Chapter 5: "Battle"
Wufei's heart jumped up several notches, and he had to jerk his gaze away from the gun. He stared up at the older boy incredulously, adrenaline already rushing through his system.
No way. This couldn't be happening.
Where the hell would a high school student get a gun that sophisticated? And why pull it on him?? Nothing made sense about any of this. "What's going on?" he demanded harshly. "Have you lost your mind?"
"You really thought you could disappear, freak?" the leader hissed, gun never wavering. "Gotta hand it to you, they did a pretty good job; it took us a long time to find you."
Wufei could only stare up at him dumbly. "What the hell are you talking about?"
"Don't act cute with me, brat," the boy sneered. "See that car?" He flicked the gun a little, and Wufei glanced towards the gate, where he could see a dark car waiting. "You're going to get in there- quietly -or your brain's gonna be all over this wall. Get me?"
Confusion was clamoring in Wufei's brain, and he fought to calm himself. Confusion only brought on fear, and he wasn't about to let these punks think he was afraid of them. He kept his face cold and arrogant, even as he forced himself to admit that he didn't have much of a choice. Not with a gun in his face. He turned stiffly and felt the gun settle firmly between his shoulder blades as he started to walk slowly towards the car.
Wild plans flew thick and fast in his head, but they were all too risky. As he got closer to the car, his heart began thundering in his ears. He knew in his gut that if he got in that car, it was over. This wasn't the time to worry about risks. He had to do something.
The five of them had obviously decided he was going to cooperate; the gun on his back was still there, but not pressed against him so hard. Wufei took in a slow, deep breath and willed his body to relax for what he was about to do.
"Don't get any funny i-" the boy with the gun started. Wufei didn't let him finish.
He twisted his body, spinning to the side so that the gun slipped from his shoulder, past his arm-- and he was clear of a shot.
He slammed his palm into the boy's nose as hard as he could, and his victim howled in pain, arm jerking up as he stumbled back, blood smeared all over his face. The other four leapt for Wufei silently, but he was ready for them.
He took down the first with a fist in the stomach, then swept the feet out from under the next. He dodged grabbing fingers and jabbed one of them in the throat, already turning on the last one. He stepped right into the startled boy's guard, seized a fistful of hair, and jerked the boy's head down, bringing his knee up to meet the hard skull with a loud crack.
The one he'd hit in the stomach had recovered and was coming at him from behind, while the one who had been tripped was also jumping in from his right. Wufei let his body move as he'd taught it to in his endless sessions in the garage. He spun away from the first boy and delivered a fierce round-house kick that sent him crashing into the wall. The second boy managed to seize his arm, but Wufei drove his hell back into his captor's knee, the ensuing scream of pain harsh in his ear. He jerked away and brought his fist back hard into the side of the boy's face. He went down like a sack of potatoes, but still they were coming.
The one who'd gotten a fist to the throat had regained his wind and was barreling towards Wufei, swinging a branch he'd snatched off the ground. Wufei dodged the branch, left, right, back-- then shot out a hand and seized the stick in midair. He pulled hard, but the boy wouldn't relinquish his grip. Wufei switched tactics and moved in quick and close, holding the branch out of the way as he clothes-lined his attacker, putting all his strength into it. The boy fell with a gurgling noise, and Wufei wrenched the stick away, already whirling to face the one person he knew was still a real danger.
The leader had discarded his sunglasses and wiped some of the blood off his face, revealing his ruined nose. He was aiming the gun right at Wufei, face twisted in a mask of hate and fear.
Wufei froze, knowing that even if he managed to dodge the first shot, the next one would surely get him.
He saw him coming, but for one precious second he didn't believe what his eyes were seeing, and didn't have time to react.
Heero Yuy came around the corner at top speed and crashed deliberately into the boy, one hand snatching the gun and jerking the boy's arm up. A shot went off wild, burning a scorch mark on the wall high over Wufei's head. He ducked instinctively, then straightened, staring incredulously.
Heero, like Wufei, was dwarfed by the other boy. But he went at him as if he were fighting on level ground. He twisted the arm quickly and brutally behind the boy's back, ignoring his screech, and kicked him hard behind the knee, causing him to stumble. Another quick jerk, and the gun was now in Heero's possession. He drove his knee in between the boy's shoulders, knocking him to the ground, and immediately straddled his back, arm laid across the back of his neck and gun shoved just behind his ear.
"Don't move," he said in a voice of ice.
It was over in a matter of seconds. The speed and brutality of it all left Wufei gaping.
He started to take a hesitant step forward, but something shone in his eye, making him wince and turn his head quickly towards the car. He knew before he'd even looked that it was another man with a gun; the sun reflecting off the sight had caught him in the face.
There was a man in a suit stepping out of the car, aiming a gun similar to the one Heero now held, right between Wufei's eyes. He knew he should shout-- alert Heero to the man's presence. But something in him knew that if he did so, Heero's reaction could be fatal. Would Heero aim his own gun, and take the man's life? In the split-second it took for him to see the man and realize his intentions, he opened his mouth to shout, then had strangled his voice before he could speak. Perhaps he was wrong. But he couldn't risk it. No matter the circumstances, he couldn't make himself stand there and watch the other student kill someone.
Something whistled through the air, glittering, and the man from the car suddenly screamed, dropping his gun and clutching his hand. A knife was protruding from the back of his hand, blood already welling up from the horrible wound and dripping onto the dirt.
"Oi oi," a familiar voice drawled, and Wufei spun around.
Duo Maxwell came strolling up, one hand in his pocket, a wide grin on his face, the brim of his hat hiding his eyes. "What seems to be the trouble, eh?" he asked loudly.
"Y-you..." the man by the car stared with wide eyes at Duo, teeth clenched tightly. His eyes jerked down towards the gun at his feet, but he made no move to retrieve it. Wufei looked back towards Duo-- another knife had appeared in his hand out of nowhere, and he was spinning it almost carelessly between his fingers, his smile as sharp and dangerous as the blade in his hand. Wufei's gaze jerked towards Heero, but the other boy didn't seem surprised by Duo's sudden appearance. He remained frozen, gun still crammed against his prisoner's head.
"I think you and your little buddies had better beat it, don't you?" Duo said lightly. "Be a good boy and kick that this way, yeah?"
The man in the suit hesitated, wild eyes flicking between Duo and Heero. Finally he did as he was told. The gun skittered across the dirt, and Duo lifted his toes, catching the gun under his foot. "Party's over, boys," he laughed. "Go and run home to your mommies."
The boys dragged themselves to their feet, wincing and groaning, and hobbled over to the car, sending glances of mixed fear and anger over their shoulders. Heero got off of the one he'd been pinning and stood with his gun aimed at the ground as the leader scrambled up and hurried after his friends. Wufei stood aside for him, watching in numb silence as they all piled in the car.
The man in the suit yanked the knife out with a hiss of pain and threw it aside. He glared at Wufei darkly. "Don't think this is over, kid," he growled. Then he ducked back in the car; it was peeling out of the yard almost before the door was shut.
Wufei stood staring blankly at the spot where the car had been, adrenaline still humming in his blood while his mind ran around in frantic confused circles. Duo strolled up to stand to his side, and Wufei's eyes dragged themselves to the side as he watched the knife disappear up the braided boy's sleeve.
"Geeeez," Duo sighed dramatically, his face the picture of amused exasperation. "How bold. Didn't think they'd show up so fast. Not here, anyway."
Wufei transferred his stare to Heero. Heero was gazing back at him solemnly, his eyes calculating. Duo fell silent, eyes flicking back and forth from one boy to the other from under his hat's rim, smile gone. The tense silence stretched, while Wufei struggled to find his voice.
He opened his mouth, but before he could blurt a single question, a girl's voice cut him off.
Heero reacted instantly. He put his hand behind his back and tucked the gun in his waistband just as Relena Peacecraft came around the building, panting. Hilde was right on her heels.
"There you are," Relena gasped, stopping and putting a hand to her chest as she caught her breath, her eyes on Heero. "What's going on? You ran off like something was wrong..."
Wufei ignored her, eyes skipping to Hilde. She wasn't stupid; it wouldn't take her long to figure out something was wrong.
She was looking around quickly, at the three of them, at the scuffed ground, and then skimming the yard in search of the five boys. Then her eyes raked Wufei up and down, and her brow lowered in suspicion. Wufei realized belatedly that it must be pretty obvious he'd just been in some kind of scuffle; he might not have a mark on him, but he was breathing a little hard, and his clothes were rumpled. He reached up hastily to push back stray locks of hair that had escaped his tight ponytail, wiping sweat unobtrusively from his brow at the same time. Hilde gave him an accusing look, but when he shook his head once, she was smart enough to keep her tongue still for the time being. Later he was going to get it, he realized darkly. She wasn't going to leave him alone until he told her what the hell had happened. He forced himself not to look towards the burn mark on the wall. Relena might not recognize it for what it was, but Hilde was a military nut, and it would take her less than a second to realize a laser gun had been fired.
"Nothing's wrong," Heero was answering Relena, his voice calm and distant.
"But..." Relena finally dragged her eyes from him to glance at the other two boys. Duo offered a wide, innocent grin, and Wufei only stared at her balefully. Relena hesitated, staring at him, noticing for the first time his state of disarray.
Hilde looked from Relena to Wufei's closed-off expression, then threw up her arms suddenly. "God, Wufei," she sighed loudly. "Couldn't you have waited until lunch? We're about to miss the bell."
Duo blinked. Heero stared at Wufei blankly, as if demanding he provide an explanation for his friend's apparent insanity.
Relena turned to Hilde. "I'm sorry, what?"
"Oh, Wufei's thinking about finally joining the track team," Hilde said, waving her hand as if it was nothing important. "Yuy was going to train with him.." she hesitated, obviously unsure of how to explain Duo's involvement.
Duo grinned charmingly at Relena, tapping a finger against his watch.
"He was just timing them," Hilde finished hastily.
"...Oh," Relena said slowly, looking back to Heero. "Then... you ran off so fast because.."
"He was late," Wufei forced himself to say, avoiding Heero's eyes.
Relena looked at them all, frowning slightly, then gave a little sigh. "Hilde is right," she said firmly. "You shouldn't do this between classes. Save things like this for lunch or after school, or you'll all be late." She turned on her heel and headed back inside. "Hurry, there's less than a minute before the bell."
As soon as she was inside, Hilde turned on Wufei, fists clenched at her sides and eyes narrowed. "You owe me big time," she informed him firmly. "I can't believe I just had to lie to the Student President. You had better tell me what's really going on here, or I swear, Wufei--"
"What's going on here," Duo cut in smoothly, sidling up and taking her arm, "is that we are, indeed, about to be late for class. You can beat your friend over the head with a brick later. We should hurry to class, yes?"
Hilde flushed, staring up at Duo. "Um- well, I guess, uh.."
Duo waved cheerfully over his shoulder at Wufei and Heero, already leading a hesitant Hilde inside. "See ya~!"
Heero shot a sideways look towards Wufei, but Wufei kept his eyes focused firmly on the front doors. He wanted to demand an explanation too, but he bit his tongue to keep his questions inside. This was neither the time nor the place for an interrogation. He would have to corner one or both of them after school. Ignoring Heero completely, he strode towards the door.
"Wufei--" Heero stepped forward quickly and took his elbow in a light grip.
Wufei jerked away violently, glaring daggers at the other boy. "Don't touch me," he hissed venomously. Heero took a step back, blinking in surprise. His eyes started to narrow in growing irritation, but Wufei walked right by him without a backwards look. This time Heero didn't try to stop him.
Wufei knew Hilde would corner him at lunchtime and put him through the third degree, so he took his lunch to the gym and ate alone on the bleachers, gazing blankly at the basketball hoop. He couldn't deal with her questions right now. He still had a million himself.
He'd walked in a daze since that incident in the morning, emotions and thoughts in a turmoil of anger, alarm, and complete bafflement. He'd gone through the scene countless times in his head, questions whirling on the tip of his tongue whenever he caught sight of either Heero or Duo.
Who were those guys that had accosted him? What did they want? Why did they act like the knew him, and like he should know what they wanted? Why the guns? Were they even students? What about the man in the suit? Relena had said Heero had left in a hurry; was it to help him? How had he known? Why had he helped in the first place? Where had he learned to detain someone like that? For that matter, where the hell had Duo Maxwell learned how to throw a knife like that, and why had he been there? Had he followed Heero? Who were they, really?
Nothing made sense anymore. Wufei stared at his half-eaten sandwich and considered tracking Heero down. But no, he was most likely eating lunch outside with Duo, and that would mean getting spotted by Hilde. And he didn't want her dragged into this, though he was going to have to tell her something after she'd lied for him like that without even understanding the circumstances. He would have to confront Heero after school.
He managed to slip out of his last class early and positioned himself at the front gate, but neither boy was to be found. Either they'd slipped out the back, or left early, expecting him to be waiting.
Hilde found him, there, however, and he spent the walk home fending off her questions and insisting that he had no idea what was going on and he would tell her when he figured it out. She wasn't happy, but she knew better than to push too much. They lived just a few blocks away from each other, so she went with him to the convenience store by his house to pick up something to drink.
His eyes flicked towards the counter. The same boy from last night was there, which was a little surprising. Night shifts usually didn't start until close to dinner time, and it was just after four now. The store was empty, and the boy was taking advantage of the slow business and talking on a cell phone; his girlfriend or his parents, most likely. It didn't sound like Terran. Wufei thought he recognized a couple French words. Maybe he'd been wrong and the boy was French after all. He chose a bag of health chips to munch on while he studied, while Hilde went to fetch them drinks.
As he brought the chips to the counter, the boy-- Quatre --hung up his phone and offered a bright smile. "Hello again."
Wufei merely grunted and tossed the chips on the counter, digging in his pocket for his wallet.
"Are you all right?"
Wufei glanced up at the quiet question. Quatre was looking at him curiously, head tilted. Wufei flicked a sideways glance towards the window, trying to get a glimpse of his reflection. He'd straightened his uniform and retied his hair right after the incident, so he must be wearing a strange expression, his mind still ticking through its many questions. He smoothed his face with an effort. "Fine," he muttered, moving aside as Hilde came forward with two sports drinks. He paid for the snacks, accepted the bag, and led the way to the door.
"Take care," Quatre called after them. Wufei thought he heard a strange note of sincerity in the boy's tone, and glanced back at him a little suspiciously, but Hilde was already ahead of him, so he shrugged it off and exited the store.
Quatre watched them go, smile fading from his face, expression shifting into a more solemn one. He picked up his phone, which he had stashed under the counter, and lifted it to his face. "He just left. He should be home soon," he said quietly, and hung up.
After what had happened that morning, Wufei had a strong urge to practice that afternoon. He left his books in his room, changed into loose workout pants and a tank top, and padded barefoot out to the garage, nodding in greeting when Trowa passed with his wheelbarrow.
He did twenty minutes of warm-up exercises, then set up two extra practice dummies and vented his frustration and confusion out on them. He whirled and fought his one-sided battle on the floor of the garage for over an hour, arms and face shining with sweat. Maybe he would run tonight before bed, he mused, jabbing his fist into the "stomach" of one of the straw dummies. Running always cleared his mind and relaxed him, and he could definitely use the peace of mind.
He delivered a fierce kick to the dummy, and its wooden arm snapped off, flying across the room. Wufei turned quickly, following its path with his eyes.
Trowa stood in the doorway, hand up in the air, fingers curled around the broken stick from where he'd caught it. He gazed at Wufei calmly, a bag of seed under one arm. Wufei wondered how long he'd been standing there, and stared back, catching his breath. Trowa tossed the stick into a corner and strode into the garage to put the seed away. "Something wrong?" he asked dryly.
Wufei glanced at the broken dummy and let out a loud breath, reaching up to wipe sweat off his brow. "Strange day," he admitted gruffly.
"Mm." Trowa dropped the bag onto a stack and dusted his hands off on his faded jeans, turning to look Wufei over with a calculating eye. Finally he said simply, "Your mother asked me to get you for dinner."
"You're staying?" Wufei asked with a small amount of surprise. It had been nearly a week since Trowa had last stayed to eat dinner with them instead of heading straight home after work.
Trowa shrugged, and waited while Wufei did some last-minute stretches, then walked with him back to the house.
Wufei scented the air as he stepped inside, and felt a tiny smirk tug at his lips as the reason for Trowa's decision became clear. His mother was making pasta; he could smell her homemade sauce from the front door. Trowa might seem as if he cared little about whatever went on around him, but Wufei had noticed long ago that he always stayed for dinner when his mother made Italian.
"How was your day, dear?" his mother asked as she brought the platter of manicotti to the table.
"Fine," Wufei muttered, burying his face in his cup pointedly. She arched a brow at him, but left it at that, turning her attention on Trowa. She smiled at him, offering him the serving spoon.
"Here you are, Trowa. I know it's your favorite. You can serve yourself first."
Trowa murmured a thanks and scooped two of the noodles onto his plate before handing the spoon to Wufei.
Wufei glanced at the clock as he ate. Nearly seven. He would have to eat quickly if he wanted to run and get some good studying done before bed. It was already starting to get a little dark. He ate as quickly as he could, then retreated to his room to look over his homework so he could digest.
He lost himself in history for an hour, then pulled on socks and a headband and went downstairs to get his running shoes.
His mother was already settling herself on the sofa for her evening soaps, and Wufei hesitated when he spotted Trowa still in the kitchen, putting the last dish in the dishwasher.
"Oh, Trowa's going to spend the night tonight," his mother said, catching his puzzled look. "He has a bit of a bug problem at home, and the exterminators are bombing the house tonight. He can't breathe in the fumes, so I told him he can stay here."
Wufei nodded and tugged on his shoes. "I'm going to run," he said over his shoulder. His mother murmured an acknowledgement, and Trowa looked up from what he was doing, frowning slightly. Wufei thought he might be about to offer to run with him, so he hurried out without a backwards glance. He wanted to be alone with his thoughts, and while Trowa wasn't the most chatty of people, he would still be a distraction.
He jogged down the path, slipped out the gate, and took off at a steady lope down the sidewalk that ran through his neighborhood, evening out his breathing to match his pace.
After a few minutes of steady running, his breathing and the movements of his body slipped into the rhythm naturally, and his mind began to clear. He ran from his neighborhood to the next, roughly a mile and a half, before turning at a signpost and making his way back.
It was nearly dark by now, and there were very few people outside of their houses. He felt free and untroubled by his earlier questions. He was a natural athlete, and running had always been his own form of therapy, aside from beating straw dummies into dust. He didn't let himself think about Heero, Duo, or the strange encounter with those older boys in the school yard. He concentrated on his breathing and the slap of his feet on the pavement and let his mind remain calm and blank.
"Race you to the creek..."
Wufei's step almost faltered, but he caught his stride and kept running. The fleeting thought, the scrap of memory, was there and gone again. His dream; was that it? Had he had a dream about running?
Now that he thought about it, he had been having several strange dreams as of late. He was never able to remember them, but they always left him with strange feelings of both loss and warmth on waking. He remembered his foster mother bringing him to a shrink just a few years after adopting him. He'd ignored most of what the man had said, more interested in the rows and rows of books, all of them with unpronounceable titles. But one thing the doctor had said had caught his attention.
"It's possible that he may never regain his memories of whatever his life was like before you found him," he'd said gravely. "But there have been plenty of instances where adopted children or people with temporary amnesia have regained their memories. Usually it comes bit by bit. They see something that seems familiar, even if they don't recall ever seeing it. It may spark a memory and things go from there. They may even have dreams about their past lives, about instances and people they knew before they lost their memories."
Wufei had wondered idly off and on throughout his life if he would ever regain those memories lost to him when his mother had found him shivering and unconscious on her porch. He'd been five or six then. At first he'd assumed he was simply too young to remember, but he'd met people who remembered farther back than that, when for him, anything beyond waking up in his new mother's arms was a complete blank. He'd just accepted it back then, but after what the doctor had said, he'd dedicated countless hours to trying to dredge up forgotten memories, searching in books and online for any clue to where he'd come from. His only tangible clue, however, was the blanket he'd been wrapped in, and the mark on his lower back. (1) There were no records of his birth in any hospital; he'd done a favor for a computer geek years ago and had the boy check hospital records online. As far as Earth was concerned, he had never existed before his mother had found him. That meant he could be from a colony-- but which one? There were too many of them, and their records weren't kept on earth. The ones that were were untouchable, and for the use of the government only.
That was why he had decided his freshman year that he would find a way to get to space. Hilde had met him that year, heard his story, and instantly suggested that he become an interpreter for Terran businessmen. There were, she insisted, plenty of people on the colonies that spoke Chinese. Many of them knew little or no English, especially in the more backwater colonies. He'd looked into her idea, and there was in fact such a job. The only requirements were a good GPA and an Associates in either business or Foreign Languages. He was now the top student in his school, which meant he could get into practically any university he wanted. He was already studying college-level books at home in preparation for graduation. He planned on getting his Associates as soon as possible so he could continue his quest for answers in space.
He was just a block away from his house, and turned down his street, still running evenly. His mind, which had been calm and blank just a few minutes ago, was now playing idly with his goals for the future and the possibilities of finding where he came from.
He was home. He let the gate shut quietly behind him and headed inside, breathing heavily. As he reached for the door, he thought he heard someone speaking quietly. Hesitating, he looked around, trying to pinpoint the voice. Slowly he walked towards the garage, forcing himself to breathe slower and quieter as he strained his ears.
It was Trowa's voice. Curious, but not wanting to interrupt, Wufei hesitated just outside the open garage door, keeping out of the light spilling from inside, and listened.
It was a one-sided conversation, that much was obvious. He must be on the phone. And he was speaking in French. Wufei listened for a few moments, then drew in a sharp breath. His name had just been mentioned. His French may be terrible, but he knew enough to understand one thing Trowa said.
"Yes. I'll keep an eye on him."
Wufei took a step back, then another, struggling to keep his breathing quiet. That morning's confusion and suspicions came rushing back. After everything that had happened at school, he couldn't make himself shrug off Trowa's strange conversation. What did he mean by "keep an eye on him"? Why was he out here in the garage, obviously trying to keep his conversation private? And speaking in French, no less. Wufei didn't like jumping to conclusions, but then, he'd never had a gun pulled on him before, either. He decided in this instance it was best to be paranoid and safe than to shrug it off and possibly be caught off guard.
Trowa was in on it-- that was why he was spending the night.
He was going to finish the job.
(1) no, that hasn't been mentioned before; it'll be explained later
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