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

Another Version of Events
by Karan Seraph
Chapter 105

The question and answer session of the Gonin Team panel continued. As someone who knew rather little about the series, except what he gleaned from fanfics, television commercials for merchandise and Duo's occasional geeking out, Heero found the session rather informative and almost wanted to actually watch the show.

Yes, Legatrix Fugu would be introduced again in the live action series, but no, they could not confirm whether her fate would be the, because viewers were to understand that the new live action series was not a sequel to the anime or the feature length movie but a stand alone release, which told a similar story about very similar characters. This apparently, from the audience reaction, was a great cause of 'what is canon' debate. But, as an audience member pointed out, certain events confused the issue. In the anime, Bai was an original member of Gonin Team and became the head of the team's support staff, aboard either Battleship Vermilion or Space Station Amarillis, toward the end of the anime series, after he had been presumed dead, subsequently returned with amnesia, fought for the government military, learned to trust Gonin Team again, and then regained his memories. In the current live action series, Bai is from the beginning the head of the Team's support staff. In episode three of the live action series, Blaec specifically mentions, in dialogue to Akairo, a time in the past when Bai was thought to betray them and then became himself again, though in episode three of the live action series, it is still only the beginning of the alien invasion, and no betrayal took place within the two previous episodes.

It seemed to Heero, all very convoluted and like things that had happened to Trowa or Wufei, and which probably should have been classified as more secret than appearing awkwardly veiled as fiction on a Sphere-wide television network.

Hajime said more would be revealed in future episodes.

Rita hinted that the production team had not seen the merit in retelling the events of season one of the anime in the new live action show, especially since they had discovered the ratings boosts in including a token female in Gonin Team and the surprising popularity of Prince Channa.

Duo said it was all a ploy to make figures of Bai in the white flightsuit collectable and that prince Channa being present from the beginning of the invasion in the live action series blew the theory that he was Blaec's son, unless they were going to introduce some time travel device later.

Maybe some concerned parties had complained that it was inappropriate for it to be suggested that a teenage mecha pilot in a show popular with the 8-14-year-old male demographic was a father.

Rita was just finishing explaining that the production team had never questioned Cary Watanabe's reputation in casting him as Akairo, because unlike on Earth, people in the Colonies did not care if the actor previously worked under the name Atashi Station and appeared in many pornographic features and music videos, actors were actors, whether they acted out sex or piloting mecha in space.

"I wonder what the porn version of Gonin Team is called," Duo said.

"Porn version?"

"There's a porn version of everything, like if a movie is called Star Wars, then some porn studio makes a movie called Sex Wars, or something like that."


"Yeah, but I wouldn't use your own computer to research the subject."

Heero was going to say something about computer security, but had another thought. "Why? You do not even like fics."

"Well, which porn actor do you get to play the part of the former porn star? I mean, it's like you'd like to just call him up and ask him if he'll work as Atashi again, but I'm sure some studio exec somewhere has a contract with a clause that is going to put the kibosh on that."

"It would be funny if it was me."


Heero smirked a bit. "If it was me. Think of the meeting of the production team. 'Who can we get to play our character who is definitely not Heero Yuy?' 'How about that guy Atashi who played definitely not Heero Yuy in those uh, you know, those movies, not that I saw them' 'Of course Atashi! How do we feel about casting a pornstar in a science fiction program watched by many children?'"

"'We feel it would bring in high ratings!'" Duo continued for him.

"And the meeting at the other studio? 'Who do we get to play definitely not Heero Yuy who plays definitely not Heero Yuy?' 'Wouldn't it be deck if we could get Heero Yuy?'"

Duo laughed, quietly, as the panel was still ongoing. "Who says 'deck'?"

"The guy at the porn studio," Heero insisted.

Duo shrugged. "If they could meet your price, you know I would wear out that disc."

"Current optical media are very durable," Heero said, but then decided Duo really did intend to say he would watch it that much, and got the compliment. "And who says there is a price."

"What? Are you going to just appear in a porn movie for the fun of it?"

"No. I am not sure what the price would be, but it would be so ridiculous that no one could afford me."

"Like, how expensive?"

Heero considered. "Not sure. Something no one person should afford. Something involving a self-contained colonial estate with imported trees, rocks and grass. With a mansion in it, with real antique wooden furnishings and stone tiles everywhere. And multiple mainframe computers. And throw in four or so Gundams."

"Maybe you should quit the security work."

Heero shook his head and laughed. "If anyone paid me enough to afford all that, just to get me in a porn movie, it would be sick."

"But we could have some fun in a place like that!" Duo sounded almost turned on, Heero thought. Maybe not almost. "Maybe a convincingly real artificial hot spring in the backyard?!"

"The Yuy compound." Heero actually rolled his eyes. Five wives and a cult and no one would know.

"I'd do it cheap," Duo whispered, leaning in toward Heero so their arms touched. "I stayed away from video, but I'd do it cheap, though there'd be all kinds of riders on my contract. Most importantly, I wouldn't sign unless I was guaranteed to share scenes with you."

"Two for the ridiculously high price of one."

Duo touched his right hand to the inside of Heero's left thigh. His fingers stroked the velvet fabric. Heero shifted in his seat. He hissed at Duo, "Stop."

Duo chuckled. His fingers stopped moving, but his hand remained on Heero's leg. "It's something to think about," Duo said very quietly, "like a fantasy. I bet someone would pay us to do it, though we do it anyway."

"They pay to watch," Heero said. He tried to focus on what was being said by the panelists. Hajime was saying something about the mecha having AI, or rather, it seemed he was saying, though it was true that in specific episodes the Gonin Team mecha moved at a time when their pilot was in some way absent or incapacitated, that he could not say that the mecha were AI. He could say there had been discussion of possibly making the mecha AI, but the production team had decided against it in pre-production. So, no, basically, was the answer to the question.

Duo sighed, lifted his hand from Heero, and then leaned forward to lift his backpack from the floor.

"I am not trying to deny you, Honey," Heero said quietly, "I am just trying to avoid us being embarrassed publicly."

Duo sat and rolled his shoulders as if they were stiff. Maybe they were. He had been slouching a bit and the seats were not the most ergonomic design. "I know."

Heero smiled to himself, because 'I know' could mean a lot of things depending on the speaker's tone, and Duo's 'I know' seemed to mean 'You are completely right, Heero, and I acknowledge the wisdom of waiting to crawl all over each other until we have some privacy, so we may avoid tabloid scandal.'

Duo took out their camera and passed the pack to Heero. "I think this is about to wrap up," he said, "Look to see where we should go next. I want to get ready to ask for photos as everyone is leaving."

"That probably slows the process of emptying the room so the next panel can begin."

"Oh, it definitely slows the process." But a lot of people were going to do it anyway. Duo stepped over the dogs and slunk to the back of the room. Heero looked to see that the dogs stayed and then took the various guides and maps from the pack to check the schedule. It was like television, he thought. 45 rooms and when he wanted something to do, it was all crap. Videos that were already halfway over, things he had never heard of, but which did not sound interesting, like 'New Hollywood Jazzercize', things he recognized and knew he disliked, like 'Teen Movie 101', and things that sounded interesting, such as 'Digital f/x Workshop', but which he knew he would never have the time or aptitude to do himself, and were therefore a waste.

It did seem the panel was coming to a close. A girl was asking Midori something about voicing Akairo in the anime and Rita said it had to be the last question, because the next panel needed to use the room.

Midori did not really answer, so far as Heero could tell, but suggested the girl attend the voice acting panel at 4pm, several doors down, where he would also be a panelist.

"Heero, do you know what you will do?" Midii asked. "Shizen and I planned to go back up to the artists' area."

"Maybe this massage thing next door. I will ask Duo." It was the only event at the time that struck him as halfway decent.

Heero heard Midii asking Sake and the others their plans.

"I need to get back upstairs," Sake said.

"Johnny and I cannot decide between How to Shiatsu and Teen Movie 101."

Heero leaned forward slightly to speak to Claudia over the other girls. "I think I might try the Shiatsu."

"If it is not very informative, we can always hang out in the hallway for a while."

Heero was not sure about the hallway idea. He put the registration materials back in the pack and swung it to his back. He stood then and stepped along the row of seats toward the dogs. He saw Duo had trapped the ends of the leashes under the foot of the end chair to prevent the dogs from wandering, so he stooped to free the leashes.

Many people were filing out of the room, and there seemed a slight fire hazard in the lines at the rear doors. Heero glanced to Midii.

"Maybe if we just wait a bit for the room to empty."

Heero gave a nod and tried to pinpoint Duo, but number of pale young people dressed in black in the crowds made it more difficult than in other settings. The braid was distinctive, but not visible from every angle. Surprisingly, there were enough tall people, including girls wearing life-threateningly high platform shoes, that Heero could not easily spot Duo by scanning the tops of heads.

"Diverse crowd. Did you enjoy the panel?"

"I did. But, I feel like many fans have mixed feelings about the new series."

"It is to be expected. The same thing happens when a movie is adapted from a book."

"I like the new series, though. I think if people just take it on its own, it's a good show. I do wonder what they will do with Fugu this time."

Heero shook his head. He thought he could see Duo taking photos of some girls in flightsuits. "I do not even know what a Legatrix is, though she must be one of the aliens, from her name."

"She's kinda a rival of Sashimi," Midii explained, "she's a political officer, where Sashimi is a military officer, and was introduced late in the second season. You probably did see her in the movie, and were just not paying attention. She's the one who is often standing with Channa, when they are not in battle, and she gets killed by Akairo."

"I vaguely recall," Heero admitted, "she wore long robes; not like Sashimi's costume."

"She didn't actually do much in the series, but there were a few times when Sashimi or Fugu would be so fixated on their rivalry that one of them would actually do something that helped Gonin Team. Of course that spawned the theory that either Fugu or Sashimi really was good or intended to defect. In fanfics sometimes they pair Akairo and Fugu."


"Well, he seemed really messed up when he killed her, and some people interpret that to mean there was a whole secret relationship, but it could just be that Akairo does not enjoy killing people."

"Good quality in a soldier."

Midii laughed.

"It is all very complicated. I do not understand why they do make alternate versions, but I know it does happen a lot."

"Well, I think the anime suffered competition from other shows with spirits hunting or demon slaying and such that drew its audience and the producers decided to wrap things up, so the third season is half as long as the previous two and is basically a series of large scale space battles rather than plot. But they must have already been planning the movie, because it was released soon after the series ended, and it took time to make, so people say that if they had been able to continue the series characters like Fugu and Channa would have been developed more."

"So, the live action series has a somewhat different audience?"

"It does. Some people just don't enjoy animation. I think the live action series is the sort that goes for a different audience. They'll get 'sci-fi' fans who may not watch much anime, and 'anime fans' that remember the previous show, and they try to market the show as a drama, you know? To get the people who can't admit to being geeks to watch."

"Seems similar to how people speak of Best of the Best?"

"Yeah, exactly. Hence the young, cute actors. Both shows revolve around the struggles and lives of mecha pilots, and some time ago, that was science fiction, or something the military dealt with and tried to hide from the people as much as possible, but now, it can be more mainstream."

"And their using all the most popular characters from the start?"

"Princess is actually bad ass!" Midii laughed. "Everyone hated her the first season when she just stood around waiting for things to happen and watching the boys go off to fight, but when they made her part of the team, even guys who were into the show liked the idea."

"And it was believable that she had piloting skills?"

"Yeah, because they were already heavily hinting there that her brother was an ace pilot."

"The Mask guy. So, it runs in the family."


"Maybe I will give some episodes a try, from the new show."

Someone touched Heero's shoulder, lightly. He turned his head and saw Sake was there. "Midori has to go to sound check, then come back for his voice acting panel and then he has his show."

"Shizen and I are going back to the table," Midii said.

"I need to get back also."

"I will see you later," Heero promised, "I think Claudia and Johnny were going to go to a massage workshop with me, if I can find Duo."

"Let's move," Johnny said, "I am sure Duo can find us if we move outside the room."

Heero supposed this might be true. He saw fewer chats and photo ops, but now it seemed people were trying to enter for the next panel; something about magical girls.

Heero gave a tug at the leashes. "Come on, boys. Time to find Duo." Koi looked alert and Nu shook off his sleepiness.

Johnny had been correct, Duo found them quickly, once they got outside the room. Duo immediately began showing the girls his recent photos and promised to share them. "Do you want to check out this massage workshop that is starting?" Heero asked him. "There did not seem very much else that was interesting, but Midori's other panel is only a half hour from now, so that is not a lot of time to go do something and get back."

"Yeah, if you want," Duo said easily.

They went along the row of panel and workshops again to the next room. Even going that far was difficult in the crowd. Heero tried to move in a way that very few people touched him and was on guard for seemingly casual touches that might be reaching into the pack on his back. As they were waiting get through the door for How to Shiatsu, Heero heard someone call his name. He wondered for a moment if they meant him, but the voice did sound familiar.

Heero turned and saw Cary was there, apparently trying to avoid being recognized by wearing a cap, glasses and hoodie over his snug jeans and western styled shirt. He looked weirdly American to Heero, like a truck driver going to college or something. He even had a messenger bag hanging from one shoulder.

"Do you mind," Cary asked, "if I go with you?"

"No problem," Heero said. He felt awkward for a moment, knowing he had not thought to go ask Cary his plans after the panel. He had assumed, perhaps, that Cary would not be able to join them. "Umo…we were just going into this workshop, you know, just to see if it is kewl. If it is not, we might just hang out in the hallway."

"Yeah, whatever."

They filed into the room. The layout here was different, having tables and chairs rather than rows of chairs alone, so Heero guessed this was the workshop layout. Chairs only must be for panels. The room was mostly full already and they were only able to find space at the very front and far to the left, which meant craning the neck up or to the side to see the on-screen displays or the workshop leaders.

One of the people at the head table began speaking as soon as they arrived. There was a cursory introduction and then the speaker said that everyone would pair with someone in the room to follow the demonstration and went on using phrases like 'hands-on' and 'ki'.

Heero began to think choosing this workshop was all a bad idea.

"Hey, can I be your partner?" Cary asked, and Heero realized he was asking him. He thought if anyone, he would let Duo touch him. The idea of a room full of untrained massage students doing bodywork on each other disturbed him. There could be injuries. Cary was giving Duo a pleading look, Heero realized.

"Go ahead," Duo said. He seemed somehow amused and Heero could not say if it was something he knew by any supernatural means or from reading the slight body language Duo was expressing. He did not actually see what was amusing, either in the room, or regarding Cary.

"Sure," Heero relented.

Cary looked pleased and then Heero saw, behind him, some kid they did not even know was sort of eyeing Duo to ask if they could team up. No, Heero thought. It cannot happen.

"Sorry, phone!" Duo said and lifted his phone to his ear and then hit a key to dial a stored number. Heero supposed not claiming it had rung meant it was not a lie, but shady as it was, he was glad Duo had turned the kid down.

Most were already standing, chairs pushed away or under the tables; Johnny and Claudia had already moved on to the first exercise, which was apparently to focus ki or attempt to sense if another person focused ki. Rigorous individual training Heero understood, but he was not comfortable with these sorts of group activities.

"She is?" Duo was asking. "Great! Oh, I see her know. That's good timing." He waved his hand overhead.

"It's kinda lame," Cary said, "I don't think I feel anything." He was holding his hands before him as if holding an invisible ball.

Heero looked back and saw Ursula making her way to them through the aisle between tables. He looked to Cary again. "I know what ki is," Heero said, "but…I feel like I am in yoga class. I could do all the poses very well, but Duo understands all this spiritual stuff much better, even if he acts like it is all a joke."

"Ursu-chan! You have to be my partner!" Duo said excitedly.

She giggled demurely as she scooted behind Cary and Heero.

"I'm sorry, that was really familiar. Sake called you that, but I guess you grew up together."

"I am not at work, so please speak in a way that is most comfortable for you, Duo."

"Thanks…Ursula. I didn't want you to think I was being disrespectful. I do, like, respect you."

The speaker was looking for audience volunteers to participate in demo at the front of the room, preferably not in costumes that restricted movement of the body.

"You are almost like family," Ursula said to Duo.

"Very aware of what I am doing hanging around 'Lowe's Boy' all the time."

"But if I were speaking of those relatives, we would both have to be very formal."

The workshop leaders had found their volunteers and now, prefacing their remarks by saying that the room and furnishings were not ideal, asked one partner in each pair be seated, backward in the chair, so their back was exposed, so the other could practice the techniques.

There was instant disorder in the room as everyone began to try to move furnishings within the tight space between tables.

"Who should go first?" Cary asked.

"Sit." Heero was not prepared to allow Cary to massage his body. Koi whined, already seated at Heero's heel. "Good boy," Heero whispered. Nu was lying there and yawned.

Cary laughed, maybe thinking Heero was speaking to him. Heero looked up at the demonstrators. He could see from the corner of his eyes that Duo had been selected as receiving partner, and Claudia as well. Ursula was looking up at the projections on the video screens.

"So. It is not Namikoshi school Shiatsu. This looks like one of the Meridian schools, maybe Zen. Did they mention anything about their background, Duo?"

"Wasn't really paying attention. Do you have some experience with this?"

"If their style is from the Masunaga School, I do know of it. It is one type practiced in the Colonies, but very popular, I am told on Earth, in the West. It uses more concepts of Traditional Chinese Medicine than the Namikoshi school, which aims to be purely physiological."

"My people are xenophilic," Duo warbled.

"As are ours," Ursula said, meaning the Japanese.

Claudia was amused at something, and Heero saw a flash of movement that seemed to be Johnny reprimanding her with a mock smack to the side of her head. Heero turned from the display and saw Claudia was looking to him from the corner of her eyes.

"Je comprends Français," Ursula said quietly, though Heero was not aware that Claudia or Johnny had spoken. Ursula then seemed to ignore Claudia and pressed the balls of her thumbs to Duo's shoulders.

Heero tried to tune out their conversation; something between Duo and Claudia about Claudia being just as guilty as Heero, or anyone else, of exposition. He watched the demonstration and saw how he was supposed to use his thumbs, fingertips, and palms to press upon Cary's body or to draw him into stretches. Even trying not to listen, Heero was still aware of their conversation continuing with Duo reciting lyrics from Lady Marmalade.

Heero was not sure why Ursula and Claudia were being a little cold to each other. He thought he understood females a little, but he knew enough to know his knowledge was incomplete, so he made the conclusion that the awkwardness there must be some girl thing he just could not understand. He wished they would stop, though, because he wished both to be his friends.

He liked Urusla very much, and also relied on their being a friendly relationship between them for certain business purpose. He was glad to see Claudia more often, now. Heero was also very pleased to have met Johnny, and Midori and Cary though him. Heero realized he was being rather awkward with Cary.

Heero looked up at the demonstration and then drew Cary's arm up into a stretch. The cuff of Cary's sleeve touched his cheek. Heero shook his head. Sometimes, he found himself thinking that Cary was not a very smart person, and when they had first met, there had been the knowledge that he had seen Cary naked, but when Heero thought about it, there seemed no reason to be defensive toward Cary. He had never gushed, or asked to many questions about the war or tried to use Japanese when there were no other Japanese people about, which were all things that Heero found annoying in people. Really, Cary had been friendly, reliable, and rather fun. Heero should really have more trust in him.

Mission accepted, Heero told himself. "Tell me if I press too hard," he said at Cary's ear.

Cary laughed softly. "I'll tell ya."

Heero had decided to do his best. He had read about some other forms of massages, and the demonstrations were not very difficult to follow. Heero was not sure that it was possible to sense spirit energy, but he did have to accept that there were things possible that science could not yet adequately explain. He did possess knowledge enough about anatomy and field medicine to know what flesh, muscle and bone should feel like and how it should be placed.

"There is something here. Do you usually carry tension in your arm here?" Heero pressed the tip of his index finger into the inside of Cary's arm.

"It hurts there. Not like you are hurting me, but like you're pressing something there."

"Did you injure yourself working out?" Heero asked.

"Ya know, I might have…yeah; I upped my weights last week."

"I could tell you did training. When you weight train to build muscle it's normal for the muscle fibers to rip."

"Yeah, like how you say 'ripped'."

"Aa. I think maybe there is muscle that is just knotted or tensed from a strain during working out. Do you have someone spot to check your form?"

"When it's a large amount of weight."
"I do not know if I can help," Heero said working his fingers over the tense flesh. "Just be sure your form is correct. Some pain is usual…"

"Can I ask you?"


"I think it feels different, maybe better. There's still something."

"I do not really have much practice at this." Heero lowered Cary's arm and then moved his hands to Cary's right shoulder.

"So, did you do some kind of training? I mean, I've seen you in some other outfits and in photos and I thought you had this great definition, but somehow you look so slim."

"It's just compact."


Heero supposed it was not really classified information, if it had ever been. Most of the people involved were dead. "You know about artificial gravity?"

"Oh, like how if you drop an apple in the Colonies it falls out, not down."

"That's an excellent example!"

"It's not mine. I had to memorize some dialogue about gravity wells and slingshot maneuvers. I only vaguely understand. We shoot on Earth, so the zero-g scenes are all done with wires."

"If something is very massive it warps space so that other objects with mass with be drawn in toward the center…that's a very basic way of putting it. Well, the actual mass of the Colonies is no where near as massive as a planet or even the moon, so to avoid the deterioration and health issues that come with zero-g environments, they simulate the effect of gravity by using centrifugal force."

"That's the water in the bucket thing."

"Exactly. The centrifugal force is created by having the structure spin, so that when one is inside, outward is simulated down."

"And how does that effect muscles?"

"The faster the spin, the more simulated gees. So, if you rig a device with a floor inside, like some amusement park attraction or a giant hamster wheel, and spin it very fast, the person inside can do their workout or exercise with a greater resistance."

"But, if I understand it…wouldn't that be basically the same as lifting more weight."

"Well, it could be, but you do not need to make the spin much faster than usual, just a little. I mean to say, for example, if a growing boy lived in a colony for several years and for much of that time was training and growing in higher than usual artificial gravity, his body would just adapt to that…" Heero was not sure he could explain to Cary. "You've probably heard that if someone from Earth goes to Mars, they seem very strong there, but if they stay on Mars without some high resistance training, they will eventually loose that muscle mass. If someone grew up on Mars and moved to Earth, everything would be difficult for them. They could probably gain strength eventually, but they would have to work hard."

"So…it's like…" Cary made a gesture with his hands, as if holding an invisible ball and then crushing it between his hands into a smaller invisible ball."

"Yes. Dense bone. Dense muscle. The amount of weight or resistance I need just to maintain is more than average people can lift."

Cary twisted to look up at Heero. "So it's really like your whole body. How your heart pumps blood…and everything."

"It is."

"But, you can't have done it for yourself." Cary paused only half a second and continued before Heero could answer. "My Dad really loves hockey! When I was a kid, I remember we used to go to the rink very early in the morning. I learned to skate and play ice hockey. I even picked up a bit of figure skating and stunts skating, but I just didn't like it. So, one time, a little before I was to start high school, I just had it out with him. And, he and I were angry with each other for a while. Then in High School I started wrestling, and I wasn't really the best at it, but I liked it and I was good enough to be on the team and we won against some other schools in the district. And, I remember, this one time, there was some event and my Dad was introducing me to some people in the neighborhood or coworkers or something, and I heard him saying how I had won a match and I was a little embarrassed, but I realized also that my Dad really was proud of me, though he hadn't said it to me. So, that was good, because I could see how he had realized the hockey was for him, not me, but even when I did my thing, he realized he could still be proud of me for that. Oh! But now, I want to learn some martial arts! I think I am really attracted to those kinds of individual contact sports. Adam, he plays Bai, actually knows martial arts, not just the stuff stunt coordinators tell him to do, like Kung Fu and stuff! He's really good at it."

Heero smiled. He liked to think there were people who were proud of him for not being someone's weapon. Maybe Cary was not as smart as someone like Duo, or as cultured as a jet setter like Johnny, but he was really strong in more than one way. "You should try some Tai Chi, or Yoga. Mix in some good stretching exercises to increase flexibility along with muscle."

"Yeah, that's what the guys at work said, about flexibility."

"Not that you are too bulky. You look good, but if you want to try that type of martial arts, it's almost like the build of a gymnast or acrobat."

"Did you do that type of training?"

"Well, not in that traditional way, like Wufei." Heero saw Cary nod to say he was aware of who Wufei was. "It was more the types of fighting moves they teach to police, or army, or defense force."

"…harder," Duo said, and Heero was no longer to tune him out at all. Heero turned his head and saw Duo was looking right at him, his arms folded over the back of his chair, and his left cheek lying on his arms. Heero hardened his gaze to a glare, because he suspected Duo had forced sultriness into his voice to tease him.

"Keep your neck straight," Ursula said and put her right thumb to the base of Duo's skull.

Duo looked forward and dropped his arms.

Ursula swatted at her hair, it had fallen from her ornament again. She made some unladylike curse under her breath. Heero could see Duo was grinning. He had not seen Duo's hands reach up, but he would bet Duo had made Ursula's hair fall loose.

"Do you want to switch, Heero?" Cary asked.

Did he? Other people in the room were doing it. Heero suppose he should just trust Cary. The worst possibly outcome was probably that Cary would not be skilled and he would feel uncomfortable later and need to seek someone who knew how to do proper massage to fix it. He nodded and stepped back, such as he could with the table there, to let Cary up from the table.

"Would you mind working on my back some more, Ursula?" Duo asked, as Claudia and Johnny were also switching places.

Heero straddled the chair Cary had vacated and made his back straight.

"I do not mind…" Ursula said, "I am just not certain I am best for this. I do not know what it means when I feel things." She lowered her voice. "I do not think scars, exactly."

"Ah, don't worry about it! Kept my pretty face and the skins blessedly free of scars, but for Gibson and his brothers, but the scan is a mess. Ya know?"

"Or you are carrying a lot of metabolic waste and toxins."

"Could be. Way too much caffeine lately. I know that! OI, Cary, check out Heero's arms. I shot the right one, but he tore the left one all up on his own."

"Let's not talk about it." Heero planned to call Trowa and warn him off filling in details for Duo, because Heero greatly feared he already had done a bit of it.

"I won't touch, if you do not want me to," Cary said.

"It's all right," Heero said, "I was just…" More concerned for Duo being here. It was true, Heero had tried to blow himself up or die falling from a great height on multiple occasions, and some of those times Duo had been there to see, and other times Duo had only heard about or extrapolated from information he did have. There had really been nothing pleasant about being the one who was so careless with his life, but now Heero understood how it was unpleasant being one who watched him do it.

"That's good," Duo said. "I am going to beg Heero to walk all over me later."

Literally, Heero thought. He lifted his hand and touched the back of Cary's right hand lightly, to let him know he could touch. A moment later, Heero could feel Cary's fingertips against his back, through his sweater and shirt. Cary had strong hands.

For a while, Heero did not really think about anything, just watched the demonstration and was as relaxed. He registered after a little while, that Cary's technique was not exactly what the workshop leaders were demonstrating, and even when he might be applying perpendicular pressure with one hand, the other was rubbing or stroking. Heero found he was not actually bothered. It was, he thought, a bit like having Hilde attempt to rub his back, only on this occasion he was prepared to allow the contact.

Heero glanced to his right. He looked at the other guests giving and receiving massages. He thought he understood then what the purpose of the workshop was. Here there was a large room full of mostly teenaged geeks and otaku with an excuse to touch others; some even had partners they had never met before entering this room. Heero smirked. It was pretty kewl.

He glanced over to his left and saw Duo was looking at him again. Heero was certain he understood why Duo had been amused earlier, when everyone was selecting partners. Duo had understood all along the humor and benefit all along in instructing a room full of people who probably spent most days chatting over the internet about whatever virtual game they were in or whatever video they were downloading that they now had to touch each other. It was good preparation for tonight, when loud dance music would throb through all the halls from Club Bad Apple. Then, they would really let go.

They had promised to support Midori, so they left How-to Shiatsu before the workshop was ended. The guests were moving on to lying on floor and tables to learn how to work on legs and other areas, when they left. The Voice Acting panel was just a few doors down, and they stopped along the way to capture photos of cosplayers and tacky Americans.

Because the panel was popular and they arrived just when it was scheduled to start, they were only able to find seats near the back. Johnny got a seat on the aisle, Heero sat between Claudia and Ursula and Duo sat between Ursula and Cary. They let the dogs sit in the space behind their row.

Midori was very popular of course, for having acted as characters in various Colonial anime series as well as some games and being the lead singer of Maudlin Manic. There were a number of other actors on the panel, and also some directors and a casting agent knowledgeable about the process of voice acting. The panel included a woman who had played many young or effeminate males, a teen actor and former child star who had acted the voices of young male characters similar to his own age, and several other men and women known for various styles of voiceacting.

The panel seemed informative and there were lots of questions and cheering from the fans in the room, but Heero spent most of the time chatting quietly with Claudia and looking at photos in their cameras. The other side of them, Ursula had turned her back to Duo so he could rub her shoulders, while she texted someone through much of the panel. Behind Duo, Cary was doing something to his back. Most of the time Heero was actually not paying attention, but occasionally Duo would make a surprising laugh and Heero would look, just to make sure it was all as innocent as he believed.

When the panel was ended, they approached the head table, as a group, to see Midori. There were other people, girls mostly, trying to get his attention. Overall, Midori was very polite and patient with his fans and he signed a few autographs and agreed to record one voicemail message, before he said he had to get going to change for his show.

"That you Watts-kun?" Midori said, peering beneath the brim of Cary's cap.

"You can just call me Cary," he groaned, "I just wanted to be able to attend some events without being an attraction."

"Maybe given the nature of the event, a costume would have been less conspicuous. You look like you are from Hollywood."

"He is," Johnny said.

"And looks it," Duo said, then patted Cary's shoulder.

"I really do have to go. Will any of you make it to the show?"

"Duo and I are volunteered to watch the tables in the exhibition halls so the girls can attend the concert."

"Well, maybe tomorrow. Just let me know. If you ever want tickets, when we are in the same area, just let me know, I can get you in."

"Ah, I know you have to go, but San Francisco? You going to be around there?"

"We have played there before, usually slip in on the roster for a J-rock festival or something. Pretty big following in the Bay Area. We can talk about it later."

"Thanks, Man!" Duo said.

Midori bowed slightly then turned and waved as he was going. They let the panelists enter and exit through rear doors that led to secure hallways for staff use, or that of guests if certain emergency evacuation plans were in effect.

"Johnny and I were planning on going to the concert tonight, as well," Claudia said.

Heero nodded. "I understand only Duo and I are staying. It is still only Friday. Let's see if we can all share another meal together, as dinner has not worked out."

"Yeah, let Heero and I go get a bite, and then we'll see you all upstairs. You have to wait for Shizen and Sake."

They said their goodbyes in the hallway, outside Panel X. When the others had left, Heero asked Duo if he had any preference on where they got food.

"I've kinda just been wanting to make-out with you."

"I can tell," Heero said, because he had noticed. "You get like this every time we are in a crowd in public. Your libido spikes. You seem to need to make certain everyone knows I am yours."

Duo looked pleased with himself. "Baby, you're mine, and I don't really hear you complaining."

"Merely stating fact. You get like this. There's always a part of me that wants it, but you do know as well as I…"

Duo shrugged and looked half defeated. "At first they will just notice people, and think 'Damn, annoying horny teens, can't they get a room?', and that could turn out embarrassing enough…"

"But then they will look and actually see it is us…"

"Cameras. Oi! We should go to Luna Sea again!"

"Aa," Heero sighed. "Lovely there." Some of it had been annoying and frustrating, but he remembered that time, in the alcove. He had just let go. Amazing was understatement. "Maybe New Years."

There was silence between them for what seemed a long while. Heero realized he was not actually seeing his surroundings, though his eyes were open. He was seeing the Gundam-eye-green lighting in that club. He could almost taste alcohol.

"Damn horny teens," Duo muttered.

Heero did not even care. He leaned in toward Duo, rose onto the balls of his feet, tilted his head and kissed Duo's lips. His entire body instantly felt better than it had a moment before. Heero felt Duo's lips respond, and his fingertips upon his neck.

One more second, and then Heero shut his eyes tight and pushed himself away from Duo. He opened his eyes slowly and looked to one side and then the other, trying to gauge whether there had just been gawkers. "Tease," Duo whispered.

"More like a promise. I had to stop before we went on to performance art and got ourselves thrown out of the Center."

"That'd suddenly be Sphere-wide news!" Duo warbled.

Heero laughed softly. "Let's just go up and suffer the food court until it's time to work."

"Hey was that just?" DUo asked, not even looking at Heero anymore.

"Katir?" Heero asked.

"Where'd he go?"

"Jan would like a photo."

"Nu! Mush. Schnell!" Duo called, and took off without holding the leash. Nu followed instantly in a fast lope.

Heero started walking quickly afterward, swung the pack forward, retrieved the camera and then quickened his pace, Koi dancing around him all the time, wondering what they were supposed to be chasing.

It looked like Duo had caught the cosplayer. He had a breathless, apologetic look upon his face. Heero saw his lips say, "Excuse me, sorry if if startled you."

"Hey!" Heero called as he approached them. "Are you Katir?"

"Oi, you can't say it like that!" Duo argued, over the petit cosplayer. Heero saw it was a girl dressed as the Arabian vampire, as she turned.

Heero grimaced and then tried again, "Umo, excuse me very much. If it is not very much trouble, may I have a photo please?" He bowed.

"Oh! That is so fake polite no one is going to believe it! We are going to have to practice before you meet any other cosplayers!"

"How am I supposed to say it?" Heero yelled.

Duo laughed disarmingly and put himself between Heero and the girl. "Don't mind my partner here. Is it kewl if we take a pic? Our friend really likes Katir."

"No problem. Want me to pose?"

"Oh, you even have the fangs! Kawaii!

The girl straightened her turban over her blond hair and beamed a smile as she posed proudly.

Heero stepped forward with the camera and captured a few shots. As he was checking that the photo had registered correctly in the camera, some other people came up and took pictures of the girl that had posed for him. "What's the etiquette there?" Heero said very quietly.

"I haven't been to any conventions either, but it feels a bit rude," Duo answered.

"Ask her if she's seen a Nada Sin cosplayer. Jan likes Nada, too."

Duo did not speak. In a half-second's time, Heero saw why. There was recognition all over the cosplayer's face. "Hey, you guys are really you! Yeah? You're Heero Yuy and you're Duo Maxwell. You guys were in that magazine, and your dog…"

Please, Powers That May Be, do not let that be the extent of her knowledge of us!

"So, we're busted, huh?" Duo asked in playful tone. "Not going to tell everyone you saw us, are ya? Trying to keep a low profile."

"My cousin said that Relena dropped out of politics because you dumped her…"

"That is not correct!" Heero said sharply.

"Um, listen, we were really happy to get your photo, but you don't even know us, really, so I honestly don't think we have to respond to a statement like that," Duo said diplomatically.

"You cannot 'dump' someone you were never with!" Heero insisted.

The cosplaying girl looked a bit wounded. "Oh."

"Yeah, it's really us. Just attending the Con, like everyone else. There are topics we can be a little sensitive about. The former Minister is our friend, and the fact that she was a political figure, and we were Colonial revolutionaries and infamous pilots seems to make people think it's actual news if we are seen together. We're all just real people, teenagers still, actually, and we're friends. If Heero takes her out to dinner, or we go to a Con, it doesn't really affect world events. It's not news, but somehow it gets printed or on television. I'm just sorry all the Sphere has to suffer all that infotainment crap about us."

"Oh. Sorry."

"So, did you see any Nada Sin cosplayers?" Heero asked directly.

"No, but I saw a Leander and Yukio together in the north pavilion during a Cosplay photo shoot…oh, and I saw a Morpheus attending Teen Movie 101!"

"Morpheus is such a kewl character," Duo said, "We should try to find him. Was it actually a male cosplaying Morpheus?"

"Yes! Not like when someone with an entirely different body type tries to cosplay a character. He was tall, wearing the fishnet top and colorful kilt that you see in the game with tall, buckled boots. No wings, but he looked very convincing."

"Awesome. I'll look out for him. Thanks!" Duo took Heero's left hand and pulled him toward the food court.

"I wonder if that means there is a Julien."


"In the games, Morpheus only wears the kilt of many colors when Julien is there, or in the cut scene with Mika in Sodom."

"I didn't realize you'd become so knowledgeable about the series."

"When you are at school during the week, I have to do something with the break time I give myself."

"So, not just jerkin' off every chance you get?"

Heero smirked. "Entirely different entry on my schedule."

"Countin' on it," Duo said, and laughed warmly. "What do you want to eat?"

"Pizza? It seems relatively safe given the known foodborne illnesses that one can encounter in fast-paced food service establishments."

"I will be trying to eat! Ya know?"

"I need to eat too, that's why I said it."

Duo just shook his head.

They knew that there was pizza available in both the lower and upper food courts, so they went upstairs and then got pizza there. There was time enough to sit for a few minutes before they had to go work. Not enough time to talk, just to fold and eat pizza. Duo somehow found time to suck down most of a fountain soda, before they had to go. Heero had most of a bottled water remaining and planned to take it into the exhibition hall with him.

"I'm going to go find the restroom, before I meet Sake. Don't want to have to go when I'm watching the table."

"I think there are restrooms within the exhibition hall."

Duo took another sip through his straw. "Well, call me if anything comes up, I guess. We can meet up, when the girls come back."

"Ryokai." Heero said. "Do you need anything out of your pack?"

"Just give it to me for now. Take what you need from it."

Heero took his pad. Koi's food was there, but he figured it was best to feed Koi when the girls returned and then take him outside. Duo gave him a little kiss goodbye, then, and left with Nu.

Heero secured his phone and pad on his person and then took the trash from the table to the appropriate waste receptacle. He and Koi went to Hall 3E where Shizen's table was located.

Shizen was alone at the table when Heero arrived. She looked a little different, Heero thought it was that her make-up was freshly done. She greeted him and explained the others were meeting up outside Hall 3B with Sake.

Heero brought Koi behind the table and sat in the vacant Chair, where Midii had worked earlier.

Shizen brought a slim notebook computer from beneath the table and opened it to show Heero her inventory. "It's really easy," she said. "It's a common off the shelf POS system. Your logon is 'Luna1'. If someone comes to buy something, just click here to make a sale, input your logon, input the six digit item code for each item, total, and input how payment is tendered."

"I have no retail experience," Heero said.

"Really, high teen dropouts can do this. You log on, input the items to be sold, total, tender, and then give change if appropriate. The cashbox is not linked to the computer, so you open it manually with the key."

"Only Esdees?"

Shizen passed Heero a key attached to a bracelet of rubber coil. "If you want to make your work simple, tell them only Esdees, but here, we'll do a test sale…" Sake picked up some books from the table and had Heero log in and type their codes into the POS. He brought up the total then went to the tender screen. "See?" Shizen asked. "It has options for conversion to several currencies and for entering various cash and credit cards.

"It is largely data entry."

"The system does all the math, but even if it crashed, and it is not going to crash, you could do the math in your head. I make my prices round numbers."

"I could do the math in my head if the prices all had several decimals."

"Which is why you will have no trouble, Heero." Shizen said. "Actually, I am not certain you will have many sales at all. I have been talking to some other vendors that have worked here before and they say it gets slow in the evenings when many attendees are at dinner and the more popular events, like the concert, are scheduled. Do your best!"

"You can trust in me." Heero snapped the bracelet around his right wrist.

"Extra stock in is in the trunk beneath the table, if anything sells out. If you see that any of my prints are selling out, let me know, because I can go the copy center on this floor and have more done."

"They are not signed and numbered?"

"I signed a few of each, but the ones I am selling to this crowd are not numbered editions." Shizen got up, taking a small purse with her. "And Heero, do not open any graphics file saved as 'Not for Heero', or Duo will kill us both."

"Maim and humiliate only, I am sure," Heero said smartly. Of course this meant Duo's gift for Heero was a commission by Shizen, who was not accepting commissions from the general public.

Heero watched Shizen go. He was probably going to be here for nearly four hours. He decided he should familiarize himself with the merchandise between serving customers, and if that did not quite pass the time, there seemed plenty of reading material in the form of manga Shizen was selling.

Heero invited Koi to use Shizen's chair with a pat on the cushion and then took Shizen's portfolio from the front of the table to look at the prints she was selling. These were mostly fully colored copies of cg art or paintings she had done. Some were characters Heero already recognized, and others were new to him.

He did like her work.

on to chapter 106

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