"Trowa's Grand Finale"
What would Nataku think if she could see me now?
The truck hit a bump in the road, and Wufei just barely managed to lift his chin from his hand- his elbow propped on the door -before he could bite his tongue on accident.
"Most of the roads aren't paved back here," his companion warned him, eyes on the road. "Be prepared for a rough ride for the next couple of hours."
Wufei didn't bother to respond, gazing silently out of the window at the dark skies above.
There was another long silence, then she spoke again. "Looks like rain."
No shit, Sherlock. Wufei kept himself from snapping the words just in time, and offered the passing scenery a watered-down version of his usual scowl. He'd been in a foul temper for weeks. But he really shouldn't take it out on the person who had helped him drag himself back onto the battlefield.
His hooded eyes shifted sideways to regard the woman beside him, the white-knuckled grip she had on the wheel betraying her anxiety. Sally Po... Now there was a confusion of a woman.
Women were not exactly held in high esteem in his clan; he had been raised to respect them to a point, but taught to regard them as inferior. Meiran had been bound and determined to break free of that prejudice. She had become a skilled fighter and taken the name 'Nataku'. Upon discovering her husband-to-be was none other than the 'braniac' of the clan, she had been thoroughly disgusted. He had, of course, shown her quickly that just because he was a scholar didn't make him any less a man. She was strong, but she had never won a match against her betrothed.
Ironically, the day she proved her strength to him and earned his respect was the day she died in the name of honor. Since then, he had used her as a ruler to stack women against. None of the girls or women he had ever known could compare in the strength and honor of Meiran. He didn't realize until too late that this had ingrained in him a well of disgust for what he perceived as the weakness of women.
They were still weak, he reminded himself angrily, shooting Sally a quick, unseen scowl. And yet... some of them were strong, too, in their own ways. Maybe fighting for something even when you were too weak to win.. maybe that was an entirely different type of strength.
And if weaklings like Sally Po and her motley crew were going to makes fools of themselves fighting a war they couldn't possibly win, then who was he- a Gundam pilot and a warrior -to sit back and watch them die and do nothing? Not show them how it was done, or fight for the justice Meiran had died serving?
Feh... Wufei turned his attention back to the murky clouds outside, firmly shoving all thoughts of women from his mind. He was through thinking. He had done enough soul-searching and thinking to last him for quite some time. Now was not the time for thought, but for action.
Which was why he was here, in this truck, in the middle of bum-fucked Egypt with a stubborn weakling of a woman instead of handing OZ their asses on a silver platter.
Good lord, he sounded like Maxwell.
Just thinking of the braided pilot made him wince internally. Shortly after the destruction of 01, one of the pilots- called himself Quatre -had attempted to contact him. Wufei had deftly changed all his radio frequencies and encrypted his electronic communications to the best of his ability, satisfied that his security would present a problem to the unskilled- and entirely too forward -pilot.
The next day, his screens had been filled with hundreds of animated dancing hamsters, making any sort of visual or verbal communication nigh on impossible on his end.
Wufei had been a bit peeved at that.
That was when Duo Maxwell, cocky pilot of Gundam 02, had introduced himself over an open link and suggested Wufei be a little nicer to his friend Quatre in the future.
They'd exchanged sketchy intel on the situation as far as OZ and 01 were concerned, but no one seemed to know much about either subject. OZ was behaving- for once -, 01's pilot was missing (possibly KIA), and there was no word from the scientists. Once the exchange was over, Maxwell had- thankfully -cut off communication and taken his detestable computer virus with him.
Wufei wondered darkly why he had bothered to interrupt the fight between 02 and 03. That pilot could have saved him a lot of grief by taking Maxwell down a notch or two.
"Thank you for doing this, by the way," Sally said abruptly, cutting off his line of thought. "You don't have to, and I appreciate it."
Wufei grunted in lieu of an actual answer, eyes fixed firmly on the gray sky.
She shifted- perhaps unsure what to say -and switched on the radio abruptly, letting the quiet music fill the cabin. "It shouldn't take long," she continued. "Then you and your big friend," she glanced towards the rearview mirror, indicating the covered Gundam riding just behind them in the carrier, "can get back to the war."
Wufei declined to answer. He would never admit to this pigheaded woman that he was doing this simple favor as a way of "thanks" in his own way. So she wanted him to help bust a couple guys out of an obscure OZ warehouse in the middle of nowhere. Fine, he would do that. Then he would return to the battle in Shenlong. He would fight in this meaningless war and hunt down Treize Kushrenada like the dog- albeit honorable dog -he was.
The sharp pang of humiliation deep in his stomach was a brutal reminder that he had yet to completely get over his defeat at the aristocrat's hands.
"One defeat doesn't mean you've lost the war."
Who had said that to him...? He frowned to himself, his mind drawing a blank for a moment. Someone he felt he might be able to respect...
Emerald eyes shifting sideways to regard him, impassive face mostly hidden in the jagged shadows cast by a small campfire...
Slender hands wrapped around a tin cup.
The bitter taste of coffee on his tongue.
Trowa Barton. Wufei snorted quietly to himself, a little surprised the name had stuck. And despite his momentary floundering, he had never quite forgotten the pensive 03 pilot. The man had attempted to comfort him that night-- but not out of any semblance of pity. No, pity was something Wufei definitely would not have appreciated. Trowa had spoken as one soldier to another, as a person who understood on some level what Wufei was going through.
Something said on the radio, quiet as the volume was, caught Wufei's ear, and he focused on what the broadcaster was saying.
"..circus this weekend at Howser Base. All OZ members are invited to bring their families to enjoy the show!"
"A circus," Sally murmured with a wry grin. "Sounds like fun."
Sally glanced sideways at him. "You're still young," she said in a voice tinged with pity. "You should be out enjoying things like movies and circuses, not fighting in a war. I can't believe they expect children to-"
Wufei turned his head away, dismissing her sympathy coolly. "This was my decision," he said shortly. He was a little sick of these uppity women referring to him as a child. "Just drive."
She made a face, but lapsed into silence.
Wufei stared up at the roiling thunderclouds and frowned to himself thoughtfully.
...Howser Base, huh...?
By late afternoon, the storm clouds that had rolled ominously across the sky had thankfully drifted on, and evening settled over Howser Base with much anticipation of the upcoming show.
Trowa Barton pulled the suspenders of his large costume pants over his shoulders and ran a hand through his hair. He glanced up at the rising moon, judging the time and silently going over his plan in his head. Soon.
"You're planning an attack on the Base."
Trowa glanced up at the sudden voice-- he hadn't even heard the approach. Trust a Gundam pilot to be stealthy when he wanted to be. A slight shift of eyes confirmed there was no one else nearby, and Trowa straightened, his customary clown's mask in hand. He offered Edward a dispassionate look, which the other pilot returned silently.
"Where are you going to be during the show?" he asked, ignoring the accusation.
Edward grunted, eyes flicking over Trowa's clown costume. Trowa caught the slight tightening of the eyes that could have been disgust or confusion, and decided to ignore that, as well. "Behind the curtain. That girl-"
"-said I could watch from there." Edward gave him a long, hard look. "You'll be blowing your cover," he said bluntly.
Trowa set the mask calmly in place. "Yes," he relented. "But it won't matter."
Edward's eyes narrowed a little in question, but just then Catherine hurried up in her frilly outfit. "Trowa, are you almost ready? The show starts in half an hour."
"Aa." Trowa dug through the chest at his feet and pulled out three brightly colored wooden balls. He juggled them a few times for practice.
"Good." Catherine beamed, then turned her smile on Edward. "Come on, I'll show you where you can sit out of sight and still see the show."
Edward nodded silently and followed her. Trowa trailed a little behind, still juggling slowly as he walked, running through the coming events in his head.
Howser Base was in for quite a show.
The familiar scent of heated metal, smoke, and death alerted Wufei before he even spotted the blossoming explosions in the distance as he drove in the direction of Howser Base in the carrier Sally had given him in thanks.
His fingers tightened unconsciously on the wheel. He had half expected this, but it still made his heart speed up in anticipation of a battle. Sticking a Gundam pilot in the middle of an OZ base was just asking for trouble. Trowa must have seized the opportunity and given his Gundam quite the workout. A fierce smile flitted across his face for a bare instant. Perhaps Trowa would require assistance. And after the pathetically easy battle just hours earlier rescuing Sally Po's companions, he was more than ready for a real fight.
By the time he arrived, however, it became quickly obvious that the battle had already ended. The few survivors were running around shouting, attempting to put out the fires and rescue their wounded. The sad remains of a circus tent- burned and tangled beyond repair -graced the center of the destruction. The damage set in a radius around the tent suggested an attack directly from that space, and Wufei gave a quiet snort of disbelief. His eyes flickered to and fro as he drove through the decimated base, but there was no sign of the circus members or a Gundam.
A few men with weapons were running after his carrier, shouting at him to stop and waving their guns. There were only three of them; the remainder of the survivors were struggling with the fires. Wufei slammed on the brakes irritably and watched them approach in the rearview mirror with cold ebony eyes. As soon as they got close enough, they were in for a rude greeting.
As they drew near his door, he kicked it open, catching one of them full in the face. The others ground to a halt, gaping stupidly. Those few precious seconds cost them.
Wufei was out of the truck in an instant, and had disarmed the second man with a spinning kick that snapped his arm in half. As he fell howling to the ground, his companion jerked his gun up and fired a couple wild shots.
Wufei dodged swiftly and darted forward, reaching up with one hand to knock the weapon aside and driving his other fist into the soldier's gut with all his considerable strength.
The man grunted and sagged against him. Wufei waited for an instant to make sure he wasn't faking it, then shrugged him off contemptuously, looking around quickly. So far no one had noticed; they were still running around like chickens with their heads cut off.
Trowa Barton had done quite the job on them.
The man he had knocked back with the car door had managed to crack his head on a chunk of mobile suit and was unconscious. Wufei strode over to the man he had rather brutally disarmed, crouching just out of reach as the OZ soldier writhed and wailed, clutching his broken arm.
"Where did the Gundam go?" Wufei demanded, voice like a whip.
The man stared up at him with eyes clouded with pain, a strident note to his voice. "A kid?? You--"
Wufei was getting quite tired of that word. He reached out and snatched up the man's gun, rising lithely to his feet. He aimed the barrel at the man's head, his face hard as stone. "Where is the Gundam?" he repeated.
The man flinched, scrabbling at the ground helplessly with the sides of his boots in a vain attempt to scoot away. "He went west!" he croaked frantically. "West! I don't know where he was going.."
Wufei scowled and tossed the gun far away. He turned his back on the gibbering man and walked back to the driver's side door. Sliding in, he yanked the door shut and twisted the key hard, the engine roaring to life. The Gundam had gone west-- and he would go west.
He didn't bother to wonder why he was going to so much trouble to hunt down 03's solemn pilot, or what he was going to say when he faced the other boy again. Wufei had never been one for fretting over the future. The present- and the mistakes of the past -were all that mattered. They were what kept him going. Thinking about the future- which in his profession, he was unlikely to see much of -was a waste of valuable time.
A traveling circus tended to move slowly; especially when they were trying to stay off the main roads to avoid the wrath of OZ. So it was that within a couple of hours, Wufei was able to track them down as they settled down in a clearing hidden from sight of the road due to a slight hill.
Hiding his carrier on the other side of the hill, he slid from the truck and belted on his sword, glancing around instinctively. No guards. Foolish.
But then, these were civilians, he reminded himself. Just because they had a terrorist hiding in their ranks didn't mean they had any knowledge of warfare or stealth. Considering how easy it had been for him to track them, OZ would find them by tomorrow-- early afternoon at the latest.
He slipped around the hill and through the camp with ease, moving from shadow to shadow and keeping care to stay out of sight. His eyes were constantly on the lookout for the onna that had seemed to be so comfortable around Trowa; the pilot himself was most likely keeping a low profile and wouldn't show his face so soon after his attack on the base.
He spotted a familiar trailer and hesitated in the dark shadow cast by a stack of crates. Finally, a stroke of luck. It was the trailer Trowa shared with that pushy onna. He glanced around. No one was around- only one door guard.
He could barely make out the figure seated in a folding chair by the trailer's entrance, arms crossed and head lowered. He sneered silently. Some guard-- asleep already. Silent as a stalking panther, he strode to the trailer, tensed for fight or flight.
He reached the trailer steps and allowed himself a fleeting smile of triumph. Too easy.
Before his foot even touched the first step, he caught a slight movement out of the corner of his eye. He twisted quickly, hand flying to the hilt of his sword.
The voice was cold- almost as cold as the twin cobalt eyes blasting into him from the figure slumped in the chair in feigned slumber. One of his hands had shifted from underneath his elbow to display a firearm-- which was pointed directly at Wufei's chest.
Wufei dropped his hand from his weapon and straightened, glaring haughtily at the shadowed figure. The guard shifted, and rose smoothly to his feet, never taking the gun's sights off of Wufei. He took a step forward, and the faint light from the curtained window of the trailer fell on him.
Recognition flickered in the back of Wufei's mind at the same instant the boy before him gave a slight frown. "You're not an OZ soldier," he said bluntly.
Wufei's eyes narrowed. "You're-- 01," he said in sudden realization, considerably surprised. The beginnings of honest respect burned in his gut. He had survived the self-destruction? Jesus, was the man made of gundanium?
Jagged dark bangs fell over merciless cobalt eyes, stern face marked with recent bruises and scrapes. His left arm was bandaged tightly, and his clothes- tight spandex shorts and a rumpled green tank top -looked like they'd seen better days. He was undeniably young- and unquestionably dangerous. There was absolutely no hint of hesitance or mercy in the set of his strong shoulders or hard face.
Wufei was careful not to move as he met that strong gaze fearlessly. "I see you survived," he said dryly.
The boy's eyes had narrowed slightly when Wufei had ID'd him as a pilot, and his trigger finger twitched. Other than that, he was motionless. "Dare da?"
Just then the trailer door opened. Wufei's hand jerked instinctively, but he managed not to draw his sword. He had no doubt this hard-eyed boy would shoot him without a second thought if he made any sort of threatening move.
He glanced up at the quiet voice, meeting that familiar impassive gaze. Wufei gave a brief nod of greeting. "Barton."
01's eyes flicked from Trowa back to Wufei. His gun never wavered. "You know him?"
Trowa took a few steps down, turning his calm gaze on the dark-haired boy. "This is the pilot of 05. You don't recognize him?"
Blue eyes raked Wufei from head to foot, mouth tightening slightly as he wracked his brain. Finally the gun lowered, and Wufei forced himself to relax minutely, soothing nerves screaming with tension. Fighting back his adrenaline and will to fight, he met the other boy's intense stare once more.
"New Edwards," he said shortly. Wufei nodded in affirmation.
Trowa looked back towards him, lifting a brow. He looked as if he'd like to ask what Wufei was doing there, then seemed to change his mind. He turned away and walked back up the steps. "Come in," he prompted, his slight hand gesture including both of them in the quiet invitation.
The two pilots exchanged a glance, then Wufei followed Heavyarms' slender pilot, feeling the other's eyes boring into his back.
"You tried to self destruct?" Wufei's eyebrows rose as he sat on the edge of the bed Trowa had indicated when they'd entered, fingers wrapped around a forgotten cup of water.
Trowa nodded once from where he was standing at the small counter, cutting the skin from an apple in one long strip with a sharp knife. "Catherine stopped me," he said tonelessly. "I'm not quite sure why I listened to her. She looked... so upset." His eyes were distant, his face carefully devoid of emotion. Wufei could tell, however, that it had to be bothering the quiet soldier for him to be talking about it.
Wing's pilot was leaning against the wall, arms crossed over his chest as he watched Trowa silently, face set in unbreakable hard lines that were fast becoming familiar. Wufei got the impression that this strange boy was about as prone to smiles and laughter as Trowa was-- Which meant next to never.
Sensing by Trowa's heavy silence that the boy wished to drop the subject, Wufei turned his attention on the third pilot. Feeling his eyes on him, the wiry boy turned his gaze in Wufei's direction.
"No missions for you two, either?"
01 shook his head. "We haven't heard anything since Wing was destroyed," Trowa confirmed. "Aside from my orders to take out Howser."
Wufei grunted. "The other two got in contact with me," he said with a slight grimace. "About two months ago."
"Duo?" Heero guessed at the same time Trowa said, "Quatre."
Wufei arched his brows at them. Apparently he was a little out of the loop. Was Trowa the only one he'd bothered to make acquaintances with, while the others had all gotten to know each other?
He shrugged it off indifferently. Allying himself with the other Gundam pilots was not exactly at the top of his to-do list; he had no real interest in learning about them. He was quite capable of carrying out his missions alone. The others would only get in his way.
OK, so Barton had been a help when he'd gone after Treize. But that didn't mean he was going to make a practice out of working alongside the others.
Then what the hell are you doing here? his subconscious demanded snidely.
Wufei ignored it easily.
"You're Chang Wufei," 01 said, startling Wufei. He stared up at the other pilot blankly. Trowa glanced at them from under hooded lids and kept his silence. 01 was still looking intently at Wufei. "Trowa mentioned you," he explained tonelessly at Wufei's stare. He lifted his chin slightly in what could have been taken as either challenge or acknowledgement. Or a strange mix of both, in this boy's case. "He seems to hold some amount of respect for you."
Wufei's eyes darted towards Trowa at that, but Trowa had returned his undivided attention to his apple. He felt his eyes narrow slightly as he turned his gaze back towards 01. "As long as we're in the throes of this happy reunion," he said with a bit of caustic sarcasm that made the other boy's eyes narrow dangerously, "why don't you tell me your name?"
The pilot shifted, hands moving to his hips as he gazed back at Wufei dauntingly, his shoulders set defensively and his jaw tight with aggression at Wufei's outright demand. It was an instinctive reaction to confrontation, but Wufei was unimpressed, and glared right back.
Trowa was watching them carefully, his hands still.
Cobalt eyes that held about as much emotion as a gundam's studied Wufei's stubborn features for a few tense moments, then a little of the defensive tension eased from the soldier's frame. "Heero Yuy."
Wufei nodded in acknowledgement, then looked curiously towards Trowa when he caught the hint of a sardonic smile playing on the taller boy's lips. "Nani?" Heero demanded, also looking at Trowa.
The acrobat lifted the apple to his mouth to hide the faint smirk. "Heero, huh?" He bit into the fruit, lowering his eyes and effectively cutting off any chance of them seeing his expression. "It's better than 'Edward', I suppose."
Heero blinked, obviously puzzled, then scowled, unamused. He directed his glare towards Wufei when the Chinese boy smirked, inwardly pleased at Trowa's flash of twisted humor.
"I fail to see the humor in this," Heero said coolly.
Trowa gave a small snort against his snack.
Wufei realized he was still giving Heero a superior smirk, and gave himself a mental shake.
What the hell was he doing?
He rose to his feet abruptly, and Trowa looked at him in silent inquiry, all hints of humor gone.
"You should move your people before dawn," Wufei said crisply, reaching for the sword he had set aside in order to sit on the bed. "OZ will be after you before long, and this camp isn't too difficult to find." Inwardly he berated himself. He didn't have time to be making small talk with the other pilots. He had his own mission- his own goals. There was no point in this.
Heero frowned at him slightly, but didn't move to stop him when Wufei headed for the door.
"You're welcome to stay the night, Wufei," Trowa said quietly.
Wufei hesitated with his hand on the doorknob, staring straight ahead at the door as he shook his head. He tried to think of a gracious response and failed.
Luckily, Trowa wasn't the sort of man to expect excuses. "Wokatta," he murmured. "See you on the battlefield." Heero remained silent.
Wufei nodded and pulled open the door, striding out into the night.
Author's Notes: -.-; I couldn't help myself. Duo just had to be an imp in this chapter. He does so love to push Wu's buttons... *grins evilly* Blame my sarcastic muses.
In the series, Trowa doesn't actually seem to discover Heero's name until they find Sylvia Noventa, but... I took liberties. *snort*
Also... yeah, I skip over things a lot. Why? Because otherwise the whole damn series would be in this fic x__x; And I'm sure you've all seen the show. ...And I'm lazy XD;;;
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