Author: Aya
Warnings: Language, Mild Violence
Disclaimer: If I owned Gundam Wing I'd be a lot richer than I am now
Note: Sorry for making everyone wait for this chapter. All of your reviews pushed me to write it when I began to get lazy. ^^; Hopefully this chapter was worth it.*snuggles reviewers*
And of course, I thank my wonderful beta Sunhawk for coherency and for just being great ^^

The Game + Part 3

Walking out of a tense situation and knowing that you're going to have to eventually swallow your pride and face it again, really sucks. It ruins the dramatic exit, the poignancy of the final, parting words and it's just really embarrassing.Heero stood outside of the apartment building and sighed explosively. That had not gone well at all. He'd let all of his old feelings and frustrations get involved and things were worse than they had been before. He'd screwed up royally. The first mistake had been stepping in the ring with Duo and the last had been criticizing the man's lifestyle. Who the hell was he to judge anyway? He'd made many mistakes in his life, mistakes that had cost people their lives and mistakes that had ruined people's lives. He leaned against the side of the building and shoved his hands in his pockets. Duo was a prime example.

Somewhere in the distance he heard shouting and then the sounds of a scuffle. His first instinct was to run over and investigate but he restrained himself. He knew as well as anyone that in a city like this, the streets had eyes and anything he did would be reported back to a higher power. If he ran around acting like the original crime-busting vigilante, there would be some serious doubts as to what he was doing in Chicago and why he was participating in The Game. His mission came before anything else that was currently going on; even his problems with Duo. It had nothing to do with the fact that he was following orders; but it had everything to do with putting a ruthless killer out of business and that came before anything.Out of the corner of his eye, Heero saw a slender figure make it's way out of a side door and stride down the street; keeping to the shadows all the while. Even if he hadn't seen the long, dangling braid he would have known it was Duo by the catlike grace that only he seemed to possess. Heero followed at a good distance but he knew that Duo had picked up on him as soon as he had left the door.

He followed Duo for several blocks, still keeping his distance even when they moved to a more crowded section of the city. The area was not too far from The Meat Market and a long way from the nice, residential parts of Chicago. Many different kinds of people littered the streets but none of them looked exceptionally poor. Scruffy, yes... But poor? Not really. Heero recalled the research on New Chicago and Tech. He was cruel, cold blooded and killed for sport, but in a twisted way he helped the poor people of the city. If it wasn't for the fact that he gave them "jobs", they probably would have died long ago. Although every single one of the "jobs" he had them doing were illegal, they still made enough money to live off of.

Tech operated swiftly, smoothly and made money off of everyone he didn't "provide for" as he liked to put it. He had the street gangs giving him 20% of their swag, local store owners and businesses gave him money for 'protection' from the local gangs and the politicians and law enforcement paid him to do the wet work that they couldn't afford to put their hands in. The last service was what had originally gotten him noticed by the Preventers. He'd been paid a pretty penny to knock off several high ranking politicians and when one of the remaining leaders of the Pacifist Movement had been murdered along with his wife and kids; Lady Une decided it was time to step in.

Heero kept his hands in his pockets and watched as Duo entered a seedy looking bar called The BoilerMaker. He followed the other man in, not even bothering to be covert about it any longer, and looked around the dimly lit space. There was a bar with a scarred, wooden counter and matching stools lining the right side of the room. The left side was crowded with several tables and chairs, a few booths, a tiny dance floor of sorts and an ancient pinball machine. The place was extremely crowded and for a moment Heero had trouble spotting his prey, but he saw the familiar braid trailing after Duo's retreating back and he started forward once again.

When they were face to face for the third time that day, Duo was slumped in a booth with a cigarette dangling between his lips and a waiting bottle of Absinthe with two brandy glasses nearby. Heero shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans uncomfortably and eyed the other man. He didn't want to be presumptuous and sit down if Duo was waiting for someone else but at the same time he needed to get a few things str--

"Sit the fuck down, Yuy. You're making me nervous."

Heero sat down.Duo eyed him calmly, smoke drifting from his nostrils lazily as it floated across the table towards Heero's face. They sat like that for a few moments, just staring at each other during a span of tense silence until Duo rolled his shoulders slightly. It was something he used to do all the time when he was nervous. The fact that Heero picked up on it pleased him for some odd reason. He still had some grasp on Duo's gestures and expressions; could still figure out what the other man was thinking just by looking at his body language. "You want a drink?" Heero's eyes dropped to the bottle and eyed the green liquid dubiously. "Isn't it illegal to drink this in the US?"

Duo smirked around his cigarette and filled both glasses. "Not in Chicago, it ain't."Heero's hand clasped the glass and he brought it up to his nose; sniffing at it suspiciously. Duo laughed throatily and downed half of his glass easily. "C'mon Yuy, you can do better than that. Be a man and knock it back!"Heero glared at the murky alcohol hatefully; as if it were to blame for the position he was currently in. He knew that Duo liked to drink when he was in a tense situation. He also knew that Duo knew that he wasn't much of a drinker. It was pretty clear in his mind that unless he drank it, the other man probably wouldn't say a word. He wanted Heero nice and... Loose. He had always felt more confidant when Heero wasn't at his usual 110%; he felt less threatened. It was incredibly foolish to get drunk with someone who could possibly want him dead, but Heero didn't know what else to do. He had to talk to Duo. He had to make sure that his mission wasn't compromised by the other man's presense and even though they weren't anywhere near being on good terms, he had to find out why Duo was in a place like this. It was risky as hell.. but he was going to chance it. Besides... he owed it to Duo. He was lucky the longhaired man was giving him a chance at all, so he wasn't going to turn it down now.

Seeing that he had no other choice if he wanted to have a civil conversation with his ex-lover, Heero downed the entire glass. He practically slammed it against the table when he was done and winced at the bitter taste. "That tastes like shit."Duo shrugged again and finished the rest of his before refilling both glasses. "That may be true, but it's strong and I want you drunk."

Heero's eyebrow twitched as he stared at his refilled glass. "I'll play your game if you answer some questions. I'll be happy to answer any you have for me."Duo leaned back in his seat and swirled the liquid in his glass. "I don't have any questions for you.""None at all?" Heero asked with a raised brow.

"Nope. I know why you're here." He took a long sip of the Absinthe. "You're on a mission to bring down Quinton Tech and the boss lady thinks getting in The Game is the easiest way to get to him."

Heero nursed his drink and glared at the other man. "Maybe. Maybe not."

Duo rolled his eyes. "Give me a break, Heero. I know damn well you didn't decide to come slumming in Chicago for no damn reason. I'm sure you were heartbroken when Barbie dumped you, but not enough to come street fighting in the ghetto."Anger flared inside of him and Heero drank the rest of his drink before refilling the glass himself. "I don't want to talk about Relena. There are bigger issues at hand here, so try to be professional for twenty fucking minutes so I can talk to you seriously."

Duo's eyes practically lit up when he saw that he was getting to Heero. Alcohol always made his emotions so transparent. "Professional, huh? A professional what, exactly? I quit the Preventers two years ago."

Heero slammed the glass on the table after knocking back another swallow. "Yeah and what the hell was that about, anyway? Leaving like that, worrying everyone--""We're here to talk about business, remember Heero?" Duo cooed sweetly.

The Japanese man grit his teeth in frustration. The alcohol was making his thoughts fuzzy. "You know why I'm here, Duo. Why are you here?"

Duo's eyes slanted away and he took a long, what he thought was casual, drink. "Why shouldn't I be here? These are my kind of people, aren't they? Thieves, bums, derelicts.. The whole nine." He shrugged casually and plastered a fake smirk across his face. "Too many memories on L2 so I thought I'd start fresh as a bum somewhere else, and Chicago seemed to be the best place."Heero snorted and drank the rest of his glass before refilling again. "You are so full of shit."Duo glared at him hotly. "What the hell do you know about it?"

"I know you think way more of yourself than that line of crap you just gave me. Stop trying to be a hard ass and tell me the truth."

"Fuck you, Yuy," Duo spat coldly. "You know shit about me and even less about what I think. You don't even know me."

Heero glared back. "Yeah, we just fucked for three years and I barely knew you, right?""That's right," Duo snarled. "We. Just. Fucked."

Heero flinched and sat up straight, realizing what Duo was insinuating with that remark. "That's not what I meant! It was more--"

Duo shook his head quickly, and gripped the edge of the table with thin, scarred hands. "Just forget it, Yuy. We're not going there. If you want me to work with you, don't bring that shit up again. It'll just piss me off and there will be a sequel to that fight in The Cage."

"What makes you think I want you to work with me?" Heero stared down his nose at Duo and hoped he looked as cold as he thought he did. He probably just looked drunk and foolish.

Duo snorted. "Because I'm better at this undercover shit than you? Because I doubt you followed me all the way down here to reminisce about old times and drink alcohol that tastes like piss?"

Heero opened his mouth to deny it, found that his brain couldn't form a coherent denial, and shut it. He settled for shrugging and saying "Hn."

"So I guess you're wondering why I'm being all civil and stuff, right?" Duo asked shrewdly. He stared at Heero through narrowed, indigo eyes and raised one eyebrow.Heero thought about that and realized he hadn't been wondering anything except why he felt so fucked up from the Evil Green Liquor and why Duo looked as though he had been sipping tea for the whole time. He shrugged and decided that "Maybe" was a safe reply.

"Because..." Duo trailed off for a moment. He shook his head slightly and pushed his fourth glass of Absinthe away. "Because I know you're taking down Tech and I can help you do it. Without me-- you're toast."Heero narrowed his eyes and leaned forward, swaying a bit as he moved. "Why would you want to take down the man you've been fighting for?"

Duo's eyes hardened slightly. "I don't fight for anyone, Yuy. Let's get that straight right damn now. I fight in the cage because it's easy money for me to take out those scumbags who go to the Meat Market. Ain't none of them anything but rapists and murderers, so why the fuck should I care about killing 'em? Tech just happens to be the one sponsoring the fights. And as for why I'd wanna help take him down-- well that's just none of your damn business." He sat back, looking quite smug about the fact that he delivered the entire speech without slurring his words once.Heero nodded slowly, processing everything he had just heard. "And you and me...""There ain't no 'you and me', Yuy. After Tech is finished, it's sayonara baby. You won't see me again."Heero frowned at that. He knew that was a bad thing but he couldn't remember why. He had to think about this some more after he got some rest. He felt suspiciously dizzy at the moment. "And you and me.." He stopped for a moment and remembered that there was no 'you and me'. "We will go over mission parameters..." He stopped again and squinted at the nearly empty bottle of Absinthe. "We'll talk about this more, tomorrow."Duo nodded and got to his feet unsteadily; shoving the bottle in one of his huge pockets. "Just remember... You an' me are finished. I don' wanna talk about it no more, ever. Got it? If you try any funny stuff, I'll kick your ass just on general principle. None of those soulful, vulnerable looks you be giving people when you wanna get yer way, got it? Not fallin' for that shit again. Rather die." By this time his words were so slurred it was hard to make out what he was saying. Well it was hard for Heero, anyway... but then again everyone sounded like they were talking under water at the moment.Heero grabbed the edge of the table and stood up, swaying slightly on his feet before he reprimanded himself for being such a lightweight drinker. "Got it." He spun around a little too fast and teetered dangerously before standing up straight. He squared his shoulders and began marching towards the backdoor. At this point he didn't think he'd make it to the front door without falling at least once and he was determined not to make a fool of himself in front of Duo. The man already had no respect for him as a friend or a partner. If he went around making a drunken idiot of himself, it would just make matters worse.

He shoved through the dented, metal backdoor of the bar and stumbled a bit as he looked at the surrounding alley. It was dark, narrow and an extremely bad place for a paranoid ex-soldier to be strolling through when he was drunk off his ass. He moved forward slowly, eyes darting around as he took in all the doors and windows and places where a hostile party could easily jump at him. When he was about half-way down the dark path, he heard footsteps behind him. Even in his drunken state, he knew that it wasn't Duo. Duo walked silently and gracefully, the person behind him was lumbering down the alley noisily; making it obvious that he was either a bad pickpocket or a cocky thug.Heero turned around and dropped into a fighting stance, eyeing his assailant boredly. He immediately recognized the kid as one of the teenagers who had been sitting on the stoop near Duo's building. He had two more guys behind him and Heero knew that there was a fourth attacker somewhere nearby; he could feel their eyes on him. "What?" That single word made it obvious that Heero was rather unconcerned about the supposed odds and was just irritated at what he viewed as a slight inconvenience in his plan to go to his motel and sleep off the booze.

The kid in the front, with the messy red hair and freckles, raised an eyebrow. "You sure got a lot of attitude for someone who's surrounded. I suggest you give me your wallet and whatever else you got under that fancy coat of yours."Heero sized each guy up quickly. "If you're going to attack me, just do it and shut the hell up." As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he heard a door creak open at seven o'clock of his position. He spun around quickly, foot swinging out in a wide arc as the toe of his boot caught the fourth attacker in the jaw. His stomach churned violently at the motion, but he fought down the dizziness and nausea and ducked as the other three rushed at him as a pack.

His fighting was sloppy and slow compared to his usual technique, but he was still better than them. An uppercut caught one of them hard in the face and a single kick to the groin sent the other crashing to the ground with a high pitched groan. However his senses were severely dulled by deadly alcohol he had been chugging and he heard the whooshing sound seconds too late. Before he could duck, a cheap move had him crashing to the ground as a brick slammed into the side of his head.

The last thing he saw before he blacked out, was a single, silent figure leaping down from its perch on one of the many fire escapes and the sound of blows being exchanged as people fought. A drunken grin ghosted across his lips and Heero passed out with this single thought in mind: Maybe he doesn't hate me so much after all.

+

The smell of frying bacon woke Heero up, but he didn't bother opening his eyes as a searing pain coursed through the side of his head. He quickly evaluated the status of his body and came to the conclusion that he didn't have anything more than a hangover, a mild concussion and a shit load of cuts and bruises. He opened his eyes into slits and immediately snapped them shut when bright, blinding sunlight tried to penetrate his eyelids. Who's bright idea had it been to leave the shades open?

That question immediately led to another. Where was he? He slogged through his memories of the previous day and quickly recalled his fight with Duo, their argument, their later decision to work together and to his mortification he remembered losing a fight to a bunch of punk kids and being saved by Duo. Just great.He took a deep breath and slowly opened his eyes. The first thing he noticed was that he was lying in Duo's bed, in Duo's bedroom. The second thing he noticed was that there was a rather small child with huge eyes staring at him from a chair on the opposite side of the room. They made eye contact and stared at each other for a long moment. The first horrifying thought that crossed Heero's mind was that the child was Duo's. His eyes narrowed and he glared at the boy. "Who are you?"

The kid hopped off the chair and waltzed over to him, plopping down boldly on the bed. "Duo told me to keep an eye on ya," he proclaimed proudly. "He said ta make sure you din' do nothin' stupid, like pullin' at the bandage on ya head."Heero noted for the first time that there was indeed, a bandage on the side of his head where he had been hit with the brick. He stared at the kid's mess of black curls and noted that they almost had the same eye color. "What else did Duo say?"Dark blue eyes rolled upward and one grubby finger tapped against his olive skin in a 'thinking' gesture. "He saaaid..." He drew out the word slowly. "...That you was a fuckin' asshole and that he shoulda just let ya die!" The words were spoken so brightly that for a moment, Heero didn't even process the fact that he had just been insulted. When it did process, he scowled darkly and sat up. He glared at the kid and yanked the bandage off of his head. "Thanks for the message," He growled and threw the sheet off of his body.The kid glared at the bandage and jumped off the bed. He and Heero engaged in an intense staring match for several moments before he dashed out of the room, hollering: "Duoo! The fuckin' asshole took his bandage off!"

Heero got out of the bed and muttered darkly for several moments as he tried to ignore the throbbing in his brain. He still had his pants on, but he was bootless and shirtless. He spotted his coat in a pile on the floor in the corner and saw that his gun was resting on top of the vanity dresser. He scrubbed his hands over his face and took a long breath as he tried to get his bearings. Obviously Duo had calmed down some from the previous night, or he wouldn't have bothered treating Heero's wounds at all. That was comforting at least.

He started out of the room and as he made his way up the hallway and towards what he figured was the kitchen; he heard snippets of conversation between Duo and the child. "Who is that guy, anyways? He's pretty weird lookin'," The boy was saying.Heero could hear Duo laughing. "Don't worry about it, Jules. I pay you to do your job, not ask questions about my visitors. How's Diane?"

The little boy snorted. "Why you always askin' 'bout my mom? You better not be flirtin' with her when I'm not around or there'll be big *trouble*!"Duo laughed again and brushed off the statement. "Now you remember, buddy-- Give that money to your mother and only keep two dollars for yourself. If I find out you swindled me, I'll kick your little butt, got it?"

There was an exaggerated sigh. "Yeah, yeah, I got it." The kid said in an exasperated tone.As Heero entered the kitchen he saw Duo walking Jules to the door. "Don't spend it all in one place or anything like that," Duo said cheerfully, knowing damn well that two dollars couldn't even buy a bag of chips these days.The kid gave Duo an annoyed looked and loped out the door. "Yeah, yeah... fuckin' cheapskate." He slammed the door shut behind him.

Heero raised an eyebrow at the longhaired man. "What was that all about?"

Duo's face immediately closed up and the slightly amused _expression disappeared. "I give him money for bullshit jobs sometimes. He has too much pride to accept handouts so I invent shit for him to do. Call me a sucker."Heero shrugged and sat down at the breakfast nook. "Sucker."

Duo made a face and turned back to the stove, where he was frying bacon and making scrambled eggs in the same pan. "Let's get something straight Yuy--""We're not anything, not partners, friends or even acquaintances. I remember the whole spiel from last night," Heero snapped as he put his head in his hands and massaged his temples.

Duo stiffened slightly but managed a shrug. "Good, I'm just making sure you remember, is all." He pulled the pan off the burner and dumped equal portions of food on the two plates he had set out. "I didn't cook you breakfast to be nice, just so you know. I just need you in working order if I'm going to help you take down Tech."

Heero rolled his eyes. He was getting really irritated by the way Duo kept implying that he needed his help. He was a perfectly capable Level 8 Field Agent and he didn't need anyone's help for the task assigned him. "Well, the only reason I'm *letting* you help is because if you're not working with me, you'd just be in the damn way. And I still want an explanation as to why you're after Tech yourself."

Duo shrugged and shoveled some eggs into his mouth. "Well you're going to be waiting for quite a long time then, buddy."

"If you hate me so goddamn much, why the hell did you save my ass last night? You looked like you wanted to kill me yourself in The Cage, so why not let those punk kids do it for you?" The question was out of Heero's mouth before he could stop it, but he was getting frustrated with the other man. Duo began concentraing very hard on his plate. "Look Yuy, I'm angry at you, hell I used to hate your guts, but I don't want you dead. Yeah, yeah, I know what you're thinking. If I don't want you dead, why did I attack you like a freakin' animal in The Cage then, right? Well what the hell did you think was gonna happen!? I didn't expect to see you right then, it was a fuckin' shock and I got angry all over again and I just wanted you to be gone." The last couple of sentences were rushed out as if he were embarrassed about it. "Besides..." He smirked then. "If anyone's gonna kill you, it's gonna be me."

Heero rolled his eyes. "Wishful thinking will get you nowhere, Maxwell." They lapsed into silence after that and Heero could tell that Duo was very uncomfortable about the fact that they were semi getting along. Heero wasn't going to push the discussion any further but he had caught Duo's slip up when he said that he "used to hate" Heero. The revelation that he didn't hate him anymore, was extremely pleasing.

Heero bit into one of the crisp slices of bacon and mulled over the information he had been given since the previous day. He was on the right track so far but Duo was definitely a wild card and he couldn't trust that the man was being completely honest with him. They hadn't seen each other in two years and Duo had made it quite obvious that he was holding something, maybe more than one thing, back. Heero didn't like surprises and he liked them even less when they were from someone he couldn't trust. He looked up at Duo and was disturbed to see that the man was staring at him with a peculiar _expression on his face. As soon as their eyes met, Duo looked away and his face drifted into blank indifference. Heero knew the _expression well.

"Do you have anything to drink?" Duo looked at him, startled by the sudden question. He eyed Heero for a moment and pulled a bottle from the cupboard above the stove. He plopped it down in front of Heero and smirked. "Drink up, Heero-Boy."

Heero stared in horror at the bottle of Absinthe and noted that there was just enough for two drinks. "I'd rather dehydrate and die."

Duo grinned and pulled the cap off, downing a large swallow of the liquor easily. "I can't wait."The Japanese man stabbed at his eggs hatefully. This was going to be a long mission.

+

A/N - I know realistically, they'd be more drunk than they were.. but I'm figuring in the whole "Gundam pilot, high tolerance to stuff" theory. *shrug*

[part 2] [part 4] [back to Aya's fic]