Disclaimer: Gundam Wing is not mine. Duh.
Eight hours to go.
I could only stare at my ceiling. It wouldn't be impossible for me to just close my eyes and drift off – I'd been trained
to be able to do just that. Still, I didn't want to let go of consciousness just yet.
With Heero taking on my curse and Wufei taking on my food, there was nothing more for me to do than wait. And worry. Not about
my food – about Heero. And Wufei. And what we were about to do.
I wasn't stupid. I knew what we were heading into wasn't anything worse than what we'd faced during the war. But I'd had Deathscythe
then. And... well, I cared deeply for both of these men. I cared outrageously for one in particular. And I was dragging them
into a situation they hadn't faced in three years.
Oh, they could handle themselves. I'd gotten my head out of my ass enough to realize that. But that didn't stop my worry.
They had each other. I couldn't let either of them get hurt. Heero – I couldn't even imagine letting Heero get hurt.
And because he and Wufei were so close, I absolutely could not let Wufei get hurt, either. Since I didn't have anyone to go
home to... hell, I didn't even have a home... I was...
Okay, that sort of thought processing had to be stopped. I was about to label myself dispensable, for crying out loud. I knew
I wasn't, if only because I've taken out countless baddies. Whether Wufei liked it or not, my efforts weren't just helpful,
they were needed. Period.
Be that as it may... I wouldn't be able to continue. Not with these two on my ass. Doggedly persistent was too nice a phrase
for them. They were like rabid leeches.
And Heero. What was it that he wanted, exactly? He seemed desperate to have me come back. He seemed to be fighting with himself,
too. There were a few times when he was a bout to say something, but then almost swallowed his tongue to keep it back. A secret?
I turned over and glared at my wall. On it was the mystery poem, the one that had absolutely zero meaning no matter how many
times I read it. I was sick of it. Sick of the secrets and the hidden meanings. Why was life so complicated? Who was the first
person who decided, 'hey, I think I'll see just how irritating I can make life before people snap?' The person should be shot.
And if he was dead, he should be brought back to life and then shot.
I covered my eyes. What the hell? My mind was going on these random tangents instead of bloody well slowing down. I didn't
want to wake up and have all these problems slap me in the face right before I had to land in a war zone.
I wanted to hope for more from them, and I wanted to hope for more from life. But past experience told me that I would be
na´ve to do so.
Heero was content – except when it came to me returning with him. He was adamant that I go back with him. Why?
That was the real crux of the problem. All Heero ever said to that was “you're one of us.” I was beginning to
absolutely despise that phrase.
Exactly how was I one of them? How did I fit in? Where? Heero called me... what? The nerve? Like I was the glue that held
them all together. But that was Quatre, wasn't it? Wufei had said that Quatre had brought everyone together...
I didn't need to be needed. I knew that. To survive, I only needed three things: food, water, and shelter. And the last was
Or was that not true? What did I need, really? A certain face popped into my head, and I pushed it away. No. I didn't need
him. I could do absolutely fine on my own. I have been... right?
“I'm fine,” I growled. “I don't need him. He's taken. He's happy. I need to let him go.” Maybe the
word 'need' was overused in language, or maybe just often misused. Maybe I should delete the word 'need' from my mental dictionary.
I grabbed a zero-g handle and pulled myself up. This was ridiculous! I had to face off against the Number One Crime Boss of
our time in a mere – I checked my time gage – seven hours. I had to be completely ready. I couldn't afford to
let my mind wander down these avenues. It may mean the difference between victory and defeat – between life and death.
I couldn't afford to let my attention be diverted.
“Dammit,” I whispered. I didn't want to deal with this. Heero was taken. End of thought. Whether he wanted to
take my curse, whether or not he would let me be alone...
God. Why had he said that stuff to me? Why had he opened up these wounds right before we entered the battlefield?
“So you're right – I have twenty-four hours.”
I didn't understand. Heero seemed so agonized... I wanted to make it into something it wasn't. I wanted to take all his hesitations
and emotions and make them mean... but they didn't mean that. How could they? Heero had admitted that he'd never seen
the real me... that he'd never seen past the Jester... so how could he have possibly fallen in...
No, best to not even think the words. Yes, I was better off not hoping at all. But how could one continue living without hope?
Screw it; I needed sleep. With a sigh, I returned to my pillow and covers and shut myself off.
I was awake long before the landing, having only managed a few hours of restless sleep. Still, I was aware. That, too, was
part of my training.
Heero and Wufei came in and strapped down. I checked the monitors before snapping on the signal to the tower warning of our
“Command, this is X-09342-KG,” I intoned boredly, vaguely clicking on a rock song.
“Hello, Black Strike.”
I snapped to attention in an instant. I didn't recognize the voice – it didn't match the message sent from Harlow. “Hi,
fucker,” I said conversationally. “You volunteering to die first?”
There was a short chuckle. “Not quite, Strike. But rest assured, I will be the first to meet you.”
“Hm. That's nice. You gonna let me land, or just fuck around with the airwaves?” I asked. I felt adrenaline course
its way through my veins.
“We have no intention of letting you land.”
We. That was good to know. “Tough shit, man. I have every intention of landing – after kicking your ass.”
I saw Heero moving into the co-pilot's seat and tensed.
“Don't try to fool us, Strike. We know you aren't alone.”
“Yeah, I know that, too. But thanks for pointing it out – it means I don't have to play pussy with you.”
I switched my gages and prepared for landing. It would be interesting, having a fight while I tried to land.
“Duo, I'm all set up,” Heero told me.
I felt a momentary skid of panic before I nodded. I would do everything it took to make certain Heero made it through. I couldn't
let my panic overtake me here.
Wufei helpfully switched my music to something harder – Dope. I felt my body relax a fraction and smiled ferally.
“Are you ready, Strike?”
It was weird – I felt for a moment like I was going to be attacking a Wufei-wannabe. I quickly shoved that thought away.
“Yeah, yeah. Hurry it up, buddy. I haven't got all day. I got a show to catch this afternoon.” Like I had a television.
A laser was my answer. I quickly adjusted to dodge and felt a sharp pull from the station's gravity. I gritted my teeth. Shit.
Heero answered with his own laser, having already memorized the target area. A pretty little barrier glowed for a second.
I cursed. “Of course.” From the days of the war – a barrier to protect the people in the signaling tower.
“I'll take it out,” Heero said. His voice was the deep monotone I remembered so very well. Heero had turned Soldier
My grin widened just that bit more.
“All right,” I snarled. I tensed at the newest attack, just barely dodging. Wing protested every movement. “Come
on, baby.” Good damn thing I wasn't doing this while trying to land on Earth. My poor Wing would be wrecked in no time.
Heero fired another shot, accurately hitting the same place as before. The enemy sent another shot back at us. With a groan,
Wing followed my orders.
Wufei suddenly showed up beside me, unbelted completely from his seat. I felt a part of the real me come out in time to give
me a panicked update of his new vulnerability.
But Wufei was already at work shifting through Wing's hydraulics, trying to ease the strain on the ship. I grabbed his wrist
tightly as I dodged another attack. Wufei waited until I let go to continue his administrations.
I watched him carefully as I twisted Wing into alignment with the hangar. “Heero,” I warned, noting the lack of
time before time was up and dodging was no longer an option.
Heero, in response, blasted another shot.
This one seemed to do more damage to the barrier, but it still stood. I felt a quick grip of apprehension slip through my
“Damn you,” I heard Heero mutter, and another blast shot out. The barrier was definitely weaker – but still
Another tight beam launched from the tower, aimed straight towards the ship. The man could aim.
With a sharp cry, I wrenched Wing out of the way. Something splintered. I distinctly heard the sound of wrenching metal. A
warning alarm went up all around us. I cursed.
“The hull has broken up,” Wufei informed grimly. Bad. I heard automatic seals drop.
“Wufei, put on a suit.” Just in case – I had to make sure these guys made it through okay.
“Maxwell,” Wufei protested immediately.
“Fucking go, Wufei! Don't be stupid!” I held the ship steady as Heero shot out another beam. The barrier glowed
a bright white for a second. I took a short millisecond to be thankful that whatever gun the enemy had placed on the tower,
it took a while to recharge. Thank you, Shinigami.
“Maxwell,” Wufei hissed, “I am not going to abandon you.”
“Wufei.” Heero spoke softly, his eyes remaining trained on the enemy tower, “go.”
Wufei tensed, ready to argue. Then, right before it seemed he would snap, he gusted out a sigh. “All right. But you
better not make me use it.”
“Roger that,” Heero intoned.
“Aye aye, mon capitan.” I saluted him carelessly before twisting the ship once more. The alarm seemed to get even
“Take care,” I thought I heard him say, and I wondered who he was speaking to. I sent the message mentally to
Heero and shrugged it off.
Heero sent another shot, and the barrier finally fucking broke. I whooped.
Another blast shot out at us. “I can't dodge!” I'd officially run out of time.
Heero met the shot with his own. The blasts fused together into a bright burst of light, momentarily blinding me. I kept the
ship straight through feel. And Heero sent out another shot.
Through the spots dancing in my eyes, I saw that shot hit its target-
And just made out the shot coming at us.
“Fuck!” I cried, swerving violently. I heard the entire ship splinter. Something cracked overhead, and the sound
of air rushing out sounded. I cursed again. “Suit up!” I cried, struggling to keep my Wing from curving all the
way around and splintering itself. Heero stood immediately.
The air shot through, the noise louder even than the alarms, and even more ominous. The tower, I saw, went up in smoke and
light. I could only pray Heero had killed the bastard.
I felt Wing tremble beneath me. It didn't want to cooperate anymore. It was hurting. And tired. “Just a little more,
buddy. A little more.” The air thinned; I had to breathe shallowly. My eyes started to water. I heard the seal come
in, covering the hole, and smiled slightly. Saved.
“Duo, we're ready.” Heero called over the suit's comm unit.
“Get in the hatch with the spurt guns. I'll be coming shortly.” I tugged one last time, then set the coordinates
to continue moving forward. Wing digested the information slowly, unwilling to work. “Come on,” I murmured. “Come
“Duo. Progress report.”
“The hole sealed, the tower is unresponsive. Wing is down fifty percent in functioning.” I punched through a couple
adjustments while I could.
“How much longer?” Wufei asked.
“I dunno. A minute to an hour.” I unstrapped myself as I spoke, working quickly but efficiently. The straps had
saved me a number of times. I thought shortly of the bruises Wufei must have gained while suiting up. “Hey, 'Fei –
sorry for the bumpy ride.”
Wufei grunted. “I believe I will live, Maxwell.”
“Count on it,” I muttered. The straps finally undone, I stood to get my suit. It hung loosely in its clasps, having
been jarred constantly in this battle. I snatched it and put it on as quickly as possible. The snaps made me curse –
whoever had invented these suits hadn't had emergencies in mind.
Just then my Wing gave me a beep, telling me that it had finally accepted its coordinates.
“Thanks, buddy.” I snapped the last clasp in place and reached in for my helmet, pulling it over my head. Would
Wing make it through? It couldn't coordinate its own landings – it needed a human's touch to get it right. It would
crash onto the station and possibly be beyond repair. I hoped desperately that wasn't the case. Wing had been my faithful
friend for years. It wouldn't be right to lose him.
But between him and the two on-board...
It was a no-brainer.
“Maxwell, hurry-” Wufei started, but Heero suddenly cut him off.
“Duo, look out!”
I turned from the workings of my helmet to see the tower's laser fire one more time. The tower blew up then, having apparently
overheated. The bastard had lived.
There was no way to dodge.
I saw that beam coming towards me and cursed, already moving. My hands continued working diligently on my helmet; my feet
tried desperately to move faster, faster.
I felt it even before it hit, a wave of heat and energy so strong it hummed through my poor ship. I wouldn't make it to the
It crashed like lightning and thunder and a wave strong enough to keep you under, unable to break the surface and breathe
– all in an instant.
I felt myself being thrown forward and lost sense of up and down. A crashing, sucking noise filled my head, with tinny sounds
of horror and fear. I recognized, for an instant, Heero screaming my name, even as light blinded me to everything.
Then there was pain, a searing pain, then an unnatural heat – the vacuum of space. I think I screamed then. Or maybe
it was Heero and Wufei, screaming for me.
The pain increased to spread through my entire body, filling me with heat and darkness-
Yes. I grabbed the darkness and fell in, desperate. Please take me.
QUICK NOTE: Yes, I know it's short, but it was a perfect ending. Gomen! ^^
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