Lawless Hearts

Part 8:Mudding
by Kracken


Disclaimer:I don't own them and I don't make any money off of this.
warning:Male/male sex, graphic, language, violence
Note:After it rains in Florida, we have this wonderful custom of taking our beloved pick up trucks and swamp buggies out to swamp tracks and 'mudding' which is a free for all race on muddy tracks, with loose rules, overstimulated, testosterone pumped, men, and lots of alcohol. It's fun, dangerous, most times against the law, and... did I mention fun? ^_^ This is sort of the L2 version...

Lawless Hearts


The change in the air alerted me. It was thick. That's the only way to describe it, but that feeling was so different from how it usually felt, that it woke me up. I started and sat straight, feeling as if I was peeling my body away from my wooden support. My mouth felt like the bottom of a rusted radiator, and my mind was whirling and going, 'what the hell..?' as I tried to figure out what was going on.

Brain engaged. Oh, yeah, I had decided to stop mooning over Yuy and treat him like what he was, a Preventer strong man sent to make sure I did my part of the sting. To celebrate my new resolve, I had treated myself to torture by sleeping outside. That had a two prong purpose, to make me pissy enough to carry out my new resolve and to remind me of my past. It gave some back bone to my pride. It's easy to let someone feed you when you're starving, but when you aren't any longer, you cut the cord and stand on your own again.

I needed to move Yuy out of my shack so that I could get rid of the damned tension that was turning me into knots and I needed to sell some scrap to pay him back what I owed him. Once I was independent again, and not owing him anything, I felt that I could then take back control of where my life was headed. I didn't want to be steered. I didn't want to be forced. I really didn't want to do it because my wanting Heero was making me do whatever he wanted me to. Duo Maxwell was his own man and always would be.

"Clean the other shack and get the parts together to sell," I muttered as I forced my aching body to stand. But not today, I amended as I looked up at the sky and grinned. Today was all mine.

I limped into the shack and heard Heero talking. He yawned around some words and sounded as if he had just got up, his voice soft and mussy. I stopped just outside the bedroom door and listened.

"Okay, Chang," Heero groused irritably, "but we are not going to rush this operation. We need to integrate the new material in slowly, build up the business, and then put out feelers when we get ready to sell the contraband. We can't look like we know what we're doing. We are supposed to be poor scrap dealers who had something big land in their lap. That will bring our target in like a shark to blood in the water. He'll want to take advantage of us." A pause.... "What? Oh, he's been cooperating. You were completely wrong about him, Chang... No, I don't expect any trouble at all. I'll check in with you tomorrow."

I walked in then, stretching, and said, as I bent to the cupboard and fished out some breakfast packs and coffee containers, "Was that Mr. Stick Up the Butt?"

"Hn," Heero replied noncommittally and then, "I've been working long hours. I'm sorry that I fell asleep last night.

I brought the coffee and the meal packs over to him, plopped down cross legged on the futon, and snapped the head tabs. The food sat between us as they heated up. I asked, trying not to look at how handsome he was with his hair all on end from sleep and his face open and still waking up, "Do you have your palm computer on you?"

Heero sat still and I could sense him deciding whether I could be trusted with it or not.

"You don't have to give me the password," I reassured him, "Just log in and hand it to me."

Heero reached down to his bag, then, and took it out. One finger hit buttons in succession, and then he handed it to me. I took it and looked it over. It was much more sophisticated than I was used to, but I wasn't doing anything that complicated. I made a simple spreadsheet with a calculator, added some items, and then handed the computer back to Heero. He looked down at the screen curiously.

"That's my tab," I told him firmly. "When we sell that scrap out there, I'm paying you back every credit."

He could have argued, said it was allright and that I didn't owe him, but he didn't. He knew I was that set on it, I could tell by his almost exasperated sigh as he put his computer away again. He said, instead, as our meal packs beeped to announce that they were hot now, "Good morning."

I grinned and replied with a chuckle, "Good morning," before I could stop myself. Okay, I was supposed to be hard edged, pissy Duo this morning. Well, I guess there was nothing wrong with being polite.

We ate and drank our coffee in silence. Heero hadn't eaten the night before so he was doubly hungry. I watched him almost vacuum his breakfast up and drink two containers of coffee. I ate my meal more slowly and then said with a snort, "I'm the one that was starving, Yuy."

Heero looked embarrassed as he stood up and began gathering up the empties. "I have a high metabolism," he explained, but then he looked at me as he put the trash into a bin by the refrigerator. "Maybe you should eat more as well? Should I heat you up another pack?"

I grimaced. "I've never been keen on breakfast. I'll make it up later, don't worry."

Heero picked up his meal pack from the night before and shelved it. As long as it wasn't open it could be reheated. Gotta love efficient technology, especially when you were in a hand to mouth existence. It stopped a lot of waste.

"We should get an early start on those parts," Heero said as he began pulling on jeans.

I kept my eyes on my coffee container, watching the steam lazily float out. Yep, the weather had definitely changed. "Was Wu Fei riding you?" I wondered with a snort.

There was a long silence and then Heero recovered and said, "What?"

I went over my words and almost choked on my coffee. I swallowed the hot liquid and then snickered, "Goddam, you have a dirty mind, Yuy! I meant, did he want you to get on with the sting?"

Heero did a pretty good imitation of a fish. It was really nice having him flounder for once. He replied, "Yes, he... he wanted to know if you were giving me any trouble."

That was honest. So was I. "This is my day off, so I suppose I AM going to be trouble."

Heero frowned. "Day off?"

I nodded as I finished my coffee. God! it felt good to have my stomach full and my body not screaming at me that it was starving to death. It made me smile as I reached under the bed and pulled out the wooden box that had my clothes in it. I rummaged around inside it and found a very large shirt with a black scythe done crudely on the back. Okay, so I wasn't an artist. I put it on and then pulled out a pair of jeans without knees and some stains splattered across it, dark brown. I took out a spare shirt with the same design as mine and wadded it up in my hand.

"Heero, the weather is pretty damned constant here," I explained to him. "It's hot, hot, hot, a little hot, freezing freakin cold, usually only on Christmas, and rainy. Rainy is so rare that, when it happens, we all call a truce and take the day off for some fun."

Heero moved the curtain and looked dubiously outside. "I don't see any-"

"You feel it, when it's about to," I told him. "It takes time for moisture to collect enough to rain. By the time I get out to the 'field' it'll start."

Heero was really frowning now. "But, what are you going to do... it's very important that we make a sale soon, Duo. Taking time off is..."

"Irresponsible?" I laughed outright. "So what? Once in awhile, Heero, you gotta say, what the hell and go have some fun! I'll see you tonight."

Heero wasn't giving up that easy. Putting on his shoes, he then dragged on a tank top as he followed me out of the shack. I went to a little shed at the side of my shack and opened the door. There she was, Mudhopper, my pride and joy. Okay, so it didn't look like anything but a glorified lawn mower, but that baby could plow through anything. It needed to for what I had in mind.

"Maxwell!" My neighbor was perched on top of the scrap part of the wall and pointing a finger at me. "Get your ass down to the 'field' so I can plow it ten feet under!"

"You and what fucking army?!" I shot back and then ignored him as I caressed the nicked and battered frame of my Mudhopper. My hand paused and then it trembled a bit, pride stung, as I had to ask, "Can you add two cases of beer to my tab, Heero-buddy?"

"What?" I was lanky and Heero was wiry, but I had the bigger shoulders, the ones he had to look around as he said, "Maybe if you explained..."

"We have a game, that's played in the mud," I told him as I popped the clutch and began dragging Mudhopper out of it's shed. Heero lent a hand and we soon had my baby out in the sunshine. God, it was ugly, but I loved every nut and bolt of her. Squat, chunky tires on struts and reinforced shocks, a padded front and back bumper, a black paint job that was flaking from dents and scratches; battle scars. "It's dangerous, intense, probably illegal in every way, but fun as hell."

I had my spare shirt draped across the leather wrapped handlebars. Heero picked it up and fingered it. "Who is this for?"

I couldn't read his mood. All of his attention was on that shirt. "Well," I told him, rubbing the back of my neck. "That's where the beer comes in. One is the entrance fee and the other is to bribe someone to be my second. Last year... well, he sure as hell didn't work out."

"Why not?" Heero asked.

I cleared my throat as I bent to check the engine. "Well, he had his hands on my ass more than on keeping the engine running."

"That man, at the market?" Heero guessed and he really seemed angry.

"Yeah, him," I muttered and dropped the subject. "So, you be Mr. Responsible and start on the parts, and I'll go have some fun in the mud." I gave Heero a dismissive wave as I opened a panel and checked a filter. "Have a nice day."

A hand reached out and took the shirt. "You said this could be dangerous?"

I frowned. "Well, a bunch of drunk guys on a collection of slapped together vehicles, sloshing and sliding in mud consisting of scrap yard refuse, trying to disable each other and reach a finish line.... yeah, pretty damned dangerous."

A tank top landed near my feet. I looked up and saw Heero shrugging into my spare 'team' shirt. He looked down at me intensely. "This sting hinges on your part in it. I can't allow you to be compromised. Since I don't have a weapon to forcefully detain you, I'll have to go along and keep you safe."

"Can't resist, can you?" I snickered at him. "The call of testosterone and machinery!"

Heero smirked and didn't reply. He wasn't going to admit to anything. He did ask, "Have you ever won this contest?"

It was hard to say, "No, never, but I've come close."

Heero looked incredulous. "You're a Gundam Pilot..."

I scowled. "Most of it doesn't have anything to do with skill, Heero, it's more like dumb luck and I've never had much of that."

I was doing it again, forgetting that this man next to me, looking so friendly and so willing to help me, was doing most of it because he had a damned job to do. I almost told him to forget it, told him to stay and work, but... one more day, just one, to let loose and just be two guys having fun.... I could do that, right? It was my day off, after all. Tomorrow, I could be pissy, hard nosed Duo, who didn't fall for stinking Preventer charm techniques.

"Get ready to get absolutely filthy, Heero, my man!" I crowed and cranked the engine on Mudhopper as the rain began falling.

It doesn't flood on L2. There are drains to recollect the precious water, filter it, ozonate it, and send it back to tanks. Sure the dirt got sloshy and hard to navigate, but nothing bigger than a puddle ever formed. That was where some of the 'illegal' came in. To prepare the field for the contest, the drains were blocked and the water was mixed with the mud.

As I jumped on the padded seat of Mudhopper, and Heero straddled the engine casing on the back, I said, "Now, I know you're a cop, Heero, but, the fun part of this is going to end real quick if you start arresting people!"

I had to shout over the roar of the engine. Heero frowned, but then he answered, "I'm not an L2 patrol officer. I'm special forces brought in for a special assignment. I'll consider it out of my jurisdiction!"

I knew what that meant. If he saw it get real ugly, he was going to do his duty, but just dirty fun wasn't going to be illegal today in his book. I grinned in relief and threw Mudhopper into high gear. The wheels slung mud and the little machine rocketed forward. Time in the storage shed hadn't messed with her performance.

Once out of the yard, I turned us towards a break in the lots, a place where it was so rough and uneven that no one had managed to perch on it and stack scrap. That's saying a lot. Scrap men are tough and stubborn. They didn't admit defeat easily.

I took Mudhopper along the outskirts, the big wheels taking the uneven ground easily. I could see men raking in the water as the rain poured down, mixing and preparing the field. It sent a thrill through me, but it also made me think, as I pulled over to a vendor just setting up, whether I had the strength for it. I bought my two cases of beer, Heero paid for it, and I glared at him until he entered it into his computer. While I waited, I gave myself a mental once over.

Times had been rough, meals few and far between. I had managed to get by, but now I knew my reserves were pretty damned depleted. In a physical contest like this, I had to wonder if I had enough energy to get through it.

I plopped down my 'entrance fee' on the table where the judges were already arguing with each other and popping open containers to guzzle. They just nodded and gave me an irritated wave of recognition that was a 'get lost' gesture as well as they went back to their arguing and drinking. Yeah, I was tough and stubborn, too, and didn't admit defeat easily. I guess I would find out whether I had what it took during the contest and not before.

Heero wasn't that slow. He was giving me looks. Looks I ignored as we climbed back onto Mudhopper and I drove us to my bench. Maybe he hadn't thought the field was going to be that tough. It wasn't just slogging through mud, it was an inclined field of buried garbage and mud.

My bench was just that, a slab of plastic material just like the long line of them that bordered the field. Most people had one staked out and used it year after year. It was a safe zone for our stuff and no one stole what you left there. Tools, beer, computers, etc. were off limits as salvage until the contest was over. My bench was distinct in that I had carved my name crudely on the top of it.

I unloaded my tools and a spare power rod from the side compartment on Mudhopper, and added it to the beer on the bench. Mudhopper continued to roar until I cranked it down and then turned it off completely. I flipped open her 'skirt' and began making sure all the seals were tight and mud from our trip there hadn't found a way inside.

Heero watched for long minutes and then he crouched by my side. He didn't ask if I had made Mudhopper. It was obvious from the way she was made of every spare part under the sun. Instead, he asked, "What's the second case of beer for if you don't need to bribe a second?"

"That's 'pay', not bribe," I snorted as I adjusted a seal and wiped out the dirt with my scarf. "I need the second case for the celebration. I don't drink, but it's nice to hand them around to people who do." I grimaced. "Any other day, those guys down there, " I motioned to the line of people tweaking their machines, "would cut my business legs out from under me any way they could, but, today, we're best pals and all that. "

I felt my braid gathered up and pulled behind my back. I looked sideways at Heero. It made me shiver. Nobody touched my hair. It was so much into my personal space that I couldn't help a nervous twitch away from him. His hand pulled back.

"I'm sorry," Heero said quickly and I felt like a dumbass, like some stupid girl, especially when he pointed out, "Don't you tie it up, secure it somehow, when you're working with machinery?"

"Yeah," I grunted, remembering how I had learned the hard way to do just that. Nothing makes you religious about that sort of thing than having your braid wrapped up in a churning part. I'd been lucky enough to be near the off switch, though, and I'd saved myself from having braid and scalp removed forcefully. I tapped Mudhopper with my wrench. "Nothing's moving yet." I pointed out.

It was Heero's turn to look stupid and he nodded once and looked away as if checking out our competition. I'm a goddam ex Gundam pilot. Did he think I'd lost all of my brains after the war? Thinking about my business, I winced inwardly. Maybe he did have reason to doubt me.

The rain was soaking us. No one cared. Once or twice, I leaned back and just let it splatter over my upturned face. God, I loved it! It was a temptation to chuck the entire contest and just go sit somewhere and enjoy it while it lasted. My addiction to adrenalin and competition, the need to get one up on my neighbors at least in this, was too strong though.

The rain let up, turned to a light drizzle, and the signal to get to the start up was given with a loud siren blast.

I looked at Heero as I tucked my braid down the back of my shirt and into my jeans. It tickled my ass, but it was safe from harm. "Rule number one," I told him, "This machine can flip over. It's damned heavy and nothing can stop it from crushing you if it lands on top of you. Shove off if there's trouble. Number two, this is not soft mud. It's full of crap and runoff from all the yards. There's probably stuff buried down there that nobody knows about. Toxic might be the last thing you have to worry about. What I'm saying is, don't fall into it unless you have to. It's better to ride out a bad moment and get banged hard then bail into the mud, okay?"

I closed up Mudhopper and tossed my wrench onto the pile of tools on the bench. "Ready? " I asked. "I gets real rough out there, Heero. You have to be my defense while I steer and get us where we're going."

"We need to get the starting line," Heero said firmly and gave me a fierce smile. He was feeling the rush of adrenaline too. God, we were soo nuts! I guess that's why they'd made us pilots in the first place at fifteen.

"Hey, Maxwell!" A hand squeezed my ass and gave it a broad palmed knead . "You're not giving me a chance this year?" It was shitface from the market. I remembered last year acutely and it gave power to my swing as I turned and cold cocked him. He landed and slid in the mud before I realized that Heero had punched him not a second after me. The man was out for the count.

A medic ran up, full of mud already from the knees down. He didn't ask 'why?' fights were as numerous as the raindrops during mudding day. Instead, he checked the man's pupils, grunted, and then jammed a cushion under the man's head. "He'll be okay."

"Pity," Heero growled.

I was rubbing my sore knuckles. I slid a look at Heero, seeing just how angry he was, and wondered at it. I bristled to cover my uncertainty. "I can handle a guy who cops a feel, Heero, you didn't have to-"

Heero scowled. "Yes, I did. He deserved it," Heero retorted. "Let's get to the line."

"Yes, sir!" I snorted, almost angry, almost embarrassed, and really unsure of what the score was between Heero and me. It wasn't something I needed right then. I needed to be focused on the race.

I fired up Mudhopper's engine again. It purred, loudly, like a damned tiger. I loved her. We climbed on and I took her through the mud and she climbed up to the top of the field. Everyone else was already there. I endured the ribbing.

"Piece of crap not running, Maxwell?"

"Want us to tow you behind us?"

"Scared of the big hill, Maxwell?"

"This your new ass grabber? You're supposed to have a second 'mechanic', you know?"

"Why don't you retire that load of crap and get a real machine, Maxwell!"

I ignored them and concentrated on positioning my wheels for the start. Heero was finding the best way to hold on and was trying several moves to test Mudhopper's stability. "She'll stay upright," I reassured him, "As long as nobody slams her from underneath." Unlikely possibility? Not really if you could see the course. There were a lot of opportunities for someone to come up while you were going down.

Heero asked a question a cop would ask, or a man on a mission. "Has anyone died in these races?"

I grinned. "Of course! Now hold on, dammit!" I shouted back and opened Mudhopper up as the start siren sounded.





on to Chapter 9

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