"I think it's a sign that Hilde refused to come into the garage," Trowa commented. He leaned against the workbench, moving to the side with a soft long-suffering sigh as Duo poked at him to get out of the way. Duo leaned past him, twitching at the diagram, then moved off without a response.
"If Une found out you kept the ECM Unit, you'd be in hotter water than you were for that fiasco in New South Wales with the illegal Taurus plant," Quatre said, his brow furrowed. "I thought we agreed to destroy all of that, years ago."
"We did," Duo said, looking up from where he was setting the test radar systems in a circle. "And this might not even work. I mean, I don't know if they even remembered." He noticed Wufei looking bored, and Heero rolling his eyes, but chose to ignore them. He straightened, and threw a grin over his shoulder. "If it doesn't, then...hey, whatever. Not like you have to be here."
Better if you weren't, he added. Whether because I don't want you laughing if nothing happens...or because I don't want you standing around glowering at me if something does happen.
"After everything Hilde said?" Quatre raised his eyebrows, and moved to stand next to Trowa. "You've got to be kidding if I'm not going to be here to make sure nothing blows up."
"You mean to help it blow up," Trowa said in an undertone. At Quatre's shocked look, Trowa shrugged. "You're hardly innocent."
Quatre made a face, and Duo smirked. "He's right, Quat."
"I wasn't the one with the eighteen cases of C-4," Quatre retorted.
"I just brought them in," Duo said. "I didn't hook all of them up!"
"Try not to blow anything up this time, at least," Heero interrupted. "Or wait until I have more vacation time."
"Spoilsport," Duo muttered, but grinned. "Okay, everyone, get outside the range of the radar perimeter." He grabbed the chair sitting in the corner, and set it next to the ECM, then pulled a small black book from his pocket and set it on the chair. Taking a deep breath, he moved to stand by Trowa, out of range. "Starting systems now," he announced.
The hum of the computer and the radar started first, followed by the rumbling of the ECM system as it kicked into life. The red beams of the radar were straight and thin, forming red dots on the ECM's exterior. The chair was illuminated in the light, glowing crimson in the low-lit garage. Duo kept it on for several seconds, watching, even as something in his chest sank, and he fought the urge to laugh as though it were all a joke. Trowa shifted next to him, and Duo sighed, turning his back on the setup and hitting the shutdown button on the ECM. Slowly the rumbling and humming came to a stop, and Duo remained where he was.
"Sorry," Trowa whispered.
"Guys," Heero said, sounding a bit puzzled. "Was...was the radar supposed to go silver?"
"Silver?" Duo turned, suspicious. "Very not funny, Yuy. Don't fuck with me like that."
"No, I saw it," Wufei said, nodding. "Like a second radar beam was running alongside the first."
"I thought that was just some kind of corneal feedback," Quatre said, frowning as he stared at the ECM, then the chair, then the laser emitters. "I only saw it out of the corner of my eyes, though."
"You guys had better not be shitting me." Duo scowled.
Trowa shrugged. "Don't look at me. I was watching you shut the system down."
"Well?" Heero looked impatient. "Are you going to turn it back on?"
Duo blinked, then smiled, a little shyly. "Can't think of any harm it'd do. Okay, everyone clear?"
Four voices answered clear, and Duo hit the button on the laptop, starting the system back up. This time, the six lasers shot red. Almost instantly it was as though mercury were streaking down the lasers, running silver for a second. Then the beams of light spread out, becoming powerful beacons of blue, pouring into the ECM. Wufei shouted something as wind picked up in the small garage, and Heero grabbed several tools before they went flying off the workbench.
The light continued, flaring up even brighter into a golden hue. Almost as quickly as it started, the wind and light faded, leaving only the laser systems humming, their systems burnt. One of the laser emitters was smoking slightly, and Duo wrinkled his nose at the smell of a small electrical fire. He nudged the box nearest him, only looking up as Trowa elbowed him.
"Hey, Duo," Trowa whispered.
Duo turned, and saw two figures slowly standing up beside the ECM. One was as tall as Trowa, with dark brown hair that hung in a shaggy cut around his face, with dark brown eyes that blinked at everyone, but lit up when he saw Duo. Beside him, another person was standing up. Duo blinked, and nearly held his breath, seeing the familiar black jeans, black under-jacket, and the flash of a red coat and a braid of golden hair.
Fuck, Edward thought. That was like getting stomped on by six chimera...after a day of dealing with Mustang. He scowled and pushed himself off his knees, coming to his feet with a sharp gasp. The ports in his arm and leg ached, as though they'd been disconnected and reconnected an hour or two before but the pain was only filtering in now. It wasn't unbearable like the actual point of reconnection, but it was definitely painful. He stretched, and raised his head to look around.
There were several men standing at the ring of the circle, and Edward stared at each of them in turn, looking for a familiar face. Either Duo or, he hoped, that girl who had been Duo's friend, though he barely recalled now what she looked like. The first man, who was standing with his feet apart and his arms crossed, was Edward's height, and had jet-black hair pulled back in a ponytail. His white shirt and khaki pants were crisp, and reminded Edward of Mustang—not a hair out of place. The man next to him was leaning against a bench, his arms also crossed. His blue eyes were fixed on Edward, measuring and assessing. His dark brown hair looked like it hadn't seen a brush in a lifetime, but he seemed only watchful, not hostile. He was wearing blue jeans, and a white shirt just visible under a black-and-brown jacket with several markings and patches on the shoulders and chest.
"Brother," Alphonse whispered, a question.
"Fine," Edward answered automatically, his voice low. He studied the third man, also his height, and the man's white-blond hair and blue-green eyes. The man smiled and dipped his head in a silent welcome, and Edward only nodded in return, uncertain but unwilling to show it. Edward leaned forward, looking past Alphonse to see a fourth man—as tall as Alphonse—leaning against a bench with a smirk on his face. His chin was down, and coppery-red hair hung in his face. When he looked up at Edward, there was a flash of green eyes that reminded Edward of Maes Hughes, and Edward almost smiled. Then someone stepped in the way.
Duo was as tall as Edward now, but still skinnier, although his shoulders had broadened and his forearms were muscled and tanned. The baby fat of adolescence had disappeared; leaving him with a slender face and finely chiseled jaw line. His deep blue eyes were opened wide in surprise, and when he saw Edward, he smiled, a sincere expression.
"Edward," Duo said, and he grinned again, shyly. Edward noticed the blue-eyed man giving Duo a startled look, and Edward filed that thought away. Duo cocked his head, staring off into the distance. "Words...I try to remember."
"You'll remember fast," Edward replied. He didn't move from where he stood, feeling the eyes of the other four men pinning him in place.
"And..." Duo frowned, looking at Alphonse, his head cocked to the side. Then he stepped forward, and placed his hand on Alphonse's chest, the fingers spread. "I knew you do it," he whispered.
Alphonse lifted his hand, and placed it over Duo's. His only answer was a blush and a nod. Duo grinned, and shoved Al lightly.
"Talk to me," Duo insisted. "Or I won't remember words."
"Who are these people? Your friends?" Edward glanced around the room, noting the four men exchanging looks with each other as he and Duo continued to speak in Edward's language.
"Yes," Duo said, and pointed to each in turn. "Wufei, Heero, Quatre, Trowa. These friends fight with me."
"Gotcha," Edward said, remembering something Duo had said, years before. He nodded politely to each man as they were introduced.
"So..." Duo rocked back on his heels, his braid slapping lightly with the motion. Edward noticed it was much longer than before. "If you are both here, who is on...other side?"
"General Mustang," Alphonse answered. He grinned wryly, and pretended to whisper at Duo, while glancing at his brother. "Mustang found out about the five years...and insisted we try."
Edward scowled, and crossed his arms. "Bastard."
"Bastard," Duo repeated, in a sage tone. "Yeah, I know...So...hungry?"
"Sure," Edward said. He rotated his arm, feeling the joints creak as the ache faded. "Whatcha got?"
"Lots," Duo told him. He moved towards the wall, and bent down, grabbing onto a handle and pulling upwards. With a groan and a shriek of metal, the door rolled upwards, revealing a driveway, and beyond that a street and a row of houses. Duo beckoned, and Edward and Alphonse left their suitcases by the large metal box, and went to join Duo.
Edward realized Duo was pointing up, and he stared at the metal walls visible in the distance, beyond the row of houses. The world seemed to curve upwards, not downwards, as though they were at the top of a long, broad hill. Edward leaned back, seeing the metal walls rising up, up, up, arching over his head an endless distance away. Edward felt light-headed, to see the world encased, to see buildings and streets and odd-looking cars, all wrapped up in some sort of metal box. At the top, over his head, there was a massive window of some sort, but it was mostly black, except for a half-circle of silver-gray along one side.
"What's that?" Alphonse pointed.
Duo looked up, and laughed, a bright sound. He lowered his head, and winked at Edward. "That...is the moon."
Edward looked at Duo, disbelieving, then leaned back to look up at the crescent visible through the huge window over their heads. He stared for a long moment, sensing the other four men come to flank them in a circle. He continued to stare, and a smile slowly spread across his face. Dropping his chin, he arched an eyebrow at Duo, who smirked in response.
It took a second of digging through his memory, but Edward's smile grew as the word came back to him. Doing his best to remember it perfectly, he leaned back again and stared up at the moon, visible through the window from this box he was in that floated in space.
Then Edward said the only word he knew in Duo's language, but it was one that he was pretty sure would fit the situation perfectly.
"Cool," he told Duo, and laughed.