Racing With Secrets
"Well, guys," Joe Asakura sat down wearily in his office, facing the three remaining former Gundam pilots and Sally Po. "I'm *finally*
off-duty, but I wanted to see how you were doing before I go home and crash."
Quatre looked alarmed, "What do you mean 'crash'? You think you can't make the drive home? I dare say we've had enough of our
friends in here for treatment and you've already paid your dues," he pointed at the cast now binding his arm where Heero had
inadvertently broken it.
Asakura just laughed, shaking his head. "Hell no. That's just as old phrase I picked up during medical school. It refers to the
'crash-and-burn' feeling you got after being on-call for over 72 hours. All it means is that I'm going to go home and sleep until further
notice." He laughed sheepishly. "In a way, I should thank Heero for the broken bones. That got me off the duty roster for a couple
weeks in addition to my honeymoon, so even Mitsu's happy about it."
"That cast will make for some unusual wedding photos," Trowa commented dryly.
"True," Joe laughed weakly. "I hope you know you are all invited to the wedding, by the way. M-chan's glad Laurel's got a real home to
look forward to, but it would make her very happy to see the little lady at the wedding. I'll send you an invitation care of the hospital
since Laurel's going to be here awhile. Hope you can make it."
"We'll try," Quatre sighed. "But it's hard to know what's going to happen in an hour much less two weeks right now."
Joe's smile faltered and he looked sad. "I wish I could have talked Heero out of what he's doing. That kid's going to get himself either
killed or locked away for the rest of his life. I'm worried, too, that Duo isn't showing any signs of regaining strength after the surgery. I
didn't expect him to wake up this soon, but his vitals just keep slipping. Even off-duty, I'm going to keep up with Limone on that. If you
guys need me," he pulled out a card and wrote something on the back, "here's my home phone. Hell if I know how I ended up so
involved with this whole thing, but I want to help anyway I can. I threw that 'doctors have to remain impersonal' crap out the window the
moment I told Heero to call me by my first name. It figures, the first time I let myself get emotionally involved in something like this in
years and it all goes straight to hell! I'm cursed."
"No, you aren't." Sally gently interrupted. Glancing at Wufei before she did it, she wrapped the exhausted physician in what had to be a
sisterly hug. "Face it, Joe. There's something special about these guys, and I don't mean just Wufei. They all work their way into your
heart and when you realize it, you don't want them to leave. I'm sure Mitsu feels the same way."
"Yes, I do." Came a gentle voice from the doorway. Mitsu smiled at Sally and leaned down to hug her, returning the same happy feeling
of finding a sister of sorts under such strange circumstances. "I'm as worried as Joe is about all of you, especially with what's happened
"However," she smiled at Quatre and Trowa, "my priorities are a bit different. I'm quite concerned about Laurel. Her abilities must be a
terrible burden for such a young girl. She seems to be holding up well, but honestly. She is a 7 year-old amnesiac orphan who has a
broken arm from a school bus accident and now a gunshot wound to her leg. The blood loss from the bullet was substantial and the pain
is going to be significant for a long time. I know she's convinced that you two will be able to adopt her, but you are both younger than
what the adoption boards usually allow. What do you think would happen to her emotionally if that was taken away from her? What if
they send her back to the orphanage where she probably wont receive proper medical and psychological care much less the extra
emotional support she's going to need after all of this catches up to her?" She smiled at Quatre who was becoming visibly upset by this
even though Trowa seemed oblivious.
"I'll make sure she's okay, Mitsu-sama." Quatre stated firmly.
"I'm sure you will if you can, Quatre-san, but you should prepare for the likelihood that they wont release her into your custody when
she is deemed recovered enough for discharge from the hospital. Just remember you need to do what's best for 'Laurel', even if it means
sacrifice on your own part." She turned her attention to other things. "Come on, Joe. Let's get you home before you fall asleep without
eating. You aren't a super-hero, after all!"
Grudgingly, Joe stood up, grimacing when he forgot to be careful with his arm and bumped it into the table. "Yes, *dear*, I'm coming,
I'm coming. Geez, is this what married life will be like?" Then he grinned and kissed his fiancÚ, "Because if it isn't, I'm sure going to be
disappointed! Without you to keep me going I'd probably just sleep right here, like usual. Take care, all of you!"
As the two left, Quatre's face was a war of emotions. All the issues with Heero and Duo had been banished to the back of his mind as
he thought about Trowa's apparent distancing from Laurel, but had assumed it was because of his concern over Heero. It slowly sank in
that he just might be facing the uphill battle of adoption alone and that it could even cost his relationship with Trowa. He loved them both
and felt strongly drawn to the child, but what if he was forced to chose? He glanced over at Trowa as if seeking reassurance, but Trowa
would not meet his eyes.
Yes, there was something wrong here, but how to deal with it? He simply did not know.
A shrill beeping broke the silence in the office. It took Quatre a minute to realize it was his cell phone. "Winner here," he answered,
sounding old and tired. Not his usual happy "Hi, this is Quatre" greeting and everyone noticed.
At the other end, his personal pilot and friend noticed as well. "Quatre? Are you okay? This is Rex, you don't sound so good."
"No, Rex, I'm not," the Arab sighed. "I'm plugging the cell into a speaker phone so everyone here can be up to date, okay? So go
ahead, what's happened?"
"Your friend showed up just as expected. Good thing you warned me about him, otherwise I think I'd have gotten shot! Is he always so
"Unfortunately, yes he is, especially right now. He's pretty messed up emotionally, but letting him use the jet was the best answer for
everyone involved. How did it go getting everything ready? Food? Coffee? Did you leave the keys for him or did he hot-wire it? I even
forgot to file a flight plan for him or anything. I'm sorry to have set you up with so much trouble."
"Hey, boss, don't worry about it!" Rex tried to sound more cheerful than he felt. He, like just about all of Quatre's other employees,
actually liked the guy as a person and hated to hear him so depressed. "Let's see, I'll rattle off the list for you, okay?"
"Sure. Go ahead," was the lethargic response he got.
"Okee-dokee! First off, don't get on yourself about flight plans! I made sure the jet *did* have some flight plans filed, I put in plans for a
medical evacuation mission to keep the Preventers off his back." Sally and Wufei exchanged a glance, they realized they should have
thought of that potential problem, luckily it was covered.
"Next, I loaded the jet with more coffee than most people drink in a week. As for food, well, if he gets hungry there's some of
everything short of lasagna! The airfield had a great deli/convenience store and I got some of just about everything that looked good,
figuring you'd want it that way. There's sandwiches, chips, all kinds of munchies and some candy."
"After that, I made sure the jet was on the runway, warmed-up, and preflight checked before he got here. Kid knew what he was doing,
though, and ran a preflight of his own. The engines were going so he has the key. Oh, and I told him to keep the radio set to standard
broadcast channels for the tower to avoid trouble."
"Wait, Rex, you *talked* to him? I told you to stay clear of him! You're lucky he didn't go ahead and shoot you like I was afraid he
would." Quatre was upset not because his orders had been ignored but because the man he'd known since childhood had risked his life
just *talking* to Heero in his current condition.
"Sorry, Quatre, but I was just stepping out of the cockpit when he showed up. I felt like I couldn't just take off without him thinking I
was going to turn him in. Besides, I think he knew I was trying to help; it gave me a chance to let him know how much fuel-time he had.
Hell, I even suggested he contact you and that he better bring my plane back in one piece. All he said to that was some weird thing like
"Rye-okay" or some such. Mean anything to you?" Rex was quite curious about the entire situation.
"That means 'acknowledged' or something roughly equivalent; it's Japanese. Thanks again, Rex. This information helps a lot. Now, why
don't you and the crew go get some rest? He'll probably be back in the morning like I warned you, but keep the cell on stand-by in case
I need you out there sooner." Quatre was relieved and tired at the same time. "Oh, and Rex? Make sure to tell the crew everyone gets
over-time on this one."
"Why, boss?" Rex laughed. "We aren't even flying for a change. Why pay us extra when all we're doing is running up the corporate card
with a couple meals and a hotel stay? I consider it a miniature paid vacation as it is!"
Even Quatre had to chuckle at that observation. "Well, you've got a point there, Mr. Racer, sir. However, as your 'boss', as you keep
pointing out, I get to do whatever I like with my money and if it means showing you and the team my appreciation, I dare say I am within
my rights to do so! Now, go get something to eat and/or a place to sleep. You're likely to get a jet back tomorrow that needs a fair
amount of attention."
"You don't think he's going to mess up my 'Shooting Star', do you? Um, I mean *your* jet, do you? Thought you said he was a decent
pilot in the first place." Rex was worried enough to accidentally call the plane by his pet name for it.
"No, Rex! The 'Shooting Star' is in good hands, don't worry! This guy has flown more kinds of vehicles than you can imagine, he was a
Gundam pilot like I was. It'll simply not have any maintenance done on it until he completes this mission, that's all. I'll leave my cell on
stand-by in case you get word via the pilot's network before he gets back. Call me in the morning when you get to the airfield, okay?"
"No problem! Catch ya' on the flip side! Racer out."
Quatre detached the temporary connection between his cell phone and the speaker phone. The strange phrase had shown up again,
"Catch ya' on the flip side", the same thing Duo said before surgery. He'd have to remember to ask Rex what it *really* meant someday.
In the hospital, the small group who had listened in on the conversation looked relieved. Heero had indeed accomplished the first stages
of his mission. No one had been injured so far, and the only thing to do now was wait. Several people in the room were yawning as the
exhaustion caught up to all of them at once.
"So, 'boss'," Sally teased, "Any chance we could get a place to sleep on that 'corporate card ' of yours? When we drove in, Wufei and I
didn't exactly hit the bank for some cash, but at the rate I'm going, I'm probably going to fall asleep right here."
"Sure, Sally, I'd be honored to put everyone up. I spotted a place on the way in. Let me go call and I'll be right back." Quatre smiled
warmly at the willingness of his friends to stay with them as long as this crisis continued. "Trowa, could you grab the cell if Rex calls
back? I'll go use another phone to keep the line open."
When Quatre returned, he told everyone they had the entire penthouse floor reserved at the 'Queensberry', a five-star hotel several
blocks down from the hospital. The hotel shuttle would pick them up in a few minutes and they already had full clearance for all of their
expenses; room service, new clothes, whatever they needed. Everyone got ready to leave, everyone, that is, except Quatre.
"Quatre?" Trowa approached him concerned that he wasn't going to get the rest he desperately needed. "Why aren't you coming, too?"
"Hmm? Oh, sorry, but I need to stay here. Something's still not right, but I don't know what it is. Plus, I'm worried about Laurel; she's in
too much pain for some reason and I want to find out why. I also want to make sure she gets moved to another room." Quatre smiled at
his lover, but the smile didn't reach his eyes.
Clearly, he was holding something back, even from Trowa. They had promised long ago "no secrets, no regrets", yet now things had
changed, and Trowa was beginning to hate the changes. The girl was apparently higher priority than Quatre's health or their relationship,
as far as Trowa could tell. Yes, he definitely did not like these changes at all. But he kissed the blond goodnight and left with the others,
refusing to reveal his feelings either. After all, two could play at that game, he thought bitterly.
The flight had gotten off the ground unbelievably easily, but the Soldier didn't pause to consider who or what had made that a reality.
Trapped within his own delusion, Heero automatically assumed the mission orders had been posted and all relevant preparations had
been made as usual.
Once clear of the air traffic control tower's radio range, Heero shut the radio off. The three "S"s of terrorist life were foremost in his
mind: secrecy, stealth, and speed. The silence of the foreign cockpit bothered him at a certain level. Where was the constant chatter he
was so accustomed to? There were no readouts to monitor beyond altitude and distance and there were certainly no enemies in the
While the Perfect Soldier would never have admitted it, deep within his mind a tiny portion retained enough rational thought to recognize
the symptoms of exhaustion catching up with him. He was sleepy and hungry, both things he would have shoved aside if it hadn't been
for the large parcels on the co-pilot's seat next to him. Curious as to their contents, Heero rechecked the auto-pilot settings and then
rummaged through them a bit discovering to his quiet delight hot black coffee. He downed a cup so quickly it would have burned his
mouth, but he drank it too fast for that to happen, a small survival skill, admittedly, but a handy one.
After pouring a second cup, he pulled out a sandwich, chips, fruit, and ate. He felt much better having eaten and the caffeine was
alleviating some of the exhaustion. He knew full well it was a false relief from the feeling, but it was enough for now. He rechecked the
jet's status and all was well. A nagging feeling that he needed to do something else wouldn't leave him, but he could not recall what it
was he needed to attend to besides the mission.
So, after over an hour in the air, Heero still had not contacted those he'd left behind and Quatre would have been beside himself with
worry if he didn't have other issues to contend with.