Chapter Twenty- Love And A Bullet
A damp Duo walked into the room and the wall of nearly visible tension. Trowa and Wufei were both glaring at him.
"Maxwell!" Wufei snarled just as Trowa said: "We have to talk."
"Erm guys-" Duo took a step back towards the door.
"Don't you dare leave! We can either try to talk some sense into you or we can neuter you!" Wufei snapped.
Don't even joke about that! Duo thought, but didn't say anything. He turned towards Trowa, he at least would be reasonable, he hoped.
He was met, not by the usual stolid wall of seeming indifference but by something that almost looked like hurt.
"Duo, I know how urges can grow here in isolation." Trowa started heavily. "I know you must feel frustrated-"
"It's something Heero and I deal with perfectly well!" Snapped Wufei.
Duo couldn't help himself, he burst out laughing. Yeah, Heero dealt with it reeeeal well. By pinning Duo to a wall and attacking his lips as if they were a mission in their own right.
"I didn't mean-! Damn it Maxwell you know I didn't mean it that way!" Wufei's cheeks were flaming as he realized how his words could be misinterpreted once again.
Duo laughed so hard he actually had to lean against the wall. He was vaguely aware of Trowa restraining Wufei.
"Duo, this is no joking matter." Trowa said, frowning, while twisting Wufei's arm a bit. "These kind of tensions can harm our team. This goes beyond my personal feelings. I'm very... concerned that you seem to be toying with someone as dangerous as Heero as well as pursuing Quatre, I think- put the katana away, Wufei, that's not helping."
Duo's laughter cut off as if a switch had been flipped. He drew a few ragged breaths into his aching lungs as he replayed the sentence in his mind. Trowa had stopped talking, as if the words were somehow alien to him, had hurt him tearing themselves out.
"Winner!" Wufei snapped. "Apparently insulting Yuy wasn't enough for you, you had to press advances on him as well!"
Duo's eyes were like saucers. "What the fu-! Trowa, how can you even-! What-!? Okay where the hell is this coming from?!"
"If you're crazy enough to pursue Yuy, you're insane enough to chase after anybody!" Wufei snarled. Trowa put a sharp hand on his arm and turned towards Duo with a more reasonable tone of voice.
"I'm making an assumption but I believe it's a reasonable one, based on observation." Trowa murmured. "Such as earlier, when you were both stumbling back from that clearing we hid the Gundams in, red in the face and your clothes all covered in leaves."
"I fell." Duo snapped, not caring how implausible it sounded. "Why do you-" then the significance of the word 'both' hit him. "Er, wasn't Quatre with you? I thought he said he was-" Yeah, the little pipsqueak had been beet-red, Duo had interrupted the two lovers-
"Quatre was trying to cover for you, I think. He's not willing to tell me what happened and I respect that, but I won't have you-"
"He-... wasn't with you?" Duo's mouth had suddenly gone dry, remembering the tableau but giving it a different interpretation.
"No, he went out to inspect a disturbance near the Gundams. He-"
"Quatre?!" Duo squeaked, going red himself.
"Yes?" The Winner heir had finished a quick sandwich in the kitchen and was wondering what all the shouting was about, though since it was Wufei's and Duo's voices he didn't really think it was anything out of the ordinary. That had sounded different though.
He glanced around at the three in the room, with his eyes and his empathic ability. Wufei was pretty much as usual, glaring darkly at Duo and trembling with nearly uncontainable anger. Duo however was not teasing him; he was red, with a thread of panic and embarrassment hovering around him. That was strange. And Trowa, standing tall and stoic and calm- Quatre's heart clenched at the muted feelings his usually unreadable lover was shrouded with. Pain, loneliness, desolation; faint, like a gentle grey smudge hovering in the air around him, ignored as if unimportant... the feelings he'd had when Quatre had first met him. The ones he'd dedicated his life, his mind, his body to erasing forever.
"What's going on?" Quatre's lips trembled.
"Quatre... " Duo's seriousness was highlighted by Quatre's real name instead of one of the dozen nicknames he usually used. "Yesterday, when I ran into you... you were coming from our Gundam's hide-out?"
Quatre's face was like a set of roman candles going off, all red.
"I- ah, Duo, I-"
And Heero had just given him the 'let's keep it discreet' rap. "Oh, that's just great! Oh man he's going to kill me!"
"No I won't." Trowa, misunderstanding, said calmly - way too calm, Quatre's heart screamed at him, like the numbness that followed fatal blood loss.
"I might!" Snarled Wufei. "If this animal doesn't stop chasing his team-mates like a common-"
"Don't say it, Wuffers!" Duo snapped, his eyes suddenly dangerous. "Or I might just tell the guys about our interesting conversation today."
"Dammit! You know that I never-"
"Trowa?" Quatre's voice was uncertain, trying to understand the situation. Trowa was looking at him -and Allah he was still squirming as Duo shot him a hot glance- as if the stoic mercenary understood, well, *something*, but surely- Then Trowa had to hold back Wufei again-
The gunshot sent four hands darting to their respective weapons.
Then they saw who had fired the shot. They all froze as one.
Heero slowly lowered his gun - ignoring the small trickle of plaster from the ceiling- and glared at them.
"Shut up now!"
Everyone was very still.
"That is enough!" The three pilots had never seen him this angry. No-one would *dare* to move - They stared in horror as Duo rolled his eyes in exasperation and took a step right into the mine-field.
"You have our undivided attention now, so put the gun away already."
The weapon had instinctively pointed in the direction of movement, that is, towards Duo. Who appeared completely oblivious.
"Maxwell, stay back." Wufei muttered as Duo took another step. Damn it, this was what he'd been afraid of from the start! Maxwell had lost all sense of danger around the perfect soldier, and he was walking straight into a bullet!
Duo glanced back at him in surprise and realized how tense everyone was. He could read Heero; the perfect soldier was upset, embarrassed, even a bit angry, but hardly homicidal. But he realized he was the only one who could see that. The others had never seen Heero upset or embarrassed so they went with what they knew: furious. Wufei's oriental eyes were fastened on Heero, his hand was on the gun at his belt, angling to intervene if things got further out of control. Trowa had taken half a step to stand between Heero and Quatre, but his hand was stretched out towards Duo.
"We're listening Heero." The pilot of Heavyarms said in a dead calm voice. "Just don't point the gun at Duo, please." He made a gesture towards Duo to fall back to stand besides him, out of harm's way. Quatre nodded quickly at the braided pilot to do so, though his eyes on Heero were puzzled.
Duo looked at the other three pilots in turn then turned back towards Heero who was looking at him. Duo could read the slightest expression on the mask by now, and he knew they shared the same emotion; surprise. Whatever tension had been directed at Duo before the shot had melted like snow under a blowtorch in the face of danger. Duo caught his eyes and held his glance, a silent communication. Heero lifted an eyebrow, then frowned in returning embarrassment and annoyance.
"This is why I wanted us to be discreet!" He growled, but he seemed resigned.
Wufei and Trowa hesitated as they reread the threat level emanating from Heero. Then they stared.
Duo was suddenly not the jester, the light-hearted mocker they knew; he was smiling but it was steady and also tender. He took another two steps forwards -everybody tensed- and gently lifted the gun by the barrel.
"Weapon, babe. You make people nervous when you wave it around like that."
Heero blinked at his gun, then grunted and holstered it.
"And to address your remark, babe, it's *because* we were discreet that we're in this mess. That and people jumping to conclusions." He added with a glare at Trowa. "I can't believe you'd think I'd poach Quatre off you, Tro. What kinda friend do you think I am?"
"What?" Quatre squeaked. He stared at Trowa and a look of stunned comprehension replaced the previous 'wounded puppy' stance.
"I don't understand... " Trowa's eyes were slightly wider than usual though, as he was, in fact, beginning to understand, though not quite willing to believe it.
"The explanation of all this confusion... it's rather complicated." Heero crossed his arms and ground the words out as if he were under OZ interrogation. "We-... well... "
A braided head nuzzled against his shoulder. "Heero and I have been going at it like bunnies for six months now!"
" ...Okay, maybe it wasn't that complicated." Heero cast a look of resignation at Duo who was beaming like a flashlight.
A thunderous silence ensued.
It was broken by Quatre, who was only surprised by half of the news. "... S-six *months*?! But- but why didn't you-...!"
"We saw no reason to tell you." Heero answered the unfinished question abruptly. "Our efficiency was not compromised, and we are still dedicated to our missions and the war. What we do on our own time should be our private concern."
"But-" Wufei's voice broke.
"You didn't let me explain, Chang. I meant to tell you, but you drew the wrong conclusions and then walked away." Heero told him precisely.
"Yeah, you don't talk fast enough, babe. And Fei-Fei goes up like a rocket when you light his tail, you have to be quick!" Duo was smirking at the Oriental youth while leaning a casual arm against Heero's shoulder. "Though I think the mix-up was just a bit too, ah, easy! You sure you're not a bit jealous, Wuffers? Cause you know, you certainly-"
"Duo!" Heero snapped, glaring at his lover. "Stop taunting Chang. He is heterosexual, and an honourable, dedicated warrior who is quite above such trivialities anyway. You should respect that."
"You take all the fun out of it, babe!" Duo grinned, but noticed that Wufei's shoulders had suddenly relaxed and his eyes were no longer looking so crazed, and decided to let it rest. "For one day."
"I'll stop teasing Fe- Wufei until tomorrow. He's had a rough day, I'll give him that. Then after that-"
"You'll stop all together, Duo, it's not respectful." Heero glared. The look bounced right off the amused amethyst eyes.
"Oh come on! It loosens him up so much to be mad at me! And it relaxes me no end! But tell you what, you could negotiate two days out of me, maybe three."
"Why should I-" Then Heero noticed the glint in Duo's eyes. "What... do you mean?"
"Keep me really busy and relaxed for the next few days and I'll forget Wufee even exists." Duo leered, then twirled, his braid flying, and headed towards one of the bedrooms. "You guys don't mind, do you? It's for a good cause."
Heero hesitated then followed towards the door. He glanced back.
"Are we all settled?"
Three pairs of blank eyes stared back at him.
"I-... " Heero scowled. "I apologize for not saying anything sooner. This confusion could have been avoided. But then again... " Suddenly his lips quirked and three pilots stared in amazement at something so strange; a small, rueful smile from the perfect soldier. "Then again, our discretion is something that you might come to miss. I could be wrong, but... "
"Hee-kun, you coming?"
Heero shrugged and closed the bedroom door behind him.
Three pairs of eyes burned holes into the wood for a few seconds then twitched away in embarrassment.
" ...Three weeks ago, I noticed something on Heero's chest... a love bite the size of a golf ball... " Quatre muttered, with the air of someone who'd been hit on the head with a mallet.
" ...I thought it had to be a bruise." Trowa said after awhile, his eyes still wide.
" ...So did I, of course. I just thought it was a funny mental image. The perfect soldier with a... " Quatre shook his head sharply.
Silence. Apart from a thump and a rustle next door. They moved to the front of the living room.
"We should have realized something was up." Trowa sighed. "Duo is the only one Heero calls by his first name."
"Huh, you're right!"
Silence. More scuffling sounds from next door.
"Are they fighting?" Trowa muttered, it sounded a bit loud for- then he caught sight of Quatre's blushing face and didn't bother finishing the mental sentence. Wufei, still looking a bit stressed, scowled out at the rain falling in streamers outside.
"What did he mean, we might miss their discretion?" Wufei asked abruptly. His face was still angry and red, and resentful of the whole embarrassing mix-up which he was just beginning to unravel in his head. He was obviously wishing he'd known the truth from the start.
"I don't kn-"
Quatre's mouth stayed open in a silent 'oh' as a moan echoed from the bedroom.
A thick cringing silence hovered over them and no one was surprised when it was broken five seconds later by a louder moan that ended in something like a shout.
Trowa rolled his eyes in exasperation and Quatre blushed some more.
When Duo started shouting out loud and quite explicit instructions, they finally broke and ran for it, rain be damned.
"I think that's what he meant." Quatre said to Wufei's angry back. "But don't worry!" Wufei turned a scandalized look back at him, and Quatre grinned. "I don't think they'll be like this all the time, this is just Duo's way of teasing us."
"Yes, Heero is too worried about efficiency not to let us get *some* sleep." Trowa added dryly.
Wufei muttered something in mandarin and stormed off towards the faraway hangars.
A shriek seemed to rattle the windows.
"Hm." Trowa shrugged. Let Duo have his revenge. He turned towards Quatre to suggest they head to the hangars as well. His lover was fixing him with a stare that was far removed from any worries about rain.
"What did Duo mean? About poaching?"
Trowa sighed imperceptibly.
"What was with you earlier, in the woods?"
Quatre grimaced and crooked a thumb towards the house. "That was. I sort of stumbled upon them while they- ah, you get the picture."
The rain fell steadily, growing heavier and whiting their vision, as if the wet clouds were slowly bending forward to meet the earth.
" ...I think you have more to say than that." Quatre shook his wet bangs out of his eyes.
On to chapter Twenty-nine
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