Chapter 17: "Terminal"

    Wufei barely managed to make it to the closest motel.
    He paid for a room for the night-- a sleazy, tiny, dingy, poor excuse of a room --and immediately fell into a deep sleep that he didn't stir from for almost ten hours. And while he slept, he dreamed. And remembered.

    Wufei crept a little closer to the doorway, straining his ears in hopes of catching the conversation going on in the other room. Heero looked up from where he was sitting on the floor, struggling to fix a hole in his house slipper, and frowned when he saw what his friend was doing.
    Wufei made a motion to stay silent, listening hard.
    "..just don't see why the Lady would let such a beastly little thing in. Why should Master Ling listen to anything Yuy has to say? He may be the Primary Guardian, but he's still just a child!"
    Wufei frowned, recognizing his aunt's voice. He should have known she'd throw a fit when the replacement Guardian had been brought in.
    "The young master also requested it," came another, calmer voice. "If you don't trust Yuy, you should trust Wufei's instincts."
    "He's also just a child," his aunt pointed out. "He doesn't even understand why he has Guardians. He doesn't know what he is."
    Wufei perked up at that. Was there a secret about him? What was she talking about?
    Heero was glaring at him sternly, motioning for him to get away from the door. Wufei ignored him, ear pressed to the sliding door as he held his breath.
    "He's not ready," came the firm rebuttal. "Let him be a child for now. Things will be hard enough for him when he grows up."
    Heero got to his feet and came over to see what was so interesting. Wufei glared at him, making exagerrated shooing motions.
    "I just think letting in a street rat was a mistake," his aunt sniffed. "Have you seen him? He looks like he bathes in dirt! And that ratty hair... Also, he's a thief! How can we ever trust him?"
    "He won't even be living here," the other sighed. "Barton and Winner are with their teachers off-colony. This boy will do the same."
    "His name," Wufei's aunt hissed. "Have you heard it? Calls himself 'Maxwell'. It's a mockery of the Maxwell Church tragedy! Does he think it will get him attention? He wasn't even born when that terrible injustice occured!"
    Heero's face grew both grave and sad at the same time. Wufei gave him a curious look.
    "...Is that a shadow by the door?" His aunt demanded suddenly.
    Wufei ran, Heero hot on his heels.

    "I don't want to meet some stupid old girl!" Wufei declared hotly, delivering a fierce kick to the dummy set up for him in the dojo.
    Heero stood close by, playing idly with the curious wooden rod hanging from around his neck. "They'll make you," he pointed out. "I heard she's going to meet us on earth when we go to see the Prime Minister."
    "Feh!" Wufei sent a few quick punches to the dummy's neck, hurting his hands a little. He stuffed his hand in his mouth and sucked on his stinging knuckles. "It's stupid," he muttered sourly around his fist.
    Heero shrugged, looking unconcerned. But then, he wasn't the one that was being forced to meet some random girl from another Clan. "Big deal. You meet her, then you'll prob'ly never see her again. It's real important, so you might as well just do it."
    "Why?" Wufei demanded, lowering his hand. "What's so important about some girl?"
    "I dunno, but everyone else seems to think she's pretty important," Heero admitted.
    Wufei reached out and lifted the rod a little, holding it in his hand and tracing the strange patterns on its surface with his thumb. He was sick of talking about girls. "What did they give this to you for, anyhow?"
    Heero was used to Wufei's abrupt subject changes, and looked down at the sturdy stick. "I dunno," he said.
    Wufei gave him a narrow look. He knew that carefully careless tone. Heero was lying to him. "Yes you do," he accused. "What is it? They made a big deal out of it. They gave it to you at the ceremony last year when they said you'd be Primary Guardian."
    Heero took a step back so that the stick slipped from Wufei's grasp and thumped against his chest once more. "It's just a stick," he insisted, looking bored.
    Wufei scowled at him. Abruptly he grinned. "Fine, be that way. We'll race."
    Wufei drew himself up imperiously. "We'll race to the main house. If I win, you hafta tell me what that stick is. If you win, you can keep your stupid secret."
    Heero made a face. "That's not fair," he protested. "You always win! Besides, I can't tell you. Master said not to."
    "Master's not here right now, is he?" Wufei taunted. "You scared?"
    Heero glared. "I'm not scared," he snapped.
    "Then race." Wufei smirked.
    "Or," Heero interrupted, a glint in his eye, "we can wrestle instead."
    Wufei glared openly. The victor to that particular contest was a no-brainer. Wufei was still practicing beginner martial arts, but Heero was being taught several different fighting styles. He always came out the victor when they wrestled over the last sugared date, the best chair, or to end an argument. "No," he argued. "We race."
    "Wrestle," Heero returned calmly.
    "You're a- a-" Wufei grasped at straws and blurted out something he'd heard his uncle say.
    Heero didn't recognize the Mandarin, but he'd heard it before, too, and they'd both witnessed the outraged reaction of all in hearing range. His eyes got wide. "I am not! Anyway, you don't even know what that means!"
    "Do too!" Wufei insisted, unwilling to appear ignorant to his friend.
    "No you don't!"
    "I do!"
    They ended up wrestling.
    Heero won. He always did.


    Whatever Treize had done to Wufei, the extended rest seemed to have fixed it for the most part, aside from a dull ache in his lower back that he ignored as he stood motionless by the single smeared window pane and gazed out at the night rain with dull eyes.
    With his mind clear again, he found himself feeling a fool for letting his own damned pride get in the way of sense.
    He scowled at the faint reflection of himself in the window. He'd taken his anger and hurt out on the wrong target. He was furious that he'd had to find out about his family from a man like Treize, but Heero and Duo had only been following orders. It was what they'd been trained to do since childhood. He might not like it, but it was something he was going to have to learn to accept.
    Instead, he'd lashed out at a boy who had taken on an entire compound of rent-a-cops and soldiers just to get to him. He winced slightly. Duo had been right; that was no way to treat his rescuers. Heero could have left him there. He hadn't. Wufei would have chalked it up to Heero's all-encompassing "mission", until he'd pulled that little "Get out of the car" stunt. He'd let Wufei go. He hadn't intended to keep Wufei against his will after all. Which meant he hadn't mowed down dozens of soldiers because of his duty. He'd done it to save Wufei, plain and simple. And then, after all that, let Wufei leave.
    Better than I'd have done, Wufei admitted to himself sourly. If I'd been in his position, I might have hauled his ass back to Treize out of spite.
    Now he found himself unsure of what to do. He could go back to his home... but supposedly his mother had left when he had. Gone into hiding, perhaps. He could go to Orton and try to find his way from there. But first he would have to do research on L5 and the legends Treize had mentioned.
    Wufei shook his head. He wasn't sure what he was going to do. And thinking about it-- and of how he'd treated Heero earlier --was frustrating.
    His thoughts drifted to the confusing dreams he'd had during his long rest. They'd answered some questions, and raised many more. He gazed unseeing at his reflection, recalling the strange scenes and snatches of conversations his mind had spun out for him in slumber.
    Heero had been his friend once. That much was obvious, if his recent dreams were anything to go off of. They had been best friends as children. Heero remembered it, but Wufei was only just now beginning to get glimpses of growing up together. Didn't it bother Heero at all, having Wufei treat him as an enemy when he was probably expecting them to be friends again?
    Wufei winced. It did, he told himself firmly, not letting himself squirm away from the bald truth. Heero had been trying to get on his good side-- in his own strange way --since they'd met at school. His irritation and confusion at Wufei's sometimes violent reactions betrayed him more than anything else. He didn't understand why they couldn't pick up where they'd left off.
    Wufei rubbed at his temples and sighed in exasperation.
    He had been fighting against the wrong people. He might not like their methods, but in the end, Heero and his strange friends were only trying to help him and do their job. They had tried to be courteous and friendly, and he'd continued to lash out. And while he felt somewhat justified, having had his life torn apart at the seams in the last week or so, he forced himself to admit that it was probably time to get over it.
    Heero, Duo, and the others were his one good chance at finding his family and getting the answers he'd been waiting for all his life.
    He'd just needed to realize it for himself. Maybe Heero had known that, and that was why he'd let Wufei go.
    Or, Wufei admitted with a wince, he'd just been ready to strangle Wufei and had sent him away for his own well-being.
    Whatever the case, he didn't have time to sit around thinking about it, he told himself firmly. They might have already left Orton, but he seriously doubted it. He had a strong feeling they would still be waiting for him for another day at least. Hoping he would change his mind.
    Snatching up his duffel bag, he scooped up the room key and strode out into the night to find the bus station.


    "I can't believe he's really not coming."
    Trowa put a comforting hand on his friend's shoulder, eyes scanning the crowded terminal entrance for their companions.
    Quatre ran a hand over his face roughly, the disappointment making his exhaustion weigh all the more heavily on him. "We should have told him about L5," he muttered dejectedly. "That was a horrible way for him to find out."
    "We were told to keep our mouths shut," Trowa reminded him.
    Quatre glared up at the taller boy. "It still wasn't right," he said firmly. "He should have heard it from us, not from Kushrenada."
    Trowa shrugged. "We aren't his friends," he said simply. "To him, we're just his captors. He didn't trust us."
    "I'm surprised Heero didn't just drag him here anyway," Quatre admitted, ignoring Trowa's words. "You know how stubborn he can be."
    "Perhaps he's hoping Wufei will change his mind on his own."
    Quatre shook his head wearily. "I doubt it. He's been nothing but hostile towards us since we met him." He frowned, eyes wandering among the crowd. "I don't think he told us everything," he blurted after a moment.
    Trowa arched a brow in question.
    "Heero. He sounded... upset when he called," Quatre said carefully. "Like he was really angry."
    "He would be, if Wufei left."
    "I don't think that's all of it," Quatre admitted. "He barely mentioned Treize, or anything that happened at the mansion. All he would say about it was that Treize filled Wufei in on some things, and Heero broke him out. How did he get through the security? And why did he say Treize's name like he was referring to the Antichrist? I think something else happened."
    Trowa allowed the shadow of a smile to touch his face as he looked down at his blond partner. "His opinion of Kushrenada has never been very glowing," he pointed out, amused.
    "Yes, but..." Quatre's frown deepened. "It sounded more personal."
    "There they are," Trowa interrupted, pointing at the two figures making their way through the crowd at the doors. "You can ask him yourself. we have another two hours until the shuttle leaves." He waved, and after a moment the two other boys made their way through the harried travelers and joined their friends.
    The four of them exchanged a silent, grim look, the same thing on all of their minds. They had failed in their mission. Would they be leaving Wufei in danger by allowing him to stay behind? And would they even be allowed to return home without him?
    Quatre offered Heero a sympathetic look that bounced right off of the stony expression he was wearing.
    Duo shook his head minutely in a silent warning before pasting on a dry smile. "So," he drawled, "what happens now?"
    "We return," Trowa replied when Heero made no response. "What other choice do we have?"
    "Not right away," Quatre protested. "Maybe he'll..."
    "What? Change his mind?" Duo laughed mirthlessly. "Not bloody likely. The boy's stubborn as a goddamn mule. This whole trip was a waste of our time. 'You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink' and all that." He paused. "Ok, not a complete waste of time," he allowed, eyes drifting hungrily to the wrapped bundle Heero was carrying under his arm.
    Heero ignored him. "We wait," he said firmly, glancing towards Trowa when it looked like the other boy might argue.
    Trowa frowned. "We can't wait forever, Heero. If his mind's made up..."
    "His mind would be made up if we'd tried to force him," Heero cut him off. "If he has time to himself to think about it, he'll realize this is the best course of action for him to take."
    Duo snorted. "Such faith," he mocked. "Face it, Heero. We've seen the last of Chang Wufei."
    Quatre had been staring off into the crowd with a puzzled frown for the majority of the conversation. When Trowa looked at him quizically, he pointed at a pair of young girls struggling through the press of human bodies. "Do any of you know those girls? They've been trying to get our attention."
    Duo started to turn around, then quickly turned his head forward again, hissing a curse. "Just our luck. It's that Relena chick."
    "What?" Heero turned quickly, eyes at first going wide in surprise, then narrowing in annoyance. "Shriebaker, as well. What are they doing here?" He stopped, face suddenly blank in astonishment.
    "Hilde?" Duo's sour look dissipated as he turned, standing on tiptoes to see over those taller than he was. "Where?"
    "Heero?" Trowa eyed his friend curiously.
    Heero hesitated, then shook his head, looking disgusted with himself. "I thought I saw Wufei for a moment," he admitted. "It was nothing. Whoever it was, they're gone, now."
    Quatre was looking amused at Duo's eagerness. "Another conquest, Duo?" he teased.
    "Possible conquest," Duo corrected with a grin.
    "Wufei's friend?" Trowa frowned again. "Why is she here-- and with the Senator's daughter?"
    "Relena's stalking Heero, didn't you know?" Duo said flippantly.
    Heero shot him a dark look, but didn't have the chance to respond. Relena and Hilde had finally made it past the crowd and were hurrying towards them.
    "Heero!" Relena called, as if he might run off at any moment.
    "Yeah, yeah, we see you," Duo muttered under his breath, then flashed Hilde one of his most brilliant smiles. "Hello again. Fancy meeting you here."
    But Hilde did not appear flustered or shy around him this time. She fixed him with a stern look, hands placed firmly on her hips. "All right, where is he?" she demanded.
    Duo adopted an innocent look. "Hello to you, too. And just who are you talking about?"
    "You know damn well," Hilde snapped. "Wufei's been missing for days, and I can't get ahold of his mother. He ran away, didn't he? And you idiots helped him. You're all running away to space."
    Duo was saved by Relena's interruption. "Heero," she breathed, looking a little out of breath from her rush to get across the terminal. "What on earth are you doing here?"
    "I should be asking you that," Heero responded in a monotone, eyeing her distrustfully.
    "The sixteenth," Duo groaned in sudden realization. At Heero's blank look, he made an angry gesture towards an imaginary Suit. "Remember? Senator Peacecraft was heading out today-- the sixteenth --to go to some peace conference or some shit like that in space. We should've gotten here long before that, but we kept getting held up."
    Heero scowled first at him, then at Relena, as if it was all her fault.
    Relena blinked, surprised and confused by Duo's words, before turning her attention back on Heero. "Actually, my father's left already," she admitted. "I'm on my way to meet him. Hilde," she gestured at the frowning girl beside her, "asked if she could come with me as far as Orton. She's very worried about Wufei. Have you seen him?"
    "We barely even spoke at school," Heero pointed out flatly.
    "Him an' Heero ain't exactly buddy buddy," Duo chuckled.
    "Don't give me that," Hilde interrupted, shaking a fist under Duo's nose. "I know you're hiding something! You tell me where he is, Duo Maxwell, or so help me..."
    "Fiesty," Duo noted with a teasing leer. Then he offered an apologetic shrug. "Sorry, I have no idea where he is. And that's the truth. He isn't with us."
    Some of the anger melted from Hilde's face, to be replaced with anxiety. "Don't you have any idea where he could be?" she begged. "I'm getting worried. The one time I did see his mother, she was crying something awful. And he's missing so much school work, if he doesn't get his butt back pronto, he'll have a lot of make-up tests to do." She looked suddenly lost. "I was so sure he'd come here," she admitted in a low voice, looking around helplessly. "He's always wanted to go to space. To find some clue to his past. To maybe find his real family. You have no idea how much it means to him."
    Quatre smiled warmly at her, then at Duo. "Perhaps Heero's right, after all," he said in quiet French. "Maybe he will come back."
    "Quatre--" Trowa warned, too late.
    Hilde's eyes were wide as dinner platters. "You LIAR!" she exploded, jabbing her finger into Duo's chest. "I knew it! You do know where he is!"
    Quatre looked up at Trowa in wild confusion. Trowa shook his head slightly. "They teach French at Wufei's school," he said drolly. "Wufei was never very good at it, but Hilde used to help him study."
    "Oops," Quatre said meekly.
    Duo was holding up his hands defensively. "Whoa, hold on a tic," he protested hastily. "I didn't lie. I really don't know where--"
    "Don't you dance around the truth, you-- you--" Hilde sputtered. She stamped a foot furiously. "You might not know where he is now, but you were with him!"
    "Why couldn't Wufei have stupid friends?" Quatre muttered under his breath.
    "Heero, you know where Wufei is?" Relena asked in surprise.
    Heero offered her a steady look. "Go meet your father, Relena," he suggested stonily.
    "Heero, Hilde is serious," Relena said firmly, her expression stern. "Wufei's mother is probably worried sick about him. As is Hilde. And he is missing a lot of schoolwork."
    "School is probably the furthest thing from his mind," Duo pointed out. He caught Hilde's wrist. She was so startled, she froze, staring up at him blankly. He looked back at her, face deadly serious. "Hilde, this isn't something you want to get mixed up in," he assured her solemnly. "And believe me when I tell you Wufei's mother knows exactly what's going on. This is the way she wants it. We won't let anything happen to him. I promise."
    Hilde hesitated, flushing a little at his piercing look. "B-but..."
    Duo offered a small grin. "You're a good friend," he approved. "To worry about him like this. But don't worry. He's in good hands. Really." He glanced sideways at Heero. "Heero won't let anything hurt Wufei. You can be sure of that," he added with a strange note to his voice.
    Heero frowned at him slightly, curious at the almost pitying look to Duo's eyes, before returning his attention to the blond before him. "Go away, Relena," he said bluntly. "Go meet your father."
    Relena drew herself up tall, gazing at him imperiously. "Now listen, Heero," she started firmly.
    "Excuse me," interrupted a cheerfully smiling man in the station uniform. "Would you like me to carry your bags?"
    "No thanks," Duo said impatiently, barely glancing at him.
    "Let us take your bags," another attendant insisted, smiling as he came up on Quatre's right.
    Heero looked at them sharply, hand reaching for the middle of his back, but one of the attendants reached out quickly, pressing something to the small of Hilde's back, hand mostly hidden by the over-long sleeves. "Don't try anything funny," he murmured. "Unless you want me to blow a hole in the girl's spine."
    Hilde froze, eyes wide in shock. Duo's grip on her wrist tightened slightly, eyes narrowing.
    "What is this?" Relena demanded, stepping a little closer to Heero in sudden alarm.
    "They have nothing to do with this," Quatre said quietly but fiercely. "Let them go."
    "Your fault for stopping to talk to pretty girls," the attendant tsked. "Now they're involved." He nodded towards a restricted area, roped off for construction. "That way, if you please. And don't draw any attention to yourselves."
    Slowly they trooped towards the hallway indicated, the attendant holding Hilde bringing up the rear.
    The other man led the way and gestured towards a door farther down the hall, the motion briefly revealing the handgun hidden up his sleeve.
    Heero hesitated only an instant, Relena clinging to his arm, before walking stiffly into the bare room. The others followed in silence.
    The attendants entered after them and shut the doors firmly. The shorter one kept Hilde close, while the other shrugged out of his borrowed attendant jacket to reveal the magnum in his belt and the knife strapped to his upper arm.
    "Where is he?" Hilde's captor demanded, looking at them all in growing anger. "We were told you would have the brat with you."
    "Assassins," Duo spat, looking disgusted. "I fucking hate assassins. They're like cockroaches."
    Hilde whimpered in her throat.
    The other man, taller than his companion, looked them all over, aiming the gun in his hand in the middle of them, before offering Heero a small, unpleasant smile. "Obviously, they've hidden him away somewhere. Don't worry. We'll get to the bottom of it." He looked at Relena, then at Hilde, smile widening. "Unless they wanna see their little girlfriends roughed up a little."
    "Let go of me," Hilde gasped in a mix of bravado and fear. "You can't do this to me, you--"
    "Shut up," the man holding her growled, shaking her.
    Duo's eyes narrowed, but he kept his mouth shut.
    "I want all your weapons on the floor, right now," the shorter assassin commanded. "Kick them this way. Try anything funny, and this chick gets a bullet to the brain."
    Slowly, reluctantly, with Relena looking on wide-eyed, the four boys pulled out various blades and firearms and tossed them across the floor.
    "That, too, whatever it is," the taller one added, nodding at the wrapped bundle in Heero's hands.
    Heero hesitated, then slowly leaned over and set the wrapped stick on the ground, pushing across the floor.
    "On the ground, hands on your heads," the assassin continued, smirking. He crooked a finger at Relena, aiming his gun at Heero warningly. "Except you, honey. You come over here."
    Relena swallowed hard, then lifted her chin like a little queen and strode over to him slowly. He seized her arm in a painful grip and pulled her up against him, pressing the barrel of his gun to her temple. "Do it."
    Quatre was the first to lower himself to his knees and lace his fingers across the back of his head. After a tense moment, the others followed suit, faces grim.
    "Good. Now hold still." The assassin glanced at his watch, then towards the door, and fell silent.
    As the minutes stretched on, Heero grew more and more suspicious. He flicked Duo a sideways glance, and saw the other boy already looking at him.
    "They're not alone," the braided boy mouthed.
    Heero frowned. They were waiting for reinforcements, then. He eyed their two captors. If it wasn't for the girls, he would have already have risked going for one of the men and disarming him. But his actions could get Relena or Hilde killed. He gritted his teeth in frustrated rage. There was nothing he could do.
    What does it matter? he asked himself a moment later. We have nothing to tell them. Someone sent them to take out Wufei before he got to his grandfather. Wufei isn't with us, and we don't know where he is. He's probably far away by now.
    The door opened just then, and two more men slipped inside, glancing over their shoulders furtively.
    "About time," the one with Hilde snorted. "Tie these bitches up already."
    The two newcomers roughly dragged Hilde and Relena together and began binding their hands behind their backs. Neither of them cried out, though their eyes were wide with fear.
    Duo bared his teeth at Heero in a dangerous smile that made Heero's hair stand up in warning. "Don't do anything stupid," he hissed.
    "Quiet," the tall assassin barked, coming up to stand before them, lowering his gun to rest it against Heero's forehead. He smirked. "Time for twenty questions. Larry, tie 'em up. If they try anything heroically stupid, cut one of those bitch's throats. Evan, get your knife out. If I don't like the answers these little cocksuckers got for me, they're gonna start losing digits."

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