Chapter 31: "The Serpant"
"Like what you see?"
Wufei looked quickly over his shoulder from where he was standing by one of the
portholes, gazing out at the stars. Mariemaia was standing in the doorframe, the billowing
nightgown Sally Po had lent her making her look even smaller and more fragile than she
really was. "What are you doing up?"
"I'm feeling much better now." Mariemaia smiled and padded over to join him. Her
eyes flicked towards the view outside. "You love space, Wufei?"
Wufei shrugged, returning his eyes to the inky depths. "I've been trying to get to
it my whole life," he admitted grudgingly. "Sometimes it doesn't feel like it's sunk in
yet-- that I'm actually here."
The girl smiled up at him. "Me, too," she admitted. "I'm Terran, as well. I've
always longed to go to space. To see the stars, to visit other colonies... and to see
earth with my own eyes from way up here." She heaved a little sigh. "War is turning out
to be more than I'd bargained for, but joining the military did get me out here."
Wufei frowned at her. "I still don't understand how a thirteen-year-old girl was
allowed to join, much less go into battle. Kushrenada's a lowlife, but I didn't think even
he would stoop so low as to enlist children."
She stiffened a little, flashing him a hard look. "You shouldn't speak so
disrespectfully," she snapped. "You don't even know him. Besides, it was my
Wufei snorted. "I may not know him all too well," he grunted. "But the one
meeting I had with him was enough to tell me all I needed to know."
"Oh, really?" She leaned against the wall and dimpled at him. "You met him? What
about? And what could he have said or done to cause such animosity?"
"That's not a story for little girls," Wufei said shortly, turning away and walking
towards the door. "Get back to bed before Po figures out you've escaped."
Mariemaia looked at first startled, then affronted. "I wasn't done talking to
you," she burst out in a ringing tone.
Wufei paused, turning to arch a brow at her. "I was."
She composed herself quickly and hurried to catch up. "That's very rude," she
scolded, sounding petulant rather than angry. "Walking away from someone who's talking to
you." She smiled. "But I'll forgive you. You did rescue me, after all."
Wufei rolled his eyes and strode out into the hall. She followed doggedly. "Chang
Wufei-- an odd name, isn't it? I mean, it doesn't even make sense."
He sent her a sharp look. "What is that supposed to mean?"
"Well, I mean... 'Wufei'?" She wrinkled her nose. "My Chinese may be rustic, but I
know a bit at least about your culture. Names are supposed to mean something, aren't they?
But your name doesn't have any real meaning. Well... it can be translated, I suppose, but
it's such a ridiculous name--"
"Look," Wufei snapped, "it's the only name I've got. If you don't like it, too
bad. You won't be around here long enough for it to matter." Her observation surprised
him, though. She was right, of course. The name "Wufei" was... an odd one. But the fact
that she knew as much only proved she was a lot more educated than he'd previously
She looked angry again, but smoothed her expression quickly. "Are you always this
tempermental?" she asked sweetly.
"Hn. If you think I'm bad, catch Yuy in a sour mood."
She sighed, clasping her hands behind her back as she walked beside him. "He
doesn't seem to like me much," she observed. "Or is he like that with everyone?"
"Just about everyone," Wufei admitted with a sour smile. "Yuy's sense of humor is
buried under layers of duty and training."
She must have caught the edge to his voice, because she offered him a curious look.
"Yet you two seem somewhat close," she said. "Childhood friends, maybe?"
"...Something like that."
"Grew up together, went to the same schools and all that?"
"No." He frowned down at her. "You ask a lot of questions for a little
She scowled back. "I'm curious. By the way, I would appreciate it if you would
quit referring to me as a 'little girl'. And quit treating me with indulgence as you would
"You are a child," Wufei countered dryly.
She puffed up indignantly, red spots of anger dancing on her cheeks. "I am not a
little girl!" she practically shouted. "How dare you talk down to me. You aren't even out
of high school yet! I'd bet money on it."
"And you aren't even in it, yet," Wufei snapped. "Get back to the infirmary
and quit bothering me."
"Making friends again, 'Fei?" Duo came striding down the hall towards them,
grinning. He waggled his eyebrows at Mariemaia as he got closer. "Don't mind him. He's
always this insufferable."
"Bite me, Maxwell," Wufei snapped, walking right past him. "And quit calling me
Mariemaia was already regaining her cool temper. "If he's always like this, then
I'll try not to take it personally," she said charmingly.
Duo laughed, waving over his shoulder as he continued down the hall. "Good
Mariemaia returned her unwanted attention to Wufei. "I meant what I said earlier,"
she said quietly. "I really do want to come with you."
"Tell me how it feels to want."
"I mean it!" Wufei got the impression she would have stamped her little foot if she
hadn't been hurrying to keep up. "What's the big deal, anyway? I'll just get off where
you do and go home from there. I'm not ready to go back to earth, yet."
"You heard Yuy. No brats allowed. Besides, you can't go where we're going.
"Where are you going, anyway?" she asked keenly. "I've asked several
people, but I can't get a straight answer. The mechanics here don't seem to have a clue,
and your friends just avoid the question. You do have a destination, don't
"Look," Wufei snarled, whirling around to face her. She jumped back, startled.
"I'm getting a little tired of the inane questions."
She gaped. "How could you talk to me like th--"
"You want me to quit treating you like a child, but you are one," Wufei snapped.
"You try to act like an adult, then get upset when I talk to you like one. You're not
coming with us. Period. And I'm the wrong man to be badgering anyhow. This is Heero's
decision. Not mine. Now go get some rest. You'll be dumped off at the next station.
Then you can get a ticket back to earth away from all this 'horrible war' shit."
She stared at him, aghast. Wufei threw his arms up in the air in annoyed dismissal
and stormed off.
Mariemaia clenched her teeth together tightly to keep back the scream of outrage.
"Heero's decision, is it?" she growled under her breath. "We'll see about that."
Stepping out of the back hangar, Heero looked up quickly at the child-like
Mariemaia was approaching him, smiling cheerily as she craned her head to try to
get a glimpse behind him. "You seem to spend a lot of time in there. What's back there,
"Nothing," Heero grunted, slapping the panel and making the doors slide shut. "You
should be resting."
"So I've heard," she sighed. "May I speak with you a moment?"
Heero walked past. "If this is about you staying, I've already told you the
answer. You can't come with us."
"But why not?" she huffed, hurrying to keep up. "And stop that! I'm getting sick
of people walking away when I'm talking to them."
"Get used to it," Heero advised coolly. "We don't have time to babysit."
"I only want to stay a little while," she protested. "What's the big deal? Is
your destination some sort of secret? Besides, I know at least part of your secret. Miss
Relena. You're the ones who kidnapped her. Let me go, and I'll talk."
"Her father is perfectly aware of the fact that we have her," Heero cut her off.
"He insists she accompany us."
"What if I got my father to do the same?" she asked quickly.
"It wasn't just her father's decision," Heero said. "You're a completely different
case. My answer is still no. This conversation is over."
Mariemaia came to an abrupt halt, face twisting in anger. "I'm coming with you,
Yuy, like it or not," she insisted. "Change your mind now while the choice is still
Heero slowed and finally stopped. He turned to offer her a suspicious glare.
"What is that supposed to mean?" he demanded sharply.
"Maybe nothing," she said sweetly. "Changed your mind, yet?"
"No," he growled.
Her expression melted into a solemn one. "Too bad, Yuy," she murmured. "Remember,
I gave you the choice." She whirled and hurried back towards the infirmary.
Heero made as if to follow her, but just then Quatre appeared, looking harried.
"Heero, there you are, thank god. Please come help me. I was trying to show Relena and
Hilde how to make curry, and I think they're about to burn down the kitchen."
"Heero," Quatre insisted.
Pushing thoughts of the strange child from his mind, Heero turned and followed the
He would question Mariemaia later. It could wait. She was only a child throwing a
tantrum. She was no real threat, and they would be rid of her soon enough.
Wufei had never sleepwalked before in his life.
When he groggily opened his eyes to the insistant calling of his name, it took him
several moments to figure out where the hell he was.
He looked around in confusion, blinking blearily as he attempted to rouse himself
completely awake. He was in the hangar, standing at Wing's feet. Trowa was standing
beside him, gripping his upper arm and staring at him.
Wufei reached up to rub the rest of the sleep from his eyes and turned to frown in
confusion at the taller boy. "Wha?" he mumbled, voice rough. "What the hell am I doing in
here? Is this some kind of evac drill?"
Trowa hesitated, then shook his head slightly. There was a faint hint of concern
in his eyes, though his expression was as calm and competent as always. "You were
sleepwalking," he explained. "I was coming out of the bathroom and saw you walk
"Sleepwa..." Wufei frowned. "Is this some kind of joke?"
"Afraid not." Trowa glanced up at Wing's gleaming form. "Any idea why you would
come in here? How did you get past the security doors, for that matter?"
Wufei ran a hand through his hair, gazing up in confusion at the enormous mech
before him. "No," he admitted. "I don't remember dreaming or anything. As for the
doors..." He shrugged. "I've always been able to get past them. And don't ask me why,
because I don't know. Yuy and Winner seem to have their own insane ideas about it." He
peered up at Trowa. "This has never happened to me before," he said firmly. "What was I
Trowa shook his head slightly. "Nothing. You just came in here and stood in front
of Wing. You sounded like you were mumbling under your breath, but I couldn't catch any of
it. I thought I heard 'help her', but that isn't much to go off of." He stepped back and
motioned to the door. "You should get back to sleep. It's late."
Wufei nodded distractedly, glancing back over his shoulder once more at Wing. It
stood silent and unmoving, a simple hunk of machinery and electronics.
But for just an instant, when he'd first opened his eyes, he'd thought... He would
have sworn that Wing's eyes had been glowing, as if the Suit was powered up.
He shook it off and allowed Trowa to lead him out of the hangar. 'Her'? Had he
had another dream of Meilan? But he couldn't remember any dreams.
"I'm surprised you didn't wake Yuy," Trowa admitted in a monotone. "Don't you both
sleep in the same room?"
Good point. Wufei frowned. Heero slept lighter than a cat. Why hadn't he heard
Wufei get up and walk out? "Maybe he assumed I was going to the bathroom," he
Trowa stopped abruptly. "Where are you going?"
Wufei hesitated, glancing back at the boy. "What?"
Trowa pointed. "Your room is this way. Why are you heading for the infirmary?
Sleeping pills won't necessarily help a sleepwalker."
"I wasn't--" Wufei stopped, staring down the hallway his feet had set down
unconsciously. "I'm still tired," he muttered, turning away. "I guess I forgot the
"..." Trowa frowned, eyes flicking from Wufei to the dark hallway. "'Help her',
hm?" he murmured.
Trowa strode past him. "Let's check on Mariemaia before we go to bed," he
suggested mildly. "Make sure she doesn't need anything."
"Why?" Wufei lingered behind, unwilling to follow. "She's not a baby, Barton," he
snapped impatiently. "And what are you-- Hey!" Muttering to himself, he hurried after the
Trowa led the way at a quick long-legged stride that had Wufei almost jogging to
keep up. Without knocking, he hit the control panel to activate the infirmary
Stepping in, Wufei reached automatically for the lightswitch, but Trowa held up a
hand to stop him. He walked silently over to the beds where the girls slept, first
glancing across the room at where Sally was snoring gently before bending over slightly to
check each girl. Wufei watched in bemusement until Trowa reached Relena's bed. "Wufei,"
he said sharply, reaching up to switch on the small bed light.
Wufei hurried over, gazing down at the slender blonde.
She was breathing harshly in her sleep, fingers curled like claws on the sheets,
her face twisted in pain. Trowa took her by the shoulders and shook her-- first carefully,
then a little harder.
"A nightmare?" Wufei guessed, but his voice was subdued. Relena wasn't waking up.
He looked over quickly at the sound of an echoing wheeze. "Barton--"
Trowa glanced towards Mariemaia's bed. "Something's wrong with them. Get the
lights," he said shortly. "Wake Sally up."
Wufei hastened to obey, snapping on the bright overhead lights. "Po," he barked.
"Get up." He practically ran to Hilde's bed. She was already sitting up, squinting in the
"Wufei..?" she mumbled sleepily. "Wha's goin' on..?"
"Are you all right?" he asked tightly.
She blinked up at him, looking tired and a bit annoyed. "Why wouldn't I be?
Wufei, what the hell is going on?"
"That's what I'd like to know," came Sally Po's grumpy voice. She was also sitting
up, glaring blearily at the two boys. "This had better be an emergency. I was having a
really nice dream."
"There's something wrong." Trowa jerked his chin towards Mariemaia, seated on the
edge of Relena's bed as he supported her against his chest.
Sally Po took one look at them and scrambled out of bed. She yanked on a robe as
she padded over, looking alert and tense. "What happened?"
"We don't know. We came in and they were like this." Trowa gave Relena another
small shake. "Whatever it is, they're not coming out of it."
Sally Po reached out and checked Relena's pulse for a moment, then Mariemaia's.
"Their pulses are fast-- erratic," she said almost under her breath. "Hilde--"
"I'm fine," Hilde said quickly, staring wide-eyed. "What's wrong with
"Get up, come help me," Sally Po said urgently. "Trowa, stop shaking her, it isn't
helping. Lift her arms over her head a bit-- it will make it easier for her to breathe.
Wufei nodded, moving over to Mariemaia's bed. He mimicked Trowa, sitting on the
bed and dragging the child into a sitting position. He propped her back against his chest
and lifted her thin arms over her head. Her breaths became less strained, but still a
The door slid open, startling them all, and Heero stepped in, quickly glancing
around. "What's going on here?"
"Heero-- we thought you were asleep." Trowa nodded at the girls. "Something's
happened to them."
"I thought Wufei was going to the bathroom, but he was taking too long," Heero said
distractedly, staring at Relena. "I heard voices. What's wrong with them?"
"I don't know yet," Sally Po said, sounding a little strained as she dug through
the contents of her medicine cabinet. "That's what I'm trying to figure out."
Hilde put her hand to Relena's brow. "She's burning up!"
"Fever, maybe?" Sally Po muttered to herself, then looked sharply towards Heero.
"Heero, don't just stand there. Get some cloths and soak them in cold water, then put them
across their foreheads."
Heero nodded, striding into the bathroom.
He snatched two washcloths from the shelf and soaked them before hurrying back
"Good grief, Heero," Wufei said, stopping him when he tried to drop one of them on
Mariemaia's face. "Give me that-- are you trying to drown them?" He took the cloth and
squeezed out most of the water into a basin by the bed, then laid it carefully over the
Heero followed his example, squeezing out the washcloth and putting it gingerly
over Relena's brow. He stepped back, feeling helpless and frustrated. He had no idea how
to deal with sick people. He'd always been a healthy child. The one time he could
remember Wufei being sick in their youth, he hadn't been allowed to see the other boy until
the family doctor had proclaimed him well again. He'd gone mad with worry until then, sure
that his friend was dying.
Relena strained a bit against Trowa's hold, her face pale and her eyes screwed shut
tight with discomfort. "Gghh... Hee...ro..." she breathed pitifully.
Heero was by her side in an instant. "She's awake," Trowa said sharply.
Relena's hand was groping up above her head as she twisted weakly in an attempt to
get her arm free. "Hee...ro..."
"For god's sake, Heero," Hilde gasped, looking scared and heartbroken.
Trowa released her arm abruptly, and Heero caught it on reflex. He jumped when she
squeezed his hand with her own in a tight, desperate grip. "Heero," she gasped.
"Shit," Wufei growled, "what the hell is wrong with them?"
"Fever, I think," Sally Po answered distractedly, coming over with her supplies.
"A bad one. We just need to break it. They need to sweat it out. Wufei, get her under
the blankets. Pile them on. Trowa, you do the same."
Hilde gently took Relena's free arm to help, so Heero carefully drew his hand free
and went to help Wufei.
"I feel like an ass now," Wufei muttered to Heero as they manuevered the small
child onto her back and began drawing the covers up around her. "I was acting like a jerk
towards her earlier."
Heero glanced up at him, tucking one small arm under the covers. "She'll be fine,"
he found himself saying.
Mariemaia began struggling, trying to kick the covers off. "Hot," she rasped.
"It's ok, honey, Sally Po soothed, mixing something in a cup. "You'll feel much
better tomorrow, I promise."
Mariemaia's eyes snapped open suddenly, wild and frightened. She dragged her arms
out from under the covers and reached imploringly for Heero. "Bathroom," she squeaked
miserably. "Please-- 'm gonna.. throw up..."
"Uh, oh," Sally Po breathed. "Sounds like it comes with a stomach virus, too. Get
her to the toilet, Heero-- quick."
Heero yanked the covers back and lifted her small form easily into his arms. He
carried her in quick strides towards the bathroom. He deposited her gently in front of the
toilet, lifting the seat.
"Door.." she coughed. "It's... embarrassing..."
Heero started to retreat, but Sally Po shot him a narrow look. "What are you
doing?" she snapped. "Stay with her!"
Heero frowned, but stepped reluctantly back into the bathroom and shut the door
Mariemaia was struggling to her feet, fishing in the pocket of her nightgown.
"Oi-" Heero reached out to restrain her. "What do you think you're--"
"Water," she rasped.
Heero hesitated, then grabbed a cup and filled it with cold water from the sink.
As he turned to hand it to her, he saw her draw something from her pocket. She pulled the
water out of his hand and gulped it. Then her other hand slipped to her mouth and she took
another quick sip.
"Hey-!" Heero snatched the cup away from her. "What did you just take??"
She collapsed weakly to her knees, breathing harshly. "Quiet, will you?" she
whispered. "Help me..."
Heero crouched to steady her. "I thought you said you had to throw up," he
snapped. "What did you swallow?"
Her fingers latched onto his arm like little claws, and she stared right into his
face, her expression pained and furious all at once. "The antidote," she rasped.
Heero went very still. "...What?"
"I tried to warn you-- to give you the chance to change your mind," she breathed.
"You didn't want to listen. This is what you get."
Heero's eyes narrowed. "Relena--" He started to get to his feet, but her fingers
dug in painfully, and she refused to budge, holding him in place with her dead
"You say anything, and both she and Wufei are dead," she hissed.
"Listen to me, Heero Yuy," Mariemaia murmured, eyes burning. "Listen to me very
carefully. You're going to tell everyone that you've decided I'm coming with you. And
make it convincing. Their lives depend on it."
Heero stared at her in disbelief. "What are you--"
"Relena got a bigger dose than Wufei," Mariemaia said quietly. "Wufei's poison is
more subtle; it works slowly. Unless I give him the antidote tomorrow, he'll be just as
bad as Miss Peacecraft."
Heero's heart was thudding in his ears so hard he could barely hear her. Rage
began to bubble in him, and his grip on her arms flexed violently.
She winced, but refused to release him. "Don't even think about warning anyone,"
she snapped weakly. "Or they'll never get the antidote."
"Give me the antidote," Heero said in an icy voice. "Now."
She smirked. "Oh, no, Heero, it isn't that easy. You think you can force me to
give up the antidote, tell everyone what I've done, then boot me off this ship? Sorry,
Yuy, I'm several steps ahead of you." Her eyes flicked towards the door. "Wufei doesn't
know his real mother, right? His foster mother-- he loves her very much."
Heero took in a sharp breath.
Mariemaia glared up at him. "There are men awaiting my word back on earth. They
have orders to kill her if things don't go my way. Kill Wufei's mother, Heero. What do
you think that would do to him?"
Heero could barely speak in his fury. "You--"
"These are the terms, Yuy," Mariemaia interrupted. "If you warn anyone, if
you try to take the antidote from me, if you try to get rid of me or lock me up, she dies.
Those men expect a call from me everyday. If I don't call, they do the job. You will
convince the others that it's imperative that I accompany you. You continue to act
normally around me. And don't think I won't know if you warn someone. There are men on
this ship who have made it clear to me that they are willing to betray any of you for the
right amount of money. These mechanics are simple men, Yuy. They can be bought quite
easily. And they're everywhere on this ship. They don't have to be excellent spies-- but
some of them are. Howard's men come from every side of the galaxy. Several of them used
to be soldiers. Or convicts. Do you understand what I'm telling you?"
Heero was shaking slightly with the urge to hurt her. His grip on her arms was
numbing, and she winced, glaring at him again. "Let go, you're hurting me," she
Heero bared his teeth, unable to stop the slow tightening of his fingers.
She took in a quick breath of pain. "Let GO, Yuy," she growled. "Don't push me.
I care nothing for Wufei's stupid foster mother. If I think you're going to be
disobedient, it will be very easy to have her killed-- and to 'forget' to administer the
andidote to Relena and Wufei every day."
Heero forced his hands by his sides.
She smiled up at him sweetly. "See? That wasn't so hard." She reached into her
pocket and held out a tiny green pill. "A reward for your obedience. Give this to
He snatched it from her, breathing harshly and unable to speak. Rage and hate were
crashing inside of him like a storm, and he had to fight with every ounce of willpower he
had to keep from wrapping his strong hands around her slender throat.
She beamed at him. "I can see we're going to get along just fine," she said
lightly. "You really shouldn't underestimate people, Heero Yuy. Even if they are only
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