Trowa felt a slight frown tug at his mouth as Heero let out an involuntary hiss of pain. Emerald eyes fixed themselves on the tight bandage around the other pilot's left bicep. As he had suspected, the arm had never fully healed. The bone had not finished knitting. Heero was pushing himself too much-- as usual.
He knew better than to point this out. Heero was obviously aware of it. He also knew better than to suggest- again -that Heero give up on this foolish notion and return to the war with him. Heero could be annoyingly bullheaded when he wanted to be. He reminded Trowa of Wing in some ways-- most especially in the fact that once he was locked on a target, he was focused on it until it was destroyed. Period.
Trowa could see the frustration just under the grim determination in his partner's face, and shifted to see better into the cockpit. He reached out and moved his hand up the left throttle, flicking open the switch there and revealing the button underneath. No use trying to talk Heero out of it. No use suggesting that he rest. Might as well just keep his opinion to himself and help as much as he could.
"This is for the Beam Gatling Gun on the left arm," he said quietly, and Heero stilled as he focused intently on Trowa's voice, watching carefully. Trowa pointed towards the right throttle, out of his reach. "That switch-" Heero flipped it up to reveal the button there- "is for Gatling Guns under the chest shield, below the cockpit." Heero nodded. He'd seen Heavyarms in action. He flexed his fingers on the throttles.
"There's also an army knife hidden in the right arm," Trowa continued, pulling his hand back. He glanced up at the faint sound of voices from where he was perched at the edge of the hatch. Heavyarms lay on its back in the carrier's rear end. At the doorway, he caught a glimpse of Lt. Noin's back as she turned to speak with someone, their words muffled and indistinguishable. He tuned them out, returning his attention to the boy seated in the cockpit below him.
Heero's grip tightened slowly on the left throttle, and he gritted his teeth.
"The left arm is very heavy because of the gun," Trowa warned him. You don't have anything to compensate for the weight; you just are used to it or you aren't. It may take you awhile to get used to it after Wing. Especially with that injured arm."
Heero grunted in acknowledgement. "What about the missiles I saw you use at New Edwards?"
Trowa pointed wordlessly at the controls to Heero's right, watching as the boy carefully committed it all to memory. After a few moments Heero looked up at him, face shadowed by ragged bangs. His look was long and searching, and Trowa could understand the unspoken question. He'd been asking himself the same question for the past few hours.
Why was he allowing Heero to pilot his Gundam?
They had spoken sparingly of their mechs during their time together. Not only because they were used to keeping the specifics and mechanics of their hulking weapons secret, but also due to the strange almost-closeness each pilot had with his own Gundam. Trowa had a feeling it would be a cold day in hell before any of the pilots would allow him to get anywhere near the cockpits of their own Gundams. Yet he was allowing Heero to learn the details of Heavyarms-- and letting him use it in battle. Did he really trust Heero that much? No, it wasn't just about trust. It was because Heero wanted to finish this foolish battle, but had no means to do so. Might as well humor the boy. That brought up a whole other "why", but Trowa was a little tired of trying to figure himself out when it came to the strange alliance between the two of them.
Trowa gave a barely visible shrug, not quite meeting Heero's gaze. As Heero returned his attention to the control panel, he deftly changed the unvoiced subject. "Why do you think Zechs wants to do this? What makes you so sure it's not a trap?"
"I don't know," Heero admitted bluntly. "Maybe it is a trap. And I don't care why he wants to do this. This is an opportunity to finish what we started." That was Heero all over, Trowa thought with wry amusement. He wasn't one to leave things unfinished. "And I would rather get him out of the picture now, before he becomes much of a threat."
Trowa cocked his head slightly to the side. "He seems to be rebelling against Rommefeller in some way," he pointed out. "Maybe he'll defect, and fade into the background for us."
"And maybe he won't," Heero countered, testing the weight of the mech's right arm, then the left again. A faint frown creased his brow at the obvious difference in the two, his mind split between mechanics and their conversation.
Trowa took advantage of the other pilot's distraction to ask, still in the same neutral tone, "Where are we headed after this fight?" Tension hummed in his frame as he waited for the response. He'd just taken a step past a line they had deliberately avoided crossing ever since Heero had awoken in his care at the circus. Heero had gone with the circus to Howser's base, still healing. When Heero had been ready to leave, Trowa had offered to give him a ride to visit the relatives of Noventa. Now Trowa was following him to Antarctica to witness the duel between the other Gundam pilot and Zechs Marquise. Their trips together had always been spontaneous, with nothing expected or asked of each other. By presenting this question, Trowa could be going too far past that invisible line by insinuating the two of them would continue to travel together, when in fact they could go their separate ways at any time. There was nothing to keep Heero from going off on his own, and technically there was no reason for Trowa to stay with him. He watched Heero's face carefully as he awaited his answer.
Heero's fingers hesitated for a fraction of a second as they tapped at the data screen, reviewing Heavyarms' statistics, but his face remained in its perfectly controlled expression. "I'm going to try and find where the remains of Wing are," he said. "I don't think Oz would have just left the pieces lying around. They probably have them holed away in a base somewhere for study."
Trowa couldn't tell whether to be skeptical or impressed. "You can rebuild it?"
Another hesitance. Heero was very deliberately not looking at him, eyes still scanning the scrolling text on the screen before him.
And suddenly Trowa realized what Heero was too proud to say- glimpsed the opening Heero was giving him. Without thinking, he snatched it. "Would you like some help?"
A little tension that Trowa hadn't even noticed until now eased from Heero's shoulders. "Aa," he replied simply, and Trowa's mouth tugged into the barest hint of a smile.
Heero chose that moment to glance up at him through unruly chocolate bangs, and caught the fleeting half-smile. Their gazes held for several seconds before Heero finally returned his eyes to the screen. "If it is a trap," he said quietly, his tone deadly, "you know what to do."
Trowa's eyes slanted to the side, towards the doorway where he knew Noin and the other soldier were loitering. "Aa," he murmured.
If this was indeed a trap... if Noin and Zechs thought they were pulling the wool over the eyes of two "hapless children"..
The base at Antarctica would be driven into the ground, and every soldier along with it.
"Yo, Quatre," Duo hollered, hands cupped around his mouth as he hailed the window two stories above his head. He took a step back, nearly trodding over a patch of gardenias in the carefully tended garden. "Quatre!"
After a moment the curtains fluttered and shifted to the side, and the familiar blond head of his friend appeared. "What is it, Duo?"
Duo offered a cocky grin and picked up the bottle by his feet. He held it up in the failing light for the other boy to see. "Give your bearded nanny the slip and get down here," he called.
Quatre gave a half-gasp, half-laugh, glancing instinctively over his shoulder for Rashid. "Duo," he protested. "Don't call him that." He peered suspiciously down at the bottle. "Is that wine?" he asked incredulously. "Where did you find that??"
Duo winked, grinning cheekily. "Found it stashed in the kitchens. C'mon, are you coming or not? It's been three days since our last mission. We might as well wind down while we can."
"Demo..." Quatre looked torn. Obviously the thought of drinking alcohol was less than appealing to him, but on the other hand, Duo tended to be allusive despite his friendly outward appearance, and he hadn't gotten to know the other boy as well as he would have liked in their time together.
"C'mon, you know you wanna," Duo teased, rocking the bottle temptingly from side to side. "We can sneak off to that hill down the road and watch the sun set. You never know, it could be the last sunset we ever see."
Quatre gave an internal sigh. Would he ever get used to such morbid words from such a seemingly cheerful boy? Duo gave him a headache sometimes-- and that was just by trying to figure him out. "All right," he relented at last, smiling despite himself at the triumphant grin Duo flashed him. "I'll be down in a minute." He ducked back inside.
Quatre managed to sneak past the Maganacs- half who were getting themselves happily drunk, half of whom were having a war conference -and met Duo out in the lawn feeling a little guilty at the possibility of worrying his friends.
The big grin Duo offered him made him feel instantly better, and he smiled back, shaking his head in mock reproval. "Really, Duo.. sneaking out, snitching a bottle of wine... You used to slip out at night while your parents were asleep, didn't you?"
Duo's smile faltered, and there was a strange look in his amethyst eyes. Quatre realized instantly he'd touched on a sensitive subject, and was surprised at the sudden pain he sensed with his empathy.
Before he could ask about it, Duo was grinning again, already trotting down the driveway. "Move it or lose it, Quatre! We gotta get there before the sun sets."
Quatre hesitated, then reluctantly decided his questions would have to wait for another time. He hurried after his friend, and they followed the dirt road that led past his father's old estate. About half a mile away, there were slanting hills either side of the road. Duo scrambled up the west one, helping Quatre after him.
They reached the top and flopped down, puffing a little. Quatre stammered a feeble protest as Duo began struggling with the bottle's cork. "Duo, we really shouldn't... I mean, we're still minors, and.. And the Maganacs wouldn't be-"
"Don't give me that, Quatre," Duo snorted. "Haven't you ever done something rebellious before?"
Quatre fell silent, taking in a quick breath. Duo heard the sharp intake and looked up quickly. Quatre realized his emotions must be plain on his face, because Duo instantly looked puzzled. "What's the matter? Something I said?"
Quatre didn't say anything for a long moment. He turned his face away, drawing his legs up against his chest and wrapping his arms around them protectively. He set his chin on his knees and gazed unseeing at the slowly darkening horizon.
"My father..." Quatre paused, then forced himself to continue, feeling his throat constrict a little, as if his very being was trying to prevent the words- and the memories. "My father is a pacifist. He forbid me from taking lessons from the man that offered me Sandrock. He said fighting was not the way to peace." He shook his head slightly, chin grinding against his knee. "We had an argument. The biggest one I've ever had with my father." He drew in a shaky breath. "In the end, I went against his wishes and became the pilot of Sandrock. I want peace. I think pacifism is a beautiful ideal. But I also realized that the way things were going, my father's ideas of passive resistance wouldn't bring us the peace we wanted. I couldn't just sit back and watch the war destroy everything and not.. not do something..." He trailed off, fingers clenching in the material of his slacks.
Duo was watching him carefully, strangely silent. When Quatre finally glanced at him out of the corner of his eye, he saw that Duo's expression was solemn. "Not everyone is what they seem, I suppose," the braided pilot said quietly.
Duo twisted his hand suddenly, and Quatre jumped as the cork came free from the bottle with a loud pop. He gave a sheepish laugh. Duo took a small taste, then a bigger one before handing it over to Quatre, smacking his lips appreciatively. "Good shit. Go on, try it."
Quatre took the bottle dubiously. Well, Duo seemed to like it... what could the harm be? He took a quick sip, and sputtered, shoving the bottle away. "Duo! You said it was good!"
His companion took the bottle, taking a large gulp and looking at Quatre funny. "It is! Well.." he eyed the bottle. "Some people don't like red wine..."
"I've never had wine before," Quatre admitted, wiping at his mouth.
"Well, that's it, then, you just don't have the taste for it yet," Duo exclaimed with an encouraging grin. "We used to snitch wine all the time back on L2. Kept us warm in the winter." He stopped himself abruptly, as if he wished he hadn't brought it up, then offered the bottle again. "Come on, it'll taste better the more you drink."
Quatre sighed a little and forced himself to take a bigger swallow of the alcohol, swallowing it all. Duo cheered. "Who's a trooper??" he crowed. Quatre couldn't help but laugh at his friend's enthusiasm.
The sun slowly set, and the bottle grew lighter and lighter as the two boys sat side by side, exchanging small talk. Inevitably, as the last of the sun's rays dimmed into nothing, the conversation turned to their fellow pilots.
Duo told Quatre how he had met the cold-eyed pilot of Wing; he told him about playing basketball undercover at a school, fighting side by side, rescuing him from Sally Po, trying without success to make the boy smile, and mentioned the strange girl who had interrupted his first meeting with Heero, and who seemed to be following the pilot around.
Quatre told him about Trowa Barton, the mysterious and solemn pilot of Heavyarms who played the flute with graceful hands and rarely spoke unless spoken to. He described how slender and tall he was, and how antisocial he could be. "I miss him," he admitted, accepting the bottle Duo handed over. He was feeling very light-headed, and it was getting hard not to say everything that popped in his head. "I thought.. we could be friends." He blinked, struggling to focus on the boy beside him. "But he's so quiet." He offered a watery smile. "Not like you, Duo." Was he slurring? He closed his mouth and looked around helplessly. The bottle was gone, and he was beginning to feel very strange.
There was a chuckle by his ear, and a brief wash of hot air against his cheek that made him shudder. "That's OK, Quatre. Some guys just aren't very talkative. But I'm your friend, so don't worry." He held up the empty bottle for him to see. "All gone." He tossed it aside carelessly and leaned back on his hands with a loud sigh. "That hit the spot," he murmured with a lazy grin, gazing up at the stars. He was silent for a long moment, then he said quietly, "Damn, it's a nice night. The stars sure look different from Earth..."
Quatre rubbed a hand clumsily over his eyes, feeling a little dizzy and suddenly very tired. He shivered in the cool night air, and scooted closer to his friend, laying his head heavily on the boy's shoulder when he thought he might not be able to sit up straight.
Duo glanced down at him quickly at the bold move, but didn't push him away like Quatre had been afraid he would. A moment later, he shifted and Quatre felt a strong arm wrap around his shoulders in a friendly squeeze, holding him securely in place. Quatre gave a quiet sigh, his eyes fluttering closed.
Things got a little muddled after that. He remembered listening to the quiet rumble of Duo's voice as the braided pilot chatted on about this and that. He remembered opening his eyes- had he drifted off? -and realizing after some confusion that he was lying down in the grass, and his head was in Duo's lap. He blinked, dragged his eyes open and- asleep again? -he was pressed against a warm back, arms looped loosely around Duo's neck, a tight grip underneath his knees as his friend carried him piggy-back in the direction of the estate.
There came the cool feeling of a pillow against his cheek, a barely visible smile, and an affectionate chuckle. He rolled onto his side, someone spread blankets over him, and he was out like a light.
Trowa mused to himself as he walked down the hall towards the hangar, his eyes narrowed slightly.
Zechs Marquise was certainly full of surprises.
To think that he had gone through all the trouble to rebuild Wing-! And he certainly was acting chivalrous. His generosity had made Trowa suspicious, and he had been half afraid Heero would accept. Heero had his own stubborn pride, however. He had turned it all down with his customary bluntness, telling Trowa he would still be requiring the use of Heavyarms. Trowa glanced at his watch as he neared his destination, the clink of tools against gundanium informing him that his partner was still awake. Almost two in the morning. After the fight with the Romefeller inspectors that had intercepted them on their way to the base, Heavyarms had required a little bit of tuning up, but Heero's wounded arm was slowing him down. Stubborn ass.
Trowa entered the hangar, glancing around. Zechs' mechanics had offered repeatedly to help, but Heero had finally succeeded in chasing them off with a few blood-curdling threats and well-aimed death glares. They had hung back to watch for awhile, but evidently none were crazy enough to stay up all night just to watch a skinny kid work on a Gundam by himself.
Trowa walked up to his towering Gundam and placed his hands on his hips, tilting his head back to regard the boy on the platform far above, fingers flying over the computer that controlled the crane. "Your duel is tomorrow morning," Trowa called up. "You should be getting some rest."
Heero barely glanced at him. "I'm not finished yet."
Trowa snorted quietly, giving a slight shake of his head. "Go to bed. I'll finish this up."
He was mildly surprised when Heero hesitated, then turned and looked down at him with a weary nod. "Aa. Arigato." He started down the steps as Trowa headed up them. They passed without a word, and Trowa took over at the control panel while Heero exited the cold hangar.
Trowa watched him go out of the corner of his eye as he skimmed over the plans before him. He lifted his head and regarded his Gundam's hulking left arm thoughtfully. There was no way Heero would be able to handle that weight throughout the fight. Sure, he might be able to ignore the pain for awhile... but if he pushed himself too hard, he could snap the bone all over again. His eyes wandered and landed on Wing, powered down nearby. He flipped the crane's switch and quickly typed in a new direction. As the crane moved laboriously towards Heero's Gundam, he began making sketchy corrections to the plans before him.
He would make sure Heero still had a chance if the weight became too much for him to handle.
The heating system in the buildings of the tiny base was not exactly up to par, and was no match for the howling arctic winds outside. The hangar was the coldest of the buildings, and by the time Trowa finished his work around five in the morning, his hands were clumsy with the cold, and he kept shivering. He had been able to ignore the cold for the first hour or so, but he knew he'd have to warm himself up before he got sick. And Heero had been in here in just his spandex and tank top... Baka.
His breath puffed before his face as he straightened from where he was crouched on Heavyarm's Beam Gatling Gun, looking down at his work wearily with a face that betrayed none of the satisfaction he felt.
Finished. Heero's chances were much better now, with Wing's beam saber hidden inside. Should the weight prove too much, a simple touch of a button would drop the gun and reveal the sword. He rose to his feet, stretching the kinks out of his back, and tossed his wrench into the toolbox at his feet.
He shimmied down the ladder to the platform, left the toolbox by the control panel, and wearily headed down the stairs, then out of the side hangar door to the hallway connecting it to the main building. There were rooms here, tiny little spaces with metal-frame military beds and nails in the wall for uniforms. Trowa was too tired to care about how uncomfortable the beds were sure to be as he reached the room he'd been resting in earlier and opened the door.
Something shifted in the shadows as the door creaked open, and he tensed instinctively. Had he picked the wrong door? No-- someone was in his room.
As he took a step inside, he caught a familiar scent. Blood, gunpowder- and the faint, unique musky scent that was Heero's own. He relaxed his already cramped muscles and closed the door quietly behind him, letting his eyes adjust to the darkness. The lamp beside the bed was on its lowest settings, and cast disguising shadows on Heero as the boy shifted and looked over at him with hooded eyes. Trowa hesitated, suddenly uncertain. Heero must not have known this was Trowa's room. He'd just find another. He was about to turn for the door, when his body gave another involuntary shiver. The room was maybe two degrees warmer than the hangar, but the difference was barely noticeable.
Heero pulled an arm out from under the scratchy military blanket and beckoned with his hand. Trowa stared at him, his mind drawing a blank, before the silent offer finally sank home. (1)
Suddenly realizing just how tired and cold he was, Trowa shoved back the uncomfortable, protesting little voice in the back of his head and padded towards the bed. Heero was offering to share body heat with him. Fine. No harm in that. He was too tired to care anymore.
Trowa toed off his shoes and took his gun from its holster, setting it by the lamp. Heero's gun was nowhere in sight. Knowing Heero, it was close to hand-- probably under his pillow or something, Trowa thought to himself with dry humor. Heero scooted over a little, and after only a moment's hesitation, Trowa lifted one edge of the blankets and slid onto the narrow mattress beside his partner.
He tensed before he could stop himself. The bed was too narrow-- Heero's back was pressed right along his left side. For a moment, a cloying claustrophobia swept through him, and his breath caught. He had gone too long keeping the world at arm's length. He was selfish with his personal space; especially when it came to those that were a physical threat. Catherine was not a threat, and she made him oddly calm. He didn't mind her touching him. But this was Heero Yuy. Another male, one with a possibly vicious temper, and the strength to bend steel bars. Trowa had always been wary of those stronger than him. Not quite afraid-- just cautious. Like a lower wolf of the pack deferring instinctively to the alpha. And Heero was about as strong as they came.
Heero felt him tense up, and rolled over partially to look at him over his shoulder, momentarily confused. He studied Trowa's blank face, and seemed to guess the problem. Trowa felt an irrational flash of resentment that- despite his refusal to talk much about himself -Heero had still learned in their time together at least partly how Trowa's mind ticked.
Heero rolled over onto his right side, so that now he was facing Trowa, and the acrobat's breath hitched again. A hand landed hesitant and feather-light on his shoulder. Trowa let out his breath in a shaky sigh, and slowly forced his body to relax at the reassuring touch. No... Heero only hurt his enemies. Trowa was not his enemy. Heero wouldn't hurt him. There were no ulterior motives to his offer. Body heat. He was offering body heat. Nothing more, nothing less. Slowly the tension slipped from Trowa's body.
Heero sensed him relax, and his grip tightened slightly on Trowa's shoulder in approval, before sliding away, lingering just over his abdomen. Strong fingers fell carefully but firmly around his narrow hip, giving an insistent push. After only a moment's hesitation, Trowa rolled from his back onto his right side. The metal frame creaked in protest at the movement of the two bodies, but held. Trowa closed his eyes as the weight in the bed shifted and he felt a hot body press against his back, one wiry arm sliding almost cautiously around his waist, holding him firmly to the boy behind him.
Trowa took another deep breath and forced the last of the tension from his body, relaxing into the hold as his weariness finally overcame his initial uncertainty.
No one else the little voice in his mind murmured as he slipped out of consciousness. ..let no one else... do this
Unexpectedly, ebony eyes burned in the back of his mind's eye.
Then sleep overcame him, and twisted his jumbled thoughts into dreams that he would not remember when he awoke.
(1) I speak from personal experience-- basic military issue blankets suck ass. They're scratchy as hell, and not very warm. In basic training, the beds were also metal death traps like the one Heero & Trowa are in. I hated them.
Author's Notes: WAHAHAHA My muses must like the chocolate I've been feeding them XD I had an epiphany o_O; OK, actually, I just woke up yesterday and was suddenly filled with ideas. I started making notes, and before I knew it, I had the whole second half of the story planned out. XD squee.
So now that I know how the story's going ^_^; the title of Part I has been changed from "Earth" to "Fatal Attraction", and this story will consist of two parts.
Anywho, enjoy. ^__^ Ja!
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