Chapter 2
"Toy Soldiers"

    "You sure have strange friends, Trowa," Catherine remarked, glancing over her shoulder at him. She squeezed a cold, soaked cloth over the small sink to get rid of excess water. "First that quiet dark-haired kid, now someone who looks like he got in a train wreck. What next, a psychopath?"
    Trowa didn't bother to look up from where he was seated on the edge of the bed, checking his patient's bandages.
    "You know, Trowa, I think it's sweet and everything that you look after your friends, but why'd you bring this guy here?" Catherine asked with a puzzled frown. "A hospital could take much better care of him."
    Why indeed?
    Trowa's eyes skimmed over the relaxed face of the unconscious boy stretched out in his bed. Why bother to retrieve the boy's broken body and slowly nurse him back to health? He could have left him there to die-- or even crushed him with Heavyarms to insure OZ wouldn't get any information from him.
    He carefully checked the tightness of the wrapping around the other pilot's head wound. He supposed part of his sudden compulsion to save the other boy had been due to the other boy's total commitment to his mission- and his willingness to die. In a way he had saved the boy out of simple curiosity. What could make a person so dedicated that he would throw away his life without a second thought or a moment's hesitation? Did that make him a reckless boy or an excellent soldier? A part of him admired the pilot for that. To be so devoted to the mission, to be able to die with no regrets at the drop of a hat... he envied that conviction. It made him wonder if he, too, would be able to so casually throw his life away. Secretly, he suspected he would. What was there in this world to miss, after all? What joy did he get out of life?
    "Trowa," Catherine said in such exasperation that he realized she had been talking to him for the past couple of minutes. He glanced back at her silently, arching a brow in question.
    The woman blew an aggravated sigh and gave him a mock glare. She put her hands on her hips and leaned against the sink, tilting her chin towards their comatose patient. "This guy's been here almost four days, and you haven't even told me his name, where you met, what happened to him- nothing. Feel like filling me in anytime soon?" she demanded. "You can't expect me to keep quiet forever."
    Trowa returned his gaze to the boy occupying his bed, musing. Filling her in? Of course he couldn't tell Catherine the truth. "I don't know who he is. I didn't know the other guy either. I met this one at New Edwards when I fought his friend and he killed a plane full of peace delegates. A few days ago he went kamikaze and self-destructed his Gundam when OZ threatened to destroy the colonies unless we surrendered. I think he's a little mentally unstable, but can he stay here?"
   Definitely not.
   Trowa was drawing a blank as far as names went, however. Chang Wufei- he surprised himself by remembering the name -had been easy to dub "Nataku" because he had mentioned the name a few times. He knew nothing about this boy, however. He had only the self-destruction and New Edwards to go off of.
   "Edward," Trowa answered abruptly. Dryly he thought to himself that the other soldier probably would not appreciate his morbid sense of humor when he woke up.
   Catherine blinked. "His name is Edward?"
   Trowa finished checking the bandages and rose to his feet. "Aa."
    Catherine frowned. "So what happened to him?"
   "Plane crash," Trowa lied tonelessly. He walked over and washed his hands in the sink.
    Catherine sighed, going over to place the damp cloth over "Edward's" brow. "Well I hope he recovers," she said quietly. She smiled at Trowa over her shoulder. "I guess he's lucky to have a friend like you."
    There was that word again. Friend.
    She'd used that word in reference to Chang Wufei, as well. He thought to himself with irrational annoyance that Catherine used that word a little too freely. He shook his hands dry and left the trailer abruptly. Faintly he heard Catherine call him through the door, but ignored it. He slipped through the crowd of performers preparing for their upcoming show, and made a beeline for the animal cages.
    The lions were used to his frequent visits by now, and didn't so much as growl when he unhooked the padlock and stepped inside, pulling the heavy cage door shut behind him. A few nearby circus employees glanced over with mixed feelings of awe, trepidation, and envy. While the big cats weren't vicious by any means, and had grown used to their human caretakers, Trowa was the only one they allowed to actually come into their cage and treat them like housecats.
    He settled down between the two brother lions the circus owned- Prince and his smaller brother Pierre. Pierre grunted, stretched languidly on his side, and ignored Trowa's familiar presence. Prince turned his huge head to regard their strange friend, testing his mood. Sometimes Trowa came to visit when he was feeling depressed or angry. Today he was just pensive, and so the great beast lowered its head after a moment and resumed its nap.
    Trowa threaded his fingers through Prince's golden mane and gazed blankly at his feet. For over an hour he simply sat between the two lions, smoothing out the creases in his mind and getting his thoughts in order.
    By the time Catherine came to get his help with something, he'd decided to keep "Edward" in his care until the other boy awoke and could answer his questions. He had also thought of trivial ways to keep himself occupied around the camp due to the lack of missions ever since Edward's self-destruction. At least the free time gave him the chance to do some rough tune-ups on Heavyarms. Rising fluidly to his feet, he stretched a little to get the life back in his legs, and left his friends with a firm pat.
    Catherine waited until he'd locked the cage door, then led him to the supply trailer, arching a brow at him with a wry little grin. "So, should I be expecting anybody else to drop in?" She teased. "Any more friends making unexpected visits? If so, I certainly hope they're more talkative than Edward and that other guy." She sighed. "Quiet guys make quiet friends, I guess. Doesn't that get boring after awhile, just sitting around listening to each other breathe?"
    Trowa decided she probably wouldn't like his answer, and therefore kept his mouth shut. He had learned early on in life that not everyone appreciated a smartass.
    Catherine blew a loud sigh and threw her arms up in the air. "Fine, be antisocial, see if I care," she huffed. She snagged a bundle of cloth and a sewing kit. "I'll be in the trailer. Why don't you go help the Strongman set up the area for the petting zoo?"
    Trowa nodded silently and began wrapping the heavy coils of rope around his strong arms as Catherine left to patch up the circus' costumes.
    When he was finished, he paused just inside the doorway, pulling his communicator from his back pocket and flipping it open. It had a wireless connection to his laptop, and should inform him whenever a new mission statement arrived.
    He stared silently at the blank screen for several moments before snapping it closed and sliding it back into his pocket. Still nothing.
    Things had been quiet ever since Edward's self-destruction. Too quiet.
    Instinctively, Trowa recognized it as the eye of the storm, and inwardly gave a grim smile that never touched his lips.
    Well.. he could deal with that. When the break was over and the storm hit again, he would be ready to fight.
    What else was he good for, anyway?


    Quatre Raberba Winner leaned forward, clasping his hands between his knees, and gave his guest a long sideways look.
    This "Duo Maxwell" certainly was an interesting character. He was so different from Heavyarms' stoic pilot. Quatre thought that maybe he and this braided American could be friends. He was stubbornly determined to be friends with all the pilots.. though Trowa Barton had proved to be somewhat of a challenge. Still, he hoped that their musical duet and their fights together might help. As long as they were all fighting for the same cause, and in the same advanced mobile suits, it made sense that they should become teammates and comrades. They were on the same side. Therefore, they should be friends.
    Quatre's way of thinking was simplistic and somewhat narrow-minded as far as relationships were concerned. You couldn't beat it into him with a two-by-four that there was no reason for the five pilots to team up and become friends. Some would say this way of thinking was infantile and ignorant; even foolish. Perhaps it was, in a way. These feelings, from any other, would have been weak and laughable. But Quatre's heart and intentions were pure, and because of that- and perhaps due in part to the stubborn streak he'd inherited from his father -Quatre had a greater chance at success than most when it came to binding the four most hard-headed men on the planet together.
    Of course back then- as he sat in a shabby spare room in Maganac City silently studying his strange guest -he was unaware that he would be the one to ultimately pull the five of them together and present a formidable force during the war. He knew only that he wished with all his heart to get to know these other pilots sent from the colonies. And he might as well start with this 'Duo' character, who could try to kill himself and Trowa one day and be a grinning, cocky teenage boy the next.
    Duo was possibly more of an enigma than Trowa, Quatre mused as he gazed at the boy leaning out of the window for some fresh air. Trowa had been silent and emotionless, which had been mysterious in its own way, but Duo was a complete anomaly. Every time he thought he'd pinned down the reasons behind the other boy's words and actions, Duo would do an abrupt 180 and baffle him further.
    He called himself Shinigami and professed to never lie. His appearance in itself was enough to make one do a double-take. Garbed in a priest's outfit, followed by a ridiculously long braid, the self-proclaimed God of Death attracted enough attention without even opening his mouth; which made the fact that he was a terrorist in hiding almost laughable. And then the things that boy said-! They'd been together not even twenty-four hours, and already he'd run Quatre through the whole gauntlet of emotions at his disposal-- and that was saying a lot.
    Still, they had obviously been sent here on the same mission, by similar men. Destroy before you're destroyed. And above all, defeat OZ. Quatre was positive that with just a little work on his part, he could befriend this confident boy and pull the other pilots together with his help.
    "Hey," Duo said suddenly, startling the Arabian out of his deep thoughts.
    Duo turned to face him, propping his elbows on the windowsill. The solemn look that had befallen him during their earlier conversation on the war was gone, replaced by the broad grin that was quickly becoming familiar. "You want us all to work together, right? Like these Maganac guys."
    Quatre was thrown for a loop for an instant, and floundered. It was as if Deathscythe's cheerful pilot had read his mind. "Yes," he stammered at last. "I just know we can win this if we all work together. We should be allies- we shouldn't fight each other.."
    Duo laughed. "Might I remind you," he said with a grin, "that your buddy attacked me first."
    "Yes, I know that," Quatre said quickly. "And I apologize. Trowa's just a little-"
    "Trowa? Is that his name?" Duo waved a hand carelessly, like brushing aside an annoying fly. "Hey, man, don't go apologizing for other peoples' actions. You're not his mother. He can take responsibility for his own stupid stunt." He thumbed his nose with a snort of amusement. "Lucky for him that fifth guy interrupted us-- I was about to give him a Deathscythe ass whoopin'."
    Quatre opened and closed his mouth helplessly.
    "Still.." Some of the cheer faded from Duo's face, a touch of seriousness to his tone. "I guess you have a point, in a way. I mean, look how strong these Maganac guys are when they work together." He glanced sideways, looking at the sky outside over his shoulder. "Maybe..." He trailed off.
    Quatre watched him for a moment, then smiled warmly. "I'm sure we can do it," he said earnestly. "I'm sure we can work together and get through this."
    "Geez, you sure are optimistic," Duo exclaimed, giving Quatre a look halfway between incredulous and amused. "OK, then, you keep thinking like that, kiddo. That way, at least one of us in this mess can keep smiling." He added in a sour mutter, "I think Heero's convinced his face would shatter if he tried to crack a smile."
    "You smile a lot, Duo," Quatre pointed out. Then, in a sudden flash of insight, he added shrewdly, "You don't always mean it, though."
    Duo's eyes widened slightly over his grin. "Hey, now," he laughed, "what makes you say that?"
    "Quatre-sama." They turned as Rashid entered the room, looking grim. "There's trouble," he said in his rumbling voice, beckoning. "I think OZ is planning something dirty."
    "Saa, let's check it out," Duo said, straightening and flashing Quatre a quick, devil-may-care grin. "We'll work together this time, Winner."
    Quatre smiled back. "Call me Quatre."


    Trowa wrenched the hose's spigot with excessive force, shutting off the water flow. He straightened, letting his hands air dry as he gazed up at the sky with his expression carefully controlled.
    Three months.
    It had been three months since that fight between Edward and Zechs Marquise.
    His patient had yet to come out of his coma-- and more disturbing than that, there had been no new mission statements. One would never be able to tell by looking at him, but Trowa was getting edgy. Just the other day he'd had the irrational urge to go actively seeking an OZ base and let Heavyarms deal death and destruction. The moment had passed, he had gone back to work, and silently continued to go insane.
    Trowa looked up at Catherine's voice, absently wiping his hands dry on his pants. She was running towards him full tilt, and a spark of apprehension went off in Trowa's gut.
    He turned and took in her look of triumphant excitement. "He's awake," he guessed quietly.
    "What are you, psychic?" she demanded, huffing for air. She beckoned. "I hope he doesn't have amnesia or anything. He called me 'Relena', and didn't look like he had any idea who I was talking about when I told him I'd get you. I think you'd better check on him."
    Trowa merely nodded and followed Catherine in unhurried strides, a low hum of excitement going through his slender body.
    He was eager to hear what this mysterious pilot had to say, and see if letting him live had been such a wise decision after all.
    "I'm sure he'll be thrilled to see you," Catherine gushed.
    But when Trowa stepped inside the trailer, Edward of course gave him a look of complete incomprehension. Catherine gave a little murmur of anxiety, but Trowa merely nodded calmly towards the man in his bed.
    Hard cobalt eyes raked him from head to foot in a look that told Trowa he had been quickly weighed, and his appearance memorized. "So you're Trowa." Edward's voice was slightly nasal, but strong. It was the kind of voice and tone that made people instinctively prick up their ears and listen. It was not inflectionless, like Trowa's own, but rather had a firm but cold finality to it that danced on the thin line between uncaring and commanding. Like a general, or a prince incognito. "Where am I?"
    Trowa hesitated.
    "I'll let you two catch up," Catherine said prudently, and ducked outside.


    If Trowa could describe Edward in one word, that would be it.
    In fact, he reminded Trowa very much of Wufei in some ways. One of the biggest differences, however, was in their closest similarity.
    Trowa would have used "intense" to describe either pilot. But where Wufei was a crackling lightening bolt, passionate and hot-tempered, Edward- though equally focused and confident -was colder and more mechanic. He was very deliberate in everything he said or did. He had one interest and one interest only: the mission. And he would do anything to accomplish that mission, whether it be murder, terrorism, or suicide. It was because of this impression that his advice to Trowa- to "follow his emotions" -confused Heavyarms' stoic pilot. What kind of warped emotions could this boy possibly be following in this war? Or was he not taking his own advice?
    After nearly two weeks in the other's company, Trowa was not sure if he was afraid, confused, or approving when it came to the enigma that was "Edward".
    He found it surprisingly easier to communicate with the other pilot than any of the others he had encountered since the beginning of this mission. He was brief at best with Catherine, and had been content to let Quatre do the majority of talking in their few days together. But Edward was easier to connect to in the same way Wufei had been. Edward didn't say meaningless things; whatever he said had a good point and usually kept Trowa thinking for hours after their short conversations. They would speak often of the war, and briefly on their Gundams. Neither of them was quite ready to give away too much when it came to their respective suits, and recognizing that similar caution between them, prudently avoided the subject the majority of the time.
    Trowa accompanied Edward as the stone-faced pilot put himself through his own brutal version of physical therapy-- forcing himself to walk around and around the campsite in a painful attempt to get used to walking once more. He also borrowed the Strongman's weights to strengthen his arms, but eventually Trowa put a stop to that when Edward ended up only aggravating his wounded left arm further.
    They were both on edge and impatient for a mission, though Trowa was perhaps a little better at hiding it. When it came to emotions, the one Edward had the most difficulty suppressing was anger. And after the few, brief glimpses of annoyance Trowa had caught on the other boy's face, he was of the firm opinion that he never wanted to be the focus of what he was sure would be a spectacular and horrible temper.

    And then one day, while Trowa was practicing his acrobatics, with Edward looking on silently from the sidelines, Trowa's communicator buzzed.
    Far below on the ground, Edward heard the faint sound and straightened, eyes suddenly sharp with anticipation. Perched on the tightrope almost two stories above the ground, Trowa silently pulled free his communicator and read the message it displayed. A mission. At last. He felt a throb of relief and adrenaline, but the look he turned on the boy gazing up at him steadily was calm. That look was all Edward needed. He gave a brief nod, eyes flashing.
    "Trowa~" Catherine entered the dark tent, looking around. "Trowa! Where the heck are you? The Ringmaster's calling a meeting!"
    Ignoring the ladder, Trowa sprang from the tightrope, twisting his body in midair in a display of excellent reflexes and strength. He landed on his feet before his self-appointed caretaker, and she gave a startled yelp, nearly jumping out of her skin. From where he was standing a few feet away, Edward's brow arched just slightly.
    "Jesus, Trowa!" Catherine exclaimed, punching him angrily in the arm. "Knock that off! You're going to give me a heart attack one day!"
    "What kind of meeting?" Trowa asked quietly.
    Catherine noticed Edward for the first time, and nodded in greeting to him. "I think we're packing it up. He managed to book us a showing at a nearby OZ base." She grinned. "There's gonna be a lot of bored soldiers eager to spend money on something fun for once. Lucky us, huh?"
    Trowa's gaze flickered to the side, catching Edward's hard cobalt stare. "Aa," he agreed tonelessly. "Lucky us."


Chapter 1
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
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