Chapter 7

 

Changing Allegiance

Chapter 7


Heero woke early the next morning when Sally quietly stepped into the room, and quickly raised a finger to his lips to warn her not to wake Duo. He carefully rolled out of his bed, soothing his lover as he stirred, and walked over to the young doctor.

"Don't you sleep?" he asked softly, voice barely above a whisper. "It's not even 6:00 yet."

Sally smiled. "I slept. Not enough, but there'll be time enough for more sleep when this is over, right? How did he do last night?" she asked, nodding her head in the injured teen's direction.

The Japanese pilot shrugged. "He was restless off and on because of nightmares and discomfort, but nothing serious. He settled right back down each time."

"Good. No doubt your presence helped. I'm just glad there wasn't a repeat of the other night." Her eyes skimmed over the figure on the first of the two hospital beds, and she smiled again. "I like the new furniture arrangement. Can I have the name of your decorator?"

Heero's eyes widened and he jumped to defend himself. "I thought he'd sleep better... I was careful not to jar him..."

"Heero, settle down. I'm just teasing you," she said, placing a light hand on his shoulder. "That was an excellent idea. Having you within hand's reach was probably better than any sedative in helping him to rest easy. Now, as to why I'm here so early, I figured since you all went to sleep early last night, that Duo would be waking up soon and I could get him checked over and more comfortable earlier. I'll assume you will give him his sponge bath?" Sally smiled as the confused look on Heero's face made way for a light blush. It was really too cute.

"Damn... a sponge bath from H'ro an' I hurt too much to enjoy it," Duo's sleepy voice said from behind them.

"Good morning, Duo," Sally said as Heero spun around and walked to the side of the bed. "I hear you slept better last night. How do you feel?" She moved next to Heero, laid her hand on the braided teen's forehead, and nodded to herself.

"Like someone tied me to the bottom of 'Scythe's foot and then had him run a marathon. 'Morning Heero..." Duo added, leaning into the hand the other teen brushed down his cheek.

Sally chuckled. "That sounds painful." She held his good wrist, checked the tips of the fingers poking out of the cast, made a note on his chart, and grinned at him. "Much better today. Your fever seems to be gone and your pulse rate is normal. Your breathing sounds a little better, as well."

"Duo, are you up to all the activity later? We can postpone things for a short time," Heero said, glancing at Sally.

The braided pilot frowned. "I think so," he said, honestly. "I hurt a lot, but I can handle it. It's not like I've never been injured before--"

"You don't need to handle it. I can give you a mild painkiller that won't make you sleepy or fuzzy-headed, if you want. It won't do a lot, but it will take the edge off," Sally said, taking a large bowl out of one of the cabinets.

Heero looked at his lover and opened his mouth to speak, then closed it as Duo replied.

"Thanks, Sal. That would be good," he said, smiling at Heero. "See? I know when to give in."

Sally chuckled. "Yes, you do, unlike some other pilots I've treated.. Good Duo. I'll bring it in with your breakfast. But first, let's get you cleaned up and as comfortable as possible. Heero, come with me, and I'll show you where the supplies are."

Heero lightly kissed the other teen, and followed Sally out the door.

In the storeroom, she handed him the soap, towels and cloths, and filled the bowl with warm water. He gave her a curt "thanks" and turned to head back out the door.

Sally stopped him with a hand on his shoulder. "Heero... part of why I brought you out here was to warn you. Duo's body is covered with bruises... approximately seventy-five percent of it. But that's all they are. Painful, yes, but just bruises. I thought you should know, so you wouldn't react badly when you saw them."

The young pilot closed his eyes for a moment, took a deep breath, then nodded. "Thank you for telling me, Sally. Does he know?"

The doctor shrugged. "I'm not sure, but probably. He heard you read the chart yesterday, but I'm assuming he knew all of that beforehand. Treize mentioned at one point Duo cataloguing his injuries and rattling them off."

Heero smiled slightly. "Yes, he does that. He crashed Deathscythe once and when we asked him how he was he said, 'I'd be fine if I didn't have a concussion, a sprained wrist and this huge bruise on my thigh... and the fact that I probably need stitches does not make me happy'," he said, imitating Duo's tone almostly perfectly. "He always seems to know exactly what his injuries are."

"Well, at least you know ahead of time."

She led him back to Duo's room and placed the bowl on a small, rolling table."There you go. I'll leave you two alone, and bring breakfast and the pain pills in about an hour. How does that sound?"

"Fine, Sal. Thanks," Duo said, giving her a small smile as she left the room.

Heero pulled the table over to the bedside and steeled himself for what he was about to see. His hand shook slightly as he reached for the blankets, and he jerked as he was startled by Duo's hand grasping his. He looked up to see a sad smile on his lover's face.

Duo's voice was stronger than it had been the day before, but tinged with a note of sadness. He knew how Heero was going to react to his injuries -- the same way he always did. "Heero... it's not going to be pretty, but, really, I'm all right. They're just bruises, I promise."

The Japanese teen stared into Duo's eyes for a moment, gave him a small smile, and nodded. His now-steady hand pulled the blankets back. "I know, Duo. Just bruises."

Heero was very careful not to gasp as he uncovered Duo's torso for the first time, but he refused to look up and meet the other boy's gaze. Every mark, every hurt... it was his fault for letting Duo take a mission that should have been his. As his eyes blurred, he turned to the small rolling table and busied himself with a clean cloth and a new bar of soap.

"Heero, look at me. Now."

He did cringe this time - Duo never used that tone on him, except when he was angry, very angry. Heero turned slowly and finally looked up.

Duo cursed himself as he saw tears on his lover's cheeks and gave up on moving, wincing as he relaxed back onto his bed. "Heero, this is going to stop. Like right now. I'm hurt, yes, but I *chose* to go on that mission, and I was the best guy for the job. You know it's true, so cut the guilt bullshit."

Heero shook his head. "They could have beaten you to death..."

"Heero, I probably provoked them into it," Duo said heavily. "Remember who you're talking to, okay? You know it's what I do... and it's stupid. I'll give you that. But that's how I am. I'm alive, you're alive. We've been worse off before. Now stop sulking and bathe me."

Even Heero couldn't help a small smile at that. "Yes, Master Duo." He wrung out the washcloth in his hands and began to run it gently over Duo's chest.

Sighing in pleasure, Duo's eyes slipped closed.

As Heero stopped to wring out the cloth again, he stared down at the boy on the bed. He looked so... fragile, so peaceful and young... Setting the cloth aside, he leaned forward and pressed a gentle kiss to Duo's lips.

As Duo's eyes opened again, Heero pulled back. "Don't do it again, please? I don't want to lose you."

Duo's eyes smiled back up at him. "I promise - I'll try."

~*~

Heero raised the head of the bed and pulled over the rolling table.

"Are you sure?" he asked his partner. "I can wait until the others get here and then grab a quick shower..."

"Heero, I think I'll be all right on my own for thirty minutes," Duo said, smiling. "Go get a shower, step outside for some air, whatever. I'll be fine, I promise."

The Japanese pilot was stopped from arguing by a light knock on the door.

"Come," he said, stepping closer to his lover's bedside and hovering protectively. He didn't miss Duo roll his eyes.

Walker poked his head in the door. "Good, you're awake," he said, smiling as he stepped inside, hands and arms filled with notebooks and blueprints. "I thought I'd come a little early, so you could at least get a quick overview of Tallgeese before the others showed up for the planning session."

"Good idea," Duo replied as the engineer walked to the bed and set his things on the table. He looked back at Heero and smirked slightly. "See? I won't be alone. Toady, here, can babysit me while you take a break. Go on, shoo!"

Heero looked sharply at Walker for a moment, conveying a look that said 'take care of him or else...', then nodded.

"Fine. I'll be back in thirty minutes." He brushed his fingers down Duo's cheek, then turned, grabbed some clothes and walked out the door.

"So, how are you feeling today, Mr. Maxwell?" Walker asked, unrolling a blueprint and securing the corners.

The injured teen wrinkled his nose. "I'm fine. And can you stop with the Mr. Maxwell crap? It makes me feel like a school kid called in front of the principal. Just Duo, okay?"

"Ah, sorry, Duo. I guess it's just ingrained in me. The whole military respect syndrome. I'm Kevin, by the way."

The injured teen nodded slightly and grinned. "So, Kev... what do we have here?"

~*~

Treize was not surprised to find Quatre and Lady Une already seated at a table and deep in conversation as he joined them. He arrived just in time to hear the young blond ask, "That depends on what you're planning to accomplish. If the point is to simply destabilise them, we needn't go through half this much. Don't you think we can do better than that?"

"Good morning, Lady, Mr Winner."

Both looked up and stood immediately to greet him. Treize gave Une a small bow before shaking Quatre's extended hand. "I hope I haven't missed much."

Une shook her head. "You are probably just in time, sir." She waved him to an empty seat.

Treize sat and gratefully helped himself to a cup of tea from the tea service sitting off to the left. "If I'm not mistaken, you were discussing objectives as I came in."

Quatre nodded. "We were. Lady Une seems to think it wise to stay on the sidelines in this game."

Treize took a sip of his tea and sat back, thinking. "There are merits to that approach. We have the potential to cause as much trouble as we could do good."

"True." Quatre sipped his own tea and set it aside. "That much is perfectly true, if that's how you see things. But if you are not willing to be an active player… you may count on us to look the other way and to help you when we can, but the Gundams will go their own way."

Both Treize and Une were taken aback – they stared at the blond openly. He calmly picked up his tea and took another sip. "Well?"

Though Treize had the grace to look down at his hands, folded on the table, Une continued to stare. "Quatre, we will need your help…"

He held up a hand to stop her in mid-sentence. "I appreciate that, and we will give you as much help as we can, but we came to Earth on a clear mission, and I know I speak for all of us when I say that we refuse to back down. We are front line fighters."

"What exactly do you want, Mr Winner?" Treize asked cautiously. "I thought we agreed on the need to bring an end to the aggression…"

"You misunderstood us, then," Quatre said softly, but distinctly. "Putting an end to the aggression is not enough. Our mission will not be complete until real peace is restored to the colonies and the Earth. Real peace – not just veiled, passive aggression – and that will never be possible with the likes of Duke Dermail in charge. The colonies will never accept it!"

Treize lifted an elegant eyebrow. "You are talking about revolution, young man."

Quatre smiled, and both OZ officers at the table were struck by the strange juxtaposition of that _expression and the words being spoken. "Precisely. I believe it was the Americans who said it first – 'government for the people and by the people.' Not just the people living on Earth. Everyone. You said you wanted to right your wrongs."

A guarded look entered Treize's eyes. "Yes…"

Quatre smiled again. "If that's really your goal, then the time for hiding and for observing is over, Treize. It's time to act. We're being given a golden opportunity here, one that's too good to waste."

Une clenched her hands in her lap, watching Treize's impassive face carefully. **You have to see, sir… Look deep in your heart and you'll know he's right. They all are.**

Treize continued to stare into Quatre's face, waiting for the young man to break, to flinch, to blink.

Quatre's return stare was flawless in its strength and resolve, and Treize couldn't help the smile that crept onto his face, accompanied by a surge of adrenaline that made his spine tingle. "You are right, Quatre; the time for passive action is past, and we could not ask for a better situation, even if we created it ourselves."

Une gave an almost audible sigh of relief.

Quatre finally broke his stare and smiled, but this smile was different – colder, calculating, yet retaining the compassion that made Quatre Winner what he was. "I think we are going to enjoy working together, sir."

~*~

Heero, Wufei and Zechs met up outside Duo's door, and stood listening to the semi-excited conversation going on inside.

"... Howard can probably boost that, which would add about twenty percent more power..."

"...might be a bad idea. Zechs already had one heart attack--"

"...nah, Howie can probably compensate for that. Speed and manoeuverability. That'll be the key. Though, some radar dampers might help. Remind me to ask him."

The three other pilots shared a grin, opened the door and walked in. The sight before them had Heero nearly in shock, and Wufei and Zechs could barely supress their laughter.

Walker had kicked off his boots and was sitting Indian-style on Heero's bed, next to Duo. He was leaning over the blueprints pointing out a particular item as Duo made a note on the side of the paper. The braided teen then shook his head and pointed to a different place on the blueprint. "Try that - you can tell me how wonderful I am later--"

"Well, I see you started without us. I hope we're not interrupting," Zechs drawled, grabbing a chair and bringing it to the bedside, resting maps and other papers on his lap.

"'Morning Sexy, 'morning Studmuffin. And you're not interrupting-- sit back down, Kev. You're in on this, too."

Zechs looked at Wufei and raised an eyebrow. The Chinese teen grinned wryly and mouthed 'I told you', then pulled over a chair. Heero glared slightly at Walker and the young man flinched.

"Heero, knock it off. Kev, slide over. Heero get up here. Gentlemen, we have work to do, and I want you all to play nice. Got it?"

Two smirks, one slightly intimidated nod and a 'hn' answered him.

"Good. Now, I sort of have an idea," Duo continued. "Based on the info I got, the mobile dolls aren't going to be a factor. That will just leave the Leos for you three to deal with... unless the commander stepped things up-- which he could have done without telling his superiors-- and the stationary defenses. Heero, get on your other lover and have G send us a copy of everything I sent him. I don't think I've forgotten anything, but better safe than sorry."

Heero nodded, retrieved his laptop and sent off the email.

"Didn't forget anything?" Zechs asked. "Duo, there must have been--"

Wufei put a hand on his knee. "Zechs, Duo has a nearly photographic memory. If he sees it, he remembers."

They turned their attention back to Duo. The injured teen was tapping the fingers of his good hand on the table, eyes distant, deep in thought.

"Duo?" Walker said, only to be cut off by a warning shake of Heero's head. A few minutes later, a slow grin crossed the long-haired pilot's face.

"I've got it. Map... I need a map," he said, his fingers tapping faster. Zechs pulled out a detailed map of Baikal Base and its surrounding area, and placed it on the table. "Tallgeese waits here," Duo continued, making a mark just outside the base's perimeter. "Shenlong stages here." He made another mark. "You go in on the ground, to avoid the radar... unless Howie can fix something up--I'll ask when he gets here. Heero, you take 'Scythe, under full cloak, to here," he made another mark on the opposite side of the base, "and when everyone's-- Heero?"

Everyone turned to look at the Japanese pilot. Heero seemed stunned, eyes wide, and his mouth moved as he tried to form words.

"Deathscythe? You... you *want* me to take Deathscythe? But-- No one--You don't--"

Wufei snickered and poked his lover. "Take note," he whispered, "Heero Yuy is stunned and stuttering. This is a rare occurrence, and only ever caused by that Braided Menace to Society... You may never see it again."

"Heero, 'Scythe is the only suit that can do this. I can't pilot him. No way is the Blond Bombshell doing it. Puff Daddy 'Fei won't pilot anything but his baby. You've helped me work on 'Scythe, so you know him pretty well. It makes sense that you take him."

"More like 'you've torn my baby apart for parts, so you obviously know what's he's got to him'," Wufei *translated*, still whispering, for Zechs.

Heero stared into his lover's eyes, oblivious to the other three in the room, then leaned over and kissed him.

"Thank you, Duo," Heero murmured, slowly drawing back.

The braided teen nodded slightly, then grabbed his lover's chin with his good hand. "One thing, Heero... you damage my Buddy, and I'll be forced to hurt you."

Heero chuckled. "I promise, I'll be careful."

"Good! So, Kev, how quick can Tallgeese get from here," Duo pointed at the staging area, "to here?"

Walker blinked and shook his head, bringing his attention back to the map. "Um... seven minutes? At max speed."

"Right. Shenlong will probably take five," the braided teen continued. "'Fei, I'm putting you in charge of the strike force. Everything goes on your timing." He raised his hand as Zechs and Heero looked as if they were ready to start arguing. "Zechs, I have no doubt you're a fine commander, but I don't *know* you. Heero, I *do* know you, and I know you're taking this far too personally to remain detached from it. You would possibly turn this into a personal thing. The last thing we need is two vengeance-crazed idiots screwing up my grand scheme. At least I can trust Puff to follow the plan and leave out any 'you hurt my lover, die you bastard!' crazy-man actions."

He looked at Wufei. "So, you'll set the timing for the attack. When you and Zechs are ready, signal Heero to drop 'Scythe's cloak. That should scare the shit out of everyone, and bring the full attack to him. Once the Leos start to move on him, send Zechs in behind them."

Wufei nodded, and Walker cleared his throat.

"What about their communications? Won't they try to radio for help?"

"They'll try... but that's where 'Fei comes in. After signalling Zechs, he takes out *all* of their communications equipment. When that's done, head for the hangar and start on the dolls. Unless of course, they *have* moved ahead their timetables. In that case, the dolls may come out to meet you. I don't think they could get more that ten or fifteen ready to go, though, and they'll definitely be barely operable. But they'll still be a problem..."

They went over the maps and various ideas, but Duo's original plan seemed to be the best option. Possible variations were thrown on the table and discussed, and changes and additions were considered, but the basic plan stood.

"Okay," Zechs said, stretching and wincing as stiff muscles protested, "we'll stick with this until your controller sends the information you requested, and until Howard gets here with the suits, right?"

Duo nodded. "Howie may have a couple of ideas of his own. I know he was talking about ideas for upgrades last month when I talked to him. He may be able to work something out for Tallgeese, too. At the very least, he'll get you hooked up to our internal comms--"

The door opened and Sally stalked in. "All right, gentlemen, everyone but Heero out! It's almost one o'clock and Duo needs food and rest. You can continue this discussion after dinner." She turned and walked out without a second glance.

Wufei, Zechs and Walker gathered up their things, said goodbye, and left Heero and Duo alone.

~*~

"Wufei, can I ask you something?" Walker said as the trio headed towards the mess tent.

The Chinese pilot smirked. "I don't know, can you?"

Zechs chuckled and Walker scowled. "Not funny, Chang. Anyway... what was the deal with Heero using Duo's Gundam? I mean, they're just mobile suits..."

Wufei sighed. "To us, they're more than just mobile suits. We five have always been alone, so to speak. You had full military support, friends, family... we've only had each other and our Gundams. We're very possessive of both, Duo more so than the rest of us. For him, it stems from his past, which I will not go into. That's his story to tell, if he so chooses." Wufei took a breath, looked at the sky, beginning to fill with snow clouds, and continued.

"While Heero, Trowa, Quatre and I have used each other's suits, no one but Duo has ever piloted Deathscythe, for any reason. Even when seriously injured, Duo let no one else into the cockpit. At best, he let Heero carry Deathscythe with Wing. It took four months before Duo even let anyone besides Howard and his crew help him work on his Gundam!" He chuckled. "Heero stealing parts from Deathscythe doesn't count."

"Okay, I can see he's very... attached to his suit," Walker said. "And I can see why it shocked Heero, but I think I missed something there..."

"When Duo offered Heero Deathscythe, he basically gave him the last thing he had to give. It would almost be like taking your most sacred possession, the single most important object in your life, and entrusting it to someone else..."

"I think he's trying to say that it was the final act of commitment on Duo's part," Zechs added. "And to do it in front of us... Impressive... and gutsy. There's much more to him than the smartass he pretends to be, isn't there?"

"You have no idea," Wufei said, a fond smile on his face. "Beneath the joking, infuriating, devil-may-care, 'I don't have a brain in my head' mask he shows to the world, there is a vibrant, thoughtful, caring, brilliant young man. Only very close friends and the people he considers 'family' ever get to see that side of him. I have been very honoured to be included in that small group."

Zechs placed his arm around his lover's shoulder and squeezed lightly. "And so are we, love. So are we."

Walker nodded, then chuckled when Wufei said, "Do not tell him I said that. Besides embarrassing him, he'll never let me live it down..."

~*~

Johann Marco spared a glance at his passenger. "We should be there in about two more hours, sir."

A slight smile graced Trowa's features as he shifted position in the car seat. "Good."

Johann frowned, his eyes on the road ahead of him. "Is there… you probably have some questions, sir. Just to let you know – I work for Commander Po. I was never allied with Oz. Ever."

Trowa was silent a moment, and Marco could tell the boy was weighing his options.

"Well," Trowa finally said, "I do have a couple of concerns. How is Duo, *really*? Why, and how, did Treize and the others rescue him, how do we know this isn't an elaborate ruse... How's that for a start?"

Marco smiled and nodded his head. "That will do. For your first question... I was there when they got back from the rescue, sir. Your friend was badly injured with a broken arm, sprained ankle, broken ribs, a nasty-sounding cough... All I can say is that Treize was the one at his side, talking him down. I'm not privy to all the details, now, but what I saw led me to believe that Mr. Maxwell trusted him. Does that help any?"

Trowa simply nodded, his face deceptively blank. "I want to be able to trust him."

Marco shrugged. "Do you trust your friends? Mr. Chang, for example?"

Trowa blinked and turned to face the driver – he was surprised to find that Marco was wearing a poker face quite similar to his own. "Of course I do."

Marco nodded and dared a glance at Trowa. The boy was watching him closely, eyes slightly narrowed. **A reaction! Perhaps he's not quite as cool as he seems to be. I thought as much – I was beginning to wonder if the boy was human.** "Well, seeing as Mr. Chang trusts both Treize and Zechs enough to be in a relationship with them… I can't tell you what to do, and you wouldn't listen if I tried.

"I would be suspicious in your place," he continued calmly. "But there comes a time, sir, when you have to be willing to make a leap of faith. From what Commander Po told me, Treize Kushrenada carried your friend out of that place and looked after him when he could have left him behind, and no one would ever have known about it. Those are not the actions of an enemy to an enemy. Likewise, Mr. Chang does not strike me as a person who is easy to deceive. I daresay you've heard from the others – what have they told you?"

Trowa stared out at the landscape with a frown. "Quatre – that's pilot 04 – seemed willing to try." He fell silent, but quite suddenly tossed his hands up in the air and sighed loudly. "But he could be deceived, too! They could all…"

"Oh, listen to yourself! Do you think it possible that they might be *right* as well?" Johann rolled his eyes. "Do you think we would have let *that man* onto the base to begin with if *we* didn't feel we could trust him?!"

Seeing Trowa's stare, Marco continued, "We had no reason to trust them, either, but we have and we do!"

Trowa cocked an eyebrow. "Are you honestly going to sit there and tell me to accept all this on *faith*?"

Marco rubbed a hand over his face tiredly. "As stupid as it sounds, sir, yes."

As silence stretched between the two, Marco darted one last glance at his passenger to find the boy watching him with the smallest of smiles on his face. "Faith. Hn. By the way, don't call me sir. Trowa will do."

~*~

Une shook her head and politely shoved Treize out of her way as she bent over the map. "You're both missing it."

Treize smiled amusedly. He'd felt her hovering just over his shoulder for the past fifteen minutes and was impressed she'd lasted so long before stepping in.

Quatre's eyes narrowed as he listened to her explanation. "Dermail has moved his troops *out* of North America almost completely, see? He's concentrating forces here," she pointed to a spot just outside of Beijing, " and again here and here," she continued, pointing out two more spots, one near Lagos and the other to the east of Bordeaux. "All personal feelings aside, the man is *not* stupid. Given what Duo found in Baikal – where, incidentally, he has concentrated a large number of suits – I think we can guess what's going on at these other places. I'm more worried about what's going on elsewhere. Specifically, in the places he doesn't want anyone looking at right now. I'd be willing to bet something is happening in North America that he wants kept a very good secret."

Quatre sat back and nodded. "You're probably right, but I don't see how…" He fell silent.

Treize nodded, though. "Of course! Lady Une, how many assets do we have that report directly to you? That Romefeller and Oz do not control?"

She shrugged. "A few, sir. Sally has some good people – we could ask to borrow a few…"

Quatre tapped the table gently to get their attention. "Would either of you care to translate?"

Une blushed a little. "You probably are not aware, Quatre, just how large and powerful the Oz intelligence network was. Before Romefeller began their takeover, I had an agent in almost every important household, a spy in every major company, not to mention my private network chasing you pilots down… We've lost many of those assets when we lost power, but my private network remains. I can get someone over there to dig for us."

Treize nodded his agreement. "I agree. Before we fight, we have to know exactly *what* we are fighting, and tailor our attack to it."

A small smile began to form over Quatre's lips. "And in the meantime, if the Gundams attack and systematically destroy those other targets, it might serve to distract the enemy in some small way from our operation in North America. With your help, of course."

Treize took a sip of tea and grimaced at how cold it was, setting his cup back down. "So… I suppose the next question is, how long do we let them believe that I am dead? Personally, I think Romefeller itself needs to know fairly soon that I could show up at any given moment; it will be another distraction to them if I allow myself to be seen at key locations…"

"Dangerous, though," Quatre said, frowning in thought. "I think… at least, to wait until you confront them in person. A recorded transmission, on the other hand…that could be done, and it would probably be just as effective."

Une nodded. "Especially until Duo is recovered and able to move on his own, going yourself is too risky. If you were somehow followed back to our base, no matter how cautious you were…" She didn't need to finish the thought.

Treize abruptly stood, brushed his hair back and stretched his back, cramped from sitting for so long. "On that note, what would you say to finding out how the others are doing?"

Quatre smiled and stood. "Great idea."

~*~

Wufei, Zechs and Walker were deep in conversation as the other trio approached. Walker was gesticulating at the plans he had spread over the table and absently munching on fries while he talked, Wufei looking on with an infuriatingly smug smile. "… would increase the power output by 13 percent while actually *cutting back* on cavitations and pod instability! I wouldn't have thought of it in a million years…"

Quatre cleared his throat. "I take it the planning session went well?"

Wufei looked up and gave him a tight nod. "We'll probably wait until Yuy's free to share our plans with you – even better if Maxwell could join us – but we've got the makings of a battle plan ready."

Une sat next to her boyfriend and gestured down at the plans. "What's all this?"

He grinned, clearly excited by everything that was going on. "That kid knows his engineering! Some of his ideas are a little radical, but… Une, he knew what to do just *looking* at Tallgeese's plans."

"He should – he was taken in by the Sweepers at a very early age."

"Trowa!" Quatre was on his feet in seconds as he rushed to grab hold of his boyfriend and hold him tight. Off to their right, Marco smirked.

Treize, Une and Zechs stood and waited for the two to separate before the ex-General approached the L3 pilot and extended his hand. "I'm glad you could join us, Mr Barton."

Trowa nodded back at him. "Glad to be here, sir. Thank you for taking care of Duo."

Une stepped forward next. "I knew I'd run into you again, Officer Trowa. Welcome to Vilno."

He gave her a small salute. "Colonel. You look… better, ma'am."

"I feel better," she said, sparing a glance at Walker, who smiled back.

Trowa raised an eyebrow at Quatre, indicating the look between Une and Walker, and Quatre just smirked and mouthed 'later'. Pulling another chair over to the table, he sat next to the blond teen and tipped his head to the side.

"I see we're missing a couple of people. Duo? Heero?"

"Duo is confined to his bed for at least another few days, a fact which displeases him greatly," Wufei said, smirking. "Heero rarely leaves his side."

"Sally Po chased us out of their room a short while ago, but we'll all meet there for dinner tonight," Walker added, then waved at the plans in front of himself. "We'll... I mean Zechs, Wufei and myself, at least, will go over our plans to attack Baikal Base, there's a few details we need to work out... and I want to get Duo's opinion on a few modifications for Tallgeese..."

Trowa smiled at the young engineer's enthusiasm and raised a hand. "I think there's a lot going on here that I don't know about. Anyone want to give me the whole story?"

Treize chuckled and glanced around the table. "Well, once upon a time..."

 

On to Chapter 8

Back Preventers' HQ

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