"Trust me on this, Gunn! We can do it, but I need your help." Jun thumped his closed fist on the table for emphasis and looked earnestly into his loverís eyes.
Gunn looked back at him, struggling to remain impassive to Junís pleas. It was futile, he knew, but it eased the sting of knowing he was so firmly held under Junís thumb if he fought for a bit and then gave in. He heaved a purposefully dramatic sigh and leaned back in his chair, his hands resting on his knee.
"Do you know what your asking of me, of us? If we get caught doing this, itís treason! We get kicked out of the university and sent to a prison in the middle of God-knows-where only to spend the rest of our lives toiling away in some minefield or something!" He flung his hands out and barely missed hitting Harim in the face, who was too busy watching the debate between the two friends to notice.
Jun immediately latched onto the "we". He knew Gunn was loyal to the small, tight-knit group of five. If the other four stood firm with their decision, Gunn would support them. It was all or nothing. He smiled sadly, shook his head, "And if we donít do this? Live for the rest of our lives under the rule of some obnoxious, blood-thirsty government? Forced to do what they want, when they want? You know thatís no kind of life for anyone to lead. Help us, please." He barely managed to reign in a triumphant shout when Gunn nodded slowly.
Jun got up from his chair and walked across the table to wrap his arms around his lover from behind. He pressed a kiss behind Gunnís ear, loving the way he shivered in response and leaned back against him,
"Thank you, love. You wonít regret it!" He straightened and grabbed his notes to put up onto the board for the other four to study, not noticing the worried glance Gunn kept slanting his way.
Gunn tiredly closed his eyes for a blissful second and pictured Junís excited, gratified expression when he had agreed. I hope so, my love. I hope so.
~~~~~ Two Years Later ~~~~~
"There are too many unknown variables, not enough test runs. We need more time. Just a little." ZhiJuan thrust a handful of papers with graphs and equations into Junís face and almost growled when they are pushed aside.
"Donít be stupid, Jun!" Mild-mannered Harim slapped his hand over his mouth in astonishment after he voiced the insult. He glanced up at Jun and sighed in relief when no sign of anger cam from the much-larger man.
"Itís not ready yet! Just give it a few more months." Stefan glared at Jun and crossed his arms belligerently over his chest, glaring at him as if daring him to go. His jaw nearly droped when Jun merely brushed past him and continued on his way.
Ignoring the others practically begging Jun to rethink his decision, Gunn watched him silently from behind the wall of three, a pair of goggles held in one hand. Donít ask him to stay, donít ask him to stay, donít ask him to stay! Gunn tried to stop the voice screaming in his head as Jun stopped directly in front of him. His gaze dropped to the goggles in Gunnís hand and he raised an dark eyebrow in question.
Donít ask him to sta- "Goggles," he said in answer to the unasked question, "We donít know how well the gundanium will hold against heat so these will help protect your eyes." he kept his voice brisk, impersonal, thinking Jun wouldnít want the emotional man hidden beneath the cool exterior. No, Jun was never one for messy, emotional scenes.
The other three men silently fell back in defeat as Gunn and Junn walked side-by-side to where the Gundam lay waiting. Gunn eyed it silently. Gundam Wing 00, the most magnificent creation he had ever been a part of. And the only creation he wished he had never been a part of. It wasnít ready. He knew it and so did Jun. But Jun was stubborn and this was the test date they had set two years ago. Always one to follow a schedule religiously, Jun refused to admit that he had been wrong in his calculations. Instead, he was risking everything they had worked for, everything they had dreamed of for the sake of his pride.
It burned inside Gunn, made him see flaming red instead of the resplendent machine resting before him. He hated himself for needing Jun to stay safe, protected, where he could watch over him and he hated Jun for needing to maintain an image of perfection and strength in front of the four men closest to him.
They stopped together before the newly-christened "gundam" and turned to face one another. Gunn silently held out the goggles and studiously ignored the fact that his hand was clearly trembling. Unlike him, he thought grimly, Jun didnít have the manners nor wanted to take the time to pretend Gunn was feeling perfectly fine.
Junn clasped his trembling hand in both of his and waited patiently for Gunn to meet his gaze. "Iíll be fine, you know. You shouldnít worry so much or youíll go gray before your time. And then where will we be? You, a gray mushroom head and me, a crazed scientist." Gunn nodded, waited for the catch in his throat to disappear before speaking.
"Iím not worried about you, you conceited asshole, Iím worried about the gundam. Go easy on the poor thing, itís still a baby and while youíre at it, make sure to test the communications chip, Harim wasnít sure it was complete before he installed it. And-" he was cut off by Junís mouth closing over his and his eyes slid closed as his arms wrapped around Junís neck. He pressed his body against his loverís, savoring the kiss as if it was their last, putting all the words and emotions he couldnít express into it.
Jun pulled away and pressed his forehead against Gunnís, his breathing hard and erratic. "Ask me to stay, Gunn. Do it and I will." Gunn squeezed his eyes shut and pressed down on the sense of relief he felt. It didnít last long. He knew Jun, knew that if he asked him to stay it would effectively destroy their relationship because he had put it before their work. It was selfish and wrong and he knew it. Their work was more important to Jun than anything. It meant freeing the people of the colonies, saving the universe from tyranny.
Love took the back burner against freedom.
Slowly, Gunn pulled away and pressed the goggles into Junís hand. Stay. They locked eyes and he shook his head, dying inside but knowing it was the right thing to do. Junís head jerked once in a nod of acknowledgment and he turned from Gunn to climb up the rope ladder and into the cockpit. Stay. When the ladder dropped to the ground, Gunn picked it up and turned and walked away. God! Why didnít you stay? But he already knew the answer. He hadnít asked him to.
He was already back with the other three men at the base of the field when the verniers fired up and the gundam took off. He couldnít tear his gaze from it as it flew towards the sky.
A crackle broke through the awe that held the four men silent and they all whirled towards the communications set-up.
"Houston, we have lift-off." Junís voice sounded stifled and far away.
"You know, Jun, youíre lucky weíre the ones here right now, because no one else would have gotten that joke." Stefan chuckled at his own joke.
Harim was all business, however, and rapidly fired off questions about the cockpit and the take-off. Jun answered each one calmly and informed them he was turning back to the field.
The four all heaved sighs of relief and turned to watch the direction he was coming from when an alarm started to go off.
Gunn grabbed the mic, "Jun! What the hell is going on?"
Junís voice was panicked when it came through the speakers, "I have Alliance soldiers coming up from behind! Theyíre getting ready to fire-!" his voice was cut off and Gunn whirled towards the direction he was supposed to be returning from. He grabbed binoculars and motioned for the others to do so.
He watched in horror as mobile suits of the Alliance swarmed around Wing Gundam 00, forcibly bit back a cry of alarm when the gundam went down. Bile rose in his throat and he forced it back down by sheer will.
"Houston..." a hacking cough followed it and Gunn jerked his gaze from the field to the mic, "Get out of there, Gunn. Split up like we planned. Hurry!" The other three were already packing equipment and heading towards the vans waiting.
Gunn jerked his head, wilidly, them remembered Jun couldnít see it and grabbed the mic, "Dammit, Jun, where are you? Iím not leaving without you! Tell me where to meet you and I will!"
"Fuck it, Gunn! Get out of there! Theyíre coming and the gundam couldnít hold them off! Iím down for the count but youíre not! You can still get out of there!"
Tears pricked Gunnís eyes, "No, we canít leave you! I love you, dammit! Itís not supposed to happen like this!"
Junís voice was raspy and pain-filled, "Iím wounded, love. Leave me here so you can get out! Do it! Please, if you love me, then live!" A loud explosion rocked the field and the mic was torn from Gunnís frantic grip by Harim.
Gunn grasped for it and cried out frantically, "Harim! What are you doing? Junís lying out there, heís hurt! We canít leave him! What happened to all or nothing! We canít leave him there! We canít!" Stefan grabbed Gunnís slender body and flung him over his shoulder. In a dead run, the three raced to the vans and Stefan threw Gunn into the passenger side of one. Harim and ZhiJian entered the other and drove away in a flurry of gravel.
Stefan jumped into the driverís seat and, ignoring Gunnís frantic cries, drove off in the opposite direction.
Back in the field, the smoldering gundam was slowly hacked to pieces before finding the cockpit and the wounded scientist hidden inside. As he was dragged from the cockpit, Jun lifted one bloody hand and hit a little red switch. The force of the blast threw everyone to the ground and gave the two vans enough time to drive safely off into the distance.
In the middle of an underground base located directly behind the university, Junís head lolled back against the chair as the man slammed his fist into his jaw. Mangled and, Jun was sure, with little pieces of his body littering the floor, he slipped gratefully into unconsciousness.
Three days later, four men stood in the airport, each with bags and passports in hand as they said their goodbyes.
Soon there were only two men waiting for their planes to be called and they sat in the waiting area, uneasily.
Harim looked at Gunn, noting the haggard features, the bruised eyes. "Where will you go, Gunn?" He nearly gasped when Gunn raised ravaged, pain-filled eyes to meet his.
"The L2 cluster. Itís easy to get lost there." his voice was emotionless, hollow, "and yourself?"
Harim looked down at his ticket, uncertainly, "L4. The Winner family opposes the Alliance. Theyíll take me in, grant me asylum."
Gunn nodded vaguely and stood to go as his plane was called. He turned one last time to Harim, "How are you going to build your gundam?"
Harim understood and stood, also. "With a soul."
Gunnís gaze dropped to the floor, "And if youíve lost your soul, what then?"
Harimís eyes darkened in understanding, "Emotions, Gunn. Follow your emotions."
Gunn nodded once again, this time in goodbye, and walked out of sight.
Gunn walked into the abandoned warehouse and looked around him. It would do just fine for his lab. He looked down at the plans he had drawn on the plane. He didnít feel proud or excited. He didnít feel anything.
Empty, thatís what I am. Harim says to follow my emotions. I only know of one other thing that is empty.