short chapter but hey.

AC 199, June 15th

"Yes, Mariemeya, I am in fact dating Heero Yuy. Since yester -- hm. A few months. Years. Ish. I don't remember the first date."

He could just see her 'do you really think I am mentally deficient' look.

"Of course I wasn't trying to hide it from you. I just -- didn't know that we were dating. That's why I didn't think to mention to you that I was in actuality taken, even though it would have stopped this whole argument in its tracks. I didn't know I was, yet I was. Yes."

Wufei sneered at himself.

Yuy's excuse seemed more stupid by the minute. Mariemeya would only feel insulted.

He wasn't so pathetic, so cowardly that he needed to lie in such a situation. It would only spare him the cost of accepting responsibility for the pain he would inflict her; she would both hurt from his rejection and feel herself held in contempt, since he wasn't even bothering to come up with a believable excuse.

Either Heero was even more socially impaired than he seemed, or he had known the excuse wouldn't fly from the start.

Or he wanted to make the excuse truth.

Wufei couldn't even tell himself Heero was pranking him. It just didn't fit much with his sense of humor. If it had been just a joke -- oh, Wufei could have seen the sarcastic 'tell her you're dating me', but Heero would never have kissed him. Or at least he'd have smirked afterwards and told him 'I can't believe you bought that, Chang.'

Unless he assumed the joke was so evident he didn't need to actually say so. The kiss had been dry, quick, barely a peck. Maybe he didn't think it counted.

Wufei sighed and glared blearily at the TV in the corner of the break room. The news station was in the middle of a segment on the culture of manioc in the south of Spain of all things. The announcer's voice was annoying, but it covered his own angry mutterings so Wufei hadn't bothered to turn it down.

Why on Earth was Yuy coming on to him now, in the middle of a case?

... When weren't they in the middle of a case. Yes, well. Whatever.

Perhaps there had been someone in the café who had to be misdirected -- no, it was pretty easy to find out they were partners, they didn't need an excuse to hang out. Since when -- was it serious? ... How serious? Wufei hadn't noticed anything. No, it had to be a joke, a very socially awkward joke.

"What did manioc ever do to you?"

Wufei twitched and glared at the door, where that asshole brain-breaking Yuy stood, a plastic bag full of sandwiches and drinks in hand.


Heero looked at him quizzically, as if he had no clue why Wufei was in this state of mind. "You could just switch channels."

He searched in his bag and dumped a sandwich on Wufei's lap. Wufei picked it up and muttered his thanks without thinking, and then glared some more. It was his favorite. Damn it, Yuy.

Heero still didn't seem to pay him any mind. Picking up the remote, he turned up the volume. For a second Wufei wondered what kind of noises he was planning to hide, and didn't know whether to run or stay. There were very few things he didn't wish to discuss with Yuy, but that strange new development was definitely one.

"Weird how Une doesn't have the time to sign off on our mission request, but she has the time to send us on errands."

Wufei blinked, train of thought screeching to a grinding halt. Switching tracks took a couple of shamefully long seconds.

"I spent all morning doing a surprise computer security inspection," Heero commented. "You?"

"Exercise room, assisting with self-defense training." Now that he was thinking about it, that seemed a little like they'd tried to tuck him out of sight. The gym was quite out of the way, in a separate building entirely.

Heero nodded like that just confirmed something he'd expected all along.

"Health Ministry employees," Wufei said. He wasn't sure how they were linked to the whole thing, but something was at work there and he had a feeling they were in the middle of it. When Heero glanced at him, slightly cynical and wholly unsurprised, Wufei knew he'd had the same thought. "What do we know about them?"

"Just that there's a joint mission no one's talking about, but it's taking three whole field teams to see through." Heero's eyes narrowed thoughtfully. "And that they want to meet you. That one might be a minor detail, though -- they're bored waiting for the mission to be completed, you just happen to be in reach..."

"Stop me if that doesn't make sense." Wufei drummed his fingers on his thigh, eyes unfocused as he let his thoughts run free. "They're interested in newtypes. Newtypes and their jobs. Especially in government jobs. Especially for the Health Ministry... The mission is likely newtype-related."

Heero nodded, eyes sharp and intent.

"Une wants to keep us here. They're always with her... She doesn't meet us. She doesn't meet us because they're with her? But she doesn't let us go anywhere either." Wufei paused. Hesitated. Did it fit with the rest? "...Sally spends a few hours doing tests on me..."

"... Mm-hm...?"

Ah. There it was.

"How badly do they want their Dragon Clan genotype, I wonder?" he mused, staring at nothing.

There were a lot of possibilities coming to his mind now -- the clues still too vague to make anything out of them or let him know which way to jump, but most of them very unpleasant. Why would a branch of the government be interested in abilities that -- if he had them, and it was only a twenty-five percent chance at best -- were so weak he'd never noticed them in over twenty years of life?

"We do tend to see conspiracies everywhere," Heero commented, and lifted his sandwich to his mouth.

Wufei made a face a him. "Thank you for this vote of confidence, Yuy. What do you think it is about?"

"Maybe they just want to ask you politely. For Science." He quirked an eyebrow, mocking; Wufei glared mildly. So he was something of a geek about the socio-political implications. Like Yuy could talk. "But Une is just as suspicious as you are, so she's researching them before she gives her permission to accost you. Mere formalities."

"Do you believe that's likely?"


Wufei rolled his eyes, and started stretching his leg to kick him, but then he wondered if that counted as footsie and stopped immediately. He could see Heero had noticed his aborted movement, but he picked up his own sandwich and ignored the questioning arch of Heero's eyebrow.

It felt like he was running away, and he'd never been the kind of man who cut himself much slack about dealing with the unpleasant things in life. He breathed out, put the sandwich down again, and turned on his seat to face his partner.

"Listen, Yuy. This evening, the spar. Is it a date?"

"Do you want it to be a date?" Heero asked, as if asking whether Wufei liked ketchup with his fries.

"Yuy, goddamnit. Take it seriously!"

Heero looked at him calmly, almost like he wasn't even noticing the depth of Wufei's frustration. At least he gave the topic his attention, but the lack of gravity still bothered Wufei.

"It's not life or death. I'm taking it as seriously as it needs to be taken. Do you want it to be a date?"

Wufei tried to formulate the right words, and couldn't come up with them. "That isn't even -- Yuy! I can't lie to Mariemeya."

Heero started frowning, a faint line between his eyebrows that Wufei couldn't decide was annoyance or hurt. His voice stayed mild and almost pleasantly neutral. "So don't."

Wufei growled. Argh! "How was I supposed to guess you were serious?" he demanded, the words out of his mouth before he could fully realize they were true. "It came up as a way to get me out of being hit on by a fourteen-year-old!"

Heero gave a quiet snort. "I'll work on my timing next time I ask you out."

Wufei glared at him, face burning. "You do that, boyfriend."

At the door, someone choked.

"Sally," Heero greeted. Suddenly Wufei felt like turning around and facing the door even less, which he wouldn't have thought possible only a second ago.

Bracing himself, he looked back; Sally Po stood in the open doorway, blinking owlishly.

"... Ah... Did I interrupt...?"

"Po. Good afternoon. What do you want?" Wufei asked briskly, pretending very hard that he wasn't blushing. He was going to kill Yuy.

Sally gathered herself, bemusement replaced with determined good cheer. "Good news! Commander Une approved your trip. Here are two tickets for L2 -- you'll land on colony L2-V0824 instead of L2-V0350 -- that's where Kamenov is, right? But you can catch a shuttle once you're up there. Funds will be sent to your usual accounts."

Wufei accepted his ticket and his mission orders, baffled. Just like that? He checked his ticket. "... Sally, the ship leaves in less than three hours -- that leaves us one hour to go home and pack."

She nodded sympathetically. "You'd better hurry up then."

"What's going on?" Heero asked, and joined Wufei in frowning at their superior and friend. First Une kept not having the time to review their proposition, and now they were suddenly in a hurry? There was something fishy going on there. Neither of them budged.

Sally sighed, stepped fully inside the room, and closed the door behind her. "We need you to trust us," she said quietly. "Can you do that?"

There was something here. Something big. Something huge. And it was about him, because Sally had looked at him just a tiny bit longer than at Heero.

He opened his mouth, but Sally grimaced faintly, and Wufei stopped there.

"Please. Don't ask."

Heero's hand touched his upper arm; Wufei broke eye contact with Sally. His partner looked grim, displeased, already thinking a mile a minute.

"... Wufei... Let's get out of here."

Because for all they knew it was turning into a trap, all ready to snap closed on them. Wufei closed his eyes briefly, took a deep breath, and nodded. He would demand answers later. He followed Heero off the couch, folding the paperwork with quick, precise gestures, wondering if things were bad enough that Sally would suggest they not take the main exit.

He was in the process of picking up his bag, still bent over, when a word jumped at him out of the hurried babble of the TV.

A number really. L5-A0206 -- one that still meant 'home' to him.

The agriculture show had been interrupted in the middle; an announcer in a rumpled suit was speed-walking through a crowd, the camera bouncing after him. Airport? Spaceport? His eyes shone with maniacal intensity -- the face of a man who could already see the scoop of his career.

"Preventers operation," Wufei caught through the whine of a shuttle touching down in the background. Ambulances were waiting around a Preventers spaceship, security milling about.


In the reflection of the screen, Sally reached for him. He snatched the remote from the couch and turned up the sound.

"--existence of Newtypes wasn't news for the so-called Dragon Clan, a group of Chinese supremacists in exile --"


On the screen they were starting to wheel out gurneys; the cameraman zoomed effortlessly. One limp, unresponsive woman came into view, then another, and another -- their ages varying, but all with bronze-gold skin and inky hair, all looking like they could have been his neighbors. His family. His --


"-- using comatose women of their own clan to create more powerful --"

A hand caught his elbow, large and rough, holding him tight enough that it didn't matter if his knees wouldn't lock.

"--many years, test-tubes children whose parents believed to be theirs turned out to have Dragon Clan members as their true genetic donors. The children all possess Newtype gene sequences..."

He listened -- he could do nothing but. Listened and watched as the camera panned across the unconscious bodies of the women as orderlies quickly loaded them up in ambulances. Preventers agents had noticed the reporter and were hurrying to meet him or hide the victims.

It was too late, though -- the camera had seen enough.

Wufei had seen enough.

"Sally," he said, and was vaguely surprised at how toneless his voice sounded.

She was swearing; he could count on the fingers of one hand the times he'd heard her swear like that and mean it. Something about 'leaks' and 'too early'.

"Sally --"

She grabbed his shoulders, forced him to turn to face her. She was still taller than he was, would always be. He couldn't even tell what was on her face, fear or grief or anger, but it was bad. He couldn't make himself care about her right now.

"You have a mission, Agent Chang. You have three hours. Pack up. Leave. This doesn't concern you."

Shock left him then, replaced by rage, and he slapped her hands away. "How on Earth does this not concern me?!"

"Were you involved in it?" she snapped back.

"Of course not!"

"Then you're not concerned. Now leave. Yuy, take your partner out of here."

"I'm--" The closest thing they have to next of kin, he wanted to say, (or maybe her husband,) but then he understood that Sally was perfectly aware. That she still wanted him gone, gone, gone.

He pointed at the screen, shaking with rage, Heero's hands on his shoulders the only thing that kept him steady.

"You don't get it, how can you want me gone--"

Sally shook her head no, harshly. "Wufei. You have no involvement in this affair. If you think you do, you're wrong. Do you understand what I'm saying?"

He stared at her, hardly believing his ears. Or her expression, fierce and a little desperate. She stole the remote from his hand, switched channels, and turned up the sound until the TV yelled, silly little jingles about candy and rainbows. She stepped in his space, so he could hear her anyway.

"Do you want me to tell you how the conversation would go right now? Here, that's how. The Dragon Clan is a gathering of evil gene-butchering supremacists who wanted to breed mutants to use as sleeper-cell terrorists against the rest of the world. And you had to be part of it."

"What? I was fourteen--"

She cut him off with a knifelike jerk of her hand, eyes hard and determined. "You were old enough for a Gundam. Tell me, Agent Chang, why did you really come to Earth? What was your true purpose within Operation Meteor?"

Sally breathed out slowly. Wufei could only stare, speechless.

"Wufei, you are a very tempting scapegoat. Don't give them an excuse. There's nothing you could do anyway, so go home, get packed, go and do your job. We'll deal with things here. Alright?"

Heero's hands tightened on his shoulders. Wufei wanted to lean into them, let him take his weight. But he couldn't. He straightened up. He had to stand on his own two feet.

"... Let go, Yuy."

Heero's hands fell away slowly, and he stepped to his side, but Wufei ignored him.

"So will you go now?" Sally asked with quiet urgency. The TV was still so loud he had to read her lips. He nodded, more a jerk of the head than anything else.

"Will you send us more info while we're in transit?" Heero asked.

Sally looked conflicted. "We were under orders to keep you out of this..."

"It's too late now," Heero retorted.

Sally sighed, crossed her arms tight as if for warmth. "Fine. Just hurry up. Be elsewhere for a while. And if anyone asks you, be horrified that such a small minority of fanatics could do something so dreadful, and the rest of the clan certainly wasn't --"

"They committed mass suicide rather than calling their weapon to heel," Wufei snapped back. "By your standards they were all dreadful fanatics."

He grabbed his backpack and stormed out, unable to stomach anything more. Behind him, he could hear Heero's voice; "Yes, I'll keep an eye on him."

Yes, keep an eye on him indeed.

Sally had known. Had Heero known too? No, no, he would have told him, he wouldn't have assumed Wufei didn't deserve to know, no matter how much of a sucker punch it was.

Comatose women. Test-tube children all possess Newtype sequences. The Dragon Clan, a Chinese supremacist group...

He was standing in front of his car in the underground parking lot and didn't even remember the trip. In the reflection of the window he could see Heero on his left, two steps behind, watching the keys in Wufei's hand. He wondered if Heero was thinking of taking them from him.

"I'll meet you at the airport," Wufei said in as normal a voice as he could manage.

For a second and then two, he thought Heero would say no, and take him home, and keep watch until they were in the air, up in space, with no way back.


Wufei waited until the Heero reflection disappeared before he opened his car.

He went home, and packed his clothes, and packed his gun, and downloaded the hospital blueprints.