Disclaimer: This is fanfiction based on the characters and universe of Gundam Wing.

Another Version of Events
by Karan Seraph
Chapter 104

When they had picked up badges for themselves and the dogs, it seemed decided without conversation that the first priority was to get out of the heaviest crowds, and second to find a place to study the registration packets and schedule. Then they would be able to plan their schedule, or their next step. Heero had a suspicion that Duo was going to object to him planning out their schedule completely.

They made their way south along the ground level concourse and then took the stairs up into the third floor food court. It seemed this area was quite crowded as well. Heero was realizing now that it was not just the registration area; they might be fighting heavy crowds their entire weekend.

The foodcourt here seemed a logical meeting place, as one would assume the lower foodcourt would fill up with guests just out of registration, but it seemed there were a great number of logical people and Heero saw only lines about the food vendors, particularly the sushi and ice cream places, and no seating.

Heero's phone chirped and he lifted his hand to answer. He flipped the monitor arm out and saw Claudia's number, so he removed the blind. "I can see you," Claudia said, "Can you see us? To your left, near the club meet-up room."

Heero looked up and focused past the small monitor on his headset videophone. He could see a pirate and a blonde girl in a black tee waving their arms. "I see you now, be right there," Heero said, and swung the monitor back behind his ear. He looked to see Duo and the dogs stayed with him and made his way over to Claudia and Johnny. Now he was close enough, Heero could see her shirt read: Cereal Killer. "Nice shirt."

Claudia shrugged. Somehow she could look kewl while still being an obvious tourist. She was lugging her computer around in a French designer bag and had both mobile flip-style phone and a separate digital camera visible on her person. Her hair was in a perfectly sloppy-looking up-do, which Heero supposed gave the same impression his hair often did, of being either actually careless or the result of hours of effort to get just the right careless look.

"Have you captured many photos yet?" Heero asked. He understood the separate camera. Even Duo's phone could capture photos — you never knew when you might need to record evidence — but a dedicated device was usually going to capture higher quality images and hold a lot more of them between uploads. His phone could display television programs, but he rarely used it to do so.

"I got two examples of random stupidity and one boy who had hair like Jim. Johnny is looking out for Best of the Best cosplayers, but we have not seen any so far."

"What's with the random acts?" Duo asked.

"Duo is looking for a few Gonin Team character cosplayers for a friend of his, if you will look out for those as well, I'll also look for Best or the Best…"

"Claudia wants to capture Americanisms and bad fashion and ironic social behaviors," Johnny replied.

"What do they look like?" Claudia asked.

"You and Heero need to meet one of your other friends?"

"Mostly blue-skinned aliens with pointy ears and boys in various colored flight suits."

"Shizen and Sake are both participating in the con as vendors, and Shizen will be involved in a few panels as well."

"I think I saw one of those already, a girl with black hair and a slinky, revealing costume with a strange collar."

"I have to go to the lounge upstairs for an autographs and Q&A tomorrow, but I am free today."

"Did she say she saw Sashimi?" Duo asked.

"Oh, yeah, we saw someone cosplaying the Commandatrix," Johnny said, "I know what the costumes from the live action series look like, so I can help spot those!"

"I still have not seen that program."

"He still hasn't seen the original, only the movie."

"If you want to do something together, we should go locate Sake and Shizen just to say hello, and then plan where to go."

"We had some time to look at the schedule."

"Cary wants to meet for dinner, if we can meet between his scheduled activities. His appearances are mostly today. Autographs in the morning and then a panel and an appearance at a video screening tonight."

"Were you thinking of leaving the center for dinner?" Heero asked, "I am certain everything here is pricy and has long lines."

"If you do not mind taking the time from the Con it is a good option."

"Probably cheapest to keep groceries in the hotel room," Duo said.

"We are not that stressed for money."

"Your friends are probably in one of the rooms on this floor. 3B is for individual vendors and artists, and 3E is overflow from 3B plus the silent auction showcase."

"Let's try B, I think Sake at least is in there," Duo suggested.

Heero and Duo had arrived at the Con somewhat late, so it was already lunchtime for those who had picked up badges the night before and arrived as soon as the building was opened today. The vendor rooms had been closed in the morning, to allow vendors time to set up, but now the rooms were open and there were no lines to get in, at least not into these upstairs vendor rooms. Midori had already warned them that the prospect of getting free stuff and special deals on Friday did not outweigh the extreme frustration of waiting in a line for hours to get in. They would have good deals on Sunday, and the large vendors had plenty of SWAG to give out all during the weekend.

Claudia stopped to capture a photo of a large man carrying a food court tray stacked with Mexican food and one super-large diet soda.

One they made it through the funneled mass of people trying to enter the artist area and the doors, they had a view of the exhibition hall. The ceilings were high and the space cavernous, and the expansive floorspace was filled by neat rows of booths and tables.

"How can we find one particular vendor or artist?" Johnny asked.

"The packet included a map for the halls downstairs with vendor names, but these are labeled only with alphanumerics. Did Sake tell either of you which space she was assigned?"

"No," Duo said. "Maybe we can just call her."

"If we are not in too much of a hurry, we can just walk along each row until we come to her space," Heero said. "The other artists may be interesting, too."

No one had a problem with that, so they started at the nearest booth, which belonged to an artist who made kawaii little monsters from socks, and followed the row toward the far end of the room. When they reached the end of the row, they walked around to the next aisle, between two rows. Here they had to look from side to side to see everything. When they reached the next aisle and were walking toward the rear of the hall again, Sake called to them to draw their attention.

Sake had a table spread with clothing and accessories, a half mannequin set on the table wearing a neo-japanese haori-like garment, and a flimsy garment rack behind the table hung with larger or longer garments. Sake was wearing a black corset over a lace-trimmed red top and skirt. Ursula was beside her, in colonial geisha hair and make-up, wearing a puffy white skirt with white haori and obi.

"Sugoi!" Duo chirped, "Shiro-wa-rori! Kawaii!" Sometimes, he got very anime schoolgirl.

"I need to get a picture of Duo-kun!" Sake said.

"May I have a picture with Ursula?"

"I have already been asked three times coming here if I am really a Colonial Geisha," Ursula said. She and Sake both stood and walked around the table, into the aisle.

"I would like one photo only of you, for my book," Sake explained.

"Oh, OK. But then can Heero get one with all three of us, with my camera?"

It was not only Duo's camera, but in any case, Heero took the pack from Duo's back and then set it on the table to remove the camera. Sake capture her photo of Duo in his outfit, which she had made, and then she and Ursula posed with Duo so Heero could capture a photo.

Ursula swatted at a few braids beside her face. "Oh, I think one of my ornaments fell out." She patted her hair and found the hairstick with dangling ornament attached had slipped out of place and loosed some of the hair it had held. "Let me fix it and take another photo, please."

"No problem," Heero assured her.

Ursula fixed her hair and Heero took the photo.

"Johnny, may I take your picture also, just for my collection?"

"Certainly," Johnny said and did his best saucy pirate pose.

"Say 'Why's all the rum gone?'"

"Why's all the rum gone?!" Johnny asked desperately.

Sake snapped the photo as Claudia and Duo laughed at Johnny's performance.

"Duo-kun, I got you something," Sake said.


Sake dashed behind the table and stopped to retrieve something from underneath. "This," she said when she stood again. Sake extended her right hand. "For your badge, so they will give you no trouble if you come behind the table."

"Come behind the table?" Duo asked, and winked at Heero as he did.

Sake and Ursula giggled. Heero rolled his eyes purposefully.

"Heero, I am sorry, but I did not get one for you, but I know Shizen did."

"No problem. Memory's fuzzy about a few things last night, but I remember conversations previous to that just fine. I will not mind watching one of the tables if you girls need to leave for a while."

"Thank you again. I know Shizen appreciates it also."

Duo fixed the holographic sticker to his badge and then picked up his pack and replaced it on his back. "So, is Shizen in the other room?" Duo asked.

"Yes, we hoped we would be closer, but they arranged the artist areas by type of merchandise or craft, so the other room is just art, not crafts or other merchandise. That room is going to be popular with the guests that want to commission fan art. Though, I noticed a few booths here do costume commissions or dolls."

"Do you mean those manikin-like things that trendy girls carry instead of lapdogs?" Claudia asked.

"Custom ball-joint dolls," Ursula said. "Just because something becomes very trendy does not mean it is trivial in itself."

"Do you own some?" Claudia asked, bluntly.

"Yes," Ursula said quietly, "Just one. Mine is a lady doll wigged and dressed as a traditional geisha. I do not carry it around. The craftsmanship of the doll is truly exquisite."

"Excuse me. I did not mean to offend. I actually want a boy doll, but I do not like that they are so trendy. I wanted one before, not because I see girls dining with them at cafes."

"If you want a completely custom one, there is a man here that makes dolls, one aisle over. If you want a doll that will be compatible with the most replacement parts, wigs and clothes, you should try the vendors downstairs, I think."

"Thank you. I will look for that dollmaker. I am sorry, again. Sometimes I do not know how to talk to people."

"Quite all right," Ursula said, and bowed formally.

"We should move on," Heero said. "We were thinking of going out for dinner, but if one or both of you has to watch the table, I will bring you something, if you like."

"That would be nice," Sake said. "Give us a call when you know where you will go."

"I will."

"What time is it now?" Johnny asked, "Cary's panel is at 3pm."

"Only just one," Claudia answered.

"Let's go through here quickly, so Claudia can look at the dolls and then go say hi to Shizen, and then make our way down for the panel."

Heero nodded agreement to Duo. It seemed they were all decided. They walked from Sake's table and continued toward the rear of the hall. It was true the vendors here were more craft and costume oriented. Heero noticed a lot of vendors in the aisle sold accessories that seemed bits of armor decorated with crosses and various sizes of crucifix pendants and shapes of white collars. Heero wondered if cosplaying Catholics was very popular and did not really understand the popularity.

In the next aisle they found many vendors selling kit-bashed models and modeling tools. Duo stopped to ogle a highly customized 1:100 Deathscythe, and became the object of the modeler's ogling. He seemed a pretty average Chinese-American boy from Brooklyn, with the charmingly appalling accent of that region. He assured Duo that not everyone on Earth had objected to the Colonies declaring independence from the start and then went on about how Deathscythe just kicked so much ass!

Duo was obviously torn between appreciation for the model and regret for the more violent aspects of obtaining independence. He looked up at Heero, stopped to eye the model, as if asking for assistance.

"Though there were, and are some who would preach absolute pacifism, I do not think it is really wrong to rebel against tyranny, when there is no other way to assure freedoms. Now, however, people know the pain of aggression well enough to choose to submit to something greater, so we do not really need Gundams anymore."

The boy gave a blank expression and then turned to Duo. "I cannibalized about three standard models to get all the parts I needed to get the wings and spikes just how I wanted them!"

"It's fantastic! It looks really close to how I had him looking by the Barton Coup Attempt." Duo snorted a laugh. "Bad ass as he was and even being made of Gundanium, he'd take damage now and then and I was always trying to have him put back together a little better than he was the last time, improving things, always hoping next time I wouldn't take any damage at all. Then I fuckin' went and blew him up."

"It's true they were destroyed?"

"Oh, yeah! It was voluntary, of course, but if we hadn't, I think someone would have gotten around to asking us to do it…very politely."

"Were you making the customizations yourself?"

"Well, I wasn't much of a machinist myself, but I did understand how they worked, and what he could do, so I'd give the support team my two cents, ya know. A lot of the electronics I'd work on myself though! Hellacious countermeasures on Deathscythe!"

"Nigh undetectable!"

"Oh, yeah, and I was improving that all the time as well. He was bitchin' fast, too, though I had this guy I know, Howard, help me with that. He's pretty good with propulsion systems and all that."

Pretty good was understatement, Heero thought, considering the machines Heero knew Howard to have worked on were Tallgeese, Deathscythe, and Peacemillion, or Piecemealion, as Duo sometimes referred to it, due to the amount of salvaged materials used in the ship. Reused parts or not, Heero had trusted that ship and its design; G's weapons were always like works of art, and he had designed all the parts not involved with propulsion.

Deathscythe excelled at running and hiding.

"Can I take one of your cards?" Duo asked.

"Sure, sure, go ahead."

Duo first reached behind his back to retrieve his business card case from the outer pocket of his pack. Duo tossed the case to his left hand, opened it, then lifted the boy's card from the display holder on the table, filed it in his case, then presented his own card to the boy with his right hand.


"Think nothing of it. Maybe I could show you some mobile suit designs I have?" It was just short of being Duo's flirtatious voice, and Heero decided it was his inviting voice.

The modeler boy nodded enthusiastically.

They left the table and found Claudia and Johnny a few tables along the aisle looking at a display of custom modeled and painted figures of various fictional characters. "The face sort of looks like Tim more than Scott," Johnny was saying, as they approached.

"Can we take a photo?"

"They're for sale."

"Well, how much to take a photo?" Claudia pressed.

"2 Esdees."

"Probably has them all up on his site," Duo muttered under his breath.

"I will just take one of your cards to give my friend. He is the one interested in figures of that character."

"Sure, here."

They moved on again.

In the next aisle, they found several tables, near each other, that sold dolls or doll accessories. Claudia quickly focused on the custom made dolls. Heero lingered looking at a display of doll eyeballs, some with rather unnatural looking pupils or irises, finding them rather curious. After a minute, he joined the others, who were already chatting with the couple of dollmakers. These vendors had a very different accent from the modeler boy, though they also seemed very American. Heero was not certain, but he thought it meant they had lived a long while in the southern portion of the former States. They were all one nation now.

Two of the dolls on the table were dressed as Yukio and Leander from Blood Wing, and if the others were particular characters, Heero did not recognize them.

"You see these, Heero?" Duo asked. "They're amazingly detailed!"

"Very bishy," Heero said flatly.

Duo shook his head, as if to say Heero were no fun. "I mean, the way these dolls are designed and articulated is really impressive."

Heero thought they were like something a spooky girl would like. They were frighteningly lifelike, and yet highly unnatural at the same time, like something that would come to life and do some evil in a horror movie.

"I know some girls who have them. They come in different scales, like the way models do." Duo lowered his voice, "I want to go look at the ones over there."

At the same time, Johnny was asking, "They are really anatomically correct?"

"We sell them with two different hip sections, as well as two different sets of feet. One style to wear under clothes and shoes. You can also get them with extra pairs of hand or with a spare sleeping face."

Heero wondered when one would need their dolls to be sleeping and naked. He followed Duo to another table. Here they had a few dolls of various scales and proportions and a large display of doll clothes. Heero recognized one of the dolls. "It's Nynaeve!"

"Oh, yeah, from feudal-prompt," Duo said. "You like her, right?"

"No. I mean, I really like Lan, I mean, the plot involving Lan, Nynaeve and the Empress."

"You're a little bit of a Lanaeve shipper."

"What does that mean, 'shippper'?" Heero hissed.

"As in relationship. You cheer for Lan and Nynaeve's relationship in the series."

"Maybe I do, but it is not weird, or completely contrary to canon or anything like that," Heero whispered, "I just…I just can relate to the character. That's normal. People want the viewers to be able to relate to characters, after all."

"I wasn't trying to tease, really. It is one of the more interesting subplots. But, it has not been shown yet that Lan is even a real person, as opposed to some manner of AI, so…"

They had already established the identity of Nynaeve's user, a French woman named Sophie, as well as her avatar. Her avatar in feudal Japan was named after a character in a fantasy novel who was a sort of wise woman, and as Nynaeve, all her actions involved sharing her knowledge and wisdom, and leading others to attain wisdom, though sometimes she did this with a lot of yelling and irritability, as opposed to the serenity one might expect. The intriguing thing was that the fantasy character she had taken her name from had also had a love interest named Lan. "I can see how one could believe in the theory that Lan is AI. The Empress named him when he received his current position defending his network, and he's the Empress's samurai…but I think Lan's user is the man that appears in episode eleven, and at the end of episode ten when they have the conversation about tracing the attacks against the library's firewall."

"It could be him," Duo said, but he did not really sound like he agreed. "But, if it's him, why would someone who seems so important in Japan just be guarding a library?"

"They did not say what library? A library stores knowledge, information. It is very important that the data not be stolen or corrupted."

"Yeah, but he's definitely working for the Empress, both Lan, and the firewall guy, and it's kinda turning out that she has some suspicious motives and may not be for freedom of information, and that is very opposed to Nynaeve's motives."

"Baka," Heero whispered, "that is exactly why their relationship is interesting. And anyway, The Empress is very mysterious and powerful, I would not assume that she is working against Nynaeve, yet, she may just have different means. Holding information until a set time, is not exactly the same as denying access entirely. And sometimes, the journey is important. One may need to realize or learn something for themselves, rather than just be told the answer. That is not to say I do not approve of Nynaeve's methods. I do like her. Her way suits her."

"And she's cute," Duo said, and tugged on his braid, just the way Nynaeve often did on hers.

Heero smirked. "Not that I would notice."

"Oh, c'mon, just 'cause you don't want to fuck her, doesn't mean you can't tell if a girl is cute or not!"

"She has elaborate taste in costumes."

Duo lifted his brows and then turned to find if Johnny and Claudia were ready to move along.

They left the large exhibition hall and moved a short distance through the third floor lobby and food court, past the hall hosting the club meet-ups, to Hall 3E. This hall was slightly narrower than the hall in which they had met Sake and Ursula, but it was still a vast interior space. The rightmost side, or the north part of the room, was roped off and contained many partitions hung with art to be auctioned. The remainder of the room was set up similarly to the exhibition hall from which they had come. There were neat rows of tables. Here there were no garment racks, mannequins, and few display shelves or cases. There were some standees and tri-folds on tables.

The tables here were frighteningly similar in layout, containing a portfolio to be flipped through, some small prints, stickers, postcards or similar merchandise, a business card holder, and occasionally a tip jar or visible cash box. The artists were usually sketching in a paper sketchbook or into a mobile computer, when not actively speaking to guests.

Similar as the function of each table was, the artists were widely varied in style and subject matter. Some drew busty girls in miniskirts with panties showing, and some drew boys kissing each other. Some did not bother with characters and drew weapons and mecha. Some drew their original characters, where others made a living of putting other people's characters into art. They worked in various media.

Most of them were accepting commissions. Another mainstay of the tables was the sign advertising the pricelist for at-the-con artwork and future commissions. Often 'starving' appeared in the sign's text.

They moved again in orderly fashion, along one aisle, and then the next. Duo did not object, perhaps because he did not wish to miss anything, perhaps because he did not want to purposely be chaotic, but merely allow it to happen naturally.

They spent a longer time at some tables than at others. It was a subjective judgment, but some of the art was just more appealing than others. Claudia liked the artists who advertised they would design avatars and skins for online use and spent some time asking about types of software that was used. Johnny liked superhero art and chiseled chins and muscles and also bizarre, spooky characters. Heero was a little surprised that Duo was most drawn toward the mecha, but only because he had expected Duo to seek out art from certain anime series, books and Hollywood movies. It was a little chaos for Heero to enjoy, but not too much. When he thought about it, he realized Duo had always liked machinery.

"Is it me, or are there a lot of priests? And why are they all so…bishy?"

"There's only like fifty novels, games and shows about demon or vampire hunting out now, and half of them probably star monks, priests and nuns," Duo said.

"I think it is the trendy thing right now," Claudia agreed.

"I just did not think, if they are supposed to be focused on enlightenment or charity…or hunting demons, they would have such pretty hair and costumes."


Heero nodded, mainly to himself, as Duo was looking at some cg art featuring green-eyed demons. He remembered Duo had said something about shojo anime before. It had something to do with pretty boys wearing glasses and hair bows. Also, brothers or best friends that really loved each other to the point of refusing to spend time with girls seemed to feature often, though Heero did not fully understand why, as he would have expected girls to want to see the hero show some consideration to the girl who was so willing to wait and support.

Not that Heero failed to spot the irony in his thoughts, being he had chosen Duo over all females. Arguments on whether he would have been gay no matter what his life experiences had included aside, there was no girl who could really understand everything so well as Duo. A few who might come close, but no contest, really. It was satisfying that Wufei and Sally seemed to be good for each other. Heero hoped Adin and Relena were good for each other, or found out they were not soon, so they would be free to find one that was really meant for them.

Heero did believe people could be meant for each other. He really did. Maybe that was romantic. Fortunately, Duo rather liked romance.

Heero gave Koi's leash a tug and took a few quick steps to put himself at Duo's side. "See anything you like? I'll buy you something."

Duo turned his head. Heero thought he was going to try to refuse, for some reason, but he said, "OK. I'll buy you something, too. What do you want?"

"There are a lot of choices."


"She would be OK. I might like something else. Star Wars maybe."

"I'll pick, but it will be something you like."

"And for you?"

"You can pick, but maybe Batman?" It was voiced as a question.

"OK." Heero would not have thought of Batman first, but he knew very well Duo related to the character.

"If it's not a pre-existing print, you should probably go commission the art now, so there's time at the con to finish."

That made sense, Heero thought. "I will meet you."

Duo smiled, and Heero was not sure why, but maybe it was for the tone he had used and not the fact that gifts would be exchanged. Heero sensed no patronization, rather he had a feeling that Duo was genuinely pleased that words another person would have said casually were a dire promise from Heero's lips. There was no question. Heero would leave to seek and artist and they would meet. He had not planned how or where or when, yet, but it was still certain to happen.

"Claudia, you want to help me shop for a gift for Heero?" Duo asked, still smiling that smile and looking at Heero.

Heero waited to see if they would go together. Claudia looked up, seeming sincerely interested in something that involved shopping and potentially showing off knowledge of Heero.

"Are we to look for something for Duo?" Johnny asked.

"Yes." Unplanned, but Johnny might actually be an asset on this mission.

Duo was still smiling that smile. In that moment, Heero decided that this particular smile did not only communicate a level of amusement, but said, 'he is so getting some later.' Definitely, Heero thought. Whatever his face expressed, Duo was pleased to see it.

Heero knew they had already passed some tables belonging to artists who regularly drew Batman or his comrades within Gotham or in the Justice League. Heero explained his plan to Johnny, that they should first determine who was familiar with Batman and accepting commissions, and then determine who in that group had the most appealing style.

Johnny pointed out that they might obtain interesting results asking someone who usually did not draw superheroes to do a Batman pic, but agreed that Heero's plan did sound most efficient.

They spent some time at the various tables, flipping through portfolios and listening to occasional sales pitches and explanations from the artists. Heero knew who Batman was, but a few of the artists, from the way they talked, seemed highly knowledgeable about the character and used terms like 'retcon' and 'crime alley'. Heero decided he wanted to hire an artist who was knowledgeable as well as talented.

Heero also developed the idea of commissioning a drawing of Bruce Wayne. The more he talked it over with Johnny and listened to the artists, it seemed to him something Duo would appreciate. When Heero mentioned his idea to the artists, there was only one who seemed knowledgeable, skilled, and very interested in drawing a picture of Bruce Wayne.

They discussed the details of the commission, but other than to select the size and media, Heero left the details to the artist, only suggesting that it be Bruce Wayne in the drawing, but obvious he was also Batman, and possibly in some way looking like Bruce Wayne was sometimes the 'mask' and Batman his real self. Heero gave the artist a small cash deposit and his phone number, so the artist could send the prelim sketch to be approved before ink and color were added, though the art was all to be done digitally.

When Heero met Duo, he was at Shizen's table, looking through a spare copy of her pillow book. Shizen actually spotted him first and called out a greeting.

Heero bowed slightly. "Hello."

Midii looked up from a Manga and Duo from the pillowbook. Heero saw Claudia was one table away talking to an artist there. There were two complete strangers also in front of Shizen's table, looking at her work. Johnny moved around the pair of girls to see what Duo was looking at. Koi growled and sniffed at the table skirt.

"Nanashi is here?" Heero asked.

Midii nodded and lifted Nanashi's bag from under the table. Heero could hear hissing from within.

"Sometimes, you could learn from Nu," Heero told his dog.

"Does he do that a lot?"

"Often," Heero answered, looking at the large white and sable ball of fur sleeping at Duo's feet. "Conserving energy."

"Sometimes I think it's like Heero actually had kids and Koi inherited some things and Nu others. This one can put himself to sleep anytime; it's just like a flight with Heero."

"You have to keep up both sides of the conversation," Midii said, laughing.

"Yeah! But, it's OK, really. He always wakes up when I really need him, and trusts me to fly, and he really is good company most of the time." Duo was talking with his hands; Johnny had taken his book. "Koi's not totally evil, but I swear! Even though people always comment how mellow he seems, he always seems so wired and alert to me! He's always active and begging for attention and just looking at you like he needs a command or some training!"

"It's like who actually had kids?" Heero asked.

Duo shut up.

"They are both quite charming," Shizen said, as her two guests took their purchases and left.

"It's really mostly girls who buy this stuff?" Johnny whispered.

Duo snickered and then whispered something to Johnny.

Heero stepped up closer to the table. He was a little impressed. Shizen's display looked very professional. She had the usual portfolio and stack of business cards and artwork for sale, but she also had tall piles of her published works for sale and a sign that indicated she was sorry, but not currently accepting commissions. There was another sign that advertised her schedule, indicating all the times her table would be unstaffed and where fans could find her at the con. The list included a Gonin Team panel today, the Mad Drama manga publisher panel tomorrow afternoon, showing of Love Triangle studio's Rangers 5-8 in a video room tomorrow night, and the yaoi panel following the video.

Shizen offered a little holographic sticker between the thumb and forefinger of her right hand. "This is for Heero," she said. Heero placed the sticker on his badge. "You can see my schedule here. These are all the events I absolutely have to attend, because I am participating professionally, I am simply going to shut down for those, but there are a few other things I would like to see, if you or Midii would be able to watch my table."

"When are those events?"

"I want to attend either the Maudlin Manic show tonight, or tomorrow afternoon. I think tonight would be better. I want to be here for guests as much as possible Saturday."

"I will watch your table tonight, and I can see Maudlin Manic tomorrow."

"Thank you! Everything is very organized. It will be no trouble. Between 6 and 7?"

"We were talking about getting dinner, but I believe we can get an early dinner and then come here. If Sake is not able to leave, I was going to bring her dinner."

"If all the girls want to go to the show tonight, it probably makes more sense for us to go earlier just to pick up dinner for ourselves and then arrive to relieve them, so they can all go out for dinner before the show," Duo said. "There will be other opportunities for us to share meals with them."

"That does make sense," Heero admitted. "I suppose I might be able to arrive here at 5pm."

"Depends how long it takes to pick up dinner, if there are lines," Duo added.

"I appreciate it very much," Shizen said.

"If we are going to all attend the panel, we should start down now," Midii said then.

"I think it's all the way downstairs in C4," Duo said, then laughed at the name of the room.

Heero smirked a bit.

Shizen invited Heero behind the table, so that she could show him the items in her display and stock of merchandise, which she was packing away. Heero was certain that when he arrived later to work, he would have little trouble identifying the items again.

When the table was secure, the group made their way back out into the food court area. Midii called to Ursula along the way to see if she or Sake would be able to attend the panel. Midii then relayed to the group that Ursula would stay and watch the clothing booth, and Sake would join them to attend the panel.

They waited a few minutes, people watching, and then Sake came from the exhibition hall and found them near one of the stairwells. They walked down the flights to the second floor and then continued down to the first floor, which was below ground level. It was Heero's first glimpse of this level, but he was able to orient himself quickly, having looked at maps of the Javits Center.

It was crowded here also. Duo spotted a Sashimi and called after her.

"He can probably get plenty of pictures inside the room," Shizen offered.

They were in the lower of the Center's two food courts and Duo was capturing a photo of the Commandatrix who had just thrown away her lunch trash. There was some dialogue Heero could not make out between the effect of distance and crowds, but he supposed it was regarding how well her make-up had withstood eating. Sashimi then dabbed at her mouth with a napkin and reapplied lipstick. Duo snapped another photo and then seemed to thank her profusely before returning to the group.

Duo showed the screen on the back of his camera to Midii and Shizen tried to peer at it around Duo's side. "She seems like a good one."

"It's the classic costume, not from the new series," Shizen said.

"Yeah. She wasn't as thin as the real thing, but a healthy girl fills out that costume well!" Duo said.

"More Playboy than Vogue, was she?" Heero asked.

Duo did his nervous laugh, as Sake was looking at the latest photo. "I suspect it was more like Teen Vogue, actually."

"Got to watch out for that," Johnny advised.

"Just don't post the pic to the net," Claudia advised, "you can't imagine the random things that concerned parties can become concerned about."

Duo mumbled something that sounded partly like, "nothing juvenile about my detention," and then dragged Nu away from the group and down the long corridor at the east side of the floor.

A definite downside to being a child terrorist was that one risked being a child in a military detention facility. It wasn't like being put in holding for a night by local security, or like going to 'big boy prison' with murderers and rapists, but it was not like juvenile detention either. Heero knew. Duo had been detained several more times than he had, and at a younger age.

If the girl had parents who wanted to complain about their daughter being exploited on the internet, they should have been good enough parents to make certain she did not appear so scandalously dressed in public and pose. Really. Heero was sure a whole lot of things technically illegal for minors had been prominent in his childhood. The same was true for Duo.

All the controversy and propaganda that Heero had witnessed going on during the war and he had not once seen someone question their youth and form a protest group of concerned parties. Books on youth ministry after the fact, possibly some hushed conversations between Sally and Lucretia when they thought the boys asleep; that was it. No one had actually stopped them. Maybe it was easy to say that minors capable of such terrible things were not really minors at all, but there had been a first time for each of them. First time they used a gun or a mobile suit. No one had just stopped them. No parties concerned enough.

Heero ran to catch up to Duo and insinuated himself under Duo's right arm. There was some exchange between Koi and Nu, but Heero only half noticed it. He felt Duo's arm lean weight onto his shoulders, then Duo turned and kissed Heero's temple, which was the first bit of skin available to him.

Heero lifted his left hand to Duo's waist. He had a feeling the leashes were tangling behind them. Duo laughed, not for any particular reason Heero knew. He drew Heero in toward him with his right arm. They stood in the hall, facing each other, and Heero could see that Koi and Nu had gotten their leashes entwined.

Duo bowed, dropped his head beside Heero's and whispered at his right ear. Out of the corner of his eyes, Heero could see their friends were watching. Maybe a few other people as well. "I wanna fuck ya right now."

Heero smiled darkly. He slouched such as he could in Duo's grasp and lifted his right index finger to trace a small circle upon Duo's chest. "No one believes that I am legal; I am so small for my age," Heero said in the poutiest, youngest voice he could manage.

Duo swallowed audible. Heero lifted his eyes and Duo drew up his head enough to look on Heero's face. He probably just looked smug, but Duo was grinning. He got his fingers beneath Heero's ribs and did something. Some involuntary, unmasculine yelp came from Heero and he felt breathless.


Duo's grin, and then he leaned in to whisper at Heero's ear again. "Baby, if you'd have given me any sign you wanted it, I woulda fucked you back then, even if one of us was only fourteen."

"Really?" Heero was trying to watch Duo's fingers.

"Maybe not," Duo whispered, "but I woulda sucked ya off. Hard. In the hammock. In the dorm. Under the bleachers at the basketball court."

"Say 'inside the cockpit of…Eh-Epyon'." It was difficult to say.

Duo shifted his hands to Heero's arms. "No…"

In that second, Heero was heartbroken. He had really wanted to hear it, even if Duo had not been anywhere near when Heero had piloted that suit.

"I think it woulda been you suckin' it that time."

The sense of relief was so…real. "Yeah," Heero said slowly, "of course. Until my jaw ached." That was so obviously how it would have happened, he thought. He took one step back from Duo, so their bodies did not touch, but he put his right hand behind Duo's neck so that he could hold his head bowed forward to whisper at his right ear. "Duo, I-I would have snuck into your detention cell in the lunar base and fucked your beaten body raw, then made you suck my cock, and then held a gun to the guard's head and watched while you fucked him."

"Ya sure? There wasn't a rim job in there somewhere?"

Heero smacked Duo's face, lightly. "Of course. Who does not do some eating out in prison? Probably the first thing I did. I think we probably mouthed each other's balls, as well."

"You are so my god," Duo said in a sigh.

"No. I fuck your god. Shinigami is my bitch," Heero said flatly.

"Yeah he is." Duo was just beautiful.

Heero watched, probably with some stupefied in-love expression on his face, as Duo stooped to untangle the dogs' leashes. Claudia approached and showed Heero a photo in her camera. It showed Duo and himself with heads bent close, whispering to each other. "It's nice. Send me a copy?"

"No problem."

Duo stood, both leashes in his left hand. He slipped his right hand into Heero's left. "Let's go in and find seats near the back," Duo suggested. "I want to be there, but I don't really need to participate or see well."

Heero agreed with a slight nod. They went ahead, along the row of panel and workshop rooms to C4 on the Javits map, which was here labeled Panel V, clearly in roman numerals from the IV and VI on signs on the rooms either side. Some of the panel had already arrived and Staffers were watching the guests as they came through the doors. Dou pointed out some seats near the back. Heero moved to enter the row of chairs, when Sake called from behind.

"You do not want to sit closer?" she asked.

"I just thought…" Duo started.

"I think it will be all right if we sit with our friends closer to the front," Heero said, quietly enough that only Duo would hear. "I do not mind, if it is OK with you."

"OK, sure," Duo said then. Heero saw Shizen had just reached the raised platform to join the panel. Sake and Midii went before them, and Duo followed. Claudia came after Heero, and then Johnny in his pirate costume.

Sake found them seats several rows back from the front, near the section of the head table at which Shizen. Duo got the seat on an aisle and Heero sat immediately to his right. The dogs lay down in the aisle. Nu looked as if asleep almost immediately; Koi seemed more alert.

Shortly the panel got started. Heero looked around and could see many of the seats were full and from the colors worn, many guests were in costume, or at least fans. The head of the panel was a woman named Rita from the Colonial Daiban studios, which produced the Gonin Team shows. She introduced the other panel members. Midori was the voice actor that had played Akairo and several minor characters in the Gonin Team anime and movie. A lot of girls cheered at his introduction. Shizen was a former Daiban employee who had designed the Gonin Team characters for the anime and manga. There was a bit of applause for Shizen. Kit was the mecha designer for the movie and live action series. Hajime was a member of the writing staff that had worked on the anime and the live action series. Cary currently played Akairo in the live action series. Kimberly and Trini also played characters in the current live action series. There was some cheering and catcalling when the actors were introduced.

Rita then tapped a few keys at her laptop. It seemed the output was connected to the overhead video projector which displayed images on the roll-down behind the panelists' table. She said they would show a short clip and put in a plug for the video screening later that night in Video Room 6.

The clip was actually a professionally edited promo featuring stills from the manga, and scenes from the anime, movie and new series set to fast-paced dance music.

Rita then asked if there was anyone in the audience that was new to Gonin Team. Heero did not notice that anyone answered in the affirmative, but the Producer went on as if someone had, giving a blurb about the genre and plot and then listing the various release dates for Gonin Team projects. The company had first developed the series in 196, and the anime had first aired in the fall of 196 and run through 197 and the movie had been released for the holiday season of 197. Rita said the show was important and breakthrough because it marked a return to the giant robot genre after the advent of real mobile suits in the military had kept less brave studios from producing such shows.

Duo grumbled a bit under his breath, obviously having some opinion about how brave the studio was or was not and possibly whether the series was 'giant robot' more than 'soldier team' or just 'space opera', but he said nothing.

Rita then passed to Shizen and as Rita selected stills and video from her laptop depicting particular characters, Shizen spoke about the character. She went through the five original members of Gonin Team: Akairo, Blaec, Verdan, Koi and Bai. Shizen then discussed Princess Sinija Hemelsblauw, who was the daughter of the assassinated King Vermilion Hemelsblauw and Queen Amarillis Hemelblauw, who were part of the government faction that had funded and founded Gonin Team to protect Earth and its space from alien invaders. When Bai was presumed dead at the end of Season 1, Princess took over as the pilot of his Mech in Season 2. It was obvious to Heero that their names were based on colors and their culture and procedure was very inspired by the Colonies and its particular mix of influences from Earth's powerful, space capable former nations.

Shizen then discussed the characters from other earth factions. They usually had names that could possibly be a color or a metal, like General Ferris Steel, Miss Dorada Goldmeir, Doctor Penny Cuprum, or Ace Pilot Silver Mask, who was secretly Princess' older brother Prince Argento Hemelsblauw. Their ranking system and culture seemed to suggest they were inspired by former western nations on Earth, though not at a space-going stage of history, though the military in the series did possess space vessels. The descriptions made Heero think they were like 18th century gentleman soldiers, but in space.

The aliens were named for fish. Otherwise, their culture seemed a blend of Imperial Rome and hive insects. Those characters included Commandatrix Sashimi, of course, Legatrix Fugu, Captain Pike, and Prince Channa and their Emperor.

Kit talked for a while about the mecha. After that, Hajime talked about some of the past and current plots.

When Hajime had spoken, Rita announced it was time for the panel to hear questions from the floor.

One of the staffers carried a mic to guests who stood and held the microphone so their question could be heard. The first guest to speak was a middle aged man on the right side of the room. "When I was shopping for gifts for my son last Christmas, when the new movie merchandise came out, I did an internet search and…"

"Next question!" Rita said loudly, and the staffer drew the microphone away from the man, but he spoke loudly enough that most people could hear that he was complaining about unofficial sites with smut and porn and things that were inappropriate for children.

Duo groaned.

Midii said something about fifteen layers of disclaimers.

"I just want to make a brief statement," Rita said, "if Daiban does learn of unofficial sites that are infringing on our rights, we can have our attorneys send a cease and desist letter or take further legal action, but no one here can be expected to watchdog the entire net. We will not have any more questions of this nature. This panel is to discuss official Gonin Team merchandise and releases."

"Concerned parties," Heero sighed.

"Parent controls," someone behind them said.

"Individuals have to be responsible at some point," another person said.

The next question came from a teenaged girl in an Akairo costume. "Is it true that Gonin Team is based on the Gundams and their pilots?"

"It is not true. It is a fictional, original series," Rita said.

Shizen spoke into her microphone, "I am sure Kit will agree as far as the question of the Gonin mechs and Gundams are concerned. For my part, I can say, read the disclaimers. Any likeness between the characters and any person living or dead is purely coincidental."

"My ass," Duo muttered.

"Blaec looks even more like you than Akairo does like me," Heero whispered.

"Ahem, Koi is the only one who does not closely resemble a Gundam pilot, and I highly suspect that has to do with Winner being the only one with family lawyers."

"How is it they are not afraid Relena or Milliard will sue?"

"Oh, because they thought Milliard was dead when they first went into production, and…" Duo shook his head. "I don't know."

"It is different," Heero said in monotone, "Princess never wears pink, so she cannot be Relena."

"She has a baby blue limo, not a pink one, it's not infringement," Duo said in mock seriousness.

on to chapter 105

back to fiction

back to karan seraph fiction

back home