"Shit, this sucks," Duo observed, looking over Heero's shoulder at Romafeller's troop movements.

Most of Treize's troops had proven their skill and ingenuity in escaping the traps that Romafeller had laid for them, but the solution might have been worse than the original problem. In the wake of the betrayal of their superiors, the men loyal to Treize had declared war on those they used to obey, and it was spilling out into the streets. Exactly the situation that they'd been trying to prevent from the beginning. The fact that most of the fighting was taking place on Earth, rather than in the colonies they'd sworn to protect, was of little help.

"We have to decide tonight," Quatre said softly from where he sat. Everyone else but Devin was out on various reconnaissance missions, and some had been gone for a few days, but they were all due back in the next few hours. It was only a week since they captured Treize, and would be the first time they'd all been together since Romafeller made their move, and Quatre didn't like what he was seeing develop. Treize's men – who were calling themselves the 'Treize Faction' were fighting hard, but without cohesive leadership, they would lose. Leadership that only Treize could provide.

And time was running short. Things were coming to a head, and if they wanted Treize to be able to recover most of his men in time to do anything with them, he needed to be out there, and quickly. So when everyone came back, they were going to have to make a decision, whether they were going to release Treize and put him back in charge, or kill him and try to deal with Romafeller themselves. He would wait until he heard all the reports before making a decision, but it didn't sound good. Duo had come back this morning in a foul mood, muttering about it being almost as bad as L2, back in the day.

Quatre knew what he was talking about. Surprised and caught off-guard by yet another betrayal from within, the Romafeller troops were panicking – probably with good reason, this was the second time they'd been caught off-guard, and if they didn't squelch the opposition quickly, the people might swing their support to the troops who fought for a popular and charismatic leader, Treize Khushrenada. The result was completely unacceptable, though – they declared martial law in every city they took, and were brutal in enforcing it. It wasn't unheard of for people to disappear on a simple trip to the store, and many had abandoned the streets entirely, hiding out in their own homes until lack of food forced them out. Already several regions were experiencing severe economic hardships from commerce all but stopping in the cities, and riots would follow.

Now he was left to try to decide which was the lesser of two evils – to allow this to continue, or to put their most dangerous enemy back in power.

The Gundam pilots didn't have a clear command structure among themselves the way their doubles did, but Quatre knew that the decision still rested on him. By now, the others respected his judgment, and he knew he'd be able to talk them around if they disagreed. Most of the time he was proud of the trust that they gave him (however obliquely), but today, more than most days, the responsibility it implied weighed heavily on him.

A light flashed in the corner of his screen, indicating a news flash, and he clicked on the link. A breaking news story scrawled in front of his horrified eyes. "Oh no," he breathed.

"What is it, Quat?" Duo asked, noticing him. He was really quite observant, though he tried to hide it.

"There was a riot in Rome. Romafeller troops fired into the crowd to subdue them. Casualties are still being calculated, but they're expected to top one hundred."

"Shit."

"So, that's what we've seen," Quatre said unnecessarily after Trowa had finished his report of the chaos he'd seen in Russia. It was just like the reports from everywhere else, the chaos, the abuse of power by Romafeller's troops, the killings, and the growing underground support for the Treize Faction. This war might succeed where others had failed to finally bring home the nature of war to those who lived on Earth. It made the situation even more volatile: Trieze, if he managed to get control, would have more power now then he did when he was captured. If he managed to get control. Diana wasn't sure that even he could pull this one off.

By mutual agreement, Diana and her people were staying out of this discussion. They'd given their reports in as neutral a fashion as they could manage, then stepped back to let the pilots make the decision. Her people had no right to take part in a decision that could have a very long-lasting impact on this world, not when they had to leave in three days. Bad enough the damage they'd done through their ignorance of the political climate and the ramifications their actions would have. This decision had to be made by the pilots. That didn't mean that the six of them weren't sitting outside the room where the pilots were debating, hanging on every word as they waited in silence.

"So what do you think? Who do we want in charge, Romafeller or Treize? A few bombs at Romafeller's headquarters, and we can be sure who we want will be in charge."

It didn't escape Diana's notice that Quatre hadn't made an offer to bomb Treize's troops, and knew that he, at least, had already made up his mind. The others would probably follow his lead, though it might take him a while to talk them around, depending on how strongly they felt on the issue.

Diana was not happy with the vague relief she felt at knowing that Treize and Zechs wouldn't be killed. Emotional attachments were chancy at best, in her business, and with an enemy, it was ten times worse, no matter what they'd said to Wufei. She was just grateful that Treize was only her enemy in this universe. In three days they'd leave, and never see any of the others again, unless they deliberately came over. She couldn't imagine either her people or the pilots having enough time for that. The thought made her vaguely sad, but she pushed the emotion aside with the ease of long practice. In three days this 'vacation' would be over, and she'd be back in her war, her fight.

That thought led her to Velanz. He'd spent the last several days unconscious, thanks to an IV that Trowa had scrounged from somewhere. As soon as Diana had gotten back, though, she'd removed it. She wanted him fully conscious before they had to go.

There was no way that they could take him with them. They'd be jumping, mostly blind, into an unknown situation, probably into enemy territory. They'd be better supplied for this trip than for the one that had brought them here, but in all likelihood they were going to have to fight their way out of wherever they landed. It would be beyond insane to try to bring a prisoner into that, especially one who was on the same side as those they'd be fighting.

At least, it would be insane to bring a live prisoner into that. A body, they could probably manage, and just drop it if it turned out to be too much trouble to drag his corpse around. Diana wanted to bring his body along, if they could manage it, her people back home could do a lot of useful propaganda with the body of one of the higher-ups of the Alliance. But it wasn't worth it to keep him alive, not any longer.

She shouldn't have put it off this long. She should have just put the bullet she shot him with back in Treize's office into his head instead of his shoulder. She should have just killed him when they brought him back to the safe house, rather than order that he be given minimal first aid to keep him alive. And she should have killed him when they left on all their reconnaissance missions, rather than have him knocked out for that time.

The fact was, though, that she'd been unable to banish thoughts of getting revenge on him for what he did to her, and a quick death – a bullet-shot to the head or heart – would not do it. He'd held her – tortured her – for months, and deep down, she wanted to make him pay for that. Make him pay for the months of pain, of grief, for knowing that her father (and he was her father, no matter who was responsible for her creation) was dead, and that it was her fault. And that didn't even touch all the anger she felt at Velanz for what he'd done to her family, Andrew and Brian and the others… He deserved to be punished.

Yes, he deserves to be punished, but does that make it right? Her conscience reminded her. She knew it didn't, not really, but still, she wanted to punish him. At this point, she wasn't sure why she didn't just torture him and be done with it. It might actually help her get this taste for blood out of her system.

But something was holding her back. She didn't want to take that last step, give in to the urge and actually torture him, because she'd be stepping across a line she'd set for herself a long time ago. She would – and had – tortured people before, when they had information she needed, or to set an example for others. She'd never tortured anyone for no other reason than because she wanted to. And she was scared – terrified, even – that if she did, she'd cross a threshold from which there was no return, and finally lose what little humanity she had.

A hand on her shoulder made her jump, and Diana scolded herself, angry that she'd gotten so caught up in her thoughts that she had become unaware of her surroundings. Automatically schooling her features to be neutral, Diana turned her head to look at Andrew. His expression was mildly disapproving.

"You're thinking about this too much," he mouthed silently, looking a little worried.

Diana frowned slightly, but didn't dispute the observation. She was thinking about this too much. She'd always had a tendency to approach problems with an almost-obsessive determination, and the years she'd spend as the Tiger hadn't done anything to dispel that tendency. The passage of time had actually made it worse, actually. And this was not a good topic to be obsessing about.

"If I didn't think that you'd kill me for it, I'd go in there and kill him right now," he continued silently.

Her frown deepened as she realized that she could practically feel the tension radiating off of him in waves. Not anger at Velanz, but worry for her poured over her in a wave that she could almost feel against her skin.

"I'm fine," she said in a whisper, immediately drawing the attention of the rest of the boys.

They all looked at her, eyes flicking from her to Andrew to the door to the room where they'd stashed Velanz and back again in a heartbeat. There were times when Diana wished that they weren't quite as quick as they were, mostly when they caught her attempting to deceive either herself or one of them.

"You're letting your anger cloud your judgment," Brian said seriously, a hint of disapproval in his voice. It was the first time he'd ever said that to her – in fact, he'd always been impressed with her ability to separate action from emotion – and the fact that he thought that about her now stung.

Diana felt a cool anger rising, this one directed at Brian. "I am fine," she said in a low voice.

"Prove it," Kane said quietly, eyes fixed on her. "Much as I'd like to hang him by his ankles and watch his blood drip out of him, one drop at a time…" he grinned. "You are thinking about this too much. He isn't fucking worth your time, or the effort you're putting into it. Just go shoot him in the fucking head."

Diana looked around at the five boys, and saw agreement on all their faces. If they all agreed on this… It didn't happen very often that all five would be in complete agreement, and that they agreed on this in particular meant they were probably right, damn it.

"Fine," she agreed unwillingly. She pulled out her gun and turned towards Velanz's room.

"All right," Quatre said, feeling as if he'd just fought a six-hour battle in Sandrock. A quick glance at the clock told him that less than an hour had passed since they'd started debating. And he hadn't even had to do much arguing – the others had either been in agreement with him, or torn, but willing to listen (sort of) to reasonable arguments.

"I can't believe this," Duo grumbled. "I can't believe we caught him, and now we're going to let the son-of-a-bitch go. Sorry, Wu."

"My name is Wufei," he growled, not even bothering to address the apology.

Quatre thought that was a good sign, really. Wufei had been a little quieter than usual during the debate, and hadn't expressed his own opinion until near the end. He was for putting Treize back in charge, unsurprisingly, but his reasons (at least his expressed ones) were all logically sound, and meshed with Quatre's own observations. He seemed to be dealing with them knowing, and at least trying to appear like his old self. They'd deal with how he would act when Treize was fighting them again when they came to it.

"Where?" Heero asked, pulling up a world map, then zeroing in on their current location.

"We could drop him off at the nearest base," Trowa suggested dryly. "He'd have a fifty-fifty chance that they wouldn't shoot him on sight."

"Ha ha, very funny," Quatre said, shooting his lover a sharp look. Trowa had been one of the undecided ones, and Quatre wasn't sure if he'd actually been convinced, or if he was just going along because he couldn't come up with enough arguments against it. He leaned over to look at the map. "It looks as if the Treize faction is gathering troops in a camp a few hours from here. If we take the two of them there tonight and drop them five or ten miles from the camp, that should give us enough time to pack up and get clear, and get them to his men."

He waited for several seconds, but there were no objections. "I'll go tell the others that we're moving out," he said, his thoughts traveling to them for the first time in a while. "Wufei, would you please tell Treize…" he gasped as his uchuu no koroko (1) touched someone in great pain. His eyes filled with tears as he momentarily got caught up in the other person's emotion, then found himself clenching his fists and reaching for his gun as a wave of rage overtook him.

A hand grabbed his arm, and he had the safety off with his finger on the trigger, the gun aimed precisely at Trowa's head before he realized what he was doing. Trowa's surprise – visible only in the slight widening of his eyes – was enough to shock Quatre out of it, bring him back to himself. He put the safety back on and pointed the gun at the floor, trying to keep his hands from visibly shaking.

"Quatre?" the others were staring at him, and darting quick glances around the room, trying to figure out what had set him off. They all had their guns out, as well.

"I… I felt something. Someone nearby…" before he could finish what he was saying, Wufei was out the door, heading toward the room where they'd stored Treize, gun at the ready, with Duo on his heels. But Quatre already knew that the OZ commander wasn't the source of the distress.

Quatre concentrated for a second, then looked at Trowa. "It's Diana," he said, and Heero was already on his way out the door, heading towards Velanz's room. Diana's people weren't the only ones who'd noticed her interest in their other prisoner, for all that she'd never actually looked at him since bringing him here.

The door wasn't open, a problem which Heero remedied by kicking it in. Quatre winced as the door slammed into the wall and stayed there, the handle imbedded in the wall itself. There was the sound of a half-dozen guns being cocked, and Quatre froze. Heero had his gun pointed into the room, Diana's five had their guns pointed at the door. As soon as they saw who it was, they put up their guns, and turned their attention back to the scene in front of them. Quatre, now that the immediate danger of friendly fire was gone, looked where they did.

Diana was standing next to the bed, holding Velanz in the air, her hand around his throat. Velanz was struggling to breath, his face slowly changing from red to purple. Diana's face was calm, almost disinterested as she held him without visible strain, but Quatre was afraid to reach out and try to touch her again, after what he'd sensed before.

"Wanna… know… his… last… words?" Velanz gasped.

Diana threw him across the room into the wall. Velanz managed to land so he didn't break anything, but his head knocked sharply against the wall when he landed, and he slumped to the floor, shaking his head.

"Why yes," Diana said in a polite, conversational tone as she stalked around the bed to reach Velanz. "I believe that I would like to hear what he said to the man who murdered him."

"I wasn't there, of course," Velanz said, wiping some blood from his lip with his good arm. "But I was told that he said that killing him wouldn't do any good. Of course, it took some time, but I'd say it did quite a lot of good. You went on a killing spree as soon as you were able, didn't you?"

"Yes, I did. You were the one I wanted, but you escaped. That time," Diana crouched beside him, her face still eerily calm. "Though I'm interested to hear why you think the death of your own men was 'a lot of good'." She reached down and grasped his right hand in her left.

"You scared people when you did that. Ours, your own, and all those civilians you claim to protect. You scared them, because for a short while, you let your true self out." He gasped, looked down at his own hand, and Quatre saw that she'd begun to squeeze his fingers.

Quatre looked at Andrew. "Stop her!" he hissed, although he didn't know why he was bothering to speak quietly, Diana was certain to hear him.

Andrew stared at him with wide eyes. "We can't," he said simply.

"Why not, she's destroying herself?!" Quatre demanded.

Diana didn't appear to be aware of their conversation. She picked up Velanz by his hand – it was his bad arm, and he gasped at the forced movement of his shoulder – and threw him against another wall, but when he settled, he was smiling. "You see? All of the trappings of humanity that you've pulled around yourself…" he looked at Andrew and sneered. "The farce of a 'relationship' you've built with Four."

Andrew stiffened, and turned his head slowly towards Velanz, while continuing his conversation with Quatre. "She'd never forgive us if we interrupted her now."

"You can't let her…" Quatre started, then trailed off when Kane looked at him.

"The Tiger does what she wants to do," he said, smiling slightly as Diana reached again for Velanz's hand. "Besides, truth be told, we don't really want to stop her."

Quatre looked around and saw that it was true – while none of the boys looked particularly happy, none of them looked very unhappy, either.

"You're a killing machine, nothing more," Velanz spat out, then cried out as Diana squeezed his hand again.

"You're wrong," she said through teeth set in a fixed smile.

Quatre felt movement behind him, and glanced back to see Treize standing in the doorway, watching the scene inside with great interest. Behind him stood Wufei, and an unhappy Duo was beyond him, keeping a wary eye on Zechs while at the same time trying to see inside the crowded room.

"Look at your vaunted successes," Velanz gasped, and Quatre turned his attention back to the drama unfolding in front of him, even as he felt Treize step into the room, standing beside him. "Is there anything you've accomplished that isn't part of your war against the Alliance? Anything at all? You have performed your function well, Eight." He smiled slightly, blood staining his teeth.

Was he insane? Was he trying to get himself a long, painful death. He is, Quatre suddenly realized. He's trying to push her past the breaking point. He knows he's going to die, and he's doing his best to take her with him.

Diana didn't respond to this latest taunt, just tilted her head to the side slightly, then crouched down beside him. A knife suddenly appeared in her hand, and she touched it to Velanz's cheek, not breaking the skin, but close. Sweat broke out on Velanz's forehead, but he didn't stop talking. "What do you want to do now, Eight? You want to tear me apart. Admit it. It's because of what you are."

A gun suddenly joined the knife, pressed against his cheek. "No, I believe it is because you are a killer who has hurt her badly," Treize said calmly. He turned his head towards Diana, who had gone rigid at the intrusion and was now staring at his gun. "I'm sorry, my lady, but you shouldn't soil you hands with this. Please, allow me."

For a moment, everyone just froze, staring at the scene. Diana, crouched in front of Velanz, a knife pressing against his cheek, and Treize standing calmly beside her, the gun in his hand aimed at Velanz's head. Then Quatre's brain caught up with what he was seeing. Gun in his hand… Quatre shot an accusing glance at Wufei, who blinked, then frowned furiously, while Quatre tried to tell himself that it wasn't entirely Wufei's fault, he hadn't noticed anything either.

"What…" Diana's voice was just as calm as always, "…do you think you're doing?"

"I am going to kill this man. Please step back."

"He's mine." That came out in almost a growl, and Diana finally looked at something besides Velanz. She glared at Treize.

"He's trying to use your hatred of him to destroy you," Treize said calmly, looking at her while keeping his gun on Velanz. "And your friends love you too much to stop you."

Diana snorted, a bitter sound. "And what do you think you're doing? You're no friend of mine."

"I respect you. I would not see someone like yourself destroyed by this." For a second his voice took on an edge as he nudged Velanz with the gun.

She shot him a startled look, then glanced from Velanz, to her people, and back again, her gaze finally coming to rest on Quatre, who swallowed. "He's right," he said in reply to her stare. "This needs to stop. He is trying to destroy you, and you're letting him."

Diana stared at him for a second longer, then suddenly turned her head away from him, as if she was trying to hide her face. She didn't make a sound, but he could see her trembling slightly. "If you want," Quatre offered quietly. "One of us will do it for you."

He heard Heero's grunt of agreement, saw Trowa's nod, and heard Duo muttering about, "Killing that sonnofa bitch."

For a long moment, there was no response. Then her trembling ceased, and Diana turned to face the room. Her face was once again calm, but she actually seemed calmer now. The undercurrent of tension and anger that he'd been feeling since entering the room was greatly lessened, and he breathed a silent sigh of relief.

Diana looked around the room, looking at each of her people in turn, glancing over the Gundam pilots, and finally staring at Treize, who didn't flinch from her scrutiny. Diana held out her hand. "I'd like my gun back, please," she said in a conversational tone.

Treize just stared at her without moving.

"I appreciate the offer, but I really do need to take care of this myself. Your point is well taken, but he is my problem. I couldn't live with myself if I didn't do this. Please, my gun."

Quatre wasn't entirely sure what Treize was looking for, but apparently he saw it, because he flicked the safety on the gun, turned it over in his hand, and handed it over to her with a short bow. Diana gave him a sharp look before flicking off the safety and turning to Velanz. Velanz made a desperate lunge towards her, but somehow both Brian and Andrew were already there, holding him down. Diana aimed the gun at Velanz's head. For a second a slight tremor shook her hand, but she quickly stilled it. "Adam Velanz. For crimes you have committed against the colonists of Terra, for the murder of eight thousand two hundred thirteen people in Eppa colony, for the murder of six thousand…" Diana continued listing off the numbers of people he'd killed for several more minutes, in slowly decreasing number increments, while Quatre listened in growing horror. The man had killed tens of thousands of people!

And he sat there calmly as Diana continued to list off the deaths that he'd caused, a small smile on his face, his eyes flicking around the room now and then. Quatre could feel his terror beating against the shields he erected to keep other people's emotions from overwhelming him, but not a hint of remorse for anything he'd done. He remained outwardly composed, but his eyes began traveling around the room more and more often, like a trapped animal, and the feeling of terror in the room increased. Quatre closed his eyes for a few seconds to reinforce his shields.

When he opened them, Diana seemed to be finishing her recitation. "…for the murder of three rebels that you caught eight days ago in the southern sector. Finally, for the murder…" she hesitated for a second, and that tremor returned to her hand for a second before she stilled it, "…for the murder of Ambassador Dorlian. For this and innumerable other crimes against the people of Terra, I, in my capacity as chief representative of Alpha to the Alliance, and as the Tiger, sentence you to death." Diana's eyes flicked towards her group. "Witnessed?"

"Witnessed!" they chorused.

Diana looked down at Velanz, then pulled the trigger.

Wow. I really didn't plan on it going that way. I sorta planned to play around with Treize and Diana talking to each other, I didn't intend for either of them to think any more of it than that. Then they had to go and build this twisted relationship based on respect. I'm not sure if I got Treize right, he's hard for me, but that seemed like the sort of thing he'd do.

Hope everyone's enjoying it so far!

Marika 6/16/04

uchuu no koroko usually translated as 'space heart' or 'heart of outer space' Thank you, Tai and Vesper, for reminding me what it was!

Extra note: I realized, going back through some of my old files, that I never posted the end of this story. Well, technically I never finished it, which is why I didn't finish posting it, but it's practically done, save for an epilogue or so. I'm going to finish it up and post it.

I've moved on from fanfiction in the last several years, but I don't like the thought of leaving this unfinished. Sorry for leaving people hanging so long.

Marika 08/15/07