Title: Building a New Life

Chapter: 14/14

Word count: 6771

Rating: Mature

Betaed by; rogue53

Warnings: Lemons, fighting, blood, explosions, swearing, slight kink. Nothing else.

Parings: 1X2, 3X4, 5X6. Relena as friend to all the boys.

Disclaimer: I do not own or hold any rights to Gundam Wing. Those rights belong to Bandai, Sunrise, and the Sotsu Agency. These fan fictions were written for fun, not profit. However, this story does belong to me. Please don't snitch it.

Summary: Sequel to The Price They Paid – The Pilots fought for peace for the Colonies and the Earth. With peace and the freedom to begin new lives they now are faced with new threats, not from politicians, but from the hard, cold space around them and the men and women they work with. Construction work is dangerous and the people involved in colonial construction are hardened and rambunctious. Building a colony is not at all like building a city. As the boys are about to find out.

Authors note: Not much of a real plot so much as just incidents in building a colony and how the boys handle them.

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A dull thud woke Duo. He lay there in the darkness trying to figure out what it was. Another thud shook the bed.

"Heero?"

"Yeah."

"What the hell?" Duo got up and reached for his clothing, accidentally grabbing Heero's wrist in the process. "Sorry."

"Might not have been such a good idea to pile our clothing together." Heero quickly tossed the too small t-shirt to Duo.

They quickly sorted out their clothing and got dressed, during which there were four more dull thuds. Heero paused to listen to all of them.

Duo looked at him, then asked, "Is that what I think it is?"

"Yeah, insertion bombs." Insertion bombs were used to breach the skin of a colony to allow invasion. The Alliance had used them several times. This was incredibly dangerous as the breach could cause a rupture if it wasn't sealed in time. Usually the Alliance or White Fang had sealed the breach with an access tube attached to a ship then they'd send in the mobile suits.

"Fuck. We better get to our gundams. Now."

"Right."

They headed out the door and nearly ran into Quatre, Trowa and Wufei. Heero glanced around and demanded, "Where's Milliardo?"

Wufei snapped, "He was restless so he went down to the docking bay to check on our suits."

Quatre just headed for the door with Trowa right behind him, Heero followed with Duo pacing Wufei.

"What's wrong, besides the obvious?"

"Not sure. Who is it and what do they want? Why ..."

Duo grabbed Wufei by one wrist and dragged him along. "Don't know, don't care. Kill now, ask questions later. Move it."

Wufei gave up and ran.

They charged down the corridor with people plastering themselves against the walls to get out of their way. The trip through the main ball was easier as someone realized who they were and word seemed to flash through the walkways at the speed of lightning. They hit the bay at a hard trot and found that Milliardo had been in the bay when the attack started so the suits were powered up and crews had already put out their vacuum suits and helmets.

Each pilot ran to the feet of their machine and found a crew waiting there to help them into their suits. They all stripped down without thought and were quickly powdered and crammed into the skin tight under suit that protected them from chaffing. The vacuum suits followed just as quickly, helmets fastened and gloves tugged on. It took five minutes for the crews to get all six pilots from civvies to suits and into their mecha.

As the pilots took the zip lines up to their cockpits there was another thump. Heero winced, two or three more attacks and whoever it was would succeed in breaking the skin.

The launch sleds hadn't been installed yet so the only way to launch was to just run to the lip of the open bay doors and jump into space. They launched one after the other, careful to wait to fire their main jets until they were clear of both the station and each other. It wouldn't do to put one of their own out of commission or burn a hole in the skin of the colony they were trying to save.

They swept off on slightly different trajectories, scanners on, trying to locate the area of attack. There were a few places that were better targets than others, so they swept them first.

They found the invaders attack point rather quickly. They were attacking an area near the main docks that was comprised mostly of warehousing. Duo swore and yelled, "Fuck me! Damn it, that's our ghost. I'll bet my best bomb on it."

Quatre snarled, "And no one thought to tell me about that?"

Heero replied as he mounted his buster rifles, "We sent a copy of our scans."

Milliardo seconded that remark, then they all shut down everything but vital communications. From that moment on all communications would go through a combat command so that no one walked on anyone else and they could all hear what was going on.

Command sent orders that Milliardo and Wufei should use their weapons to try to pry the pod off the skin of the colony. Wufei activated his dragon fang and Milliardo his new grapple and latched on to the pod. Duo turned on his cloaking device to hide himself and his hyper jammers to shut down communications between the main ship and; not only the pod but the suits of the pirates.

The pirates were armed with four squadrons, two each of Taurus and Aries suits, which were in decent shape. The mother ship had disgorged them as well as the attack pod, then drawn away to give the suits room to maneuver.

Command made a quick query to make sure that Duo's jammers hadn't jammed their communications too; it hadn't, so orders went out that each pilot was to engage at will.

And engage they did. Milliardo and Wufei attacked the pod with everything they had. Quatre joined them, cutting at the attaching grapples with his shotels. Heero braced his suit with his verniers and blasted away with his rifle, doing his best to pick off a swarm of mobile dolls like remote controlled balls which had attacked by disgorging clouds of mini-bombs.

This left Duo and Trowa to fight off the advances of the pirate suits by themselves. Duo knew that they both had a limited amount of charge in their rifles and Trowa's gatling guns and cannon were also limited. He'd run out of ammo on more than one occasion.

Duo reacted to the problem with typical exuberance, he charged up his scythe and yelled over the public channels, "Ok, mother fucker's, Shinigami's back from hell and I've got a serving of hellfire for you! Come on, asshole's I'm waitin'!" He hit his main verniers and dived right into the middle of a full squadron. Trowa grimaced and followed.

The resultant combat was a confusing melee in which Trowa shot anything that wasn't Duo and Duo cut anything that wasn't Trowa. They were nearly overwhelmed several times but Duo fought like a maniac, screaming and swearing, and Trowa concentrated on destroying the suits farther away. Duo's close in work kept the massed opponents from getting to him.

Trowa snarled as he realized that he was out of ammo. That was the only real problem with Heavyarms, it was an ammo hog. He prepared to draw his new vibro knife and defend himself as best he could. Command had other ideas and called him back to resupply. He started to argue but the next order shut him up. Heero was ordered to join Duo as all the remotes seemed to be destroyed.

Heero bellowed a war cry over the public channel and started picking off suits that were hanging back. His rifles were perfectly capable of reaching to the mother ship itself and he marched his fire from the outskirts of the battle right to the ship. He wasn't sure his rifle was powerful enough to hole the ship but he was sure he was going to try.

While Heero and Duo were duking it out with the suits Quatre and Wufei were still wrestling with the pod stuck to the side of the colony. Milliardo had had to turn and defend them from the attacks of suits that had gotten by the defenders. His double beam sabers cut swathes through the titanium skins easily, he wasn't worried about anything other than being overwhelmed and physically restrained. He fought silently, as always, but he kept an ear for Wufei.

Wufei had never kept his com open when in battle before but command had ordered it so he did. He swore in a mixture of Taiwanese, Mandarin and English, but softly, as if he didn't even realize that he was vocalizing at all.

And he talked to things. Right now he was still trying to pry a grapple loose.

"Ai-yah! Evil thing. Come off! Off, I say. Damn you for a stubborn camels ass." There was no laughing from command, only a fierce hope that he and Quatre succeeded. Wufei managed to pull the grapple off finally. His exclamation of satisfaction made everyone on the colony cheer.

There was no way the combat could be hidden from the residents of the colony and no one even tried. The order for everyone to don their vacuum suits had gone out as soon as command was sure that it was really a pirate attack so the entire population of the colony knew what was going on. Some had gained positions at the windows, others were watching on various vid screens but they all were braced for the worst. Their only defense was the six Neo-gundam suits.

Trowa entered the bay and demanded to be re-supplied. There was a huge scramble as the crews struggled to get his various guns supplied with fresh ammo. Since he was the only pilot on deck, all the crews worked on getting the job done as quickly as possible. He was impatient to return to combat but com told him that it was going to take at least fifteen minutes no matter how fast they moved. He snarled and slammed his torso back into the seat in fury. He needed to be out there, now!

Duo cut and slashed and hacked at anything that got near him. Shinigami was in full control, but Duo was well aware of exactly who and what he was attacking. The Taurus and Aries suits were still Alliance/White Fang standard paint jobs and conformation so there was no mistaking them for one of his allies. He let out a howl of fury as he was surrounded by Taurus suits. No way were they getting within reach of him. All they were armed with now were beam sabers which were no match for his double bladed beam scythe. He whirled and slashed at one suit in particular, the antenna array on its headpiece marked it as an officers suit.

"Come here you cock-sucking ass-licker, I want you so bad. You're dead in space and you don't know it. Waaa-hoooo! Done deal."

The colony cheered as Duo cut the command suit in half, right through the pilots module. The pilots dying scream echoed for a moment then was cut off as his suit failed.

While the pilots were battling furiously outside, the colonists weren't just standing around, some of them had stationed themselves in the warehousing that the pirates were trying to hole. They were going to defend themselves from invasion or die trying. If the pirates got in the colony there was no telling what they might do besides steal everything they could lay hands on. Besides, all the supplies in the warehouse were needed by the colony, why should anyone just wander in and help themselves without opposition? As to weapons, a welder could cut as well as weld, couldn't it?

When Quatre realized that he could get the blade of his shotel between the huge cable of a grapple and the skin of the colony without damaging the skin he started cutting them more quickly. The only problem was that there was one every ten feet all the way around it and it was as big as a football field. He started cutting as quickly as he could, Wufei helped by using his dragon fang to pull the pod away from the skin as much as he could. The gap was getting wider, but not very quickly.

As they pulled the pod away from the skin it was apparent that the pirates hadn't managed to breach the skin yet. There was a massive crater in the skin which was blackened and blistered but no hole. Now that they'd gotten the pod pulled away to this angle there was little chance either, another cheer echoed through the colony.

Still more cheering rose up when the massed construction suits arrived at the pod, boiling out of a nearby loading dock like ants on a sandwich. Someone had split the suits into groups and each group hurried to a grapple. They immediately attacked them with cutting torches.

It wasn't long before Milliardo and Quatre pulled the pod off the skin, careful not to dislodge any of the construction suits. Wufei used his grapples to throw the pod like a hammer. It flipped over as he did so and Milliardo got a good shot at its tender underbelly. It exploded on the third shot from his buster rifle, throwing debris and bodies far and wide. A few suits also emerged from the blast and attacked at once.

Trowa was rearmed by now and burst onto the scene with a bang, literally. He roared out of the shadow of the main bay door and started picking off the suits that had emerged from the pod. Heero was still concentrating on the mother ship and keeping suits from flanking Duo. Duo was concentrating on total destruction.

Now that the pod was destroyed, all the pilots concentrated on either the suits or the mother ship. Heero and Milliardo teamed up to try to pierce the skin and hole the ship. Quatre, Trowa, Wufei and Duo took on the job of protecting Heero and Milliardo. In different ways. Quatre and Trowa stationed themselves near by and kept suits from getting to them. Duo and Wufei took a more active stance and went out on a search and destroy that included anything not them.

Heero poured all Wing's considerable power into one buster rifle and picked a spot on the ship that he thought was over the reactors. Milliardo picked his spot too, his target was the engines themselves. As they blasted away, the skin in those areas started to glow more and more red.

Duo continued to howl, scream and curse. He also continued to devastate his opponents.

Quatre drew his shotels again and waded into a cluster of Aries suits and started the whirling, slashing dance of death that only he could perform. Duo was side by side with him, slashing and hacking with his scythe, leaving green after images on all the screens.

It didn't take them long to finish off the last of the suits, then retreat to join Milliardo, Heero, Trowa, and Wufei. They all hung in space and those who still had any ammo or ergs, bombarded the mother ship with everything they had. Finally, it gave up and exploded rather spectacularly, scattering debris everywhere.

Duo did a dance of victory and shot toward the bay doors, yelling madly. Wufei just sighed and followed him. Heero tacked himself on behind Wufei and was followed by Milliardo, Quatre, and Trowa, in that order.

The suit crews were lined up ready to get them racked and help the pilots shed their vacuum suits.

Heero tumbled out first by simply jumping from the door of his pilots module down to the deck, Wufei was only seconds behind him. Milliardo, Trowa and Quatre took the ziplines down but didn't do more than order the crews to stand back. If Duo was in Shinigami mode, it was quite possible that he wouldn't recognize that the crew was friendly.

Duo went through his shut down himself, unlike the others, who had left the tedious process to their crews. When he slid down the zipline he seemed calm but everyone waited, eyeing him carefully.

Duo eyed them back for a second then demanded, "What!? I'm ok. Really, I got my head together during shutdown. It always works, if people will leave me alone. Wufei?"

Wufei bowed, keeping his eyes on Duo politely. "My apologies. We merely hoped to avoid ... unpleasantness."

Duo shrugged. "Don't apologize then. That's good of you. Now ... can someone get me out of this thing. I'm all sweaty." His plaintive tone of voice made everyone relax and laugh.

But his crew noticed that he was twitchy as they removed his suit. When they got him down to his skin suit, he was worse. Finally, Dan, his suit tech, went to speak to Heero.

Heero nodded. "I'll go as soon as I have something on besides this." He waved a hand at himself. He was dressed in nothing but shorts. One of his crewmen hurried to hand him a robe which he pulled on with a grunt.

Duo was starting to shiver and everyone knew that this wasn't good. Heero spoke Duo's name then put his arms around him.

"Take it easy. It's ok. I've got you." Heero took the robe from Duo's crewman and helped him into it. "Come on. I need a hot shower, what about you?"

Duo sighed. "I'd love a good hot shower. Think you can manage?"

Quatre laughed lightly. "Duo, we can have all the hot water we want. That's one of the first things I saw to, proper bathing facilities. All we have to do is go down the hall a bit. Are you ok?"

Duo managed a rather wan and watery smile. "No, I don't think I really am. All those people ... just ... gone. I don't like it."

Heero hugged Duo, then pushed him away, rubbing up and down his arms. "I don't really either. But it's not like we went out to find them. They attacked us first. Now, come on, shower." He pulled gently at Duo's hand.

All the crew's knew something was wrong so they tended to their business and kept a weather eye on Duo. They all relaxed as the whole group closed in around him and walked out the small side door that led directly into a small sick bay, shower room and office. A small medical team was on standby there and approached slowly when they came in the door.

This team was made up of medics who were used to working on suit pilots and could be counted on not to make a wrong move at the right time. No one wanted an adrenaline sparked incident which included death or dismemberment of a med team.

Duo nodded to the head of the team. "I'm ok for a quick exam but make it really quick. I think I'm ... shocky? Don't know, just really tired and cold."

A medic just looked at him for a moment, then said, "They should all have standard exams. This way." He led the way into the sick bay and pointed to six exam tables. "Up, all of you." At Duo's suspicious glare he shrugged. "You're the only two who've never had one. Field Marshal Peacecraft had one after every battle. I think Barton, Chang and I know Winner, all had them when possible. It'll take fifteen minutes hooked up to sensors. Then you shower, get a massage, a hot meal and get sent off to bed like good little boys."

Duo noticed the twinkle in the man's eye and snorted. "I haven't been a good little boy since ... well, forever. But a massage sounds nice. Heero?"

Heero grunted, then just hoisted himself onto the examination table, remarking, "I had exams when I was training. Didn't care for them much."

A female tech remarked, as she wheeled a mobile med station near, "Well, this won't take long. You'll barely notice it. All we do is stick patches here and there and watch the pretty lines form. There ..." She started sticking things here and there on Heero's torso. Heero endured it with a comic, long suffering expression on his face.

Duo settled on his table and also allowed the touching. He cracked a few strained jokes then settled quietly, the others also climbed onto a table and either asked questions [Wufei], remained silent [Trowa] or visited politely [Quatre and Milliardo]. They all realized that they'd dodged more than one bullet that day.

Milliardo let 'what if's' drift through his mind as he tried to relax on the table. It wasn't easy as the table was cold and hard and the sensors tugged at his body hair. He finally managed just as the test was over. He looked from one side to the other and realized that he was the first done as he'd just picked the table nearest to him and gotten on it.

He stood, stretched and went to check on Heero. His first glance had been for Wufei, of course, Wufei's nod had reassured him that everything was well with his lover so he'd gone to the one he thought would be done next. Heero was almost done. Duo was, and was already helping pull the sensor patches off his chest. Trowa was watching Quatre who was watching him back. Milliardo smirked at Trowa who just raised an eyebrow. Everything seemed fine with them so Milliardo looked at Duo more closely. He was pale but had stopped shivering.

"Duo?" Milliardo held his gaze for a second, Duo's eyes held his easily. "Cold?"

"Yeah, I'm always cold after a battle and hungry. Can we eat soon?"

Heero snorted softly. "As soon as we don't stink anymore. I'm not eating while I smell of..." He sniffed one armpit. "Me. Ugh!"

Duo snickered a bit weakly and everyone relaxed. He was going to be fine now all they had to do was get clean. Then food.

Heero looked up as one of the med tech's approached him. "Um ... Sir? Mr ... I mean Field Marshall Maxwell's tests are all good. I just ... I remembered that he'd been injured and I though you might be extra worried about him. But he's fine. Sir."

Heero realized that his after battle glare was probably making the man nervous so he damped it down to what Duo referred to as his low BTU glower. "Thank you. I was a bit concerned as he does tend to ignore things during a fight." The tech saluted and hurried away.

After the last sensor patch was removed from Quatre, the last one to finish his examination, they all put their robes back on. Quatre led them on to the baths.

They weren't the standard military communal showers. Each pilot had his own stall equipped with multiple shower heads and his preferred toiletries. Quatre had even seen that the construction suit operators had some extra luxuries as well.

Now they were showering, ridding their bodies of sweat and powder. And their minds of grief and regrets.

Duo wrapped a towel around his waist. He'd taken his braid down and washed it, now he was attempting to get tangles out of it and stop shaking at the same time. It wasn't working very well.

Milliardo, on the other hand, had braided his hair easily but was having trouble getting his shirt buttoned.

Heero washed every finger and toe with scrupulous care.

Trowa felt off balance until he'd checked to see where everyone else was.

Wufei, Trowa found, was sitting cross-legged under the pouring warm water, meditating.

Quatre settled on mothering the hell out of everyone.

None of them were unaffected by the combat, no matter what public face they tried to assume.

Quatre started his mothering by declaring, "Now that everyone is clean, we'll have a massage so we don't get stiff."

There was a bit of grumbling, especially from Milliardo, who had just gotten his shirt buttoned crookedly and was unbuttoning it to try again. Duo snorted but got up from the bench he was seated on.

Heero looped his arm over Duo's shoulders and started out the door. Quatre tugged Trowa along behind them while Wufei and Milliardo followed behind. No one commented on the fact that Wufei's arm around Milliardo's waist was looking more than a bit clingy while Milliardo's arm around Wufei's shoulders definitely was.

Quatre sighed, he knew he was mother henning but he couldn't help it. Then he realized that the others needed the fussing just as much as he needed to fuss. He smiled up at Trowa and asked, "Ok?"

"Getting there. Massage?"

"Shut up, it's good for you."

Duo chimed in with, "So's caster oil, don't see me enjoying that much."

Heero sighed, "Shut it, you. You'll be all stiff and bitchy."

Duo cackled softly, his laugh still a bit forced. "No, that's you."

Wufei grunted, "Heero's bitchy, I'm stiff."

Milliardo poked Wufei in the ribs. "Not either. Just very proper."

Their banter carried them to the masseuses area which was just off the shower room in an area which contained all sorts of massage tables, whirlpool baths and other equipment intended to relieve sprains, strains and bruising. It was identical to one that a professional sports team would have.

The masseurs descended on them and helpfully pealed them out of clothing and got them into robes again. All the pilots were coaxed onto massage tables and the robes removed again. Duo grumbled, "Jasus on a pogo-stick, make up your damn minds. Put on robes, take them off, put them on again. Fuck!"

No one seemed too upset with Duo's fussing, the masseurs expected them all to be a bit on edge. That was one of the reasons for the massage, to help them calm down. It was always a toss up, which was better, to address the combat induced exhaustion or ignore it. And it wasn't any use to try to figure it out by personality, people reacted differently to each battle.

All these young men suffered from PTSD in one form or another. They were all getting all the help they needed but it was a long process and having to return to battle surely wasn't helping any. There was a team of therapists waiting incase they were needed.

Quatre knew that nothing was going to help them more than time but little attentions after battle were sure to help some. Thus, the massages and the nice dinner he had planned.

All the pilots enjoyed their massages and the relaxation they induced. Two of the masseurs recommended whirlpools for their pilots and it was agreed that they should all have one on general principles.

The masseur who was taking care of Duo had felt a great deal of tension in his back and wanted him to stay in the bath for ten minutes with a jet on each side if his spine in the lumbar region. Heero decided to stay with Duo so they wound up head to toe in the same bath. Heero had jets directed at his thighs, which always hurt after a battle, Wings leg controls required a lot of force to activate.

Milliardo was a bit worried about Wufei, he still seemed very stiff and Milliardo was worried that he'd be sore if something wasn't done. Wufei sighed, "Ow! I haven't been in a real battle, or even in a suit in ... longer than I want to think. I'm sorry, Milliardo, but even that massage didn't do the trick."

A masseur poured something into the tub and told Milliardo. "Help him into that. Between the solution and the jets, he should be fine. If not, I'll have another go at him before you leave for dinner. Talk to him. That stiffness is more in his mind than in his body. I can tell, you know?"

Milliardo nodded. "Of course. I'll see what I can do." So he slipped into the tub behind Wufei and started talking him down. It was helping him as well, just debriefing had always helped.

Neither Quatre nor Trowa really needed anything so Quatre remarked that he would take this time to make sure that their food was being prepared. They left to go to the dinning room to check on the preparations. Trowa gave the other four a slight smile as they left, causing Duo to snicker and the other three to just raise eyebrows.

Duo and Wufei both admitted that they felt much better after about 10 minutes. They stayed in for almost thirty though as both their masseurs wanted them to get the full benefit of the treatment. Heero was also feeling better than he ever had after such a fight.

Quatre's attempt to check on preparations for dinner was met with cheerful teasing by the servers. They had already gotten everything ready for a nice dinner and were only waiting to find out how long before they needed to start service.

"What are you offering?" Quatre eyed the table curiously. It was round with chairs for each pilot arranged around it.

"We thought it would be better to offer shabu-shabu, sushi, and sukiyaki. That way everything will be freshly cooked and nice. I'm going to check on the rice, if you need anything, call me." The lady who was head chief smiled and walked away to check on her rice. And a few other things.

Quatre smiled at Trowa who grinned back. Everyone, it seemed, knew of the groups love of Japanese food. Milliardo had to admit that he did love a good steak but that was much too heavy for now. The foods on offer were nourishing without being particularly heavy.

Heero led the small group into the room, speaking over his shoulder to Duo. He stepped aside to let Wufei and Milliardo in and glanced at the table. All the servers were pleased when his face lit up with happiness. He was particularly fond of Shabu-shabu.

Duo crowed, "Oh, boy, food! Beautiful food! Come on, guys." He hurried to take a place at the table, dragging Heero after him.

Milliardo laughed and they all seated themselves. The shabu-shabu was first. Hot beef broth simmered gently in the pot in the middle of the table. Heero speared a piece of thinly sliced beef on his fork and dropped it into the bubbling pot. Duo added his own fork of mushrooms and onion. And so it went. Each pilot added a fork of something and cooked bits were removed, dipped in various sauces and eaten along with rice. Bits were shared and especially favored things squabbled over genially. At the end of this part of the meal, the broth, now flavored by the things cooked in it, was shared around. The remainder was returned to the kitchens as the sushi was brought out.

The sushi was arranged on large platters and plates were brought for each pilot.

The center of the table turned out to be a turn table, all the platters were set there as well as the soy sauce, wasabi and pickled ginger or sushoga. Heero and Duo took turns feeding each other as did Trowa and Quatre. Wufei just couldn't bring himself to allow that but Milliardo didn't mind as he found it too silly and juvenile for him.

They enjoyed the sushi, spinning the middle of the table back and forth, bringing the various types within reach.

It didn't take them long to finish this course and sit back to drink tea until the sukiyaki was ready.

The last course, the sukiyaki, was brought to the table in individual cast iron pots, with more rice in small bowls. Heero picked out some tofu from his pot and nibbled at it. He was beginning to get full, something he'd never experienced after a mission before. Usually he'd had to make do with cold, emergency rations or an energy bar. This was far better.

Wufei also did nothing but nibble at his last dish. He remarked to Quatre that, while it was very good, he didn't want to be over full. He satisfied the last of his hunger by picking out the beef and eating it.

Milliardo asked him why he did that and he replied, "I'd never be so disrespectful as to waste meat. Some animal gave its life so that I can eat." Milliardo nodded gently, then returned to his meal, picking out the meat first before eating anything else.

Wufei's remark didn't put a damper on the festivities, it just reminded them that they were lucky to be alive so they should celebrate it. And Celebrate they did. Not in a rowdy display but just quietly, eating and drinking talking softly of whatever entered their minds.

The servers were soft footed and skillful. They kept their intrusions to a minimum, switching empty rice bowls for full and filling tea cups.

They finished their meal in quiet companionability and the table was cleared for the last time.

"I think we should all return to quarters and rest."

Milliardo looked up when Quatre said this. He'd been wondering about something and decided that he wasn't going to be able to rest until he knew the answer.

"What about the construction suit operators? How are they? Where ..." Milliardo stopped talking as Quatre moved to pat him on the arm.

"They're fine. They all have facilities similar to ours, only bigger. I was going to have us use one of theirs until one of the therapists said that wasn't such a good idea. What with our hot buttons and all. But I'll send one of my other aides to make sure of them if it would make you feel better."

Milliardo nodded. "I know I'm acting like an old woman but ... I feel like they are part of my new command and I need to know that they are being taken care of or I won't be able to rest."

Quatre just shrugged, he'd already had a report, whispered in his ear during the sushi, but he respected Milliardo's attitude. He turned just in time to take a handheld from the service coordinator. He handed it over to Milliardo without comment.

Milliardo examined the readout and smiled, there was a breakdown of what was being done for all the construction suit operators who had engaged the pod. No one was badly hurt, just a list of sprains, strains and one broken arm. He wondered at that but didn't pursue it as the person was being taken care of by doctors. He handed the handheld back to the hovering coordinator, thanked him and felt the vague unease he'd been feeling disappear.

Heero nudged Duo who turned to watch Milliardo. They both noticed Wufei's pleased smirk. Milliardo was back in his true role, a commander of troops. He was a royal, after all, and well used to command. Quatre knew that his idea to put Milliardo in charge of the gundams was going to work out well.

Trowa had taken over arrangements while Quatre and Milliardo were involved and now they were on their way again. This time, to their quarters, the High Seat.

Trowa tapped Heero on the shoulder and motioned with his head. Duo felt Heero glance over his shoulder and gladly followed Heero as he started for the door. Wufei, seeing the two move out of the corner of his eye, just tugged at Milliardo's sleeve. Milliardo, realizing that all his duties were fulfilled, put an arm around Wufei and followed Quatre, who had gone to Trowa.

They all walked out that door and into something that they had never experienced or expected to. There was a wall of faces, surrounding the walk to their quarters. Smiling faces, happy to see them. People lined the walk, just there to call out their thanks.

Duo squeaked in alarm, a very girlish sound that he'd deny to his dying day. Heero glowered furiously. The others, just far enough behind that they hadn't seen yet, crowed up to find out what was going on. This resulted in a cheer that echoed around the huge open space of the ball and made all the pilots startle.

Milliardo forced himself gently to the front. He held up a hand and everyone in the crowd quieted to hear him.

"Thank you. Thank you all. If there are any reporters here, please step to the front so that your feed will be clear." He waited a moment, until the crowd had allowed camera crews to the front. "I'm not sure what you know about what has been going on. I'll leave it to the anchormen and women to handle that. All I have to say is that we have repelled the boarders with a lot of help from construction suit operators. They deserve as much credit as we do, maybe more. They entered space, into heated combat, in suits that were never meant for combat and did what they needed to do. I'm sure there were other people who did other things just as brave."

Someone shouted from the crowd, "Yeah, but no one got into an experimental Neo-Gundam and went out to attack two hundred suits, a mothership and an attack pod. There were only six of you. You're incredible. Thanks."

Duo couldn't help himself, he whispered to Heero, "Yeah, and the last time I tried to defend a colony they tried to execute me. This is much better." Someone with a directional amplified microphone dish picked that up and broadcast it all over.

Heero just snorted.

Milliardo just bowed slightly. "And we'll do it again. As often as we have to. We'll also use the suits for construction, helping out where the greater power of the suits is needed. Now, all we want is to get home before we drop. Please. We'll grant interviews later."

It was as if a knife had parted the observers; they stepped aside, making a corridor of people between the dinning area and the High Seat. They walked the corridor, Wufei and Milliardo first, then Trowa and Quatre, Heero and Duo followed last. It didn't take them any time at all to get to the doors of home.

Milliardo went first but managed to place himself to watch over his companions in case someone tried to stop them for some reason.

Quatre and Trowa made it into the residence but Duo was stopped by a man who reached out and touched him on the shoulder, Heero grabbed his wrist and held it, but the man didn't struggle. He just stood and waited.

"Easy, 'Ro." Duo turned to the man and asked, "What is it?"

"I just wanted to say ... well, thanks. You didn't have to go out there. You're all just kids. But you went out and did something that none of us could have done. The construction crews just cut cables, something they do all the time, but you defended us all against..." He waived his arm, "overwhelming odds. You could have holed up and let us do our best. Instead you risked your lives for a bunch of ..."

"People who are doing the same thing we're doing," Duo grinned at him then turned to a nearby camera. "We're all building new lives. One day at a time." He turned and entered his new home. The door shut. Men and women nodded at each other and the crowd drifted away.

THE END

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Squadron in this case is based on the US Military platoon of 50 individuals.

I know I promised more, but this is it. That's all she wrote. It just seemed like all I was doing was 'adding to the word count'. Please don't ask me for another sequel. There isn't one. This story has actually become a burden to me. I'll write some side stories, after a while. Stories of building the colony and a few other things. Mostly medium length one-shots. Thanks to all who have read, loved and commented. I really appreciate it and I'm sorry to disappoint but it's just over.