Disclaimer: Nope. I don't own them. I just own this plot and some of the characters you'll encounter while reading.
Pairings: 1x5 (definite) and 3x4 (definite), considering 2x5, thinking about 1x2x5.
Warnings: Violence, vulgar language, some mind-fucking in later chapters. In much later chapters.
Luck of the Draw
"These violent delights have violent ends."
The world was black.
I stared unseeingly ahead of me, mentally mapping out the distance from my bed to the bathroom and from there to the closet. Fifteen steps forward, turn, five steps, turn. After two months of sick leave, I still hadn't gotten used to being blind and it showed as I reached out a hand to steady myself.
I was going back to the Preventers today, hopefully with Sally's approval. Even without it, I was sure I could manage something. No doubt Une was sorely missing my presence. Yuy had implied as much the last time we'd talked, some days ago over the phone. Anyone who knew my number knew of my…unfortunate impairment and preferred to call me the old-fashioned way. I wondered what their reactions would be when they finally saw me in person and then realized that I would never be able to tell their reactions from sight anyways.
I found I didn't really care.
Standing upright, I was much more efficient than I was when I was lying down. I located my toothbrush and cup with ease--they were the only items by the sink aside from a towel and my wooden comb. When I leaned forward to splash my face with water, my fingers lingered a bit longer over my scars as they were wont to do. I could feel each ragged edge and lacerated mark. They concentrated below my forehead and slashed permanent imprints across the bridge of my nose and around each of my eyes. Shrapnel. I always knew there was a reason why I hated them. They had an element of chance, nothing so straight forward as a sweep of a sword or the bullet of a gun.
I turned to the side where next to my towel, a thin strip of black fabric hung. I knew it was black because Maxwell had given it to me as the doctors operated, slipping it into my hand without a word. White was my color of mourning and black was his. Both of us knew just exactly what he was mourning for. The loss of my sight. Another injury to Shinigami's own. I tied it around my eyes and turned towards the closet.
Strands of my hair brushed past my cheek at the swift movement. I had given up on tying them back like I had before. Without sight, I couldn't tie my hair with the exact degree of accuracy and harshness that I had always done. The effort would look slipshod at best and inspire pity at worst. I didn't want to deal with either.
The phone rang shortly after I finished putting on my Preventor's uniform. I strode across the room and grabbed it from its place tacked onto the wall. It was probably Yuy. By his own admission, he was finding it difficult to work with others on missions. He had issues trusting others to cover for him when he burst into situations with all the stealth of a Gundam. This wasn't even taking into account that his inherent suicidal tendencies coupled with his near immortality almost always left his partners as nervous wrecks by the end.
"Chang." I said, cradling phone on my shoulder as I buttoned the collar of my uniform. "If you would be so good as to give me your name, this conversation would be a little more productive." Everyone had been surprised after the war when they realized I was capable of sharp sarcasm. Maxwell had been beyond pleased. And I was determined to proceed with my life as if nothing had ever happened. If nothing else, it would take make it easier for the others to get over my disability.
"It's Yuy. You're coming in today, right?" I resisted the urge to roll my eyes, knowing the movement couldn't be seen and also knowing that the nerves had been so damaged by the shrapnel, I wasn't even capable of going through the motion to begin with. I spent most of the time with my eyes completely closed. "Chang?" He prompted.
"Yes, I'm coming in. No need to fret over sending yet another Preventer into tears. I bet you've racked enough disciplinary points and complaints to give Une a headache. Do me a favor and tell Sally to get her damned instruments ready within the hour. I'm getting ready to leave in about five minutes."
"Very funny, Chang." His tone was flat. "Une's lost count of how many reports have been filed against me." I quirked my lips at his statement. That sounded like him. He almost seemed proud of that accomplishment--with good reason too. Even I had been tamer during the weeks he was out with bullet wounds from our last mission together in Berlin. "Bring your sword. Sonny wants to test your combat abilities before you can be cleared for missions again."
I walked out of my bedroom and into the hallway, grabbing my clan's battered sword from its stand outside the door. "Got it. He still doesn't believe in the miracle recoveries of Gundam pilots, huh?" Sonny was a well-meaning Division Head and he was one of the few men capable of doing well in the field, but he seemed deadset against the idea that we could recuperate in a sixth of the time for a normal human. Most of the time it was amusing. Other times, it was annoying and forced Yuy and me to go through unnecessary trouble.
"Can you still fight?"
I knew Yuy couldn't see me, but I couldn't resist dropping a bit more irritation into my tone than necessary. "Of course. Have you gone mad?"
I sensed his short chuckle before I heard it. "Then you have your answer, Chang. Sonny wants you, your ancestors, and God himself to swear that you're good enough to go on missions again before he'll even think about signing your release form."
I snorted as my feet hit the cold tile of the kitchen. "You don't suppose he would change his mind if I accidentally removed the sleeve of his shirt during my sword demonstration, would you?" I had no doubt I was fully capable of doing so. I had never relied much on sight in hand-to-hand or weapons contact to begin with. The warriors of L5 had always taught based on spirit. Some of my earliest exercises underneath Master Lao involved "sensing" the opponent's movements without the aid of my eyes. I was pretty sure that someone had remarked a loss of sense in one respect only amplified the others.
If so, I couldn't wait to surprise Sonny.
"No, but I think Une would be terribly pleased." Yuy replied matter-of-factly. He was a lot less machine-like now that the war was over, but his efficiency stayed. He preferred shorter sentences to longer ones and would almost always never indulge in small talk unless he was seriously bored or if the other party insisted upon it. Maxwell called him our resident chatterbox, no doubt for the irony. "Speaking of which, she's not the only one who is anxious to see the results of your examinations today."
I felt around the top of the counter for a basket that I knew contained some left over apples from Barton's grocery visit last week. My hands enclosed around one and I brought it to my mouth with some satisfaction. "Doubters, I see." I mentioned nonchalantly before taking a bite from the apple. "I'm fine." I repeated for what seemed like the thousandth time in two months. "I won't be a liability."
There was a pause on the other end before Yuy's slightly nasal voice sounded over the line again. "Nobody ever accused you of being one. But Winner is worried that you'll overexert yourself. He doesn't think you're at a hundred percent yet."
I mentally shook Winner in a rather unceremonious manner. His concern was in the right place, but unfortunately for him, concern never quite managed to reach me. "Quite right. I'm at eighty percent for the rest of my life. I'm never getting my sight back and I don't plan to. As for overexertion, I'm sure he'll change his mind when I take you in hand-to-hand combat in front of Sonny today."
Yuy's tone was still flat, but I thought I heard a slight undercurrent of disbelief. "Don't count on it."
I laughed, a short bark of a sound. "I wouldn't think of it. Alright, I'm going to leave. Maxwell should be here shortly."
"See you soon." He said and the connection cut.
The loud ring of the doorbell shattering the silence nearly knocked me over. Typical, I thought. Maxwell didn't know what the meaning of discreet was outside of missions. I tossed the remains of the apple into the trashcan, left the phone on the kitchen counter, and unlocked the door, unhooking the chain and turning the locks. "You're on time."
I heard the amusement in his voice and imagined a cheery grin on his heart-shaped face. No doubt his favorite shades would be on top of his head and his fingers would be fiddling with the car keys. Maxwell practically radiated energy. It didn't take eyes to know that. "Wuffers!" I winced at the nickname and drew my mouth into a disapproving frown. "Of course I'm on time. Couldn't have you waiting to go back into the field. Hee-chan would have Zero-ed my ass into space if you showed up late. He's been on eggshells since you took your sick leave."
I sighed. Leave it to Maxwell to give information in such a flippant manner. "First off, my name is Wufei. Not Wuffers, not Fei-Fei, not Fei Baby, not Wufee, not whatever you come up with next to torture my dead ancestors." I closed the door behind me and input the code to start the security system and lock the parameters. Yuy had installed a touchpad that was easier for my fingers to map out the correct code sometime during my stay in the hospital. "Second, Yuy would not have Zero-ed your ass. He's realized you're a bit immune to his tactics. And third, tell me about the eggshells once we're in the car. I'm not a fan of standing on the doorsteps chatting away."
There was a split-second pause that should not have been there. Usually, Maxwell spoke enough for three normal people and five Gundam pilots. The tiny silence was uncomfortable. I wasn't used to it. Not from him, at least. "Sure thing, Fei-Fei. You uh, you think you can make it to my car alright?" His voice had lost some of its buoyancy. He knew how much I hated to rely on others.
"It's parked by the sidewalk in its usual spot, right?" I hated having to be second guessed. I also hated knowing that he had every right to second guess me and that knowledge made me tenser than before.
"Uh, yeah." That split-second pause again. I judged the distance of his voice and reached out a hand to clasp his shoulder (at least, I hope it was his shoulder). Whatever he had wanted to add on was quietly swallowed and he stepped aside to let me walk. I could feel his eyes on me as I made my way over to the passenger side, my hands curling tighter than necessary around the cool, metal handle.
"You going to unlock the door or am I supposed to get a crowbar and unlock it my own way?" I asked sarcastically. Quickly, I heard a beep that signaled I could actually open the door and slid into the seat. "Thanks, Maxwell. I'm not sure Howard would be pleased if he knew that you forgot to unlock your doors for me."
The last time Maxwell had been careless enough to forget leaving open a safety compartment on a shuttle during a mission, I'd broken the glass case with my hands to get the medicine kit and the extra blood bags. That time, he'd also been too wounded and delirious to give me the key. From what I heard, Howard had "flipped the shit" as Maxwell would later say after his full recovery.
"Man." I heard him exhale and twist the key into the ignition slot. "Q-Bean was right when he said you hadn't changed a bit." There was a pause as the engine came to life--a soft purr that spoke of Maxwell's excellent mechanic skills. "You look just as angry as ever." He said it in a joking manner, an undercurrent of fondness lacing the words. I snorted and shifted in my seat, not bothering with a seatbelt.
"Was I supposed to look like a pacifist?"
"God no!" He exclaimed. "By the way, is there any reason why you're using the cloth that was meant for your sword on your eyes? It looks like a blindfold." Oh. So it was supposed to be wrapped around the hilt of my sword. I had not anticipated that.
"The scars, I'm afraid, are sufficiently deep and varied enough to draw unnecessary attention to my face." I was really trying to say that if I had taken off the blindfold, the others would have found it harder to cope with my new condition. It was a little difficult to miss a guy walking around with slashes around his color-less eyes. Not to mention mildly disturbing. "It's temporary. I'll get a pair of dark glasses as soon as I'm done with the examinations today."
"Dangerous." Maxwell commented in the same tone one would expect a sleazy street kid to say 'sexy'. I lifted an eyebrow at that. "Anyways, back to Heero and his eggshell walking. He won't admit it, but he's completely wired right now. You know how he doesn't trust anyone outside the five of us; it's hard for him to take partner missions. He's been a little too trigger happy recently. Une thinks your absence is fucking with his mind, to put it bluntly."
I stared, knowing full well he wouldn't be able to tell with the fabric obscuring part of my face. "Yuy?" Were we talking about the same person here? Yuy was a highly capable and efficient man. I couldn't imagine him changing even with my absence. He had always seemed perfectly in control of himself and his actions. "Maxwell, did you accidentally ingest oil this morning instead of milk?"
"Very funny, Wuffee." He drawled. "But just between you and me, I think he's going to be a lot happier with you back in action. Apparently, the new mission Une has planned out for the two of you is going to be a tough one. That's why Sonny's got his panties in a bunch over your physical today."
His relaxed voice belied his worry over me. I frowned and resisted the urge to reach over and hit him over the head. It wasn't his fault I was blind. It was no one's fault but my own. "Maxwell, listen to me." I heard a sharp intake of breath and then a controlled exhalation. Finally, he was going to listen. "I. Am. Fine. I know it's difficult to believe when I'm talking to you with a blindfold on and a different way of doing practically everything, but I'm fine. You'll have to trust me on this one."
Being blind had changed the way I walked, the way I did simple movements like grab an apple from a basket or button my Preventer-issued shirt. I knew it like I knew each individual scar on my body. I was quieter, stealthier. I had a hunch about just why it was so, but I didn't want to voice my guess out loud. Maxwell was observant enough to figure these changes out on his own. He was probably wondering what else about me he no longer knew.
That was something he would have to learn himself.
"Yeah, yeah. I get it. You're just like Heero, indestructible. Even if someone who wasn't supposed to be armed threw a frag grenade into your face, you would be fine." He sighed and I could imagine his exasperated look. "It's just a flesh wound, right?" I poked mentally at the undercurrent of bitterness in his words, but could decipher nothing of his thoughts. Maxwell could hide just as well as the rest of us when he wanted to.
"It's just a flesh wound." I affirmed and was relieved when the car finally pulled to a stop. There was something a bit off with Maxwell today, but I couldn't put my finger on it. He seemed agitated, restless, and if I had to hedge at another darker emotion, I would have said disturbed. It made our normally easy banter virtually impossible to fall back on and I was never the social butterfly to begin with.
I got out of the car and mentally mapped out where I was in relation to the Preventer building's doors. This was Maxwell's parking spot, which meant we were closer to the alley than we were to the building. I started walking, trusting my memory to lead me where I needed to go.
"Trowa's on a mission." The words caught me by surprise, but they also made a lot of sense now. I shoved my hands in my pockets and kept walking, making no indication that I'd heard. He would speak with or without my urging. Sure enough, he was quick to follow on his sentence. "Une won't tell the rest of us what he's doing, something about protocol or security clearance. Load o' bullshit if you ask me. I think she doesn't want to tell us what he's doing, because she'll know that we'll be pissed off. Even Q-Bean's not sure where Trowa went. He just woke up one day to a little post-it note and bam, that was it. We haven't heard from him since."
I pressed my badge to the ID slot in front of the doors and strode in through the open doors. Behind me, Maxwell seemed too lost in thought to expect a response. No wonder he was agitated, the five of us hated not knowing the whereabouts of each other. I wasn't sure if it was due to concern or due to the fact that even one of us on the loose was a big enough threat to the fragile peace we'd established. Probably a mix of both. "Barton will be fine. You know that he has the ability to become anyone at any time." He did, whether it was because of his years as a circus performer or because he simply had no name to begin with was a different question. Nanashi. He wore masks underneath masks. Sometimes I wondered if Trowa Barton was another mask, but the one he was most used to wearing.
"Yeah, you're right. I guess I'm just, I dunno, antsy or something. Shinigami protects his own, but I…." He trailed off. I knew what he was thinking, that it was impossible to protect someone when you had no idea of where they were and that he had failed to protect me on my last mission. I wasn't good with words or comfort, so I stayed silent instead.
"Chang." I turned towards Yuy's voice and dipped my head into a slight nod of acknowledgment. "Maxwell, Lex was looking for you earlier." There was a whisper of clothing as Maxwell left. Lex was our Head of Security and dealt exclusively with arranging security for important politicians. I wondered what she had that would require Maxwell's presence. Normally, she consulted Yuy or myself. Strange.
"Yuy. I'm assuming I should go to the she-devil's office?" I asked, lifting the corner of my lips into a faint smile.
"Yes. She says, and I quote, 'Chang's ass is mine. Damned stubborn fool should know better than to go back out into the field after two months.' Don't shoot the messenger." There was a pause. Yuy's next words were smug. "Good luck."
I made no comment and turned the corner where Sally's office was. Yuy had left, presumably to talk to Sonny. He hated unnecessary delays as much as I did. I took a deep breath and knocked on the door, my imagination taking over for my lack of sight. She had probably taken out all her needles and the machine in the back would be beeping ominously. She liked to make my visits as painful as possible to remind me that sooner or later, I would have to see her and it wouldn't be pleasant.
There was a rush of air as the door opened and her voice was bright and cheery. She was going to stick needles through me for a good hour or so. "Oh Wufei, nice of you to drop by." Her words sounded absolutely sinister as she closed the door behind me. "Now before I give you your seasonal shots and run my tests, why don't you explain your presence here barely two months after shrapnel practically ripped your eyeballs apart?"
"I'm needed and my ability has not been impaired." I stated flatly, borrowing Yuy's no-argument tone.
She huffed and muttered something that sounded suspiciously like 'stubborn ass.' I didn't call her out on it. "Untie the blindfold, Wufei. I need to check the scarring. After you're done with that, change into the examination gown and sit down on the seat. Same routine." I did as she told me to as she rummaged in her drawers, pulling various things that I could only vaguely guess at.
She hissed when she took another look at my face. "You're lucky the doctors didn't have to take our your eyeballs. Wufei, you really shouldn't be in the field so soon." I didn't even bother to dignify her comment with movement, much less words. I was lucky the doctors didn't have to, yes, but I was also unlucky enough to have incurred that amount of damage to begin with. "Une said you would be going somewhere in Africa for your next mission, so I'll have to vaccinate you for malaria, yellow fever, and the whole array of tropical diseases. Try not to get some strange new disease we've never heard about." She continued, running the cold metal of a scanner over my torso--no doubt checking to see if my ribs were in proper working order.
There was the sound of tearing plastic, which meant that Sally had left the scanner running and had gone to get out the new, sterilized needles she would be using. I kept my eyes closed and thought about Barton and his new infiltration mission as she drew my blood first and then gave a series of vaccines in quick succession. The was pain was mild, barely perceptible. I realized then that part of my hatred of those damnable needles (the larger part) was due to the fact that I could see them sink into my veins. The image would bring back memories of Oz interrogations, which inevitably would bring back Khushrenada's face, which would always, always bring upon me copious amounts of anger, frustration, and guilt.
"Okay, I'm going to run your blood in for some tests to make sure that you've got a healthy cell count." She paused, waiting for my usual dry look and then realized quickly that I was no longer capable of giving her one. The silence quickly turned awkward. She fumbled with her next words. "O-Oh. That is, of course you'll have a healthy cell count, but it's standard protocol. You've been vaccinated and the worst side effects you'll probably feel are a slight dizziness and maybe some nausea." I doubted it. Side effects never happened, whether it was because of my strict training or because of Dr. O and his mad-man like tinkering, I would never know.
"Is that all?" I asked, letting my customary frustration make itself known. In truth, I was feeling more boredom than frustration, but for the sake of Sally's peace of mind, I would wear my mask. I couldn't see her relief, but I felt it. The tension in the room noticeably thinned. "I've got an appointment with Sonny for a physical."
"Your body shows no damage." My blindness was an obvious echo in her words, the statement that was left unsaid. She didn't need to be so careful around me. I honestly didn't give a 'flying fuck', as Maxwell would put it, for my impairment. I held my tongue. "I'll give the results of the blood tests to Une once they're done. You're free to go."
I changed back into my uniform and slipped the blindfold back on, brushing a few errant strands of hair away from my eyes to do so. My sword was next to the door and I reached to pick it up, comforted by the familiar worn hilt and the threads that were coming apart. Sally spoke just as my hand found the doorknob.
"Take it easy, Wufei. Just because you look fine doesn't mean you are fine."
I tensed and wrenched open the door without looking behind me. She could worry all she wanted, but I was not going to be demeaned over something this trivial and insignificant. I was fine.
"That was quick." Yuy commented. I gave a noncommittal grunt.
"Sonny." I said between clenched teeth. Yuy knew better than to question my sudden anger--we were all emotionally damaged from that blasted war. Little things would often set us off and there was little any of us could do to stop the overflow of anger or guilt or depression. Even Winner. Just because he had less physical scars than the rest of us didn't mean his emotional scars were any less significant.
"Hn. He knows better than to evaluate your stamina, so he'll be testing you immediately on hand-to-hand combat. First with the training dummies and then me." I nodded to show my understanding. "Sonny didn't want you going hand-to-hand with an unsheathed sword against me. His original intention was for your sword to remain sheathed, but I convinced him that you had more control than to go about taking errant swipes at the facility."
"Not the facility," I said in a low undertone. "I'll take an errant swipe at his head instead." Yuy said nothing, but I imagined a sliver of amusement had found its way into his machine-like expression. Yuy trusted me enough to fight him with a bare blade. Both of us knew that we were the most efficient at close combat, but to allow me the razor sharp edge of my sword given my blindness….It spoke of complete trust in both myself and my capabilities as a fighter. When I had said I wasn't impaired, Yuy had believed me. One hundred percent.
I was struck by such gratitude, that I was left temporarily speechless. Others had worried, fretted, and cautioned me. But Yuy, he had said nothing at all. He had the gift of silence.
The small smile felt unfamiliar on my face, but I kept it there regardless. "Thank you."
Silence. I could feel him mulling over my two words, deciphering and then evaluating their meaning. "You would have done the same for me, Chang." He finally responded, and my smile turned into an arrogant smirk.
"Probably. But for now, you have an appointment with the tatami mat to keep."
"Don't make promises you can't keep." He challenged back and I felt the tension leave my body. Things were normal. It was Yuy and me and the battlefield. And Sonny, but his presence was negligible.
"Agent Chang! Get your butt over to the dummies. Agent Yuy says you're fine, but he would say you were fine if you were missing a hand and the better half of your leg." Or not, I thought wryly as Sonny's voice boomed across the gym.
"Wrong!" I couldn't resist countering as I made the familiar steps to the direction of the training dummies. "If I were missing a hand and the better half of my leg, Yuy would classify me as operational." I could hear Sonny choking on his spit as I stepped onto the spring floorboards that signaled I'd made it to the right place. Yuy gave an amused snort from behind me.
"Sword or no?" I asked after Sonny was done spluttering. Most of the time, I didn't even bother to talk to him. No doubt he hadn't been expecting a comeback.
"We're getting new ones next week."
That meant since these were going to be replaced, I might as well use my sword. I got the feeling Sonny would enjoy scaring the new recruits by showing them the sliced up results of my physical. He usually did. It never failed to amuse the rest of us to hear newcomers whisper about the legendary Preventers. With their stories, you would have thought us to be gods.
I rocked back on the balls of my feet as adrenaline whispered in my bloodstream, testing my mobility. I unsheathed my ancestor's sword and handed the scabbard to Yuy, who took it quietly. This was our routine.
"You can start--" Sonny began to say.
I exhaled, forgot about the world and focused in on the dummy I knew was in front of me. I pivoted and shot forward, my sword coming up from the right to spear the object from the stomach up to the neck. Where internal organs would have fell out, there was only the sound of cotton ghosting the floor.
"Now." He finished weakly and I allowed myself a tiny smirk. Served the man right for doubting me. My next steps flowed from one to another as I flicked my wrist and brought the blade into a devastating sweep into the next dummy's neck. There was no resistance against the edge and I found myself wanting more of a challenge.
"Agent Yuy! You are not supposed to be facing Agent Chang! Get down!" I felt the spring of the floorboards give a little to support Yuy's extra weight. "Agent Yuy!" The howling was almost comical if it weren't for the fact that I had no idea where Yuy was in relation to me. I dropped my weapon and nudged it to the side, where hopefully neither of us would step on it.
I was at a disadvantage. I couldn't go on the offensive, not without knowing where he was. His breathing no doubt, would be carefully controlled and inaudible. I would have to get him to exert himself before I would be able to track his movements by his breaths. So I stood, waiting with my senses on high alert. I could hear everything, felt the instinctive give of the ground as weight shifted. He was coming.
I turned and brought my fists up into a block just as Yuy's full force slammed into me. I ducked underneath the deadlock and brought my right leg into a sweep, aiming to unbalance him. He leapt nimbly to the side, I assumed, since my leg hit nothing but air and I vaulted backwards in a move Barton would have been proud of to avoid a grab I knew was coming.
I still couldn't hear his breathing. Damn.
I moved back a couple more steps, stretching out my senses as far as they could go. Nothing. Shit, had he been taking lessons from Max--
I caught his wrist in an iron grip before he had the chance to put me into a headlock. I couldn't flip him (I had tried one time and had ended up with a dislocated shoulder for my efforts), so I threw my weight to the side in an effort to unbalance him. This close, I could hear the way he trying to reel in any possible sound he could make. I feinted to the left with a high kick and brought my right arm down into a chop that would have left most men dazed.
My hand hit skin, but I wasn't sure if it was his neck (as I had intended) or if it was his arm. Either way, I retreated another couple steps before he had the opportunity to latch onto my hand. I had learned my lesson early--one did not allow himself to be caught by Yuy or the game was over. He had a grip that rivaled handcuffs with the added bonus that flesh couldn't be picked like the locks on most restraints.
There. I could hear him breathing now. He was slightly off to the right, not anywhere near enough to the corner though. He wasn't expecting an offensive maneuver. I'd been defending during periods like these.
I grabbed his shirt and swept his feet from underneath him. He fought to regain balance, but I twisted his arm behind his back and placed my knee on the small of his back. If I'd taken any longer, he would have been able to fight off the momentum surprise had given me. Yuy had strength on his side. I was built for speed.
"Told you the mat was waiting on an appointment." I murmured and pulled back, letting him go.
I imagined his eyes, a shade of clear-cut Prussian blue, were sparking with the life that only came to him in combat. He wasn't done yet, the message was clear. I may have pinned him, but that was luck and skill. I shifted back into a fighting stance, but gave up after Sonny's voice rang again.
Yuy. Me. Battlefield. And oh, right. Sonny. Goddamn.
It seemed like he didn't like being negligible.
"Okay! Agent Chang, you're cleared. I don't know how the fuck you do this, but I'm not going to argue against a force of nature. I'll send the paperwork over to Commander Une. Go get some lunch." His voice trailed off and I could hear a distinct grumble coming from the corner of the gym where he had most likely been watching the fight. "Jesus fucking Christ, took Agent Yuy barehanded with a fucking blindfold. I need a beer for this, am I supposed to deal with this?"
I tuned him out after realized he was starting to mumble about things completely unrelated to the Preventers.
"What time is it?" I asked, reaching up to wipe a trickle of sweat away from my forehead. Strands of hair clung to the nape of my neck and I scowled. My hair was now two inches or so below the shoulders and starting to bother me immensely.
"One in the afternoon. Here." I reached in the direction of his voice and accidentally grabbed his forearm rather than the sword he was no doubt holding for me. He didn't say anything as my fingers fell clumsily down to take the sheathed blade. There was nothing to say. I had proven myself capable of fighting, he wouldn't judge me weak for reaching out a little more than intended.
"Sorry." I mumbled anyways and turned away. "Lunch or Une?"
"Une. We can talk about the mission over food, unless you're really hungry right now."
I wasn't particularly famished. The apples Barton had dropped off shortly before his disappearance from our radars must have been genetically engineered. I was pretty sure normal apples weren't supposed to be able to stave off hunger for several hours. And Yuy? The man didn't know what hunger even was. Probably classified underneath 'strange feeling that does not interfere with capabilities'. In other words, unnecessary. "I'm fine. Let's go."
We left in companionable silence. Once more, I found my thoughts straying over to Barton and his mission. I wondered if Yuy would know more than Maxwell. Of the five of us, he and Barton were the closest to Une's information. "There's something that's been bothering Maxwell, recently. 03 hasn't been in contact since his classified mission, right?" I received a grunt in lieu of a reply. "When is he scheduled to feed back information?"
We turned a corner and kept walking. Yuy usually answered quickly, but he was taking a surprising about of time for my simple question. "I'm not sure. Une never told me. We found out Barton was on a mission when Winner called Maxwell asking if 03 was with him."
I frowned. This was unusual. Une usually kept at least one other person in the loop about a mission that required our presence. But to hide it so that even Yuy wasn't informed beforehand…that was bizarre. And worrying. But there was no time to voice my complaints as I heard Yuy knock on the door to her office.
"Come in." She announced, the words barely out of her mouth before we were in the room.
I shut the door behind us and took a stand by the wall, crossing my arms. I could hear Yuy do the same next to me. We were not in the mood to be as civil as we normally were. She'd broken the rules.
"Chang, glad to see you're doing well." I ignored her remark. The mission. And then Barton. We wanted answers. She sighed, "Cutting to the chase. There's an alarming amount of black market activity going on with roughly 80% of all trades regarding firearms and banned explosives tracing back to a base situated in South Africa."
"Is it a group we're familiar with?" I asked, instinctively knowing the answer.
"No. That's the alarming part. With the amount of money the group has managed to spend on this stockpile of weaponry, we should have already had them tagged long ago." This was true. When the Preventers had first started, the initial jobs we did involved tagging those who were known to deal with large amounts of money. Most of the people dealt with illegal substances like cocaine and occasionally strayed over to the weaponry side, but it was never very serious. We'd had a few cases of high-power assault rifles being bought, but those usually ended quickly.
"Separate banking accounts." Yuy mentioned. "Did you check those?"
Une sounded almost affronted when she answered. "Of course I did. I had Maxwell do the cross-referencing and the hacking. Nothing. He had no idea what was going on." We fell silent at that. Even though Yuy was the best hacker amongst us, Maxwell pulled a close second. If he hadn't found so much as a trace, it was unlikely that Yuy would have been any better. "I put Winner on alert. His company and his standings should allow him to hear of any shady business dealings, but I doubt anything will reach us from that corner. If these people were careful enough to cover their tracks and trust that their sudden bold buying wouldn't endanger them, they'll be careful not to drop any hints as to their identity in the outside world."
"So you want us to go to their base in South Africa to find out just what exactly is going on." I had my doubts about this mission. I knew Une valued us too much to send us on a dead-end mission, but this seemed too much like a trap. They deliberately staged it so that they bought everything at the same time and in such high numbers that the Preventers would be alerted. It was as if they wants us to come. I wasn't comfortable with playing into their hand and if the tense silence beside me was any indication, neither was Yuy.
There was a shift of movement from the desk and I could practically see Une pinching the bridge of her nose. It was one of her habits and occurred only when she was vaguely upset about a situation. I was sure this mission was running against her instincts. But really, what else could she do? Sit and twiddle her thumbs as they continued to amass weapons?
"Look Chang, I'm not any happier about this than you are. But the fact remains that Maxwell isn't suited for lengthy survival missions. He operates on stealth, infiltration, and bombings. As much as I would like to have you out for a little longer, I don't have the time. I'm going to have to risk you and Yuy going in knowing that something's off. At the very least, Sonny's report seems to solidify your physical ability." I twitched irritably, but stayed silent. "I expect you both to be on the way to South Africa in seven hours. Here are the mission specs. Everything that I know about the situation is in this folder as well. Any questions?" I heard Yuy leave his position by the wall to pick up the folder. He was expecting me to speak up about Barton's situation. Very well then.
"Where's pilot 03?"
"In a very dangerous position right now." Une replied cooly. I was surprised, not that Barton was in danger, but that she had admitted so readily to his predicament. "He's safe for now, but his safety depends on him being virtually unrecognizable. I have a hunch about the people buying these weapons, but the link is very weak right now. I sent Barton in to see if he could get answers."
She was expecting us to encounter him undercover sometime. And so we weren't given information so our reactions would be spot-on when we did engage him in combat. Fair enough. I nodded to show my understanding and uncrossed my arms.
She said nothing more as we left.
Author's Note: There we have it. The first chapter. I'm expecting this to be less than ten chapters and updates will be slow-coming. I like this idea though, so you can expect it to be updated and not abandoned. I'd like some feedback, if possible. Thanks for reading. In case you couldn't tell, I'm a huge Wufei fan.