Chapter 6: "Conspiracy Theories"

    A part of Wufei wanted to barge into the garage and demand answers. He wanted to grab Trowa-- someone he'd trusted for two years --by the collar and shake him until he told him what the hell was going on.
    But common sense told him that now was not the time. First of all, that conversation could have been about anybody or anything. He could just be being paranoid. Or it could be that somehow Trowa was connected to all the strange things that had been happening ever since Heero Yuy had appeared in the school yard that day. Whatever the case, he had no proof and no idea what was really going on. And if Trowa was in on something, he didn't know that Wufei suspected him. It would be best to just bide his time and wait for one of them to drop their guard. Heero seemed to be watching him; he would watch them right back.
    He turned on silent feet and returned to the house. He didn't trust himself to keep his face composed when Trowa came back in, so he shut himself in his room and studied until his mother shouted for him to go to bed.


    Trowa was already up and cooking breakfast when Wufei came downstairs the next morning, pulling on his school jacket. His mother was at the table, sipping coffee and gazing vacantly out of the window.
    She blinked and turned her head to stare at her adopted son when he hesitated in the doorway. "You're up ear-- Wait. Wufei, what are you doing?" there was the hint of a laugh under her voice.
    Wufei stared at her blankly, then followed her pointing finger with his eyes to the calendar. Saturday.
    He dumped his school bag on the table with a noise of annoyance.
    "Your head has been in the clouds these past few days," his mother noted, studying him intently. "You're not coming down with something, are you?" Her face brightened with momentary hope. "Is it a girl?"
    "Mother," Wufei cut her off impatiently.
    "I'm never going to have grandchildren," she muttered into her mug.
    Wufei transferred his stare to Trowa. "What are you still doing here?" he demanded rudely.
    "Wufei!" his mother gasped. "Don't be so impolite! Here he is, making breakfast for us..."
    Trowa glanced up from where he was frying eggs, face impassive. "It's all right."
    "No it's not," Mrs. Chang said irritably. "Wufei, what's gotten into you lately? Go change out of your uniform and come back down here to eat this lovely breakfast Trowa went to the trouble to make."
    Wufei frowned, but went back upstairs and changed into a new pair of jeans and a loose blue tee-shirt. Somehow he doubted he could get through breakfast without saying something else rude to Trowa, so on his way downstairs he snagged his jacket and headed for the door.
    "Where do you think you're going?" his mother demanded.
    "Meeting Hilde for breakfast," he lied flatly, tying his jacket around his waist and stepping into his shoes. "I'll be gone for a few hours."
    He shut the door on her exasperated voice and hurried down the path and out the gate. He hesitated on the sidewalk, glancing left and right. He wouldn't be able to watch either Heero or Duo today; he had no idea where they lived, so would have to wait for Monday. He had a sudden urge to have as normal a day as possible. It was a relief not to have to walk the halls of school and feel Heero's eyes boring into the back of his head, or worry that another gang of punks might show up with laser guns. He firmly pushed all thoughts of the past few days out of his mind and set off at a jog for the center of town. He would have plenty of time to puzzle over the oddity of Heero Yuy on Monday. After that attack in the school yard, he had a feeling life was going to get very confusing soon. If this was going to be one of the last normal days he got for awhile, he was going to enjoy it his way.

    He grabbed a fruit shake and a croissant from the local bakery and spent the first few hours of the morning running small errands. He dropped by the post office to check the mail; his mother seemed to prefer it to having a mail box for some reason. Less junk mail, she'd said once. Probably not true, but Wufei had never questioned it. After that, swallowing the last dredges of his coffee, he stopped by the hardware store to get light bulbs for the hall light, then bought a new pair of running shoes because his were starting to get rather tattered. That done, he visited the library to check the latest news on the internet.
    The news was not cheerful. More and more every day it looked like the war was only getting worse, and closer to earth. The tension between space and earth was growing. Most of it was politics, but no matter the reason, it was the results that concerned Wufei. This current situation was a ripple effect of the Rebel War that had left him and so many others orphans. Whole colonies had been wiped out, and Terran cities were still rebuilding from attacks that had been waged far from the designated battle fields. Everyone knew the war had ended because the count of civilian lives lost had been far too high.
    The Presidents of earth and space had called a cease-fire while both sides licked their wounds and mourned their dead. It was never publicly said, but anyone with half a brain knew that it was just a temporary truce and it wouldn't be long before things got rough again. The Rebel War had ended just a year after Wufei had been adopted, but in the last year things had started building up all over again. It made Wufei sick to his stomach, while people like Hilde, who wanted nothing more than to put on a uniform and fight for their planet, were watching the news almost eagerly for the word that a draft was inevitable.
    The former leader of the space rebels had been killed in combat, and it had been his successor, Milliardo Peacecraft, traitor in the eyes of his fellow Terrans, that had been the one to call his troops off and sign the cease-fire to end the Rebel War. But now it looked like he was ready to pick up the reigns of his predecessor, and his speeches on Colonist rights and the tyranny of their Terran brethren were getting more and more provocative each day. He had shamed his family when he had gone to space and set himself up as leader of the rebels. His name was all over the news, but then, so was Treize Kushrenada's. He had started with a high position in politics, then moved on to become a general; he was seen as the hero of earth. He had once studied at the same military school with Milliardo; they had even been friends. They had split off at the beginning of the Rebel War, and had been fighting each other ever since.
    As Wufei read the headlines, he couldn't help but wonder just who was in the right in this whole mess. Though he tried not to think of it as sides, since he agreed with no man that thought war was the answer, it was hard not to wonder if some of the things Relena's estranged brother said were justified. It was true that the Terran government did have almost complete control of commerce and trading between earth and space, and that once on earth, colonists lost any rights they had in space. They had wrestled a life for themselves out there in the stars, but were getting little help from their Terran counterparts. Earth's government had decided that colonization was a waste of time; too many accidents, too much crime, and far too expensive. But didn't they have just as much right as the Terrans to carve their own path in life? It reminded Wufei a little too much of his history lessons. Long ago when the people of earth were still young, a group of people had crossed the ocean to colonize a country that later became America. Now all the countries were divided into Federations, but at the time those people had been pioneers fighting for survival. They had fought against all odds to make a life for themselves and keep their land, even with their English brethren trying to control them from overseas. They had fought for their independence, and eventually won.
    So despite Wufei's hatred of anything related to war, he couldn't help sometimes but feel some sympathy for Milliardo and his cause.
    He glanced at his watch and realized it was almost eleven. Signing off, he retrieved his bag from the front counter and went back out into the streets. As he stood at a crosswalk, waiting to cross the road, he spotted a familiar tail of hair heading down the sidewalk. He dodged an elderly couple and moved to get a better look.
    No doubt about it-- it was Duo Maxwell, strolling down the street licking an ice cream cone. He was dressed completely in black, cap settled low over his eyes as he wandered aimlessly down the sidewalk, pausing every now and then to window shop.
    Wufei hesitated. He had been determined to go about his day like normal, but this was just too good of a chance to pass up. He set off down the sidewalk slowly, following Duo at a safe distance and ducking out of sight whenever it looked like Duo was turning his head his way.
    Duo led him to the center of town, where the park was located. He passed the playground, where half a dozen children were racing about and shrieking, their parents seated on the benches and chatting comfortably, always keeping a sharp eye on their antics. Past the cherry trees and the jogging path, until he'd reached the fountain.
    This area was open, so Wufei hung back behind a tree and watched.
    There was an old man with his grandson, tossing pennies into the fountain for wishes, and a woman that was walking her dog. Duo ignored them and made a beeline for a figure seated on the fountain edge.
    Heero Yuy.
    Wufei almost didn't recognize him at first; he wasn't in his school uniform, and his face was turned away. But Duo hailed him as he approached, and Heero rose to meet him, turning his head at the familiar voice. He was wearing faded jeans and a white tank top that clung to a surprisingly solid chest. He was carrying a denim jacket in one hand; evidently the chilly day wasn't bothering him.
    Remembering how easily Heero had disarmed and pinned that boy from yesterday, Wufei's eyes flicked over Heero's body, now that it wasn't hidden by the baggy school uniform. He worked out, that was for sure. His arms were even more defined than Wufei's. He was skinnier than Wufei had assumed, and by the way his shirt was flattened against his chest, it was obvious he had been doing something to improve his upper body. Wufei couldn't remember seeing anybody so in shape his age, not even the guys in the athletic department at school.
    He realized belatedly he was staring, and jerked his eyes away, looking instead at Heero's face. Just checking to see what I'm up against, he told himself, and refused to acknowledge the sudden warmth in his cheeks.
    They were talking, but they were too far away for Wufei to pick up on their words. He looked around for a closer spot and made his way stealthily towards another tree.

    "You were followed," Heero pointed out flatly, eyes just barely flicking towards the trees over Duo's shoulder.
    "Yeah, I know." Duo popped the rest of his cone in his mouth and proceeded to lick drops of ice cream off his fingers. "Didn't get a good look, though. He's not too shabby. Managed to stay out of sight. Can you see who it is?"
    "No. He just stepped behind a tree. It could be one of those men from yesterday."
    Duo snorted, shoving his hands in his pockets and giving a devil-may-care grin. "Not too smart, are they? Especially after getting their asses whooped. At least you didn't kill any of them."
    Heero shook his head once. "They were already on the ground when I got there," he corrected. "I only took out that one with the gun."
    Duo's eyebrows shot up. "I note you neglected to mention that in your extremely short debrief last night," he said slowly. "Damn. Guess he can look after himself all right. Wufei did all that?"
    "He's been practicing."
    "That's a relief." Duo tugged the brim of his hat down a little lower to keep the sun out of his eyes. "Things would be a little weird if he'd turned into some bookworm who couldn't even fight. Make our job harder, y'know?"
    "She must have made sure he kept up with his studies," Heero said a little distractedly, eyes darting to the side. "Whoever that person is, he's trying to move in closer."
    "I think it's time for a little one-on-one, whaddya think?" Duo asked brightly.
    "Let's go. We'll lead him into the trees and I'll double back." Heero tugged on his jacket and turned a hard gaze on his friend. "I'll make sure he doesn't make any noise. You keep civilians out of the way."
    "You always get to do the fun stuff," Duo pouted. But he followed cheerfully when Heero led him back towards the trees.

    Wufei lost them for a moment when they went into the trees. He wove his way between the trunks, looking left and right until he spotted a flash of black. There they were. Taking care not to step on any dead branches, he crept closer.
    ...Wait. Where was Heero?
    It was instincts that made him turn around. Heero made no noise as he appeared as if out of thin air directly behind Wufei.
    Wufei reacted instantly, bringing up one arm to block the hand going for his mouth and twisting to avoid the other arm that tried to grab him. He was fast, but Heero was faster. He found himself slammed back against the tree, one arm pinned over his head, a hard forearm barring his throat and making it difficult to breathe. Heero was stronger than he looked; the grip on his wrist was numbing. Wufei had managed to grab ahold of Heero's throat in his free hand, fingers curved to seize the adam's apple, but hesitated before he could crush the other boy's throat.
    It happened in a flurry of movement. One instant Heero was glaring into Wufei's face, eyes as cold and merciless as steel. Then recognition and surprise flickered across Heero's features, and the arm across Wufei's throat lowered marginally. "Wufei?"
    "Get your hands off me, Yuy," Wufei managed to snarl, trying to wrench his arm away. Heero's grip around his wrist was like a steel band, pinning his hand over his head. Now that the initial rush of adrenaline had passed, he realized just how close Heero was.
    They were nearly nose to nose, Heero's chest inches from Wufei's, legs pinning Wufei's to prevent a fatal kick. Wufei's heart, which should have been slowing down now that the struggle was over, only kicked up another notch.
    Heero released him hastily and stepped back out of his personal space, letting his arms drop by his sides. "Why are you following us?" he asked bluntly.
    Wufei scowled at him, refusing to rub his wrist, even though it felt like every bone in it had been crushed. "I want you to tell me what the hell happened yesterday," he snapped. "Who were those guys? Why did you help me? I know you know more than you're letting on, Yuy. Spill!"
    Heero's face shifted into an unreadable mask. He didn't say anything, but he didn't have to; it was obvious he didn't plan on enlightening Wufei anytime soon. Wufei's eyes narrowed as his temper began to stir. "Look," he growled, "you can tell me what I want to know now, or I can beat it out of you later. Either way, I'm going to get to the bottom of this."
    Heero's mouth twisted into a frown of impatience, and he glanced away, placing his hands on his hips as he wrestled internally with the problem. Finally he looked back at Wufei, expression stern. "All you need to know," he said briskly, "is that you need to keep your eyes open for anything strange. And those men from yesterday won't be the last. Don't be caught off guard again."
    "Yuy!" Wufei shouted in frustration. "Just tell me what the hell is going on! Who are you? Why do you care what the hell happens to me, anyway?"
    Heero started to answer automatically, but caught himself just in time. He glared back, jaw set stubbornly. "You really don't remember." It wasn't really a question. Wufei blinked, caught a little off guard. He stared at Heero with a mixture of confusion and suspicion.
    "Remember what? What are you talking about, Yuy?"
    Heero shook his head once, scowling slightly. "You don't," he confirmed. "So never mind. Just be ready." He started to turn away.
    "Ready? Ready for what??" Wufei demanded angrily. He grabbed Heero's shoulder to hold him still. "Don't walk away when I'm talking to you, damn it!"
    Heero jerked his shoulder free of the grip easily. "Go home," he said firmly. "You're safe there. For now."
    But Heero was already disappearing into the trees. Wufei stayed where he was for a moment, grinding his teeth in frustration. He had been hoping to get some answers and clarification by confronting Heero, but instead he was only more confused. Cursing floridly, he snatched up his bag and stormed back towards the main drag.
    At that time he was unaware that his life was about to turn completely upside-down.


    The next day was uneventful for the most part. Wufei met Hilde for lunch, did some chores around the house, and threw himself into his studies. He didn't see Heero or Duo at all, and Trowa had the day off, so he couldn't even occupy himself with spying on the older boy.
    It was around five that evening, while he sat meditating on the porch, that he began to get the feeling that he was being watched. At first he tried to find the source of this intense scrutiny that made his back itch, but a thorough search of the yard yielded nothing. Yet for the rest of the evening the feeling persisted, until he jumped at every little noise, whirling around with fists ready for a fight. It drove his mother crazy, and she finally kicked him out of the house, sending him to buy some rice from the convenience store and work out his energy on the way.
    He jogged to the store in a vain attempt to take her advice; perhaps he was just being paranoid after all.
    Quatre's cheerful voice greeted him as he entered the small shop, and he grunted in response. Two men were huddled by the magazine rack, the suits they were wearing suggesting that they had just recently gotten off of work, and Wufei ignored them as he scooped up a bag of rice and a sports drink for himself. As he headed for the counter, he caught Quatre gazing solemnly at the two men by the magazines. Was he making sure they weren't trying to steal anything? Wufei set his purchases on the counter and waited idly while Quatre rang them up, glancing at his watch. Nearly seven. His mother had been wrapped up in a book when he'd left, so if he did the cooking tonight, he could get in quite a bit of studying before he went to bed.
    The two men had come up behind him with their magazines; he'd noted their approach unconsciously, but hadn't paid much attention to them. But as he reached for his bag, he glanced up and saw the look on Quatre's face. It was the grimmest he'd ever seen the cheerful cashier look-- and he was directing this look over Wufei's shoulder.
    He turned his head slightly and caught both men staring at him. A thread of unease began to curl in his gut, but he kept his face serene. Accepting his bag with a murmured farewell, he left the store as calmly as he could. He'd gotten only a few feet down the sidewalk when he heard the door open and close again.
    They were following him.
    He casually moved his bag to his left hand, keeping his pace slow and steady, though his entire body was tense and ready for a fight from the rear. He remembered the man in the suit from the other day, and the way he had looked so willing to fire his laser gun. It might be coincidence that two men in suits were now seemingly following him.
    Then again, it might not be.
    Either way, he wasn't about to take any chances. He turned down the nearest street, walked down it a little ways, then came to a halt. Setting his bag carefully aside, he planted his feet firmly and faced the corner, waiting for them to appear.
    The minutes stretched on, but neither man appeared. Slowly he began to relax. Had it been nothing? Caution and curiosity won out, and he carefully made his way back the way he'd come, turning the corner slowly to see if they'd continued down the main road.
    He nearly stumbled over the first one, groaning and twitching on the ground. Jumping back, he looked around quickly for the other. He wasn't far away, slumped against the wall of the locksmith shop, head lolling against his chest. There was a great lump on his head.
    And standing over him, face serene, was Quatre, idly tapping an umbrella against the side of his leg.
    Quatre looked up quickly when he spotted Wufei out of the corner of his eye, and for a moment they just stood staring at each other. Abruptly Quatre smiled, a little sheepishly. "Ah... this was the only thing at hand," he explained cheerily, hefting the umbrella and tapping the solid wooden handle with a finger. "They looked like they were following you, so..."
    Wufei found himself striding towards Quatre before he'd even let the boy's words register. Quatre looked a little surprised at the look on his face, then jerked back reflexively when Wufei seized a fistful of the boy's shirt.
    "Bullshit," Wufei snarled furiously, right in the startled boy's face. "You've got exactly ten seconds to tell me what the hell is going on before I--"
    "Whoa, wait!" Quatre protested, holding up his hands defensively. Wufei knocked the umbrella away fiercely, and Quatre winced.
    "Start talking," he growled.
    "What are you talking about?" Quatre cried. "I told you, they were following you--"
    "So you decided to be a good Samaritan?" Wufei demanded scathingly. "You must all think I'm pretty stupid. Ever since that bastard Yuy showed up, everything is going to shit-- and I think you have something to do with it!"
    "Y-Yuy?" Quatre stuttered, eyes wide. "I don't even know a Yuy! What are you talking about?"
    "Don't lie to me," Wufei interrupted angrily, giving Quatre a hard shake.
    Quatre's look of nervousness shifted into something calmer. "Or what? You'll beat me up?" he asked quietly. "I don't have anything to tell you. Now let me go."
    Wufei glared in furious silence at the blond, but he couldn't make himself rise up to Quatre's challenge. Despite his suspicions, there was no proof that this brat wasn't telling the truth. With no proof, he couldn't just beat the crap out of the boy. What if he was wrong? Slowly he released Quatre.
    Quatre stepped back hastily and straightened his shirt, watching Wufei a little warily. "You should get home," he said a little hesitantly, as if half-expecting Wufei to attack again. "Before I call the police."
    Wufei glared at him another moment, then turned sharply on his heel and stalked off. More than anything he wanted to grab Quatre again and threaten him until the truth tumbled out. This couldn't be simple coincidence-- the men in dark suits, the timely intervention of a near-stranger... No. He wouldn't believe it. Something was going on.
    Something dangerous.

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