Chapter 35: "Mother"

Andre looked up in surprise from where he was moving Relena's stew off of the stove. "Kevin? I thought you were going to get some sleep."

Kevin grinned as he tied his apron around his waist, heading for the oven. "I guess I'm not as tired as I thought. I know how much Miss Relena likes those cookies, so I thought I'd make her a whole batch just for herself."

"That's nice," Andre approved, ladling some of the stew into three bowls. "She'll appreciate that. Grab an extra bowl and come try this. It's the first thing she's made all by herself. She's proud of it."

"I'll let it cool, first," Kevin edged, sending the steaming bowls a wary glance.

Andre laughed. "Hey, don't compare this to that soup she tried to make the first day. She's gotten much better." He looked smug. "Of course, with such a great teacher..."

Kevin rolled his eyes, breaking a couple of eggs into a mixing bowl. "Yeah, yeah, don't break your arm patting yourself on the back."

Andre snorted and set the pot down on a cooling mat. He set about cleaning up the counter, wiping bits of carrots and celery into his big hands before dumping it in the wastebin and swiping at the counter deftly with a wet rag. He hummed to himself as he set dirty dishes in the sink full of soapy water, waiting to be cleaned by one of his aids. He looked around with his hands on his hips when he was through, checking to make sure everything was ship-shape before taking his leave. He was kind-hearted, but ran his kitchen like a well-oiled machine. After all, such dillegence had been drilled into him years ago.

A veteran of the last war, his arms and throat patterned with horrible scar tissue from a fire in his mobile suit's cockpit, he'd thought himself through. There was no job that required his services, and he was unable to pursue his real guilty pleasure-- cooking. No one would hire him. This restaurant owner had a grudge against soldiers, that owner thought his scars might scare the customers, and so on.

Seeing the want ad at the space station on L1 requesting a head cook for a mechanic's shuttle had been his golden opportunity. Howard hadn't so much as blinked on seeing his scars, and it turned out many of the mechanics on-board were also veterans. Andre had been working in Howard's kitchen for nearly four years, and was happy with his lot in life. He had shrugged off bad memories of the war and concentrated all of his passion on cooking his self-proclaimed "masterpieces".

Some habits and instincts, however, were impossible to shake off.

When he came up behind Kevin to check on him, his steps were the silent tread of a soldier. Opening his mouth to ask what kind of cookies were being made and if he could try one, he hesitated.

He'd made almost every cookie there was. He'd even invented a few himself.

He had never seen crumbled-up pills added before.

Instincts took over before discretion, body reacting instantly to what it perceived to be a threat. He seized Kevin's shoulder in a crushing grip with one large hand and yanked him back from the dough.

"What's that?" he demanded in a dangerous tone.

Kevin jumped and tried to jerk away. "Wh-What? Nothing!" he stammered quickly. He jerked his hand back, tucking the remaining white powder into his pocket. His face was pale, eyes wide.

Andre's own eyes narrowed. Without releasing his deathgrip on Kevin's shoulder, he dipped a finger into the mix and scooped up a bit of the powder, bringing it to his mouth and tasting it carefully with his tongue. His face went red with dangerous rage an instant later. "You've got some explaining to do, buddy," he snarled.

Kevin made a strangled noise in the back of his throat like a trapped animal.


It took Wufei a moment to recognize the warning buzz that came loudly over the loudspeakers throughout the ship. It was warning all personnel to stay clear of the hangar. Heero and the others were back; they must have made short work of the enemy. But then, just thinking of what little he'd seen of Quatre's and Heero's Gundams, he could imagine that four of those monsters could cause quite a considerable amount of damage between them.

He continued his race towards the infirmary, and burst in so abruptly that Sally Po jumped and almost dropped the syringe full of morphine she'd been about to inject into Ivan's arm. "Jesus, Wufei!" she snapped. "Knock, will you?? I've got injured people in here! In fact, get out. You'll be in the way. I've already got Hilde helping me."

Wufei ignored her, looking quickly from one invalid to the other. Ivan didn't even look like he'd be able to speak properly, so he headed straight for Owen. The man tried to scramble out of bed, reaching for the nearest weapon-- a bedpan, of all things --but Wufei got there first.

He seized the man's collar, hauling him back onto the bed and slamming him up against the wall. Sally Po gave a shout of outrage at the rough treatment of her patient, but Wufei ignored her, glaring into Owen's face. "Start talking," he snarled. "I'm not a very patient man. I want to know what the hell is going on around here and why Yuy decided that piece of trash--" he jerked his head towards Ivan's immobile form, "deserved to get the living shit beat out of him."

"Let go of me, you goddamn punk kid," Owen snarled, trying to wrestle away.

Wufei retaliated swiftly, yanking him forward and then slamming him against the wall again, harder than before. He leaned all his weight into the older man, hands fists tightly in the front of his shirt, grinding the man's back against the wall. "That's not an answer," he pointed out helpfully.

"Wufei!!" Sally Po was tugging at his arm furiously, but he shook her off. "Let go! What are you doing?!" Giving up in exasperation, she dashed for the intercom. "Howard!" she shouted into the mic. "Get me some security in here, god damn it! Wufei's gone crazy, and he's abusing my patients!"

Owen made another quick attempt at escape, trying to jab a thumb into Wufei's eye. Wufei twitched his head aside swiftly and released his shirt just long enough to slam his fist into the side of Owen's head, not quite hard enough to knock him out. It did cause the man to slump abruptly though as he tried to gather his wits, blinking rapidly.

"Talk," Wufei barked.

"Wait..." Owen croaked.

Sally Po yanked open a drawer and fumbled around until she found a scalpel. She turned on Wufei, weilding it threateningly. "You'd better thank your lucky stars I don't have a firearm in here," she said tightly. "Because trust me, I know how to use one. Now get the hell off of him, Wufei!"

"This is none of your business, woman!" Wufei shouted back impatiently, turning his head slightly to glare warningly at her.

Owen saw his chance and grabbed it. He threw himself forward with all his strength and weight, taking Wufei off guard. They tumbled across the bed and crashed to the ground. Sally Po yelped, jumping out of the way. She hit the cabinet behind her hard with an "oof", the scalpel clattering to the floor.

Wufei struggled with the man over him, desperately trying to avoid the big hands and wriggle out from underneath the heavier man. His legs were already twisted at too odd of an angle to allow a kick, one of them pinned painfully with one of Owen's knees, the other caught under the bed and trapped between one of Owen's feet and one of the bed posts.

Owen managed to snag one of Wufei's wrists by pure luck and slammed it to the floor over his head. He stretched out, snatching up the fallen scalpel with his free hand.

"Bastard--!" Wufei snarled, jerking his head up and cracking his forehead against the other man's.

"SHIT!" Owen swayed, but was obviously more hardheaded than he looked. Clenching his teeth in anger and pain, he raised the scalpel for a quick deadly blow.

"NO! STOP IT!" Sally Po shrieked. "OWEN!"

Wufei snatched Owen's wrist with his free hand, arm straining with the effort of keeping the scalpel away. They struggled furiously, strength against strength. But not only was Owen stronger, he had gravity on his side. Slowly he forced back Wufei's arm, bringing the razor-sharp blade closer and closer to his exposed throat.


"Something's wrong," Heero said shortly, yanking off his restraining harness before Wing had even finished powering down. He leapt out of the cockpit, barely remembering to slam the button that would close the hatch before slipping his foot onto the waiting zipcord and spiraling down to the floor.

"Heero, wait!" Duo called, still stepping out of his own cockpit. "What are you talking about??"

Heero couldn't explain it-- he just knew, with ever fibre of his being, that Wufei was in trouble. It had been the same back on earth, when the Suits had made their first appearance at the school and cornered Wufei in the courtyard, and when Treize had coerced Wufei into following him home.

He didn't stick around to explain himself, he just took off running as soon as his feet hit the ground.

"Heero-- god damn it, wait!" Duo shouted in frustration.

"No," Quatre gasped, leaping onto his own zipcord, his free hand clutching at his chest in obvious pain. "He's right. There's something happening. There's so much fear and anger and suspicion bouncing around this ship it's stifling."

Trowa had already reached the ground, and steadied Quatre when he made his own wobbly landing. "Are you all right?"

"Never mind me," Quatre panted, pushing the helping hands away. "We need to find Wufei. And the others--"

Duo's face went tight. "Hilde," he said in horrified realization, and raced out of the hangar without another word.

"Where are they?" Trowa asked as he ran side by side with his friend.

"I-I'm not sure," Quatre admitted, wincing as they headed out into the main corridor. "Hold on..."

"Wufei first," Trowa reminded him firmly.

"Yes-- I think he's the one who needs help the most right now, if his desperation is anything to go off of." Quatre looked around frantically, face screwed up in concentration, hand still fisted in his shirt over his heart. "...The infirmary," he gasped at last. "Hurry--"

Trowa was already running again, quickly outstripping his friend with his longer legs. As he turned the corner sharply down the hall that led to the infirmary, he spotted Heero just ahead of him.

How had he known where to go??

Heero burst into the infirmary with Trowa right on his heels. Heero took in the scene in a glance and reached for his gun. Owen on top of Wufei, something sharp-- almost pressing against Wufei's throat-- on top of him, on top of him, touching him--

His mind flashed back to less than an hour ago.

Hands on skin on pants in pants lips against the side of his throat--

He aimed with intent to kill, but Trowa had pulled his gun before he'd even reached the infirmary and was already flexing his finger against the trigger.

The shot sounded loud in the small room, and took Owen right in the shoulder, throwing him off of Wufei with the force of the blow. He howled in pain, writhing on the ground and clamping a hand to the wound. Wufei was already scrambling to his feet, scooping up the scalpel. He moved just in time to grab Heero as the other boy came rushing up, obviously intent on finishing the job. Afraid of cutting the other boy on accident, he was forced to drop the blade.

"Heero, wait, wait!" he shouted. "Don't! We need answers first!"

"I already have all the answers I need," Heero said coldly, glaring down at Owen and struggling against Wufei's strong grip.

--On top of him, touching him, on top of him, sharp knife to a pale throat--

"Heero!" Quatre wailed in agony from the doorway. He staggered and fell to his knees, gasping for air and clutching his head desperately. "Please--!"

Trowa immediately went to his friend, crouching by his side and holding his shoulders to steady him. He turned snapping green eyes on Heero. "Heero!" he barked. "Calm down!"

"You're hurting him," Wufei said loudly, shaking Heero a bit to get his attention, heart still thundering in his ears with adrenaline. "Heero--"

Heero flicked a swift glance over his shoulder and took in Quatre's pitiful condition. He took a quick step back, averting his eyes from Owen and taking a deep breath in through his nose. Slowly Wufei felt the knotted muscles under his fingers relax as Heero forced himself to cool down his explosive rage.

Wufei let out his own breath of relief and glanced towards where Owen was picking himself painfully off the floor. He spotted the dropped scalpel, but before he could make a grab for it, Sally came forward quickly and stomped her foot down it. Sliding it out of reach, she dealt the man a swift, hard kick to the chin that sent him flying onto his back once more. She turned a fierce glare on the boys. "I want to know what the hell's going on," she said menacingly. "And I mean now."

"So would I," Wufei agreed, glaring at Heero suspiciously, still keeping a firm grip on Heero's arms just in case. "What the hell is going on here?"

Just then Duo came striding in, gripping Hilde by the elbow. Relena hurried in right behind them. Duo took in the scene and whipped out his own firearm. "Whoa. What the fuck did I miss?"

Quatre allowed Trowa to help him to his feet and took in a shaky breath. "Where is Mariemaia?" he asked calmly.

"What? What does that kid have to do with anything?" Duo demanded with a frown.

"Everything," Heero growled. He flicked Sally Po an impatient look. "We'll explain later. For now, secure these men and then lock the infirmary door. Don't open it again unless it's one of us or Howard. Got it?"

Sally Po looked as if she wanted to argue, but took one look at the expression on Heero's face and thought better of it. She nodded once.

"Come on." Heero slipped his arms free of Wufei's grip and took hold of his wrist, leading him towards the door at a brisk walk, gun still in his other hand. "Everyone spread out. Find her. Relena, you and Hilde either find somewhere safe to hide or stay with Duo. And none of you trust anybody just yet. We don't know how many of them are on our side."

"Our side?" Trowa frowned.

"Later," Heero snapped before the questions could start. Wufei had to trot to keep up with the other boy as they headed down the hall. "After we find Mariemaia." His eyes were dark with unleashed violence.

"Trowa," Quatre murmured. Trowa hesitated, then nodded once. They split up, Hilde and Relena sticking close to Duo. Heero led Wufei quickly down the corridor, glancing left and right.

"I need a weapon," Wufei pointed out, tugging his wrist free.

"You don't have time to stop for one," Heero said absently. "First we need to find Mariemaia before she does something stupid. Hopefully she doesn't know that we've made our move, yet."

"Heero, what the hell's happening?" Wufei demanded, poking his head into the break room to make sure it was empty before hurrying to catch up with his friend. "What possible threat can she be? She's just a kid."

"I'd tell you now, but I'd prefer we catch her alive," Heero said grimly. "I'll explain it once we have her safely in custody." He paused, flicking Wufei a wary look. "And don't explode at me once I fill you in. Telling you at first was not an option."

"I don't like the sound of this," Wufei muttered, fingers itching for a sword. "But fine. Let's find the brat so you can finally explain this insanity. Any idea where she might be?"

"She could be anywhere," Heero admitted. "Unless she's already suspicious."

"She might be," Wufei said. "It's why I was in the infirmary in the first place. Right after Sally Po got called in to take care of those two idiots, she got really agitated and disappeared. If she got to the infirmary before I did and found out who attacked them..."

Heero did such an abrupt turn-around that only Wufei's quick reflexes saved them from banging heads. "Hey-!"

"If she knows, then I have an idea where she is," Heero said, taking off running. "Call the others."

"What?" Wufei easily caught up. "They can't hear me--"

"Just use your--" Heero started impatiently, then stopped himself. "Nevermind. You can't do that yet."

"'Use my'..?" Wufei repeated blankly. Suddenly he remembered the pain in his Mark back in the hangar. A great suspicion rose. "Wait a minute," he said sharply. "Back in the hangar... right before the attack, my Mark started hurting. But nothing was wrong with me. But that guy... you beat the holy hell out of him. Don't tell me because you were in trouble...?!"

But Heero looked a little startled as well. His brow creased in thought as they ran, dodging the random startled mechanic every now and then. "I don't know," he admitted. "I didn't think it worked that way. You should eventually grow some kind of link with us through your Mark, but it should be too soon for that. And I'd never heard of the Mark alerting its carrier just because one of his bodyguards was..." he cut himself off as if the very thought of his 'danger' was something he didn't want to dwell on. "Growing pains, maybe," he grunted instead. "You and your Mark are still maturing."

"By 'use', were you suggesting that I can reach the others with my Mark?" Wufei demanded incredulously.

"Eventually, yes. It's backup. In case you need your Guardians when they aren't around. Nevermind. It's too early for that."

"Where are we going, anyway?"

"The call room," Heero said shortly.

"What?" Wufei was really confused now. The "call room" was a room filled with long- distance phones that the mechanics used to call family and friends back on Earth or other colonies. Why would Mariemaia go there? Still, Heero did not seem happy about the idea.

Wufei hesitated, then reached back and hesitantly brushed his fingertips against the tattoo as they raced on. He had no idea if what Heero was suggesting was even possible-- but then, Heero had healed him just by touching the damned thing, after all --but if Heero was right about the 'maturing' thing, he could think of only one person it might actually read. "Damn it, Quatre, you'd better hear this and get your ass to the call room," he muttered under his breath as if the smaller boy could actually hear him. He concentrated hard on the words, then, feeling suddenly foolish, jerked his hand away from his Mark and focused on running.

The slight warmth at his back, he told himself nervously, was sweat from running, and not a reaction from his Mark.

Wufei silently thanked his years of being on the track team as he dashed alongside Heero. The ship was a big one, and the call room was on the far end of the ship, where the radio waves wouldn't interfere with the instruments in the control room.

Just when he was beginning to think his surroundings looked familiar and they might be getting closer, they turned a sharp corner and slammed into someone coming from the opposite direction.


Heero managed to side-step just in the nick of time, but Wufei stumbled back nursing a smarting nose. He squinted through tears of pain down at the boy sprawled on his ass at his feet.

"Oww..." Quatre moaned, climbing gingerly to his feet and touching his head with a wince. "Sorry..."

Coinsidence, Wufei hissed at the little babble of surprise in his mind.

"Um.. you called?" Quatre asked him hesitantly, instantly squashing Wufei's denial.

Heero stopped and turned to stare at them both in a moment of honest surprise.

"Yeah... I guess so." Wufei touched his nose once more to reassure himself it wasn't broken. "Didn't think it would actually work. Aren't you going the wrong way?"

"No, you are," Quatre insisted, pushing Wufei down the adjacent corridor. "You turn right, not left."

The three of them hurried on down the corridor, taking the corners a bit more carefully. At last Wufei recognized the blue door that indicated phone lines.

Heero didn't slow down at all, slapping the door lock on the wall and intending to keep running straight inside as the doors opened.

Which they didn't.

He crashed into the door, and Wufei, unable to stop in time, ran into him.

"Shit!" he yelped.

Heero snarled, pushing himself off the door and glaring venomously at the glowing red light that had just flashed on. "Locked."

Quatre leaned over with his hands on his knees, panting for breath. "Later, when this is over with, I'm going to remember the mental image of you two doing that and laugh until I get sick."

Wufei flushed. "Shut up."

Heero hit the lock button with his fist in frustration, then stepped back and aimed his gun at it impatiently.

Wufei and Quatre stepped back quickly as he fired, raising their hands to shield their eyes from the sparks. The door groaned in protest, but when Heero shoved at the door, it slid slowly open.

They stepped quickly inside and glanced around.

Mariemaia appeared from one of the booths, smiling triumphantly. "Too late, Heero Yuy," she sneered. "Your stupidity has just cost Wufei his mother's life. I've already made the call, and the message has been passed along to the men outside her house. They're killing her as we speak."

For a moment Wufei was sure his heart had stopped.

The ground rocked beneath his feet until he wasn't even sure he was standing anymore, and he could actually feel the blood drain out of his face. He stared in horror at Mariemaia, then slowly dragged his incredulous gaze towards Heero, who was also going pale.

Wufei's voice was a breath of air. "..What...?"

"What? You mean he didn't tell you that part?" Mariemaia started giggling. "You should see your face. You have your precious friend Yuy to thank for this! He couldn't follow simple instructions. All he had to do was be a good little boy and do what I said, but he couldn't even do that. Don't hate me, Wufei. He's the one who killed her, by trying to be a defiant little boy."

Heero stared back at Wufei, eyes wide, lips pressed tightly together, expression full of an unmistakable guilt. "Wufei--" He hesitated, flicking an almost desperate look towards Quatre.

Wufei wanted to scream; he could feel it building inside of him like a storm. But the rest of him was too numb, too busy shrieking frantic little denials, to let a sound escape. Why was Heero looking at Quatre? This had nothing to do with Quatre. Heero had known about this. Heero had obviously been given a chance to save Wufei's mother-- and had failed.

But Quatre was stepping forward, placing himself between the two of them. The look he gave Mariemaia was calm and composed. "You mean Rick?" he asked with false bright charm.

Mariemaia hesitated, eyes darting his way.

"Rick and..." Quatre looked skyward for inspiration. "What was it? Ethan, yes? Those two?"

Wufei forced himself to transfer his gaze to Quatre. What? What was he talking about? Didn't he know--



Quatre smiled cheerfully, but there was nothing at all warm in his eyes, and his voice sounded like a knife. "They're dead, Mariemaia."

"What?" Mariemaia's eyes narrowed. She looked defiant, but she was beginning to look a bit nervous as well. "What the hell are you talking about?"

"They're dead," Quatre repeated simply. "Nice try, though. But you really shouldn't have expected us to just roll over and dance to your tune."

Mariemaia opened and shut her mouth like a dying fish. "..You're lying," she snarled finally.

Quatre ignored her, turning to offer Wufei a comforting look. "She's all right," he said quietly. "Your mother is fine."

Wufei's heart gave a painful leap of hope that hurt his chest.

"I don't believe you!" Mariemaia shouted furiously. "There's no way--"

"I could call her right now, if you'd like," Quatre offered, arching his brows and gazing at her coolly.

Wufei's eyes darted desperately towards the phone. He suddenly desperately needed to hear his mother's voice.

Quatre waited, but when Mariemaia just continued to glare, Quatre shrugged and walked over to the nearest phone. He inserted a calling card and dialed a number while the others watched tensely.

"Ah-- Rashid," Quatre greeted cheerfully, smiling into the receiver. "Can you put Ms. Chang on the phone?"

Wufei lurched forwards, shoving Heero roughly aside and snatching the phone from Quatre's hands. "Mom--?"

There was a moment of silence on the other end, and for one sickening moment he thought it was just a lie, a ruse, a way to fool Mariemaia.

But then came a voice, thready with distance, but achingly familiar. "Wufei? Is that you?"

Wufei clutched the phone like a lifeline, and found himself instinctively locking his knees to keep them from buckling in sheer relief. "..Yeah, mom," he forced himself to say. "Are you all right?"

"Yes, yes, I'm fine. Just a little shaken up, is all," came her nervous response. "The man who came to my door startled me, but it turns out he was just here to help. Says he and his friends work for one of your Guardians."

Wufei glanced quickly towards Quatre, who smiled reassuringly. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Heero close his eyes briefly in obvious relief.

"Wufei, are you all right?" his mother demanded, sounding a little alarmed. "Have you made it to your destination yet? Are you hurt?"

"I'm fine," Wufei said, smoothing his voice out, realizing he must have scared her with the obvious desperation in his voice. "You're safe as long as you stay with Quatre's men." He turned, narrowing his eyes at Mariemaia. He wasn't sure what kind of face he was making, but his hate and fury must have been showing clearly, because the girl visibly paled and fell back a step. This was not the time to be chatting. His mother was safe. That was all that mattered. Right now... "I'll call you back when we reach our destination," he said softly, and hung up on her anxious questions. Right now...

There was a little girl he intended to kill with his bare hands.

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