Chapter 20: "Keep Away"

"What is it you wanted to talk to me about?"

Quatre couldn't make himself turn and face the other boy. He wiped rigorously at the small table with a damp cloth, biting his lip in consternation.

He knew he had to speak up; bring the situation into the open. It was better if it was taken care of now, right? Better if it came from your friends. But despite this, a part of him felt like what he was about to do was wrong. He was trying to help his friends-- to save them from future pain --but he worried that he would also hurt them in the process.

And a very small voice in the back of his mind was saying hypocrite.

"It's... it's about Wufei," Quatre started nervously, back still to the door.

"What about him? Is this about his change of heart, or--"

"And Heero," Quatre added more quietly.

There was a long moment of silence, then the door slid shut with a hiss. Quatre forced himself to put his cloth down and turn around.

Trowa was waiting with arms crossed, face expressionless. "What?"

"I didn't want to say anything," Quatre admitted in a rush, looking down at his shoes, "because I wasn't sure what I was sensing. I mean, we all know those two were connected at the hip when they were kids, and what a mess Heero was when Wufei was sent to earth. He's been waiting to be with-- ermm, wrong words. Waiting to see him for years and years..." You're babbling, Quatre told himself sharply. Just get to the point already. Get this over with. He took a deep breath and finished quickly, "I think there's something other than friendship between those two." He glanced up at his friend apprehensively.

But Trowa didn't looked shocked. Or even a little surprised. His mouth was pulled into a small frown of... disapproval? Resignation? Quatre couldn't be sure.

"When did you first notice this?" he asked bluntly.

Quatre sighed, running a hand fretfully through his hair. "Well... I'm not sure," he admitted. "I guess there's been whispers in Heero, at least, since we took Wufei from his foster mother. Wufei's more confusing to read. Too many conflicting emotions. But lately..." He spread his hands helplessly. "If it was just one of them, I wouldn't even bring it up. But both of them...."

Trowa shook his head once. "You were right to mention it," he said firmly. "Heero knows better, so it should be nothing to be concerned about, but..." he trailed off when he noticed the look on Quatre's face. "What?"

"Um..." Quatre glanced towards the door as if reassuring himself that they weren't about to be interrupted. "Duo's kind of been.. encouraging it."

Trowa's eyebrows shot up.

"Not, uh, anything too obvious," Quatre said hastily. "But he has been teasing them about it. He thinks it's funny, and--"

"Funny," Trowa repeated flatly.

"--And maybe he doesn't see the harm in it," Quatre rushed on. "Maybe he thinks he's being a good friend."

"Or maybe," Trowa suggested in a hard voice, "he's up to his old tricks again."

"I don't know," Quatre admitted quietly. "I don't even think those two really understand what's going on between them. But it's getting... well..." he squirmed uncomfortably.

"How bad is it?" Trowa demanded.

"Duo suggested they shower together and I'm not sure what they're going to do," Quatre blurted, feeling his face heat up.

Trowa's eyes widened slightly. "He did what?" He hesitated, glancing quickly from Quatre's red face to the door. "They're-- You mean now?"

Quatre nodded miserably. "They're not really doing anything," he hastened to explain. "But I can tell Heero's ready to, um, follow his feelings rather than his head for once, and I don't sense much rejection from Wufei's end."

Trowa's eyes narrowed, but before he could reply, the door whisked open and Duo popped his head in. "Head's up," he said sharply. "Treize is on the line and practically demanding to speak to Wuffers."

"What?" Both boys turned to stare at him, startled.

"I'm gettin' him now," Duo said, already disappearing out of the doorway.

Trowa started to follow, then hesitated, glancing back at Quatre. "I'll talk to Heero when we get a chance," he said finally. "And Duo as well. I don't know what he's up to, but this isn't something he needs to be interfering with."

"I know," Quatre said in a small voice, looking at the floor again. "Um... Trowa?"

Trowa stopped halfway through the door and looked back at him.

Quatre hesitated, chancing a quick look at his old friend. The question was on the tip of his tongue, but he struggled against it, unsure if he should ask. He wasn't sure he would like the answer.

Was Trowa angry because Heero and Duo were disobeying orders and putting Wufei's future at risk?

Or because he disapproved of whatever was between Heero and Wufei as men?

He forced a smile and shook his head. "Nothing," he murmured. "Let's go see what Kushrenada wants."


Heero's face was a thundercloud as he and Wufei stalked down the corridor towards the cockpit.

"What does he want?" Wufei demanded angrily of the braided boy jogging behind them. "How did he know how to find us?"

"No idea, dude," Duo said firmly. "I'm as surprised as you are."

"What's going on?" Relena was awake, hair still damp from her shower. She hesitated in the middle of the hall, partially blocking the way. A moment later Hilde joined her. She took one look at Wufei's face and took a hasty step back to let him by.

Relena took a step to the right so that she was directly in front of Heero. "Heero! What's going on? You look like you--"

"Move, Relena," Wufei snapped.

Heero didn't bother with a verbal warning. He simply picked her up, hands clamped around her arms as he set her firmly to the side. She gasped, looking flustered and offended at the same time, but Heero paid her no heed. As soon as they passed, Hilde hurried after them.

"Duo," she hissed. "Did I hear the name Kushrenada, or am I going crazy? What does Treize Kushrenada have to do with anything?"

"Long story," Duo assured her. "And I don't even know all of it. Sorry, but it'll have to wait."

Hilde frowned, but decided to let it drop for the moment.

Wufei entered the cockpit hot on Heero's heels, his gaze flicking instantly to the communicator's monitor.

The sight of Treize's face, calm and regal as he remembered it, brought on a rush of hot anger. He strode quickly past Heero and slammed his palms down on the control panel, leaning over to glare at the image. "Kushrenada," he snarled. "What do you want? I thought I told you to go to hell." He heard Hilde gasp from the doorway and turned his head to glare pointedly at Duo. "Get her out of here," he snapped.

Heero came up beside him and offered the screen a cold glare. "What is it?" he asked shortly.

Treize didn't look particuarly disturbed by the unpleasant reception. He inclined his head minutely and gave a small, serene smile. "Good to see you've got your spark back," he directed towards Wufei. "Though I must admit I was very disappointed in your behavior when we last departed. You did kill two of my men, after all. And disfigured another." Wufei drew back sharply at the harsh reminder of the murders he had committed, but Treize's eyes were on Heero now. "And you, young man, caused considerable damage yourself."

"You were holding Wufei," Heero responded coolly.

"He was there of his own free will," Treize corrected smoothly.

Heero leaned forward slowly, placing his hands flat on the panel as Wufei had done, eyes hard as granite. "You hurt him," he said in a low, unforgiving voice. "I don't know how you knew about that, but you did it deliberately. He's lucky you didn't put him in a coma." He paused, then added menacingly, "You're lucky he didn't end up in a coma."

Wufei scowled at the other boy, embarrassed. Belatedly he realized Hilde had been resisting Duo's attempts to usher her out of the cockpit and was staring at the communicator and Heero with wide eyes. "Hilde," Wufei snapped, "get lost. This is none of your--"

"Hurt you?" Hilde cut him off sharply. "Coma??" She turned a fierce look on Duo. "You let some juerk hurt Wufei??"

"I wouldn't say 'let'," Duo hedged placatingly.

"Why would Treize Kushrenada hurt Wufei?" Hilde demanded incredulously. "When did you meet him in the first place?"

Relena appeared in the doorway behind Hilde, her dignity restored and her manner commanding. "Let me speak to him," she said. "I'll explain--"

"This ain't about you, chica," Duo cut her off rudely. "And you're really in no position to make demands."

Relena glared at him frostily, but before she could respond, Duo gave Hilde a firm shove and closed the hatch behind her, locking both indignant girls out.

Wufei returned his attention to the monitor. "What do you want?" he snapped.

"Word travels fast," Treize pointed out dryly. "I hear your kidnappers were brash enough to take Senator Peacecraft's daughter hostage-- on her own shuttle, no less. Do you have any idea how many law enforcers are on your tail?"

Wufei looked quickly at Heero, but the other boy looked unmoved. "I already know what you're going to say. Save your breath; we're not interested."

"What?" Wufei demanded.

"You can't outrun them for long," Treize replied calmly. "They'll hunt you down like dogs. Your only chance is to leave the girl somewhere safe for them to retrieve, and allow my men and I to escort you. I will make sure you aren't found."

"I already told you," Wufei growled. "I won't be your damned guide! I won't lead an army to the same people men like you tried to wipe out!"

"As I've already told you, those were Milliardo's men," Treize said patiently. "Men acting on their own passions. You can't assume all soldiers are like that."

"Don't preach to me!" Wufei shouted furiously. "You dishonorable dog!"

"And when have I been 'dishonorable'?" Treize inquired politely. "Or are you referring to the incident with your Mark? Yes, I know what it is. And your companions are right-- I could have put you in a coma and taken care of you permanently. But I didn't. I merely subdued you to keep you from hurting yourself or anyone else. Perhaps I should have taken more extreme measures, considering the chaos you two caused." He offered a small, tolerant smile. "Be as indignant and uncooperative as you like. In the end, you have no other choice. The men chasing you won't rest as long as you have both shuttle and girl with you. We can help each other. And while I find your stubborness as endearing as your other charming traits, I'm going to have to insist on your cooperation on this matter."

Wufei exploded into a barrage of fierce Mandarin curses that seemed to amuse rather than anger Treize.

"Are you finished?" he asked patiently when Wufei paused for breath.

"Yes." Heero leaned forward abruptly. "This conversation is over," he said tersely, and cut off the transmission.

He straightened and turned a dark look on Duo.

The braided boy held up a hand. "Yeah, I got ya. Don't worry, I'll scramble the ship's codes and make sure they won't know us from Adam. He has a point, though; we need to ditch girl and ship ASAP."

Heero nodded and turned to Wufei, watching him carefully, obviously waiting to see if another explosion was forthcoming before he opened his mouth and said the wrong thing.

Wufei was still glaring at the blank monitor. "I can't believe that scumbag," he spat at last. "Does he really think I'll agree to his stupid scheme? Why does he think I'll cooperate??"

Heero shook his head slightly. "He's used to getting what he wants," he pointed out.

"Or who he wants," Duo added innocently. He grinned at Wufei, but he was looking at Heero out of the corner of his eye. "He seems to have really taken a shine to you, Wuffers. 'Charming traits'? 'Endearing'?"

"Don't call me that," Wufei snapped automatically, only half listening.

Heero's eyes narrowed, his mouth tightening into a thin white line. When Wufei didn't give any other response, he jerked his gaze away from the other boy, fists clenching convulsively before he said in a hard voice, "We'll drop Relena off at the first colony we come to, and switch shuttles then. Duo, get to work on the modes and codes of this aircraft." He stalked off, expression dark.

Wufei blinked, watching him go. "Why the hell is he so pissed?" he demanded irritably. "I'm the one that lunatic is trying to convert. Does Yuy think I'm so stupid that I'll fall for Kushrenada's bullshit about 'peaceful intervention' and treaties?"

Duo grinned at him with laughing eyes. "He doesn't like Treize," he said brightly. "I think you should tell him how you feel about the honorable General. Just so you're on the same page, yes?"

Wufei glared at him. "What are you babbling about?" he snapped impatiently. "It's obvious how I feel about Kushrenada's scheming."

"I have to do everything myself," Duo sighed dramatically, flapping a hand in resignation as he strolled out.

Wufei watched him go, baffled by the entire exchange.


Trowa cornered Heero almost as soon as he was out of the cockpit.

"We need to talk," he said firmly.

Heero didn't feel like talking, but he knew Trowa's serious voice, and this was it. Still frowning, he followed the other boy to the small kitchenette.

Once they were inside with the door shut behind them, Trowa turned a stern look on his companion. Heero was instantly suspicious. "What's this about, Barton?" he demanded.

Trowa arched a brow. "You tell me," he intoned.

"What?" Heero scowled. "I don't know what you're--"


Heero hesitated, eyeing his partner a little warily. "...What about him?"

"All right. We'll play it your way." Trowa's voice was deceptively calm. "Quatre's brought something to my attention about the two of you. Something inappropriate."

""I'm not 'playing' at anything," Heero growled, eyes narrowing. "And there's nothing inapp--"

Trowa crossed his arms over his chest and met Heero stare for stare. "Whether you're willing to admit it to us or not isn't the point. The fact remains that Quatre sensed that something's going on between the two of you."

Heero meant to curse, but it came out as a strangled snarl. He took a threatening step towards the other boy, fists jerking up by his hips reflexively. "There's nothing 'inappropriate' going on about anything," he snapped. "I am Wufei's Primary Guardian. How I deal with his security is none of your business."

To his credit, Trowa stood his ground. "This has nothing to do with Wufei's security. This is about your personal feelings towards him. Your job is to guard him and make sure he gets back to his family safely. With no previous relationships, and no distractions on the way there. There's a specific reason for this, Heero, and you know it."

Trowa, expecting a furious rebuttal, was caught completely off guard by the sudden blush that lit Heero's face. He had only a fraction of a second to process this before a fist smashed into the wall inches from his head.

Heero's face was dark, eyes hard and cold as chips of ice. Trowa felt his back bump the wall-- he'd stepped back instinctively, but there was nowhere to run if Heero got violent. He stared the other boy down, waiting for a response; some kind of argument or explanation.

Abruptly Heero jerked his hand back and strode for the door.

Trowa stared after him in surprise and regret. If Heero had no rebuttal, then Quatre was right after all. Well, he told himself, at least they'd caught it and nipped it in the bud before anything had happened. For all he knew, Wufei was still oblivious to it all. And Heero...

He watched the boy storm out.

Perhaps Heero was just now beginning to see it, as well.


"You've got to stop, Duo."

Duo offered his friend an innocent look, feet propped up on the console in the cockpit. "Stop what?"

Quatre frowned. "You know what I mean," he sighed. "You've been egging on Heero. And teasing Wufei. You need to stop it. Maybe you think it's just a big joke, but it's not. Something could happen, and you're just making it worse."

Duo grinned. "Ohh, so I'm not the only one who noticed something's going on, huh? It's kinda cute, in a weird, so-not-Heero way..."

"Duo," Quatre cut him off sharply, forcing his face into a stern expression. "This isn't a game. You can't keep doing this. You know Wufei isn't supposed to have any...well, interactions. Or relationships. Trowa spent almost three years keeping an eye on Wufei. Not just keeping him safe, but making sure there were no relationships. We're just lucky Wufei isn't the most affectionate of people and was too busy studying to give girls a second look."

Duo's smile faded. "He hasn't," he reaffirmed. "I asked. As for Hilde, I think she's some kinda kid sister figure to him or someth--"

"Right. But I'm not talking about Hilde," Quatre interrupted. "I'm talking about Heero and Wufei. Stop trying to turn the conversation around." He took a deep breath and looked his friend in the eye. "I don't know if this is just another one of your games or if you're taking this seriously, but whatever the case, it has to stop. There's a reason Wufei has to remain, um..."

"Pure and untouched?" Duo leered.

Quatre frowned. "Single," he finished firmly.

"Oh, come on," Duo scoffed, putting his hands behind his head and leaning casually back in his chair. "What's the big deal?"

"How do you think this is going to turn out?" Quatre exploded, earning a startled look from the other boy. Quatre clenched his fists by his side, glaring at his friend in frustration. "It's not a joke! Did you even stop to think about the consequences of what you're doing? What, did you think something would happen? And that it would work? You know as well as I do what would happen as soon as we got home. If they found out..." he shook his head sharply, unwilling to contemplate the notion. "And even if they didn't... you know how much worse you could make it? How much you could hurt them? They can't, Duo, and you know it. They just can't. They'd have to stop whatever they'd started. Pretend nothing ever happened. We may not know Wufei very well, but you know Heero better than any of us. What would that do to him? If he finally had someone-- or thought he did --and then was forced to give it up against his will?"

Duo's nonchalance had been steadily fading the more Quatre talked. He gazed up at his smaller friend blankly, mouth pressed tightly together. He looked away abruptly, reaching up to tug his hatbrim over his eyes, mouth twisting in a scowl. "...It'd tear him up," he muttered. "Especially in this case." He tilted his head slightly to peer up at Quatre from under his hat, face grim. "I don't think Heero's ever.... well, loved anything or anyone in his life," he said quietly. "He has us. But Wufei and him were best buds when they were little. Guardian and charge. That meant somethin' to him. And after Wufei left, well.... you know he's always been on Heero's mind. When he was a kid, all he wanted was to see his best friend again. The one person he could trust and understand. And he thought it was his duty, too. To protect him. When we got older, I started to wonder if it was turning into something more, but he didn't seem to think that way. Guess the thought never even crossed his mind until..."

"Until you gave him a push in the right direction," Quatre finished a little harshly.

Duo straightened, eyes narrowing a little. "No," he snapped. "I didn't give him the initial push-- he took that step by his damn self. Seeing Wufei was enough to start things off. Being with him all the time only makes it.."

"Worse." Quatre shook his head slowly. "You sit there and tell me how much this would hurt Heero, but you're the one who could end up hurting him the most. Because you're encouraging it, Duo. You can't do that! Did you even think before you started playing your little games with them? You can't play with people's emotions like that!"

Duo swung his chair around so his back was to the blond. "Beat it, runt," he muttered sourly. "I've got a shuttle to fly."

"Not until you promise to lay off," Quatre said angrily. "Heero's my friend, too, Duo. I don't want to see him hurt. If nothing happens, it won't be so hard when we get back. So you have to stop. Better yet, discourage Heero. Or make sure they're not alone, if you have to. Heero's not the most emotional person in the world; this could blow over and he wouldn't even think twice about it."

"I get it, Quat," Duo said a little sharply, still keeping his back to the other boy. "I get it already. Now just let me fly the damn plane, will ya?"

Quatre hesitated, gazing at the back of Duo's head as if he could read the sincerity of his words there. Finally he gave a quiet sigh and slipped out of the cockpit.

As soon as he was gone, Duo gave the console a half-hearted kick. "Shit," he breathed, glaring blindly at the computer screen. "You're in for a world o' hurt when you get 'home', 'Fei. With or without Heero."

Author's Notes: Don't get too mad at Tro from here on out, you guys. He's still a good guy and their friend, but he's just trying to do his job-- and keep them from getting into shitloads of trouble. ^^;
Try to forgive him XD;

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