~Sahara Desert A.C. 182~
The camp was alive with light. Angel Tsuiraku Kurama was cradled closely to her mother as they watched the men accept flowers and good luck kisses from their wives. Though the nomadic men tried their hardest to be a peaceful group, the Maganac accepted their duties as the army of the Unified Arab Nation. Now their duties called them to the battlefield again, to fight the Alliance and their elite faction. The faction was known as OZ, and was a particularly deadly group of soldiers. Two-year-old Angel was too young to properly understand all this, however. All she knew was that her father was leaving, as well as the other men.
“That man,” her mother muttered softly, then smiled down at her. “He’ll be back soon, little one.”
“Pop-pop!” was Angel’s saddened reply. She’d desperately miss her father.
“Habibi . . .” Rasid Kurama knelt to kiss his wife. He towered over her, and she had to lift her head high to look at him.
“Rasid . . . be careful. Don’t take risks if you don’t have to.”
“Marianne,” he responded quietly. “Life is about taking risks. I lead these men. I must not let my fear show. But I will return to you, love.”
“You’d better,” Marianne agreed, smiling. Her voice still held the soft British lilt that Rasid so adored.
“Pop-pop!” Angel exclaimed, lifting her soft lips for a peck. “Miss you!”
“I miss you too, my British princess,” Rasid smiled. “Be good for your mother.”
Other such tearful good-byes were being said. Mohammed lowered his lips to his wife’s.
“Stay safe. Watch our Abdullah carefully.” *
“I will. Stay safe yourself.”
Abdul bid his wife goodbye as well. Newlyweds, not easily pried apart. But the time had come. The last good-byes were said between all the men and their families.
“Well,” Marianne murmured as the last of the mobile suites pulled away from camp, “looks like it’s just us women now, eh Angel?”
That voice cause Marianne to turn back, looking onto the stern face of Mr. Winner.
“Aye,” she answered. His gaze met hers, ice-cold as ever.
“I see. You try to pass yourself as Arabian?”
“Nay. I’m fully aware and very proud of my Celtic background.”
“Celtic? The Celts died out in Roman times.”
“Nevertheless, that is who I am.” Marianne lowered her daughter to the floor. “You respect my husband, yet you seem to scorn me, sir.”
For that, the powerful Winner had no response. This woman was so much like his beloved Quaterine . . .
His eyes lifted to hers again, cold and hard as before. “Inform me of their return.”
Angel had slipped away during this scene, a little afraid of Mr. Winner. She ran silently into a tent and slipped under the covers.
“Angel?” a boyish voice mumbled.
“Kitty . . .!” she replied, snuggling against him. Quatre Raberba Winner opened his eyes to peek at his best friend.
“You okay, Boo?” he asked, pulling her tight to him. The two-year-olds took comfort in each other’s presence.
“Kitty, Pop-pop gone!”
“It’s okay, Boo.”
~Three days later Midnight~
Angel sobbed into her pillow. First her father had gone, and then, early in the morning, Quatre and his father had left as well. She stumbled toward the tent flap, aching for her mother, when the sound of hooves caused her to shrink back into the shadows.
There were black horses, many of them. Angel quickly ducked into the shadows. There were men on the horses, men in all black. But the symbols on their faces. . . the symbols were in red, like blood.
“Angel!” her mother hissed. Angel turned to Marianne with wide, frightened eyes. “Hide, baby.”
Her mother guided her into a very small hiding place.
“Mum!” she gasped. Marianne shushed her.
“Quiet, Angie, quiet. Close your eyes, don’t speak. Don’t make a sound. Can you do that?”
“Y-yes . . .mum . . .”
Marianne stroked her daughter’s hair and drew her husband’s scimitars. She could hear the other women screaming, fighting, struggling against their attackers.
She lifted her voice in a battle cry. Angel watched her mother and the other thirty-nine women fighting bravely, falling in battle. She watched her mother fall, bleeding. Men in black came down on her with their weapons.
Marianne Kurama, along with all of the other women in camp, were left to die in the desert. Angel Tsuiraku Kurama was the only person alive by one a.m.
~Two and a Half years later L-4 Colony Summer Winner Estate~
Makoto Tanaka sank into a bow before Mr. Winner, fighting the urge to yawn. Her gaze cut to Heitai,** son of the wealthiest family in Japan as well as the Japanese Colony, L-1. He was her lifetime playmate. Her father was a well-known senator, and was close to Heitai’s family, as well as the powerful Winner family. Allied to the Winners were the Maganac, the group of United Arab soldiers that looked to Mr. Winner for funding in return for support and protection. Angel Kurama, daughter of the Maganac’s captain, had also been Makoto’s friend since birth.
Angel’s eyes were haunted as she approached from the other entrance. She was clearly still mourning the loss of her mother, and of all the women and children who perished in her camp. No-her home, Mako reflected.
“Mako!” Quickly shielding the pain in her eyes, Angel ran to her friend. She glomped her, nearly knocking them both down.
“Angel!” she replied, giggling merrily.
Quatre shyly pulled Angel into his arms for a hug. He’d mourned the loss of her mother with her, and felt deeply connected to her. Heitai grabbed Mako from behind and spun her around, making her laugh.
“Ah, the little Tsuiraku arrives,” Senator Tanaka murmured, smiling down at Angel. She beamed up at him, then remembered and bowed deeply.
“Ohayo, Tanaka-san,” she replied softly.
“You’ve been practicing, little one. Very good,” he praised.
“Mako-chan helped me,” she offered eagerly. “She’s the best teacher I’ve ever had. She’s good at everything!”
Mako beamed at her friend, blushing. Heitai nodded his eager agreement.
“Makoto,” Senator Tanaka turned to his beautiful young daughter. “Your mother and I are going on a trip with your brother. You stay here with Mr. Winner and your friends, and I’ll see you soon.”
Mako rushed into her father’s arms. “Haii,” she replied dutifully. Then, “I’ll miss you, papa.”
“And I’ll miss you, Miyoko,” he replied.
“Miyoko?” Angel repeated, confused. Mako was blushing.
“Beautiful child,” she translated.
“That’s perfect,” Angel smiled, then allowed herself to be scooped up for a hug. Heitai’s parents accompanied the Tanakas, also leaving their child under the care of Mr. Winner.
Two days later, a train crash took the lives of Makoto and Heitai’s parents. Heitai ran away, later discovered by the assassin Odin Lowe. Angel was informed that the Maganac had been totally wiped out in a fierce battle, and she and Mako met the funny old men, the men that created the Gundams, that day, and were whisked into the lives of training. Quatre Raberba Winner had lost his only friends at the age of five.
~North America Former California, USA A.C. 200~
Duo Maxwell slipped off his sunglasses as he stepped into the Winner estate. Sighing, he scratched his head.
“Where is that recluse?” he muttered, frowning. “Quatre! Hey, Q-man! Where are you?”
“Quatre-sama is upstairs in his office,” Rasid informed him. Duo turned to the older man. Rasid was all right with him, but sometimes he wondered what had caused the lines of grief to be etched so deeply into his face.
“Thanks, Rasid.” He spun back to the stairs and took them two at a time.
Heero Yuy blocked his path, his eyes unreadable. “Better not go in there.”
“Why not? Louie invited us to dinner!”
“He’s not feeling well.”
“Nothing a scotch and soda won’t cure!”
“ . . . ”
“Duo?” The door to Quatre’s office opened. He looked worn, paler than usual.
“You sick or somethin’, Q-man? Louie wants to see us,” the American replied. Quatre smiled.
“Okay. Just let me gather my papers and I’ll be right out,” he said with a nod, and disappeared into his office. Duo lifted his eyebrows and looked at Heero.
“He’ll tell us when he’s ready,” was the only answer he got from the Perfect Soldier. Duo suspected that Heero already knew what Quatre was being so secretive about. . .
~’O Malley’s 6 pm~
Louis ’O Malley owned the best restaurant in town. Also the busiest. Chang Wufei took a seat to wait for his companions, gazing about the crowd. Nothing was amiss, but then why should it be? They’d destroyed all of the weapons in existence.
They had just done it a few years too late for her . . .
“Wufei.” That voice he recognized. Trowa Barton took a seat next to him.
“Barton,” he replied with a nod. He lowered his eyes to his coffee, careful not to give anything away. The silence stretched between them, for neither had much to say. Wufei didn’t look up again until an all-too familiar voice caught his ear.
“Wu-man! How ya doin’, Wuffles? How’s life treatin’ ya, eh?” Duo asked this in a rush as he plopped down at the table, grinning. Quatre took the seat next to the American, smiling at his old friends. But for the first time, his warm smile didn’t reach his eyes. Wufei wondered what had caused this to happen.
“Oi, Heero, why don’t you call the waitress on over here so we can get some drinks,” Duo asked, nudging his stoic friend. Wufei motioned to the seat next to him and Heero sat down. Sighing, Duo waved the waitress over himself.
“Hiya!” she said, beaming. “My name’s Aisha, and I’ll be your waitress for the night. What can I get you to drink, gentlemen?” She was cute and perky. Duo found himself grinning up at her.
“Uhhhhh . . . Martini?” he asked hopefully. Quatre frowned at him.
“One more year, Duo,” he said sternly. Duo stuck his tongue out at the Arabian and turned back to Aisha.
“Then how about some root beer?” he suggested instead. Giggling, Aisha jotted his order down.
“Water.” Heero was looking around the room as he said this, scanning it for anyone acting strangely. Old habits, he thought as he forced himself to look at the menu, are hard to break.
“Hot green tea,” Wufei said quietly. His eyes were also roaming the restaurant. Aisha scribbled down his order and looked at Trowa, who waved his hand to decline a drink.
“Harrods, ma’am, if you have it,” Quatre ordered politely. Aisha grinned at him.
“Ma’am? Do I really look that old?”
For some reason, Duo found this hysterical. Wufei looked at him, a smirk touching his lips. Two of a feather flapped together, he thought with amusement.
“No, no,” Quatre assured her, finally giving a genuine and quite charming smile. “I meant no offence. I just wanted to pay such a pretty lady proper respect.”
Duo’s jaw dropped. Quatre was flirting! Quatre Raberba Winner, the most refined, elegant, and proper man he’d ever met, and he was making a pretty waitress blush and fumble with her pen. No FAIR! he thought. After all, it was his job to make pretty girls blush.
Aisha beamed at Quatre, still red. “Your order will be right out.” Then she scurried away toward the kitchen. The order was snatched from her but she hardly noticed.
“Aish! Gimme a hand with this damn cart! I can’t unlock the wheels,” Lian Nataku growled, kicking at the said object.
“Lian! Two really hot guys just started flirting with me!” Aisha squealed, bending to flip the lock on the wheels. Lian slid her trays onto the cart and tossed her ebony hair out of her equally ebony eyes.
“That so? Which table?” she asked with interest. Aisha pointed.
“Damn! They’re all hot!”
“Right, well, enough with the ‘hot guys’,” came an English voice from behind them. “Why don’t you take that cart out to the customers?”
Louie ’O Malley stood slightly in-between the girls, eyebrow lifted. But he was obviously amused and his voice showed it. He had as much bite as a sleeping kitten. Lian and Aisha flashed him innocent, charming smiles and went back to work. Shaking his head, reprimanding himself again for being such a pushover, Louie returned to the kitchen.
Makoto sat in the shadows of the restaurant, gazing at the screen of her borrowed palm pilot. She looked up at a familiar peel of laughter and watched as Angel, who’d been stopped by Aisha, approach the table.
“What was Aisha saying?” she asked as Angel took a seat. The shorter girl laughed again, eyes dancing with mischief.
“Oh, something about two hot guys flirting with her. So, what’s up? Any news?” she asked easily.
“Nope. The Gundam pilots continue to elude us,” Mako answered. Angel beamed secretively.
“Or not. See those five guys? Zero-one, Heero Yuy, dark brown hair, cobalt eyes. Zero-two, Duo Maxwell, long chestnut braid, indigo eyes. Zero-three, Trowa Barton, light brown hair in a bang over half of his face, jungle green eyes. Zero-five, Chang Wufei, ebony hair and eyes.”
“You skipped Zero-four,” Mako informed her. Angel’s eyes twinkled and she smirked.
“Zero-four, platinum blonde hair, aquamarine eyes . . . Quatre Raberba Winner.”
Mako nearly dropped the palm pilot. “Our Quatre?”
Angel nodded. “Our Quatre. Fifteen years later, a bit more mature, but the same one.”
“Quatre . . . do you think he knows where Heitai is?”
“Let’s find out.”
~’O Malley’s 6:37 p.m.~
The five former pilots continued to talk, though Heero Yuy remained more or less oblivious to the conversation. His own thoughts were keeping him plenty busy. Now that the war was over, Heero was left without a rightful place in the world. He had no job, no formal education, and lacked social skills as well as any money. He almost snickered at that. Heitai, heir to a massive fortune that had been accumulated over generations of hard work and duty, and he didn’t have a single penny of it. Heitai, Heero decided, had died in AC 184 along with any hopes of a somewhat normal life.
He was not so lost in his thoughts, however, that he missed the movement off to his left. Barely moving at all, Heero soon had two girls in his sights. His hand crept for the comforting metal of his gun. Then his head snapped up. That was-Makoto!
As she walked closer to the table with Mako in tow, Angel tried to come up with an intelligent thing to say. She meant to come up with a quick joke or perhaps introduce herself and ask Quatre if he remembered her. She meant to sound like she was the twenty-year-old woman she had become, and not the four-year-old girl she hoped he remembered. But her brain refused to allow this. All she was able to say was, “Kitty.”
Quatre’s eyes opened wide at this. He stood, clumsily knocking his chair over. Duo blinked in surprise. Quatre had never been klutzy for a moment in his life-at least not in the five years they’d known each other.
“Who is she?” he whispered to Trowa and Wufei. Both shrugged in response.
“Boo . . . Angel?” Quatre managed, rapidly coming around the table to get a better look at her. “And Makoto!”
Mako and Angel found themselves wrapped in a tight, warm hug.
“Quatre . . .” Mako returned the hug but pulled away from his arms after that. She turned to look at Heero. “ . . . Heitai.”
He was standing by now as well. “Makoto.”
“Heitai!” Without any further hesitation, Mako ran into his arms, pressing her face into his neck as she blinked back stubborn tears of relief and happiness.
Heero’s four companions watched in shock as his face softened and he put his arms around the woman in his arms. But Quatre slowly began to smile. He knew Heero had found the one person in the world that would make him feel significant again. Maybe he’d begin to retain a humanitarian side now that his beloved Makoto was back in his arms.
Duo stared at his friend in shock. Heero Yuy had never shown any sign of such deep compassion in the five years they’d known each other, yet he held this woman as if she were his lover, or wife.
“Heitai,” Angel smiled suddenly. “It’s good to see you again.” Then, turning, “Hello, gentlemen. I’m Angel.” Duo shook hands with her, and watched as she bowed to Wufei and nodded to Trowa.
“Angel, it’s been nearly sixteen years since . . .” Quatre started.
“I know,” she answered, glancing at Mako. She and Heero were still wrapped in a warm embrace.
“Wait, wait, I’m lost,” Duo cut in, speaking for himself as well as Trowa and Wufei, who were equally confused. “You haven’t seen each other for sixteen years? And-You knew Heero back then?”
“Yes,” Quatre said, smiling at his friends’ confusion. “Though Heero's original name is Heitai. We’ve been friends since . . . well, birth, I guess.”
“All four of you?” Wufei asked, eyebrows lifted.
“Yup. My father is his . . . I guess you could say bodyguard,” Angel replied, smiling heartily. “Rasid Kurama.”
“Oh, you mean that big dude!” Duo exclaimed, and Angel laughed and nodded.
Mako and Heero finally released each other to join the conversation.
“You two are awfully close,” Trowa pointed out. Mako smiled.
“Yeah, well, he was my hero.” She shook hands with everyone. Wufei gazed at her.
“Makoto . . . that means sincerity.” It was not a question. Interest glittered in his ebony eyes. “Would you be the daughter of Senator Tanaka?”
“Yes,” she answered.
“Your father was an honorable man. I had a deep respect for him even though I was only four when I met him. He did great things for my people, my clan. I am honored to meet you, Ms. Tanaka.”
Mako blinked. She hadn’t heard such formality directed her way in a very long time. Angel smiled at her.
She deserves it, she thought sternly, gazing at her best friend with pride. She deserves every ounce of respect she gets, whether she knows it or not.
“A-arigato, Wufei-san,” Mako replied uncertainly. It was Wufei’s turn to blink. He hadn’t been referred to as Wufei-san since his wife-
Cutting off that painful train of thought, he gave her a smile and sipped his tea. Aisha, the waitress, had silently dropped it off a few minutes ago.
“So, the four of you are great pals, then?” Duo asked.
“Haii,” Heero agreed, squeezing Mako’s shoulder gently. She smiled at him.
“I guess you could say so,” Angel agreed, stealing a sip of Quatre’s tea with a wink. “So, Quatre-I heard you have a girlfriend.”
Quatre flushed slightly, his smile quite a bit sheepish in his pleasure.
“Yes, Aki. She’s fun, and very sweet,” he agreed.
“Yeah . . . and she sure does look a lot like you,” Duo observed. Angel blinked and glanced back at Quatre, who was rapidly turning red.
“Is that so?” she questioned with mischievous interest. Quatre laughed.
“You couldn’t be more different,” he assured her.
“No kidding,” Heero agreed, his mood better than it had been in sixteen years. He actually felt like talking and becoming part of the group. Mako made him feel like he was human again. The rush of emotions she caused were confusing, but he knew he could deal with them as long as she was there with him. Which, he thought, nearly smiling, was confusing enough in itself.
“Is that a good or a bad thing?” Angel asked.
“Both,” Quatre replied diplomatically. She laughed at that.
“I see. So where is Aki, hmmm? I’d like to know who stole my Kitty,” she said.
“Stole him? Do I sense a old flame?” Duo asked, wiggling his eyebrows. Angel shot him a glance and laughed.
“Well, he proposed to me when we were four . . . does that count?” she replied saucily.
“Proposed?” Wufei, Duo, and Trowa turned to look at their blushing companion.
“Great, Boo. Now I’ll never hear the end of this,” he grumbled good-naturedly. Duo was already coming up with ways to blackmail the poor boy.”
*author’s note: I have come to the conclusion that Mohammed and Abdul are most likely great friends, and so Mohammed would name his son after him.
**author’s note: Little is known of Heero Yuy’s actual past. Heitai is the name that my friend decided for him when he was young, before he met Odin Lowe. It is suspected, at least for the purposes of this story, that Heero, or Heitai, came from a wealthy family living on L-1.