Sorry for the delay, but I was in Hurricane Charlie and didn't have power for a week. ^_^
Disclaimer:I don't own them and I don't make any money off of them.
Warnings:Male/male sex, graphic, language, violence
Wu Fei is a goddam slave driver. I work hard, and I do what has to be done, but my schedule is usually a lot looser, with a lot more rest stops. Every time I hesitated, during that long grueling day of sorting and inventorying scrap, Wu Fei would give me a burning glare that was as good as a cattle prod for getting my ass back to work. To say I was exhausted was an understatement. Was I ready to pass out? Hell yeah! But I wasn't going to fall over before that pole up the ass man.
Heero was a constant by my side, lending me his strength and his advice, as we shifted large loads and raked through smaller ones for anything of value. I stopped being angry with him near noon and saved it all for Wu Fei. I couldn't hold anything against Heero as he sweated, cut, and scraped himself, on scrap, right along side of me. Wu Fei did too, but I wasn't going to be that charitable.
L2 made Wu Fei nervous, I discovered, when I had a whole day to watch my nemesis. His jaw was clenched and his eyes unreadable, for the most part, but when the constant mechanisms of L2 started and stopped, he twitched, flinched, and looked around. If it had been someone else beside Wu Fei, I would have called it fear, but... well, it was Wu Fei! I had to stick him into the, 'concern about sudden decompression' category and leave off the 'scared as shit about,' part. Wu Fei might be worrying about it, but I had the feeling that he would meet it unflinchingly if it ever happened. Probably say something sarcastic and cutting too.
Did we finish? Hell, no, but we had tackled a good chunk of the yard by the time the reflected sun was toned down towards evening. The neater piles of scrap looked very out of place next to the loose piles we still had to sort through.
My hands were aching and stinging from cuts and grappling with metal. My back was on fire from bending over and lifting too heavy loads, my skin was caked with dirt flakes of rust. Even with my hat on, I felt scorched to the bone.
"Enough," Heero announced, maybe finally realizing that the two stubborn men with him were not going to call a halt first. "We'll pick up again tomorrow." Wu Fei gave a tight nod.
"Well, if your tired..." I said with false energy as I chunked a last bit of scrap into an inventoried pile.
"Yes, I am," Heero replied sourly and gave me a sideways look that let me know that I wasn't fooling him one bit.
Wu Fei was probably just as wise to the situation, but he said, "We're losing light. It's too dangerous on these piles to try and use the lot lights instead."
Maybe he was just trying to save face, but he was saving mine too. "Makes sense, " I grunted, giving him that much. I was given a cold eye for my trouble. I decided I needed some alone time right then and there. Fuck Wu Fei. I wanted to go back to my shack, kick back in nothing but my skin, open all the vents, have something cold to drink, and sleep for a week.
"I will need you to come to our shack and discuss our findings," Wu Fei told me in a tone of voice not to be argued with. I really wonder how he can put so much threat into plain words. He just so much as said, 'cooperate or I will bring the full force of the law down on your head.'
Heero, God love him, tried to get me off. "We're all exhausted," he told Wu Fei. "We should rest. Let Duo go to his home for a few hours and then we can meet-"
"Unacceptable," Wu Fei retorted, eyes flashing. "We have our own report to finish before we can rest. There will not be time tomorrow to do this work."
So he was right, and I knew it, but that didn't stop me from getting pissed about it. My fists clenched as I stalked... walked... and then gave up and limped wearily to their shack.
Once inside, I ended up sitting on Heero's cot , with chin on fist, and looking at nothing very hard. Heero sat beside me and then stood again. I grunted when he asked, "Should I get drinks?" He took that as a yes and I was soon popping the cold tab on a little bit of heaven and drinking the cold energy drink down.
Wu Fei was taking out his own computer and sitting on the cot opposite us. He didn't take a drink and I suspected he was trying to show me he was tougher than me, one more time. I was too exhausted for any more of our pissing contest, though, and pretended not to notice.
After twenty minutes of talking numbers, my eyes were trying to close. I kept starting and blinking, losing Wu Fei's side of the conversation more than once. Heero prompted me when that happened, but it really wasn't helping that they were both talking softly. Even Wu Fei's arrogant tone wasn't keeping me alert. At some point, I was given dinner, but what it was, I don't remember... or even if I ate it. I disengaged from the conversation after that and a soft pillow appeared under my head. A tart exchange between Heero and Wu Fei passed over me, something about stress, working too hard, and heat, and then someone, Heero I hope, told me to sleep in a way that made warm breath tickle my ear. The world just went away after that.
Morning found me spooning with Heero on his cot, his nose against my neck and his body draped around me. His soft snore told me he was still deeply in la la land and I was tempted to go back there myself. The sunlight trying to stab my eyes through the ratty curtain told me it was still very early. It was the realization that I had dropped off to sleep, and been tucked in like a child, that had my face burning and my body forcing muscles to make me sit up. I looked automatically for Wu Fei and saw him sleeping not two arms lengths away.
He looked... less like an asshole when he was asleep. Wu Fei's features were soft and relaxed. He was wearing a loose pair of cotton, drawstring pants, and his blanket was wrapped around him as if he were giving it a hug. His hair was undone and it was a disarray of loose, black strands that made him look even younger. It kind of tapped me on the shoulder then, the thought that we were all still so young, despite our experiences, and, though we were never children, we could still have moments like this, where we were tumbled together in one room like sleeping puppies, or boys having some sort of sleep over, and all enmity could be gone, just like that.
I felt suddenly nostalgic, remembering my days on the streets of L2, when I'd had my gang of children. We had huddled together in falling down buildings, finding what peace and protection we could in numbers. You can't sugar coat being a child fending for himself in a war torn space station, but there had been moments in the battle for survival, moments a lot like this one that were... pauses in the struggle that weren't too bad.
I looked back at Heero and saw him frown and shift, still very deeply asleep. I almost wanted that moment to last, to keep still and quiet and not break it, but I knew better. Wu Fei would wake up and those dark eyes would burn me alive again and Heero would wake up and want things from me emotionally and physically, while inserting himself between Wu Fei and me. Just like last night, I suddenly wanted my space, my alone time, even though, not very far down deep, I only wanted to stay in Heero's arms. The mind can be a very fucked up thing.
We're all Gundam pilots, trained like no one has ever been trained before. Sneaking out on my comrades was easy, especially my sleep like the dead lover. I crept out of the shack and made my way, under the light of the reflectors, to my own shack, hands in pockets and head bent in an attempt to ignore that it was daytime. I was stopped almost on the front step by the sound of my back gate creaking open.
I squinted that way and saw a man come in tentatively, not sure of his welcome and obviously not comfortable around the scrap lot. I smiled and forgot about being tired, hungry, and wanting alone time. I smelled an easy mark a mile away. I didn't let on, though, as I scratched at my dirty scalp, mopped at my face with my bandana, and made a slow, almost irritable path, to the man.
"Morning," I said, putting a bit of belligerence in my tone. "Early to be out."
The man was tall and thin, with a scruff of red hair on his head and dark eyes he kept blinking myopically. His nose was a beak and he had a scar running under his bottom lip. Shrapnel, I identified.
"Benjamin Burns," the man introduced himself and didn't reach out for a handshake. I didn't insist on one, just scrubbed my hands absently with my bandana as if I was making sure I was ready in case he offered one later.
"Duo Maxwell," I returned politely. "This is my lot."
My mind was making alarm siren sounds. Things were not right and I wasn't sure I liked what my impressions were adding up to. I nixed the easy mark impression and settled for snake that might, or might not, have teeth. He was a flunky and I smelled bureaucrat and government on him. His kind didn't come to scrap lots looking for engine parts.
The man was wearing a casual outfit, but it was creased just right and pristine. I smelled an expensive after shave on him and his hair was stylish, not a haphazard buzz cut as I had at first thought.
"My client wished me to contact you and to give you his card," Burns announced as if it were a great honor. He handed me a card with a penthouse address in the finest section of L2. I looked suitably confused. Hell, I WAS confused.
"Is he interested in particular parts?" I wondered. "I'm a small operation, but I can get almost anything you want."
The man eyed me as if I were stupid. "Your reputation in that regard is known and, also, your current record. My client is always ready to tap talent when he sees it. Your handling of your arrest by Preventer agents impressed him."
My eyebrows went up to my hairline. I looked down at the card. I recognized the name, but continued to look clueless. "How's he know about that?"
The man gave me a superior smile. "We have friends in high places that keep us informed."
If I had been his boss, I would have drilled him between the eyes for giving away that kind of information. I grunted and changed my expression to pissed off. "That's supposed to be classified."
"Not for my client," Burns retorted almost primly. He gave my lot a severe look and a sniff. "If you want to improve your position in life, I suggest that you take advantage of his offer."
I stuffed the card into my hip pocket with a shrug. "I don't know what he's offering, but I have my own business right here. I'm not looking for anything else."
The man chuckled as he turned to go back out of my lot. "Ah, yes, but it's your 'business' he wants to discuss."
"Sorry," I told him strongly. "Tell him not to hold his breath."
The man left and I closed the gate behind him. Slowly, I walked to my shack, thinking. Being an ex gundam pilot, I've had my share of 'offers', legal and otherwise. There wasn't any way to tell if this 'client' was someone Wu Fei and Heero wanted to arrest, or what the man wanted with me. It was always best to never look interested or eager until you knew where you stood.
Once in my own home, I managed to put away my box of belongings that had been confiscated by the Preventers. I had a long time to reassure myself that my few possessions were still all there. It was a relief to finger through them, some tension, that I hadn't realized I was feeling, letting go at last as I reached the bottom and found the faded pictures of Father Maxwell and Sister Helen on a donation flyer, with a brief history of the Maxwell church and it's mission to help the needy. I'd found it long after I'd joined Dr. G and his sweepers. It had been in a forgotten stack of junk mail, earmarked for the incinerator, but never taken there. One of my tasks as the newbie in the group had been to clean up. I remember sitting for a long time in disbelief, clutching the simple black and white, cheaply printed flyer. When Dr. G found me, he had been sympathetic. That man could be as cold as a knife edge, but he'd had a fondness for me that had come through in a rough, fatherly fashion, and that had been one of those moments when he had draped an arm over my shoulders and listened while I had told him that dark chapter in my past and cried...
I closed up my boxes and locked the closet door. I was going to get a better lock, one that was Preventer proof. The thought of strangers pawing through my things still set my teeth on edge. The thought of those strange hands touching that flyer, those few photos I had of my war years, and the meager mementos of my life, was a violation I didn't want to experience again.
I took a shower and washed my hair out, watching dirt, rust, and bits of the previous day go down the drain as the pipes chugged in my ears. Finished, I took my time drying, shaving, brushing my teeth, and basically indulging the hell out of myself. I needed it. I felt too stressed, too ready to lash out in an ugly way.
Sifting through the clothes on the floor, I discovered that nothing smelled clean except a shirt of Heero's tossed over the top of the fridge. I pulled it on, a sky blue thing with a white collar, and smelled his light scent. I wrinkled my nose and smiled as I made coffee, stretched out on my bed, and kicked back in a pair of ragged shorts with no underwear.
When Heero knocked politely and then came in to my shouted, "Okay!" I'd had enough time to myself to not think of it as an invasion. Heero smiled at me, but I could see a faint look of worry as he stood in the doorway of my bedroom, hands in his back pockets and hair all messy and in his sleepy face.
"Wu Fei force you to get up?" I wondered with a smirk.
Heero grunted. "The man is a sadist in the morning."
"I think he's called, 'normal', " I joked. "You are supposed to get up before noon."
"He exercises," Heero complained. "And jogs."
"The horror," I laughed. I patted the bed as I sat up and he looked pleased that he was welcome. It made me think about how he must have felt, waking up and finding me gone. He must have worried about my mood.
Heero served himself some coffee first and then settled next to me. I reached out and briskly straightened his hair with my fingers, like a rake. It didn't do much good, but it stopped his hair from sticking straight up in places. He grimaced and sipped at his coffee.
I didn't tell him about my 'customer'. I was still unsure about it. Maybe he wasn't buying scrap, but he had made me a business offer. That made him 'one of mine' by default. Whether he was someone who truly deserved to be handed over to Wu Fei and Heero's tender mercies, was something I wanted to find out for myself.
"Shower?" I wondered.
"Last night," Heero replied between sips. He pulled at his shirt, the one I was wearing. "That was my last semi clean one."
"I know. Thanks." I grinned at him, unapologetic. "We'll have to send WU Fei to the cleaners today while we work."
Heero frowned, probably trying to bring up the image of Wu Fei doing laundry in a public setting. "Why Wu Fei?"
"Me and you work better together," I told him. "Less infighting. Besides, he's supposed to be the lazy relative, remember? He needs to wander around and look lazy."
"Doing laundry is lazy?" Heero wondered.
"It is when a machine does it for you and all you have to do is kick back at the nearest watering hole until it's done," I told him. "We'll tell him it's surveillance, or something. Tell him he needs to listen to what the locals are saying about our set up, whether they're buying it or not."
Heero finished his coffee, set aside the container, and then shifted to look at me. "Did you eat?"
I raised an eyebrow. "I was about to."
"Good," Heero grunted and reached out to get the meals himself.
"Should I start your tab now?" I wondered, a bit annoyed by his 'mothering'. "You keep eating my food."
He gave me a sideways look, "I don't have the pride you do. I don't mind freeloading."
It was a joke and he wasn't sure how well it was going to play, I could tell. There was a question in it, too. If I insisted he pay me back, that was going to say a whole hell of a lot about our relationship. Another damned step. Next we would be buying freakin' wedding rings. That though made me scowl as I said, "Go ahead! Why not eat me out of house and home?"
Sure I sounded like a shit, but Heero got it. His face glowed as he handed me my meal. I pretended not to notice as I concentrated on eating. Size 71/2 ring size and no freakin' diamonds, okay?
on to Chapter 18
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