Warnings:  possible violence/angst.
Pairings:  will be 1x2, 3x4
Category:  AU, action/adventure, fantasy, romance
Author:  Arigatomina

Without the Moon

"Heero!" A short blonde boy ran for a moment to catch up with the brown-haired boy.  Once he had, however, he seemed to hesitate before finally taking a
breath, "Have you seen the new boy?"

Heero raised an eyebrow.  "Why?"

"Well, I like him.  He's got a great personality and I was wondering if I could invite him to sit with us at lunch."

"Quatre," cobalt blue eyes narrowed.  "You know how people will treat him if he sat with us.  How do you know he won't end up resenting us for it?"

"No," Quatre said in an ironic little voice.  "I don't think we'll have to worry about *that*.  When you see him, you'll understand. "  With a small smile, Quatre
turned and moved quickly down the hall toward his class.  Heero couldn't help smirking at the way people subtly stepped out of the smaller boy's way.

//Yes.  We have quite a reputation at this school.  We can't let just anybody join us.//

When Heero entered his physics class, he walked straight to his seat, unmindful of the few students standing in the isle he was walking down.  They moved
quickly out of his way and he sat at his desk, empty chairs surrounding him on all sides.  Since none of the others were in the class, there was no one he
wanted near him.  The teacher and the rest of the class understood and made no comment.  It was a small school and almost the entire class body had been
going to school together since first grade.  All new, it hadn't taken Heero and his friends long to form a bond that excluded the rest of the student body.

//And now Quatre wants to invite a person he just met to *our* table?  This must be quite the individual.//  Just as he finished his thought, he looked up to see
someone walking towards the seat in front of him to his right.  

The boy was dressed in black jeans, a black tee-shirt, and a black jacket.  His head was bowed, chestnut bangs falling into his face obscuring it from view.  Not
paying Heero the least bit of attention, he slid gracefully into the seat, setting his books under his desk.  Propping his elbows on the desk, he folded his hands
and rested his chin on them.

Still unable to see the boy's face, Heero let his eyes move over the long braid that hung down the boy's back, curling on the seat of the chair.  //He certainly is
a strange one.//  Opening his notebook, Heero began to work the problems for the next chapter.  The class was mandatory, but Heero could have done
without it.  He already knew this stuff.  His attention wandered back to the boy and he
frowned.  //Does Quatre really think he's one of us?  There are already four, how many can there be?  And how could he tell so quickly?  It took us months to
realize we were the same.  And if he is one of us, does he know what separates us from the others, what makes us different?  Did he find out on his own?//  

Staring at the back of the boy's head, Heero raised an eyebrow when he suddenly shook his head and curled an arm on the table before burying his face in its
crook.  Blinking in surprise, Heero wondered if he was actually planning to sleep.  He didn't have to glance at the clock to know there were only three minutes
left before the teacher would come in, and Miss Po wouldn't take kindly to a student sleeping.  Especially a new one who should have been on his best
behavior.  Watching the door, he glanced at the boy when the teacher entered, blinking when that head came up quickly and he leaned down, grabbing his
books out from under his desk and opening them.

All business, Sally Po walked to her desk, setting her case on it and getting her lessons before setting it to the side.  Glancing down at a sheet of paper, her
eyes went to the long-haired boy and she raised her head.  "Duo Maxwell?"

Tilting his head out of respect, Duo nodded.  "That would be me," he said softly.

"Welcome to this school, my name is Miss Po."

"I'm sure I'll enjoy your class, Miss Po," the boy said in a smooth voice without the least bit of sarcasm before glancing down at his desk.

"Well then."  

* * *

Sitting at the table that had been left open for their group, Heero watched as Wufei crossed the room to join him, a large bowl of salad on his tray.  Nodding,
they greeted each other, then Heero turned to continue his watch.  Seeing the girls, his eye twitched and he dropped his gaze quickly, scowling when they
giggled as they passed him to sit at the next table.  Like them, the girls were always together, and since there were four of them they had gotten it in their
heads to go after the four boys.  For some reason Heero didn't understand, they weren't frightened of them at all.  Gritting his teeth for a minute, he looked up
again, eyes moving over the large cafeteria.  He was looking for Quatre, and he wasn't disappointed.  

The blonde boy was smiling at the new boy, Trowa walking beside him as they entered the cafeteria.  Duo had his head turned as he listened to him, so Heero
still couldn't see his face, but judging by the way Trowa was looking over at him, he wanted to.  Moving through the lunch line, they got their food then headed
for the table.  

Biting his lip, Quatre looked to Heero as they got closer, but he let out a sigh of relief when he saw the cobalt-eyed boy was watching Duo.

Heero met Trowa's eyes for a second before looking to the new boy again.  Nodding slightly, Trowa's green eyes moved to Quatre, the silent conversation
over.  Not worried about being rude, Heero stared at the long-haired boy, taking in the wide violet eyes and the lovely heart-shaped face.

"Are you going to introduce me to your friends, Quatre?" Duo asked, not breaking the staring contest the dark-haired boy had started.  "Or should I go?"

"No, it's alright," Quatre said quickly, not glancing at Heero.  Pointing to the tall boy seated beside him, he smiled slightly, "This is Trowa, Wufei, and Heero.  
Guys, I'd like you to meet Duo."

Breaking away from intense eyes Duo glanced at the other two before smirking.  "Duo Maxwell."  Sniffing at the food on his tray, he smirked again as he saw
they were still staring.  "So, how long have you guys been together?"

Frowning, Wufei's black eyes narrowed and he sat forward.  "What do you mean?"

"How long have you known what you were?"

Turning to Quatre in shock, Wufei saw the blonde smile, nodding.  "I think the five of us need to talk after school," Quatre said.  "Can you, Duo?"

Enjoying the startled expressions, Duo nodded.  "Unless something comes up.  Where should I meet you?"

"Well, I think you have the same last period class as Trowa, so if you follow him, we usually get together at Wufei's temple."

"You have a temple?"

Frowning at the humor in the question, Wufei nodded sharply.

"Cool."

* * *

"You don't say much, do you?"  Smiling when the tall boy didn't answer, Duo shook his head.  "That's okay though.  You're probably the strong silent type,
right?  Yeah, I know how that goes.  I used to know a guy like that and he never talked unless he had to.  I mean, you practically had to pry his mouth open
with a crowbar to get more than two words out of him."

Glancing at the boy out of the corner of his eye, Trowa raised an eyebrow.  //Does he ever stop talking?  But Quatre's right, he has a nice attitude.  He'll drive
Heero up the wall though.  Wufei'll get a kick out of that.//

Noticing that he had the boy's attention, Duo grinned.  "So, Trowa, what's the deal with the shadow?"

Not bothering to look behind him, Trowa's eyes narrowed.  "They're persistent, those girls.  Just ignore them.  They never follow us into the temple."

Glancing over his shoulder at the four girls following not ten feet behind them, Duo winked at the black-haired girl, laughing when she giggled.  "They're cute.  
They got a crush on you?"

"On all of us," Trowa said, monotone voice telling Duo how much he enjoyed that fact.  

"I get it.  Stalkers."  Laughing again, Duo shook his head.  "Why don't you just tell 'em you're not interested?  I mean, no point letting them think they have a
chance."

"We have.  It hasn't worked."

"Four of them, four of you.  Damn, looks like I'm the odd man out."

Turning his head to look at the boy, Trowa made a slight expression of distaste.  "You can have your pick.  We don't want them."

"Naw, I don't have time for a giggling girl.  Besides, they're like us."

"What?!"

Smiling proudly at having gotten a reaction, Duo shook his head, managing to look mysterious as he evaded Trowa's green-eyed gaze.  "I'll explain later."

* * *

"Alright, talk."  Eyes narrowed, Heero looked at Trowa who'd coughed slightly before turning back to Duo.  

"Heh, no problem.  It's obvious we're all pals here, so what do you want to know?" Duo responded quickly.  

"How did you know what we were so quickly?" Heero asked, suspicious to the end.

"We went to the same school for weeks before we noticed our bond," Quatre said, wanting to placate Heero but not knowing how.  

"Well, as soon as I came to this area I knew there was a reason for me to go to your school.  And then, when I saw you, it clicked.  I mean, scouts aren't like
other people."

"And how do we know you're actually a scout?" Wufei asked, joining Heero in his suspicion.  Ignoring Quatre's reproachful glare, he continued.  "It's easy to
say you are, but what proof do we have?"

"You guys aren't very trusitng.  Well, if I wasn't, how would I know *you* were?"

"Don't argue guys, we shouldn't be fighting.  There's an easy enough way to make sure he's one of us."  Flinching when two angry glares were directed at him,
Quatre leaned closer to Trowa who sat beside him.  "Well, if he's a scout, all he's got to do to prove it would be transform, right?"

"Um, I'd rather not."

Suspicions confirmed, Heero and Wufei locked gazes before pinning the violet eyed boy.  "Why?"

"Look, I just don't want to.  Trust me a little, huh?  Just listen for a while.  I tell you what, if you still want me to prove it when I'm done, I will but on *my*
conditions."  Not explaining, the hard look in Duo's eyes gave way to a softer expression.  "Trowa says you guys have been having trouble with some girls.  
Have you wondered why they weren't afraid of you?"

"What do you know?" Heero asked, folding his arms over his chest, one eyebrow raised in skepticism.

"I know...that they are also scouts."  Raising his hands to stem the cries of disbelief, Duo went on.  "It's true.  I don't know their names, but they're the scouts of
Mars, Venus, Mercury and Jupiter, the inner scouts.  Now, I don't know for sure, but I guess that would make you guys the outer scouts."

"How do you know so much?" Quatre asked, eyes wide.  He'd sensed the boy was different the first time they'd met, but this was more information than he'd
expected.

"Well, I can't take the credit.  Most of what I know I learned from a friend of mine, but you guys can meet him later.  Right now, I'd be interested in finding out
which of you are which scouts.  I mean, I know you guys are outer scouts, but which ones?"

"I still don't trust you."

Giving Wufei a disgruntled look, Duo glared.  "Come on, you'll see me the next time you fight, just wait."

"Who said we'd let you join us?" Heero asked, cobalt eyes shooting sparks.  "We can fight our own battles, we don't need your help."

"That doesn't matter," Duo said, shaking his head as he let out a soft laugh.  "I came to this city because my enemies moved here.  It took me too long to get
here for me to just walk away."  Leaning forward, he gave Heero a challenging look.  "I'm going to be there whether you like it or not.  Besides, why are you so
sure you won't need my help?  How long have you guys been fighting?  It's been a long time for me and I've learned that there are some enemies too hard to
defeat alone."

"Actually, we've done fine."  Hating to disagree with him, especially since he *wanted* the boy to fight with them, Quatre shook his head.  "Our battles have
been easy.  Maybe yours were more difficult because you were alone."  Groaning, he knew he'd made things worse when those violet eyes narrowed.

"I know how to fight alone," Duo said roughly, "and I don't buy your reasoning a bit.  Are you saying you've fought the ones responsible, or just their flunkies?"

"The ones responsible?"

Meeting Trowa's questioning gaze, Duo smirked.  "That's what I thought.  I may only be one, but I didn't stand a chance against them and there is no way
they'd be easy for *you* to defeat, even if there are four of you.  Hell, even if the inner scouts helped, you'd never call them easy."

"You know who's behind the monsters we've fought?  Tell me who."  Gritting his teeth when the boy pretended not to hear him, Heero's hands clenched into
fists.  "Now."

"Don't go ordering me around," Duo said, eyes narrowed.  

"Damnit, you're the one who wanted to join *us*.  So just answer the question," Wufei said, done with waiting.  

"If' I'd known you guys were going to be so difficult, I wouldn't have wasted my time.  Sorry Quatre," Duo said, standing quickly.  He could feel the hairs on the
back of his neck rising.  "I've got places to be.  Don't worry," he smiled at the blonde as those pale blue-green eyes widened.  "I'll be there whether those two
like it or not.  And remember what I said about those girls.  If they haven't fought yet, it's just a matter of time before they do."

"Where do you think you're going?"

Pausing, Duo grinned for a second before clearing his face as he turned to meet Heero's angry glare.  "Your school's food sucks.  I'm going to get some real
food before I collapse."

* * *

"Why did you *do* that?!"  Ignoring Trowa's hand on his shoulder, Quatre glared daggers at the two dark-haired boys.  "If what he says is true, we *do* need
him.  Why did you run him off?"

"Quatre, you're too trusting," Heero said evenly, not bothered by the pale boy's anger.  "We don't know if anything he said was true.   Besides, he left.  We
didn't make him."

"You know you did!  You two drive me crazy."  Seeing the way Wufei winced at his hurt expression, Quatre calmed the dramatics.  "It wasn't easy to get him to
agree to join us.  I know you thought it was his idea, but it wasn't.  I *know*...without a doubt that we have to be united if we're going to win this.  Yes, our
battles have been easy, but that won't last, it never does.  Thanks to you we may have lost our last chance at being united.  Think about it, if the girls..." he
winced before continuing, "if they are Jupiter, Mars, Mercury and Venus then that means there's only one more planet.  Don't you get it, one more.  And that
*has* to be Duo."

"We don't know that, Quatre."  Shaking his head when the boy beside him turned on him, Trowa's eyes widened slightly.  "I believe your certainty, but there is
no reason to believe we are the only representatives of planet power.  Besides, there are more planets than we have in our solar system.  How can we know
that there are only nine?  Don't you see...we don't know at all."

"Heero, has Wing said anything about the inner scouts?  I know you haven't mentioned them, but did he say anything?"

"Quatre, I wouldn't keep anything from the team.  This is the first I've heard of them."  Growling in frustration, Heero shook his head furiously.  

"I refuse to believe those *girls* are scouts.  Except for Dorothy, they're all simpering females incapable of fighting."  Still glaring, Wufei was caught off guard
when Trowa pinned him with an icy glare.  "Okay, Catherine isn't simpering, but she's still a girl."

"Enough.  There's no point arguing amongst ourselves.  We need to look into part of what he said.  If the enemies we've fought were only subordinates, then
we need to find the one sending them."

"Heero, that's my point," Quatre put in.  "If you hadn't treated him with such distrust, I'm sure Duo would have been able to help us with that."

"We don't need him."

"No," Wufei agreed, ignoring Trowa's warning gaze as Quatre's face fell, "We don't."

* * *

"What the hell's their problem?"  Arms folded over his chest, Duo sat on the edge of his bed, glaring at the floor.  Feeling the light touch of claws on his
shoulder, Duo looked down into a black-furred face.  "What?"

"Why are you pouting?  They didn't *make* you leave.  You did that on your own."

"Shi-chan, if you're trying to make me mad at you too, it's working."

"Must you call me that?"

Grinning, Duo turned to lift the sleek cat into the air, laughing when it's green eyes narrowed and it tensed in his hands.  "But you're so *cute* when you act all
serious on me."  Ignoring the legs that twitched against him, Duo lowered his head to nuzzle the cat's neck, blowing warm air on the silky fur and laughing
louder when a low purring started up.  Holding the cat against him, he stroked his hand down over it's back, fingers scratching the hair on it's cheek.  
"Shi-chan, you know you're crazy about me."

"Mmmm....I admit you know how to pet, but that doesn't mean you aren't a baka," came the low response as the cat rubbed it's head against Duo's neck.  "You
shouldn't have run off.  You're lonely."

"Don't be silly," Duo said lightly, wrapping his arms around the sleek cat and glancing away from the face looking up at him.  "I've got you, don't I?"

"Duo..."

"Ah, don't worry, Little Kitty.  I'll be fine."

"I think I prefer Shi-chan..."

* * *

"Did you see that guy?  Oh...I think I'm in love..."

Groaning, Dorothy glared at Hilde before shoving a text book under the black-haired girl's nose.  "I thought books and school were the only things you 'loved',
Hilde.  Since when do you drool over some guy you don't even know?"

"I'll bet Relena rubbed off on her," Catherine put in, brushing her nearly shoulder-length red hair away from her face as she eyed the blonde girl in question.  
"After all, *she* is always going on about Heero and you know Hilde isn't the best at being rude.  It was only a matter of time before she was corrupted."

"Excuse me, Cathy darling, but you really shouldn't talk.  I've seen the way you look at Trowa.  There's no use pretending."

Glaring at Relena, Cathy turned her head away.  "I feel sorry for him, that's all.  With those stand-offish friends of his I just think he needs someone to be nice
to him."

"What about Quatre?"  Smirking when the red-head glared at her, Dorothy folded her hands on the table and tilted her head.  "Well, you have to admit, he's
very nice and he and Trowa seem to be close."

"Trowa isn't gay," Cathy said, frowning at the table.  "If he was then I'd be all for the two of them.  No, they're just friends and Trowa's so sensitive...he needs
someone to care about him."

"So you admit it," Relena said, smiling proudly.  "You're gagga for him."

Rolling her eyes, Catherine looked to Hilde.  "There's no use talking sense to her," she nodded at Relena before meeting the girl's gaze.  "But Hilde, you're
usually so sensible.  This isn't like you."

"I know.  And I really don't know what's come over me...I guess it's because of the way he looked at me earlier."  Sighing, she smiled and blushed lightly.  "He's
so cute."

"You're pathetic," Dorothy said with a tolerant smirk.  "Anyway, we really need to get down to business."

"Oh, not that fighting stuff again," Relena muttered, groaning as she gripped the picture in front of her tighter.  "It's ridiculous.  Even if there is a war coming,
we couldn't fight.  We should be more concerned with finding the opposition and talking them into living with us in peace.  Not that I believe you, though.  I think
the two of you have been without a date for too long, your brains have rotted."

Sneering at the girl's peace-talk, Catherine leaned forward, eyes shooting sparks.  "I'm telling you there are bad people coming and whether you like it or not,
we're going to end up fighting."

"But what could we do?" Hilde asked frowning as she slowly shook her head.  "I hate to say it, but we're just girls."

"What the *hell* does that mean?" Dorothy demanded, glaring at the stricken girl.  "Just because we're girls doesn't mean we're weak.  Besides, if you'd listen
to Cathy, she's sure we have powers of our own."

"Super powers," Relena said, laughing at the ridiculousness.  "We're super-heros."

"Well, maybe you're not, but I'm sure the rest of us have a bond beyond our friendship.  I've been having these...visions.  I'm sure I'm right.  We just have to
find out how to use this...power."

"Why don't you and Dorothy go talk about it," Relena said, dismissing them as she looked at the picture in her hands, a faint smile curving her lips.  "I have
plans to make."

Gritting her teeth, Dorothy practically leapt over the table, snatching the picture away and looking at it for a moment before making a sound of disgust and
throwing it down.  "When did you take that?  God, you are so pathetic, Relena.  When are you going to get it into your head that Heero Yuy isn't interested?  
Why do you waste so much time mooning after him when you could be finding someone who returns your feelings?"

"Or listening to what I've been saying," Catherine put in, now that they had Relena's undivided attention.  "Look at it this way, Relena, if there is an enemy out
there and we don't do anything about it, Heero and everyone else is going to be in danger."

"Heero..."

"That's better.  Now then, my idea is..."

"What's that?" Hilde said suddenly, getting out of her chair and rushing to the window as an explosion sounded nearby followed by screams.  "Oh my God!  
Look!"

* * *

"Stop fighting, boy, you don't stand a chance against me."

Violet eyes narrowing into slits, Duo raised his tall staff, the gleaming curved scythe glowing with violet light.  Holding it with both hands, he lowered his head
slightly so he had to look through his bangs to see the man floating in the air not ten feet from him.  Taking a deep breath, his fists clenched and a bright arc
of light shot from the edge of blade, flowing through the air.

"You'll have to do better, Saturn.  Just give up, you're not going to hit me."  Disappearing as the glowing light reached him, the pale man reappeared behind
the boy, long white hair streaming in the wind as he tried to grab him.

Letting out a furious cry, Duo dove for the ground, rolling away and getting to his feet so he was facing the man again.  "I'm going to enjoy tearing you apart,"
he growled, trying to hide how heavily he was breathing.  

"I'm sure you would," the man said softly, pale blue eyes shining as he smiled, "if you could.  Don't fight, Saturn.  I really don't want to hurt you."

"You're the one who's going to get hurt."  Letting out a harsh breath, Duo swiped the blade he still held diagonally through the air, eyes narrowing as the man
leapt out of the way, violet light tearing through the cement where he'd stood.  "Damn you."  Crouching, Duo's eyes flew through the dark sky, scanning the
trees in front of the apartment complex nearby.  "If you fought me in a less populated area I'd show you my true power," he growled, letting out a furious
cry as arms caught him from behind.

"That would be interesting," came the low, almost whispery response from behind him.  "But there's no reason to wear yourself out.  Surrender.  You really
have no choice, you've lost."

Closing his eyes, Duo gripped his staff tightly for a moment before his eyes snapped open, violet light shining from them as his power surrounded him, shoving
the man away.  Whirling, he stumbled before gaining his feet again.  "I'll never surrender.  You should know that by now."  Gasping as he tried to catch his
breath, his eyes narrowed as the power dimmed as suddenly as it had come.  "You'll have to kill me."

"No, I just have to wait until you wear yourself out."  Shaking his thin white bangs away from his eyes, the man smiled.  "I'd say that won't take long."

//If I run, he'll hurt the people here.  I can't let that happen.//  Not giving any hint of his intention, Duo ran forward suddenly, moving fast.  The man's eyes
widened abruptly, and he gave a sharp cry as the blade caught him on the arm before he could get away.

Staring down at the blood, the man glared.  "Fine then, if you want to play rough, I won't go easy on you."  Letting out a hoarse cry, his hands moved together,
palms flat as they pointed down at the boy.  

Jumping back, Duo fell to the ground as the blaze of light hit where he'd stood, his palms scraping on the cement before he could get to his feet again.  
Choking on a breath drawn too deep, Duo sent another bolt of power from the end of his scythe, wincing as the man moved again and the returned shot
caught him in the chest, sending him to the ground.  //I'm losing...//

* * *

"We...have to do something..."  Wide, terrified eyes moved to Dorothy as Hilde watched the battle taking place not far from the house.  

"We don't know how!" Dorothy returned, fingernails digging into her skin as she cursed her uselessness.  "If we tried now we'd just get in the way.  Damnit!  
This is why we should have been trying to use our power!   Now we're too late."

"What's going to happen?" Relena asked softly, eyes wide as the glass shook from an explosion as the two men continued fighting.  

"We learn from this," Catherine said, wide eyes burning as the boy was hit and thrown back.  "If we survive, we make sure this doesn't happen again."

* * *

"What the hell..."  Skidding to a halt, Wufei's eyes widened at the scene before them.

"Quatre.  Is that...?"  Turning, Trowa watched as the blonde boy's eyes widened.

"Duo."

The boy in question lay on his back, a long scythe a foot away.  Standing over him was a tall man, long white hair reaching to his waist.  Intending to catch him
off guard, the four were silent in their approach.

* * *

"It's over Saturn...Duo.  Just let it go."  Kneeling beside the boy, the man brushed thick, damp bangs away from Duo's sweaty forehead, frowning when violet
eyes snapped open to glare at him.  

Clenching his muscles, Duo rolled away quickly, grabbing his staff and forcing himself to his knees.  "I'll...never give up."

Growling in frustration, the man shook his head as he stood, looking down at the stubborn boy.  "I guess I knew that.  But that's fine.  I like your spirit."

Taking a deep breath, Duo lowered his staff with lightning speed, catching the man completely unaware.  No energy left, he had the pleasure of seeing the
blonde man thrown onto his back before his grip on his staff was lost and he pitched forward, palms keeping him up as his arms shook from the effort.  Forcing
his head up, Duo waited for the retaliation.  Then he gasped as what looked like a tan fireball rolled into the downed man, making him scream and throwing
him back farther.

Shaking off the pain, Zechs disappeared, blinking into existence in the air where he could see his attackers.  Nothing could have prepared him for the sight as
four boys moved onto the scene and two attacks flew his way.  Dodging quickly, he debated the merits of staying, but shook his head as he threw himself to
the side from a particularly powerful attack.  //They're fresh, and I've been wounded.//  Glaring at the boys' defiant expressions, he clenched his
fists.  "I'll see you soon, Saturn.  Bet your life on that."

Looking up, Duo heaved a sigh of relief as the man disappeared, then he pushed himself back as the four boys turned to him.  Giving them a weak smile, he
forced himself to his feet.  "Can't say I'm not glad to see you.  Thanks."  Knowing people could see them, he didn't dare change back, so he stood, leaning
heavily on his staff.  

"Who was that?" Trowa asked, eyes taking in the boy's battered state.  

"Not here," Duo said, forcing himself to walk toward the park where they wouldn't be seen.  "Come on."

* * *

Arms folded over his chest, Heero watched the boy.  The four of them had changed back, their clothing the only thing that changed with transformation, but
Duo hadn't.  Leaning against a thick tree trunk, he watched them, black cloak grey with dirt, long headpiece covering his hair as he held his scythe so tightly
his knuckles had turned white.

Knowing he'd never make it home if he transformed back, Duo hadn't bothered, hoping the others wouldn't ask.  Trying to look stronger than he was, he gave
them a grin.  "That was...well, I don't know his name, but I'm pretty sure he's the leader.  Either that or he's one of the top class."

"He certainly had you beaten," Wufei said caustically, not realizing how insulting the comment was until the boy flinched.  

"Yes he did," Duo nodded, not arguing.  "I'm just not strong enough to defeat him and he knows that."  Glancing at Heero's shuttered eyes, he frowned.  "Don't
get me wrong, if he had challenged me in an area where I wouldn't have to worry about civilians I'd have had a fair chance.  But he knows that."

"You've fought him before?" Quatre asked, Trowa's grip on his shoulder the only thing that kept him from moving to help the boy.  He knew pride was an issue,
but anyone could see he was about to collapse.  He didn't seem to be recovering his strength at all, in fact, he seemed to be getting weaker with every minute
that passed.

"Yeah, I almost got him the first time, but he disappeared before I had a chance.  After that he moved the fights into populated areas," Lowering his head, Duo
snorted in disgust.  "He was playing with me.  Guess his patience ran out."

"How strong can he be?" Heero asked.  "He ran when we arrived."

"I got him pretty good," Duo muttered.  "I don't think he'd have had a chance against the four of you."

"How injured are you?"

Blinking at the blunt question, Duo looked at him, not liking the intense look in those cobalt eyes.  "I'll be fine."

Eyeing the boy, Heero's eyes suddenly glinted and he stepped forward to stand in front of him, ignoring Quatre who reached out a hand to stop him.  Not
giving any indication of what he was about to do, he suddenly grabbed the staff, pulling it out of Duo's hands.  As he'd expected, it disappeared abruptly.  
What he hadn't expected was for the boy to pitch forward as the clothing he'd worn to school reappeared.  Catching him, Heero flinched at Quatre's reprimand
as the small boy shoved him hard.

"Why did you do that?" he demanded, glaring at Heero in fury.  "What did you do?"

Staring down at the unconscious boy, Heero shook his head as he took in the shallow breathing.  "I didn't cause this."

* * *

"What happened?"

Duo frowned as he found himself lying on a couch and sat up quickly.  Looking at Quatre who knelt near him, he flushed with embarrassment, especially since
the other three were watching him as well.  "Look, I'm really not as weak as that looked.  Don't judge me because of that."

"Explain it to us," Trowa said, shaking his head.  

"Well, I usually get worn out after I transform, but not this bad."  Hating the thought of looking weak in front of them, he glared.  "Wait till you fight him, then
you'll understand.  He's very strong and he's too fast to hit with most attacks."  Sighing, he shook his head, looking to Quatre's sympathetic eyes before a
small smirk curved his lips.  "And it's kinda hard to catch him off guard when all his attention's on you."

"Why did he fight you?" Wufei asked, frowning.  "And why haven't we seen him before now?  Why those monsters?"

Smirking, Duo glanced at him.  "Well, you didn't see him because he wasn't here.  I guess someone else was sending the monsters to this area because I've
been fighting monsters of my own in America up until now."  Nodding at their surprised expressions, he continued.  "This guy didn't show up until about a
month ago.  That's when I followed him here."

"Followed him?" Heero asked, eyes narrowing dangerously.  "You mean this was his destination, where we were?  That means he wanted to get all of his
enemies in one spot."

"That makes sense," Quatre said, nodding.  "Maybe our battles up until now were just to test our strength."

"If that's the case then they should have sent stronger adversaries.  They haven't seen our full strength."  Looking at Duo, Wufei shook his head.  "If what you
say is true, then the monsters will get stronger, that or our enemy will fight us straight on."

"Well, I'm sure he'll be back," Duo said, still upset over his humiliating defeat.  If his pride hadn't stood in his way, he would have told them how long he'd
fought before they'd shown up.  "But it's my guess that he had someone else watching from here while he was playing with me.  I don't think he's powerful
enough to fight the five of us, so we should be able to take out anyone he sends."

"Unless he hasn't shown you his true strength either," Wufei said black eyes narrowing.  "Be sure of your enemies before you count on a victory.  If it were me,
I'd hold something back.  I'm sure he's stronger than you know."

"Are you worried?" Duo asked, surprise evident in his tone.  The Chinese boy seemed so self-assured.

"No," Wufei said, smirking.  "I'm just thinking ahead.  I'll not be defeated."

"Then we'll fight together?" Quatre asked, eyes wide as he turned to look at his friends hopefully, "Fight the enemy rather than each other?"

Heero nodded.

Smirking, Duo rubbed his eye for a minute before freezing, catching the time on his watch.  "Oh shit.  I gotta go guys.  Shi-chan'll kill me."

"Who?"

Flushing at Heero's raised eyebrow, Duo grinned.  "Um, my cat.  Tell ya what, you guys gonna meet here after school tomorrow?"  At the nods, he stood.  
"Great.  I'll bring him over then.  See ya."  Waving briefly, he exited quickly.

"Do you think we should let him go alone like that?" Quatre asked, looking worriedly at the door.  "Trowa?"

"If you tried escorting him, he'd probably get angry."

"I guess you're right."

"Heero, do you buy his story?  About his power?" Wufei asked, folding his arms over his chest as intense eyes moved to his.

"I don't know.  But it doesn't really matter.  If he is as weak as he looked than we'll see it when we fight together."

"Heero!  You think he'd lie?" Quatre asked, hurt written over his face as he frowned at the boy.  

"Quatre, you just met him.  You can't assume he's honest, even if he is a scout."

"Wufei, you too?"

"Don't argue," Trowa cut in, an arm slipping around the blonde boy's shoulder.  "It's late.  Quatre, I'll walk you home."

Smiling at the green-eyed boy, Quatre nodded.  "Okay."

* * *

"Damnit, you wouldn't believe how bad it was.  First they had to save me and then I passed out."  Glaring at the floor, Duo scooted back on the bed, crossing
his legs under him as Shinigami leapt onto his leg.  "If Heero hadn't grabbed my staff like that I could have gotten back here without their knowing."

"Duo, he is the strongest enemy you've faced.  You can't hold yourself responsible."

"You don't know the half of it, Shi-chan.  It's like I couldn't breath...and I just kept getting weaker and weaker.  I've never felt anything like it."

"Are you sure it was you?" the cat asked, rising on his hind legs, paws on Duo's arm as he looked up at him.

"What do you mean?" Duo demanded, confusion marring his expression.

"Well, you didn't have this much trouble when you fought him before.  We know he wasn't using his full strength but that doesn't explain this."

"You mean he might have drained me.  That's it, right?"

"It's possible.  Even if he didn't, you were one.  When they fight him, they'll understand."

"I hope so," Duo said softly, smirking.  "You know, I almost hope he's hard to beat.   Then they won't think I'm a push-over."

"You shouldn't worry so much about what they think of you," Shinigami said softly, brushing Duo's wrist with the tip of his tail.  "You never cared before what
people thought."

"I know.  I just...I want them to like me."

"They will," Shinigami said, poking Duo's arm lightly with his claws before jumping to the floor.  "Whether they like it or not."

* * *

"Are you sure you don't mind hanging around here all day?  I mean, it'd have to get boring and I hate to think of some dog catching you."  Frowning at the
black cat watching him from the branch of a tree, Duo sighed.  "You know I can pick you up from the apartment.  You don't have to wait here."

"Duo, I'll be fine," Shinigami whispered, ears upright as his eyes watched for anyone who might get close enough to hear him.  "Go on, you'll be late."

"Okay," Duo said, still frowning.  "But if there's so much as a scratch on you when I get back there'll be hell to pay.  And that means me."

"Go on," the cat said, cheeks rising so his eyes narrowed in what was his way of smiling as he batted a clawed paw at him.  

"I'm going," Duo laughed, reaching up to ruffle the fur on the cat's head causing a growl.  "I'll see you later, Shi-chan."  Turning, he crossed the street, hefting
his bag higher on his shoulder as he fought the urge to glance back.  It wasn't that he didn't think Shi-chan could take care of himself, just that he cared.  
Hearing a giggle to his right, he smirked for a minute before halting.

"Hi."  Hilde bit her lip for a minute as she looked at the boy, cheeks flushing at having to have her friends back her up, but it was the only way she'd have the
courage to talk to him.  "Um, my name's Hilde.  You're in my English class."

"That's right," Duo said, eyes moving over her friends for a moment before returning to the black-haired girl.  "The name's Duo, and I've seen you around."  
He smiled when her dark blue eyes sparkled and she gripped her books tighter to her chest.

"You're friends with Heero, is that right?"

Looking in surprise, Duo's eyes moved over the girl who'd spoken.  She had straight sandy blonde hair that fell to the middle of her back and bangs that
reached her eyebrows.  Light blue eye staring at him as she waited for him to speak, he had to admit she was pretty.  "Yeah, I know him."  Her eyes narrowed
dangerously and he frowned in confusion.  "Why?"

"What makes you special?  Heero doesn't make friends, especially not so quickly."

Taken back by the vehemence in her voice and the violence in her glare, he looked to the other girls, slightly mollified by the way they rolled their eyes at their
friend's behavior.  "What's your name?" he asked, meeting the angry girl head on as he folded his arms over his chest, smirk firmly in place.

"Relena Peacecraft, now answer the question.  Why would Heero let you sit at his table?  And why were you walking with Trowa yesterday?"

"Wow, you're really nosey, anybody ever tell you that?" Duo asked, staring at her in disbelief.

"I tell her that every day.  Dorothy Catalonia, and don't let Relena get to you.  She has a one-track mind when it comes to Heero."  Smirking, Dorothy extended
her hand to shake.

Looking at the girl, Duo's eyes moved over her long pale blonde hair, blinking as he looked at her black, split eyebrows.  "Well Dorothy, it's a pleasure to meet
you."  Smirking, he caught her hand and raised it to his lips, fighting a laugh when her eyes widened and a faint flush reached her cheeks before she jerked
her hand back, glaring at him.  "And you?" he asked, looking at the redhead.

Smiling at Dorothy's shocked and furious expression, Catherine nodded to the boy.  "Catherine Bloom, but you can call me Cathy if you like."

"Well, maybe we can talk some more sometime," Duo said, grimacing as he glanced at his watch.  "We have about forty seconds before first period."

"Oh no!"  Letting out a cry, Hilde bolted for the door, calling over her shoulder before disappearing.  "I've never been late!"

Grinning as the other girls took off, Duo veered off on his own dash, pausing for a split second to catch his breath before sailing into his room and sliding
behind his seat as if he hadn't rushed.  Miss Po entered a second later.  Throwing a glance over his shoulder, he grinned at Heero's questioning gaze before
settling down for class.

* * *

"Hey guys."  Smiling, Duo sat at the table, setting his bag beside him.

"Aren't you going to eat?" Quatre asked, looking at the boy in concern.

"Not this stuff.  Like I said, this food sucks.  Don't worry," Duo grinned, "I'll stuff my face later."

"You were late this morning."

Blinking in surprise, Duo shook his head as he looked at Heero.  "I wasn't late.  I had a good five seconds to spare."

Snorting, Heero looked down as he took a bite of his rice, almost choking when a familiar figure came to stand beside their table.  Swallowing, he turned to
glare at the four girls, Relena standing in front, her eyes on him.  "Go away."

Not bothered by the rebuff, Relena smiled sweetly at the cobalt-eyed boy.  "Hello Heero, how are you?  You don't mind if we join you."  It wasn't a question,
and she slid onto the bench beside him, completely oblivious to his glare.  Smiling proudly, she looked at the girls.  "Sit down, there's no reason to just stand
there."

Left eyelid twitching, Wufei stared in disbelief as the four girls made themselves comfortable.  They'd never attempted to sit at their table, not since the first
time they'd asked and Heero had turned them away with his patent 'Death Glare'.  //What the hell are they doing?!//  "What do *you* want?" he asked, glaring
at Relena who was obviously the ring-leader.

Ignoring the boy, Relena smiled as she watched Heero, frowning slightly when he made no move to look at her or eat.  "Oh, Heero.  Is there something wrong
with your food?  I'm sure someone could get you another tray."

Knowing it would be useless to glare at her, Heero ground his teeth, determined to ignore her as he forced his disgust away.  Despite the fact that the food
now tasted like cardboard, he resumed eating as if the girl wasn't there.

"Um, Duo?  Is it okay if I sit by you?"

Eyes moving over the other boys, Duo grimaced.  "Well, I guess so."  He flinched when Wufei glared at him, obviously marking him as a traitor.  "What?" he
demanded defensively.  "It's obvious Relena isn't going anywhere so why get mad at me?"  Looking back at Hilde's uncertain expression, he shrugged.  "Go
ahead."

"Trowa, you're looking very well," Catherine said as she sat down across from the tall boy.  "How are things?" she asked softly.

"Fine," Trowa said, not glaring as Heero had.  Unlike him, he had nothing against the red-haired girl, and had no wish to treat her with cruelty.

Glancing up at Trowa, Quatre dropped his eyes quickly, hands folded beneath the table as he looked around.  Relena was saying something to Heero who
was ignoring her and Dorothy was smirking at Wufei's glare.  Hilde and Duo were talking and Trowa...  Sighing, Quatre shook his head.  //I feel so left out.  I
don't want one of them to come after me, but they all seem...paired up.//  Looking up again, he gave a small smile as Trowa's green eyes fell on him.  "I have
to go, I have a test to study for."  Smiling when Duo looked up in surprise, Quatre stood quickly.  Nodding, he turned and walked away.

Frowning as he watched the boy's figure move across the cafeteria, Trowa's eyes narrowed and he stood as he saw Quatre disappear through the door.

"Trowa?"

Glancing at Catherine's surprised expression, he shook his head before heading after the blonde boy.

Wondering what she'd missed, Catherine frowned and looked to Dorothy, eyes widening when the blonde girl gave her a look that screamed, 'I told you so.'  
//Surely not...//  She hadn't paid much attention to the smaller boy, but she blinked as she wondered if he'd left because of her.  //If they're a couple, he
wouldn't have been bothered.  I don't understand.//

* * *

Leaning against the wall, Trowa watched Quatre.  The pale boy was seated at one of the tables in the school's outdoor courtyard, an accounting book opened
in front of him.  //So he's just studying.  Like he said.//  Frowning, looked at the boy's face, eyes narrowing as he saw that Quatre wasn't looking at the book.  
Head bowed, his eyes were closed, long lashes dark against his pale cheeks.  Moving silently, Trowa reached his side, laying a hand on the smaller boy's
shoulder.

Flinching, Quatre looked up sharply, pale blue-green eyes very wide as he saw who it was.  Blinking quickly, he gave a startled smile.  "Trowa.  What are you
doing out here?"

"I should ask you that," Trowa said softly, sitting beside him.  "I was concerned."

"Oh!  I'm sorry.  I'm fine," Quatre said quickly, dropping his eyes and shaking his head.  "You didn't have to follow me."

Nudging the boy's chin up so their eyes met, Trowa shook his head.  "You're not a very good liar, Quatre."  The pale boy's cheeks darkened with a blush and
Trowa smiled.  "Why did you leave?"

Shaking his head, Quatre bent forward, elbows on the table.  "I just needed to think...that's all."

"Alright."  Catching the blonde boy's attention, Trowa nodded and folded his hands on the table.  "I'll think with you."

Staring at the boy beside him, Quatre smiled.  "Thank you."

* * *

"Your highness, I don't understand why you didn't destroy the boy.  You drained him completely, he should have died."  Frowning, Une turned to the tall man.

Seated on a crystal throne, Zechs smirked as the woman's eyes moved to him.  "No, I didn't.  It's true that I drained him as much as the dark crystal could, but
he still had power."

"But surely not enough to fight you, your highness.  I just don't understand why you don't kill him.  You've had plenty of opportunities, yet you've brought him
to the other scouts.  Why would you *do* that?"

"Lady Une, it isn't your place to question me."  Seeing the woman quickly bow in apology, he smiled.  "But I don't blame you.  My reason is simple, I don't want
him dead."

"But Zechs, you take an awful risk uniting our enemies like that."  Raising a hand when the white-haired man looked at her, Noin moved to stand beside Une.  
"I know how you feel about Saturn, but surely you could have taken him by now."

"I had planned to," Zechs said, glaring suddenly, "but the other scouts showed up.  If I'd known he was so strong I wouldn't have wasted all of that time toying
with him."  Anger calming, he smiled.  "Besides, I enjoy the chase."  Standing, he raised a hand, "Treize, I need your assistance."

The air shimmered as a man appeared.  Dressed in a black cloak, his short red-brown hair glinted in the light as his split eyebrows lowered.  "Your highness, I
sense more enemies drawing near.  No, I believe they are already here but they haven't shown themselves yet."

"More?"  Eyes narrowing, Une glared at Zechs.  //That fool, he'd risk everything for that boy.  He's more focused on him than on the plan.//  "Are they
formidable?"

Glancing at Une, Treize nodded.  "I have no certainty, but as scouts they will increase the difficulty of our operation.  It will be much harder wipe our opposition
out now."

"How many more?" Zechs asked, not bothered by the gloomy forecast.  

"Four.  That will make nine scouts.  While the four I sense are no where near as strong as the five we've seen, they may not have come into their power yet.  
Your highness, we must act now."

"I had planned to, but this means my plans will have to be sped up."  Sitting again, he looked up when he felt a light hand on his arm, meeting Noin's gaze.

"Send me, Zechs.  I will destroy them for you, and, if you wish, I will spare Saturn."

Seeing the woman's concern, Zechs sighed and shook his head.  "No, it hasn't come to that yet.  Don't worry, Noin, if it becomes necessary you will get your
chance."

"But Zechs, what do you plan to do?"

Smiling, he shook his head.  "You'll see.  I intend to be there myself, feel free to join me."

Glaring at the two, Une glanced at Treize, their eyes locking.  //They'll be destroyed together, little good their friendship will do them then.  And I will remain.//  
Seeing Treize nod slightly, Une glanced at the prince again.  "Your highness, do you require my service?"

"Not now, Une, go on and get some rest.  If things don't go as planned you may need it."

"Yes, your highness."

* * *

"Well guys, this is my cat."  Setting Shinigami on the table, Duo sat on the couch as the four boys looked at the cat.  Glancing at the boys one at a time,
Shinigami nodded his head.  "He talks," Duo said when Quatre looked at him.  "Say something, Shi-chan," Duo said, poking the cat and causing it to turn and
glare at him.

Looking back at the boys, Shinigami glared at Duo again.  "Something."

"He has a much better sense of humor than Wing," Quatre laughed.  "It's a pleasure to meet you, Shi-chan."

"It's Shinigami," the cat said, throwing another glare at the grinning violet-eyed boy before looking to Quatre.  "The name's too long for him to remember."

"Isn't he cute?" Duo said lightly, sarcasm dripping off his words.  Introducing the boys, Duo frowned, about to ask them something when Shinigami beat him to
it.

Taking a step toward the blonde boy, the cat tilted its head.  "Which scout are you?"

Wondering if the cat felt like he did when he had to look up at Trowa, Quatre slid off the chair to sit cross-legged on the floor.  At Shinigami's eye level, he
smiled.  "I'm Neptune, Trowa's Uranus, Wufei is Pluto and Heero is Earth.  Duo says the other scouts are the inner scouts, why isn't Heero an inner scout?"

"Well, I guess he would be except his power is greater than the inner scouts."  Glancing at the boy in question, Shinigami's eyes narrowed for a second before
he looked back to Quatre quickly.  "The fact that he's a boy also made me hesitate to label him with the girls."

"How do you know so much?" Wufei asked.  He normally would have felt strange talking to a cat, but after being around Heero's cat and it's domineering
manner, he was used to it.  

Turning to the boy, Shinigami sniffed.  "How do you turn into a scout?  My knowledge comes from the same place as my ability to talk.  I'm sorry I can't say
more."

"Tell us about the girls," Trowa said, "Do you know how strong they are?"

"Well, as far as I can tell, their power is significantly less than yours, but combined...the four of them can help a great deal."

"By your powers combined," Duo murmured, wincing when Shinigami whirled abruptly and gave him a sharp jab in the leg.  "Itai, I was just kidding.  Damn
Shi-chan, that hurt."

"Act your age," the cat said, tone disapproving.  Turning back, he looked at the boys.  "As I was saying, the girls could help us.  If they haven't learned about
their powers, you should reveal yourselves and explain it to them.  There isn't much time."

"Forget it," Wufei said, tone firm.  "We don't need their help."

"Wufei, we can't say that for sure," Quatre argued, knowing he wasn't going to change the boy's mind.  "All it takes is for us to lose once.  If we're strong
enough now, then we don't have to worry, but if we're not."  Shaking his head, he nodded to the cat.  "It's better to have as much strength as possible."

"I won't reveal myself to them," Wufei ground out, eyes narrowing to slits.  "If we are defeated...*if*...then I will listen to you.  Until then, say nothing to them.  I
am serious, Quatre."

Sighing, Quatre looked down.  Feeling a hand on his shoulder, he looked up to see Trowa's reasonable gaze on him.  With another sigh, he turned back to
the cat.  "We'll do as Wufei said."

"I don't think they'll send their strongest fighters just yet," Shinigami said, "so there should be some time left."

"Heero, you haven't said anything."

Turning sharply, Heero met Quatre's gaze.  "I have no arguments."

* * *

"Duo, are you still mad at me for scratching you?"

Looking up in surprise when Shinigami leapt onto the table, Duo grinned.  "Of course not.  But you gotta admit, it was a pretty good joke, neh?  I mean, think
about it.  Planet power, Captain Planet.  It was too good an opportunity to pass up.  Besides, I was kinda hoping to lighten the mood a bit."

"I suppose it's just as well, if you were to get depressed I wouldn't know *what* to do."  Folding his legs beneath him, the cat watched Duo eat, head resting on
his front paws.  "Are you still worried about what happened at lunch?"

"Well, I do feel responsible.  I mean, if I hadn't talked to them they probably wouldn't have come to the table.  I still feel bad about Quatre's taking off like that."  
Shaking his head, Duo took a quick bite out of his sandwich.  "Although it was worth it to see how quickly Trowa went after him.  I *thought* there was
something between those two."

"Duo, there's something I haven't told you."  Tilting his head, the cat gave a smile, whiskers twitching.  "Something I noticed today."

"What?" Duo asked, eyes wide.  "Come on, Shi-chan, don't tease me."

"Well, I don't think you have to worry about their liking you.  I noticed that someone was watching you almost the entire time we were over there."

"Wha...?  Who?  Tell me."

Standing, Shinigami twitched his tail as he gave the closest thing he had to a smirk.  "Heero."

"No way!  Are you serious?  Wait, was he glaring at me?  If so, then that doesn't count because he's always glaring at me."  Preparing himself for
disappointment, Duo held his breath.  Silence met him.  "Well?!"

"He wasn't glaring.  In fact, I'd say he was watching you smile."  Shaking his head when Duo grinned, Shinigami rolled his eyes.  //He's rubbing off on me, but I
can't help it.  He's so happy.//  Waiting until the boy's happy blush had receaded, the cat hopped onto the floor.  "Yes, you can definitely stop worrying.  I'd say
he likes you plenty."

* * *

"Dorothy, Catherine, I don't think this is a good idea.  I mean, what if someone sees us?  We'd get into so much trouble."  Frowning nervously, Hilde looked
around her at the dark trees.  Not wanting to do anything close to their homes, they'd taken the bus to a park with a real forest.  Now, without so much as a
moon to light the sky, Hilde was begining to have doubts about the plan.

"If we don't do it now, we'll never do it.  Now then, what we have to figure out is how to tap into this power.  Cathy, have you had any visions?"  

"Really, Dorothy," Relena said, rolling her eyes as she folded her arms over her chest.  "As if she'd come up with anything since yesterday."

Not paying the girl any attention, Dorothy looked to the red-haired girl expectantly.  "Cathy?"

"Actually, I think I have."  Grinning when Dorothy shoved Relena, she laughed.  "I had a dream last night about fire.  At least, that's what I think it was.  It's like I
was standing on a field and it was really dark.  The only thing I could see was this red ball of fire in the sky.  I'm sure it means something because I felt really
strong when I looked at it."

"For God's sake, Cathy, how is that going to help?"  Shaking her head, Relena stomped her foot.  "If I get caught being out so late I'll get yelled at.  You should
have figured more out before dragging us out here."

"Shut up."  Smirking at Relena's outraged gasp, Dorothy waved to Catherine who was starting to look angry.  "Go on, Cathy."

"Well, as I was about to say, I think my dream was about the sun, or a star or something."

"A ball of fire in the night sky..."  Frowning, Hilde looked at the ground.  "A star...or maybe a planet."

"Yes!"  Grabbing Hilde, Catherine grinned widely.  "I think you're right.  It feels...it feels right.  A burning planet."

"Mars."  Blinking when three shocked eyes flew to her, Relena shrugged.  "Well, it is the red planet.  I'm not stupid you know."

"I don't know any such thing," Dorothy said, glinting eyes belying the insult.

"A power that comes from a planet," Hilde said softly, thinking as if it were a puzzle or a riddle.  "Planet power."

As if an electrical shock went through them, the four girls flinched and stared at each other.  "Yes," Catherine said, voice low with awe.  "I think that's my
power, Mars planet power.  But how do I get it?"

"I don't know," Hilde said, frowning.  "I don't know where to start.  And what if we're wrong?  Maybe your vision, your dream, what if it *was* a star?"

"Yeah, and maybe it's both," Relena said, her shock giving way to a scoffing tone.  "Maybe it's Mars star power not planet."  Smirking at the ridiculousness of
the entire conversation she shook her head.  "I think we're getting worked up over nothing."  

"Relena, you're an idiot."

"No, Dorothy, she's a genius!"  Grinning wildly when the blonde girl whirled to face her, Catherine nodded.  "That's it."  Breath coming fast, she let out an
excited laugh that bordered on a giggle.  "Okay..."  Taking a deep breath, she let it out slowly, the brightness in her eyes not dimming as she took a step
back.  "Now don't you guys dare laugh at me if nothing happens, deal?"

Nodding, the other three girls moved to stand together as they watched.  "What do you plan to do?" Hilde asked, feeling the excitement the red-haired girl was
radiating.

"I'm going to try calling my power," Catherine said breathlessly.  "I think...this just might work."  Blushing furiously, she knew she was about to make a fool of
herself, but she couldn't help it.  Something in her screamed that she was right.  Grinning once more at her friends, she tilted her head back, closing her
eyes.  Voice ringing in the quiet, she cried, "Mars Star Power!"

Dorothy let out a loud whoop, Relena fell over, and Hilde gasped as a dark red light flowed around their friend, swirling and lifting her hair and the edge of her
long skirt before wrapping around her like a caul.  Eyes wide, they watched as the red light suddenly burst outward and Catherine was revealed, clothing
different, but little else changed.  

"Hell yeah!" Dorothy cried, running to her friend as Catherine looked down at her clothing.  She was wearing a red skirt that was so short it barely reached her
mid-thigh, her blouse white with a large red bow over her breasts.  The neck line was blue like that of a sailor, and her sleeves were red, inches long as they
seemed there only to hold up her shirt.  A thin gold band curved over her forehead, coming to a slight V between her eyebrows.  Long white gloves reached
her elbows, trimmed in red, and she stumbled as she took a step toward Dorothy as her red high-heels sank in the soft dirt.  Laughing, she recovered her
balance and threw her arms around Dorothy as they cheered.

"I don't believe this..."  Shaking her head, Relena suddenly glared.  "Alright, Cathy, what's my planet?"

"Huh?"  Blinking in surprise, Cathy shook her head.  "I don't know, Relena, but since I'm dressed differently, I probably shouldn't go by my name.  Mars, call me
that."

"No one's here, besides, I'd recognize you with those clothes.  It's not like you have a mask on."

Giving Hilde a disgruntled look, Catherine shook her head.  "I know that, but this way even if we *are* around people you'll be so used to calling me Mars that
no one will hear my real name.  It's a good precaution."

Frowning, Hilde shrugged.  "If you say so...Mars."

"Okay, 'Mars'," Relena said, still angry.  "So why don't you know what my planet is?  We don't have visions like you so we wouldn't know."

"Um, why don't you just try different ones until you get it right?" Hilde said, smiling when Relena glared at her.  "I'm going to try."

"I'll really look stupid if I stand here screaming things out a random," Relena muttered.  "But if you want to, go ahead."  Sitting down so she could lean against
a tree, she folded her arms and smirked.  "I'm up for some entertainment."

"Say what you like," Dorothy said, "Hilde, do you want to go first?  Or we could go together."

"Me first," Hilde said, blushing dark red.  "That way, if I do find the right one, you'll know to leave that one out.  I'll start with Earth and work my way out."

Having found the right planet with Mercury, Hilde looked over her clothing and frowned.  "It's just like Ca--I mean Mars's.  Only my skirt's dark blue and my bow
is light blue.  And I don't have high heels.  Though these boots'll be much easier to get around with.  I don't know, it's rather disappointing.  I thought we'd be
more different."

Dorothy went next, Jupiter being her planet.  Unlike Hilde, she was pretty happy with the results.  Her skirt was green and while she really hated the pink bow,
she still smiled.  "I look good in green."  Laughing, she turned to Relena.  "Alright.  It's your turn."

Pushing herself off the ground, Relena smirked.  "I should have known it would work out this way.  Why, I might as well have went first."  What followed ended
with Relena near tears.

"I knew you weren't one," Dorothy taunted.  "And you actually thought you were Earth."

"Dorothy, shut up."  Moving to her wide-eyed friend, Hilde pulled her back to her feet. "Relena, calm down.  Maybe that guy we saw was Earth, did you think of
that?  Just try the next planet."  

"Dorothy, what do you have to say now?" Relena asked, having transformed under the name of Venus.  "You may have gotten yours before me, but
everybody knows Venus is the goddess of love."  Grinning, she put her hands on her hips as she looked down at her yellow-orange skirt.  

"Okay," Dorothy said, not bothered by Relena's taunt.  "What now?  I know we've tapped the power, but how do we use it?"

Smirking, Catherine glanced at Relena.  "We fight each other."

"What?!"  Blue eyes moving over the two girls who were grinning at her evily, Relena shook her head and ducked behind Hilde.  "You stay away from me!"

"Come on, Relena," Catherine called, "How are you going to protect Heero if you're afraid of *me*?"

"I'm not afraid of you," the blonde girl retorted, glaring as she moved out from behind a very relieved Hilde.  "I'll protect my Heero no matter who I'm facing.  
Just try me."

"And gladly," Dorothy grinned.

* * *

"Duo, do you have any idea what our enemy is after?  As far as we could tell the monsters were creating general havoc and destroying buildings regardless of
how many people were in them."

Glancing at Quatre, Duo shrugged.  "It was the same for me when I started fighting.  I think the monsters weren't just to test out earth's defenses.  I get the
feeling they're trying to cow us so they can take over.  It's the only thing I can think of."

"We don't even know how many enemies we're facing," Wufei said, eyes narrowed. "So far we've only fought one monster at a time, but we can be sure they'll
send more now."

"How do you guys stay in contact?  I mean, how do you know when one of you has found a monster or enemy?"

"Here."  Leaning forward, Heero handed Duo what looked like a high-tech wrist watch.  "Wing gave me the idea.  They're communicators.  Press this switch
and it signals the others."

"Wow, that'd do it," Duo said, taking the thing and looking at it before sliding it onto his left wrist and glancing back at Heero.  "So when do I get to meet this
Wing?  You've mentioned him before."

"He's *my* cat," Heero said.  "He meets us here sometimes."

"Is he shy?"

Heero looked stunned for a second, then his lips twitched as if his instinct was to smile.  "No, he just doesn't come without a reason."

"Oh."  Looking to where Shinigami sat beside him, Duo frowned.  "Well, you guys don't mind if I bring Shi-chan do you?"

"Of course not," Quatre said, nodding to the cat.  "Besides, he knows so much, he's very helpful."

"Thank you," Shinigami said, tail twitching.

"That reminds me," Quatre said, frowning slightly.  "The girls didn't try to sit with us today, I saw them outside.  They were whispering about something.  Do you
think they've discovered their powers on their own?"

Scowling at the blonde boy, Wufei snorted.  "I doubt it.  Don't read things into their actions.  Just be glad they left us alone."

Glancing around the room, Duo sighed and looked down at his watch.  "You know, if it's okay, I have some stuff I've gotta take care of.  I can come back later if
you guys are still here."

"Where are you going?"

Meeting Heero's gaze, Duo gave a bashful smile, scratching the back of his neck as he looked down at Shinigami.  "Well, there's no school tomorrow, so I
need to go look for a job.  Gotta feed my cat, neh?"  Laughing, quickly, he stood, grabbing Shinigami.  "You guys going to be here later?"

"I will," Wufei said, frowning at the American.  "I live here."

"Right," Duo grinned.  "Well, see ya later."

Watching the boy disappear through the door, the remaining four glanced at each other, blinking when something moved in the back of the room near the side
window.  Glancing over his shoulder, Quatre's eyes widened as he spotted what looked like the tip of a white tail disappearing over the window sill.  "Heero,
why didn't you say Wing was here?"  Frowning, Quatre didn't calm down until the Japanese boy shook his head.  

"I didn't know."  Shrugging, Heero took a drink of his coffee, glancing down at his communicator with a thoughtful expression.

* * *

"Sure you want to walk?"  Looking down at the black cat padding beside him, Duo shrugged.  "Well, suit yourself, but you probably should stay at the
apartment.  I don't know how long this'll take."  Smirking, Duo gave up when the cat moved to walk ahead of him, not so much as twitching an ear.  Reaching
the edge of town, Duo grimaced at his feet.  "This sucks.  I need to get a bike."  Grinning when the cat rolled its eyes, he laughed.  "So I'm lazy, that's nothing
new.  
Okay, Shi-chan.  I'll be back as soon as I can, you just wait right here."

Watching the long-haired boy disappear through the large gates, Shinigami sighed, moving to a bench across the street and curling up on it to wait.  With his
experience, Duo was certain to be hired, he just hoped the boy wouldn't have to work immediately.  He'd worked with salvage jobs before, and he was good at
it, but things were speeding up and Shinigami couldn't help feeling that it was a bad idea.  Sighing, he closed his eyes, intending to take a nap.  Then his ears
twitched as the hairs on the back of his neck stood up.  Not moving his head, his eyes moved around as far as he could see.

He couldn't find any signs of enemies, but his sixth sense was never wrong.  Standing abruptly, he stood with his paws on the back of the bench, looking
behind him.  Catching sight of a glint in a tree about ten feet away, his tail twitched as his hair slowly smoothed back down.  Leaping over the back, he moved
slowly across the grass, not taking his eyes off what he now saw was a cat.  He paused as he reached the foot of the tree, sitting down and curling his tail over
his feet as he looked up to meet one blue and one green eye as a white cat looked down at him.  Green eyes narrowing, Shinigami gave a grin.

"Following us?  Wing."  Sniffing when the cat blinked, his tail twitched.  "Well?"  Not getting a response, Shinigami climbed up the side of the tree till he was
eye-level with the cat.  Eyes glinting at the bored way the white cat looked at him, Shinigami hissed suddenly, ears flattening against his head as he bared
sharp white teeth.  The white cat nearly fell out of the tree.

Recovering quickly, Wing glared.  "Why did you do *that*?"

Yawning as he stretched out on the limb, Shinigami grinned.  "You weren't saying anything so I assumed you were just another cat."

Snorting, the white cat looked away, eyes moving over the gates across the street.  "What does he think he's doing?"  Blinking when he caught the
green-eyed glare being shot at him, his ears tilted back slightly.

"What's it to *you*?  And why were you following us?  What's the matter, don't trust us?"

Still blinking at the vehement glare, Wing tilted his head to the side.  "No.  That's not it.  I wanted to see why he left the meeting, his excuse didn't ring true."

"Duo never lies."  Not blinking until the white cat nodded slightly, Shinigami sighed.  "So you were there the whole time.  It figures, that Heero doesn't trust
anyone.  Still," wincing, Shinigami glared at the gate.  "Duo's not going to be happy about his lying like that."

"He didn't know."  Shrugging, the cat turned to look at Shinigami.  "What is he doing in there?"

"Duo?  What do you think?  He's doing exactly what he said, he's getting a job."  Sitting up, he frowned.  "Why didn't you say something at the meeting?  Why
hide?"

"I wasn't hiding," Wing said, defensively.  "I was watching.  I didn't have anything to say.  Why is he getting a job?  What is he going to do if a battle comes up
while he's working?  It's an unnecessary distraction."

"Who feeds you?"

Blinking, Wing straightened.  "Heero.  Or I catch my own food.  Why?"

"Does Heero work?  Where does he get the money to feed you?  If Duo doesn't work, we lose the apartment.  How's that for a distraction."  Shaking his head,
Shinigami glared.  "As for battles, don't worry about that.  Duo's never had to fight during the day, always at night."

"Always?  That's interesting."

"Not really," Shinigami said, temper rising as he defended his friend.  "It's harder to see at night, which gives the enemy an advantage if they fly and there's
fog cover.  Besides, even if a battle *did* arise during the day, Duo would be there.  One way or another."

"I wasn't insulting him.  Or insinuating *anything*."

"It sounded like you were," blinking, he calmed.  "Well, just don't worry about Duo.  He's been on his own for years and he's an *excellent* fighter."

"You're so defensive."  Smiling suddenly, Wing stretched out, tail curling behind him.  "I worry about everything, not just your friend.  Don't take it personally."

Frowning, Shinigami looked at him, one ear tilted forward and one back.  "Is Heero like you?"

"What do you mean?" Wing asked, looking over in surprise.

"I'm not sure, you confuse me."

Wing smirked.  "Heero says the same thing.  We don't talk much."

"That's so sad," Shinigami said softly, "Duo's my best friend.  I'd do anything for him.  I guess I assumed it was the same way with you and Heero."

"Oh, it is.  But..."  Sighing, he rested his head in his paws.  "Heero's complicated, he doesn't like showing his feelings.  They get in the way and I understand
that.  It's not a problem."

* * *

Eyes moving up and down the street, Duo was just starting to get a bit worried when he spotted something in a tree across the street.  Trying to sneak up on
him, he let out a laugh when a black head suddenly peaked out of the leaves, smiling down at him.  "Sorry it took so long, had to show 'em I knew what I was
doing."

"That's all right," Shinigami said quickly.  "I kept occupied.  Duo, I'd like you to meet Wing."

Raising an eyebrow, Duo moved forward, looking upward till he caught sight of a white cat.  "Hi.  I was wondering if I'd ever meet you."  Glancing from one cat
to the other, Duo smirked.  "What were you talking about while I was in there, Shi-can?"

Glaring at the boy when the cat beside him gave a wide grin, Shinigami bristled.  "Your lousy vocabulary skills," he muttered, glaring at Wing when he
laughed.  "It doesn't matter.  Did you get the job?"

"Of course," Duo grinned, hands on his hips.  "Actually, they're really short on help, so they were desperate.  They didn't even argue about my age like usual.  
'Course, this means I'll be working a lot, but that's good news, neh?"

"Yes."

"Hey, Wing, you hungry?  Why don't you come back to our place and have lunch with us?  It's kinda far, but we wouldn't mind the company, besides, I'd like to
know what brought you all the way out here.  That's *some* coincidence."

"Sharp," Wing murmured, rewarded with a smile from Shinigami.  "Alright.  It's been a while since breakfast."

"Hope you like tuna."

"Tuna?"

"Yeah, Shi-chan hates cat-food."

Looking at the black cat, Wing smiled when he managed to look bashful, jumping down onto the boy's shoulder.  Eyes widening when Duo gestured for him to
do the same, he hesitated.

"Come on, Heero said you weren't shy." Laughing when the white cat looked disgruntled, Duo grinned as he soon had a cat draped over each shoulder.  "That
wasn't so bad, was it?  Well, off we go."

* * *

"Am I going to see you at the next meeting?"  Staring into wide eyes, Duo smirked.  "No more sticking to the shadows?"  Wing nodded, and Shinigami sniffed
as they approached Wufei's house which was actually behind the temple.  Knocking lightly, Duo was confused by Wufei's wide-eyed gaze as he slowly moved
back to let them in.  "Wufei, is something wrong?"

Shaking his head, the black-haired boy shot a glance at Wing who ignored him, seeming completely at ease draped over the Duo's shoulder much as
Shinigami was.  "We were beginning to think you weren't coming back, Quatre and Trowa were about to leave."

"We decided to stop for lunch," Duo said, smiling slightly as he was motioned toward the main room.  Grinning at the three boys, he sat down on the couch
beside Heero.  "Did 'ya miss me?"

Staring in surprise, Quatre shot a quick look at Heero before leaning forward, his eyes on the white cat who didn't seem to be in a hurry to leave his spot on
Duo's shoulder.  "I guess you two have met."

"Yeah."  Smiling, Duo turned to Heero, catching his seemingly blank stare. "You were right, he's not shy at all."

Groaning when cobalt eyes narrowed and Heero raised an eyebrow at him, Wing dropped his chin to Duo's chest, one paw moving over his head.  Feeling
something brush his tail, he peeked out from under his arm to see Shinigami give him a humor-filled stare.  Stretching suddenly, he hopped off the boy, lying
down on the back of the couch.  "I'm not shy," he said in a careless tone, being careful not to glance at Heero.  "Why would I be?  Anyway, on with the
meeting."

"Actually, we were thinking about going home," Quatre said.  "Unless you three have any news.  Wing?"

"No."  Hopping off the couch, the white cat padded quickly to the window, climbing onto the sill and sitting with his back to them.  "If I think of anything, I'll let you
know."

Frowning, Duo looked down at Shinigami.  "Well, I guess there's no reason to hang around then.  Oh, I'll be late tomorrow, but I should be here by five at the
latest."  Standing, he smiled at them.  "Bye."  Frowning again when the white cat ignored him, Duo turned and left quickly.

Glaring at the window, Heero was about to stand when Wing suddenly jumped out.  Moving after him, Heero could see the cat running after Duo and
Shinigami, and he almost choked when the boy turned with a smile and his usually reclusive cat jumped onto his shoulder as if he did it every day.  //That's it,
I'm going to kill him.//

"Heero, what's with Wing?"  Flinching back when he found himself the recipient of a frigid glare, Quatre's eyes widened.  "Nevermind.  Now that I think about it,
I should be getting home."  Giving Heero a weak grin, he made a quick exit.

"Quatre."

Turning, the blond boy's eyes lit up as he saw Trowa moving down the sidewalk.  "Yes?"

"Are you hungry?  I was thinking of going to the cafe, want to join me?  It's too early to go home."

"I'd love to."  Smiling, Quatre pulled his bag higher on his shoulder.  "I wasn't really looking forward to spending the rest of the afternoon doing homework."

"Do you have a lot?" Trowa asked, taking Quatre's bag and looking at it.  "It's pretty heavy," he said, glancing at the wide-eyed boy as he slid the strap over
his own shoulder.  "Come on."

* * *

"Are you sure you want to go?  You could stay the night, I don't mind."

Blinking at Duo, Wing shook his head quickly, "No I can't.  I have to go now."  Leaving the boy, he made his way across town with the invisible grace of any
alley cat.  He wasn't looking forward to seeing Heero, but he couldn't let the boy wonder where he was.  A half an hour later, he scratched on the door to
Heero's apartment, flinching when it was jerked open almost immediately.

Frowning, he entered the apartment, hopping onto the couch so he could meet those furious cobalt eyes.  "Why are you so angry?  I was just making sure
they got home all right, it's a dangerous time."

"Right."  Eyes narrowing as he stared at the cat, Heero folded his arms over his chest.  "And when did you become so friendly?  I can't believe the way you
were hanging all over him."

Wing's ears flattened against his head as he glared, the hair on his neck bristling.  "I like him.  Duo is *nice*, he's funny and he's got a sweet attitude.  If you're
mad at me then that's fine but leave him out of it.  He likes having me around and I'm not going to stop because you threw a fit.  Though God knows why you
would."  Frowning, he could tell that Heero wasn't happy with what he'd said, but he really didn't know why his liking Duo angered the boy so much.

"A fit?"  Snorting, Heero moved to sit at the table, his back to the cat.  "Hang on him if you want, it's nothing to me."

//Is he...jealous?!  I don't believe it....//  His eyes widened as he looked at the boy's stiff back and a smile broke out over his face.  //He is...this is too much...//  
Standing, he walked to the table, curling up in front of his dish on on the corner across from Heero.  "You know, Shi-chan and Duo are very close.  I was
surprised at how protective Shi-chan is,"he said in an offhanded manner, pretending interest in his food.

"You're calling him that, now?"

"Sure, why not?  I was also surprised at their relationship, it's so different from ours.  I can't help thinking that you've been alone for too long, maybe that's why
you're so jaded.  But that doesn't make much sense since Duo's alone too."

"There's nothing wrong with being jaded," Heero said, tone giving the impression that he wasn't interested although his entire attention was focused on the cat.

"Actually, Duo was getting a job when I met him this afternoon.  I should have known he was doing just what he said, Shi-chan says he never lies."  Seeing
Heero look up sharply, he continued, glancing down at his food as he batted a paw at it.  "It seems he's been alone since he was six, and *he* didn't inherit
anything from *his* parents.  Of course, he didn't live in foster homes either.  You know, you're luckier than I thought, Duo's been working since he was young.  
I never really thought about it like that but you have it easy.  I didn't think it was a good idea for him to work right now, but it's just like he said, he has to feed
his cat."  Glancing at Heero from the corner of his eye, he could tell the boy was very interested.  His voice still light as if he was just making conversation, he
continued.  ""I hadn't realized how young he is, after all, he's in the same classes as the rest of you.  I should have thought of Wufei, he's in the same classes
and *he's* a year younger.  But still, Duo enjoys life so much, I guess that could be because of his age."

"How old is he?"

Hiding a grin, Wing shrugged, "Fifteen, *much* younger than you."  Heero's expression darkened immediately, proving beyond a doubt that he liked the
long-haired boy.  "Maybe that's why we get along so well."

"I'm seventeen," Heero said sharply, getting up and shoving the chair against the table roughly, "and you're a cat."

"I know I'm a cat," Wing said, glancing at the boy as if he was an idiot.  "Of course I am.  But," he turned his back so he could hide his grin as he stretched
slowly, "Duo has such a soft hand and he *really* knows how to pet."  Catching the way Heero bristled, he laughed, making a hasty retreat when the boy
stepped toward him.

* * *

"Duo...Duo!!"

Opening his eyes to find a small black face with shining eyes an inch from his own was quite a shock, amd Duo jerked back, falling off the bed.  "Shit!  Don't do
that!"  Catching his breath, he stood quickly.  "What's wrong?"

Smiling when Duo began to dress immediately, Shinigami glanced out the window.  "I was on the roof and I saw explosions coming from a plaza not far from
here." Duo's eyes widened as he glanced down at his communicator and the cat shook his head.  "No, there hasn't been a call, you didn't miss one.  But the
explosions were black, Duo."

"That's them."  Jerking on his shoes, he grabbed the cat, kissing his forehead before dropping him on the bed and moving to the door.  He paused for a
second, then turned back.  "I'd tell you to stay here, but you won't."  The cat managed to look adorable as his eyes were suddenly glued to the ceiling.  "Yeah,
so just don't get too close, okay?"  Not waiting for an answer, he ran down the stairs, calling the others as he moved.

The five boys met not far from the school as the explosions were little over a mile from there.  Duo had a thirst for details, and his mind flew as he watched the
boys' transformations, noting that like him, they were enveloped in light which exploded outward as they were revealed.  Although in reality it took only a
minute or two, time seemed to slow as he took in their appearances.

Despite the dark almost black purple light that had surrounded him, Wufei was dressed in white.  His pants and shirt were loose although the shirt did have a
high collar, trimmed in silver.  A thin, circular silver band circled his forehead, a shocking contrast against his now-loose black hair and he had a long cape that
seemed to come out of the back of his shirt.  It was that dark purple-black on the outside, but shining silver on the inside and it reached the back of his knees.  
He was wearing silver boots to his ankles, and a chain of silver links circled his waist loosely, a long, curved blade hanging on one hip.  He was also holding a
weapon of some sort that consisted of a staff with a blade at both ends.

Eyes shining in that slowed moment, Duo turned to Quatre.  The blonde boy looked like something out of Arabian Nights with the white head-piece that
covered his hair.  A pale blue band circled the white material around his forehead, and folds of cloth fell to his shoulders, an inch of it coming down over his
bangs, not quite hiding the pale golden hair.  His clothing was white, but the colar of his shirt was loose, not hiding his neck while the sleeves were tight at his
wrists but had loose cloth falling down the middle of his hands.  A white cloak was held on his shoulders by a pale blue clasp, and the inside was the same
blue.  Like Wufei, he had a looped belt around his waist, but his was of that pale blue color and held two curved, semi-circular blades, one on each hip.  His
boots were white, and reached his ankles.  Duo noticed that Trowa was also watching the boy and his eyes moved to him.

Trowa was wearing green, surprising Duo since the boy had been surrounded by a tan light, and his pants were the same color.  The shirt had a high, circular
neck and tight wrists.  His cape was the expected tan both inside and out, and while he had no hair peace, there was some sort of tan cloth covering his face
so only his dark green eyes glinted.  Well, one eye glinted, the other was hidden from where Duo stood by the boy's fall of red-brown bangs.  He was wearing
tan boots, and Duo noticed that his only weapon was a straight blade held on his hip by a tan, braided rope about his waist.  

Having saved his favorite for last, Duo had to admit that Heero looked very good in his outfit, even if it was in contradiction to his planet.  Rather than brown as
he'd expected, Heero had been surrounded by a dark blue, nearly the same color as the boy's eyes and Duo wondered briefly if it wasn't the water on Earth
that he represented rather than the land.  Then his thoughts were gone as his eyes moved over the Japanese boy.  Like Trowa, his weapon was a straight
sword held by an ivory chain that blazed against his midnight blue clothing.  The sleeves of his shirt ended an inch or so above his elbow and dark blue,
fingerless gloves covered his hands, coming to his wrists.  An ivory band circled his forehead, showing beneath his dark bangs as it seemed to disappear into
his hair and he was wearing a white cape with midnight blue lining that reached his ankles.  His boots were slightly higher than the others, but they were white
and covered the bottom of his pants.  As he looked at the boy, cobalt blue eyes met him and suddenly time shifted, moving at normal speed again.  

Grinning slightly, Duo transformed quickly, wondering if the others would peruse him as he had them.  Like Wufei, his hair came down, falling in waves to the
back of his knees and drawing Heero's eyes like the best of baits.  He was wearing a headpiece just like Quatre's, except it was black with a violet band around
his forehead and it didn't hide his hair as it stopped at his shoulders.  His clothing was also violet, but his shirt made a slight V at his neck, revealing a small
silver cross.  Like Quatre, his long sleeves ended tight at his wrists but with loose ruffles that fell half-way down his hands, his black fingerless gloves barely
discernable.  His long cape was completely black, and there was nothing around his waist as his weapon was the tall staff he held in his right hand.  It was
black, the slightly curved blade violet tinted and glinting in the dark.  He also had tall black boots that reached halfway up to his knees.  Heero stared.

A moment of silence was shared before Duo blinked suddenly as an explosion sounded in the night.  Without a spoken agreement, they rushed to find their
enemy.

* * *

They weren't very old, the two young men who seemed bent on destroying every building in sight.  In fact, they looked like normal people if it weren't for their
identical black clothing which looked like a one-piece suit.  That, and the fact that they were flying and destroying things with a black flame that exploded on
impact.  The five boy's converged on them quickly, vaguely grateful that the buildings were not residential ones but stores that were closed at the late hour.  

"Well, Alex, looks like they're here.  It took them long enough."  Laughing, the black man eyed the boys, still having trouble with their ages.  He'd been warned
of their strength, but he scoffed at it.  "They're children!"

Smirking, the blonde man shook his head.  "Enough laughing, Meuler, let's just kill them and get on with this."  

Nodding to each other, the moved together as they sent a dark bolt of black fire at the boys.  Prepared, the five boys split quickly, not giving the two enemies a
single target.  Moving to one side, Trowa's hands moved together as he sent a golden ball of light at the blonde man who flew to the side quickly.  Close to
Quatre now, Alex sent the black flame at the blonde boy, cursing when the boy drew his blades and made an X of blue light which dissolved the attack before it
could touch him.  With the blonde man's back to him, Wufei leaped into the air, bringing his katana down in a cruel swipe and sending the enemy to the
ground.  

In the meantime, Mueler had his hands full as he dodged the powerful beam of white light Heero sent at him and landed as he sent black flame at Duo.  It was
obviously the only attack the two enemies had, and Duo had been expecting it.  He'd already dodged and was quick to return the attack, hitting the black man
in the side with a slash of violet from the edge of his scythe.  It was just a glancing blow, and Mueler turned on him quickly only to catch another hit from Heero,
who was now at his back.  The enemy fell heavily to the ground and the
two boys moved nearer to each other as Meuler recovered, flying backwards so he could face the two boys without either at his back.

Alex was under heavy attack and having trouble with his three opponents.  Dodging one attack only resulted in his placing himself in line with another attack.  
Wounded, he moved to Meuler, regrouping and looking around at the black sky above them.  Joining the other three, Duo and Heero held their attacks as
they waited to see what he enemy was up to, taking up positions where the five of them circled their targets.

Wufei and Heero exchanged a quick glance as the two men continued to simply float there, looking upward.  Having decided to attack anyway, they were
caught off guard when a harsh cry sounded to their right.  Trowa was on his knees, and Duo cursed as he spotted Zechs behind him.  Ignoring the two men in
the sky, the five moved to Trowa, Quatre jumping behind the boy as he cut the beam of black light with his blades, sending it back to the white-haired man.  
Then Noin was in front of him and a pink semicircle of light appeared before her, deflecting the beam.  Wufei sent an attack toward them, but it too was
deflected.  Then Zechs disappeared.

On guard, Duo dove to the ground as the man appeared before him, barely missing him as he tried what was obviously the power draining attack.  Moving to
attack again, Zechs fell back as powerful white light hit him, but then Noin was there again, cutting it off.  Glaring, Heero tried futilely to get through the pink
shield, jerking around when he felt a presence behind him as Alex and Mueler sent simultaneous attacks at him.  From the corner of his eye, he could see
Wufei rushing toward him, but his attention was diverted as Zechs disappears from behind the shield.  

Eyes in slits as he knelt beside Trowa who'd changed back after falling to the ground, Quatre forced himself to move as he saw Duo on the receiving end of
the same attack that had felled the tall boy.  Running to help, he skidded to a halt as Noin appeared before him, sending a black attack at him.  Raising his
blades with rapid speed, he blocked, eyes moving to where Duo was on his knees, surrounded by the continuous beam of black light the white-haired man was
hitting him with.  Dodging the woman's attack, he tried to get closer to the boy but was halted as he blocked again, his attack bouncing harmlessly off the
shield she quickly surrounded herself with.

Not bothering to dodge the two men's attacks, Heero sent a beam of white light at them, cutting through their black attacks and knocking them apart.  With a
sharp cry, Wufei slashed Alex with his blade, purple light cutting him as well as the silver metal and the man fell to the ground.  With a loud cry, Mueler froze as
he watched the blonde man slowly fade out before disappearing altogether.  With the force lessened, Heero left Wufei as he ran to Duo, but he slowed sharply
when the white-haired man suddenly ceased the attack.  Moving with uncharacteristic slowness, Duo turned and sent a violet beam at him but Zechs
disappeared before it could reach him.

Reappearing behind the black haired boy, Zechs sent his attack at him, gritting his teeth when Wufei dodged immediately, obviously expecting it.  Rolling on
the ground, Wufei was on his feet again and twirled his double bladed staff, catching the white-haired man in the chest and sending him flying backward in a
flurry of purple-tinted sparks.  Gasping, Noin left the blonde boy as she moved to help Zechs, hitting Wufei with the black attack that was so prominent among
them.  Quatre followed quickly, joining Wufei and sending a pale blue beam at them as he swiped one blade diagonally through the air, catching Noin briefly
before she quickly used her shield.

Fury blazing through him, Mueler took one last look at the spot where his comrade had lain and flew to join the fray.  Anger fueling his power, he caught Duo
from behind, knocking him down as his attack was now more effective.  Hands crossed, he continued, watching as the boy was slowly pushed downward, and
unable to rise.  Completely focused, he was caught unaware as a blow sent him tumbling for a moment before he turned his attack on Heero.  A single glance
at Duo who lay still on the ground had the Japanese boy's eyes blazing and he approached his enemy, ignoring the harsh power that hit him as he closed the
distance between them.  Forefingers and thumbs touching, he spread his hands, palms upward facing the man before sending out a thick beam of white that
seemed to pass through the black fire like a hot knife through butter.  With barely enough time to scream, Mueler was enveloped and faded out.  

Breath coming in furious gusts, Heero's cold eyes flew around the battlefield as he saw the woman and the white-haired man engaged in combat with Wufei
and Quatre.  Knowing they could hold for a bit, he moved towards Duo, eyes widening when the longhaired boy slowly pushed himself up.  Getting shakily to
his feet, Duo's eyes flew to where the two boys were fighting and he nodded sharply to Heero before they moved to help.  Ten feet away from their target, both
fell hard as two dark-brown fire balls hit them from behind.  Everyone seemed to freeze as Zechs let out a furious growl as he spotted Treize and Une, then he
glanced at the two boys who were also looking at the newcomers.  Moving outside of Noin's shield, he drained Quatre quickly, eyes glinting when the blonde
boy let out a pained cry before falling to the ground, his clothing changing back as he lay still.  He was startled by how small the boy seemed, then he let out a
harsh cry as he was thrown to the ground by Wufei's attack.

Shaking off his pain, Heero struggled to his feet as his eyes took in the new arrivals and he counter attacked immediately, hitting the brown-haired woman as
Triez was gone suddenly.  Sneering at the boy, Une's arm swept downward as she sent another brown fireball at Heero, smirking when he dodged quickly and
the attack hit Duo who hadn't gotten up.  Realizing her intent, Heero gnashed his teeth as he moved to put himself between the boy and her, eyes widening
slightly as Duo transformed back before he centered his attention on his enemy, hitting her again.  His attack faltered when he was suddenly caught from
behind and he didn't have to look to know where Treize had gone as he stubbornly continued his attack.  Unable to move while the boy's white beam was
holding her, Une's eyes flew to Treize and he abruptly appeared in front of her.  His beam countered Heero's and slowly overcame it as the dark-haired boy
was thrown back.

Attacking the white-haired man and the woman who was acting as his shield, Wufei was startled when Zechs suddenly disappeared, preparing himself for a
back attack.  In the meantime, he moved close to the woman who seemed surprised to have been deserted as she failed to block Wufei's blow, hitting the
ground and not getting up as the black-haired boy quickly pressed his advantage.  Her eyes flew to Zechs who'd appeared beside Duo, kneeling as he glared
at Treize and Une, then she disappeared quickly as the boy hit her again.  

Separating as their opposition fell, Treize moved to Trowa, intending to take him out completely as he was now defenseless, and Une went after Quatre.  
Shaking his head as he forced himself to his feet, Heero barely had time to realize his enemies were no longer in front of him before he spotted Zechs kneeling
beside Duo.  A blast of power would hit the boy as well, so he drew his sord, swiping it in a horizontal line parallel to the ground and hitting the distracted man
across the chest.  Caught off guard, Zechs fell back.  

In the meantime, Wufei had placed himself in front of Treize before the man could kill Trowa.  His chances of victory were quickly decreased, however, as Noin
joined the man, and he found himself overpowered.  He could see Heero placing himself between the white-haired man and Duo, and his eyes widened as Une
appeared beside the fallen Quatre.  Then he hit his knees as a combined attack hit him and his mind barely registered the strange red fire that suddenly
struck Treize, lifting him off his feet and sending him skidding on the ground.  Blinking, Wufei's eyes widened even more as he saw who'd sent it, everyone
capable of moving turning as four girls entered the battlefield.

* * *

With a single glance, Heero took in the new-comers before he turned to continue his attack against Zechs, but the man had disappeared.  Turning quickly, he
scanned the sky around him, spotting him as a black light was sent at him he countered quickly, inadvertently moving closer to Duo.  The attack was cut off
suddenly, and rather than question it, Heero used the opportunity to hit the man with his strongest beam.

Nodding to each other, Hilde and Relena centered their attention on Noin.  Hilde's water attack caught the woman, surrounding her as Relena sent out a gold
chain, jerking Noin out of the sky and slamming her into the ground.  Dorothy ran to Une who'd turned from her target as the girl's had shown up.  Catherine
also joined in the defense of the fallen boys, Wufei grudgingly grateful for the assistance.  Furious that one of the girls' attacks had hurt him, Treize drew the
long sword that hung at his side and flew into the sky.  Choosing at random, he centered his attention on Hilde as he sent a dark brown slash at her, his eyes
widening when the girl quickly dodged and Noin received the attack.  Relena, who'd been near Hilde, was also hit with a glancing blow and was thrown
backward, falling hard.

Facing three enemies at once, Une couldn't dodge quickly enough and was also sent to the ground.  Pushing her head up, Noin's gaze flew to Zechs who was
dodging Heero's attacks but not fighting back.  Realizing the man couldn't without hitting Saturn, Noin disappeared quickly, barely managing to block Heero's
attack.  Looking over her shoulder, her eyes pleaded with Zechs and he gave a slow nod, staring hard at Treize and Une as he gave a mental order to
retreat.  Grabbing Noin's arm as the woman wasn't as strong as usual, Zechs disappeared with her.  

Une moved to Treize, watching as Zechs and Noin disappeared.  Glaring at the six enemies, their gazes both fell on Heero, who's back was to them.  They sent
out one last combined hit which sent the boy flying backward before making their exit.

* * *

Kneeling beside Duo, Heero's hand moved slowly to the boy's neck as he checked for a pulse.  Finding one, he closed his eyes briefly, not noticing when Hilde
and Relena were suddenly beside him.  Recognizing Duo, Hilde raised a hand to her mouth as her eyes widened.

"Oh no...what is he doing here?  Is...is he all right?"  Heero didn't answer, his eyes still closed as his hand touched the boy's neck, feeling his pulse.

"Heero?!"  Gasping, Relena's eyes widened as she moved around Duo, facing the dark-haired boy.  "It *is* you.  It is you.  Heero."

Opening his eyes, Heero bent lower as he lifted Duo, holding him carefully as he turned.  Not paying the girls any attention, he moved to where the others
were.  Catherine was kneeling over Trowa, brushing his bangs out of his face as she bit her lip, eyes wide in her pale face.  Wufei and Dorothy were beside
Quatre, the girl with a faint smirk on her face as they'd found the boy's breathing to be relatively steady.  

"Nice outfit," Dorothy said, smirking when the Chinese boy sent her a frigid glare.  Kneeling, she looked at Quatre, brows drawn together.  "I can carry him, you
go get Trowa."  Glaring when the boy raised an eyebrow in skepticism, she lifted the blonde boy and stood.  "See."

Impressed although he'd never admit it, Wufei nodded sharply as he turned and moved to the tall boy.  He kept reminding himself that Quatre wasn't very big,
and the girl was still a scout.  It didn't help much as he was still impressed, so he focused his thoughts on Trowa as he pulled the boy over his shoulder.  Eyes
rising when Heero reached him, he frowned.  "Come on, let's take them to the temple."  They couldn't move too quickly, and the entire way there, Wufei was
tormented by the thought of the girls inside his home.  But with Dorothy carrying Quatre, he had to let them.

* * *

Nodding in gratitude when Hilde pushed the table to the side of the room, Wufei knelt.  As Heero had taken the couch, he lay Trowa down on the carpet. Then
his eyes widened a bit when the boy jerked, green eyes snapping open.  Moving back, Wufei glanced at Dorothy as he started to take Quatre from her.  He
halted abruptly when Trowa stood a bit unsteadily and took the pale boy, fury and concern at war over his features as he sank down on the carpet.  

Seeing how the tall boy held Quatre close to him, Dorothy's eyes moved to Catherine.  She gave the girl a significant look before following Wufei to where
Heero knelt beside the couch.  She halted when the Chinese boy suddenly transformed back, then nodded to Hilde and Relena before doing the same.  

Catherine had also changed back, and she stepped closer to where Trowa sat, kneeling beside him.  "Is he all right, Trowa?" she asked softly, eyes wide as
she took in the boy's cold expression.  Trowa didn't answer and she blinked at the blatant emotions visible on his face.  //Dorothy was right...//

Ignoring both Relena and Hilde, Heero didn't take his eyes off Duo as the boy's eyelashes flickered suddenly.  Then Duo blinked and started to lift his head
only to drop it with a groan.  When the boy glanced at him, Heero sat back on his heels.

His head felt as if it had been crushed beneath someone's shoe, but Duo quickly forgot about the pain movement had caused as he spotted an impossible
sight.  Closing his eyes, he breathed deeply before opening them again.  The sight didn't change and he stared as he looked at the three girls.  Then he
glanced at Heero and raised an eyebrow as he found the cobalt-eyed boy glaring at him.  "Hey, what are you so mad about?"  

Not answering, Heero turned as his gaze fell over Quatre.  Then he raised his eyes to Wufei before nodding sharply and turning back to Duo.  "We lost."

"What?!"  Groaning as his head abruptly pounded, Duo raised a hand to his eyes.  "This sucks..."

Trowa glanced up sharply at the American's cry, but his attention quickly returned to the boy in his arms as he felt him move.  "Quatre?"

Blinking groggily, Quatre frowned as he found his cheek resting against something warm.  Then he glanced up and blushed as he realized Trowa was holding
him.  Not wanting to move, he tilted his head back slowly as his eyes traveled over the tall boy's face.  "You're all right..."  Turning, his eyes widened as he saw
Catherine and he flushed with embarrassment as he pushed away from Trowa's chest.

Not the least bit bothered by his audience, Trowa's arms tightened when Quatre moved, the faint blush telling him why the boy was trying to move away.  
Brushing his knuckles over the blonde boy's cheek, his eyes glinted when Quatre's eyes flew to him.  "I'm fine," he said quickly, "Are you?"  Quatre nodded
and Trowa slowly pushed himself to his feet, pulling the boy up with him.  Supporting the boy whether he needed the help or not, he maneuvered him to the
large sofa and nudged him into it before perching on the arm as his eyes reluctantly left the boy to travel over the others.  "What happened?"

"Yeah," Duo muttered, gritting his teeth as he tried to sit up.  Then Heero gripped his arm and he was sitting upright.  Smirking a bit painfully, he watched the
boy sit beside him on the couch before glancing to the girls.  "What are you four doing here?  And why are we still alive if we lost?"

"We didn't lose," Dorothy said, frowning at Heero from where she leaned against the wall.  

"That white-haired man attacked you with some sort of drain," Wufei said, answering Trowa's question.  "He also caught Quatre."  He frowned suddenly as he
turned to pin Duo with a dark glare.  "And Duo.  How is it that you didn't fall immediately like they did?"

Flushing under the accusatory gaze, Duo shrugged.  "I guess he didn't hit me as hard," he said weakly.

"No, that's not true."  Quatre tore his gaze away from the boy beside him as he looked to Duo.  "He hit you for a longer time than he did Trowa and you still
didn't fall.  You must be stronger than us."  Blinking when the boy flushed darker and shook his head, Quatre decided to drop it.  He turned his eyes to
Catherine instead as the girl was seated on the floor near Trowa and him.  Ever polite, he leaned forward with the intention of giving her the chair but stopped
when Trowa placed a hand on his shoulder, holding him where he was.  Glancing at the boy's green eyes, he looked away quickly before he could blush
again.  "Where did you girls come from?"

The sound of a throat being cleared came from the window and all eyes moved to where Shinigami and Wing sat on the sill.  Twitching his tail, the black cat
hurried across the room and hopped onto Duo's lap.  "That was me.  When Trowa went down I knew things would only get worse, so I went to get them."

"It was really weird waking up to find a talking cat in my room," Dorothy muttered, eyes glinting as she nodded.  "But we got there as fast as we could."

"We're grateful."  Glaring when the boys looked at him in disbelief, Wufei's left eyelid twitched.  "We have to fight together from now on.  The enemy may have
retreated this time, but it won't happen again.  As much as I hate it, we obviously need their help."

* * *

"Well, how was it?"  Tilting his head so he could look up at the boy, Shinigami relaxed in Duo's arms.

"Huh?"  Lost in thought, the cat's words didn't register immediately and Duo gave a weak grin.  "Sorry, what did you say?"

"I asked how your first day was," Shinigami smirked, tail lashing as he took in the boy's bashful expression.  "But maybe I should ask what you're thinking
about."

"Work was great."  Not meeting the cat's narrowed green eyes, Duo walked a little quicker.  "I slept good after I got home last night, so I was rested up."

"So *that's* what you're thinking about.  It was nice of him to see you home."  Grinning, the cat purred as the boy holding him flushed.  "I told you he liked you."

"Give over.  So he walked me home, big deal.  Wing walked *you* home yesterday and you don't hear me teasing you about *that*."  Despite his words, Duo
couldn't stop his slow smile as he remembered Heero's glare when he'd told him he was walking him home.  The Japanese boy had obviously been expecting
him to argue as it had been a warning, not an offer.  "But it *was* nice of him, wasn't it."

The boy looked so smug Shinigami snorted.  "Yes.  I'm surprised he didn't carry you.  He probably didn't think you could get home by yourself."

"Hey!  That's not..."  Stopping suddenly, Duo frowned.  "Do you think that's why?"

Smirking, Shinigami butted the boy's chin with his head.  "I'm just teasing you, Duo.  If he didn't think you could get home alone he could have just let you stay
at Wufei's house.  He did offer.  No, you know why he walked you home, so you *wouldn't* stay there."  Putting his paws on Duo's shoulders, he lowered his
voice a bit as two women passed them on the sidewalk.  "Wing told me he and Heero had a fight about you.  He thinks Heero was jealous."

"Of Wing?!"  Blushing when the women looked around sharply, Duo grinned at them and walked faster.  "Are you kidding?" he whispered.  

"Nope."

"Cool..."  Still smiling, Duo walked up the path that led to Wufei's house, slowing when he noticed the voices sounding through the open window.  "The girls are
here."

"Scared?"

"Don't be silly, Shi-chan," Duo murmured, petting the cat roughly.  "I bet they'd love to hold you, you're so cute."

"Jerk."

* * *

"You know, these are pretty nice."  Looking down at the communicator Heero'd given her, Dorothy nodded.  "Handy too.  I guess we won't have to worry about
being separated then."

"It's still a good idea not to go around alone," Shinigami said, his voice a bit forced as he shifted on Hilde's lap.  He'd never been so uncomfortable and he
vowed to kill Duo later for depositing him in the girl's arms.  He couldn't come up with a good excuse for her to let him go and as embarrassing as it was with
Wing smirking at him, he didn't want to hurt the girl's feelings.  

"Do you know where our enemy's located?" Hilde asked, smiling as her hand moved slowly over the black cat's soft fur.  "I mean, do you have an idea?"

"We don't even know who they are or where they came from," Quatre said, shaking his head.  "Except for Duo, this was the first time we fought the real
enemy.  Before, they sent monsters."

"You've been fighting *monsters* in our town?"  Eyes wide, Relena shook her head, frowning at Dorothy.  "How come we didn't notice?"

"Because we destroyed the monsters as soon as they showed up," Wufei answered, scowling at the girl.  He still didn't like having them in his home, especially
since Relena had demanded a chair to sit in.  He didn't understand why she couldn't stand or sit on the floor like Dorothy and Catherine.  It was natural for
him, as he was more comfortable where he could move quickly.  "What I want to know is how you...girls learned to use your powers.  More specifically, can any
of you shield like that black-haired woman did?"

"No," Dorothy muttered, glaring at the floor.  "If we can, we don't know it. We just experimented."

"Well, I can block attacks sometimes," Quatre said slowly, "but with that shield of hers, we don't have anything that can get through it."

"We might."  Frowning when Heero and Wufei both gave her doubtful looks, Catherine straightened where she sat and put her hands on the coffee table.  "We
could.  We didn't have much chance to try, so you don't know if we do or not.  After all, you didn't try attacking all at once, did you?  I mean, with some of you
down and so many enemies, you didn't get to experiment much."

"Maybe," Duo said slowly, "but I don't think we'll get a chance to do any experimentation.  I've never seen him so determined.  As many times as we fought, he
never tried a back attack on me."  

Eyes narrowing, Heero pinned the violet-eyed boy beside him with a sharp gaze.  "The man with the white hair?"

"Yeah.  I mean, sure he disappeared constantly, but he never fought like he did last night."  Frowning, Duo didn't notice the way Heero glared.  "I think he's
through playing."

"Duo, have you fought the other two?  The ones with the brown hair?"  Watching the boy, Trowa sighed when he shook his head.  "They're as strong as *he*
is.  But still, there are nine of us and four of them.  As long as we watch out for that draining attack, I don't think we'll lose again.  We just make sure we cover
our backs."

* * *

"I'm sorry, your highness, we saw you needed help.  We couldn't sit back and let them defeat you."  Bowing her head, Une stared at the floor, not moving as
she saw Treize in a similar stance beside her.

"You could have killed him," Zechs growled, pale blue eyes sparking as he glared at the two.  "I admit, we *did* need your help and I'll forgive you for acting
without orders.  However.  Next time you exercise more caution."

"Yes, of course.  I simply thought the boy was strong enough to withstand the attack.  I thought to weaken him, not actually harm him."

Looking Treize over carefully, Zechs slowly nodded as he couldn't find a flaw in the man's honest expression.  "It's true that he and Earth are the strongest.  If
we could weaken them, the others are mere numbers."

"Then eliminate the numbers," Noin said, nodding from where she stood at his side.  "Catch Saturn alone and we won't have to hold back in defeating the
others."

"Actually," Zechs smiled, glancing at her.  "I've already decided our next move."

* * *

They ran.  Having transformed as quickly as they could, they ran to where the explosions were sounding from.  Had the enemy waited ten more minutes, they
would have been on their way to their respective homes.  As it was, they were still together and all nine entered the intersection together, remembering that
they didn't dare risk separating.  It was still daylight, a few minutes after seven which was quite light for the time of year, but any civilians who'd been near the
road had either run or were hiding.  Rounding the corner of a building, the enemies came into view, all four of them as it seemed there would be no more
subordinates to fight.

They'd no more than skidded to a halt than the enemies attacked, Treize and Une positioned on either side of Zechs with Noin floating behind him.  With two
nearly identical brown fireballs, the two flanking enemies attacked, separating the nine fighters.  It was good that the scouts had planned their next battle as
even in dodging the attacks, they stayed together.  Hilde and Relena moved to the right while Quatre Trowa and Catherine took the left.  Wufei and Dorothy
moved beneath the four enemies leaving Heero and Duo facing them.  Immediately positioned so they circled their enemies, the nine attacked simultaneously,
consuming the four in a blinding mixture of colored light.

In the next second, they were diving to the ground as their attacks not only failed to penetrate Noin's shield, but were reflected back at them.  At the same
time, the three in front of the woman sent a similar joint attack which passed easily as Noin dropped the shield, turning so she could send a ray of black at
Dorothy and Wufei who quickly moved out of the way.  It was immediately obvious who the enemy was focused on as both Heero and Duo took the brunt of the
three attacks.  Recovering quickly, the other seven hurried to hit the enemies while the shield was down, but Noin had the timing perfect as she replaced the
pink shield.

Wufei caught Trowa's eyes as the two moved to join Heero and Duo, the others nodding as they waited for the shield to drop.  As if oblivious to their tactics,
Noin again dropped the shield as Treize and Une let loose another round of power.  She must have known what was planned, however, as she disappeared
when the four girls sent attacks at them, only Treize and Une being caught.  As he'd expected, Quatre blocked the blow sent toward the girls from behind as
Noin
abruptly reappeared.   In the meanwhile, Zechs had also disappeared and Heero and Duo immediately moved behind Trowa and Wufei as those two sent
waves of tan and purple light to counter the brown fire aimed at them.  Appearing briefly behind the four boys, Zechs was gone again as he found the two
ready for him, barely managing to disappear before their attacks hit where he'd been.  

Eyes widening when the woman he was fighting was suddenly gone, Quatre turned, catching sight of her as she appeared facing Heero and Duo.  Running
past the girls who were still grouped together as they faced off with Une and Treize who'd turned with their backs touching as they fought.  Their combined
strength was definitely wearing Une down and it was evident from the way Treize's attacks came less frequently that Trowa and Wufei were also doing well.  
Leaving them, Quatre moved toward Heero and Duo.  From the last battle, he'd learned much of the woman's tactics and he knew she would not have left
unless it was to protect Zechs.  His suspicions were confirmed when the white-haired man appeared at her side, protected by her shield.

With their backs practically touching Trowa and Wufei, the two boys waited for the shield to drop.  They knew if they tried to hit it their power would be sent
back on them, but they were reassured by the knowledge that Zechs couldn't attack so long as he remained behind the shield.  At least this was what they
thought, it was quickly proved wrong as the man sent a thick beam of black light at the boys and it passed through the shield as if it were not there.  Knocked
back by the blow, Heero stumbled against Wufei for a moment before regaining his balance.  Caught, Duo couldn't move as he felt the familiar weakness
flowing through him.  Then Quatre was in front of him suddenly and the beam was cut in a pale blue double-slash of blades.

Infuriated at their inability to penetrate the woman's shield, Heero trusted his back to the blonde boy as he turned suddenly and sent a powerful beam of white
straight at Treize.  Not having taken the chance to look behind them, Trowa and Wufei had continued their attacks.  Together, the three served to knock the
brown-haired man back, shoving Une closer to the girls.  With matching groans, the two disappeared suddenly, reappearing to either side of the five boys as
they quickly attacked.  Unprepared for the move, all were caught off guard and while the girls ran forward to catch their relocated enemies, the circle was
broken as the boy's were separated.  

Zechs disappeared from behind the pink shield and Noin dropped it, hitting Quatre with her black flame and causing the boy to block quickly.  Knocked to the
ground by the attacks Treize and Une had sent, Duo had gotten to his feet and turned, lowering his staff as he sent a violet beam at the brown-haired man.  
He never saw Zechs disappear, but Heero did.  Turning with narrowed eyes, the Japanese boy had a brief view of the white-haired man appearing behind Duo
and wrapping his arms around the boy's waist.  Then both disappeared suddenly.  In the next second, the other three enemies were also gone, leaving the
eight fighters staring in disbelief.

* * *

He hurt.  That was the first thing to register as Duo slowly moved, feeling softness beneath him.  His body ached and he felt weaker than he'd ever imagined.  
It took an actual effort to open his eyes, and even his instinctual need to move back was impossible as he only managed a few inches.  The white-haired man
was standing beside him, and he glared as he slowly pushed himself up, his mind confused by the fact that he was lying on a bed.  Then he shot a look
around the room and his muscles tensed as he realized he'd been captured.

"Duo, I'm glad you've woken," Zechs murmured, brushing his hand over the angry boy's cheek.  His eyes narrowed a bit when Duo jerked back, but he shook
his head.  "You shouldn't try to fight anymore, Duo.  You're much too weak and besides, your fight has ended."

"Who *are* you?" Duo asked, his fury rising without bounds as he realized the man was right, at least about his weakness.  Still, he managed to curl his legs so
he was sitting, and he blinked sharply when he realized his state.  Fear rose up in him, warring with his anger and he folded his arms over his bare chest,
vaguely grateful that the man had at least left him his pants.  "Bastard."

"Zechs," the white-haired man said easily, sitting on the edge of the bed.  "My name is Zechs, Duo."  Leaning forward, he touched the boy's long hair, frowning
when the American jerked back again.  "Don't," he whispered, his pale blue eyes narrowing.

Duo's eyes widened as he was suddenly unable to move, and he felt his breath catch when the man ran his fingers through his unbound hair.  "What...did you
do?"

"It's the crystal," Zechs said, a small sad smile curving his lips.  "I would rather if I didn't have to use it, but you are so...feisty.  That's why I drained you when I
brought you here."

The man had moved closer, and Duo looked away quickly, his mind screaming at him to think of something as warm breath touched his cheek.  "Crystal?  Is
that...the source of your power?"

"Mm, yes," Zechs whispered, breathing in the scent of the boy's silky hair.  "Duo, you are so precious.  Do you have any idea how long I've wanted to do this?"

"Why me?"

The boy was trying to stall him, and Zechs let out a soft laugh as he moved back a bit, turning the boy's head so their eyes met.  "I've longed for you since the
first time we fought.  You were simply magnificent, Duo...Saturn.  I simply couldn't comprehend a boy who would be so willing to destroy himself merely for the
sake of a planet.  I couldn't let you do that, though.  Now....you'll never have to use that power."  Those violet eyes were wide, and he took it to be confusion
rather than fear.  He didn't want him afraid.  "Yes, I knew what you planned to do.  Tell me, Duo, would you really have destroyed yourself?"

"I don't know," Duo said sharply.  As long as he kept hold of his anger, he would be okay.  He reminded himself of this as Zechs brushed his fingers over his
cheek and he was unable to so much as flinch.  "I've never used my full powers.  I might have destroyed more than just myself, I don't know."

"And now, you'll never have to find out."  Smiling, Zechs cupped the boy's chin, the sparks in Duo's eyes making him burn.  "Your eyes are so
beautiful...exquisite..."  His arm moved around the boy's waist and he pulled him forward as he kissed him suddenly.

He couldn't close his eyes, and Duo felt them burn as the man kissed him.  Then they glazed slightly as he was slowly pushed back onto the bed.

* * *

"He took him?  But why?"  Hilde's eyes widened when Heero cursed, and she turned to face him slowly.

"They never meant to fight us at all," Quatre whispered.  "They were just waiting until they could distract us."

"Why Duo, that's what *I* want to know."  Wufei glared at everyone in general, then he turned as he felt someone approach.  Catching sight of the two cats, he
couldn't help but notice the way the black one seemed to be drooping.  "Duo said he followed them here, and now they've taken him.  Why him?  Shinigami,
you know, don't you."

"I think he planned to take him eventually," the black cat said softly.  He didn't look up as he sat down on the ground, his head hunched so that his chin
touched his chest.  "Duo knew...he was afraid this might happen."

"He *knew*?!"  Heero's eyes were narrowed to slits as he glared down at him.  "He said nothing."

"He didn't know for sure," Shinigami said, glancing up.  "But the man...he gave him hints.  He was always careful not to hurt him, too much."

"That doesn't answer my question," Wufei reminded him.  "Why Duo?  Is it because he's stronger than us?"  Heero was glaring at him, but that didn't help his
confusion.  He honestly couldn't understand why their enemy would want one of them alive, and it *had* been obvious that Duo was their target from the start.  
"First they lead him here, to us.  And *then* they take him?"

"It would have made more sense to do so without uniting us first."  Trowa blinked when eyes moved to him.  They must not have expected him to join in.  "It's
true."

"I don't know why they did that," the black cat admitted.  "But that's the reason Duo never said anything about his suspicions.  When that man first found him
and Duo realized he knew his name, we both were certain of what he wanted.  But then he led us here and Duo thought he was wrong."  

"That man knew his name?"  Catherine stared at the cat in surprise.  "You mean his real name, right?  How could he have found that out?"

"Follow him," Relena said quickly, shrugging her shoulders.  "All he'd have to do is have one of his minions follow him around.  After all, with that hair Duo
would be easy to spot.  And no one would pay much attention if the guy following him looked normal."

"You know something, Relena?"  Dorothy gave a small smile when the girl turned warily, no doubt expecting an insult.  "Just when I'm convinced you're an
air-head, you show that you're actually pretty quick.  Good job."

Relena looked a bit confused for a moment, then she smiled a bit, blinking at her friend.  "Thank you."

"Of course," Dorothy said slowly, as if it were an afterthought, "all that experience following Heero around probably made the idea come easier."   The girl
glared, and Dorothy smirked.  "So he found out who Duo was.  And then he waited."

Still a bit 'put-out' that Dorothy had made fun of her, Relena frowned.  "Why do you guys keep talking in code?" she asked crossly.  She wasn't stupid, but it
seemed to her that they were skirting around, playing with words rather than just coming out and saying what they meant.  "If you know why that man took
Duo," she said, looking at Shinigami, "just say why."

"Isn't it obvious?"  Heero did nothing to hide his glare, and he wanted so much to hit the girl for being so blind.  "He took him because he wanted him."  The
Japanese boy noticed that Wufei was staring at him, and he realized Relena hadn't been the only one to miss the obvious.  "If you want to know *why* he
wanted him, just look at Duo."

"You don't mean he..."  Quatre's voice trailed off, and he winced when Shinigami let out a mournful mewl and curled up on the ground.  Dropping to his knees,
he pulled the cat into his arms, his eyes very wide.  "Oh no..."

"All right," Dorothy said sharply.  Unlike Relena, she'd understood what *wasn't* being said before Heero had enlightened them.   "So how do we get him
back?  It's evident that they aren't going to kill Duo so where could they have taken him?  Where are these enemies from, and where would they be hiding?"  

Cursing himself for being dense, Wufei shook his head as he looked at the blonde girl.  "That's the question.  But we don't have the answer."

* * *

Noin sighed as she brushed her fingertips over the smooth arm of the throne, her eyes sad when they traced the empty chair.  She wasn't sure why she let it
bother her, the fact that Zechs was now sequestered with his prize.  It wasn't as if she hadn't been prepared, he'd spoken of the boy often enough for her to
know how obsessed he was.  She hadn't lied when she'd offered to catch the boy for him.  As much as it hurt, she was willing to do anything to make the prince
happy, even if it meant seeing him with another.

They'd been friends since they were children, and when Zechs had asked her to join him in his flight from their home, she'd done so joyously.  Like a fool,
she'd thought the fact that he asked *her* meant he returned her feelings.  Then she'd found that Treize and Une and Alex and Mueller were also going to go,
but she'd still held her hope.  It hadn't taken too long for them to find the green planet, and they'd all agreed it would make a perfect home for them.  
Unfortunately, it was inhabited already.  Treize had been the one to discover how hostile the humans were, and their war had started.

As they'd been warned, they found strong opposition in the region the humans called Japan, and while they'd continued their siege there, Zechs had gone
alone to look at the rest of the planet.  She knew she would never forget his expression when he'd returned from America, and her eyes burned as she
admitted Zechs had been struck after that one meeting.  Still, the boy he'd spoken of had been an enemy, and she'd convinced herself that the boy would
never return the man's feelings.  

//Obviously it doesn't matter if he loves him.  Zechs doesn't care.  If he just wants the boy, then he'll tire of him eventually.  Surely he will.//  She gave a
mocking smile as she shook her head.  //I'm such a fool.  I'd wait forever for him, follow him anywhere on the slim chance that someday he'll see me as more
than just his childhood friend.  But enough of this.//  Pushing herself back roughly, she took a breath.  She had barely turned when she saw the two behind
her, and she had only enough time to blink in surprise before Treize hit her with something and she was surrounded by darkness as she slumped to the floor.

"Don't," Une said, flinching when the man shot her a questioning gaze, his hand halting.  "I may not like her, but I don't hate her either.  I don't want her dead."

"Well, that's a surprise coming from you."  Treize smirked, but he stood, slipping his blade back into its sheath.  "What would you rather I do with her?  We
can't have her around here, she'll try to protect him."

"Oh, I know where we can put her."  Une smiled as she gazed at him, and her brown eyes sparkled.  "She may end up being killed anyway, but it won't be by
us."

"You can be so evil," Treize said smoothly, eyeing the woman with appreciation.  "I approve."

* * *

"It's not your fault," Wing said softly.  Shinigami was curled on the window sill beside him, and the black cat hadn't moved in over an hour.  He understood how
upset and worried his friend was, but he couldn't help wanting to comfort him.  "We'll figure something out.  We'll get him back."

"I should have told them that man wanted Duo.  He didn't want me to say anything...he was embarrassed...but I should have told.  Then we could have hid
him...or something."

"Shi-chan," Wing said, smirking a bit when the green eyes glared at him.  "Do you really think you could have kept Duo from fighting?"

Shinigami managed a tiny smile as he could imagine how furious Duo would have been if he'd tried that.  "He'd have killed me."

"No, but he might have made you spend the night at Hilde's house.  That would have been punishment enough for such a suggestion."  The black cat's ears
flew back, and Wing let out a silent sigh.  The situation was dire, and Shi-chan's worries were reasonable.  But they were also useless, as much so as his
blaming himself.  Glancing around the room, his odd colored eyes paused on Heero, and he wondered if anything he said would be able to help the boy.  
While he knew Shinigami loved Duo more, the cobalt-eyed boy was taking his abduction badly to say the least.

They were all silent, no one knew what to say.  No one knew where the enemy was, and they couldn't even hope of staging a rescue if they didn't know where
to go.  They didn't even know if they'd be *able* to go.  It was obvious that their enemies teleported to their hiding place and each was again reminded that this
was a power they simply didn't have.  In the end, it was Catherine who broke the silence, and the girl's shocked gasp made them all look up.

"Something's...no--someone's hurt!"  Her eyes were narrowed, and she stood suddenly, crossing the room and pulling open the door.  "Are you coming?" she
cried, her eyes shooting sparks.  "It's one of our enemies!"

"What?!"  Heero was on his feet before anyone else, but they followed a split second later.  "How do you know?!"

"I saw it," Catherine said as they followed her down the street.  "It's that woman, the black-haired one.  She's hurt, and alone.  If we catch her, we can find out
where they've taken Duo!"

"Perfect."

* * *

"Why are you afraid of me?"  Zechs pushed himself up with a sigh as the boy beneath him whimpered softly.  Those beautiful violet eyes were damp, and it
hurt to see.  

Duo gasped when his glazed eyes suddenly obeyed him and closed tightly.  Then he blinked slowly as he was pulled up so that he sat next to the white-haired
man.  Zechs was staring at him, and he was confused by the sadness in the man's pale eyes.

"If I could order you to stop being afraid of me, I would."

He was glaring at him, and Duo frowned suddenly.  No longer helpless, his anger was quick to return and he nearly flew off the bed, not pausing until his back
was pressed to the wall.  "What do you want from me?" he asked coldly, his eyes narrowed.  "Isn't it enough that you have control?"

The boy's anger nearly radiated from him, and Zechs smiled as he moved to stand before Duo.  "I admit," he said softly, his tone mocking.  "I'd rather have you
willing, but I didn't think that was an option."  The long-haired boy looked as if he would spit in his face, and his smile widened.  "Duo...are you upset with me?"

//I'll kill him!//  Lunging forward, Duo was amazed that the man still hadn't used his power to control him, but he soon saw why.  Zechs was physically stronger
than him, and the tall man caught his wrists and pulled him forward until they were pressed together.  "I hate you," Duo cursed, turning his head to the side
when it seemed the man was going to kiss him again.

//Yes, be angry.  You're beautiful when you're furious.  Hold your anger, keep fear at bay.//  Zechs smirked as he moved so he could see the boy's eyes.  
"Duo, if you aren't careful, I'll fall in love."

"What?!"  Duo stared at the man for a second, then he suddenly moved, mentally cheering when he managed to push away from him.  "You're crazy!"

"Yes, he is."

Zechs froze at the whispered words, and his rage knew no bounds as he turned to see Treize and Une standing a few feet away.  "What are you doing here?"
he demanded.  

"You've become weak," Une smiled, stepping forward.  "We've decided to get rid of you...*your highness*.  We'll conquer this world ourselves."

"What are you talking about?  How dare you!"  Zechs advanced on the two, his hands curled into fists as his eyes sparked dangerously.  "Are you betraying
me?"

"No.  We are killing you.  And we've already taken care of Noin."  The white-haired man stopped as if he'd walked into an invisible wall, and Treize took
advantage of his distraction as he nodded to Une.

"And he dies first."  Une moved to the side, her hands raising as she faced Duo.  The boy was watching them in complete confusion, but he froze when he
realized she meant to attack him.

"No!"  Disappearing, Zechs was suddenly between Duo and the woman, and he sent an attack at her, cursing when she too disappeared.  Then a harsh cry
sounded behind him and he turned on Treize, his horrified eyes moving to where Duo lay crumpled on the floor.  Unable to transform, the boy had absolutely
no protection.  "You bastard!"  Flying forward, he never expected the man's move and he groaned as he was suddenly on the receiving end of his own
draining attack.  Even as he wavered on his feet, he knew Treize had gotten the power draining from Noin.  She and he were the only two with that skill, even if
she rarely used it.

As soon as he drained as much of the man's power as he could, Treize disappeared.  He waited until he'd absorbed it before blinking into existence beside
Une and the two of them attacked the weakened man.

It was unbelievable, the combined powers stronger than anything he'd ever seen, and Zechs fell to his knees.  Then he shoved his mind into action as he
disappeared.  He had to get to the crystal.  He could only pray that Noin was still alive.  Reappearing beside the dark stone, he grabbed it and stared in
disbelief when the air in the center of the room shimmered suddenly, a rainbow of light that formed a large circle.  Then he saw who it was and he didn't stop
his smile as he knew, without a doubt, that Noin had lived.  No one else could have told the eight youngsters how to teleport.  Grabbing the crystal, he looked
once more to Duo and disappeared as he could see the boy's chest moving.  His friends would protect him.  //They just have to hold out long enough for me to
find Noin.  Together, we can finish this.//

* * *

The woman had proved to be very cooperative, and while she hadn't had the strength to take them herself, she'd done what she could to teach them the skill
of teleportation.  In the end, they had to work together in order to do it, but they obviously succeeded as they were suddenly in a large room.  They recognized
Treize and Une, remembering how Noin had told them of the two's betrayal, and instinct kicked in.  Almost immediately, the eight fighters had separated and
paired off.  They were aware that without Noin's shield, their fight would be more straightforward, and they attacked instantly.  The woman had warned them
that Treize had the draining attack, but she'd assured them the shield was useless to him.  It only worked for females and Une hadn't taken any of her powers.

The enemies were caught by the multiple attacks, and Heero left the others, his eyes having spotted the still figure lying against the wall.  His fury almost
consumed him, but the boy moved when he knelt beside him, and he shoved it back.  Holding Duo's shoulders, he slowly pulled the boy up, taking in the way
he leaned against him.  Then those violet eyes opened and relief soared through him.  "Duo."

"I'm..."  He felt something, and he blinked as he realized what it was.  "The crystal...where..."

"What?"  Heero frowned when the boy suddenly used him to climb to his feet.  He was shaky, but he managed to stand.  "Be still."

"No, it's okay," Duo said quickly.  His vision was a bit hazy with the pain from Treize's attack, but he knew it would be gone if he transformed.  And the crystal
was gone from its pedestal.  Not waiting to wonder at the presence of the seven teens fighting so nearby, he transformed quickly.  "Oh, that's so much better."  
Heero was frowning at him, but he smiled and shook his head.  "I'm fine.  Come on, let's finish this."

He wanted nothing more than to shake the boy, to yell at him, but he knew the fight had to come first and he gave a sharp nod.  Together, the two rushed to
where the others circled their enemies, then they faltered a bit as their comrades were thrown back.  

"You fools, do you really think you stand a chance against me *now*?"  Treize smirked as he glared at the fighters, noting that they were quick to get back to
their feet.  "Well, then."  

Wufei cursed as the man appeared behind him, and he whirled quickly, swiping his double bladed staff and causing his enemy to leap back.  Hilde and
Catherine were already focused on him, but the Chinese boy saw that Treize didn't seem phased at all.  Then he was caught by a rush of pain, and he could
feel the energy leaving him replaced by sudden blackness and he hit the floor.

Hilde gave a cry of warning as the man turned on Catherine, but it wasn't quick enough to help the girl as the man was already draining her as well.  With a
quick glance, she saw that Dorothy and Relena were hitting him, but it did no good and she jumped forward, crouching over the red-haired girl.  Treize glared
when the girl in blue was suddenly surrounded by a *very* familiar pink light, and he disappeared as he absorbed the stolen power.  

It was chaos, but Heero and Duo jumped into the fray, hitting Une who was currently being attacked by Trowa and Quatre.  The woman obviously hadn't
gained anything from Treize's rebellion, as she screamed from the pain, falling to her knees.  Still, her comrade didn't appear to help her, and it wasn't long
before she lay still before them.  She obviously wasn't dead since she hadn't faded out as their previous enemies had, but the four boys left her there.  If
necessary, they'd deal with her later.  A quick look showed that Hilde was shielding the two fallen members, and they searched the room, watching for Treize to
reappear.

The power was incredible, and Treize didn't bother to block the attacks sent at him when he reappeared.  Instead, he focused his energy on the black-haired
girl, his brown eyes narrowed to slits as that pink shield failed to reflect the attack.  It wavered, and her eyes widened as she was pushed back a few feet.  
Then there was someone in front of him, and his beam was cut in a double-slash of curved blades.  "Fool," he whispered.

"Quatre!"  Hilde screamed when the man suddenly appeared in front of her, and she dropped her shield, hitting him with everything she had.  It wasn't enough,
and the blonde boy cried out as he was caught in the back, thrown forward into the wall by an awful surge of power.  Then the man turned on her again, and
she raised the shield, knowing it was up to her to keep Catherine and Wufei alive.

"No!"  Trowa's heart clenched, but he ripped his eyes away from the pale boy as he ran forward.  Hilde couldn't hold for long, and he joined Relena and
Dorothy as they again tried to hold the man with their combined attacks.  //We can't win!//  The man turned suddenly, facing the three of them, then Treize
reeled a bit as two powerful attacks hit him from behind as Heero and Duo were there.  

He couldn't move.  The others might not have had the strength, but with Saturn and Earth, the two he knew to be the most powerful, he was held.  Still, Treize
glared as he was certain they couldn't sustain their attacks indefinitely.  While there was pain, he wasn't to the point of falling and he knew it was only a matter
of minutes before they weakened enough for him to be free.

"Treize!"

They didn't turn as a shout was raised over them, but Treize did, and the man's horrified eyes made them push harder.  He was struggling now, trying to move
out of their hold with a desperation that spurred them on.

"You should have killed me," Noin said loudly, her voice faltering a bit as she leaned against Zechs.  

"Didn't you think I'd find her?" Zechs asked smoothly, his pale blue eyes glinting as his hold on the black crystal tightened.  Raising it, he saw Treize follow it
with his eyes and he glared at the man.  "Only the heir can wield its true power.  I may not have had the strength alone after your betrayal, but Noin and I will
vanquish you."

"Not that!"  Screaming as he was still held, the brown-haired man cursed violently.  "Kill me, anything but that!"

"No, you deserve this."

The fighters stared as their enemy was suddenly enveloped in a dark mist, and Hilde's eyes flew to the fallen Une as she too was surrounded by the thick
light.  It closed around them, then it seemed to shrink somehow, swallowing the two figures, Treize's scream echoing for a moment before it too faded out.  
Ceasing their attacks, they turned to where the white-haired man stood, and their eyes followed the black mist as it was suddenly sucked into the small stone
he held.

Noin turned her head to the side as the mist was completely gone, and she gave a silent apology.  Death was surely better than being trapped inside the black
crystal as she knew, they'd never be able to get out.  Then she looked up at the man beside her, following his gaze to where the fighters stood together.  They
looked ready to attack.

"We wouldn't be anything against you right now," Zechs said slowly, his eyes caressing Duo's face as the longhaired boy glared at him.  "You may keep your
planet.  I'm tired of fighting."  He looked at Noin for a moment before pulling her a bit closer as she wasn't strong enough to stand on her own.  "Go home,
now.  This ship is leaving."

* * *

"I'm...all...right..."

Trowa snorted softly as he helped Quatre into the room, the boy's limp pronounced as he hung his head.  "Right."

"Wufei..."

"He'll be fine," Duo said quickly.  He was worried about the pale blonde, but he was certain Wufei would be fine once he woke up.  After all, Quatre and Trowa
had been when *they'd* been drained.  "And Catherine, too."  The red-haired girl lay on the couch, and he could see her moving even as he glanced at her.  

"It's over," Hilde smiled, brushing the bangs away from her friend's face.  "Hey, Cathy, we won."

"We...won."  The girl smiled slowly, then wrinkled her nose as she was helped up.  

"You're damn right."  Dorothy smirked when Wufei also began to stir, and she knelt beside the boy, determined to be the first one to speak to him.  When
black eyes opened, she grinned.  "Hey, Cathy woke up before you.  Not bad for a girl, right?"

Wufei glared at the blonde girl and shoved himself upward quickly.  Then he wavered a bit and almost fell over again before steadying himself.  "Get away
from me," he growled, scowling when she laughed.  "What happened?"

"We won," Hilde said again.  Still smiling, she walked to Relena and put an arm around the girl's shoulder.  "We were great."

"Well, I think we would have lost if it weren't for Zechs."  Duo blanched when Heero glared at him, but he couldn't lie.  "I guess we'll have to get stronger if we're
going to be the 'defenders' of the planet."

"Why do you have to be negative?" Relena asked crossly.  "We rescued you and we beat the bad-guys.  Isn't that enough?"

He grinned at the girl.  "Sorry, thank you guys for rescuing me," he quipped.  Then his eyes narrowed when Catherine let out a shocked gasp and everyone
turned, staring at Trowa.  "Um...did I miss something?"

Quatre's eyes were very wide, and he refused to blink as the tall boy kissed him.  He hadn't said a word, he'd simply pulled him close.  Trowa was watching
him, his soft lips moving over his, and those green eyes were shining so brightly it was blinding.  Closing his eyes, he wrapped his arms around the boy's waist
as he sank into the kiss.

"Ack."  

Duo turned sharply when Wufei choked, and he laughed suddenly at the boy's horrified expression.  "Guess I'm not the only one surprised," he murmured.

Dorothy watched Catherine closely, and she gave a small smile as the girl didn't seem overly upset.  Sitting beside her, she nodded to the two boys as they
continued, evidently oblivious to their audience.  "Cute, aren't they?"  The girl glanced at her for a moment, then blushed and dropped her eyes.

"How long till they come up for air?" Duo asked, smiling as he glanced at Heero.  Then his smile faltered when he found intense cobalt eyes boring into him.  
"Uh...Heero...?"  The boy was glaring at him, and he suddenly felt the need to hide somewhere.  "What did *I* do?" he asked quickly, taking a step back.

Duo's hair was down as it had been before he'd transformed, and Heero stared at him, his eyes drawn to the boy's lightly muscled chest.  He didn't stop to
think as he'd decided to follow Trowa's example.  With a light growl, he suddenly stalked forward until the longhaired boy's back was against the wall.  

"Whatever I did I'm sorry!" Duo cried, raising his hands when the boy advanced.  He shivered as he stared at Heero's expression, then his mind shut down
when he was grabbed and kissed roughly.  He melted, his arms slipping behind the Japanese boy's back as he returned the strong embrace.

"Heero!"  Relena was going into shock, and the surprised laughter that came from Dorothy wasn't helping at all.  "What are you *doing*?!"

"It's pretty obvious," Dorothy smirked, loving the girl's horrified expression.  Then she saw how hurt Hilde looked, and shrugged at the black haired girl.  Hilde
glanced at her and their eyes met, then she joined them on the couch, a disappointed look on her face.

"In my *house*?!"  Wufei's face suddenly went red, and he was out the door in a flash, his flight drawing a smile from everyone but Relena and those
otherwise-occupied.  

"This is good," Wing whispered, his tail lashing as he grinned at where Heero was.  

"It took him long enough," Shinigami returned, scowling for a moment before looking sharply at the white cat beside him as his tail was brushed.  With a smirk,
he lay his head on his front paws and stared at Wing.  "Hentai, isn't it, though?"

"Watching them?"  Wing ducked his head for a moment, then grinned again.  "Yes, it is."

--Owari--


SEQUEL:  Heart of Darkness
INUYASHA SIDEFIC:  Exigency

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