by Dev-Aki Basaa
Heero knew he had to make it look like an accident, an unintentional slip-up, just in case Reth found it first. The leak would include information on the planned act, full of details - complete with Keb's involvement - scrambled and coded. He'd have Zechs send it out on a channel he knew Preventers monitored, a web-based com line that has served the organization with information time and again. They'd be watching, even if they didn't know for what. The scramble method would be a red flag to them and easily reversed. The code would be harder to break - also in case Reth's people found it first, since he didn't know where Reth's watchdogs were waiting. But, the organization should be able to crack it. At least, he knew Duo would be able to, even if it wouldn't be one he'd used on the college BBS. Most of those were too base. Duo would still get it, though; he just had a mind for that sort of thing - could probably crack any code, given enough time. Heero figured it had a lot to do with his mind being in constant motion, relentless, determined to puzzle it out, never giving up. Heero's smile flared and faded in an instant.
Goddamn, he missed him.
He leaned back against the wall, legs folded under him, resting on the bed. He let the palm processor he'd used to create the leak slip from his hand and onto his pillow. The small computer had done the job he needed, but barely, being not much more than an accessory for his laptop. He could have leaked the message himself if he still had his laptop - hell, they wouldn't even *be* in this situation if he still had his laptop. His reports to HQ could have continued and he would have warned them of the assassination plans himself. Heero rolled the underside ball of his tongue piercing across his bottom lip (an idle habit he'd picked up) and sighed. He could have stayed in contact with Duo, if he still had his laptop. It had been a hard decision to destroy the computer, but it was his only choice. With the sudden move underground, he couldn't guarantee that it would always be in his possession. The risk was too great, the information on it too damning if found.
Instead they were forced to use chance and leaps of faith - not some of Heero's preferred methods of operation. He did his best to eliminate variables, though. One way was by downloading the completed message onto a microdisk small enough that they could secure it to the underside of the signet ring Zechs wore. That would save him the hassle of having to memorize the message in addition to the site addresses and pass codes he'd need. The only concern now was the compatibility of the data. Zechs assured him that the computer had a microdisk drive, but couldn't date the machinery. Heero had saved it in the lowest format he could while still maintaining the integrity of the scramble. That part was imperative. He only wanted Preventers to find it, not every small-scale police force out there. Heero shook his head at that thought. Those groups lacked Preventers' finesse and would either cancel Relena's speech or swarm the place with officers. Reth would call off the attack with one glimpse of that kind of fiasco and he and Zechs would be stuck with the group that much longer, staving off the next scheduled assassination or bombing. This was their window of opportunity since influence failed; he wouldn't let anything go wrong. He only hoped Preventers worked fast enough to stop him before he had to pull that trigger. Heero chest tightened and he gave a nervous glance at his watch. Twenty more minutes and Zechs would arrive to pick up the disk and be briefed with the rest of the information. After that, Heero's part would be done; it'd all be up to Zechs then.
Zechs stepped forward, pausing as the rickety pocket door slid open, the mechanics shaking and groaning as if it might die right then. Finally it slipped into the wall and then closed after Zechs had passed.
Reth looked up from his desk, thin spectacles resting on the bridge of his nose. His light brown hair looked shaggier and his clothes less-perfectly tailored than before they'd holed themselves underground. It had been a surprise to Zechs, the first time he'd seen Reth. No pictures of him existed with Preventers, so it was shortly after his and Heero's initial bid to join that he'd first laid eyes on him. He'd assumed that the group's penchant for tattoos and peircings had been in reverence to their leader - mimicking being the greatest form of flattery - but it wasn't the case. Reth only had a small Earth tattooed on the palm of his hand, nothing more. Men in the group joked that the tattoo proved his quirky sense of humor, but Zechs came to know it had more to do with his belief in self-fulfilling prophecy.
"It's not the old camp, is it?" Reth said with a grin. He took off his glasses and set them down with the papers he'd been reviewing, then leaned back in his chair.
Zechs grinned in return. "No, not quite."
Cocking his head to one side, he seemed to study Zechs for a long moment before he spoke again. "I expected you, you know."
Zechs nodded and then sighed. "An assassination, Reth?"
He shrugged and clasped his hands under his chin, resting his elbows on the splintering and warped wood of the disused old desk. "I decided I wasn't looking to unite the public, but to show our displeasure in them. Others will understand and they will follow."
"I don't know what you hope to accomplish by this," Zechs said as he strode over to stand before Reth, impassioned into a discussion with him again. They so often disagreed on many issues and that seemed to be the excitement behind their talks - the futility of it all, but passionately given persuasion that affected the other, yet failed to alter his perception. Zechs always felt alive after his discussions with Reth.
Reth stared up at him, again looking as if he were contemplating a painting or sculpture, his brow furrowing, but his eyes gleaming.
"You don't know how close I came to having you killed," Reth said suddenly and Zechs couldn't help but draw a shocked breath, the words striking him unexpectedly. They had a familiar edge. Reth dropped his gaze. "When you shacked up with Idande." He lowered his hands and picked up a pen, scribbling on a form before him, his voice taking a casual turn. "How is she, by the way?"
"Fine." Zechs supposed. He'd been avoiding her of late, keeping her at bay from his and Heero's plans and discussions. Since the move underground, their visits had been more public than private and she seemed mollified by that, content. She shouldn't be, he realized. She should be furious with him, giving him a cold shoulder instead of a comforting arm when she was lucky to cross paths with him in the halls. It would be better if she were disgusted with him.
"Trouble in paradise?"
"Reth..." Zechs warned.
Reth threw up his hands, an apologetic gesture. "I'm sorry. I shan't pry." He rose from his seat, changing moods as quickly as he always did. "Let me offer you a drink. I made sure they carefully packed that brandy you liked so much." Reth walked around the desk and passed by Zechs, brushing against him, a feather of a touch to his arm. Zechs closed his eyes, he smelled so good and so warm.
He didn't turn, just listened to Reth prepare a drink. He'd seen him do it a hundred times, each one as methodical as the next. The snifters placed a centimeter apart, the crystal decanter stopper placed in front of them, but perfectly in between. He'd pour on an angle, letting the dark amber liquid run high on the glass sides before settling into a pool at the bottom - the amounts always perfectly equal - filling first the glass to his left, then the one to his right. He heard him re-stop the decanter and place it back into the case, his body taunt with anticipation as Reth returned, standing behind him and reaching around with the glass. Zechs took it, Reth deliberately allowing their fingers to touch as he passed him the snifter and then pressed himself close to Zechs, brushing his nose into his hair and breathing deeply.
"By the gods, you are beautiful," he whispered, bringing his free hand to trace Zechs' jaw line, then caught his chin and turned his head towards him. "You could rule the world with me, by my side. Everything I have, I would give to you." Reth's eyes were wide, expressive, and Zechs knew he meant what he said. He could almost laugh; he had come here to seduce this man and was being seduced in his stead. But, they were treading dangerous ground. So many emotions were at play and in these times where soft-spoken words sounded too familiar and gentle touches felt too good, the line between the present and the past blurred beyond recognition. Zechs vowed he wouldn't lose himself to this, once was enough, and this promised to end no better. Zechs closed his eyes - not to say that had stopped him or Treize, knowing their passion was destined to end with pain and betrayal. Perhaps that was youth for you. But had he ever been young?
He opened his eyes and shook his head, breaking Reth's tender hold on his chin, knowing he should at least keep up Nodin's power hungry, at times indifferent, edge. "You will not be successful in this foolish endeavor, so you are offering me nothing."
Reth brushed his fingers through his hair, following it down to its tips. "I am offering you my love. Or is that nothing to you as well?" he asked with a laugh, stepping away and returning to his desk.
The question struck Zechs harder than he thought it should, reminding him of a time when duty kept him from friendship and honor from his own identity. His life had always been plagued with obstacles to experiences other people took for granted.
"I can't afford to love," he said, Nodin's mask slipping a little.
Reth had sat behind his desk with his back to Zechs. At his words, he turned around, his laughter from before gone. He seemed to search Zechs' face before he responded.
"I believe you think that. I believe something is holding you back from me and it's not that girl."
Zechs hung his head - he didn't even suspect. It was all about Zechs' - Nodin's - wounds and emotional baggage. Here was Reth, the leader of the most potentially threatening terrorist group, about to be mislead by his heart. Zechs rubbed his thumb over the band of the signet ring he wore - that was just what he was betting on. He had to push aside the haunting familiarity, ignore the contentment he felt in this man's presence. He would pretend he wasn't deeply attracted to him - his poise, his strength, his disarming smile.
Reth was just another case, just another mission. He had to be stopped at any cost, even if the cost was to Zechs himself.
He came here for a purpose and didn't have time to be Reth's friend. Only his betrayer. He looked up, set down his glass of brandy next to Reth's empty one and leaned forward, resting his hands on the edge of Reth's desk.
"Then save me from myself. Don't let me walk out of here like I always do."
Reth smiled, a touch of bitterness to his eyes. He folded his hands under his chin. "What of Idande?"
Zechs shook his head, the truth too close to the game he was playing. "You were right. I used her to keep my distance from you."
Reth's grin broadened as he rose from his seat. His gaze never left Zechs as he moved around his desk, Zechs felt the attention like hot fire down his side, but he didn't turn to face Reth until he stood next to him again.
"Why?" There was humor in his tone; one borne of triumph, hearing what he must have known was the truth all along.
"Because I didn't trust myself with you."
Zechs shuddered. Where was the fašade for the mission and where was the truth? There was no distinction at this moment, staring into those green eyes that he'd give his soul if only they were blue.
Reth leaned close, pressing the length of his body to Zechs. Zechs leaned into the warmth and closed his eyes. He felt Reth take a lock of his hair between his fingers
"Your natural color is starting to show. With your blue eyes, I can tell you'd make a beautiful blonde, but I must say I love the red. Reminds me of roses."
When those lips descended on his, hot yet gentle, his tongue pressing for entrance, Zechs knew that in the end, all the self-preservation, all the diversions had been for naught. As his hands slipped up the nape and into the thick short hair of the man in his arms, he realized he'd lost.
The line was blurred beyond recognition.