Appropriately enough for an unluckily numbered chapter, a few things are hitting the fan... >:D
Author: Mel and Christy
Pairings: 3x4, and more to come.
Warnings: Yaoi, language, crossover, AU, magic.
Disclaimer: 'Gundam Wing', '3x3 Eyes', and the characters from them, all belong to the wonderful people who wrote them. Mixing them together was our fault.
Heero hovered for several agonised seconds on the edge of the scorched diagram, torn between backing further away and going to Haan’s assistance. Assuming Haan was still in a state where assistance would be of any use to him, that was, and he felt a cold shiver in his gut as he considered that the magician-smuggler might really be dead.
Fine black soot stirred next to Haan’s head, a faint eddy towards his face and then away.
Most of the chalked lines Haan had avoided so carefully as he walked across the diagram were burned away, but Heero still toe-walked his way across the gaps between them, just in case. The prickling sensation had faded, which probably meant that the magic causing it had faded too, but it would be just his luck to start it up again by smudging the wrong mark or erasing some of the remaining chalk.
The chalk-soot marks were denser towards the middle, closer together, and Haan was sprawled across several of the burnt lines. Heero had seen those lines go up in white fire as the smuggler collapsed, had felt the heat on his face from the side of the room, but the only scent reaching his nose was a faint trace of wet ink and blood; no smell of burning at all, not cloth or flesh or even hair. Haan’s ridiculous wealth of hair was spread out beside and behind him, and surely if something was going to burn that would have gone first… so perhaps it hadn’t been physical fire? Magical flames that didn’t harm anything solid? Was that possible?
I still felt it, Heero told himself as he crouched awkwardly beside Haan and pushed two fingers underneath the collar of his turtleneck, feeling for a pulse. I’m pretty sure it would have hurt like hell if I’d been closer.
There was a throb under his fingertips, too fast but steady, and he blew out a relieved breath as he sat back on his heels, considering what to do next. Haan’s breathing was shallow, gradually speeding up until he was almost panting, and Heero rolled him further onto his back and turned his face up, away from the soot.
He doesn’t seem to be actually injured, apart from the cut on his wrist, and he did that himself, Heero decided, eyeing the smeared blood next to where Haan’s right arm had come to rest. The little oblong of papery stuff was lying next to his left hand, also seemingly unharmed; it hadn’t smudged or crumpled as the smuggler fell, so hopefully he’d completed whatever the hell he’d been doing first and wouldn’t need to make yet another replacement for the one Heero had ‘examined’ to destruction.
All I can do is treat him for shock. He’s at least got some of the right symptoms. Keep him warm, keep him comfortable, give him fluids if he wakes up… I don’t have any way to give him intravenous fluids, unless I can find his first aid supplies and he’s got a really comprehensive kit.
First things first. Get him onto that sofa and find some blankets.
A fireman’s carry seemed to be the best option, so he pulled Haan up into a sitting position and leaned across his lap, pulling his right arm over Heero’s left shoulder. He intended to roll the unconscious smuggler’s weight forward onto his shoulders and stand up underneath him, keeping him in place by holding his right upper arm and thigh -- it could be done in one movement if you knew how -- but as Heero started the movement, the point of his shoulder pressed into the angle between Haan’s neck and collarbone.
Haan let out a strangled noise and kicked convulsively, knocking Heero off balance and bringing them both down in a tangle of limbs. Chalk dust and soot puffed up as Heero rolled away, dodging another kick, and he fell automatically into a defensive position as he turned to see what had happened. The smuggler was face-down in the centre of the diagram, clutching at his throat with one hand as he tried to push himself up with the other, choking and coughing. He gasped for breath, eyes opening wide, then coughed again, and spat blood onto the concrete below him with an ugly wet sound.
Oh shit. I fucked this up too, I made him worse-- Abandoning the defensive stance, Heero moved closer and then wavered. Everything he could think of to do seemed to have more potential to harm than to help at this point, and he hovered uselessly, hands outstretched and shaking. Haan coughed and spat again, then rolled onto his side, looking up at Heero with unfocussed eyes.
“Wha…? H’ro?” he slurred, voice almost too rough to be understood. “Wh’ hap’n’d?”
“I don’t know!” Heero admitted, voice tightly controlled. “The diagram went up in flames the same way the thing out of the jacket did and you fell over!” And when I tried to move you, you started coughing blood and what should I do?!
“Uh.” Haan frowned slightly, looking puzzled; then his expression cleared. “Oh. Now I r’m’br… tired. Too tired. Sh’d’a slept first…” He coughed again, bringing up more blood, wiped his mouth clumsily and squinted at the red smears on the back of his hand.
“I tried to move you,” Heero confessed. “I didn’t mean-- I thought it would be best if I got you somewhere more comfortable and kept you warm, so I tried to pick you up, but then you-- I’m sorry,” he finished miserably. “I didn’t mean to hurt you!”
“N’ y’r fault,” Haan assured him, waving his bloodied hand dismissively. He tugged at the high collar of his shirt, then abandoned the effort, eyes sliding shut again as he relaxed. “’s an old scar. Old pr’blm. N’ y’r fault…”
“Hey. Hey! Haan! Stay awake! Come on, don’t pass out on me again!”
One eye slitted open, glittering hard bright green at him. “’S’okay. Jus’ need t’ sleep it off. ‘s hap’n’d b’fore.”
Heero sighed, torn between relief and continued worries. “You can sleep it off somewhere better than the floor. Stay awake until I get you there, will you?” He reached out for Haan’s arm again, then checked himself. “I don’t want to hit your scar. What’s the best way to move you?”
“Left arm,” Haan mumbled, one hand making a vague gesture towards the base of his throat and right collarbone. “Scar h’re.”
“Can you walk, if I take most of your weight?”
The smuggler seemed to consider the question carefully, half-closed eyes serious. “D’nno. Les’ find out.”
Haan wasn’t much help as the teenage pilot hauled him to his feet and started half-dragging him towards the main cave, but Heero seemed to be more than strong enough to manage his weight, so he didn’t worry about it. The situation was actually oddly… comfortable?
He let his eyes drift shut again, trusting Heero to navigate without bumping him into anything, while he considered that. Comfortable? He was in serious pain both mentally and physically, still coughing up the occasional trickle of blood, practically helpless in the presence of someone with whom he had a relationship that could best be described as ‘contentious’, and he was comfortable?
It had to have something to do with the odd awareness of Heero’s presence he’d felt in his trance, he decided after some slow and muzzy thought. He hadn’t felt hostility then, just determination and alarm covering a deeper unhappiness and confusion. Surely that meant he could let his guard down long enough to recover. He didn’t have much choice, anyway, and he’d already slept next to the pilot -- a wary, light sleep, only possible because he knew there wasn’t much Heero could do that would truly harm him and the teenager didn’t know what to do even if he had taken it into his head to try something, and Heero hadn’t attacked him after all so that had to be worth a little trust, and, and…
His confused mental rambling ran out of steam, petering out and leaving behind only one clear thought. He’s strong enough to carry the load for a while. I don’t have to do it all this time.
That seemed to make a kind of sense, so Haan stopped trying to think about it.
After a few more steps Heero stopped, tightening his grip on Haan’s waist and wrist. “Haan?” he said, voice oddly tense.
“Haan, wake up.”
“Haan, please wake up and tell your truck that I didn’t attack you.”
=haan?! nosey boy did what to haan?!=
Oops. “’Kossei?” he slurred, struggling to raise his head. The lights in the main cavern were too bright, reflecting off Ryuukossei’s chromed radiator and hurting his eyes, but he could make out the truck’s general location -- and now that he was paying attention, he could hear it, engine noise modulated into an animalistic growl that reverberated off the stone walls. The spirit animating the truck had rolled it forwards to the edge of the scattered furnished areas, pushing one chair out of place as it threatened the already disliked person carrying its friend.
=haan! what is wrong? haan is hurt?=
“’m okay,” Haan told it, squinting against the glare. “Tired.”
=haan is bleeding!=
“Jus’ m’ throat,” he insisted. “He di’n’t hurt me. He’s helping me. ‘s okay, ‘Kossei. I jus’ need t’ sleep.”
=…haan is sure?=
“’m sure.” He managed a smile, and would have reached out to pat the truck if it had been closer. “Gonna sleep now, ‘k? Be nice.”
Heero got Haan settled comfortably, an operation made more difficult when the smuggler fell asleep again three steps away from the sofa and turned into a limp dead weight. The truck watched him mistrustfully the whole time, but didn’t make any more threatening moves.
That sounds absolutely ridiculous. ‘The truck is watching me.’ Not something I ever thought I’d say. And yet it was; he could almost feel its gaze on his back, and it was restless, moving forwards and backwards in small increments. It reminded him of a nervous dog. A very large nervous dog. A very large, metal, effectively armoured, nervous truck-dog that may not be able to bite but can certainly crush me if it decides I’m a danger to its master…
Then he remembered where Haan had said the spare bedding was. Crap.
Taking a deep breath, he turned around and looked at the truck. It looked back.
“…Haan said there was bedding in the-- in your cabin,” he said, feeling idiotic but not knowing what else to do. “I need to get it to keep him warm.” It understands verbal commands from Haan and it’s reacted to my actions before; most AIs can’t understand anything that isn’t phrased very carefully in their own programming language, but this one--
--oh. Oh. I’m an idiot. It’s probably not an AI.
The truck’s engine noise quieted, falling to a soft idling rumble, and the door to the sleeping cabin opened with a *click*. When he climbed in -- moving carefully, keeping his hands in full view -- one of the many storage compartments swung open to reveal worn blankets and a brightly-patterned quilt. He muttered thanks and left in a hurry, clutching the bedding, and flinched as the door slammed shut behind him.
Haan stayed completely out of it as Heero arranged blankets and quilt around and over him, tucking the rattiest blanket under his upper half to keep bloodstains off the sofa. His breathing sounded reasonably clear, but Heero propped him into a modified recovery position on the squishy cushions just in case; if the bleeding inside his throat started again, he’d be able to cough it up instead of choking on it. The blood he’d already coughed up and leaked from his cut was clotting into a sticky mess, smeared over his lower face and both hands, and Heero turned to head back into the side chamber with the burnt diagram. There was a sink there, he remembered, and at least one towel--
Ryuukossei’s engine revved, and the truck lurched forward a few feet; Heero stopped in his tracks, eyeing it warily and ready to dive out of its path if it came at him.
“I’m getting a wet towel to clean the blood off with,” he told it. “And I need to look for medical supplies. Actually, do you know where they’d be?”
The engine quieted again, and the truck rolled backwards to its earlier position. It stayed still for a moment, in what seemed to be a pause for thought; then it turned slightly in the direction Heero had been going and switched on the indicator on that side.
“In there?” Heero pointed towards the side chamber, and the truck’s engine revved slightly again. “Got it. --Thanks,” he added.
The towel Haan had been using to dry his hands earlier was easy to find, and so were a couple of fresh ones folded on a shelf under the sink; Heero grabbed the clean towels, then went looking for a first aid kit. That was a bit more of a challenge. The wall of wooden cabinets with tiny drawers holding spell components could be ignored -- he thought -- but that left two and a half walls worth of shelves, cupboards, long benches cluttered with glassware with cardboard boxes stuffed underneath, and half a dozen filing cabinets. By the time he got through the filing cabinets, he was half-seriously considering the possibility that he might have to search through the hundreds of tiny drawers after all. Perhaps somewhere in that wall of antique wood there was a section where one drawer held a roll of bandages, another held a folded sling, the next one down had a bottle of painkillers…
It had better not be a magic first aid kit. The magic truck is bad enough. What would a magic first aid kit even look like?
Yanking the cupboard next to the last filing cabinet open, he found a metal tin with a flaking red crescent painted on the top and pounced on it in relief. It wasn’t large, but he probably only needed basic supplies to treat the small cut on the back of Haan’s right wrist, after all, and in a pinch he could do that with just soap and water and a strip of cloth torn from a clean shirt; still, psychologically it was a huge boost. He grabbed the handle on top and lifted--
--and the lid of the tin came up with it, leaving the lower half behind, shedding flakes of ancient rust from disintegrated hinges and latch. A puff of dust accompanied it, smelling of age and mildew. The bandages inside were yellowed and crumbling at the edges, sitting in flaking paper wrappers that disintegrated at a touch. Small glass ampoules full of an oily fluid had unreadable browned labels, peeling away and shedding dried glue powder onto rusted steel scissors and tweezers.
…This is just as old as those drawers, Heero realised, staring at it in disbelief. Maybe more so. They’re at least in good condition! The Red Crescent started being used in, what… the late 1800s AD? I know it was officially recognised some time around 1930 AD, but it was being used before then… and this looks old enough to be from that time.
What’s something like this doing in Haan’s base? A base he built? I can see him bringing in antique cabinets or whatever because they work well for storing his weird bits and pieces, but why would he bring in an old first aid kit that’s not even in good enough condition to be a collectors’ item?
The sound of Ryuukossei’s engine revving from the main cavern snapped him out of his confused daze, and he abandoned both the rusted kit and his search for something more useful. I’ll make do. Get him cleaned up, make sure he’s okay, and then I can wonder about this.
* * * * *
Six hours after the last civilian network dropped out, one of the OZ search teams found Deathscythe and Shenlong. It was an accident really; hot, tired, and grumpy after far too long spent tramping on foot over heavily wooded uneven terrain, two young privates were more interested in finding somewhere to take a break than continuing to look for their assigned targets.
“Man, I’m thirsty,” the taller of the two grumbled, tugging at the webbing harness supporting his weapons and equipment.
“If you hadn’t wasted all your water--” the other started.
“Whaddaya mean, wasted?! It’s hot! We’ve been walking for hours! If I hadn’t drunk it I’d have heatstroke now!”
The shorter soldier rolled his eyes. “I’ve got no problem with you drinking your water. I have a problem with you pouring half of it over your head the moment you got a little warm, and then expecting me to share once you ran out.”
“It’ll be your fault if I die of dehydration,” Tall said sourly.
“We’ve crossed three streams so far.”
“I’m not drinking that! It’s not filtered!”
“Sucks to be you, then.”
“Asshole,” Tall muttered half-heartedly.
“Dickhead,” Short returned.
“I think I’m getting a blister. And I really need to piss.”
“Then do it! I’m not stopping you.”
“I don’t wanna drop trou out in the middle of nowhere! What if there’s, I dunno, poison ivy or something?”
“So long as you don’t stick your dick into a bush you’ll be fine. Now pick a tree to water, take a piss, and stop whining about that at least.”
Grumbling under his breath, Tall turned towards a medium-sized tree and unzipped, taking up the standard pose for a man urinating somewhere out of his usual comfort zone: feet apart, standing straight, and looking vaguely upwards as if not seeing what he was doing somehow made it not really happen. The ground sloped sharply upwards not far from where they were standing, and he sighed at the thought of having to climb up the slope while fighting their way through the underbrush.
“I don’t see why they didn’t send mobile suits to do this. They could have covered the whole area already, and we wouldn’t have had to walk for miles.”
“I heard it’s because their stealth systems are too good,” Short offered. “I dunno if they can all do it, but I’ve heard that the black and white one with the scythe, you know, the one piloted by the crazy kid--”
“They’re all piloted by crazy kids.”
“Ha, yeah. Anyway, I heard the one with the scythe can jam a mobile suit’s sensors so well that they can’t see it even on the cameras.”
“Seriously? That’s nuts!”
“Like I said, it’s what I heard,” Short shrugged, scanning downhill. “Anyway, they can’t jam a human, hooray for the Mark 1 Eyeball, so here we are getting all sweaty and picking up ticks.”
“Oh, ew, I hope not! I got this bug bite once… wha… what…”
Tall’s voice trailed off into silence, and Short turned around to see what his squadmate was up to now. “What’s the matter-- oi, you’re pissing on your boots! What the hell--”
Between the trees, where Tall was staring open-mouthed, there was a glimmer of metal. Something golden-coloured, gleaming against a pitch black background, shaped like a shallow jagged V. It took several long seconds before Short realised what he was looking at, and then he swore, clawing at his equipment webbing to grab his radio.
“And there we go,” Duo said sourly, slapping at controls and standing Deathscythe up. Shenlong was rising to its feet twenty feet away, shedding leaves and branches as it ripped through the carefully arranged camouflage netting, and one section of his sensors panel lit up as Wufei triggered every form of active broadcast he had available in one flaring burst of transmissions. Most of them were nonsense, but buried within the noise was a situation update to the other Gundam pilots and instructions to the Manguanacs; grinning despite his annoyance, Duo hit a preset control and added his own chaotic transmissions to the mess. “Have fun decoding that, schmucks!”
< < I gather you got creative? > > Wufei said dryly over the scrambled short-range link.
“Oh yeah. Music videos, rude limericks, and about seventy-five spreadsheets that ought to look nice and interesting until they work out the data; it’s all diet menus and calorie count info I lifted from a gym six months ago.”
< < Creative indeed. > >
“Yeah, and if there’s any justice in the world Une will assign those two twerps the job of sifting through it all for anything useful. Why’d they have to spot me?! I mean, ‘Scythe?” he corrected himself.
< < Because they stopped right in front of you instead of further down the hillside, Deathscythe still has metallic accents despite its more sinister colour scheme, and shiny gold stands out even better on a dark background than it does against blue and red? > > Wufei suggested.
“Ya had to go all logical on me, didn’t you?” Duo huffed, and carefully stepped over the gaping OZ soldiers. The taller one was still staring blankly, pants beginning to sag, and his shorter friend was desperately trying to drag him out of the way while shouting into his radio. “Don’t worry, dude, I’m not actually mad enough to squash you,” Duo muttered, not bothering to switch on his external speakers. “I figure you’ve had enough crap happen to you today…”
* * * * *
The colonel managed not to flinch, but it was a near thing. “The Gundams evaded pursuit and submerged in the nearby lake, Lady Une. We had anticipated this possibility and our entire complement of Pisces suits were pre-deployed underwater to block their escape, but… ah… were not successful. One Pisces pilot has been recovered seriously injured but alive; the others are missing, presumed dead.”
“And their exit from the lake?”
“Either they are still underwater, or they managed it unobserved,” he admitted. “None of our picket troops reported a sighting, and while the Alpha 9 commsat is still technically in line-of-sight of the area, its viewing angle has been… less than optimal for the last three hours. The terrain blocks it from observing more than about forty percent of the shoreline right now.”
Une was still expressionless. “So we are back where we started, without any concrete information on where within the search area the Gundams may be… except that Wing Gundam was not present with the others, and can be presumed to have escaped.”
“And how do you intend to rectify the situation, Colonel?”
He straightened his shoulders. “Ma’am, when this operation began I put in a request for at least one commsat to be moved into a geosynchronous orbit over this area, to provide 24-7 overwatch that could not be blocked by terrain features. My request was denied, on the basis that this would require significant expenditure of manoeuvring mass and downgrade surveillance elsewhere. I intend to resubmit my request, and would appreciate it if you could sign off as supporting it.”
“Yes, ma’am. Even with the loss of the Pisces suits today, I am confident that I have sufficient personnel and equipment to apprehend or destroy the remaining two Gundams if we can just find them.”
“…Well.” She eyed him, and he thought he saw a faint, approving smile curl her lip for a moment. “I believe I will support your request, Colonel. Try not to make this turn out to be me giving you enough rope to hang yourself.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he said fervently.
* * * * *
Stepping carefully and quietly, a young Chinese man carried a dinner tray into Master O’s quarters. He could hear the scientist’s voice from the next room as he put the tray down on the low table and began to set the various dishes out neatly; flickering light and another, sharper voice indicated that the Master was calling one of his colleagues on the vidphone.
“You have received no updates either?”
< < No, and if I had I wouldn’t tell you! > > came a snappish reply. < < We agreed to compartmentalise information, O, and I’m not talking! > >
“I think you are taking this unreasonably far, J.”
< < And I think you’re not taking it far enough. Some of the compromised information has been data that was supposed to be available only to the five of us! Whoever’s talking has to be extremely close to the top of one of our networks, and trusted. I predict we’re going to be very unhappy when we find out who it is. > >
There was a pause before Master O replied, voice quieter and indistinct. The young servant ignored the continuing conversation -- none of his business, after all -- and straightened up, tucking the tray under his arm while he checked the arrangement of dishes one last time. As he did so, he stifled a sneeze, rubbing his nose; the Master had been burning more incense than usual lately, and the room’s air was heavy with scented smoke. He sniffed, trying to clear a tickle, then frowned and sniffed again. There was another scent under the incense, sweet but somehow off… spoiled fruit? Had he missed clearing a bowl last night, or failed to empty a wastebasket?
He turned to check the rest of the room, then quickly took the tray out from under his arm and bowed deeply as Master O appeared in the doorway. The tall, bald man looked blankly in his direction for a moment, then frowned slightly. “Are you not finished?”
“Your pardon, Master. I was about to leave, unless you have a task for me…?”
“No.” Master O brushed past him as he bowed again, and the young man wrinkled his nose as a stronger eddy of the spoiled-fruit scent reached him.
Perhaps the Master’s soap is interacting strangely with the incense, he thought, letting himself out. Ah well. So long as it is not something I have done wrong.
Alone in his private rooms, Master O stood staring at the ranked dishes for a while; then he moved, stiffly but precisely, picking up the savoury foods two at a time and carrying them into his bathroom, tipping them into the toilet and flushing them away. Replacing the bowls exactly in their places, he picked up the few sweet items in his fingers and wolfed them down, eating with haste but no apparent pleasure.
Finished with the dishes, he picked up the teapot and carried it to his desk. He opened one of the drawers to reveal a large bag of sugar, poured about a cup of it into the tea, and stirred with one finger until it had mostly dissolved in the hot water. His hand was red and swollen when he was satisfied, but his expression did not change as he raised the teapot to his mouth and drank the steaming tea directly from the spout.
Afterwards, he returned the bag to his drawer and the teapot to the low dining table, then sat at his computer and began to type. His movements were still oddly stiff and precise and his face was completely expressionless, marred only by the tears running down his cheeks.
End 'Alarums and Excursions'
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