"Don't come any closer!" commanded Trowa in the most authoritative voice he
could muster without shouting.
It wasn't the moment to further unnerve the Were, when he was still struggling on the edge of the transformation. It really wasn't. All the pilots could see it… but J seemed determined to interfere.
"Doctor J, he is not thinking like a soldier at the moment, he's thinking like a wolf. You're advancing toward what he considers his prey… he could very well attack you to keep it."
The man frowned behind his strange bionic goggles.
"I thought that he could think like a human even in lupine form?"
"He CAN think at the moment, but his instincts have a tendency to prevent him from paying attention to his thoughts," declared Quatre in a soft voice, discretely putting himself between the scientist and the still growling boy.
"How is that?"
Quatre put a hand on his chest without even being aware of the gesture, instinctively correlating what they had learned before and what he felt from the boy.
"He knows what's happening, he knows what the consequences will be. It's just that, at the moment, he… doesn't care. He's oscillating between two totally different systems of thoughts. He can push himself to think in a human way in either of them, but for the moment, he's unstable. His instincts would take control of his reactions before he has the time to get used to thinking in animal form. How to say it…"
"The animal will's weaker but faster," announced Trowa. "Give him some time."
"Hey, Hee-buddy, let yourself go," suggested Duo. "Transform. The need won't disappear before you do and it seems like the more you resist, the worse it will be. You'll never be able to relax enough to make the pressure drop without transforming…"
Heero briefly closed his eyes and his growls became lower, less firms.
"No…" he growled between his clenched teeth. "Going to… attack you… Can't…"
"No, Heero, you won't do anything to us," whispered Trowa. " As long as we don't move… Let yourself go, Duo is right."
With a feeble shout halfway between a pained whine and a ferocious snarl, Heero began to tear off his shorts and to get rid of his shoes. He was still dislodging the second shoe when his spine bent so brutally he fell on the ground, an atrocious creak resounding in the little room. He stayed there, racked with spasms of pain, his shoulders shaken by waves as if he was ill, curled up as much as possible. The transformation came suddenly, like an explosion. In a few seconds the fur was covering him whole, and his limbs were transforming. He grunted when his ribs and guts changed shape and place, then stayed on the ground, panting a moment, once it was finished.
This time the professors didn't need an incentive to stay put. The too-big wolf was yawning by reflex to stretch his muscles, and his white, saliva-glistening fangs looked very prominent under his dark chops.
The four human pilots had slowly moved while he was changing so as not to alarm him, putting themselves between him and the scientists. They waited with bated breath to see if Heero had taken his control back.
The wolf slowly got up on his feet, first pushing on his forepaws then on his hindquarters, and shook himself before lifting his muzzle to sniff at the air. He lowered his head in the direction of the group and growled to remind them to stay put. Once sure they weren't going to move, he began to walk around his corner of the laboratories, slow and cautious. He sniffed at the cadaver for a few seconds before solidly driving his fangs into his nape and dragging him under the metal-covered table in the corner farthest from the door.
"It isn't logical," breathed J. "Unless he has hollow bones and no internal organs, this animal's mass is at least twice superior to the human version of Heero… Where did he get the surplus mass?"
Duo shrugged to show that he didn't give a damn how it worked as long as it did work, and glared at him warningly: the human voice had made the brown wolf whirl around in less than a second, and he was staring at them, without growling, but with his chops shivering from the need to bare his fangs. The American had seen them enough to know they would be much too white and pointy to his tastes.
"Oi, Heero, you in there?" he asked in a low and calming voice. "Heero…? Answer me, buddy…"
The Were looked at him for a while, and Duo saw a gleam of recognition in his eyes. Then the wolf nodded slowly. Duo snickered; it was too funny to see an animal use such a human gesture. Heero growled at him, but it was more like the annoyed grunts he gave him as a human rather than the violent threats from the Wolf. Carefully, he slipped closer to the little group, his body language tense, but not truly menacing anymore.
Duo grinned at him and squatted slowly in front of him. Blue-violet eyes met icy, steel-blue ones and the wolf tensed again, but Duo lowered his eyes fist and Heero-wolf came nearer, going to sniff his comrade's face to reacquaint himself with his scent. The American heard the scientists' alarmed whispers about the way he put his face and neck just at the right level for a snap of fangs, but he didn't listen. He knew what he was doing. Heero would never hurt him, he was sure of it. They were of the same pack after all…
With a snort, Heero walked past Duo toward Wufei, Trowa and Quatre, making sure they were ok. Passing near the boy, he brushed against Duo with all of his side, and nearly jumped out of his coat of fur when a hand slid through the messy hairs. But the feeling was strangely comforting and finally, he let the boy do what he wanted. Duo continued to rake his hand along the wolf's back, scratching his skin before smoothing the hairs in place.
It was… calming, reassuring… Made him recall that feeling he had when he groomed himself, that funny tickle, except that here, it was a more social activity, something he authorized because he trusted. Something pleasant. That he liked. Yes, he liked that Duo would caress him.
Quatre stretched his hand out toward Heero's muzzle and the wolf carefully sniffed it before blinking at him, giving him the Ok as for touching him too. Quatre too was authorized; Quatre wasn't a danger. He was from his pack too. More so in a way, because his scent was closer to his own. Like a… hard to think in human terms.
/litter mate. hunt brother./
"In control, Yuy?" asked Wufei, relaxing and letting his hand slide away from his sword's handle.
The wolf glanced at him before turning his head to look at the two pilots who were caressing his back. He suddenly realized that he was letting himself be approached; they were too near. The Soldier stepped back, warily, a whole life of training pushing him to get away from the two boys who were totally violating his vital space, even if his wolf side was entirely relaxed in their close presence and appreciated the contact. He couldn't get away with relaxing, not in other people's presence. The soldier in him knew that. And if Doctor J learned to which point his training was beginning to wear away, he would find himself submitted to reconditioning faster than he could say the word. Not on his list of favorite things to do during his idle hours.
The wolf looked at his mentor, happy that his appearance made his expression totally unreadable by the old man.
"If you are fully in control now, I think it is time for some examinations…"
He heard himself growl before fully realizing the bad mood he felt rising inside. He shut up in the middle of the sound, trying to stay in control of the bubbling emotions, too violent and to unusual, that the Wolf side was awakening. He shook his head briefly, as if he could chase away his mood this way, and with an irritated sigh, he stalked to the examination table J was pointing out to him.
The table's metal put him ill at ease and he realized he had stopped short just before stepping on it. He lowered his head and forced himself, jumping on and staying unmoving in a stiff and nearly unnatural position. Even when trying with all his might to find again the objectivity and the non-emotional state he could attain before, he just couldn't detach himself from the moment. He didn't want to be on that table and wanted even less to play Guinea pig. He wanted it less and less, he thought, glancing from the corner of his eye at the scientist who was coming to him, an empty syringe and a bottle of disinfectant in hand.
"First some blood takings…" he announced, searching a place amongst the thick fur where he could stick the needle.
The bitter and prickly disinfectant smell made his eyes tear up and he twisted his nose, for once disgusted with his senses' new acuity. He tried to relax his muscles, which were strung like cables, while the doctor cleaned a little bit of skin under his shoulder, conscious of the fact that his tenseness would prevent the needle from entering his skin like it should.
The syringe approached his skin and the next second, he was in the opposite corner of the room, crouching low and ready to pounce on the man's throat, growling ferociously, his fangs apparent up to the gums. He hadn't even consciously decided to move.
"That's quite enough, Heero!" said the exasperated doctor in clipped tones. "Get back on the table at once! You are acting like a five year old, it is more childish than you ever acted!"
"You really wanna get your throat torn out," remarked Maxwell with a despising smirk. "It's the wolf who’s dominate at the moment, and the wolf doesn't want to have sharp, pointy things approach him. If you unnerve him, he will never be able to stay calm enough to control the wolf too. That's the Wolf's body, there, he can take control more easily. You can't even begin to imagine the difficulty it presents for Heero…"
During his little speech, he had slowly stepped nearer to him, and was now standing a few steps away, a hand stretched out to him. Heero grunted and authorized him to pass his hand along his spine.
"Hey, buddy," whispered Maxwell just for his ears, " I know you don't like that, but the faster you'll let him do his thing, the faster we can get the hell outta here… For me, man? This place gives me the creeps…"
The wolf snorted in a way that could be translated as "no kidding?" and came back to the table. This time he tried not to look at the approaching needle. But he couldn't prevent himself from growling low, at the tone between a growl and a whine of distress.
Duo went to stand in front of him and began to scratch his skull and the dip behind his ears, and Heero thought he was going to melt. Lord, he understood better now the animals who let themselves fall flat on the ground when someone caressed them there! It was more than nice… He half-closed his eyes and pressed his head against the hand that was cajoling him, demanding more pressure.
"It's ok now, Heero," laughed the American. "Yanno, it's been thirty seconds already since he finished taking blood …"
Wufei snickered and elbowed Trowa.
"His tail is wagging…" he mocked gently, amused by the sight.
Heero, annoyed, growled a growl that went louder when Trowa dared to let a small smile appear on his face. Even HE was laughing at him… He wondered if he should get angry. He hadn't even felt his tail begin to move. It was totally automatic.
The doctor was taking his measurements. He let him evaluate his height from paw to back without problem, but squirmed when the old man wound his arms around his torso to measure his thorax depth…
/not my belly don't want to show my belly /
"Calm down," grunted the doctor, showing the number to G so he could write it down on a piece of paper. "Straighten your tail behind you, in the line of your column."
And before an alarmed Trowa could get to the old man and prevent him from pushing on the wolf's muzzle to make him lower his head, the frightening jaws had already clamped down on his arm with a great tearing sound. The wolf jumped on the ground, half dragging his mentor over the table, making the papers fly messily everywhere on the floor.
Half panicked, Duo jumped around the table, already wondering how he was going to make his friend let go before he bit off the scientist's arm… and sighed in relief when, through the torn up lab coat, he glimpsed metal instead of flesh. He had forgotten that the old bastard was cybernetized.
Now, to calm down the beast…
But the Soldier had taken back control nearly as soon as he had lost it. He unclenched his teeth and quickly backed up against the wall. He stayed there, growling loud and clear, head near the ground, tail arched high in the air, ears forward on his skull in a aggressive fashion, fur standing on end.
"Doctor, I think you should leave him alone for the moment," advised Wufei in a strong voice, straightening up the old man who had stayed across the examination table, too stunned to move.
The Chinese pilot made J move away without asking for his opinion on the matter and pushed him back amongst his colleagues.
"Doctor, we told you to be more considerate than that. Do you know what it means for a wolf to let his muzzle be manhandled like that? It's a submissive gesture."
"I am his superior officer!!" protested a pissed off J.
The American lost what little patience he had for the old, bastard scientist.
"You're the Soldier's superior officer!!" hissed Duo. "The Wolf doesn't give a shit about that! All that he knows is that you're just an old bag of bones while he's a male in his prime and he could kill you with one snap of fangs!"
"A wolf obeys only his superior pack members," added Trowa when he saw the puzzled looks the scientists were sending his way; obviously, they had never taken the time to wonder about animal behavior.
"Do you know how dominance conflicts are straightened out in a pack?" asked Quatre, smiling politely. "With teeth clamping down on jugulars. You fight if you want to stay on top. You're too old to fight, a younger one takes your place. Next time, doctor J, I cannot advise you enough to ASK him to lower his head instead of making him do it," he added, pulling up the torn sleeve to show the metal arm, completely crushed and with sparkles dancing where the cables had been cut. "You DO realize, that if that had been flesh and bones, he would have bitten it off?" finished the boy in a low and deadly serious voice.
Considering that they had made their point, the pilots turned back to Heero.
"Weeeeell… you're definitely not ok…"
Quatre could feel / Heero / himself getting oppressed. Putting a hand on his torso, he glanced up to the little, covered window.
"The wolf is feeling trapped…" he whispered. "Come on Heero, we're going out. If you run a little, you'll be able to go back to human more easily. Ok?"
With a grunt, Heero walked out after him, without looking back. He didn't care for the old bat for the moment. What was important was his pack's advice.
* * * * * *
They walked away from the base to find a place near enough that they could return to the base fast if need arose, but far enough that they could talk freely without worrying about the microphones recording what they had to say. The base was surrounded to the horizon by lands that seemed flat, but were in fact extremely undulating, with deep paths hidden in dry, high grasses probably dug by ancient water routes, and the vegetation covering it, while thick, rarely went higher than a meter and a half. On top of a hillock, one could see miles away… except of course if what one was searching for happened to stay close to ground level.
Heero had run forward as soon as they had put one foot outside, and was running right and left, verifying the perimeter, briefly following some smells, discovering paths, covering as a whole five times the distance the others were covering. The place was heaven-sent for his poor, confined senses. When they decided to stop in a deeper hollow in the ground, he immediately verified each and every evasion route before authorizing himself to rejoin his friends. The labs had seriously put him on edge.
"Well shit, we did good not to tell them that Quatre would soon have the same problem…" sighed Duo, letting himself fall on the grass.
"What a fiasco," agreed Quatre, falling at his side. "We didn't obtain anything solid except for new problems…"
Wufei went to lean against a little, half-crumbled stone wall just beside them and Trowa crouched on his heels in the opening of a path that lead away from their little place. They heard Heero searching in the bushes behind them. There was a rustle of dry grass when he startled a rabbit and began to run after it by reflex, but the laugh of the two sitting pilots made him come back fast, ears flattened back.
"Grrraow…" he groaned, embarrassed.
"What can we do?" asked Trowa after a moment of silence where everyone had searched for something to say.
Quatre bent his head, pensive, and rubbed at his chin meditatively.
"It is obvious that the scientists cannot do anything for Heero. Apart from making him into a lab animal, and that, I think we all agree, is unacceptable."
The others nodded together without even having to look at each other for hints on their thoughts.
"I even wonder why we bothered to warn them… We could have arranged things between us. If we let Doctor J have his way, he is going to try to retrain him…"
Heerookami growled softly, his teeth bared in a silent grimace. If he had to endure that once more, he knew he would die. Not from the tests themselves, no, but from the loss of his so new freedom of thoughts. And he had discovered in himself a fierce will to survive.
"It shouldn't be important. Why do we fight?"
"For the colonies," answered Wufei after a moment of puzzlement. "To gain everyone's freedom and equality. To stop Romafeller's oppression."
"And we are the only ones to do it. At least the only ones to have the means we have. So, it is out of the question that we permit one of our members to be submitted to any brainwashing procedure. We are few enough as it is and we cannot allow the loss of even one of us. The scientists could say that altering his behavior would not lose him to us, but I say they would be wrong. His capabilities can be extremely interesting if we learn how to use them. If he is trained again, after having succeeded in mostly integrating the Wolf, it will kill him, am I wrong, Heero?" asked Quatre, one hand clenched over his heart.
He felt it so strong that he nearly believed that he was the one feeling that… But he knew that it was not the case. Heero's violent emotions had a white-blue glow, which didn't belong to him, and a sharp edge proving their lack of use. He forced himself to talk using a point of view that was objective and cold, chasing the echoes of the animal rage the Japanese boy had been in far to the bottom of his awareness. The others wouldn't mind him talking like that, because they were searching for logical arguments good enough to convince the scientists, not emotional reactions. As the group's diplomat, it was his job to formulate their ideas.
"It will kill him or leave him crippled, and then he will not be of any use at all. J says that Heero has to be considered as a weapon, not a human. But which weapon is better than one that does its work voluntarily? And this war is fought by humans against humans! And, and, fuck! I refuse to consider anyone as an object!"
The three other humans nodded.
"We know that, Quatre… so what are you trying to tell us?" asked Duo, frowning faintly. It was rare to se Quatre react like that, he had to feel rather violently from empathy to Heero.
"Apart from helping us to find out our enemies' plans, their bases' locations, and indicate when and how it would be better to attack, what use exactly are the scientists for us?"
"Repairing our Gundams…" muttered Wufei, unsure.
"We know how to do that ourselves," shot back Duo, who was beginning to see where Quatre was going. "I dunno about you, but G made me revise my partner so many times that I could repair it sleeping, with strings and gum for parts. And at the worst… If we need big pieces, or if we want upgrades… We have Howard. And the Sweepers. As long as we fight against Oz and Romafeller, they will help us without asking for anything in return. They're resistance too. They know that we have to help each other out."
"And as for plans, missions etceteras… the spies we use often go through us, we give the information to the scientists, they give us back what we are to do with it. It gives too many opening for being caught. We can do it ourselves; we already do. I have my own information networks only going through me. I have the Maguanacs. Wufei has contacts with the resistance fighters Sally went to, and they're well furnished as for weapons and info networks too. Trowa has contacts with the circus, and through it to any of the people who travel the road all over the world, and you know as well as I do how news goes fast in that background, plus it would provide a perfect cover and an excuse too, for travel everywhere. Heero has access to the Sank princess whenever he wants to, if we happen to need her support," he added, ignoring the snort of annoyance when he mentioned the girl. "As for the contacts, we don't need the scientists. They can help us, but we could very well go without them. As for the plans… Do mine displease you? And how many times did we have to rewrite one of their plans anyway?"
"What are you proposing exactly?"
Quatre gave them the smile of a determined businessman.
* * * * * *
"What the hell do you mean, you're taking your independence?!??!"
"Exactly what you heard. You are useful sometimes, we admit it, but we don't need you, not anymore. It's simply out of the question that we stay at your heels simply because you taught us everything. It is true, you taught us all, and we will never thank you enough to have given us the means to fight for our cause. But now, we are ready to get by alone. We are ready to accept with open arms everything you'll be willing to supply… but you trained us to fight in that war. And we DO fight in that war, not you. So we will be the ones to decide how we are going to fight."
"I forbid you…"
"How? How do you intend on forbidding us anything, doctor J?" asked Duo, a worrying gleam in his eyes.
His hand nonchalantly slid along his hip, toward the leather sheath cradling one of his knifes.
"Don't worry, sirs," continued Quatre as if no one had interrupted. "We do have the intention of keeping on fighting with our best. That is what you trained us for, isn’t it? To win this war? Well, we estimated that the probabilities offered more chances if we didn't have to lean on you too much. We have to be as independent as possible, if we don't want to be annoyed by an eventual discovery of your ties to us by OZ. You had a spy today, don't tell us it can't happen. We are still fighting," he added in a stronger voice, staring at J who was visibly fuming with rage. "And we'd be grateful if you acted mature and responsible enough so as not to block us from information we wouldn't have, or even giving us wrong information. Either way, nothing coming from either source, ours or yours, will ever be taken in account without verification. We are trying to win. Not only for ourselves, but for the colonies, yourselves too. And if you want to give us a shot at succeeding, you'll help us. The stakes are more important than some ill-placed pride."
He began to turn away, then stopped at the last moment to glance at the five scientists, in different stages of shock.
"… Naturally, to help along your own war effort, we'll be very pleased to send you all the data which we would happen to have on our hands, along with our mission results. We also accept mission suggestions. We only reserve the right to accept them and alter them as we see fit. A continued collaboration would be a great help for us, and for you, in the future. But that is what we are as of now. We are not subordinates anymore. We are allies, equals."
"And the Gundams?!?" protested J, furious. "They're ours!!!"
"Personally, Shinigami's mine now," smirked Duo, baring all his teeth. "I never had permission to take him, I don't need it now. If you want it, why don't you try to take it back from me. Good luck. And legally, Sandy is Quatre's and Nataku is Wufei's, because it was their families who paid for their construction, the materials needed and your salaries. And what will you do once you have them, train other pilots? The war will have been three centuries finished by the time you find people who could even hope to barely approach our level! We weren't chosen because we were losers, grandpa, remember that. So, stop moaning."
J seemed ready to explode.
"Heero, I command you to…"
The wolf growled viciously, louder and stronger by the moment, until it became nearly a roar. Duo put a placating hand on his neck.
"I think that what he's trying to say is that he'd like you to vanquish him in a fight before you give him another order. Do you feel ready to take him on?"
Together, the four humanoid pilots and the Were turned around and calmly walked away to the hangar their helicopter was hidden in.
* * *
Maxwell turned around just as he was going to sit down. Professor G was running after them, waving around pieces of paper covered in blue and red designs.
"The new modifications for Deathscythe's fuselage and reactors," answered the old man, giving him the stack of paper.
Duo accepted them with a grin and began to look at it.
"You trust him?" asked Wufei, suspicious.
Oh course," answered Duo without looking up from his papers.
"He's always been an independent operator, contrary to you," laughed G. "After all, I never lent him the Gundam, he stole Deathscythe by himself to go to earth without caring about any orders… Now that he has it, I may as well limit the damage by giving him a hand from time to time."
"My left ass cheek, by myself, you were the one to give me that idea," protested Duo in an amused tone.
"But you weren't forced to follow that advice, boy. And who told you I was serious? It could have been a joke. Anyway it never got recorded, so it's your word against mine," answered G with an ironic smirk.
Quatre smiled at the old man.
"It is a relief to know that we have at least one of you agreeing to still help us out," he admitted.
"The others will give in too," the old man affirmed, "once passed the bruise you did to their ego. Maybe not J though… I think he is going to take it as a personal slur. I'll try to convince him, but I can't promise anything."
"I think we can do without him," groaned Duo, who was still pissed off because of the way he treated Heero like a piece of shit.
"He wasn't always like that," sighed G. "He was always cold and closed off, but before, there was something behind… Now… I wonder if there is still a shadow of a heart behind his pride and damn stubbornness. I fear not."
He sighed then looked up, with a smile on his lips that didn't reach his eyes. Duo stared at him. He had probably been close to J when they were younger… The American pilot tried to imagine the two scientists at twenty but renounced, it was impossible.
He wondered if they had been more than friends and immediately felt himself go green. He had such strange ideas, eww… It was NOT a mental picture that he needed! What the fuck had he been thinking about!?!! J and G… J AND G…! Eww, eww, eww and eww!!
"You'll give Howard my greetings when you go see him for the modifications, little pest. You can even ask him to modify them for the other Gundams, he is more than able to do that."
"Ok Pappy!" exclaimed pilot 02, strapping himself in place.
Two seconds later Trowa had taken the vehicle off the ground. Duo stayed at the glass to make faces at G as long as he could still see him, then went to concentrate on his plans, whistling happily.
"My baby's gonna be even cooler than before… Lalalaaa… He was the best already, but with THIS…"
"Silence, Maxwell," groaned Wufei, who didn't want to admit out loud that he was slightly jealous.
He hadn't won new upgrades. It was unjust.
* * * * * * *
Hmm. I wonder if I won't be mean like some authors and ask for a certain number of reviews before I post the next part…. 9___9
… naah ^__^
[Examination] [ninmu shippai]