your insolence. Now - where is the shinzaho?"
"Omae o korosu."
Another blow - Heero could taste the blood in his mouth. He chuckled darkly. Nakago growled, beginning to sound very irritated.
Fortunately, there was an interruption as Soi entered what Heero was coming to recognize as a tent. "Nakago-sama."
"What is it?"
"We seem to have visitors."
Nakago's face went still and calm. Heero didn't like the new statement. "Very well. Have the soldiers bring the prisoners to the center of camp."
"Da..." Chichiri looked distinctly unhappy. "I have a bad feeling about this na no da."
Nuriko winced, looking down into the encampment. "Me too."
"Well, what else are we going to do? Sit here on our asses and wait for Miaka to eat Nakago out of house and home?" Tasuki asked pragmatically. "Let's go toast them."
"The odds of infiltrating the camp successfully and rescuing Heero and Miaka... well, they aren't good," Chiriko said worriedly.
Mitsukake stared down into the camp. "Uh-oh..."
Kutou soldiers were dragging Heero and Miaka out of a tent. Heero looked defiantly worse for the wear, and Miaka seemed unconscious.
"I see... Soi... Amiboshi and Suboshi... who's the runt?" Tasuki pointed at a tiny figure standing with the other Seiryuu seishi.
"The seventh seishi?" Chiriko ventured.
"Probably no da... Where's Nakago, though?" Chichiri murmured.
"You just had to ask..." Nuriko groaned, as the shogun appeared.
Suzaku no shichiseishi... I propose a trade." The voice carried powerfully. "Give me the shinzaho, and you may have your miko."
Okane and Omae o Korosu
Heero reacted strongly to Nakago's ultimatum. "Kisama!" He wrenched himself out of the grasp of the Kutou soldier and launched himself bodily at Nakago. "Omae o -"
Nakago barely acknowledged Heero long enough to flick him aside with a small ki-blast. Then he continued to address the hidden Suzaku seishi. "You have one hour to decide which you value more - your miko's life or the shinzaho."
"Don't do it!" Heero wheezed, disoriented by the unexpected battering. "Find another way!"
One of the soldiers kicked him. "Shut up."
"Aw, shit," Tasuki groaned. "Now what do we do?"
"Think very, very fast no da."
Nuriko watched the unfolding scene silently. "Heero doesn't seem to be making many friends, does he?"
"What are we going to do?" Chiriko asked.
"Pray for a goddamned miracle?"
Heero, propped up between two soldiers now, glared somewhat impotently at Nakago and the rest of the Seiryuu seishi, studying their expressions. Soi attended to Nakago's every movement. Another Une? Heero mused drily, shifting his focus to the twins. Amiboshi refused to look at either him or Miaka, staring fixedly at the ground. Suboshi was trying to be stoic, staring off into space, but he fidgeted incessantly with his ryuseisui. The child... Heero shivered slightly at the appearance of the child, unnerved by the ancient malevolence in his stare. That one is dangerous.
"Nakago, what is going on here?"
Eh? Oh, her... Yui. The other miko. Heero stared hard at the girl.
"Yui-sama," Nakago nodded, greeting her. "We have arranged a trade with the Suzaku seishi. Their miko for the Genbu no shinzaho."
She crossed her arms petulantly. "Why wasn't I informed?"
"It happened rather swiftly, and we could not afford to lose the initiative," he explained smoothly.
Yui snorted softly, moving to inspect Miaka. "Just like her to sleep all the time," she scoffed. She looked Heero over. "Could you have possibly been any rougher with him?"
"Forgive me, Yui-sama, but he is most troublesome." Nakago glared at Heero.
Let's see... what else does Duo like to say...? "Get bent, asshole." Heero spat for good measure.
Yui sniffed. "I don't know how I could have ever thought you were Tamahome."
Heero smirked. "I don't know how Miaka could have ever thought you were so smart."
Yui flushed. "How dare you?"
"If you're so intelligent, how come you let Blondie manipulate you so much? You're nothing but his puppet."
"Shut him up," Nakago snapped.
"What, afraid she might hear something you don't want her to hear, Nakago? Afraid she might realize I'm right?" Heero let the punch slam into his jaw, tasting fresh blood. "Oi, correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't the miko have to be a virgin?"
"Miboshi," Nakago said sharply.
"At once, Nakago-sama." The child-seishi smiled at Heero.
All at once, he felt liked he'd been gagged - no sound would emerge from his throat.
"Let's hear your lies now, Heero Yuy," Nakago said smugly. "Yui-sama, forgive me for allowing such abuse for so long."
Yui tore here eyes away from Heero's contemptuous, pitying stare. "Of course, Nakago. Excuse me." She hurried back inside her tent.
Chiriko winced. "Poor Heero... that looked painful."
"What the hell is he doing down there?" Tasuki wondered.
"Being his normal, charming self, I expect," Nuriko commented. He glanced at Chichiri. "Time's almost up, isn't it? I'll go."
Chichiri sighed. "Are you sure I can't change your mind no da?"
"Oi, with you and Tasuki covering me, what could go wrong?"
"Don't even ask... daaaa..."
Nakago's voice echoed up from the camp below. "Suzaku seishi, what is your answer?"
Chichiri fished the shinzaho out of his kasa. "Good luck no da."
Nuriko accepted the relic and stood, working his way down the hillside. He stopped about fifteen feet from the camp. "You can have the shinzaho. Now let us have Miaka and Heero."
Nakago gestured, and two Kutou soldiers carried Miaka forward. They dumped her at Nuriko's feet.
"What about Heero?" he called.
Nakago laughed. "I said you could have your miko for the shinzaho... I said nothing about Heero."
Duo stopped and shook his head. "Man, they say I watch too much TV," he complained. "Don't you ever get tired of that thing, Tamahome?"
"What else am I supposed to do?" he retorted.
"Uh... okay, you win. I'll be outside." Duo ambled outside and down the track to where a barn was serving as a makeshift Gundam hangar. He shooed a few disrespectful mice away from Deathscythe, then turned his attention to Heavyarms.
A few hours into repairs, Wufei found him. "Trowa's letting you work on Heavyarms?"
Duo's voice floated from inside Heavyarms, muffled. "Why does everyone seem to think I'm incompetent, huh? I'm a damned pilot, I've been working with machinery since I could walk, and I think I know what I'm doing! Geez..."
Wufei snorted. "Then why are you so sensitive about it?"
Duo jumped out of the Gundam. "Because I'm sick of taking peoples' flack, okay? It's getting really annoying."
"Been a rough couple of days, ne?" Wufei hauled himself up to sit next to Duo.
"How could you tell?"
"Call it a hunch."
"So, to what do I owe the honor of this visit, Wufei?"
"Came to check on Nataku."
"Aa." Duo stretched lazily. "The mission didn't go too well?"
"It could have been worse. I just wish there hadn't been people there taking pictures of us."
"It never gets any easier for us, ne?" Duo mused. "Man, I wish Heero were here."
Wufei rolled his eyes. "As if he'd be that useful right now. Wing is gone and he'd be too injured to do much more than sit in front of his computer."
"Well, yeah. But I'd feel better anyway." Duo drew his knees up to his chest, wrapping his arms around them.
"I think we all would." Wufei sighed. "What are we going to do when J starts making inquiries?"
"Hope that Tamahome is a better actor than he looks?"
"We're doomed." Wufei winced. "I wish we knew how to get Heero back."
"I just hope we can get him back ... before he gets himself killed." Duo stared into space darkly. Wufei looked at him curiously. "It's a long story, but it boils down to Heero taking his mission to protect this miko chick seriously."
"Do I even want to ask?"
"Heero nearly got himself killed the first day you were out, and Tamahome got to tell me all about it. Pretty freaky, if you ask me." Duo shook his head. "You can take the soldier away from the mission, but you can't take the mission away from the soldier."
"I'm fine, Wufei." Duo picked up a wrench and disappeared back into Heavyarms.
"Of course you are," Wufei muttered.
"What was that?"
Delighted with the chance to have slept late, Quatre took a few minutes to enjoy waking up slowly, followed immediately by several more minutes spent watching Trowa sleep, before finally crawling out of bed. Trowa mumbled sleepily, waking up just enough to mutter a little and then roll over. Quatre smiled, smoothed his lover's hair back, and then went in search of food.
En route to the kitchen, he passed by the living room. Tamahome was rapt before the television, and Quatre would have paid him no mind, had he not caught the word "Gundam."
He stopped, stepping in and angling for a view of the television. After a few minutes, he cursed softly.
"Is it true?" Tamahome asked evenly, eyes never leaving the screen.
"I... don't know." Quatre tore his eyes away from the screen and its scrolling list of civilian casualties of the Gundam attack. "Probably."
"Such strong, brave soldiers, to kill so many people and not even know who you're killing."
"We didn't know they were there - civilians aren't supposed to be at military complexes." The words were hollow, and he knew it. "They aren't supposed to - Allah. Do you know where Wufei is?"
"Thank you." Quatre rubbed his eyes and went to find Wufei. He had a feeling that Wufei wasn't going to take this news very well.
Heero's eyes went wide briefly at Nakago's pronouncement. K'so. What does he want with me? Mutely, he struggled against his bonds and his captors.
"You can't have the shinzaho unless we get both Miaka and Heero."
Heero would have growled if it were possible. Baka! Don't let your personal feelings get involved, Nuriko.
Nakago laughed again. "Such devotion to one who is not even a member of your group... It's touching, but pointless. Believe me, Heero will be much more useful to me. Now, the shinzaho."
Useful? He really didn't like the sound of that.
"Nakago-sama, this isn't fair!"
All attention swiveled to the seishi, who quailed a little under the burning weight of Nakago's glare. "You're going to have the shinzaho. Let him go, he hasn't done anything to you. He's not even from this world! Let him go."
"You are very presumptuous, Amiboshi," Nakago said coldly. "Do not think to tell me what to do. Need I remind you how precarious your own situation is?"
From somewhere, Amiboshi found the strength to glare back. "Precarious? Of course it's precarious! You're blackmailing me, and I'll probably be dead the moment I'm no longer useful to you and your schemes."
Heero had to admit a certain sense of relief that Amiboshi hadn't returned to the Seiryuu camp completely of his own will. Still, the defiance wasn't likely to gain anyone anything. Writhing his fingers against the ropes around his wrists, Heero wished heartily for one of Duo's knives.
Nakago seethed, looking as if he'd like nothing more than for Amiboshi to drop dead. Suboshi looked uncertainly between his brother and the blond, obviously torn. Miboshi and Soi both watched the power struggle inscrutably, while the assorted soldiers seemed intrigued and amused by Amiboshi's outburst.
Heero glanced up the hill, to Nuriko. Take Miaka and the shinzaho and run... forget about me, I can take care of myself. Take advantage of the opportunity, you won't see the like again... he silently urged the seishi.
"Amiboshi's right," Suboshi spoke up. "He's absolutely useless in a fight - He probably hurts the Suzaku seishi more than he helps them. Why waste our precious time and energy on him, Nakago-sama? Or does it matter to you what happens to us as long as you get what you want?"
I am not useless. Not entirely, anyway.
"I think," Nakago said very coldly, "that I have heard more than enough from the two of you today. I do not have to justify my actions to you as long as they serve the miko."
Heero rolled his eyes.
Amiboshi seemed even less impressed. "Yui-sama is as much a tool as any of the rest of us," he scoffed. "She just hasn't realized it yet."
Nuriko hesitated, glancing down at Miaka and the shinzaho in his hands, and then at the altercation below. What to do, what to do? If I were Heero, what would I want me to do?
If I were Heero... the most important thing would be Miaka. Then the shinzaho. I would be last. Nuriko bit his lower lip hard enough to draw faint traces of blood. Surreptitiously, moving slowly to keep from distracting either of the soldiers, he tucked the shinzaho away. Then he smiled too sweetly, tapping the nearest soldier lightly on the shoulder. "Excuse me... please don't take this personally." He slammed his fist into the man's gut, sending him flying several feet, then whirled on the other soldier, knocking him out with an uppercut. Scooping up Miaka, he ran for cover.
"What the hell was that all about?" Tasuki sputtered. "You can't just leave Heero to Nakago like that!"
Nuriko winced, handing Miaka to Mitsukake. "I was trying to win some time. Besides, I have a feeling that Heero would have done the same thing, ne? His mission before himself."
"Can't argue with that no da." Chichiri peered over the crest of the hill. "Nakago doesn't look happy no da."
"No shit," Tasuki grunted.
Heero relaxed slightly as Nuriko fled with Miaka. It took Nakago a few precious seconds to recognize what had happened.
"Nakago-sama - Suzaku no miko!" Soi cried.
"What?!" Nakago spun around.
He's... glowing. That can't be a good sign. Heero watched, fascinated and somewhat unnerved, as waves of blue ki began to roll off Nakago like a heat mirage. At the same time, he realized that the ropes on his wrists were finally beginning to loosen up.
Okane and Omae o Korosu
"Great. Just great. OZ is going to have a field day with this," Duo muttered savagely. "Have you confirmed...?"
"Not yet. I wanted to tell you first." Quatre looked searchingly at Wufei, whose face was still and expressionless.
"Does Trowa know yet?" Wufei asked quietly, voice even.
"He's still asleep. I hate to wake him."
"Don't," Duo advised. "He needs the sleep, and there's nothing to be done immediately anyway. It won't hurt anything if he gets a few more hours."
"I agree," Wufei murmured. He turned away abruptly. "I need to review Nataku's log now."
"Of course." Quatre waved him away. "How much longer will you be with Heavyarms, Duo?"
He shrugged. "Maybe an hour. Some of the repairs will take replacement parts, and I'm not going to cannibalize Deathscythe for them."
Quatre lifted an eyebrow, but chose not to comment. "When you're done, I could use your help analyzing the mission data."
Duo nodded tightly. "Understood. I'll be in as soon as I can." That said, he busied himself again with Trowa's Gundam.
"Retrieve the shinzaho." Nakago's voice was calm. Heero decided privately that he would have much preferred it if the Seiryuu seishi had seemed more perturbed. "Do whatever is necessary, but retrieve that shinzaho." When both soldiers and seishi hesitated, he snapped, "Now!"
The soldiers responded instantly to the order, fanning out and starting to advance up the hill that the Suzaku seishi were holding. Likewise, Soi and Miboshi drew themselves up, focusing their attention on some remote inner place in preparation for a more serious sort of battle. From the top of the hill, a faint shimmer indicated that Chichiri had some sort of protective magic in place.
Amiboshi folded his arms quietly. "No." Standing next to him, Suboshi fiddled nervously with his ryuseisui, but made no move away from his brother.
"This is a foolish time to declare your independence," Nakago said ominously. His eyes flicked from Amiboshi's face to Suboshi's face and back. "One last chance -"
"I do not want your last chances." Amiboshi glared at Nakago.
"Suboshi... are you going to let your brother's decisions guide you for the rest of your life?" Nakago inquired, switching his attention to the other twin. "Think of the loyalty you owe the miko..."
"I trust my brother more than I trust you, Nakago," Suboshi whispered.
Nakago shrugged, almost casually. "I was afraid you'd say that." He lifted his hand, the eerie blue ki coalescing into a sphere around his palm.
"Shun'u. Run." Amiboshi hissed.
Sitting at the kitchen table, Quatre wordlessly pushed a handful of computer disks at Duo when he came in from working on Heavyarms. Duo washed the grease off his hands and went to borrow Heero's laptop. He paused by the living room, listening to the announcer briefly: "Bennet, Leslie, age thirty-eight, mother of two, engineering consultant. Brown, James, age fifty-two, computer programming specialist. Carson, Erik, age twenty-seven..."
Duo didn't linger to find out what Carson, Erik had done to merit being on a doomed military base. "The mission was a set-up?" he asked as he arranged himself at the table across from Quatre.
Quatre made a notation on a pad of paper without looking up at Duo. "Possibly. Those are Heavyarms' logs. See what you can pull out of them."
"Aa. Wufei's not taking this well."
"Yes, Duo, I know." Quatre made another notation on his paper. "He'll come back when he's ready to."
"So you noticed him clearing out of here like a bat outta hell, too, huh?" Duo flipped through the disks, selecting the first in the series.
"It wasn't something a person would miss easily."
"That's true." Duo pulled up the first file and lapsed into silence.
Time passed quickly as they worked steadily, Duo reconstructing the basic course of the battle and Quatre reviewing the data they'd been given prior to the mission, comparing it to previously published information regarding the targeted base and the current statistics splashed luridly over every official OZ network.
"They don't match up," Quatre muttered.
Quatre looked up from his notes and smiled tiredly at Trowa. "Didn't hear you get up. Sleep well?"
Trowa shrugged imperceptibly. "What is it?"
"Much higher civilian casualties than you were told to expect," Duo said bluntly.
Trowa looked at Quatre for a more elaborate explanation.
"According to our original mission parameters and information, the base we attacked was supposed to have been a munitions factory." Quatre tapped the printouts for emphasis. "However, the base appears to have actually been a bureaucratic center, with minimal military activity of the sort we were expecting."
"A trap," Trowa said flatly.
"Yeah... just what OZ needs to make us look bad, ne?" Duo took a moment to stretch. "Did what I could with Heavyarms, and contacted Howard for the parts you're going to need to finish the job."
Trowa nodded in acknowledgment. "Wufei?"
"Needed some time to think, I expect," Quatre supplied. "He left after he heard."
"Aa." Trowa took one of the empty seats. "Was it a deliberate trap set by OZ or false information from a security breach in our network?"
Quatre shook his head. "That's what I'm getting ready to work on."
"Did anyone get the number of that truck?" Miaka mumbled, sitting up woozily. She looked around, at the tense, strained faces of her seishi. "What?"
"Nakago has Heero captured, we're surrounded by Kutou soldiers, and there are at least two Seiryuu seishi down there ready to eliminate us in order to get the shinzaho," Chiriko informed her with a certain understandable nervousness.
Miaka blinked and administered a pinch to her forearm. "Not a dream..." she mumbled resignedly.
Tasuki drew a careful aim on a particularly crowded knot of soldiers. "Rekka... shinen!" He snickered darkly. "That'll teach those dumbasses to stand all bunched up like that."
"Uh-oh," Nuriko muttered. "Amiboshi and Suboshi are in trouble."
"Amiboshi? What's he doing here?" Miaka scrambled over to where Nuriko was peering down past the advancing soldiers. "Oh, no..."
His two captors were much too interested in the showdown between the brothers and Nakago. This could work to his advantage, definitely. Heero worked the last of the ropes free, feeling them slither off his wrists and into the dust behind his heels and already moving, tearing free of the slack hands grasping his upper arms. The soldier to his left crumpled in a satisfying heap as Heero drove an elbow into his throat. The soldier on his right barely had the time to register the sight of the fist that sailed into his face before it hit and he joined his comrade.
Need a weapon. Heero looked up at Nakago and the gathering energy. No time. He threw himself at Nakago. Mission: Eliminate the greatest threat to the miko.
"He's... insane," Mitsukake, watching, pronounced.
Tamahome dropped the remote control, half-lurching out of his seat on the couch before hitting his knees. "Not... again..." he groaned as a second set of impressions and images overlaid his vision.
Duo's head jerked up from his borrowed laptop. "Did you guys hear something?" he asked.
Quatre blinked. "Um..."
Duo frowned. "I'm going to go check on Tamahome. Be right back."
How did he get free? Amiboshi wondered as a blur of slightly battered Heero tackled Nakago without regard for personal safety. He shoved Suboshi away with all the force he could muster, taking advantage of the unexpected distraction to dash in the opposite direction. Nowwhatnowwhatnowwhat?
His gaze fell on Miboshi and the slight shimmering in the air before the concentrating seishi.
It occurred to Heero, about five seconds after he had knocked Nakago's concentration off-kilter, that a more detailed mission plan might have been a good thing to have before flinging himself bodily on the Seiryuu seishi. But there was no time for regrets as he wrestled with Nakago, kicking and punching and hanging on for as much as his borrowed body was worth.
"You damned interfering -" Nakago cursed as Heero found an exposed bit of skin and bit him savagely. He grappled with Heero, trying to throw the other man off, but Heero had a chokehold around Nakago's throat and was grimly determined to hold on if it killed him. Which, he reflected as Nakago tensed and started to collect his ki, it very well might.
Okane and Omae o Korosu
"What are we going to do?"
Nuriko shook his head at Miaka's question. "I don't know. Nakago's going to slaughter him."
"We're going to be slaughtered if we don't do something," Tasuki predicted grimly. "Rekka shinen!"
What remained of the singed group of Kutou soldiers wavered in their advance up the hill, looking fearfully up at the fire-wielding bandit and then back to where Nakago tussled with Heero.
"Brace yourselves no da!"
That was all the warning Chichiri could manage as one of Soi's lightning bolts splattered against his barrier, jarring them all.
Well, I never liked him anyway, Amiboshi mused, reaching for his flute. He's downright creepy, if you ask me. Placing the flute to his lips, he began to play, focusing on confounding his fellow seishi's ki.
He could see, from the corner of his eye, that his brother hadn't moved far, and was looking around with a sort of paralyzed indecision. Go, Shun'u. Go.
As if hearing his brother's silent urgings, Suboshi nodded once before taking off at a dead run.
"You know, I'm really damned tired of this entire lightning thing," Tasuki growled.
"You aren't the only one no da." Chichiri's voice was strained as another bolt jolted the group.
Crouched next to Nuriko, Miaka asked, "What's Amiboshi doing?"
"With the way our luck is going right now, I'm not sure I want to know," Nuriko muttered. "Uh, Tasuki, we've got visitors over here." He scrabbled through the sandy, loose soil for any weapon to use against the soldiers that were advancing too close for comfort. Miaka handed him a fist-sized rock, which Nuriko lobbed at the closest soldier with more force than accuracy.
He missed the first soldier, but the unfortunate man behind him went down, clutching his knee and howling in agony. Nuriko cheered. "Hand me another rock, Miaka."
Busy conjuring the monster that would destroy the Suzaku no shichiseishi so that the shinzaho might be recovered, Miboshi found his mind wandering a bit. It's such a fuss we make, he thought wryly. Seishi versus seishi, one side pitted against another. Pointless, really. When they've seen a century or two, they'll understand that nothing really changes. There's always someone hungry for power, willing to do anything to achieve his ambitions, and always someone to stop him. No matter who wins, everything stays the same. People are born, and people die.
Endless cycle, turning with the years, rising and falling like a prayer wheel. It's useless to fight against it. Best just to let things proceed naturally, to let fate or chance or whatever it is that rules our lives unwind the future. I have no need of these power games. I already possess what all men crave in their souls' cores, power and life unending. Really, dabbling as much as I already have jeopardizes these things that I worked so hard to attain. Yes. Let them fight each other. I wish to play no more part in this.
Miboshi let his spell dissipate, no longer interested in casting it.
In a dim corner of his mind, he heard the music from Amiboshi's flute trill in approval.
"Oh, shit, not again," Duo groaned, seeing the unfocused stare on Tamahome's face. He crouched in front of the other boy, passing a hand in front of the fixed blue stare, which did not waver. "Damn... Tamahome? Tamahome, can you hear me? Are you in there?" Duo paused. "Heero? Tamahome, Heero, one of you - talk to me!" He gripped Tamahome's shoulders firmly and shook him a little. "Talk to me, damn it! Tell me what's happening!"
"Duo, what is it?" Quatre asked, having followed him into the living room.
"I don't know, he's weirding out on me again and I don't know how to break it," Duo grunted.
"Again?" Trowa repeated.
"Yes, again." Duo glared at Tamahome. "Heero, if you're in there and you can hear me, don't you dare get killed!"
Behind him, Trowa and Quatre exchanged looks, wondering if Duo hadn't lost some of his reason in the stress of dealing with Tamahome's moods.
Staring down at the back of Nakago's head and neck (wavering hazily now with blue ki and sporting several scratch and bite marks in addition to missing a handful of blond hair), Heero could see another scene superimposed, flickering like a dying television: wide indigo eyes that refused to admit how worried they were, two slim figures standing in the background like patient guardian angels, and Duo's voice, echoing through a well a thousand years deep.
==Heero, don't die on me. Stay alive. Come home. Please, Heero. We need you.==
Heero locked his grip more firmly around Nakago's neck, even as the blond struggled to throw him off. Nakago's deep, mocking voice drowned out Duo's faint whisper. "Your friends on the hill are reduced to throwing rocks, Heero. How much longer do you think they can last?"
Heero glared at Nakago's ear and bit it, tasting blood, kicking at Nakago's gut without enough force to do damage.
Nakago pried at the tight grip. "Do you know what I will do with my wish?" he hissed to Heero. He grunted as Heero kicked at him again. "I will set myself up as a god, and I will conquer the lands of the four gods. Then I will conquer the mikos' world, and your world, and whatever other worlds there are besides."
Heero's eyes narrowed in his comprehension.
~Duo. There is something I must do.~
He locked one arm around Nakago's throat, battering at the man's head with his free hand.
~I can't go home till I do it, Duo. But I want to live. I'll come home, Duo, I promise.~
Nakago stooped, pulling Heero forward over his shoulder. Heero hit the ground, rolling immediately away from the blast of ki that left the spot he'd been just an instant before smoking.
~Duo. Aishiteru. Zutto.~
Regaining his feet, Heero eyed Nakago warily, ready to dodge at an instant's notice.
"Allah," Quatre whispered as Tamahome - Heero? - glowed faintly with an uncanny reddish light. "It's not possible... is it?"
Trowa shook his head as Heero - it had to be Heero, he couldn't imagine anyone else able to speak with the same flat precision, nor could he fancy Tamahome saying such things - continued to speak quietly to Duo, his mouth the only animate part of him. Everything else was as remote as a colony to the Earth. "I think," he said softly to Quatre, "that Heero Yuy can make something possible. If he really wants to."
Duo touched Heero's cheek. "I'm counting on you to keep that promise, Heero," he whispered roughly. "Go on and do what you have to do. I'll wait. I love you Heero Yuy, and don't you forget it."
The faint red light misted over Heero's body vanished, gone as suddenly as it had come.
Something changed in the blank cobalt eyes - they came back to life, focusing on Duo's face. Watching, Trowa knew without being able to explain how that it was Tamahome who was looking out of them now.
Duo recognized it too, pulling away from him slowly. "What was it this time?" he asked resignedly.
Tamahome glared at him. "Your bastard of a boyfriend attacked Nakago in my borrowed body."
Tamahome added an afterthought. "And Nakago said he wants to conquer the three worlds, too."
Duo groaned, while Trowa and Quatre shrugged at each other in confusion.
"Tasuki, a little help here? I'm starting to run out of rocks." Nuriko beaned another unlucky Kutou soldier.
"Damn it, I've only got one tessen!" Tasuki complained. "Even I'm not perfect."
"You're not? Damn, there went the last of my cherished illusions." Nuriko threw another rock and held out a hand to Miaka.
She shrugged at him. "Chiriko and I can't find any more rocks," she told him.
"Nuriko, I'm a little fucking busy right now!" Tasuki yelled. "Damn it, why won't these guys just die?!"
"Too easy for us no da," Chichiri said miserably, fending off another lightning bolt.
"Miaka, Chiriko, stay back with Mitsukake," Nuriko said grimly, clambering to his feet and preparing to fight. He nearly lost his footing as lightning shook the ground. "Isn't she getting tired?" he demanded.
Soi was becoming rather fatigued, and starting to wonder why Miboshi's creatures weren't yet helping regain the shinzaho. The wretched demon-child is probably waiting so that he can make the final strike and hog all the glory for himself, she decided.
She left off her work for a moment to check on Miboshi's progress, and stared. The tiny child-seishi was watching the fight between Nakago and Heero with a smug, superior statement that was badly out of place on his infant's face. Only then did she realize that the sweet tones of a flute soared over the sounds of battle. Amiboshi.
Yes, there he was, serenely playing his flute and keeping Miboshi from doing anything at all useful for Nakago. Soi gritted her teeth. As much as she empathized with Amiboshi and his desire to live in peace, the boy had a duty to fulfill. At the very least, he could not be allowed to hinder the rest of them as they worked to serve Seiryuu no miko. Forgive me, child. I would not do this if it weren't needful. She raised her hand and pointed at the obliviously playing Amiboshi.
Amiboshi's eyes flickered away from Miboshi for a moment as he continued to play. Suboshi flashed him a tiny sheepish grin, then looked ruefully down at Soi, who was going to have a killer headache whenever she woke up. Amiboshi switched the tenor of his music, moving from a mood of disdain to one of ennui, blended with lassitude. The music was soothing and gently coaxing, suggesting the pleasures to be found in retiring after a long day.
Miboshi yawned as he watched Nakago and Heero circling each other like two wild dogs. Looking mildly bored, he shrugged slightly and floated away in the direction of his tent.
"What the -" Nuriko grinned exuberantly. "Don't look now, but I think we have a pair of friends down there."
"Strange no da," Chichiri observed, obviously relieve that he no longer had to defend against Soi's attacks.
"I knew Amiboshi wasn't bad," Miaka said softly.
Tasuki interrupted. "It's not over yet, you know. Rekka shinen!"
"Tasuki's right no da. It's not over yet na no da." Chichiri thought a moment. "And Heero will not last long against Nakago no da."
Nuriko knocked one of the few remaining Kutou soldiers back into the man's companions. "So.. let's go rescue him."
"They do say the best defense is a good offense," Miaka volunteered brightly.
Heero decided, as he blocked one of Nakago's punches, that it was not turning out to be one of his better days. Without the benefit of seishi powers against Nakago, and already injured to boot, the fight was not going well in his favor.
He who fights and runs away lives to fight another day. It was one of Duo's little sayings: apt enough, especially in this situation. Now the question was how to flee while retaining some scrap of dignity.
Nakago blinked and almost misstepped slightly, leaving Heero just enough of an opportunity to land a solid kick to the man's midriff. The armor absorbed most of the blow, but Nakago rocked off-balance for a moment before recovering.
He's slowing down. Why? His mind immediately set to work on that question while Heero exploited the newfound advantage.
Nakago took several punches and kicks before his eyes cleared and he provided the answer for Heero. "Amiboshi," the man said coldly. "This is the last time he will cross me."
Heero really didn't like the sound of that.
"Everyone understand the plan no da?" Chichiri looked around. "Good." He spread his kesa on the ground, helping Miaka, Chiriko, and Mitsukake through the portal. Then he looked at Tasuki and Nuriko. "Ready no da?" They nodded. "Let's go."
"Aniki..." Suboshi watched Nakago and danced from foot to foot while his brother's music whirled and spun, confusing its target. "Aniki, this is way too dangerous."
Nakago looked up and through Heero, directly at them. Suboshi gulped as the cold blue eyes narrowed. "Aniki, I think he figured it - oh shit." Nakago's hand was rising, blue ki flowing together around his fingers. "Aniki -"
"Rekka shinen!" A gout of flames whipped up around Nakago as strong hands grabbed Suboshi's shoulders and pulled him out of Nakago's line of sight.
"Don't fight, I'm a friend," a voice told him, and Suboshi relaxed a little, recognizing Nuriko's voice. Then he was pushed into a warm, comforting darkness as his brother's flute broke off its music.
"Heero! This way no da!" He turned, seeing Chichiri waving at him urgently. Heero sighed internally, relieved, already sprinting towards Chichiri and the dark cloak spread across the ground. "Get in no da!"
Heero hesitated, uncertain. Behind him, Tasuki swore, voice uptight, and shoved him forward onto the kesa, and Heero fell into darkness.
Tasuki jumped after Heero, and Chichiri, tipping his kasa to Nakago, followed, pulling the kesa through the portal with him.
Nakago, feeling altogether out-of-sorts with the world, and almost certain that Tasuki had managed to singe his eyebrows off, gave vent to his frustrations by exploding a nearby hapless boulder.
~to be continued~
<adopts a pleading cutesy look> Feedback please? Please? Pleasssssssseeeeeeeee?
Bob: <thwap> Come off it already.
<sweat> Okay, okay... well, off I go now to get my oil changed in my car. Ja!