Warped Mirrors Chapter 11

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                        "Yes, Chang"

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Note: Conversations in languages not understood by the other pilots are denoted as "{text here}"
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The 'newly-arrived' Gundam pilots told General Petrenkovich of their decision to help fight against the Theodorians, and were welcomed with open arms. Literally; as the boys found out, people from Tatarstan were traditionally enthusiastic huggers during emotional moments. Trowa and Quatre took it pretty much in stride, and Duo hugged back, but Heero didn't blink for almost a minute afterwards and Wufei nearly sprained something trying not to reflexively break the General's neck.

It took only a few hours for them to become official parts of the OZ Alliance's Gundam program (though Duo was still holding out for the 'Colonial Irregulars/Irrationals' title). Most of the paperwork was left undone or filled in at random by Jay, Dan, or Mel (who filled all the blank spaces on Heero's psych evaluation with quotes from 'Gundam Vixens'). They went onto the General's active duty list-- Dot promptly took Duo off active duty and put him on the wounded list with Christy-- were assigned maintenance crews, and...

...nothing happened.

"I thought the Theos would've done something by now," Christy mused, stretching her legs out in front of her and sipping at her mint julep. "It's been a week since you lot officially joined, and it was three days before that when they pulled their last sneaky trick. As I'm sure you remember."

"Mm," Quatre agreed, poking at the sprig of mint floating in his iced tea. "A couple of hundred mobile suits painted in near-psychedelic colours do tend to stick in the memory."

"They're quiet everywhere," Mel complained. "All the hot spots along the borders have died down, all the mobile suit forces have pulled back, all the interesting-looking factories and research labs have shut down or moved, and all of the good personnel targets have gone underground. Everything that would be worth sending a Gundam or pilot after."

"Can't even send me to eavesdrop," Jay sighed. "There's nobody around to eavesdrop on."

"Does this happen often?" Trowa asked curiously.

"Fairly often," Christy nodded. "Every time something startles the Theos, they have an attack of the screaming meemies and pull back a bit while they think it over. Well, actually, the Emperor gets the screaming meemies, and they have to put the war on 'pause' until they manage to coax him out from under his bed."

Mel snickered. "We stalled a major advance for three months once, just by releasing a few thousand illuminated weather balloons over the area on a cloudy night. Looked really creepy. Even after they found a lot of deflated balloons with coloured bulbs in them, it took so long to convince Torovha that they weren't a cover for our 'new secret weapon', General Noviento had fortified that border so well the Theos couldn't shift him."

"And I think we can all guess what's given him the meemies this time," Christy said pointedly, mock-glaring at Quatre and Trowa.

"No big surprise there, chaps," Jay snorted. "Having five Gundams turn up, on the other side, out of nowhere would give me the jim-jams all right!"

"It certainly gave us the-- er-- jim-jams when you popped up in front of us," Quatre said dryly.

"I might, hypothetically, if I were drunk, admit to a brief qualm of my own," Mel drawled, wriggling slightly lower in her deck chair and stretching her feet out until her toes peeked out of the shadow of the building behind them.

"Christy makes a habit of dramatic entrances, doesn't she?" Trowa murmured. "It showed."

"Why thank you, Trowa," Christy smiled. "I've turned scaring the shit out of my opponents into an art form. By the way, did it work?"

"Nearly."

"I must practice more... if Dot ever takes this thing off of my arm so I can practice!"

"One more week," Jay said soothingly, patting her on the hand that held the mint julep and snitching the swizzle stick out of the glass. "Then you can go flatten as many poor, unsuspecting practice dummies as you like."

"Hn. You'd think she could turn that stupid bone-fusing machine up higher."

"You guys may have scared the Theos off for a while-- for which I'm sure lots of people are grateful-- but at least you brought another source of entertainment with you," Mel interrupted, nodding towards the brightly lit parade ground. "I mean, look at them!"

The five pilots lined up in deck chairs in the shadow of the Gundam hangar might have chosen to stay out of the sun today, but Duo seemed determined to grill himself. He'd announced his intentions to sunbathe 'until I'm either nicely tanned or red as a lobster, whichever comes first' at lunch, and had picked the parade ground as the ideal spot... which meant that Heero and Wufei were out there, too.

"It's kind of pathetic, actually," Christy mused, distracted from her woes. "They're practically drooling every time they look at him, and he hasn't got a clue. --Um, he doesn't, right?" she asked, glancing at Jay. "Is he as oblivious as he seems, or--?"

"Not the faintest inkling of an idea in his pretty head," Jay confirmed cheerfully, "though he is confused by their attention. He's practically drooling, too, but he's better at hiding it, and he's certain they're both irredeemably straight." She shrugged, poking the swizzle stick into her hair so it stuck out at an angle above one of her buns, then brightened. "Do you think we should tell him?"

"Don't. Even. Think. About. It," Quatre said firmly, blue eyes suddenly stern.

"Yessir!" the three girls chorused. Jay saluted.

"Good. They can work it out on their own. They don't need any help from you."

A sudden burst of Glacin swears erupted from inside the hangar, and a wrench whirred out through the door, narrowly missing a file of soldiers marching by. "Get the fuck away from me, you oversexed Gaulish prick! Find someone to work your own hormones off with and leave me out of it!"

Dan skidded out the door and jumped to one side, taking shelter behind the metal wall. "But Suka-babe, I just meant that you seemed a little tense... looks like I was right!"

Another wrench clanged off the edge of the door frame, and Dan jumped back, laughing.

"Can we tell them?" Mel asked hopefully. "Those two are seriously in need of a little advice. It's even money whether they'll screw each other or kill each other first."

"Mmmm!" Jay nodded her head vigorously, making the swizzle stick bob up and down. "The unresolved sexual tension between the two of them is enough to give Valeri a headache."

"Especially if he walks past at the wrong moment," Christy muttered, watching a large bolt sail past in a graceful arc. "Hmm. Maybe I should page him or something."

"That's an even worse idea," Quatre insisted. "Stay out of their sex life. In fact--"

"But they don't have a sex life! That's the problem!" Mel protested.

"--stay out of everyone's sex lives!"

"Why, Quatre!" Jay gasped, clutching theatrically at her bosom. "You've shattered my last illusions by saying the word 'sex'! We all thought--"

"--you were so innocent!" Mel and Christy chimed in. Trowa choked on his cola, and Quatre pounded on his back as he coughed, blushing bright red.

The next object thrown from the inside of the hangar was a knife, blade glittering as it skimmed past Dan's head to thunk into the wall of the next building, and the Gaulish pilot decided that maybe it was time to leave Asuka alone. "Shit, he's uptight today!" he laughed, jogging over to the peanut gallery. "He really needs to get laid... if he can get someone into bed without pointing a gun at them, that is."

"Please?" the three girls begged, leaning towards Quatre.

"NO!"

Dan looked back and forth between them, bewildered. "What did I miss?"

"According to Quatre, you don't need to know," Trowa said, smirking. "Trust him. He's psychic."

"That's my line!" Jay protested. "Well... nearly..."

"Hey, it's Drunk Night tonight, isn't it?" Christy put in, grabbing at the first change of subject that offered itself, as Dan looked puzzled and opened his mouth to ask another question. "Whose turn is it?"

"Even if it's you, it can't be you, if you know what I mean," Jay said, frowning in thought. "Dot's awfully strict about the whole no-alcohol-for-the-wounded thing, don'tcher know."

"It was me last time," Christy said, "and you, if you can remember after all those Mai Tais, which means it's Asuka and Mel's turn."

"Ooo," Mel sing-songed. "You'd better hide, Dan; if Asuka's still mad at you when he gets into the Slivovitz, you could be in trouble."

"Asuka doesn't drink Slivovitz," Dan muttered, looking slightly nervous. "...But I'm still out of here," he added, strolling oh-so-casually away.

"Drunk Night?" Trowa asked.

"That's right, nobody's told you, eh what," Jay exclaimed. "We have a Drunk Night every fortnight, unless there's some really big op on. Two of us get potted, and the other three cover for 'em if anything comes up. Wellll, we don't have to get potted, exactly, but we do get happy. Blowing off steam, that sort of thing. We really should work you chaps into the roster-- oh, I say! That means four of us can get potted at once! Much more fun."

"Er, Jay, I don't drink," Quatre said apologetically. "I don't think Wufei does, either."

"Well, we'll feed you two sugar and caffeine, then. It has similar results."

"Yes," Mel said dryly. "Hangovers are nothing compared to sugar crash headaches."

"We can drink whenever we want to," Christy explained. "We just make sure we don't get drunk, in case we're needed. For example, I have here a mint julep, definitely an alcoholic drink--"

"Bad Christy, no biscuit," Mel muttered, looking pointedly at Christy's cast.

"--it's the only one I'm going to have, and it's taken me nearly forty minutes to drink it. The ice has all melted... and my swizzle stick seems to have gone walkies. Jay?"

"Why do you assume I have anything to do with it?" Jay protested, drawing herself up with an indignant sniff. In her hair, the swizzle stick slowly tilted forwards until it was dangling in front of her right eye.

"Because you have a swizzle stick fetish, and that's not a hairpin in your hair," Christy said bluntly. "Unless there's a new fashion for orange plastic hairpins with little pineapples on top of them?"

"Er... yes?"

Christy looked at her for a long moment, then rolled her eyes and looked away, shaking her head.

"Hey, the floor show is starting again," Mel grinned, pointing towards the parade ground; Heero stretched, rolled onto his hands and knees, and reached into the drinks cooler next to him for a can of soda. "Look! The Buns of Steel are flexing!"

"Ooh. Eye candy," Christy muttered, settling back in her seat to watch.

"He does flex nicely, doesn't he?"

"Trowa!"

"Wait until you see Wufei doing his Tai Chi, though."

"TROWA!"

"I've seen it," Jay said smugly. "Rowr!"

"Oooh, look at that," Christy said, sitting up alertly. "We have a can of soda passed with meaningful hand contact!"

"Who? Where?" Jay perked up, squinting towards the sunbathers. "Did I miss it? Pretty and Nasty Boy, right?"

"No... Mister Unsociable and 'Fei-fei."

"Oo-er! That's unexpected!"

"Jay... you're psychic!"

"Yes, but I'm not omniscient," Jay grumbled. "I don't read everyone all the time, and even then I can't read something if they're not thinking about it! ...Well, I can, but I'm not allowed to read more than surface thoughts now that they've joined the Light Side."

----------

Heero hadn't been thinking about Wufei's proposition when he handed the Chinese pilot a can of soda; he'd been thinking about his so-far-unsuccessful campaign to get Duo to notice that they were interested, and wondering whether he could manage to touch Duo's hand when he passed him a soda. Not that it's likely to get us any further, he thought gloomily, holding the can out in Wufei's general direction and peering into the cooler to find one of Duo's favourites. We're going to have to be more obvious about it, but we really don't want to scare him off--

Warm fingers wrapped around his on the can, feeling slightly greasy from sunscreen, and he looked up with a startled jerk to find Wufei staring at him with a definite question in his eyes. They stayed frozen like that for a long moment, barely breathing; then Wufei's mouth quirked up into a faint smile and his hand moved, one finger stroking across Heero's knuckles. Suddenly realising that they were effectively holding hands and staring into each other's eyes, right out in the open where anyone could see, Heero flushed and yanked his hand away, grabbed a can out of the cooler at random and dropped it in front of Duo. "Here," he growled, dropping down onto his stomach again and burying his head in his folded arms.

"Mm?" Duo opened his eyes and stretched, pushing his sunglasses up on top of his head. "Oh, hey, thanks man."

"Hn." At least Duo didn't see that! Although... if he had, he might have realised that Wufei and I aren't straight...

...and he might also have jumped to the conclusion that we're only interested in each other, not him. Forget it.

Heero opened one eye a crack, shooting a glance past Duo to where Wufei was calmly drinking his soda as if nothing had happened. I guess he was serious about being interested in me, too. I thought maybe it was just a spur-of-the-moment thing, that he'd change his mind later and be glad I never took him up on it.

Actually, I didn't think about it much at all. He scowled, angry at himself. Baka. Anything else, I work out exactly what I want to do and how to do it, and then I do it! This time, I realised that I wanted Duo-- much later than I should have realised it-- and then I seem to have switched off my brain. Wufei's been thinking about it, so it's obviously not impossible to be logical about the subject!

Looks like he's tired of waiting for me to let him know what I want from him.

...What do I want? Would I get jealous, if this all works out and I end up sharing Duo with him?

Heero closed his eyes and deliberately imagined that the two other pilots were lying on a bed, in front of him. Naked. Together. Pale skin and bronze pressed tightly against one another, Duo's loosened hair tangled around them, a tendril of Wufei's hair stuck to his forehead by sweat as he bit gently at Duo's throat and...

Heero's eyes flew open and he winced as he suddenly realised that the towel underneath him did not provide enough padding to make lying face-down on a hard surface with an erection comfortable.

Okay. I'm definitely not jealous. And I'm going to have to calm down if I want to get up any time soon.

Unfortunately, calming down was not particularly easy. Heero was acutely aware that both Duo and Wufei were stretched out in the sun beside him, bodies glistening with sunscreen and sweat, and at least one of them wouldn't object if he just reached out...

Determinedly, Heero squeezed his eyes shut and gritted his teeth, imagining the least arousing things he could think of. Glaciers. Cold showers. Lady Une with her glasses on. Relena. Dr. J. ...In a bikini!

----------

Jay winced and took a large gulp of her drink, shuddering. "I say, Heero really is a masochist, isn't he? I think he's trying to make himself sick..."

* * * * *

"This is far more boring than Drunk Night usually is, don'tcherknow," Jay pouted, slouched on the sofa with her arms folded over her chest.

"I noticed," Christy yawned. "Sorry, Mort; I honestly thought it was going to be entertaining. Mel's usually a happy drunk, not... silent like this. Asuka's normally the silent one."

"And he's not even here," Duo pointed out, leg propped up on a chair. "Did he go somewhere else to drink, or did he go looking for Dan?"

"He's in the Officers' Club," Trowa informed him, "sitting in a corner with a ring of empty tables around him and a bottle of something clear."

"Uh-oh," Christy muttered. "We might have to fetch him later."

Jay, Christy, Duo and Trowa were sitting on various pieces of furniture at one end of the room, watching Mel (at the other end) working her way through a bottle of Han plum wine. Quatre was sitting next to Trowa, reading a book and pretending that his fellow pilots hadn't turned public drunkenness into a spectator sport, and Heero and Wufei were alternating between watching Mel and fussing over Duo. Dan was, presumably, still hiding somewhere.

"I fail to see the point," Wufei muttered, wincing as Mel poured the wine into a water glass and immediately knocked half of it back. "She certainly can't be appreciating the liquor."

"The point is to get drunk and have fun," Christy said acidly, "but I will admit she doesn't usually drink this fast."

"And she doesn't seem to be having fun."

"True."

"Is she even getting drunk?" Duo wondered. "How strong is that stuff?"

"If it's anything like the plum wine my clan used to make, about 100 proof," Wufei said grimly. "It's more like white plum brandy than wine. I hope the sick bay is set up to handle cases of alcohol poisoning."

"Oh, she won't go that far," Jay said uncertainly. "Er... I think."

"She feels rather depressed," Quatre put in quietly, reluctantly peeking over the edge of his book. "And angry. I really don't think it's a good idea for her to be drinking right now."

"Do you want to tell her that, Quat-re?" Christy asked, stressing her use of his real name. "I've already got one broken arm. I'm not going to get another."

"Somebody's going to have to do something, if we don't want to drag her to sick bay after she passes out," Heero shrugged. "She's got half a dozen more bottles down by her chair. Letting her pass out would be simpler, but she could do herself serious damage... and even if she didn't, she wouldn't be fit to pilot for about a week."

"Why don't you, Heero," Christy suggested. "You're tough! You can patch yourself up afterwards and not bother Dot!"

Wufei swore under his breath and stalked towards Mel as she reached for the bottle again, movements unnaturally precise and careful.

"Wu, man, don't!" Duo yelped, then groaned and hunched down in his seat, peeking out between his fingers. "Oh, man, they're gonna take each other apart! She already doesn't like him..."

"Bets?" Jay asked brightly, then coughed and attempted to look innocent as Heero glared daggers at her.

----------

"What is your problem?" Wufei snarled, slapping his hands down on the table and leaning forwards over it, keeping his voice down so that it wouldn't carry to the other end of the room. "You're not an idiot, despite the way you sometimes act. You don't normally do this to yourself, or your teammates wouldn't be surprised, so why now?"

Mel blinked glassily at him for a moment, before focussing; then her hand tightened around the neck of the bottle, and her face twitched. "You want to know what my problem is?" she almost spat at him. "You are my problem. Fuck off and leave me alone!"

"Why?"

She snorted, picking up the bottle to pour another glass. "Because the sight of you is making me feel queasy, and I haven't drunk enough to be sick yet."

"No," Wufei insisted, controlling his temper with an effort. "Why am I your problem? What have I ever done to you? I could understand if I were the counterpart of someone you hated, but according to Jay, we can't have counterparts here or we wouldn't have arrived. So what did I do?"

"You aren't--" Mel cut herself off, and twisted to look towards the other pilots. "Jay!"

"Er, yes?"

"Private!"

"Oh, bother," Jay complained. "You're such a spoilsport, Mel... all right."

"Stay out of his head, too."

"*sigh* Yes, Mel!"

Almost reluctantly, Mel turned back to look at Wufei. She wouldn't meet his eyes, looking at the table, his hands, the hollow at the base of his throat, over his shoulder...

"{You aren't him,}" she said quietly, in Chinese-- no, in Han, Wufei corrected himself. "{You aren't his counterpart. That is my problem.}"

"{...I don't understand,}" he replied softly.

She pulled a small, battered leather wallet out of the rear pocket of her cutoffs and opened it, looking at the contents for a long moment before setting it carefully down on the table and pushing it towards him.

"{Him,}" she said. "{Tzu. My fiancÚ.}"

There were two photographs in the wallet, a formal portrait and a more casual snapshot, and Wufei swallowed past a lump in his throat as he registered their similarity to something he'd seen before. A young oriental man was posed in elaborate robes, one hand on the head of a carved stone tiger, face serene but a spark of humour visible in his eyes; the other picture showed the same man, holding a blunt, tasselled Tai Chi sword, laughing as he was seemingly interrupted mid-form.

The face looking up at Wufei was nearly his own. The hair was longer, partly caught back with a carved pin, and partly flowing loose; the face was slightly softer around the jaw, and the eyes a shade lighter, dark brown rather than black.

"{You don't sound like him,}" Mel said wistfully, "{but you do sometimes move like him... when you're relaxed. You smile at Duo, and it's the way Tzu used to smile at me. And then you do something that's completely unlike him, and it rubs in the fact that he's dead.}" She closed her eyes for a moment, swallowing hard, then continued. "{I even cast the I Ching the day you turned up. I got K'uei, with the sixth line moving. 'He is seen at first as a filthy pig,/ Then as a carriage full of ghosts'... I look at you and see Tzu's ghost, and it hurts like hell because you aren't-- quite-- him!}"

Wufei studied the photographs for a moment longer before handing the case back, noting almost automatically that Mel must have carried them for a long time; the folder had a permanent curve, moulded to the shape of her hip, and something-- probably blood-- had seeped down the fold, staining the inner edges of both photos rusty brown.

"{Excuse me,}" he murmured, setting the folder neatly in front of her, then stalked towards the door leading to the pilots' bedrooms.

He was back almost immediately, and Mel blinked as a frayed silk wallet was thrust under her nose. "{Here.}"

She looked up at him suspiciously as she took the wallet and started to undo the cords tying it closed; her fingers felt the stiffness in the knot, stuck closed with dry blood, and she looked at it more closely. Slowly, she opened it, revealing...

...a young oriental woman posing stiffly in elaborate robes, one hand on the head of a carved stone dragon, face calm but with rebellious eyes. Facing it was another photograph showing the same young woman, holding a blunt practice sword, looking angry at being interrupted.

"{My wife, Meiran,}" Wufei said quietly, reaching over Mel's shoulder to trace one finger down the casual snapshot. "{I consider myself lucky that I have not yet met her equivalent in this world... or anyone similar. I don't know how I would react.}"

"{Badly, I suspect,}" Mel said flatly, closing the wallet and handing it back to him. "{Judging by my own experience.}"

He bowed slightly and began to turn away, only to stop when she kicked the chair opposite her away from the table and slammed a second bottle of plum wine down. "{Get yourself a glass and sit down already! I'm tired of twisting my neck looking up at you,}" she growled, looking away. "{Besides, you've got some catching up to do before you're as drunk as I am.}"

* * * * *

"Should we pour them into bed?" Duo asked, snickering.

"Well, I can't reach them," Christy shrugged, shading her eyes with one hand and peering upwards. "I don't think you could climb up there either, even if your leg is much better."

"I saw Dot looking out of the window of the medical center," Duo told her. "I'd get three feet up the pipe before she stalked over here and yanked me down."

"It's up to you guys, then," she grinned, looking over at Jay, Trowa and Quatre. "If you think you can get them down without them trying to fly."

The pilots-- and several other base personnel-- were standing below one of the few buildings that didn't have roof access. That hadn't stopped Mel and Wufei when they decided to serenade the base, however; they'd climbed up a downpipe and were now balanced on the edge of the flat roof, clinging to a pole supporting a bright searchlight, singing something maudlin-sounding in Chinese. (Or Han, whatever.)

"I'm not sure they're even singing the same song," Quatre murmured, listening as Wufei hit a surprisingly pure high note and Mel seemed to be heading for a bass register.

"They might be trying for harmony," Jay suggested.

"They're not succeeding," Trowa said flatly, wincing.

"Where'd Heero go?" Duo asked, looking around.

A huge form silhouetted itself against the base's lights as it stood up behind the building, giant hands gently scooping the two drunk figures up. < < Come on, you two, > > Heero's voice boomed through Wing's speakers. < < Time you went to bed. > >

"We've got three more verses to go!" Mel protested, waving an empty bottle.

"{Five,}" Wufei corrected her, hicupping.

< < You can finish it tomorrow. > >

"...All right. G'night, Chang."

"G'night, Tangaroa."

On the ground, Christy turned to Jay. "Can we give Heero a medal? Service to the Alliance, above and beyond the call of duty or something?"

Trowa snorted. "For saving everyone's ears, if not their sanity..."

* * * * *

THE NEXT MORNING:

"So, Wufei, you gonna finish the song now?"

"...what?"

"Yeah, Mel, you were hitting some... interesting notes."

"Shaddup. The painkillers haven't kicked in yet."

"Tangaroa?"

"Yes, Chang?"

"We're never doing that again."

"Yes, Chang."


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End 'Warped Mirrors'
Chapter 11
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Chapter 12   

Gundam Wing

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