Heero's first impression was an ass; rounded, and tight in a pair of jeans, as the man bent over his work. There was just the hint of something between those legs, something that rounded the material nicely, before the man was straightening and a long braid was snaking around to bump on that ass, thick and the color of cinnamon.
Duo. Duo Maxwell. The man turned and Heero saw large eyes that sparkled blue... purple... indigo... he wasn't sure, and a wide mouthed smile that emphasized a cheeky face. His expressive brows rose at the sight of Heero and that smile was all pleasure as Duo exclaimed, "Hey, Heero!"
This was the man that Heero had been given to work with, a man who had refused all offers to join every organization, military or otherwise, after the war, but who hadn't stopped lending his expertise when it was most needed. This was the man that Heero had been refusing to work with... until now.
Wu Fei had called him, 'impossible'. Trowa had disliked his impulsive style. Une had stamped him a wild card. Milliardo Peacecraft had criticized his lack of regard for his own personal safety. No one questioned his ability, though, and that kept him 'on call', when no one else could do the job.
"Well?" Heero asked.
Duo shrugged and turned back to his machine, "Good to see you too." He thumped the machine with a fist, almost fondly, making Heero flinch, and replied, "Take out a city block, easy, and armed by seismic tremor. This was a secondary weapon."
Heero felt the hairs on his neck rise. "There's another bomb?"
"Oh, yeah," Duo affirmed as he picked up a probe and tapped the control panel for emphasis. "Not as big as this, of course, but probably a distraction."
"Distraction?" Heero echoed.
"Everyone runs away from the first bomb, right towards the second bomb." Duo made a herding gesture and then flung his arms wide. "Boom! Get's you the most casualties. These guys are definitely bastards."
Heero felt sick. "They found it in a shopping mall."
"So I heard," Duo replied as he bent over the machine again and used his probe. "That's why I volunteered. I told them to keep the mall clear until they find the first bomb." Duo gave the bomb a push and it rolled over onto it's side with a loud, metallic, clang. He laughed as Heero started and turned pale. "Don't worry! It's not armed anymore. Jeez! I'm not a moron."
Duo made Heero doubt that as he crawled almost underneath it it pry at a panel. It was balanced precariously. If it rolled back... Heero found himself taking hold of it and steadying it.
"Thanks," Duo muttered. "Hm," he said after getting the panel off and checking wiring, "Guess it wasn't disarmed after all. Tricky a-holes."
Heero trembled. "Duo?" he demanded. "What-"
"We're good," Duo said, cutting him off. "Just a bypass. Nothing complicated." He rolled out from under it and Heero was glad to let go and back up, wiping sweating palms on his uniform pants.
Duo's cell phone beeped. he answered it, listened, and then said, "Really? Son of a bitch! Well, get in here and dust these inner panels for prints, so we can nail these bastards."
Duo pocketed his cell and began tossing his tools into a tool chest. He leaned against it then and took a shaky breath. He looked at Heero with haunted eyes.
"They found the bomb," Duo told him. "It was in a baby clothing store. They were going to blow up babies, Heero, expectant moms... These guys gotta go down hard."
"We'll make sure that happens," Heero replied and found himself reaching out to grip Duo's arm to steady the upset man.
Duo nodded in thanks. He managed a shaky smile, as he broke away and wiped his hands with a rag. "I'm glad that you changed your mind about not working with me."
Heero thought of all the reasons that he had chosen not to and felt how wrong he had been. This wasn't the loud mouthed, undisciplined, 'kid', that he remembered from the war. This was a confident, handsome, dedicated man, that Heero was suddenly feeling very attracted to. "So am I," he replied.
Wu Fei dropped report chips into Heero's inbox.
Heero picked one up and saw that it was the paperwork from their last mission together.
"Two weeks late?" Heero grumbled.
"I hate paperwork," Wu Fei reminded him, irritably, and then with conviction,"It should only be for those who don't fight."
Heero tossed the chip back into his in box, ignoring the too familiar complaint. "I don't have time to go over this. I have my case with Maxwell."
"I'm glad that at last you've been made to share our burden," Wu Fei replied. "You've escaped working with him long enough."
"It's an important case," Heero pointed out defensively, "And he is a bomb expert."
Wu Fei raised a dark eyebrow. "He had pizza delivered to our vehicle, while on a stakeout, Yuy. He hung, upside down, from steel rafters, in a warehouse, and had a shootout with our suspects, when he had been ordered to monitor only. He 'borrowed' a dog and pretended that it was a trained Preventer dog on a 'hair trigger' to get a detained suspect to talk. Une wasn't pleased by the owner's lawsuit after. His mechanical genius doesn't excuse this sort of behavior."
Heero recalled Duo's sure knowledge of the bomb and his anguish over the thought of children and mother's harmed. "He is unconventional," Heero replied, "But he does get results."
"Not always good ones, Yuy," Wu Fei reminded him, "Or Barton wouldn't still be in a leg cast from his last mission with Duo."
Heero frowned, thinking about it, but then shrugged. "Barton was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He admitted that himself."
Wu Fei stared and then he looked concerned, "Tell me that this isn't some greater interest that you've developed in Maxwell?"
Heero frowned at him. "That isn't any of your-"
"Ancestors help me!" Wu Fei snarled, "Yuy! He's toxic, through and through! We are professionals. That is something he will never be, on or off of the job. That is a quality that has always been important to both of us. Don't forget that because you've suddenly found an attraction for his ass!"
Heero felt a flare of white hot anger. "I know that you don't approve of my sexuality, Chang, or understand it, so I'll let that comment slide... this time. My 'interest' in Maxwell is professional. I was impressed by his knowledge and his obvious dedication. My judgment, based on your reports, had me biased against him in the worst way."
"My judgment was based on experience," Wu Fei retorted. "You shouldn't reject it before you've had the opportunity to truly work with Maxwell. Everyone can't be wrong, Yuy."
"He gets results," Heero insisted. "I've read the reports."
"Have you also read the injury reports?" Wu Fei wondered acidly."His results repeatedly cost agents their good health."
Heero thought about that seriously as Wu Fei glared at him, wanting a reply, wanting to know that he was getting through to his fellow agent. "Perhaps," Heero finally replied, "the agents with him weren't good matches? Maybe Une has been too concerned with pairing him with a level agent to counter his recklessness, instead of finding someone who is fluid enough to work with him?"
Wu Fei glared in silence for a very long moment and then he said seriously, looking uncomfortable, "If you don't control this sudden sexual attraction, Yuy, it may not be a slight injury that you will suffer. Maxwell may actually get you killed." He let that sink in before he turned and left Heero's office.
"It's not sexual," Heero growled as he began gathering things for his mission with Duo, but then felt that he should at least be honest with himself. During the war, Duo had been a strange, loud mouthed, awkward looking boy. Back then, Heero had only been interested in Duo's piloting skills. It definitely wasn't that way now. Heero was feeling something other than a desire to know Duo's fighting ability.
It wasn't all about ass, either, Heero knew, feeling that white hot anger again over Wu Fei's remark. He'd never been that shallow, or that impulsive, with his desires. There was definitely something about Duo that was hitting Heero on all levels.
"I have clearance, darling, or I wouldn't be up on this level!" Duo's voice chuckled from outside of Heero's office.
"That's Duo Maxwell, Darcy!" a woman said excitedly. "Don't you ever watch the news vids? He's one of the Gundam pilots. The braid alone should have-"
"He doesn't have a Preventer ID pass," a prim and proper woman's voice replied. "Without a pass, I'm required to call security."
"She's absolutely right," Duo said good naturedly. "You shouldn't criticize the lady for doing her job correctly. Maybe I do have the world's best known face, but that doesn't give me automatic clearance into sensitive areas."
"Well, thank you, Mr. Maxwell," Darcy replied and Heero could almost hear the pleased blush in her voice. "I'm sure Agent Yuy is expecting you. Checking with security is a formality. You may go in while I call."
"Thank you, Ms. Darcy," Duo said. "I'm sure Agent Yuy thoroughly appreciates your dedication to your job."
Duo breezed in and gave Heero a wink. "Nice staff."
Heero felt his own blush. "She's right. You should have a pass."
Duo shrugged with a smile. "No one's suggested it before now. Wouldn't hurt, I guess. Are you ready to go?"
Heero nodded as he tucked his zippered portfolio under one arm. Duo suddenly took it away from him and tisked as he opened it.
"Come on, Yuy, we need to travel light and more under the radar." Duo reached out and tucked Heero's palm computer into the front pocket of his pants. Heero took a sharp breath and flinched. Duo chuckled at him. "I'm not feeling you up, Yuy!" He looked at the rest of Heero's things, pocketed a few of the memory sticks himself, and then tossed the portfolio onto Heero's desk. "Let's go."
"I do get to keep my gun?" Heero asked sourly.
"As long as it's under your shirt," Duo agreed, and then gave Heero's uniform a once over. "Speaking of which..."
"No," Heero said immediately, eyeing Duo's long, black shirt, sporting stylized designs in silver, his tight blue jeans, and his steel toed boots. "You are not a Preventer agent, but I do have regs to follow when not undercover."
"You never know when you might have to go undercover suddenly," Duo pointed out.
Heero frowned. "There won't be a 'sudden undercover' on this trip out, Maxwell," he warned. "We are checking leads only."
"Yes, sir, Agent Yuy," Duo sighed, as he turned for the door, his heavy braid swinging, "but I warned you, okay?"
Impossible. Unconventional. Dangerous. Heero's own words came back to him, drowning out the negative labels. 'Maybe Une has been too concerned with pairing him with a level agent to counter his recklessness, instead of finding someone who is fluid enough to work with him?'
Heero fingered his spotless, pressed uniform, as Duo turned at the door, realizing that he wasn't following. "Maybe," Heero was amazed to hear himself say,"Maybe, I should change?"
Duo grinned. "I'll wait."
"Nice view," Duo snorted as he pulled aside a curtain to reveal the shopping mall one narrow street over. A neon sign on the mall that said, Claxton's, blinked the x incessantly."That must be pretty shitty at night. Maybe that's the driving force behind the bombing; lack of sleep?"
Heero didn't even grunt a reply, ignoring Duo's chatter, as he used a small palm computer to scan for fingerprints. He I.D.'d their suspect and found a few unknowns along with his prints and DNA. "Off the grid," Heero said, but wasn't too surprised.
"Ex Ozzies?" Duo wondered as he paced the room and looked at their suspect's personal items without touching them.
"Not on the missing lists," Heero replied as he moved into the kitchen. Duo followed him, only touching drawer handles and cabinet pulls after Heero had scanned them.
Duo's eyes suddenly swept sideways and gave Heero an appreciative once over, before flicking back to searching a cabinet. "You clean up nice, by the way."
Heero frowned, feeling a moment of pleasure, before he gave Duo as level stare and then his back, indicating to Duo, he hoped, that he wanted to stay professional.
"I was hoping for a little more, 'undercover', though," Duo was saying, his voice muffled as his head went in a cabinet as he reached for something at the back. "I mean... who knew you would have a black shirt that said, Last Line of Defense? Where did you even get that?"
Heero looked down at his favorite shirt and remembered a party after an award ceremony. Surrounded by his fellow agents, they had tossed him the shirt and told him that he was the best. It had meant more to him than the golden award for bravery that the city had bestowed on him that day. He ran a hand over the embossed words, made to look like lightning strikes across his chest. "It isn't official," Heero said.
Duo came out of the cabinet rolling his eyes. "It might as well shout, 'I'm a big, bad, Preventer agent.'"
"What do you have?" Heero wanted to know, ignoring the comment as he saw a packet of letters in Duo's napkin covered hand.
Duo took the letters to a table and gingerly spread them out. "Someone is either old fashioned or they don't want any internet footprints."
Heero scanned the envelopes and then took file footage with his palm computer while Duo carefully opened the letters and looked through their contents.
"Letters from mom," Duo said and grinned. "How nice."
"Code?" Heero wondered as he leaned in close and read a few lines.
"You mean that,'Make sure you get a warm coat, Rypheal? It Gets cold there, I've heard.' might be code for, 'Plant the bomb at North forty, ten East?', or something like that?" Duo scoffed.
Heero frowned at the letters and then used his palm computer to verify his hunch. When it did, he said, "Decoy. These were all written at the same time."
Duo nodded, as if he had suspected as much, and began searching again. "If we were stupid, they would have had us running all over town with fake clues. Unfortunately, it tells me, that our suspect isn't stupid either. I don't think we're going to find anything here. He probably bugged out of here before he planted the bombs."
Heero searched anyway and he was pleased that Duo didn't protest. That meant that he wasn't arrogant enough to think that his theory was gold. It was the mark of a professional. It was another rumor about Duo put to rest and Heero felt reassured that they could manage to work the case well together.
"Done here?" Duo asked after they had gone over the apartment thoroughly.
Heero nodded as he made a last note on his palm computer and then pocketed it. "We have two people to interview after lunch. I suggest-"
"Just enough time to check the basement," Duo said as he left the apartment, with Heero behind him, and headed for the stairs.
"Basement?" Heero repeated in confusion.
"Just checking a theory," Duo told him as he took the emergency stairs downward.
The lighting was bad. The basement was a long, low ceilinged bay of caged storage units, the plumbing and electrical of the building, and a catch all for maintenance equipment. Many of the lights looked dead or getting there and it was chill.
Heero checked his notes, feeling stupid. There wasn't any mention that the suspect had a storage unit in the initial report. "Which one is his?"
Duo ran a hand along the fenced cages, checking their numbers, until he found their apartment number. "This one."
"We don't have a key," Heero pointed out.
Duo eyed the mechanical locking mechanism, took out a thin electronic gadget from his pocket, that Heero recognized as illegal technology, and pointed it at the lock. It clicked and whirled and then unlocked.
"Duo?" Heero growled. "That is a banned-"
"Nope, it's my own bit of tech," Duo told him as he opened the unit door and walked in. "Just off spec enough to clear the law."
"I'll examine that for myself, later," Heero warned.
"Be my guest," Duo said as he shifted boxes, but didn't bother looking inside of them.
Heero opened them and found clothing that looked mismatched in sizes. He took out a toddlers sleeper and frowned. "Our suspect didn't have children."
"Another decoy," Duo muttered."Ah, here it is."
Heero moved around the boxes and looked down at the concrete floor. There was a municipal manhole cover that had been hidden by the boxes.
"City plumbing," Duo told Heero with a grin. "Let's see where it goes."
Heero took out his palm computer and began pulling up city schematics, but Duo found a crowbar and pried the heavy cover up and off. A fetid stink rose up out of the hole.
Duo grinned at Heero as he pulled out a powerful pin light from his shirt pocket. "Let's go, partner."
"Duo, I'm not going down there," Heero protested in alarm. "We can easily find-"
"Nothing better than seeing what's what first hand," Duo insisted. "Stay here until I come back, if that's what you want."
There were handholds. Duo put the penlight in his mouth and began climbing downward.
"Duo!" Heero protested. "I need to call in. We might need back up. Regulations state that..." He petered off. Duo was gone. The man was whistling a tune that echoed back up to Heero.
"Shit!" Heero snarled and began climbing down as well.
Heero heard a splash down below and looked to see Duo's light illuminating stained concrete walls and the man standing in a few inches of water.
"Maintenance must have cleaned up top recently," Duo commented offhandedly, "It hasn't been raining."
Heero reached the bottom, stared down at the water, and then grimaced as he gingerly stepped into it. "I thought I smelled rat," he said as he pushed one, that was floating dead in the water, away with foot . A rat trap was still attached to it.
Duo grinned at him as he started walking down the concrete tunnel and asked, "You know the smell of rat?"
"I'm sure I've stayed in as many rooms, with rats, as you have, growing up," Heero replied as he watched his feet as he walked.
"Their meaner on the streets," Duo said and there was a bitter edge to his voice, that made Heero not want to continue the conversation. The ugly stories of their younger lives didn't get better by the retelling.
Duo paused and flashed his light at the walls. There were clear marks that things had been there and been removed. "Something was here."
He didn't jump to conclusions. Heero was pleased by that. It could just as well have been marks from sewage pipes and equipment as shelving or hooks to store terrorist weapons. He scanned the wall for fingerprints and bomb material traces.
They could hear the dull sounds of traffic as they moved under the street.
"Here." Duo swept his light up a steel ladder to another manhole. "Bets are on that this leads right up into the mall bathroom."
Water, filled with unmentionable filth, suddenly came pouring down through the grate. Duo ducked out of the way, jerking Heero sharply along with him. A ripping sound told Heero that his shirt hadn't survived the abuse, but Duo's quick action had saved them, mostly, from the deluge from above.
"My shirt!" Heero growled.
"Sorry," Duo patted the foot long rip across Heero's shoulder as if trying to put the material back together. "Must be cleaning day."
Heero jerked away. "They said that you were a loose cannon and impossible to work with. I was ready to let you prove otherwise-"
Duo frowned, letting his hand drop. "Heero, I'm sorry about the shirt."
"It was my favorite!" Heero exclaimed and then felt embarrassment on top of his anger having admitted it.
Duo was annoyed in a heartbeat. "I said I was sorry, but it's a shirt, Heero! Let's get over it and get on with the investigation! Yeah, maybe I don't do things the normal way, but I get results. I intend to goddamn get results this time. I'm going to find those would be baby killers. That means that I have to find how they moved the bombs from point A to point B. That means getting dirty. Are you still in or do you want to go back to headquarters and cry some more about your favorite shirt?"
They stood, glaring at each other, until the water stopped pouring down, and then Heero bit out, "Start climbing. I'm right behind you."
Duo nodded and then began climbing. "Let's do this, then."
Halfway up the ladder Duo said, "I'll get you a new shirt."
Heero thought about the feeling of camaraderie that had come with the one that he was wearing now. "Forget it," he ground out. "It wouldn't be the same."
"I really am sorry," Duo replied softly.
"I shouldn't have worn it," Heero admitted, but the attempt to be fair about the situation, wasn't making him less angry about the loss.
Do stopped at the top and called back, "Scanner."
Heero handed up his palm computer and Duo took it and scanned a ledge before searching it with a bare hand. "They really say I'm impossible to work with?"
"Yes," Heero admitted, resting on the ladder close to Duo's wet shoes. "You keep getting agents injured."
"They can't keep up with me," Duo said, though it sounded sad rather than defensive. "I do better working alone."
"That's against regulations," Heero replied, "Especially for non Preventer personnel on an investigation."
"Then it's really not my fault, is it?" Duo retorted and that was defensive."If you had agreed to partner with me from the start-"
He cut that off, as if he hadn't intended to say that. It gave Heero a different perspective of the situation. He remembered the many times that Une had asked him to partner with Duo and his flat out refusals, based on other agents bad reports of their missions with the man. Had Duo personally asked for him? Was Duo saying that he was the only one who could 'keep up' with him?
"Found a crowbar," Duo said as his searching finally bore fruit. He scanned it and then picked it up to use it.
There was a scraping sound and then light streamed down into Heero's eyes as Duo pushed up the manhole cover. Cautiously, blinking against the glare, Heero climbed after Duo.
A worker with rubber gloves and a power washer blinked at them in surprise. "Who the hell-?"
"Preventer agents," Duo said quickly as he made topside and flashed the man an ID.
"Okay..." the man replied, still sounding uncertain.
Heero climbed out of the hole and looked around at the men's bathroom, wet from it's recent washing and strongly smelling like bleach. He grunted, "You were right."
Duo grinned at him. "Only because I knew that this entire block had been rebuilt after being destroyed in the war. These buildings are on top of the old street. Someone in both buildings decided to make use of the old sewer system."
Duo replaced the manhole cover with a loud clank of metal against metal, nodded to the worker, and then led Heero towards the door to the bathroom.
"We're going into the mall?" Heero asked as he took stock of his filthy,ripped clothing.
Duo reached out to straighten Heero's clothes with firm motions, brushed off Heero's shoulders, and then announced, "Handsome. Let's go.", and went through the door.
Heero gave the worker a last look, a scowl that warned against judgment, and followed Duo into the mall.
Heero had to flip his badge open, several times, as mall security, highly nervous after the bomb scare, approached to ask them questions. Duo breezed by them, leaving it up to Heero, his focus on discovering how the bombers had managed to plant their bombs without detection from alarms.
Standing in front of the maternity store, Duo was frowning, as Heero caught up to him.
"Inside job,"Duo announced as Heero began to ask, irritably what he was doing.
Heero studied the metal mesh security gate over the store, the cameras up and down both sides of the mall, and had to agree.
"Want to bet that someone is suddenly not showing up for work in security?" Duo asked.
"Several someone's," Heero corrected. "They don't work a store this large alone. Why aren't they concerned about being taken into custody, though? It won't be difficult to get their names and addresses."
"Proof," Duo said thoughtfully. "Store logs. Security camera time signatures. Employee clock in times. We can have all of that and it will still be hard to prove that they did anything to allow the bombers access."
"Dereliction of duty, maybe," Heero agreed, thinking it over, "But we would have to make a connection that's solid to prove that they were derelict for the express purpose of allowing the bombers access."
"We'll need to investigate them thoroughly," Duo sighed and then gave Heero a questioning look. "Still with me? This is going to take some time. There's going to be long surveillance, pouring over phone logs, tedious investigating into everything they've done since they lost their first baby tooth. if we can't work together, now's the time to shuffle partners."
Duo was watching young, expectant mothers shop inside the store. His expression was easy to define. It showed a depth to his nature, that a flippant attitude and an all too easy grin hid. He would do anything to keep them safe, do what ever was necessary to take down the people who would harm them, and he wasn't going to allow an on the fence partner to slow him down. It was a kind of dedication that Heero understood and could admire.
Heero fingered the rent in his shirt ruefully. Maybe he could get another? It was just a shirt, after all. The meaning behind the gift didn't go away because he didn't have it any longer.
"Try not to break anything," Heero replied firmly.
"Or kill me," Heero insisted.
"I'll try," Duo promised and Heero could see him trying to decide if Heero was joking.
"I'm your partner, not your 'handler', " Heero added. "I don't hang behind and take care of things that you think that you can't be bothered with. We work together. We come and go together. We deal with situations together."
"Got it," Duo replied seriously.
"Trust me," Heero finished. "I want exactly what you do, and I'm not going to be slow 'getting' a situation."
"Are you sure about that?" Duo asked as he began walking to investigate the mall further.
"What do you mean?" Heero demanded, with the beginnings of some temper.
Duo grinned at him, "You've been missing the fact that I'm interested in you all of this time. It doesn't inspire confidence."
Heero stopped walking, dumbfounded, but then caught up and said, without looking at Duo, "Interested? As in how?"
Duo laughed outright and several mall patrons looked at him curiously. "You never jump to conclusions, do you?"
"That's not good investigating," Heero replied, smiling.
"Then keep your eyes open and maybe you'll find the right clues to answer that question," Duo told him matter of factly.
Heero sighed, but he answered gamely enough,"Two investigations at one time can be distracting."
"Which is why one will have to wait for now," Duo replied more seriously. "Care to guess which one, partner?"
Heero felt a warmth at the word 'partner'. He nodded, but said,"Count on a thorough investigation at the appropriate time, then,partner."
Heero loved Duo's laugh.
"Still in one piece and alive. Good." Sally eyed Heero up and down and stopped mid hallway, not caring that others had to swerve around them both. "I told Une that you could handle him."
"This was your idea?" Heero wondered sharply.
Sally nodded as she made a note on her computer pad. "I was getting tired of patching up agents. I told Une that she was letting you tell her what to do by refusing to partner with Duo. Well, you know how she feels about that. She had to show me that she is in command."
"I'm not sure that I appreciate your interference," Heero snapped back.
"Duo is a genius, and you know it," Sally replied. not bothered at all by Heero's temper. "Une knows it too, or she wouldn't court disaster every time that she assigns him to a case. I say that it's high time that Duo was partnered with someone capable of working with him. You, Heero Yuy, have abilities that perfectly complement a man who thinks that climbing four stories, on the outside of a glass building, in a thunderstorm, or slipping into a nest of armed terrorists, while they have breakfast, to gather one bit of minor evidence, constitutes sane investigating techniques."
"I wouldn't allow him to do those things," Heero pointed out.
"Had much luck stopping him, so far, Yuy?" Sally wondered archly.
"Keep your head, watch your step, and duck, when necessary," Sally chuckled. "I think you two are going to be something special together."
Heero felt a blush, but she was already turning away and walking into the crowd before he could reply. Something special. He could hope for that, though he was still uncertain about working with Duo. In that aspect, it was very possible that Duo would prove impossible for anyone to work with safely.
The reason was dead simple. Duo never factored in a partner when he made a plan or acted spontaneously in a situation. Perhaps he expected his partner to take care of himself, or it could be that his mind was too firmly locked on accomplishing his goal? Whatever the reason, Heero knew that, if he wanted to continue to stay in one , unbroken piece, he needed to make Duo realize that they needed to work together. He supposed that the first step to accomplishing that goal was to make Duo see that they could work together. The man's doubts on that point were very plain. Keep up and stay out of the way. That was the strong feeling that Heero was getting from the man.
Heero showered and changed clothes in the Preventer locker room before returning to his office. He was surprised to see Duo already there, showered and changed as well. He was sitting in a chair and using a battered laptop. There was a pizza box on top of the important papers on Heero's desk, along with several bottles of water.
Duo looked up with a challenging grin and asked, "Ready to start slogging through personnel files?"
Heero had been ready to call it a day. He felt exhausted, though it was probably more from the tension of working with Duo than from any physical weariness. That challenge in Duo's expression dared him, though. Keep up or call it quits, that expression told him.
"I'm not eating pizza," Heero replied as he reached to boot up his own laptop on his desk.
"Whatever you want," Duo replied, looking relieved.
"Greek food," Heero grunted as he took out his cell and began to call for take out.
Duo blinked, startled. "Greek?"
"Don't stereotype me. I love Greek food," Heero retorted.
"Stereotype?" Duo seemed dumbfounded now.
"Asian, Asian food?" Heero clarified.
"You're Asian?" Duo chuckled. "I thought you were... I dunno... Slavic, or something."
Heero called in his order and then hung up, staring at Duo in consternation. "Slavic?"
"Never thought about it too hard, I guess," Duo admitted and then grinned at Heero. "I can see it in the shape of your eyes, though, now that you mention it."
"This doesn't give me much confidence in your observation skills," Heero pointed out as he sat down.
Duo looked annoyed, now. "That's different. I was enjoying the whole package, not considering nationalities to break a case."
"Enjoying?" Heero paused in the act of pulling up personnel files for the mall.
Duo wagged a finger at him. "Remember, that's for later. Work, first."
"You're making that difficult, when you say things like that," Heero sighed as he began looking through files.
"You forced it out of me," Duo grunted as he tried to concentrate on his work. "I wouldn't want you to doubt my observational skills."
Considering what Heero knew of them up until then, he could say honestly, "I don't. Not in the least."
"Good," Duo replied. "By the way, I questioned Greek food, because not a hell of a lot of people order it as take out. I wasn't stereotyping someone of Slavic ancestry."
"Asian," Heero corrected.
Duo eyed him. "Part Asian, part Slavic."
Heero frowned, but then saw the humor in it and laughed. He had the feeling that if he completed a genetic test, that Duo would prove absolutely correct. It warmed him, for some reason. He had never before considered finding out his true genetic heritage. It had always seemed unimportant.
"Have it your way," Heero countered, "but are we going to worry about my ancestry or this case, this evening?"
They worried about the case. As everyone else at Preventer headquarters left for home, and lights were shut off, Heero's office was still lit up brightly near midnight. They had opted for the floor, though, sitting side by side with a laptop between them as they went over surveillance footage almost frame by frame. It had been too awkward to eat and watch, using the desk.
With pizza and Greek takeout boxes scattered around them, along with empty water bottles, they were making notes and arguing over findings when security looked in on them. They ignored him and he decided not to question why Preventer's best was sitting on the floor, looking like children having a 'sleep over'.
"I think we have enough leads," Duo finally announced around a yawn. "I'm beat."
Heero felt a moment of triumph. "Are you saying that you're ready to go home?"
"You're not?" Duo wondered as he stood up stiffly and stretched.
"Well.... maybe..." Heero admitted as he shifted the laptop to one hand and stood up as well.
"Then find a couch," Duo told him as he stretched enough to show his flat belly and a dusting of hair going down from his navel into his jeans. "We'll meet back here at five and start investigating the leads."
Heero felt a response to the sight of Duo's body, so sharp, that he almost didn't register what Duo was saying. When it did, he grunted, "Are you saying that you aren't sleeping?"
"I don't need as much as you do," Duo replied as he put his own laptop on the table again and sat down.
Heero sat down as well. "If you're staying, then so am I."
"Don't be stupid," Duo growled.
"You're the one being stupid," Heero retorted.
They stared at each other, a battle of wills, and then Duo sighed and laughed.
"I think you're right," Duo said as he stood up again and tucked his laptop under one arm. "Maybe we should both go home and get some sleep?"
"I'm not falling for that," Heero warned. "I'll go and then you'll stay and work."
Duo showed some temper, but then sat down again and admitted. "Good call."
"Thanks," Heero replied,"Now, maybe we should go over this Jerry Randal's file, one more time? He seems to have an employment hole of six months. We need to find out where he was, then."
"Coffee," Duo said shortly.
"Coffee?" Heero echoed in confusion and then understood and nodded. "There's a coffee maker down the hall. We'll get breakfast brought in, as well, when the commissary opens."
"Donuts," Duo said around another yawn and went in search of the coffee maker.
Heero rubbed at his eyes, then, and wondered if he could actually stay awake. His brain was crying for sleep and he felt a slight dizziness. He wasn't about to allow Duo to keep working while he went home to sleep, though. He had promised to keep up. He wasn't about to fail that promise over something as simple as sleep.
"Inhuman, just as I thought," Heero muttered as he sipped blearily at his coffee and watched his cheerful partner grin and eat a jelly donut with relish.
"Not needing a lot of sleep, doesn't make me a monster," Duo protested, and licked strawberry jelly off of the corner of his mouth.
"Not just that," Heero said around a yawn. "Don't you need to shave?" He rubbed at his own stubble.
Duo looked embarrassed and shrugged as he sat down on the floor again with the laptops between them. He swigged from an energy drink bottle and then licked sticky fingers.
Heero found himself watching those fingers and wasn't half surprised when he felt a response. Even complete exhaustion wasn't going to bank his desire for the man sitting before him.
"I wasn't questioning your manhood," Heero amended as his brain caught up with his mouth.
Duo made a face. "You're being stupid. Maybe we should stop?"
Heero had to agree, but he wasn't waving a white flag yet.
Duo huffed and said, "I'm not questioning your manhood either, Heero. Admit that you need more sleep than I do and take a half hour in a corner. I promise not to tell anyone."
Duo rose and made sure that the door was locked. He motioned meaningfully to a corner of the room. They could hear people beginning to come into the offices. The man delivering their breakfast hadn't been shocked by the early order, but he had looked curiously at the takeout containers strewn everywhere, paperwork stacked haphazardly on the desk, and the two agents on the floor arguing about something that they had discovered.
"What will you be doing?" Heero wanted to know.
"Eating donuts," Duo replied as he lifted an overfull bag of them in every variety.
"For a half hour?"Heero wondered skeptically.
Duo glared. "Heero, if you think I'm going to take our leads and take off on my own..."
"It's what you do," Heero reminded him.
"What I did," Duo corrected him. "I needed to leave partners behind that couldn't keep up with me. You're different."
"Am I?" Heero retorted. "I need sleep. You don't. Isn't that falling behind?"
"Your hand is in your pocket," Heero pointed out suspiciously. "You're jingling your car keys."
Duo froze, and then sighed as he pulled his hand out of his pocket. "I'll give you that one. I do want to get out of here and follow up on these leads."
"So, no sleeping," Heero growled as he pulled the laptop closer to him and began closing it down. "I'll be ready to go as soon as the coffee kicks in."
"This is stupid!" Duo protested."You're going to make yourself sick."
"I'm not the one stuffing himself with donuts," Heero grumbled.
"Fine!" Duo picked up his coffee cup and carried it, and his bag of donuts, over to Heero. He sat beside Heero and then made them both move backwards until they were against the wall.
"What?" Heero wondered, mind not able to work out what Duo was doing.
"I'm going to be your pillow for a half hour," Duo told him with a tone of irritation that seemed forced.
"That's stupid," Heero growled back, but he wasn't resisting when Duo pulled him against him.
"I'm having a long breakfast," Duo said. "Take advantage of it."
Heero felt tense, not sure if he should be happy about their positions or offended. Finally, he sighed, and relaxed.
"Good," Duo said and his voice rumbled against Heero's ear as Heero made himself comfortable against Duo's chest. "I can't go anywhere without you knowing about it. Let go and go to sleep."
"This will mean that we 'slept' together," Heero slurred as his began shutting down in relief. He wasn't really aware what he was babbling.
"I really wanted our first time to be a bit more... exciting," Duo replied with a chuckle.
"You did?" Heero managed, but then he was asleep and he never heard Duo's response.
On to chapter two