Chapter 28

 

Changing Allegiance

Chapter 28


Dorothy Catalonia sighed and threw herself onto her bed. Her grandfather had ranted for nearly an hour, and she'd though she'd never get him off the vidphone. The only *good* thing to come out of the 'conversation' was that she now *knew* Treize was alive.

**Of course, I have no idea where he is, or how to get in touch with him,** she thought sourly. **I can't raise Zechs. I can't raise Lady Une... Even if I *had* information for them, I couldn't pass it on. *All* of their people seem to have vanished...**

The vidphone on her desk beeped, and the blonde cursed, jumping to her feet and hitting the 'accept' button. Her eyes widened as she watched it scroll through a short series of commands -

** Rerouting to circuit X4SK3 **

** Bypassing main server **

** Beginning decryption - Enter code: **

Dorothy quickly entered her private passcode and sat heavily in her chair. The screen fuzzed out, then Treize's image appeared.

"Good evening, Doro," he said, smiling wryly at his cousin.

"Dammit, Treize," she replied, frowning, "you could have let me know that you were alive sooner than this! If it weren't for Grandfather's inane babbling about your 'ghost' blowing up his base, I would still be under the impression you were dead and buried!" As she paused for air, Dorothy found she was no longer able to hide a small smile of relief. Knowing Treize was alive wasn't the same as *seeing* it with her own eyes. "I knew you couldn't be dead, though," she added quietly.

"I *am* sorry, Doro. This is the first chance I've had since I got out of Dermail's proverbial dungeon," he said, running a hand through his hair. "It's been a very hectic and stressful couple of weeks."

"Tell me what's going on, please," the girl said, voice rising. "Are Lady Une and Zechs with you? Are you all right? What happened?"

Treize raised his hand to stop her. "Lady Une and Zechs are fine. I won't give you details right now, but we've joined up with a rebel group led by a former Alliance officer named Sally Po, and teamed up with the Gundam pilots..."

"The *Gundam pilots*?" Dorothy exclaimed. "You're serious? And you're still alive?" At his nod she shook her head, grinning. "I have to hear *that* story at some point. But we don't have time now. We've only got another seven minutes before this call can be traced. I don't really have any earth shattering information for you. Grandfather was at his Boston house, until something happened which he wouldn't explain. I know it ended up destroyed. He's now gone to Montreal..."

"What happened is Barton arrived with my daughter... My daughter that I didn't know I had!" Treize growled, and Dorothy's jaw dropped in surprise. "Heero Yuy and Trowa Barton retrieved her for me, then Duo Maxwell, Quatre Winner and a few others went back and blew the house up."

Attempting to regain her composure, she took a deep breath. "I'm sorry, Treize. I didn't know. No one told me..."

"It's all right. Marie is safe with us now. She's quite..." he looked at his watch and grimaced. "We're running out of time. I need you to do something for me."

"Anything, you know that."

"Can you, somehow, get to the Sanc Kingdom and get into the confidence of Relena Peacecraft? Without losing your cover with your grandfather? We'll still need whatever information you can give us on that front, but Relena... well, anything you can do - information, ideas - that will help her keep Sanc safe, and *neutral*..."

"I think I can manage that. Grandfather wants Sanc..." One forked eyebrow rose and Dorothy smirked. "If he thinks I'm there to subvert her and her country..."

"Excellent, Doro. I knew I could count on you. Get there as soon as you can, please. Another former OZ officer is acting as Relena's bodyguard – Lieutenant Lucretzia Noin. She can fill you in on much of what has happened."

Dorothy nodded. "It should only take a few days. Is there anything you need before we disconnect?"

"I can't think of anything, unless you know Dermail's plans, or where that dog Tuberov is."

Dorothy frowned. "I don't know Grandfather's plans. I think your being alive and blowing up his bases and house have thrown a lot of the plans out the window. If I hear anything, how do I tell you?"

"I've just uploaded contact information to your personal computer. Once it's been opened, it wipes itself from the memory after three minutes."

"Right." She looked at her watch. "One minute, thirty seconds, Treize. You take care, and say hello to Zechs and Lady Une for me... and Tuberov is in a heavily fortified research and assembly station just outside Nairobi."

"Thank you, Doro," Treize said quickly. "Take care and we'll talk soon."

The screen fuzzed as her cousin cut the connection on his end. Turning off her vidphone, Dorothy leaned back and tapped a fingernail against her chin.

**Now... how to convince Grandfather...**

~*~

Treize wandered down the hall to his room, stopping in front of the conference room when he noticed the light. Hearing voices he knocked and walked in, smiling when Sally and Farley raised their heads from the files they were pouring over.

"It's a bit late, isn't it, Sally?" he asked, walking to the table and taking a seat beside her.

"I could say the same to you, Treize," she replied, rubbing her eyes. "Why aren't you asleep?"

The ex-general shrugged nonchalantly, brushing a non-existent piece of lint from his fatigue shirt. "Oh, no special reason. I just had a very short but informative chat with Doro..."

"Treize..." Sally growled in frustration.

"Fine, spoil my fun," he mock-pouted, then his lips turned up into a smirk. "Doro says she can probably be with Relena in a few days, Dermail has gone to Montreal, and that dog Tuberov is in a heavily fortified research facility outside of - "

"Nairobi!" Sally finished for him. "We got that from these files. We also have quite a bit of information about the 'Enforcer Programme', including some of the genetic manipulations done on the subjects."

"Heero?"

The woman nodded. "If our calculations are correct, these files all deal with the time after Heero was supposedly terminated. He's not mentioned by name, code-name or anything else that we can tell, but I want to do a few tests on him. Some of the procedures mentioned have some serious side-effects. According to the files, they've 'lost' quite a few of the test subjects over the last few years. Not to mention resulting blindness, deafness, insanity..."

Treize frowned and thought a moment. "Sally, you say these files only go back a few years, yet Heero has been out of the 'programme' the whole time, correct?"

"As far as we can tell, yes."

"And these 'side effects' have already shown up in their current subjects?"

"Again, yes."

"Hmmm. If he were going to suffer from these 'side effects', wouldn't he already have shown signs?" Treize asked.

"I don't know," Sally said, sighing in frustration. "Since we don't know what was actually done to him, I can't make that judgement. That's why I need to do the tests! To be sure! To be sure that ten years from now he's not blind or dead..."

"Easy, Sally. I'm not arguing with you. I'm just saying it's not something that has to be done immediately. It can wait a day or two, no?"

"I hate it when you're right, Treize."

"Yes, well, I haven't been 'right' very much in the past, have I? I guess I'm making up for it."

He stood, reached over and closed the file in front of her, then pulled her to her feet. "Let's get some sleep, and go over this with everyone in the morning. There's nothing we can do tonight, about either Heero or Tuberov. Might as well start again fresh, in the morning."

He steered the mildly-protesting doctor towards the door and threw over his shoulder, "That goes for you, too, Farley. Sleep, now!"

~*~

"Duo, wake up, Koi."

Duo shifted slightly and wrinkled his nose, eyes opening slightly. "H'ro? Time?" he muttered sleepily, trying to focus on the dark shadow of his lover.

"It's five a.m., Duo," Heero replied, turning on the small reading light beside the bed.

The braided teen blinked as the room brightened slightly, then pulled himself up so he could lean back against the headboard of the bed.

"Heero, what is so important that you're awake at five in the morning, on a day there are no missions, no meetings and when the mess hall doesn't even serve breakfast for another hour?"

"I... I just..." the Japanese teen stuttered slightly, then dropped his head to his lover's chest. "Gomen... gomen nasai! Ai shiteru! Zettai, kokoro wo itameru tsumori ja nakatta... yurushite kure! [1]

Duo's eyes widened in surprise, and he raised his hand absently to stroke through Heero's hair. **He only lapses into that much Japanese when he feels he can't express himself in English,** he thought, automatically picking out the words he recognised. **'Sorry', 'I love you', 'Please forgive'... what does he... Oh, God, we are so messed up!**

"Heero?"

Heero continued to murmur into his chest, the Japanese phrases too muffled and too quick for Duo to catch. He cupped his lover's cheeks with both hands and raised the other teen's face.

"Heero, look at me," he said softly, smiling as Heero's eyes met his own. "It's all right... *we're* all right now."

"But it's not," the Japanese teen replied sadly, returning to English. "I was so angry! Not at you! At them - never at you! But I got so caught up... I made you think it was your fault. I made you think I didn't want you. I went off, totally wrapped up in my own past pain, without a thought to your reaction! I didn't even think about your feelings!"

He threw his arms around the other boy and squeezed tight. "I would never trade your life!" he vowed vehemently. "Not for anything! I love you! You're mine!"

Duo returned the tight embrace for a few moments, closing his eyes to fight off tears, then pushed his lover back slightly. "I know that, Heero," he said quietly, staring into the other teen's eyes. "I knew, in my heart, that you loved me and you didn't really blame me. I knew, in my heart, that you wouldn't leave me. But instead of listening to my heart, I listened to my head and let my own insecurities control things. I should have had more faith."

"No," Heero argued, "it's my fault. I *should* have considered your feelings! You're my best friend, my partner, my lover... my *love*! I should -"

"If you're going to blame yourself for being human and letting your emotions control you," Duo cut in, "I demand to take my share of the blame. I didn't exactly consider your feelings or opinions when I went off half-cocked on that 'seek and destroy Barton' idiocy. I did the same as you, the only difference being that you were unconscious when I had my shit-fit and left!"

"But you did that *for* me!"

Duo sighed and leaned his head back against the headboard. "Yes, and no, Heero. Most of it was my anger that someone did that to you, yes. But a part of me... A part of me saw Barton as every one of the perverts and predators on L2. I let *my* past take control, and I think the need to avenge you turned into a need for revenge for every beaten, raped and abused street kid... for the murdered whores, for the starving kids... for my 'friends'. I gave in to the dark side of the Force, you might say."

The braided teen smiled wryly, then sighed and continued. "So, I guess I'm trying to say that I understand where you're coming from and what happened. Let's make a deal - we share the blame. You *shouldn't* have shut me out like that, but I *should* have realised the problem and had the faith in you that you'd eventually think it through and *get your head out of your ass* as Wufei so elegantly put it."

He waited patiently while he watched Heero digest this new information, then smiled as the Japanese teen nodded sharply and relaxed slightly, leaning back beside him. They sat in silence, just holding hands, for a few minutes, then:

"Duo?"

"Yes, Heero?"

"We're okay, now, right?"

"Yes, Heero. I think we're okay."

"Good," Heero sighed. "Can I interest you in a shower, then a breakfast date at the mess hall?"

"I thought you'd never ask..."

~*~

"Howard is planning to take Tallgeese and Sandrock offline first. They need the most urgent upgrades, in his opinion," Wufei said, holding the tent door open for Une, Walker and Zechs. "Then Heavyarms and Shenlong... Well, well... I see things are back to normal on *that* front, thank Nataku. Though I didn't expect to see them this early..."

His three companions followed his gaze to a long table situated near the serving tables and a large pot-bellied stove warming the mess tent. Duo and Heero were seated, heads together, hands wrapped around mugs of coffee, talking quietly.

Une sighed and stalked over to the table, the others following her. "Duo Maxwell -"

Duo's head snapped up and he grinned at her. "Don't get your knickers in a twist, Mom. The evil witch doctor gave me permission to be out of bed as long as I 'don't do anything physical and just supervise'."

Une raised an eyebrow, ignoring the three snickering males behind her and the smirking Heero beside Duo, then surprised everyone.

"Well, at least you have enough brain cells to bundle up, 'Son'," she retorted, nodding to the overly large and bulky parka the boy was wearing.

"Only because I happened to catch them on their way out of the infirmary," Sally snorted, coming up behind the two at the table with a cup of coffee. "He *was* only wearing a couple of sweaters."

Her free hand lightly smacked the braided teen in the back of the head before taking a seat. "And I *heard* that 'witch doctor' comment, Duo." Her attention moved to Wufei and Zechs, and she smirked. "Gentlemen, if you're attempting to catch flies for breakfast, you're going to have a long wait."

Une looked over her shoulder at the two gaping men, staring at her like she had two heads, and burst into laughter, nearly falling into the chair as she sat down.

Walker chuckled and poked them. "Bet you didn't think she had it in her," he snickered, and moved to the serving tables to grab a pot of coffee and some mugs.

Zechs and Wufei quickly recovered their composure and joined the four at the table.

Duo blinked at Une, whimpered and lightly banged his head on the table.

"Heero, save me. I've died and gone to hell. The evil women are ganging up on me... Injustice!"

"Baka," his lover replied, joining the women in their snickering, "now you sound like Wufei."

"Yuy! Not nice!"

~*~

"Uncle Heero!" Marie's voice echoed across the mess hall as she bolted to the table, followed by Treize, Quatre and Trowa. "Uncle Heero, why is Uncle Duo banging his head?"

Duo stopped, just resting his head on his arm. "Because I'm a baka, Cricket," he said, voice slightly muffled by the sleeve of his coat.

"What's a 'baka'?" she asked, tipping her head to the side and looking at Heero.

"Baka means idiot, Marie," Quatre supplied, setting her in a chair as the newcomers found their own. "Duo was probably being silly again. Heero always calls him 'baka' when he's silly."

He leaned down conspiratorially and mock whispered in her ear. "I think he uses it because he really, really likes Duo. He likes it when Duo is silly. Heero likes to tease Duo, so calls him 'baka'."

"Uncle Heero, is Uncle Quatre right?" she asked seriously. "Do you really, really like Uncle Duo?"

Heero blushed, but nodded. "Yes, Marie, I really, really like your Uncle Duo."

The little girl stood on her chair, leaned over the table, and whispered loudly, "Maybe you should kiss him then. My nanny said she really liked the butler lots when I asked why she kissed him on the cheek. She said that's what grown ups do when they really, really like each other," she finished, nodding firmly.

Heero winced mentally and glanced at the people around the table. Treize was staring in horrified fascination at his daughter, Wufei and Zechs were snickering, obviously trying not to laugh out loud. Une and Sally had no such restraint and were leaning on each other giggling madly. Trowa was smirking and Quatre had a smug smile on his face. He turned to Duo and his breath caught at the blue-violet eyes shining wickedly at him.

"Yeah, Heero," his braided lover purred, "you heard the Cricket. Kiss me."

Trapped by those eyes, Heero leaned over and pressed a soft, tender kiss to Duo's cheek, lingering long enough to whisper, "I love you".

Duo's eyes widened and he turned to capture Heero's lips with his own.

The table fell silent - Quatre and Wufei beamed at the two boys, who frankly weren't paying attention to anyone else. Treize was torn between shock that the two were suddenly so open about their relationship and horror that his daughter would find out like this, Sally and Une were wearing fond looks and wide smiles, Zechs was trying vainly not to laugh, and Trowa was simply smirking.

Marie watched the two with wide eyes and a small smile, finally breaking the silence with a giggle. "Wow! You kissed him on the lips! I didn't know boys did *that*! Papa, is it all right for boys to kiss on the lips?" she asked, turning to her father with trust in her eyes.

Treize fidgeted under her gaze. "Ah, well... you see Marie - "

Sally cleared her throat, trying not to laugh even harder, which was difficult, with Une giggling in her ear. "Sweetheart, as long as people love each other, it's always all right."

"Oh!" Marie said brightly. "Uncle Duo and Uncle Heero don't really like each other then. They love each other. I get it! When you like someone, you kiss on the cheek. When you love someone, you kiss on the lips, right?"

Treize dropped his head in his hand in defeat. Zechs reached over and rubbed his lover's back and replied for him.

"Yes, Marie, that's a good way to explain it."

"Well, did I miss anything?" Walker said, placing the coffee and mugs on the table and staring at the giggling Une.

Une smiled up at her boyfriend. "Marie was just explaining to us how grown ups are supposed to kiss when they really like each other, as opposed to when they *love* each other," she said impishly.

Walker's eyes twinkled. "You mean, like this?" he said, leaning down and placing a firm kiss on her lips before she could respond.

Marie giggled again. "Look! Walker loves the lady!"

~*~

Later that afternoon, Treize, Sally and Quatre leaned over the table and the various intelligence reports and photos they'd gathered. The blond teen pointed at a particular photograph. "Right there - you see it? They know they're a target. Heavy fortifications, heat blooms in several locations - probably suits… And damned if the place isn't in a residential neighbourhood."

Sally shook her head. "We can't risk all the casualties, you know. If even one explosive is set wrong, the innocents…"

"Noted," Treize intoned. He rubbed his temples. "That stinking bastard is hiding behind his machines and a city full of civilians. The coward." He slammed a fist onto the table.

Quatre sighed. "One or two of us could go in there and attempt an attack, but even then we can't guarantee success without significant risk to the city. I agree with Sally - civilian losses are not acceptable."

Treize sat back from the table, chewing his lip as he twirled a pen through his fingers. "That wouldn't be acceptable, anyway. Tuberov is mine. The rest of you can deal with the base and those dolls however you want, but he is going to die by my hands."

Sally raised a hand for silence. "Let's step back from it for a moment, okay? I think we all realize that a conventional attack isn't going to work, at least in a way we can accept. What other options should we consider?"

Quatre steepled his fingers on the table. "Heero or I could go in on stealth, though I have to admit that explosives aren't my speciality… but either of us could go in with you and blow it from the inside."

"Neither of you are the explosives and stealth experts of your group, though," Sally said. "We really need Duo or Trow…"

"Out of the question!" Quatre said. He pushed back from the table. "They aren't mission ready, neither of them. Not yet."

Sally shook her head. "Quatre, I don't like it either. And I won't clear Trowa to go for at least another week. Duo, though…"

Quatre stood abruptly. "You didn't see what happened on the last mission, Sally. I don't think it is a good idea."

"Quatre", Treize cut in, "we don't really have that long. And we need Duo's stealth. He was alright on that last *mission*. Would he be able to handle this in three days?"

Quatre hung his head, unable to give an answer.

Sally sighed, knowing Treize was right. "I'll let him go, providing we take all precautions possible... and Wufei goes with you. You two are NOT going alone. Wufei knows explosives, almost as well as Duo."

Quatre looked up. "If Heero and Duo can accept it, then I will, too. I don't like it, but I don't have to."

"You are unfortunately correct, Quatre," Treize said. He rose from his seat and walked over to put what he hoped was a comforting hand on the teen's shoulder. "I won't let anything happen to either of them, I swear it."

Quatre stared up at the taller man for a long moment before he nodded. "I know."

Treize nodded back at the blond teen, then looked at Sally. "Well, shall we break this to the others, then?"

TBC

NOTES:

[1] 'I'm sorry... so sorry... I love you... I never intended to hurt you... please forgive me!'

'kokoro wo itameru' doesn't flow good in English, but, it's pretty close to 'cause pain to (your) heart' the 'zettai' is 'complete' or 'never'... more
like 'absolutely' really
kokoro = heart
itameru = cause hurt
tsumori = intention, and the rest makes it past tense.
yurushite kure = fairly intense way of saying 'forgive me!' Makes it obvious he regards the forgiveness as, mmm, a favour from someone above him.

On to Chapter 29

Back to Preventers' HQ



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