Part Four: Can’t See the Forest for the Trees
“Never, never again...” Wufei’s face promptly turned a sickly shade of green as he ran off into the brush. Sitting around the small campfire were three other Gundam pilots displaying varied shades of discomfort. Quatre held his stomach as he shifted in his sleeping bag groaning a little but not saying anything. Trowa watched him with concern as he held his own stomach and glared intermittently at the braided baka across the fire. Duo reclined against an old oak clutching his head and stomach wile exchanging between moans groans and out right curses as he rolled around in the damp leaves. Heero watched from his perch on one of the oak’s lower branches , a faint smile spread on his lips.
“Oi, Heero,” Duo called looking up to the smugly pleased boy, “Why aren’t you sick?”
“I didn’t eat your berries.” Heero replied in a matter of fact tone as he leaned back against the tree and closed his eyes. Duo looked cautiously over to the other two boys around the fire. He gave their angry glares a little smile and shrug before he returned to his moaning and tossing all night long.
Dawn rose slowly over the emerald canopy sending its warm rays dancing down between the leaves to the dewy ground and onto the sleeping party below. Heero casually surveyed the area for the thousandth time before closing his eyes for another ‘long blink.’ A few hours latter he woke to the smell of Quatre’s coffee and Duo’s caffeinated chatter.
“Mornin’ sleepy head.” the American’s teasing voice brought the Japanese instantly to his feet and at attention. Duo laughed.
“It’s Ok, Heero, nothing happened. I’m really sorry you had to take watch all night but I don’t think any of us were up to it.” Quatre apologized for all of them and handed Heero a steaming cup of coffee, “Sorry I don’t have any cream or sugar.”
“Duo got them all.” Wufei amended stirring his cup of ebony brew. He glared at the American before taking a tentative sip and setting the cup down. Duo shrugged and finished off his coffee in one swig before plopping down onto the leafy ground.
“So, now what?” he asked for the fifth time that morning.
“I don’t know...” Quatre’s eyes widened and he looked worried as he glanced about the brush surrounding the clearing, “do any of you know where we are?”
“Well, we know we’re not in Kansas anymore!” Duo laughed eliciting confused and or irate glares from his companions. “Hehehe... What?!”
Wufei rolled his eyes and sighed as he stood up and walked to the edge of the clearing. “We’re lost.” he stated flatly.
“Weell, how do we get un-lost?” Duo asked cleverly. Wufei glared at him, he’d been doing that a lot and Duo had to restrain himself from warning the Chinese about his face getting stuck like that, but then it was a little too late by now.
“West.” Trowa stated flatly, the others looked at him, “We go west.” he amended.
“Just like that, just get up and walk till God knows when in some random direction.” Duo began to protest but elicited angry glares from three of the four other pilots.
“Got a better idea.” Trowa almost snapped and Duo decided, after the ring, the pool, the fuzzy monster and last nights berries he really shouldn’t start any more trouble.
“No.” Duo conceded with a pout and they all packed their bags.
By noon the small party had traveled what one could only guess was about five miles having stopped at nearly every big tree, babbling brook, or interesting rock along the way. Duo was actually enjoying the little sojourn, it wasn’t often he got a chance to roam freely in thousands of acres of untamed wilderness, and never any so beautiful and untouched. It was strange, they’d all noticed it, not only were the animals uncannily tame and unafraid of humans- as if they’d never seen one before- but many of them were unnaturally large. Quatre had been startled while resting in a small clearing by a large falcon of sorts, a six foot wingspan had cast a twelve foot shadow across the clearing and the poor Arab didn’t know what to make of it. Heero shot it and they had a nice lunch. By the time the sky began to turn from blue to red the Gundam pilots were tired and frustrated and still very lost.
“You know, it’s odd but I can’t help but get this weird sense of deja vu from this place.” Duo sighed as he stared out at the seemingly endless forest.
“I know, me too.” Quatre stood beside him, the two gazed at a huge oak in a small clearing a few yards from the larger one they’d made camp in.
“I’ve seen that tree somewhere.” Duo breathed staring.
“In a forest this size one tree looks just like the next, now get over it and go to sleep, I don’t want to hear your whining tomorrow.” Wufei growled from the fire as he unrolled his sleeping bag.
“I don’t see why you’re in such a hurry to get to sleep,” Duo yawned, “waking up early won’t get us any less lost.”
“Sleeping late won’t either.” Heero hushed him in a strong tone.
“Well, it’s not my fault we’re lost,” Duo mumbled turning on his side to sleep. “You can’t see anything through these trees, I wanted to stay by the lake.”
“That’s it!” Wufei spun round suddenly. Duo startled, he didn’t expect them to hear that.
“Umm... I didn’t mean it,” Duo smiled, backing away from Wufei’s now manic grin... that just didn’t look right.
“Maxwell, for once you’ve had a good idea!” Wufei practically shouted.
“Huh?” Duo stared at the Chinese wide eyed.
“We can’t see where we are because of the trees, so, we get rid of the trees.” Wufei’d lost it, again.
“And how do you suppose we do that?” Quatre humored the insanity.
“We won’t really get rid of the trees, we’ll go around them” Wufei smiled a strange and desperate smile.
“Or rather, Over them! I get it!” Duo grinned whirling round to gaze up into the dark canopy above.
“Good,” the Chinese smiled, “now climb.” Wufei growled pushing Duo to a tall tree.
“Wha... who Me?” the American turned trying the innocent smile again, the one that never worked.
“Yes you, it was your idea, now climb.” Wufei ordered.
“But... Quatre.” Duo nearly whined as Heero stepped out of the shadows beside Wufei smiling slightly and nodding in agreement with the Chinese. Trowa seemed to take his usual neutral stand while Quatre battled with internal questions.
“Quatre.” Duo’s voice was pitched as he really did whine this time. As if on cue Trowa placed a slender hand on the Arab’s shoulder, Duo smiled.
“It’s dark.” Trowa stated flatly. Duo’s smiled widened as he turned to stick his tongue out at Wufei. “If there’s a city near there’d be lights, they’d be easier to see in the dark.” the taller pilot finished. It took a while for that to compute but when it did Duo nearly bit his tongue.
“What?!” he whirled on Trowa.
“Climb, Deathboy.” Wufei got as close to a laugh as any had heard from him.
“Traitor.” Duo grumbled as Trowa lifted him into the higher branches.
It took about half an hour for Duo to make it to the top of the huge tree, several minutes to get over the complete awe of the sight that stretched before him once over the canopy, fifteen minutes of searching and about thirty seconds to come down. Above the trees Duo was met by a sea of emerald and silver. Aspens, thousands of acres of aspens, much larger, taller than any he’d ever even heard of. They couldn’t tell what the trees were from below, some sort of hardwood, strange and unfamiliar, they’d never really paid much attention only noticed the few odd trees, the oaks and pines a cherry tree in a clearing. They’d never questioned what made up the bulk of the forest but Duo knew it could only be one thing, only on tree sparkled like that.
There had been an aspen in the yard of the Maxwell church, it had burnt down but when he was younger he would watch the moonlight shine on the heart shaped leaves, the wind would turn them over and the silver underneath would sparkle like stars in an emerald sea. For a long time Duo just stared out over the vast expanse of sparkling leaves. To the west he saw lights, flickering in the distance but on closer examination they were fireflies, they moved too much to be anything else. He sighed and was about to climb down when a bright light streaked across the open sky. Duo watched a single star fall into the distance, marveling at the number of stars left in the indigo sky. He was just beginning to realize he couldn’t find the colony’s bright lights hanging in the heaves or recognize any of the constellations when his eye caught a red flash from the eastern horizon. A light, faint and far away but a light. He looked closer and saw more, many more, hundreds of tiny lights like the fireflies in the west but these didn’t move, they were city lights... town lights anyway, there weren’t enough of them for a city. He whooped with joy and jumped down from his perch to the large branches below, unfortunately for him the particular large branch he landed on was large and rotten. He cursed his luck as the limb gave way and he came crashing down.
Below the other three heard a sharp distant cry then a growing rumble from the tree top. Quatre cringed as he finally figured out what was happening but they didn’t really have time to do anything about it. Heero leapt at the pile of branches and leaves that had fallen suddenly from the sky, pulling them off a sputtering Deathscythe pilot.
“Owchie...” Duo moaned as Heero gently lifted the last of the branches from him. Quatre stood over the two, worried eyes searching for injuries as Trowa walked silently up carrying a first aid kit he kept in his duffel. Wufei was watching from the edge of the clearing, strange look in ebony eyes.
“Baka.” Heero growled as he checked Duo’s eyes, his head, and spine. Remarkably Duo was fairly untouched, relatively anyway. He struggled up onto his arms and cringed at the pain clutching his leg.
“I think it’s broken.” he gritted through clenched teeth, Heero confirmed it and went off to find a split as Trowa bandaged his minor cuts. Quatre turned away looking to the forest as Heero returned with two straight branches. Trowa watched as the Japanese pilot tore his own shirt to make a splint for Duo’s leg. Quatre walked out into the shadows cringing at the crunching noise, Duo’s stifled scream as Heero set his bone. Wufei came out of the trees when all was quiet, Quatre saw the worry in his eyes and nodded that everything was ok. The Chinese sighed and stalked back to the fire, standing over the braided boy, glaring now.
“Great trick Maxwell, now what are we going to do, carry you?” he growled glaring down at violet eyes rimmed in tears. Duo’s eyes hardened at the words and he returned the glare. “At least tell me you found something.”
“Matter of fact I did.” Duo snapped, “Lights, a city even.”
“Where?” Quatre asked as Heero glared Wufei away.
“East.” Duo snapped in the general direction of Trowa and Wufei. Trowa shrugged and Wufei turned his glare on the taller pilot who shrugged again.
“I guess we took a wrong turn then.” Quatre looked back at Trowa who had just finished shrugging for Wufei and was not about to do it again. Quatre sighed. “Well, we’ll just have to turn around and go back.”
“At least you won’t stop at every shiny rock and stream this time.” Wufei grumbled.
“We’ll set out in the morning, till then get some rest.” Quatre laid down and pulled his heavy blankets over him. Heero took perch in a tree again, Wufei slept behind a bush and Trowa nodded off by the tree. Duo took first watch. The American pilot looked terribly dejected in his stick splint and wild child aspen crown. He laid down thoughtlessly and began to spin the ring on his finger.
“This sucks.” he sighed, “I mean at least there could be some... I don’t know pixies or something to make this a little more interesting you know. Stuck in a fairytale forest with nothin’ but fuzzy rat dogs and a really big bird, which was dry and stringy at that. You’d expect more of a place like this...” He rambled on like that for a while. The white noise of Duo’s incessant chatter began to lull the others asleep.
“Then I broke my leg... man, I really wish I- ack!”
“Oh, no you don’t!” Wufei had woken at the sound of ‘wish’ and was now holding Duo’s throat in an iron grip to rival even Heero’s. “Give me the ring.” Wufei ordered without letting up on Duo’s trachea. So of course he let the Chinese have his stupid ring. Wufei went to sleep happy that night, or at least a little safer knowing he had the ring and perfectly satisfied to leave Duo on watch all night, they’d have to carry him the next day anyway.
Duo watched the fireflies in the trees, moonlight dance on the forest floor. He listened to the soft breeze and slapped himself to stay awake. “This is gonna be a long night,” he sighed and settled into his watch. It was an uneventful watch... the way he remembered it anyway- the pixies might tell you differently though.