MEL: Well, I can't find it.
CHRISTY: It's got to be somewhere! How are we supposed to write without it?
[The Gundam boys perk up at hearing this. Duo sidles over.]
DUO: Ummm... ladies... are you looking for something?
MEL: Well, duh. We've only been ransacking the house for the last hour!
QUATRE: I believe what Duo meant to say was, "What have you lost?"
CHRISTY: The book.
ARDETH: Oh, great. Everybody barricade the windows before the mummies get here!
CHRISTY: No, not the Book of the Dead! The notebook we write 'Demon of Justice' in!
ARDETH (holding a bookshelf): Oh. That's a relief!
HEERO: Maybe for you. They're not torturing you in a fic.
DUO: No, no, this is good! If they can't write the fic, they can't get to my operation!
CHRISTY: You did it, didn't you? You hid it. See if I protect you next time Mel wants to send you to your room! Hmph. Me-elll, didn't you have an idea for a Duo torture fic? Were you thinking of hooking him up with Dorothy or Relena?
DUO: ACK! No! Fate worse than death!
MEL: Give it back, then.
DUO: I didn't steal it! I swear! Hey, I'm not the only person with a motive!
CHRISTY: Mel... he said he didn't do it. He doesn't lie.
MEL: Who did it, then?
CHRISTY: My best guess is Fei-fei.
WUFEI: Why would I stoop to theft?!
MEL: 'Cause you're freaked about having two Dark gods after your a-- err, person.
WUFEI: ...good point. Why would I hide only one book, then? All your stories are equally revolting.
CHRISTY: 'Cause you're going to be getting some soon in Rebuilding, that's why. No way you're gonna derail that story!
MEL: Hang on. It could be Heero. He doesn't want Duo to have the operation, either, and he's getting paranoid about what Relena's up to.
CHRISTY: True... and you just had to make that crack about assassins last chapter.
MEL: Hey, I didn't say who they'd be going after!
CHRISTY: So? That just means you gave them all a motive to stop us working!
MEL: ...ooops. Bugger.
CHRISTY: *hmph* Fine!
[She shoves a roll of paper towels into Mel's hands.]
CHRISTY: We'll write on this if we have to! On with the fic!
DEMON OF JUSTICE
"All The World's A Stage"
The four pilots had dinner in Duo's room that night, while watching the news. Quatre sat in a chair by the bed, with Trowa on the floor leaning back against his legs; Heero was perched on the edge of the mattress by Duo.
"We should bring up a couple more chairs," Quatre mused, scooping up a forkful of pasta.
"Not on my account," Trowa said, reaching back to pat his lover's knee. "I like this." And it gives Heero a chance to be close to Duo without being pushy about it, he added silently, smiling faintly as he glanced sideways under cover of his hair. After all, he has to sit somewhere...
Heero's eyes were fixed on the television screen, with the occasional glance down at his plate, but his body language showed that he was acutely aware of Duo beside him. It's impossible to stay that close to someone without ever bumping into them by accident, Trowa thought, watching Heero's elbow tuck in a centimeter or two, just enough to avoid being hit by Duo's as the braided pilot chased a noodle around his bowl. He's trying so hard not to make Duo uncomfortable. I'd laugh, but then I'd have to explain what was so funny.
< < ...and finally, we have a statement from Relena Dorlian-Peacecraft, Vice Foreign Minister in the interim Earth government. Your Majesty? > >
< < Just Minister, please, or Miss, > > Relena said, smiling sweetly at the announcer. < < The Sanc Kingdom no longer exists as a separate nation, and in any case, I abdicated any rights to the throne several months ago. > >
"Whoa," Duo said, pausing with his fork halfway to his mouth. "The Queen of the World is turning down her proper homage? Freaky."
"Be nice," Trowa murmured.
"Duo, hush," Quatre scolded. "Let's listen to what she has to say before we start insulting her."
"Okay, but if she declares her undying love for Heero on world-wide TV, I'm gonna ralph."
Heero almost choked. "She's done everything but that," he growled.
< < Citizens of Earth and of the Colonies, greetings, > > Relena continued, then dimpled slightly at the camera. < < That sounds a little awkward and pompous, I think, but I can't exactly say 'good evening' considering the number of time zones I'm speaking to. > >
"Ugh," Duo muttered under his breath. "She's doing cute at us. Save me from the saccharin, Heero."
Heero glanced at him, a little uncertainly, then smirked. "Hn. Close your eyes," he advised, and put his hands over Duo's ears.
"Will you two be quiet?! Quatre sputtered, torn between annoyance and laughter.
Snickering, Duo batted at Heero's hands. "Yeah, Heero, behave. Quatre says stop distracting us."
"Oh, you start it and suddenly it's my fault?"
"Trust me, Heero," Trowa said dryly. "With these two, you can't win."
"Shush!" Quatre grabbed the remote from the bedside table and turned up the volume.
< < --matter of titles is actually related to what I wish to say, > > Relena was saying. < < In a few months, at most, there will be a world-wide referendum on the question of what form Earth's government will take in the future. Will we remain unified as one nation, or will we revert to separate countries again? I'm here to ask people to vote for the first option. > >
< < And more than that, > > she went on, looking serious, < < I'm asking the colonies to join with Earth. I'm asking for the formation of a new entity; not space versus soil, not one subordinate to the other, but a unified Earth Sphere. Every human in our solar system, no matter where they were born or where they stand today, living in peace with one another as countrymen. > >
"...o-kay," Duo muttered, eyebrow lifting. "Didn't see that one coming..."
< < I realise that many, if not most, people will view this proposal with skepticism, > > Relena said quietly. < < There have been far too many times recently when one organisation or another has preached unification, equality and peace, when what they really wanted was a comfortable lie to keep people docile while they consolidated their grasp on power. This time has to be different, if it's to have any chance of success. > >
< < Previous governments have been distant from the people they were supposed to represent, > > she continued, leaning forward earnestly. < < Some countries have been governed by a hereditary aristocracy, like my homeland. Others have been theoretically democracies, but in practice it was impossible to be elected if you weren't from the 'right' families and immensely wealthy; and once in office, you were considered an idiot if you didn't fatten your bank balance even more. It's very hard for the average person to have any sort of trust in their leaders, if they know that there's no way for them to become one of those leaders... and no real reason for their leaders to care what they think or want. > >
"Says Miss from-the-right-family-and-filthy-rich," Duo snorted. "By her reasoning, she shouldn't have anything to do with the new government, but I bet she's not going to resign."
"Duo!" Quatre hissed.
"I know... 'hush'!"
< < Previous attempts at unification would have been better termed subjugation, too, > > Relena said wryly. < < One country has conquered another, or a colony has been considered as inferior to the homeland-- both on earth and after man moved out into space. Again, there has been a clear division between governed and governors, rich and poor, high class and low. If we're ever to achieve a true peace, we have to get away from this way of thinking! > >
"Sometimes, her idealism and naivete is frightening," Duo whispered to himself.
< < That's why I'm asking people to vote for a unified Earth! > > she continued, eyes flashing with enthusiasm. < < After this first referendum, there will be more, concerning precisely what form of government we should adopt. We, the members of the interim cabinet, are not going to tell you what's going to happen; we're waiting for you to tell us. Surely, if we all work together-- if we all decide that we want a unified nation with a government that is truly representative of its people-- we can devise something that will work! Even if it's not perfect to begin with, we can learn from our mistakes and improve. Everyone has a stake in this. We have a chance to build a better future together; a future where social class and wealth aren't the divisive element they are today. > >
< < 'Everyone' means the colonies, too. Just because we've been enemies in the past doesn't mean we have to be enemies in the future, or even separate from one another. You've been treated badly in the past by Earth; first by the Alliance-- who, at least, were straightforward enough not to pretend they were acting in your best interest-- and then by OZ. You have a right to be suspicious of this sort of offer. But please, consider joining with us; not as subordinates or lesser allies, but as equal partners in the attempt to build a peaceful Earth Sphere-- > >
Relena broke off for a moment, eyes wide, and then laughed. < < Oh, dear! I'm afraid I've just illustrated the need to learn from our mistakes... Why call it the Earth Sphere? It's awfully planet-centric. It would be far too easy to think of Earth as the main part and the colonies as 'extras'. The interim cabinet has been fussing over the various options open to us for days, and none of us realised the name could be a problem! > > She laughed again, shaking her head. < < You see? This is why we must have a government that has to listen to its citizens. > >
"What do you want to bet that was written into her speech?" Duo muttered cynically.
< < That's really all I have to say for now, > > Relena finished, smiling at the camera. < < Please, think about what I've said, everyone. We have an opportunity to start from a clean slate, here, and I think it would be a shame to waste it. Thank you. > >
< < Thank you, Ms. Dorlian-Peacecraft, > > the announcer smiled. < < I'm sure your words have made an impact on many people to-- > >
Quatre muted the TV and turned to the others. "Any thoughts? Or have you already made all your comments?" he added dryly, looking at Duo.
"Think she means it?" Duo asked. "The whole 'rich-or-poor, social status doesn't matter' jazz, I mean. We know she's serious about the peace part of it..."
"I think she's sincere," Heero admitted grudgingly. "She doesn't generally act or speak contrary to her true feelings."
"Well, yeah... it's not like she played hard to get after all."
"If Mister Cynicism has finished with the Peanut Gallery comments...?"
"Oh, come on Q, we all know what she's like! Though she did seem serious," Duo mused. "Maybe too serious. A couple of times, there, she had the same obsessed stalker glint in her eyes that she gets around Heero--"
Trowa calmly leaned forward, pulled one of the pillows out from behind Duo and hit him with it.
* * * * *
"So, are you going to explain that 'travelling' comment?" Gunnar asked, sitting down opposite Uthmar with his breakfast. "I may only be your second-in-command, but I do need to know these things once in a while..."
Uthmar looked at him, over the rim of his mug, with a jaundiced expression. "D'you have any idea how much sleep I got last night?"
"Well, you were still pacing around the square when I went to bed, so... no."
"Neither do I. Don't push it." The Champion took another large swig of tea and set his mug down with a sigh. "The 'travelling' comment was a reference to the fact that Wufei has agreed to come with us when we leave."
"Mm-hm?" Gunnar raised a finger, chewing hastily. "Mmf-- *gulp* Good. I can think of a few people who wouldn't be too happy if we went back and said 'Yes, there were a couple of demons there, but they liked the village so we let them stay'."
Uthmar rolled his eyes. "You're not the only one. I was all set to spend hours persuading him to come, but he agreed right away."
The shorter dwarf snickered. "Maybe he's afraid Rami's going to propose."
"She may be the only thing he's afraid of," Uthmar snorted, prudently lowering his voice. "From what I've heard and seen, though, she's more likely to nobly give him up to her friend Naiya and romantically pine away, consoled only by the thought that her beloved will be happy."
Gunnar nearly choked on his next mouthful, coughing and sputtering. "Oh, gods," he gasped, eyes streaming. "She should write tragic ballads. I know at least three minstrels and a bard who'd have to sweat to come up with anything that bad..."
"It wouldn't be nearly as funny if there was a grain of truth to the whole 'romantic triangle' idea," Uthmar pointed out wryly. "Anyone with sense enough to come in out of the rain can see there's nothing going on."
"Rami must get soaked fairly often, then," Gunnar chuckled, wiping at his eyes. "So, Wufei's coming with us. Where to?"
"South, first," the Champion said, abruptly serious again. "There's a temple of Sharna down there that we've got business with."
"You won't hear me arguing about that, but... are we waiting for reinforcements?" Gunnar asked, eyebrows lifting. "Or do you think six lay brothers will be enough to back up your august personage and his Demonic Highness?"
Uthmar opened his mouth to answer, then paused and glared upwards as a sputter of godly laughter echoed in the back of his mind. "Any time you want to take him and his sense of humour off my hands, Torframos, just say the word," he sighed. "I'll manage without him. Really."
"Does the position of 'Jester to the Gods' come with a pay raise?" his second-in-command asked innocently.
* * * * *
"I will be leaving for my estate soon," Lord Yithar snapped, looking down his nose at the human lay brother-- at least, he tried to. It was difficult to look down your nose at someone three inches taller than you. "Today, in fact. Tell your leader."
"Certainly, my lord," Cameron said, inclining his head in the merest sketch of a bow, and ambled off at a pace that wouldn't strain his wrenched knee. Yithar scowled after him, wishing he dared order him to hurry; he had a niggling suspicion that the order would be ignored, and he'd suffered enough embarrassment for one lifetime.
Some time later, Uthmar strolled up, still combing crumbs out of his beard. "Leaving so soon, Lord Yithar?" he asked pleasantly. "I hope you have a pleasant trip."
"I'd better!" Yithar sputtered indignantly. "You're going to be escorting me home!"
"Actually, I have another commitment."
"You-- you what?!" The half-elf's mouth opened and closed a few times before he managed another word. "What other commitment?! It's dangerous out there, demons and-- and things prowling around! You have to escort me!"
"I think you're overstating the situation, m'lord," Uthmar said calmly, a faint, polite surface smile on his face. "This area is not crawling with 'demons and things'. Yet. Ensuring that this state of affairs continues is, I think, a higher priority than walking you home. You have your armsmen, after all."
"This is what the militant orders do, m'lord," the dwarf continued smoothly, still smiling. It didn't reach his eyes. "We don't protect people by waiting for evil things to come after the particular person we're guarding. We protect them by going and getting the evil things first. Oh, and Prince Wufei will be accompanying us..."
"But you can't just-- Prince?!" Yithar blinked, jerked completely away from his train of thought. "He's a prince?"
"Well, yes." Uthmar did a good job of looking mildly surprised. "I've spoken to him on the subject and although he's reluctant to claim the title, his rank, among his own people, does equate to prince. Torframos agrees," he added casually. "As I was saying, Prince Wufei will assist us in dealing with the temple, and then we will return to our Motherhouse. I'm sure there's some other area that needs us."
"He's-- but-- are you sure--?" Yithar whimpered, still stuck on 'Prince Wufei'; then the rest of what Uthmar had said registered, and he seemed to snap into focus. "When you say 'we', do you mean Pr-- ah-- he is also going to your Motherhouse with you?"
"Oh, yes. Until he learns more about this world and can decide what to do, he's going to remain with the Order."
"And he's going to take that with him?" The half-elf jerked his hand towards Nataku's looming form, not quite pointing.
"Definitely. Nataku goes where Prince Wufei goes," Uthmar told him, putting a little extra emphasis on the title. There's no harm in twisting the knife just a bit this time, he thought, watching Yithar's expression take on a tinge of smug anticipation. You needn't think I don't know why you want to be sure they won't be here. Arrogant, spiteful little-- "Of course, we can't leave until our reinforcements arrive. And the permanent garrison, too. Luckily, they caught a favourable wind coming along the coast and up the Spear River... and they started out as soon as we found that summoning site in the canyon, of course, so they should arrive tomorrow." Uthmar smiled cheerfully at Yithar, who suddenly looked as if he'd just realised he'd bitten into a mindanwe fruit.
"What permanent garrison?" he asked, flat-voiced.
Again, Uthmar proved he could fake a surprised expression. "Well, m'lord, this is a very thinly populated area, and this incident has proven that Sharna's servants have established a significant presence here in secret. Now that we know there's a temple in the southern end of the Spinewall, we can deal with it, but there may still be others we don't know about. Obviously this region requires a permanent guard, so... the Order of Torframos is going to set up a chapter house. Torframos tells me the Sisterhood of Lillinara are considering an outpost of their own, too." Uthmar's smile widened a fraction as he watched Yithar's expression curdle. "A site hasn't been decided on yet, but I think it'll be quite close to this village. They've already been attacked once, after all, so we'll be keeping them under observation. Just in case."
"That's... well, I don't see..." Yithar said weakly, visibly casting around for a logical objection and not finding one.
"Yes, m'lord?" You can't argue that it's not necessary; you already claimed this area is dangerous. 'Demons and things'! Uthmar nearly snorted, keeping his expression straight with an effort. And if the Order keep an eye on this place, you can't weasel their new gold out of them without getting caught. Stew in that, brown britches!
...Gunnar's right. This is fun.
=*Don't enjoy it too much,*= Torframos murmured, but the effect was somewhat spoiled by the chuckle in his 'voice'.
Define 'too much', Uthmar shot back.
"...well, yes, a chapter house would be a good thing," Yithar said reluctantly. "Temporarily, at least. Until the, ah, immediate problem has been handled... but I really don't think I can sell you any land for a site," he added quickly, brightening. "Er, I'm sure you can site it somewhere else... further away."
"We weren't planning to buy land," the dwarf replied. "The Spinewall is crown land; we're negotiating for a grant. Nearby." He spread his hands and grinned at Yithar as the lord abruptly slumped again, hopes dashed. "When you think of land, m'lord, you think of cropland and forests. We just need a defensible site to build on, and for that the Spinewall is perfect. Now if you'll excuse me...? I have preparations to make."
"Yes... very well," Yithar said sourly, waving him away.
Humming to himself, Uthmar sauntered back across the square to Cord's house. Well. That improved my mood...
Wufei packed his duffel bag away in one of Nataku's compartments, swung down to the ground on the lift wire, and turned around--
--to be confronted with a pair of shimmering, tear-filled blue eyes, at extremely close range.
"Gah!" Startled, he jerked backwards and came up short against Nataku's leg, staring at Rami. She wasn't there when I climbed out of the cockpit! How'd she do that?!
"Is it true, Wufei?" she asked mournfully, voice throbbing with emotion. "You're leaving?"
Oh gods, not now! he thought, feeling a sinking sensation as he took in the full impact of her Say-It's-Not-So expression and posture, hands clasped over her heart. She looks like the tragic heroine out of that film Duo thought was 'so bad it's hilarious'. At least she hasn't got a Southern accent...
Salvation presented itself, in the form of Naiya.
"Yes, Rami, he's leaving," she said dryly, coming up behind the blonde girl with a couple of Wufei's shirts in her hand. "Why are you wearing your best dress?"
Wufei thankfully grasped at the offered escape and took the shirts, grabbing the lift wire again.
I can handle all sorts of battles, he thought sheepishly as he rose. I can even face demons, it seems, but I can't face her! At least when Quatre or Duo resort to using the 'big blue eyes' tactic, I can reason with them... or go on a mission!
I'm beginning to understand Heero's reaction to Relena.
Naiya spared an amused glance for Wufei's retreating form, then looked Rami up and down. "You're wearing your necklace, too... and eardrops! What's the occasion?"
"Yes, and?" The hradani girl tilted her ears back. "You didn't think he was going to stay here forever, did you?"
"He could," Rami insisted, pouting. "If he really wanted to."
"And what would he do?" Naiya considered steering the smaller girl away from Nataku so Wufei would have a clear escape, but gave up that idea when she saw how stubborn Rami's expression was becoming. "Grow crops? Chop wood? He's a p--warrior, not a peasant!"
"He and Nataku would defend us, of course!"
"From what? D'you really want us to be attacked by demons on a regular schedule, just so Wufei will have something to do?"
"No, but-- but there are brigands, and--"
Naiya rolled her eyes. "Almost never, Rami. And even then, they're a little beneath Wufei's abilities, don't you think? We usually manage to handle them ourselves!"
"No 'buts', Rami. There's nothing to keep him here."
"Oh?" Rami tossed her head, looking at Naiya from underneath her long lashes. "What about you?"
"What about me, Rami?" Naiya's voice had gone completely expressionless, and Rami hastily reconsidered her next words.
"Well-- uh-- aren't you going to miss him?"
"I'm not in love with him, Rami," Naiya said pointedly, "and he's not in love with me."
"I never said that," Rami mumbled, not entirely truthfully, twisting a strand of hair around her fingers.
"Ha. Yes, I will miss him, I suppose," Naiya admitted, "but I'm not going to try to keep him here. Honestly, Rami, do you really think someone like him would be happy, living in a small village for the rest of his life?"
"...I suppose not." Rami sighed.
"So, why are you wearing your best dress and jewelry?" Naiya asked impishly, tucking her hand through Rami's arm and drawing her away.
"Naiya, you have no sense of drama!" The blond girl rolled her eyes. "You have to wear your best clothes for a tearful farewell!"
"Whatever you say, Rami. Want some tea?"
Rami giggled. "Well, since you spoiled my big scene..."
"'Scene'?" Naiya stopped short, staring at Rami with narrowed eyes. "You're not nearly as serious about this as everyone thinks, are you?"
"Well, I know Wufei's not in love with me," Rami said frankly. "And, well, he is very handsome, in a scary demonic sort of way, but... I can't imagine him settling down and having children in a comfortable little cottage, doing repairs and things. I want the cottage and the children and the sort of husband who'll fit in there, so there was no point falling in love with him." She smiled up at Naiya. "It was fun pretending, though. Just like a ballad!"
"Rami," Naiya said faintly, "sometimes you frighten me."
"Why?" Rami blinked at her, looking a little worried. "If it's about Wufei not being the domestic type of husband, I'm sure he'd be just fine for someone who's more, um, adventurous than I am."
"No, Rami, that's not... never mind."
"I'll make the tea," Rami declared, changing direction and tugging Naiya after her. "You're looking rather pale."
When Cord found them, a short while later, Naiya had recovered her equilibrium and was listening to Rami chatter with a faint smile on her face.
"There y'are, lass," he said, sounding relieved. "I've got a thing or two to be discussing wi' ye, if Rami doesn't mind the interruption..."
Naiya started to get up, but Rami waved her down again. "You've hardly touched your tea, and I've got a new fruit loaf fresh out of the oven. You two sit down and talk here! I have to get changed anyway, so you'll have privacy." She whisked another tea mug and a plate of spiced bread onto the table, smiled brilliantly at Cord, and left.
"Wait until I tell you what she's been up to," Naiya chuckled quietly. "What's the matter?"
"Nowt," Cord said, accent thicker than usual. He fidgeted uneasily with his mug for a while, then reached out and took his daughter's hand, clearing his throat. "Naiya, girl... with th' lad Wufei leaving and the Order wi' him, I've been thinking... well, ye know I never meant us to stay here forever. Never meant to stay as long as we have, either, only... ye were growin' up happy, wi' friends and all..." He trailed off, and Naiya squeezed his hand.
"Thinking of going home?" she asked softly.
"Aye, that I am," he sighed. "We could go with the Order all the way to Axe Hallow, make our way across to Horse Stealer lands on our own... th' Champion'd likely give us a safe-conduct pass, in case anyone got nervous 'bout a couple o' 'murderin' hradani' wandering loose," he snorted. "We could get back easy. But... well, I don't know if we rightly should. This place's been yer home most of yer life, girl. Might be you'd rather stay here, and if that's so, speak up an' don't be afraid. S'not a bad place, an' I wouldn't mind..."
Naiya peered into her mug, apparently fascinated by patterns in the glaze. "Aren't you going to be in trouble if we go back?"
"Might be," Cord shrugged, trying to sound casual. "Might have blown over by now. Hells, girl, we haven't heard anything from up north for so long, ever'one who cared might be dead an' forgotten!"
"Might be alive and with long memories, too," she said sharply, glaring at him briefly before returning to her examination of the mug.
"Aye, well... then we find somewhere else that needs a smithy."
"Hmph." She stayed silent for a while, then slowly smiled. "Well... I remember Hurgrum pretty well. Not a lot like here, is it?"
"No..." he said uncertainly.
"Any landlord who tried to tell his tenants that 'rent' equals 'tax' would find out differently quick smart," she mused, raising an eyebrow at her father. "If I never see another Purple Lord again, I won't miss 'em. Let's go home!"
Of course, they had to tell Rami when she came back...
"I knew it! I knew there was something between you and Wufei! Why else would you be leaving with him?!"
* * * * *
Quatre yawned hugely. "Ufff! Excuse me... I think it's time I went to bed."
Trowa stood up and stretched. "Good idea. 'Night Duo, Heero."
"G'night, guys," Duo said cheerfully, eyes glued to the TV screen.
"Hmph. There's a good thing about the TV being in here," Quatre smirked. "When you finish watching the late-late-late movie, you won't be trying to sneak upstairs in the dark and waking the rest of us up."
"I only woke you up once!" Duo protested indignantly. "And it wouldn't have happened if I hadn't tripped!"
"...over an invisible seam in the carpet," Trowa pointed out, straight-faced. "That takes talent."
Duo blew a raspberry at him. "Nyer. You're just jealous 'cause you can only do triple somersaults with twists, not half-gainer faceplants."
Trowa chuckled. "Goodnight, Duo."
"Don't stay up too late," Quatre said wryly.
"With Heero watching me like a hawk? Fat chance!"
"I wasn't going to say a word!" Heero insisted. "Really!"
"No, but I'm perfectly capable of guilt-tripping myself into behaving," Duo sighed. "See? This is me switching the TV off. This is me being good and not getting out of bed to go to the bathroom without help. Hint, hint."
Heero solemnly got up and offered his arm. "Would you like a hand there?"
"Why, thank you, Heero. How considerate of you..."
By the time Heero helped Duo back from the bathroom, there was no sign of Quatre and Trowa, apart from the closed door to their bedroom. Heero got his charge back to his room and settled on the edge of the bed, made sure that everything he might want during the night was within arm's reach, and started to leave.
"If you need a hand, just yell," he said, pausing at the door after turning off the main light. "I'll leave my door open, and this one, so--"
Startled by the uncertain tone of Duo's voice, Heero glanced back. The braided teen was sitting in the pool of light cast by the bedside lamp, pleating the edge of his sheet into numerous folds.
"You could sleep in Wufei's bed," Duo said, not looking up. "If you want. Just so I don't wake up Tro and Q if I need something during the night, I mean... that's all."
"...Sure," Heero got out. "I'll just, uh, get a clean t-shirt to sleep in..."
"'kay." Duo almost dove under the blankets, burying his blush in the pillows.
Maybe he wants company? Heero thought hopefully, heading for his room. He didn't ask the others... maybe he wants me there for him?
Whatever. At least he doesn't want me not there.
End chapter 17
DUO: Hey, look, they found the book!
WUFEI: Uh-huh. Two hours ago.
DUO: ...so why didn't we hear cheers, celebrations and renewed threats against whoever had it?
WUFEI: Well, they're not talking--
WUFEI: --so I can't say for sure, but I can hazard a theory.
DUO: Hazard away!
QUARE: We're listening.
HEERO: Anything that shuts those two up has got to be interesting.
WUFEI: I think they found it somewhere they'd already looked three times. With dust on it, so they couldn't plausibly claim one of us had moved it. And then one of them remembered putting it there.
MEL & CHRISTY: *HMPH!*
[He falls over. The writers glare.]
MEL: Oh, shut up.
CHRISTY: 'Fei, you suck.
DUO: You bet he does! Last n-- MMPH!
[Wufei has clamped one hand over Duo's mouth and is blushing furiously.]
WUFEI: This is becoming a habit. Duo, in the future, when you want to talk about my... virtues... DON'T. The onnas will write about it!
MEL [scribbling furiously in another notebook]: Hell yeah!