The Arrangement

by Maldoror


Part Seventeen: War Wounds, Part I

Wufei shook himself. A splatter of water against the curtain sounded like a drum, a counterpoint to the trickle still dribbling from the shower head. He wiped his eyes and reached out blindly for a towel. It landed in his hand before he got as far as the rack.

"Thanks." He grunted. There was a muffled 'Hn' from his partner and the sound of a toothbrush resuming its work.

The towels were decadently soft and fluffy. Much better than the rather coarse ones they had back in their own small bathroom. Wufei rubbed the water clear of his face and found himself looking at an equally fluffy white bathrobe that sent all the alarm bells ringing in his mind.

"Are you sure this room is being paid for by the Minister's lot?" He grumbled.

"Yes." Heero said through toothpaste before grabbing a glass - a real glass, not the plastic tumbler they had back at the house - to rinse.

"You'd better be right. Or Anthea will be going after our respective balls with a blunt spoon."


"Do you even know how much a room like this cost at a five-star hotel like this? Especially here, in Berlin central?"

Heero shrugged in complete indifference. Wufei rolled his eyes, slipped on the bathrobe and went to get his gear from the cupboard. He glanced at the clock in passing. 5 AM. They had to be down in thirty minutes to review the last security details.

Wufei put his uniform on the bed, glaring distastefully at the tie. This would be the first time he actually wore the thing. He slipped the bathrobe from his shoulders, shivering a bit in the cool air. The room was old and elegant and seemed to stare at his nudity with a maiden aunt's disapproval. Wufei's eyes trailed over the walls decorated with woven satiny wallpaper, solid, expensive furniture, two double-beds. The latter at a respectable distance apart, fortunately for the sake of two very light sleepers. The sheets had been thick and soft, the mattress too, a bit too much so - Wufei stretched after slipping on and belting his pants, trying to work out a kink. He slipped his shirt over his shoulders and buttoned it up quickly, leaving the uniform jacket to one side for now.

Heero walked out of the bathroom; he hadn't even bothered with the second robe.

"Hurry up; Sanderson will have commandeered some food from the kitchen for us." Wufei told him. Heero went to get his own uniform in the cupboard, still without a word. Wufei's partner was never a chatterbox but this was unusual even by his standards. He shrugged mentally and put his carrier case on the bed, flicking it open with a practiced snap. He slipped on the shoulder holster and buckled it over his shirt, toyed with the tie. It wouldn't be very visible under a flak jacket, maybe he could skip it...

Heero grumbled indistinctly and Wufei glanced over. His partner was over by his bed fastening his pants, which, even to Wufei's eyes, looked a bit tight.

"Not worn your uniform in awhile, have you." He commented dryly. Heero grunted.

Wufei let his eyes roam over the familiar body. They had both grown in the past few months, now that they were no longer fettered by the chains of war. These days, they had the chance to rest well, eat well - mainly thanks to Wufei who actually believed in vitamins that didn't come in a tube - and exercise well without straining themselves or being continuously injured. Their bodies were catching up for lost time, rushing towards a slightly delayed adulthood. Since the war Heero had grown a couple of inches, and his daily regimen of exercise, in conjunction with the aforementioned food and rest, meant that his muscles were finally having a chance to bulk out a bit. He was never going to be built like a door, in fact to the casual eye he still looked rather slender, but a pro could easily spot the growing muscles running through his arms, his thighs, his abdomen now circled a bit too tightly by his uniform pants. He was due to go up another size in clothing.

Wufei passed hands down his own chest after he tightened his holster, smoothing his shirt and tucking it into his belt. He was growing too, but it looked like he might have inherited his father's build; short, tough and wiry rather than muscular. Well, considering how he'd been able to sneak through a broken air-duct two weeks back to get around Mad Mundson before he blew them all to Hell in little bits, it was probably a good thing... He hoped Heero wouldn't grow much taller than him... though he couldn't really imagine either of them as adults... as usual, the 'future' was the end of this mission and the start of the next.

A rap at the door made him pause as he was about to get his semi-automatic from the case. Heero frowned at him, puzzled, then put his back to the wall out of line of shot of the doorway - the soldier's paranoia was still as healthy as the rest of him - and asked, loudly: "Yes?" His fingers gripped the gun he'd kept under the thick hotel pillow. Wufei shook his head derisively, not for the first time; his partner seemed unable to sleep without that frickin' Glock in the bed with him. Pa-ra-noid. Not like Wufei, who kept his Luger on the bedside table like a reasonable human being.

"Breakfast sir."

Wufei and Heero exchanged puzzled glances. "We didn't order anything."

"Says here, room 1045. Continental deluxe for two." The voice was muffled by the door but sounded honest.

The partners exchanged another look then Heero snapped: "It's a mistake. Take it away."

"Oh... sorry to have bothered you, sir." They heard the wheels of a trolley creaking away.

Heero took two quick steps to his laptop sitting on a table by his bed and flicked the mouse to get rid of the screensaver - still the same dancing scythe Maxwell had installed ages ago. Apparently Maxwell had implanted a virus in Spacenet that sought out Heero's email and IP as soon as he contacted the database the pilots used to keep track of each other, and installed the screensaver on whatever machine Heero was using. Wufei thought it a rather extravagant effort to go through for so little but it was somehow typical of their strange colleague.

"Yuy, it was just a mistake. Forget about it." He muttered before Heero could break into the hotel's computer system to see where that breakfast had come from.

Heero hesitated then turned back to the bed to fit on his tie. He had a first-class scowl on his face. Wufei watched him carefully.

"What's wrong?"

He thought Heero would ignore him... then his partner scrubbed a hand through his messy bangs.

"I don't like these missions." He grumbled.

Wufei fumbled the charger he'd been checking. Heero didn't often express a like or dislike. Saying something like that about a mission... Wufei felt like drawing the curtains back to see if the sun was rising in the West this morning.

"Why not?"

"They're boring... and they make me tense." Heero snapped, tightening his tie with a jerk.

"Yuy... " Wufei fished around, trying to figure this one out. "Not two weeks ago we were in an L2 slum, where even the rats would have mugged us for our shoe-laces, tracking down an insane bomber with four K's of semtex derivative and a death wish. Are you saying that watching a bunch of politicians fuss around is more stressful than that? I'll concede the boring." He added.

"Yes. The problem is, we had license to shoot Mundson, while we have to protect these VIPs."

"I'm glad you've mastered that distinction."

"Don't you start... Politicians seem unable to follow even basic safety procedures; the fools break away to speak to reporters, to shake hands with members of the public, they always want low profile security and a full room and they talk way too much."

"Well, yes, they-"

A knock on the door again, much softer than the first. Wufei and Heero stared at each other and even Wufei reached for the Luger this time.

"Yes?" Heero was back in his previous position, where a shot through the door wouldn't nail him.


There were three thunderous seconds of silence and then Wufei tossed the Luger down with a snort while Heero went to wrench the door open, after darting his palm over the spy-hole through force of habit.

"Relena? What the hell are you doing h- where's your escort?!"

"Escort?" The soft voice turned into a squeak and there was a rustle of skirt. Wufei imagined his partner jerking the Minister inside. "I left them by my door. This floor has security."

"Only standard hotel security, Relena!" Heero snapped. "They have waiters and maids wandering all over the place!"

"Uh, those are hotel staff." Relena appeared, propelled forward by a firm hand on her elbow, talking to Heero over her shoulder. "I'm sure they're not-" her words ended in a hiccup as she looked around and spotted Wufei.

"Minister." He rose and gave a minimal bow - the stupid woman was a VIP and he had to behave accordingly. When she did nothing more than stare at him with her mouth open he sat back down and continued dismantling and checking the semi.

"Who-... " Relena cleared her throat and her voice was a lot more sophisticated, though still slightly off-pitch. "Erm, Heero? Could you introduce us?"

Heero had dropped his gun on his bed and shrugged on his uniform jacket. "This is Chang Wufei, my partner."

"Oh. Oh right! Yes, I remember Lady Une mentioning him." Relena made it clear from her tone that she had not expected the partner to end up in the room she'd set aside for Heero. Wufei saw her eyes flash over the two beds. The two unmade beds. She visibly relaxed while he found himself tensing. Great, great start to the day.

"My, you're awfully young to be a Preventer." Relena said, and the Darlian charm was finally recovering from its shock; the smile she gave him was sweet and winning. Of course, what she'd just said wasn't going to win her any points. Out of the corner of his eye Wufei saw Heero scowl briefly as he stuffed his Glock in its back holster.

"We were never actually introduced, but I was the pilot of the Gundam 05, Shenlong." Wufei informed her.

"Oh!" Relena pinked, but then the smile that followed was more genuine. "I'm sorry, I didn't recognize you. I should have, we did see each other on MO2, very briefly. We owe you so much. I am sorry."

She looked at him; Wufei found himself on the edge of fidgeting. She was gazing at him, Chang Wufei, as if he was the savior of the human race instead of a hound of battle and a multiple murderer. Wufei wanted to drop the semi and stand up and well, do something - preferably leave. She wasn't unpleasant - actually now that he looked at her up close instead of through news print he realized she was rather pretty - but the way she was looking at him made him fundamentally uneasy, as if he was passing himself off as something he was not.

The cornflower blue eyes turned towards their primary target. Wufei nearly breathed out in relief, and felt a slight pinch of compassion for the subtle tensing that only he would notice in Heero's shoulders as his partner became the recipient of that intense gaze. He suddenly began to understand why Heero could want to protect Relena with his life, fight a war for her, but not want to spend more than a few hours in her company, however nice and honestly friendly she was trying to be.

"Did you find the hotel room comfortable, Heero? Did you sleep well? I heard you got in late last night."

Heero shrugged. This didn't seem to discourage her. Well, she was used to it. "I got up early this morning hoping to see you. We've not had an occasion to chat for months! Er... how have you been?"

Wufei caught her gaze flicking over the room as if looking for something and he put it together. No longer caught by the spotlight of her eyes, he felt a tiny surge of his usual cold temper - resenting the moment of discomfort he'd experienced. This woman should know better than to try to distract Yuy! Not only was that impossible, but he was also the head of the close security team that were reinforcing her regular bodyguards on this visit, after the very precise death-threat she'd received. Distracting him was not advisable.

"I apologize, Minister." He said coolly and Relena started a bit as she glanced back at him, his presence had apparently been forgotten. "We sent it back."

"W-what?" Relena pinked a bit again. Heero hadn't caught on yet, he was staring at Wufei, visibly puzzled.

"The breakfast. For two." Wufei said for his partner's benefit though he continued to address the Minister. "We didn't know it was from you. We sent it back."

"Oh... oh that's okay." Relena was downright flushed now.

"Relena did you send that?" Heero snapped. Relena turned back to him but, to her credit, didn't flinch or fall back. Wufei knew grown men who would dive for cover at that tone of voice from Heero. Well, Relena was probably used to that too. "You should know better. We would never eat anything that had been taken up to us unsupervised."

To us? Oh wake up and smell the coffee we sent back, Yuy. It wasn't 'for us', it was for you two. Oh well, he'll figure it out... eventually... Wufei tuned out the excuses and the harsh explanations on security and such that followed, checking his barrel and putting his semi back together again with a quick and practiced movement. Relena's eyes kept darting towards the assembling weapon. If the rebirth of a gun was making the Peace proponent nervous, Wufei realized he could live with that. Besides, they really needed to get ready.

Heero knew it too. He interrupted Relena mid-sentence by grabbing her elbow again and hauling her to the door. "Chang, I'm walking the Minister back to her suite, be ready in five minutes."

"I'm ready now, Yuy." Wufei drawled. That got him a scowl too, then, with a last distressed squeak, Relena was pulled through the door and Wufei was alone.


Heero had been right; this was boring, Wufei reflected, yet also stressful.

Wufei had a better grasp of the politicians' thought process than his partner did; he realized that a death-threat was a distant thing, something that would follow them most of their career, whereas a photo opportunity with the charming, photogenic Minister Darlian was a much more immediate concern. It didn't help him be any more patient than Heero when some idiot tried to drag Relena near the window to get a better light for the picture, or had a genteel argument about changing his seat at the last minute because there was a breeze, or some fan broke through the security cordon for an autograph, not to mention the press's shenanigans. He could almost feel the tension radiating from his partner. If Heero had his way, the open debate and conference on the final abolition of world-wide frontiers would be held in a bunker, with the representatives in bullet-proof glass aquariums, and the guests listening to the speeches lying flat on their stomachs with their hands on their heads.

Sanderson and Tomoka nodded to them as they took their place on the other side of the low stage, giving him and Heero a ten-minute break. The partners cast one last look around the large, elegant hotel conference room before slipping into the wings. Waiters were moving among the tables with chilled water and fruit juice, and clearing up the breakfast buffet. A piano had been shoved off to one side of the stage and covered. Relena was at the speaker's podium talking about something or other - Wufei had quickly tuned her out for the sake of his own sanity; he might believe in peace now, but as one who regularly shed his blood and shot people to defend it, the asinine generalities were giving him a headache.

He shrugged his flak jacket, trying to ease the rub at his neck, and put the bottle of water from his pack against his forehead briefly. It was hot in the conference room under the spots, if you were wearing a uniform and protective gear. He offered the bottle to Heero who shook his head without glancing at it.

"Let's go to the lounge." Wufei said after taking a drink. "I want to fill this up while we have the chance."


"So... did she persuade you to go to dinner with her tonight?" Wufei murmured. This was their break after all, and they were alone. A little sparring would relax them. Well, it would certainly relax Wufei.

Heero stumbled. "How did you know she asked me to dinner?!"

"I'm psychic." Wufei sneered, keeping his voice low as they passed behind the stage.

"I told her no, of course, but she insisted and said she'd ask me again later when I was in a better mood." Heero snapped sotto voce. "I don't know why she keeps doing this. Every time I guarded her previously, before you came back from University and we started getting proper missions, it was always the same thing. I always said no and she-" He bit down on the unusual flow of words as if suddenly annoyed by the whole subject but Wufei caught a glance out of the corner of Heero's eyes.

Wufei was rather nonplussed. He thought his jab would lead to one of their little put-down matches, not a confession. If he didn't know better, he'd think Heero was asking him for his help and advice in the situation, in his own direct and charming way. Well Wufei had a bit more experience in this domain than Heero had, having to turn down giddy girls at University, but he thought Relena was probably a special case. He wasn't sure she was after Heero for romantic reasons, though that might be in the mix. But he thought there was something more... security? Comfort? A link back to a time that was simpler, where she didn't have the weight of the world on her shoulders? The attention of somebody who treated her the same as he had during the war, well, minus the death-threats? Who wasn't impressed by her status, job and reputation?

"I don't know what she expects." Heero continued grumbling. "She looks at me like... " He lapsed into silence again. Yeah, I know, Wufei thought somberly, unable to put the feeling into words as well but knowing exactly what Heero meant.

"I don't know-"

Wufei's bottle thunked against the floor. He had his semi out the next second.

Heero had flattened himself against the wall with his own weapon drawn purely on instinct, but his eyes on Wufei were confused. "What."

"Where's Emmet?" Wufei whispered, edging forward. The Preventer was one of their team, guarding the entrance to the backstage area of the conference room. He was not the kind to leave his post for anything unless relieved.

"K'so. Check." Heero turned and headed back toward the conference room at a silent, deadly run. Wufei poked a cautious head around the corner. Nothing was out place... at first glance. But Wufei had a very good eye for detail. He noticed a picture slightly askew on the wall Emmet had been leaning against when he'd last seen him an hour, ago before the conference started. No blood but slight signs of a disturbance. And, as he got nearer, a very slight smell in the air, scorched cloth and burnt hair. A tazer? Someone had gotten close enough to an old hand like Emmet to take him out - someone whom he would not be immediately suspicious of - hotel staff?!

Wufei had spun on that flash of intuition when a shot rang out. Muffled screams. Doors being slammed. He ghosted back towards the conference room, leaned around the corner to the long hallway leading towards the stage. Heero was crouching at the other end of the hallway, at the room's entrance. Someone shouted, words indistinct to Wufei. Heero glanced back at him, one warning look, then stood and, semi pointing towards the ground, stepped out into the conference room.

Shit! Wufei couldn't see what was happening but he could imagine... someone must be threatening the VIPs. As he watched, Heero leaned forward slowly and slid his semi towards an unseen shooter.

Wufei turned, the hotel blueprint flashing through his mind. The mezzanine. It was cordoned off. The small nook near the high ceiling to the left of the stage would give him a good view and a shot. He thrust the semi back into its thigh holster and ripped open his flack jacket and uniform to dig out his Luger, preferring its precision to a lethal spread at this point. It wasn't regulations to carry it concealed but that had never stopped him. He knew Heero had his Glock squirreled away as well, though he doubted his partner could draw it unless Wufei provided a distraction.

The guard - one of Relena's regulars - who had been on the door to the mezzanine was missing, of course. That left the three Preventers in the conference room itself, and Heero. All other personnel were positioned on the ground floor, as the VIPs had insisted they did not want high profile security. But these were teams who knew what they were doing, they had the area loosely under surveillance. Damn it all, how had the bastards managed to -

Shooter in the mezzanine.

Wufei darted back into the stairwell. The man hadn't turned. He was dressed in a waiter's uniform, with a short riffle pointing at the people below. Wufei leaned back against the wall, took a breath, stuck the Luger in his belt and drew his boot-knife.

His body remembered; every infiltration, alone against hundreds of armed and trigger-happy troops. Tread in silence. Move in shadow. Time your steps to your enemy's breathing. Erase your presence from his mind. Until you can-

One hand over the mouth; the blade stabbed into the base of the skull. His knife hand darted away from the hilt to catch the falling riffle. Wufei let himself fall back loosely, the jerking body toppling onto him to avoid it rattling against the floor. Warmth of blood on his chest. A smell he'd never forget and never get used to. A gurgle from the man's stomach as bowels clenched and then loosened. The body stilled and Wufei took his hand away from the mouth after he felt the last rattle tickle his fingers.

Leaning carefully over the edge of the mezzanine, he took in the view in one glance. Bad. He was opposite the wall where Heero was crouched, hands in the air, blue eyes flickering over the scene looking for an opening. Wufei lifted his head once more until Heero spotted him. Sanderson and Tomoka were on the ground, weapons thrown away. Dupont was lying on the floor near the main door to the conference room, probably downed by that earlier shot, in a small pool of blood from somewhere on her body, status unknown. The civilians were all on the ground, except for a few who'd been grabbed by the hostiles. He'd counted five. A quick glance confirmed it. And, most unfortunately, one of them - one of the waiters - was holding Relena in front of him with a gun to her head.

A flare of absolute anger. Just like OZ with the colonies - threatening the innocent to disarm the strong - in war, the weak didn't care about casualties - Heero had self-destructed to protect the colonies back then - the anger burned bright as he saw his partner made helpless by a cowardly threat, fed by his worry for Heero and the sixty innocent people in the room who might get caught in the crossfire; then all emotions were quickly suppressed by the warrior within.

Wufei bit his lip as the shooter holding Relena came into his sights. He could nail the guy but... it would be an unacceptable risk to the Minister. Damn it how-... the waiters had been checked. The other hostiles were dressed like civilians. How had they gotten weapons past the metal detectors?! If there were leaks in their own security... he might not be able to rely on backup.

"You. Come here."

Wufei glanced over the balustrade again, puzzled. He had crept against the side of the mezzanine, so he couldn't be seen by any of the hostiles in the main part of the room; the man on the stage holding Relena was looking the other way. Another man was near Wufei's position, just below the mezzanine, holding a journalist to his chest, a gun to the man's jaw, but he was looking at the stage... it had been Heero they'd said that to.

Heero stood slowly, hands raised. Blue eyes flitted towards the gun he'd tossed away, towards the man holding Relena, towards the other enemies in the room. Wufei assessed the situation as Heero was doing. The conference table was thick oak, if Yuy could get Relena away, they could- no! Shit! Wufei's eyes widened in alarm as he got a better look at the gun the man was holding to Relena's head. A Desert Eagle, latest in line. That could put a bullet through just about anything in the conference room. Including, probably, their flak jackets.

"Come. Here." Wufei could see the man's face as it turned to follow Heero's movements; his partner had gotten nearer but angled towards the front of the stage so that he was between Relena and some of the other weapons. The man holding Relena... his face was set and... it didn't look like the face of a man who was intending to get out alive. Wufei had seen it before. He knew it well. He had a nasty feeling that Relena and the other VIPs were dead. Although if he was stupid enough to let a killer like Heero moving around the room instead of getting down on the floor there might still be a -

"Turn around." Heero stopped, a meter away from the man, way closer than Wufei would ever have let someone like Heero. His partner turned slowly, eyes flickering to the mezzanine as soon as he was facing in that direction, without alerting the others to Wufei's position. Wufei tensed but there wasn't much he could do yet.

"Where's the other one! Has anybody seen him?" The man almost right beneath Wufei muttered, he sounded like he was talking into a comm. The journalist he was holding swallowed audibly.

"On your knees." The man holding Relena said. Heero stood still for a second then sank to his knees, raising his hands to lace his fingers at the back of his head. The man shifted Relena around a bit, to his left, and she was now completely between him and Wufei. She was pale but her face was calm and her eyes dry, and she twisted in his hold to face front with him. The man pressed his gun against her head warningly and her throat bent back as the grip around it tightened. Wufei's lips curled back in a silent snarl at the horrible angle for a headshot, he'd never get the bastard like this without clipping Relena, at the very least.

"Did any of you see the other?! Paul? This is André! Come in!" The man below hissed.

"No." The man holding Relena said softly to Heero. "Get your hands away from your head. Put them - cross them at the wrist behind your back."



Wufei's finger tightened on the trigger, he had the man's shoulder in his sight, but he couldn't - the Eagle was at Relena's - she was in the way of a fatal shot - Heero-

Heero's eyes flashed towards him as he put his hands behind his back. A warning. A message.

Finish the mission.

Relena made some noise of protest and moved against the loosening hold, eyes wide.

The killer smiled like a hanged man. And in one quick movement took his gun from Relena's head and put it against Heero's. Finger tightening on the trigger.

Relena twisted out of the loose hold and dropped her full weight onto the man's right arm -

The gun fired twice and Heero was hurled forward, crashing into the wooden floor.

Relena clear. The thought came after Wufei had already squeezed the trigger.

She screamed as the man's dead weight crashed into her. Head shot, one hostile down. Wufei was already firing at the man below him. Shoulder shot, head shot. A bullet slammed in the wall by his head. Mokota had grabbed the first man's Eagle and was covering Relena with his body; the crack of his bullets made the chandelier ching. Wufei hurled himself over the handrail and landed like a cat on the ground below. He rolled and came up firing, and threw himself behind a pillar. A bullet smacked into it but then there were shouts at the door and the sound of running feet, and then nothing but sobs and screams for help.

Wufei broke cover and checked the room. No more hostiles. He spun and nodded to Anderson and Mokota before heading towards the fire exit. "Get them moving." He barked over his shoulder. Mokota hauled a sobbing Relena to her feet, dragged her screaming away from the body that Wufei couldn't - finish the mission. Get the VIPs out. Mokota had Relena, Sanderson took the President of the Council and the Speaker and hustled them forward. Others followed. Wufei checked the fire escape as they gathered behind him; the ground below was clear - good thing they were only on the second floor. And local police officers were running up the alley, guns at a ready, heading for the fire escape to block off the shooters' possible escape route.

"Move, now." He hissed, once he made sure the lieutenant in charge of the four-man police brigade had recognized his uniform. Sanderson and Mokota covered the VIPs with their bodies, eyes on the skylines, the ground, any hint of cover. Wufei followed them closely. A red-headed cop built like a rugbyman picked Relena up like a child as she staggered, and huddled over her as he started running towards the armored car at the end. The lieutenant turned towards Wufei to ask a question-

The alarm in the man's eyes saved his life. Wufei was on the ground before the shot echoed. The bullet spat up brick and dust as it hit the wall where his head had been. He twisted and brought his gun up - the officer had already fired, sending the shooter diving for cover behind a garbage container at the corner of two alleys some distance away. Wufei uncurled himself in one savage spring.

"Hey wait-" The officer shouted at his back. He ignored it. His gun was firing even as he threw himself behind an open fire door. A bullet rang against the thick metal, a wild shot.

"Come on! Come on!" A shout from further down the alley and the growl of a motorcycle. Wufei turned to the officer and mouthed 'cycle' at the man. The officer grabbed his comm, started ordering forces to surround the building if they weren't already- Wufei risked his head out and pulled back as a shot echoed through the alley.

"Come on!" The voice sounded desperate. British accent, he noted absently.

"Goddamn- we're still at war, motherfucker!" The shooter behind the container shouted and took off. Wufei risked a shot but the man on the motorcycle had a shotgun pointed in his direction and he pulled back with a curse. The shooter had been one of the six in the conference room. The motorcyclist was a seventh. Not a huge force, unless there were others.

War? What the fuck did that mean.

Wufei stood as the whine of the cycle faded. Hopefully a barricade would be up by now. He brushed past the officer trying to ask him questions in a thick, Germanic accent. The armored car with Relena and the VIPs was already gone, Sanderson and Mokota with it.

The fire escape stairs clanged under Wufei's feet. A police officer asked him for his badge at the door and Wufei tore it off and nearly punched the man in the stomach with it as he burst back into the conference room.

The room was empty of civilians though only a few minutes had elapsed; it was like a magician's trick. There were half a dozen armed men, Preventers, Relena's people and a few cops in their place. One was putting pressure on Dupont's shoulder, she was pale but conscious. Two others had their gun on a man on the floor, one of the shooters. He wasn't moving. At a glance, none of the civilians had been injured, or else they'd been mobile.


He made his way swiftly around overturned chairs, crushed glasses, dropped handbags and cameras, like a ghost of terrors past, heading for the stage and the two Berlin policemen leaning over-.


He knelt next to Heero. Actually his knees had wobbled and near given out on him as he'd approached and heard the bubbling whisper of breath. Blood, frothy pink, on the lips but-... gods bless the creators of their flak jackets. He'd been told, without really paying attention, that they were wearing a new prototype coat - he'd only cared that it was tougher and lighter than the previous kind. He'd never thought to ask if it could resist two rounds from an Eagle at point blank range. Damn, that could have dented light armor plating.

"Yuy? Relena's safe. The VIPs made it out."

One of the cops said something. Wufei knew that the bullet's impact must have felt like a truck hitting Heero midriff. No wonder he was out cold. Still... he'd had to say it. Maybe it was for his own benefit. Relena was safe. Mission over. Now he had to get his injured partner to a safe-house.

Someone grabbed Wufei by the shoulder and jerked.

One second later, the paramedic was flat on the ground with the Luger in his face. Behind Wufei the cops both drew their weapons and yelled something. He realized they'd been talking to him for awhile now; he hadn't really been paying attention.

"Sorry." He lifted the gun away from the paramedic, who just stared at him. The man's colleague glared at Wufei and kneeled next to Heero, displacing one of the cops.

"Two bullets in the back." Wufei heard his own voice say, it sounded cold and exact. "Flak jacket took it but I think it broke his -"

"Karl, get up! We have a lung wound here! And... go get a backboard!"

Wufei felt his battle-edge start to dissipate. Heero's face was pale, and the breath dragged though his throat as if each one would be the last but Wufei knew it sounded probably worse than it was. One bullet had impacted the back of the flack jacket, snapping some of Heero's ribs and sending bone plunging into his lung by the sound of it. The other one had hit him right over the spine. Wufei started to think like a Preventer again. A worried Preventer.

"Here." The paramedics were moving with quick efficiency. "Got it. Okay. Roll him."

"Be careful!" Wufei snarled, reacting to the sight of an IV. "He's insensitive to a lot of medication. Here." He reached past the medic and jerked Heero's dogtags from around his neck. "Scan this one. It'll tell you what you can use."

The medic took his PDA from his belt and used its inbuilt scanner on the tag. His eyebrows shot up at the result. "Gottverdamnt! We don't have any of this with us!"

"Well get him to a hospital that does." Wufei said through clenched teeth.

"Okay. Anamaria? What's our priority?" The man was talking into his comm. "We got a ride for him now. Creuz is taking the casualties. Let's go."

"I'm coming with you." Wufei snapped.

The paramedic seemed about to argue on principle, took one look at Wufei's face and changed his mind. "Ya ya, let's go."


"Are you the next of kin?"


"Then tell the nurse where I can reach his family and please leave. You're not supposed to be here, this is pre-ops. Go to the emergency room for treatment."

"I- he doesn't have any family and I don't need treatment!" Wufei snapped, resisting the urge to grab the surgeon by the collar and slam him against the wall a few times. "Look, we need to talk, I-"

"I need to get consent, if I can." The surgeon corrected him firmly. He was a man in his forties, wiry thin and stooped, with thinning light brown hair and a no-nonsense look of authority about him that made Wufei wonder if he hadn't been a military doctor at one point. The badge on his scrubs indicated his name was 'Helzman'. "Then I need you to leave. We have to get him prepped."

"You need me here for that, doctor." Wufei said, trying to keep his voice calm but he could feel the seconds dripping through his fingers like blood. Heero had been shot over thirty minutes ago. He'd stabilized in the ambulance all by himself, much to the paramedics' amazement - Wufei had never felt more grateful for J's tinkering before - and he'd been whisked through the emergency room and up to pre-ops at record speed as a result. Wufei had managed to follow him up till now but Helzman would be a definite obstacle. Wufei glanced at Heero's still form, on his side as nurses checked the restraint on his back keeping his spine and ribs from moving too much, while they cut away the rest of his uniform.

Helzman looked up from the clipboard he'd been perusing as if amazed Wufei was still there. "What? Need you here?"

"Look, I'm a Preventer-"

"You are?" Helzman stared at Wufei, who suddenly remembered he had blood all over the chest of his flak jacket. No wonder Helzman had assumed he was another patient.

"Yes! I- I don't have my badge, I left it on the scene but- you!" One of the nurses around Heero started. "Look in the back pocket of his pants, you'll find his wallet. There will be a card with his ID and emergency contact details. It will have the number of Preventer HQ in Brussels. You can call our superior, Lady Une. She can confirm this."

"That's not the point, sir." Helzman snapped, letting the pages of the chart he was holding riffle back with a whisper. "You may be his colleague but you should still wait in the hallway. Only family members are allowed in pre-ops, and then only until we start prep. We-"

"Look, I really need to talk to you-"


"Please." Wufei ground out. "We have to talk about what medical procedures you are going to use. He's-"

"I have all the details about his allergies to certain medication. As for medical details, you have no authority for that. Please remove yourself now, sir."

"Allergies are not the problem!"

"Rupert, Sicherheit anrufen." Helzman said over Wufei's shoulder to one of the nurses, who moved towards the interphone.

"No! I-" Wufei grabbed the surgeon by his scrubs and dragged him protesting out of earshot of the rest of the surgical team.

"This is not helping your friend! He needs immediate attention-" Helzman hissed, trying to break Wufei's hold.

"He's a Gundam pilot."

"-we need to operate while he's... what?"

"That's why he's resistant to a lot of drugs. And that's why you need me here. Now get Rupert to call off the hounds because my mood is bad enough as it is." Wufei growled.

Helzman was quick. His eyebrows shot up as he twisted to stare at Heero - who, still unconscious, actually looked all of sixteen for once, despite the blood and the pallor on his face. Then the surgeon's eyes twitched and riveted themselves on Wufei's face.

"That's right, so am I." Wufei added. "Now, you need to get Yuy sedated before-"

"I heard-... I heard what those colonists did to you." Helzman stuttered, eyes wide. Wufei took a second to relate this to his own comment about Heero's drug resistance.

"Tell you what, doctor, once you've finished operating on my partner here, I'll sit down with you and have a long debate about ethics and the necessities of war. I could do with an intelligent conversation from someone who doesn't grunt or glare when I'm winning the argument. But right now -"

"Are you Wu F-Fei Chang?"

Helzman and Wufei turned towards the small nurse who'd been going through Heero's wallet. She was holding a card and looking at Wufei doubtfully.

"Yes I am, what-"

"Herr Doktor, he is next of kin." The nurse said, handing Heero's Preventer ID and contact details to Helzman.

"I am?" Of course, there was a Next Of Kin box on the Preventer emergency card. He hadn't bothered to fill it in; since he was a minor, he expected his guardian, Uncle Wai, would take care of- Wufei recovered from his surprise and spun on Helzman. "There! That means I'm allowed to be here, as well as make medical decisions in his name, right?"

"You can stay until we start prepping him." Helzman corrected bitingly, reading the card with a dubious frown on his face. "And you're definitely not allowed to take his medical decisions. If he has no family the hospital will take responsibility. Karina, go back and get Mr Yuy ready, I want him in there in ten minutes."

"If you're going to operate on Yuy, you're going to need me while you sedate him, and I want to scrub in and be in the theater so that -"

"What?!" He had Helzman's full attention again.

"Look, I happen to know how my partner - my friend - would want a spinal injury treated! I want to be on hand so I can tell you -"

"Absolutely out of the question!" The surgeon turned a fetching shade of purple.

"I know it's not procedure but-"

"You're damn right about that! I don't care if you were a Gun-mf!"

Wufei's hand muffled the end of the shout. Stay calm. Don't draw your gun or they will really have a reason to throw you out. If they do that... no. They'd call Une, or their physician back in Brussels. None of them would be able to make the kind of decision Heero would want regarding an injury that could potentially put him in a wheelchair. This was Wufei's responsibility.

"Call off security." Wufei said in a voice that was a lot calmer than he felt. He picked up the clipboard Helzman had dropped and grabbed one of the legal forms, ripping it from the clip and turning it over to get a blank sheet. He didn't look at the surgeon. Helzman hesitated. He could feel the man's eyes on his face but he didn't bother to look as he picked a pen out of the surgeon's breast-pocket. Helzman started, then slowly waved the two security guards hovering at Wufei's shoulder away.

Wufei scribbled quickly 'I, Heero Yuy, give authority to Chang Wufei to make all medical decisions on my behalf, signed, Chang Wufei, Heero Yuy'. He signed it with a scratch that made the pen bleed.

"Here." He stuck the mutilated form in front of Helzman's nose. "If I get him to sign this too, will that give me the right to call the shots on his treatment?"

"Well- but he's out cold!"

"We'll just see about that." Wufei grabbed a protesting Helzman by the front of his scrubs and dragged him to the gurney, stepping over cables and tubes. The three nurses were spreading betadine over Heero's chest and back and inserting an IV in his ankle. They stepped back, uncertain. Wufei shoved Helzman against the wall, fairly gently, stuck the clipboard under one arm, then grabbed Heero's wrists.

"Yuy. Can you hear me?"

"I don't know what you expect." Helzman snapped. "He's got whiplash concussion from being jerked around and thrown to the floor by point-blank shots-"

"Yuy?" Wufei gripped the wrists with one hand and tapped Heero's cheek with another. "Come on, snap out of it."

"- lung damage which we've barely patched up in the ER-"


"- possible spine trauma, several broken ribs-"

Wufei grabbed Heero's head by the hair and jerked it back. "Status, pilot!"

Good thing he was gripping Heero's wrists...

The clipboard went flying and Wufei almost followed as Heero jerked and wrenched one hand free. Wufei caught it as it tried to punch him blind. Heero rasped and wrenched it away again - goddamn it the son of a bitch was strong! - and put it to his mouth.

"No- Yuy! Don't! You're-"

Heero coughed and gagged, but ripped the tube from his throat, and then made a spirited effort to roll off the gurney. It took Wufei a few heart-wrenching moments to immobilize his weakened partner without adding to his injuries. "Heero! It's me! Wufei! Calm down- safe! You're safe!"

Heero froze and then relaxed under his hands. Wufei blew a strand of loosened hair from his eyes and made sure Heero had something like recognition in his own before letting go.

"S... status... " Heero mumbled, breathing harsh and tortured.

"Safe. Relena's safe, mission's over, you're injured." Wufei shot out, leaning down to pick up the clipboard. "You took two rounds up close. Jacket stopped them. Damage to ribs, punctured lung - " blood was bubbling down Heero's chin again, damn it " - and back injury."

" ...where... "

"Hospital. About to be operated on to patch the lung, get the bone shards out. You have a cracked vertebra and swelling in the spine but they don't know how bad. Once they fix the lung they'll look into that but -" Wufei stuffed the clipboard in Heero's lightly curled fist and fished around for the pen he'd stuck in his pocket. "Sign this. It gives me authority over your medical decisions. So I can tell them to take care of the spinal injury while you're still on the table." And tell them to take the risks needed to get it fixed. He knew enough about field medicine to know that a cautious surgeon would not want to strain a patient with an injury to a vital organ by spending hours working on a non-fatal back injury, preferring to leave the swelling to the care of anti-inflammatories and rest. But it was a precaution Heero didn't need, and a risk to his future mobility that neither partner would consider.

Heero's eyes tried to focus on him, then the clipboard. Wufei wondered how bad the concussion was. Then Heero painfully moved clipboard and pen together, Wufei steadying his hand, and awkwardly scribbled something like his name across half the page.

" ...can't... .feel f-... fingers... " his words and breathing were torn and ragged, flecks of blood on the white of the paper.

"You got pretty beat up. But you can move them." Wufei said then wished he hadn't, Heero didn't need this sugarcoated. "Doctor, is this enough?"

"We-we need to get him intubated again, his sats are dropping." Helzman said after picking his jaw up off the floor. He looked like he was trying hard to regroup behind an air of professionalism.

"Yeah, sorry about that, I should have seen that one coming." Wufei muttered. "But it if didn't happen now it would have happened in a few minutes while you were prepping him and you'd have been in worse trouble. Now will you let me in the operating theater?"

"Well I-"

" " Heero whispered. Wufei followed his gaze, reached out a long arm and dragged Helzman forward by the front of his already stretched and rumpled scrubs.

"Hey- let me go! Mr Yuy, I don't think you quite understand how serious your urk!"

Wufei had released the scrubs and Helzman had leaned towards his patient only to find himself hauled nose to nose with the latter by a very similar grip.

"Do. What. He. Says." Heero said, voice wheezy and choked with blood but still deadly. Helzman nodded like a puppet with only one string until Wufei pulled him back.

"Okay, doctor, tube him-"

"I can't! He's conscious!"

"I told you he- he's not norm- he can control his cough and gag reflexes." Wufei ground out. "Get your people in here and let's get this done already! We've wasted enough time as it is! You've got the list of drugs you can use. I'll scrub and join you, hold him down while you anaesthetize him. Yes I need to!" He cut Helzman's protests. "The last time he was put under, it was in an interrogation room! I'd have you cuff him to the table but we don't have time to autoclave the restraints! I'm the next best thing if you don't want him killing your anesthesiologist while he's semi-conscious. Now can we do this?!"

Helzman looked suddenly older as he sighed. "Rupert, see if team A is ready. Make sure we get Iagerbrand for anesthesia. Karina get me a tube kit."

"Are you sure?" Karina was staring at Wufei. So were the security guards still standing near the door.

"Yes. I think we're going to have to fly this one without radar or operating manual." Helzman muttered.

"MS corp medic? Alliance? OZ?" Wufei glanced up from where he'd grabbed Heero's wrists as he recognized the mobile suit lingo.

"Just a doctor, young man, just a doctor. Don't worry. I'll do my best. It'll be up to your friend to do the rest. You'd better be right about how tough he is."

"Doctor I haven't told you the half of it yet."


End part 17


On to chapter eighteen

Back to chapter sixteen



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