The Blood of Peace
First Movement, the Twelfth Part: Legato or Largo, take your pick
Odin looked at the young ladies in front of him and assessed them quickly. For bearers of such heavy news and having traveled for three days straight, they looked remarkably calm and clean. The taller and older one, the one who introduced herself as Lucrecia Noin seemed to be a level headed, intelligent young lady. She had a calm aura about her, just as an army official should. The shorter one, Hilde, looked a bit more agitated, perhaps from fear or maybe from excitement. Her eyes darted around the room and her fingers were clenching and unclenching in a rhythmic fashion.
Taking his eyes of the ladies, Odin once again looked at the letter from Queen Relena. The news was dire, and it seemed that he had no choice but the accede to her demands. However, he had to discuss this with Heero first. He would not deprive his son of a full education. This time, his son would learn the art of war.
"So, Ladies Noin and Hilde, what would you have me do now?"
Noin looked rather annoyed at his noncommittal statement. The great king Odin, one of the legendary heroes from the War of the Fallen, seemed to be balking at the idea of war. He had no stumbling blocks in his way, not like Relena. His kingdom was built on blood, so why was he so hesitant?
"You Majesty, Her Majesty asks for your help to preserve her kingdom. The alliance created by the betrothal agreement still stands, does it not?"
She tried to sound diplomatic as instructed, but she could not do it. The morning sun seemed to shiver at the coldness in her tone and even Hilde shrank back a little. Odin was made of better stuff than sunbeams and Hilde though.
"Yes, Lieutenant Noin, the alliance stands. If you would take a seat while I summon my son and his Masters, please."
Noin winced internally. In her haste to get what Relena wanted, she had failed to consider all the possibilities to his hesitation. Of course he would want his son present at such a monumental occasion. She could kick herself.
Within moments after the messenger was sent out, Heero and his companions entered Odin's study and sat down. They all looked rather rumpled, a bit worse for wear. Odin thought back to the day before and ran it through his mind. He couldn't recall making them do anything strenuous, but maybe the boys had stayed up late comparing their weapons again. They apparently had trained with them non-stop for the past three days and then discussed their training late into the night. Dedication was strong and that was a good thing, but wearing their bodies out so often was a mistake. It was the conceit of being young. Still, whatever the reasons were, they were unimportant at this point.
"Heero, This is Lieutenant Noin and her assistant, Ensign Hilde. They are here from the Sanque kingdom. I want you to hear them out and tell me what you think."
On cue, Noin recited the basic premise of the letter and their situation. Oz was planning to invade Sanque. They wished to conquer and meld Sanque into Oz. Milliardo Peacecraft had been sent to Oz to negotiate. In case of war, Sanque needed to activate the fifth paragraph subsection nine of the alliance treaty with Earthian. Military support a must.
Heero listened carefully and worked the situation out in his head. From the looks of his companions, they were doing the same thing. When Noin stopped speaking, Heero motioned for his Masters to join him in the north end of the room to discuss things. Odin watched with interest, curious about what Heero would do. Now was the time to become a true king.
After the whispers died out, Heero and his Masters took their seats again and Quatre spoke for them. He was the diplomat, so there was logic to the choice. However, Odin still would have preferred to hear his son speak on this matter. But it was not his choice.
"Odin sama," began Quatre, "we all agree that military support would be imperative if there is to be a war. However, since there seems to be a schedule, we propose that we spend the next three months investigating on our own before we fully commit to a war effort. If war can be stopped before it begins, we believe that to be in our best interest, both Earthian and Sanque."
Short, sweet, effective. Odin knew he had been right to choose these four for his son – they were the best of the best, brightest in their fields. And they only reinforced it every day with their actions and words. Well, except when they acted like fifteen year old boys.
"I approve." Odin was not a man to waste words when the idea was good. Noin, on the other hand, had a different approach.
"What do you mean, investigate? They are going to attack Sanque! We need to reinforce the borders as soon as possible, set up defenses! This can't be your idea of helping Sanque. Prince Heero, will you leave your future queen at the mercy of Oz this way?"
Wow, the lady pulled no punches. Duo sat there while Noin went on a tirade worthy of him. She was covering all the bases, from political alliance to personal relationships. He decided that he wanted to be on Noin's good side. Then he felt a strange prick on the side of his head and turned slightly, only to see the girl Hilde staring at him. She was looking at him curiously, like he was a special specimen of wildlife. It was cute.
Heero also noticed Hilde staring at Duo and nearly shook his head in consternation. Another female had fallen into the Maxwell charm. Duo was a veritable black hole that seemed to suck in females. Heero knew what they must see in him and he almost felt pity for them. Those poor girls, they had no idea who held Duo's heart. For that matter, no one did. Except the people who counted. Then he heard Noin's bit on Relena and sighed internally. Relena. His future queen. His mission, his duty. No matter how much he wanted to, he could not turn his back on her. The future of his kingdom rested on the alliance. And Duo understood this more completely than he did. That was the kind of person his love was.
When Noin finished, she was out of breath and quite red in the face. She was doing everything to accomplish her mission. But these boys were thwarting her every move by suggesting things that were not in the plans. Investigate? What were they going to do, send spies into Oz? Oh SHIT.
"You're sending spies into Oz, aren't you?" Noin gasped. Of all times for Hilde to speak, that had to be the sentence that rolled out of her mouth. Subtlety be damned.
"Yes, that is our plan." Heero was impressed that the girl Hilde had figured it out more quickly than Noin. But then again, if Noin hadn't been outraged at their statements, she would have puzzled it out more quickly. She was not a perfect soldier.
There was silence while Odin, Noin and Hilde waited for Heero to elaborate. When it became clear that it was all he intended to say, Odin broke up the meeting before Noin could burst a blood vessel in her forehead. It was ticking dangerously and he hated women falling over in his study. He had enough of that with Sylvia.
While Noin and Hilde sat in their room making rude comments about Heero and his body parts, the five boys were busy making plans. Their plans would be told to no one else, not even to Odin. And their plans would go into effect this very night, and it was dubbed Operation Meteor. They decided that since no one in Oz had any idea what any of them looked like, they would be the spies themselves. Although Trowa was the only true spy in the room, they were all soldiers and warriors. It would be their mission. And they would not fail.
The moon was up and Trowa found himself knocking on Quatre's door. When the door opened, Trowa stepped in and hugged Quatre. Since Quatre had not been expecting this kind of affection, he went rigid and almost pushed Trowa out. However, Trowa kept hugging him and Quatre relaxed, and they held each other for a while.
"Trowa, we still haven't figured out what happened between Heero and Duo. I wonder if this mission will jeopardize what they have. I wonder if they will follow through with their duties."
Although his words had been smothered slightly by his chest, Trowa heard every word.
"Quatre, you know them better than that. Heero would never do anything to jeopardize the mission or his duties. Neither would Duo. They are dedicated to the mission and their duties, as they are to each other. It will be okay. You worry too much."
Yes, I do, thought Quatre. But no one else did. Burying his worries deep into his mind, Quatre snuggled into Trowa. So far, neither had ventured further into a physical relationship beyond the embraces and snuggling, but they had grown so much closer in mind and soul. And most of the times, that was what mattered most. Most of the times.
"Trowa," Quatre spoke softly, "everyone will be separated starting tonight. One more group meeting, then we're on our way."
Quatre sounded so wistful and sad that Trowa felt even more protective of him. Although Trowa knew Quatre was perfectly capable of handling himself in any situation, he could not stop himself from feeling protective. This was the first time in his life that he felt protective over anyone and it scared him. But, he tried to reassure Quatre. It seemed right.
"Don't worry, Quatre, at least we're going together. And Duo and Heero are going as one unit too. WuFei was the only one who wanted to go at it solo, and I bet he won't miss us any less than we will miss him. You won't be alone, we're going to fight for peace together. Always."
Always. That just sounded wonderful to Quatre. So, they held each other until the moon was at its zenith and then hand in hand, headed off to Heero's room to say good byes to the others.
WuFei finished packing and hoisted his pack onto his back. Everything that he would need was in that little pack, but he still felt as if he was leaving something behind. Maybe the fact that he was separating from his brothers bothered him more than he let on. He had insisted going in by himself, but now that he thought about it, he realized that he would miss them terribly. He would miss Quatre's gentle advice and his efforts to defuse any tense situation.
Although Quatre had been rather annoying in the past three days (he kept insisting on sleeping in his room for some odd reason!), he admitted that it would be hard to be separated from someone who was so caring and friendly. WuFei's clan hadn't valued friendship, just comradery. So the feeling was foreign, but somehow comforting. And of course, he would miss Trowa, the most stoic person he'd ever encountered. His solid personality and the surprising sense of humor were definitely things he had come to count on in the last three months. And he would not be able to watch over Heero, his friend as well as his mission in life. That unsettled him, but he shook that feeling off since Heero was more than able to take care of himself. He was just worried that Heero was going off with Duo. And well, there was Duo.
They had fought and argued more than anything else, his strict sense of justice and propriety clashing with Duo's disregard for proper behavior and his penchant for practical jokes. Sure, Duo did dispense his 'wit' equally, slamming everyone without discrimination, but WuFei apparently gave the best reactions. As hard as it was to admit, he would miss Duo as well – he did enjoy their little spats. It did wonders for his stress levels to be able to yell at someone. With these thoughts and a heavy tread, WuFei walked the distance down to Heero's room to say his good-byes.
Heero and Duo sat across from each other in Heero's room. Their knees and foreheads were touching, and their hands were loosely clasped around each other's waists. It was not the most comfortable position, but they were more than content to stay this way. Ever since their first kiss, they had spent every night since in each other's arms, holding one another until the morning. They had not done anything beyond kissing and embracing, and now with this mission looming on the nearby horizon, it looked like that would be all they could do for a while. Both admitted that they were not quite ready to become one with their bodies – they were only fifteen and still unsure about all that sex and its related business just yet.
And it had been both of their first kisses. Even for seasoned warriors, first kiss to first tumble was miles apart, and they did not want to ruin their precious trust and love with a wrong move neither was ready for. So they held each other, kissed to their hearts' content during the night, and then tried extremely hard not to drag each other into shadows for a stolen kiss during the day. That had been the last three days. No wonder Odin thought that they looked tired. Now, they were just touching lightly, trying to sort out how they were going to work together for the next two months or so in enemy territory without giving themselves away. They knew they were perfectly capable of doing so – they could even pretend to not know each other without problems. Putting on masks were one of their main skills. But they weren't sure if they truly wanted to do that, not if they didn't have to. So they sat, they touched, they thought. And then three people intruded upon their moment rather rudely.
The knock came softly, but it forced Duo and Heero to part and sit with a foot of space between them. Soon thereafter, Quatre poked his head in and walked into the room with Trowa in his wake. They were dressed for travel in comfortable and rugged clothes, their packs on their backs and their weapons at their sides. Even before Trowa made it fully into the room, WuFei trudged in and then there were five. The soft candle light illuminated their features and the five boys sat around in a rough circle. For once, Heero broke the silence.
"We're ready, I assume. We will go over the plan and methods of contact. Quatre, Trowa, give me your parameters for this mission."
Quatre and Trowa exchanged a glance and Trowa spoke instead of Quatre. This night was the night for the silent types to come out of their closets, it seemed.
"Quatre and I will infiltrate the palace grounds in Oz capital. I will endeavor to get into the palace guard unit while Quatre places himself with the infantry. We will contact you and WuFei every third cycle of the Second Moon by secret notes. Because Milliardo Peacecraft will be in the palace and he knows our faces, we will avoid him at all costs or eliminate the threat of discovery."
Succinct and articulate. Trowa had a flair for speech which he rarely used. But as a spymaster, he spoke more eloquently than any politician. Heero nodded in approval and said, "I hope that you won't go off and eliminate Peacecraft while you're there. That must be an absolute last resort. After all, it would not do to kill our ally's diplomat."
Everyone in the room noticed that he did not call Milliardo his future brother in law or mention Relena in the connection. That was a little matter now, but what of it in three months?
Without much of a preamble, WuFei reiterated his mission.
"I will become part of the elite special forces in the land army. I will become Duke Dermeil's personal bodyguard squadron and seek to find the army's positioning. I will contact you and Trowa every second cycle of the Second Moon. If I am discovered, I will make my exit and head back to Earthian. If I am caught, I will expect no rescues or try suicide."
That was very good. It had taken Duo and Quatre some time to try to convince WuFei that suicide during capture was never a valid choice. No matter what, all five would survive this infiltration mission because if there was to be war, Heero would need every last one of them. Finally, Heero described his and Duo's mission.
"I will be part of the infantry division with Duo. We will sign into the army forefront and gather information about weaponry, strategy and determination. When all three groups of information can be pieced together, we will have a complete picture. We will contact you and WuFei every first cycle of the Second Moon. By the time the Fourth Moon is up, we will all leave our posts in Oz and head back to Earthian, no exceptions. Understood?"
Silently, all five boys looked at each other. They had perfect understanding and a complete trust in each other which had not existed three months ago. They were brothers, they were friends, they were warriors. Without a whisper of a noise, all five made their way into the stables and led their horses out into the field that they had so frequently picnicked and had fun on. They said their good-byes under the moon and the stars, got on their horses, and rode toward the River of the Heroes to the south. In five days, they would be in Oz. And their first taste of the enemy.
End of First Movement, the Gathering of Powers