Two Divided By Zero
by Lasha Lee

Upon learning that Shan and Meishel's new friend was the son of Relena Peacecraft and the nephew of the Lightning Count, several of the teens in Minos that night decided the most sensible thing to do was flee for their lives. Gage watched, amused, as they stammered excuses and headed for the door. He wondered idly if they were expecting him to stalk them, or declare war on them. Or both.

The rest of the patrons at Minos decided that Heero must surely have embellished on certain details, or that Gage couldn't possibly be on the same level of infamy as his relatives. And whatever the case, they were thrilled to meet him. He found himself peppered with questions, requests to dance, and handed more drinks than he had hands or bladder to cart around.

"So are you a prince?" Someone wanted to know.

"Hardly, my dear. My mother decided that life a queen might interfere with her hobbies. You know, the usual things young ladies of good breeding and background occupy themselves with." Gage sat on the edge of a table, a crowd of admirers around him. "Raiding trashcans, scaring small children, and biting strangers on the leg. So she forfeited all rights to the throne. And my uncle decided he couldn't be bothered with the blasted thing either. So it was abolished. I've suggested we turn it into a birdbath, but my parents still need some convincing."

"So, if you're not a prince, then what are you?"

"Well, that depends on who you ask." Gage replied thoughtfully. "The general response to that might be a bit too extreme for tender young ears. I personally like 'demigod'."

That brought another burst of laughter. Shan, standing the back, sighed to himself. They think he's joking.

"Do you have a girlfriend back on Earth?" Someone else asked.

"At the moment, no. My last relationship ended quite badly, you see. I found the love of my life. We were engaged to be married, and I lived and breathed for her. The sound of her name was music to my ears."

"What happened?" There was a murmur of sympathy.

"The farmer that owned her pitched a fit and got a restraining order against me. The scars on my heart may never heal; to this day I cannot eat lambchops without thinking of the children we might have had together."

"Any more questions?" Gage offered.

"I have one." Shan spoke up. "Why did you avoid answering the last question seriously?"

Several of the teens glared at Shan, but a few were looking at Gage expectantly.

"Fine." Gage gave a careless shrug. "The answer to your question is no, I do not have a girlfriend back on Earth. Most Earth children would be punished within an inch of their life for even daring to speak to the Evil Mr. Drummond, let alone date him. My reputation being what it is, I cannot see that ever changing." He slid off the table. "Now, I am going to go dance."

Meishel grabbed Shan's arm and pulled into back into the booth. "What the hell did you do that for?" She demanded angrily.


"Embarrass him like that. That was just plain mean, Shan."

"I wanted to get an honest answer out of him for a change." Shan rubbed his head. "Look, if you ask him about other people, he gives you a truthful answer. Sarcastic, but truthful. But haven't you noticed that he avoids almost any personal questions?"

"Well, duh." Meishel snapped. "Shan, he doesn't know these people. He doesn't know us. And that day you spent with him doesn't count. I wouldn't spill my heart to a bunch of strangers and I don't expect him to either."

"You're right." Shan admitted. "It's just... darn it, I WANT to get to know him. And it's frustrating. He's an open book with the pages glued together."

"I'm always right. Now, go apologize to him. I want him to enjoy himself this evening, and you upset him." She pointed at the dance floor. "March."

"Yes, Mom."

Shan threaded his way through the dancing teens to where Gage was swaying to the music with a tall redheaded girl.

"Gage, can I talk to you a minute?"

"Certainly. Excuse me, my dear." He bowed to his partner, and she blushed.

The boys went to the empty stage and sat down facing each other.

"Gage... I want to apologize. I had no right to ask you something like that, and I'm sorry."

"Think nothing of it." Gage waved a hand. "I'd forgotten the matter. I've been far too busy delighting myself in the company of the local youths. But between the two of us, Shanny Boy, they need to get out a bit more."

Shan groaned. "Don't be like that."

"Like what?"

"Like you usually are. Don't talk to me like you talk to them. We're going to be together most of the summer. I want us to be friends."

Gage tilted his head, staring up at the ceiling for a minute. "My answer was honest, you know. No one allows their precious darlings any contact with me." His tone was suddenly bitter.

"Then it sounds to me like you could use some friends." Shan pressed. "And 'Shel and I like you. Go easy on us. We've never met anyone like you before."

Gage made a fist, and suddenly tapped his knuckles lightly against Shan's cheek. "You're a good egg, Shanny Boy. You and your half-pint sister. But those parents have their reasons. I don't work and play well with others."

"So you're not going to let me be your friend?" Shan asked, smiling.

"I didn't say that." Gage smiled back, a little sadly. "I just don't want you to get your hopes up."

Shan glanced down at his watch. "Hey, it's getting late. We better get back home or Baba will be down here pounding on the door looking for us."

He slid off the stage. "Coming?"

"Yeah." Gage shook himself. "Right behind you, Shanny Boy."

This was NOT working out as he expected. And Gage wasn't used to anything going outside of his plans. He had expected to be attracted to Shan. He had expected to coerce Shan into liking him and then make his move.

He had not expected to start liking the other boy in return. But as hard as he was trying, he just wasn't able to look at Shan the same way he looked at the other teenagers here. Amusing, disposable, and not worth worrying about.

Not all of these kids were wholesome and innocent. He met a few pairs of eyes, male and female, that were far too old for their faces. He supposed it was like calling to like; he could go home with any of them, have his fun, and neither he nor they would be any worse for it the next day.

Why, he thought sourly, couldn't Shan have been like them? Why did he have to be one of the good ones? And since when did he have the conscience to care?

They found a sugar-buzzed Meishel dancing madly in the middle of the floor; she was easy to spot in her various degrees of pink. The girl was pleased to see that the boys had made up, and reluctantly agreed that it was time they went home.

They left the club after promising to bring Gage by for another visit as soon as they could.

"It's beautiful out tonight, isn't it?" Meishel spun around on her heel. "Let's walk to the next transporter instead of this one. We'll still be home in plenty of time."

"Agreed." Gage gave her a serious look. "I think you've had a little too much, young lady. I was hoping you weren't planning to drive."

"I hope you're not planning to sleep either." Shan grinned. "How many of those Sunsets did you have?"

"Not too many. I'm not an addict." She wailed suddenly. "I swear, I can quit any time I want." Both boys laughed.

"I'll hate to see what happens when she's old enough for sugar alcohol." Shan said as they walked. "That stuff gets you drunk and buzzed at the same time. We'll have to go after her with a butterfly net."

And it was when everything was looking nice and wonderful that bad stuff always happened, Gage thought later. And this time, they couldn't even pin it on him.

They were almost to the next transporter, and he was enjoying himself watching Meishel singing and dancing along the sidewalk. There was a smoky smell in the air now, and he assumed that someone was having a late-night cook out.

Duo had made it a point to introduce Meishel to Earth culture, and Gage found out that in addition to Monty Python, Shan's twin was also an avid Rocky Horror Picture Show fan and knew all the comeback lines by heart.

"It's astounding." Gage began to sing, grinning at her. "Time is... fleeting. Madness, takes it toll. But listen closely."

Meishel cut in. "Not for very much longer."

"I've got to... keep control."

The teenagers began doing a wild Timewarp up the street. Shan at first pretended to be embarrassed but soon gave up and joined the dance with them. Laughing, they rounded a corner.

A crowd of people were around a building, and several men were running toward it with hoses. Flames were shooting out of the roof and against the sky.

"Oh God." Meishel blurted out, immediately serious. "Shan..."

The boy was staring at the flames, his eyes large, and he was breathing heavily.

"Shanny Boy? What is it?" Gage asked, worried.

"Shan!" Meishel snapped her fingers in his face. "Shan, snap out of it." She shook him. "We've got to get him out of here. Help me."

Shan was trembling now, staring transfixed at the fire. He suddenly jerked away from his sister and began to run down the street.

"Cripes. I knew this would happen..." She took off after him, Gage right behind her.

They found him a few minutes later, standing against a wall, his head hanging low. Gage could see that the boy was crying and trying very hard to control it.

"Shan..." Meishel said gently.

He gave her a heart-breaking look.

"I know." She put her arms around him and laid her head against his chest. His own arms closed around her and he began to sob loudly. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry, 'Shel."

"Shh, no. It's okay. I understand." She looked into his eyes. "I was there too, remember? I know what it was like." She held him for a long time, letting him weep, and reached up and wiped away his tears. "We've got to go home now. There's a transporter right over there. We don't have to go back downtown."

He took a shuddering breath and pulled himself away from the wall. Meishel was holding tightly to his hand.

"Are you okay?" Gage asked, and they both looked at him in surprise, as if forgetting he was with them.

Shan bit his lip. "When we were little..."


"No, it's okay. He's got a right to know why I flipped out." Shan smiled a little.

He paused, and then continued. "When 'Shel and I were little, we almost died in a fire. Our mother outran the flames as she was carrying us. But I could look over her shoulder and see them getting closer..." He tried to steady himself. "I could smell the smoke. I really thought we were going to die that day. We nearly did. And ever since then, I've been afraid of fire. Any fire. Heck, my parents can't even light the candles on my birthday cake without me going spastic on them. I'm sorry."

"Hey, none of that." Gage said firmly. "Everyone is afraid of something." He squeezed Shan's other hand. "I suppose it's a good thing I left my cigarettes back on Earth, though."

"You smoke?" Meishel asked.

"Well, no, not really."

They reached the transporter and stepped inside and Meishel punched in the code.

Wufei was waiting for them in the living room, his hands on his hips. "I said 11:30!" he snapped in greeting. "It's nearly twelve! What do you have to say for yourselves?"

"Lay off." Gage shot back. "They had a good reason."

"Why am I am not surprised that you're responsible for this?" Wufei accused. "Trying to sneak them into an adult club?"

"Baba, stop it!" Meishel jumped in. "There was a building on fire and Shan saw it!"

The fight went out of the man and he looked sheepish. "Are you all right?" He asked his son gently.

"Yeah..." the boy nodded. "But I really just want to go to bed."

"I understand." Wufei hugged him. "I'll see you tomorrow."

"Night 'Shel. Bye, Gage. I had fun tonight. I hope we can do it again soon."

"Any time, Shanny Boy." Gage waved.

Meishel waited until she heard Shan's bedroom door close. "Thank you." She whispered to Gage.

"For what?"

"For not making fun of him about it. It really embarrasses him, and you could have made him feel terrible. But you didn't."

"I wish I could have done more to help."

"You were a big help." She suddenly hugged him. "I'm glad you're staying with Heero and Duo for the summer. It's going to be nice having you around."

She grabbed a piece of paper off the table and scrawled a number on it. "This will get you back to their house."

"Thanks. I was wondering how I was going to manage that."

The boy headed back toward the transporter. "Gage." Wufei said suddenly. "I apologize for falsely accusing you. Thank you for helping Meishel with Shan tonight during his... episode."

Gage had a sudden flash of insight. He's ashamed of Shan, he thought suddenly. He loves him, but he's ashamed to have a son with a phobia. He felt his dislike of Wufei, which had began at dinner, growing stronger.

"Think nothing of it, Mr. Chang. I'm just pleased that I was around to stop him from hurling himself off of that bridge. Ta." He stepped into the transporter and pulled the door shut, hearing Wufei demand of Meishel "WHAT BRIDGE?"

As stated by the sainted and immortal Bugs Bunny "What a maroon."

He had expected Heero and Duo to be asleep when he got home, but to his surprise Heero was waiting up for him. He was also surprised that Heero didn't yell or accuse. He asked Gage calmly why he was late, listened to the explanation, and then like Meishel thanked Gage for not giving the other boy a hard time about his phobia.

Gage retreated down to the room he had been given and sat down on the bed. He carefully removed the blue shirt and laid it across a chair, and pulled off his boots.

He tried to imagine the twins' mother holding them and running for her life, flames all around them, and he shivered. He made a mental note to try and get the whole story out of someone tomorrow. He was exhausted tonight.

As he lay down, he felt something poking into his thigh. He smiled and reached into his pocket, pulling out General Stephen. Placing the toy carefully on his pillow, he drifted off to sleep.

On to part eight. Back to part six.