AUTHORS: Mel and Christy (We evil two...)
~*For Ashura*~ --because she threatened us into writing it--

That Damn Tree!
(or, Why The Preventers Gave A Pine Tree A Viking Funeral)

Duo stared intently at his watch, drumming the fingers of his other hand on the desk. He was all packed and ready to go; his desk was actually cleaner than it had been all year.

"Come on, come on... YES! Quitting time!" Leaping for the door, he hooked Wufei by the collar as he zoomed past, dragging him out of his chair and down the corridor. "C'mon, 'Fei! Let's go!"

"*ACK!* Duo! At least let me finish my *ack* paragraph!" Wufei protested, scattering paperwork as he stumbled after his husband. He grabbed at Duo's hand, trying to get loose, but only succeeded in transferring the vice-like grip to his left wrist. Surrendering to the inevitable, he called out to Noin as they raced past her.

"Noin could you put my papers back on my desk please Duo's in a hurry~!"

*SLAM!*

"...sure, Wufei," Noin said to the closed front door.

----------

Duo bounced by the passenger side door of Wufei's Blazer, drumming a tattoo on the window. "Hurry UP, 'Fei, open the door, open the door, open the door--" The lock clicked open and he flung himself in.

"Duo, there will be trees left when we get there," Wufei growled as he pulled out into the street. "Calm down."

"But our tree might be gone!"

"Our tree?!"

"You know -- the perfect tree! Right height, right number of branches, right shape..."

"I wasn't aware that so much went into choosing a tree. I thought you just picked a random green thing and stuck it in a bucket," Wufei said, relaxing slightly and starting to tease.

Duo launched into a dissertation on the merits and demerits of various types of Christmas trees -- blue spruce, Douglas fir... It lasted until they got to the tree lot.

"Duo... you've been researching this, haven't you?" Wufei said at last.

"Of course! This is a mission! I always do research before a mission!"

"only thing you DO research..." Wufei muttered. "never COULD get you to prepare for assignments when we were in school..."

"I heard that!"

"You were supposed to," Wufei said loftily.

"Humph!" Duo stuck his nose in the air and stalked into the tree lot, flicking his braid over his shoulder.

----------

Over the next hour and a half, Wufei discovered that he enormously enjoyed looking for the Perfect Tree. Or at least, he enormously enjoyed following Duo around, watching him as he looked for the Perfect Tree.

"Mmm... nope. Too short."

"Definitely not! Bald spot."

"Ennnh... that branch is bent the wrong way."

"Nope."

"Nuh-uh."

Wufei smiled to himself as Duo started down the next aisle of trees, his normal carefree bounce replaced with a determined stride. He's really taking this seriously... I suppose he has a point, though. What was it he said last week?

"This is our first Christmas in our own house instead of that little apartment, and our first year hosting the reunion party. We have to have the Perfect Tree, 'Fei! No more dinky little tinsel tabletop trees for US!"

Well, he thought, watching his husband dismiss an entire stand of trees with a haughty wave of his hand as 'not the right shade of green for the living room', I don't think Duo really needs my help... well, my car has the roof rack, but apart from that he's handling it all himself. He could have just borrowed the Blazer. Still, (as Duo bent almost double to examine the lower branches of one tree) I guess I'm glad I'm here.

"'Fei, what do you think of this one?"

"Perfect. Absolutely perfect," he answered dreamily, eyes firmly fixed on something that was definitely NOT green and twiggy.

Glancing back at him, Duo blinked in surprise at the expression on his face, then mock-glared. "'Fei! We are here to check out Christmas trees, not so you can check out my ass!"

"But Duo... it's such a nice ass."

"He's right; it is a very nice ass," a female voice came from behind Wufei. He yelped and spun around as Relena stepped out from behind another rack of trees. Heero followed, carrying a small spruce.

Relena cocked her head and gave Duo (who was currently frozen, open-mouthed, doing his best Deer In Headlights impression) a considering look. "In fact, I think in some ways it's even nicer than Heero's. What do you think, dear?"

Heero smirked, one hand going up to rub his chin. "Mm. It's rounder. Putting on a little weight, there, Duo?"

"Yui!" Wufei sputtered, remembering the fight he'd had to get weight ON Duo.

Relena giggled, taking her husband's arm and towing him away. "Well, we've got our tree, so we'll leave you to find yours, hmm? Bye~!"

Wufei glared angrily after Heero. How dare he-- how can he joke about that! If Duo's upset, I'll--

"Wufei?" Duo's voice was hesitant, almost worried.

Oh shit, Yui did upset him--

"Do these pants make my butt look fat?"

Wufei stared at him incredulously for a heartbeat before Duo couldn't hold the worried expression and collapsed in helpless laughter.

----------

"'Fei! Look at this one! Whaddaya think?" Duo pulled the tree upright and turned to brandish it at Wufei.

Wufei ran his eyes down the line of Duo's body, smiling. "Beautiful."

"I'm serious, 'Fei! Look at the tree, not me! I think this is it!"

Wufei shrugged, bemused; he couldn't see any difference between this tree and a hundred others Duo had rejected. "Looks fine to me."

"Fine? It's perfect!"

"Then let's buy it, take it home, and decorate it," Wufei said patiently, ushering Duo towards the cash booth.

"No, we can't decorate it yet, 'Fei. We've got to let it fall first."

"Fall? I thought that was what the tree stand was supposed to prevent."

"No no no no no, that's 'tipping over'. 'Falling' is when you let the branches settle for a couple of days before you stick any decorations on."

"Ah. I see." Wufei pulled out his wallet, attracted the cashier's attention, and pointed after Duo as he just kept walking towards the Blazer, tree in hand. "That one. How much?"

----------

With the tree securely fastened to the roof rack (after ten minutes of Duo fussing over the exactly correct placement of each knot in the rope), they set off home. They were half-way there when there was a crackle from their two-way radio.

<<Any Preventers to the west of the city centre on Highway 6, be prepared to render assistance to police in pursuit of a stolen late model blue Ford Futura. The occupants of the Futura are believed responsible for this morning's robbery of the Central Western bank and are confirmed armed and dangerous. Last reported position is the intersection of Highway 6 and Dry Creek Road, heading west.>>

"Duo... that's three miles behind us."

**VROOOOOOOOOOOOM!**

"Not any more it's not! Hit it, 'Fei!" Duo slapped their blue flasher light onto the dashboard as Wufei stamped on the accelerator.

The pursuing police car passed them before they got up to speed, but Wufei soon caught up. He spared a moment to be grateful that the road was nearly deserted this far out of town; then he concentrated on driving.

"'Fei, gun!"

"I see it," he snapped. A man was leaning out of the Futura's passenger side window, aiming a pistol. The police car started weaving evasively across the road.

Duo swore, his own gun in his hand. "I can't get a clear shot with the cops in the way. Can you pass 'em?"

"We're supposed to be assisting, not taking over!"

"Assisting, taking over, same thing! Can you pass them?!"

"Duo," Wufei gritted out through clenched teeth as he threw the car around a corner, "you take your job too seriously."

That got him an incredulous look. "Say what?! 'Fei, I don't believe you just said that!"

"So sue me. No, I can't pass them. Yet."

The man hanging out of the Futura fired, and the windshield of the police car shattered into an opaque blur. Wufei stood on the brakes as the cruiser fishtailed across the road directly in front of them, then hit the accelerator again and flicked past as it ran into a ditch.

"We've passed them. Happy now?"

"Oh, I suppose it'll do-- WHOA! They're shooting at us now!"

"Bulletproof glass, don't worry."

"Should have known. Shall I return the favour?"

"Be my guest."

Duo wound his window down and leaned out, beginning to take aim, then swore again as the Futura whipped left down a dirt access road. Wufei spun the wheel and followed.

Low-hanging branches slapped against the Blazer's sides and roof as they plunged into the forest. Duo ducked in and out of his window, snapping off shots whenever he had a clear view; he laughed as the Futura's passenger, leaning out to return fire, was thwacked in the back of the head and nearly dropped his gun. Finally, he managed to blow out one of the back tires and the Futura spun out of control, slamming into a tree.

Wufei skidded the Blazer to a halt and both front doors flicked open in unison with the two Preventers leaning through the windows, guns pointed, arms braced.

"Drop your weapons and come out with your hands up!" Wufei bellowed. A police siren could be heard coming down the road behind them.

"Or we can just blow you away in the car!" Duo yelled cheerfully.

Two pistols flew out of the Futura's window, followed by a knife, a set of brass knuckles, and a monkey wrench.

"Aw, man!" Duo sang out as the two bank robbers emerged nervously, hands up. "Spoiling all my fun... 'Fei, this job's getting boring."

"My heart bleeds for you. Cover me while I cuff them."

Once the prisoners were restrained, Duo holstered his gun and bounced forwards to confiscate their weapons and check the car for more, but Wufei stopped him. "The police are here now," he nodded towards the two cruisers coming down the dirt road, one minus its windscreen, "so I think we can just hand these two over and go... home..." His eyes widened, looking over Duo's shoulder.

"Huh? What's the matter?" Duo turned around.

There was a long pause as he stared, horrified, at the scene before him. Those low-hanging branches had done more than slap the Blazer as they passed. The Perfect Tree, lovingly tied to the roof rack, was now missing every single one of the branches on its top side.

"You KILLED our TREE! YOU BASTARDS!!!" Duo spun and hurled himself at the prisoners.

Wufei leapt sideways and intercepted him. "No! Duo, don't! We do NOT kill prisoners after they've surrendered!"

"You may not, but I do!" Duo spat, thrashing in his grip and glaring daggers at the cowering bank robbers. He went for his gun, but found Wufei's hand already there, holding it firmly in the holster. "They killed our tree, and now it's time for them to die!"

"It's only a tree!"

"It was PERFECT! We spent TWO HOURS looking for that damn tree! It had everything!"

"You still can't kill them!"

"Fine, I'll kneecap them! I'll settle for that. Now let go of my gun!"

"NO!"

The police looked bemusedly at the struggle. One put his hand on his gun and started forwards, but another stopped him.

"No, let it go. I know those two. Chang's got it under control," he said dryly, brushing the last few bits of shattered windscreen glass off his uniform.

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, I'm sure. Maxwell's never killed a prisoner yet."

"'Yet', he says..." a third muttered. "Not for lack of trying!"

"Are all the Preventers like this?" the first cop asked, slowly letting go of his gun.

"Well... no. You see, the Preventers go for ability above all else. They're willing to overlook a certain level of... personality quirks... so long as their people have the skills to get the job done. And those two are two of their best."

"They'd have to be," the third cop muttered. The fourth just nodded.

----------

Everyone working late shift in Preventers HQ looked up as Duo came stamping in, dragging a mangled Christmas tree and leaving a trail of broken pine needles on the floor. Wufei strolled in after him, hands in pockets, looking as if there was absolutely nothing unusual going on at all.

Duo walked straight up to Lady Une's office and threw open the door, dragging the tree in and dropping it in front of her desk.

"Look at this! D'you know what this is?!"

Une laid down her pen and leaned forwards, peering down at the drooping greenery. "Good afternoon, Maxwell. It appears to be a Christmas tree. Why is this a problem?"

He picked it up again and brandished it at her. "This was the Perfect Tree! Now look at it!"

She looked at it. It sagged forlornly in Duo's grasp and shed little piles of needles on her floor. "It appears rather less than perfect now."

"Yes! Those bastards killed our tree and I want them dead!"

"But we'll settle for reimbursement," Wufei put in from the doorway.

"Personal property damaged in the line of duty. Go talk to Accounting. I hope you have a receipt," Une noted, returning to her paperwork. "Now take that thing out of here and give it a decent burial."

"Of course." Wufei stood aside as Duo stormed out, still dragging the tree. "Oh, and I'll be putting in a claim for minor panelbeating and repainting of the Blazer later. Bullet dings, scratches, that sort of thing."

"Not a problem. Close the door on your way out... and send in one of the cleaners to sweep this up, would you?"

Duo stamped along, muttering under his breath. "'Decent burial' my ass. You don't bury pine trees! And if I was going to give it a funeral, I'd-- I'd... um... pine trees are Nordic, so... a Viking funeral! Yeah!"

"I am not buying a boat just so you can set it on fire with that tree on board," Wufei said as he caught up. "Besides, the lake's frozen."

"Well... okay then, I'll just burn it."

Wufei sighed. "I have a spare gallon of gas in the car."

----------

Preventers clustered at the windows and spilled out the front door as Duo dragged the tree to a vacant spot in the parking lot, doused it in petrol, flipped a match and stood back. As smoke and flames billowed into the sky, he saluted briefly.

"It died in the line of duty, Maxwell. You should be proud." Zechs was standing behind him, hand over his heart, fighting to keep a straight face.

Noin nodded vigorously. "We will remember its noble sacrifice."

Other Preventers gathered around, saluting. Someone began to hum 'Taps'.

Inside, Lady Une turned away from her window, sighing, and pressed a button on her intercom. "Amanda, once Chang and Maxwell have gone home, could you call the fire department and ask them to put our parking lot out?"

----------

The next day:

Duo moped at his desk, doodling evil little smiley faces in the margins of his latest report, tentatively titled 'How 'Fei And Me Arrested Those Jerks Who Killed Our Tree'. Suddenly, he was hauled out of his chair by the wrist and towed at speed towards the door.

"Come on, Duo! Let's get moving!"

"'Fei-- what-- where are we going?"

"To buy the Next Perfect Tree, of course!"

A slow grin spread over Duo's face as he ran. "You just want to spend two hours checking out my ass again!"

Wufei cocked a sardonic eyebrow at him. "And is that a problem?"

"Of course not! I just wanted to make sure we all had our motivations straight, that's all. Oh, hey, Noin, see ya later gotta go bye~!"

*SLAM!*

~Owari~

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