"It should be illegal!"
Wufei blinked, then dropped his eye to the liquid in his plastic cup that managed to taste watery, bitter and bland all at the same time - the plastic was more appetizing. "The coffee? I entirely agree."
"No, I meant you!"
"What are you talking about, woman?"
Sally ran her hands through her hair, which was limp and a bit greasy, falling from her usual style. Her lips were cracked and pale, her eyes dull and inked round with fatigue. But there was some combative energy still burning in the depths.
"I haven't slept more than-" her eyes glazed for two seconds "- seven hours in the last forty eight. I have spent my time talking to scum, chasing paper, arguing with idiots, eating garbage out of that dispenser.I happen to know that you've had even less sleep, that you've spent the last ten hours interrogating Ian Thrace, and that's after two weeks tracking him down and playing 'dodge the bullet' with his small private army. Yet you dare stand there- sit there, at your desk, as if you'd just had a refreshing snooze and a good meal! By all rights, Chang, you should look like- like a micro-waved dog turd!"
Wufei carefully put down his cup of 'coffee'. "Thanks for that lovely image, Agent Po. Apart from insulting you with my very existence is there anything I can actually do for you?"
"You can at least pretend to be human!" Sally snapped.
"I'll do my best. Anything else?"
"Can you sign off on this so we can get out of here?" Sally's voice sounded desperate.
Wufei went carefully over the papers - ignoring her hollow groan - then signed on the line.
"Here you go, Sally. You might want to get to bed now."
"Gee, you think?! I must look terrible." Sally added, in a slightly hopeful voice that left him room to disagree.
"Well, I wouldn't say you looked like a - ah, micro-waved turd either, Sally-" Wufei said politely.
Sally smiled, crinkling her tired eyes, knowing a Chang compliment when she heard it -
"-since I've never seen such a thing, though looking at you I think I'm getting an idea of what it might -"
He dodged the roll of paper aimed at his head with the ease of practice and turned back to his keyboard.
Damn, he hadn't heard Heero approach. He was tired, though he'd take a jump off a cliff before admitting it to Sally, much less to Heero. He'd even drink the - for lack of a better term - 'coffee'.
"Heero." Sally grinned. "Do me one of two favors. Either kill this idiot you call a partner or call me Sally already."
"I apologize if he was rude." Heero said seriously and Wufei shook his head at his keyboard. His partner had gotten a bit better at distinguishing banter from serious arguing during their time together; Heero must be tired too if he'd misinterpreted the bit he'd overheard.
"Oh Heero." Sally's voice was suddenly gentle and mature. "We were just joking around. Don't worry about it. When are you two robots going to go to bed?"
"Good question. Chang?" Heero glanced at him.
"As soon as I finish this. Thrace cracked by the way."
"That's Heero-ese for 'good, let's get some rest'? I'm inquiring as a physician here." Sally drawled.
"Yes, we'll leave in a bit. Goodbye Sally." Wufei grumbled dismissively and started typing again.
Sally left with a tired wave and went to pick up Lucrezia who had fallen asleep on a chair with her feet on someone's desk.
Heero sat down. His movements were not as lithe as usual, they were heavy and his eyes were a bit dull. Wufei felt a distant flash of pride that he himself showed no visible signs of fatigue to his partner. Hopefully Heero wouldn't notice he was deleting as many characters as he was typing. As long as some of it made sense in the end.
"Sending a summary of Thrace's confession?"
"Yes. I'll cc you since you weren't in the room." Wufei muttered distractedly.
"No, I was in the observation deck."
"Who got him to talk?"
"Sam. He said 'spill, or I bring my two boys back in to see you'. Thrace cracked like an egg."
Heero rubbed his eyes. "Ten hours. He was tougher than I thought. Hurry up."
"Brunswick can swing by and drop me off at the house, Yuy. Go home if you're tired." Wufei said with a pretence of solicitude.
Heero just gave him a look. Wufei had created a small mental catalogue of looks by Heero Yuy since their association. This one was 'cut the crap, Chang, and get on with it', so he did.
"Done. Let's go home before Grecko reads it and buries us in paperwork."
The door closed behind them with a comforting click. The two-week knot of tension between Wufei's shoulder blades suddenly loosened; he had to stop in his tracks and stretch to cover a stagger. Heero dropped his bags and laptop at the door and headed towards the kitchen.
Wufei didn't remember walking to the couch. Suddenly it was there, in front of him.
"Do you want something?" Heero was at the fridge, with a bottle of water in his hand. He was wiping his mouth with his sleeve. His face looked a bit pale against the tanned skin of his hand but otherwise he looked fine. Bastard.
"Maybe some tea if you're making some." Wufei sat on the couch and picked up the book he'd dropped two weeks ago when the 'fire alarm' had come through. He flipped through it idly... then, making sure Heero was busy with the kettle, turned the book right side up.
He blinked slowly at the characters on the page. Did he want to read... ? It was three in the afternoon. He had a few hours to kill before going to bed, if he didn't want to be jet-lagged. He focused on the characters and blinked again.
"Oolong? Green? White?"
"Huh?" Wufei realized his eyes had been closed and he snapped them open. "Oh. Oolong please." He looked at Heero carefully but the latter was rummaging around the packets of tea Wufei had collected, and hadn't noticed.
He blinked again, then rubbed his eyes viciously. He'd drink his tea then go outside. Take a walk around the block.for what that was worth; the storage facility and construction sites would be particularly pretty under the May sunshine, and there'd be birds perched on the barbed wire nearby. Oh well at least it would clear his head. Maybe he could go to the shooting range...
"Chang. Come on, wake up or you'll screw your internal clock." The voice was at a prudent distance from an ex-Gundam pilot who was just as twitchy as Heero when woken u-
"I'm awake!" Wufei snapped, his body jerking to something like alertness.
"Are you now... "
The voice curled with a hint of amusement, Heero's version of laughter. Wufei realized that he'd started up onto one elbow -
- he was *lying* on the couch -
- someone had swung his feet up onto the couch and he'd *not even woken up* -
- and added insult to injury by covering him with the spare blanket.
He glared sleepily at Heero. The 'just resting my eyes' excuse had about as much chance of flying as a roasted duck.
"How long was I asleep?" He grumbled reluctantly. Surely only a few minutes, he remembered he'd just put his book down and-
"An hour. You looked like you needed it." Heero was seated at the kitchen counter in front of his open laptop, a bottle of water and a half-eaten sandwich at hand. He was leaning his chin against a fist and looking across at Wufei with slight condescension. He looked perfectly fine and quite awake.
*Score one for Yuy.*
Wufei glared, acknowledging the touch with his usual bad grace. Heero's lips curved slightly.
The L5 Preventer stood up and stretched, then wandered over to pick up Heero's sandwich.
"What are you working on now?" He grumbled, returning to the couch while taking a bite. Spam and none-too-fresh cheese over long- conservation bread. Lovely. That reminded him that the fridge would have to be emptied of its disintegrating contents later.
"Nothing." Heero said, despite evidence to the contrary. Which meant one of his own programs he played with when off-duty, like a dog chewing a bone. "Grecko hasn't come back to us yet."
Wufei snorted. "Give it a few hours."
"Hm. Want to do anything tomorrow?"
Tomorrow afternoon, it went without saying. Tomorrow morning, after they'd caught up on their sleep, would be personal downtime.
"Assuming Grecko doesn't drag us back to ops?" Wufei muttered.
"Don't know." His head felt clearer but his entire future went no further than the moment he'd be able to go to bed in a few hours. Tomorrow was terra incognita. "Want to go to the track?" He hazarded. It was an unspoken agreement that the first twenty four hours back from a mission were free of any kind of physical training or sparring. Even Heero needed a break from time to time. Or at least Wufei wanted to flatter himself into thinking so.
"It might rain." Heero said distantly, concentrating most of his attention on his program.
"Oh I'm sorry, Yuy. We don't want to get you all muddy. How inconsiderate of me."
Heero ignored that, it was pretty weak.
Wufei glanced at the 'tool shop' part of their digs, twisting over the couch's back. His own bike was under a tarp, a sleek dark shape near the loading door. Heero's was near one of the workbenches. "Weren't you making adjustments to your cylinders?"
"Hai. I might work on it tomorrow morning. We can go to the track in the afternoon. If you don't mind the competition."
Wufei snorted as he got up and tossed the sandwich in the bin with spot-on precision. "In your dreams, Yuy. Stick to Gundams."
A soupy brown mess pressed against the transparent sides of the vegetable drawer was probably the remains of bean sprouts. They tended to go off after three days, let alone two weeks. Wufei glared at the mess, leaning on the open fridge door. Damn Une. If she would do her job correctly, they'd have a bit more advance warning before a small fire became a raging inferno. He swallowed half a bottle of water - his nap had left him dry - and then bent to clean out the fridge, penance for his earlier moment of weakness.
"Need a hand?" Heero asked innocently, fingers firmly flying over the keys with no intention of stopping.
Wufei glared at the straight back at the counter behind him that seemed to be laughing at him. Don't rub it in, Yuy.
"You shouldn't buy fresh food." Heero said after the third thump of something landing in the bin.
"You like to eat it too." Wufei grumbled.
"It's a waste to have to throw it away though." Heero pointed out. Tappity-tappity-tappity-...
"You're right. Tell you what, I'll scrape it off the bottom of the fridge, slap it between two slices of bread and you can call it a sandwich."
The typing stuttered to a halt. "That sandwich - the one you took and then threw away - was perfectly nutritious." Heero groused but not very strongly. From the way the spam had browned at the edges he'd not taken a bite out of it himself for a good ten minutes; they both knew Wufei had the better eye for those small details and had noticed.
Wufei made a quick tally of the fridge's remains. It didn't take very long at all, and there was nothing very appetizing. Take-out again.
"What do you want to eat tonight?" He asked his housemate politely.
Heero shrugged. "You choose."
Wufei had already decided on Indonesian, he thought his taste buds could do with a bit of spiciness after the 'coffee', the sugary snacks from the dispenser at work, and that sandwich. Heero would not disagree, he never did. He didn't seem to care much what he ate. Though the box of horrible dry-rations skulking beside the kitchen counter had not been touched since Wufei had moved in.
Wufei took his bottle and sat back on the couch. He didn't bother with his book. He didn't have his glasses on him anyway, they were still in his bag.
His tunnel vision had cleared. He glanced around the converted workshop, assessing it automatically though nothing had changed in their absence. It was still the same unattractive but practical box; though, in the three months since Wufei had moved in, a few traces of his presence marred the coldly utilitarian room.
The biggest change was the living area, which Wufei had set up knowing that sooner or later he'd not be able to fend off Sally's pressure to visit - he could be very rude when he wanted to be but an inborn sense of propriety drew a fine line which he could not cross. Whereas Heero just said 'no'.
The big beige couch stood out like a comfortable oasis in the purely functional room. There was a small table in front of it and a tall lamp to give him light while he read. He sat there from time to time, while Heero worked at the countertop, endured his strenuous daily training, or busied himself in the 'tool shop' section. At first Heero had treated this area like a gap in his functional setup, an aberration. Recently he'd unbent enough to join Wufei on the wide couch on occasion, to flip through specification manuals or mechanics magazines.
There was a second stool at the counter, some additional plates and cutlery, proper food in the fridge, a sword stand holding his blade and two bokken... Wufei considered himself a guest here. Heero had refused to sub-let him the rooms on account of that being more trouble with local taxes than it was worth. Wufei bought the food and the furniture in payment, and kept the traces of his presence minimal.
The only spot of color in the room was the small house altar near the door on the left-hand side. It was a simple, flat wooden frame decorated with strips of red paper, holding an incense burner, a stone tablet with his family's name and a small jade dragon Wai had brought as a gift. Wufei had built it and set it up for his uncle's visit, a month after he moved in. He'd apologized to Heero - this was Yuy's home, the shrine was an imposition, but his uncle Wai was his only remaining family even if Wufei was no longer part of the clan, and this was a mark of respect towards the old man. Heero had not objected, and after Wai's visit the shrine hadn't come down. Shortly before the latest mission, Wufei had found a small bowl of rice placed in front of the incense burner, a pair of chopsticks planted in it indicating an offering; he'd wondered which of his many dead Heero was feeding. But he never asked.
Nothing had changed in their shared space during the two weeks of absence, of course. Heero's security was quite thorough. The only invader appeared to be a spider quietly weaving its web between two kitchen shelves. Wufei frowned at it.
"I'll call the cleaners tomorrow. No wait, it's Saturday. Isn't it?" He rubbed his eyes again.
"I'll call them Monday, assuming we're not off again." Wufei thought it was beholden of him to clean the place as well as take care of the food to repay the permanent invitation to stay, but he had never mastered housework, and had no intentions of starting. He'd never be able to do it up to Yuy's level of satisfaction anyway. He called in a local cleaning firm to do the job whenever he could, and then let Heero follow the poor employees around every step of the way with the soldier's usual paranoia, to make sure they didn't plant bugs or demolition charges while they dusted.
The cleaners, his uncle Wai, Sally Po, Lucrezia Noin, Brunswick the one time the guard had driven Wufei home... so many small invasions of a space that Heero thought of as his safe-house, a place no-one had entered until Wufei had shown up... If Heero minded he said nothing. Maybe he considered it the price to pay to have a partner who could keep up with him.
Wufei smiled fiercely at the innocent, soon-to-be-evicted spider. Gunshots echoed in his ears, adrenaline flickered in his tired body. Kinshasa had been... challenging. Infiltrating the heavily guarded compound, wiring the bomb to the bunker, taking out the patrols in total silence as dawn washed over the sky, the shout of alarm and the whine of bullets... Wufei's fist curled against his thigh. The man had been a head higher and twice his weight and about to pull the pin on a grenade. One blow had taken him out. Heero's brief nod of thanks glowed in his mind. Nothing more than that curt gesture; it had been more than enough. That was how their partnership worked and it was perfect. Thoughts expanded through Wufei's tired mind like oil on the surface of a pool. In battle, they were...
"Really Chang... If I'd known you were that tired I'd have sent you home hours ago."
Damn it all his eyes had closed again of their own volition...
* ... score: Yuy.*
In battle they were harmony and power, they were unstoppable. But once the bullets stopped flying, the mundane snared them; paperwork, obligations, interrogations, public relations, Une and Grecko, Peace... it drained the strength, deadened the warrior's edge. It was necessary and it was boring.
They fought back to back like brothers. But after the battle, they lived together like two male tigers in a very small cage... it kept the numbing boredom at bay.
"Try not to sleep now though or you'll be out of synch." Heero's voice had a touch of cool amusement rippling through its usual neutral tones. Then his eyes narrowed. "I guess I'll have to keep you up for a little while longer."
Wufei looked at Heero carefully. With a stir of horror and incredulity. "What... ?"
Heero stood slowly, closing the laptop with his eyes still on his partner. Wufei caught himself shrinking into the couch cushions. No way. No way! Two weeks of sleeping short shifts in flea motels where the chairs were more appealing than the beds, a whole day solid of breaking into a heavily fortified compound full of armed mercenaries, fighting, minor injuries, Heero had caught a shot on his flak jacket that bruised his left side over several ribs... then forty eight hours of interrogating captives, sorting trouble, placating Internal Affairs who failed to understand why you couldn't enter a heavy duty bunker without blowing parts of it up... No fucking way!
"Erm... " But even if his partner was, in fact, completely inhuman and was actually contemplating sex at this juncture - Heero was five feet away and moving like a tiger - Wufei would be boiled in rice whine before he actually admitted he wasn't up to it. Of course his body would probably make that point for him -... humiliation now or later? Damn!
Heero leaned over the couch, hands on either side of Wufei's head.
"I know a way we could both stay awake... "
" ... Yuy... "
" ... why don't we go... "
"-and work on my bike."
Oh. Oh, good one.
* ... Match: Yuy.*
Wufei scowled but it was half-hearted. He'd been the one to teach this different kind of sparring to Heero so in a way, the aptitude of the pupil reflected on the master. Or at least that's what he told himself to shore up his wounded pride.
Besides, he was only losing this badly because he was exhausted and his brain felt like a drained battery. Heero's slightly wistful half- smile reflected this. Oh it was perfectly fair to take advantage of an opponent's weakness. Heero's superb stamina gave him an edge today. Tomorrow would be an entirely different matter and they both knew it.
"Good idea. I don't want you to have any excuse when I leave you eating my dirt on the track tomorrow." Wufei said lazily as he followed Heero to the tool shop. He blithely ignored the snort this earned him.
*New match... *
Wufei woke up with dawn sunlight pouring through the cracks of the blinds, decorating his small room with slices of gold. They fell on the big double bed, the bedside table, the small chest of drawers and wardrobe that were the only objects in his room. His study, an equally small room next door, was full of books, a shabby desk and knick-knacks, but his bedroom was bare and sober.
He could hear Heero move around two doors down. Then, very faint, the sound of laptop keys clicking. Wufei shared his exasperation with the ceiling. Didn't the man have anything better to do? Oh well...
Waiting until the tapping was in full blast, Wufei popped into the bathroom and took a quick shower. Refreshed he headed to the kitchen to make a cup of tea. He thought he heard the door open upstairs, Heero going to take his own shower maybe; if his partner needed anything from the main room he'd wait until Wufei had left. They wouldn't even see each other until lunchtime at the earliest.
Tea in hand Wufei went back to his room, leaving Heero the use of the main room if he wanted it. He sat down on his bed cross-legged, back straight against the wall a few inches from the window blind, and flipped through a magazine, reading the political editorials while he drank his tea and ate a ration bar.
Silence filled the house, bar the slightest hint of a tap of keys. Wufei breathed in, breathed out. He let the magazine fall from his hands, put his tea down on the bedside table, and slipped to the floor, onto the thin matting he'd placed in its center. He breathed again, feeling his chi travel through his body, cleansing. After weeks of constantly living, sleeping, eating, working with others - even if it was just Heero - the solitude revived him. He slipped into meditation like a seal into a deep pool of water. His centre was easy to find these days.
Time ceased. The weeks of pressure faded, the tense boredom of long watches, the bursts of danger... it had been good. Those twenty four hours, poised on the edge, the two partners against a hundred or so mercenaries out to kill them... it had been very good. He pulled his meditation around him; each memory was picked up, analyzed, then stored away and on to the next until there was nothing but the calm of a successful mission, the peace of a battle won, the contentment of being. He let the nothingness wash over him for a little while.
Now he was ready to deal with Heero... he'd felt his partner pace in front of his door once or twice. His meditation was deep but old war instincts kept him aware of his surroundings on some level. Heero treated Wufei's personal time with respect so whatever was bringing him up to Wufei's door to hesitate, listen and then leave again must be of the utmost importance.
Heero had been walking away for the second time. Wufei heard the steps hesitate, then return, his door opened.
"We're needed. Grecko called."
"Damn him, and may all his descendants be stupid and ugly." Wufei said conversationally as he stood, brushing himself off.
"Ian Thrace tried to kill himself last night." Heero stated indifferently.
"Who was the idiot who stopped him?"
"No-one. He can't tie a slipknot to save his life." Wufei gave Heero a long look but of course his partner had said that perfectly seriously.
"I guess you can be a bandit lord and organize your own private militia in peace time yet still have some gaps in your education. He could have made a bit of an effort and spared us all the expense of shipping him off for years of trials and appeals in Mumbai." Wufei grumbled as he slipped out of the loose pants he slept in and hastily drew on his usual outfit of jeans and a Chinese tunic.
"That's the opinion of everyone in Ops. Unfortunately Internal Affairs know this. They launched an internal investigation as a matter of course. Grecko is holding the fort but he needs us there to finish our reports-"
"And get ready to present a united front and a wrapped-up case, I get it." Wufei sighed. Well, they often went for a week or two without a fire, they'd have other days to catch up on their rest. "Let's go."
Ops center was an old building, hidden underground. Wufei didn't know what it had been used for previously. It was in Romefeller heartland and doted with interrogation rooms and cells... he didn't really want to know. Sometimes, alone at night, when neon whined down its somber hallways and the ventilation groaned, screams seem to drift by, echoes behind the dank quiet.
Wufei stopped his contemplation of the ceiling - its cheap, stained paneling would drive an aesthete to suicide - and glanced at Grecko to see if the man's mouth had stopped moving yet.
" ... now this, how do you expect Anthea to be able to sort this out, Yuy? You- I mean, you actually put 'bribes' in an expense report! We call them Investigative Expenses, Local Information Gathering operating costs, and we put them *here*... "
Wufei tuned the monotone out again. His eyes wandered over the grey walls - the kind of color you found in prisons, not that anyone complained; they'd rather the budget go to flack jackets than coats of paint. Grecko was the senior manager of the Preventer's Intervention Division but even his office looked like a badly kept broom closet; pipes and electrical cords running across the walls, cheap neon, the ugliest filing cabinets ever made, bolted to the wall for some reason...
" ... you do remember that your credit line goes direct to the Division's account? We need to know everything you withdraw! Here, what's this? Oh, the explosives. We'll get to that later but if you need to buy demolition charges you must put the expenses in this column, 'Ammunition and Ordnance', and-"
Wufei tried to keep his impatience in check. If only Une hadn't been at that meeting in New York. She was the one who normally took charge of their mission reports, and she went to the heart of the matter. She left the paperwork for them to finish later, and their meetings normally lasted ten minutes. Wufei rubbed his hands, distracted by the damp cold settling in his fingers. Foxwood claimed the air-conditioning in Ops had two settings; muggy and 'London at three on a drizzling winter morning'.
"And I know, Yuy, that Anthea has already told you this time and again, but you must fill in the travel reports or-"
There was a war going on. Screw Total Pacifism; this was an all-out battle, bloody and violent, no prisoners and no mercy. It was waged between Anthea Stenhelz and Heero Yuy. She was the... what was her title again? Wufei thought of her as the Bureaucrat in Chief and that suited her well enough. She was the terror of any Agent who ever filed a form.
And then she met Heero Yuy.
When Heero had gained a partner, they both fell into the official slot of Field Agents and they had to deal with her. Wufei tended to go through paperwork hastily, filling it in as badly as he could get away with. When Anthea had rounded on him, he'd reminded himself that it was dishonorable to strike a woman, or force-feed her paper for that matter, and made the required corrections with ill grace.
Heero filled in the reports he saw as necessary with scrupulous exactitude.
The ones he saw as unnecessary, he scribbled 'Irrelevant' across the top and filed in the bin.
Whatever Wufei's faults, it had been his partner who had become Anthea's chew toy. But if she thought she'd be able to nag him into obedience... The first day, he'd made her angry. The second day, he'd made her cry. The third day he ripped up a folder of paper three inches thick and shoved her out of the room in a confetti shower of mutilated forms. It went downhill after that. Two weeks later she'd made a formal complaint and discovered that she had a fervent admirer in Grecko, who was an excellent administrator himself, and happened to be Heero's superior.
Wufei cast a discreet glance at Heero. He looked just about ready to kill. Great. If only he could put that negative energy towards filling in the paperwork. Or killing the Stenhelz woman. Grecko was harder to shake off than a pit-bull on a bone.
"Sir, Yuy can correct those forms later." He offered, for the third time. Everyone in the room knew this meant that Wufei would correct them for him.
"No Agent Chang, we need to go through this properly or he'll never learn." Grecko pointed out. "Agent Yuy has to follow proper procedures in order to-"
In theory every agent did his own reports and forms, and was accountable for them. In practice, Wufei insisted Heero fill in all the important reports while he took care of the trivia with gritted teeth. Unfortunately they'd not had time to do this today, they'd been too busy looking into important matters to worry about who did which bit properly. Or improperly, in Heero's case. Damn it, why had Yuy brought the forms with him to Grecko's office? Wufei had told him he'd go over them later. They were both busy but he'd have managed it... The way the Division Manager was going on they'd be stuck in this fridge of an office until their retirement!
Wufei didn't mind Grecko that much, normally. The man was a miracle maker and dedicated to peace; he had no family, no hobbies, he spent most of his waking hours in the office, pooling their forces and resources to put out blazes as far away as Mars. Though he only fought with pen and phone, he was a good deal tougher than he looked. Wufei would rather die ten deaths than do that job, but he understood its importance. Heero saw Grecko as a hindrance on par with something he used to crush with his Gundam but Wufei saw him as a necessary evil that he tolerated.
"Can we move on?" Wufei asked sharply, feeling his patience running a little thin. Okay, he'd be the first to admit that Heero and paperwork got along like ten tons of hydrogen fuel and a match, but the Preventers had the perfect weapon at their disposal, maybe they shouldn't be blunting it on paper. Une always let Wufei discreetly deal with the necessary admin duties, they had an understanding on that. Damn the woman for being away.
Grecko blinked his watery green eyes - if there was a face built for glasses Grecko had it but his vision was 20/20, strangely enough. His oval head, small nose and pale, papery skin seemed lost without a pair of specs, undefined and unfocused.
"What is it, Chang?" Grecko seemed surprised there might be something more important than Anthea and her forms. Office scuttlebutt was that he had a major crush on her. Wufei tried to rid his mind of that particular image. It was about as appealing as the mating habit of stick insects.
"There are some more leads that we need to explore." Wufei tried to unclench his jaw a bit but his voice still sounded flat. "That Chilean mercenary we pulled in. Thrace's sergeant. Humbrild did a workup on him as a matter of course. She may have found something interesting. We think he's Syndicate. We need to-"
"You see, this is where a bit of forbearance on both your parts would have made things easier." Grecko complained, shuffling through papers. Wufei happened to know the man had photographic memory and a mind like a steel trap for facts. The paper was merely his comforter. He was telling off a couple of ex-Gundam pilots as if they'd been caught smoking behind the bicycle shed, he had to have *something* shielding him from that reality.
"What do you mean, Sir?" Heero's voice was soft and neutral.
"We need to review your procedural approach to downgrading the threat level of a target." Grecko said severely.
There was a moment of silence.
"You want us to put on kid gloves next time we attack a bunch of heavily armed militia?" Wufei finally translated, not quite believing his ears.
"Thrace's papers were in the bunker. The one you blew up." Grecko explained in a heavy tone of voice as if catering to heavy-handed brutes was a part of his job he didn't like much. "We might have lost a link to the Syndicate when you destroyed it."
"I hacked into his computer system beforehand." Heero replied, still so patient. "You have all the information he had. And there was no trace of a link to the Syndicate."
"Well he might not have kept it on system." Grecko immediately countered. "He might have only had hard copies." His fingers riffled forms, pausing to wipe sadly at a coffee ring on one of Heero's.
"That would be ridiculously inefficient."
Wufei winced as Grecko bridled. Don't insult the paper, Yuy! We'll never get out of here.
"We interrogated Thrace." Wufei said quickly, trying to head off the lecture. "He said nothing about this. I'm certain he didn't know this man had links to the Syndicate, he'd have told us otherwise."
"Ah yes. The interrogation." Grecko said heavily and drew out yet another folder from the pile. "After what happened last night, Internal Affairs are all over it. We need to review your codes of conduct, gentlemen."
"We didn't lay a finger on him." Wufei snapped.
"Well, Oberwiller from Internals says that we may be on shaky ground on that. He doesn't see how Thrace cracked so quickly otherwise - you do know that threatening him with bodily harm is also an offence against the constitution, right, Chang? I mean, you do *know* our charter, right?"
Wufei rolled his eyes, mildly aggravated. But the armrest under Heero's hands suddenly gave an ominous creak.
"All our interrogations are recorded. Sir." Heero said softly.
"Yes, but you are an expert hacker, Yuy, and you happen to be the one who set up our backup and save procedure for all surveillance on base-"
"Are you accusing me of something?" Heero's voice was calm. Wufei stiffened in his chair, not quite sure he could believe what this insect had just insinuated.
"Let's just say its shaky ground, Agents." Grecko flicked through his folder like it was a prayer wheel, again and again. "If Thrace lodges a complaint in the ESUN court, this could seriously jeopardize the proceedings against him -"
"He wouldn't dare." Heero shrugged dismissively.
"Ah you see, that's the kind of attitude that has Oberwiller all over my back! I know you're a fairly good agent, Yuy - "
Wufei's eyes widened, 'fairly'?!
"- saying this for your own good as well as to insure the proper working of the Division. The codes of conduct are here for a reason. I know you are not used to following such a thing, but that's the difference between being a Preventer Agent and a - a -"
"Terrorist." Wufei said and he'd had enough. Fairly good? No one had called his partner - or himself - 'fairly' anything. Especially not a pen-pushing reptile like Grecko!
He leaned forward, moving his chair towards Grecko's desk smoothly, putting his hands on the sacrosanct paperwork with deliberate slowness. Grecko's eyes flashed a warning that Wufei completely ignored. Behind him he heard Heero straighten up and lean forward, following his lead without question.
"I think - Sir - that you've made things quite clear." Wufei said conversationally with an undertone of steel. "We'll review our codes of conduct so that next time a weak piece of filth like Thrace decides to kill himself because he's going to rot in jail for the rest of his life, we will be absolutely blameless."
"Good." Grecko said, a bit uncertainly, his eyes flinching towards Heero. Wufei didn't need to turn around to know exactly what kind of look his partner had on his face. The kind that could freeze helium.
"We are perfectly aware of the charter - despite your insinuations. Sir." Wufei continued.
Grecko opened his mouth to slam that one down but Heero pushed his chair back and stood at that point and the administrator seemed to lose his train of thought.
"We will submit ourselves to a full review by Internal Affairs if you wish us to." Wufei added calmly. Behind him, Heero moved towards one of the walls, in a silence as deadly as a loaded gun. Wufei heard him pause and shuffle around in the corners as if looking for cameras that could record anything violent that might happen in the dank, grey office.
"What- Agent Yuy, sit down please." Grecko's eyes were darting between them, distracted but his voice was firm.
"Is that what you wish us to do?"
"We would have to run this past the Commander first." Wufei added, knowing that Une was the only thing Grecko feared more than a fire in the filing room, and that Heero and Wufei were her best agents, no goddamn 'fairly' about it!
Grecko licked his lips but just as he was about to answer, Heero tapped the wall as if testing the soundproofing. "Er." Grecko said.
"Is that what you wish us to do, Sir?"
"Yuy gets a bit tense in these kinds of situations." Wufei explained without turning around to check what his partner was doing; he didn't need to. "Your implications upset him. He takes his job very seriously. Sir." Behind him, he heard Heero try the doorknob thoughtfully, then fiddle with the lock.
Wufei rose abruptly, leaning every so slightly forward. This distracted Grecko just as he was about to insist Heero sit down.
"So I take it we're clear on the codes of conduct violation." Wufei said in a voice as smooth as a knife. "What was the problem again?"
"I- well, the paperwork- it's quite-" Grecko showed his metal by sounding somewhat defiant still.
"This paperwork?" Wufei held the sheaf he'd picked up from Grecko's desk while the man had been distracted by Heero approaching slowly, like a tiger stalking a tethered lamb.
"We'll go and complete it now. Was that all?"
Heero stopped a hair's breath from Wufei's shoulder and they stood staring down at Grecko
Ten second later they were out of the office.
"Well that could have gone worse." Wufei muttered. "Sam, your turn."
Foxwood had been dozing on a chair. He jerked awake and the reports from the various teams he'd set on the field in Kinshasa cascaded to the floor.
"Bollocks! Oh-... just gather them up and stuff them back in this folder, thanks, Yuy. You boys done already?" He stared at his watch. "No way! No way anybody gets out of The Gecko's office in less than half an hour when Oberwiller and Internal Affairs are on the warpath. What did you guys do, shoot him?" Sam sounded slightly hopeful. With reports and paperwork from four separate teams, he'd be there for the next three hours.
"No, it went fairly smoothly." Wufei smiled.
Heero stuffed the forms he'd picked up back into Sam's folder with a good deal more violence than they deserved. "He suggested we forced a confession out of Thrace and manipulated surveillance to-"
"Let it go, Yuy." Wufei sighed, rubbed his eyes. "I think we made our point."
Heero scowled, he was still angry... So was Wufei for that matter. 'Fairly good agent'... pen pusher!
"What did you do, Chang?" Sam's voice was suddenly grave.
Wufei shrugged. "He seemed to doubt our interrogation techniques could wring a confession from Thrace in ten hours. So we gave him a sampler. He'll remember it when Internal Affairs ask him if we could get Thrace to break without compromising our charter."
Sam was grinning now, a dangerous smirk. "So you did the old Good Cop Bad Cop routine on him, hm? Or rather, with you two... the Bad Cop Worse Cop routine! Did he look convinced?"
"He's not popped out of his office to call you in yet, has he." Wufei said mildly.
"You do know that scoring points against your manager may not be the smartest thing in the interest of your promotion, right?" Sam looked like he already knew the answer.
"Remind me to care."
"I hear you, kid, I hear you. Go on, get out of here before he gets his courage back and hauls you over the coals again. Oh, just a sec."
Sam took two steps forward to stand in front of them, looked them both over with old, sharp eyes.
"I've heard back from my team leaders. Blowing up the bunker was a bit over the top, lads. I'm not too happy about the body count either. But if you two hadn't been there, I'd have lost some of my people for sure. So... you did your job. Take that home with you, and leave the goddamn paper here until tomorrow."
Wufei and Heero nodded, knowing that Sam's scrutiny was more thorough and demanding than Une's, Grecko's and Anthea's combined. Mission accomplished.
As he dropped his shoes by the door, Wufei tasted the silence that lingered around Heero since they'd left Ops. He glanced at his watch while Heero put down his laptop to shrug out of his jacket and take off his boots. Seven PM. That meant they'd been home for more than twenty four hours. And that meant-
Heero must have been deep in thought to have missed Wufei's first lunge, the Chinese teen reflected. His partner stumbled with a gasp as Wufei gave him a savage shove, and barely righted himself on the springboard floor of the training area.
Wufei walked slowly forward, flexing fingers and arms.
"You walked right into that one, Yuy." He murmured.
Heero opened his mouth then realized Wufei wasn't talking about the attack just now.
"We did the job." The voice was as flexible as Gundanium slabs. "We took down Thrace and his mercenaries. We even found a lead to the Syndicate that Barton's been chasing for months now-"
"And we just spent way too long going over trivial details instead of those important facts." Wufei lunged on the last word. A light probing attack at chest height - Heero blocked it with crossed arms but made no move to retaliate. He was glaring, wanting to protest.
"Don't give me that look." Wufei's other fist came low - Heero dropped his right arm to intercept, raised the left to defend - and then twisted out of the way of a swift kick aimed at his ankles. "What, can't you admit that you're not perfect in one area of your job?" Hardly the most important area by a very long shot, but Wufei knew that Heero would not accept any failing. He kept his voice steady, probing as much as his attacks.
Finally a flicker of true anger and Heero retaliated. "I filled in the forms that were relevant!" His fist lashed out, butting aside Wufei's light punch to reach for a shoulder to grab, spin his partner into a block. Wufei evaded lazily, noting the slight hitch in the movement as Heero pulled the muscles over his bruised ribs.
"That's not the point, Yuy." He spun into his parry and lashed out at Heero's ankles again. He followed through with a backhanded elbow towards that weakened side as Heero took a step out of the way.
"They should just let us do our job!" Heero snarled, blocking the elbow - a solid smack against his open palm - and feinting before hammering a fist towards Wufei's stomach.
"This is our job!" Wufei shouted, catching the fist and pinioning it, glaring at his partner. "We're not terrorists any more. We are accountable, you said so yourself!"
"And my mission reports reflect that!" Heero tore his wrist away, took a step back.
"Yes, it's all the rest that has Stenhelz up in arms!" Wufei moved, keeping the distance between them constant, violating Heero's personal space and daring him to retaliate.
"Fuck her!" A fist flashed towards his jaw.
"Why Yuy, I didn't know you liked her that much." Wufei purred as he batted the hasty blow aside.
Blue eyes widened - Wufei used the distraction and every ounce of his skill and strength to move right into his partner's guard, grab him by the arm, throw him over his hip and pin him to the ground.
For a split second, the cold mask slipped.
This was why... this was why they sparred, physically, verbally.why Wufei kept probing Heero's stony facade, like a fencer trying to score a touch. It kept them on the edge where they thrived, it relieved the pressure, the aggression... but it was also - in a fleeting moment of surprise - to see past the great warrior who allowed Wufei to fight by his side, to catch a glimpse of the young man he lived with instead. Sometimes, when the touch was particularly good, or amusing, sometimes he even caught a hint of a real smile...
The moment passed almost instantly, followed by a few tense seconds of snarling, squirming in-fighting. They sparred on an almost daily basis when they weren't on missions. They had both continued to improve, and they knew each other's styles. Wufei had the tactical advantage however, and used his weight to override his partner's greater strength. Heero tested the hold with a few savage jerks then stopped moving.
"You're slipping, Yuy." Wufei murmured, trying to catch his breath. "Even Anthea could throw you, and she just might do so if she gets your forms back in their present condition."
That got him a look he knew well, one he remembered from the war; he could feel his eyebrows frizzle. "I could break her with two fingers. The woman doesn't have a muscle in her body."
"Oh trust me, her tongue is on steroids. But if you lose your grip with her one more time, Grecko will put you on charges."
"Let him." Heero ground out and twisted in the hold.
"No, Yuy." Wufei slammed the wrists he was holding on the matting with a snarl. "Let *me*. For the last time, let me fill in the goddamn paperwork and stop butting your head against an immovable object! I know your skull is denser than Gundanium but why don't you let me -"
"You hate that shit too!"
"Yes, but I can stand it." Let me do this. I can't always measure up to you but I can be the bridge between a perfect warrior and a world that cannot understand that level of purity.
Wufei relinquished his hold and stood up in one fluid movement, taking a few cautious steps back. Heero sat up, then drew his feet under him. But he didn't leap to the attack. Wufei balanced on the balls of his feet, waiting; they had some frustration to burn off, not to mention the adrenaline in which they'd stewed for the past few weeks-
Heero's eyes were luminous in the fading twilight gathering at the windows. They raked his frame up and down. He wasn't looking for a fight. Wufei shivered as if the look had been two rough hands pinning his body, kneading his skin.
Another unwritten ritual that allowed two territorial beasts to live together. Nothing ever happened during a mission. This was part of their downtime; the chance to sleep somewhere safe, the respite, the few hours of solitude, the play sparring... and this. Sometimes, if the mission had been short and dangerous, they didn't even make it to the bedroom; it would end up with a savage screw against a wall or in the small shower. But most of the time they did this... properly.
The bed creaked as two bodies landed on it in a tangle. There was a moment of squirming that was almost as vicious as the sparring downstairs. It quickly resolved itself. If Heero had been solely in charge they would take turns on top, it would be rigorous and logical. Since Wufei was involved it was neither. Another rule, another habit; Heero asked - with his eyes, with his body- Wufei acquiesced, and then all the minor victories and defeats, the touches and the sparring and the need would be tallied. The shudo, the mating of samurai, the 'way'... the winner took the loser, in a battle of every moment between them. Their way.
Heero glared up at Wufei then conceded, relaxing slightly against the covers. Wufei smirked and lifted the shirt from his partner. Heero shook his head as chocolate locks fell into his eyes, then squirmed out of his pants as Wufei rummaged in the bedside table drawer for the tube of lubricant and the towels he prosaically kept there for these occasions. Wufei turned to find a naked body - like a Greek sculptor's dream - lying back on his bed and a pair of blue eyes practically ripping his clothes off. The shudder ran up and down his body again.
His clothes on the floor, he knelt over that perfect body. A clink of metal on metal, annoying-... two sets of dog tags landed together on the bedside table and Wufei leaned in again, shoving Heero back, his hands gliding roughly over skin. Wufei didn't mind being taken. He'd gotten used to it, sometimes he even enjoyed it though that knowledge stayed deep within his mind where he didn't have to look at it. But this... the privilege to be moving into Heero's body, feel those muscles shiver and convulse under his touch... it was definitely worth all the battles just to feel himself encased and caressed and held and trusted...
Heero made a move of impatience against the covers and Wufei quickly squeezed out some lube and hurried through the preparations. They mated like tigers; no need for foreplay or for tenderness afterwards. Yuy wanted it efficient - as well as hot and rough, Wufei thought with a throb of lust that seemed to turn his spine into molten metal and burn in his loins - and Wufei didn't want any hint of affection to snare him and confuse him.
Wufei drove into the body beneath his. Each pulse ripping sweat and pleasure from his skin.
Heero's hands left welts on his shoulder and hip. Slamming them together. Heero could be uke in ways that made many a tyrant look like a submissive cur.
Wufei tore away from the teeth and the mouth that were searing like acid burns all over his neck and shoulders. He stared down at blue eyes losing focus, parted lips suddenly delicate... The fingers on his hip were beyond bruising.
They dropped a hand to Heero's erection at the same time - both feeling the end coiling like snakes through Wufei's muscles, gathering in the deep, hard invasions of the body tightening below his... Wufei ripped Heero's hand away. He wanted to feel the hardness of desire beneath his own fingers; he wanted to tear that small loss of control out of his partner's flesh himself. Heero snarled in silence and punished his shoulders. Wufei smiled in fierce triumph as blue eyes widened and breath caught - his heart hammered. His hand twisted and squeezed.
Heero hissed. An unconscious noise. As if trying to subdue the pleasure shaking him, spilling over Wufei's fingers. The shock went through his body like concussive impacts and caught Wufei as he pushed forward one... last...
"Ah!" He ripped away from the hands clutching him - welts on his shoulder and down his chest - tightness and waves of motion around his erection liquefying him into pure bliss.
Pleasure pulsed through him. Counterpoint to ragged breathing, pounding heart. The echoes faded slowly, left him gasping and shaking.
He raised a hand - a rather sticky hand - he grimaced and raised the other hand instead, to wipe away the sweat that was edging over his brow to trickle into his eye. Heero was panting; a tickle of breath stirred the strands of jet-black hair that had twisted loose of their tight thong. Wufei's breathing was harsh and irregular too; their chi met and melded between sated bodies. Wufei felt the final pool of tension accumulated in the past two weeks trickle away.
Contentment. He normally shied from it, but this was its moment. Their strict way allowed it, just for awhile. This was the moment he'd withdraw from Heero with a pang of regret. He'd let himself sink to his partner's side and, almost lazily, wipe away the traces of a human desire from the hard, unrelenting body, and at this point in time, Heero would let him. For awhile.
Heero lay still, also resting in the unaccustomed nearness he normally refused. They didn't speak - sometimes they did, inconsequential words; the sound of another human voice near their ear while their defenses were down was a rare, strangely precious thing. Today they lay in silence for a few minutes, inches apart, and listened to the slight drizzle of an early summer shower start to tap against the metal roof not far above their heads.
Heero stood and stretched. Wufei could be as rough as he liked - as rough as they both wanted him to be - it didn't seem to matter much to the way Heero moved afterwards. When J had built Wing to be well- nigh indestructible, he must have used the pilot as his template, Wufei reflected with a small, inner smile.
"I'll go in tomorrow at eight." He said abruptly, ending the moment.
"So desu. I'll try to get some information about the Syndicate from the Chilean." Heero answered as he gathered his clothes from the floor. "And I'll get in touch with Barton."
"He's in Corsica, isn't he? Undercover."
"I'll try his drop box then. He'll want any information we can get him."
"Yes." The yawn that followed caught Wufei off guard.
There was something like a mocking purr from Heero. "Did I tire you out?"
"No, it's the thought of dealing with Anthea tomorrow, as I try to explain to her why she needs a box for 'bribes' on her field expenses form."
Heero sneered and left. Wufei wriggled to get away from the small wet spot. His bed was quite big enough for him and for the frenzied sex they occasionally indulged in. If he listened carefully he would soon hear the squeak of Heero's small bunk bed. They used Wufei's double bed to satisfy their carnal urges but Heero never spent more time there than necessary. They were both too highly strung to sleep together and that was only one of the reasons.
Wufei's eyes fluttered close. He'd get up and shower and read a book in awhile, before going back to the grind again tomorrow, but right now he was clutching at the strands of contentment and pleasure rippling lazily through his body.
He couldn't wait to be out in the field again, he suddenly realized. He absently rubbed one of the welts on his hip - a bruise forming there - and smiled, satisfied. Now it would just be a matter of waiting for the next emergency, the next fire, and he and Heero would be out on the edge again. Thriving on their warrior's peace.
End Part 16
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