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fic - additive identity part 21 [novella] - the turnip patch
version 2.0
turnippatch
turnippatch
fic - additive identity part 21 [novella]
Title:  Additive Identity
Part:  21



Additive Identity
sequel to axiomatic
Part 21


"Well, you're here early."

"I didn't think it'd be nice to make you wait."  I'd arranged the meeting, after all.  And while I thought I had just cause to chicken out of it, it seemed more appropriate to cede that privilege to her, should she wish to take it.  I forfeited that benefit by being the cause of the meeting.  I pushed a coffee to her side of the table.  "Yours."

She eyed the cup critically, then took it up, popped the lid, and inhaled deeply before deciding that my offering pleased her.  "Well, that's one down," she said as she deigned to take a seat.  "How many more to go?"

"I'd rather not count, thanks."  There were plenty of days left in the year.  Trix could be a religious coffee drinker, given the opportunity.  Having someone else pick up the tab was a golden one.  I'd have to try to avoid her when I could.  I let the coffee soften her up for me before I started with what I had come here to do.  "I wanted to apologize for Thursday."

She took another careful sip of her drink before setting the cup down.  "Your friend gave me a call the other day.  Winner.  Told me a lovely story about undercover this's and that's.  How much of it was true?"

"Just enough to make it sound good, probably.  I haven't gotten the full run-down on it yet, myself."  Hopefully I'd be able to get the story before Quatre let me go to work next.

"So is the other story true?"

"Which story?"

"The story you were supposedly undercover with."

I assumed that was the story that had APBs out on me.  I'd never quite gotten that full story, either, but I'd heard enough to piece it together.  "Just true enough to make it sound good, probably."

She rolled her eyes.  "So if I ask you what the real story is, are you going to tell me just enough to make it sound good?"

"Probably.  But that's in terms of quantity, not quality."  I wouldn't lie to her, because she deserved some good answers for what I put her through, but there were some things she just didn't need to know.

"Is this how you high-rollers always play?"

I shook my head.  Thankfully, no.  "Only when things get messy.  I'm sorry.  I shouldn't have gotten you involved."

"So what can you tell me?" she demanded, brushing off my apology for a second time.  Information had always been more interesting to her.

My cup of steamed milk provided some useful, short-lived cover.  I was still feeling the occasional twinge from my misadventure, but I'd decided that I didn't need or want the caffeine stim anymore.  I wanted things to get back to normal.  "Well, it all started five years ago."

She settled down comfortably in her seat, with artful enthusiasm.  "Ooh, an epic tale!  Those are the best."  Then she did a little bit of math in her head.  "Oh, hey, lemme guess.  Is this when you came back after that one summer and you were kind of wonky?"

I raised a dubious eyebrow at her.  "'Wonky'?"

"Well, you were gone for so long.  And then you finally came back and you said you were sick and still getting back on your feet and you never did tell me what that was all about.  And then hey, your snugglebunny came and visited not long after, right?  Say, how are you and the snugglebunny?  Everything good, I hope?  'Cuz if not, I'm gonna get mad at someone.  Especially him."

"The snugglebunny and I are talking again, thank you."  I paused, then leveled an exasperated look at her.  "Would you please stop calling him that?  You've got me started."

"So?  It's a perfectly fine nickname, don't you think?"

"Heaven help me if I ever call him that to his face."  Duo would probably be amused, actually.  Up until he figured out where I'd picked up the habit.

She swirled the coffee in her cup thoughtfully.  "So that wasn't, you know, part of the story?"

"Regrettably, no."  I'd almost wanted to cancel our meeting, in light of the revelations Duo and I had just come to a few hours ago.  I thought I ought to be there, but he urged me to get out, get this over with.  He knew I needed to get this out of my system.  It wouldn't be nice to cancel something I'd scheduled just that morning.  And besides, I think Duo just wanted some alone-time.  Having me around seemed to pressure him somehow, even if he wanted me to be there.  What a sticky situation we had on our hands.  "But we seem to be heading in the right direction, so don't worry about it.  That's neither here nor there."

"Are you sure?  Because I could, you know, kick his ass for you or something."

Somehow, I doubted that.  I could take care of myself just fine, and Duo had more than enough things to worry about right now without an angry Trix after him, so I thought it wise to move on.  "Thank you, but no.  I was working that summer.  Yes, I... suffered a job-related injury.  Just a couple of weeks ago, it came out that I... 'retained' some of the tech from that job.  IAB got involved, and then everything went to hell."

I could tell she knew I was omitting massive chunks of the story, but she was willing to go along with me for now.  "So how'd you end up with an APB out on your head?"

"Things... got out of hand.  They thought I had stolen something, and when I didn't prove 'cooperative' enough for them, they decided I was dangerous, so they locked me up.  So I broke out.  And then, well, I don't know exactly why they went with the story they did."  Probably just covering their asses, but I'd give them the benefit of the doubt.  Given that Minchella was apparently pre-disposed toward thinking the worst of me, maybe he really did believe I would be interested in defecting.

"I like the way you say, 'So I broke out,' like it's nothing."

"Gory details.  You don't need to know them."

"I can imagine them."  From the way she was looking at me, I guessed she was thinking about Thursday.  "So... I was right, yeah?  You and your friends?  You're them."

I appreciated her discretion in this public place.  I'd chosen a table to the rear, near the door to the back, with a clear view out the front, but that didn't mean there weren't people relatively nearby.  The Saturday afternoon crowd made enough noise to cover a soft conversation, but if people really wanted to listen in, they could.  "Yeah."

She exhaled audibly.  "Wow.  You're... well.  Young, for starters."

"Yeah."  Not much to say about that.

"So..."  She leaned in conspiratorially.  "Do you still have 'em?"

It took a few seconds to understand what she meant.  "What, you think they'd just fit under the bed or something?"

"Well, I dunno," she defended herself, pulling back again.  "They could be hidden somewhere or something."

"I don't know why you insist on asking after information you already presume to be secret."

"Because that's the only stuff that's interesting."

I pointedly did not answer her question.  There wasn't anything to hide, given that the Gundams were well and truly gone, but the principle of the matter remained.  "So, you knew, you said.  How long?"

She sighed gustily, forced to resign herself to not knowing what I didn't want to tell her.  "Well, I didn't *know* know, I said.  I just sorta knew, in that, 'hey, wouldn't it be funny...?' sort of way.  Where you think about it, and then it starts making a scary sort of sense."

"Really?  Why?"

"Well, you are, like, super-uber badass.  And, sheesh, Heero, think about the people you know!"

"What about them?"

It took her a couple of seconds to realize that I was serious.  "Oh, come on, Heero!  How many people do you know who go Christmas shopping for the former Queen of the World?"

"Quite a few, actually."

"And they're all Very Important People!"

I shrugged.  Not to me, they weren't.  "She's allowed to have friends.  'Normal' friends.  I did go to school with her for a little while, you know."  Sadly, though, I didn't think she kept up with anybody from her school days.  Quatre, Dorothy and I didn't count.  But listening to her tell it, she was never very good friends with anyone in high school to begin with it.  St. Gabriel's had always struck me as a place to make connections, not friends.

Trix tapped the side of her cup with one fingernail.  "You didn't make that up?"

"No, that was true."  That little fact had worked out well as part of my 'cover', though it was based on a mistaken impression.  Most people didn't know much about Relena Darlian.  They generally assumed that she had always been in Sanq, despite knowing that her father had been the Vice Foreign Minister, so no one ever realized that I couldn't really have gone to school with her and have been a citizen of the Sanq nation.  If anyone had, I could have claimed an acquaintance through her pacifist academy instead.

Denied one route, Trix tried another.  "Did you know you never refer to Director Une by rank?  Nope, it's always just plain 'Une', and you never get in trouble for it."

"Hm."  I'd never given that much thought before, but I knew it to be true.

"'Hm', he says.  Like it's nothing special at all.  Tell me, are you always that super-uber badass?  'Cuz on Thursday, you were like some sort of mad kung fu machine."

"Don't call me that," I responded automatically.  Not a good sign when the reaction became habit.  I shook my head dismissively when Trix gave me a funny look.

"Um, no.  Don't call you what?"

"It was nothing."

"No, it wasn't.  But if you tell me something lame like, 'it wasn't kung fu, it was karate,' I'm going to kick you."  She nudged her shoe against mine underneath the table.

"It wasn't either."  I didn't really have a style, unless I was just sparring in some particular form.  Otherwise, it was whatever worked.

She went ahead and kicked the side of my shoe.  "Don't change the subject.  If I said something that bothered you, I want to know so I don't say it again.  Otherwise, I'm not going to be much better than that loser of--"

"Don't call him that."  She wanted me to be clear?  I would be perfectly clear on this point.  "Despite being 'important' people by most estimates, we're still just normal people.  We have problems, just like everybody else.  And we're working through them, okay?  So don't call him that.  I will not have you making things more difficult."

She looked suitably impressed.  "So when you said you and the snugglebunny are talking again, you meant you're *really* talking, huh?"

Between 'snugglebunny' and 'loser', the former was definitely the better label.  "Yes."

"So you're finally going to tell him to stop being such an ass about your choice of jobs?"

That hadn't even come up yet, despite being such an easy target.  "After I get him to stop being such an ass about his own things, then we'll worry about my things."

She held a hand up in a sign of defeat.  "Okay then.  I'll give him a while to prove himself.  So you totally didn't answer my question.  How have you been hiding your crazy ninja ways all this time?  'Cuz seriously, you were, like, wow.  Someone else entirely."  She frowned.  "You winced."

"I did not."

"You did, too."  She jabbed her finger at me to emphasize her point.  "You didn't even go, 'huh, what are you talking about?'  You just skipped right to the denial, which means you must have winced."

Hm.  There weren't any huge flaws in her logic.  Damn.  I shook my head again.  "Just forget it."

"Uh-huh.  Yeah.  No.  Tell me what's bothering you."

She could rival Duo in his tenacity sometimes.  Again, I wondered why I had ever allowed her to become my friend.  Had she reminded me of him?  Did I just rely on having someone lively around to spruce up my day?  But it wasn't unnatural for a person to find friends in people with similar temperaments.  I couldn't think of her as a flawed echo of Duo, otherwise I would be in the same place he was, adding a layer of artificiality to my time away from the others.  No, Trix was a friend.  A real friend.  She wasn't a friend like the five of us were friends, but that didn't make her less of one.  Just a different one.

I knew that avoiding the question would be useless.  Sooner or later, she would ask it again.  Possibly at an inopportune time.  For a moment, I considered telling her, but it just didn't feel right.  Obviously, it wasn't just us that knew about it any more, what with the whole mess that had put me on 'administrative leave', but she would ask more questions I wouldn't be willing to answer.  And it occurred to me that Duo probably wouldn't be very happy if I told her.  She didn't deserve that kind of access to me, he thought.  And, well, he was more or less right.  Though I wouldn't use the word 'deserve'.  She was a friend.  But a different one.  She just got access to different information.

"I... wanted to apologize," I settled on, returning to the original reason I had set this meeting up.  It answered her questions well enough.  "For last Thursday.  I'm sorry if I got curt with you.  I'm not used to dealing with people under those circumstances.  And... I'm sorry if you didn't want to see that.  No, I'm not normally that 'badass' on a daily basis.  Maybe I seemed like a different person to you, but it's a good part of who I am, whether or not I show it.  I'll understand if that makes you... uncomfortable."

After a short pause, she gave me a disdainful sound.  "Do I look uncomfortable to you?  I'm here, aren't I?"

"I offered you free coffee."

"Well, yeah, but..."  She shrugged, looking uncomfortable to me, but that may have been simply the 'touchy-feely' nature of our conversation.  "Okay, so it surprised me.  No big deal.  Other than that, there's nothing wrong with having a friend that's mild-mannered by day, and badass ninja by night.  Especially one that can disarm a bomb.  I mean, it's not like you turned green and started tearing people's heads off or something.  I've always known you were special ops.  I guess I never really thought about what that meant, but... so long as you use your powers against the forces of evil, it's cool.  Although if you were evil, then I'd probably join up, too, because I'd really rather not have to go up against a ninja like you."

::Ninja are far more stealthy.::

::I know.  It's a pop culture thing.::  It had been a long time since Duo and I had watched a good ninja movie.  It had been mostly zombie movies recently.  Maybe it would be a good way for us to bond again.






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