Chapter 18: "Shuttle for Seven"

    Wufei ducked behind a magazine stand, cursing under his breath.
    He'd found Heero and the others-- but what the hell were Hilde and Relena doing with them? No way could he show his face now. Hilde would put him through the third degree, then insist on dragging him back home. He would just have to wait until Heero drove them away with his charming personality.
    He hitched his bag higher up on his shoulder, feeling the comforting weight of the sheathed sword on his hip. How was he going to get through security with it? He'd wrapped it until it was hard to tell what it was he wore on his belt, but the cloth was just loose enough to be shaken off quickly if the need arose. He frowned, testing the weight of the bag hanging from his shoulder. It felt lighter without the strange stick, though it was probably just his imagination.
    He glared in Heero's direction, tapping his fingers agitatedly against the wrapped sword at his side. What the hell was that thing, anyway? In his dreams-- no, they were memories, he corrected himself --he hadn't known what it was, either. Heero had known, but had been ordered not to explain. And his 'Master' had known as well. Was it some kind of high-tech weapon disguised as a simple wooden rod? Then what were all the unusual symbols carved into it? And what had that word been that Heero had used to activate it?
    Wufei stiffened in surprise as he realized what was going on over with the others. The men dressed as attendents were leading Heero and the rest of them towards a cordoned-off hallway, and though he could see no weapons, the fear on the girls' faces and the grim looks the boys wore were proof enough that something was wrong. Suits? No-- why would Treize bother? Or would he? But even then, these men were in disguise, not suits.
    Wufei stood watching tensely, nerves humming as he struggled to make up his mind. Should he go after them? But that would be foolish. He knew in his gut that it was him they were after. He couldn't just go running after them. He needed some kind of plan. He cursed floridly in Mandarin, looking around wildly for inspiration.
    A few minutes later two more attendants with shifty eyes headed the same way Heero and the others had been taken. Wufei watched them alertly for a moment, clicking his teeth together quietly as his mind worked rapidly.
    He was their target. They had no reason to hurt Heero and the others if he wasn't there, right? But was he willing to risk that? Besides, Hilde and that Peacecraft twit were with them.
    And anyway, Wufei reminded himself, Heero would go back for you. Already did, in fact.
    A fierce grin lit his face as the beginnings of a plan began to form in his mind. It was a bit rash, perhaps. But he had the element of surprise.
    He hoped.


    Hilde and Relena had been bound together and were huddled in a corner of the room with one of the assassins standing guard over them.
    Larry was tightening the ropes on Trowa's wrists. The others sat spaced out from each other, exchanging grave looks.
    "Now then..." the tall one, whom the others had referred to as Gorman, stepped forward, smiling unpleasantly and testing the edge of a wicked-looking knife on his thumb. "Let's play a little game, shall we? I'm going to ask you each some questions. If you don't give me an answer I like, or try to play the strong silent type, you're going to lose a body part. We'll start with your fingers and go from there."
    The man called Evan came up behind him, eyeing their prisoners silently. He was a big man, one side of his face covered in what could have been shrapnel scars. His face was like a craggy rock, and the two knives he had in his belt were each at least eight inches long and wickedly curved. He didn't carry a gun.
    He took in the four boys thoughtfully, tapping his thumb against the hilt of one of his knives. He looked at each of them: Quatre swallowing nervously but glaring disapprovingly towards the man standing guard over the girls; Trowa's impassive face, his eyes devoid of fear or any other emotion; Duo's defiant smirk and cold eyes; Heero's mask of stone.
    Evan arched a brow at his tall companion. "These kids won't talk," he grunted. "Not until you really do start cutting off limbs."
    Gorman scowled. "They're just kids," he insisted. Evan only stared back. Gorman, who trusted his companion's instincts, gave a careless shrug. "Maybe," he relented. "But if they wanna be stubborn, I'm sure seeing their little girlfriends get roughed up will loosen their tongues. Ren will be here any minute. You know how he likes his girls." He jeered. "Young and unwilling."
    Relena paled, and Hilde looked sick.
    Evan nodded, eyeing the boys again. After a moment he jerked his chin towards Quatre. "Start with that one," he advised. "He'll probably talk easier than the others."
    Quatre's face paled marginally, though he kept his expression resolute.
    Trowa was already halfway to his feet, tied hands or no, before Larry shoved him back down. "Stay down, you," he growled. "Don't be so impatient. You'll get your turn." He snickered.
    Trowa's eyes narrowed, his jaw tightening, but he remained silent.
    Duo caught Quatre's gaze, his face grim.
    Quatre offered a forced little smile. "I'll be okay," he murmured in French.
    Larry seized a fistful of Quatre's shirt and hauled him to his knees, dragging him across the floor away from the others.
    Evan took Quatre's arm and lifted him effortlessly into a chair. "Watch them," he said shortly.
    Gorman and Larry put themselves between Evan and the other three boys, keeping their guns aimed warningly.
    "Fucking bastards," Duo snarled, struggling with his bonds. "Untie me and we'll see if you can take on one 'kid'!"
    "Keep it down, small fry," the man guarding Relena and Hilde laughed. "You'll all get a turn with Uncle Evan."
    "You can't do this," Hilde said desperately, warring emotions of anger and fear on her face. "What kind of people are you? We haven't even done anything!"
    "Shut up," the man snarled, lifting his hand threateningly.
    Hilde's eyes sparked, and she opened her mouth for a furious retort.
    Duo instantly subsided. "No, Hilde," he cut her off sharply. "Scum like this won't think twice about cutting a girl's throat just to keep her quiet."
    Evan was ignoring them all, his cold eyes on Quatre as he tapped one of his deadly knives absently against his thigh. "First question," he intoned.
    Quatre forced his eyes upwards until he was looking the man in the face. He was completely rigid, waiting for the pain that was coming, and his face was pale as death, but his mouth was pressed tightly shut in a silent refusal to speak.
    "Where is Chang?"
    Quatre only stared back numbly.
    Evan waited patiently for a moment, then held up his knife to the light, admiring it. "Oh. My mistake. This isn't much of a threat unless you have some idea of how it feels." He slashed suddenly with the weapon, and Quatre jumped, gasping in surprised pain. On the other side of the room, Duo snarled a curse and Relena gave a small squeal.
    Quatre gritted his teeth, refusing to let himself look down at the wound the sharp blade had cut into his arm just above the elbow. But he could see red out of the corner of his eye. It was deep-- bleeding fast and beginning to hurt like hell. He hissed in air through clenched teeth and made himself meet Evan's cold stare once more.
    Evan eyed him thoughtfully for another moment, then flicked his wrist again. This time the blade skimmed across Quatre's face, just under his eye, slicing into the soft skin there and causing the blood to drip down onto his lips, filling his mouth with its coppery taste.
    "Stop it!" Hilde shouted.
    "These are scratches," Evan pointed out, ignoring her. "Imagine what it will feel like when I cut off a finger. Or..." He rested the tip of the blade against Quatre's shuddering stomach, meeting the wide blue eyes with a slow, sadistic smile. "What about if I sink this in, very slowly..?"
    Trowa snarled something under his breath, but Larry kept a hand firmly on his shoulder to hold him down.
    "It's a big knife," Evan continued. "It could do a lot of damage. It doesn't have to be this way. All you have to do is talk. Tell me where the Chinese brat is."
    Quatre couldn't help looking down at the knife poking at his belly, shuddering a little with fear and the stinging pain of his wounds. He forced himself to drag his eyes upwards and meet the other man's expectant gaze. Over the man's shoulder, he caught a glimpse of Heero, every muscle taut as he watched with an unreadable expression on his face. Waiting for Quatre to buckle, to sell out his friend. Quatre felt a small, mirthless smile tug at the corners of his mouth as he looked Evan in the eye boldly.
    "I'm not going to tell you anything," he said simply. "So either do something with that knife or get it out of my face."
    Duo gave a low hoot. Evan's expression darkened, the knife digging a little harder against Quatre's stomach. "So be it," he growled. "You'll probably be more useful dead, anyway."
    There was a quiet knock on the door.
    Everyone froze.
    "Ren," Gorman breathed in annoyance. "Late as usual."
    "It's me," came a sullen voice through the door. "Open up already."
    "Told you," Gorman grumbled as he holstered his gun and strode towards the door. "Must've gotten caught up with some fucking twelve year old bitch or something like he did last ti--"
    Heero had a perfect view of the door from where he was kneeling. As the door swung open and a sour-faced man came into view, he tensed, his instincts screaming that something was off. Then he saw the figure just behind Ren, and the sword he had pressed to the older man's throat.
    It took a moment longer for the sight to sink in with Gorman. His eyes widened, and his mouth dropped. Belatedly he reached for his gun. "Oh SHI--"
    Wufei raised the gun he'd obviously taken from Ren, and fired point-blank into Gorman's stomach. Relena shrieked in horror.
    Instantly all was chaos.
    The other assassins were completely caught off guard. The one guarding the girls moved slowest, and Wufei took care of him next. He yanked his sword blade across Ren's throat with one arm, and took aim with the gun in his other, firing two rapid shots. One missed its target-- Wufei had never fired a gun before, a calm little voice in the back of Heero's mind noted --but the other took the man in the chest, spinning him around and knocking him to the ground, his firearm clattering across the room.
    Heero was already moving. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Duo kick Larry's legs out from under him, while Trowa rolled quickly out of the way. It barely registered. Heero was running full-tilt at the one man in the room who was still a threat.
    Evan was raising his knife to throw it at Wufei's back when Heero barrelled into him. They crashed to the floor and struggled for a moment, but Evan had the upper hand; he was bigger, stronger, and his arms weren't tied behind his back. He shoved Heero away from him and dealt him a stunning kick to the ribs as he got up.
    Quatre rushed him, but Evan knocked him aside with a brutal backhanded blow. Wufei fired at him, missed, and threw the gun aside in disgust, bringing up his sword swiftly as Evan came at him with both knives.
    He parried the thrusting blades, twisted quickly so that he was inside the big man's guard, and plunged his sword up into Evan's chest, between his ribs. Evan's eyes bulged, and he gave a coughing gurgle that brought blood up with it. He stared dazedly down into Wufei's narrowed eyes for a long moment before slumping over slowly.
    Wufei jerked his saber free with a grunt and let the man's body hit the floor heavily. For a long moment, a deathly stillness settled over the room as they all caught their breath.
    Heero could only gape dumbly up at the sword bearer who stood over him, breathing a little hard from his exertion, eyes still wild from his assault.
    "...I thought you said you didn't want to see us anymore," Heero finally made himself say.
    Wufei scowled. "Shut up."
    "I can't hold him forever," Trowa spoke up calmly. They all looked quickly towards where Trowa was lying on the floor, legs locked firmly around Larry's throat as he held the struggling man down, nearly choking him.
    "Shit, untie me," Duo gasped, stumbling to his feet and hurrying over to Wufei. "Hurry up."
    Wufei slashed the ropes on his wrists with his sword, and Duo hastily bent down to relieve Evan of his daggers. Spinning both expertly, he approached Larry with a dangerous glint in his eye. "Let him up," he breathed.
    Trowa released his grip and scooted back so that Larry could scramble up. The man took a wary step backwards, eyeing Duo with more than a little fear.
    "Don't kill him yet, Duo," Trowa said almost absently, making a beeline for Quatre to check his injuries.
    Wufei sank his sword into the floor just behind Heero, cutting his bonds. He offered his free hand, arching a brow at him sardonically. "I owed you one," he explained dryly.
    Heero looked up at him for a long moment, then gave a quiet snort and accepted the proferred hand, allowing Wufei to help him to his feet.
    "Oh my god," Hilde croaked, horrified eyes on her friend.
    Wufei looked towards her, hesitating. Heero noticed he was very deliberately not looking at the bodies all over the floor. "Hilde." Wufei picked his way over to the two shaking girls and carefully cut them free. "Are you all right? What are you doing here?"
    "Wufei, what... what's going on?" Hilde demanded, a slight tremor in her voice as she stared at the murdered men. "How... what.... Why did you..."
    "Snap out of it, Hilde," Wufei said sharply, causing her to look back towards him. "You're the one who wants to be a soldier. Soldiers see death all the time. It was you or them. Personally, I'd rather it be them."
    "You murdered them," Relena practically shouted, backing away from him and rubbing at her sore wrists. "These men should have gone to jail! Don't you realize what you've done??"
    Heero appeared at Wufei's side. "This isn't the time, Relena," he interrupted sharply. "We need to leave. The guns had silencers, which gives us some time. But sooner or later someone will find the bodies."
    "It was self defense, Miss Peacecraft," Quatre pointed out a little weakly, obediently sitting still in the chair while Trowa carefully inspected his wounds. "They were going to kill us. If Wufei hadn't acted, they would have shot him as he came through the door."
    "I don't understand," Hilde whispered, still staring at Wufei. "What's going on here? Who were those men?"
    Wufei hesitated, glancing at Heero.
    But Heero was looking elsewhere. Wufei followed his gaze to where Duo had cornered Larry and was speaking to him in an undertone, trailing the tip of one of the knife blades slowly across the man's chest in a blatantly threatening gesture. Whatever Duo was saying to him, Larry looked about ready to wet himself.
    "Duo...?" Hilde whispered hoarsely, shaken even more by this glimpse of the other boy's darker side.
    "Duo," Heero said sharply.
    Duo took a step back from Larry, but never took his eyes from the quaking man, mouth curved a fiendish smile. "He'll talk," he said simply.
    "Glad to hear it," Trowa said drolly, getting to his feet. "Quatre's wounds aren't too bad. He'll need a few stitches in his arm, but we can bandage them for now. We need to get moving." He paused, gazing steadily at Wufei. "Are you coming with us?"
    Wufei hesitated, then nodded firmly.
    The tension in Heero's shoulders eased away a bit. "What changed your mind?" he asked gruffly.
    Wufei made a face at him. "It wasn't the thought of seeing your sour face again," he replied sarcastically. "Just leave it already. I'm here, so shut up and just accept it."
    Heero scowled back, but there was no heat in the expression. "You always have to be difficult," he noted in a defeated tone.
    "And you analyze things too much," Wufei retorted. "For someone that expects me to just accept whatever life throws at me, you can be an enormous hypocritical pain in the ass, Yuy."
    Heero blinked.
    Duo snickered, looking highly amused. "When you're right, you're right," he admitted. "Anyway, enough with the small talk. We need to make tracks before some innocent janitor blunders in here or something."
    "Move now, talk later," Wufei said shortly when Relena opened her mouth to protest. He ushered Hilde towards the door while Heero took Relena's arm in a light but firm grip and steered her after them.
    "Find out who sent them," Heero ordered as he glanced back towards Duo. "Make it fast."
    "No prob," Duo drawled, grinning at Larry.
    Trowa and Quatre collected their weapons from the floor and followed the others out of the room, shutting the door firmly on Duo and his hapless prisoner.
    "Where are we going?" Hilde hissed as they all slipped back into the main terminal and mingled with the crowd.
    "You are getting your ass home," Wufei informed her sternly. "This has nothing to do with you."
    "The hell it doesn't," Hilde snapped. "I just watched you kill four men, Wufei! I deserve an explanation!"
    "We both do," Relena added, shaking loose of Heero's grip. "You have thirty seconds to explain yourselves before I go to the police. They can at least arrest that man you left back there with Maxwell."
    Trowa looked at her steadily a moment, then transferred his gaze to Heero. "We don't have time for this," he pointed out in a monotone.
    Heero scowled at Relena in agreement.
    "Why did those men want Wufei?" Relena demanded. "Why did any of you have weapons?"
    "What the hell is going on here?" Hilde wrapped up angrily.
    "They were assassins," Quatre admitted quietly, flapping his hand in an anxious "keep it down" gesture. "Wufei did the only thing he could. They were going to kill us. Period."
    Hilde drew back a little, looking undecided and upset.
    But Relena only looked more resolute. "You're not going anywhere until I get a better explanation than that."
    Trowa looked pointedly at his watch. "We're going whether you like it or not in about half an hour," he informed her.
    Duo came jogging up just then, whistling cheerfully to himself as he dodged other passengers.
    "Well?" Wufei demanded as soon as the other boy joined them. "It wasn't Ku--" he hesitated, glancing at Relena and Hilde. "They weren't Suits, were they?" he corrected himself.
    "Nope." Duo shook his head, expression sobering a bit. "He didn't want you dead. These people do."
    "Who sent them, Duo?" Heero demanded a trifle impatiently.
    Duo lifted his shoulders in an exagerrated shrug. "Well, you didn't really give me much time to work on it, and the guy was a lot more stubborn than he looked. I didn't get diddly squat before he tried to bite his own tongue off."
    Relena made a noise of horror in the back of her throat.
    Duo ignored her. "Anyway, all I got out of him was that we were in for some kinda 'surprise' when we returned to space," he continued. "It would've taken more time to get any more out of him."
    "Time we don't have," Trowa interrupted pointedly.
    "He's right," Quatre spoke up, glancing at his own watch. "If we're going to leave, we need to move now."
    Hilde turned to look up at the display board high above that listed the times of departure and arrival for the week's shuttles. "The next one doesn't leave for another hour or so," she snapped. "You're just trying to get rid of us."
    "Where is he?" Relena asked suddenly.
    Wufei frowned at her impatiently. "Now what are you going on about?"
    "The man you were questioning," Relena said, looking at Duo hard. "Where is he?"
    "Back there." Duo waved a hand over his shoulder, eyes locked with Relena's. "I left him in the room. It'll be awhile before anyone finds him and his buddies."
    "What did you do to him?" Relena demanded in a low tone. Hilde looked first at her, then at Duo with growing apprehension.
    Duo hesitated, flicking a glance towards Heero.
    "We're leaving," Heero growled, grabbing Wufei's arm and starting to pull him through the crowd. The others started to follow, but Relena jumped in front of Heero, blocking his path.
    "No!" she snapped. "Heero, if you run, you'll only get in more trouble. Tell the police what you told me. Then--"
    "We don't have time for this," Heero cut her off coldly. "And we don't owe any explanations, so--"
    "I'm the daughter of a pacifist Senator, Heero Yuy," Relena practically shouted, eyes tearing up. "What do you expect me to do? Just look the other way when something like this happens? Five men just tried to assassinate us, the rest of you are carrying weapons inside a shuttle port, and after what Mr. Maxwell just said, all I can think of is sabotage. A 'surprise in space'? Do these lunatics plan on hijacking a shuttle? Attacking a colony? You need to tell me what's going on here, Heero, and you need to tell me now!"
    Heero took a step back, startled by her outburst. He exchanged a quick look with Wufei.
    Wufei looked back at him with a scowl. "I see her point," he admitted gruffly.
    "That doesn't convince the little hand or the small hand to wait for us," Duo pointed out sarcastically, pointing at his watch impatiently. "If we wanna catch that shuttle, we need to get a move-on. So..." he gave Relena a hard look. "Either get the hell out of the way or sic shuttle security on us. Either way, we're leaving. Right now."
    Hilde had been hanging back, biting her lip and watching them intently. She moved forward abruptly and grabbed Wufei's wrist. "Then I'm going with you," she snapped. "You're not getting rid of me that easily," she added when Wufei glared down at her. "I want to know what's going on, too. Especially if it means someone's trying to kill you." Her tone softened. "What kind of best friend would I be if I just left you at a time like this?"
    Wufei hesitated, and stopped trying to pull his wrist free. "Hilde..."
    Heero scowled, giving Wufei's other arm a sharp tug that loosed Hilde's grip from him. "We're leaving," he snapped. "You two can argue and walk at the same time." Trowa swept Relena aside with a long arm and led the way in quick strides. Heero, hand still wrapped firmly around Wufei's arm, followed after him.
    Wufei was too startled by the grip to think of a protest.
    "Heero!" Relena called. "Don't you dare run away!" She hurried after them.
    Wufei had no idea where they were going, so he let Heero drag him through the crowd. Hilde had caught up and was clinging stubbornly to his other arm to keep from being left behind.
    "Wait," Wufei said hastily, taking in one of the flight schedules as they hurried past it. "The only shuttle that's leaving in the next hour is a private flight."
    "And it's heavily guarded," Hilde added. "See the security code next to it?"
    "Because it's mine," Relena gasped, doing a double-take. She looked sharply at Heero in growing suspicion. "You've got to have your shuttles mixed up. That's the shuttle that's taking me to see my father."
    "Was," Duo corrected cheerfully.
    "We'll drop you off with him if it's not too far out of our way," Quatre offered.
    Relena's eyes widened, her mouth dropping open.
    "You're going to hijack the Senator's shuttle??" Hilde hissed in sudden comprehension.
    "News to me," Wufei growled, glaring at Heero. "When did you plan on informing me that we were going to try our best to get shot and/or arrested, you idiot?"
    "We don't have any other choice," Heero said simply. "Things are getting bad. The assassins weren't completely unexpected, but we were hoping not to run into them yet. We need to get you off-planet as soon as possible. It's best that we take this shuttle. Relena and her staff are the only passengers."
    "All the others are filled with soldiers heading off to battle," Quatre pointed out. "We can't exactly try to take over one of those. And there's no way they'll let five students take a trip to space in the middle of a war."
    "But- but.." Relena sputtered.
    "How do you plan on stealing a shuttle?" Wufei demanded. "Or flying one, for that matter?"
    "Leave that to us," Duo said smugly.
    "Six students," Hilde said firmly to Quatre. "I'm going, too. If you try to leave me behind, I'll just run to the authorities."
    Heero glared at her, but Duo grinned. "I guess we can accomodate one more."
    "Duo," Quatre sighed. "We can't drag her into this."
    "Well it looks like we've gotta drag Miss Peacecraft here along, too," Duo pointed out. "We can always drop Hilde off with Relena later."
    Hilde offered him a small smile.
    "I don't want you coming, period," Wufei grunted.
    "Tough," Hilde said mercilessly.
    "You'll never get through security with all those weapons," Relena continued desperately. "Did any of you think this through at all?"
    "O ye of little faith," Duo chortled. "You just keep your mouth shut and run when we say so, princess, or you'll get left behind."
    Relena set her jaw stubbornly and fell silent, though she still looked unconvinced and upset.
    Once they had reached the gate, Heero came to a stop and turned to Wufei. "Wait here," he ordered, releasing Wufei's arm. "Make sure these two," he flicked a narrow glance towards the girls, "don't try anything stupid."
    "Wait, what are you going to do?" Wufei demanded, grabbing Heero's wrist when the other boy started to turn away.
    Heero nodded towards the handful of security guards just outside the shuttle gates. "We're going to take care of that problem. When I tell you to, get to the shuttle as quickly as possible."
    Wufei scowled. "Give me one good reason why I should hang back and play babysitter."
    "You might get hurt."
    Wufei's eyes narrowed dangerously.
    "Wrong answer, 'Ro," Duo murmured, amused.
    "Let's go, Heero," Trowa said with a note of impatience.
    Heero scowled in frustration, looking from Wufei to the security checkpoint and back again. "Look, the guards are going to react more to guns than to a sword," he said with forced patience. "And someone needs to make sure these two don't get security and that they get to the shuttle unharmed."
    "Heero.." Trowa pressed.
    "Oh to hell with this," Hilde snapped, holding out a hand commandingly. "Give me a damn gun."
    Everyone turned to stare at her.
    "I'm not going to hang back in the background and be the damsel in distress," she continued impatiently. "I know how to fire a gun, all right? You're acting like you're in a big hurry, so won't it be faster if we all move at once, rather than you guys having to hold them off while us three run for the shuttle? Don't insult me. Now do you have an extra gun or not?"
    There was a long awkward pause. Finally Duo snapped his mouth shut and offered her a wide grin, jerking a thumb at Heero. "Yeah," he drawled, "Heero always has at least two on him. Bum one of his."
    "Duo-" Quatre protested.
    "Hey, if she wants to do this, let her," Duo cut him off, still grinning at Hilde.
    "But what about Relena?" Quatre insisted.
    Wufei sent Hilde a small smirk, proud of her. "We'll cover her."
    "She'll be our hostage," Trowa suggested, caving in at last. "It will actually make things easier."
    "Your what?" Relena repeated, looking affronted.
    "So be it," Heero said after a moment, pulling a gun from the back of his waistband and handing it to Hilde. "Don't shoot unless you mean to kill," he told her firmly, glaring at her.
    Hilde nodded silently, taking a deep breath.
    "Act like a hostage," Wufei ordered the furious blond beside him.
    Relena glared up at him and didn't respond.
    Duo offered them all a wild grin. "Let's do this, ladies and gents."
    Heero seized Relena by the arm and placed his gun close to her head. "The safety's on," he reassured her when she stared at him, appalled. "Just act like a hostage, like Wufei said."
    "That won't be too terribly difficult," Relena informed him stiffly as they all headed for the gate.
    It turned out being easier than Wufei had feared.
    The show of weapons and "hostage" was enough to freeze the startled security guards into immobility, and a few barked orders from Heero had them tossing their gun magazines far out of reach.
    "This probably would have been a lot more difficult without leverage," Trowa noted with a thoughtful look at Relena as they hurried down the corridor towards the waiting shuttle.
    "Yeah," Duo agreed. "Now we probably don't have to hurt anyone. They'll do what we say now."
    Relena glared at him in furious silence.
    But Duo was right.
    The handful of guards and staff that had been waiting onboard to accompany the Senator's daughter took one look at the gun pressed to Relena's head and practically tripped over their own feet in their haste to obey Heero's demands.
    "Aren't we Miss Popularity," Duo teased as he watched the shuttle's passengers run back towards the gate. "They really don't wanna see you hurt."
    Heero pushed Relena into a chair and holstered his gun. "Trowa."
    The tall boy gave a brief nod, already heading for the cockpit.
    Wufei arched a brow at his friend. "You were serious when you said Trowa could pilot one of these things?"
    Heero nodded. "How else did you expect this to work?" he pointed out.
    Wufei snorted in response. Since when, he thought abruptly, is Heero my 'friend' instead of my captor?
    The others were already taking their seats. Wufei helped Heero close the door and secure it, then hesitated by the chair Hilde was seated in. He looked her over carefully. "Are you sure you're all right with this?" he asked gruffly.
    Hilde was staring at the gun she was holding loosely in her lap. After a long moment she looked up and met his searching gaze. "Yes," she said firmly. "I meant what I said. I don't understand what's going on-- and you'd better explain pretty damn soon, buster --but I'm not going to just stand by and do nothing if you're in trouble, Wufei."
    Wufei studied her face, looking for any trace of regret or doubt, but she only stared back stubbornly. He gave a nod and took the nearest available seat. The shuttle's engines were starting up, making it difficult to hear anything, so the others took their seats without another word. Relena was scrunched up in the seat next to Hilde, staring out of the window with a strained look on her face. Quatre sat across from them and offered a reassuring smile, while Heero took the seat beside Wufei.
    Wufei leaned back in his seat and looked around at them all, letting out a slow breath he felt he'd been holding for the last week.
    These were no longer his kidnappers, he told himself, because a part of him needed to hear the admittance. He'd chosen to come with them, to find his family and get the answers to the questions that had been plaguing him all his life. He was in on this, and every illegal thing they had to do to get him home. Including hijacking Senator Peacecraft's private shuttle and practically taking his daughter captive, he thought with a slight wince. He was just going to have to trust these idiots he'd found himself partnered with. What other choice did he have?
    Heero leaned over to speak in his ear over the engines. "Buckle up," he insisted. "Take-off is always rough."
    Wufei obeyed, glancing at Heero out of the corner of his eye. Heero hadn't pulled away yet, and was looking a little uncertain. "What?"
    Heero met his gaze, his face unreadable. "Does this mean you trust me?" he asked with only a hint of sarcasm. His thoughts, Wufei realized, had been running along the same track as his own.
    Wufei stared back at him in silence for a moment. Duo was turning out to have more dark corners to his mind than what he had previously assumed. He could easily turn into a loose cannon. Trowa was an enigma, and Quatre, though he seemed friendly enough, was still an unknown factor because Wufei hadn't spent much time with either of them.
    But, his subconsious told him calmly, you do trust Heero.
    "With my life," he answered honestly.
    Heero blinked in surprise and pulled back out of Wufei's personal space. He looked straight ahead as the shuttle began its ascent, then glanced back at Wufei again, as if wondering if he'd heard the other boy correctly.
    Wufei ignored the stare, craning his neck to see out of the small window as the ground rapidly grew smaller and smaller below, then was hidden by clouds. He felt a shiver of excitement as the clouds rapidly fell away to darkness.
    Then there was the earth below him, and stars all around.
    Wufei felt a slow smile pull at his mouth. Space. He'd made it. He was finally here, and it was the biggest step towards finding his family.
    Heero was watching his reaction carefully. When Wufei looked back at him, he averted his eyes again. "You've never been off-planet in your memory." It wasn't quite a question.
    Wufei shook his head and returned his gaze to the stars outside for a few more minutes, feeling a sense of peace settle over him. His foster mother, he thought, would be proud of him for getting this far. Perhaps his real mother would have felt the same.
    "You might as well try to sleep," Heero told him a little more quietly. "It's a long flight."
    Wufei glanced over at Hilde, who was leaning over Relena to stare out at the stars in fascination. A small smile tugged at his mouth. "I don't know if I can sleep," he admitted. Even as he said it, he realized he was a little tired. Whether it was left over from Treize's assault on his Mark or the adrenaline rush in the shuttle port, he wasn't sure.
    "I'll wake you up in a few hours," Heero offered. "We'll have to pass through some battles eventually, and no one will get much sleep. You might as well conserve your energy while you can."
    Wufei grunted in reluctant agreement and shifted, trying to find a comfortable position to sleep in. He tried leaning against the window, but the vibrations in the shuttle's frame gave him a headache. "I'm remembering more of my dreams," he said after a moment, avoiding Heero's eyes.
    Heero frowned slightly.
    "Memories," Wufei corrected himself. "They're memories. And most of them are about you."
    Heero blinked. Wufei shot him a quick look, unable to hold back a little smirk. "Turns out you were always an insufferable brat."
    Heero offered a mock scowl. "And you've always been a stubborn, pushy prick."
    Wufei snorted in amusement and let his head drop onto Heero's shoulder, eyes drooping. "Whatever. I'm going to sleep. Wake me up if we're about to go down in flames or something."
    Heero had gone stiff with surprise for a moment, but he relaxed slightly after a moment. "We won't go down in flames," he said confidently. "Trowa is a more than competent pilot."
    "If you say so," Wufei murmured absently, letting his eyes slide closed.
    Heero nodded firmly. "He can pilot a great number of aircraft," he explained. "I'm sure Duo's told you about his background. He's been trained since he was very young to...." he trailed off, looking down at the head propped on his shoulder. Wufei's body had relaxed against his side, his breathing slowing down.
    Heero remained perfectly still, studying the slumbering boy at his side for several minutes. He glanced around, but the others were either in seats facing another direction, or were already dozing off. He gave into the impulse to reach up and push stray ebony locks back from Wufei's relaxed face.
    "Never mind," he said in a voice too low to wake the other boy up. "You'll remember. You remembered me." He carefully settled himself a little more comfortably in the seat and turned his gaze on the endless stars outside.


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