Author: Caroline
see chap. 1 for warnings, notes

The Medallion: Part the Eighth
A Close Shave

They ordered room service, enough for four, as Heero still had a tremendous appetite. They watched a little TV and played cards - gin rummy as Duo refused to play poker again - until midnight. Duo had called ahead for a cab and they found it waiting for them when they went downstairs just a few minutes after midnight.

Duo watched the mostly empty streets fly by as they drove through the city to the suburbs where his apartment was located. He chewed on his fingernails, hoping he wasn't making a mistake and endangering Heero. Not that he was in any physical danger – well, mortal danger at least – but he wanted to keep Relena's grubby little lying paws off Heero until he was free of her. It had become a personal vendetta for him, though the thought of anyone else putting their grubby little paws on Heero sent him into a silent rage as well.

He glanced at Heero out of the corner of his eye and shyly let his hand slide over to rest on top of Heero's. Heero turned from where he'd been looking out of the window, startled as he looked down at their joined hands. He smiled at Duo, squeezed his hand and turned to look out at the city once more. It was amazing how much better he felt from just that simple contact.

It took just over forty-five minutes to get to his apartment, even with traffic being scarce. Duo winced as he paid the driver and asked him to wait across the street for them. The driver nodded and let them out about a block from Duo's apartment building. He didn't want to be quite so obvious about arriving at his own front door. He had his braid tucked down the back of his shirt and made Heero wear a cap. Not the best of disguises, but he was hoping just to fool anyone who might be watching only for a little bit so he could grab his clothes.

He shivered in the chilly night air, blowing onto his fingers to keep them warm. He knew he should have just gone to the clothing store he'd found with Heero and bought something new, but he didn't want to. He was tired of being put out by Relena, and he wanted the familiarity of his own clothes and his old, but warm, jacket.

They crossed the street and Duo was about to point out his building when he saw a familiar figure leaning against the stone railing that went up the steps and into the building.

"Shit!" Duo grabbed Heero's arm and pulled him into an alley between two buildings. He pushed Heero against the brick wall, motioning him to be quiet. He took a deep breath and peered around the corner...

He swore again, grabbed Heero's arm and took off running down the alley. He could hear the man screaming at them to stop and the crackling whine of a radio before Duo led Heero out into another street.

"Who was that?" Heero asked, looking over his shoulder as he ran.

"Th-that was Alex," Duo panted as he led Heero down the street and onto a side street. "One of Relena's goons." He jerked Heero up a set of steps and into a small park-like area. They ran for the playground equipment; Duo all but pushing Heero into a crawl tube shaped like a giant caterpillar. It was a tight fit, and Duo found himself pressed up against Heero's chest as he drew his legs inside.

The only sound for a long moment was the sound of their breathing, as each tried to regain his breath. "Shit, shit, shit," Duo mumbled, huddling closer to Heero as it was damn cold in the tube. "I figured it was a given she'd be having my place watched. I didn't think she'd have someone sitting outside my fucking front door!"

Heero wrapped an arm around him, pulling him closer. He laid a finger on Duo's lips.

Duo stopped breathing. He strained to hear anything. He heard the muffled thump of footsteps close by and he clutched his hands in Heero's shirt as his heart pounded in his ears so loud, he was sure whoever was outside could hear it.

The footsteps paused. Duo heard a muffled curse and the sound of a cell phone being flipped open.

"It's me." Duo recognized Alex's voice. "They were here. No. I lost them in the park. Headed for Poirot Street I think. No! Look I... They saw me first!" The voice gradually faded as Alex moved away. Duo let out the breath he'd been holding.

"That was close," Heero whispered. Duo shivered at the sensation of the man's breath against his ear. He breathed in raggedly, clutching tighter to Heero, just for warmth he told himself as he shivered in the cold tube. He heard Heero's breath catch in his throat, and his shivering increased. Or he thought it had until Duo moved his hand to Heero's shoulder and realized the other man was trembling.

"Heero? I think it's okay. You can relax."

Heero shook his head, and the trembling increased. "N-no. It's not that. I..." He bit off what he was about to say with effort. Duo started to panic.

"Heero? God... what's wrong? Are you cold?"

"N-no. Not cold. I just... too long... I need..."

Duo wrapped his arms securely around Heero, pulling him close, rubbing his back in what he hoped was a soothing manner. "Tell me what you need."

Heero went still. Duo pulled back, and though it was dark in the tube, he could see the glint of Heero's eyes. Then Heero's lips were on his, and his cry of surprised protest was swallowed as Heero coaxed his mouth open and slid his tongue along Duo's.

Duo went limp. The taste of Heero overwhelmed his senses. The arm that had been wrapped around Heero fell bonelessly to his side. Heero took advantage of Duo's surrender and pulled him closer, strong arms holding him tightly in the dark. Duo's head swam as he moved his tongue against Heero's, sighing softly into the other man's mouth. He shivered, though whether it was from the heat of Heero's kiss or the cold metal under his ass, he wasn't sure.

The kiss lasted for what seemed like hours, but breathing became a necessity and Duo reluctantly pulled away, gasping for air. Heero was panting equally as hard. Duo groaned at the thought of anything on Heero being hard. He fought his treacherous body for control. His body put up a good fight – if Duo had let it, his body would have had Heero pinned against the curve of the tube and stripped him bare despite the temperature. It was only the fear of freezing his nuts off that made him push Heero gently away.

"I... I think he's gone. We should go before we freeze to death." He peered at Heero through the darkness. "Are you all right?"

He heard Heero draw in a deep, shuddering breath. "I am better now. Thank you."

Duo crawled out of the tube first, offering his hand to Heero to help him up. The blue light of a security lamp filtered through the trees. Duo narrowed his eyes and peered at Heero's face. "Are you sure you're okay? You look a little pale," he remarked, feeling worried.

Heero shook his head. "It's the light. And I am chilled."

Duo sighed, wrapping his arms around himself. "I guess we'll just go back to the hotel. I'll worry about clothing later."

Heero pulled him close, wrapping his arms around him again. "You don't have to worry about clothes, you know," he whispered, his voice husky in Duo's ear.

Duo blushed. "S-stop that, Heero."

"Why?"

Duo closed his eyes, fighting with his body once more. "You... you deserve more."

"I am happy with what I have."

Duo couldn't find the words to answer him. He felt as though he were being torn apart, his mind at war with his body... and his heart, he realized with a start. He trembled.

Heero took his arm. "Come on. Let's get you out of the cold."

+

They'd found a pay phone and called another cab to take them back to the hotel as Duo didn't want to risk going back for the one they'd left behind. He shivered the whole way back, though he really couldn't tell if it was just from the change in the weather. Heero was looking a little pale himself, so Duo sent him into the bathroom when they returned for a nice, hot, relaxing soak in the Jacuzzi bath while he grabbed the phone and called Zechs.

He had to redial four times before the blond answered his cell phone.

"...lo?"

"Jesus, Zechs. I dialed a million times. What the hell were you doing? Wait. Nevermind. I don't want to know."

"Duo?"

"No, it's the tooth fairy. I want my tutu back."

"It's at the cleaners. I'll have it to you by next Tuesday," Zechs replied with a yawn.

"Was that a yawn? Shit, were you actually sleeping?"

"No, I'm on my third cup of coffee, trying to wake up. Jet lag is a bitch."

"Jet lag?" Duo paused. "Wait a minute. Where the hell are you?"

"Paris."

"Paris?" Duo took the phone away from his ear and blinked at. "Paris... France?"

"No, Paris, Kentucky. The men are right purty even if they don't have most of their teeth." There was a pause. "Though, now that I think about it, that might be to their advantage."

"What the hell are you doing in Paris?" Duo asked, incredulous.

"Pastry conference. It's a big thing. Had it booked for months and I couldn't back out."

"But... I need you here!"

"Incubus can't satisfy you? Damn... though, as I recall, you always were the insatiable one," Zechs replied. Duo could hear him sip what he assumed was coffee.

"Shut up, éclair for brains. Your sister's goon almost caught us tonight." Duo quickly gave him a rundown on the night's events.

"You sure the guy didn't follow you back to the hotel?" Zechs asked. Duo could hear the worry in his voice. The big lug might have been one giant, walking set of hormones, but it warmed Duo's heart to know Zechs cared for him.

"No. We lost him. But damn, I didn't think she'd have someone waiting outside my door. She's nuts!" He sat down heavily on the bed. "Christ, listen to us. We sound as if we're running for our lives here. Do you think we've just blown this whole thing out of proportion?"

"No. My sister, she can be wildly unpredictable in her actions. She's not dangerous, but she can make your life miserable, Duo. Heero's too. Just stay out of her hair while you have Heero. Then, when your month is up, hide the medallion, or give it to someone whom Relena will never find."

Duo's heart clenched at the thought of giving Heero to someone else. He didn't want to do that, didn't want to let him go. He dropped his head into his free hand. He was so in trouble.

"Okay. We'll just stay here. But I have a problem. I need warmer clothes."

"I'm surprised you need clothes at all."

"Zechs. Will you get your mind out of the gutter?"

"Why? It's warm and all my friends are here. Why don't you just go out and buy something new?"

"Because I don't want something new. I want what's mine. I like what's mine!" he snapped, then sighed. "Look, I'm sorry. I just want my own clothes is all."

"Hm. I think I may have an idea. Sit tight for now. I'll send someone for you tomorrow night."

Duo hesitated. "Is that wise?"

"It'll be someone I trust. I promise you, Duo."

"Okay. Thanks, Zechs. You know I... well, you know I love you."

"I know. I love you, too." Zechs paused then. "Look, Duo. I'm sorry things between us..."

"You don't have to say it," Duo interrupted. "I'm not. We were wrong for each other, in that way. I love you much better as my friend."

"Thanks, Duo. You don't know how much that means to me."

"I think I do. Hurry home, okay?"

"I'll be back by the end of the week. Be careful."

"I will."

They said their good-byes and hung up. Duo looked at the phone a little wistfully, then decided to chase Heero from the bathroom so he could have a turn at the Jacuzzi.

+

The next evening found Heero sitting on the floor in front of the couch, watching old reruns of "Dallas" and eating a bowl of french fries ordered from room service. Duo sat behind him, sipping a milkshake and trying to keep his fingers from wandering off his lap and into Heero's hair. The damn things seemed to have minds of their own.

There was a knock on the door. Both Duo and Heero tensed. Throwing Heero a look, Duo got up and quickly crossed the room to the door. He peered through the peephole, frowning when he didn't recognize the man on the other side.

The man knocked again. Duo turned to Heero and shrugged. Heero stood.

"Oh come on! I can see the shadow of your feet under the door! Open up" the man on the other side called out.

Duo looked down at his feet and hastily took a step back. "Who are you?"

"My name is Wufei. I was at the Peacecraft party with you a couple of weeks ago. Zechs sent me."

Duo narrowed his eyes and stepped back to the peephole. "Turn around."

"What?"

"Just do it."

Shaking his head and muttering something under his breath, the man turned. Duo's eyes dropped and widened in appreciation. He'd only seen the Asian man Zechs had disappeared with that night from behind. But he never forgot a delicious looking ass. He stepped back and unbolted the door, letting the man in.

"Sorry for the suspicion," he said as he stepped aside to allow the other man entrance. "It's been kind of a crazy couple of weeks."

A large but soft garbage sack was shoved into his chest, sending Duo stumbling back a step to crash against the wall. Heero was up in a flash, but Duo stepped in front of him before he could reach Wufei and rip his arms off or tear off some other part of his body.

"Heero! Down, boy. Jeez." Duo turned back to Wufei. "Not very friendly, are you?"

Wufei crossed his arms in front of his chest. "Sorry," he muttered, not looking at Duo.

Duo glanced at Heero who was still looking murderous and shrugged.

"I take it you didn't exactly, ah... volunteer for this," Duo said as he hefted the bag that he assumed contained his clothes before he set it down. Damn, but they were going to be wrinkled.

Wufei sniffed. "No." He looked back at Duo. "But how would you feel if your boyfriend called you from god-knows-where and told you to get the key for his *ex*-lover's apartment, which he handily keeps on his own keyring, pack some clothes and bring them to one of the nicest hotels in the city?"

Duo blinked. "Wha... did you think he was here? With me?" He blinked again. "Did you just say boyfriend?"

Wufei shrugged. "No, I didn't really think he was here. But... he talks about you all the time. Don't you think that's a little unusual for someone who is supposed to be an *ex*?"

"I... I don't know. Zechs is the only 'ex' I've ever had. But go back to the part about the boyfriend."

Wufei huffed. "He left me a voice mail two days ago, spinning some bullshit about having to rush off to Paris to attend a conference on pastry. Then last night... no, early this morning – real early, I might add – he calls and tells me to go get your clothes." He shook his head. "Is this some kind of weird break-up ritual of his or something?"

"Uh, Zechs is a pastry chef and he is in Paris. I called him last night," Duo replied, feeling confused. "Look, about the boyfriend thing..."

"A pastry chef? I thought he owned that French place on 3rd. La Boheme?"

"He does. But he has a manager to run the place. He prefers working with pastry."

"Oh. Well... I haven't had a chance to see him at work yet." He shifted on his feet and looked at Heero with an eye of appreciation. "And since you're here with *him*, I guess he isn't still seeing you behind my back."

"Zechs and I haven't been together like that since college. We're just friends now." He paused. "How... how long have you two been together?"

"Just a month. I asked to go with him to his sister's party because I wanted to meet you." He averted his eyes again. "But I didn't have the courage after I saw you in person."

"Wait... you were scared... of me?" His eyes widened so far he felt they might burst out of their sockets. "You really like him!"

The man stiffened and blushed. "I do. But... how do I compete with your ghost?"

Duo took Wufei's arm and patted it as he led the man to the couch. "There's nothing to compete against. Zechs is my best friend and I... I'm with... someone else." For only two more weeks, he thought miserably.

"Be that as it may... well, maybe you can help me." He turned eager eyes on Duo. "I like him. A lot. Maybe more than I should at this point. It's just... he hasn't been exactly... I can't really tell... if he likes me in return."

Duo snorted. "He's still seeing you after a month. That should be your indicator right there." At Wufei's confused look, Duo continued. "I was 'with' Zechs on and off for about a year in college. Before that, and since then, the longest he's ever seen of the same person is about three days. And since you're still around, there must be something in you that he likes."

Wufei looked slightly panicked. "But what do I do? How do I keep him?"

Duo shook his head. "I'm not really the one to be asking that, but... my advice is to just be yourself. You know of his family history, right?" At Wufei's nod of affirmation, Duo said, "Too many people want to get close to him because he's a prince. Or would have been. Or for his money or position. Those kind of people he'll play with before dropping them like last week's newspaper in the recycling bin. Just see him for who he is, not what he is."

"I don't care about any of that," Wufei replied with a conviction that let Duo know he was sincere.

"Then you're on the right track," Duo smiled at him. He looked up at Heero who was standing protectively behind him. "This is Heero, by the way. Why don't we order some more food and the three of us can get to know each other? Maybe I can give you a little advice on dating Tall, Pale and Blond."

Wufei was silent for only a moment. "I think I'd like that. Thank you."

[part 7] [part 9] [back to Caroline's fic]