Wing + Gundam SEED crossover, Alternate Universe
Warning: mild swearing, implied same sex relationship. Pairings: Duo Maxwell/Heero Yuy, Kira Yamato/Athrun Zala
Notes: Beta by ElsewhereCW. Any mistake in grammar, punctuation and spelling are mine.
The gravel crunched under their feet as they made their way across the campsite. Overhead, the sky was a deep shade of indigo, and the gibbous moon hung low on the horizon. A light breeze blew, bringing with it a salty tang from the ocean.
They walked in silence, arms around shoulders. Presently, they caught sight of the two young men they had hooked up with earlier that week at the seaside campsite. The one with the yard long braid, Duo, was fiddling with the ignition of a SUV, while his companion, Heero, stood nearby.
Duo looked up. "Oi, what took you so long? We almost gave up on you two," he said in greeting.
The shorter of the two, a brown haired young man with violet eyes, grinned easily and tilted his head towards his friend. "Sorry. A cat got into our tent and had kittens in Athrun's backpack. We had to clean it up."
"Wow. That's gross, man."
"You tell me. My stuff's all ruined," Athrun said sullenly.
Duo chuckled. "Naw, blood washes off. Right, Heero?"
Heero grunted in affirmation, but his attention stayed with Duo. "Hurry up," he said urgently.
"Oi, be patient. I'm working on it," Duo shot back.
"So, where are we going tonight?" Kira asked after a short pause.
"Mangrove swamp by the river mouth. There's supposed to be a firefly colony over there. It's about forty miles north of here," Duo replied without looking up.
The SUV's engine purred into life. Duo looked pleased.
"Get in people. We're all set!" he said gleefully. He settled himself in the driver's seat.
A sudden thought struck Kira as he notice an absence of an ignition key. "Hey, this is not your car, is it?"
"It's ours now," Heero said. He slid into the front passenger seat.
Duo turned around and grinned. "We're borrowing it for a while. You know that jackass blond guy we met at the bar? The one who tried to hit on you? This baby is his."
"Oh." Kira blushed. Who could forget that embarrassing incident? The blond had for no apparent reason come up to him and made an indecent proposal, and when he had ignored him, the blond had stalked him to the toilet and tried to molest him in a cubicle. A fist fight had followed and Athrun, who had came looking for him had joined in and it all ended up in a messy brawl on the stinking toilet floor.
"I thought he'd left by now," Athrun said grimly as he slid into the back seat. Kira followed suit.
Duo chuckled. "Naw. You two almost put him in traction. He's swearing revenge even as we speak."
"That should teach him to keep his bloody paws off other people's property," Athrun said curtly.
Heero's eyebrows shot up. Property? Duo looked at him sideways and winked. They sniggered. Athrun glared at them through the rear view mirror but said nothing. Kira looked studiously out of the window, staring at nothing, trying not to feel embarrassed. Athrun could be so blunt sometimes.
"Okay people. Are we ready?"
"Cut the chatter and just drive," Heero ordered him curtly.
The SUV cruised at a leisurely speed, windows rolled down to let in the night air. The road was dark and twisting. Mangroves stretched on both sides, as far as the eyes could see. Sharp nocturnal sounds pierced the silence occasionally. Presently they came to a deserted stretch that seemed to go on for miles.
"Hey look!" Kira said suddenly. "What's that kid doing out here by himself?"
"What kid?" Heero asked, peering into the darkness.
"That kid." Everyone followed the direction of Kira's pointing arm. Duo slowed the SUV down.
Standing by the roadside, looking lost and
disoriented, was a child of about nine. The SUV passed him by.
"You think he's in trouble?" Duo asked, looking through the rear view mirror.
"Why don't we go ask him?" Athrun
asked in reply. He turned in his seat. "Hey, where did he
Duo brought the SUV to a halt.
"What do you mean, 'where did he go'?" he said, turning around.
The road was empty.
There was a marked absence of sound. A dank odor from the surrounding mangrove swamp assailed their nostrils.
Kira tapped Duo's shoulder, making him jump. "Look over there." He pointed forwards.
"How the hell did he outrun this baby?!" Duo exclaimed.
Heero looked at him sideways but said nothing.
Athrun cleared his throat. "Let's check this out."
The SUV moved slowly forwards and came to a stop beside the boy. Duo turned around and looked pointedly at Athrun. "Go on. Ask him," he said.
Athrun started to roll down his window, but Kira reached across and gripped his hand. "Wait. Let me do it." Kira said. Athrun looked at him in surprise. Kira shook his head lightly, leaned across and rolled down the window half way.
"Are you OK?" Kira asked the boy.
The boy looked up. His eyes glassy, he pleaded, "Please... please help my mother."
"Your mother?" Kira said.
The boy wiped a hand across his tear-streaked face. "We had an accident. My mother's still in the car. I... I can't get her out..." he trailed off.
"Where's the car?" Kira asked.
The boy pointed towards the mangrove swamp.
"Over there," he said. "Please help us, mister."
Athrun started to open the door but Kira gripped his shoulder, stilling him. Something did not feel right.
"What is it, Kira?" Athrun asked, curious.
Kira hesitated momentarily. He couldn't explain the strange feeling creeping up his spine.
"Noth... nothing," he said quietly. Their eyes met. "I'll come with you."
Athrun looked puzzled but said nothing. He was about to open the door when Duo suddenly exclaimed, "Damn, where did he go?!"
The boy had vanished as mysteriously as he had appeared. Four pairs of eyes darted around, peering at the darkness that seemed to coalesce around them. A cloying smell like frangipani invaded the SUV.
For a long while, no one spoke.
"Where the hell did he go?" Kira asked, perplexed.
Heero shrugged. "No idea," he said, looking around.
"We can't leave him out there. What if someone is truly injured?" said Kira.
Heero drummed his fingers on the dashboard. Finally, he said, "We'll report it to the nearest police station then. Let them send out a search and rescue party."
"Great idea, genius," Duo piped up. "So, let me get this straight. You think we should simply drive up in a stolen SUV and tell the officer, look buddy, there's a kid down that deserted road with a wild tale about his mother being injured in a car crash and we think you should go check him out?"
"Precisely," Heero deadpanned.
Duo looked aghast. "Which part of 'a stolen SUV' did you miss, moron?"
"Watch it, Duo," said Heero, his voice sharp as a blade. They glared at each other.
Athrun cleared his throat loudly. "Quit it, guys. I vote we do as Heero says."
"I agree," said Kira. He tapped Duo on the shoulder. "C'mon, let's go. I don't like it here."
Without a word, Duo gunned the engines. Twenty minutes later, he pulled the SUV over by a small, dimly lit police station. They piled out of the vehicle and made their way to the front desk. The duty officer looked at them curiously.
Heero tugged at Kira's sleeve. "Go on. You tell him."
"Cause you look the most innocent between us. He'll believe you."
"Oh?" Kira looked surprised. It was true -- two of them looked like troublemakers, and Duo's ass-length braid marked him out as eccentric. That left him, the 'innocent looking' one. He put on his most angelic face and approached the officer. The other three hung around nearby, looking decidedly uncomfortable. He quickly made his report to the duty officer. The officer looked at them queerly for a long while before saying anything.
"I suggest you forget what you saw and go on your way," he said slowly.
Duo stepped closer to the desk and frowned. "Say what?"
"Forget the whole thing. Just go about your business."
"Are you implying we're lying?" Duo said hotly.
The officer looked ill at ease. He busied himself clearing up his immaculate desk as he studiously avoided their eyes. Finally, Athrun couldn't stand it anymore.
"Look Officer. There might be someone seriously injured out there and you're not going to do anything?" he asked.
Athrun looked stunned. "What? What kind of police force do you run here?"
Glancing up, the officer held his eyes,
his gaze steady. "There's no one out there. You just forget
about it, if you know what's good for you."
"His mother may be badly injured!" Kira interjected. "She might die if we just sit around and do nothing!"
"Well, you're four months too late, kid. They're both dead."
"What kind of sick joke is this?" Kira said, aghast. He turned towards the others, silently urging them to do something, anything. Athrun reached out and grabbed his arm. He shook his head once. Kira looked unhappy.
Presently, Athrun spoke up. "What do you mean, they're both dead? We saw the boy half an hour ago. For god's sake, we spoke to him."
The officer leaned back in his chair and sighed. "You're not the first to sight him. We've had many reports since the incident."
"What do you mean?" Athrun asked, his curiosity piqued. The other three crowded around the desk.
Sighing dramatically, the officer said, "The accident happened four months ago. The mother died on the spot, but the boy somehow survived the crash. He was thrown out of the windscreen. It was a miracle he didn't drown in the swamp. When we found him, he was pleading to us to help his mother."
"What happened then? Did he survive?"
The officer shook his head. "No. He died on the way to the hospital. Quite sad, really. He was barely nine."
Silence fell on the group. They looked at each other, disbelief apparent on their faces.
Finally, Duo spoke up. "Are you saying we just saw a ghost?"
The officer nodded but said nothing.
"There's no such thing as a ghost! Right, guys?" Duo sounded indignant. Stupid superstitious man, he thought angrily.
Noticing their apparent disbelief, the officer stood up and said quietly. "Believe what you want, but the folks around here do believe in spirits and ghosts. As I said earlier, it's best for you to forget the whole thing and get on your way."
"Fucking idiot," Duo muttered angrily as they trooped back to the SUV. "What a jackass."
"Well, don't you think so? There are no such things as spirits or ghosts or whatever the hell these people believe in." Duo continued to rant as he hot-wired the engine. The SUV purred to life.
"Well, we don't really know their culture do we?" Athrun said quietly.
"Culture smulcure. It's all crap I tell you," Duo said as he eased the SUV onto the road. "That guy's a nutcase. He should be locked up in a mental hospital."
Heero grinned. "Quit bitching, Duo. Just drive. The river mouth should not be too far away. We are going to see the fireflies, and no ghost is going to stop us."
Duo chuckled. "You're right, man."
Not three minutes of leaving the small town behind, the road turned deserted once more. Duo glanced up at the rear view mirror. "Oi, you two. Don't get too comfortable back there," he chided. "That's a punishable offense around these parts."
"Huh?" Kira asked, puzzled.
"Quit making out in the backseat. It's bad form as I can't watch."
"Hey!" Kira tugged at his braid sharply. "Are you naturally obnoxious? Keep your eyes on the road."
Duo brayed with laughter, Heero chuckling beside him.
A few miles down the road, Heero drew his breath sharply. "I don't believe this."
"Shit!" someone swore.
Caught in the headlights, they saw the same boy standing in the middle of the road, his head bowed, arms dangling loosely by his sides. Duo jammed the brakes. The SUV screeched to a halt, throwing everyone to the floor. Duo's head banged against the steering wheel. He swore colorfully.
"That's it! I'm going to get to the bottom of this," Duo snarled. He wrenched the door open and dashed outside.
"You idiot! Get back in here!" Heero was out of the SUV in a shot, dashing after his friend.
Exasperated, Athrun climbed over the seat and slid into the driver's seat. "Morons," he muttered. He fiddled with the ignition wires and got the engine running.
"Can you see them?" Athrun asked after a while, as the SUV rolled forwards again. The road was empty, the only light coming from the SUV's headlamps.
Kira peered into the darkness surrounding them. "No," he said slowly.
They looked at each other, uncomfortably.
"This is weird," Kira muttered, his hand on Athrun's shoulder. Athrun nodded.
A sudden thump startled them. Athrun jammed on the brakes.
"Open the door," Heero said, appearing suddenly by the driver's side. Duo was draped over his shoulder, as if he weighed nothing.
"What happened?" Kira asked, concerned, as Heero bundled the barely conscious youth on to the back seat. Duo was soaked to the skin, reeking of the mangrove swamp.
"Dumbass tried to drown himself in the swamp," Heero answered curtly. He slapped Duo's face lightly.
Duo groaned as he returned to full consciousness. He sat up with a jerk and looked around wildly. "Where the hell is that kid?" He pushed at his shaggy fringe in annoyance. "Last I saw he was heading to the swamp. Why the fuck am I wet?!"
"You plunged headfirst into the swamp for no apparent reason," Heero said dryly. "Shit, you stink."
"Very funny, idiot," Duo snapped. They snarled at each other.
Athrun rolled his eyes and cleared his throat loudly. "Break it up, you two. Directions."
"Follow the road till you get to a T-junction, then go left," Duo said. He scrabbled in his backpack and drew out a six-pack. "Anyone want a beer?"
Affirmative answer came from the other three. They downed the beer in silence. Presently, Kira pointed to the roadside and exclaimed, "Hey look, fireflies."
"Rubbish. We're not there yet."
A small cluster of sparks flitted between the mangrove trees. A second, and then a third cluster soon joined the first, their combined sparks burning brightly in the darkness.
"They move pretty fast for fireflies," Duo noted as the sparks drew alongside the SUV. He tapped Kira on the shoulder. "Turn down the aircond will you? It's freezing back here."
"It's not switched on," Kira said, turning in his seat. His hand suddenly flew up his mouth and his eyes widened as he stared past Heero's head. "Athrun... step on it!" he said urgently. "Do it, NOW!"
Athrun opened his mouth to speak, but was cut off by a loud yell coming from Duo.
"JESUS! Get us out of here!"
Athrun glanced at his side view mirror and almost had a seizure. Surrounded by the cluster of fireflies, a small figure appeared, suspended in midair, coming closer every second. It was the boy from their earlier encounter. Athrun slammed his foot down on the accelerator. The SUV hit 160 km/h, but the apparition hung doggedly to the side of the vehicle. He could only stare in disbelief at the apparition. The 'boy' looked wretched as it hit its fists repeatedly on the window. Its mouth opened as if to speak, but nothing came out.
"What the fuck is that?" Duo screamed. "What the fuck does it want?!"
"His mother," Heero said, sounding calmer than he actually felt. "He wants us to stop and help his mother."
"Screw his mother! Get us out of here!"
Kira chanced a glance at the apparition. Tears streamed from its eyes, its mouth open in a silent distressed howl and its hands clawing desperately at the window. He felt suddenly cold inside as an inexplicable sadness surged through him.
"I... I think we should stop," he said quietly.
"And do what? Perform an exorcism?!" Duo yelled as the apparition flattened itself against the window and stared at him through pitch black eyes. The fireflies swarmed around it. "Get us the fuck out of here!"
Kira looked at the others desperately. "But... but..."
"No buts, Kira. I'm not that suicidal,"
Athrun told him. Kira shut up.
Twenty minutes later, Athrun pulled the SUV over by a brightly lit roadside stall. They piled out of the vehicle and made their way slowly towards the half-wooden, half-brick building. Several locals sat around, chatting idly over cups of strong coffee. Pungent clove cigarette smoke hung in the air. Their conversation ground to a halt as they looked at the newcomers curiously. Duo scowled and tried to look as inconspicuous as possible in his current bedraggled state. An acne-ridden man came to their table and smiled at them toothily.
"Mahu pesan apa?" he asked.
What would you like to order?
"Beer," Duo said.
"Bir tidak ada. Kopi?"
No beer. Coffee?
The man looked curiously at Duo's scraggy appearance. Duo scowled and ordered coffee for everyone. No one spoke as they waited for their coffee to be served. The man returned presently with four cups of thick, black, local brew.
Heero took a sip and made a face. "So, what are we supposed to do now?"
Three pairs of eyes looked at him.
"I'm not driving through that stretch again tonight. No way."
"I second that."
"Same here. That was freaky, man."
"What about the fireflies?"
"Screw the fireflies. I've seen enough of them to last me through this life and the next."
"You said it, man."
Heero drummed his fingers on the table. "In that case we better find some place to crash around here."
"I'm not sleeping in the open. No way."
"Spooked you, eh?" Duo chuckled, but he sounded rather strained.
"Look who's talking," Athrun replied mildly. "Shit, you smell awful. I'll check if there are any motels around here." He got up and approached the stall-keeper. After a few minutes, he returned and slid into his seat. "There's one further down the road. It might be full but we should give it a shot."
"Anything's better than sleeping in the SUV with him reeking like that," Kira said tartly.
"Oi, oi. I heard that."
Having paid for their coffee, they trudged towards the SUV, speaking infrequently. Heero slid behind the wheel. Fifteen minutes later, they alighted before a small gaudily painted building, set amidst a manmade (and badly kept) tropical garden. A fat middle aged woman looked up and smiled brightly as they entered the small reception hall. Kira approached her. He haggled for a while, and presently came back with a slight pout.
"One room left. Either we all share or someone sleeps in the car."
Duo shrugged. "No problem. We're used to sharing, right, Heero?"
Heero grunted noncommittally.
"Come on then," Kira said. He led them towards a connecting door. Athrun quickly fell in step beside him and slid an arm around him, out of habit.
Heero and Duo kept a few paces behind them, looked at each other and sniggered.
"My teeth are decaying," Duo whispered loudly. "How come you never show such affection towards me?"
Heero glared at him. "Are you dying for a knuckle sandwich? It's not my style."
Duo slapped his forehead and laughed. "Oh yes. I forgot. You're an emotional cripple."
"Ooo... abusive too."
Kira turned around and glared. He was positive they were making fun of him and Athrun. Duo stuck his tongue out at him and made a face. Kira flipped him the bird.
Presently Kira stopped before a door and pushed the key in the lock. The door swung open noiselessly. The cloying smell of frangipani wafted from the room. Switching on the lights, he gasped in shock. The others crowded around him. No one spoke.
Sitting on the bed, looking forlorn, the very same boy held his hands out and whispered, "Help me."
Zed © 10/2004.