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>>enemy mine — chapter seven: runaway::

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Wolf parked the Harley and stepped off, blinking. Somehow, it surprised him that the meeting he was holding with the Loyalists was at an apartment building. It just didn't fit the typeset these people fell into. "Here?"

"Low-key. All of us are the right age for college students, and a lot live here. Besides, the government won't come in and bug 100 apartments unless they think they have a lead, and so far we know they don't." Replied one of the pair, Jordan, opening the front door and holding it. "Heck, you're probably one of the oldest people in the building."

Wolf gave him a look. "I am not that old."

The other, Rick, laughed softly as they got in the elevator, the only noise until they arrived at an apartment. Five other guys were waiting there, looking up when they came in and standing. Wolf suddenly felt like he was being visually dissected, and managed not to squirm, figuring it'd be bad for his image.

"So, it wasn't some sort of trick, hm?" One asked, crossing his arms. "How did you live through Star Fox's attack?"

"I could tell you, but then, I'd have to kill you." He replied very quietly.

The group shared some glances, then seemed to come to some sort of agreement. "All right then, so you're the real deal."

"Is this it?" He asked, taking a stock of the people in the apartment. None of them looked old enough to be of any rank. "You're probably all privates!"

"There are a few others, but no more then a dozen." Rick replied. "And yes, we're all of very low rank. That's the beauty of it."

"I fail to see how you managed to damage cruiser engines without being noticed." He crossed his arms. "Because I know that you were behind it. None of you could have possibly had the clearance, and any friends of yours probably would have been found. You're not the only ones with friends on the inside."

"We expected that." Replied one of the others. "And you're right, it probably doesn't make much sense from your standpoint, especially since someone let slip that it was an entire ship that turned coat." He smiled. "A lie of course…"

"So, enlighten me." He leaned one shoulder against the wall, scrutinizing those before him. "How do a dozen low-rank Loyalists do damage without getting themselves arrested?"

"How much do you know about Andross' experiments?" Said one of the others, this one a slender ferret sitting on the sofa. He was still in uniform, and from his badges was a low-rank medic. Somehow, that bothered Wolf even more.

That caught him off guard. "Not a lot. That wasn't my business, really. Andross kept work and pleasure separate. War was work, science was pleasure." He rubbed his chin. "I know he did a lot of really weird work with genetics, and that he tried to do some work with mind control. He was rather obsessed with the brain…"

"Exactly." The medic pulled out a bottle of pills and tossed them to Wolf. "A gift, from our fallen Emperor."

Wolf caught it automatically, looking at it. It was a clear orange bottle, like prescriptions were given in, but was without a label. It was half-full with small white pills. "Look like uncoated aspirin."

"Not hardly. That is the product of Andross' research on mind control."

He blinked, looking at the medic, and after a few seconds of waiting for a cue to laugh, he realized that they were completely and utterly serious.

"So, what do we know?" Peppy asked, leaning back in his chair on the bridge.

"He took off a week ago, and got a new identity, because none of the numbers for the one we gave him have come up." Fox replied in a tired voice. "Falco's motorcycle turned up at a police station two days ago, so we can assume he's found another mode of transportation. He's wearing no form of transponder."

"And why exactly did he take off?" Slippy asked, eyebrow lifted at Fox. "You have failed to explain that to us."

"And I shall fail to do so right now. Don't ask, all right? The important thing now is that we figure out how to find him."

"Maybe he just wants to be left alone. Start over, you know?" Peppy remarked.

"Maybe, but I don't think so. You saw how he was getting about the mission, I don't think he'd be able to leave it behind in good faith." Fox sighed, rubbing his eyes, remembering how badly Wolf's hands had been shaking as he had tried to pick up the fallen paperwork. "I think he's trying to continue the mission on his own time."

"Wait, we agreed against him contacting them, though. Even he said it'd be too dangerous." Slippy frowned.

"But I bet that's what he's doing right now. I'm not sure he's concerned about the danger. That's why we've got to find him, before he ends up hurt. He's just as talented as us, as far as being a soldier goes, but no one should go in completely alone."

Leon woke up slowly, which he was getting used to — he didn't snap awake anymore, due to the cold weather. The fire had burned down to low embers, and faint light came through the holes in the top of their cave, along with a breeze. They had made wooden grates to keep things out, but that didn't count for wind, so he stuck an arm out of the warmth under the blankets and stoked the fire with a nearby stick, stretching to toss some more wood on. Eventually he was awarded with a healthy blaze, and he tucked his arm back under the blanket, rolling slowly.

Falco was still fast asleep, mumbling in hazy annoyance when Leon rolled, arms automatically tightening to hold his friend close. Leon let his eyes close in contentment, wrapping an arm around Falco's too-thin waist with a sigh. He was pretty sure the only reason Falco pulled him close like that was because his subconscious mind didn't know who it was it was snuggling, but he wasn't sure he cared at this point. He was warm and comfortable, and with the wind howling outside, that was all he really wanted.

It was almost an hour later when Falco started waking up, automatically letting go of him and stretching out, like a large feathered cat. Leon contented himself with watching; resting his head on one of his arms as Falco hefted himself up and shook off, absently preening a few feathers. It was a morning ritual that Falco went through daily, trying to wake himself up without the assistance of coffee.

"Sounds nasty out there." He remarked, looking toward the door flap they had made, which was rippling in the wind in spite of being heavy and reinforced.

"No kidding." Leon sat up easily, wrapping the blankets around his shoulders and tucking his feet under him. "I haven't gotten the bravery to look though."

Falco chuckled and went to the door flap, loosening one side and looking out. He was promptly slammed in the face with flying snow, and Leon laughed when Falco looked at him with a white face. "Just a bit windy." Falco said in a light voice, wiping snow off his face. "I should probably go out and see if I can find anything to add to our food store, though. We don't have that much saved back…"

Still wearing one of the blankets, Leon stood and joined him, peering out around his arm. "Falco, it's an absolute white-out out there." He frowned up at his friend. "You don't have that good of eyesight, bird or no. You'll get lost."

"It's not THAT bad. I'll stay close to the cave, all right?" Falco gave him a half-hug in passing, shrugging into his jacket and putting on his boots. "You have a watch?"

Leon held up his wrist. "Yep."

"If I'm not back in twenty minutes, come looking for me." With that he ducked under the flap and was gone into the storm.

"What is he, nuts?" Leon whispered. "I can't survive that storm…" He retreated several steps and sat by the fire, looking at his watch to note the time, shuffling his cards and settling down for a long-seeming wait.

Wolf leaned against the bar and tried to keep from staring. The Loyalists had said they'd show him that the pills worked, and he had admittedly been unbelieving. Now, though, he saw that it worked pretty well. The pills dissolved immediately when dropped into a drink, and within ten minutes the person who had drank it became very open to suggestion. Deciding to be amusing in their display of the drug, the three Loyalists he was with had convinced a group of leather-jacket wearing gang members into doing country line dancing, specifically, the Achy Breaky. Not only was it funny as hell, according to the Loyalists once they were done, they wouldn't remember a thing of it.

And so the drug unveiled its beauty. It washed completely out of the system, and the person didn't remember a thing. So, they could convince ship personnel to destabilize the engines of their ships, and no one was the wiser. True, the supply they had was finite, but the Loyalists had enough to do a lot of damage to the military's fleet.

"So, how'd you get this stuff?" Wolf asked, studying the claws on one had absently, not wanting to betray the hard anger that gleamed in the back of his eyes.

"Tom, the medic, actually had the guts to call the Emperor up and ask how we could help, even though the war was already lost by then." Rick replied. "We got these by thoroughly mundane mail, three bottles. We're on our second."

"Guess three bottles didn't amount to many pills, mm?"

"Nope, not really." He laughed softly. "But we've been having a destructive ball so far…"

"So I've heard. But coming to the point, how can I possibly help you? After all, I'm not exactly working anywhere that would get your group any advantage, and the people I know can't help much either."

"If anything, you can help with the planning. We've been trying to decide what ship to hit next. Maybe you can help us decide."

"Sure." He swallowed the bile back and smiled weakly, knowing that he wouldn't be able to deal with any more innocent deaths on his back.

Leon looked at his watch, nibbling on his lower lip uneasily. It had been twenty minutes, and there was no sign of Falco. He listened to the howling wind, and felt a cold ball of worry forming in his gut. He'd have to go find him. Reluctantly dropping his blanket, he laced up his boots and pulled on his jacket over all the shirts he had, gritting his teeth when he opened the flap and the cold hit him, sending a shock through him.

The wind and snow covered any footsteps Falco had made. Shivering and marking landmarks in his mind, Leon staggered into the storm, tail wrapping around his waist. The storm hadn't lightened up at all, so his visibility was less then five feet. He followed the path they had gotten used to walking, hands tucked in his pockets, breath pluming out as he walked, looking around and unable to see anything.

He was just feeling his blood grow sluggish and was wondering if he was going to die in this godforsaken cold when he tripped, boot hitting something soft and tumbling into the snow. He sputtered, sitting up, then heard the faint moan. Shocking fully awake, he dug into the lump of snow, up to his elbows in solid cold, but then his fingers touched feathers. He dug deeper, finally unearthing Falco's prone form, hugging his friend to his chest. "Falco… Falco, please wake up… I can't carry you… wake up…!" He choked the words out, leaning his face against Falco's, whimpering softly, shaking hard with cold and fear. He sighed, fingers brushing through the feathers around Falco's scarred eye. "Please…"

Five minutes passed before Falco stirred, nuzzling into Leon's chest without realizing, body suddenly wracking with shakes as he realized the cold. His eyes opened slowly, and he felt a smile curve his lips just slightly. "Decided to come get me?"

Leon nodded, feeling a need to sleep scream in his body, the coma-sleep starting to overtake him. "What happened?"

"Slipped… hit my head." He sighed. "Can you help me up?" When Leon shook his head weakly, he frowned, then it clicked. "Jesus, stay awake." He struggled to his feet and drew Leon close, wrapping an arm around his waist to support him. "You lean on me, I lean on you, we get back home."

Leon sighed and nodded, eyes barely open, knowing he'd at least die happy.

Fara jumped when her phone rang, and sighed, pinning it between her shoulder and cheek as she shuffled diagnostics papers. Who would have guessed that chief test pilot included so much bloody paperwork? "Fara Phoenix speaking."

"Um… Hi Fara. This is Wolf. You remember me?"

She blinked, putting down the papers. "Yes, of course. Fox is borderline combing the city for you! Where are you?"

"Listen, uh, don't tell him I called, ok? Please? I don't want him finding me right now." Wolf chewed his lower lip nervously. "The reason I called is that I was curious if you were free for lunch."

"What? Oh, yes, of course. You want to have lunch with me?" She knew she sounded a bit incredulous. She didn't know that much about Wolf, just his military record and the fact that he was rather polite.

"I need to talk to you. Will you please not tell Fox?"

"I guess. Where should I meet you?" A few minutes of discussion and they had decided on a location, and she hung up, staring at the phone. He had sounded desperate somehow, obviously whatever he wanted to discuss was urgent, but why didn't he want her to tell Fox? Didn't he know how worried Fox was about him? That was it, probably, he didn't know, she decided. She'd tell him and try to convince him to go back. If the news caught on, the government would practically be forced to sentence him.

Falco sighed, sitting next to the fire, leaning back on the heels of his hands. Flame-flavored heat licked over his chest and legs, and he basked in it, tilting his head back absently. Now that he wasn't so cold heat hurt, it was borderline paradise just to be warm.

Leon was laying beside him, head resting on his leg, eyes half-closed. He wasn't asleep, though, they kept exchanging words every now and then to make sure he didn't sleep until he was fully defrosted. Falco had rubbed Leon's hands and arms, keeping him from getting frostbite, so now he was practically purring in contentment. Still, he couldn't help but wonder why Falco was so affectionate, or if Falco even realized he was doing it.

"When we get out of here, I am going on a five-hundred dollar grocery run, just food." Falco was saying, voice lazy. "Then, I am spending an hour in a shower, then a weekend at a spa."

He chuckled softly, nuzzling into Falco's side with a sigh. Falco echoed it, stretching his arms above his head lazily, making his ribs seem even more apparent. Even though they ate well, it wasn't quite enough, both had lost what little fat was on their bodies. "We should go to sleep, you know." He finally remarked, yawning. "I think it's not that I'm frosty, I'm just tired."

"Hey, ready when you are bud." Falco flopped back, yawning. Once Leon had lifted his head, he rolled and arched his back into a stretch, then stood, walking over to the bed.

Leon watched this and crawled over, nestling down next to him, staring into the distance as Falco wrapped around his back, feathers automatically fluffing up a bit, one arm draping around his lower ribs. "Fal?"


"Assuming we do get picked up… what's going to happen to… this?"

"… What do you mean?"

"I like what we have right now… What's going to happen to this when we get picked up? I'm not going to have anywhere to go…" He trailed off before he started seriously insinuating something. Anyone else would consider them involved, and he knew it, but somehow the situation made it normal, comfortable, and he didn't want to loose it.

"You can stay with me until you get on your feet. We'll buy bunk beds or something." Falco's voice was muzzy with sleep, and he yawned to punctuate his sentence, tightening his grip just slightly.

Leon sighed. "Promise?"

"Promisze…" Then he was asleep, body relaxed and breathing deep.

"Hey, Fox!" Peppy shouted, staring at the fax he had just got, reading through the facts presented. "Message from Wolf!"

Fox skidded in. "What's it say?"

"Just like you thought. He's on the inside with the Loyalists. He's got some stuff for us to relay to the General… oh, Pepper ain't going to be happy about this. He wants personnel shut out of the engine bays for every large military vessel. Only robots allowed. He's not saying how, but apparently the Loyalists are coaxing the ships' own crews to do the damage." Peppy passed the message over. "Nothing to track back, sorry. It was sent from a copy center."

Fox moaned, rubbing his eyes. "I've been busting my butt trying to find him, and I've found nothing. Find the address of the copy center for me, it's someone to talk to in hopes of finding him. At least he's safe for now though."

"Let's hope it lasts long enough for us to find him." Peppy watched Fox wander out, and sighed. "I just wish that you'd tell us why i 's hurting you so much." He murmured, shaking his head, and knew that Fox would never tell if he had a choice.

Fara looked around, and frowned a bit, sighing. She was late, but she always was. One thing she lacked was punctuality. "Excuse me, is the person I'm meeting here?" She gave Wolf's fake name, and the hostess nodded toward the bar.

"He's waiting for you. Keep a hold of him, love, he's gorgeous."

She forced a smile and walked over to the bar, where one of the men turned and looked at her, standing. Wolf smiled timidly. His mode of dress had changed, now in black slacks and a pale blue silk shirt, but he was too stressed and nervous to actually look good in the posh outfit. "Hi, Wolf." She said softly. "Bit early for a drink, isn't it?"

"Sorry, stress." He sighed, picking up the martini glass. "Shall we sit?"

They sat at one of the more secluded tables, and he sighed, rubbing his eyes. "Thank you so much for doing this, Fara. I really needed someone to talk to, and it can't be Fox right now."

"Well, what's going on?"

He glanced around, then said in a low voice, "I'm in with the Loyalists right now, seeing how they work. I think they'll be easy to take out, but I need a good chance to reveal them. The problem is all we can get them on really is conspiracy. Proving anything will be hard as hell."

"Fox said that he didn't think you'd give up the mission."

"Too many people dead, Fara. I'm the sort that's kept awake by ghosts, imaginary or not."

There was a long pause, during which they ordered drinks, and she finally spoke up again. "What's this all about?"

"It's about Fox actually." Wolf finally admitted, shifting uncomfortably. "This is kind of hard to talk about, but… I think I'm in love with him…" He stared at the table. "I mean, I don't get it. Until recently, I was positive I was straight, now I don't know what to think."

Fara blinked, waiting for her brain to activate and process this. She had noticed how tight Wolf's nerves had been before, now they were screwed tighter, and she could see the anxiety in his eyes. "Wait, now. You think you're in love with a guy, so you come to his girlfriend? Brave…"

"Who else can I go to?" Wolf asked helplessly. "I mean, the worst you can be is angry, but you can't freak out too badly. Fox freaked. That's why I took off."

"What, you told him?" She blinked.

"Uh, er…" He ducked his head lower. "Not exactly." He looked up at her beseechingly. "What's wrong with me?"

She sighed and caught one of his hands in both of hers. "You know, it could be that you're not actually straight…" She started, and saw his ears lower more. "Well, look at this realistically. You claim to be in love with my boyfriend, and from what I've seen you're telling the truth. But however you were raised apparently gives you the idea that it's wrong."

"But I do like girls…"

"So you're bi. It seems like a lot of my friends are nowadays." She shook her head, laughing softly. "I get propositioned more by girls then guys, I swear."

"I don't know." He looked away. "All I know is that it's really hard to be around Fox now, especially if he's with you. It hurts. I mean, I like you, you've got to be one of the most kick-ass girls I've ever met, but it hurts to see you with Fox."

"I can understand that." She rubbed her fingertips over the fur on the back of his hand, feeling the scars underneath. Working scars, probably from fights. She wasn't surprised. "But you need to go back, Wolf. Fox is loosing his mind about this right now. He may be straight, but he's really worried about you."

"I'm not really sure why."

She turned his head so she could glare him in the eye. "Because you're his friend, you twit."

"I can't go back yet…"

"I'm going to tell him about this. Just please. Contact him."

He bit his lip, then sighed and nodded. "All right, Fara. All right."