Disclaimer:I don't own them and I don't make any money off of this.
Warning:Male/male sex, graphic, language, violence.
Great! I was stuck on the wrong side of the station with a twenty in my pocket and no freakin' desire to spend it on a taxi home. I went first to an outside fast food joint, carefully ordered as much protein and fat as I could in the form of meaty burgers and greasy, fried vegetables, and downed two milkshakes until my pounding headache eased up and the spinning between my ears ceased altogether. Fat and happy, I rolled myself out of there and ignored the disgusted looks thrown my way. I gave them a loud burp as a way of flipping them off, before I began my search for a hub transit station.
I couldn't blame them for being disgusted, really. I was filthy, I was wearing ripped, dirt covered clothes, and I reeked more than any grease pit mechanic on his worst day. Even I wouldn't have wanted a lunch companion like me. Not blaming them didn't keep me from ... disliking them? Being irritated with them? Hating them? Okay, maybe not hate, but envy most certainly. I envied them and that made me pissy as a matter of course.
I've always struggled to get from one day to the next, even during the war. I've always had to be smart, fast, and willing to do what it took to survive. I crawled along the underbelly of society even now, struggling with the rest of the have nots and the unlucky bastards. Yeah, I guess I was in the 'unlucky bastard' category. Anyway, seeing people who were clean, well fed, and employed in nice, air conditioned buildings, watching me, had a tendency to make me feel like a mangy, stray dog; kind of not worthy to walk the same street as them. It made my hackles stand up... okay, that was stupid. Forget I said that last bit. It made me PISSY, with a big P, and I couldn't help playing the part that their imaginations were painting for me. Yeah, look at the street trash and be glad you aren't like this poor bastard.
The transit was free, but it was far from luxury. I always expected cattle and coal to be piled up next to me when I jumped on the bare bones transit shuttle. Hard metal seats, and bare metal walls scrawled with colorful sayings, made up the inside. I took a seat, put my box down beside me, and couldn't help scrunching in a corner when three young men, looking even less reputable than myself, stepped on as well. They didn't sit, and that made me nervous. They paced as the transit pulled from the station, and they kept scanning everything with narrowed eyes. About to commit a crime or already had, I thought. I looked at my feet and let my dirty bangs fall in my face. The last thing I wanted was for them to wonder if I was trying to ID them.
I'll tell you right now, I could have wiped the floor with everyone of them, even stuffed full of burgers and fried food, even having gone days without eating, even having just passed out at a lock up. Why do it, though, unless you had to? I sure as hell didn't look like someone to rob, so keeping quiet, and minding my own business, was the best coarse of action right then.
The floor was rusted. There was a hole big enough to let me watch the ground passing underneath. I let that absorb my attention for awhile, even wondering if anyone had accidentally stepped into it and what might have happened to the unfortunate person who might have. I felt the men relaxing, one sitting down, another leaning against a wall and snorting something, drugs probably, his back turned to me. The third one... Goddamit! He was slowly making his way towards me. I played dumb and didn't look up.
"You stink like shit!" the man snarled.
"Byproduct of hard work," my cheerful, smart assed mouth said. I
myself less than one second after it left my mouth. I winced, but still didn't look up.
"I'll get off next stop," I amended, trying to sound meek and apologetic. You know, that never got me shit, and I wonder why anyone, including myself, even tries it. Maybe it's just so we won't feel so guilty when we kick their asses. We tried to be nice, and all of that.
"You'll get the hell off now!" A hand grabbed me by my braid and hauled me towards the door of the transit.
The transit doors were made not to open while the thing was moving, but like all good government projects, they were hardly maintained. Someone had jumped the system and bare wires hung from the overhead. Yes, there were some people who actually wanted to get off of a moving transit shuttle after they murdered or robbed someone. Waiting for the next stop would have been just stupid. There were spots where the shuttle had to slow. They were good jumping off points. What this killer intended though, wasn't anything like that. We were at top speed and the wind of it hit us as he slapped the wires and made the door open. I expected it. I was ready. Killer wasn't any of those things as I sucker punched him, yanked my braid out of his suddenly lax hands, and kicked him out first. There wasn't a scream and I didn't watch what happened to him. I had his buddies to face.
I slapped the wires and the door shut as I turned, all one smooth motion. The guy snorting drugs turned with hazy eyes and the guy lounging in one of the seats blinked. "Said he was a dumbshit," the seated guy growled and went back to contemplating graffiti. The drug guy snorted, nodded with a giggle, and went back to his drugs. Guess they weren't very tight.
I kept a dangerous glare on my face as I went back to my seat. They didn't give me any trouble, but I was glad to get to my stop. I jumped out and stalked away, feeling reaction starting to set in. I tried to calm myself by telling myself some nice lies about how the guy might not actually be dead. Sure, I'd killed lots and lots of people during the war, but your head is in a different place when you're in battle. You can tell yourself that you're doing something right and that you're following orders that will make the lives of people better, safer, freer. Yeah, it's true, but you really need to wrap yourself in that tight when some guy in a suit cries out for his mama as you're cutting it in half. I didn't have that mental, cotton batting right now. Saving my own skin didn't seem to have the same protection.
All that food and the adrenalin rush was making me ready to hurl. I took it slow and sat down in the yellowish dust road that led between the rickety fences of the scrap yards more than once. It wasn't really dirt, more like industrial waste cleaned and processed into fine, round grains and put down for ascetic, cushioning effect. At least that's what the government records probably said right before the big warning not to breathe it for long periods of time. If you are ever on L2, you'll notice in a fly over that only the worst parts of the station got the special, cushioning, ascetically pleasing, recycled waste. The cities have nice, real, honest to goodness, dirt and bonded matting over the metal frame of the station.
Rounding the corner of my yard was as close to coming home for me since I had been at the orphanage. I felt safe, relieved, and ready to kick back in my shack. I wasn't prepared to go in and find everything open, spilled out, and sifted through. I guess either the Preventer agents had gotten overzealous or my 'employees' at the back of the yard had robbed me and cut their losses after they had seen the law drag my ass away. My only consolation was, that there hadn't been any money to rob.
I tossed my box of personal things onto my work desk. The computer was gone, of course, probably sitting on the counter of a pawn shop by now. I felt... depressed... at a loss... only one thing clear to mind. I wanted to sleep. I wanted to crawl into bed and just forget the whole damned day.
I went to lock the door and found the lock broken. Jamming a chair under the
knob, it was better than nothing, I went into the back where my bed was set
up next to a small fridge, a bathroom as small as a closet, an empty space where
my vidscreen had been, and a futon that was turned over with the bottom sliced
open. My mattress had received the same treatment, but someone had dumped it
back onto the frame, so all I had to do was fall face first onto it and pull
the forgetfulness of sleep over me. The world, for now, could go to hell.
I woke up with light coming through the skewed curtain of a window, aimed like a laser beam, right at my eyes. I groaned and tried to move. Every inch of my skin felt grungy, my mouth was nasty and as dry as a desert, and joy of joys, my headache was back. I had a vague thought that road kill couldn't have felt worse than me at that moment.
I levered myself up, dutiful muscles responding despite the part of my brain that just wanted to curl up and continue to ignore life. I almost crawled on all fours to the bathroom, my back refusing to straighten, and then used the bathroom wall to hold me up as I peed into a metal toilet ringed with rust. The sound was weirdly satisfying, don't ask me why. That done, I stripped out of what was left of my clothes, and turned on the shower. The shower head was only half functioning, clogged up with whatever silt and grime was in the pipes. The water came out in every direction except down. By hanging on the shower head, and propping myself one handed against the cracked tile of the stall, I turned it this way and that to soak my hair and body thoroughly. The pipes groaned and chugged, but the water heater was working. Slowly, my body steamed and I woke up completely.
What the hell now? I thought about it as I soaped up and shampooed my hair. I took a big mouthful of water, gargled, and spit it out loudly. Much better. Now I didn't feel like someone might start mining dirt on my tongue. Instead, I felt something completely different. I felt mad. So much for not holding grudges. The end of my day yesterday had pretty much cemented my sense of 'they did me wrong'. Help them... fuck them... I had a business to run... into the ground, but I still had to run it. They had destroyed my shack and let me get robbed.
An inner voice, that sounded suspiciously like the nun that had taken care of me when I had lived in a church orphanage, reminded me that I had been going to buy those gyros, reminded me that if it hadn't been for Heero having a twinge of his own conscious, and my own street sense, I would now be fighting off guys wanting to 'get to know me better' in a maximum security prison. I had stepped over that line between small time and big fish. They could still do me wrong, I thought, if they wanted to forget my bit of backtracking.
I rinsed off and left the shower, toweling off and trying to dry my long rope of hair. I bent over to sort through some clothes on the floor for something to wear, and my cross, on it's silver chain, clunked me in the face. I winced. It was like getting my hand hit by a ruler for being bad. Catholic guilt had the ability to follow you to the grave and the people who had taken care of me, had instilled it in me even during my short stay there. You didn't sell gyros that could be put in suits that could kill people, you didn't throw even bad men off of trains, and you didn't avoid your punishment when it was firmly handed to you. I screwed up. Heero and Wu Fei were giving me my punishment. Helping them would not only get them off my back, legally, but I could unload some bad boy baggage too-
Oh, hell, who was I kidding?
I smelled a shirt and decided it was clean enough. I pulled it on, a dark blue thing that hung on me loosely and had the logo of some auto part store on it. A pair of heavy duty jeans went on after that and a pair of steel toed boots.
I stared out at the day through the grimy window. Yeah, I WAS kidding myself. I wanted to join Wu Fei and Heero. I wanted to get back out there and feel that damned adrenalin rush of doing something that mattered. I didn't want to be a failure. I didn't want to end my life as it had pretty much started, poor and on the streets. There was nothing wrong with dealing scrap. There was a certain charge that I got out of owning the business and making the deals, but, it was nothing compared to the charge I had felt when I realized that Heero and Wu Fei needed me, needed my skill, needed me to...
I rubbed the back of my neck and then flopped down, sitting on the bed and braiding my hair. They needed me to be a criminal and contact criminals. Hell, they had thought that I WAS a criminal. Maybe Heero didn't now, but Wu Fei still did. Sure, there was a bit of truth in it, but not to the extent they had imagined. That tainted it, made me even angrier. I didn't know how I could work through that to do what I didn't think I had much choice in doing anyway. I was confused, wanting, but not able to let them get away with screwing me over in thought and deed.
"I need more time to think about this shit!" I grumbled as I tied a ragged, red bandana around my neck and trudged to the front door. I pulled the chair out from under the knob and opened it. Hot hair slapped me in the face. "Fuck you asshole!" I shouted to the nameless bastard who seemed to love hot summer days.
It was then that I saw him. Heero was leaning against the support to my little porch, arms crossed over his chest and head bowed under the brim of his hat. I blinked and had a chill shoot through me, the kind of thing you get when you see a snake almost under your feet. He was covered in yellow dust. His arms were a bit sunburned and already sheened with sweat. He wore a tank top, white, well, it must have been white before the dust decided to mate with it. He wore loose cargo pants, dark green and covered in pockets. His shoes were old, worn, brown leather work boots, the kind scrap men swore by. A tan scarf hung from his neck, already wetted and cooling his neck. His hat.... I blinked at it. It was a scrap man's hat, wide brimmed and made out of woven strips; cloth, leather, even thin bits of aluminum here and there. He looked the part and I knew what part he was trying to play. I leaned against the wall of the shack and glared at him. "No," I said.
The brim lifted and those blue eyes had the smile his face wasn't showing. No, left my vocabulary. "It was a compromise," Heero explained softly. "I didn't want you to blow your position here by being taken to Preventer lock up a second time and Wu Fei didn't trust you enough to be on your own to follow our directions. He thinks you'll flee at the first opportunity and warn everyone about the sting."
"Wu Fei makes sense, but I'm still here, " I grunted. " As for you, you can dress the part, but this kind of work is hard. People here don't trust easy either. They'll wonder why you suddenly took over the business."
"I'm not taking it over," Heero corrected me.
"No, you're sure as hell not!" I snapped back.
He didn't lose his cool. He continued to lounge, as if he had forever to explain. he said, "I am now working for you. We'll spend a month running the business together and then, when your contacts are used to me, used to seeing me working alongside you, then we will put the sting in motion."
"I don't have room and I'm not sure I want to go through with this," I growled.
"Where did Hilde stay?" Heero asked.
I felt my gut tighten. "So, you went through my entire life, is that it?"
"We had to get background information," Heero apologized and he did manage to look troubled by it.
"Hilde stayed where my employees are staying now," I replied, biting out my words.
"They're gone," Heero informed me.
"That's good, because, otherwise, I'd have to go over there and beat the crap out of them for robbing me!" I snarled back.
Heero did straighten then. "They robbed you? I could take a report, have some agents-"
"That would blow your cover," I pointed out. "It'd be better if your friends at Preventer's compensated me instead."
Heero nodded. "I'll see to it."
"Good!" I straightened as well and took a step towards him. "Now, about your plans. I-"
There was a crash and part of my fence came down under the force of a small earthmover. Yellow dust blew towards us and then settled.
"GODDAMIT!" I shouted and forgot everything as I jumped off the porch and ran towards the machine. I jumped on the things' front and clawed my way up to the cab. My surprised neighbor looked at me in shock. "I'm not gone yet, Stubburt! Get the hell out of my yard! You better freakin' fix my fence too!"
The man leaned out of his cab cautiously as he cut the engine. It spluttered to a stop. "Eh, sorry about that, Maxwell. I do get first stake, ya know. You did look like you were going away permanent like."
"Well. I'm not!" I snarled at him and slammed a fist on the window of his cab. It was heavy duty plastic and it thrummed like a drum head. "I'm too damned smart to let cops get anything on me. They had to let me go. I'm still in business!"
"You got nobody to help you," the man pointed out. "Your help is gone. Can't run the place by yourself, kid. Might as well pack it up and let professionals like me take on the yard."
"Fuck You!" I shouted at him and pointed at where Heero had come to stand cautiously by the big wheel of the earth mover. "That's my damned help! Now screw you and get the hell outta my yard!"
The man glared and swore at me. The engine roared to life and I barely had enough time to jump off, before it jerked into motion and pulled back. I landed hard and stumbled. Then I remembered Heero and felt a moment of sheer panic before I saw him backing up and glaring at my retreating neighbor. I joined him and we stared at the broken fence.
"Finder's keepers is rule number one out here," I told him. "You leave it long enough, someone will 'find' it and take it, even your whole yard."
Heero gave me a little smile. "I'm hired, then?"
I glared and then whipped off my scarf to mop at my now sweat and dirt covered face. "Yeah, you're hired, but expect to work your ass off, Yuy. I don't pay slackers... in fact, I don't pay at all. You get a place to stay and you're on your own for meals. I do a scrap deal, you get %5."
"10%," Heero argued, that damned amused glint in his eyes again.
"I barely get 10%!" I retorted, but then I rolled my eyes as if he were breaking me and said, "How about 7%?"
Heero held up his hand and I automatically slapped it with my own, clasped, and then let go as if we had just exchanged some skin. It was a scrap man's 'done deal'. I blinked at him.
"Deal," Heero told me and laughed as he dipped his brim so that I couldn't see his face any longer and walked back towards my shack. He left me with the realization that I had just hired and made a deal to pay a Preventer agent as if he had been someone scrounging the yards for employment. Heero was good. He was damned good.
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