In The Family
Is You Got to Be Free
Beta read by the awesome gothic-pixel
A/N (6/2010) - So, I fixed the formatting that got eaten, since this fic is a beast to read without it, as I understand. Apologies and respect to any that tried. Hopefully, everything should be better now, but if you come across anything major, pleas drop me a line. Thanks!
A figure, small and swathed in black, ran silently from a small patch of trees at the edge of the park to the yawning mouth of an alleyway. When it reached the safety of the shadows, it paused to cast violet eyes back over its shoulder. The glow of stage lights had died away hours ago, but the large main tent was still visible in the low glow of the colony night. A small frown bowed its lips as its jaw set and it resolutely turned its back on the quiet scene. However, with one step into the inky shadows, it collided with another body barring the way.
"Gah!" the figure stumbled back a few steps and the person that had blocked it stepped into the light. A man loomed over the figure, cool emerald eyes peering out through his bangs. Trowa waited calmly, but firmly, for the smaller person to recover, arms crossed.
"Dad! Are you /trying/ to scare me to death?" the figure threw the hood of its long coat back to revel a teenaged girl. Her shoulder length brown hair was restrained in a tight French braid that left her round face and large eyes unveiled.
"If it stops you from running away," Trowa raised an eyebrow.
The girl pursed her lips and did a fair job of mimicking his stance, "Doubtful, old man."
Trowa's gaze flattened, "Not even a bag this time?"
"I realized the packing was tipping you and Aunt Cathy off. I have a duffle in a locker at the space port."
"Where this time?"
Trowa sighed as he took his daughter by the arm and started back toward the big top, "You realize most kids run away /to/ the circus?"
Sighing to match, she allowed herself to be steered back the way she'd come, "You realize those kids get way more responsibility than I do, right?"
Trowa stopped, "You have your job, Tristiana."
"I'm in you and Aunt Cathy's act, I help you with the animals, and I help Uncle Ian fix our junkers when they decide to break down."
"That's not enough?"
"C'mon, Dad. All it does is keep me busy. I'm better than half the staff and all I do is assist."
"Hm…" Trowa appraised her small earnest face, a pang of familiarity running through the back of his mind. "Maybe."
Her eyes lit up and a huge, toothy grin plastered itself across her face, "Really? You mean it?"
He nodded and the girl almost squealed. Without warning, she slipped his grip and flung her arms about his neck with a leap. Shocked though he was, he caught her in his reassuringly strong arms as she hung a good foot off the ground. Smiling, he put her back on the solid floor of the colony, but she locked her hands, keeping him at eye level.
"You promise to talk to the manager?"
"After your birthday party." If it was possible, she beamed even more and pecked him on the cheek. She released him and started to run happily back toward home. He watched her go with a small smile playing over his features. Something caught his attention and his gaze shot to the alleyway. A cat slunk from the shadows and he let out the breath he'd been holding. As he started back, he couldn't quite shake the deep feeling of foreboding that had suddenly gripped his heart.
The boy was staring out the window of the car absently as his mother listened intently to the important person on the other side of her vid-feed and their personal bodyguard typed a report. His large blue eyes were fixed on the sky and the index finger of the hand his head was resting on tapped rhythmically against his lower lip. He was so engrossed that he completely missed the cordial goodbyes his mother had exchanged with whatever official she'd been talking to and the several minutes of silence that followed.
"Penny for your thoughts?"
His head turned and the image of the introspective youth was shattered by his dashingly roguish grin, "You done with your business, Miss Foreign Minister?"
The regal woman gave him a withering, but genuine smile, "Yes, Alex, I'm finished and, as promised, I'm not doing anymore till we get back."
His eyebrow rose, "We'll see."
His mother brushed his black hair from his eyes, "I took two /full/ weeks off for your birthday, just like I promised. I'm sure the ESUN will manage to exist that long without-" The buzz of the car vid-phone pointedly cut through her reassuring speech and as she turned towards it with a small grimace, Alex rolled his eyes skyward.
"A promise is a promise," said a third voice, low and calm, from the seat across from them. Relena stopped, her hand hovering over the pick-up, and blinked up at the man. His laptop was open, but he'd paused, blue eyes on her through unruly bangs. Alex turned at the sound of his voice.
She smiled and nodded, "You're right, Heero. A promise is a promise." She smiled at her son and Alex blinked, then smiled back as the car stopped. "And it looks like we're finally here."
They exited the car onto the tarmac of a private air field, their small, but state of the art shuttle waiting for them patiently. As they made their way to it, the boy fell back a bit to walk beside his uniformed bodyguard.
The man glanced down at him, smiling warmly, "It was the only thing you asked for this year."
Alex grinned, making a show of an exaggerated shrug of exasperation, "I would have asked you, too, but I think you may actually be /physically unable/ to not work."
Heero plopped a hand heavily on the boy's head, tussling his short black hair relentlessly, "Absolutely not."
"Are you two ready, or should I start making up excuses?" Relena called from the hatch of the shuttle. An affectionately playful smile had worked its way across her face as she watched them.
Alex ran the rest of the way, "You can't leave me! It's /my/ birthday party!" Heero smiled after him, but the laptop in his hand beeped once, stopping him with a frown. Carefully, he scanned his surroundings and the sky. When nothing happened, he eased the hand that had darted for his sidearm out of his jacket and headed determinedly for the shuttle. Relena's smile faltered when she saw his expression.
She kept her voice quiet, "Heero?"
He closed the hatch and moved to the pilot's seat, hooking his laptop into the shuttle's systems with a familiar grace. He checked a few instruments; made sure everyone was strapped in and took off. When everything stabilized again, Relena primly sat herself in the co-pilot's seat and fixed Heero with a cool, yet determined gaze.
"What is it?"
The man slid the large headphones down around his neck and looked at her. He gauged her for a moment, his eyes tired, "Someone was watching us."
"I don't /want/ your company, Father!"
That made Quatre stop, mid-breath, and actually look at his oldest son. The boy's generally friendly, open face was screwed into a defiant grimace that was all too familiar. The room smelled of old leather, paper, and ink with the calmingly diffused colony light streaking in through the large windows, much the way it had when he'd fought with his own father. The blonde man covered his silence by smoothing his goatee. "Is that so?"
The boy, catching his father's pause, bulled ahead, "We both know that Tahir, or even Wahid, would be a much better choice. And, of course, there are Quatrine's obvious talents. Any of them would happily be the Winner heir."
"I don't see what that has to do with you skipping your lessons, Deucalion," Quatre's tone was harsh, but his expression had softened considerably.
"I don't wish to go into business, at all." He didn't avert his deep blue eyes, but he did readjust his rich, yet plain shirt, as though it were ill-fitted. Quatre, who was well versed in his son's mannerisms, waited patiently for him to get to the actual point of this latest clash between them. "I want to become a Pilot."
"I knew you wouldn't understand."
"I just want to know how much you could have possibly thought this through."
"I want to fly! I don't want to be tethered to one place my entire life!"
"Is that what you think of your family? We're a tether?"
"That's NOT wha—"
"Seems you were right, Quatrine," a booming voice cut across the tumult.
The small blonde girl stared up at the man beside her in the doorway gravely, "I told you. It's like they're possessed, Grandfather." The large man laughed.
"Rashid!" Both father and son said in pleasantly surprised welcome. They, also, both composed themselves as the older man entered the room. He shook Quatre's hand and caught the boy in a hug that made Quatre smile, and his ribs ache, in fond memory.
"Young Master Deucalion! I swear you'll grow into a man yet," Rashid surveyed the boy at arm's length as he laughingly attempted to smooth his appearance back down.
"Please, Grandpa. Father's the only one that calls me Deucalion."
"Only because it's your name," Quatre protested.
Rashid laughed, sitting in one of the large guest chairs in front of Quatre's heavy desk and pulling the girl onto his lap, "Enough you two."
"They don't even take breathes anymore," Quatrine stage whispered into Rashid's ear, absently tugging on his grey beard. Even the two verbal combatants couldn't help, but smile grudgingly.
Once Rashid's laughter had subsided, Quatre spoke up, "To what do we owe the pleasure, my friend? Or are you only here as a peacekeeping force?"
"Though that would be noble cause enough, Quatre, I'm here to give the Young Master his birthday present."
"Oh, you didn't have to," the boy said sternly, but with a weary smile of defeat.
"I couldn't miss your fifteenth birthday, and the others weren't about to let me do it alone, either. Everyone's here, they're waiting in the guest parlor." Rashid locked eyes with Quatre in a way that told him that they had business together and though Deucalion missed it in his excitement, Quatrine gave herself a subtle nod.
With a quick peck on Rashid's cheek, Quatrine foisted herself from his lap and was at her brother's side with a bound, "Come on, Deuce, we mustn't keep guests waiting, or Tahir and Wahid will have charmed all of Abdul's and Auda's beautiful daughters by the time we get there." The tiny girl pulled her brother out the door, not allowing him a word edgewise as the two men laughed.
"Quatrine will make a fine woman. She has Fahima's beauty," Rashid complimented when he had control of himself.
Quatre nodded, "She's my star."
"Wants to become a pilot," Quatre chuckled. He sat beside his father-in-law in the other guest chair, worry shading his eyes, "But what is it you need to talk about, Rashid?"
The hulking man stared at him gravely, "When I tried to call to inform you we were coming, someone attempted to hijack our signal."
Quatre nodded, his shoulders slumping, "Damn."
"We couldn't trace it, but I'd say you already knew that."
"We've had a number of hacks in the past few months and nothing but frustration as far as stopping it."
"If you'd like, a couple of the Maganac could accompany your family while some of us search your systems."
Quatre smiled, "Thank you, but I think Fahima would kill me. She's refused to budge until this has been taken care of, and she's already angry I've alerted the Preventers. Besides, there's nowhere in the Earth sphere safer than where we're going."
"I warned you about marrying a tiger, Quatre, but seeing them will help. It always does." Rashid's reassuring smile slipped from his face when he saw Quatre slowly shaking his head. "What is it?"
"Something is coming, Rashid, I can feel it. My heart is trying to tell me something." He ran both his hands over his face and through his hair before focusing on his longtime friend again with a strained smile, "I just can't tell if it's good or bad."
The Preventers were a small organization of handpicked agents and as such news, gossip, and information traveled fast. Only the greenest rookies didn't know about Preventer Zero-Five, also occasionally referred to as Wufei Chang, though only by those that had actually met him. Everything the rookie agent needed to know was on a short list: one, /never/ make jokes about or references to the apparent non-existence of Preventers Zero-One through to Zero-Four; two, do not spar with him unless you like to learn your lessons well and painfully; three, Preventer Water, or Miss Po, and Director Une are the only people he reports to; four, at the same time, every year, he disappears, like clockwork.
The theories that had cropped up to explain this had fantastic range, from visiting the tombs of his family that had been murder during the war to romantic rendezvous with jilted warrior women. As the time grew closer, the stories only grew more vivid and wild. He was professionally personable to those with whom he ended up working closely and had an impeccable work ethic which no one could reproach, plus he'd been there nearly as long as the Director, which was significant to the vast majority of the force. However, the sense of mystery about him was almost palpable at times which fueled the minds of the gaggle of agents.
Sally found it hilarious and theorized that Wufei found it useful, though he might have simply not noticed. It was hard to tell sometimes. Still, she couldn't suppress a smile as she watched her partner finish wrapping the last of the three small, bookish presents on his desk with the care and precision one would usually devote to calligraphy, or wiring a bomb.
"Yes, Po?" He made no other acknowledgement of her presence, which only made her smile deepen.
"Leaving today, then?"
"Be sure you give everyone my best."
Finally, he turned to face her, gazing at her from over his reading glasses, "Are you sure you don't need my help?"
"Please, I don't need you to track down a hacker for me. Besides, Une is expecting you to work security and I'm positive your God-children would never forgive me if you missed one of these parties."
Wufei grunted, "You're probably right."
"I know I am. I'll see to the Winner Corp. computers and swing by if I get the chance."
"Fine, but call me in if things escalate."
Sally laughed, "Please. This is the only vacation you ever take. Nothing in the Earth sphere could make me call you away from it." His eyes hardened again and she sighed, "Fine, /almost/ nothing."
They rode to the space docks together and went their separate ways with wishes for the best. Wufei manually cleared the colony, set his course, and sighed, leaning back in the pilot's chair. One hand removed the bulky headset, while the other released his thin, mid-back length hair from its ponytail. He listened to the soft hum of the engines and the all encompassing silence just beyond it. Breathing deep, he gathered the scents of a maintained, but old shuttle: lubricants, cleaning products, old cushions, and… sweat?
His eyes shot open and in one motion, he'd undone his harness, pulled his gun and twirled in the low gravity to aim at the figure skulking in the hatchway. The figure gave a laugh of surprise and raised its hands. Wufei glared harder, his hand steady as a rock, as his hair came to a rest about his neck softly.
"Halt!" the Preventer yelled with authority and more than a little anger.
The person laughed again, though Wufei would have been tempted to call it something more like a sigh, really, "Anything you say, pal."
"Step into the cockpit, slowly," Wufei barked at the figure.
"What?" The figure shrugged, making sure to keep its hands visible, "Don't tell me you don't recognize me."
If it was possible, Wufei's frown deepened, "I said to step slowly into the cockpit."
The man sighed, taking two deliberate steps forward. He wore khaki cargo pants, sensible, silent shoes, and a black jacket over a white t-shirt. Standing about 5'10", he was unshaved and ill kempt, with short dirty blond hair showing dark roots and sharp blue eyes. Familiar eyes that locked with the Preventer's, "Hello, Wufei."
Wufei lowered his gun, and actually came close to dropping it, looking as though he'd been sucker punched. He blinked to make sure he was seeing straight, "…Duo?"
A grin shot across his face in instant confirmation, but there was no mirth in it. This grin was one word: dangerous. Wufei tightened his grip on the cool metal of his gun.
"You've been missing for fourteen years, Maxwell."
"You didn't really expected me to stay missing, did you."
He say "I know you, you know me'
One thing I can tell you is you got to be free
A/N – Reviews of all types are lovely. Also, the chapter titles are from the lyrics at the bottom. The songs are general themes for the chapter and sometimes hold clues to twists if you can figure them out. Until next week!
Next chapter: While The Sinners Sin