"Now can I get Wing out of the hangar and go after them?" Heero yelled.
"Answer's still no," Mel mumbled, face-down in the scattered remains of her card house. "It'd be all over, one way or another, by the time you got there." Pushing herself up off of the table, she eyed him sardonically. "Besides, if you were in Duo's position, I bet you wouldn't think you needed rescuing, hmm?"
"But it's Duo, therefore you want to go charging off like a knight in shining Gundanium," Jay chirped. "Please note that none of us are panting to go rescue Christy. She wouldn't thank us."
Dan winced. "She doesn't thank us even when she does need rescuing..."
"And Duo is a Gundam pilot, and therefore presumably can look after himself," Mel pointed out.
"Yes, but--" Wufei blurted out.
"But it's Duo," Mel and Jay chorused.
"Maybe you two should think about this a bit more," Jay advised cheerfully, blinking behind her glasses.
"Matchmake later," Asuka grunted, leaning forwards to turn the radio volume up slightly. "I'm trying to listen."
< < You take Teague, > > Christy' voice snapped. < < I'll get the co-pilot. > >
< < Gotcha, > > Duo answered.
"At least they left their helmets on," Dan said conversationally to Asuka. "Means there's something to listen to."
* * * * *
Dazed and bleeding, fumbling at his safety harness with hands that didn't seem to be working properly, Teague blinked and rolled his head to the side as the cockpit door was yanked open.
"Ah, acushla darlin'," he said fuzzily, smiling at the braided figure silhouetted against the firebase's lights. "I knew ye cared..."
"It's a platonic sort of caring, Teague," an amused tenor voice replied. "You're a bit old for me."
"D'we know each other, gorgeous?" the Tir na n'Og pilot asked, puzzled, and squinting at the blurred figure. "Seems I've heard your voice before, but I can't place it somehow."
"Hit your head, did you?"
"I think so," Teague said doubtfully. "It's either that or I was out on the town last night, an' I've forgotten the fun but been left with the hangover. An' they won't let me fly with a hangover."
"Then I'd say you hit your head all right," his rescuer said cheerfully, undoing the harness buckle and running practiced hands over him in a quick examination. "Does anything in particular hurt?"
"'m not sure," Teague muttered, flexing various parts of his body experimentally. "Everything seems-- OW! Ow. Um. Left ankle."
"Well, whatever's wrong with it, your boot should hold it steady for now." The slim figure ducked under Teague's left arm and got its shoulder into his armpit. "C'mon Terror, let's get you out of here before your chopper goes 'boom' and takes us with it."
"Me poor bairn," the pilot mourned, groping for a handhold and hauling himself out of the seat with a wince. "I don't like to just leave her out here with the Theo bastards... and she won't go 'boom' wi' no reason, y'know."
"She's got a reason," his rescuer puffed, holding him steady as he hopped a step. "There's a hydraulic fire in the tail."
"Ah, then we're not leaving her for the Theos, if she won't be here long," Teague nodded, glancing at the stranger's face. "That's all right then-- Jesus, Mary and Achmed, ye're a boy!"
"Achmed?!" Duo squeaked.
"I see you've been drinking with the Quabalic ground crews again, Teague," Christy's voice came from the other side of the crashed chopper. "I could use a hand when you're free, Mort."
"There's me darlin'!" Teague said delightedly, trying to take a step in that direction. "Ow!"
One of the gunners came limping up, swearing exasperatedly. "Teague, you bloody concussed maniac, the rescue chopper's this way," he said, latching onto the pilot's free arm and steering him in the right direction. "Thanks, kid. I've got him now."
"The other gunner okay?" Duo asked anxiously.
"Yeah, they already have him onboard. Go help Christy."
There was a faint creaking sound, of metal under stress, and then a screech and crash as something slid. The whole wreck seemed to settle slightly, and Duo heard a pained hiss through his helmet earphones.
"That didn't sound good," he muttered, hurrying around the wreckage. "Christy? Everything okay?"
"Fine," a moderately pained and pissed-off voice answered. "Just get this damn thing off of me, will you?"
"What hap-- ooo," Duo winced sympathetically as he got a look at the situation. "That's gotta hurt."
"A bit," Christy agreed through clenched teeth. She was leaning into the cockpit with her right hand clamped on to the doorframe, white-knuckled. Her left arm was pinned beside the unconscious co-pilot's legs, trapped under the crumpled control panel.
"How'd you get stuck like that?" Duo muttered, easing in beside her and getting a solid grip on the panel.
"I was holding it up with my shoulder while I tried to get his legs out, then something settled and it came down on me. Now can you just get us out of here before the ammo in back starts cooking off?" she demanded, throwing a glance over her shoulder towards the advancing fire.
"I think so," he grunted, testing the weight. "If I push the panel up, can you get his legs out?"
"Yes, but you get to carry him."
"Gotcha. On three. One-- two-- three!"
Duo heaved, the panel moved, and Christy snatched her arm out, swearing viciously at the pain as broken bones shifted. Clawing at the co-pilot with her good hand, she dragged his legs out of the way just as the panel snapped in Duo's hands and came crashing down again--
--along with a large chunk of jagged metal that gouged into Duo's thigh.
"Fuck!" he hissed, clamping one hand to the gouge as he staggered back.
"Damn," Christy said calmly, panting. "That's gotta hurt."
"A bit," Duo agreed acidly.
"So much for your pants."
"Yeah. And so much for me carrying this guy, too. Now what?"
< < Now I come down there and kick your sorry asses, > > Firehawk One's pilot snarled over the radio.
< < Actually, now we hop over there and a couple of big, brawny corpsmen pick the guy up, > > said the medevac pilot who'd volunteered to take Teague's crew. < < You two gonna need a lift? > >
Christy and Duo glanced down at their own injuries, then at each other. "No," they chorused.
"We're fine to ride back with Six," Christy added, grinning at Duo.
< < Suuuuure you are, but I won't push it, > > the medevac pilot drawled, swinging his chopper around and heading in their direction. < < What's our patient's condition? > >
"Two broken legs and unconscious," Duo told him, limping heavily as he helped Christy drag the co-pilot away from the now merrily burning wreck. "He's not bleeding all over the place or anything, though."
"Stay well clear, guys, the ammo's starting to go," Christy advised as the first bangs came from the downed chopper.
< < Teach your grandmother to suck eggs, > > the pilot said affectionately, bringing his chopper down and hovering a short distance away. As two large figures in medical uniforms dropped to the ground and started running, carrying a stretcher, he added, < < Go on, you two. The faster you get aboard Six, the faster we can get out of here... and if Jones and Davies don't see you bleeding, they won't feel obligated to try to get you to come to Zinder Base with us. > >
"Gotcha," Christy said, linking her good arm through Duo's and helping him limp away. "We're gone."
* * * * *
Asuka snorted, sitting back in his chair. "Gone in the head maybe."
"Like you're stable," Mel muttered, down on hands and knees retrieving cards from under the furniture.
"What 'had to hurt'?" Quatre asked nervously. "They can't be too badly hurt... can they?"
"I wouldn't count on that," Dan sighed, rubbing his forehead. "You wouldn't believe the sort of injuries Christy's ignored in the past."
"She doesn't ignore other people's injuries, though," Jay said comfortingly, leaning over to pat Wufei's shoulder as he winced. "So, your sweetie must be fairly okay--"
"He is not my 'sweetie'!"
"--or she would've gotten the medics to see to him, and don't argue with me, I'm psychic. And your sweetie doesn't seem the type to ignore it if Christy was badly hurt, so I don't think we need to worry either. Anyone for cocoa?"
"Don't you mean you're 'psycho', Jay dear?" Dan asked sweetly.
"No, Dan, that's Asuka."
The Glacin teen growled something under his breath, and started tossing his knife again.
* * * * *
< < Okay, are all the boneheaded morons back on board? > > the squadron leader asked in a sarcastic voice. < < Yes? Good. > >
< < Hey boss, be nice. That was a rescue in the best heroic tradition, > > Rico protested.
< < If 'heroic' means 'incredibly risky and kind of stupid', yes, it was. I realise it had to be done-- hell, Teague wouldn't last twenty-four hours as a prisoner the way he'd mouth off-- but that doesn't mean I have to be happy about you two doing it! > > He sighed. < < Whatever. The reinforcement column is here, the Theos are backing off a bit; we're going to escort the medevac mission out of the hot zone and then let the Vipers escort them to Zinder while we head back to Assiut. I know we've got our own wounded; is anyone hurt badly enough to need to go to Zinder too? > >
There was silence over the com for a few seconds, before one quiet voice piped up with < < No, boss. > >
< < Right. Let's go, then. Firehawk One to Firebase M, goodbye and good luck. > >
< < Roger that, Firehawk One, and thanks, > > a sincere voice replied.
Firehawk Six's pilot flew in the middle of the formation on the way out of the fire zone, which was a good thing as neither of his door gunners was in any shape to shoot anything. At least, not accurately. As soon as they were clear and the Firehawks had separated from the other choppers, they rolled down the gunbay doors and sat down to examine their wounds.
< < Hope you've got a spare pair of pants, Mort, > > Christy muttered, examining her arm. < < Asuka's stuff would probably fit you in a pinch, if we can persuade him... > >
< < I've got plenty, > > Duo assured her, wincing as he tightened a bandage around his leg. < < I think this is more messy than nasty, > > he sighed, glancing up; then he saw her eyeing her broken arm and went pale. < < Oh, man, you're not planning to set that yourself are you?! Don't! It's gross, you'll give me nightmares-- I'll do it for you-- > >
< < What are you babbling about? > > she asked, bewildered. < < I may have a high pain tolerance, but I'm not a masochist! I'm not into self-inflicted pain, trust me. > >
< < Ah, good, > > he said, deflating slightly. < < I, um, I have a bit of a 'thing' about people setting their own bones since Heero did it once. > >
< < Ew, > > she said, grimacing. < < He's warped. > >
* * * * *
"Coming from someone with multiple personalities, I find that a bit hard to take seriously," Heero grumbled.
"I don't know," Jay mused. "Even Christy's 2B personality won't set major bones herself if there's an alternative... What did you set?"
"Thighbone," Trowa supplied helpfully, when it became clear that Heero wasn't going to answer.
"Ow," she murmured. "Was there anyone else there who could have done it for him?"
"I'm sorry, Nasty-Blue-Eyes, but Christy's right. You're certifiable," Jay said seriously, dropping the fake Albion accent completely.
"Duo's been telling him that ever since they first met," Wufei said dryly.
"Sensible young man, what?" Jay beamed, bouncing back.
* * * * *
As it turned out, Duo didn't have to set Christy's arm; Joe, the co-pilot, had a first aid certificate and was willing to use it.
"Nnnng... oooh," Christy commented intelligently as Joe set and splinted her arm. "Ow."
"If it didn't hurt, I'd be more worried," he told her, taping down the end of the bandage and pulling a sling out of the first aid box. "I'll give you some codeine in a minute."
"That stuff makes me high," she grumbled. "Forget it, it's tolerable."
"Suit yourself," he said doubtfully. "Don't say I didn't offer. How about you, Mort-- er, Duo?"
"It'll be fine until we get back to base," Duo said, waving off his tentative move towards the bandage. "It's gonna need stitches, and even if you're willing to try putting them in in a moving helicopter, I'm not willing to hold still for it."
Christy grinned and gave him a thumbs-up. "Good logic there!"
"I think you two'll keep until we get back," Joe said with a slight chuckle. He moved to the door to the pilots' compartment, then hesitated. "By the way... that was good work back there. Teague's a pain, but we would've missed him and his crew if they were gone."
"I didn't have a choice," Christy said, looking around for something to use as a pillow. "He would have found a way to haunt me, and one stalker is more than enough."
After Joe left, Duo slid a gear bag over to Christy and settled back onto another one, wincing as stiffening bruises made themselves felt. "So," he said tiredly, "two and a bit more hours to go before we get back?"
"We likely to run into anything?"
"Sounds good to me." He pulled his helmet off, turned off the microphone as an afterthought, and closed his eyes.
* * * * *
False dawn was glimmering in the east when a call over the radio made the listening pilots sit up straighter.
< < Assiut Base, this is Firehawk One. We are fifteen minutes out, requesting medical personnel on the landing pad. > >
< < Roger that, Firehawk One. What condition are your wounded in? > >
< < We've got a few minor bullet wounds, one man with some tempered glass in his hip-- > >
< < It's in my butt, I tell you! Stan's luck strikes again! > >
< < --a couple of broken bones, both on the same person-- > >
< < Rub it in, why don't you? > > Christy's tired voice said.
< < --and a few bruises and cuts, > > the lead pilot concluded. < < All the wounded say they're self-mobile, but I wouldn't count on the medics agreeing with them. > >
< < Got that, Firehawks, medical staff will attend. Two, you listening? > >
< < Uh... yes? > > Christy said, a little suspiciously.
The base operator chuckled. < < General Petrenkovitch says he'll meet you on the landing pad. > >
< < Blyad, > > Christy groaned. < < Anyone mind if we turn around and go back to Firebase M now? I'm sure they'll be happy to see us... > >
< < I heard that, Two, > > the General's voice calmly rumbled over the radio.
< < Borrowing Mel's favourite phrase: Bugger, > > Christy sighed. < < See you there, Trei. > >
* * * * *
"I take it we're in trouble?" Duo yawned, settling his helmet back on but not turning on the microphone yet.
"Ohhhh yeah," Christy muttered, switching hers off. "Bigtime. Gundam pilots are not supposed to risk themselves on 'extra-curricular activities'. 'Course, we do it all the time, but Trei's never actually caught any of us yet... hm. Maybe if I pretend to pass out, he won't yell at me?"
"He's more likely to get even more worried, and yell at you more later," Duo theorised. "Might as well get it over with."
"True. He probably won't yell at you, though. You're not officially his responsibility."
"Maybe he won't, but you can bet that Heero and Wufei will. Well, Heero will yell. Wufei's probably just gonna go all cold and formal, which is worse, really, since it lasts longer and I can't yell back or stick my fingers in my ears and go 'LA-LA-LA' until he gives up."
Christy snickered. "I can just see you doing that. Think it'd work on Trei?"
Duo grinned back. "You know him better than me. If you decide to try it, though, let me know first, so I can take pictures."
Ten seconds after the Firehawks landed, they were surrounded by ground crews and medical personnel.
"Allah save us, Rico, you Vaterean maniac, what have you done to my baby this time?" a crew sergeant mourned, gazing at the hole in the chopper's tail. "And then what did those butchers at Zinder do to her?"
"The Theos shot her, not me," Rico insisted. "I performed a brilliant feat of skill and aerobatic flying, thereby avoiding a flaming demise and the premature disappointment of my many fans."
"If you could perform brilliant feats of whatever, instead of just magnificent feats of jaw-flapping, you wouldn't have gotten shot in the first place," the sergeant growled. "Buzz off and let us fix it."
Over by Firehawk Two, another crew sergeant was expressing his feelings in far more colourful terms, ripping off his fez and stomping on it as he swore about the shot-off plates of belly armour.
Duo and Christy sat on the edge of the open gunbay, feet dangling, and watched tiredly as people bustled chaotically around them. A couple of times, medics hurried in their direction, but as soon as they got close enough to make out faces, they suddenly veered aside to tend to different casualties.
"Something wrong?" Duo asked, pointing at one white-coated doctor as he made a sudden about-face.
Christy smirked. "I have a reputation. It won't keep all of them away, though-- oh, damn, here it comes." General Petrenkovitch was stalking through the crowd, straight towards them.
"Looks like you get it first," Duo muttered, patting her shoulder sympathetically. "Remember, it's 'la-la-la-I-can't-hear-you', and screwing up your face usually helps."
"I don't have the energy right now," she sighed. "Besides, it wouldn't work; I can only cover one ear."
"Vell," Petrenkovitch said, coming to a halt in front of them, "vhat haff ve here? Two people who must be kept out of those Theo bastiches' hands at all costs, who haff just been out on a mission they should not haff been on, runnink around in Theo-held territory askink to be shot, hmmm? Vithout notifyink me that they vere going off base, too, though at least vun of them should haff known better..." He glared at them for a moment, chewing on an unlit black cheroot, then abruptly reached out and patted them both on the shoulder.
"Good vork, both of you," he said gruffly, turning away. "But next time, you had better be tellink me you are leavink, yes?"
"Whoo," Duo said, staring wide-eyed after the general as he stalked off. "That was unexpected."
"Seriously unexpected," Christy agreed. "Not even one insult, even though he sounded fairly wound up."
"Really?" Duo squinted dubiously at her. "He sounded pretty controlled to me."
"It's the accent," she explained. "When he's relaxed, he just says Vs instead of Ws. When he starts getting stressed, his terminal Gs become Ks and some of his Vs turn into Fs... and speaking of Fs, I think it's your turn," she added, nodding at the approaching group of Gundam pilots.
"Fuck," Duo swore, proving her point. As Heero stalked ahead of the others, advancing with a grim scowl on his face, he slid off the gunbay platform and took a step forwards, ruthlessly suppressing a wince. "Now, don't be hasty, Heero, will ya?" he called, holding his hands up in front of himself as if warding off a blow. "See? I'm fine, my leg's fine, really, nothing got shot off... um... Heero, you wouldn't punch a wounded fellow pilot, would ya? Scratch that, I know you would," he muttered nervously, starting to back away as Heero didn't slow down. "Shit, man, I'd really rather be yelled at-- OOOF!"
Heero had just walked straight up to him, ducked under one arm, and grabbed him, yanking the braided teen into a fierce hug.
"Don't you dare scare me like that again," he growled, voice muffled in Duo's shoulder; then he abruptly released him and stalked away, stopping about six feet off to glare at some innocent engineers as they went about their business.
Duo winced and coughed, patting tentatively at the chest area of his flak jacket. "Ow. Um. That wasn't the strangest thing I've ever experienced, but it comes close..."
Smiling beatifically, Jay popped up behind Wufei as he stood wide-eyed, staring after Heero. "Your turn," she chirped, and gave him a hefty shove towards Duo. Taken off guard, he staggered forwards and just managed to stop before he rammed the braided pilot into the side of the Firehawk.
"Sha zi!" he hissed, glaring back at her; then he turned, almost reluctantly, to look at Duo.
"Uh, hey, Wufei. I'm back in one piece and everything, so you don't have to get too mad--"
The Chinese teen nodded once, as if coming to a decision, then took a deep breath and leaned forwards, carefully wrapping his arms around Duo. "The world would be a far more boring place if you weren't in it," he said quietly. "Try not to leave too soon."
Christy snickered, giving Duo a thumbs-up sign that he completely missed seeing as Wufei let him go and stepped back.
"Like I said," Jay said smugly, dusting off her hands. "Don't argue with the psychic, eh, what?"
There was a pause as everybody reacted to events in their own way. Heero was determinedly glaring daggers at innocent bystanders. Duo was blushing and shifting uncomfortably, staring at his feet while fiddling with his braid. Wufei looked like he was only resisting blushing and fidgeting by sheer force of will. Trowa was watching proceedings with a raised eyebrow and a slight smile, Quatre was wavering between shock and delight, and the local set of Gundam pilots were all looking either amused or bored.
Finally, Duo took a deep breath, looked up, opened his mouth to speak, spotted something over Wufei's shoulder and yelped in horror. "I-- holy shit, is she here too?!"
"Oh, hey there, how's my favourite medico?" Christy drawled, waving at the white-coated woman with long blonde hair in a plait.
"I'm the only one who'll treat you, Two," she snapped, elbowing past Asuka and Dan. "I'd better be your favourite. Move, people, I have patients to look after!"
"Dorothy?!" Quatre sqeaked, stepping back and bumping into Trowa.
"Chaps, meet Dorothea Catalan, our head physician," Jay said cheerfully. "Another counterpart to someone you know, I take it?"
"Yes, but-- she's supposed to be on the other side!" Duo protested, backing up as she advanced on him.
"Really? Nobody told me that," she said sarcastically. "Sit down and don't flap around, I'll look at you as soon as I've taken care of this idiot."
"I resent that, Do-ro-TAY-a," Christy protested.
"Dot," she hissed, dumping her medical bag down next to the pilot and snapping it open. "Or I'll sedate you with that stuff that gives you a hangover. All right, run it down for me."
As Christy sighed and began a detailed, technical and completely truthful list of her injuries, Jay sidled over to Quatre and nudged him in the side. "So... Dotty's a bad guy in your world?"
"Yes," he said, nodding vigorously. "She's... well... not exactly evil, really, but far too power-hungry, obsessed with violence, and frequently nasty."
"Well," Jay said, blinking as she thought, "our Dot is frequently nasty too, but she doesn't get violent unless people use her full first name too often. Actually, that's quite interesting; General Petrenkovitch and Madame Garnier wear black hats in your world too, don't they?"
Trowa looked interested. "Perhaps our world's 'good guys' are 'bad guys' here?"
"Fascinating thought," Jay said cheerfully. "Remind me to show you gents pictures of all the prominent Theodorians and Alliance members, and we'll see how many you recognise, hmm?"
"Right," Dot said, after poking and prodding Christy in a few places, and pointed at Dan and Asuka. "You two, get her out of the flak jacket and over to the medical center. You can go back to your quarters after I've got you cleaned up and put a proper cast on that arm," she growled, cutting Christy off before she could protest. "I know what it's like trying to keep you in a hospital bed, and I'm not about to inflict you on my orderlies. They haven't done anything bad enough to deserve it. Now," she continued, turning to Duo, "what about you?"
"Uh... me?" he said guiltily, looking up with a startled expression. He'd been picking flattened bullets out of the surface padding of his flak jacket, a useful occupation as it didn't require him to look at anybody.
"Yes, you," she said impatiently. "Do you see any other bloodstained people in the immediate area who I might be talking to? What are your injuries?"
"Nothing serious, really," he insisted. "Gashed thigh, some bruising, that's all."
"Uh-huh," she said, reaching over and flicking another bullet out of the jacket. "Change 'some' to 'severe' and I'll believe you... and I don't care if you can walk on that leg, I don't want you to until I've stitched it. If then. So," she went on, turning to survey the onlookers, "somebody needs to take you there..."
Heero and Wufei both jerked forwards half a step, then turned to glare at each other. Ignoring them, Dot pointed imperiously at Trowa.
"You. Get him over to the medical center and run him through a shower," she said, snapping her bag shut. "Follow those three if you don't know the way. As for the rest of you, I don't want an audience and my patients don't need a cheering section, so be warned; if you turn up, I'll assume you need medical attention and put you through a full examination. And I do mean full," she said significantly, stretching the cuff of one of her rubber gloves down and letting go with a *snap*. "Now go away." And she stalked off.
Trowa cleared his throat, stepped forwards and scooped Duo up into his arms. "I think she means it," he said mildly. "See you later." He walked away, following Dan, Asuka, and a mildly protesting Christy.
"She means it all right," Mel said wryly, ushering Quatre and Jay back towards the pilots' barracks. "Half a dozen mechanics tried to break into the medical center last month, to take a friend some beer, and they still won't talk about it..."
Heero and Wufei were left alone, not-quite-glaring at each other, with mechanics and ground crew making careful detours around them. Finally, Wufei cleared his throat.
"We have to talk about this."
"Yes," Heero agreed, flat-voiced. "We do."
end 'Warped Mirrors' chapter 8
 Blyad = Fuck! (Russian)
 Sha zi = Idiot (Chinese)
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