Aids + Part 2
"Now, now, Lori, I'm a big boy," Duo chuckled. "I can handle him."
"Why bother?" The man rubbed a hand over his crew cut.
"Maybe I like danger?" Duo retorted.
"Maybe you like being stupid?" the man shot back. "I guess a man will do anything for a piece of ass, even if it's another guy's ass."
Duo blushed, but grinned fiercely. "I'm corrupting you."
"You're giving me gray hairs," Lori complained.
"You already have them, old man," Duo snorted and then they both fell silent as the door opened and a burly man shouldered his way inside. He was wearing overalls, had square jawed, blue eyed good looks, and an intensity to him that gave him an aura of 'dangerous'.
"Duo," the man grunted as he leaned on the counter and looked over it at Duo. A cigarette hung out of the corner of his mouth, making a lazy smoke spiral over his head.
"Nick," Duo said pleasantly back.
Nick reached over a ham of a hand, twisted it into Duo's t- shirt, and dragged him up to seize a hard, vicious kiss. Duo grinned into it.
"Tonight," Nick told him as he shoved him away again and Duo plopped back into his chair. "Six."
"Six," Duo agreed.
Nick nodded and then walked out, shoving Milliardo aside as the man was entering. Milliardo glared after him.
"Son," Lori growled. "That man is trouble."
"Yeah," Duo grinned at him, "but he only thinks he's in charge."
"You like that?" Lori wondered in disgust.
Duo shook his head and nodded to Milliardo, a clear sign to drop it.
"Good morning," Milliardo greeted them. "I thought that I should confirm that you received payment."
Duo looked him over with a raised eyebrow. "How do you do that?"
Milliardo blinked, confused. "I beg your pardon?"
Duo smiled and motioned to Milliardo, up and down. "How do you look so together this damned early in the morning? Do you have a little iron to press your uniform?"
Milliardo was in his formal uniform, his hair neatly pulled back in a clip. Duo and his employer were dressed in ragged t-shirts and overalls that were already stained. Duo was wearing a bandana on his head, presumably to protect his hair from the grease, and his hands were protected by thin, leather gloves with the fingers cut off. His hair was a tangled braid and it was again tied at his belt.
"I'm a commander and there are certain dress codes that I must follow," Milliardo felt the need to explain, though he wasn't certain why Duo was making him feel uncomfortable about being neat.
"I see," Duo replied and Milliardo could sense his unvoiced laughter.
"Duo," Lori warned. "He's a customer. Check the inbox and see if we've gotten paid."
"Yes, sir," Duo agreed and pushed a few keys on his computer. He nodded. "Yep, paid in full. Looks like we have some work ahead of us, Pappy. You up for this?"
"Is there a problem?" Milliardo asked in concern.
Duo patted Lori on the arm, but the man jerked it away irritably as Duo replied, "Lori, here, is a war veteran. He has some mechanical gizmos that keep his heart going. He's not supposed to stress them. That's why he hired me."
"I don't know why," Lori grumbled, "You cause your own kind of stress, boy."
Duo grinned. "That would be because of your senility," he teased, but then said to Milliardo more seriously, "I told you that it would take time to repair that part. It's holed, some of the instruments are fried, and it has a twisted mainframe. We were using it for a planter."
It was an opening and Milliardo didn't let it pass. "I don't wish to endanger Mr. Lori's health. I know enough about ship mechanics to be useful. I'll assist you."
Duo made a face, a look of confusion mixed with disbelief. "You're going to get down and greasy with me?"
Milliardo smiled. "Yes."
Duo rubbed at his chin and then looked at Lori. "Your call, boss."
Lori looked skeptical, perhaps a bit intimidated by Milliardo's status. "You won't get a discount," he warned. "That piece of ship is worth every penny I charged you."
"I don't doubt that," Milliardo agreed.
Duo gave him a hard look. "You won't change my mind," Duo warned. "You're putting yourself through this for nothing."
"You are," Lori agreed. "He's a stubborn little bastard and, for once, he's right about his decision. " He leaned on the counter and glared at Milliardo. "He's given enough, don't you think? Leave him alone. Go back where you came from. We'll deliver the part when it's in working order."
"I can't do that," Milliardo replied. "I have to at least try to convince him."
Lori and Duo exchanged a look and then Duo grinned. "He's a lot like, Nick. He thinks he has to control everything."
"Nick?" Milliardo echoed in confusion.
"And you think you can handle him, just like Nick?" Lori wondered acidly. "One day, boy, your going to be wrong about that."
"Probably," Duo chuckled as he stood up, stretched, and then moved out from behind the counter. "But not this time." He motioned to a perplexed Milliardo. "Come on, let's get to work. I think you can drop the fancy coat and tie first, though."
Milliardo dropped his coat and tie on the counter. He unbuttoned two of his top buttons, showing a bit of his bare collar. Turning to Duo, he saw Duo opening his mouth as if he were about to deliver a smart remark. Duo went wide eyed, instead, and the comment died on his lips.
"Shut your mouth, boy, and get the hell to work!" Lori snapped in disgust.
Duo blinked and then looked embarrassed as he pulled his eyes away from Milliardo's small bit of exposed chest. "Yeah, yeah. Come on, Peacecraft, Agent, Milliardo, Zechs... what the hell do I call you, anyway?"
Milliardo was surprised by Duo's obvious interest and it was a moment before he could gather his thoughts for a reply. "Milliardo will do, though I hope you will call me Commander, eventually."
"Okay," Duo said with a snicker, but then he composed himself and said, "Come on, we're burning day cycle."
Duo didn't proceed out to the hull immediately. He stopped to pile other orders where Lori could easily handle them, attached their slips, and lined them up near the front gate. Wiping his hands along the sides of his overalls, he grinned at Milliardo. "Are you sure you want to work in those clothes?"
"They are meant to be 'worked in'," Milliardo explained as Duo gathered up tools, stacked more on top of a rolling bottle for a welding torch, and then slung a tool belt around his slim hips. It hung low and hung even lower once Duo started slipping tools into the straps. When he turned to wheel the tank, Milliardo could clearly see the small of his back, pale and perfect.
"Allow me," Milliardo managed as he took the handle of the tank dolly. He brushed along Duo's side as he did so and smelled, not grease and sweat, but still something all together masculine. Aftershave? Scented shaving cream? The scent seemed to take Milliardo in a firm grip as soon as it hit his senses, and he found himself inexplicably wanting to sink his nose into the nape of Duo's neck. Duo was turning, though, and giving him an appraising look as if he sensed something himself. Their eyes met and both of them froze in surprise.
Duo blinked and then shook himself as the strange moment passed, "Uh, sure... That would help."
Duo stepped aside and Milliardo awkwardly recovered enough to begin wheeling the dolly. He was finding it hard to understand what had just happened. Duo seemed equally puzzled. As they walked to the hull, Milliardo tried to pin the feeling down. It had been a shock, almost a deja'vu feeling. Duo was a stranger to him, known by reputation only, but it had seemed to Milliardo as if a very old friend had been standing with him and he had only now realized it. No, more than a friend. Milliardo was a healthy man and he knew what a sexual attraction felt like. This touched much deeper than that. It was disconcerting, almost frightening, and Milliardo was not a man who was shaken easily by anything or anyone.
Milliardo studied Duo as they reached the hull and Duo looked it over. There were several rows of hydroponic shelves, some potted plants Milliardo was unfamiliar with, and several stacks of what he surmised were some of the hulls components. Duo looked very serious, frowning as he weighed and measured each part of the job. His face was comical; a wide smile, overlarge eyes, and an upturned nose, yet it was handsome in a way that deserved it's own category. Handsome, in the long line of his brows, the cinnamon of his hair, and the odd blue of his eyes that leaned towards purple when the light hit them a certain way. Handsome, when he looked sideways, and was serious; revealing a strength to his features that was mature and sure.
"I said, 'Do you still want it?''," Duo repeated and he was turning to look at Milliardo curiously.
Milliardo snapped out of his own thoughts and looked around them with an eye as expert as Duo's. It was hopeless, of course. Nothing but devine intervention would be able to repair the hulk Duo might be a genius, but Milliardo doubted that it included god like powers. "It will do," Milliardo replied stiffly, and waited for Duo to list the reasons why it would never couple with a proper ship.
Duo shrugged and pulled out a wrench and a bottle of aerosol bolt grease, "Okay."
Milliardo wasn't sure whether the man was joking or not, he was hard to read. When he replied, he was almost sure that Duo was going to laugh at him. "Where would it be best for me to begin?"
The laugh didn't come. Duo chewed on his bottom lip and then said, "I think electric panels and cell arrays. Concentrate on pulling them all out. We'll check the damage once we have them separated and where we can get a good look. I'll pull apart the bulkheads and see if anything's nested inbetween. They're probably full of debris and rust."
He walked away to a section and began spraying bolts.
Milliardo frowned, wondering what game Duo was playing. It would have been an opportune way of getting rid of Milliardo, by pointing out that the section of ship couldn't be repaired. Instead, Duo was busily using his light weight to lever off a stubborn bolt as if it were not only possible, but all in a day's work. When Milliardo turned to the electronic panels, and saw the sorry shape they were in, it occured to him that Duo might want him to come to that conclusion himself.
"Not too bad," Milliardo announced and began prying off a panel, determined to keep the hull as his excuse even if it never operated as anything other than high grade scrap.
Duo laughed. "No, not too bad at all."
A headgame, Milliardo decided and soured on Duo immediately. He hated men who came at things sideways and used a man's own mind against him. He decided not to fall prey to it. He had a goal. He needed to focus on that and not allow Duo to manipulate him into giving up. That was something he was not prepared to do.
Duo's cell phone buzzed. He cradled it against his shoulder and talked into it as he continued working. "Maxwell." He scowled and said with a harder edge, "You know he's here, Fei, you set him up for it." Duo listened as his fingers finished twisting off a bolt. "Yes... yes... yes..." Duo gave Milliardo a quick, darting look and then turned so that Milliardo couldn't see his face. "Yessss," he said in a drawn out, irritated manner. "That still doesn't give you any right... okay, but a six pack of beer and front seat ticket to the gravi-ball championship would have been okay." He was quiet as he started on another bolt and then he growled, "Bastard. You don't have a freakin 'companion'. Nobody can stand you. Oh... Owens... really? Okay, so it's all innocent and you didn't have anything to do with this... Got any chunks of ice you want to sell me as diamonds while you're at it? Mill already told me you sent him here, so cut the crap... What else am I supposed to call him? Shut up! I'm hanging up now... no, hanging up... not listening.... nope, save your breath... I'm going... bye."
Duo hung up his phone and dropped it into a pocket. He seemed anrgy and embarrassed.
"He's a jerk," Duo said at last as if he were talking to the bulkhead..
"But also a friend?" Milliardo wondered.
"We all are, in a weird sort of way," Duo admitted reluctantly. "Gundam boys only understand Gundam boys, and all that."
"I piloted a Gundam," Milliardo found himself saying without thought. Duo gave him a long look and then he smiled almost shyly.
"Yeah, you did , didn't you?" Duo added another bolt to a small pile at his feet. "Then this kind of work should be a piece of cake for you. We'll be done in no time and you can go home."
"With you as an agent," Milliardo added stubbornly.
"You can dream," Duo snorted.
"Thank you, I shall," Milliardo replied in a formal tone and Duo laughed. Milliardo decided that he liked that laugh. It was honest, even if he believed that a great deal about Duo Maxwell wasn't.
[part 1] [part 3] [back to Kracken's fic]