En queue de poisson
Author: Asuka Kureru
Warnings: weirdness. Shounen ai? you decide. (I like to think of it as pre-shounen ai in a way, but hey, you're not forced to read innuendos everywhere my twisted mind says there are…)
Disclaimer: I have a dog. He is stupid, very stupid. He is beautiful anyway. I have two brothers. They are stupid, very stupid. We can't say they're beautiful, although the oldest one has pretty, clear green-gray eyes with long, dark eyelashes and a rather nice body and the second one has been cute as a button in his childhood (long past, sadly). I have half a dozen Barbie horses, that I don't put in the trashcan because I like the black stallion and without his herd, he would feel lonely. I have tons of full notebooks for my sketches (and none still empty to use, darn it). Take note by yourself of the total absence of sexy Gundam pilots amongst my most prized possessions.
Many many thanks to my beta-reader Arabiana whom I make work like a slave, the poor dear ^___^
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
It was a classical Brittany landscape; lands to the horizon, black and steep cliffs descending toward small, hidden beaches, a gray and dancing sea, the wind chasing the clouds. But the rabbits and the sea birds normally nesting in the slopes of the seaside had long since run away.
The wind howled on the battlefield, but the three fighters locked up in their metal armors didn't hear it. The Gundams Wing, Shenlong and Deathscythe were finishing a pack of mobile dolls to cover pilot 03 Trowa Barton's retreat, after his infiltration and destruction of an enemy base. The clash of the armors drowned out the rest.
* * * * * * *
Duo Maxwell burst out laughing, mockingly. It was too easy to fight mobile Dolls once one had understood the way they functioned. It was not a challenge anymore, not a true fight; hardly a training session. And so he found amusement in crushing the suits, because he would have been bored to tears otherwise.
The true fight had taken place earlier, around the base; Duo had taken some damage to Deathscythe's legs but nothing too serious … well, not for a pilot like him. His mobility was slightly reduced, but so far he'd managed well enough.
A pack of MS attacked all at once and he found himself driven back to the shore. He jumped down the cliff and Deathscythe found itself knee-deep in the salty water, where he continued to fight, straining against the force of the waves. Well, that made things a little bit more interesting, he thought, frowning a little in concentration.
Three mobile suits jumped from the cliff, landing on his back, making Deathscythe falter. He swore.
* * * * * * *
Wing lashed out a last time and Heero saw with satisfaction the two halves of the last mobile doll fall around his still moving Gundam. Now that the battle was finished, he permitted himself to wipe out the sweat rolling toward his eyes and ran a fast system and motors check, before clicking the comm on to talk to his comrades.
"Unit zero one, all clear. 05, 02, Report."
Wufei's voice was as controlled and cold as ever; Heero knew he would be ok before he even finished the first word.
"05 clear. Power level down to 80%. Left arm slightly damaged. Returning to base."
He gave a curt nod to the retreating pilot and checked a few more circuits before he finally noticed something weird.
Duo had not answered. Duo, the most talkative of the pilots, who never shut up, not even when he was at odds of thirty against one, had not answered.
Heero turned his head toward the part of the screen where the video communication windows usually popped up. Duo's window was gray and full of interference.
Heero turned the screen off, then on again, hoping somehow that it was just a problem with his own reception, but dropped the idea when he saw that it didn't change a thing, and decided to use the radar. He knew that Deathscythe in stealth mode was nearly undetectable, but so soon after a fight, it probably would not be working. It used too much energy.
… There, bingo!
Heero frowned. His radar clearly showed him the place the Gundam 02 should have been. His visuals were another story altogether. He only saw a smooth, gray area of sea before his eyes. The moron had to be underwater.
Swearing, Heero unscrewed a panel and began to mess with the connections, rewiring some of the components, then turned on the radio once again. He only heard a "hiss" of white noise in answer. Frustrated, he gave a light punch to the console.
The screen lightened just enough for the Japanese boy to have a glimpse into his comrade's cockpit. No more than one second, really. A red, surreal glow was blinking in the cramped space – the alarm light. A problem with the circuitry, no doubt. And Duo…
He blinked, and his usually fast mind needed a few seconds to catch what seemed so utterly strange in the picture he had received of the pilot.
The look of… weightlessness…
Duo was entangled in his harness, a pained grimace on his face. His chestnut bangs were lazily floating around his head like a halo, and a dark red smear coming from a cut on his forehead was slowly diffusing in the cockpit, a little like a smoke cloud. Strings of funny white bubbles were dancing upward…
He was underwater. The seals weren't watertight anymore. The cockpit was full of liquid…
Duo was drowning.
* * * * * * *
As fast as he could, he made Wing dive, trying not to be distracted by the short flashes of pictures the comm kept showing him, presenting half-seconds of disturbing images of the American struggling more and more weakly against his harness in the red, pulsing glow, and the trail of blood still oozing from his forehead; a harness that he had put on this time only because Heero had reproached him his imprudence- and that would probably cost Duo his life.
For a few panicky seconds, Yuy lost sight of the black and white Gundam. But the bubbles cleared and he found it slumped on the bottom of the sea, a few destroyed Mobile Dolls resting over it. As fast as he could, he caught Deathscythe under the armpits and lifted it out of the water to drag it back to the shore. He let it fall back half-sitting against the cliff, sprawled on the tiny beach.
Heero refused to look at the little air bubble escaping from his comrade's mouth, the last of a long string.
The door of his own cockpit wasn't fully opened, yet he was already hurrying along Wing's arm, toward its palm, which he had opened just under the other gundam's door. He only had his incredible sense of balance to thank for the fact that he didn't slide on the wet metal to finish his mad dash in the ocean, several dozens feet under him. Using one of the metallic fingers to propel himself up, he jumped toward the emergency panel and flattened his palm on it, hoping that the Gundam would still be functional enough to recognize his handprint.
With a loud hiss, the seals released and the water, only oozing three seconds ago, began to trickle along the gundanium walls, then just pour out. He cautiously stepped back to Wing's wrist to avoid being hit by the tons of water precipitating toward him.
Through the wave, he could see a dark shape tumbling down with the running water. It landed on the metallic palm with a loud "THUD" and stayed there, laying unmoving. Then the shape began shaking, spitting and coughing violently, expelling water from its mouth, twisting on the metal, visibly in great suffering. He could have easily thought that it was in the throes of agony.
Heero didn't think anything, stayed unmoving, blinking owlishly, shell-shocked.
* * * * * * *
A hoarse intake of breath coming from the American's mouth made him start, and with effort, he regained his composure. Giving himself a mental shake, Heero jumped onto the hand beside the braided boy, who was still thrashing and twisting in Wing's palm. Visibly, Duo could not breathe, even if he had just emptied his lungs of all the water they had contained by a series of awful-sounding coughs. He kept trying to get some air, but it seemed as if he couldn't inhale more than a few ridiculous lungs-full that hurt him more than they did anything else. A nerve-wracking hiss could be heard each time he tried to breathe. His hands were clamped around his throat, in a futile effort to facilitate his own respiration. His back and shoulders were violently heaving and trembling, and his tail curved to one side then the other, violently lashing out at thin air.
Heero Yuy wondered for a second it the term merboy truly existed, then decided it wasn't important. The frayed, pearly gray tail, finished in long and nearly transparent fins, which was as of now taking the place of Duo Maxwell's hips and legs, was visibly of the same category as the ones the rumored mermaids were supposed to possess.
Heero coldly analyzed the situation, then pushed the boy over the edge of Wing's hand with one foot, into the Atlantic Ocean's cold waters. Then he returned to his cockpit and grabbed the line, letting himself slide until he could simply jump in the water, a few meters away from the dark shape that he could catch glimpses of against the sandy background.
While he was sliding down, he briefly wondered if it hadn't been an error to push Duo into the water; the boy wasn't moving. Just sinking slowly, his braid trailing after him, a few tendrils freed from it trying to escape farther, his long fins swaying as gently as gauze in the breeze.
Then, just as he was beginning to worry, Duo's long gray-scaled tail flexed once, twice, and he began to gracefully swim forward, very slowly at the beginning, then faster and faster, with a truly awe-inspiring ease. His long plait was slowly unraveling, floating lazily behind him. There were gold and dark red accents in it that had not been there before.
Heero dove into the waves, swimming toward the shore. The water was cold. He wondered where Duo was for a second or two; he didn't see him anywhere.
Then a dark shape swam up from under him, five-six meters below. It seemed as if Duo didn't have any problem at all with water pressure, Heero realized, and he carefully filed the information away. The long-haired teenager began to follow him, nearly at touching distance, swimming on his back to face him. Heero couldn't for the life of him figure out what the merboy wanted with him.
With one small flexing of his long tail, Duo propelled himself a little bit nearer to the surface, on Heero's side, and offered his shoulder to him, in a wordless proposal to drag him to the shore. But, still confused about the situation, Heero refused the tactful offer and continued to swim, his teeth clenched hard to keep them from chattering. Large blue-mauve eyes turned away, embarrassed and frightened.
The he-siren danced a few arabesques in the water, twisting and spinning, feeling his hair caress his body, and covering with one slight move of his tail thrice the distance his friend covered with five strokes, but he didn't feel free enough to really appreciate the moment. He was under the impression that, as soon as they were on the ground, Heero would skin him alive.
At last, Heero felt sand under his feet. He half-swam, half walked until the water level was at his waist, then turned to see where the other pilot was. From under the foaming waves, Maxwell kept glancing at him, his wide and somewhat intimidated eyes like those of a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Annoyed at his skittishness, Yuy gave a harsh nod toward the beach and resumed walking toward it again, and Duo, sighing, just gave one powerful lash with his tail, letting himself run aground.
He had to dig his fingers in the sand not to be dragged back by the waves. Cool water gently batting against his scales, sand slowly giving under him, his hair drifting around his waist… heaven. Well, would have been if he wasn't feeling the glare aimed between his shoulder blades strongly enough to want to verify if there was a burn mark there yet. With a quiet sigh, Duo lifted his head out of the water and began to revert to air-breathing.
As Yuy was slowly succeeding in joining the shore, he kept looking with hidden interest at the mighty coughing fits seizing the other boy. It was…impressive, to say the least. If Heero didn't know, kind of, that Duo was not in real danger, for after all he had had to make the transition between water and air from time to time and hadn't been permanently harmed from that, the Japanese teen might have thought he was in the throes of agony.
Duo's breath stayed ragged and hissing for a few minutes, then he decided that he could speak. Shivering with uncertainty and fear under the frozen look his comrade was giving him, the merboy courageously decided to face his partner.
"Get on the beach," the other pilot answered curtly, picking up branches and driftwood and putting them in a pile in a little corner of the cliff.
Duo decided that it was probably wiser not to insist on the fact that he was a tiny-little-bit incapacitated at the moment. Sighing loudly, he dragged himself up onto the sand with the elegance of a seal, using only his poor little arms. The sand grated on his fins and stayed stuck to his scales, which not very comfortable, and on top of that, he was fairly heavier as a merboy than as a human. Moreover, he missed the gentle, cool waves crashing on his scales. The wind was freezing him to the bone.
Finally, he succeeded in dragging himself far enough from the high tide mark. He stopped at a few meters from the fire Heero was lighting up and sighed with relief, happy to be able to stop and rest his arms.
"Hey… why did you…?"
"Night is coming. Deathscythe and Wing are damaged, we can't go back before tomorrow. I am soaked. They can't see the light from here. Do you have enough reasons?"
"Err, I s'pose so", answered Duo, surprised at having received so long an answer when he had not even expected one in the first place.
Whew, Heero was feeling chatty, tonight… Was he feeling so pissed off about the siren problem? … Well, true, he was taking it very well. Duo had been certain that the first person to discover this little secret would not react quite that mildly. Quite the contrary in fact. He had been expecting fainting or screams, and total incomprehension… Heero just looked slightly more pissed than with one of his usual fuck-ups. Something to give him credit for … though… perhaps was he still stunned by the shock and still acting that normal because his training had drilled it into him… and the screaming part would come later.
Duo shrugged off his black jacket and the priest collar, the remains of which, he was still wearing, and laid them down near the fire to dry them. The pants had been shredded beyond all repair, not having survived the change, and he had rid himself of the strips still hanging on his belt when he was under water. With a start, he realized that if he were to change back to human now, he would find himself butt-naked on the sand.
Duo scratched at his neck, crossed and uncrossed his fingers, scratched at his nose, and stared with rapt interest at a little sand insect jumping under his nose. His tail was lazily arching back until the tail fin hung just above his head, like an overgrown umbrella.
"I… I'd like to explain it to you, but… I don't know where to start. If you have questions, just shoot'em."
"… Does professor G know about it?"
Duo began to laugh, a bitter kind of laughter. It was so like him to ask that kind of question. To wonder about what their controllers would say first.
"I didn't say anything to him, if that's what you're asking. If he doesn't… well too bad. I don't especially want to find myself on a dissection table, thank you very much. Before I left for Earth I didn't even know… It could even be totally new."
The Japanese pilot lifted an eyebrow to push him to elaborate a little.
"On L2, we're lucky when we have enough water to drink … so, to take baths with… At the church, we washed ourselves with a soapy cloth, once a week. We had showers each time it rained … it happened often enough that when it did, it was considered a public holiday. You can imagine. So, to find enough water to drown in… Before I came to Earth, I had never seen more than a basin of water all in the same place…"
Duo sighed and let his handful of sand slowly slide between his fingers.
"I see…" Heero answered in a low voice, staring pensively at the dancing flames.
"And I don't see how it can be considered a problem," added the braided boy with a hint of desperation. "It gives me an advantage, if ever I found myself near a great body of water, whether I needed to hide underwater or to cross it, or to find something under the surface… after all, it only happens when I stay underwater long enough that my human body can't keep me alive by itself."
Heero thought about it for a few seconds, then nodded pensively.
Meanwhile, Duo's long tail had entirely dried out, and Wing's pilot followed with attention the inverse process. The pearl scales slowly dissolved into gray skin, which became rosy once again. The two legs emerged from the tail, beginning from the fin, the membranes disappeared as if dissolving.
Duo squirmed a little. It was uncomfortable; it always itched as much as if fire ants had taken residence under his skin. But when, on top of that, he had someone, namely his partner and probably best friend ever, staring at him, now, THAT put him ill at ease.
Especially considering that Heero didn't look elsewhere one second when Duo finally found himself totally nude before him, only covered by his skin, with his hair to save his dignity.
Finally, Yuy took his black jacket and held it out for him. His face scarlet, Duo caught it and tied it around his waist, hiding himself the best he could.
They stayed silent and unmoving for a few minutes that seemed to last a very long time. Finally, the Japanese's voice broke the silence.
"You know, Duo… I think professor G is well and truly aware of your capability…"
"What makes you say that?"
"Would be too strange a coincidence that he didn't. Because…"
Heero took a big breath and began to talk again.
"On a colony, there isn't much in the way of heights, be it cliffs or just skyscrapers…" answered the Japanese boy, taking his eternally present tanktop off with a smooth movement. "I didn't know either."
Duo blinked when he saw the smooth, muscled chest appear from under the green material.
"I don't see what you 're talking about…"
"I mean that if Relena and you hadn't been here to look at me when I jumped off the hospital building, I probably would never have broken my leg…" he added while shrugging off his holster. "I'm actually grateful that she screamed when she did, I had forgotten that you and probably half the hospital's surveillance cameras were looking."
Duo understood less and less. What was his comrade doing? A strip-tease? And what the fuck was he talking about? What would have happened if there hadn't been anyone there to witness his fall?
The Japanese boy got up and stepped back from the cliff, then bent over, facing Duo as if he was stretching. He stretched his arms, rolled his shoulders, and looked at his comrade. Bewildered, Duo understood less and less.
"Heero, it ain't like you to refuse to give a straight answer! What the fuck are you talking about, no broken leg?? And what makes you say that the doctors are probably aware of it?"
Still laying on the ground as Duo was, Heero was dominating him, seeming taller, his face and his chocolate bangs flickering with golden and orange accents from the fire, giving it a warm tint contrasting violently with the night blue sky behind him.
"… Just an intuition", answered Heero, opening as wide as he could his immense, snowy-white-feathered wings.
The title of this fic is a part of a French proverb, "finir en queue de poisson", which roughly translated means "to end like the tail of a fish", that is, in a surprising, ironic and abrupt manner, often not giving much satisfaction or closure. Fitting, ne? ^___^
There IS a sequel. But in French. And I wasn't the one who wrote it, so I'm a little wary of translating it. I'm afraid it would feel like rewriting my friend's story and I can't do that. She really made my little ficbit into something unique and original and definitely Not Mine, so I'm quite unsure. Plus translating Garou in English and Walking the Tightrope in French is already quite tiring ^.^; Maybe when I finish with Garou, I will think about translating her story. For now, I'm afraid it isn't possible.