Chapter 36: "Explorations"

There was a long moment of strained silence after Wufei hung up the phone.

Abruptly Mariemaia made a desperate break for the door.

It was a hopeless gesture; Quatre and Wufei both sprang for her, but Heero was between her and the door like a stone wall. He seized the front of her dress and hauled her off her feet, holding her dangling and thrashing as he glanced towards Quatre, ignoring her shrieks of outrage. "We're taking her to the break room. Get the others."

"Right." Quatre ran out, and Wufei took a slow step towards Heero, his burning eyes fixated on his writhing captive.

Mariemaia saw him coming and went white as a sheet. The hands that had been clawing at Heero latched onto his arm instead, and she went limp, wide eyes watching Wufei's approach. "I-I didn't mean it," she whimpered. "I wouldn't really kill her, Wufei! It was just a ruse-- to scare Heero and--"

"That didn't sound like a 'ruse' to me," Wufei interrupted quietly. His voice sounded cold to his own ears.

Mariemaia swallowed hard. "But--"

"Wufei," Heero murmured. "We'll continue this in the breakroom. You don't get answers from a corpse."

Mariemaia whimpered at the word "corpse".

Wufei drew a deep breath and forced himself to calm down a fraction. "Fine."

Heero let Mariemaia down, and holding her thin arm in a vice-like grip, dragged the screeching, thrashing girl after him into the hall. Wufei followed more slowly, fingers twitching with the urge to wrap themselves around her slender throat. A very small part of himself was horrified at the thought of causing such violence to a child, but the rest of him was only cold and dark and pitiless.

The mechanics they ran into took one look at the expressions on the boys' faces and got the hell out of the way without a word. Those that looked ready to protest quickly changed their minds when they saw the gun clenched in Heero's free hand.

When they finally reached the break room, Quatre had already assembled the others. Relena and Hilde were seated at the table nervously, and their eyes widened when they saw Heero's rough treatment of Mariemaia. Wufei flicked a glance towards them, but Duo caught the look and shook his head.

"Sorry, man, but I don't want them to be outta my sight. Not til we know who's with who on this goddamn ship."

"Heero!" Relena jumped to her feet. "What are you doing?? Stop it, you're hurting her!"

Hilde grabbed her arm and pulled her back down onto the bench. "Relena," she hissed. "Wait. Let them explain."


Heero practically threw Mariemaia into a chair, where she sat huddled, looking around wildly at the hostile faces surrounding her. The five boys stood over her, glaring down on her like merciless judges about to pass a death sentence.

"I was only--"

"When we want you to speak, missy," Duo pointed out in a silky voice, "we'll let you know."

Mariemaia stared up into his hard amethyst eyes and swallowed the rest of her words.

Quatre sighed, running a hand through his hair and shooting Heero a sidelong glance. "I think we should explain to them exactly what's going on."

Heero nodded slowly, eyes still boring into Mariemaia.

Quatre hesitated, but when it didn't look like Heero was about to speak, he crossed his arms over his chest and cleared his throat. "You remember the other day, when I felt someone's hate so strongly that it made me think it was my own, right? Here, in the break room."

Duo frowned. "It was right after Heero told us Mariemaia would be traveling with us."

"Right. Well, obviously you and Trowa weren't the culprits; you were as surprised as I was. And while now I see that Mariemaia is quite capable of feelings like that, I didn't think it was her, either. Which left Wufei and Heero. But..." he managed to quirk a small smile in Wufei's direction, "you're not very good at keeping anger off of your face, Wufei. Which left..." he nodded towards Heero. "Later I cornered him and demanded an explanation. He didn't want to say anything at first, but I finally managed to get some answers out of him. He was too angry to think straight; I guess he needed another level head to help him figure a way out of the whole mess." He glanced at Heero.

Heero spoke to all of them, but he was looking at Wufei, watching his reaction carefully. Quickly, voice a monotone, he told them everything that had happened since the night Relena and Mariemaia had fallen ill. He kept the part about Ivan in the cockpit to himself. He watched as Wufei's face grew more and more outraged, until finally all that was left was rage. He winced internally, hoping most of the focus for that anger was not himself. "I couldn't figure out a way to tell you without risking your mother's life," he wrapped up. "Quatre's right; I was too angry to think straight."

"I thought about it, and came up with a counterattack that was actually pretty simple," Quatre continued. "I have friends back home; they call themselves the Maganacs. They're kind of sworn to me... it's a long story. Anyway, I gave them a call, and they pretty much tore the country apart searching for your mother. Seems they found her just in time; they took care of the men watching the house and smuggled your mother away. She couldn't be in safer hands." He turned a stern glare on the huddled form in the chair. "She'll never be used as a hostage again. You've lost, Mariemaia. All we have to do now is weed out those who are working for you and get rid of the lot of you."

Trowa had been listening in grim silence, but at last he spoke up. "There's one thing I want to know," he said slowly. "Why go through all this? Why were you so determined to stay on board? Who are you really?"

Mariemaia finally looked up, lifting her chin in proud defiance. "My full title is Lady Mariemaia Kushrenada. I'm acting on my father's will."

Heero's eyes narrowed. "Treize."

Wufei drew in a sharp hiss of breath. "You're that jackal's daughter??"
"No wonder he hasn't been following us," Quatre mused. "He didn't need to. He had a little spy here all along."

Hilde suddenly leapt to her feet, startling them all. They'd almost forgotten the girls' presence. "Why??" she cried, looking betrayed and furious. "Why, Mariemaia?? Why would you do such horrible things?"

"Her father has his own plans for Wufei's people," Quatre said quietly. "He calls them peace negotiations, but this whole fiasco only makes his intentions seem even less noble. What are your father's real plans?"

Mariemaia's eyes narrowed and she spoke through clenched teeth. "I don't know how you plan on getting me to confess the names of all the men I've bought on-board, but I'll tell you right now: nothing you do or say will make me betray my father. Nothing."

Duo shifted as if he was about to demonstrate a more violent way of persuasion, but Quatre stopped him wearily. "She means it," he sighed. "There's no point, anyway. We're getting rid of her; he'll lose his spy."

"We need to dump the brat and hightail it out of here, then," Duo growled. "Daddy dearest can't be too far behind. Just because we haven't seen him doesn't mean he's not there."

"Duo." Heero waited until the boy looked his way. "Take care of this." He gestured slightly towards Mariemaia.

Duo studied his face for a moment, then gave a slow smile that made the hairs on the back of Wufei's neck stand on end. "Sure," he purred. Mariemaia gave a little whimper.

"No," Relena protested, shaking Hilde off and getting to her feet. "No. I remember what happened the last time you asked him to 'deal with' someone. Back on earth, at the station. He killed that man, didn't he? However horrible her acts, I will not let you lock her alone in a room with that madman."

Hilde glared at her. "Madman?" she repeated angrily.

"Stay and watch if you like, blondie," Duo drawled without looking at her. "I won't kill her. And I won't hurt her... too much. You could use a lesson in reality: fear is a great motivator."

"You don't scare me," Mariemaia hissed, but she was trembling as she said it.

Duo smiled cheerfully. "We'll see if we can fix that, hm~?"

Relena hesitated. "Hilde should stay, too, then," she said firmly. "I want her to see this dark side of yours that you hide when you're with her."

Hilde glanced from her to Duo, frowning a little uneasily.

"...As you wish, princess," Duo murmured in compliance, hooded eyes still resting on the child before him.

Wufei took a deep breath and looked away from her. It was done, he told himself firmly. His mother was safe. Duo was going to get the answers they needed. Soon she would no longer even be on the ship. Thanks to Quatre's quick thinking and actions, the situation was under control. "We're done here?" he demanded.

Quatre blinked, looking over towards him. "What? Uh.. yeah, I suppose. But--"

"Good." Wufei seized Heero's wrist and glared into his wary eyes. "We need to talk," he commanded.

Heero didn't even bother to put up a protest. He followed in silence as Wufei stormed out of the room, dragging him along.

Trowa watched them go, but made no move to stop them. Quatre sighed, rubbing his throbbing temples tenderly. "You've got an hour, Duo," he murmured. "I need to lie down for a few minutes."

"I'll talk to Howard," Trowa offered.

Duo waved, still wearing his shit-eating grin. "Ok. Bye bye~!"

Mariemaia watched with frantic eyes as the door closed firmly behind them, leaving her alone with the subdued girls and the smiling braided pilot.

The smile he turned on her was chilling. "Right... Let's begin!"

Mariemaia shrank back into her chair and wished with all her might that she was anywhere but where she was at that moment.


Heero decided it would be best for his health if he were to keep his mouth shut until Wufei had finished yelling at him. Or beating the crap out of him. Or declaring his undying hatred of his primary Guardian.

It was hard to decide which of the three was the worst.

Wufei hauled him to the infirmary and pounded on the door. "Po! Open up! It's Chang."

"How do I know it's you?" came Sally's muffled voice through the door.

"Woman! I do not have time for this! Open the door before I break it down!"

There was a pause, then a sour response. "That's Wufei, all right." The door slid open, and she stood with arched brow. "Well? Is this the all-clear signal?"

Heero started to answer, then checked himself. Beating first, speaking later, he reminded himself grimly.
"Stay with Howard for now," Wufei ordered, glancing past her. "Where are those two imbeciles?"

"I'd called for security, remember? Howard had them locked up."

"Good. We need to use this room," Wufei said shortly. "Move."

"Ex-CUSE me?" Sally demanded incredulously. "You're ordering me out of my own office? You've got some nerve, Chang Wufei."


Sally Po rolled her eyes, throwing her arms up in defeat. "Oh, Jesus, whatever. Anything to shut you up. I want to talk to Howard about this anyway. Just don't be all day about it, will you?"

Wufei barely waited for her to get outside before shutting the door and activating the lock.

Heero had moved away and wisely chosen a spot in the center of the floor, away from any sharp corners or possible weapons. He stood there and waited for the first blow.

Wufei stood with his shoulders tense and his back to Heero for several minutes. Heero was beginning to wonder if he should risk saying something when Wufei turned abruptly and strode towards him, face lowered.

Heero tensed up, but didn't flinch when a hand rose up for him.

He jumped when instead of a fist to the face, a hand cupped the back of his head and jerked his head forward a bit. Wufei's forehead thumped softly against his own, and Heero froze, unsure of what the hell was going on.

Wufei took a shuddering breath. "You're an idiot," he whispered harshly.

"...Yes," Heero agreed.

"You should have said something, damn it."

"Yes." Let the beatings commence, he added with an internal wince.


Heero blinked, wishing he could see Wufei's lowered face but unwilling to move. "...What?" Belatedly he became aware of the fact that the hand on the back of his head was shaking slightly.

"For saving my mother," Wufei muttered, voice still hoarse-sounding. "You lied to us. You helped that brat infiltrate. You practically got yourself killed, if Ivan's new puffy face is anything to go off of. But you did what she said. Even though you hated it. To keep my mother safe." He let out a slow breath, and his shoulders slumped as if he'd just released a lot of tension. "Thanks."

"...Does this mean there will be no beatings?" Heero asked quietly with only a hint of sarcasm.

Wufei punched him in the stomach, but not hard. "Shut up, smartass," he growled. "Or I will beat the daylights out of you. You goddamn stubborn mule. Thank god Quatre was able to pound some sense into that thick skull of yours and get you to cooperate with him." He fell silent again, and Heero closed his eyes with a rush of relief. Wufei didn't hate him. After seeing the look on his face back in the call room, he'd almost welcomed that hatred. He'd deserved it. For putting Wufei's mother in such danger.

But no. No hatred. Just... this. He didn't dare move for a long time, letting Wufei struggle internally with his own demons, letting him wind down and comfort himself with the knowledge that his mother was safe.

Finally Wufei shifted slightly, but didn't quite pull away. Heero was about to do so himself, to mention that they should check in with Howard--

The tentative, barely-there brush of lips against his own made his eyes fly open in shock.

He still couldn't see Wufei's face at that angle, but the body so close to his was humming with tension. Wufei's mouth hovered uncertainly close to his, not quite touching. When Wufei spoke, his breath tickled Heero's lips and made him shiver. "I don't... know what this is," Wufei murmured. "I don't know what I'm doing... Why I'm doing it. Why I let you do it... but..."

Heero swallowed hard, his heart banging in his ears and making it difficult to hear the quiet words.

"Whatever it is, I'm tired of analyzing it," Wufei breathed. "For once I just...." he lost his nerve, but Heero felt the mouth move, barely touching his own, forming the silent words. 'Just want it'.

He hesitated for another heartbeat, then hesitantly leaned forward, crossing that last inch and covering Wufei's mouth with his own.

But only briefly; he pulled back a second later, half-expecting a fist to the throat for his audacity. But Wufei only took in a shuddering breath, the fingers in his hair tightening in... encouragement? Nervousness?

Who cares? Heero thought abruptly, and tilted his head, pressing his mouth more firmly to pliant lips.

I don't know what I'm doing, his brain said frantically. Never done this before-- Don't know how to--

His brain didn't, but evidently his body did. A hand rose almost of its own accord, calloused fingertips running across a high cheekbone, over the soft shell of an ear, and into ebony locks of hair. Wufei's breath hitched ever so slightly, but he didn't move away. The skin of his cheek had been warm-- he was blushing.

Heero tried again, tilting his head a bit more and moving his mouth carefully against Wufei's. Wufei's mouth twitched, tightened, then abruptly relaxed and moved cautiously with his.

Clumsy, clumsy, Heero's mind complained with a wince, and he tried to fix it-- opened his mouth wider so that his lips covered Wufei's completely, and closing them at the same time Wufei closed his own.


It felt as if sparks were going off on his nerve endings, and he could feel his own face growing warmer. He slipped his hand farther into the closely-constrained threads of hair, wanting suddenly to be closer. He tugged Wufei's face a bit tighter against his own and tried the same move again-- but Wufei had evidently had the same idea, and Heero let out a little huff of surprise as this time it was his mouth covered completely, and--

He almost jumped at the wet touch that briefly passed across his lower lip. Wufei had opened his mouth a little wider than Heero had before, and--

That was his tongue, his brain informed him, and began to go into shock.

Impatiently Heero cut off all trains of thought and trusted his body to know what it was doing.

It did.

He did what he hadn't realized he'd been itching to do for god only knew how long, and twined an arm around Wufei's slender but strong waist, dragging him forward until their bodies were pressed together firmly.

It was Wufei's turn to be surprised. He broke the awkward kiss abruptly, drawing his head back just slightly, and for the first time Heero saw his expression.

His face was flushed, and his breathing was quicker. He looked nervous and embarrassed, and... something else.

"Um..." Wufei's blush intensified, but he refused to let his eyes flinch away from Heero's own. "What happened to being 'professional'?" he managed to mutter.

Heero frowned slightly. Less talking. More kissing. "What Trowa doesn't know won't hurt him," he mumbled, using the hand in Wufei's hair to tug his face forward again and claim that stubborn mouth with his own.

Wufei gave a small snort, but didn't withdraw. He lowered his hand from Heero's hair to cup the side of Heero's neck, and warmth spread from where his palm lay and began to spread through Heero's body. Hesitant fingertips barely touching his abdomen made his skin shiver even through the cloth, making him bolder. "Don't bite it off," he managed to say, and tried something he'd caught Duo doing enthusiastically with Hilde when they hadn't known he was there. He slipped his tongue into Wufei's slightly parted mouth.

Wufei jumped in surprise, but he didn't bite. He froze instead, waiting to see just what the hell Heero was up to.

Heero wasn't sure what to do next, so he settled for exploring the inside of Wufei's mouth thoroughly with his tongue. Finally Wufei responded hesitantly, lifting his own tongue to meet Heero's, then, with more confidence, moving it against Heero's. He gave a very small noise that sounded suspiciously like a groan.

All of the heat that had been pooling languorously in Heero's stomach and chest dropped suddenly south at that muffled noise, and he drew in a quick breath through his nose in surprise.

Wufei evidently decided Heero had done enough exploring, and moved on with typical Chang Wufei stubborness, pushing Heero's tongue back and following it with his own until he was the one exploring Heero's mouth.

Heero almost forgot how to breathe for a crucial moment.

Wufei invaded more aggressively than Heero had, as if proving that Heero was not the one in sole control, and that he was just as bold as Heero.

Challenge accepted, Heero thought, mouth twitching against Wufei's in a small smirk. He found Wufei's tongue with his own and bullied his way into Wufei's mouth once more.

It became a small struggle for dominance in moments, and Wufei's hands became as aggressive as his mouth. The hand against Heero's neck tightened, while the other slid roughly across a flat stomach, a strong hand gripping his waist and dragging him slightly closer. Heero dug his fingers into Wufei's scalp and forced his head slightly to the side, changing the angle while his grip around Wufei's waist became almost crushing.

His head was spinning, and all he could hear was his own heart thudding in his ears and their own harsh breathing.

Wufei jerked his head away suddenly and drew in a quick gasp of air, chest heaving against Heero's for oxygen.

Heero allowed the retreat, concentrating on getting his own breath back and memorizing that particular shade of red that colored Wufei's cheeks.

"Howard," Wufei said. "You said we need to check with--"

"Later," Heero muttered impatiently, and chased Wufei's words away with another hard kiss.

The fingers on his waist tightened, but didn't push him away, and Wufei allowed the invasion of his mouth without further protest.

A sharp rap against the door startled them so much Wufei just barely saved his tongue from Heero's teeth in time.

Flustered and wild-eyed, they jerked away from each other and stared at the door, struggling to regain their breath. A moment later Heero realized with horror that there were other parts of his body that needed to be controlled other than his lungs.

"Hey, open up!" came Sally's impatient shout. "Duo's looking for you guys, and I need to get some things done in there."

Heero didn't quite trust his voice just then, but Wufei spoke up hastily. "Stop harping, woman," he snapped, and Heero hoped the door would muffle his voice enough to hide the hoarse breathlessness of it. Wufei hesitated, glancing back towards Heero, red-faced as he tugged at his shirt, straightening it.

Heero cleared his throat and drew on years of training to get his face composed and his body under control. He waited another moment to make sure Wufei was ready, then unlocked the door and stood aside as Sally Po stepped in.

Sally Po looked curiously at Wufei, who was still a bit red, and frowned. "You two weren't fighting again, were you?"

"Mind your own business, Po," Wufei growled, ducking his head slightly to hide his face as he dodged around her and hurried from the room.

Heero nodded in farewell, face a carefully composed mask, and followed his partner.

He reached up briefly to wipe the remaining moisture from his mouth as he trailed after Wufei towards the break room.

This, he decided firmly, was definitely something they were going to have to explore at greater length later.

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