Disclaimer: Gundam Wing is not mine. Duh.
It was simple enough to just let myself fall.
“Duo!” Heero shouted again, but his voice, so full of horror, was drowned out by the rapid firing of the last
Leo's assault rifle. I plummeted like a rock. Anything you've seen, any movie, in which someone drops from an outrageous height
and then manages to land easily, with nothing but a stumble or a roll to show effort, is bullshit. Only Heero can manage that,
and even he didn't look too graceful tumbling head over heels down the cliffside.
I already knew my legs would break.
I braced myself for the pain, but it never came. Instead thin, smooth rocks caught me and pulled me into a warm, hard chest.
I instantly recognized the feel, the scent. Heero.
Heero landed back on the ground, apparently having jumped to grab me, and paused to adjust before continuing to run, trying
to reach cover.
“You didn't call for us,” Heero growled.
I hardly cared that his tone was so dark and angry; I was reveling at his strength, his beauty. Stupid to think of such things
when in this situation. I tried to shake the errant thoughts off. “Would've ruined my attack.”
Heero's hands clenched around me. “Hn.”
Oh, here we go.
The rifle didn't pause in its firing. It was painfully clear that amateurs were riding in these cockpits. Still, there was
a bit more skill in this one. He turned as Heero ran, following his movements, trying to gage his destination.
“Put me down,” I muttered.
Hellfire. It was impossible to think coherently when Heero's body was everywhere. How the hell was I supposed to take this
guy down if I was trapped and befuddled in Heero's strong arms?
I didn't need to be protected.
“Your leg,” I fretted.
“I'm fine.” But his voice softened infinitesimally.
He slid us behind a ravaged car. It had seen better days; it was missing entire portions of its anatomy. We were behind what
was either the hub or just the twisted parts blown into what could potentially resemble the hub.
It was only then that I saw the others; everyone had formed on the sounds I'd made. Shit. Quatre and Trowa were causing a
distraction as Wufei slid around the back of the mobile suit.
“Are you unharmed?” Heero asked me. I turned to him then and nodded. “All right.” And he raced out
to join the others.
I was two seconds from doing the same when... I saw. A pattern was forming effortlessly – one took each side, right,
left, front, back. Each kept dodging the massive machine, watching out for themselves and one another. Within minutes, they'd
managed to get Wufei up to the cockpit, messing with the system. This guy was smarter when he opened the hatch, though, waiting
for Wufei to show himself.
But Heero was in target on the ground, far away from the machine, and he took the man down.
I stepped out from the car wreckage, eyes wide. Trowa and Quatre seamlessly formed from the sides, having pulled off their
I turned away then as each called out their statuses. I tonelessly called out, “no damage,” when my name was called.
They didn't say anything about my not coming and joining their battle, though Trowa gave me another Look. We just formed back
together again and fell into a simple formation. There were no other sounds, and we quickly found ourselves at the entrance
to Section 5.
I was unsurprised to find a vid-message waiting for us. I quickly checked it for traps and turned it on.
“Congratulations, Strike. Or should I say Duo Maxwell? In any case, it is very nice to know you will soon be here.
I have been waiting. How do your friends fare? I do hope you're all well enough to welcome me. I would hate to lose you all
before you faced me.
Oh, and by the way – I have a very interesting surprise waiting for you. I hope to see you all soon. Good-bye.”
“Arrogant bastard!” I snapped. “Surprise – this surprise is what's giving him confidence. But he couldn't
possibly have any more suits. I know that for a fact.”
“Then what could it be?” Quatre wondered. Jack Harlow's unconcerned face was still etched on my brain. Quatre
was looking at the blank screen as if trying to make it divulge secrets.
“We have to move nonetheless,” Heero said grimly. “Let's be prepared.” Heero's eyes flickered to my
waist. I knew it was because I was bleeding; I felt the stickiness on my clothes, my skin. It wasn't good. But I didn't mind.
Quatre was torn pretty bad, as well, and Trowa and Heero were favoring their legs.
We were in bad shape.
Wufei sighed. “All right.”
I checked my guns. They seemed fine, though my pistol was about out. Only three bullets, and no magazines. I'd had one, but
it had been lost in one of the fights. I grimaced at that.
“Everyone ready?” Heero asked.
“Yes,” we chorused.
“Then let's move out.”
We filed through again, readying ourselves. I took the middle with Quatre this time, Trowa with Heero, Wufei in the rear.
We were going in on strengths. Heero and Trowa's legs may be injured, but they could use their weapons without pain. Quatre
and me – not so much.
We managed to make our way about ten yards in before we met with the newest army.
This one beat out the rest, bigger and badder than any of them could have dreamed to be. They, I knew now, hadn't been to
slow us down, but to injure us, make us sweat. These were the reinforcements, as it were. The cavalry. We were injured and
tired, and these guys looked like they'd done nothing more strenuous than jumping jacks.
There was no cover. Absolutely none. The place was barren. There were holes in the ground, flying cables, that spoke of things
that had been there, if nothing else. The enemy didn't give us time to do much – just started firing.
They were good. They didn't just randomly shoot off their guns and pray for success. I couldn't follow all of those hands
at once. We all got separated in there, but Quatre and I managed to remain side-by-side. We ran to the right, taking down
enemy after enemy. I wished stupidly for one more grenade.
Then Quatre cried out.
I couldn't even follow fully what happened then, as I saw Quatre fall. In one instant, Ii turned to the enemies and fired
crazily, leaning down, kneeling, in front of Quatre, no longer moving. They turned our way, I could see it like a wave. But
none managed to hit us. I realized belatedly that it was because I was shooting them all. They were standing almost in a line.
I just my finger on the trigger, not giving time to pause. It meant losing bullets. It meant a millisecond of difference.
I was a millisecond faster.
The voice triggered a reaction – unsafe, but couldn't shoot. I faltered for one instant.
Pain rippled across my body. Fire burned down my left shoulder. I cried out.
I continued to fire, even as someone came up behind me. I growled on instinct. The person behind me ignored me – I prepared
to take them down.
“Duo, wait, it's Trowa! I'm coming over, too!”
There was someone firing. He was edging closer, but his firing wasn't aimed at me. Pain came at his voice, but so did a feeling
of safety. I let him come.
A spark of thought entered – there should be five. I let the thought die.
“Quatre! Quatre, please, please be okay!”
The voice was interrupting me, keeping me from being able to focus. Idly I noted an enemy's aim. I wouldn't be able to dodge
in time. But the enemy fell, and I quickly shot the next.
“Trowa, help us take these guys down!”
That beautiful growling voice made me grin. Back-up? Oh, yeah. He was my back-up. He would watch the unsafe one. He would
There was a sharp sound from the unsafe one before he straightened his gun. I felt a shimmer of unease, but I left it to my
protector. My eyes were fluid, like I'd been playing a simple game over and over again – a focus so sharp one's eyes
seemed to dull. My hands moved before my mind managed an order.
We were out in the middle of nowhere. The enemies, if it weren't for our skill, would be dancing on our corpses now. I thought
of that and snarled.
Someone grunted – the unsafe one. I shifted a bit to cover him without thinking. My protector did the same. I heard
Then the enemies seemed to change their strategy. Apparently they had noticed that they were sitting ducks, too. They began
to lie on the ground. I took down as many as possible, but some hid behind their fallen comrades. I grimaced. They had shelter
“We need that,” I growled.
We needed corpses.
Mr protector grunted, already moving. I saw another moving with him – the fifth. They ran up, and I covered them, desperate
now. I couldn't let my protector be harmed. My attention, however, slithered over to the unsafe one now and again. I hoped
he wouldn't kill me. I needed to protect.
They made it to what had once been the front lines and grabbed up bodies, immediately putting them in front like shields.
Then they dragged a few more toward us. I covered them with grim determination.
Another bullet caught me; my protector wasn't there to stop it. Pain rippled up my side, mixing with an old wound. I ignored
That voice, closer now. I didn't turn to it. Two enemies were looking at me now. I ripped through them both-
And ran out of bullets.
I had no time to place my rounds in. My enemies immediately fell on the sudden silence, knowing what had happened. I waited
for those guns to fire. I could see them turning slightly, positioning themselves from beneath the shelter of corpses-
And then my protector was there.
He stood before me, the corpse safely placed before him, covering the both of us. “Duo-”
“On it,” I heard someone murmur. My hands were already grabbing the bullets stored around my chest. I felt pain
tear through me and wondered why. I okayed my protector when I was ready, and he handed me a corpse. I lifted it up with my
right arm. He moved then, going over to the unsafe one. He had a corpse already, and there was someone beside him. The fifth
I began again, watching with dead eyes, picking off enemy after enemy. The injured one behind me – the one who knew
me far too well – groaned.
My gaze sharpened still more, just that little bit. They didn't stand a chance.
I felt like I was escaping a fog when I next found myself. Heero was panting, and Wufei didn't seem to be too far behind.
Trowa collapsed into a sitting position and put his head between his legs.
I turned to him for the first time. His face was pale, his mouth pulled back in a grimace. He was clutching his side, breathing
carefully. Injured. My best friend was injured... because of me.
“Quatre,” I whispered.
I was shoved away then, pushed until Trowa was the one there before Quatre. He carefully cupped Quatre's face in his hands,
then turned to Quatre's wound. It was a good shot on the enemies' part; it had gone into his stomach and lodged itself in
there pretty tight. The blood loss was great.
“Get him out of here,” I ordered, but my voice was weak.
“He's right,” Wufei said tiredly. His voice was laced with pain. I turned to him, only to find him favoring his
right arm. Blood was dripping.
I hung my head. My fault. All my fault. Everyone was hurt, and it was all my fault.
I looked up dazedly. Heero was looking down at me from a great height. I furrowed my brows in confusion, only then finding
myself sitting on the ground.
“Duo, let me see your injuries.”
I cocked my head to the side. Injuries?
Then I felt them: my left shoulder, burning like hot coals, like lava. I winced, then again as I felt my side split open.
I cried out softly.
Heero was kneeling before me in a second. “Let me see,” he whispered.
I whimpered when he touched me, even with the barest of fingers brushing against me. The warmth was still there, slicing its
way to my heart, to my groin. But the pain... I whimpered. I couldn't help it.
Heero hissed as he lifted my ruined shirt. “You took another one,” he murmured. “And your shoulder?”
I bit my lip to keep from crying like a baby as Heero ever so carefully ripped the shirt and pulled it off. Blood was caked
everywhere, some still escaping through my wounds. Heero looked at it all with a pained look on his face. Then, with his voice
soft as silk, Heero spoke. “Damn you, Trowa.”
The man, I noticed – again belatedly, dammit – had already left.
I knew, though, what Heero was talking about. Why he was so furious. Trowa had called out for Quatre, his voice randomly filtering
through my focus. It was essentially what had gotten me shot.
“He had a reason to react,” I said quietly. I would probably do the same... if I saw Heero fall.
I shuddered at the thought. Winced. I wasn't fond of pain.
“Hold still.” Heero's voice was soft as velvet once again, just like it had been when he'd been treating my injuries
before. It made my chest burn.
Heero's hands ghosted over me, carefully checking. “Both are still inside,” Heero murmured quietly. I tried not
to imagine them moving around in there; for some reason the idea always made me vaguely nauseous. Her touched the edge of
a wound. I hissed. “Sorry,” he whispered.
Heero turned to Wufei. “How are you?” he asked. His voice was laced with obvious concern.
“It passed through. I am fine.” He turned to me then. “Maxwell?”
“Fine.” But my voice was soft and scratchy and even I couldn't make myself believe it.
“We need to keep going, and I'm not leaving you two to face this alone,” I grumbled, quickly deciding that arguing
whether I was fit or not would be a waste of time and energy. “We have only that tower over in the distance there.”
I nodded to the only building for miles: a tall, thin gray building. Yeah. That was the one Harlow was hiding in, with whatever
secret he had.
It wouldn't save him.
I stumbled to my feet. Heero seemed about to argue, but then he closed his mouth and stood close beside me. I could smell
his skin, the sweat that overpowered whatever soap he'd used before. It made my mouth water. I carefully took a step away.
I thought I saw Heero wince.
I turned to him then. “How about you?”
“I'm fine.” But he was definitely keeping his weight off his bum leg. I looked at it in concern, but I didn't
see any blood. Wufei, on the other hand, had a shirt almost as ruined as my own. He had a makeshift tourniquet around his
right arm. I winced at that.
“Fucking hell.” We were screwed.
I firmed my back. My vow would remain. I would keep these two alive, no matter what. I would see to it that they were taken
care of. I would do anything for that. Give my life? No problem.
But if I died too soon... I wouldn't be able to protect them later.
We trooped forward, keeping our weaknesses in tight rein. Heero didn't walk with a limp, I didn't curl into the destructive
pain in my side. We wouldn't give the enemy the satisfaction – or the advantage – of seeing our pains.
The barren landscape held no more enemies. All of them had fallen to us, though some, I was sure, had merely been knocked
out. We'd been able to be a bit more generous toward the end.
I checked my gun. Only a few more rounds. Add that to the three bullets left in my pistol, and I wouldn't be able to go much
That was fine. There wasn't that much further to go.
We arrived at the base of the tower without incident. We stared at the metal doors for a second, then Heero took the lead.
Wufei went in behind me.
I hope Trowa got Quatre to safety.
Heero carefully opened the door. We stepped away from the entrance, just in case. My side heaved and burned like a motherfucker,
pouncing on every breath to dig the pain down deeper. I ignored it with everything I was – if I fell to the pain, it
could very well mean Heero's or Wufei's fall, as well. I couldn't let that happen. I wouldn't let that happen.
But there were no gunshots, no sounds of human existence within the building. There were multiple levels, though, and they'd
most definitely gotten the message of someone entering. We had to be ready for a sudden assault. It would be better if we
were inside, if there was cover to be found in there. If not... I looked up warily. The windows were blessedly still, but
that could change at any moment.
I turned to Heero, and he nodded. His gaze went to Wufei, who quickly mimed a message of safety... for now. My eyes slid to
that entrance. I could almost feel Harlow there, his aura calling out to me. Calling for me to kill him. My lips slid back
into a cruel snarl. I wanted him. For everything that he'd done... for all the pain Heero and Wufei and Trowa and Quatre...
and I... had suffered through because of him. I wanted him to pay.
With Heero taking the lead once more, we moved forward and entered the building.
The final dungeon of the game. It was either victory... or game over.
I stepped in, my gut tight.
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