Lawless Hearts

Part 22: Bait
by Kracken

Thanks again to everyone who's been reviewing. *hugs to you all* I love your wonderful insights into the story.


Disclaimer:I don't own them and I don't make any money off of them.
Warning: Male/male sex, graphic, language, violence


Warmth was against my back and a soft snore sounded in my ear. I had a violent urge to elbow Heero off the bed, but I throttled it and tried to wake up all the way first... and , yeah, it did feel good to have him hold me. I was also remembering my little, okay, my very big meltdown the night before. I wondered what that had looked like and what Wu Fei and Heero thought about me now. Give me a mission? They were probably going to call a psycho ward instead.

I suppose that I've lived as long as I have by completely bottling things up and by being tougher than gundanium nails when it came down to swallowing tragedy and ... going on from there. How many times... one... two... three... My slate had been cleaned, leaving me to reinvent myself and my life enough times where I should have been a pro at it. It didn't make it hurt any less, though, or make me feel any better about the circumstances that had left me out in the cold yet again.

I found myself staring at the wall. My wall, my shack, my lot, my business. Soon, I firmly believed, it was going to be someone else's. I'd already proved that I couldn't run it by myself, that I didn't have the head for organization or book keeping. With my reputation hanging around my ankles... Ben running off to tell everyone I had suspicious employees, everyone thinking I was a whore, everyone knowing that I was on the edge and willing to make the bad deals to keep myself from falling over it... All that was left was sizing up the coffin and placing my business papers in it for burial. It may seem strange, but volunteering for a dangerous mission, and risking my life by stepping into the den of one of L2's most corrupt official, seemed the ultimate in denial, in sticking my head in the sand a bit longer and not dealing. That suited me just fine.

"What are you going to do when this is all over, Heero?" I whispered and found myself holding Heero's hands, which were holding me protectively."Go back to your life, of course. I don't have one any more and I don't see any place for me in your life." And that hurt more than any of the rest. It took me by surprise, that after everything, I felt even more in love with that damned man wrapped around me. Maybe I was a masochist at heart.

"We wasted years," Heero said suddenly, a tense, pained, whisper, "believing that we weren't meant to be together. Don't keep believing it, Duo. I..." His face pressed into my back, hard, and I felt him shiver. "I will never be able to apologize enough, or make this never have happened... I... I don't know what to do, Duo. I only know that I never want to be without you again. If... If I have to resign from the Preventers and follow you, I will." If I'd have him, he meant, and the question hung in the air.

Why should he give up his life? The thought was bitter in my gut. Heero made a difference. He was out there, every day, saving people. He was trying to save L2 now and, like in the war, some people had to die so that others could have peace. I was the casualty. I didn't think that I was going to be the only one either. I wasn't that self centered. I'd made that sacrifice willingly during the war. I wondered why it should bother me now... oh, yeah, I didn't volunteer this time.

"Since you're up," I said, not telling Heero anything at all, "Let's go tell Wu Fei the good news, that I'm going to be his bait."

I was almost afraid that Heero wasn't going to let go, but he did and shifted to sit up. I turned and looked at him as I sat up as well. He looked... like hell. I had the feeling that my lover hadn't slept at all last night except right before I had decided to talk to myself. He was still dressed, his clothes wrinkled and his hair messed up. He met my eyes. We sat very still and then I leaned close, hooking a hand behind his neck. I squeezed tight enough to make him wince.

"Not now," I told Heero. "After this is done, we'll see what's left to talk about."

A shit would tell me that a lot of my own decisions had put nails in my own coffin. Heero wasn't a shit. He was taking all the blame. He really did love me. He really was suffering, thinking we were through. I could have taken some revenge and exploited that. Well, I wasn't that much of a shit either.

"I love you," I told Heero fiercely and it almost sounded as angry as 'I hate you', "but I don't feel good about anything right now. I don't see how any of this is going to end up... I can't see how I fit... My motto has always been, 'keep moving and opportunities will present themselves.' I can't tell you... I can't make any promise, any plans.... I just have to keep moving and see what happens next."

I could tell he wanted more from me, but he kept his mouth shut. He decided to be attentive instead. While I showered and put on my city clothes, a pair of jeans without holes and a white tshirt without grease, he made breakfast and had my bed made. We ate in silence and, when I was sitting and sipping my coffee, he asked a question that was more loaded than he realized.

"Can I help brush out your hair while you finish?" Heero asked it in a very nervous tone of voice.

My hair was a disaster, half out of it's braid and probably caked with my own salt tears. I should have washed it, but I didn't think I had the time. The thing is, my braid is very personal to me. I protect it zealously and I hated... I hated anyone touching it. It probably stemmed from a lifetime of having people grab it and use it against me in a fight, but, on a deeper level, there were more emotional, needy, reasons to protect it and keep it the one thing that was mine alone. I won't talk about security blankets or teddy bears, but...that was close to what my braid was to me. I had a feeling Heero felt the same way about his glock, which is why it had shocked me to see him without it, but I just wasn't up to analyzing anything like that. I put my coffee aside and shook my head.

"I can brush my own damned hair..." I grumbled . "Make yourself useful instead and get the garbage cleaned up and out of here before we go. We're probably not going to see this place again for a couple of days."

It takes time to brush as much hair as I have. Heero hid his disappointment and did as I asked. I watched him as I worked out the knots. When I saw him pause at my special closet, and watched him check the lock, I almost ... but I steeled my resolve to stay pissed off. His next words broke through that resolve like a mack truck through rice paper. "I'll have an agent stay here and keep your neighbor from making a claim while we're gone."

He was watching my back, keeping my things safe. The business was one thing, but what was mine, what was so freakin' dear to me, he was there and on guard... for me. I almost clocked him with the hair brush as I launched myself into his arms. We both hit the ground, but Heero's arms were around me and his face was buried in all my loose hair, probably wondering if I was attacking him or forgiving him, as he said, over and over again, "Love, love..."

Bruised, me bleeding from a skinned elbow, and Heero sporting a red spot on his jaw from my arm connecting, we forgot everything and just... clung. I couldn't say anything. I didn't know what was going through my head... just.... that I had to have Heero with me, a part of me, no matter what... no matter how much grief was in store for me.

I was hard to recover from that, hard to know how to break the moment, partly because we didn't want to. I had the feeling that we were about to cap it off with a heated bout of sex, when there was firm knock on the door.

"Yuy, Maxwell? We have to talk," Wu Fei called.

I let go of Heero and quickly began braiding my hair, hands shaking. I was a mess. I couldn't be a mess if I wanted to convince Wu Fei to let me take the mission. Heero waited until I was ready before answering the door and he helped me to my feet. He didn't seem much steadier than I was though. His hand reached out and tightened on mine. I felt all of his fear and disapproval, but he knew better than to think he could change my mind. I returned his hard squeeze and then I pulled loose.

"Time for Shinigami to come out of retirement," I told him. Heero went pale, the mark on his face going livid in contrast, but he nodded stiffly, and went to let Wu Fei in.

Wu Fei entered cautiously. We looked like we'd been in a fight and he knew I was angry. I jammed my hands in my pockets and glared at the floor as I made my pitch. "I volunteer for this operation."

I expected a third degree, argument of some kind. I wasn't prepared for Wu Fei to simply say. "All right. You'll have to activate as a special agent and fill out some forms."

I looked up and saw his thoughtful expression. I couldn't begin to guess what he was thinking. Maybe I had volunteered for a suicide mission and he wasn't going to stand in my way. It was like Wu Fe, though, to let a warrior fight his chosen battles. He'd done enough of that during the war.

"Don't you want to ask why?" I still had to know the score, where I stood with Chang Wu Fei.

"I know why," Wu Fei replied, giving me nothing to go on. He was going to keep his cards close to his chest and I was just going to have to guess his hand.

"Okay." That sounded lame, but I didn't know what else to say.

"Chang," Heero began but I pointed a finger at him without looking at him. He stopped talking.

"My choice," I said in warning and he made a frustrated sound.

Wu Fei turned and I followed him out of my shack. "Once you are certified an agent, we'll brief you on the details."

I shrugged as I blinked at the reflected light and scowled at the heat that was building already. Another hot day. Surprise. "I already have a cover story. I know all about this guy. I'll get in, download his operation, and get the hell out so you can arrest him. This would have been a walk in the park in the old days."

"In the old days, you could set a bomb and kill them all," Heero reminded me darkly. "Now they have to be arrested and imprisoned."

"I am allowed to defend myself, right? " I wondered, "or are the guns just to pick your nose?"

I was nervous and not sure I was making a good decision. My mouth got dirty and smart assed when that happened. I always figured, piss the other guy off enough, and he might spill something unintentionally. Wu Fei had come a long way from the young boy who had exploded with fury at the drop of a hat. He didn't respond except to say, "You will be issued a weapon, if you don't have one."

I shrugged. "I haven't needed one since the end of the war. Scrapmen don't have many shootouts. I can't walk into this guy's office with one anyway. He'll have a scanner."

We went into their shack and I sat on one of the beds while Wu Fei booted up his computer. Heero fetched drinks and I sat sipping mine as he settled beside me. Finally, Wu Fei turned the computer towards me.

Paul Harker, Exterior Administrator. "Meaning, he not only helps run L2, he does deals off satellite too," I said and then read his list of suspected crimes. I only nodded, not surprised at all. "He wouldn't be where he is if he didn't murder people, and he wouldn't be doing it at all if he wasn't making a lot of credits. Looks like he was just dealing drugs to begin with." I whistled. "Juke? That's nasty shit. Kolibar.... Ansens... and some old standbys too... cocaine... heroine... that stuff never goes out of style. It's the weapons you're worried about the most, though, right? Hm, he's working with Walters and Barnard. Everyone knows they're doing weapons. So, he has someone buy the stuff to keep his hands clean, and then he has his contacts buy them from the scrap dealer. Sweet. He probably has the first born of every one of his scrapmen too, to keep them in line. So, what's he want me for if he doesn't want me to run weapons?" I answered my own question, my mind leaping ahead. "Ah, he wants to really get into the big time, doesn't he? Put some major weapons together, hire a first rate Gundam pilot, and take over."

"Exactly," Heero replied, looking troubled, and Wu Fei gave a single nod.

I looked at our target and remembered seeing him on vid shows, on the news, and in the papers. He was blonde, blue eyed, and as chiseled and good looking as a model. I didn't know anything more about him other than his face, though, because I was of a like mind with most of L2; uncaring of the higher ups. We didn't vote in elections, because we knew it was corrupt. We didn't argue any new laws, because we knew we would be ignored. We didn't listen to speeches or proclamations, because, not only didn't they concern us, they were most likely lies anyway. We practiced the fine art of 'staying under the radar' and staying far away from the city and it's corruption.

"What do you know about his set up?" I asked.

"First," Wu Fei told me as he took back his computer and changed screens, "you must be cleared."

I made a face. I've never liked paperwork or official channels. I wasn't the kind of guy who could work with restrictions and orders. Give me a mission, I figure it out and executed it. I suppose that sounds arrogant, but I am THAT good, better than pencil pushers who never saw real combat. I knew better what needed to be done than they did.

Wu Fei was typing furiously. I heard a clicking dial tone and then a female voice. My blood froze. Lady Une still sounded... like the woman who had ordered me to be executed during the war.

"Agent Wu Fei?" Une said coolly.

"Maxwell has offered to be our undercover operative," Wu Fei told her.

"Concerns?" she asked promptly.

I'm glad I couldn't see her face. The voice was enough. Wu Fei replied, "None."

I blinked. What the hell had I done to deserve his sudden trust? I rapidly went over the last few days and came up empty.

"Status?" Une asked, not questioning Wu Fei's judgement any further.

"Competent. He is in very good shape," Wu Fei replied.

"All right, I approve his special agent status, but I expect you to supervise closely the entire operation," Une told him in a severe tone.

Wu Fei inclined his head in acknowledgment. "Well start immediately."

Wu Fei broke the connection and then turned the computer towards me. I found myself looking at a very long form.

"Read it carefully and then apply your thumbprint," Wu Fei instructed me. He added, catching my eyes and holding them intently. "If you fail to carry out your part of the mission properly, you will be given a life sentence."

I scrolled down to the bottom of the form without looking at it and applied my thumbprint, then I turned it back towards him. "Anything else or do you want to give me mission specs now?"

Heero sighed. "Duo, you should have read it. There are regulations..."

I looked at him and then at Wu Fei, letting them know that I considered them a team, a part from me. "You follow regulations, I follow what I know. You know what that's worth."

They exchanged looks. "We know," Wu Fei replied as he began pulling up information on his computer for me.

Hope wriggled it's nose at me. I was getting respect and I couldn't figure out why. I was doing something that was making Heero crazy with worry and Wu Fei and Une trusting. Hope was making a very small part of me wonder if this mission, completed successfully , might pull my ass out of its downward spiral. I couldn't get any lower. I couldn't feel any more like a failure. If I could do this, and save the world, once again, it would go a long way to proving to, at least myself, that I still had it, that I could still go on and jump onto the next train of possibility.

I read through building schematics, looked at guard rotations, regular deliveries, most frequent times of online and vidphone activity, and personnel time clocks. The target liked to come in late and leave early. His work day was four hours long, on average.

"Looks like he does a hell of a lot of uploading every two days," I noticed. "Any idea why?"

"We tried deciphering it without success," Heero told me.

I eyed him. "I know how good you are at that. If you can't do it, I probably can't either."

"The encryption is very odd," Wu Fei said.

"Let me look," I said without really thinking that I could do much. Wu Fei booted up the file and I blinked at the odd strings of code and text. I have a gift; to see how things balance and flow, and to anticipate patterns... I saw it suddenly and grinned. I typed it my own string of code and the gibberish settled into known forms. Heero saw my solution and he looked completely embarrassed.

"Of course," Heero sighed in exasperation, "L2 mineral shorthand. That's why the computer didn't know it."

Wu Fei's eyebrows lifted. "Explain."

"Scrapmen use a shorthand among themselves," I told him, "To post notices and label scrap. I don't think it would surprise you that a lot of scrapmen can only scrawl their name? This is how they get by. "

Heero pointed to the screen, "But what are these characters?"

I laughed, "Periodic table and The Iliad." I quoted, "As Dawn spread her saffron mantle over the world, Zeus, who delights in thunder, called the gods to a conference on the highest of Olympus' many peaks.' Weird."

Of course they gaped at me. I shrugged, "Well, I did learn something going undercover in all those schools." I pointed to the scrambled passage again. "So, did this guy have a meeting recently?"

Wu Fei frowned and nodded, "Yes."

"I'm betting it was dealers and not gods, right?" I asked.

"Yes," Heero replied. "This is the formula for micro steel," he said going a little pale as he pointed to the lines on the screen. "That's material for buster rifles. Here's mesh titanium, too."

"Laser guns," I knew. I pointed to a key set of characters. "Titanium kevlar micro binding. Material for suits. I hope this is just a wish list and he hasn't actually had this stuff delivered to him?"

"We don't know," Wu Fei replied. "His network is vast and he works through third parties. We need to infiltrate his systems to discover if he has a production base to utilize these materials."

"And I bet he wouldn't be stupid enough to upload information like that?" I asked, but they didn't have to answer. A guy like that would use couriers not electronics. Material lists were one thing, but deliveries and production sites would be something else.

I sat back, pushing the computer towards Wu Fei. I already had a plan. It was bold and suicidal, but I was used to that. "Okay, I go in as Duo Maxwell, loser and needing money and a job, and I hack the systems as soon as they look the other way. If I go in between shift change, things might be confusing enough that no one will know who gave who permission to go into sensitive areas . I might use that to bluff my way out if there's trouble. I can always use the patented, 'I just needed to know I could trust you, so I was checking you out.' whine. He might buy that or he might shoot me between the eyes. Hopefully, I won't get caught and I'll skinny out of there without a hitch."

"Heero is going to be your backup," Wu Fei told me and I could tell he was unsure about the arrangement. He wasn't talking about backup, as in save my ass if I get into trouble. He was talking about Heero finishing the mission if I was turned into a red smear.

I turned to Heero and grabbed his bicep, squeezing hard enough to make him wince. I leaned in close, meeting his dark blue eyes, and said, "You screw this up, you try and come after me instead of doing your job, and I'll shoot you myself. Got it, Yuy? This is serious shit. This is big, bigger than us. I won't go into this unless you tell me you get that."

"You said once..." Heero tried to choose his words carefully, "You said that you wouldn't risk your life."

I suppose it came out as bitter as hell, but it was the plain truth to me at that moment. "In case you hadn't noticed, my life is over here. I'd rather go out like a shooting star than go out like a bad smell."

Heero cupped the side of my face, caressed me there gently, and said, "You don't have to do this. Your life isn't over. It's with me, if you want?"

"I want to, really I do," I told him, returning the caress and ignoring the fact that Wu Fei had scowled and turned away. Screw him anyway. "I have to do this, though. You know why, right?"

I didn't want to have to explain it. Laying it all out in words might have made me cry. I felt pathetic enough.

"Just be there on the other side, when I'm done, okay?"I demanded, "Not storming the building looking for me like you did during the war."

"I was coming to kill you," Heero corrected me and he sounded choked up.

"Yeah, just keep telling yourself that," I chuckled, but it was strained, "You were checking out my ass from day one."

I let him go, knowing I was about to go over the edge and break down. I clapped my hands together and rubbed them briskly together as I stood up. I said to Wu Fei with false enthusiasm, "Well, let's get started!"

see Kracken's original, published yaoi fiction, The Angel Within, at under Kracken
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