Chapter 60: "Remember Me"
Wufei had forgotten how far underground the secret room was, and they were forced to stop once or twice so Heero could get his breath back. The other boy was still a bit weakened; Wufei wasn't sure if it was from blood loss or the suddenness of his recovery, and fought to keep his concern out of his expression. Heero seemed annoyed at his own exhaustion, and would only rest for a few moments before stubbornly pressing onwards. Wufei was forced to take the lead to prevent his hard-headed lover from taking them too fast and stumbling.
"Why did he call you Solo?" The quiet question sounded muted in the narrow stairwell, and at first he wasn't sure he'd been heard.
But finally Heero answered, his own voice subdued. "I think it's who I used to be. I'm not sure. It's very vague. He thinks I remember, but I don't. I just..." He frowned pensively. "Know he's right."
Wufei glanced back at him, but the lights were few and far between, and there were too many shadows to decipher the other boy's expression. "So you and Duo knew each other in your last life. You were at the Maxwell Church. That's where you died." He looked forward again, hand sliding over the rusty handrail with a faint rasping noise as he took the stairs as quickly as he dared. "That certainly explains why the war museum seemed to bother you so much. I even saw him in a picture there; I just couldn't believe it was him."
"I don't believe in reincarnation," Heero said, but without much conviction.
Wufei snorted quietly. "Neither did I," he admitted. "But then, I didn't believe in gods or weird magic, either. But I've been seeing things that aren't really there... and what Nezha says makes sense, in a really bizarre way."
"Why don't I remember it?"
"I don't remember my past lives either." He hesitated. "Well... except for little useless bits every now and then. But those are more like images, not memories."
"Lives, plural? Does this have anything to do with that 'deal' you mentioned before?"
"Yes. But I thought I was the only one who was a part of that. Apparently not."
"Me?" There was a faint note of incredulity to his tone.
"Obviously. This whole 'Solo' thing, for one. And didn't you notice how Du-- Sun Wukong tried to get at me by saying that you had remembered him, but not me? You were the deal, Heero. Nezha already told me about it. You were killed protecting me, and she agreed to bring us both back if I would get ruyi back for her."
Heero seized his elbow, jerking him to a stop. His protest at the delay died on his lips as he got caught in the other boy's intense stare. "We knew each other."
"Yes. You were my advisor." He hesitated. "And I think... we were lovers in that life, too."
Heero released him slowly. "I don't remember."
Wufei glanced away, scowling to cover up the unexpected hurt that flashed through him at the admittance. "Yeah, I gathered as much. I don't technically remember, either, though, so--"
"But..." Heero looked at him oddly, as if seeing him for the first time. "I always knew there was something... off about you."
Heero ignored that. "When I was presented to you, to become your Primary, I remember having this feeling that didn't make any sense." He shook his head in frustration. "I don't know. I was very young, and it was our first time meeting face to face, but I still felt like... I knew you. As if we'd grown up together, and I hadn't seen you in a long time."
Wufei stared at him.
"My trainer told me that it was because I'd never known other children. But..." Heero's hand tightened on the handrail unconsciously as if in remembered pain. "After L5 was destroyed, when you were sent to earth, it was as if something was... missing." His frown deepened in obvious frustration at his inability to understand or explain what he'd felt.
But Wufei took in a slow, careful breath and shook his head once. "She didn't let us meet in any of our other lives. She wouldn't let us; not without ruyi. But the whole reason I was reborn over and over again was to find it. And..." he hesitated, embarrassed.
"And me," Heero finished.
"It makes me wonder," Wufei admitted quietly, "if that's why I wanted to go to space so badly. If part of me knew that's where you were."
"You wanted to see your family."
"I didn't know about L5 until after I met you," Wufei said firmly. He turned away abruptly, starting back down the stairs. "We need to hurry," he said brusquely. "If I don't get ruyi back--"
Heero's grip on his arm was firm, but not so demanding this time. "What happens when we die?" his voice was oddly quiet. "We go through this all over again? If we even find each other?"
"...No." Wufei glanced back at him. "Once she has ruyi, our deal is done. This is the last life-- for both of us."
Heero gazed at him in silence for a moment, then stepped down so he was only a step above the other boy. "It kind of makes politics look a little unimportant," he noted.
Wufei stared back, heart thumping in his ears. Was Heero taking back what he'd said earlier-- about giving up their relationship for the good of his people?
"Don't do anything stupid, Yuy," he said roughly. "I didn't go through god knows how many lives just for you to get yourself killed for good. This is the last chance we get. It'd be nice if we didn't fuck it up." He pulled away carefully and started down the stairs again. He'd caught the subtle shift of emotions on Heero's face that usually resulted in a hard mouth on his, and they were running out of time. "Come on. The sooner we break Kushrenada's spine into fifty million pieces, the sooner this whole thing will be over with."
They ran the rest of the way in silence, and stumbled to a halt when they at least reached the underground tavern, stretching out far enough to hold half the palace inside of it. Huffing for breath, Wufei gazed up at the figure that towered overhead, placed in the middle of the room like some immobile metallic god. Heero had showed it to him only once before, briefly, but now that he stood dwarfed before it with the actual intent of using it, he felt more than a bit intimidated.
"What's its name?" he asked, shuddering as his voice echoed around the enormous cavern.
Heero shook his head from where he was propping his back against the wall getting his breath back. "We each named our own. You have to give it a name. It's always just been referred to as 05, since it was the fifth one made." He looked over at Wufei solemnly. "Are you sure you want to do this?"
Wufei nodded firmly. "Deathscythe is still loose. What other choice do I have? Besides, you said I'm the only one who can control it." His eyes tracked up the gundanium legs of the mech, thick as tree trunks, over the bright red chest, and finally up to the golden horns. It was his 'inheritance', something created for only the gravest emergencies: for either attack or retreat in the case of another tragedy like L5.
"Gundam 05," Wufei murmured, taking a hesitant step towards the mech. He reached back unconsciously, running his fingertips down his bare back until they touched the Mark. His skin warmed around the area.
As if in response, the Gundam's narrowed green eyes lit up with a fierce light, and the familiar mechanical hum of its systems and engines starting up filled the room.
Heero gazed up at it as well, jaw set uneasily. "You can call it whatever you wish. But it's harder to control if it doesn't have a name."
Wufei decided to ignore how ludicrous that sounded. He'd seen and heard far stranger things, including a Gundam that had-- of its own accord --allowed a curious boy into a locked hangar on a certain mechanic's ship.
He walked closer and put his hand against one of the legs, surprised that it was not cool to the touch. It seemed to be a bit less bulky than the other Guardians', making him think of his own lean body. Would this make it quicker and more maneuverable? Craning his neck to gaze up the length of the Gundam, he spoke quietly. "Shenlong. God dragon."
"Fitting," Heero agreed dryly. He hesitated, as if debating whether or not to argue the intelligence of the plan, then nodded towards the makeshift catwalk and the steel ladder leading up to it. "You can get to the hatch that way. I can't exactly watch your back while you're in there; you won't really need me to. The only threat to you will be Deathscythe, and the soldier who's piloting it will be as unfamiliar with a Gundam's controls as you are."
"You showed me a little back on Howard's ship," Wufei reminded him, grasping the metal rungs and ascending the ladder quickly. "Hopefully that will give me an edge." He paused halfway up to look back at his lover, noting the way his brow was furrowed in anxiety. "I'll be fine," he said with more confidence than he felt. "Try to catch up to Zhao; he should be following Treize. I don't want the bastard slipping past me while I'm fighting Deathscythe."
Heero nodded, moving over to the control panel on the wall that would open the side passage for Shenlong's exit.
Wufei hurried up the ladder and across the catwalk, pausing when he reached the Gundam's head. He found the hidden switch roughly in the same place as Wing's and pressed it quickly, leaning back instinctively as the hatch opened with a hiss. He slipped inside the narrow entrance, pressing the button to close the hatch and quickly buckling on the harness. He sat still for a moment, studying the unfamiliar control panel with trepidition. Some of it was identical to Wing's, but there were unfamiliar buttons and an extra screen. "Don't be a coward, Chang," he muttered to himself, and brought back the memories of long days on Howard's ship when a bored Heero had briefly gone over Wing's controls. Slowly and carefully he went through the process of bringing all the systems online, tensing unconsciously as the hum grew more pronounced and the screens flickered to life, showing him the hangar around him. He shoved his feet firmly in the straps underneath the control panel where the leg controls were and wrapped his hands around the dual throttle. His thumb hesitated over the red button on the right handle, and it occurred to him that he had no idea what Shenlong's primary weapon was. Heero had explained Wing's plasma sword and buster cannon, and he'd seen both Deathscythe's beam scythe and Sandrock's sickles in action. He'd seen no such weapons anywhere on the outside. Other than what looked like a wicked-looking claw on the right 'arm'-- which might be useful in close combat, but otherwise looked useless --he wasn't sure what he was supposed to do up against Deathscythe's long-range weapon. He glanced around the control panel, stomach tightening as he found what he was searching for. At least he seemed to have the same machine guns equipped in Wing's arsenal, but one stray spray could take out innocent lives and cause havoc. Heero hadn't explained much the first time he had presented Wufei with the fifth Gundam; he himself hadn't known much except for a few unhelpful specs. He had mentioned something about a Beam Glaive... whatever the hell that was supposed to be.
"This is probably a really stupid idea," he said out loud. Then faint light was spilling into the cavern, and the screech of rusty metal alerted him to the passageway's opening. Wufei took a deep breath and tightened his grip on the controls, feeling the great mobile suit shift slightly in response. "All right, Shenlong. Show me what you can do." He slammed the throttles forward, activating the lower thrusters. The speed at which Shenlong shot up and out of the passage jerked his stomach unpleasantly and sent an instant of panic through him.
Then he was breaking out of the darkness and into false sunlight. The sound of Shenlong's feet meeting the ground was like thunder, and Wufei tried to ignore the slight tremoring in his hands as he looked from one screen to the other, trying to pinpoint Deathscythe's location. Shenlong did it for him, picking up its fellow Gundam on radar and immediately focusing all screens on the imposing dark mech.
The other pilot had spotted him as well, and had turned to face him, scythe held ready. Wufei didn't move for a long instant, heart drumming in his chest as he gazed at the screens numbly.
The thought flickered in his mind before he could stop it. What if I can't do this?
A rush of shame and anger leapt up immediately-- predictably --to crush his fleeting cowardice. Gritting his teeth and throwing his fear to the farthest depths of his mind, he slammed his feet down in the controls and shoved forward on the throttles with excessive force, a defiant shout on his lips.
With surprising speed and agility Shenlong dashed forward, headed right for the other Gundam. The sound they made as they met seemed to Wufei as if it should have brought the entire colony falling down around them.
It was the explosions that alerted her.
Hilde had been running blindly through the halls, unsure of where to look or what she would do if she ran across a group of soldiers, but there were more dead bodies than live ones, and those who had escaped the palace guards and Duo were not interested in a lone frightened girl. They were all rushing for the exits, barely paying her any heed. Then the explosions started.
At first she thought it was Deathscythe wreaking havoc, but it sounded more like thunderclaps, and unless she was losing her mind, it seemed to be coming from inside the building. Suspicions mounting, she followed the sounds at a dead run, clutching the gun and hoping she wouldn't have to use it.
She had never been to the room of the Jade Dragon, and perhaps at any other time she would have stopped to admire the skillfully crafted monolith in the middle of the room. But as she skidded to a halt in the ruined doorway, her eyes immediately seized on an all-too familiar form and made her surroundings unimportant.
It was Duo-- or whatever he'd become. He was leaping about with startling agility, slashing at the air with clawed hands and shouting in a language she didn't recognize. He seemed to tear the very air with his hands, pulling ribbons of shadow out of nowhere that lashed about like snakes, striking at the ground and walls. It was as if he was fighting something, but she could see no one else in the room. There was another crack, like thunder right overhead, and a ball of yellow light struck the ground close by Duo's foot; he sprang away in the nick of time, avoiding the resulting explosion. Debris scattered everywhere, and Hilde instinctively covered her head with her arms.
Her heart was in her throat as she hesitantly peeked out at the scene. Duo was fighting. But whoever his opponent was, they were well hidden. She tried to call out to him, but dust choked her.
Duo's lightening-fast words switched suddenly to a garbled mixture of Basic and Mandarin that made it difficult to understand him. "I'll tear it from your scaley dead fingers, you old hag!" he shouted defiantly, swinging at the air before him and sending more deadly tendrils of shadows at a podium. They seemed to explode on contact, shattering a hole in the marble as if it were made of clay. "Stop moving so I can kill you!" He dashed forward suddenly, taking another quick swipe, but turned sharply halfway through the motion, glaring upwards. His face was twisted in a snarl of rage that made Hilde's blood run cold. Automatically her gaze flickered up, trying to see what he saw, but there was nothing. It was as if he was fighting a ghost. When she looked back to him, she found him staring at her from across the room with a decidedly unloving expression on his face that made her breath catch in fear.
"You again?" He did a gravity-defying flip, narrowly avoiding another bolt of yellow light. "Get out of my sight, girl. I'll kill you at a less inopportune time."
Hilde finally managed to find her voice, and took an uncertain step into the room. "D-Duo... don't you recognize me?"
He sent her a brief, annoyed scowl, but didn't answer, already turning this way and that as he sought out his opponent.
~Well, now, what have we here..?~
Hilde yelped, nearly jumping a foot as the strange whisper sounded right by her ear. She looked around wildly, but could find no one. "Wh-who's there?!"
Hilde's eyes widened in disbelief as the figure of a tall beautiful woman slowly appeared before her, hands tucked in the wide sleeves of her gown. She smiled at Hilde, but something about the turn of her lips made the expression distant and mocking. ~I don't believe we've met.~ She cocked her head to the side, studying the gaping girl with mild curiosity. ~Something about you, however... It seems you are connected to Chang.~ She came uncomfortably close, peering at her.
"I..." Hilde swallowed hard, glancing from the woman to Duo. "He's..." She gave a start of shock as she noticed that the woman was standing close enough for her elbow to be through Hilde's arm. "A-are you a ghost??" she stammered, reaching out hesitantly and recoiling when her finger encountered nothing but air instead of flesh. When the woman only gazed at her patiently, she swallowed and nodded jerkily. "I'm.. I'm Wufei's friend."
"There you are, you old bat," Duo snarled in triumph, sending a quick wave of shadows at her.
Hilde shrieked, diving to the side. The woman had leapt into the air as if she weighed nothing, calmly avoiding the blow; Hilde had not been so fast. Her shriek turned into a scream of pain as the tip of one of the shadow whips lashed against her calf like a fire brand. The pain shot all the way up to her hip, and she fell clumsily. Rolling onto her side and biting her lip to keep back her whimpers, she tucked up her leg and clutched it protectively. The shadow had left an ugly red mark like a burn, and she had never felt anything so painful before. Blood was rushing in her ears, and from the hip down, her leg felt like as if it had torn completely off.
The woman landed lightly behind her, looking completely unconcerned as she gave the wound a brief glance. ~You will die if you get caught in the middle of this, little girl,~ she pointed out dispassionately. ~Run along.~
Hilde ignored her, taking in several quick, shaking breaths in an attempt to override the pain. Blinking hard to clear the tears that had sprung to her eyes, she tried to focus on Duo again. "Duo!" she cried. "Stop it! Why are you doing this?!"
Duo sneered at her, flexing his claws as if envisioning them around her throat. "Take the bitch's advice, girl, or I'll go ahead and bump you to the top of the 'To Be Killed' list."
"Duo..." Hilde tried to push herself to her feet, but her leg refused to obey. "Please... stop..."
~The mortal you know is gone, little girl,~ the woman interrupted heartlessly. ~He is buried underneath Sun Wukong's awareness; the roles have been reversed.~
Hilde twisted her head to stare up at her. "B-buried..?" She shot a quick, desperate look towards Duo. "Then... Duo's still in there somewhere?"
The woman shrugged, lifting her hand. A sparking ball of light appeared in the middle of her palm. ~They are one and the same. A part of Sun Wukong is mortal; that was the purpose of the seal. The mortal part of him is shut away; the part that you are more familiar with. He cannot hear you. Whatever Sun Wukong the man may have felt for you has been replaced with contempt and hate. Forget him, girl. Leave now. I have no interest in protecting you.~
Hilde gritted her teeth until her skull ached. Ignoring the flaring agony, she forced herself slowly but stubbornly to her feet, clinging to a pillar for support. She kept her weight off of her bad leg, panting with the effort as she stared across the room at Duo. The woman watched with an arched brow.
"Duo... Stop. Please stop."
"Stop calling me that," Duo snarled, eyes narrowing.
"It's your name," Hilde insisted, voice wobbling. "Duo Maxwell. The boy who laughs all the time. And tells dirty jokes. And sticks up for his friends and never backs down from a fight--"
Hilde's hand lowered to press against her abdomen-- against the seed of life slowly uncurling inside of her. "I don't care who you are," she gasped. The pain in her leg was creeping to her hips and her other leg. "I told you that before, remember? I don't care. You're still Duo. I lo--"
"SHUT UP!!" He swung his arm in a vicious scythe, sending a whip of shadows at her.
She threw up her arms automatically, heart in her throat.
What felt like a rush of wind struck her in her side, bowling her out of the way.
She cried out as she hit the ground, jarring her badly and making the pain worse. Struggling up into a sitting position, she stared in surprise at the woman, whose hand was still extended from the last-minute save. She was gazing at Duo from under hooded lids. ~So, then,~ she mused, ~You became mortal enough to win someone's heart? How curious. One wonders if you managed to keep your own to yourself.~ Her gaze flickered towards Hilde. ~Or if you gave it away.~
"You stupid bitch--" Duo dashed across the room at an impossible speed, claws extended.
The woman still had the ball of light, hidden partially behind her back, and now she lifted it, preparing to throw it right in Duo's face.
Hilde didn't remember getting to her feet. She heard her voice, loud and shrill with panic, but she never remembered what she said, or how she managed to move her screaming body so quickly.
She couldn't touch the woman; it would be like trying to catch smoke with her hands.
So she went for the only thing that looked tangible. Something she could take away or extinguish.
She saw the look of shock that lit up the woman's normally impassive face, then Hilde's hands were clamping down on that roiling sparking ball of golden light.
And the world exploded in unbelievable pain.
Author's Notes: Thanks for the feedback, guys! XD It really did help.
Argh argh lol I am like... ALLERGIC to boysap. Even though they're so far in their relationship, it's still a strain to drag emotions out of these two blockheads. @_@; To make it more difficult, Heero is completely lost when it comes to being open with emotions that confuse him, and Wufei gets embarrassed by them because he doesn't want to seem like a clingy woman. That's why the conversation in the stairwell seemed kind of strained/awkward. Don't worry, though, they'll be better later lol *glares at them meaningfully* Or else.
Just... don't expect buckets of ooey gooey sap or anything >>;;
Oh, yeah, almost forgot... I drew 1x5 smex kekeke. No important bits showing, but it's efinitely not safe for work. Link is: http://img231.imageshack.us/img231/848/ichigosmex08sq6.png
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