Bravo blinked her eyes slowly. She felt so worn, as though she'd been very sick and racked with a high fever. And her throat hurt so badly when she tried to even breathe properly! She lifted her hand-
Or tried to. Panic shot through her as she found that she was restrained, and she felt far too weak to break herself free. Bravo attempted to shift a little-
Pain shot down her back like a sword strike, and the only sound she could make was a dry whimper.
Someone was at her side instantly, though, a young man with kind eyes and an encouraging smile. "Please try and remain still. You are safe, and we are taking you someplace where we can treat you and help you. Just blink if you understand me…"
Bravo made herself blink. Where were her doctors and Dekim Barton?
The young man sat down next to her and pulled out a stethoscope. "My name is Jason Farley, and I'm a doctor. Last night, I went in with a team of people purposefully to find you. I work with the person you once knew as Alpha."
Her eyes darted around. Alpha? He had come back for her? But… why?
Farley quickly finished a short exam, then reached for something beyond her field of vision with a small smile on his face. "Sorry I didn't do this earlier, but I wanted to make sure you were recovering before I tried to make you any more comfortable." He showed her a glass of ice chips. "Just a spoonful at a time for you for now, I'm afraid."
Farley kept talking as he fed her the chips. "Heero – he's the guy you call Alpha – is asleep for now, but I know he's going to want to talk to you. When he heard… well, I guess I have to say he didn't know there were more of you. He insisted on coming in after you personally." He turned his head and called, "Heero?"
Bravo felt her heart leap as she saw a face from her past looming over her, deep blue eyes gleaming. She opened her lips to speak again-
"Please don't. I know what pain you are feeling right now." His voice was deeper than she expected, deeper and with a hard edge to it that was familiar and – to her, at least – reassuring. He spoke again, "I survived it, and Farley here figured out a way to get you through the treatment, as well. It will not be pleasant for a while longer, though. In fact, it will probably be more comfortable for you if we sedated you for the rest of the trip. May we have your permission for that?"
She stared up at him. He looked confident and unruffled, as any good soldier would, but she could detect something – a hint of pain behind those eyes, understanding as no one else on earth or in the colonies could understand. She blinked again in assent.
Heero cracked her a small smile. "Good, I was hoping you'd agree, Bravo…" He paused. "You know, that's not a proper name for a person. When you're feeling better, we'll have to find a new one for you."
She whimpered again as she felt a needle prick in her arm, but Farley's voice soothed her, "I'm just giving you a little something to put you back to sleep for a while. We will be there soon, and then I promise we'll make you better. Sleep now."
She kept her eyes open for as long as she could, her brain trying to sort through it all. She felt… something, the like of which she'd never before felt.
It would be a long time before she figured it out – she felt safe for the first time in her life.
Sally strode into the mess hall and walked quickly to the table occupied by Zechs, Trowa and Marie.
"Gentlemen," she said shortly, "the plane will be landing in thirty minutes. I've got a trauma team on standby. Considering the state our 'guest' may be in, we may need your help." Moderating her tone she turned her attention to the small redhead. "Marie, why don't you go stay with Howard for a little while?"
Marie tipped her head and frowned at the doctor. "No, I don't want to! I'm s'posed to keep Uncle Zechs and Uncle Trowa company! And I want to see Uncle Heero and Uncle Quatre!" Sliding off her chair, she stood and stomped one little foot for emphasis. "Not going!"
Sally blinked, surprised at the girl's outburst, but internally pleased that she was acting like a six year old child rather than a mini-adult for once. Trowa raised an eyebrow slightly at Zechs, who successfully fought off a snicker.
"Sweetheart," Sally tried again, only to be cut off by the little redhead.
"Nope!" she exclaimed stubbornly, "I'm staying with Uncle Trowa and Uncle Zechs! I'll tell my Papa if you make me go!"
Zechs couldn't stop himself and burst into laughter.
Trowa put a hand on Sally's shoulder. "Let me try," he said softly, then crouched in front of the little girl.
"Marie, Zechs and I would love to have you stay with us," he said calmly, tucking her hair behind her ear, "but it's going to get very busy soon. We're going to have to help Sally -"
"I can help too!"
"I know you can. But the best way you can help us is by going to play with Grandpa Howard, so we don't have to worry about you," the young man explained. "Things will get very hectic and the Big People may not see little you. You wouldn't want someone to trip over you, would you?"
"No, but..." Marie pouted slightly. "But I want to see Uncle Heero and Uncle Quatre..."
Trowa smiled gently at her. "I promise, as soon as everything settles down, we'll come and get you so you can see Quatre and Heero. So, will you please stay with Howard until we come for you?"
Marie sighed and scrunched her nose, but gave in. "Okay, but you better not forget."
She pulled on her coat, then waited patiently as Trowa helped her with the buttons and zipper. When he finished, she hugged him and Zechs, then ran for the door. "Don't forget to get me!" floated back to them.
Sally sighed. "While I'm certainly glad to see her act like a child and assert herself for a change, I would have chosen a better time... Oh, well. Let's go. There's a lot to do before they get here."
Marie pushed the hangar door open and peered inside. Spying Toi reading a print out, she raced towards him.
"Toi Toi Toi!," she called, running across the floor. The large man looked up, and as she reached him, he grabbed her, tossed her in the air and caught her gently.
"Well, Noelani, what are you doing here? I thought it was your dinner time?" he asked, setting her on her feet.
"They told me to play with you, Cosmo and Grandpa Howard b'cause Aunt Sally, Uncle Zechs and Uncle Trowa have to do big people stuff, b'cause Uncle Heero, Uncle Quatre, Aunt Une, and Uncle Farley are coming home with a 'guest'," Marie blurted out with a pout. "But I want to see Uncle Quatre and Uncle Heero, too!"
"Well, that's lucky for us!" Cosmo exclaimed from behind her as he lifted her to sit on his shoulders. Marie shrieked in surprise, then giggled, bouncing back from her disappointment as only a child can.
"Howard is currently working on Heavyarms," Toi said, leading the way to the red and white suit. "I think he'd be very grateful for your help."
"Good! Can I push buttons again?"
"I don't see why not," Cosmo chuckled. "Hey! Grandpa! Got someone here to see ya!"
Howard looked up and glared. "I ain't nobody's gran - There's my girl!" he finished, seeing Marie. "I was just thinking about you! I need someone just your size..."
"So, our flight will leave tomorrow night," Rashid said, gathering up the dinner plates. "Since it is a charter trip, the destination change in mid-flight isn't a problem -"
"Especially since the pilots are Manguanacs," Abdul cut in with a chuckle.
"If I may finish, Abdul?" Rashid said, frowning. At Abdul's nod and grin, he continued. "We should make the rendezvous with your plane just before dawn. Allah willing, we'll be back at your base by midday."
"Ah," Wufei murmured, "I had been wondering if you were going to return with us."
"As if there was any doubt, Wufei," Duo commented sharply. "I knew they'd come back with us." He left the table and curled up on the couch with a sigh.
The five men at the table looked at each other. Rashid shot a concerned glance at the long-haired teen and started to rise. Wufei placed a restraining hand on his arm, then motioned his head toward the door. The tall Arab nodded and rose.
"Abdul, Auda... we should go make sure the other men have everything under control."
As the three men left the suite, Wufei and Treize joined Duo on the sofa.
"Duo, would you like to tell us why you're snapping at everyone tonight?" Wufei asked. "I realise you miss Heero, but -"
"Wufei, do you think everything's okay back at the base?" the other teen asked out of the blue, staring at the floor.
The Chinese pilot blinked, then glanced at his lover.
Treize raised an eyebrow and mouthed 'Where did this come from?' At Wufei's shrug, he placed his hand on Duo's shoulder.
"I think," the ginger-haired man said soothingly, "we would have heard something from someone if anything had happened, Duo. What brought this on?"
Duo sighed heavily, raising worried eyes to Treize. "I don't know," he replied softly, running a shaky hand through his hair. "I just got this weird feeling..."
"Duo," Wufei broke in gently, "did you have a nightmare while you were napping this afternoon?"
Duo's eyes widened and he spun to look at his friend. "Yeah," he said slowly. "Do you think...?"
"I think," the Chinese teen said confidently with a small smile, "that your nightmare probably left these feelings of worry and unease behind when you woke up. It's not that unusual to have residual tension from a particularly disturbing dream. Many psychiatrists have done studies on the lingering effects of nightmares on a person's feelings, emotions and perceptions -"
"Okay, Fei-fei, I get the idea," Duo said, the signs of worry melting from his features. "I let my nightmare spook me so much, that I sort of made it into something I thought could be real. Right?"
"I'd say that is a succinct way of putting it," Treize replied with a chuckle.
The braided teen grinned slightly, then leaned on Wufei as he relaxed. "So, I suppose I owe you guys all an apology."
"Not at all," Treize said. "We certainly understand, as do the Manguanacs, I'm sure. You've been under quite a bit of stress. I doubt any of us will hold it against you."
"Thanks, guys..." Duo sighed, resting his head on Wufei's shoulder, and the three settled into a comfortable silence. A silence that was broken by Duo a few minutes later.
"Why do they call them nightmares? I mean, shouldn't they be called 'sleepmares' or something? They don't only happen at night. And what's with the 'mares' bit, anyway -"
Wufei calmly smacked his best friend and brother with one of the couch pillows.
Sally had a full team waiting on the tarmac as the plane taxied to a stop. She personally jogged up the stairs as soon as the hatch opened. "Farley, where is..."
"Shhh, it's okay, ma'am," he crooned softly, from where he sat, next to a sleeping person. She noticed Heero was on the person's other side, and approached quickly - this had to be Bravo.
Her eyes widened - the girl was sleeping peacefully, intermittent tremors running through her, but not enough to disturb what looked to be an exhausted, deep slumber. Sally turned to her assistant. "Jason... what did you do? She's... she almost looks recovered!"
He gave her a tired smile. "I'll explain when we get inside, okay? She needs to be put under observation. If you wouldn't mind helping Heero a little..."
Sally turned to the Japanese teen. "Heero?"
He blushed slightly. "Just a little light-headed, is all."
Sally cracked a grin. "Right. If the great Heero Yuy will admit to any weakness, it mustn't be 'a little' anything. Come on, soldier," she said, taking his arm in a strong grip.
That Heero let her lead him away was a sign of his exhaustion.
Quatre, still stretching his back from the long flight, stepped up to Heero's other side to help him along.
Une walked over. "What can I do?"
Jason smiled at her - she was bone tired from the mission and the flight, as well. He zipped his portable computer case closed and handed it to her, along with a stack of handwritten notes. "Take those in for me, please." Une nodded and stopped to pick up her pack before she took the computer and disappeared out the hatch.
Left alone in the belly of the plane, Farley started giving his orders. "Gentlemen, let's get the patient off this plane..."
Trowa and Zechs stepped forward as Sally and Quatre appeared, holding Heero up between them. Concerned, Trowa slid his good shoulder in to take Heero's weight from Sally. "Quatre, is he..."
The blond gave a tired smile. "He's okay. He just donated a little blood on the flight..."
Zechs frowned as he took Quatre's place. "It must have been more than a little, Winner. Who was hurt?"
Heero looked up. "No one... it was for Bravo."
"What?" Sally asked, surprised.
Heero continued, "Farley figured it out – whatever they gave her... if they gave it to me, too, and we know they did, then I must still have the antibodies in me to counteract it. She calmed down pretty quick..." He turned his head to Trowa. "That means you've got them, too."
The brunette grunted, a hint of a smile playing over his lips. "Well, if I should get the urge to do something stupid, like leaping over tall buildings in a single bound, I'll know whose fault it is."
Quatre snorted and took Trowa's hand, squeezing it and earning himself a full smile from his lover.
The group slowly made its way towards the Infirmary.
Sally walked into Cubicle Three to find a well-ordered process already well underway, and she stopped a moment to simply watch, as she rarely had the opportunity.
She observed with no little amusement that Une had been kindly but firmly pushed aside to make space for the two nurses that hovered around Jason as he worked. The young man was clearly exhausted, but just as clearly determined to finish whatever procedure he was working on to make sure Bravo was well looked-after. After speaking with Heero and Quatre, she could guess at it. She walked up to his side, pulling on a set of gloves as she moved. "Giving her another transfusion?"
Farley nodded, though his eyes never left his patient. "Heero allowed us to take an extra two samples from him while on the plane -that's why he was so wobbly. One was to give to Bravo when we got here; the other's for analysis."
Sally relieved a nurse with a nod and assumed her place, pressing gauze to the tiny pin-prick wound in Bravo's arm as Farley withdrew the needle, after wiping the spot with an alcohol swab. "That was an impressive bit of work you did, Jason. I'm not sure many people would have figured out how to help her so quickly."
He was too tired to find a good comeback, and resorted to a small smile. "Thank you."
Sally looked him over critically as they both stood back and removed their gloves with a snap. Jason had a day and a half's worth of stubble on his chin, and his hair was askew, as though he hadn't thought of it in a very long time. He would have looked rogueishly-cute, Sally mused, if not for the bags under his eyes. Stifling a smile, she stepped across the space to his side and gently pulled him out of the Cube. "How long's it been since you slept, Jason?"
He shrugged. "Good question. I think I slept a little on the flight over to Canada..."
She grimaced - no wonder! "And I let you pick up a needle and treat a patient?!"
His eyes flashed indignantly, and she quickly added, "Just a joke, Jason. You've done a wonderful job. But you really should get some rest, now. Go ahead - I'll start the analysis, myself, and I'll wake you up, if I find what we're looking for. I promise."
He stared at her for a moment before nodding his acceptance and turning for the door-
Sally stopped him with a hand on his shoulder, and he turned. "Sally?"
She leaned in and gave him a gentle kiss on the cheek. "It's good to have you back." She turned and vanished back into Bravo's cubicle.
Jason smiled to himself as he turned and walked to the door.
Dorothy and Relena had been up for twenty hours.
Noin spared the girls a look of pity as she walked into Relena's private study and closed the door behind her. They simply hadn't gone through the training she had.
Dorothy pinned the older woman with a look. "Any news?"
Noin smiled nervously and shook her head. "Nothing official as yet. My guess is that the team had to lay low for a little while, after that attack. But on another note, there are scattered reports about an attack of some sort in Montreal, at what Intelligence reports call a genetic research facility, funded and supervised by one of Dermail's close associates. There are very few reports of widespread damage, though, so it must have been a surgical strike, rather than an all-out assault."
Relena shot an incredulous look at her 'older sister.' "How on Earth are you so awake, Luca? Goodness, I feel like I'm going to drop dead, and just look at you!"
Dorothy rolled her eyes at Relena. "For Heaven's sake, if you'd just drink the damn coffee Pargan brought us…"
"It stains you teeth!" Relena insisted.
"Girls, please," Noin said, stepping closer and dropping into a seat next to them. "You could get some sleep, you know. I'll wake you as soon as I get some news."
Dorothy's eyes flashed. "I don't know what my cousin is up to and even if he's in one piece, and you want me to sleep?"
Noin set a comforting hand on the girl's shoulder. "And your cousin is my brother's lover, so I consider him my brother, okay? I know you're worried, but killing yourself isn't going to help anyone, let alone Treize." She gave both girls an impressive stare. "We've got a few things to discuss, and then you are both going to bed, if I have to knock you out and sling you over my shoulder to get you there."
Relena and Dorothy both kept their mouths shut. If Relena had been avoiding her coffee… it was fairly obvious that Noin had consumed more than her fair share.
Noin folded her hands in her lap. "That's better. Now, I've called in an old friend of mine to help us out a little – his name is Jack Maasten, and he was a classmate of ours – Zechs and mine – when we went to the Academy. He's a very good intelligence officer – Lady Une actually tried to recruit him, but he refused to work with her when she was trying to blackmail the colonies. Dorothy, I'm going to ask you to bring him up to date on what we've got so far, when he gets here tomorrow."
The blonde nodded.
Noin turned to look at Relena. "And something you should know. There's been some reaction to Treize's broadcast… I've been contacted by several old friends in the Service – people looking for asylum. Deserters from OZ, basically. They can bring us news… but more importantly, they can bring us suits when they break away. Relena, I'd like to build you a protection force."
The girl stared openly. "Noin, I don't want any…"
"I know you don't, but listen to me, okay?" Noin insisted. "I respect your ideals of pacifism, but we have to be prepared. At least authorise me to find a way to protect your people, if we are attacked."
"Not if," Dorothy interjected, "but when. It will come, Relena. There's a reason I'm here with you, and don't forget it. In fact, I'll have to report in to my grandfather soon."
Relena gulped. "I just… I don't want to lead my country to war. I don't want to let it happen, and you're telling me it's inevitable."
Dorothy reached across and brushed Relena's bangs back from her eyes. "I'm sorry, Relena. Noin's right – if we can't protect ourselves, we might as well give it up now. We must protect ourselves, even if it's just enough protection to evacuate innocents out of a war zone."
Relena's tired eyes darted from face to face.
Noin quickly added, "Zechs would agree, Relena, and so would Heero and the others."
Dorothy rolled her eyes.
Relena turned on the other girl. "Is there a problem, Miss Catalonia?"
Dorothy smiled sweetly. "Nothing but, 'Oh, Heero! I'd do anything, if you approve it!' That's pathetic…"
Relena glared. "You don't know the details, Dorothy…"
"And I don't have to," the blonde replied archly. "Your Prince Charming has a Prince of his own."
Relena flinched. "I think I've had that beaten into my head, Dorothy. That doesn't mean I can't aspire to earn his respect. I have nothing more to say about it."
Noin and Dorothy shared a look. The topic was definitively closed. Noin clapped her hands together. "Well! I guess it's time to go to bed now. Let's go, ladies!"
Dorothy and Relena shared a look as they were ushered out. How Noin could possibly be so bubbly was completely unnatural.
Both girls were jealous of it.
Heero sat up in a flash, his heart beating wildly in his chest as his eyes darted around. He didn't recognise the room he was in, he didn't know…
"Shhh… We're here, Heero. Try and relax." A hand gently eased itself onto his shoulder, just as the voice registered – Quatre. Heero relaxed slowly and allowed the blond to pull him into a small hug. Another body joined them, wrapping both in a tight, warm hug. Trowa.
Heero tried unsuccessfully to hide his trembling. "This isn't my room."
Trowa shook his head. "No – we thought you'd be more comfortable if you weren't alone."
Heero turned his head to look at his friend, one eyebrow raised. "You knew."
Both Quatre and Trowa nodded.
The blond tightened his hold on the Japanese pilot. "I had a nightmare of my own, and I have nowhere as good a reason for it as you."
Heero sagged back in their arms. "I just… I wanted to do something, at first. Kill someone, destroy something… I don't know. Now…" He fell silent.
Quatre quietly finished for him, "Now, you just feel like screaming, don't you?"
Heero's body trembled from head to toe. "I never thought about it – I tried to block it out, and I turned my back on… her. On who knows how many others there are out there. I failed her."
Trowa shook his head, pulling Heero tighter against him. "You're wrong, Heero. You weren't ready to deal with it when you were younger. You're allowed to think of yourself first every now and then, you know."
Heero flinched. "I'm supposed to be the perfect fucking soldier. I'm not allowed to…"
Quatre put a gentle finger on Heero's lips. "That's nonsense, Heero, and you know it." The blond's eyes were burning with concern. "You're a human being, like the rest of us, and even you hurt sometimes. You think I don't know, Heero? I can feel your pain, and the only thing that hurts worse is the way you're pushing us away and refusing to give in to it! For goodness' sake, I thought we were a family!"
Heero stared at his friend with wide eyes. "I didn't mean… Jesus, I'm hurting you, too…"
Quatre's expression darkened. "Don't you dare, Heero! You're going to shut yourself out again, and dammit, we're not allowing you to do that again!"
Heero's breath came out in a hiccough.
Trowa's arms tightened around both Heero and Quatre, pulling both practically into his lap. "Duo's not my only brother, Heero. I'm as new to this family thing as you are, but… if there's one thing I know, it's that you can't let someone you love suffer. You're an incredible person – you're facing a personal nightmare, and you're trying so hard… but you don't have to be strong alone. We're here for you, and we love you, no matter what."
Heero looked up into green eyes. His jaw flapped, but nothing came out.
Quatre and Trowa's eyes met above Heero's head as the Japanese boy gave in and he collapsed against Trowa's chest with a cry. They hadn't even mentioned Bravo's name yet, and given how vulnerable Heero was at that moment, they weren't going to, unless they had to.
One hand tightly clasped in Quatre's, Trowa rubbed Heero's back in gentle circles with the other, resting his cheek against the top of the Japanese teen's head. Duo, come home soon.
Gundam Wing II
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