As Heero and Trowa stood running down the checklist the Wing pilot had made up for their shared mission, the taller teen kept throwing glances at the silent Chinese boy wondering what exactly Wufei was thinking about.
//He seems withdrawn. Is he angry with me? I'm worried about what happened last night, is it about that? Or is he upset about this morning? I hate leaving Fei like this and not knowing what's wrong is going to drive me nuts! Maybe I shouldÖ//
He was startled out of his thoughts as Heero asked, "Trowa? Are you even listening to me? This is important."
"Oh, sorry, Heero," Trowa turned his attention back to the issue at hand, "I'm just a little distracted, that's all."
"Hn," Heero snorted, "'Distracted' can get you killed, Barton! Pay attention!"
"Right." Emerald eyes focused on the Japanese boy and he asked, "What precisely does the prototype scanner look like that we're going in to destroy, anyway?"
"Good question, wish I knew," Heero glanced at Duo who was currently hacking his way into an OZ database searching for that exact answer.
The braided boy looked at them both with a gleam in his eye as he announced joyfully, "Bingo! I found it!!"
Both apparent OZ operatives moved to join him as Duo showed them a diagram of the new device OZ had developed that was believed to have the capability of piercing the cloaking field that concealed the Gundam Deathscythe under normal operating conditions.
"Not much to look at, is it?" Duo asked with a wry smile. The image displayed was that of almost any typical boxy piece of lab equipment.
Trowa frowned then remarked, "Give us a day or so, Duo, and it will be even less to look at, right, Heero?"
"Right. This should be relatively straight forward," Heero made certain everyone was listening and then he recited the basic mission objectives. "Trowa's job this time is to provide me with access to the research areas and then my assignment is to locate and wire the prototype to self-destruct. At the same time, Trowa will be keeping an eye on making sure my work goes undiscovered. I'll also plant a few computer viruses to insure that any time someone tries to resurrect the information they used to build this thing they lose a piece of the OZ mainframe's operating system."
Duo was nodding and looked a bit irritated.
Wufei asked quietly, "Duo? Is there a problem?" The Chinese boy was worried that maybe the American had unearthed a potential hazard for Heero and Trowa, but it was something far simpler.
"Well," the American frowned, crossing his arms in annoyance, "Deathscythe is *my* baby, it seems like *I* should be the one going in after that damned thing!"
Relieved, the Chinese boy just shrugged. "That's probably something OZ is counting on, Maxwell, you *are* fairly identifiable and this may well be a trap to capture you." The other boy looked displeased but couldn't disagree. Wufei then added, "As it is, do you not think that Heero and Trowa can handle the job perfectly well on your behalf?"
"Yeah, I guess so, but still!" Duo groused. "I'd rather see Tro stay here with you than run off on an errand like this one."
A darkness seemed to cross the bronze face as Wufei remarked quietly, "This is our job, Duo. We *all* receive mission assignments and we must do them. The simple fact that we do not find them convenient for our personal lives is irrelevant."
Trowa had listened carefully to what the boy he loved had said and he wondered how to fit this new information into the disquiet he was sensing and quickly realized he couldnít yet it filled him with worry all the same.
A touch of sadness hit the emerald-eyed pilot as Wufei unconsciously pulled his hair back once more into the tight tail he wore routinely. Binding it with a small black rubber band so that Trowa had no easy excuse to run his fingers through it one last time before he departed. Already sorry to have accepted the assignment in the first place, Trowa now deeply regretted the morning's uncomfortable feelings and he wished the laptop's chime might prevent their departure as it had the previous day.
Instead of the computer, though, it was Quatre's voice that broke the silence.
"Guys? What do you have planned for transportation both in and out on this one?" He was looking at a map of the base and was pleased to see that, for once, OZ had a fairly small facility that should be easy for the two pilots to move through and stay in touch.
Heero remarked, "Frankly, Quatre, I hadn't worried over it too much. We're close enough for a cab to get us there and OZ seems to always provide me with plenty of cars to chose from when it's time to leave."
"I see," the blond nodded and moved to show both of them the diagram of the facility layout. "Where and when are you two rendezvousing for your escape?"
"Here," he pointed to a guard-post on the eastern edge of the compound. "We're meeting here forty-eight hours after we go in."
"Forty-eight hours?" Wufei asked, concern in his voice. "Do you really believe this can be accomplished in such a short time-span? What if one of you is delayed? What is the backup plan?"
Trowa looked at him and smiled hopefully, trying to reassure him. "We'll be done on time, Fei, I'm sure of it. There's no reason to expect difficulties on this operation. We donít have a backup plan beyond the usual. If we're separated, then it's up to each of us to get out on our own and make it back here undetected. Don't worry about it."
"Hmph!" Wufei snorted angrily, displaying open emotion for the first time in hours. "Failure to plan is planning to fail, Barton. I am *not* able to see what makes you so damned confident that this will be an easy assignment, either of you!"
In his fear that the boy he loved might indeed face the enemy insufficiently prepared, Wufei had fallen back into the use of his surname and that alone resounded through the room ominously. He glared angrily at them both and would have said more, but he thought better of it and fell silent.
Confusion and sadness were in Trowa's eyes as he finally moved closer and put one hand on Wufei's arm, asking, "Why so little confidence in us, Fei-kun? What's wrong that you're acting like this?"
Wufei looked away, clearly troubled, but was spared answering when Duo interjected, "Maybe he feels the same way I do, Tro." He shook his head adding, "There's something not right with this one. I can just feel it."
"Oh? And when did *you* get psychic powers, baka?" Heero added with a soft snort before going to stand beside his own lover protectively. "You're both worrying over nothing. Trowa and I have done this sort of thing dozens of times and this one will be no different."
An uneasy silence fell over the room until Quatre said quietly, "They're not the only ones, Heero. I feel it, too. Maybe it's just nerves from all the things that have happened lately, or maybe it's real, but no matter how we feel, you two need to get going, donít you?"
"Yeah, we do," Heero remarked with a sigh. "Come on, Trowa, let's see about getting this over with so these three will stop bugging us with their 'premonitions of doom'!"
Trowa smiled slightly at Heero's attempt at humor, but the three boys who were not wearing OZ uniforms were not amused.
Giving up on making light of the others' feelings, the Japanese teen simply said, "The sooner we're gone, the sooner we're back. Let's get going, Trowa."
"Right," The taller teen nodded then unexpectedly turned to the dark-haired boy beside him. "Fei? Try not to worry and when I get back, I believe you and I need to talk, all right?"
Onyx eyes glimmered as Wufei looked back at him and in all seriousness he answered very quietly, a tinge of desperation in his voice, "Just be back on time and we can talk about anything you want to, koi. Anything at all."
This startled the taller boy and he paused for just a moment before he placed a gentle kiss on Wufei's lips, murmuring, "I'm going to hold you to that promise, love. There seems to be something very important that we need to discuss unless I miss my guess."
"Hai," Wufei nodded sadly, "There are indeed several issues that must be dealt with, but now go. I shall be here when you return."
Duo had been saying good-bye to Heero in much the same manner as well and Quatre had been quietly observing the entire scene. He felt a twinge of guilt that his own actions might have added to the apparent feelings of disquiet, but there was little he could do about them at that moment.
As the Sandrock pilot pondered this, the others broke apart and Trowa and Heero moved towards the door to leave. "Be careful," Quatre said quietly.
"Of course," Trowa answered and Heero just nodded.
The door closed behind them and all was silent once more in the apartment. Duo went back to checking for more information on the prototype scanner and Wufei left the living room without another word.
Quatre sighed and went to the kitchen to make a pot of coffee for anyone who wanted some. He preferred tea, but the other two didnít usually care for it and he hoped to at least try to get the time the three of them were together off to a friendly start.
After spending awhile working on the computer, Duo had gone in search of Wufei and was surprised to find him asleep, a worried frown on his face even in slumber.
Quietly closing the door to the bedroom he would share with the ShenLong pilot, Duo went back to sit and drink coffee with Quatre as they discussed the bland reality of who was cooking dinner and the other tedious things that made up daily life.
End Notes for Parts 5 and 6:
Dedications: Another night of dedications to my dear friends who send me words of encouragement without flames! This edition of the "Hall of Fame" includes: SteelSong (beloved Goddess of Llamas everywhere!), Eos the Goddess of Dawn , Kayo, Danielle (my all time favorite Yume!), Camille, StarLight, Rubious, Shea Maxwell, Camille, Mahtob, Mizuno, Lori, bearilou, AJ from NZ, SkyLark, Lani, Sarah (the delightful!), and as always, my beloved Ryoko-kitten!!!
To all of you --- BOO-YEAH! I've got to say it again---You are ALL the best!! And after this week, I really need it! Thanks team!