by Bronze Tigress


"Dorothy! Doro! Where are ya, Dor'thy?" Duo's voice rings through the hallway before him, announcing his approach to all and sundry. Covert Ops comes to a halt as heads turn to watch the progress of one of the Numbers through the main common area of the unit as he heads directly for the office of one of the unit's two chief Agents. An Agent in the middle of the floor takes one look at his determined face and ground-eating stride before abruptly bolting for the safety of the nearest wall.

Dorothy's office door opens, and the familiar platinum-blonde head pops out. "Duo? What are you doing here? Come in, come in..." She stands with her back against the door, holding it open until Duo has entered, then lets the door swing shut as she follows him in. The rest of the department, abruptly balked by the soundproofed doors and windowless walls, turns back to whatever it had been doing before the interruption.

Duo flings himself into the visitor's chair, and begins speaking even as Dorothy is moving towards her own seat behind the desk. "You know the Saitoushi case, right? Wufei's going to talk to the witness, and he needs to take female backup - into Chinatown's District. I'm the only one qualified, and I need you to make me look the part."

Dorothy looks at Duo as if he has just announced that he is planning to take up turning tricks for fun and profit in his spare time.

Then again, maybe that isn't such an inaccurate description of what's going to be required.

Dorothy shakes her head. "Does Wufei know about this? Or perhaps I should ask if he's agreed to it, instead?"

Duo nods. "He said, if I could find qualified backup that wouldn't stand out, he'd take backup. I'm qualified, and Dorothy, I know how to act the part for that job. I just need to look the part. That's why I'm here."

"You know how to act like a cheap whore? I don't even want to know, Duo. Alright, take your clothes off and stand up over there, let's see what I'm working with here," she says, opening a desk drawer and rummaging in it. After a minute's searching, she finds a tape measure, and looks up to find Duo, already shirtless, hooking his thumbs into his pants to pull them off. "Leave your shorts on, Duo. I've got someone coming through with a load of files sometime this afternoon and she never knocks. You'd think she'd learn after the first few nosebleeds, but she wasn't hired for her brains."

"Hmph. I see now why you wanted an office without glass. Does Tro know what you do with your male visitors in here, Doro?" There is just a hint of wicked amusement in Duo's voice as he drops the second-to-last item of his clothing on the chair and moves to stand in the cleared space in the middle of the room.

"What, take their measures? Of course he does," she answers back, straight-faced, then quirks one eyebrow at him, "or were you wondering about the fittings?" She can't hold back the laugh when Duo widens his eyes and then flushes. "Relax, Duo, this part's painless, really. I do it all the time, and I've never even pinched myself. Now, getting the padding to stay put properly is going to be a bit more fun. Arms up to the sides, please?" Dorothy steps up to him, close enough that Duo can feel her breath against his bare chest, and then passes her hands around his waist, coming back with the tape measure held taut between them around his back.

"Um, Doro, I know you know what you're doing," he says, peering down at the tape around his ribs just below his pectorals, "but shouldn't that be up a couple of inches?"

"Nope. Don't need your chest measurement, need a bra size - unless you happen to know what that is? Didn't think so. Breathe in. Breathe out. Hold it!" She deftly checks a number, then loosens the tape before telling him, "Okay, you can breathe normally again." The tape is checked again, then let drop to rest at the small of his back. "I'm sure you'll excuse me here a moment," she says, pushing the top edge of Duo's boxers down an inch and completely ignoring the startled look he gives her as she snugs the tape around his waist and checks the numbers before putting his clothing back in its proper place. "Okay, you can put your arms down now."

Dorothy drops the end of the tape in her right hand, and turns to scribble something on a yellow notepad on the desk, then turns back to face Duo again. "I'll need you to turn around now, and put your hair 'round to the front for me, please?" Duo blinks, then mutely does as he is told.

Duo can't help but tense at the feel of cool, slender fingers and the chill of the tape against his shoulders as she measures across them just above his armpits. Then the tape moves to his spine as the end is laid against one of the vertebrae at the bottom of his neck and the length of it is smoothed downwards. Dorothy's hand stops once at the middle of his back, and again at his waist. Then her top hand moves to his waist, and the other slips down over the curve of his ass to end somewhere in free space. To judge by the way Dorothy is bent over, she has her head about level with his knees. Then she comes around to his side, and repeats the measurement from his waist downwards, hand running the tape down the outside of his leg and stopping at a point just below crotch level, again at the top of his knee, and finally just below it. She stands, and moves to the desk to scribble again before telling him, "Okay, that's all, you can get dressed again. What's your shoe size?"

Duo blinks, processes for a moment and then tells her. She nods, scribbles, and comments, "Good, that shouldn't be too hard to find. And you're what, 170 tall now?"

"172," Duo enunciates, grinning brightly. "Still growing! Think there's a few more in me yet, too..."

Dorothy nods. "Well, try to hang onto them for the next few weeks, okay?" She laughs lightly. "So, now, tell me what you want to look like for this assignment..."

Details are laid out, and a sketch emerges on Dorothy's pad, a few odd-seeming ruler lines being drawn in at various points corresponding with some of the measurements she took - so she can check how the proportions will work, Dorothy explains. The resulting sketch gets colours, then - black and red standing out sharply on the pale newsprint - and a new hairstyle. Satisfied, Dorothy sits back and flips the sketch around for Duo to check over. "So, what do you think of your new look?"

"Huh. Those better be higher," he points, "but that looks about right. And I'll have to pick up some gum, too. Oh - a small purse or something - need somewhere to keep my badge and a gun. How soon, Doro? I'm going to need to practice the walk, and I need the shoes at least for that," Duo says.

"Hmm. Those, tomorrow probably, if you're not too picky on the style. The rest, come back the day after that, and we can check the fit. Sound good?"

"Sounds good. Thanks, Dorothy, I owe you one."

"Nonsense. I owe you two one. At least one. Now, shoo, and give that man of yours a kiss from me, 'kay?" Dorothy looks Duo up and down and then gets up to open the door for him. As Duo is passing by her, however, she hauls him back by a belt loop. "Hang on, you're coming undone here." Quick hands tuck something at his waist, and then she gives him a pat on the back. "Can't have you leaving here looking like you've gotten dressed again in a hurry, now." She grins at him, and he smiles right back. "Might start a rumour and we couldn't have that, now could we?"

"Of course not," Duo replies. "Thanks again, Doro. See you tomorrow?"

"Nah, I'll drop them by your place after work. Oh! Mary, there you are! I'll be right with you. My files," she explains to Duo. "We got done just in time, hmm?"

"Looks like!" And he strides purposefully out of the area, leaving Dorothy to deal with Mary and her armload of files.


Duo spends the larger part of the next three evenings practicing his walk - an act which Wufei finds vastly entertaining, since the spiky heels are not at all conducive to Duo's usual strut, and he spends a fair amount of time relearning just how far he can step out. Not only that, but it's a good thing he's practicing in the privacy of their apartment, as the loose sweat pants and skinny T-shirt he is wearing not only emphasize the fact that he is, in fact, quite male, but they don't match each other, much less the shoes. When Wufei raises an eyebrow at Duo's sense of style - or apparent lack thereof - Duo just chuckles. "Where are the fashion police when you need them?" Duo lisps in an exaggerated tone, causing Wufei to first stare, then blink, then howl with laughter.

In a normal tone, Duo notes, some time later, "I'm lucky, though; these actually fit. Some of the guys back on L2 had a lot of trouble getting shoes big enough..."

Wufei cocks an eyebrow at Duo. "And just how, exactly, are you planning to run after me if we have to move?" he asks, eyeing Duo's new speed - or lack thereof.

"Well, you'll just have to make sure that doesn't happen, won't you? I don't think you'd have any luck getting one of the ladies to take up sprinting in these things, either," Duo replies, rather calmly, considering he is currently trying to add an extra hip swing to his movements and is having a little trouble with it. "Maybe you can have tea or something, talk about the kids. See if you can borrow someone's baby pictures and sound very proud of yourself over their little accomplishments. Helps your cover and makes you even more harmless from Saitoushi's point of view if you're not only related but happily fathering kids on someone else."

"Ouch, ask me for something really hard next time, Duo," Wufei winces. "Like maybe tap dancing on my own head."

Duo sashays over briskly - well, as briskly as possible, considering -and wraps his arms around Wufei's shoulders. "I know, love, I know, but you're supposed to be a generation before hers and had you been ten years older, you'd have 'em by now, right? So, you've got a part to play, too. Be happy that you get to be mostly yourself."

"Ai, there is that. Very well, I will see about finding some good pictures," Wufei says, and then drops a kiss on Duo's nose before saying, "Now, shoo - go walk some more."


It is the appointed day, and Duo has spent half the morning in the bathroom. Wufei is beginning to wonder if he needs to offer some assistance, since it is nearly time for him to go, when a redheaded woman steps out, wrapped in a long coat and carrying a pair of shoes that he recognizes. "Okay, baby, I'll see you there," she - no, Duo says.

"Wait just a moment, Duo. Let me see," Wufei commands.

Duo stops, then rather hesitantly undoes the belt of the coat, and undoes a couple of buttons before grasping the sides and holding the coat open, feet planted and hips held squarely in a position as close to his usual pose as possible. It is far from the full effect, but Wufei whistles appreciatively anyway. "Very nice. Oh, yes, very nice indeed. And you're having Heero drive you down and Zechs pick you up afterwards, correct? Make sure you give him a good view when you do get picked up, hmm? Test your theory out," he says, then steps up to lay his hands on Duo's waist. "And - since I'll be getting some as cover - remind me to tell you a story about peaches when you get home. Now," he steps back, "you had best get going - and so had I." Duo isn't quite sure he hears a whispered "I love you", but smiles as he ducks out the door, coat already done up again, to meet Heero to be dropped off for the afternoon.

Perhaps 10 minutes later, Wufei is also on his way out, heading for his jeep to drive to his meeting with Liuli, a folder of borrowed baby pictures tucked into his wallet, and a shopping list in his pocket.


Duo is quiet in the van on the drive over - so quiet that finally, Heero breaks the silence himself to ask, "Nervous about this one, Duo?"

"Hmm? Oh, no, not really, Heero. Just trying to... get into the right frame of mind. I tried very hard to put this part of my past out of my head when I became a Sweeper, but I guess I need it again. Want some gum? I don't think I'm going to need all of this," he offers.

Heero declines with a polite, "Hnn." He pauses to watch a light change and negotiate a turn, then asks, "This part of your past? Do I want to know?"

Duo shakes his head. "Long story. That's my drop off up there?"

Heero nods, then glances over at the sound of cloth rustling. He wordlessly holds the sleeve of the overcoat so Duo can slither out of the garment. Duo leaves the bottom of the coat wrapped around his legs as he changes from the low boots he wore out to the lot into a pair of sky-high ankle-strap stilettos. "Will you be alright out there, dressed like that?"

Duo looks up from where he is fixing a shoe strap. "Sure, no problem. I canvassed the area last week, and found out what the going rate is in this district. All I have to do is price myself right out of the market. I'll be fine, Heero."

"Ah. Okay. Are you sure..."

"Heero, I'll be fine. Trust me, okay? I know what I'm doing, and I don't need backup. I am backup. And if this getup is making you act all protective like this, I definitely owe Dorothy one," he grins, then pops open the door and wriggles out of the van, short-skirted tail first. Once he's standing on the sidewalk, Duo leans in over the seat of the beat-up, sensible Zen(1), pushing his 'cleavage' up between his arms. "Thanks, sugar," he says in a breathy alto that he has obviously spent some time practicing, "and I'll see you later, hmm?" He grabs his small clutch off the seat, leaving the coat and boots piled messily on the floor, straightens, shuts the door behind himself, and sways seductively off down the short stretch of alley towards the main street.

Heero stares after him for a moment, blinks, then shakes his head. "Damn. Chang's one lucky bastard, coming home to that tonight, no matter what's underneath that skirt..." He puts the vehicle in drive, taps the horn lightly - getting a turn and wave from Duo - and heads back for Headquarters.


Wufei arrives a little earlier than his schedule calls for, and so he is strolling quite slowly down the street, stopping to pull the little slip of paper from his pocket, then looking all around at the scenery. There are, even at this hour of the afternoon, several garishly-dressed young women and a couple of pretty boys already lounging provocatively against the walls of some of the buildings. And several of them seem to be discussing something on the far corner of the street, near where he is supposed to be 'discovered' by Liuli. When one of the pretty boys actually raises an arm to point, he looks as well. A figure stands there, head leaning in the open window of a car pulled up by the curb. //Damn fine ass, that.// Then she stands up, and the shock of long brassy-red hair in its high ponytail comes into sight. The car drives off, then stops a few feet further down, in front of another one of the streetwalkers, who gets in after what seems like a bit of discussion.

Wufei rubs his eyes. //Ancestors...// The redhead standing there, one hip cocked in the most professional pose he has ever seen, is clad in the same black and fishnet outfit Duo had been wearing, the same hairstyle. //Well, fuck... that is Duo.// The knowledge isn't helping the tightening in Wufei's groin any. If anything, it's making his small problem that much bigger. //Much bigger problem. Damn. I'm supposed to be here shopping for broccoli and peaches, not a quick lay. Eyes front, Chang.// He checks his slip of paper once again, then spots the small greengrocer's stand on the corner opposite the one where Duo has taken up his position. The tea shop they will be using, he sees, is only a few doors further down.

Determinedly, he begins looking for the items on his list, taking great pains to not look across the street unless he can't avoid it. // It would have to be peaches. As if I weren't having enough trouble keeping my mind off him already!//


The meeting with Liuli has gone off without a hitch. They haven't managed to exchange much information beyond the precise nature of her job (which involves whatever service the Master requires; as she puts it, "honour does not even enter the equation for a footstool"), but Wufei's identity as her cousin, happily married with several small children, has been successfully established, and they have arranged to meet again on her next shopping and outing day two weeks hence. Wufei has promised to bring some pictures from the village to show her, and news of some of her other relatives. Liuli has even received permission for the meeting, although the look in her eyes speaks volumes about the nature of the payment she will probably be required to make for the concession. Still, she shrugs it off as a lesser evil than allowing Saitoushi continued free reign, and Wufei empathizes with the courage that takes.

Wufei checks his watch once the tea is finished and is startled to find how much time has elapsed. He rather shamefacedly makes his excuses, pleading a rather urgent need to return home. His wife has been getting American ideas about her station, and while there are certainly times and places when a spitfire is a blessing, he feels no particular urge to see those pretty features marred by upset today.

Out in the street again, shopping bag in hand, Wufei catches a most tantalizing glimpse of Duo again. He is leaning back against the wall, one hip cocked and one heeled foot resting on the wall, chest thrust out to full advantage. Wufei supposes, idly, that Dorothy could have given him more cleavage, considering his current "job", but the effect, given Duo's slender frame, is more realistic this way. There is enough padding to loudly proclaim, "here stands a woman," without conjuring images of oranges in a sack. In fact, he muses, Dorothy probably stuffed more padding down the back of Duo's shorts than the front of his skimpy top, and whatever she did has given him hips to die for as well. Wufei isn't quite so sure about the red hair, but the way those tattered stockings call attention to those perfect legs... Wufei shakes himself, dragging his attention away from the redhead on the wall to the shopping list in his pocket. //Caramel syrup. He put caramel syrup on the list? Why would he... Hmm...// Oh, the thoughts that ingredient inspires.

Wufei makes good time back to the apartment, even considering the circuitous route and careful use of avoidance protocols. No sense accidentally leading Saitoushi's men back to his home, in case the man decides to double check Cousin Wufei's story, after all...


(1) The brand new 2003 Suzuki Zen is not only a sensible family minivan-cum-SUV, it's also possible to rearrange its insides to simulate a traditional Japanese tea room. Somehow, it seems like an extremely Heero sort of vehicle, no?

[cont] [back to Bronze Tigress' fic]