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fic - the faithful and the brave : 18 [novella] - the turnip patch
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turnippatch
turnippatch
fic - the faithful and the brave : 18 [novella]
Title:  The Faithful and the Brave
Part:  18



The Faithful and the Brave
Part 18


"What happened?" Duo asked simply, and settled in for what he expected to be a long wait.

After a few seconds, he was dubiously rewarded with a slight slump of Heero's shoulders.  A minute later, a long, careful exhalation.  "A man tried to kill Treize," he said softly.  His back was still to Duo, but the thief's ears were good at picking sounds out of the darkness.  "He failed.  He fled.  My brother's men... Treize's men.  Une, his adjutant.  She would stop at nothing to find and punish the man that dared to attack Treize in his own home.  I think I always knew that.  I don't think I understood what it meant.  I don't think I understood...  I understood nothing," he concluded with a sound of disgust, kicking at a scrubby weed.  The cloud of dust he stirred reminded him of that day, and he turned from it, exposing his profile to Duo.

"What did she do?" Duo prompted conversationally, trying to maintain the momentum.

"Une... wasn't exactly like a big sister to us.  Of course, Treize wasn't really much of a big brother to us, either.  But Une... Perhaps she was simply doing her duty as Treize's surrogate when he was too otherwise occupied."  A helpless little shrug.  "But she was kind.  And accepting.  And supportive.  But then Treize was attacked.  And I understood her loyalty.  I understood... her ferocity.  I didn't realize... how easy it is to cross certain lines when focused so narrowly on something.  And I didn't realize how utterly routine it is for some people to do so," he finished bitterly.  "I carried on incredulously.  Dumbfounded and stupefied.  Until it was too late to do anything about any of it."

Details, please, Duo thought, gnawing on the inside of his lip.  Not that these weren't good details.  And argubly the most important details.  But really not very much for him to work with.  He was left with only cliches and blanket generalizations, and neither were appropriate.  He regrouped, and took a stab.  "How does Zechs fit into this whole thing?"

With a long look and a long, slow exhalation, Heero banked the fire of his self-directed ire and went back to the seat he'd chosen among the rocks to sit with deliberate casualness.  "Une's men tracked the assassin to the village of Sanq.  They went there hunting him, prepared to use whatever means necessary to flush him.  And we... went after them.  Zechs and I.  He understood what was likely to happen, even if I did not."

Duo made a neutral sound, the sort intended to mean he was listening, while he digested that tidbit of news.  He wanted to think ill of Zechs, no matter what Heero said, because by the saints that man had rubbed him the wrong way.  But he supposed he could grudgingly grant him the favor of an open mind for at least this one conversation.

"Une went straight into threats and accusations as soon as she arrived, though the villagers had done nothing to warrant it.  Zechs decided that the only way to stop her from carrying out her threats was to find the assassin ourselves.  And so we did.  We did, and we subdued him, and then one of Une's men came across us.  Not one of her men, really, but a squire that we had had some dealings with.  And then started..."

"...Started...?"

Heero leaned back against his rock.  "I've thought back to that fight, many a time.  I've made sense of the forces at play within that fight.  And the more sense it's made, the less sense it's made."

Duo tried to picture it and scratched his head over it, too.  "You three... versus the assassin?"

"Karl, the squire.  Fought Zechs."

"...Huh.  Figured you'd all be on the same side."

"I should have been on Zechs' side, for I was his friend, and I knew him to be a good man.  I should have been on Karl's side, for he was a peer, nobly born.  I should have been on the assassin's side -- though to call him an 'assassin' is perhaps to overstate his animus.  He was simply a commoner that had served in the war, grown angry and resentful of liege lords that failed to do their duty by their people.  I should have been on his side for that, for I believe we must in turn be loyal to those that owe loyalty to us."

"So you... fought the assassin?  Or... whatever."

"This man, standing at one extreme.  Lowborn, with nothing but contempt for the nobility.  Karl, at the other extreme.  Nobility, with nothing but contempt for the lowborn."  He chuckled darkly.  "And Zechs and I, caught somewhere in the middle.  I wish I could say we were fighting back-to-back against both ends of the spectrum, but I suspect now that if the others were as north and south, then perhaps Zechs and I were as east and west."

"Did you fight that day?"

"No," he answered distractedly, his thoughts still elsewhere.  "While I took down the 'assassin', their fight carried them into the village's mill.  The sparks from their duel ignited the dust."

Duo hissed in sympathy.  He'd seen more than one street performer set fire to dust before a crowd for dramatic effect, and he may have made one or ten flash bombs himself.  He'd heard of accidents.  His mind easily grasped what would happen if one scaled up the reaction.  "No wonder you thought he was dead."

"I thought he was dead...  By what miracle he survived, I do not know.  He was next to the millstone.  Perhaps it shielded him.  I was not present during his rescue.... I don't think I was present."

"Hm?"

"Things were a bit... muddled.  After the explosion.  Something knocked me out.  Quatre tells me I had a bad concussion.  Most of what I know of what followed comes from what he and Wufei found out afterward, along with my own confused recollection.  There was fire."

"Yeah, I'll bet."  The dust itself would have been consumed quickly, along with the oxygen in the immediate vicinity, generating winds enough to knock a man down, or a mill foolish enough to house an explosion within.  But the air would rush back in soon enough to nurture anything that might have been ignited by the fiery front.

Heero shut his eyes, the better to pick at his old scabbed-over memories.  "And shouting.  I remember shouting.  People's faces shouting at me, frustrated by my lack of response, but all I could hear was the ringing in my ears.  They tell me I was intent on finding Zechs somewhere in the rubble.  That they had to keep pulling me back for my own safety.  That... adequately explains some of my memories."

"Hmm.  What happened to the assassin?"

"Une collected him and left."

Duo waited briefly for additional details before thinking perhaps they weren't any.  "She just left?"

"She got what she came for.  The assassin was there, on the ground.  He was unconscious after our fight.  She took him and left."  Heero opened his eyes to burn a hole in the night sky with his dark glare.  "The mill was in ruins.  A corner of the fields were on fire.  One of the storerooms had caught as well.  It was well into autumn.  That was their income.  Their food for the winter.  But she had what she wanted.  So she took him and left."

"That's..."  He searched for an appropriate word.  "...Cold."

"They could have saved more, maybe.  She kept them back, though.  Until she had finished her business there."

Even colder, then.  "What about you?  Did she leave you behind, too?"

"She... attempted to collect me, too.  I... resisted.  I suppose I was not worth the effort at that point."

He and Trowa had thought the quiet soldier bland and uninspired, despite the passing amusement Duo had in him as a plaything.  It wasn't until they'd seen Heero plant himself squarely in harm's way to protect his friends that he gained a more intriguing depth.  If Heero had displayed even half the ferocity they'd witnessed, even with him dazed and injured and not in his right mind, Duo could well imagine what a struggle it would have been to keep him back from the mill.  "And so she abandoned you to the villagers.  Hope they weren't too upset with you."

"None of that mattered.  Not right then.  They knew Zechs.  Sanq was his hometown.  All of my shouting of his name certainly caught their attention.  When they figured out that he had been inside the mill... That became their priority.  I think I finally ran out of strength then.  They set me aside somewhere and focused their attention on saving their stores and their native son."

They'd succeeded on the native son part, somehow.  Duo didn't quite want to ask about the stores.  "You said... you weren't present.  Maybe.  I thought you meant Une took you home, but since she didn't...?"

Heero shrugged carelessly, on safer ground now that he was at the part of the story he didn't quite remember.  "The others tell me that my chocobo showed up in the stable a few days later with my blood on him.  I was in no condition to have found him where I left him, so he must have come to me.  I'm not sure where he thought he was going.  He carried me off into the Windflats."

"Huh.  You know, much as I didn't expect your story to end with a big dust explosion, I definitely didn't expect it to end with you being kidnapped by a chocobo."

There was a beat of stunned silence before Heero let out a bark of laughter that he quickly swallowed with a cough.

Duo smiled easily.  "No, please.  Don't hold back on my account."

Heero looked at him, a bit surprised at himself.  After a moment, a corner of his mouth twitched upward uncertainly before fading back into its neutral resting position.  "A lot of things happened that I didn't expect."

"You gonna tell me you should've again?"

A pause.  "No."  A longer pause.  "I'm hardly the person that's suffered the most from things being the way they are.  I have no right..."

"What?  To be happy?"

"To be sad.  Perhaps I'm more like a noble than I thought I was.  Self-centered and short-sighted.  Thinking about my own pain, complaining about the disruption to my own life, when there are others..."

"What about self-centeredly being worried about disrupting his friends' lives when clearly they made their own choices about what they wanted to do with themselves?  Is that like a noble, too?"

That broke Heero's stride for a moment.  He gave Duo a bit of a nonplussed look.

Duo grinned and returned the look with a mischievous wink.  "Think I found a hole in your logic.  If you were like a noble, if more nobles were like you, the world wouldn't be the shitty place that it is.  And if that's what you're really sad about, then I tell ya, you got all the right in the world to be sad about that.  Are you really short-changing your friends like that?"

Heero worked his jaw a few times.  "I've had this conversation with them on several occasions.  The issue has been settled to our satisfaction.  You need not worry on their account."

He weighed those words, that look on his face, and accepted them.  "Okay, I'm gonna assume you were just on a roll earlier about finding stuff to feel bad about, then."

"I would do the same for them as they have done for me, and they would owe me nothing.  But I have given them many more occasions to prove their loyalty to me than they have provided for me in return," Heero concluded ruefully.  "And I fear that trend may continue for a while yet."

"Just means you can't abandon them for a while yet, least 'til you balance things up.  Hardly think that'd be much of a burden on you."

"No.  That much, at least, I can manage."

"Hey, don't underestimate the value of being a good friend.  Sure, the world's a pretty shitty place, but you've got good friends by your side to wade through the shit with you.  What more can you really ask for?"

Heero snorted softly, but there was a wry smile attached to the action.  "Nothing, I suppose.  Might be nice to know where I'm going, but..."

"North or south, east or west...  None of those sound very appealing to me.  I mean, cardinal directions, and I'm pretty sure we all think cardinals are pretty yucky right now.  Maybe you oughta just forget about all that and settle down right where you are.  Slum it with the rest of us, yeah?  I mean, you're the one that's lost and all.  Seems like it'd make sense for you to follow the four guys that aren't lost."

Heero's lopsided, self-deprecating little smile made Duo suddenly think of blooming cactaurs.  Maybe it was the desert they were in.  "I suppose it would.  Does that mean you're wading alongside us?"

Duo spent half a second considering how he wanted to answer that.  "Well, I got all the dirt on you now, Heero Yuy.  You oughta keep me right where you can keep a close, close eye on me."  He came to his feet and with his back to Heero, patted the dust off his butt ostentatiously.  He thought maybe he heard another little snort of laughter from Heero, but maybe he was just snorting the dust out of his face.  Duo took a step back toward their camp, but stopped without turning for one last thought.  "You didn't have to tell me any of that... but I'm glad you did."

He took two more steps before pausing to hear Heero's response.  "Thank you for listening."  He wiggled his fingers over his shoulder to wave away the thanks and left Heero to ponder his place on the map of Ivalician society.





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Comments
tanuki02 From: tanuki02 Date: July 14th, 2015 09:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
So now we have another piece of the puzzle, but still plenty of empty spaces to fill in yet. Duo seems to have a gift for saying what people need to hear, even if they don't always listen to him at first. It's good to see them setting the foundation for a strong friendship and mutual respect.
turnippatch From: turnippatch Date: July 15th, 2015 06:12 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, technically Duo's gift for knowing how to read his audience and say the right things also makes him a decent con man / smooth talker, which is handy in his line of work... But it's nice that he uses his power for Good, as well. =D
sunhawk16 From: sunhawk16 Date: July 16th, 2015 01:42 am (UTC) (Link)
Really wasn't any way THAT whole situation was gonna end well, but DAMN.... talk about going south! Poor Heero....
Though it made for a lovely bit of interaction with our two heroes. Do so love to see those bonds strengthening up there.... :D
turnippatch From: turnippatch Date: July 16th, 2015 04:25 am (UTC) (Link)
There are fates worse than being kidnapped by a chocobo. ^o^ And really, there are fates worse than a crazed Une leaving the scene without much fuss, too...
sharona1x2 From: sharona1x2 Date: July 20th, 2015 08:33 am (UTC) (Link)
It felt really good to see Heero opening up to Duo. I'm sure it couldn't have been easy for him, but Duo seems like the kind of person who could get someone to talk.
turnippatch From: turnippatch Date: July 21st, 2015 06:30 am (UTC) (Link)
Quatre and Wufei have been really supportive of Heero, but if Heero is to get out of the rut he's in, he really needs to be not just supported and accepted, but also challenged.  In a way Duo is perfectly suited. <3
ramenkuri From: ramenkuri Date: August 10th, 2015 07:19 am (UTC) (Link)
Sigh...
turnippatch From: turnippatch Date: August 11th, 2015 06:03 am (UTC) (Link)
A good sigh, I hope. ^^?
ramenkuri From: ramenkuri Date: August 11th, 2015 07:33 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh absolutely! Just feeling sad for Heero, you know.
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