see chap. 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer
Huge thanks to my beta, Anaitis ^_^
AN: Dedicated to Dacia!
"I build no system.
I ask an end to privilege, the abolition of slavery, equality of rights,
and the reign of law. Justice, nothing else. That is the alpha and omega
of my argument."
- Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
"Yuck. This looks like the
mother of all ugly. I think it's time for that trip to the clinic."
"It's fine," Wufei grunted, with barely a glance at the hideous purple
mess that was his upper left arm. "It's getting better; the swelling's
gone down, there's no sign of infection. It'll heal."
"Yeah, it'll heal and leave a hole the size of my fist in your muscle,
Chang," Duo growled, but he grabbed the bandages and applied a fresh dressing
without insisting further. It had become something of a daily ritual between
Wufei was willing to concede that the damage would be a bit more permanent
now, without that regen unit and proper surgery. He'd always be a bit
weaker in that arm, though a strenuous training regimen would compensate
for the injury. But he didn't think the Freeport Clinic could do much
more for him, and he refused to monopolize the time of the overworked
medical staff who still had their hands full with the injured, three days
after the internal strife had finally died down.
Duo's field dressing in place, Wufei carefully pulled on his shirt and
top, with that faint prickle of strangeness he felt every time he dressed.
Duo had gotten him some new clothes from the commissary, to replace those
that had been ripped and bloodied by the Breakers. Wufei was now wearing
the traditional grey woolly jumper, crafted by an army of volunteers that
you could see in groups at every street corner, park or window, applying
knitting needles for the good of Freeport and to keep its citizens clothed.
Wufei would have worn this without a second thought a week ago. But now,
when he pulled on the jumper or his leather jacket, it seemed to bring
home the knowledge that this was his clothing from now on. He would never
wear a Preventer uniform again. Before, the attire had been part of a
disguise. Now, they were his clothes, the ones he'd probably be sent to
Recyc in, whether that happened in a few decades or tomorrow.
Wufei did not feel resentment or regret as he smoothed down the coarse
wool; it was more a surge of bewilderment at how radically his life had
changed three days ago. For some reason, the big truths of what he'd done
were easier to get used to than the oddness of the little details.
"Okay, take a nap. I'll be back in a few hours." Duo washed his hands
at the sink, then pulled on his prosthetic glove and long coat. "Or meditate,
or read, or play a shoot-em-up on my laptop one-handed if that's your
thing, but absolutely no physical effort that could bust those stitches.
It looks bad enough as it is."
"Jesus, Mary and Joseph, just try to take care of this guy and this is
the thanks you get," Duo said with the kind of over-the-top theatrics
that, along with his roguish charm, would land him a job on any daytime
soap opera he'd care to audition for. "Gotta go; be back in two hours,
tops. See ya soon, handsome!"
"Watch your back," Wufei grumbled at the door, wishing he could go too.
But it was still too dangerous for one Chang Wufei, ex-Preventer, to go
wandering around the streets of Freeport.
In his opinion, it was too dangerous for Duo as well, but the smuggler
would hear none of that. He'd pointed out that one of them had to get
around and manage the fall-out; or was Wufei suggesting they both stay
holed up in their room for a couple of months, eating Babka's cooking,
washing in the sink and pretending no-one was home? When Wufei had said
that sounded like a good idea, Duo had declared he'd rather go down fighting
than die of sodium and cooked cabbage overdose, and to leave it at that.
Wufei looked at the bed. He could use a nap. He wasn't sleeping all that
But he had to get out of here. Three days locked in Duo's single room,
or the junkyard outside...he was going stir crazy.
Ten rather painful minutes later, Wufei was sitting on the roof of their
building, watching Makhno spreading out at his feet. His sector. Everybody
in Freeport was identified by the sector they lived in, and so was Wufei
now. Just one more of those little details that brought home to him how
much his life had changed when he'd walked out that airlock three days
They'd come clean to their friends in Makhno shortly after they'd returned
back to the sector from Bay 49. Duo wanted to make sure Wufei would be
safe here, and for that they had to be able to count on their friends,
if they still could. Duo had gathered the people from his building, his
pals and work-partners, a few notables of the sector, and then others
had shown up out of curiosity in the Commissary cafeteria, the only place
in Makhno where you could hold a meeting of that size.
It had been, incidentally, one of the hardest things Wufei had done in
his life, to stand before honest people who'd believed in him and admit
that his whole existence here had been a lie. Duo had done the talking,
of course, since Wufei was still officially his Blade - or rather, like
the clothes, the disguise was now truly his identity. It must have been
even harder for Duo. Or maybe not. Duo, like Braun, must have known his
deals with the Preventers might come to light one day, and would have
already thought through and accepted the consequences before he'd even
The revelation didn't go as Wufei expected. People were angry, of course.
But the bent of the long discussion that followed, around bad coffee and
worst sandwiches provided by the commissary, was how bad this was going
to look in the other sectors. Friends and strangers would question their
judgment and the integrity of Makhno once this was known. There was a
certain air of having passively participated in Wufei's infiltration here;
a serious loss of face in Freeport.
They weren't happy, but nobody asked the two men to leave the sector.
In retrospect, using his knowledge of Freeport, Wufei could see this through
their eyes. He'd stood before them with a bloodied bandage on his arm,
still dirty and bruised, face pale and worn with pain and growing exhaustion.
He looked more like a harried refugee than a Preventer. They also knew
why he was looking like that. By now everyone knew, either first hand
or by account, of his fight with Carver. Though Wufei's contribution to
ending the Breakers hadn't been as crucial or far-reaching as Ravachol's
and Duo's, it had been spectacular.
Duo had then played up Wufei's past perfectly: he'd weighed Wufei's history
as a Preventer against his record as a Gundam Pilot. That had a certain
crazy cachet in this place. And of course, to top it all off, Wufei really
was a refugee now. He had chosen Freeport over the Outside, and had been
outlawed for it. That made him 'one of us' automatically, whatever his
past. Wufei caught Marci, Ivanova and a few of the other younger female
citizens looking at him with wide, admiring eyes as if they thought this
was all rather romantic, instead of the result of some sordid politics
and a desperate choice.
It had been Babka's reaction which probably summed it up best. She'd been
very quiet while listening to Duo. Wufei had realized that even if the
consensus let him stay in Makhno, he'd have to move out if Babka didn't
forgive him, even though he'd spend the rest of his quarantine slaving
in a mining satellite as a result.
Finally, while people were still loudly arguing, Babka had stood up, walked
over and patted him on the good arm.
"You were very young when you joined Them, and I am well placed to know
that young men make some very stupid mistakes. I've had enough sons to
It had taken Wufei a second to realize she'd just described his entire
Preventer career as some kind of growing pain, best forgotten.
"But of course an upstanding young man such as yourself would choose Freedom
over Tyranny," Babka had sniffed. "What stupid people, to have sent you
here. I am in no way surprised you stayed. I forgive you - and that scamp
Duo - for the lies; I think it was for what you both thought was a good
cause. And if you hadn't been here..."
A rare flicker of anxiety, of unease had crossed Babka's wise old face.
Wufei and Duo hadn't actually tracked down the Breakers single-handedly;
it would be fairer to say they'd been the hapless triggers for a succession
of events that led to Morgenstern's downfall. Nonetheless, Wufei's presence
here had been the necessary element for that succession of events; if
he and Duo hadn't infiltrated Freeport, hadn't dug around, hadn't alarmed
Morgenstern and awakened Ravachol's curiosity...Morgenstern would have
had time to complete his plans, start a real revolution in Space, and
convert enough key people to his cause to drag Freeport down into the
Babka truly believed in her version of anarchy and in Freeport's self-regulation.
The necessity of Wufei's presence here - the necessity for rat-catchers
in general, perhaps - proved that that belief had sprung a leak. Wufei
had been willing to risk his life to bring down Morgenstern because that
was his duty, his battle; but he only really hated the man when he saw
the brief wounded look in an elderly lady's eyes.
Then Babka had shaken herself and looked at him severely.
"Become a good citizen," she'd barked, "make us proud." And then she'd
walked out, back straight, and gone home. Yesterday, Duo had found a pot
full of borsht on the front step; two portions.
Said it all, really.
But that left Wufei with a very big question.
Duo hadn't commented on his silence these past three days. He just carried
on as if he didn't notice Wufei's lack of response to his comments and
questions and muttered imprecations against a reluctant rotor that refused
to let him fix it. Maybe Duo thought Wufei needed to get over the shock;
that he was belabouring under the anger and regret of having had his career
cut short, dumping him in Freeport, the infamous last stop, as low as
you could get without ending up in Recyc.
But that wasn't why Wufei had been quiet, meditating for long hours, or
staring at the ceiling during restless nights at Duo's side, his arm aching
Wufei had been exploring his own beliefs and motivations, now stripped
from the clutter of duty and necessity. His obligations had deserted him.
The Peace would have to get on without him now. He was staring his freedom
in the teeth and trying to figure out which of many choices he should
make, guided, for once, only by what he had inside. For someone who'd
been driven by familial duty, revenge, obligations or his own pride for
his entire life, the trip of self-discovery had not been a comfortable
And the choice he had to make now was not one he was happy with at all.
Wufei knew he had the chance to start with a clean slate, to find his
own faith in the future and truly respect it, and if he didn't follow
it now - whatever the cost - he would never be whole. But the cost of
this choice was bigger than giving up his career. This choice could cost
That had been something else he'd found within himself during these three
days of self-examination. How much room Duo had now taken up in his soul.
For someone who'd been alone all his life, in a very fundamental way,
that discovery had been disturbing.
It went further than that TV-drama emotion called 'love', which Wufei
had never been sure he fully understood. It went way further than sex,
which was pretty much where all his other relationships had started and
ended. His feelings for Duo started in bewildered and grudging respect.
In the pleasure of having that respect returned in kind. In mutual trust;
in finding someone who was his dark and twisted mirror, who knew the joys
of battle, the cutting-edge necessity of choices, the wild, frightening
reach of freedom. Wufei had found an aspect of himself in Duo, a part
Wufei himself had not recognized until now. Yet they were very different
too; different in mesmerizing, sometimes annoying or antagonistic but
ultimately fascinating ways that drew him in like the paths of a maze.
Whether they remained lovers - once Wufei's body was healed enough to
even think about stuff like that - or went back to being friends and comrades,
Duo was now a part of his life in a way nobody had ever been before; at
least, nobody living. Wufei was astounded and almost affronted that something
so important, so central, had happened over the months and he hadn't even
noticed it until now.
But now his choice could cost him that. Duo might not want to remain his
friend; might not, in fact, be able to afford to.
Wufei had known from the start that choices would bring pain. Some choices
were almost impossible to make; it was what pushed men to take Carver's
path. Blind obedience in a cause was easier. But Wufei was not so weak
or so brittle. He'd make his choice with his eyes open, like Duo and Braun
had when they'd let Wufei infiltrate this place, and incidentally find
And the time was now. He'd made up his mind a couple of days ago; he'd
just been putting details together in his head. And putting it off. But
he wasn't a coward; he had to accept the consequences of his choice. And
now was as good a time as any, with Duo standing over him and fuming.
"Chang..." Duo's voice was a menacing purr. "Which part of 'no physical
effort' did you not get?"
"I can climb a ladder with two legs and a good arm," Wufei said, with
a dismissive half-shrug.
"Several stories worth?" Duo growled. "If you had the sense God gave a
sparrow, you would-"
"Duo, I've been thinking. We need to talk."
There was a heavy silence behind him, and then Duo sat down next to him
on the parapet without further ranting.
"Yeah, I gathered we'd have to think about the future at some point,"
Duo said. "It's not like you can stay my Blade forever. I mean, in theory
you can, but that's just not your style. The collar looks cute on you
and all, but I don't see you wearing it when you're old and grey. And
of course, the reason I'd need a Blade is to watch my back while I smuggle
or do Scissorman stuff. But I'm not dumb enough to think you'd go for
that. I know you'd never be a smuggler or break the law, even if the Johnny
Lawboys put you on their Wanted posters out there."
Duo spoke quickly, staring out over the darkness of Makhno around them.
"I know grease monkey's a bit of a come-down for you, but you know, I've
been busy these past three days. I started talking to people, just a bit.
Just feeling around. The people who can get you work on the deep space
explorers. How would that grab you? Was that what you were thinking of?"
"...No. But it's a good idea; thank you," Wufei answered honestly.
Duo kicked his heels into the parapet, looking almost faintly bashful,
as much as Duo Maxwell could approach such an unlikely emotion. "Yeah,
I remembered the look on your face three months ago, when we went through
the shipyards. And that time in the Lunar prison, when you talked about
deep space. I think that'd be something you could really get into. You
certainly have the mechanical chops for it. Oh man, they'd drool all over
you; they're always looking for space-savvy personnel who can use a construction
mecha. And the mechs who work on those deep-space beauties might be the
ones selected to crew them when they leave, in AC 210 or whenever they're
ready. Well, that might not be possible, but just working on them..."
"That'd be something," Wufei agreed, eyes on the darkened sector ceiling
above their heads, faint warning lights twinkling like distant stars.
"I think I would like that. Not full time, but helping out on those shipyards
could be my second job. Since everybody in this joint has more than one,
and I can't knit worth a damn."
Duo didn't laugh at Wufei's lame attempt at lightening the mood. He bit
his lip and scowled.
"Chang, I think I know what you're hoping your main job will be, and I
have to tell you, it's not going to be possible. Even if it would be right
down your alley."
Wufei looked at him interrogatingly.
"Even I can't be a rat-catcher anymore," Duo said heavily, staring out
at the buildings boxing them in. "And I'm not liking it, but it's the
way it goes. Rat-catchers are the guardrails of this place; the shit-stirrers
who do the stupid, unpopular dangerous job that gets you into loads of
fights. So that makes it a perfect-fit job for an ex-Gundam Pilot, I grant
ya. But I'm gonna be known far and wide now as the rat-catcher who brought
down the Breakers."
Wufei was very conscious of this. It was why he was glad to remain Duo's
Blade for as long as he could, for as long as Duo would allow him to.
Freeport was still reeling from the disorder that had shaken the colony.
But the full truth and the damning details, or some twisted, rumour-laden
version of such, were slowly creeping out into the populace. When people
finally came to terms with it all and started looking for answers, Wufei
expected to have quite a lot of fights and duels on his hands, protecting
his friend's back from those knives that might want to find a home there.
"And there's even less chance you can make it as a 'catcher." Duo snorted
with laughter, a sound without much humour in it. "Ex-Pilots like us don't
tend to think about the future further than next Tuesday, but chances
are you'll still be in this tin can in ten years' time. Maybe more. And
you know what? They'll still be calling you 'The Preventer' behind your
back, down in Bakunin and in Mooncurse and other less reputable sectors.
People'll accept you if you work hard at it, but if you ask a question,
discreet-like, like a rat-catcher does, they'll see you coming a mile
away. That...well, it just wouldn't work. You see that, right?"
"Yes, you are undoubtedly right. I wasn't thinking of becoming a rat-catcher."
"Oh?" Duo looked away from Makhno to scrutinize him, an eyebrow arched
dubiously. "So, what job were you thinking of?"
Duo stared at him for a long, frozen minute, then he hunched himself into
a knot on the parapet with his head sunk in his hands and clutched his
"Whaaat?" He groaned, then he lifted his head and barked: "There's no
such thing as a c- as that in Freeport!"
"There will be," Wufei stated, staring out into the eternal night. "It
will take years, probably, but-"
"Are you out of your mind?!"
"Hello! Anarchy! We don't have cops!"
"Anarchy? You told me once that Freeport has no system, not even anarchy.
It's built on the needs of survival and what people make of their lives,
and this non-system changes and evolves with each new migrant."
"It don't change that fucking much!" Duo was clutching his bangs again.
"Of course I don't mean a cop as in a representative of a higher authority,"
Wufei told him tiredly. "I don't mean a cop at all, since Freeport doesn't
have that kind of legal structure. But that's what they'll be saying behind
my back in Bakunin and Mooncurse, and probably elsewhere as well. 'The
Preventer' might actually be a step up from that, but I bet they'll be
calling me 'The Cop', or a lot worse."
The only answer he got was a plaintive whine.
"It's what I want to do," Wufei explained, his words already rehearsed
over the last two days. He'd expected this reaction. "It's what I have
to do. Justice was the fundamental tenet of my clan. Maybe I should move
beyond that concept imposed to me in my youth. But I have chosen not to.
It's changed from what I initially believed in at the start of the war."
It had had to evolve when he'd met Treize, when he'd found out that Justice
was hardly as simple a notion as he'd held as a child. "My Justice has
learned to compromise, to wait, to measure. I want to work with it now,
without the trappings imposed by others. I want to make it truly my own.
To live by it."
"To die by it," Duo growled into his hands.
"Maybe. If that's where it leads me."
Another groan was his only answer.
"But I think I'm needed here," Wufei added.
"No you're not." Duo's voice was muffled and grumpy.
"Really? Tell that to Lesley Spasson. To Marta Bernstein. To Elder Braun."
Duo suddenly lifted his face from his hands and looked at him, eyes serious
and considerably more attentive and measuring than his theatrics had made
"There's something missing on this colony, Duo. It's clarity. There's
no justice here, only revenge, and that's if you're lucky. Freeport works
on rumours and evaluations of character and a hundred different degrees
of honour, connections and saving face. My reason tells me this shouldn't
work as well as it does; yet it actually spins along fairly well. But
when someone close to you is lying dead in Recyc, murdered, that's not
good enough. It's not good enough to have a rough idea of why it happened.
Not having that certitude...it kills you inside. I've worked with enough
bereaved families these past five years to know that. Justice is exposing
the mechanics of a crime and bringing the perpetrators to answer for it.
Their victims need to know why it happened to them. Society needs to know,
so that it can stop it from happening again, if possible.
"I want to be a tool for that justice. I'll have to work hard to get this
accepted, I know. I'll have to start by persuading the Elders and the
Red Bands, since I'll need some cooperation from Freeport's infrastructure.
But I won't be acting on the behalf of authority, and they won't be the
ones to call on me. It will be the friends and families of those wronged.
If they want someone who has experience reading a crime scene, who can
outthink a criminal - a criminal by Freeport standards, a murderer, someone
who broke the inner rules and will not come clean about it - they'll be
able to call upon me."
"And what the hell will you do?" Duo challenged in an exasperated growl.
"Basic forensics, since that's virtually nonexistent here. Fingerprints,
if I can persuade the Elders that this would help- maybe too unpopular
to start with, but I can still determine a lot from the scene, and then
"You can't interrogate people. Who will answer you?" Duo asked coldly.
"Those who want justice. Who have nothing to hide."
Duo blinked, and then his eyes narrowed. The intelligence and cunning
that lurked behind the easy-going façade was seizing upon Wufei's
full meaning now, and actually weighing his words and the intent behind
them. Duo had been there when Braun had had no other choice but to call
in an undercover cop to find out what had happened to Joshua Brindlow.
The rat-catcher had seen the pain in Lesley's eyes, the mourning in Marta's.
He knew what Wufei was talking about.
If Wufei could do this, if he could insert himself into Freeport society,
then he'd become a part of the colony's self-regulation, like the Elders
and the rat-catchers and the people who witnessed duels. Victims could
choose to come to him, or not. The ones he questioned could choose to
answer him, or not. But if they didn't talk to him, their friends might
wonder what they were hiding. Popular pressure was what kept a lot of
people honest in Freeport, and if Wufei could become an instrument of
that pressure...of course, people could lie to him, and probably would
if they had something to hide. But a good citizen of Freeport could tell
lies from truth, especially one with Wufei's previous experience, and
then the lie would be very informative.
"So..." Duo said, after almost five minutes of silence. "It's not really
like a cop at all. More like a detective. A PI." He rolled the words around
his mouth as if tasting them for possibilities.
"They can call me what they want," Wufei said with a shrug, his injury
echoing the movement with a distant twinge. "They can see me as a rat-catcher
who does things openly instead of ferreting around in the shadows. I don't
care. I'm ready to bet I'll be 'The Cop' if this ever works at all."
"And you'll wear the name with pride," Duo said acidly.
"Yes, I imagine I will."
"You're fucking nuts."
"I probably am."
"This will never work."
"There are strong chances that it won't."
"Can you please stop agreeing with me?!" Duo ground out, twisting towards
him on the parapet, fists clenched at his sides and bangs and braid almost
Wufei looked at him closely, and with growing surprise. Because this was
an aggravated and worried Duo. Not...
"...You're not angry. I thought you'd be furious. I expected you to..."
He'd expected Duo to try to stop Wufei a lot more actively, not just bitch
Duo looked at him blankly, and then something quite amazing happened.
He blushed, faintly. He glared as Wufei stared at him incredulously, and
then he turned away in a huff, propping an elbow against one knee and
his chin in his hand in a 'see if I care' position.
"I guess..." The words slipped out as if he couldn't stop them but didn't
feel like acknowledging them for all that. "I guess it's just been a long
time since I saw you...I donno...so determined and sure about something...almost
enthusiastic, in that cold-fish way of yours. You really want this."
And that was why Duo was the person who was taking up so much room in
Wufei licked his lips, and the cold, chemical-scented air bit at the slight
humidity as he tried to find the words for what to say next. The hard
part. The part he'd never said to anybody before.
"I don't mind gambling my life on this, or risking general censure, but
the one thing that...bothers me the most is that I-...We both realize
that your best move, in nine months time, would be to cut all connections
between us and leave me to my own devices, because the stigma that this
might carry could really harm you. I...I don't want to lose...a good friend.
Over this. But...it's...I have a choice and I have to accept that this
might be a consequence. If I don't choose this, I'll be a shadow of myself.
I wouldn't consider myself worthy of you. I'd be losing you either way."
"Oh for fuck's sake," Duo growled. From the sound of it, he'd just slapped
his forehead as if he could force some patience into his mental makeup
that way. But Wufei kept his eyes fixed on the darkened buildings around
"I know this is not fair to you, especially since you have already risked
your reputation to keep me safe here, in your sector." Wufei hated how
his own voice sounded stiff and formal. He'd never made this sort of admission
before. He thought Duo would know him well enough to read beyond the stilted
words and the awkward unspoken parts. "You see, I don't think that my
becoming a smuggler or a mechanic would buy us a real future. Though I
would be...almost tempted to try if...But I have made my choice. If you
want to severe all ties with me, even send me to quarantine right now
instead of keeping me as your Blade, I understand-"
"Shut up, Chang. Just shut up. You're giving me a headache. Man, you're
selfish, you know that?" Duo growled.
That really hurt, because of course, it was true. "Yes, I am."
"You fucking well are! I can't believe you're thinking of cutting me out
on the action here!"
"I apologize." Wufei was rubbing his bandaged arm, because it was itching,
and because the flickers of pain were a welcome distraction. "It's bad
repayment for all you've done for me, but-..."
Wait a minute.
Wufei blinked at Makhno, then he twisted on the parapet to stare at the
smuggler. He must have misunderstood- he hoped he'd misunderstood!
"What? What did you say? What action? What are you talking about?"
Duo was giving him a fine glare. "What are you talking about! This is
gonna be huge if it works! And tons of fighting and screwing people over
to get it to work! You know the one thing I fear is boredom-"
"No!" Wufei's voice rang like a shot, and it was fortunate that it was
the sector's day-cycle because he didn't give a damn right now about disturbing
the top-floor neighbours. "You- have you gone out of your mind?!"
"Didn't we have this conversation already?"
"I absolutely, categorically refuse to drag you into-"
"Oy, think I can't cut it?"
"That has nothing to do with it!" Wufei bellowed, quite aware he could
be heard down into the street now and not giving a fuck about it. "Why
should you want to do this?!
"Oh, it's not for your beautiful black eyes, if that's what's worrying
Wufei was silent, breath rattling in his throat as he stared at Duo.
"You're not thinking, Chang," Duo sniffed, his eyes flashing with his
own short temper, but his voice still calm, almost icily so. "Why'd you
think I became a rat-catcher in the first place? Why d'you think I let
Preventers onto Freeport? For the money?"
Wufei's head was spinning so badly he was wondering if it was quite safe
to remain on the parapet. "...No. I knew it wasn't for the money," he
"Fuckin' 10-10 on that. Though I like being able to keep Scythe afloat...hmmm."
Duo rubbed his chin, eyes clever and calculating as they contemplated
a clothesline stringed across a roof on the other side of the street.
"I'm gonna break Monique Desjean's heart. If she has one. Hmf, you might
be boning up on your forensic skills using my dead carcass, Chang, when
she finds out I have to give up on a lot of the grease monkey stuff. But
I'm gonna have to fly freetrading more often. I'll need the dough, and
we'll need to get more contacts on the Outside, now that the Preventer
backdoor is mostly closed to us. As much as people hate it, Freeport and
Outside are as connected as Recyc and the water in the faucet. A lot of
the crimes in Freeport are born from the rot in the scum-ends of Space.
We'll need our sources if we want to get anywhere.
Don't give me that look, he added, I won't involve you
in the trade. I know your bright, shiny principles won't stoop to smuggling.
On a practical side, you shouldn't set foot outside of Freeport for another
ten years, at the least. You are outlawed and a runaway Preventer, and
That hadn't been why Wufei had been looking at his friend with a wide-eyed
"Duo...are you sure?"
"No," Duo answered straight away, without his mask of breezy self-confidence.
"It's a bit too soon to be sure. I gotta think about this long and hard...I
won't claim to do it for the same reasons you are. I don't give a rat's
arse about Justice. You know that. But this is my turf, and I defend it.
If I can't be a rat-catcher...then maybe you hit upon the next best thing.
I'll think about it. It just struck me, listening to you talk about it,
that even if we'll be the most unpopular bruisers onboard, it won't be
a bad thing we're doing. Huh, just like old times, hm?" Duo grinned at
him, and despite all the worried thoughts going through his mind, Wufei
couldn't help but return that dark, battle-hungry grin.
"And if I'm there to help, you'll have the rat-catcher network behind
you," Duo added, making a gun sign with his fingers and aiming it at Wufei.
"That is a considerable power, my friend. Most of them will be very happy
that they have someone who can do the footwork openly. Who can talk to
the Elders, follow leads up front and shame those close-mouthed spacers
into talking. Who can just run a fucking simple test to see if a guy was
poisoned or strangled or whatnot or if he just died from too much bad
booze in a hooch parlour. Yeah," Duo added, looking away, face suddenly
serious. "Maybe you're right, Chang...maybe there's a hole here waiting
to be filled up."
Then Duo's contemplative expression was suddenly replaced by a lunatic
"Or maybe we'll be Enemy Number One in short order. But either way, it
wont' be boring!"
"Plus, this way we can continue wearing out the mattress springs together,
without having to sneak around to do it."
Wufei's mouth stayed open around his objection as he realized what Duo
"Idiot," Duo growled, a propos of nothing that had been spoken out loud;
he reached out, grabbed Wufei by the grey woolly jumper and dragged him
into a kiss, nearly unbalancing them both off the parapet and down onto
Wufei felt breathless; lighter caresses brushed his lips, and at the back
of his mind, a little voice speculated about his present level of fitness
and if he wasn't recovered enough for- but Chang Wufei was made of sterner
stuff and wasn't that easily distracted.
He leaned back and violently shook his head to clear it.
"Think about this, Duo," he said harshly.
"I will!" The answer was accompanied by a saucy grin.
"We got nine months," Duo added more seriously, looping his arm around
Wufei's shoulders, and pulling them together, taking care not to put pressure
on Wufei's injured arm. "I'll think about it, I promise. You think about
it too. The details, I mean, and how you'll ram this down everybody's
throats; I'm not asking you to think about giving up on your idea, because
I know you wouldn't change your mind if God himself came down into this
dead-end colony and told you to, you stubborn son of a bitch."
"You're probably right. Of course, if I'm a stubborn son of a bitch, what
does that make you?" The riposte was automatic and rather weak. Wufei
felt dazed as he watched his future violently change once more, leaving
yet more choices and consequences ahead for both of them.
"A daring son of Space," Duo quipped.
"An adrenaline junky. You know I'll spend the next nine months trying
to talk you out of this. Right?"
"Good luck with that. I am an ex-Gundam pilot, after all. You know what
"It means you are a suicidal moron."
"Love you too."
They stayed out for another hour, watching Freeport's darkness and blinking
lights spread out before them. Then it got too cold, so they went back
down again to talk over the details some more.
[chap. 33] [back to