Disclaimer:I don't own this and I don't make any money off of this.
Warnings:Male/Male sex, graphic, language, violence
I opened my eyes, blinked blearily, and found Heero beside me in the bed, fully clothed and hair hanging in a messy tangle in his sleeping face. I wanted to frown, but I smiled instead. How could I be mad at a guy who went against his very nature, to sleep like the dead until late morning, to come and be with me when I woke up?
I put my hands behind my head and watched him, thinking... thinking about how he had been able to get into bed with me without my killer soldier instincts making hash out of him. I had become used to him in such a short time. The part of me that trusted no one was pissed as hell about that.
"Hey, Heero," I called, finally. We had a lot of work to do and I knew that Wu Fei wasn't sleeping in. Heero's excuse had been to come and get me, I was sure, and I wondered how long he had been gone on that particular 'mission'.
Heero frowned and burrowed into my blankets, muttering something about Gundam mechanics. That made me go very still. If he was 'back in the war' a wrong twitch might get me dead. I had to remember that Heero could bend steel with his hands.
"Heero, we have a lot of scrap to move today," I tried again. "Wu Fei's probably getting very burned right about now."
That made his eyes squint open. "Chang," he grumbled and I knew he was back with me and the scrap yard. "He made me get up before there was light and go over your inventory. " His tone told me how well that had gone over.
"Did he find out that you're not a morning person?" I snickered.
Heero rolled an eye at me. "Something like that."
That made me curious. "Haven't you two ever stayed together on assignments?"
Heero shook his head and slowly pried himself up from the comfort of the bed. I realized the shake was to make himself more alert rather than a negative as he replied, "We do stay together, but..." He looked embarrassed as he ran his fingers through his hair and pushed it back from his eyes. "I either stay awake or go out while he sleeps."
"Why?" I was smiling and not sure I should. It was hard to tell where Heero was going with this.
Heero frowned. "I've never liked sleeping with other people in the room. I feel...."
"Vulnerable?" I supplied and he nodded.
"So, you never have..."
"Even when we were on Howard's ship, you went off to find your own place to sleep," I remembered. He nodded again. I looked at his impression on my bed. "But, you don't have any trouble sleeping with me?"
Heero's slow smile made my insides go weak. It was warmth and love in the simple curve of his lips. "No trouble at all," he replied. The smile banked a little, though when he added thoughtfully, "You have nightmares, sometimes."
I thought about that as I sat up and padded over to get coffee. I handed him a container, after hitting the heat tabs, and said, "I don't remember them, really. Must be small things... sometimes, they give me a headache..."
"You don't move very much," Heero told me, "but you sound as if you're in pain. I shook at your shoulder and called to you, the few times that it happened, and you went into deeper sleep."
"Oh," I didn't have much to say to that. I sipped at my coffee, feeling like I'd been caught acting like a five year old. Having nightmares seemed kind of childish.
"I wonder..." Heero was going to delve into the past, try to psychoanalyze my head. I put a stop to that.
"Doesn't matter," I shrugged and took a long drink of my coffee. I tossed the empty into the garbage, ignoring my burnt tongue. "Let's get to work."
Heero wasn't stupid. He knew a sidestep when he heard one and he knew enough not to poke at the mental cavities in my head. I'm sure he didn't like his own poked at either.
I hunted for my boots, crouching and feeling under the bed. I found one and pulled it out with a grunt. I saw a problem right away and fingered the parting seam along the instep. I remembered getting stuck on a shard of metal the other day. I hadn't realized how close it had come to taking off my foot.
"Do you have another pair?" Heero wondered as he finished his own coffee and stood up. "You'll get dirt in your boot with a rip like that."
"Yeah," I replied, and then said nothing as I found the mate and then fished out a clean pair of socks.
"Duo?" Heero said, sounding odd. "If you have another pair, why don't you-"
"So'kay," I grunted as I sat on the floor to put on my socks.
"But, if you have another pair-" Heero argued.
"I said it's all right!" I snarled as I jammed the boot on. The seam parted a good four inches, leaving me looking at my sock through the leather. I froze and just stared.
"They're in the closet," I told him, "Could you... could you get them for me?"
He was very quiet, trying to figure my mood out. Yeah, he could scream about Relena and I could scream about looking in my closet. I wonder if we could get a psychologist at half price if we went in together?
I turned my back, scooting around so that I was looking at the bed. I didn't take my ripped boot off. I kind of had a hunch that I might still need it.
Heero took his time, thinking it all through, and then... I'm not sure it was a sound, or a movement on his part. I suddenly knew that... he knew. Slowly, his steps went to the closet. I cringed. Talk about acting like a five year old.
"The lock," he said, and sounded relieved. "You have a lock on it." I wasn't going to hope that it wasn't opened.
"That's my stuff," I choked out and rubbed at my eyes. "'Course I have a damned lock on it."
"A good one," Heero commented. "I doubt that anyone less than a professional agent could get past it."
"Just... Just get my boots!" I tried to cover my emotions with snarling anger. I doubt if he was fooled.
"It's all right," he said with a sigh of relief after a moment. "The boxes are cut, but I can tell it was looked through carefully. There's some credits here in a jar, they would have taken that..." Meaning my ex squatters.
I bowed my head to my knees. I heard Heero lift out something and then close the door. The lock clicked closed. He walked to my side and then kneeled down, as he put my boots in within my reach, and said, "You couldn't look, could you?"
"No," I growled. "It was bad enough knowing your guys pawed through everything. They didn't actually steal my stuff, just confiscated it. I knew, I knew if those guys had been in there... It would all be gone. It's stupid... I can't really explain... A person shouldn't get that attached to 'stuff'. Nothing's permanent. Nothing's forever.... You know?"
"Duo, I'm sorry," Heero told me and reached out to grip my hand hard. "I know the agents embarrassed you, that they invaded your privacy. They did only take what they thought might be useful."
"Porn magazines?" I couldn't help the viciousness of my response. "My personal photos?"
"We were trying to link you to suspected criminals, " Heero explained. "Photos might identify you with those people. The magazines... one of the agents thought that some of the subjects might be underage. He thought we might be able to use them as further leverage to get you to cooperate."
I'll give Heero points for reflexes. My punch didn't land. He deflected it and I ended up almost nose to nose with him, seething. Maybe I'm not good with mornings either. "Don't you ever...!" I couldn't get the rest out, my outrage making everything turn into white noise as I tried to pant my way through my overwhelming anger and disgust.
"Go find Wu Fei," I told him, biting out each word. "I don't like you or your job right now."
Didn't he get it? Didn't he see what his self righteous agents had done to me? I guess not, since he was defending their actions, taking their side against me.
We both had grown up biting the bullet, losing our things, losing people close to us, and doing what was necessary without consideration for ourselves. Maybe Heero was still carrying that around. Maybe he couldn't understand that people shouldn't be expected to sacrifice like that, that we weren't all soldiers fighting for the cause of the law. Maybe he couldn't understand how the actions of a few agents, doing something as simple as going through my personal things, could be as painful to me as... I just didn't want to think about it. Maybe I was overacting, but I also knew when I was right and he was ... just damned wrong.
Procedure number one, when you collar a suspect, was go through his shit. I didn't need to be an agent to know that. I could get mad at Heero and feel sorry for myself as much as I wanted, but he wasn't going to be able to change that.... not for me, not for anyone. I didn't think it was too wrong, though, to expect some sympathy about it anyway, for him to get what he and his fellow agents had put me through, and for him to understand that guys like me tended to get smashed under the foot of his pursuit of the bad guys.
"When..." Heero, stopped, cleared his throat, and tried again, "When that particular agent told me what he... What he suspected about your magazines... I was so angry... I wanted to hurt him... When I was with you, looking through your box of things, and I found that photo of me... I felt... amazed, at first, and... hopeful... but then I felt very sick, knowing what you were going through, how we had... embarrassed you. It was the first time that... that I felt that I could have turned in my Preventer badge, that I hated what procedure told us to do."
I stared at him hard and his eyes were soft blue and hurting, afraid that he had royally screwed up. I wanted to stay pissed, wanted to throw every defense up I had, because he had just seen how weak and worthless I could be, too chicken shit to open up a closet door. Those eyes pulled back my verbal punch, though, made me realize that losing it on Heero was only going to hurt me, hurt him, and hurt us, even more.
"Shit!" I growled and couldn't look at anything , just hang my head and glare down at the small space between us, my jaw clenching. When Heero leaned in and gently kissed my forehead, really daring another punch, I half turned away, arms wrapping around my knees and hugging them to my chest hard.
What did I want? I didn't want to be pissed. I didn't want to hurt. I didn't want... I didn't want to lose Heero. The scar on my shoulder itched and I touched it, rubbing it briskly, remembering that Heero had seen me at my finest during the war. Now, he'd seen me at some of my worst. It was up to me to decide what to do now.
"Let's go," I said, still feeling angry and embarrassed, but knowing what I had to do to keep what was more important than my pride and self righteousness. "We have a lot of work to do." And I reached for my spare boots.
I didn't want to give Heero time to argue, time to ask to 'talk it out', though I wasn't even sure that he wanted to. He followed me without an objection, and I hoped he understood a truce when he saw one. Maybe I was too bitter about the whole thing to forgive, but I could leave it behind us, leave it in the past... eventually.
Rubbing my eyes against heat and light, as I came out onto the porch, I heard Wu Fei before I saw him. "Things will go smoother if you cooperate, Maxwell."
I focused on him and blinked. Wu Fei in a simple tshirt and jeans was something I wasn't used to seeing. He looked too normal, when he usually looked unapproachable and exotic in his L5, oriental smocks, or his work suit. It was too much to hope that he wasn't planning on working with me.
"I am cooperating," I growled. "I haven't kicked your asses out yet, have I?"
"It's been almost two hours since Agent Yuy went to collect you." Wu Fei hadn't lost his cool, arrogant, attitude along with his regular clothes.
"My fault," Heero said as he stepped out of my shadow. "I allowed him to keep on sleeping while I had coffee."
A headache was starting right between my eyes. I didn't need Heero telling Wu Fei something like that. I snorted as I moved down the steps and started walking towards my next scrap project. "I have my own timetable, get used to it."
Wu Fei followed me, with Heero following behind him. "I've gone over your inventory Heero's taken thus far," Wu Fei was telling me. "It would be wise to submit your taxes. It will be easier to convince our target that you are desperate enough to break the law, if he can check and see how badly your business is doing."
I stopped and turned. My fist clenched. Why was it easier to keep my fist from caving in his face when I was too willing to let it fly at Heero? I guess I didn't need a psychologist to give me the answer to that one. I cared more about Heero, about what he thought, about what he did that effected me. It was Heero who could hurt me the most. Still, Wu Fei was very close to the line.
"I don't have the money for an accountant," i had to tell him, and didn't that just reinforce what he'd just said, that my business was going down the drain?
"I can do your accounts," Wu Fei told me with a dismissive motion
of one hand. "All that I need is a proper inventory."
"You could just lie," I suggested angrily.
Wu Fei's eyebrow lifted disdainfully. Heero came to his rescue before he could cross that line, the one with a really pissed off Duo Maxwell on the other side. "Everything needs to be legal," Heero told me. "Otherwise, our target could get off on technicalities."
"Like what?" I wondered, only half caring as I turned back to my scrap and my day's project, letting Heero save Wu Fei's ass.
Heero explained. "Even a man like our target is allowed access to the courts. His council will take advantage of any slip up on our part to set him free. He has to come here to buy contraband without the help of falsified documents or misleading activity on our part."
I frowned. "So, it's up to me? A real scrap man has to offer for sale contraband and the target has to come here to buy it without any shady help from you two?"
I scoffed. "You know, guys, the people running L2 have been in power for years. They aren't stupid."
"No, they are not," Wu Fei said. "That is why this operation has to be completely believable. That is why we need your help and your contacts."
"Duo Maxwell, suddenly goes bad after having been dragged off by Preventer agents," I shook my head. "I think we already have problems."
They were very quiet, my two 'employees'. I glared at them. "What?"
Heero looked sick, like a man about to dig his own grave. "We filed a report to cover that arrest."
I suddenly wondered if I could punch them both out at the same time. My hands balled tightly into fists. "What did you put in your report?"
"That you were let go after two arresting agents filed reports saying that you had refused the contraband. It says in the report that it was suspected that you had bribed them both."
"Bribery, L2 standard procedure," I grunted and they were both confused as to why I wasn't more upset. I gave them a fierce grin. "If anyone bothers reading that report, they'll think I was a complete bad ass for being able to buy off TWO agents. It'll give me some reputation."
I shoved my bangs out of my eyes and said thoughtfully, "If they believe it, that's is. Guess we'll find out. Best case scenario, they buy the stuff. Worst case scenario, they kill me. Do you guys give nice funerals to stoolies?"
Complete silence came from Wu Fei's corner, but Heero dared to reach out and gently squeeze my elbow. He said, despite the fact that I wouldn't even look at him, "I won't let anyone hurt you."
I blushed to the roots of my hair, knowing Wu Fei was watching that bit of intense intimacy. I pulled away, but not rudely as I said, "I'll hold you to that."
on to Chapter 17
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