Marie stalked down the empty corridor of the infirmary, a small pout on her face, colouring book and crayons grasped tightly in her hands.
She had been good, hadn't she? She did just what Aunt Sally had asked at breakfast and let her papa, Uncle Wufei and Uncle Duo sleep. As much as she wanted to see them, she hadn't run to their rooms and jumped on them, had she? She'd gone to the morning lessons Uncle Quatre's friend was giving her, then fixed Tallgeese with Grandpa Howard until lunch-time.
She'd watched for her papa while she ate her sandwich, but he didn't come. Uncle Quatre and Uncle Trowa came to eat with her, but none of her other uncles had, either. They had said her papa, Uncle 'Fei and Uncle Duo were very tired, and that Uncle Zechs and Uncle Heero were taking care of them, but she was getting tired of waiting...
Hurrying to her papa's bedroom, she stared at the closed door for a long moment, then stretched out on the floor in front of it. Glancing down the hall, she could see the door to Uncle Heero and Uncle Duo's room. Somebody had to wake up soon, right? And if not, she'd just have to wake them up. They would have to eat supper, wouldn't they?
Sighing, she opened her colouring book, choose a few crayons, and settled down to wait just a little longer.
Sally walked into the large conference and looked at the seven people seated around the table. Quatre and Trowa had their heads together, murmuring quietly, the blond jotting notes on a piece of paper. Rashid stood over them, making occasional comments. Across the table, Une and Johann were also conversing and making lists. Howard was pouring over Gundam schematics, while Jason also appeared to be studying something.
The blonde doctor took a seat, and everyone's attention was drawn to her.
"While I realise we are missing some vital people, we should see where we stand right now," she said, organising a stack of paper in front of her. "We can take notes and brief the others later, before the conference call with the group in Sanc."
"I'll take them," Trowa said, pulling out some blank paper. "And, actually, I'm glad we're short a few people. Quatre and I want to make a proposal concerning a subject that is disturbing to one of our team. Quatre?"
The blond pilot took up where his lover left off. "We're hoping you're continuing a search for any other 'experiments' like Bravo..." At Sally's nod, he continued. "If you do find anything, we'd prefer you bring it to Trowa or myself. In turn, we'll give it to Rashid."
"My men and I will undertake any missions to free them," Rashid said, taking the floor. "With Master Farley's research, our doctors will be able to give them the care they need... And Master Heero will not need to be involved."
"Good," Howard said sharply. "That boy has more than enough to handle. He already feels guilty about what's happened. Too much more on his shoulders and he's gonna break." The engineer stared shrewdly at the Manguanac leader. "My Sweepers will help you if you need them."
"Thank you, Howard," Quatre said sincerely. "Heero's feelings are one major concern, and reason for our proposal. There is, however, an even more serious concern. If he were to go on another rescue mission, and, Allah forbid, be captured..."
Une hissed vehemently. "If Dekim were to get his hands on Heero..." She looked at Sally.
"If that were to happen," the doctor said with a small sigh, "there's no telling what the result would be. And personally, I don't want to find out."
"From what I've been able to gather, there is the possibility, that with enough drugs and conditioning, Heero could become like Bravo," Jason said quietly. "Note, I said could. I honestly believe he is strong-willed enough to resist re-conditioning, but I wouldn't want to see my worst enemy go through that, much less Heero." The young man ran a hand over his face. "And anyone can break..." he said quietly, looking at each person in turn. "I've got to agree with Quatre. Let's not take any chances."
Everyone at the table nodded, and Sally cleared her throat uncomfortably. "Right. Any more rescue attempts will be handled by the Manguanacs and the Sweepers. And under no circumstances will Heero be involved in the actual, physical mission. Even if I have to tranquillise him and chain him to a bed..."
"I doubt Duo would complain about Heero chained to a bed..." Trowa said with a smirk.
Everyone chuckled, and the heavy atmosphere lifted slightly, as the Heavyarms pilot had intended.
"Next order of business," Une said when her chuckles had subsided. "I've made contact with a few more of my people..."
Wufei opened his eyes slowly and blinked up at a white ceiling. He smiled it was warm and comfortable, with his two lovers-
The Chinese teen groaned as he attempted to move. Amendment he was comfortable as long as he didn't try to move too much or too quickly. He didn't know how he was going to manage sitting or walking properly
The groan ended in a smile. As sore as he was, he felt wonderful!
"Mmmm morning, Fei," Zechs crooned into his right ear. A strong arm wrapped itself around his waist, and Wufei felt the blond pressed against his backside, thrusting against him suggestively.
"Afternoon, I think, love," Wufei replied, pulling Zechs' hand to his lips to plant a kiss in his palm. "Missed you."
On his far side, Treize cracked open an eye. "Afternoon, already? Damn." He, too, snaked an arm around Wufei, and leaned forward to kiss the Chinese teen drowsily. His nose wrinkled a moment later, though. "We smell like a harem."
Zechs chuckled into Wufei's hair. "And this is surprising to you how? I'll be shocked if any of us can walk straight "
"Tell me about it," Wufei groaned into Treize's broad chest, smiling, nonetheless.
Reaching over the Chinese teen, Treize stroked a long strand of Zechs' hair back out of his face tenderly. "Shower? I can't imagine Une or Sally will allow us to hide in here much longer."
Both men smiled and stood, but Wufei groaned and pulled the blanket tighter over his shoulders. "I don't think I can move."
"Very well," Zechs purred, his eyes glinting. "Then allow me." He scooped the Chinese teen into his arms and followed an enticingly-naked Treize into the adjoining bathroom.
Marie turned the page, ready to start colouring the next image, when she thought she heard voices. Cocking her head, she listened hard.
When she heard nothing more, she sighed and took up the green crayon. She'd give them until she finished this page...
A short while later, she heard the voices again.
The meeting broke up and Sally checked her watch.
"1500 hours and they're still in their rooms," she murmured. "They need food. I need to check them over. The conference call is set for 2000 hours..."
"You know, Doc, talking to yourself is a sure sign of senility," Howard said behind her, voice amused. "I should know. I do it all the time and everyone says I'm senile."
Sally spun around and smiled at the Sweeper. "Well, at least I'm in good company, then," she quipped, threading her arm through his. "Do you have any ideas on how to get Duo out of their room for his check-up that doesn't result in my death or dismemberment?"
"I can think of a few ways. However, he is in there with Heero, and that's the boy to worry about. I wouldn't suggest a bucket of ice water, that's for sure. What about just knocking?"
"I was really hoping for something a tad bit more fun, Howard," Sally said, mock-reproachfully.
"Well, it's your funeral," Howard said with a grin as they stopped at her office. "And I need to go finish Heavyarms so I can take Deathscythe off-line. See you at dinner?"
Sally released his arm and chuckled. "If I'm still alive..."
Duo shifted as he drifted towards consciousness, then stilled as the arm around his waist tightened. He sighed minutely, snuggled against Heero spooned against him, and tried to fall back to sleep, when muffled voices in the hallway permeated his sleep-fogged senses, and brought him fully awake.
Blinking his eyes open, he saw a dull light peeking through the window blinds.
**Hm. Must be late afternoon, though it's hard to tell in winter,** he thought with a mental grimace. **I could just go back to sleep...** At that moment his bladder protested the thought.
**Typical,** the teen mused, carefully extracting himself from his lover's hold. **It never fails... And once I'm up and moving, there's no way I'll be able to get back to sleep.**
Rising to his feet and pulling on a crumpled pair of jeans, he paused to look at Heero. To his eyes, the Japanese teen looked exhausted - the faint shadows under his eyes was a good clue, not to mention the fact that his rising hadn't even caused his lover to stir.
**I'll just let him sleep,** Duo thought, heading to the tiny bathroom attached to the room.
**I'll leave him a note, then maybe get something to eat, and see what's going on - shit! Sally wants to poke and prod me. I so don't feel like that right now. And when Heero does wake up, I won't have a choice.**
He closed the bathroom door behind himself, and began his morning ablutions, his mind still running a mile a minute. **She'll find me in the mess tent. So, Plan B. She won't look for me in the hangar... I hope.**
Treize paused in pulling on his sweater as Wufei walked back into the room, still only wearing the small towel he'd grabbed after their shower. He smiled. "Have I told you recently how smashing you look in that outfit, love?"
Zechs paused in brushing out his long hair, leering at the Chinese teen. "He's right, you know." He set the brush down and stood, slowly pacing toward Wufei, whose hair was still dripping water onto his toned chest. "Delicious but you'd look still better out of it."
Treize's grin darkened as he began pulling the sweater back off again-
KNOCK! KNOCK! "Daddy! Unca Fei! Uncle Zechs! I'm coming in!"
"Shit!" Wufei grabbed at the falling edges of his towel, his face turning red as he spun and rushed back into the bathroom-
The door burst open, and Zechs whirled around, frantically trying to hide the showing-way-too-much-skin teenager in the bathroom with his own body. "Cricket! Puh!"
Treize couldn't help it - he burst out laughing as Zechs whirled fast enough to get his own hair stuck in his mouth. The blond glared in his direction.
He winked back as he stood and rushed across the small space to scoop Marie into his arms. "Marie! I missed you so much!"
She giggled and wrapped her arms around Treize's neck, hugging him back, but quickly pushed back against his chest to stare into his face with an adorably cute pout on her small face. "Why'd you sleep so long? I wanted to see you, but Unca Kat said you and Uncle Fei were really tired "
Zechs made a mental note to thank the smaller blond as soon as he could for the few hours of blessed freedom they'd been granted. He grabbed his shirt and slipped it on quickly before he walked over to hug Marie and her father, both. "They were, but they're much better now. It was my fault. I didn't want them to get up until they were ready."
Treize bit back a laugh.
Wufei chose that moment to walk back in, this time encased in Treize's bathrobe, all vital parts decently covered. "Did I hear a Cricket chirping in here?"
Marie looked up and her eyes widened. "Uncle Fei! You took a shower, too!"
He nodded to her as he walked closer, rubbing at his hair with a fluffy towel. "Best way to get clean, little one. Were you a good girl, while we were away?" He leaned close and gave her a small peck on the cheek.
She nodded vigorously. "You gotta see what Uncle Zechs and Uncle Trowa and me built in the snow "
"And I, darling," Treize corrected gently.
Zechs shot them a smile. "Marie is a wonderful snow-artist, Treize. You should be proud."
Treize smiled and kissed the crown of Marie's red head. "I am, my dear Zechs, I am." He set Marie down, taking her hand in his. "Now come let's go find something to eat, shall we, my lady?"
Marie shot her father a look. "You slept through lunch, silly!"
Treize's smile twitched slightly. "More or less. But we're awake now. Come on, Zechs. Let's give the Dragon some time to get dressed, shall we?"
Wufei smiled. "I'd appreciate that, yes." He handed Zechs a sweater. "Go ahead. I'll catch up shortly maybe I'll wake Duo and Heero, too."
Zechs stroked his fingers down Wufei cheek before he pulled the sweater on over his now-buttoned shirt and pulled the collar through at the neck. "Good idea, but tread carefully, okay?"
Wufei gave him an impish smile. "Always."
"Okay, Kev. What do you say?" Howard asked, giving the younger man a sharp look over the tops of his sunglasses.
The young engineer grinned as he slammed a hatch shut and slapped it twice with his hand. "Heavyarms is officially operational again!" He pulled off his hat and wiped his forehead on his sleeve.
Gio grinned from where she stood on the open hatch door. "What's next, boss? Can I take 'im back to his spot?"
Howard waved to her. "Key's in the ignition, so to speak, darlin'. Take Kev with you, though we're taking Scythe down next "
Walker blanched. "I don't think Duo'd want me piloting his suit, Howard not sure I want to, either."
Howard turned to find Duo standing at Heavyarms' foot, heavily wrapped in two sweaters and his coat. "What're you doing out here, boy! Damnation, Heero's gonna kill me "
Duo grinned and sauntered towards the computer modules. "He was sleeping like a baby, last I saw him. You're safe for now. So what are you planning to do to my buddy?!"
Kevin joined him, disconnecting the final few cables connecting the computers to Heavyarms. "Nothing you wouldn't approve of. Glad to see you back and on your feet, Duo."
Duo grinned back. "Power upgrades?"
Walker nodded. "Yeah, and we continued to play with your idea about the booster fuel "
Duo looked up to find Gio and Rodney standing at his shoulders, grinning down at him. "You talking to me?"
Gio laughed. "I gave up on making you a gentleman years ago, kiddo. Come here!" She pulled him into a bear hug. Duo happily hugged her back, grinning as he felt Rodney joining in the hug.
"Okay! Enough, already don't kill the dumb kid," Howard grumbled as he trooped closer, grabbing Duo by the shoulders and holding him back to take a good look at him as Gio and Rodney backed off. "You don't look much worse for the wear. Has the Doc gotten a look at you yet?"
Duo smiled back cheekily. "She had her back turned when I snuck out. She woke me up, though I could hear her lurking in the hallway. You're not going to turn me in, are you, Howie?"
Shaking his head, Howard gave Duo a brief hug that was elongated by the teenager's tight grip around his waist. He patted Duo's shoulder. "She's going to kill me for it, but fine. We'll keep you safe for now."
Kevin snorted. "Really? I'd add that all bets are off when Heero shows up, if I were you."
Duo shot him a look. "Smart. Very smart, Kev. Good man." He high-fived the engineer.
Grinning up at the others, Duo clapped his hands together. "So You want to take Scythe down next?"
Howard nodded. "Yep. You've done some excellent work, kiddo, but Scythe needs more upgrades, and I'm not sure if I'd trust that circuiting you did in your counter-measures system "
Duo held up one hand. "Don't sweat it, old man. I'll let you play, on the condition that you let me help. Do we have a deal?"
"Don't call me old man, squirt," Howard said gruffly, unable to hide a small smile.
Duo laughed and turned to Kevin. "Now if you're real nice to me, I just might allow you to take him out for a very short drive "
Heero shifted and reached out to pull Duo closer. His hand met nothing but chilled sheets and his eyes flew open. Before he had a chance to panic, though, he saw the note propped up against the stuffed bear on the bedside table, and he grabbed it automatically.
Don't worry. I woke up and couldn't get back to sleep. You looked exhausted, and I didn't want to wake you, so I decided to leave you this note and take a wander around.
However, confronted by the fact that Sally would probably poke and prod me if she sees me, I'll be hiding in the hangar with Howie.
Yes, yes, I know. As soon as you get this, you'll come and get me and drag me off to the mad scientist's torture chamber, but at least I will have had a short reprieve. Just remember to grab the wicked dictator and his scaley friend. If I have to be tortured, so do they!
Cute teddy bear. I expect to hear the story later.
I love you, you homicidal maniac.
The Japanese teen couldn't stop a small smirk.
**Typical Duo,** he thought, stretching and sitting up on the edge of the bed. **I think I'll give him a few more minutes, then haul him to see Sally. He seems all right, but I refuse to take any chances.**
A quiet knock on the door interrupted his thoughts. At his terse 'Come', Wufei stuck his head inside.
"Heero, I hate to wake you two, but..." Seeing only Wing's pilot, the Chinese teen snorted and stepped inside.
"I see the braided menace already made good his escape," he continued with a chuckle. "Should we begin a 'seek and contain' mission before he terrorises the masses?"
Smirk widening into a slight smile, Heero wordlessly handed over the note.
"'Wicked dictator'? 'Scaley friend'? Where does he come up with these?" Wufei chuckled, then shook his head. "Anyway, Zechs and Treize are currently in the mess tent, being fawned over by Marie - at least they should be. I undertook the mission to brave death, wake you two, and see if you wanted to join us before we all visited the 'Mad Scientist' together. Moral support and all that. Since Duo is in hiding, I assume we find a new plan."
"I believe the object of the mission is the same, Wufei, just its implementation is changed. I suggest you retrieve your wicked dictator, while I seek and capture my master thief. We will all rendezvous in the 'torture chamber' in twenty minutes."
"That sounds like an acceptable plan. I'll let Sally know on my way to the mess tent," Wufei replied with a nod, turning to the door. He paused with his hand on the knob. "You know, Duo has definitely corrupted us. A year ago this conversation would never have happened, much less our joking use of the terms 'wicked dictator' for Treize, or 'mad scientist' for Sally."
Heero cocked his head and raised an eyebrow. "Are you complaining, Chang?" he asked, his lips twitching.
"Not at all, Yuy, not at all," Wufei said with a slight grin. "Just making the observation. We'll meet you in Sally's office in twenty minutes."
The door closed behind him and Heero shook his head as he stood and walked to the bathroom. He'd give his wayward lover as long as it took to have a quick shower.
Wufei entered the mess tent and made his way to the table occupied by his lovers and Marie. The little redhead was so involved with telling Treize everything she'd done while they'd been gone, that she didn't even notice his arrival until lifted her out of her chair from behind. With a squeal, she wriggled around until she could wrap her arms around his neck.
"Unca Fei! You're here! We waited, but you missed my story! We played, and fixed Tallgeese and Heavyarms and went to school and made snowpeople and - " Her tirade broke off as the Chinese teen gentle put a finger over her lips.
"I saw the snowmen, Cricket," he said, setting her back in her chair, then taking a seat next to her. Treize poured him a cup of coffee and slid it in front of him. "They are fine likenesses of all of us. We will have to make one of you, later. But for now, we need to eat quickly. We have to go see Sally in about ten minutes."
"What for?" Marie said. "Is something wrong?"
"No, sweetheart," Zechs replied calmly. "Aunt Sally just wants to check your father, Wufei and Duo over. It's nothing to worry about."
"Oh, okay," she said with a nod. "Maybe I should go get Uncle Duo and Uncle Heero, then," she continued, starting to slide off her chair. "They're sleeping, too. Uncle Kat said so."
Wufei chuckled. "They're awake, Marie. I checked on my way here. Heero was just going to go find Duo, then they'll meet us in Sally's office."
"'Find Duo'?" Treize said, raising an eyebrow.
"Is Uncle Duo lost?" Marie asked, eyes widening.
"No, he's not lost," Wufei replied, patting her cheek. "He woke up before Heero and decided to go to the hangar. Heero will get him and bring him for his check up."
"Oh, he went to see Grandpa Howard," she said, nodding wisely. "Grandpa Howard was worried. He's like Uncle Duo's papa, you know."
Treize stifled a chuckle. "Yes, darling, we know. Let's finish up here and go see Sally, all right?"
"Yup!" Marie giggled, then looked serious. "I'll come, too, and hold your hand. I don't have any more stuffed animals to give you, b'cause I gave them to Uncle Heero and Uncle Zechs b'cause Aunt Sally was poking Uncle Heero with needles and Uncle Zechs was lonely."
Wufei and Treize snickered and stared at their blond lover. Zechs just groaned and dropped his forehead to the table.
"I'm never going to live this down," he muttered.
Heero slipped into the hangar and looked for his long-haired lover.
"Dammit Kid! Get your ass down off that scaffolding before I come up there and kick you down! We agreed to hide you and let you help but we never said anything about you climbing around that black hunk of junk like a monkey!"
At Howard's shout, Heero shifted his gaze to the mentioned suit, frowned, and growled as he stalked forward. "I'm going to kill him."
"But Howie..." Duo mock-whined as he turned around to look down at the Sweepers' boss. Instead, he saw the various techies backing off, most smirking, and his 'annoyed' lover stalking menacingly across the hangar towards him.
"Eep! Um, hey, Heero, I thought you'd sleep a little longer!" he babbled, quickly climbing down the scaffolding. "It isn't what it looks like! Honest! I just wanted to check on the - Ufff..."
The long-haired teen's babble was cut off as he reached the lowest crossbar and Heero carefully grabbed him and pulled him down into his arms.
"I didn't mind when I woke up and you were gone. I didn't mind that you had come to the hangar. I am, however, extremely... displeased... to find you climbing around steel scaffolding, fifteen feet above solid concrete while your ribs and arm are still injured, you have just returned from an exhausting mission, and Sally has NOT cleared you yet!" Wing's pilot growled, voice raising to nearly a shout as he finished.
"But, Heero -"
The Japanese pilot cut him off with a sharp shake of his head. "I don't want to hear it right now," he said, calming slightly. "We are going to see Sally. You are going to let her poke and prod you as much as she likes. You will listen to her and do as she says. You will do so without complaining. Understood?"
Duo nodded silently, eyes wide.
"Good," Heero said sharply, taking Duo's hand and tugging gently. "Let's go. And don't try to escape, or I'll drag you there by your braid."
As they walked across the silent hangar, Duo looked beseechingly at Howard. The Sweeper boss smirked at the boy he loved like a son, and shook his head. Beside him, Gio snickered, Rodney looked at the ceiling innocently and Walker bit a knuckle to hold back his laughter.
Sighing, Duo let Heero pull him outside without protest.
Duke Dermail stared across his desk at a tired-looking Michael Gates and a white-faced Wessex. "Am I to understand that there's no way of tracking Bravo down?"
Wessex nodded, cringing slightly. "Barton warned us to remove her tracking chip when we gave her the treatment, otherwise it could interfere with the metabolisation of the mind-control mechanism."
"Well, why didn't you make some kind of provision for it?! How did they administer it to the first subject?" Dermail asked, irate.
Wessex shrugged. "Subject Alpha never finished the treatment. Barton ordered him killed when the drug cocktail got too intense. All the data suggested that maybe they tried it when he was too young it should have worked better on Bravo."
Gates glared at Wessex angrily. "Should have. Apparently, it didn't."
Wessex turned on him. "Look, I don't know what happened! You know the security on my facility! It should have been fool-proof "
"But it wasn't," Gates replied. "Someone managed to get in and back out again, and as a result, we need a new test subject."
Dermail pinched the bridge of his nose. "What bothers me most is the timing. We know Treize was in Africa so who was here, in Canada?"
Gates frowned. "This was a specialist, too to get in and out again took skill and know-how. I can think of very few people who are that accomplished at it."
Wessex actually laughed. "So now Treize has a team that can stage attacks in both Canada and Africa almost simultaneously? Sure. Right."
Dermail's frown deepened, though. "I wouldn't put it past him, Wessex. Do not underestimate him. What do we actually know has happened? Treize was sprung from jail. Two of our major mobile doll research facilities were destroyed, and we lost Tuberov in the process. In the meantime, our friend from space brought us a test subject for the Enforcer programme, who we have now lost. And, incidentally, lost some of the chief brains working on the project, as well. Can someone please explain to me why I should bother to keep either of you in my service, given that you can't seemed to get a single, bloody thing right?!"
Wessex looked away, but Gates' eyes flashed. "We've had bad luck, sir, but I don't think we've lost our handle yet. We just might need to pull our timetable forward."
"Explain," Dermail ordered, his face neutral.
Gates picked up a pen and began twirling it in his fingers. "First, we need to clean out Romefellar. Find out who will cause trouble and just get rid of them find someone everyone can deal with and set him up as your man in charge, someone not in our inner circle. In the meantime, call Laupin. Step up the schedule on LIBRA. We've got enough research that we can begin manufacturing mobile dolls so they won't have the last upgrades Tuberov envisioned, so what? All we need are two manufacturing plants one in space and one here on earth. Maybe on the moon we should be able to seize that plant pretty easily. Either way, set up the LIBRA, build our army, and move any remaining Enforcer work to LIBRA as soon as you can. Whatever Kushrenada is doing, he's obviously on Earth. Getting off planet might pose him a few problems. Let's take advantage of that."
Dermail shook his head. "And what of the gundams? They've been quiet for a while, but we can't expect that to last if we move out towards their precious, bloody colonies."
"We've got the prototype dolls, sir," Wessex replied. "They should be enough to start with, along with all our pilots."
Dermail sat back in his seat. "We're missing something. I'm sure of it."
No one said anything in response both knew Dermail's temper too well.
Dermail stood and walked to his window, staring out at the garden beyond, bathed in sunlight. "Very well. Call Laupin and set up a meeting. But Wait, it will have to wait until after supper. I'm expecting a call in from my granddaughter."
"Miss Dorothy?" Wessex asked. "Isn't she in Sanc with that Princess Relena?"
Dermail nodded. "She's been there for a few days, and she's reporting in to me this afternoon."
"Zechs Marquise's little sister," Gates whispered.
Dermail turned, a small smile curving his lips. "Indeed. We still have our pawns to play, my friends. I won't give up without a fight. I've worked far too hard for it to lose, so early in the game."
Back to Preventers' HQ