Disclaimer:I don't own them and I don't make any money off of this.
Warning:Male/male sex. graphic, violence, language
"Allright?" Heero asked as I sat down in the chair behind my office desk and gingerly touched my aching shoulders. Heero was standing by me anxiously, but Wu Fei was by the doorway with his arms crossed over his chest, giving me his best ice man glare.
I glared back and grumbled, "You can at least look happy to be alive, Wu-man. We were pretty damned close to getting our ticket punched out there."
Wu Fei grunted. He'd never liked my nicknames during the war and he sure as hell wasn't going to like them now.
Heero began pulling at my shirt. I resisted, irritated. I didn't want to be half naked and feeling vulnerable in front of Wu Fei. Heero persisted and we battled over the shirt. I only stopped the tug of war when I suddenly realized that it looked far more ridiculous than having Heero simply check my 'wounds'. I let him lift the shirt, then, and he hissed in shock at the revealed red, and darkly bruising, prints his hands had made on my skin.
"I didn't know..." Heero began, but I cut him off.
"You kept me and Wu Fei from going over with the rest of the scrap didn't you?" I guessed. When he nodded, I snorted, "Well, then what's to apologize for?" I had enough scars to attest to the fact that I had suffered a lot worse than bruises in the past, and so did Heero, for that matter. I didn't need him making a big deal out of it.
I jerked my shirt down, wincing at the pain, and then ignored Heero's embarrassing hovering to confront Wu Fei. "Okay, now that we're all cozy and safe, what the hell ARE you doing here climbing my scrap piles, what the hell gives you the fucking right to judge me and my lifestyle, and what the hell are you doing barging in on an operation, and screaming at the operatives, a scraps throw from people who would just love to carry that bit of news all over L2?"
"The operation is already compromised," Wu Fei replied in that irritating, arrogant, tone of his. "I guessed as much when I called Yuy and informed him that I would be coming to check the operation out myself."
I look in consternation at Heero, who asked Wu Fei in confusion, "When did you call?"
Wu Fei raised a black eyebrow. His pissy look was almost ruined by the grease smudges on his face. "You don't remember my call?"
I snorted at Heero. "You were asleep when you took the call, weren't you?"
Heero blinked and then looked embarrassed. "I think I must have been."
Wu Fei took a step towards us, getting even angrier. "You have been completely unprofessional since meeting Maxwell," he told Heero, "Your dedication to this mission is in serious question. Your fraternization with a man, who is also an operative and under suspicion himself, is a serious breech of protocol. It is an indication that you have let your personal interests take precedence over the operation. I'm going to request that this mission be scrubbed immediately."
I saw Heero nod meekly. As much as I felt like smashing Wu Fei's face in for saying those things to Heero... well, he was right. I would have scrubbed a mission with Heero, too, if we had been lip locking during the war. I thought about what the sting was all about, though, and how much it would mean to the lives of my fellow L2 citizens to get rid of at least one corrupt official. I also thought about the chances of Wu Fei, or anyone else, finding a scrap man to go in on the sting with them. Scrap men are that tight when it comes to the trade and the people of L2 were incredibly suspicious, and for good reason. They wouldn't trust that they wouldn't get arrested along with the corrupt official, hell, I wasn't even sure if I was going to be arrested after it was all over.
I scratched at the worn finish of my desk with a fingernail, thinking hard. Heero wasn't cornering the guilt market right then. I had it in spades. I really hadn't been looking at the larger picture, just reacting and seriously wanting to get closer to Heero. I had a fear in my gut, a fear of taking a break from that, of putting it aside to get down to business, as if what we were exploring might not go any further if left alone.
At the end of the war, when I'd said something to Quatre, about everyone going their own way and, maybe, not having that comrade in arms friendship any longer, he'd said, 'If it's real, it will survive the test of separation.' Having been seriously drunk and thinking about only one particular Gundam pilot at the time, it hadn't made that much sense. Now it played back to me as if Quatre was saying it in my ear. Yeah, if Heero was serious, if it was more than just wanting in each others pants, then it could wait.
I heard Heero starting to speak, starting to say something about calling headquarters and offering an explanation and asking for a reassignment. I was glad he wasn't talking about leaving just yet. I interrupted. "Fuck that, Yuy. We can still do this."
Wu Fei grunted and began turning away, pulling a cell phone from his pocket. "I don't think so."
I was out of my chair, ignoring my aches and pains as I came around the desk and dared clamp a hard hand on Wu Fei's arm. "You came here to assess the operation, so, asses it, asshole! Actually take some time and see that we have it together, that people trust us and accept us."
Wu Fei switched to that bored, irritating drawl I'd always hated from the war, the one that said that he was calling all the shots and he didn't give a damned about what anyone else thought. "Acceptance does not make this mission sound. This is a dangerous sting. Being distracted by personal attachments and fraternization will cause you to lose focus. It might also cause you to make errors in judgment at critical times."
Translation; If I turned out to be one of the bad guys, then Heero might not pick up on that or want to rat on me because we were involved.'
I wanted to choke the life out of Wu Fei, but I didn't think it would make me feel any better. He'd still die thinking I might be a criminal and, I discovered, changing his mind about that was pretty damned important to me. I might have done some terrible things in my short life, but double crossing someone, and working with the head crooks on L2, hadn't been part of it.
"Don't give up on this yet," I told Wu Fei angrily. "We can change things. It's too damned important to trash now and you know it. I have a shack out back. We'll clean it out and Heero can stay there. We can nix getting together until our target is in jail, all right?"
"Unacceptable," Wu Fei said simply and began pulling out of my grasp.
"Then switch with Heero!" I shouted at him. "You work for me and we'll go from there. That way, you can make sure things don't get screwed up."
That appealed to Wu Fei's sense that he had to do everything himself for it to go right and I knew it. He stopped and considered it. "What would you tell them to account for my presence here?"
My mind scrambled and then I grinned, knowing I would come up with something when it came down to it. "You leave that up to me."
Wu Fei scowled. "You do not inspire confidence."
I told him angrily, "What have you got to lose? If the mission is scrubbed already in your mind, it won't get any worse if I don't handle things right. Wait and see, okay?"
Wu Fei still hesitated.
"Come on!" I shouted. "You know this is important enough to try!"
Wu Fei looked very sour and then he gave a curt nod. "It is important." His dark eyes skewered me, "Important enough to salvage if possible."
I let out a breath of relief and turned to Heero. Heero was looking thoughtful. I faced him, uncomfortable and not sure what he was thinking. "Sorry about this," I told him roughly. "I wasn't thinking about what this sting means to everyone here. I was all caught up in... well... us... and the business making it." I blurted, looking down at the dusty floor, "Guess I'm still just a self sacrificing little shit even after the war."
Heero was quiet. I finally dared to look up at him and he was nodding and sinking his hands into his pockets without looking at me. What that gesture meant, I wasn't sure. Does he agree with me or not? Does he think I'm a shit for agreeing with Wu Fei that we're screw ups? It was possible that he hated me for shelving 'us' and insisting on going ahead with the sting. I couldn't read him, as much as I wanted to just then, and standing there for much longer was going to confirm to Wu Fei that he should scrub the mission.
"Okay," I said to cover up the awkwardness. "I think I want to avoid scrap for right now, until I'm convinced it's done falling over, so lets go get parts for the claw. It'll give me a chance to introduce everyone to Wu Fei and see how that goes over."
Wu Fei liked that idea. He wanted results and he didn't want to have to wait for a conclusion. He knew, as well as I did, that I was too broke to explain having TWO hired hands. Heero and Wu Fei didn't have the seedy, alcohol ruined, faces of my last crew, so saying he was working for a roof over his head, wasn't going to cut it. Heero had the excuse of bedtime fringe benefits, but no one was going to believe that I had two of them on a string. I had a reputation for being picky and almost celibate after all. A plan was already percolating in my head, though, as I put on my hat and led the way out of the shack. I was damned sure Wu Fei AND Heero weren't going to like it, but it was the only plausible explanation that I could think of.
I'd once told Heero that being seen and outrageous was a better cover than being plain and secretive. Well, I was about to test that theory in a major way.
"Just follow my lead," I told them.
I lead the way out of my lot and towards the market. The dirt was drying and beginning to cover everything again. It tickled my nose and coated my skin. I scratched at it irritably and inched my bandana up to my nose. Heero, one step behind me, did the same. Wu Fei, trailed behind us, hands in his pockets and back straight, ignoring any discomfort. He was giving everything a disdainful look. Perfect. He was making it very easy for me.
When we reached the line of stalls, I stopped them both. "You two go check out Mudhopper and let me get the parts." I paused and then decided that I needed to reveal at least some of my plan. "Wu Fei, in case anyone asks, you're Heero's unemployed cousin just come from L3. Got that?" Wu Fei narrowed eyes at me. I grinned. "Just keep up that attitude, too."
Wu Fei glared at Heero, who was looking puzzled but supportive of me. That made me feel damned good. He was trusting me. I left them to their own devices and found the stall that had the parts for the claw.
I pounded on the counter to get the owner's attention and a man came out of the back of the stall wiping grease from his hands onto a leather apron. Bald and built like a bull, he sported about a dozen silver earrings in one ear and had a circular tattoo on his cheek.
He didn't say his usual, 'I don't give credit.' If there was something to know, he usually knew it. The man had an ear in on everything that went on around the scrap yards. I'm sure he was well aware that loser Maxwell had made a sale.
"I need some parts for my claw, Seiffer" I told him and made my voice irritated, as if I were on the edge of losing it. I ran a distracted hand through my bangs and slumped on the counter as I slid the parts list at him. I knew he couldn't resist asking and I wasn't disappointed.
"Thought you'd be happy," Seiffer drawled as he took the list and eyed it. "You made that sale..."
"Business is good. Life isn't," I ground out.
"Oh?" He sounded bored, like he didn't give a damn as he pulled out a spec book, filthy with dirt and grease, and began flipping through it for my model of claw. Why he didn't use a computer... maybe L2 dust and machine grease was just too hard on them.
I crossed my arms and rested my chin on them, leaning on the counter as if I was sinking into massive depression. "You don't wanna know..."
Seiffer put a bill of sale next to the book and began scribbling with his grease stained, calloused, pudgy fingers. "Trouble with that new guy?"
I grunted in answer. Seiffer was good. He made it seem like he was just making senseless small talk; non offensive, non evasive.
"Take people off the street, that's what you get," Seiffer lectured. "No good. Unreliable.... Got kind of personal with this one too... That must suck."
I snickered to myself. He wanted the dirt so bad he was willing to prod, to get a bit more pointed. It was just too strange that this big burly guy was the biggest gossip on L2, that he indulged in something that I'd always imagined was the territory of fine ladies having tea parties and coffee klatches....
I straightened and burst out, as if I couldn't keep it in any longer, "His freakin' cousin showed up and he told him he could stay, just like that, without asking me first! The guy is a class one a-hole and he never saw a minute of work in his life!"
Seiffer grunted. "Heard there was yelling on your lot. Guess that was why."
I couldn't help blinking at him, thinking about what little time had passed. I settled on pissy as I responded with, "You heard that? I had a pile of scrap go over and almost trash us. Anybody hear that?"
That wasn't really fair. Scrap piles fell all the time, especially during the quakes, and it was pretty much every man for himself. If we had died, someone might have come to investigate when the smell got too bad, but otherwise... hey, it was a tough place, L2, and I didn't have any illusions otherwise.
Seiffer was shrugging as he finished his paper and put away the book. "Looks like you'll have to jettison the both of them," he said, ignoring my comment on scrap piles. He didn't want to know about that, after all. "Too bad. You can't run that lot by yourself. Any new prospects or you settling on giving the lot over?"
I saw red, there wasn't any other way to put it. My act suddenly turned real as I leaned over the counter and jabbed a finger into Seiffer's leather clad chest. "Fuck that!" I shouted. "Nobody gets my lot! As long as my help works, his asshole cousin can stay in my bum shack and starve to death for all I care. He's not getting any handouts from me!"
Seiffer grunted again, expressive and satisfied. "Eh, calm down, Maxwell. No offense."
I pulled myself back until my feet were on the ground again and I looked almost apologetic as I pulled my shirt back into place. "Sorry, man," I said and didn't sound it. "My problems are mine, okay? I just need those parts."
"Sure thing," Seiffer replied and went to look through his inventory shed. Soon he would spread his new gossip all over L2. Duo Maxwell's employee, slash lover, was still working, but he'd foisted off a good for nothing cousin on stupid Maxwell. stay tuned for further developments.
Seiffer handed me the parts in several boxes, and I carried the heavy things back to where Heero and Wu Fei were staring out of the now dried field of dirt and my half submerged Mudhopper. I handed some of my burden to Heero and said proudly, "Mission accomplished."
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