Disclaimer:I don't own this and I don't make any money off of it.
Warning:Male/male sex, graphic, language,violence.
Getting an elbow to the face and a knee to the gut isn't a good way to wake up. I shouted... well, gasped, actually, around a pulverized diaphragm and, what felt like, a broken nose as Heero rolled over me. The pounding on the door registered next and then my goal wasn't to get air in, but to save my early bird customer from Heero.
Heero was crouched and grappling for a weapon he didn't have as I sat up and untangled myself from the blankets. Heero was still half asleep, eyes blinking myopically and hair a tangle over his face. Dressed only in his underwear, arms waving in large arcs as he tried to orient himself, he finally fell backwards and sat on his ass on the floor. Good, he was awake enough now to remember what year it was and that we weren't in a war any longer.
I skipped the sigh of relief I couldn't manage anyway as the door pounding continued. A faint, "Maxwell!" punctuated it. I held a hand to my stinging, bleeding nose as I dragged on a pair of shorts with my free hand, hopping and staggering as I made my way out of the bedroom and to the front door. I snagged the chair out from underneath the knob and opened it.
My customer was walking away, looking annoyed. "Polk!" I shouted. He turned at my voice and then looked shocked.
"What the hell happened to you, Maxwell?"
"Fell out of bed and then ran into a door," I lied effortlessly. "News at nine. Give me a minute to get dressed and I'll be out with you."
Polk, a heavy set man in overalls, grunted, and then turned his back on me. He didn't leave, though, and that gave me hope.
I went back inside and straight into the bathroom. I picked up a rag and cleaned my face. Heero appeared in the doorway holding my jeans. He still looked half asleep, but as guilty as hell too. "Duo, I'm-"
"Later," I growled as I took my pants, discarded the shorts, and began putting them on. "We have a guaranteed sale out there. Let me handle it. You..." I looked him up and down, "Go the hell back to bed. I remember you as an early riser with a hair trigger during the war. What happened?"
Heero rubbed a hand through his hair and couldn't help a yawn, "Lots of stimulants."
I grunted. I remembered taking some heavy drugs myself to get through some of those tough days. I didn't want to think about it, then, or at anytime, actually. I left the bathroom and fished a shirt off the floor. Dragging it on over my head, I shrugged into it as I looked for my boots. Heero sat on the edge of the futon and pulled the heated tab on some coffee. He cupped it in both hands and sipped cautiously, watching as I found my footwear under his discarded clothes and sat on the floor to put them on.
My nose felt two sizes too big and it was still leaking blood. My stomach throbbed. I was mad. I was tired. I sat, finally, with my booted feet sticking out in front of me and my eyes closed. Get it together, I told myself, I had to be sharp and I couldn't afford to let my temper have free range.
Heero moved. I opened my eyes and saw him getting dressed. As I stood up, he said. "I'll go with you."
Yeah, I know he was feeling very guilty and wanted to apologize. Standing with me out there was his way of atoning, but I could see he was still blinking and trying to wake up. I put a hand in the middle of his chest and pushed. He sat back down, pants half on.
"You clocked me. It was an accident, now forget it," I told him as I headed for the door. "I am an ex-soldier too, remember? I've had my share of flashbacks."
Heero leaned back on the bed, half propped on his elbows in defeat. Even gummed up with sleep, he looked like a damned pinup in a magazine. My brain tormented me with the memory of how he tasted and the feel of his skin under my hands as I went outside and rejoined my customer.
I had put out the call the day before, that I had reworked parts and machines to sell. I had especially asked for this man. When I'd told Heero 'guaranteed sale' I hadn't been exaggerating. It came with a small price, though, and not in credits, but I didn't feel bad for paying it. It w as just part of doing business on L2.
"Glad you could come, Polk!" I called to the man. He had found the parts and was picking through them already, face a study in concentration.
"All warranteed." I told him as I tied my bandana around my neck and stood at his elbow.
"Better be," Polk grumbled.
The game began. We haggled. It took time. He found every flaw, exploited every one of my weaknesses to get the price down. For my part, I pointed out the pros and his weaknesses. He had one, a big, glaring one. It was my hammer to drive home the price that I wanted. He agreed at last and we did the deal.
I was walking a foot above the ground, with a bank account that finally had some credits in it, as I watched my customer load up half the parts with the help of an assistant, and drive off in a cloud of dust.
I was having sex with Heero Yuy, my business wasn't getting ready to collapse any longer, I could pay Heero back every credit I owed him, and I was having sex with Heero... Hey, it felt good to repeat it. I was still having trouble believing it.
It went a long way to restore my self worth that I had sold those parts all on my own. I didn't need Heero, or the stinking Preventers, to come in and save me. I didn't need anyone but Duo Maxwell to run things. I'd scored the replacement parts on my own and had sold them on my own... Okay, so Heero had helped me rebuild the machines, but I could have done that too... in time... Well, when it came to restoring an ego, I could skimp on details like that.
I had a feeling, when I went back into the shack, that Heero had been watching through the window. He wasn't when I returned, but he exuded 'pleased', even though he was stretched out in bed and eating breakfast.
Heero's computer was open and next to him, waiting, I guess, for me to come in with the sale. I snagged it and started entering accounts as I sat on the edge of the bed. I made sure the money had transferred, first thing, and then made sure some of it was transferred to Heero's account to pay off my tab. When I saw the zero amount on that tab... I had an emotional moment. I felt stupid, but it was that important to me. I turned away to pull myself together and said, roughly, to cover it, "Polk knows a contact that might pick up the rest of the parts."
Heero took the computer, after I put it down, and went through Polk's record as he chewed and swallowed. I knew what was coming next. I heated up my own breakfast and sat with my back to Heero as I ate, shoulders tensed as I waited for his reaction. I wasn't disappointed.
"Duo, he's not licensed."
"Yeah, I know."
"Selling to him is illegal."
"Not hugely illegal, though, just a misdemeanor," I replied without turning. "He sells legitimate, rebuilt parts, and he pays his bills on time."
"Duo, I am law enforcement. I can't-"
I did turn to him, then, glaring. "Do you remember what I said when I was hauled off to Preventer lockup? I won't do this sting of yours if you're after little guys. Polk's very little. He did some bad things when he was young, like we did, but now he's married, has six kids, a mortgage, and bills to pay. The government won't give him a second chance, though. They won't license him. We were given pardons, special treatment, hero status even. Polk, and people like him, got nothing, Heero. They have to live under the paper radar."
Heero looked troubled. The Heero I knew wouldn't listen to my reasoning, wouldn't back down, and wouldn't sacrifice what was legally right for an individual who needed some social right. I had this feeling that, what we'd built in our short time together, was suddenly as slick as oil and slipping from me. I wanted to grab at it, to stop it from getting away, but I knew there were some things I wasn't willing to compromise on for my own sake. I wasn't going to rat on Polk and I wasn't going to let Heero do it either. If I had to kill the sale, I was prepared to, to save him.
"I wasn't present for the sale," Heero said at last as he continued to eat. "No witnesses, no bill of sale, and no paper trail. A transfer of accounts isn't enough to prosecute. If you can give me a valid reason why parts should disappear and why a man suddenly gives you that many credits...?"
"Damn thieves took them last night," I said, feeling a grin spread across my aching face. "I can't afford to invest in security equipment. It happens a lot. As for the credits, Polk's giving me a business loan."
"Unsecured and without a signed contract?" Heero wondered, as if he really believed it. "That isn't very wise."
I snorted. "We're friends. He knows I'm good for it."
Heero went through his bag and pulled out a small med kit. He found an ice pack, hit the tab, and handed it to me. "Your nose... Is it...?"
I touched it and then pressed the cold pack to it. I didn't like the sensation, but I knew it was good for the swelling. "No, it's not broken." My voice had a weird, nasally, tone to it. "People sleeping with you must really love those wake up calls." I was starting to get angry and I couldn't help a jab of sarcasm. You might forgive someone for hurting you when it was an accident, but you could still be pissed about it. Heero's next words killed that anger dead.
"I've never... I've never slept with anyone before," Heero admitted softly.
I blinked at him, staring at him in shock around the bulk of the ice pack. My brain floundered. I didn't know what to say to that. My image of handsome, assured, Heero with a string of willing lovers, popped like a balloon and nothing but a big, 'huh?' was left in it's place. I tried to recover, tried to reason through my surprise. "Uhm, well, with reflexes like that, it's no shit you don't sleep with anyone else. Killed any previous boyfriends?"
Okay, that was the last thing I had wanted to say. I did my dumb fish routine again. Admitting that much of a relationship... I hadn't been ready for that, wasn't ready for Heero to look so... damned happy. His embarrassed face split into a smile that made my toes curl. A smile like that should be packaged and made into a weapon. It could disable anyone with an ounce of feeling. It kept me from backtracking, from turning it into a crass joke, from WANTING to take it back.
He didn't push it. I could see him trying to control that smile as he stood up, discarded his meal, and dressed. "We should get to work," he said in a way that was just as bad as the smile.
I stood up and felt overwhelmed as I watched him leave the bedroom, picking up his hat on the way out. I now, officially, had a boyfriend. "Damn," I breathed and followed him out into the burning hot morning.
"This stack has a lot of large pieces of scrap, " Heero commented.
I came to stand next to him and we both looked up and up at the tallest stack in my yard. Some pieces were as large as suits and some as small as refrigerators. The sun gleamed on rust, oil, and water standing in nooks and crannies.
Heero pointed to a relatively free space. I didn't have many. "We should move the usable parts there, catalog them, and then have the rest hauled away. "
"Now?" I sounded reluctant, hell, I WAS reluctant. I'd let it go for a long time. Moving scrap that big was dangerous and most of it I had inherited when I bought the yard years ago. My brain had cataloged it as a 'Pandora's box' and forgotten about it. It was damned difficult to sell anything that big, anyway.
Heero gave me a sideways look that was very serious. My 'boyfriend' was gone and replaced with someone I'll call, 'Mr. Mission'. There wasn't anything soft or conceding about him. This guy didn't give a damned about anything except the numbers, the bottom line. This was the guy I had fought a war with. This was the Heero I remembered, only it hadn't been bottom lines he'd wanted back then, but body bags and winning a war.
Heero didn't need to say anything. Just his stance told me everything he was thinking. If I wanted the business to be a success, I had to deal with my inventory. It was up to me, though, his eyes told me. I had the decision.
"Let's get to it," I said with false enthusiasm.
Heero nodded, pleased, and I went to get the claw. Sitting in the ratty cab of the big machine and turning the key, trying to get the old engine to turn over, I really wasn't surprised when it just grumbled, spluttered, and died a choking death. It had been due for a breakdown. They happened almost like clockwork.
I leaned my forehead against the filthy controls and accidentally hit my aching nose. I winced and sat up again. Heero was already opening the engine compartment and looking inside. I mouthed his report, knowing it already.
"Fuel rod, compressor pump, line clog." Heero fiddled. Nothing came of that, of course. He closed the compartment and I looked over the hood of the machine at him. "Lets inventory the stack as much as we can," Heero suggested, "identify the good parts, and then try and fix the claw to move them. That way, if we need to go out for parts, we'll be able to start work after it's fixed."
I guess that made sense, but, I think, it was just a complicated way of saying, 'We're pissed about this, so let's leave it until we stop wanting to beat the engine with a heavy wrench.' I didn't know about Heero, but I sure wanted to.
We had to climb the stack, as much as I didn't want to. We couldn't see everything from the ground. With the claw, we could have picked it apart, but now... "Let me go up," I suggested to Heero, "I'm experienced at this. I'll call down what I find."
"No," Heero softened the 'Mr. Mission' bit, "We'll get done faster if we do it together. We may be able to spot each other if there's trouble."
I doubted that, but I could see that he wasn't going to back down from this. "Okay," was all I said as I began a cautious climb up the scrap.
It was a mountain of very heavy materials. By all rights, it shouldn't move, but rusted spots giving way, greasy surfaces sliding against greasy surfaces, and precariously tilted parts deciding to stop defying the laws of gravity, were all a real possibility. It just rubbed in my lack of organization. Not having sorted it sooner was endangering us both.
Everything was going all right, at first, but I didn't let that lull me into false security. I stayed sharp, stayed cautious; testing each surface before I trusted my full weight on it. I saw that Heero was doing the same. Together, we poked, prodded, reached inside to tug pieces into the light where we could see them, and inventoried each piece we could identify on Heero's computer.
We both sweated and we were both quickly covered in dirt and grease. As we bent over a stubborn piece, heads together, and I tried to move it so that the light touched on identification numbers, Heero suddenly nuzzled the side of my face. I started, but he was already leaning in and seizing a kiss.
Okay, so we're crazy. I ended up almost on my side with Heero leaning into me and the kiss for all he was worth. We forgot about how high up we were, and how very dangerous it was, to indulge in some tongue dancing. I didn't care, didn't think, didn't register anything in the whole wide world except how very hot that kiss was, until someone nearby swore... in Chinese.
Heero and I swiveled eyes, tongues still locked together, and saw Chang Wu Fei standing on a piece of scrap and glaring at us in jeans, a white shirt, and work boots. You understood the term, 'kill someone with a look', when you are given one by Wu Fei. He had it down to an art form; contemptuous, cold, arrogant, and so full of anger that he could strip metal off of Gundanium or strip the flesh from the bones of two men who were doing something he totally disapproved of.
"Yuy!" Wu Fei hissed. "What are you doing? I knew that you couldn't be trusted to execute this sting as soon as I knew that Maxwell was going to be part of it. You have compromised everything by letting this become personal!"
We broke the kiss. I was getting my tongue back in working order and getting ready to let Wu Fei have some choice words in response, when Heero replied, "I'm sorry. I... I didn't know that I would become... involved."
Wu Fei's arrogance went up a hundred notches and he managed to look down his nose at us from two levels of scrap down. "You have compromised your career, your record, by indulging in this, " he motioned harshly at me, "this unnatural attraction. You have endangered-"
"Hey!" I finally broke in. "Unnatural?! What the hell century did you crawl out of?!"
Wu Fei's contemptuous glare at me made me flounder. "You are a criminal, by your own admission. You sell scrap on a station known for being a den of the corrupt. You wheel and deal in contraband, in a quick credit, in the lawlessness of-"
"Wu Fei!' Heero snapped and I looked at his angry face. Heero's eyes almost seem to glow under his dark brows. I could see his muscles tensing, his jaw working. "I didn't plan this, but it's happened. If you want, I can take myself off the mission, but I've established myself as Duo's assistant already and his... "
He couldn't finish and I was forced to come to his rescue now, but with a dangerous edge to my voice that let Wu Fei know that I wasn't backing down, wasn't apologizing, or making excuses for what I was, for what me and Heero were doing. "We didn't plan it this way, but people don't have much to do except gossip. Everyone in Market Row thinks Heero's my fuck, so we have our story solid and straight. You mess with that now and everyone's going to know something's up."
My temper was carrying me through, but, underneath it, I was feeling overwhelmed, coming to terms, all at once, and having to defend a relationship I hadn't finished figuring out yet. I guess I was really defending Heero and the rest was a painful byproduct.
Wu Fei glared at Heero and raised a black eyebrow. "It seems we have a problem."
We had more than that when the station suddenly shuddered and machinery groaned. Heero was secure, I didn't have to check on that. Wu Fei wasn't. I saw him sway... backwards... towards a very long, deadly fall. I didn't think past that. I reacted with reflexes trained into me during the war and a speed and agility some people thought were inhuman. We all had it. That's part of why we had been chosen. It carried me down, gave me the ability to dance over heaving, sliding metal, and grab onto Wu Fei's hands. Our grips locked and I braced my feet against whatever machine we were standing on. Using the power of my legs to push us back to safety, I landed on my back hard with Wu Fei between my legs on top.
We rode out the shaking. I had a long, embarrassed minute to feel Wu Fei's crotch pressing intimately against my own, his chest plastered against mine, and his cheek pressing into my collarbone. He smelled like incense and L2 dust. Then the scrap pile was sliding and we heard a very loud crash.
Dust rose up in clouds. We blinked against it. I thought about a prayer, some confession, and then just settled on some cursing.
"Heero!" I shouted.
"Secure!" he shouted back, almost in my ear. I wasn't sure how he could be, especially when the dust drifted away and I could see that the top of the pile had fallen off and that I was now on top and not on the side of it any longer. The chill of that realization almost made me piss my pants and it made me numb to the fact that Heero hand his fingers dug into my shoulders so hard if felt like he was pushing into bone.
Wu Fei began to shove up off me, swearing. The feeling was mutual. I didn't feel an ounce of sexual attraction towards him and I disliked him enough that I didn't even want him touching me, especially not like we were. I was forced to wrap legs around him, though, and hold him down.
"Don't move, you stupid fuck!" I hissed in his ear. "Do you want the rest of this pile to go over?" He froze, but his entire body was stiff as if my touch was polluting him and he could hardly stand it. It would have been easy to think that he should have got over that the instant that I had saved his life, but, stick two males, of any species, together, who didn't like each other, and make them rub crotches. At least we weren't trying to kill each other... yet.
"We should go down, one at a time," Heero suggested. "It's the safest way."
I agreed. "Uh, you're amputating my arms, Heero, do you mind...?" Heero eased off and I couldn't help groaning in relief. When I could catch my breath, I told him. "You first ." Screw Wu Fei. The first person down probably had the best chance of making it. The more disturbance to the pile, the more likely it would go over. The last person down was going to be in the most danger. Heero didn't need a manual on the scrap piles of L2 to know that. He wasn't stupid.
"Duo-" Heero began to protest, but I cut him off.
"This is my yard, dammit, and I give the freakin' orders!" I shouted.
"Get the hell down from this pile, now!"
"I'll go next door and get their earth mover," Heero suggested.
I shook my head, giving him a hard look. "We're too high up. It's my own damned fault, Yuy, so let me take the fall. Go down now." I measured out each word of that last sentence.
Heero reached out, glanced nervously at Wu Fei, who wasn't saying anything, and then touched my face. Heero looked completely anguished and open for a moment, and then he was turning and following my orders, slowly climbing down the teetering pile of metal parts.
"Don't move or I will twist your head off," I warned Wu Fei. He growled angrily, but he complied. We both listened to Heero moving very slowly down the pile of metal. Come on, I chanted silently. You can do it. You have to get down safe... My entire being was focused on the sound of his progress.
"Clear!" Heero shouted up at last and my heart clenched in my chest.
I had signed and sealed the sale of my soul to hear that, had been promising every deity and demon I could think of a piece of me if Heero made it to safety. Yeah, I had it that bad. He meant that much to me and I wondered at how well I had hidden that fact from myself. It wasn't a new development and I knew it. It was something I'd kept down deep and locked tight, thinking I'd never have to use it, that I would never have the chance to air it out and actually FEEL it.
"Your turn," I told Wu Fei. "Make sure your footing is secure before you put weight down. Look for scrap that's jammed in tight. Don't trust large slabs." He was looking at me as I talked, neck craned at a painful angle and body even tenser than before. He looked pissed and confused. "Go!" I exclaimed, furious, and he twitched and blinked when I accidentally spit the word.
Wu Fei's jaw worked and then he gave one nod. I had this sense that it was more than a confirmation of my order. I was giving his life precedence over my own. I'm sure he thought that I wasn't as good as him, and that he did think he deserved to live more, but having me okay that was probably something worth at least a tiny bit of respect.
Wu Fei lifted his weight off of me, slow and cautious. He shifted sideways and it was a relief to get his damn crotch off of mine and his scent out of my nose. When metal groaned and shifted under us, he froze though. We both sweated bullets until the pile fell silent and went still again.
He began climbing down. I didn't move, was too afraid to, and I stared up
at the 'sky', at the roof of the station almost lost in a haze above me. When
the scrubbers descended, I moaned. They wouldn't effect the pile of scrap, but
it was just one more stress, listening to the sound and watching the dust rise
up in whirling, drifting forms as the air was cleaned.
"Clear!" Wu Fei shouted and I closed my eyes and let out a breath of relief.
"Get the hell away from the pile!" I shouted for all I was worth when the scrubbers ended their cycle and lifted up again. "You can't help me get down and the pile might fall over again!"
I don't know if they listened. I slowly sat up and then began my own climb down, all my attention on my hands and feet as I tried not to pull the stack over on me or have it slide out from under me as I climbed down. At one point, I felt something give under my hand and a piece of scrap, the size of a car, slid towards my face. It stopped a bare inch from my swollen nose and I stared at it, frozen, mind calculating size and weight and how close I had come to being a grease spot. Very slowly, I shifted away from it and continued down, heart pounding madly.
"Yuy!" I heard Wu Fei shout as I touched ground and hard hands were fisting my clothes and hauling me away from the stack.
I was enjoying being alive too much for a moment to process anything and then I focused on Heero's face close to my own and I realized that he was the one twisting the front of my shirt and looking me anxiously in the face. I grinned at him and clouted him on the shoulder. He grinned back at me and gave me a rueful shake, before letting go of me.
"You are both complete fools!" Wu Fei announced.
We turned to look at him and then looked at each other. I laughed first. Heero's guilty look turned into humor and he began laughing as well. We had almost died, but we had conquered death once again, just as we had throughout our lives, throughout the war. It gave us an instant adrenalin high, a strong sense of having poked fate in the eye and given it the finger. Maybe Heero's career was over? Maybe Wu Fei would have me arrested, feeling that I was useless to him now? It didn't matter, not then. We were going to enjoy our victory and to hell with everyone and everything, including Chang Wu Fei.
on to Chapter 13
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