Chapter 11: "Tension"

    Quatre gave a yelp of surprise and threw himself away from the bike so hastily he lost his footing on the loose gravel and fell in an aching heap.
    The shot he'd been expecting never came, however. The man merely advanced quickly, keeping his gun trained steadily on Quatre while he sent harried glances towards the other people farther down the lot, making sure no one had noticed the disturbance. Quatre cursed inwardly as he propped himself up on his elbows and stared blankly up at his assaulter. They'd wanted to avoid crowds, but by parking so far away from the other people, he and Trowa had left themselves open to ambush. At the thought of Trowa, his eyes flicked anxiously towards the bushes, but his friend was nowhere to be seen.
    "What did you do to him?" Quatre demanded.
    "Shut up. On your feet." The man made a jerking motion with his gun, teeth clenched in impatience and nervousness. His eyes flitted constantly towards the other cars in the lot. "Keep your hands where I can see 'em."
    Quatre stood slowly, wincing as his body complained sharply. He'd already been sore from the hours riding on the back of a bike, and now he'd managed to skin his knees and palms. He leveled the man before him with an offended look, tempered by a good dose of cautious curiosity.
    No suit. It was just a man in a pair of blue jeans and a stained fishing shirt. He looked like an ordinary man, not the men in black that had tried to follow Wufei home from the convenience store just a few nights ago. Quatre's eyes skimmed the man quickly, and he couldn't hold back a huff of annoyed disbelief.
    All this running around, and they'd been outsmarted by a mugger? Quatre felt both embarrassed and affronted. What would Trowa say? He felt obligated to make up for it.
    The man had most of his attention on the other people, and didn't have enough time to react when Quatre's arm swung out and knocked the gun spinning across the gravel.
    He recovered quickly, however, and snatched Quatre's shirt with a snarl when the blond tried to make a move towards the gun. "Little punk--!"
    Quatre found himself grappling with the other man, previous annoyance quickly overcome by fear. Of the four of them, he had never been the best at hand-to-hand. It fell to him to be the brains and the money behind the operation. Pitting himself against a man who not only weighed twice as much as he did but towered above him was a fatal mistake. A harsh noise of desperation and fear emitted from behind his clenched teeth as he struggled to free his wrists from hands that dwarfed his own.
    "Stop squirmin'," the man growled angrily, twisting his arm painfully. "Gimmie your wallet, you little--"
    The man was strong, but unskilled. He didn't think to drag Quatre up and crush him in his arms to prevent movement, and it didn't take a genius to recognize an opening when he saw one. Quatre seized his chance and swung his foot hard, catching the man right between the legs with a satisfying whumph!
    The man's eyes bulged, and his grip on Quatre fell away immediately. He bent over double, making whimpering noises. Quatre took a quick step forward and brought his knee up hard into the face so conveniently lowered. His attacker fell back with a crash and lay twitching, nose bloodied and hands cupping his genitals.
    Breathing hard, Quatre took a quavering step backwards and almost yelled in fright when a long-fingered hand fell on his shoulder.
    Quatre turned in mingled relief and humiliation to face his calm-faced partner. Had Trowa seen him almost get pummeled by something as pathetic as a petty thief? But Trowa's green eyes held only a faint hint of approval as they swept the man on the ground. "Trouble?"
    "No, ah... just some.. thief," Quatre panted, quickly wiping perspiration from his brow and averting his gaze. He rubbed distractedly at his aching wrists. "I think we should get going, though, before someone notices..." He trailed off helplessly as Trowa, frowning, tugged carefully but insistantly at his forearm and inspected his wrist.
    "He hurt you?" he asked quietly, tone underlaid with cold steel.
    Quatre pulled his hand away, offering an embarrassed smile. "Oh, no, not really. I'm OK. Really, though, we should get going."
    Trowa's gaze flickered towards the moaning man on the ground once more, eyes narrowing in what looked suspiciously like anger on his normally stoic face, but when he looked at Quatre again, his face was unreadable once more. "Aa."
    "Oh-- Heero messaged us," Quatre added, bending over to retrieve the thief's gun. "They're in Arkenville. They're going to stay at a hotel tonight so that we can catch a night flight tomorrow."
    "Wakatta." Trowa slung a leg over the bike and reached for his helmet. "Let's go, then."


    Wufei's eyes hurt from staring at the road for so long, and his foot felt dead from pressing down on the accelerator. When he finally stepped out of the jeep that evening at a half-way decent hotel, he couldn't resist a big stretch, arms over his head as he winced slightly. He'd stubbornly insisted on driving all day. Never again.
    Duo shot him an amused look as he clambered out of the car, but said nothing. Heero came around the car, hefting their bag of supplies over one shoulder and looking from the manager's office to Wufei. "I'll get a room. You and Duo..." he hesitated minutely, eyes flicking briefly downwards before he seemed to realize what he was doing. "Wait here," he finished shortly, and turned on his heel, striding towards the manager's office.
    Wufei lowered his arms hastily in belated modesty, feeling his cheeks grow warm. He tugged self-consciously at the bottom of his shirt to make sure it was covering the stomach he'd unwittingly exposed in his stretch. Duo's laughing eyes were on him again, but he ignored the other boy frostily, busying himself with cleaning out the wrappers and trash Duo had left scattered all over the back seat.
    Heero returned a few minutes later with their key, and they trooped wearily upstairs to the room given to them. It was another two-bed room, but much more appealing than their last stop.
    "Well, it's not exactly five star," Duo drawled as he tossed his jacket carelessly onto one of the beds, "but I'll admit it's better than that other dive." He spun around once to take the room in, eyes searching out windows and vents before he turned to Heero with a grin. "So! Door guard again?"
    "You got the most sleep," Heero pointed out. "You're first watch."
    "Aww man, you suck!" Duo groaned, then hastily tried to cut Wufei off as the other boy headed determiedly for the bathroom.
    "Back off, Maxwell," Wufei growled, pushing him aside. "My showers last five minutes. Yours last an hour and use up all the hot water."
    "But I gotta pee!"
    "Hold it," Wufei suggested, shutting the door firmly in Duo's face.
    Duo pouted at the unyeilding wood for a moment before smirking across the room at his partner. "He's a firecracker, ain't 'e?"
    At Heero's blank, patient look, Duo chuckled and made his way over to the beds. "Hey, look, man, I think we'd better chill with the whole door guard thing. Did you see the way his hackles went up at the mention of it? He takes it personally, yanno. Like we're his jail guards or something. Anything so much as breathes heavy outside that door, and you an' me will be wide awake anyway. It's prob'ly better for peace and happiness everywhere-- or at least in the confines of the jeep --if we forget the guard thing."
    Heero frowned, wanting to protest, but he knew Duo had a point.
    "Glad that's settled," Duo said, taking Heero's silence as an answer. "You 'n' me can bunk in one bed, and 'Fei can have the other. He doesn't seem like the sharing kind."
    Heero gave him a level look. "If you start snoring or kicking, I'm pushing you off the bed and you can sleep on the floor."
    Duo argued hotly about whether or not he snored until Wufei emerged from the bathroom, rubbing at his hair with a towel, already wearing his sleeping pants.


    Wufei was having difficulty sleeping, despite only having had a short nap in the early morning. He lay awake, staring at the door, his back turned towards the other bed as he tried to ignore Duo's snores. He was picking at his memories of the past few days, going through conversations and trying to see if there had been any slips of the tongue. Had Duo said something important that he hadn't caught? And Heero had been about to say something about his family last night, he'd just stopped himself.
    "They sent me to continue my training with the other three while they..."
    While they what? Scored space looking for Wufei? What?
    Wufei let out a huff of annoyance, gaze traveling towards the door. At least Heero hadn't insisted on sitting himself in front of it like an unmoving sentinal this time. They were probably sure he wouldn't run now that they knew he wanted to go to space.
    But a part of him felt frustrated, lying there with his captives just a few meters away and an unguarded door so close at hand. The sensible part of him knew that staying with these lunatics was the surest way to find out where he'd come from. But the stubborn part of him was telling him to get up and leave, to find his own way to space. To find a phone and let his mother know he was all right.
    He was focusing so intently on the taunting door, that he didn't notice Heero until the last second.
    He turned over sharply as the other boy set a knee on the bed, his weight disrupting the mattress. Heero hesitated, face invisible in the dark as he stared at Wufei, waiting for an explosion.
    "...Duo kicks in his sleep," he finally admitted, the barest hint of wryness to his tone.
    Wufei glanced towards the other bed, where Duo was twisting about, mumbling in his sleep and giving an occassional kick. He looked back at Heero, then turned his back on the other boy. After another moment of hesitation, Heero climbed onto the bed and slid under the covers, careful to keep a foot of space between the two of them.
    They lay in tense silence while Wufei struggled to fall asleep. He could tell by Heero's breathing that he wasn't the only one too restless to sleep. Finally he blew a sigh of aggravation and rolled onto his back, scowling up at the ceiling.
    "And the other two?" he demanded abruptly.
    Heero stirred, glancing across at him from where he, too, was lying on his back. "What?"
    "Winner and Barton," Wufei said impatiently, a little embarrassed at his sudden compulsion to restart their inane conversation. "Is Quatre as much of a weakling as he looks?"
    Heero blinked slowly, then seemed to realize Wufei had picked up on their earlier subject. He tucked an arm under his head and gazed up at the ceiling for a moment before responding. "Quatre couldn't beat any of us in hand-to-hand," he admitted. "He doesn't like to hurt people." Wufei sneered, and Heero glanced at him sharply. "That doesn't mean he won't," he added pointedly.
    Wufei looked at him sideways, remembering the first time he'd really gotten suspicious of the blond; finding him standing over the unconscious forms of the men in black, umbrella held competently in hand.
    "He isn't physically strong like the rest of us," Heero continued, lidded eyes back on the ceiling. "He's better with a weapon." Wufei's eyes had started to adjust to the dark, and he could make out the other boy's face now. The rigid lines that held it in stone were more relaxed, now that he was hidden in darkness, and for once he looked his age. "He's decent with the staff against regular people, and he's more than capable with a gun. Give him a rifle and a scope and he could clear an entire room by himself."
    "But he doesn't like hurting people," Wufei repeated, making it a challenge. His neck was getting sore, so he rolled onto his side to see Heero easier.
    Heero shrugged slightly. "He was trained to be a killer and a bodyguard, but his family believes in pascifism."
    "Then why is he..." Wufei waved a hand vaguely. "One of you?"
    Heero hesitated, obviously deciding how much he could say. "It was decided before he was born," he admitted at last. "His family didn't take it seriously. He has 29 older sisters; they never thought they'd have a son."
    Wufei arched a brow at that. "Twenty-nine?" he repeated. "That explains a lot." He tried to imagine having twenty-nine Hilde's nagging him twenty four seven and winced sympathetically.
    Heero made a strange throaty noise that Wufei realized belatedly was a chuckle. He turned his head to look at Wufei, the hint of a dry grin playing at his mouth.
    He's much more relaxed in the dark, Wufei found himself thinking, staring back. When he thinks no one can see him.
    "Your turn," Heero said abruptly, and looked back up at the ceiling as if reading Wufei's thoughts, half his face hidden once more in shadow.
    Wufei blinked, then frowned. "What else is there?" he demanded. "I already told you about school..."
    "That girl, Hilde. She's the only one I ever saw you with," Heero prompted.
    Wufei rolled his eyes. "Friends. Right. Well, people tend to avoid me for the most part. I kind of encourage it. I don't have time for nonsense like that. Hilde's just stubborn, that's all."
    Heero snorted in amusement.
    "She's known me for years, which is a little strange," Wufei admitted, staring at his hand on the pillow by his head. "She wants to join the military and 'fight the good fight', and I disagree with war in general. But for a girl, she's not so bad. She sticks up for herself, and she's tougher than most of the bubble-headed ninnies that go to school."
    "And Relena?"
    Wufei made a face. "She's the worst. She may be more intelligent than most of the other girls, but she has blinders on when it comes to war. She's a big pascifist. I guess it figures, with her father being Senator Peacecraft. That family's always preached about settling differences peacefully and abolishing war. It's a load of nonsense."
    "...Maybe," Heero said quietly.
    "Maybe?" Wufei repeated incredulously. "You, of all people, Yuy, do not strike me as a pascifist. It's inbred into people to be violent, to fight for what they want. Nothing's ever going to change that. It's just the way things are."
    Heero turned his head again to offer Wufei a grave look. "Yes," he admitted. "But the people who want peace the most aren't the senates or the common people, but the soldiers and generals that have been fighting all their lives."
    "...Like you?" Wufei demanded quietly, studying Heero's face carefully.
    "Hn." Heero looked away dismissively, refusing to answer.
    Wufei tactfully changed the subject. "What about Barton?"
    "I can't tell you much about him," Heero admitted. "He keeps to himself. Quatre's closest to him; he could tell you more." He paused, thinking for a moment. "He doesn't like to let his emotions control him. Not even anger. You could beat him to a pulp for an answer to something he doesn't want to talk about, and he'd just take it. Wouldn't strike back, but he wouldn't say a damn word, either. He doesn't give his life much more value than you would a cockroach. He'll step in if it means helping someone else, but I've never seen him defend himself unless he was told to."
    Wufei gave Heero a startled look. "Why?"
    Heero shook his head once. "Maybe it's just the way he is. I don't know. If something happened to him when he was young, he's never said anything about it. I think it might have been his teacher's influence, though; he was a lot like that, too. Trowa doesn't seem to care about much of anything, much less his life. He cares about Quatre, and about protecting you. If there's anything else, I don't know about it."
    "You almost sound like you're describing yourself," Wufei put in, eyes narrowing slightly. "The only thing you seem to care about is this job. Retrieve the boy, bring him to point B, be his human shield. Right?"
    Heero looked at him, taken off guard by the hard tone.
    "And Duo, maybe," Wufei added after a moment. "You two are close, right? Or do you not believe in friends?"
    "Like you do?" Heero shot back, glaring at him now. "After you were gone, Duo and I grew up together. He's an idiot, but yes, he's my friend. And from a person who will barely even admit he has one friend, you have no room to talk."
    Wufei bristled, pushing himself up onto an elbow so that he had height advantage as he glared down at the other boy. "I had my mother," he growled from behind clenched teeth. "Before you took that away from me. What have you got? This stupid 'mission', some damn 'duty'--"
    "You don't even know what you're talking about," Heero snapped back, temper stirring as he sat up fully so that he and Wufei were practically nose to nose, glaring at each other.
    "Probably because you idiots keep dancing around the truth!" Wufei snarled, a little louder than he'd meant to.
    But Heero seemed to have forgotten about the sleeping boy in the other bed, as well. "It's not our place to tell you anything," he said harshly. "That's--"
    "Someone else's job," Wufei finished caustically. "Right. Because you're just the human shields, right? The disposable bodyguards. You're doing this because you were told to. Because some idiot conned your families into some kind of blood contract. Not because--" he cut himself off at the last minute, taking in a sharp breath. His words had come pouring out hot and angry without him knowing what he was going to say. Whatever the rest of that sentence, he was suddenly dead certain he didn't want it out in the open air.
    "Oh, for god's sake, you two," came Duo's muffled but aggrieved voice from the other bed, causing them both to start slightly. "Just shag and get it over with."
    He rolled over grumpily and went back to sleep, while Heero and Wufei stared blankly at each other in the sudden silence that had fallen over the room.
    A silence that was shattered a moment later by the grenade that came crashing through the window.

Author's Notes: Sorry I haven't updated in awhile; haven't been able to get to PoB from here. I'm deployed to the desert, and can't get to most sites online, including angelfire. whee what fun. I have to send these chapters to Mami so she can update them. =p

Back to GW fanfics