Disclaimer:I don't own this and I don't make any money off of it.
Warning:Male/male sex, graphic, language, violence.
"Maxwell," Wu Fei began with a frown, but the sound of a large machine trundling our way interrupted him.
Gouting black smoke, and smelling like leaking gasoline, a claw machine was coming right at us. Heero and Wu Fei were backing up and Heero was plucking at my sleeve. I scowled at the machine and held my ground.
My lot neighbor, Stubbert, was glaring at me, half leaning out of the cab, a stubby cigar hanging out of his mouth. Without a word, and at the last possible moment, he swerved his machine to miss me and plowed it into the dried mud. Big wheels churned up the yellowish- red dirt and threw it on us as the machine made it's way to Mudhopper. It didn't pause as it lowered its claw and latched onto my little machine. Pulling it free, with contemptuous ease, it freed Mudhopper from its mud tomb and then shifted gears to carry it back to me.
Stubbert leaned further out of the cab, the engine of his claw chugging and its gears grinding as he growled loudly, "I owed you." Just that and nothing more as he pivoted his machine and trundled away towards my lot with Mudhopper.
I frowned. Heero looked from me to the retreating machine. "You don't look happy about that," Heero noticed.
I shrugged irritably. "He owed me a favor. I could have used it better. Our claw could have pulled Mudhopper out." I ignored Heero's skeptical look at the deep, churned up mud. Okay, maybe not, but he didn't have to point that out.
"Maxwell," Wu Fei grated impatiently. "Explain."
"I saved his life, kind of," I told Wu Fei, using my bandana to wipe sweat and dried mud off my face. "He decided that he didn't want to wait for me to collect on the debt, so he salvaged my machine for me."
Wu Fei should really patent that glare of his. I could almost feel my skin grilling from the heat from it. "You know what I meant," he said.
Okay, now I had to fess up. "Come on," I grunted and led the way back towards my lot, following the large tire tracks of Stubbert's machine.
I mulled over what to say, chewing over words with a wince frozen on my face. I knew Wu Fei's pride just as well as I knew his temper. Finally, turning so that my back wasn't to him and vulnerable, because I really wasn't sure how he was going to take it, I explained, "Well... seeing as how you wanted to stay... I let everyone know that you were Heero's cousin and that he was letting you stay. I also let them know that I... didn't like that, because..."
"Because?" Wu Fei prompted.
I looked around at the empty alley and the worn, dirt coated wood and plastiwood fencing on either side of us. The stench of rusting metal was everywhere. It was always more noticeable after a rain. I felt really tired just then and I didn't want to deal with Heero and our tentative relationship, Wu Fei and his pissy attitude and threats, and the other scrappers who were all out to step on my head to make their own business a success. Even the heat, that was steadily growing, seemed against me. I'd always felt like 'Duo Maxwell against the world', but I didn't usually notice it so much and it didn't usually sit on my shoulders like a three ton claw machine.
"You're a good for nothing layabout who won't, or can't, get work." I just said it to get it over with, but I was proud of myself that I left off the a-hole part. Well, he didn't need that part of the story, because he didn't need to ACT like one.
The muscles on Wu Fei's jaw bunched and I knew his teeth were grinding together. I also knew what he was thinking. He didn't get it.
"Look!" I exploded under my breath, getting dangerously close to him so that no one could overhear. "When you tell a damned story, you have to make people believe it. A story goes over better if there's some soap opera to it, okay? If I just say, 'Oh, by the way, Heero's cousin moved in with us.' that makes people ask questions. If I say, 'Heero's bum cousin moved in without my say so, and now I'm mad as hell, and things are shit between me and Heero right now...' Well, that answers a lot of questions. It keeps people satisfied and they end up just watching the drama instead of asking more questions."
I backed off and waited for his reaction.
Those black eyes skewered me. Wu Fei's jaw continued to grind for about a minute and then he nodded, hard, once. "Acceptable, for now."
The tail end of that sentence wasn't lost on me. I couldn't help a dig, though. "You're going to trust me?"
Wu Fei lifted his chin, his demeanor going cold and arrogant as he said in a very seething, but quiet voice, "You saved my life. I... owe you. I will allow this, but I intend to coordinate the sting personally from now on."
That weight on my shoulders grew another hump and I ached with it. I rubbed at my eyes, trying to keep my temper, trying to hold it all together. I didn't want to bottle it up. I knew where that led. I didn't want to haul off and beat up Wu Fei the way I had Heero when things had become too much. For one thing, Wu Fei WOULD haul my ass off to jail and he would cancel the entire operation. He was on the verge of it as it was. Only his pride, in not wanting the mission to fail, and his honor, were keeping the sting alive.
"We have a lot of work to do," I sighed as I began walking again. "I expect you and Heero to clean out the back shack today, though, while I fix the claw. You'll both be living there from now on."
It was a reasonable arrangement in light of what Wu Fei wanted. It didn't make the decision hurt less. I wanted to get used to waking up with Heero's warm body pressed to mine. I didn't want to stop things and go back to being alone. That neediness was a two edged sword. On the one hand, I yearned for Heero, on the other, I hated my loss of independence, my reliance on only myself.
My self reliance had kept me alive. Anyone who had ever tried to take care of me, and to be a part of my life, had died; had failed me. It went against everything that had shaped me, went against that ingrained sense that being alone, and depending on only myself, was the best way. During the war, Quatre had shown me what counting on others, on being a team could mean. It was hard, though, to apply that lesson to the life I led now.
When we reached the gate to my lot, I found Mudhopper sprawled on its side just outside, caked in mud. I touched the twisted handlebars and saw the smashed gas tank. I didn't look further than that. I didn't have time to fix her, probably wouldn't have time for a long while. Putting down my boxes of parts and grabbing onto the damaged machine, I gave my comrades a look that told them they were helping and to shut up about whatever they were thinking. So what if a hunk of metal made me all choked up?
Heero moved first, finding a good handhold at the front. We both looked at Wu Fei. He glared back, made an exasperated sound, and then took up a position at the rear to push.
"On three, " I told them and we all began rocking the damaged piece of metal to get it out of the depression that had been caused by it being dumped from the height of Stubbert's claw. He hadn't been gentle and had probably considering it useless scrap.
"One, two.... three."
We heaved and pushed. Heero did most of the work. That man is so unbelievably freakin strong... Wu Fei wasn't a slouch pushing, either, and that surprised me. He had broad shoulders, but he was slighter than I was.
I told them to stop after we had managed to get Mudhopper just inside my fence, safe from other scrap men making a claim. Later, when we had the claw working, I would treat her properly, I silently promised her.
"Now, if we could get on with it?" Wu Fei said disdainfully as he brushed his hands together to get off the dirt.
I couldn't help smirking, but I turned my shoulder to Wu Fei to hide it and said to Heero, as I picked up my boxes again, "Show him where the cleaning supplies are. There's a power hose out there too. Just make sure you open the drain to reclaim the water or we'll be going without water until our next allotment period. On L2, that could take a year." That wasn't an exaggeration.
Was Heero angry? Was he sad? Was he confused as to why I was turning him out to live with Wu Fei? As Heero bent to pick up his own boxes, and began following me to the claw, I snuck a look and found him sneaking one at me. Our eyes locked. Okay, it sounds stupid, and it seems impossible, but... we exchanged a whole hell of a lot in that look. I felt like we had just spent all night talking. He understood that the situation was necessary. He understood that I wasn't rejecting him. He agreed with me. He reassured me that everything was still okay between us. He told me how much our separation was going to make him unhappy. We both told each other how much we wanted it to all be over so that we could be together again, alone, without the Preventers messing things up for us. All of that in a few seconds of staring at each other and then we were looking away, not wanting to give Wu Fei a show. It would have been nice if we could have had sex with a look too, but I firmly cut that thought off as I dumped my boxes on the fender of the claw. I repositioned my hat to keep the reflected sun from giving me heatstroke.
"Once we are done with these 'duties'," Wu Fei told me, "I will be looking over your accounts and we will make a solid, reasonable plan for making contact with our target."
"I think we had a 'reasonable' plan already," I grated as I flipped open the engine casing. It made a creaking, rusted metal, protest . "Build up the business, get some contraband material in, act like complete amatures, and get Mr. Big to snap at the bait."
Wu Fei narrowed dark eyes and gave Heero a look. Heero met that look with one of his own. "We can't afford to spend the time necessary to bring this business back from it's financial troubles," Wu Fei informed me. That told me what he thought of my business. "Hopeless' probably summed it up.
"If we-" Heero began to protest, but Wu Fei cut him off .
"Selling out of desperation, to save a failing business, is a more valid reason than jeopardizing one that is doing well," Wu Fei explained. "Don't you agree?" His tone said, 'Of course you will agree, because I am a genius.'
I was really finding it hard not to punch his arrogant lights out, especially because he was making sense and I was starting to understand that Heero had agreed with Wu Fei's plan all along as well and had... not gone through with it because of me, because he had actually given a shit, unlike Wu Fei, that my business was going under. As a street orphan, a con man from the time I could walk, I could see someone falling for the scam, someone rushing in to take advantage of a credit strapped Duo Maxwell. Happened all the time...
Heero looked as if he was going to make one more protest on my behalf, but I was the one who cut him off now. I said, pissed as hell, but keeping my voice tight and reasonable, "Okay, that makes sense. So... When do you want to do it?"
Wu Fei blinked. It was so obvious that he hadn't expected me to agree with him that my hand actually balled into that fist I wanted to throw into his chin. He said, "After I review your situation, we will discuss likely contacts and ways to ship the contraband into your lot in a believable manner."
A person could take that two ways, either he was complimenting me on being intelligent and knowledgeable about human behavior, or he was saying I was a good liar. There was a difference.
"You better get cleaning," I told Wu Fei with a tight smile. "That shack is pretty dirty and I only have one bed in mine. I don't think you'd want to share it with me and Heero...?"
Wu Fei's nostrils flared. A bit of a homophobe? Maybe... or maybe the thought of cuddling with me, inparticular, was disgusting him? Heero was smart enough to get Wu Fei away from me before he could give me a choice reply.
I carted my tools over to the claw and started working. At some point, I heard loud cursing in Chinese, and I grinned in a very evil way. I felt bad for Heero, though. I had promised to help him. I couldn't work up the guilt, though, to make me stop and go over there. There was still a part of me that blamed Heero for my situation right along with Wu Fei. He'd gone a long way to making it up, but there was really no way that he could salvage everything. Things were in motion, my life was tied down to the sting, and the train of the law he had set in motion, was going to run my ass over no matter what anyone said or didn't say. I couldn't help that part of me that was happy about Heero cleaning crap out of a shed that was frying in the sun.
Speaking of frying... I wiped sweat from my dripping forehead, took off my hat, and tied my bandana around my forehead. Putting my hat back on over it, I continued to work as the temperature rose to furnace like heat. The god of the weather controls was hell bent on drying the last ounce of water from the scrap yards, it seemed, and everyone else in them.
Someone put an ice cold container of water by my hand. I blinked dazedly at it as I bent over the engine with a wrench in my lax hand. I'm not sure how long I'd been standing like that, wasn't really sure just how long it had been since I had actually done something to the engine.
"You look dehydrated," Heero told me worriedly.
"You stink," I said hoarsely, as I snagged the water, opened it up, and took small, cautious sips. I warmed the water in my mouth before swallowing, knowing what a sudden shock of cold could do to a heat exhausted body.
Heero plucked at his filthy shirt. "I hope you're talking about the smell?"
I could only nod as I rolled the cold drink across my forehead and closed my eyes in pleasure.
"The shack was bad, but hitting it with the hose saved us a lot of work," Heero explained. He paused and then said more seriously, "Duo, I'm sorry..."
I swallowed some more water and squinted at him. "You tried to bend things in my favor, I can't help but feel good about that, but the rest..."
Heero picked up a tool and bent over the engine. He began tightening a part as he replied, "Wu Fei's taking complete control of the operation. I'm to follow orders or he will pull me completely from the field."
"He's right, Heero, and you know it," I said as I put my wrench in and helped him with the part. As we struggled together, I continued sourly, "Knowing that it makes my situation that much more shitty, doesn't change that."
We were quiet; grunting, sweating, getting covered in grease, and both of us draining the water container as we finished putting in the new pump. I climbed into the cab then and cranked the engine. It complained, spluttered, chugged, and then roared to life with a gout of black smoke. I whooped loudly in relief, pumping the air in victory with my fist. Heero grinned up at me, the heat from the engine rolling over him. God! he looked beautiful just then, and I couldn't help jumping down from the claw, grabbing him, and devouring his lips. I shoved him away in the next instant, laughing at his hungry, glazed, and confused look.
"You stink even more now!" I told him with disgust that wasn't completely faked.
"You don't exactly smell like flowers, either," Heero told me.
I looked over his shoulder at the shack with a calculated look. The stiffness in my pants was telling me to do one thing, that involved a hot shower and two naked bodies getting clean, but my brain was sneering and telling me that was exactly the 'fraternization' Wu Fei was talking about and the kind of thing I had decided not to engage in until the sting was over. I needed it so bad, though, needed Heero.
Heero was suddenly very close to me. His blue eyes looked dangerous and I was almost ready to fight him when he pushed me behind the claw, out of anyone's line of site. Our cover was a shadow cast by the claw against a spot between it and a wall. When Heero's hand kneaded my erection I felt... It was like getting jolted with electricity, powerful and intense. When he squeezed the head and palmed it, my knees shook.
"Fuck, Wu Fei," Heero said in my ear and then bit me there, sucking and nibbling my lobe as he popped open my jeans and then shoved them down off my hips.
The combination of the foul word and Heero's aggressive actions almost made me shoot my load right there. My... nervousness, kept me primed, though, kept me from going over completely as I thought about discovery and being half naked out in my lot. I'm not a damned exhibitionist, but I'd done it against walls in back alleys before. Night time, and some strong alcohol, knock down a lot of inhibitions, though.
Heero took my hand and pressed it against his own erection. I knew what he had in mind, some mutual jerking, and I couldn't help grabbing the fullness there in his jeans. I knew, though, as horny and as testosterone pumped as I was, that the odds of a customer showing up, or, more likely, Wu Fei, was pretty high. It was enough to keep me from going to my knees and saying 'hello' to Heero's needy half and it was enough to keep me from letting him stroke my problem child too.
"Heero... stop... I... can't... I'm..." I give him points for breaking off and looking at me in concern, even though his hands were still on the job. "Out here," I gave a nervous nod at the yard outside of our shadow. "It's just... too..."
Heero grunted. He took a reluctant step back, but his hands were pulling at his own need and well on his way to a case of blue balls. "I shouldn't have... I just wanted... I was just unsure...," Heero stammered and then stopped , sentences left unfinished. He had wanted to make sure of me, make sure of us, all romantic gazing into each other's eyes aside. What we can fuck, we can claim as ours, and almost nothing else rises to that level of assured possessiveness for most male psyches, I think.
"I'm not going anywhere," I told him fiercely, "We're still going to be together after the sting."
I could see the doubt in Heero's eyes, the fear that something would happen that would be the last straw, that would destroy what we were building between us.
I reached out, grabbed him by the neck, and pulled him in to kiss him hard. He returned the fierceness of the kiss and let me lead him, afterward, to the outside shower I kept for emergency purposes. Pulling us both under the spigot, I pulled the chain. A powerful jet of cold water soaked us both and I let it continue to soak us until both of us cooled off, in more ways than one. When Heero pushed my hand off the chain and the water stopped, his bangs were hanging in his blue eyes and water dripped off his nose as he blinked at me.
"Love you," Heero said abruptly and I knew then what he wanted, what would cement us together, with a bond even stronger than sex, until this was all over.
I didn't know if I could meet that declaration with one of my own. It wasn't a 'love you' you said offhandedly to everyone in general. It wasn't a 'love you' you said to keep someone occupied while you found your shoes to leave. It was the 'I want you to commit to us, to me,' 'Love you.'
I looked at Heero, studied him, and watched the water droplets fall from his face and glitter on their way down to the muddied dirt under our soaked boots. I thought about losing him, of having him go away and never return... want to know how you really know when you're in love? When the thought of not having them any more makes your life seem like an absolute waste; worthless, and pointless.
I grabbed Heero by the hair at the nape of his neck, tangled my fingers into the wet strands there, and pulled him in towards me sharply until our foreheads were resting together. We blinked at each other, our water droplets mingling, and then I said it, and it was like... pulling my soul out of my chest and giving it to him, trusting him not to crush it.... "Love you, too."
The world stopped. We forgot to breathe. Heero slowly smiled, blinked rapidly, and I had the feeling that some salty drops had suddenly joined the fresh water ones on his face as he jerked out of my grasp and looked down at his wet clothes. I found myself looking away as well, unable to endure that confession of how we felt for each other. I don't think we'll ever be good at having 'moments'. They just embarrass the hell out of us.
I tried to recover first. I rubbed the back of my neck and said awkwardly, "Well, I'm guessing Wu Fei is probably pissed as hell that you aren't helping him. You should get back there and I should start dismantling that big pile of scrap."
"Yes," Heero said in quick agreement and then glanced at me and then away. He swallowed hard, but he was smiling again. "I don't think I can last, staying away from you... not..."
Screw Wu Fei and what he thought about Heero and me. Things had changed. "If I catch you being anything but completely devoted to this operation, I'll cut you off." I saw Heero wince at my choice of words, "But if you can keep your eye on the prize, I think we can manage somewhere else, more private... later... where Mr. Chang Wu Fei can't find us..."
"I will be completely dedicated," Heero promised and his double meaning was clear by the glint in his eyes.
"I won't expect anything less," I retorted over my shoulder as I went back to work.
on to Chapter 15
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