Chapter 33: "For His Sake"

Heero found it extremely difficult to concentrate on much of anything that night or the next morning.

Other than one Chang Wufei, that is.

He found his eyes seeking the other boy out constantly, watching him in pensive silence. Every now and then Wufei would feel his gaze and glance his way, and Heero's heart would give a strange jolt in his chest. A strange mix of embarrassment and unexplainable anticipation would churn in his stomach, confusing him even more. He had never felt this way before. He wondered at first if perhaps he, too, had been poisoned.

He had noticed on first meeting Wufei that the boy moved with the grace of a martial artist, but he had never paid much attention to it before. But now he found himself vaguely fascinated by the way the boy moved. He made Heero think of a wild cat-- the way he walked and moved and the way his sharp eyes seemed to miss nothing. No gesture was wasted. Even his sarcastic remarks and the unconscious sneer that lifted his lip when he disagreed with something seemed to fit him.

Heero was so caught up in studying Wufei that it took him a moment to notice the grin hovering by his shoulder.

"See something interesting?" Duo teased quietly.

Heero flicked the other boy a sideways glare. "What?"

Duo jerked his chin across the break room, where Wufei was tolerantly showing a sheepish-looking Hilde how to patch a tear in her jacket. "I'd be a little upset, but somehow I doubt it's Hilde you've been ogling all morning."

"Ogling?" Heero repeated in a dangerous tone.

Duo grinned at him knowingly. "OK, bad choice of words. Staring at all day. Whatever. I've never seen you pay this much attention to anything other than your guns or your Gundam. Kind of hard to miss."

Heero glanced around quickly, but neither Trowa nor Quatre seemed to be paying attention, and if they'd also noticed his staring, they didn't let it show.

"Did I miss something?" Duo asked innocently. "Because you sure didn't seem this confused before."


Duo arched a brow. "Polly want a cracker?"


"Stop parroting me, Heero." Duo dumped himself onto the bench beside his friend, clapping him on the shoulder in mock sympathy. "Confused, yes. You should see the look on your face. It's pretty funny."

Heero glared down at the charts in his hands. "Don't be stupid," he growled.

"I'm only callin' it like I see it," Duo proclaimed. He lowered his voice so that only Heero could hear him. "You've been following Wufei with your eyes all god damn morning with this really weird expression on your face. Like you've just seen a brand new shiny Gundam that you'd like to take for a spin. But as if the thought of getting in the driver's seat scares the shit out of you. And evidently the Gundam looks kind of funny, because you look pretty damn confused, too."

"Duo," Heero started impatiently.

"Look, Heero," Duo cut him off, expression serious. "I know you, so I know at least a little bit of what's going through that mechanical mind of yours. So I think I'd better help you a little before you get so wound up you self-destruct or something." He glanced Wufei's way. "I don't know what happened to open your eyes up to what's right in front of you, but... whatever you're feeling, it's normal. Human."

Heero stared at him in silence.

"And in your case, the confusion is to be expected," Duo reassured him with a quirky grin. "You've never felt anything like this for anybody before-- or not that I know of. You don't know how to deal with it. I doubt you even know what 'it' is. Sorry, buddy, but the only way you're going to get rid of some of those confused and trapped feelings is by acting on them."

Heero scowled, unable to meet his friend's eyes any longer. "What are you babbling about?" he grumbled.

Duo rolled his eyes. "Fine, play dumb. Whatever makes you feel better. But just take it from someone who knows, all right? Eventually you're going to figure it out. Hopefully not the hard way, which is why I'm doing what best friends do and giving you a kick in the ass in the right direction." He jabbed a finger into Heero's chest suddenly, making the other boy jump slightly. "Don't hang on the sidelines and try to dissect what's going on in that head of yours," Duo said firmly. "Don't wait for whatever it is to fix or resolve itself. You'll only 'fix' things by taking action. Get my drift?"

Heero opened his mouth, then shut it again. He dragged out a watered down version of his normal glare.

Duo's face softened. "Hafta admit, didn't think I'd ever see the day Heero Yuy had to deal with a thawing heart," he murmured. "It's kind of creepy, but kind of encouraging at the same time." He smirked, pinching Heero's cheek impulsively and jumping from his seat to avoid the irritated fist that swung at him. "Don't think," Duo laughed impishly. "Just act." With a pleased little wave, he trotted off, whistling a disjointed tune, braid swinging behind him like a tail.

Trowa looked up to watch him leave, a suspicious frown on his face. Heero watched him out of the corner of his eye, mouth tightening. Did he suspect what Duo had been talking about? He'd already told Heero his view on this subject. And while he was right, Heero found himself caring less and less.

Trowa looked as if he was going to follow Duo for a moment, but Quatre caught him by the sleeve, asking him for help with something. Evidently Quatre's sunny smile was a little more convincing than Duo's smug grin, because Trowa only hesitated a moment before turning back to help his blond friend.

Watching them, Heero found himself thinking that perhaps Duo should have a similar talk with Trowa.

A moment later he wondered in confusion where that thought had come from.


"He's looking at you again," Hilde murmured, scratching her nose to hide her grin.

Wufei scowled down at the jacket in his lap, pretending his cheeks weren't growing warmer. "Shut up. You're seeing things. Pay attention, will you? What kind of woman doesn't even know how to sew?"

Hilde made a face at him. "What kind of man knows how to sew?" she shot back, watching the needle flash in and out of the cloth. She leaned closer, lowering her voice. "Seriously, Wufei, he's been watching you all morning." She couldn't quite hold back an excited grin. "Did something happen? What'd I miss? I want details, Wufei."

Wufei glared at her. "Woman," he snapped, "this is not the gossip column! Mind your own business!"

"Oh, come on, Wufeiii," she wheedled, putting on her best begging look. "You can't even tell your best friend in the whole wide world?"

He scowled at her, returning his attention to his work. "You're imagining things," he growled.

Hilde arched a brow, sneaking a quick look across the room. "You don't believe me, look for yourself. He keeps staring at you like he's never seen you before. It's really funny. And kind of cute." She reached out and clasped his hand eagerly. "Come on, Wufei, spill. Something happened, right? Just a hint, that's all I need. Did he say something? Did he do something? I know-- he walked in on you getting dressed, right?"

Wufei stared at her incredulously. "We're both males, you twit. It's not the same as walking in on a girl-- and NO!" he interrupted himself hastily at her gleeful look. "He didn't-- I wasn't-- Drop it!!"


"I am not having this conversation with you," Wufei snapped. "Period. This is something airheaded little girls talk about. Men do not discuss this kind of thing with women."

"So you're saying there is something to discuss?" Hilde teased.

Wufei shoved the jacket into her arms, feeling flushed and irritated. "You finish it," he said shortly. "You've been watching long enough."

"Ah-- Wufei--!"

He ignored her, getting up and striding from the room.

He almost ran into Mariemaia in the hallway. He reached out instinctively to steady her when she stumbled backwards, and she smiled up at him in greeting. "Wufei!" She latched onto his arm. "I was just looking for you."

Wufei sighed internally. He should have known better than to treat her nicely during her illness. Now she seemed to think they were friends, and was constantly seeking him out. "What is it now?" he demanded gracelessly.

She pouted up at him, clinging tighter. "You promised me you'd take me on a tour of the ship. A real one. I've only been shown a few rooms-- the infirmary, the break room, the bathroom..."

"I did no such thing," Wufei insisted.

"OK, technically not," the girl admitted, dimpling. "But when I suggested it, you didn't really argue, either. I decided to take your barbaric grunt as compliance. So..." she tugged on his arm imploringly. "Show me around?" she batted her eyes winningly.

Wufei gazed down at her with hooded eyes. "That trick might work better on old men," he suggested.

She stamped a little foot. "Wufei!" She pouted. "If you don't keep your promise, I'll cry until you feel bad."

"You won't cry, and there was no promise," Wufei growled, trying to shake his arm loose.

"OK, I won't cry," Mariemaia sighed. "You know me too well."

"I just met you," Wufei deadpanned.


"I am not a tour guide. Get Howard to show you around. It's his ship. Or Maxwell. He used to fly with the old bat."

She blinked, pleading expression fading. "Duo Maxwell? He and Howard knew each other previously?"

"They worked together once from what I can tell," Wufei answered, finally pulling his arm free. "What does it matter?"

"Oh--" she smiled quickly. "Nothing. I'm just surprised, I guess." She looked at her feet, biting her lip. "It looks like I'll be tagging along with all of you, but I don't know anything about anyone."

Wufei winced slightly at the admittance. He'd been travelling with the others for weeks, and he still didn't know them as well as he should.

"Well if you're not going to show me around, can you tell me a little about the others?" Mariemaia gazed up at him hopefully. "I want to know all of you at least a little bit. So I can relate to them a little, and so maybe we'll all feel more comfortable around each other. I'm... I'm really an outsider here, and it gets really lonely."

Wufei sighed, rubbing his temple in defeat. She wasn't going to leave him alone, and a small part of him felt sorry for the kid. She must feel very much alone-- she was new and young and surrounded by strangers who seemed to be against her General and were all older than her. "I don't know much," he muttered, following when she tugged him in the direction of the cafeteria.

"Anything will be helpful," she assured him with a smile. "Start with, hmm, Maxwell. He seems like an interesting fellow."

"Maxwell." Wufei snorted. "He clowns around a lot. He's friendly, so you shouldn't have any trouble connecting with him. Tell him a stupid joke or something. That will get him started. But stay away from him when he's in a bad mood."

"Is he dating Hilde?" Mariemaia asked brightly. "I see them together all the time."

Wufei frowned. "No," he stated flatly. Not yet, anyway, he admitted silently. Surely Hilde would have told him if they were.... Right?

"Ok, class clown type," Mariemaia murmured thoughtfully. "I can be friends with someone like that. What about Mr. Winner? He seems nice. I'd like to be friends with him. What could I say to start a conversation?"

"Anything," Wufei said drolly. "He goes out of his way to make friends. You won't have any trouble with him."

"And Trowa?" She looked uncomfortable. "I don't know how to talk to him. He seems so... distant. Like he's focused so much on his job that he doesn't have the patience for anything else."

Wufei frowned, mulling that over. He'd never had much luck talking to the quiet boy. He wasn't sure what advice to give her. After a moment he shrugged. "Good luck starting a conversation," he snorted. "You could try mechs, I guess. You're both pilots."

"Oh, good." She smiled in relief. "Something in common." She ticked off on her fingers. "OK, I already get along with Hilde and Relena-- they're both super nice --and it seems I've finally gotten you to at least tolerate me..." she beamed up at him. He rolled his eyes. "I guess that's it! Thanks!" She hesitated, eyeing him curiously. "You know, Wufei," she said quietly, "you say you don't really know them, but you seem to know exactly how to best connect with each of them. I think you know them a little better than you think you do."

Wufei fell silent, frowning slightly to himself.

They were almost to the cafeteria when something occurred to him. "Wait-- you didn't ask about Heero," he pointed out. Of course, he could understand if she was too intimidated to attempt conversation with the stone-faced boy. He could definitely see Heero as being the type to scare children.

"Oh..." She gave a small, mysterious smile. "I'm sure I can think of things we can talk about together."


"Back to square one," Wufei muttered, glowering up at the hangar doors.

After Hilde's snickering observations about Heero's staring problem, Heero had pulled a Houdini and disappeared for the remainder of the day. Wufei had a sneaking suspicion Heero was avoiding him-- and thought he knew why.

"Idiot," he muttered to himself, hesitating with his hand by the computerized door lock. He must have really thrown Heero for a loop with that... well, with what he'd done last night. It had been purely impulsive instinct, and now he was wondering if he'd made a big mistake. Acted too soon, too strongly. Something had clicked last night when he'd found himself mouth-to-mouth with the other boy, as brief an exchange as it had been. It was as if he'd finally admitted to himself that there really was something going on under the surface between the two of them-- and that he had no problem with it. It was frightening, but almost a relief at the same time.

And now Heero was acting like this.

Wufei pressed his hand to the lock and stood back as the doors hissed open. He was going to have to apologize for his thoughtless act. It had obviously been too much for Heero to process. Hell, it had taken all night for Wufei to accept what had happened, and Heero had even more trouble handling his emotions. He must feel like a fish out of water. Wufei had probably ruined everything. He could at least try to preserve their friendship. It wasn't a good idea to have your top bodyguard unwilling to stay close to you.

Maybe his actions had made Heero realized it wasn't what he wanted?

Wufei slowed his steps as he neared Wing, walking silently as he craned his neck to seek the Gundam pilot out.

Voices drifted down; Heero was talking to someone. He couldn't see who; the upraised hatch hid them both from view. Heero must be in the cockpit while whoever he was talking to was probably crouching directly outside of it. Duo, perhaps?


Wufei turned, startled, as a man in an oil-stained coverall stepped out from behind the tank, wiping his hands off on a dirty rag. The man looked at him curiously. "What are you doing in here? I didn't know you knew how to tune-up these things."

"Oh..." Wufei hesitated, glancing towards Wing. "No. I help Heero a little," he edged.

"Well, actually, I'm glad you're here," the mechanic admitted with a friendly grin. "If you have a second, I could really use your help."

Wufei was privately disgusted at how quickly he jumped at the chance to delay his conversation with Heero. "All right."

The man held out a calloused hand. "I don't think we've really talked-- I'm Owen." Wufei shook the hand firmly and followed him to the tank. "I just need someone to hold the light steady. Both my hands are busy. I tried holding it in my teeth, but I keep dropping it or shaking it. It'll only take a minute. I've been in here all morning working on this, and I'm ready to wrap it up and get some chow."

Wufei accepted the proferred flashlight. "Where do you need the light?"

"Just right here." Owen squatted on the ground in front of the tank and picked up a drill from the pile of tools by his side. "Right under there... yeah, that's perfect. Thanks a lot."


Ivan was one of the few mechanics Howard had expressed enough trust in for Heero to allow the mechanic to help him with his Gundam at times when two hands simply weren't enough.

At the moment, however, Heero required no help, and was really in no mood to speak to anyone. He answered the man's cheerful banter with absent grunts as he inputted new data into his Gundam's log, the older man leaning against the hatch and carrying on about his girlfriend back home.

"It's weird having a kid on board," Ivan said suddenly. "That girl, Marie whatever. I don't remember Howard ever allowing any kids on board."

Duo, Heero thought, but didn't say anything. Ivan had apparently only joined Howard a few years ago, shortly after Duo's duties as a Guardian had forced him to leave the ship.

"Sweet girl, though," Ivan admitted, grinning. "Has a way of getting people to do what she wants, doesn't she?"

You have no idea, Heero thought darkly.

"And is it just me, or does she act like some high-society girl?" Ivan scratched at the stubble on his chin. "She's gotta come from a good family. Politicians or somethin'. Girl like that's got a lot of money to throw around."

Heero was barely listening. He flipped through the papers in his lap, searching for anything he'd missed.

"I mean, she could be real powerful one day, y'know? Good to get in her good graces, if ya know what I mean." Ivan laughed a little. "She's just a kid, I know, but hey, you gotta take what you get."

Heero hesitated, frowning up at the man. "She's just a little girl," he said shortly, "who doesn't know enough to go home to her parents."

"Nah, I think she knows what she's doing," Ivan argued, grin widening. "She seems pretty smart to me."

Heero's frown deepened warily. Something was off. The way he talked about Mariemaia made him uneasy.

The sound of a drill from below startled him, and he stood up to see who else was in the hangar. Ivan had been the only one there when he'd come in almost an hour ago.

Heero's heart did a little jump. Wufei-- when had he come in? He looked like he was helping another of the mechanics--

Wait. There hadn't been any other mechanics in there when he'd come in. None visible, anyway...

Ivan's hand clamped on his shoulder and jerked him backwards. He almost fell in the small confines of the cockpit, grabbing onto the seat with one hand and reach back to seize Ivan's sleeve in the other.

Ivan put his face right beside Heero's, his stubble scratching his cheek, his voice low. Heero's initial reaction was to jerk away, but the man's next words made his blood run cold.

"Messy way to die, having a power drill put through your chest, isn't it? Or through the face..?"

Heero froze, jerking his eyes around to stare at the older man. His heart was beginning to pound in his chest with adrenaline. His mouth went dry with sudden fear for the boy below. He opened his mouth to shout a warning, but the strong hand on his shoulder flexed in a painful grip.

"Don't even think about yelling," Ivan muttered. "You shout out to him, and he really will get a hole drilled into him big enough to put your fist through. Now are you going to behave?"

Heero forced himself to nod once. He was clenching his teeth so tightly together that his jaw was beginning to ache. Helpless rage thundered in his head, making his sight swim.

"Good boy," Ivan said cheerfully. "I told her you could be trusted to keep your end of the bargain."

Heero couldn't hold back a snarl. "You're with her," he spat. "You're one of the ones she paid off--"

"Shut up," Ivan said shortly, giving him a slight shake. "I didn't say you could talk." He waited for a moment to make sure he had Heero's complete attention, then nodded down at the two working on the tank below. "It's pathetic how predictable people are. It was too easy to give him his daily 'dose' right in front of everyone."

Heero's mind was whirling. Dose? The poison?? How? When? Predictable-- what did he mean by that?

"Now..." a heavy hand slipped down his chest and hovered by the band of his pants. "You could fight back-- yell. But that would only get your little buddy killed. Or..." Heero could feel the man grinning against his cheek. "You could play nice and make everyone happy."

Belatedly Heero noticed the hardness pressed up against the back of his leg, and jerked away instinctively.

Ivan yanked him back up against him, his grip on Heero's shoulder numbing. "Play nice," he hissed. "All I have to do is shout one word, and your friend's going to be breathing through a hole in his chest."

Heero was breathing quickly through his nose, struggling to control himself. He was shaking with rage and the urge to fight back, but his eyes were glued on the boy below.

"She's sicker than I thought," Heero forced out from behind clenched teeth. The hand was working at the front of his pants, making his stomach heave in sick protest.

Ivan chuckled in his ear, his breathing heavy. "You think a little girl like that would think of this to fuck with your head? Nah, she just made it clear what the rules were. Said you'd do anything to keep that fucker down there safe. So I figure... why not have some fun for my money?"

Heero closed his eyes tightly, struggling to keep himself in control. Every nerve in his body screamed with tension, and he clenched his fists against the chair to keep himself from striking the older man. "Get your hands off of me," he said shortly, tone icey.

"Don't think so, pretty boy," Ivan muttered. The sound of Heero's belt coming undone sounded impossibly loud. "Don't do anything stupid. Your friend will be the one paying the price."

Heero forced his eyes open and stared down at where Wufei was crouching by the tank, tilting the flashlight underneath for the mechanic he was helping. He was dressed in a pair of old jeans and a tanktop, showing off the strength in his arms and his back. Stray strands of hair had worked themselves loose from his ponytail, but he didn't bother to push them out of the way, still busy holding the light steady. Heero kept his eyes on Wufei and didn't make a sound when the hand at his waist dipped into his pants.

"Good boy," Ivan muttered. "Don't do nothin' stupid.... What would your buddy Wufei think if you put your pride above his life? If you said something and ruined everything?"

Heero hesitated. He could almost see Wufei's scowl, hear his exasperated voice. A humorless smile jerked at his lips, a smile that hurt his face. He let out a slow breath of air. "Wufei? He would say..." He reached up abruptly and seized a fistful of dirt-blond hair, twisting his head around enough to offer the startled mechanic his coldest glare. "He would say I was a stubborn stupid jackass for thinking about the mission and never myself."

Ivan opened his mouth-- probably to yell to the man below. Heero didn't give him the chance.

He threw his elbow back into the man's throat with all of his weight behind it. Ivan jerked back, struggling to breathe, and Heero yanked the man's hand out of his pants. With a deft twist, he snapped the man's wrist cleanly in half. Ivan gave a strangled, airy screech of pain that lasted only a moment before Heero drove his fist upwards with shattering force, breaking the man's jaw in at least three places. Ivan's teeth snapped together like a bear trap, severing part of his tongue. A gurgled animalistic howl of panic and agony bubbled in his throat.

Then the lights overhead began flashing and the attack alarm went off at a hair-raising volume.

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