Pretty in Pink
or The Mission That Went Horribly Horribly Wrong (cont)

The irony was devastating. Him, stalking Relena? Heero restrained the immediate impulse to take advantage of the man's lowered defenses, and just reach out and snap his neck. There was still the faint possibility that he was only a civilian, after all.

"No!" he denied, a bit too vehemently. "I was just looking!" Oh yeah. Real believable, Yuy. He mentally smacked himself. Can't you think of something better?

"Just looking, eh?" The guard glowered. "Then why are you holding a glass cutter?"

Oops. Well, there really wasn't any way to hide it now.

"I... I just..." Just what? Think, Yuy! What's a plausible excuse? Where is that lightning-sharp intellect you're so proud of?

And then it hit him. An idea so insane and off the wall... Duo would be proud of it.

"I just... wanted to take a picture," Heero said.

The guard frowned. "And how, exactly, do you take a picture with a glass cutter?"

"I... wanted to remove a glass pane so the flash wouldn't reflect. The camera is in my bag." Okay, so it was for taking surveillance photos, but the guard didn't need to know that. Still, it had given him an idea, and he was warming up to the story that he was concocting in his head.

The guard glanced at the bag curiously, and Heero fought down a surge of real panic. If he searched the bag, he would have a hard time explaining away the Magnum and the night-vision goggles. "The picture is for my photography class," he said quickly. "I knew that this place manufactured pink limos, and I thought it would be a good photo opportunity." Heero struggled to express the irrational enthusiasm of an artist. He spread his hands awkwardly in a broadly sweeping gesture. "Hundreds of pink limousines, representing wealth and opulence, surrounded by the grime of a blue-collar factory... It's perfect, don't you think?" He forced a smile. "Very... um, post-modern." Or something like that. Art history had never been his favorite subject during those times he had to pose as a student.

Shit, he thought, listening to how lame he sounded. This is a stupid idea. What in the hell was I thinking?

The guard seemed slightly less suspicious, however, but still didn't lower the gun. "Why didn't you just ask the plant owner and come during the day? Why did you have to sneak in just to take a picture?"

Heero noticed, with muted relief, that the guard was no longer eyeing his bag. "Well, I would have..." He shrugged and tried his best to look sheepish. "But I forgot about the assignment until tonight, and it's due first thing tomorrow, so..." He trailed off meaningly, and hoped the ploy worked. After all, what was more realistic that a student caught in a procrastination panic, right?

To his surprise, the guard lowered the gun completely. Either the guard is incredibly stupid, or I'm a better actor than I thought.

"Damn, kid." The guard shook his head. "You're an idiot, do you know that? You could have gotten killed, sneaking in here - and just to take a stupid picture? Vice-Minister Peacecraft has to have tight security, even for her cars, in case someone tries sabotage. I almost shot you, thinking you were some sort of terrorist. Is turning in some stupid assignment on time worth risking that?"

Heero slumped his shoulders and looked at his shoes, hoping he looked abashed. "I... I didn't really think about it. I just wanted the picture."

"Well, then," the guard said, "hurry up."

Heero looked up with a surprise that was totally unfeigned. "What?"

"Go on," the guard said impatiently. "Take your picture, and I'll escort you out of here. But you can't cut the glass. You'll have to be satisfied with taking your picture through the skylight."

Heero blinked, stunned. "... Right."

Well, that confirmed it right there. No OZ soldier would allow some kid to take a picture of the factory if it was secretly a mobile suit operation. Which meant that it was a good thing he hadn't followed through on his impulse to reach out and break the guard's neck.

Duo was going to be disappointed to find that there would be no mission of OZ destruction tomorrow...

Argh, again his thoughts went back to Duo! No matter what he did, or what life-threatening situation he was in, he couldn't get the Deathscythe pilot out of his head!

That clinched it. He was going to have to do something about this situation with Duo as soon as he got back to the safehouse. It was either that, or go crazy - though, considering what had just happened, it was probably too late to salvage his sanity anyway.

Reaching into his bag, he carefully pulled out his surveillance camera since he apparently had to follow this charade through. As he turned back to the skylight, the guard stepped up next to him and looked down.

"Yeah," the guard said. "I guess I can see why you'd want a photo. A sight like that is kind of mind blowing." His lip curled in distaste. "Anyway, hurry up and take your picture already, I don't got all night."

Heero nodded, even as he suppressed a shudder. Pink. Ugh. Oh well, the sooner he got it over with, the sooner he could leave this stupid, nightmarish mission behind, and get back home to Duo.

He quickly took stock of the situation. The windows of the skylight were grimy and water stained. Without a glass cutter, he'd have to crawl out onto the skylight itself to get to a spot that was relatively clean enough through which to take a picture. Stifling a sigh, and looping his bag over his shoulder for safe- keeping away from the guard, he edged his way out onto the glass and iron framework

He noticed, with some trepidation, that the iron was almost solid red with rust.

Is this building that old? Whatever happened to using stainless steel? he wondered, just as his precarious perch groaned ominously under his weight. He froze, suddenly doubting the wisdom of trying to find a semi-clear window, all for a picture of pink limos that he didn't really want...

...when a disturbing crackling, snapping sound emerged from under his hands and knees...

"Oh shit," Heero whispered.

"Hey, be careful, kid," the guard called after him. "That doesn't look too sa-- "

Heero didn't hear the rest as the skylight collapsed beneath him in a shower of glass and metal.


Duo Maxwell stomped into the kitchen and glared at the empty chairs surrounding the table. A moment later, he turned on his heel and stomped out, then turned an evil eye at the three boys lounging in the living room.

Wufei glanced up from his book, saw the expression on Duo's face, and went back to reading. Across the room, Quatre, who was snuggled comfortably against Trowa's side, looked away from where the television was quietly broadcasting a recently restored version of "Casablanca," and frowned.


Duo turned without a word, and stomped down the hall. Quatre sighed. He counted Duo's steps. Fifteen long strides to the end of the hall. Stop. Five second pause. Fifteen long strides, and Duo was back in the living room, glaring at all of them, his fists clenched at his sides.

"Dammit, where is he?!"

Wufei stifled a groan, and slouched down further behind his book. He was concerned about Yuy's lateness as well -- they all were -- but until he had solid facts, he refused to work himself into an irrational panic over it.

Now, if only Quatre and Trowa didn't object so strongly to him restraining and gagging Maxwell, he could have some peace in the meantime. Locking the Deathscythe pilot in a closet, however, apparently wasn't a very nice thing to do in Quatre's eyes, so Wufei had long since resigned himself to the fact that peace and quiet were not meant to be until Yuy returned from his reconnaissance mission. Sighing, he pushed his square-rimmed glasses up the bridge of his nose with his index finger, and buried himself further into Sun Tzu's Art of War.

"Duo," Quatre tried again, trying to soothe the agitated American. "I'm sure he's just fine."

"The hell he is," Duo snapped. "We're talking about the Perfect Soldier here. That mission was cake, three hours tops, in and out, snap some pics, hack some files, and back to the homestead while dinner's still warm. It's been eight hours. It's almost 1 a.m. Even allowing that everything didn't go smoothly, that's still four hours too long."

"Well," Quatre said, "Maybe he just..."

"Just what? Went shopping? Took the scenic route?" Duo snorted. "This is Heero! The guy who doesn't take a piss unless he's worked it into his schedule first."

Quatre blinked. Trowa raised an eyebrow.

Duo scowled and ran his fingers through his bangs. "That's it," he said. "I'm gonna go look for him." Before anyone could protest, he grabbed his black leather jacket from where he'd draped it over the back of a worn, patched recliner, and opened the front door.

And came face to face with a pair of murderously angry blue eyes.

Startled, Duo yelped, and jumped back a step. Still, he would know those eyes anywhere, and he was about to shout Heero's name in relief... when he saw what was surrounding those furious blue eyes.


Bright, dripping, cotton-candy, so-sugary-sweet-it-hurt-to- look-at-it... pink.

Heero's hair was pink. His face was pink.

Duo's saucer-wide eyes traveled quickly down the rest of Heero's body, unable to fully comprehend what he was seeing. Heero's arm and hand, still outstretched toward the now-open door, was pink. His tank top and spandex shorts were pink. Legs: pink. Tennis shoes and socks: also pink.

The only thing that was not pink, Duo realized, were Heero's narrowed blue eyes. Even his eyelashes were coated pink. It looked as though the Perfect Soldier had gone swimming in a vat of pink paint.

Which, Duo realized as soon as the thought entered his dumbstruck mind, was probably exactly what happened. The mission had been to the factory that made Relena's pink limos... And now he stood, face to face with a completely pink Heero. A pink Heero, who had fixed him with a Killer Glare that promised a slow and agonizing death if he even... dared... laugh...

Duo couldn't help it. This was the funniest damn thing he had ever seen, and even though he knew Heero would kill him, he could feel the hysterical laughter bubbling up within him, feel the wicked grin spreading across his own face, helpless to stop it.

Heero seemed to sense the imminent explosion of hilarity that was coming from Duo and, he raised one hand, pointing silently and threateningly at the braided boy. If possible, his glare became even more dangerous.

Frantically, survival instinct kicking in, Duo clamped both hands over his mouth and nose and pressed as hard as he could against the guffaws filling his chest. Miraculously, the only noise that escaped him was a slight whistle through his nose, though his eyes were wide and tearing with silent laughter.

"Duo?" Quatre couldn't see around the door at what Duo was staring at, but in the past few seconds, the Deathscythe pilot's behavior had been strange to the extreme. Opening the door, coming to a dead standstill, his mouth gaping open like a fish for a moment, before slamming both hands against his mouth and shaking. "What's going..."

Duo stepped back quickly, hands still pressed to his mouth, tears starting to stream down his cheeks, his face red from holding in the laughter. Without a word, Heero stalked past him and into the living room.

"...on..." Quatre finished weakly, his eyes bulging at the sight.

Trowa stiffened, his one visible eye widening in shock Wufei looked up from his book. His jaw dropped, and his book slipped from his hands to thump loudly on the floor. Heero didn't even look at them as he marched through the room, each step making wet squelching sounds and leaving pink footprints on the hardwood floor. He didn't look at them as he headed for the hallway, but he spoke -- each single, emphasized word a snarled death threat.


*squelch squelch*


*squelch squelch*


*squelch squelch squelch*

The four pilots watched him go in absolute silence. Heero walked down the hall, entered the bathroom, and slammed the door closed behind him.

And Duo, as if on cue, collapsed to the floor, gasping for air, crying, and laughing his ass off.


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