Disclaimer: I do not meddle in the affairs of Gundam Wing, for I am penniless and own no copyrights.

Pairings: 1x2, 3x4x3, 5+M
Genre: Sci-fi Fantasy AU
Rating: R
Warnings: Language, demons, magic, some dark topics, violence, intrigue, blood, shonen ai and yaoi. Randomly falling citrus warning from here on out, since it seems to creep up on me unnoticed.

Dedication: For Rosie, my imotosan.

Authorís Notes: *sigh* Another apology. This time it wasn't my fault. Really. Blame the phone company for disconnecting me. (See the fic "Disconnected" for details on my mental state over the last month.) Anyway, I'm back, in business, and here's the new chapter of Glory. More to come.

In this chapter! See Solo kick Howard's butt at board games! See Duo plot! See Duo chase Solo! Run, Solo, run! See Heero get lectured! See Quatre --- oh, well, I don't want to spoil it. Read on.

And again and as always, thanks to Sol for beta-ing. Without her my work should be infused with run-on sentences. *smirk*


Glory
Chapter 29: Remembering Tatsuhiko Yuy
by Casey Valhalla


Solo was not the sort of demon who liked to win easily, and as such he avoided playing board games with anyone who had lived for less than a few centuries, and even then there usually wasn't much of a challenge. Howard, however, being one of only a handful of elves he had ever met who were old enough to actually *look* old, never failed to keep him on his toes.

"Battle cruiser to D-8. Fire at will."

"I hate you, old man." Solo studied the half-board in front of him, glowing emerald eyes flickering over the positioned starships. He gritted his teeth and added a red peg to the fighter holding at D-8, glaring over the partition that separated his side of the board from Howard's. "I figured out where your mothership is, yanno."

"Did you now?" The elderly elf-turned-pirate leaned back in his chair, peering over a set of triangular sunglasses to regard his Relic with a smirk. "And you haven't done a damn thing about it, I see."

Solo narrowed his eyes, the only part of him that was visible over the partition, save for a fringe of flame-red bangs sticking out from beneath the scarf that held the rest of his mass of unruly hair in check. "I'm luring you into a false sense of security."

"And doing a fine job of it, my boy, a fine job." Howard grinned, pearly teeth reflecting the artificial sunlight that poured through a floor-to-ceiling viewscreen, currently displaying a tropical setting. Howard's brightly colored shirt matched the scene perfectly.

The room wasn't terribly large, as captain's quarters go, but it was carpeted, and furnished only with the sturdy, square table and two cushioned chairs. The walls were a matte bronze metallic finish, adorned with patterned cloth hangings and built-in shelves displaying ceremonial weaponry and trinkets. Howard's collection of handmade paper airplanes hung from the ceiling, turning slowly in the slight breeze of the ventilation system.

A series of bell tones sounded, forming the melody of an old elvish folk song no one was particularly fond of, but that Howard found amusing for some unknown reason, especially when it acted as his doorbell. Both elf and Relic looked up from the game and towards the door simultaneously, a few seconds of silence passing between them.

"You get it," Howard said, turning back to the board.

Solo whipped his gaze back to his controller fast enough to send the tails of his headscarf flying through the air behind him. "Huh? Why me?"

"Because I don't feel like getting up."

"Fine." Solo raised a hand towards the door and paused. "You know who it is, right?"

"I know exactly who it is. Stop stalling and open the door."

The Relic shrugged and waved his hand, but since the door slid open at the same moment it obviously wasn't an idle gesture. Solo turned back to the game before the door was completely open, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. "Star destroyer to F-11." He stood up quickly, pushing his chair back under the table. "Now if you'll excuse me..."

One of the two individuals who had just entered the room cleared his throat, and Solo finally looked up to acknowledge them. One face was familiar to him as always, but the other belonged to a ghost. Solo let out a breath, and it formed into a name.

"Tatsuhiko."

*"Fucking Hells... damn it, Duo, let him go! He's dead!"*

Now there was a memory Solo would be glad to be rid of one day. He found himself staring into a pair of cold blue eyes as though entranced, until a hand appeared in front of his face and snapped its fingers.

Reality returned slowly, sounds coming back like the rush of starship thrusters powering up. Solo shook his head in an inane attempt to clear it, and his gaze came into focus on the one creature in the universe he would ever willingly submit to. Duo had his trenchcoat slung over one shoulder, braid dangling over the other, his eyes like violet glowbugs staring Solo down. The redheaded Relic shrugged his shoulders and made the attempt to brush off his sudden loss of balance by giving Duo a solemn nod. "Milord."

"Shut up." Duo's eyes narrowed and he smacked Solo playfully in the shoulder, the beginnings of a smirk forming on his face. "Howard might get jealous."

"He's never that polite to me, that's for damn sure," the aging elf commented from his position, still bent over the game board. "Especially when he's reaming me at a strategy game." Howard pushed away from the table slowly and stood, folding his arms behind his back with a kind of graceful nonchalance. The young man in front of him was wearing Tatsuhiko Yuy's clan colors and carrying Tatsuhiko Yuy's sword, wearing the same style of chainmail glove but a decidedly less friendly expression. Howard peered into his face like a child trying to remember where he'd met someone before.

"Remarkable resemblance," Solo muttered under his breath, hoping only Duo could hear the comment but knowing better.

"Fucking uncanny, I'd say," Howard declared, straightening and offering the young man a hand. "Howard, of the Westshore clans, Niccon I."

"Heero Yuy."

Solo leaned in to Duo's ear, whispering sub-vocally in the hopes that just *maybe* Howard's sensitive ears wouldn't pick it up. "Shit, the last I saw of him he couldn't even walk yet. Or say your name properly, if I recall."

Duo snorted but didn't reply, watching as Heero completed the handshake curtly and turned to the two Relics. Solo spread his arms and bowed slightly at the waist. "Solo Dainan."

Duo snickered. Heero raised an eyebrow behind the messy bangs that covered his forehead but didn't say anything, nodding to Solo in return. The redhead grimaced, cheeks turning red in the effort to keep from chuckling, but when Duo burst into gales of laughter he couldn't keep it contained any longer.

Heero folded his arms petulantly. "What's so funny?"

Solo had to catch hold of Duo's shoulder to keep himself upright. "That is such a lame joke."

"You'd think," Duo said between breaths, "that after two thousand years it wouldn't be funny anymore."

"But it is!"

Out of the corner of his eye, Solo caught Heero throwing them a suspicious look until Howard waved him over to the table. "Don't pay those two any mind, they've got some kind of inside joke about Solo's last name that they've never bothered to share with anyone else, and I don't imagine they'll start now." The elf hooked his chair with a foot and pulled it back under him. "Sit down, my boy, it's about damn time the two of us had a chat."

Solo caught Duo --- who was still in stitches over the private joke --- and hauled him by the arm towards the door. "We're going to the pub."

"Get the hell out of here," Howard growled after them. "Damn kids."

%%%%

Duo slung his trenchcoat in the crook of his elbow and stuffed his hands in his pockets, matching Solo's lanky strides down the corridor. "Are you sure the pub is the best place to talk?"

"Too damn many people on this ship speak the old language. At least there we might be drowned out." Solo paused to peer around a corner before continuing on, stuffing a strand of hair back under his scarf idly. "There's no time for anything more secure."

Duo opened his mouth to retort but the redhead waved at him and led the way into the "open-air" restaurant situated on the corner of two intersecting paths on the third level, steel posts the only thing separating the tables from the causeways that circled the docking bay. The population of the place was high, as one would expect in the simulated hours of late afternoon. One table was steadfastly occupied by a red cat, who was busy staring down an agitated barmaid, who understandably needed the table for customers.

"That would be for us, Sy, sorry about that," Solo called out, signaling the barmaid with two fingers. "The usual, if you would."

Duo gave the polished walnut furniture a cursory glance and sat down, scratching Yoko behind the ears. "Good girl."

"Mrow."

Solo folded his arms on the glossy surface of the table, green eyes peering into the Eldest's impassive face. "You knew."

"I guessed." Duo slipped into the old language with an ease he had forgotten, finally letting himself give his friend a long, ascertaining look. Same red hair. Same slim, wide-eyed features. Same tendency to come up with the oddest color schemes, although the green headscarf with a purple surcoat and red knickers wasn't the most outrageous thing Duo had ever seen him wearing. "How did you find me?"

"Mishide." Solo's gaze turned abruptly to the side. "He called me, said he needed a favor."

"He asked you to take over for him."

"Yeah." The barmaid reappeared long enough to set two tall glasses of iced blue liquid on the table. Solo poked at the straw, swirling the drink until the cherry fell below the ice cubes. "I'm not a priest."

"So? It's not beyond your abilities."

"That's exactly what he told me."

Duo gave him an ironic smile. "How many of the others did you call?"

"I offered Fiana an all-expenses paid vacation to Absaloth. She didn't bite." Solo shrugged slowly, bending further over the table and taking a sip of his drink. "Howard still owes Tetsuhiko a favor, so I convinced him to come after you two once I was sure I couldn't get out of it."

"You couldn't anyway, you're the only one who can make contacts freely." Duo mirrored the redhead's position, staring directly into Solo's eyes. "Spill already."

Solo abandoned the straw and took a long swig, licking his lips as he set the glass back down. "Sometimes I really wish we could get drunk off this stuff." He sighed and pushed the drink to the side. "Rainen called me. They found it." When Duo didn't answer immediately he continued. "It was the dig site just north of Kudaru, like you thought. There's a problem, though." He rapped his knuckles nervously against the tabletop. "Someone's already in there, using the lower levels. Rainen doesn't know who, yet."

Duo had leaned back in his chair, one arm across his stomach, the other propped by the elbow, fingers rubbing his chin. "It's enough to act on."

"Kirin already activated the override. Disruption begins in forty-eight hours."

The Eldest's head jerked up, eyes flashing dangerously. "Forty-eight --- dammit, Solo, you were supposed to wait for my command!"

"We couldn't contact you in hyperspace, and Kirin couldn't wait any longer or the patch would have degraded to the point that one of our controllers would have noticed something was off." Solo cocked his head to the side. "Yours is the oldest. Had any trouble?"

"Yeah. Heero's already noticed something. I think I managed to throw him off the scent though. I can't lie to him." Duo deflated and leaned forward against the table again. "How long will we have?"

"There's no way to tell. Maybe a week, Kirin thinks."

"And we'll need every second, or two decades of planning will be shot all to hell." Duo dug his fingers into his bangs, the heel of his palm resting against his forehead. "Damn. Forty-eight hours."

"It's workable."

"But I didn't expect it to happen in the middle of a fucking war. I expected to have more time."

"Shit, Duo, we didn't expect a lot of things. Like Vista Runair's daughter!" Solo barked a laugh and leaned back in his chair, slinging his arms over the backrest. "She was supposed to run away with Westley Catalonia to be a good little Modicum clanwife, not an ISG fleet admiral! Rainen and his crew took ten years out of a projected five. Didn't realize Torreldaeo was that damn big of a planet." He reached up, pushing his scarf back to scratch at his bangs. "The patches turned out all fucking screwy, and without Mishide..." Solo paused and looked into Duo's eyes, his own glow wavering. "You didn't expect to betray a controller..." He let the sentence hang; Duo knew the rest as well as he did.

*You didn't expect to have to betray a controller with the same face as the man I had to pry out of your arms on Galgadion.*

The Eldest dropped his hand and switched back to the basic language abruptly, backlit eyes frosting over. "You're way out of line, seventh."

"First." Solo leaned back and slid his drink back in front of him, turning the glass between his fingers. "Apologies."

Silence stretched for a moment before Duo sighed and tapped his straw in irritation, reverting to the old language once again. "What's our timeline?"

"Kirin's vacation starts tomorrow. He'll be there before us, securing the dig site and trying to find out who the hell is down there." Solo took another long pull from his drink and swirled the ice thoughtfully. "Now that I think about it, I wish we had Naki in on this."

"She's already been Restrained. No sense getting her into more trouble." Duo picked an ice cube out of his glass and dropped it in his mouth. "Besides, she hates me, remember?"

"She loves you."

"That's why she hates me." Duo propped his chin up with one hand, ice clicking against his teeth, and focused on the condensation running down the side of his glass. "It's a risk."

"I'm not crazy about solitary, but I don't mind the quiet." Solo's grin was wry and flat.

"I already owe you too many damn favors." Duo's eyes narrowed teasingly.

The redhead's grin turned wicked, leaning across the table until he was almost nose-to-nose with the Eldest. "If it would ease your poor troubled conscience I could always spill to the Ministry."

"You wouldn't dare." Duo glared at the smart-aleck expression for all of two seconds, then pulled his straw out of his drink and threw it at Solo. "You and Kirin both, snotty little bastards."

"Kiss my ass, Maxwell." Solo shifted to the edge of his seat, eyes glowing dangerously. "And eat ice, while you're at it."

Duo ducked, but didn't quite manage to dodge the handful of ice Solo scooped out of his glass. He stared at the redhead in shock for almost a full minute before his eyes darkened. "Oh, you are *so* asking for it."

Yoko licked one paw and watched the two dash haphazardly through the bar and off down one of the causeways, tracing their path by the sudden parting of bystanders in various areas.

"What the..."

Yoko looked up to see the barmaid looking over the table with a mask of tense frustration over her otherwise pretty face.

"So, kitty, do you pay in cash or plastic?"

%%%%

Heero didn't say anything as the gray-haired elf pulled the game board apart and packed it away, settling each piece carefully into place. He found himself staring at the gigantic viewscreen that covered the entirety of one wall, sunshine over a clear, sparkling beach, probably located on some resort planet or other. His eyes caught in the flickering of water pulling in and out along the line of sand, the reflection blurring his vision to white, and he nearly jumped when the elf finally spoke.

"Let me have a look at that sword."

The assassin snapped to attention and offered Howard a brief scrutiny before nodding and unbuckling the scabbard from his belt, laying the sword reverently across the cleared table. Howard grabbed his right hand suddenly, turning it over, watching the chainmail sparkle in the false sunlight from the viewscreen.

"The infamous family curse." Howard chuckled to himself. "Had any trouble with it?"

"None at all, sir," Heero replied, tones clipped.

"Good to hear." The elf drew the blade out slowly, holding it up to the light, studying the edges and the blood-groove, weighing the tang against the blade, checking the length for warping, eying the leather wrappings on the handle and a tiny ding on the hilt.

"That was already there," Heero remarked defensively.

"The Inter," Howard commented without looking up from his examination. "Niccon III. That was before the ISG took over the system. Got clipped by a broadsword. You sure as hell take good care of this."

"Of course I do." Heero had the urge to fold his arms and slouch backwards, but didn't feel comfortable enough yet to drop his guard. He settled for glaring, that was always a safe fallback plan. "You seem damn familiar with it. Care to explain yourself?"

"I made this sword," the elf growled. Heero couldn't tell if he was glaring too, for the sunglasses.

"For my father?"

"For his grandfather. Tatsuhiko Yuy was nothing but a damn whelp when he died." Howard set the sword down abruptly. "Not much older than you are now. Not planning on following in his footsteps, are you, boy?" Black glasses stared Heero down.

"No, sir," the assassin swallowed.

Howard sheathed the sword quickly and handed it back to Heero, one hand on the hilt, one on the blade, as though presenting it to a clanmaster. "Good, cause that kid did nothing but look for trouble, and he damn well found it."

He sat back once Heero had taken the sword, propping one elbow on the armrest of his chair and tugging his mustache. "But, I owe a debt on that sword. This is your opportunity to call it in."

Heero frowned, brows drawing together. "I don't know what---"

"Don't underestimate us just because we're pirates, boy. The Network has a large enough force to significantly compliment the Resistance fleet, and intelligence coming out our eyeballs. All you have to do," the elf drawled, leaning forward over the table and dropping his glasses to meet Heero's eyes, "is ask for my help. The Network is ready to jump on this. The ISG police forces are serious thorns in our sides, for obvious reasons, and besides that, we really don't like them all that much. All we need is an excuse, and you're it, Operative Wing."

The first word out of Heero's mouth was, "How---"

Howard slammed his palm down on the table. "Where to you think you get your intel from, boy? Hackers! Where would you imagine hackers most likely to hide out?"

"Pirate ships," Heero deflated. "I'm --- honestly, overwhelmed by your offer."

"Not my offer, your demand. Your favor." Howard winked and sat back.

"But I'll need to---"

"You'll be wanting to discuss this with your commanding officer, I'm sure." Howard lifted a panel off the table and punched a button with his fist. "Razz! Get the blond up here, pronto."

"Which one?" a tinny voice asked.

"The short one. Scoot your ass!"

"Aye, sir."

%%%%

I don't want to do this. I don't want to do this. I really, really don't want to do this.

*Your duty is clear.* Zero's voice was an unwanted caress in his mind at the moment. *And so is his.*

Quatre tapped on the door and waited patiently, straightening his vest, until a hidden, whirring mechanism slid the panel open and he found himself staring into the face of an annoyed assassin. Quatre looked him over quickly and peered past him to see an elderly elf in sunglasses lounging in a chair, arms crossed behind his head. Quatre looked back to his operative. "I need to talk to you."

"What a coincidence," Heero muttered gruffly. "I need to talk to you."

*Privately.*

"Privately?"

"Nothing's private on this damn ship." Heero waved him in and closed the door. "This is Captain Howard, of...?"

"Niccon I. It's a pleasure, Master Winner." The elf didn't rise, but threw one arm out to the side and dropped his head in mockery of a bow. "I can step out, if it would make you more comfortable."

*His presence is not necessary.*

"Thank you, it would," Quatre replied, as politely as possible, although he was feeling decidedly less than polite. Once Howard had disappeared into a side room, Quatre gave Heero a questioning look.

"Apparently the Space Pirate Network has been looking for an opening to ally themselves with the Resistance," Heero began, folding his arms and leaning back against the wall, relaxing just enough that Quatre could read his disconcertion. "Apparently I am that opportunity. What do you think? How far do we trust these people?"

*That is a reasonable question.*

"According to Duo, with your life but not your wallet." Quatre managed a half-smile, turning to walk along the wall, examining the shelves of display weapons and tourist souvenirs from various locations across the lower galaxy. "They're already in the Resistance, you know. They just need a viable..." he picked up a jade carving of a raptor, possibly a hawk, turning it over and over in his fingers, "...excuse to move as a unit. That's what intel keeps telling me, anyhow."

"Are you suggesting I accept?"

Quatre set the carving back on the shelf with a sigh, but didn't remove his fingers from it. "It doesn't matter now."

"What?"

*You're stalling, young one. If you are unable to do this, how can you hope to lead thousands?*

The blond wasn't looking up; he couldn't read Heero's expression or his body language, and the characteristically closed assassin generally didn't slough off emotional feedback like a normal, well-adjusted human being would. "I received a coded transmission from Delta."

"Trowa?"

"No, Trowa's on the surface. Some information has come to light, Heero. Extremely serious information." Quatre took a breath and continued before the operative had a chance to speak, or before Quatre himself had the chance to stop. "The ISG has a price on your head. They know your name, your title --- Allah, Heero, they know your codename." He kept his eyes focused on the little figurine still between his thumb and forefinger, memorizing the thousands of tiny cuts in the stone. "They have your picture. It's plastered all over Janico."

For a moment all Quatre could hear was a series of clipped breaths. He forced himself to turn, to look up, to meet Heero's gaze. The assassin's face was schooled to a blank, arms stiff at his sides, eyes chilly and unflinching.

*He's ready. He knows what you're going to say. What a waste...*

"I don't want to do this, Heero. I honestly can't afford to do this, but even you must realize how severely this compromises our position." Quatre searched the older man's face, dug at the wards keeping his empathic signature closed away, and mentally beat himself against Heero's cold resolve.

*He knows you have to.*

He knows I have to, Quatre told himself, and opened his mouth.

"As of 2100 hours today I am officially relieving you of duty. Indefinitely."

to be continued

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