Chapter 25: "The Heart of a Machine"

Wufei had to twist around, craning his neck, to catch a glimpse of it in the mirror.

His 'Mark', they'd called it. He'd looked at it countless times growing up, puzzling over its meaning and its origins. Ever since he had found that it could somehow be used to hurt-- or heal --him, he'd been even more suspicious of it. It was a Chinese character, but too tiny to make out from his angle. The character was surrounded by an inticrate design of a dragon in a looped shape. It might have been rather large on the tailbone of an infant, but at nearly seventeen, it was quite a bit smaller to the eye, no bigger than a nickel. He frowned at the tattoo, fingers straying towards the blue ink but not quite touching it. He could think of no way to get a better look at it. No way that wasn't humiliating, anyhow. He sure as hell wasn't going to attempt to photograph his lower back; to see it, he had to tug down the waistband of his underwear a little. The only other way was to get someone to look at it for him.

Not a chance in hell.

He hitched his pants back up, turning around to frown at his reflection. As he did, his mind wandered along by itself down a path he normally flinched from. But he was alone in the restroom, and anyway, it was hard not to consider things after that night's... occurrence in the sleeping quarters.

He studied the mirror, frown still in place, expression skeptic. He was supposedly good-looking to some degree, at least. He'd had several girls giggle at him stupidly, and that oaf Bruce Thompson had seemed interested enough. But on the other hand, he wasn't exactly model material. Criticizing eyes scanned his reflection, picking out faults and characteristics. His mouth, as usual, was tugged in a stern disapproving frown. The high cheekbones his mother had praised made his face look a little more elegant, but his eyes, even now, were guarded and snapping with familiar dark sarcasm. They weren't even an interesting color. They were black. Just black. His hair was the same; no highlights, nothing. Just straight, jet-black hair, pulled back as always in a high, tight ponytail. Without his jacket on, his physique was more evident: wirey arms, strong chest, and if he put his hand to his belly he could feel his abs. Still, he was a little on the slender side, not to mention cursed with his peoples' less-than-average height. People at first glance always underestimated him. Long legs good for running, and that was the entire package.

Wufei met his reflection's eyes warily. Not the entire package, he relented. There was his personality. Which was abrasive at best. He'd gotten so accustomed to snapping at people and having a waspish comeback ready to keep people at a distance that even now, surrounded by friends, he found the habit a hard one to break. He had serious trust issues, he tended to scorn anyone whom he perceived as weak, and his emotions might as well be a block of granite waiting to be carved into the Statue of David for all the experience he had in dealing with them.

What, in all of that, did Heero Yuy seem to find so interesting?

Wufei's eyes flinched away from the mirror automatically. That was what all this stupid scrutiny was about, then, he thought, disgusted. Good lord, he was worse than a woman, staring at himself in a mirror like this when there was a war going on all around them. He turned his back stiffly on the mirror and wrenched open the door, stepping out into the hall.

He glanced out of a porthole as he walked down the corridor. He was feeling restless and impatient. Partly, of course, due to the threat of an attack or the impending meeting with his Clan. But also because of Howard's announcement over dinner the previous night. They would be stopping at L2 soon to pick up supplies and try to make some sales. They'd been flying with the bizarre mechanic and his crowd of roughnecks for almost a week, now, and all of them were beginning to go a little stir crazy. Even Quatre's nerves had seemed a little frayed. Trowa, too, though one couldn't tell just by looking at the man. He seemed to fill in the boredom and frustration with endless workouts. Heero paced more and more often, and spoke less and less, and he was constantly glancing towards portholes with a sharp eye, as if just waiting for an attack or the appearance of the mysterious colony they were all trying to reach. Relena spoke little to anyone except for Heero, and when she wasn't trailing after the other boy, she could usually be found staring out of a porthole with a wistful look on her face. Only Duo and Hilde seemed to be enjoying themselves. Duo, of course, was having a blast. He knew almost all the men on board, and he seemed to enjoy helping out. He was a better mechanic than Wufei would have guessed, and was in the workshop almost constantly, chattering, laughing, and telling dirty jokes. As for Hilde...

Wufei's jaw jerked, his eyes narrowing uneasily. She had the same dream as Wufei, in a way; she, too, had longed to go to space. Of course, she had wanted to become a soldier, while he'd only wanted to find his home. Here, she was not only in space, but she had found plenty of mechanics on-board who were veterans of the last war, or who had relatives and friends fighting in the current one. Wufei had even caught her, bright-eyed and brimming with curiosity, seated in the cockpit of one of the two small MS's while a grizzled veteran explained the controls. Of course, she still had no idea what was under the tarps. None of that bothered him.

It was that damned Maxwell.

The two of them were connected at the hip nowadays. The fiasco with Relena's phonecall and Hilde's deceit seemed to have been conveniently forgotten in the light of the Senator's response, and Wufei had found them laughing and talking together quite often. She would look up at him, smiling brightly, eyes shining, and he would be laughing down at her, a hand on the wall by her shoulder.... Wufei growled in his throat. Fucking playboy. That was not the type of boy he'd thought would interest Hilde. There had been plenty of cocky show-offs that had attempted to hit on her before, and he'd not had to intervene once. She'd shot them down without a second glance. Why, then, did she seem so bloody infatuated with that braided twit? He didn't like it. Maxwell was trouble, plain and simple. There were countless things wrong with his head. Didn't she realize that by now? Didn't she remember the missing assassin he'd questioned back on earth?

Wufei shook his head irritably. Not his business, he told himself firmly. He should keep his nose out of it. If he tried to talk to her about it, she would blow him off. If he was stupid enough to forbid her from speaking with Maxwell, the stubborn little nit would only go out of her way to hang out with him. He would have to talk to Maxwell eventually, though he didn't have high hopes of success. The only person Duo seemed to listen to-- sometimes --was Heero.

He found himself in front of the hangar, and paused, gazing up at the large doors. After a moment, he touched the keypad. It beeped, flashed green, and the doors slid open. He'd been coming to the hangar daily to watch Heero work; sometimes to help him. Evidently they'd decided to keep it unlocked for him to save him the hassle of finding someone who knew the combo.

He strode down the enormous room, all the way to the back where the mysterious Gundams were kept. As he'd expected, Heero was perched atop Wing, busy at work. He spotted Wufei and hesitated before nodding in greeting. Wufei found a zipcord and set his foot in the strap, leaning his weight into it so that it activated and drew him up to the ceiling. He stepped onto one of Wing's giant shoulders and walked carefully over to where Heero was sitting on the edge of the cockpit, one leg thrown inside, the other out for balance. He was typing furiously on a laptop that was hooked up to a console inside, face intent on his work, and he barely spared Wufei a second glance.

Wufei watched him for a moment, then leaned over to peer into the cockpit. It was only the second time he'd seen inside, and he studied the controls and instruments curiously. Heero had, after much badgering, relented last time and given a brief explanation of a few things. Over here were the arm controls-- easy enough. The switches overhead were to power up the great suit and all of its equipment. Here was the weapons release for the sheath on the back. Whatever it held was a mystery, but he did know that pressing that button would unlock it so it could be drawn quickly. Then there were the boosters, the reverse thrust, the radar screen, the comm... but he'd forgotten where most of it was.

He stepped over Heero's leg and dropped into the narrow chair, setting his hands on top of the arm controls and watching Heero work.

They sat in silence for a long while. Wufei was glancing at the screens curiously, about to ask Heero to explain some things more thoroughly, when Heero spoke without looking up. "How do you keep getting in here?"

Wufei arched a brow. "It's always unlocked, Yuy. I told you that the first time. I'd assumed one of you was leaving it unlocked on purpose. Maybe the lock is malfunctioning."

Heero digested this for a moment with a small frown on his face, fingers clacking away on the keys. "No," he said at last. "Because I always have to unlock it when I come in. Howard and the others, too." He finally paused in his work to cast his Gundam an almost suspicious look. After awhile he gave a grunt and returned to his work.

Wufei stared. "What?" he demanded.

"Nothing," Heero said shortly. "Something Quatre said..." he shook his head. "You're probably right," he said briskly. "There must be a short-circuit. I'll look into it later."

Wufei was curious now, but there was a familiar line between Heero's brows that meant he was going to be stubborn. He wouldn't be answering any of Wufei's questions. Since he looked like he would only be doing system checks today, Wufei left a few minutes later and went in search of his blond Guardian.

It took a good fifteen minutes, but he finally found the other boy, surprisingly, in Sally Po's office.

He offered a slightly tired version of his normally bright smile when Wufei entered, quickly lowering his hand from where it had been tenderly massaging his temples. Sally Po glanced up from where she was digging through her medicine cabinet to offer a small smile and a nod of greeting.

Wufei frowned at his companion. "Headache?" he guessed.

"Ah.. yes. It's not a big deal, really," Quatre reassured him quickly. "Just tired, I guess..."

"These headaches happen every day, Quatre," Sally Po pointed out sternly. "Are you drinking too much caffeine? Stressing too much?"

"I'm fine, really," Quatre said. "It's nothing. I'll feel much better after I take some medicine," he added pointedly.

Sally Po snorted, but turned back to her cabinet.

Quatre turned his attention on Wufei. "Were you looking for me, Wufei?" he asked, looking pleased.

Wufei winced internally. Heero had told him the others wanted to get to know him, but he still rarely bothered to seek them out. He knew very little about either Quatre or Trowa. He would have to rectify that. But first, he wanted an answer to Heero's strange comment. He told Quatre about the scene in the hangar, and about the broken keypad.

Quatre looked puzzled for a moment, then blinked as if startled. He laughed abruptly. "Oh. That." He accepted the pills Sally Po handed him with a smile. "The others think it's silly. Well, except maybe Duo. He sure is attached to Deathscythe. I think the other two might think it's possible a little bit, but they'd never admit it."

Wufei's eyebrows rose. "Deathscythe?" he repeated, glancing quickly in Sally Po's direction.

Quatre flapped a hand, swallowing the pills with a glass of water. "She knows what's in the hangar, don't worry. And yes, that's what Duo calls his Gundam. Funny, isn't it? I think it has something to do with his, um... 'religion', or whatever you want to call it."

"His silly belief in some kind of death god, you mean?" Sally Po asked, wrinkling her nose.

"Yes. He likes to joke and call himself the God of Death," Quatre explained with a tolerant smile. He nodded to Sally Po. "Thank you. I feel better already."

"You let me know if those headaches get worse," Sally Po ordered as the two boys left. "And get some good, healthy sleep!"

"Ok, ok," Quatre agreed mildly before closing the door.

"What was Heero talking about?" Wufei demanded.

"So impatient..." Quatre reached up unconsciously to rub at his head again as they walked down the corridor. "Well, it's like this. I think the Gundams aren't just machines. They aren't great hulks of metal-- gundanium, I mean --who can only do what we tell them to do. This is going to sound kind of silly, but... I think they're almost.. sentinent."

Wufei stared at Quatre incredulously. "You think those oversized Mobile Suits are alive?" he guessed sarcastically.

Quatre winced a little. "See," he sighed, "no one listens. No, I don't mean they're 'alive', really. I just mean... well, it's almost like A.I. But not. They're like ordinary Suits the majority of the time, but every now and then, they do something.... strange."

"Strange," Wufei repeated in a dead-pan voice.

"Like this once," Quatre elaborated, eyes gazing off into the distance. "I was training in my Gundam, and there was a malfunction. I tried to get out, but the controls for the hatch weren't working. I tried everything. And then, for no reason, all by itself, the hatch opened up. I managed to get out just before the wires fried and there was a fire."

Wufei stared. "It was probably just responding slow," he pointed out. "It was jammed, and all your actions finally--"

"I don't think so," Quatre interrupted quietly. "I was still trying to climb off when the cockpit caught on fire. I was startled, of course, so I fell. I could have died, but just before the fire happened, my Gundam suddenly dropped to one knee. So I actually didn't fall too far, and some of my friends were able to catch me and break my fall." He smiled at Wufei. "The only way to make a Gundam kneel is if the pilot tells it to," he pointed out. "By moving the leg controls with your own legs."

"Another malfunction," Wufei guessed.

"I very much doubt it," Quatre argued quietly but firmly.

Wufei blew a tolerant sigh. The boy was clearly a little off his rocker. Perhaps the headaches were affecting him more than was immediately obvious. "What does any of this have to do with me getting into the hangar?"

Quatre gave a little laugh. "I thought it was evident. Obviously, the Gundams want you to get in."

Wufei ended the conversation politely but firmly shortly after that and left to ask Sally Po about the side effects of the drugs she'd just administered.


"He didn't listen."

Quatre looked up, troubled at the thread of anger to his friend's voice. He'd told Trowa about his conversation with Wufei earlier, mostly because he found Wufei's reaction a little funny, but Trowa hadn't seemed to hear most of what Quatre had said. "Eh? You mean Wufei? Well, it's not like the rest of you take me seriously about it, either--"

"I meant Heero," Trowa said shortly, doing push-ups on the floor while Quatre perched on a nearby bench and watched. After a few more reps, Trowa got to his feet. He didn't even look out of breath, Quatre thought jealously. Trowa's expression was stern. "Whatever you said to Duo, it seems to have gotten through to him. He doesn't tease Wufei and Heero anymore. But Heero obviously didn't listen to me; he and Wufei still spend a lot of time together."

Quatre quickly went to the boys' defense. "Come on, Trowa, don't be like that. Heero is his Primary Guardian, after all. And the two of them finally seem to be friends..." he trailed off when Trowa turned to look at him.

"It's dangerous," Trowa said flatly. "You're the one who pointed out how close they seemed to be getting. We can't let that happen. I'm surprised Heero is letting it happen. He's never been one to follow his heart instead of his head."

"I'm wishing I'd never told you," Quatre said quietly, looking away. "I didn't want to start trouble. I don't want you to be angry with them."

"It's good you told me," Trowa replied firmly. "We might not have caught it in time. But now with Heero ignoring my advice--"

"Is it really wrong?" Quatre blurted, looking up at his friend a little desperately. When Trowa only blinked, he hastened to explain. "I mean, I know they can't. There's a reason. But... I think you're overreacting. They're just friends, Trowa. They were friends when they were little. What's wrong with them being friends now?"

"Because the closer they get in friendship, the greater the risk of them both doing something stupid," Trowa stated.

Quatre jumped to his feet. "That's the problem, isn't it?" he demanded before he could stop himself. "Are you really concerned with our orders, Trowa? Or does the thought of the two of them just make you uneasy?"

Trowa had let his impassive mask slip to reveal some of his bafflement at Quatre's behavior. "What--"

"It's because they're both boys," Quatre rushed on, his face hot and his eyes stinging. This, his conscious told him, isn't about Heero and Wufei at all, you liar. But he ignored it and continued, "You're using our orders as an excuse now. You just don't want the two of them to get 'close' because you think it's wrong, that it's.. it's gross or something--"

Trowa's expression softened slightly. "Quatre..."

"They're friends," Quatre said fiercely. "That's all. Don't let your personal feelings make this into something it isn't." He turned on his heel and started to storm out, but Trowa stopped him.

He grabbed Quatre's arm, holding him in place. "Quatre, what's this about?" he asked, eyes confused and mouth pulled into a frown. "Why are you so angry? You're the one who talked to Duo. You know why they can't--"

"I know," Quatre snapped, trying to wrench his arm free. "But are you just using those orders as an excuse? Because if you are, then-- then--"

Trowa's confusion seemed to clear just a little bit. He gave Quatre's arm a sudden tug, and the shorter boy gave a squeak of surprise as he stumbled into Trowa. Long fingers slid through his hair, and a forehead bumped against the top of his head. Trowa blew out a quiet sigh, and Quatre drew in a quick breath of surprise, feeling his face get hot all over again.

"Is that what this ridiculous fight is about?" he muttered. "You think I have a personal problem with the two of them?"

"Don't you?" Quatre shot back defiantly, though his voice sounded a little subdued to his own ears.

"I don't care about that," Trowa said simply. "It shouldn't matter how someone feels about another person, no matter who they are. But in their case, it's forbidden. Not because Heero is a man, but because of Wufei's Clan. You know what's going to happen when we get back. You gave the argument to Duo yourself."

The tension had gone out of Quatre's frame, and he let himself relax a little against his friend, keeping his face averted to hide his furious blush. He and Trowa had been close since childhood, but Trowa had never been the touchy-feely type. He wasn't sure how to handle the current situation. "I guess," he mumbled finally. "I'm sorry. I thought maybe you..."
Trowa gave a snort of laughter against his hair. "Were a 'homophobe'?" he finished dryly.

"Sorry," Quatre said again meekly. "You'd be surprised how many people are."

"I think you'd be surprised how many people aren't," Trowa retaliated quietly. After a moment he released Quatre's head and stepped back. Quatre retreated hastily, still staring at his feet. His heart was slamming in his chest, but he withdrew fearfully from the center of it, the part of him that was trying to read the feelings hanging heavy in the air. He wasn't sure he wanted to know.

"Um, I need to go help Relena," he mumbled. "She wanted to know how to make curry." He chanced a quick peek at his taller friend. "Are you... going to talk to Heero again?"

Trowa's face turned grave. "He didn't listen before. I doubt he'll tolerate another lecture. He was close to violence last time." He crossed his arms over his chest, frowning in displeasure. "I don't have any other choice," he admitted quietly. "I'm going to have to report it. Perhaps if someone with more authority is wielding the hammer, Heero will finally listen to sense."

He wouldn't realize with regret until later that the phonecall he made that afternoon would only cause more pain in the end for his friends. He was doing his job, albeit reluctantly. He was simply too used to following orders and contingency plans. By the time he learned to step outside the lines and follow his own feelings, it would be too late to stop what was happening.


They arrived at L2 the next day.

Relena, Hilde, and Wufei, who missed having their feet on solid ground, watched their descent from the portholes. Relena was the only one who had been on a colony of the three, but she'd never gone to L2 before. "My father wouldn't let me go with him whenever he went to L2," she explained as they peered out at the approaching gate. "He said there's too much internal conflict. After the last war, the economy kind of went downhill, and there's poverty and crime throughout much of the colony."

"That's horrible," Hilde said, eyes wide. "Why doesn't anyone do something about it?"

"Like who?" Wufei snorted. "We're in the middle of a war between Earth and space. Earth's government certainly isn't going to help."

"...Duo is from L2," Hilde murmured, hands pressed to the thick glass. "He never talks about it, though."

Wufei glanced at her in surprise but didn't reply.

They finally got clearance to land, and Relena and Hilde hurried off to get their money.

"What are they going to do, shop for souvenirs?" Wufei grumbled as he waited with the rest of the crew by the hangar doors.

Duo laughed. "Hey, you'd be surprised. You can get things on L2 you can't get anywhere else."

Wufei looked at him sideways. "So this is your home colony?"

Duo nodded with a small sardonic smile. "Yeah. Born and raised. Til I was about five, anyway." He flicked Wufei a look from under hooded lids. "It's where we met."

Wufei stared at him, thinking of his dream of a boy with a ratty braid and a defiant laugh. "Yeah," he muttered. "I remember."

Duo looked startled, but before he could reply, Howard came pushing his way through the crowded men. "Awright, awright, c'mon, shift yourselves. Captain first."

The men teased him good-naturedly, then the door was sliding open, and Howard was leading them out jauntily into the sunlight.

Wufei blinked in surprise, raising his hand with a wince to protect his eyes before it occurred to him that it wasn't sunlight pouring into his eyes. He lowered his hand slightly to squint upwards, and far above he could see the artificial lights scattered throughout the fake "sky" painted on the colony's ceiling. As he paused, blinking and letting his eyes adjust, Hilde came up beside him and latched onto his arm, looking excited.

"Isn't this great, Wufei?" she breathed. "Did you ever think we'd be able to do this? Space and colonies and all of it. I almost keep expecting to wake up back in my bed on Earth."

Wufei offered her a small grin.

Heero appeared at his side, eyes darting back and forth, face stern. "This isn't a vacation," he reminded them both. "We're only here for supplies and so Howard's men can do some business. Keep your money out of reach and don't go anywhere alone." He paused, eyes lingering on Hilde's firm grip on Wufei's arm. His mouth twitched into a frown.

Wufei arched a brow, surprised and oddly amused by the reaction, but Hilde didn't notice. Duo had wandered over, and she only had eyes for him. "Can you give us a tour?"

Duo laughed good-naturedly. "It ain't a resort, kiddo."

"You'd remember it?" Wufei asked curiously.

"Well, I've been back a few times over the years," he admitted with a shrug. "On training missions, mostly." He extended his arm with a comical flourish. "Shall we?"

Hilde smiled and looped her other arm through his. Wufei was forced to follow when she neglected to release her hold on him. Heero followed more slowly, scowling unconsciously at the girl.

Trowa and Quatre caught up, with Relena in tow. She was looking around with mixed curiosity and nervousness as they got out of the way of the mechanics, who were busy unloading the ship.

"Right, you bunch of lazy good-for-nothings," Howard was bawling from where he'd scrambled on top of a crate. "Get this junk unloaded and then get some good old L2 alcohol in your systems. I want everyone back here before dinner, got it? We still got work to do before we get out of here. Duo! You hear me?"

"Yeah, yeah," Duo called over his shoulder. "See you then. We're just gonna wander around for awhile."

"So, are there any good places to eat?" Relena asked bravely.

Duo grinned cheekily back at her. "Plenty of greasy dives, but yeah, they got a decent Chinese restaurant down on Rebellion Lane. And there's a great pizza place a couple blocks from here."

"Rebellion Lane?" Relena repeated with an arched brow. "That's an... interesting name for a street."

"Yeah, a lot of the places around here got renamed after the last war," Duo admitted as he led them towards the main street. "Poppy Avenue is now Victory Avenue, Yellowbird Drive got changed to Dark Alley. Stuff like that."

"Dark Alley?" Hilde looked up at him curiously. "That's kind of morbid. Why'd they name it that?"

Duo was still smiling, but it looked fake, and his eyes were clouded with the past. "Something bad happened there a long time ago," he said with forced nonchalance. "Some church got destroyed in the middle of the war, along with everyone in it. Nuns, the priest, the wounded that were being sheltered there, and.." he hesitated.

"And the orphans who lived there," Trowa finished quietly from behind him.

"Maxwell Church?" Relena's eyes widened. "I remember learning about that in history class. It was a great tragedy."

Duo looked back at her sharply. He read the honest sorrow in her eyes and his expression relaxed. "Yeah," he muttered. "It was."

Wufei gave Duo a suspicious look. Something was nagging at his memory... some dream he'd had. But Hilde spoke up then, and he lost it.

"I'm starving. Can we find a place to eat?"

"First the rules," Heero interrupted firmly, looking pointedly at the girls and Wufei. "There are plenty of outlaws and pickpockets scattered throughout this colony. Not all of it's like that, and Duo will keep you away from the worst parts." He gave Duo a meaningful look. "You aren't to go anywhere alone, and you two," he jabbed a finger at Hilde and Relena, "will always have one of us with you."

"What, you think we can't look after ourselves?" Hilde asked indignantly. "Besides, I've got your gun..." she gasped suddenly. "Oh, crap, I forgot to leave it onboard."

"Don't worry," Duo laughed. "Firearms aren't illegal here. They're legal for self-defense. Just don't go advertising the fact you got one, cuz you don't have a license for one here."

"You will always have one of us with you," Heero repeated firmly. "End of discussion." He glanced at his watch, frowning.

"Local time is 1320," Duo put in. "Go ahead and set your watches. I'll bet most of you still have 'em set for Terran time." He looked back at Quatre. "You two have been here before, haven't you?"

"Once," Quatre admitted. "Trowa was with you on one of your training exercises before, and I think he's been here a couple times before by himself. We'll be all right."

"'Kay. What about the rest of you?"

"We'll go with you," Hilde said quickly. "You can show us that pizza place."

Duo smiled down at her. Wufei tested her grip on his arm, watching Heero's frown out of the corner of his eye. "We?"

Hilde turned to look at him in surprise. Obviously she'd been expecting him to stay with her, but she didn't look too disappointed by his reluctance. It would give her time alone with Duo.

"So I take it you two will head off to explore?" Duo asked innocently enough of Wufei, though there was a smirk threatening to break out.

Trowa shifted, but Relena spoke up suddenly. "I'll go with Heero," she said quietly.
"Good," Trowa said before Heero could object. "He'll keep you safe." He shot Heero a warning look before placing a hand on Quatre's shoulder and steering him towards a side street. "We'll meet back here in a few hours."

"How's 1800 sound?" Duo asked, tearing his eyes from Hilde.

Trowa waved his agreement without turning around.

"Right." Duo grinned at the others before focusing on Hilde. "Ready for the best pizza this side of the galaxy?"

Hilde laughed, releasing Wufei's arm to latch more firmly onto Duo's. "Sure."

Wufei watched them walk off, chattering away, before turning to eye his two companions a little warily. Relena was standing next to Heero, looking around again with bright curiosity. Her trepidition seemed to have dissipated with the comforting presence of Heero, and she looked ready and eager to begin her exploration of the colony.

Heero glanced from her to Wufei and frowned.

Wufei shrugged silently. They couldn't very well allow her to wander off on her own. Heero scowled at him, but turned dutifully to Relena. "Are you hungry?" he demanded in a monotone.

"Starving," she admitted, smiling up at him with complete trust. She hesitated, then looked towards Wufei. "Maybe we could try that Chinese place Duo mentioned," she offered with unexpected thoughtfulness. "I'm sure it won't be as good as your mother's cooking, but it's got to be better than what the mechanics 'cook'."

Wufei nodded slightly. He wasn't particularly hungry, but he did have a craving for his homeland's food.

"Very well...." Heero trailed off in surprise as Relena wrapped small hands around his lower arm, pointing eagerly towards a building in the distance.

"I think that's the war museum. My father mentioned it. Can we go there after we eat?"

"This isn't a vacation," Heero started to protest, but she was already dragging him away, talking excitedly about what little she'd learned of L2 from her father and school.
Heero looked back at Wufei, eyes a little wide, unsure what to do. Wufei stuffed his hands in his pockets and followed slowly, frowning but offering no help. They walked down the streets of L2, Relena's happy chattering filling in the uncomfortable silence.

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