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The Sniper Project : Chapter 2

From here, it continues...

--Duo's Hospital Room (A few days later)

It was a dreary, rainy day outside. Duo glanced out through the windows of his hospital room. He'd been moved from the intensive care ward to a more normal hospital room and was recovering rapidly. The boy's strong will had helped him pull through his injuries, and his friends helped too.

The aforementioned friends were taking shifts watching over him; he was comforted by their presence, but insisted he was fine, and that they didn't have to watch him every single minute. However, he didn't know just how serious his injuries had been--or just how thankful his friends were that he was still alive to tell his tale.

On this particular rainy day, it was lunchtime. It also just happened to be Quatre's shift. Quatre was eating some sort of salad, claiming to not be very hungry. Duo was picking around in his standard institutionalized fare--spaghetti in a weak sauce with a few 'meatballs' that were probably not meat at all, along with a small, wilted salad. [1] He looked at Quatre's salad again...it was a taco salad...he'd probably gotten it from that little Mexican fast food place down the street...Duo's mouth watered. Taco meat...sour cream...avocados...he managed to think some sense back into his starved-for-junk food brain and picked up another forkful of the spaghetti, watching as it slid limply off his fork and down back to the tray.

"This isn't faiiir!" he finally whined, some of his good humor showing through as Quatre looked over and Duo provided him with a lopsided grin. "You get good fast food and I have to eat..." Duo paused significantly, holding up his fork again and letting the spaghetti slide off, "This,"

Quatre couldn't contain a giggle, then a burst of laughter as Duo stared at him hurtfully. Quatre managed to control himself and giggled again slightly. "Sorry. Trowa just wanted for me to eat something more substantial than the cafeteria food here...he told me himself, 'That food isn't that good. It may have the proper nutritional values but you'd probably not eat half of it. Therefore, I think it's better that you have something tasty that's not quite as nutritious, but you WILL eat.' He practically forced this salad on me!" Quatre stated, with an amused look in his eyes. "Trowa might not be the world's greatest conversationalist, but when it comes to something he's concerned about, he can be quite a talker,"

Duo couldn't suppress a smirk. "So Trowa's watching out for you now?" he said.

Quatre noted the somewhat bitter tone in the American pilot's words and looked across at him. "Don't worry, Duo, we all look out for each other. Trowa's just been a bit more concerned than usual ever since I passed out in that music shop I told you about,"

Duo nodded; he'd heard all about the music shop. Quatre had evidently passed out when he'd been shot. Duo could understand Trowa's concern, somehow...he saw how close those two really were even if they didn't realize it--or just didn't admit it to themselves.

"Yeah, well, I don't think anyone really cares about me just exactly the way Trowa cares about you...I dreamed that he did but--" Duo froze, realizing what he'd just said, and, blushing, he stuffed his mouth full of spaghetti so that any questions would be forestalled.

Quatre froze as well, his fork halfway to his mouth. "Duo...are you saying..." Quatre suddenly gasped, realizing what his friend was saying. He'd heard the story from Wufei, who'd been there...

"Do you mean you wish Heero cared about you the way Trowa cares about me?"

Duo froze, nearly choking, and barely managed to swallow. He turned his head away from the blonde pilot, staring at a wall. He muttered something unintelligible.

"Excuse me?" Quatre asked.

"Nothing." Duo said sharply.

Quatre's expression became somewhat stern. "Tell me what you said. I bet I can help."

Duo muddled through his thoughts and finally sighed. "A few days ago...when I was still out...just before I woke up, I could have sworn I heard you guys talking to me..."

Quatre blinked. A few days ago, they had talked to their friend, but the doctor had said he was sedated. Jerking his mind back to the present, Quatre nodded slowly. "And?"

"And...and..." Duo paused to think. "First I heard Wufei reading something in Chinese...it was rhythmic..it was...really soothing, actually." Duo said with a half-grin. "I never knew Wu-man could do something so calming."

Quatre nearly snorted with laughter, not telling Duo the way Wufei had actually found his book of Chinese poetry and gone to the trouble of reading a few for the other pilots while they were waiting to see if Duo would live. The poems had, indeed, had a calming effect on the others--perhaps Wufei had seen this and had done the same for Duo.

"Then, I heard Trowa talking about Shinigami..." Duo smiled. "Or at least dreamed I did. He was talking about how when you and him had gone back to the safe house to check over things he'd found a black cat sitting on one of the shoulders and rescued it.

Quatre nearly gasped but restrained himself. It was true, they'd found a black cat sitting on the shoulder of Duo's Gundam, and Trowa had managed to rescue it. The taller pilot's knack with animals had proved extremely useful in rescuing the cat, which was little more than a kitten.

"Then, I thought I heard you talking. You were talking about all of you had gone to eat at that fast-food place down the street and how Heero had gotten angry at a burrito and managed to cover the entire tabletop in beans and picante sauce before you three managed to get him calmed down." Duo laughed quietly. "I would have loved to see that,"

Despite himself, Quatre broke into the conversation. "It was awfully funny," he admitted, "He shouted 'Omae o korosu' at it and even threatened to shoot it before Trowa managed to restrain him. The management wasn't very happy though,"

Duo actually laughed, the sound echoing around the hospital room. Duo wiped his eyes after he'd laughed, as a few tears had leaked out. He was still a bit weakened from his ordeal. "I can just see that happening...well, anyway, next up, I thought I heard Heero...and..."

Here Duo paused. He looked down at the blankets and ran the fingertips of his left hand over his right one.

"I...I dreamed that he picked up my hand...and told me some things...and at the end, he told me he loved me." Duo said. Shaking slightly, Duo turned back to Quatre. "I think it was all an act...because...he's been kind of sharp towards me, when he's on 'duty'...every time I try to talk about it he either changes the subject, or leaves..."

Quatre had been shaking his head from the moment Duo said 'act' and now leaned across the bed to grab the braided boy's hand. "Duo, he'd never say anything that serious and not mean it. Also...if you can remember about the burrito, you obviously heard correctly,"

Duo shook his head slightly, a tear tracking down his cheek. "I just don't know what to believe anymore!"

Quatre gently gave the other boy a hug, careful to not upset his IV. He then sat back down in his chair. "Duo, never doubt yourself. Confront Heero about it sometime,"

Duo nodded, and just then a knock sounded on the door. Quatre looked at the door. "That must be one of the guys, ready to take over for me," he said. He picked up his salad and walked to the door, opening it...

..and he faced...Heero.

"I'm here to watch over Duo now." Heero said. Quatre took a step back and looked sideways at Duo, who was looking straight ahead, determined.

"Okay, Heero. I'll see you later." Quatre told the Japanese pilot, then ducked out of the room.

"Hn." Heero said, then walked into the room and closed the door.


--Elsewhere (Same time)

The girl had just gotten back from her mission. Unfortunately, she'd been unable to seduce the boy...and there had been...complications. She heard shouting and the crunching and snapping of glass...her boss was angry. She steeled herself before stepping into the room.

Instantly a beaker was thrown at her, and shattered on the wall behind her as she ducked. She stood again and ducked once more as a rack of test tubes was thrown at her. She kept ducking and dodging, but soon found herself face-to-face with the scientist.

"You FOOL!" he screamed in her face. "Not only could you not bring him over to OUR side, but failing to do so, you didn't properly KILL him either!"

Her eyes widened. Kill...? She'd never made a move to kill the boy...

"You shot him twice, in the chest, and yet managed to miss vital organs both times!" the scientist said, seething.

She shook her head. She'd never shot him. She said so. It was the wrong thing to say.

"YOU WHAT?!" he screamed. She ran from the room, but was captured as he turned on the forcefield around the door. "NOT SO FAST!"

She froze. She was trapped...

"Listen, my little pet..." he snarled, slurring the word hatefully. "You are to go after 05 next. Chang Wufei. Do you understand me?"

"I understand," she assured him, standing. He knocked her back off her feet.

"Not so fast. You're going to be punished now," he said, with an evil grin. She glared, but knew that she couldn't stop what was coming. It was amazing how much she hated that one little fact.


--Duo's Hospital Room (Same time)

Heero stepped into Duo's room and closed the door behind him. He then walked over to the chair Quatre had been sitting in and sat down, looking at Duo and his abandoned lunch tray. His gaze traveled over the barely touched spaghetti and not-so-meatballs, then to the untouched and wilted salad and the glass of watery iced tea.

"Baka...aren't you going to eat your lunch? You need to eat something to keep up your strength." Heero said.

"I can't eat this...this shit!" Duo said, with a snarl. Heero sat back, his eyes widening. That was an odd start. He figured Duo would crack some sort of joke.

"Why...what's wrong with it?" Heero inquired.

"The spaghetti sucks ass. Meatless meatballs. Salad is so limp it's slimy. Tea's watered down so it's nearly water and there's no sugar in it." Duo stated coldly. Heero blinked again. This was unlike the braided boy...

"Well...I've got this..." Heero said. He opened the pack he'd taken to carrying with him and pulled out a sandwich and some chips and a bottle of soda that Trowa had insisted he take along with him. Heero was just going to throw it in the garbage, but it looked like Duo could use it.

Duo's eyes widened and he drooled. "Cheetos! A ham sandwich! With CHEESE! Real cheese! And SODA! Sugar-filled caffeinated beverage!" Duo exulted. Heero rolled his eyes. This was the Duo he remembered.

Suddenly Duo stopped. He just realized something. "But...Heero...isn't this supposed to be YOUR lunch? Or...maybe dinner?" he said, thinking maybe Heero had already eaten his lunch.

Heero shook his head. "No. It was supposed to be my lunch but I'm not going to eat."

Duo's jaw dropped. "Come ON, Heero, you HAVE to eat!"

Heero glared. "I don't have to, I haven't for the last two days!" he suddenly realized he'd told Duo something he hadn't wanted to reveal and he groaned, throwing a hand across his face. He called himself a baka...ten times...a hundred times...

"Heero...is it because...of me?" Duo asked quietly. Heero froze. He lowered his hand and looked at the American pilot.

"Do you want the truth?" he asked him.

Duo nodded hesitantly.

"Yes." Heero asked.

"Heero...why?" Duo asked his friend.

Heero shook his head, his eyes flashing fire. He leapt up from his chair and went to stand next to the window. "I don't know why! I just can't stomach food for some reason...I guess it's because every time I eat I somehow remember how close you came to...to..." Heero stopped. He looked down out the window at various people getting in and out of cars, at Ambulances filing in, at children going to see grandparents or new baby siblings, dressed in raincoats, at the rain filtering down through the clouds...

"To...dying?" Duo finished the statement from behind him.

Heero whirled. His voice was low...grating...and ominous. "Don't mention it." he told Duo. "I don't want to think about it!" he whirled again, trying to disguise the odd note in his voice by turning quickly. He cursed himself. Soldiers were strong, soldiers did not feel emotions. Emotions made for weak soldiers, and soldiers must be strong. Therefore, a true soldier does not need emotion...

However many times he repeated his motto, it wasn't the truth, and he knew it, somewhere deep down. He suddenly realized tears were dripping from his eyes and he snarled, the snarl broken by the odd tone that had snuck into his voice earlier and coming out as half-snarl, half-sob. Duo started. He'd heard sobs like that before, from young children at the orphanage that were crying...he could still remember Sister Helen's words...'Don't cry...the Lord is always there for you...you can lean on Him when you feel sad...He is our protector...'

"Heero...Heero!" Duo said, trying to get his friend to turn. Heero half-turned, and Duo could see, that, indeed, Heero had been crying.

"Heero...you can lean on me."

Heero's eyes widened in shock, and he appeared to be fighting with himself. Suddenly he straightened, and walked over to Duo, throwing his arms around the boy, but being careful in the process, Duo noticed. Duo put his arms around Heero and tried to calm him down.

"Heero...don't worry..."

"Duo...all these...emotions...I don't...understand them..." Heero looked up at Duo, his eyes bright from the tears. "Please...don't think I'm weak..."

"I don't think you're weak, Heero..." Duo promised him. Heero lowered his gaze again, tears dripping from his eyes, but making no sound. Duo whispered, "It's okay to cry, Heero. It's okay to feel emotions. Sometimes those that don't cry, those that don't feel emotion, are the truly weak,"

Heero listened, and actually sobbed, hugging Duo even harder. Duo hugged him back, feeling that he was getting through to his friend, and that this would be a healing process for both of them.


--Gundam Hangar @ Safe House 023E (Same day, a little bit later.)

Wufei was sitting on top of Nataku, meditating. He felt...calm. The rain always had a soothing effect on him. He sighed, deeply inhaling the scents...the metallic tang of Gundanium, the slightly acidic scent of some spilled fuel (it had been Duo's doing), and from outside, as the door opened, a delicious fragrance of clean water and fresh plants. It all swirled together to complete the picture made of scent...the picture of life.

Wufei shook his head. Perhaps he was getting a bit TOO far into meditation...he looked down, and saw that, indeed, the door had been opened, by Quatre. The small blonde boy walked over to his Gundam, his salad in his hands, and sat down next to Sandrock, stabbing some lettuce with a fork and transferring it to his mouth even as an almost inaudible sigh escaped from his lips.

Wufei leapt nimbly down from on top of Nataku, walking over to Quatre. "So you're back already."

Quatre seemed startled at the noise, but, seeing as it was Wufei, relaxed. He nodded, and swallowed. "Yes, Heero was there when I left,"

Wufei nodded and sat down opposite the Arabian, on one of Heavyarms' feet. "How did it go?"

"Well, I think..." Quatre replied, absentmindedly taking another bite of salad. "He seems to be improving...you know, that day we talked to him unconscious? He remembers what we told him..."

Wufei blinked. That was new. Duo hadn't mentioned the Chinese poetry any time that Wufei had been there. Wufei wasn't sure that he'd wanted him to. He'd never revealed his past...about the death of his wife, Meiran...how he'd originally wanted to be a scholar...

The book of Chinese poetry he'd chosen those poems from had been a wedding present, in fact...his heart still twisted at the thought of if. He looked across at Quatre and noticed that the other boy was staring at him.

"What?" Wufei asked.

"You...you were in pain just now...not physical pain...but..." Quatre looked at the Chinese boy. "Is there anything you'd like to talk about?"

"No, not really." Wufei lied.

"You're lying." Quatre said.

Wufei turned his gaze to Heavyarms, then looked back at Quatre. "I'll talk about it when I want."

Quatre frowned slightly. "Wufei..."

"No. I'll probably pick you to tell it to but give me more time." Wufei said, walking off towards the safe house.

Quatre sighed.


--Safe House 023E (Same time)

Trowa sighed and sat down at the desk in the room he shared with Quatre. The rain outside pounded on the window, creating a soothing melody. Trowa pulled out a piece of paper and a pencil and began to draw.

It wasn't a talent he told anybody about...he kept it well hidden. Nobody knew. None of the other pilots...not even Quatre.

He sketched out the main body of a Gundam. He hadn't decided which Gundam it was going to be, because all of the Gundams had some similarity in body structure, but settled the matter by adding on a jagged pair of bats-wings...an active cloak. He drew in the beam scythe, the hyper jammers...everything. He looked at the drawing for a second, then crumpled it up and tore it into little pieces, putting them in the trash can.

"Shinigami means nothing, is nothing without its pilot." He heard himself say, before he sighed and went downstairs to see if Quatre was back yet.


--Safe House 023E (A few hours later)

Wufei walked into the safe house, and into the kitchen, where Trowa and Quatre were cooking dinner. Steaks. Wufei wasn't used to steak cooked that way, exactly, but it still smelled delicious. He turned to Trowa.

"Trowa, it's time for someone else to go take a shift of looking after Duo," he looked at the steaks as he said this. "Don't worry about cooking dinner for me, I'll pick something up on my way there,"

Trowa nodded. "Okay then. See you later, Wufei,"

Wufei nodded and walked out to the garage.


--Road to town (A couple of minutes later)

Wufei had only been driving for a few minutes when he heard a strange sound, despite the rain. It was starting to get dark outside, and he squinted around for a few seconds. He didn't know what was going on, exactly, but he had a feeling of unease.

The car handled the roads perfectly, and after piloting Nataku for so long, Wufei could probably drive the thing blindfolded if he needed to. It gave him plenty of chance to look around...

...and he never saw the 4x4 truck plowing out of the underbrush on the side of the road, only felt the impact as he was thrown. His last thought, before he blacked out, was that he'd been ambushed, as he watched the truck drive away, and he looked down at his body, promptly fainting.


--Safe House 023E (Same time)

Quatre sat straight up in his chair, his eyes getting huge. "Trowa!"

Trowa was immediately at his side. "Quatre?!"

"Trowa! It's Wufei! Wufei's been hurt...Trowa..." Quatre said. The small boy fainted again, slumping in his chair.

Trowa cursed. He picked up the smaller boy and ran out to the garage. There was no time to waste. He dialed an ambulance from his cell phone even as he took the alternative vehicle, a black offroad truck, much like the one that had ambushed Wufei, out of the garage, putting Quatre gently in the passenger's side seat and driving away into the night.


--Duo's Hospital Room (Shortly after)

Heero knew something was wrong as soon as he heard the ambulance sirens. He'd spent the past hours talking to Duo. It had been hard at first but it had gotten easier and easier. He immediately jumped up and ran over to the window.

"Heero...it's probably not anyone we know..." Duo said.

Heero turned back to the other pilot, even as they heard the sound of orderlies shouting and yelling orders in the corridor outside. "Duo. It's...it's Wufei,"

"What?!" Duo shouted. Just then the door opened, and from the corridor outside they could hear a rush of conversation. "...wreck! Serious injuries! We're talking bad here! Get this boy in the ER, STAT!"

The doctor poked his head in. "I'm afraid your friend has been badly injured. We're doing all we can, but we don't want to leave you in the dark. He was apparently driving his way here when another vehicle collided with his. It was obviously a hit and run because there were no other vehicles in or near the crash site. Anyway, his vehicle rolled several times and he was thrown. Both of his legs and one of his arms are broken, there's internal bleeding and almost definitely a concussion. We're doing everything we can, but if you believe in God, pray for this boy," he said, then turned and left.

All through the doctor's speech, the two pilots had grown paler and paler.

Duo turned to Heero, his voice low, filled with pain. "Heero...Wu-man..."

"Duo...he'll be okay...he'll be okay. Just calm down. Don't worry." Heero told the American pilot, as soothingly as he could, which, despite his new, and fragile emotions, came out in a monotone.


--Outside the Operating Room (a couple of hours later)

Trowa was sitting outside the Operating Room, comforting Quatre. The smaller boy needed nothing more than a hug, and someone to tell him everything was going to be okay. He needed someone to help him through his fear.

Trowa was there for him.

The picture was priceless to anyone walking past. The taller boy hugged the smaller one protectively, as if to protect him from the cloud of fear, of doubt, hesitation that surrounded the hospital, surrounded everything.

"Trowa..." Quatre said. He looked up at Trowa, his eyes huge with unshed tears. "Trowa...Wufei..."

"Shh." Trowa said. "Wufei's going to be okay." Trowa said. He just hoped it was true. They'd seen Wufei, briefly...he'd been torn up, a trickle of blood coming from his mouth, covered in cuts and scratches. His legs and arm weren't obviously broken, but to the other pilots, that was a GOOD sign. When Wufei pulled through--it was a matter of when, not if--he'd be able to get back into karate more easily, and with less rehabilitation, than he would have if they had been worse fractures.

More easily. Nothing could keep Wufei away from karate. Nothing except...death. And they weren't going to concede their trust in their friend to simple fear yet.

They looked up as the door opened and a doctor walked out. He looked at the two, and smiled a weak smile. Quatre's heart leapt with joy.

"Congratulations...your friend has pulled through." the doctor said. "It was kind of risky for a minute or two there, but we got him out. We've repaired the internal bleeding and reset his bones. The concussion will heal with time. We're giving him two days in intensive care, then we'll move him into the same room as your friend, as he has a double room. The other half was just currently empty, but this provides the perfect chance to fill it,"

Quatre and Trowa looked at each other, and smiled. Trowa draped one of his arms around the other pilot's shoulders, hugging him to his side, almost possessively.

"Can we see him?" Quatre asked, leaning against Trowa thankfully.

"Yes. I must warn you, he's rather beaten up looking...but he'll heal," the doctor assured them, then pushed open the door. They walked into the room, which had been cleaned, all utensils removed. Wufei's bed had been rolled around, as they were going to move him to the Intensive Care Ward.

Quatre and Trowa looked down at their friend. He was covered in bandages; a long, stitched-up incision crossed his chest, where they'd performed the surgery; his left arm and his legs were in casts. His eyes were closed, and his mouth was in a frown. Quatre leaned down next to Wufei's ear, and whispered something to him.

As Quatre and Trowa turned to leave, neither of them noticed the way Wufei's frown became a half-smile, and his face settled into an expression of peace.


--Duo's Hospital Room (Barely two minutes later)

Duo and Heero both looked up as Quatre and Trowa walked in. Duo cried out, "Is Wufei okay? What happened? Is he alive?"

"He's okay, Duo." Quatre said, smiling. "He's going to be okay. He suffered internal bleeding, a concussion, and got both of his legs and his left arm broken, but he's going to live. It seems like his stubbornness helped pull him through,"

Duo smiled. "Yeah, Wu-man's pretty stubborn and mean all right!" he joked, really relieved and happy that his friend was okay.

"They're going to move him in here with you." Trowa said.

Duo grimaced. "Oh, that's perfect. The doctors said I could start getting up tomorrow. That means he'll be asking ME to do everything when one of you three isn't around...I can hear it now. 'Water, Maxwell!' 'Magazine, you baka!'" Duo grumbled.

"Duo...I doubt he'll do that, somehow." Heero assured him. Duo smiled at Heero, then at the others.

"Well, really I wouldn't mind if he did, actually...I'm just glad he's okay." Duo said.


--Elsewhere (Some time later)

The girl walked back into the room, closing the door behind her with a click.

"Well?" the scientist asked her.

"Sir...he's in the hospital. He was the victim of a hit-and-run."

The scientist cursed under his breath. "Somebody must be trying to get to them ahead of us. Let's back off for a while and see if it's related to our actions..."

"Yes, sir."

On to Chapter 3
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