by girl starfish
Quatre followed Trowa down the corridor in silence. He was growing steadily more nervous. Despite his intuitive grasp of other people's feelings and his family's grasp of diplomacy, he had no idea how he was going to handle the upcoming meeting. It was rather a relief when Trowa stopped walking to ask, "Are you all right?"
"No," the blond replied. "I mean I am, but I'm not--it's just--I don't know how to do this."
"Heero's your friend, isn't he? It shouldn't matter what you say, you should know each other well enough to know what is meant."
"That's just it--I made him angry last night. Heero--well, he's never gotten mad at me before."
Trowa nodded. He'd wondered why the upsider had been left alone. Only one thing would explain that. As he continued to lead Quatre down the corridor, he said, "You should be careful how you talk about Duo. If Heero chose to give up the only life he'd known to be with him, they must care for each other a great deal."
Quatre was surprised by Trowa's correct reading of the situation and his advice. "It proves that Heero cares. Duo--"
"Trusted him enough to bring him back here to the Sweepers. That's a big risk, Quatre. The coppers prefer we all work in their factories and live in their housing. Communities like this one are thought of as little better than gangs. Any excuse to shut them down would be welcomed. Duo knows this--he's not as careless as you think."
Quatre didn't answer that immediately. He wanted to think that over carefully. If Trowa was right, and there was no reason to think he might not be, then Quatre had to accept the possibility that instead of using Heero, the braided downsider might be genuinely attached to him. If that was true--not only did he owe them an apology, but he had to accept the fact that Duo, whom he disliked, might well be around to stay. It was almost painful to accept that. Heero had been Quatre's best friend for so long--the prospect that he might lose him to a stranger hurt. Unless . . . he didn't have to lose him at all. "Trowa, you've known Duo a long time, haven't you?"
Trowa nodded. "All my life, I think. We were both brought up at the church."
"Sister Helen and Father Maxwell look after it. They take in all the orphans, abandoned children, and do their best to take care of them. There was never enough to eat, so a lot of us kids went out and stole food for the rest. That's how I really got to know Duo. We had this rivalry thing going on--who could steal the most. He was faster and sneakier than anyone else, but I could get into places no one else could. Eventually we decided we could steal more if we joined forces--and the rest is history."
Stealing food for survival. Quatre, who had always had plenty to eat, tried to take this into his mind. "What kind of a person do you think he is?"
Trowa flashed him an interested look. "Why do you ask?"
"I want to know him. If he and Heero are as fond of each other as they say, then I'll have to accept him too," the upsider explained.
His companion smiled. "Don't let his mask full you. He's a lot more cautious and thoughtful than he acts."
"Everyone down here uses one. When you have to struggle to just survive, then anything can be used against you. Most of us disguise who we are to protect ourselves. Duo acts like an idiot and people underestimate him, Wufei falls back on pride--there's a lot more to him than himself, you know. And as for me--I find not saying much at all is the best way to protect myself."
"You're saying a lot now," Quatre pointed out.
Trowa smiled. "I'm with you--and you're a rare person, Quatre. I feel I can trust you."
Trowa pressed a button on a panel beside a door. "Duo's room," he explained.
After a moment when nothing happened, Trowa frowned, pressing the button again. "Howard said he hadn't seen Duo all morning--he should be here."
Quatre turned away from the 'Shinigami' sign on the door to watch as Trowa opened the door.
The room revealed was small, rather cramped and held neither Heero nor Duo.
Quatre looked from Trowa who was hurriedly punching a number into the call pad by the door, back to the room's possessions. One unmade bunk bed, a few cardboard boxes containing clothes, and a cracked mirror were the only things that distinguished the room from a work room. Everywhere else, including the top of the bunk was crammed full with bits and pieces of machinery and tools. Quatre turned over a few of those nearest--he recognised one as some sort of spy camera--but with a difference. The camera was mounted on a spider like body. As he picked it up he noted the hooks implanted on the end of each leg, and a detachable radio transmitter.
"Howard," Trowa said crisply into the wall-phone. "We may have a situation. Duo and Heero are gone."
Quatre heard muffled swearing on the other end.
"No, I don't know how long ago," Trowa continued. "His tool kit? I'll check--" Trowa checked behind the door. "It's gone."
"What's wrong?" Quatre asked. "If they're not here, where are they?"
"That," Trowa said, leading the way out of the room, "is the problem."
"We don't know where they've gone?"
"Oh, I have an idea," Trowa sighed. "Duo said he couldn't fix Heero right? There's only one person who Duo will admit is a better mechanic than he is--so if he wants to get Heero fixed--"
"Who is this person?" Quatre asked. "And where are they?"
"That's the problem--G's the man. Sometimes gets parts and that from Wufei--custom pieces only an expert would have use for. But he's paranoid--has this system by which and contact from him--e-mails, vid-phone, you name it--are rerouted through so many channels there is no way of tracing it. The same with his deliveries. They go through so many routes and contacts there's no way of tracing him."
"But Duo thinks he can?" Quatre was having to run to keep up with Trowa now. Without seeming to hurry, the lean downsider still managed to outpace him--
"Duo did. Got curious one day, and managed to find him. Vanished for a couple of days and came back full of highly improbable tales. Apparently the guy is a cross between Dr. Frankenstein and Q from James Bond--he even uses a letter for a name. Duo said he had a laboratory Howard would give his soul for, and had been so impressed by one of the devices Duo used to track him down he'd offered to go into partnership with him."
"His devices?" Quatre thought of the spider-camera. "Duo is an inventor?"
"Dabbles in it. He's pretty good, not that we let on--He's big headed enough as it is."
"So why didn't he? Join up with the scientist, I mean."
"He was reluctant to talk about it. Said the guy gave him the creeps, didn't elaborate. I have a feeling there was more to it than that but Duo can be surprisingly taciturn when he makes an effort." Trowa led the way into a room where teams of Sweepers were already lining up.
"--and the K team can take this section of the map here, L can check the med-centres--Trowa! Just the person I want to see!" Howard thumped him on the back. "Would you mind heading down to the church and seeing if Duo is there? And if he is give him a good talking to--"
Trowa raised an eyebrow. "Come on, Quatre."
"Why are we going?" Quatre asked as they left. "You said you thought Duo was with this scientist--"
"Howard forbade Duo to go back there. If Heero and Duo aren't back in a couple of days I'll tell him what I suspect. It won't make any difference anyway--we have no way of finding them." Trowa paused as they reached the gate to the Sweepers' fort and could see the dark mess of buildings and rubble beyond. "It's a big world out there."
/ If you start me up
If you start me up I'll never stop
If you start me up
If you start me up I'll never stop /
"I don't mean to doubt you but-are we lost?"
I laughed. "Nah, Heero, we're not lost."
"Then why do we not seek this scientist? We're just standing here--"
"Mad scientists generally don't have a front door people can walk right up to, Hee-baby. Specially not if they're paranoid old geezers--" I shrugged. "We may have to wait awhile."
Heero looked around the shadowy alleyway. "Is there not somewhere more comfortable we could wait?"
"Nah. This is like the gateway to G's patch. See, the buildings and tunnels here are what used to be some kind of sewer or something--they're so twisted and winding and that no one can navigate them without a guide, not even the people who live here. We've got no hope of finding G if he doesn't want us to."
"So what do we do?"
"Wait for a guide."
"And G will send one?"
"Oh, yeah, soon as he knows its me, G'll send one for sure."
Heero shifted closer to my side. "G regards you highly then?"
"You could say that," I replied dryly. "Man, what's keeping the old loon? Hope he hasn't died or something--"
Heero shifted nervously. "Do you think it's my presence? After all, if he is as paranoid as you say, he may not be ready to let a stranger into his laboratory."
"Don't worry about it," I told him. "Trust me, G will love you. But--" I glared at the hidden camera--" Sometime today would be nice."
Heero slid his arms round my waist, pulling me towards him.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
"Well, as long as we're waiting, we might as well do something productive," he told me, lips pressing against my cheek. "What do you think?"
I grinned. "Sounds like a plan to me."
/ I've been running hot
You got me ticking gonna blow my top
If you start me up
If you start me up I'll never stop never stop never stop I'll never stop /
"Oooh--" Heero's fingers skimmed my bare skin beneath my shirt. Without breaking the stream of our kisses, I pulled him closer, looping one arm around his neck and running the other through his hair. He reciprocated, pulling me against him, breaking apart just enough to turn his dizzy attentions to my neck instead. I sighed again as Heero teased my skin into a state of delicious excitement--
Damm, but I was a good teacher!
There was a persistent beeping sound by my ankle. I pulled my body out of Heero's embrace with reluctance. "Well, it looks like the cavalry's here."
Heero stared. "That?"
"What? It's a roving camera-bot--and its going to be our guide. You know what I said about G being totally paranoid? I bet I'm the only person to have had any contact with him in decades. Uses computers for everything. I'm not kidding here--the guy's psycho."
The bot beeped at me, the lights on its ungainly metallic body flickering. It sounded faintly reproachful.
I snorted. "Let's get this show on the road then. After you, my dear bot," I said with a flourish.
The bot trundled down the alley and into a previously obscured tunnel. I turned to Heero.
"This is the point of no return, so to speak. You really want to go through with this?"
Heero hesitated. "I'm nervous about this--but I want to be close to you--I want to spend the rest of my life with you. If this is the only way--then yes. I'm sure."
I smiled at him and wrapped his fingers around mine. "Let's go."
/ You make a grown man cry
You make a grown man cry
You make a grown man cry /
Bits of rusty metal clung to the darkness, the lab's meagre power source illuminating only a cluster of tools. Bits scavenged from here and there, and often borrowed again to be used in something newer, the lab did not so much resemble a laboratory so much as the skeleton of one. The very much decomposed skeleton of one.
"Duo," G leered at me from the recesses of his dark workroom. "What a pleasant surprise. I've been hoping you might come by. There's some things I've been working on that I think might interest you."
"Yeah, well, hate to disappoint but this isn't really a social visit." I plonked myself down on a bench. "This is Heero."
G and Heero looked at each other. It was like watching predators sizing each other up, or perhaps a couple of icebergs, if icebergs could glare.
"Nice to meet you," Heero said.
"Any friend of Duo's is welcome here," G said.
You could have kept a freezer running on the tension in the air.
"Heero's got a problem we hope you could help us with," I remarked. "Show him, Heero."
Heero shot me a wary look but I nodded. Reluctantly he pulled his shirt up to expose the thin wiring beneath his plastic 'skin.'
G drew a breath. "A robot? But he's so lifelike--"
"I'm something of a new model," Heero said with a look in my direction. I nodded--we didn't want to tell G everything.
"Looks like it took some damage," G frowned at the bullet hole in Heero's chest plate.
"Punctured the internal battery. The fluids leaked, damaged the surrounding wiring. I've patched it but I don't have the equipment to redo the wiring." I shrugged flicking my braid back over my shoulder. "You do."
G cackled, closing Heero's chest plate. "It'll cost you--you'll want to do a radio-reading of the damage done, and that takes a lot of energy, boy."
"If it costs, it costs." I kept my voice strong. "Tell me your price and I'll consider it."
"As it so happens--" G rummaged for a data file. "Take a look at this--my latest project." I pulled out my data pad and scanned the blue prints it brought up. "Impressive."
Heero looked over my shoulder. "Is that a laser?"
G raised an eyebrow. "It's familiar with weaponry?"
"Hang up from a previous owner," I said shortly. "You want me to what?"
"Oh, just play around with it. See if you can't tweak the power supply--and I've having trouble. A rapid fire mechanism should not be impossible and yet, I just can't seem to channel the power of the laser into it. I'm thinking--"
I nodded as G ran over the technical difficulties. It would be tricky, but I could work it. The problem was, would I be able to live with myself if I did? "What do you want this laser for?"
"Oh, no reason," G shrugged, feigning innocence. I narrowed my eyes.
"Yeah right. This design is pretty complex--it took months. Now spill. What will you do with it?"
"You know me too well," G chided. "I knew it was a mistake letting you see my workrooms. But you're right, I do have an ulterior motive in mind. You see, there will be a war. And we have to be prepared to defend ourselves against the enemy."
"Enemy?" asked Heero uncertainly.
I frowned at him, it didn't do to encourage G's madness. "Defence then?"
"But of course," G said quickly--far too quickly.
I sighed. Giving weapons of mass destruction to a loony like G was probably not a good idea but what choice did we have? "Fine--but for that price, I may as well throw in a little something extra as well."
/ Spread out the oil, the gasoline
I walk smooth, ride in a mean, mean machine
Start it up /
Heero gave an almost pleading look. He looked rather nervous, strapped down to the operating table, so to speak, his head, turned towards me. I finished adjusting the spotlight, and, with a surreptitious look to check that G was occupied, slipped over to his side.
"Are you okay?" I pushed his fringe out of his eyes.
"I don't feel very well," he admitted.
"You'll be just fine, trust me--G may be odd but he's a fair mechanic. And I'll be here too--so you know you have nothing to worry about."
Heero snorted. "I will be very glad when this is over."
I leaned into him, tracing the curve of his face with a finger. "Likewise, sweet." I bent down to claim his lips--
"Are the lights done?" G called, from somewhere amongst the mountainous recesses of his machines.
I jumped away from Heero. "All set," I said, quickly. "All we got to do is turn the robot off and we're ready to go."
Heero caught my eyes as I opened his chest panel and found his off switch. "Love you," he mouthed.
"You're not going to stand there forever are you?" G reached over my shoulder and flicked the switch, plunging Heero into unconsciousness. I think I managed to wipe away my tears before the scientist saw them.
"Right then," I said. "Let's get this show on the road."
/ If you start it up
Kick on the starter give it all you got, you got, you got /
"I need another batch of wire."
"A moment, I'll have to go to the storeroom. Take it easy on this lot, will you? Gundanium isn't common, you know."
"So, I'll have Wufei find you some more." I wiped a sweaty hand across my forehead. G and I had been working as intensively as any surgeons repairing Heero's damaged chest. Now that we had the right equipment it was straightforward but a lengthy process nonetheless, complicated by the fact that I couldn't let G guess what capabilities Heero disguised, while needing his knowledge to help with the . . . other problem.
"Well, here's the wire. This is the last of what I've got--I hope your friend doesn't decide to catch any more bullets."
"I'm thinking of adding additional shielding around his batteries here and here--" I traced my hand over Heero's chest, now cool in his deactivated mode.
"A good suggestion," G nodded. "Now what was the other thing you needed my help with?"
I hesitated. I would owe G big for this--
But didn't Heero and me deserve it?
/ I can't compete with the riders in the other heats /
G whistled. "You want him to feel it too?"
I nodded. "Everything."
G wiped his hands on a rag absently as he replied. "Odd request that-- or it would be if we were talking robots here."
I froze, braid tip caught between my fingertips as I stared at G.
He smirked. "Oh, I recognised J's handiwork long ago, my dear. I'm ugly, not blind Duo-- or did you think I was so mad I would not recognise my old partner's handiwork?"
"You and J were partners?" I squeaked. My voice had all but vanished at this point.
"You didn't know?" G seemed to swell. "The best years of my life I spent helping that bastard with his experiments-- I put in as much if not more time as he did, let him use my innovations and for what? Was I given co-credit, a cut of the profit?"
"No?" I guessed.
"Hah! Guess that's what our friendship was worth--Kushrenada's backing and bank-balance. J will learn to regret the day he ripped me off--" G suddenly seemed to recollect himself. "So tell me, Heero is one of J's projects?"
G nodded. "I worked on the prototype's--in fact the formula for the skin used of Heero is one of mine."
"You're kidding," I said.
"No, J and I have been involved in the field of robotic parts for humans since we were undergraduates. Those were the days--before my best friend tried to discredit then murder me."G grimaced again. "I will find a way to get rid of J and return to the upside again--I will see my work recognised!"
Barmy, I decided. Still--that could be useful. "You know, if you help me make those changes, it will really piss J off--"
"How so?" G fixed me with an appraising look. "I thought it ran more in the way of satisfying teenage hormones--"
"J designed Heero as this perfect soldier--trained him not to have any emotions, any weaknesses-- missed out a couple of pertinent parts so that he could never be tempted by sex right? Well--"
"You'll make him human," G cackled suddenly. "He'll be human! J-- J will go mad! I love it!" He suddenly seized my hand. "I'll give you all the help you need. This is better revenge than I could ever have imagined--I'll help you for nothing."
I grinned, shaking his hand back. "G man, we got a deal."
/ If you rough it up
If you like it you can slide it up, slide it up, slide it up, slide it up, slide it up /
"Well, I got a lot of weird looks, a couple of offers I don't even want to think about, and I think my reputation has been forever tarnished, but I got the parts." I dumped the sack on the floor and strolled over to where G was hunched over Heero. "Man if Howard ever finds out I've been trawling through sex clubs--"
"I'm in the middle of some brain surgery here, Duo," G answered. "A little less noisy, if you please?"
"Sorry," I whispered back, tip toeing over to peer over G's shoulder. "How's it going?"
"Very well," G said distractedly. "Just embedding the radio receiver--sensation from his newly installed parts will feed into the receiver which will then transmit--"
"Directly to his brain, I know, I've spent the last three days working this out with you." I peered anxiously at my Heero, partly dismantled and still, lying as if dead on the operating table. I hated to see him like this, hated it--
Three days in which we hadn't spoken, three days in which Heero had been as lifeless as a robot--
"Oh," said G.
"Oh?" I said worriedly.
"Look at this--there's already some kind of transmitter in here. Look at it-- controlling his memory functions."
"What the hell would J--" I stared. "Operative mode soldier!"
"Never mind, just get rid of it! Heero doesn't need it!"
G carefully removed the device placing it carefully to one side for later study while attaching our bug in its place. "There. I have to patch this on, resume blood flow, and Heero will be as good if not better than new!"
"How long?" I asked.
"A couple of hours. Course we still have to add those new parts you acquired--"
I nodded turning to fetch the bag. My heart was racing. In a matter of hours Heero could be reactivated-- but would he be my Heero? Would he reactivate at all?
/ Don't make a grown man cry
Don't make a grown man cry
Don't make a grown man cry /