After one or two weeks, during which the lack of missions they were presented with and the apparent drop in activities of OZ and the Alliance forced them to keep a low profile, Heero ended up having done all the things he had to do. He had entirely revised Wing thrice. He had cleaned it until it looked new even in the most inaccessible parts. He had found a high level physics book and had revised all J had taught him and learned a little bit more. He had rebuilt his laptop's programs from the ground. He had ran a double check on every one of his contacts and informants, and on every one of the other pilots' too. He had created a few new aliases, a dozen of mean computer viruses… And he didn't know what to do to hide to himself that it wasn't, by far, enough.
He had enough of being on the lookout. He wanted to attack… or not, not necessarily. But at least, to do something to ameliorate their situation, not just to wait for the time to flow by. It was extremely annoying, to stay in the dark like that, without even knowing what was happening /on the hunting grounds/ where the action took place.
He could have been going to school, it would have been something to do; moreover he had already been enrolled in a school nearby before arriving to this house. But he had canceled. Not only because they couldn't teach him anything he didn't know better than the teacher already.
But because… To have to deal with all these kids… He knew he couldn't. He had problems already in ordinary times… Now, he knew that if he was to remain unnoticed, it was better to stay hidden in the house like if he wasn't there at all rather than having the cops after him because he had /torn out the throat/ broken the jaw of a schoolmate…
Or worse, he could be spotted by the Peacecraft's network, which seemed to be even more efficient than OZ's own, or the doctors'. They needed her whole and intact for all this Peace Ambassador bloody stupidity, otherwise he would have killed her long ago! She was a witness of his arrival on Earth, and one of the few people that could identify him… but this imbecile seemed to confuse his inability to kill her with a proof of affection. It was true that at the beginning, he hadn't been able to kill her because her innocent eyes reminded him too much of the little girl's ones… and even after all of his intensive training, he still had some sort of problem with killing innocent bystanders when there was a way around it. But what in the little girl had been pure childhood innocence, bordered more in the teenager on a stupid sort of romanticism and a lack of anchorage in the real life, based on a mistake on what he truly was. Certainly not a kind of knight fallen from the sky to rescue a helpless damsel… He was a killer, holy fucking shit!! Not a little lamb! / predator, not prey… and one of these days I'll prove it to her/
Well, he couldn't step out of the house or let his presence being known, whatever the way he did it. Which implied that he could only get out when he wasn't risking being seen by anybody … that is, by night. As he was full of non-used energy and burning from the need to unwind some or else he'd go insane, staying inside the house more than strictly necessary was a no-no. So… One evening, when he couldn't seem to go to sleep, he decided to go take a run around the area.
He waited for the noises his comrades made while going to bed to go out, then added a half hour to be sure they were all sleeping, and slid out by the window. He landed crouched on the ground, then trotted down the alley. He stopped at the gate just before getting out, an impulsion pushing him to circle the piece of land the house was built on, searching for intrusion clues and possible ways through the rusted wire fence. He smiled, satisfied, when he didn't find any, /perimeter secure/ then decided to go run on the little roads around the house. He needed to maintain his physic health at its top performances; and he needed to unwind.
He stretched slowly in his shorts and tanktop, happy to feel his muscle playing so freely under his skin and answering him so readily, happy to feel the cool wind of the night caress his body ready for the action … and in one sudden explosion of movements, he disappeared silently in the bushes and ran deep in the small woods.
* * *
At dawn, when he came back from his run, he didn't feel tired at all... only rid of the overabundance of raw energy which made him so nervous.
Unfortunately, after a shower to rinse off the mud he had been sprayed with, and a gigantic meal, this feeling of oppression had come back… The shower was too narrow, without any visibility, without escape route. The shave lotion the precedent owner had forgotten on the shelf was aggressing his sense of smell. The kitchen's lights were too bright, too artificial, the ceramic floor was too cold, the household appliance's metal nearly menacing. The roof seemed to weigh on his shoulders, and he had troubles breathing. He felt at once prisoner and exposed from all sides.
He toyed with the idea of sleeping outside, where he could flee, but abandoned the idea quickly. He didn't have a wish of exposing himself in a vulnerable state to anyone who would pass by. In his room … In his bedroom, it would be ok.
He closed the shutters in a way that prevented the light from filtering inside, but without bolting the doors; like that he would only have to give a push to get out. This done, he dragged his desk between the bed and the door to hide the place where he would sleep to an eventual intruder, then got rid of his clothes and lain down on the mattress, making a nest of the covers.
He couldn't stand staying on his back, belly up; finally he rolled himself in a ball, knees nearly under his chin, arms around his legs, his back against the wall. In seconds, he was asleep… While letting his senses on the lookout. If anything or anyone tried to get in his room… they would regret it.
He hadn't stopped one second to ask himself what he was doing. It had come naturally … by instinct.
* * * * * *
The next day, the young man stayed in his room, in the dark, not doing much except sleeping, dozing, dreaming awake, letting his thoughts wander… Often, his thoughts came back by themselves to the wolf who had bitten him. He didn't know why. Yes, it was a mystery they hadn't solved, and his analytic mind had problems accepting that, but considering the moment it had happened he should have changed of subject of reflection… He only knew that a little voice in his consciousness told him it was important. But all the researches Quatre had conducted hadn't given anything … all the spies said the same thing… Not OZ nor any experimental laboratory of the region had anything to do with canine research.
But something was bothering him since the beginning in this hypothesis and he didn't know what.
Finally, a little moment before the dinner, Heero put his finger on two or three small things, between all that was bothering him with his wolf image. Two or three small things that blew up rather prettily their hypotheses.
Its thick coat didn't show the least trace of ever having wore a collar. This beast had always been wild and free…
And its hind paws, too long and sharp-clawed for a canine, wore five fingers.
One too many.
* * * * * * * * *
During the two weeks that followed, Heero acted so … So little like Heero that even Trowa himself showed some worry. First, he was irritable, more than irritable. He fought the mobile suits with a scaring rage and an even more scaring laugh. He got mad for nothing at all, and more than once even Quatre had experienced the Deathglare ™. Not that he acted really out of the ordinary for someone who didn't know him so well, but that was it : the other four pilots knew these little details that spoke louder than long speeches, and they were worried. He was frowning 'all the time' now, not 'most of the time' only, his voice was ruder, he didn't have any patience ( not that he had had much to begin with, but…), he was slamming doors when someone told him something he didn't want to hear …
He had even thrown a dish at Duo once, while shouting at him to leave him the fuck alone. This reaction alone showed tons of things on what wasn't ok.
First, he had tried to hurt Duo, when normally he just ignored him, or left the room, or ordered him calmly to shut up, when he was really annoyed. After all, he was entirely aware of the fact that, for Maxwell to be fully efficient, he had to be intact.
Second, he had raised his voice. Loss of control. Incompatible with the Soldier's image.
Third, he had swore, something he seldom did. And curses even Trowa had seldom heard in all his travels in his youth. Yet to grow up in a mercenary unit like Barton had done wasn't helpful if you wanted to learn a gentleman's way of speaking.
Fourth, he had –missed – Duo. When it was plainly visible that he had –wanted –to hit him. And for Duo to dodge wasn't an excuse for someone as precise as him. But he was so unnerved he hadn't been able to aim right.
After that, when Maxwell was still crouching on the floor, where he had landed while dodging the plate, Heero had ran out, nearly breaking the door when he slammed it, as if wanting to prevent himself from jumping on the American to finish the job. Duo had really believed that he would do it, and the others too.
"But I just joked on what he was eating …" Duo let slip, his heart still thundering in his chest. "Why did he react like that? Fuck, is he trying to follow a diet, to be pissed off just because I said that he should slow down on the food if he wanted to fit his spandex for long!?!"
"I don't know, Duo… I really don't know ", Quatre answered, his hand clenched on his chest, staring at the hollow in the wall the door had left while bouncing off.
The Japanese's blind rage was awakening echoes in him, echoes he had thought were entirely dissipated when he had woke up.
"It isn't like him at all …" Wufei granted. "It was just a joke. Stupid, but a joke."
"Thanks for your helpful words, Wu-kitten," Duo muttered, a little offended.
"MAXWELL!! Wu-FEI!… and based on something real, even. He's eating more than Maxwell at the moment!"
"Hey! I don't eat that much!!!"
While Wufei and Duo were indulging in another sharp-tongues-battle, and Quatre was trying to calm them down, Trowa, still sitting at the same place, glanced surreptitiously at the still half-open door.
* * *
"Why did I blow up like that?" Heero, locked in his room, was asking himself at the same moment.
He shook his head, forgetting the matter, and, stifling a huge yawn, hid in the blanket nest. He fell asleep nearly at the same moment he closed his eyes. He was dead tired, without knowing why.
It wasn't two in the evening yet, but not the hour nor the light bothered him. After all, since last week already, his shutters only opened by night.
* * * * * *
Duo tightened the screw which gave him so many problems in Deathscythe's elbow, then straightened up and wiped his forehead with his arm. It was so hot here in the hangar. Maybe the cause was the testing of the thermal scythe the American had done… He let himself glide along his Gundam's arm and got to the other arm. Now, to level the pressure in the two elbows to keep a good balance between the two sides… After all if the first one had given under the stress, the second could do the same. It seemed nothing, like that, but in a life or death situation, he didn't want do be at risk more than strictly necessary. To be an adrenaline junkie didn't mean to be a suicidal idiot.
He stopped for a few seconds to glance at the white and blue Gundam sitting besides his own. It felt strange not to see Heero working on it…
Yet it was easy to see that the Japanese was working on the robot… Only, he didn't do it while any of them could see him do it. When someone knew that usually he arrived here before anymore else and left only after being annoyed endlessly by Duo, it was more than just plain strange …
Distracted, the braided boy let his screwdriver slip. He swore and tried to catch it, but missed. Crap. Now he would have to get down all the way to retrieve it and then go climbing again.
Trowa pried himself from under his own Gundam's knee and picked up the screwdriver in silence, then threw it at him with precision.
"Thanks pally!!" the relieved American exclaimed.
"You should be less distracted…" the brown-haired boy reproached him.
"Oh, shaddap, you… Hey, Tro?"
The boy turned around even though he was ready to leave and looked up. Duo was surprised a moment that the quiet Heavyarms pilot would hear him out, him who was always chatting on everything and nothing at all. But he had to have heard in his voice that is was a real question Duo wanted to ask, not just his hair gel brand or something like that.
"What do you think of …" he asked while nodding toward Wing. "I mean, it's been days since Heero last worked on it …"
"He's finished with his reparations." The taller pilot shrugged.
"I know that he's finished ! As if he would allow himself to even sleep and eat as long as his precious Gundam isn't at it's top performance … No, what I mean is that usually, even when he has nothing to repair on it anymore, he's always on it … You know, verifying and reverifying his verifications, ameliorating the computers' programs, cleaning the filth, upgrading various sorts of equipment … You see what I mean! Getting all anal retentive!!!"
Barton nodded. Yes, he could see…
"So you noticed too? You have an idea on what's happening?" Duo asked while bending over Deathscythe's arm to better see his comrade. "He's so strange at the moment… I don't understand him anymore!! He's become so aggressive …"
"Maybe the lack of missions ", Trowa suggested, leaning against Shinigami's leg.
"I saw him before between two missions and he wasn't like that at all" objected the long-haired one.
"But maybe it would help him to blow off some stream."
"The problem, Trowa, is that he seems not to be able anymore to control himself, not entirely. Personally I don't think it's so bad, but for someone like Yuy, you'll excuse me if I find it's one of the most alarming things that could happen to him! He's so obsessed by the details habitually, so about control… He never stops reproaching me my lack of control on myself, but look at him now! "
"Maybe he has some personal matters to sort out", Wufei intervened, having glided down off Shenlong when he had heard them talk.
Duo looked incredulously at him. Between all the pilots, Wufei was certainly the less likely to say something like that.
"Let me laugh!! He should have a personality beforehand!" Maxwell groaned grumpily. "… No, I take it back. It's mean … I'm just worried… That's not normal at all. Really not."
"Even without taking in account that if he continues to lose control like that, it would not be prudent to send him in missions …"
"You jokin' Tro? You said yourself that maybe it was the thing that could help him to lower his stress!!!"
"Yes, but that's not for that that we should send him. He could endanger us being erratic, irrational. "
"I AM erratic and irrational", Duo countered, slightly pouting.
"But we are used to your kind of irrationality. And you already proved to us that it was … efficient", Nataku's pilot admitted. "We EXPECT you to be erratic and irrational. It's taken in account in our combat tactics. Yuy isn't used to using this sort of tactics. It could be a disaster on the battlefield."
"Thanks for the compliment Wuffie-kun", Duo answered back with a wink. "But well …What do we do?"
"Nothing", Wufei sighed. "That's his personal problem. As long as it does not interfere with the mission, you know as well as us how he would take an intervention from us. We don't have the right to go put our noses in his business."
"We still should keep an eye on him," Trowa admitted in a pensive tone of voice. "If he doesn't resolve his problem alone, we'll have to step in."
"Yeah… I don't like that the least bit …" Duo said grumpily while playing with his braid. "I mean, we have to wait for him to fuck up a mission to sort out the problem? It will be a bit late!! And I don't worry about him just for the missions, shit!! He's my friend!"
Wufei raised an eyebrow.
"A friend? I don't think he treats you like you should treat a friend…"
"Yeah, well, maybe he doesn't think of me as a friend, but I do think of him as one, if you understand the difference! And you two too", the braided pilot added before climbing back on Deathscythe's arm, embarrassed about the confession and about the way the two stoic and antisocial pilots could take it.
The other two pilots glanced at each other, surprised by his vehemence. Wufei smiled slightly.
"Try not to keep that in mind, Duo, but… There are times I nearly can say the same thing."
The chestnut head reappeared swiftly and he leant over his Gundam's arm, his braid swaying in the void.
"WUFEI?!? You… You… You called me by my first name!!! YATTA!!! And you said you were "nearly" my friend!!!"
"Don't let that go to your head, Maxwell…" the Chinese pilot answered coldly.
"I knew that it was too good to last, "Duo pouted.
As the Chinese boy was moving away, he glanced carefully at the third pilot. Trowa wasn't looking at him. He was still leaning on Deatscythe's leg and looked at the ground, lost in thoughts.
'probably still thinking about the Heero problem' sighed Duo. Bah, it wasn't so bad having one of the two pilots answer to his friendly offerings; frankly, it was even exceptional. He shouldn't dream about getting the two to open up.
Trowa left the Gundam and walked a few steps toward the door, Duo's pensive look following him. Then he stopped, and bent over to pick up something.
Duo didn't receive the screwdriver in the middle of the forehead only thanks to his feline-fast reflexes.
"Maybe I'll buy you a rubber band with a clip. You know, like the thing the babies use so as not to lose their pacifier" suggested Trowa in a deadpan tone.
* * * * * *
"This dream, again …" Quatre sighed while trying to get his bearings in the mistforest.
He was in the same woods as before, that, he knew, but the feeling of disorientation was as strong as before, if not stronger. If he had already passed by this place, he didn't remember. But he was under the impression that the forest was alive, that it modified itself when he wasn't looking. So… It wasn't of any use trying to remember the layout.
It wasn't of any use to stay here either. Since he was trapped here, may as well explore a little bit. He left, going straight ahead.
Soon, he felt the presence in the bushes again. This time it was even stronger, more aggressive. He felt anger in it, rage against the invader he was, and he felt even more terrified. He fled again.
Like the first time, it seemed to him that he ran for hours before the chase drove him toward the bottomless lake he ended –he nearly died –near the last time, before Trowa woke him. But this time, he doubted he would have the luck. It seemed he would at last know the end of the dream … He felt a nameless horror grip his soul when he thought about discovering what was hiding in the shadows of the forest and continued his flight along the bank, desperate. But the vines and trees were growing ahead of him, till they plunged their roots in the water itself, cutting the path. He tried to climb, but they didn't let him, they were like ice and he couldn't grip them without sliding off.
Stupidly, he ended up turning around to try and at least SEE what was chasing him… Even if, instinctively, he knew already.
His foot caught on a root –or was it the contrary?- and he fell on the lake's bank, in the mud. The impact took his breath away.
A warm breath on his neck…
"NOOOOOOO!!!!!" he screamed, terrorized.
This time, Trowa didn't wake him up. He wasn't there.
The eyes of ice drove in his, the saliva-covered ivory fangs glistened briefly in the moonlight, in a victorious and uncaring smirk, before driving viciously in his throat.
"NOOOOOOOOO!!" Quatre screamed, sitting up in a leap, eyes wide open but unseeing, covered in a cold sweat, arms raised in the futile attempt of protecting himself from the monster of his dream. "No, let me alone, let me alone!!!! Please, Heeerooooo!!!!!!"
At the deep bottom of the lake, two clear and cold eyes returned his last look.
* * *
In a bedroom two doors down the corridor, an adolescent turned over a last time in his sleep and hid again comfortably under his blanket. His hand moved lazily in the air, as if he was chasing the annoying presence of a mosquito, and then he stopped moving again. He could return to a calmer sleep, now. The inopportune being who had been trespassing on his dream territory had disappeared.
[Nouvelle Lune][Knocking on Death's door]