see chap. 1 for notes, warnings
+ Chapter 7
They reached the disturbed area and examined the evidence. The sensor had been knocked down and the underbrush scuffled.
"Think it could have been a bear?" Duo muttered, fingers on his gun. They were deep in the woodlands, and there were big carnivores around.
Trowa said nothing, examining the faint tracks. He didn't like the looks of them. "I don't think so." He murmured. They were too wide, too obvious to be a single animal.
"Damn. Let's split and quarter the area." Duo sighed. No other disturbances had registered on the sensors but they weren't that closely linked.
"Okay." Trowa set his mind to concentrate on the problem but first... "Duo?"
"... what you and Quatre do is none of my business but please take him seriously, he's not as... tough as you seem to think."
Duo blinked at him in confusion, then embarrassment, though he didn't seem resentful. Then again Duo never was, maybe he just couldn't take things seriously.
"Ah so you did hear us-erm, Tro, I was just-"
The communicator beeped. *Status?* It was Heero's cold tones.
Duo's face immediately became serious. "Still checking. We're about to split and cover the ground. I'll call back in five."
Duo spun away and ran off in an arc towards the Gundams, gun in hand and without further words, though, after a minute of running silently and finding nothing, he couldn't help thinking back to the conversation. Geez, Tro could sure be sensitive about a little teasing! Well, he was when it was Q who was involved. Duo snickered in complete silence. Those guys were so cute!
Trowa went the other way, eyes flicking over the ground. The area around was rocky and ravined, he couldn't follow the tracks. He couldn't follow the workings of Duo's mind either. 'Just' what. Just having fun? Could even Duo be that callous, towards himself or Quatre? Stress and hormones were a potent combination... Maybe he didn't mean any harm, but Trowa remembered with an ache Quatre's serious face as he tried talking to the braided pilot, and thought harm of some sort might occur anyway.
Duo ran from one awkward situation right into another one, and into an irate Wufei at the same time.
"Come back here! We need to talk!"
"You sure it's me you need to talk to?" Duo couldn't help smirking a little as he turned. Quatre hadn't reported any other disturbance, it was probably nothing. He wasn't sure he wanted to talk to Wuffers before talking to Heero though, and the later would be with the Gundams.
"Definitely!" Wufei snarled. "It has come to my attention-... " He suddenly paused, flushing.
Duo was unable to resist. That flush was a red flag to the bull.
"Wuffikins, I know it's hard to talk about these personal things. Especially when you have a katana up your- urk!"
Duo found himself slammed against a tree, two strong hands knotted in his vest. Blazing onyx eyes were burning into his own.
"You will listen to me. Yuy might not say anything to you, but I will. Leave... him... alone. Got that?"
Duo blinked a few times, then grinned dangerously.
"Wow, so you did notice. I didn't think you had it in you."
"Oh I noticed, Maxwell, and now -"
"I mean, that spandex, right?"
"-you will desist-"
"What's in the spandex is pretty drool-worthy-"
"-shut up, desist in pursuing someone who-"
"-who looks hot enough to melt the polar caps? Yeah we both noticed."
"I noticed alright!"
There was a short sharp silence while Duo, still caught in iron fists, grinned delightedly and Wufei paused to replay Duo's side of the conversation, which he'd only been partly listening to as it made him acutely embarrassed.
"That's good, Wufei, let it out!"
"Th-that's not what I meant!"
"Well that's what you said!"
"I meant I noticed your pursuing him!"
"Yeah but you've got the hots for him too, so that makes it easy to-"
A fist smashed into the tree an inch from Duo's face.
The pilot gaped at Wufei's enraged features.
"Man you're really serious about this... "
"Of course I am, you braided menace!"
Duo stared. What he didn't get was what Wufei hoped to accomplish speaking to Duo about it, especially if he wasn't even ready to admit he was infatuated with Heero himself.
"Look, Wufei, back off. It's obviously hurting you where you live-" Wufei's face blanched with anger so Duo quickly waved his hands, trying for a tone of reason instead of hostility and annoyance. "But you have to see that Heero has to make his own choice in the matter."
"Would you listen to him if he did?!"
"Of course I would. If he came up to me and said, 'Duo, I'd rather sleep with Wufei than you', I'd say okay and leave him be."
"Leave him be! Right!"
"Of course first I'd check him for-"
"Wh-what?!" Once more, Duo's part of the conversation caught up to Wufei a little too late.
"-brain injury, then I'd make sure he-"
"What did you say?!"
"-wasn't drugged or tortured by OZ first and then I'd-"
"How dare you!"
"-bust his chops, but I'd leave you two in your little idyll right after his bones heal." Duo gasped as the fist tightened again in his vest. "What? What did I say now? I just said-!"
Two spots of red had ignited on the oriental cheekbones and burned as angrily as the eyes.
"Get your mind out of the gutter! I don't want to sleep with Yuy!"
"Oh yeah, Wuffee, and I'm Lady Une in drag." Duo flinched and raised his hands quickly as Wufei's fist twitched back. "Whoa, Chuckles, get a grip, it's not the end of the world."
"How dare you suggest such a thing!"
"Suggest?" Well of course Wufei didn't know Duo had overheard his conversation with Heero. "Well... " He extemporized quickly. "You are warning me off of him and all-"
"I'm acting as a friend! Yuy is way above you."
"But not above you?"
"He's above me t- no, shut up! I'm acting for him because he won't tell you!"
Duo's ears pricked. "Tell me what?"
"That he has no wish to have a relationship with you!"
Duo's mouth opened slightly, but he didn't say anything. Heero's face had suddenly come back to mind as he'd asked him to follow him on the inspection of the perimeter. Grave, angry, embarrassed... Something even more serious than a busted circuit board was afoot. Duo's heart suddenly wobbled.
"I can't even imagine how you thought you'd ever get anywhere with him!" Wufei ground on. "Heero Yuy would never let himself be distracted by sex."
"Well that's true." Duo grumbled. Was that what was in the works? Was Heero still angry about the Duo-shaped distraction that had nearly cost him a circuit board? He'd always let Duo know he came a distant second to the missions and Wing... And Duo was aware that he was always hovering on the edge of being an obstacle in the pursuit of perfection. Was Heero finally going to do something about it?
Wufei scented victory. Reason and justice would prevail! "He will never sleep with you so you can stop your pursuits!"
Duo blinked, suddenly jolted from his grim thoughts. "That's... less true... " Never? What did Wufei mean, he and Heero had been humping like weasels for...
Did... did Wufei not know maybe how far they'd gone... ? If that were the case then Heero would have been unlikely to confide in Wufei he wanted to get rid of the 'braided menace'...
Wufei's face darkened at the return of the jester's smile (hiding some relief) "Are you listening to me, Maxwell? He's the perfect soldier, not some object for your amusement!
"Oh you just drool when you say 'Perfect'"
"Shut up! Will you desist?"
Duo's hand shot up in a 'scout's honour' gesture. "I promise I won't make a move until Heero does so first." He said solemnly. After this conversation he was going to be damned sure of that.
Wufei was left slightly off-balance in the face of that promise. Duo could weasel out of a lot but he generally kept his word and didn't lie. Somehow, though Wufei had made the effort to talk to him, he hadn't thought it would be this easy. "Well... okay then."
"But you have to promise me the same thing."
"Maxwell, are you insane? I told you I don't want to have sex with-"
"You're drooling again."
"And also the way you said 'Right!' when I said Heero might want to sleep with you-"
Duo's hand was covering Wufei's mouth, eyes wide.
Wufei felt the tension hum through the body under his hand, saw the eyes, the serious expression...
Heard, in the distance, the noise of footsteps crackling in the underbrush.
Footsteps that were way too loud to be from any of the light-footed pilots...
The two teens were shadows in the dappled light and just as quiet as they sank down into the undergrowth. Trees cut visibility to shreds, but they saw enough...
Glimpses. Several men, walking quietly, cautiously. Fatigues. A glimmer of light on a weapon's long barrel.
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