So This Is Christmas (cont)

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It had been full dark for some time when the straggling little party finally made it back to the cabin the skiers had rented as their base camp. Luckily, the last part of the trek had been along a broad, flat ledge that was almost a road; even more luckily, the prevailing winds in the area continually swept along the ledge, keeping it mostly clear of snow. Those same winds made it incredibly cold, but Wufei preferred wind chill to ten-foot snowdrifts. He told the skiers so, in detail and with explanations, when they complained.

They were awfully glad to reach the cabin -- probably because it got them out of the wind, back to their food supplies and portable heaters, but possibly because Wufei stopped lecturing for a while.

Noin sidled up to him as he stretched the kinks out of his back after depositing the injured man on a bunk. "If I didn't know better, Chang, I'd say you were enjoying this. You're certainly getting into the part."

Wufei eyed her incredulously, but not without a glint of humour. "I'm cold. I miss Duo. Duo is probably missing me, which is worse. I'm having to help rescue a pack of idiots who I wouldn't willingly associate with outside of work. I had to carry one of them most of the way here, and that damn datapad is really getting on my nerves. No, Noin, I'm not enjoying this. I'm just making sure I share the pain."

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Duo curled up on his side of the king-sized bed, hugging his pillow to him in a vain attempt to feel less alone. Finally he sighed, turned over, and burrowed into the other pillow, clutching it to him as he breathed in the faint traces of Wufei's familiar scent.

"Morons. Idiots. Bakayarou!" he muttered into the pillow. "Dragging my 'Fei away to rescue you now... I hope he makes you squirm!"

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Finally warm and fed (though definitely not happy), the assorted party settled down in sleeping bags as Wufei switched off the lamp.

There was quiet for five minutes.

<<Pikachuu!>>

The faint blue light of a datapad screen blinked on from Noin's bunk.

"It's midnight, ladies and gentlemen! And since Christmas Eve is a public holiday in this state, all the Preventers involved in this operation have just gone onto triple time!"

A chorus of faint groans came from the other bunks.

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The skiers didn't complain much when Wufei rousted them out of bed as soon as faint light started to colour the eastern sky. They knew better. Noin updated them on how far the total had grown while they slept, and they started getting breakfast organised.

Wufei looked at his bowl of trail muesli with powdered milk, then turned to Noin. "You know, I'm even more glad that I came instead of Duo. Can you imagine his reaction to this?"

One of the skiers muttered, just loud enough to be heard, "Wish he had come instead of you. We mighta had it easier."

Wufei looked at him. "Oh? You think so?" He turned back to Noin, who was starting to giggle. "Noin? Do you think Duo would give these people an easier time?"

"Well," she sputtered, "it would certainly be -- haha! -- different!" Then she fell sideways onto her bunk, laughing helplessly.

He put his bowl down and rose to stand in the middle of the limited floor space. "Let me see... how would Duo handle this? Hmm... all right, imagine that I'm four inches taller, with violet eyes and long brown hair in a plait down to here."

Noin scrambled for the datapad. Did I see-- YES! Recording capability! There is a God!

The man who'd spoken opened his mouth to say something, but froze with it still open as Wufei stretched upwards, clasped his hands behind his head... and changed. His eyes snapped open, wider than usual, glittering with manic energy. A broad, somehow menacing grin spread over his face, and he started to bounce on the balls of his feet.

"Ladies and gentlemen, the God of Death is in the building!"

Noin stuffed a corner of the thin pillow into her mouth to muffle her laughter as she watched, delighted. Oh god -- when did he get to be such a good actor?! I swear that's Duo's voice--

Wufei started to pace, still bouncing, gesturing extravagantly. "Now, we have a couple of options here, people. Option one is that you can walk down the mountain on your own little footsies, carrying all your gear yourselves 'cause it's damn sure Lu and I ain't gonna be bothered, and without complaining. Option two is where Lu and I go back down the mountain, get in our mobile suits, get back up here and kick you down, then charge you for the privilege. And believe me," he grinned even wider and winked, "getting kicked in the ass by Shinigami is a privilege!"

The skiers watched wide-eyed; Noin bit harder on the pillow. Did he just wiggle his eyebrows?! I hope this thing has enough memory to get all this...

"Option three is pretty icky. That's the one where we just leave you asswipes up here to freeze, and it's getting more attractive by the minute. Of course, we'd have to come up here after spring thaw to get your bodies. They'd be pretty disgusting by then, what with wild animals and all. I'd probably have nightmares about the way you all looked, and hafta get counselling -- oh, and compensation for mental pain and suffering. It'd be really expensive, and your loving relatives would get the bill.

"I know you think it's pretty harsh, having to pay for us saving your worthless asses, but think about it! I mean, what kind of spud do you have to be to get into this kind of mess? And at Christmas! You could have a little more consideration for people like Lu and me, y'know, dragged away from our nearest and dearest to save the lives of a bunch of jerks who probably vote for candidates who pledge to lower the Preventers' budget."

Abruptly, Wufei stopped pacing and dropped back into his usual voice and mannerisms. "At this point, Duo would probably go into some length about how being dragged away from his 'nearest and dearest' means being dragged away from me, and consequently not 'getting any'. I trust you'll excuse me if I don't." And then he was back in character and continuing the rant.

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Duo sneezed hard three times, waking himself up. "Damn... someone must be talkin' about me. *yawn* Hope it's good..." He rolled over and dozed off again.

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Wufei finally stopped and smiled coldly at the skiers. "That was just a sample of what Duo would have subjected you to from the moment he reached you. His lungs do not get tired, and he can talk for hours without repeating himself when he's really wound up. Now," he eyed them sardonically, "do you still think you'd prefer being rescued by him?"

The skiers mutely shook their heads.

Noin was wound up in her sleeping bag, with just her laughing eyes and the datapad's video pickup peering over the edge. She carefully shut it off and tucked it down out of sight, then spat out the corner of the pillow and started untangling herself. "I don't know, Chang... after that performance, it looks like they got the best of both of you!"

Wufei snorted and began fastidiously straightening his uniform, eyes still sparking with the wicked humour that had made him begin the impression. "I won't dignify that with an answer," he said loftily. "Now, if everyone has finished breakfast, we should pack up and get moving."

<<Pikachuu!>>

"Noin, I'm going to shoot that thing when we get back to HQ."

"I'll help. Just give me time to download its memory to Lady Une's computer first, okay?"

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Duo lounged around in bed for a good chunk of the morning, but couldn't get properly into the lazy mood he was trying for. Finally, he gave up, got out of bed and started tidying up.

"Damn it," he groused as he shoved sheets into the washing machine. "Lazing around and being a slob isn't half as much fun without somebody trying to make me stop."

Wandering aimlessly around the ground floor, dressed in a T-shirt and jeans, he was brought up short next to the stereo when his stomach suddenly growled loudly. *Oh... yeah, I never did remember to eat yesterday. I guess it's a good thing 'Fei's not here to see-- screw it, if 'Fei was here it wouldn't have happened. Guess he's right when he tells me I don't look after myself properly when he's not around.* He switched on the stereo and dropped in a few more Christmas CDs, then headed for the kitchen and breakfast. (Brunch. Lunch. Whatever!)

Sitting at the table licking mayonnaise and mustard off his fingers after finishing off a couple of enormous sandwiches, Duo slurped up some of his coffee and started singing along with the music.

"Chestnuts roasting on an open fire... Jack Frost nipping at your-- chestnuts. Chestnuts." His eyes widened in horror. "Oh man! I can't believe I forgot the chestnuts!"

Five minutes later, he was blasting down the road on his way to the closest store he remembered having an 'Open Christmas Eve' sign, muttering to himself. "I don't believe this. All those shopping trips, all those damn lists, and I still forgot one of the best parts of Christmas! Shit!" Shifting gears down and tapping on the brakes, he slowed to legal speed and purred demurely around a corner, waving cheerfully at the police car parked behind a screen of bushes as he drove past. Around the next corner, he stamped on the accelerator and burned up the road again. "Chestnuts! Jeez!"

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Five stores and two hours later, Duo was home again. He had his chestnuts.

Unfortunately, he didn't have his keys.

Peering in through a window, he could see them sitting on the coffee table. Sighing, he started to trudge around the house, checking windows.

He wound up back at the front door. "Damn... usually I forget to lock at least one window! Or the back door. Or the door that connects to the garage." He checked his watch. "I dunno when 'Fei's gonna be home... and I've got to put the turkey on to cook in an hour! I really don't want to break a window; we've only had the house two months and I've already had to break in three times."

He walked back into the garage and closed the door, shutting out the wind, and sat down against the door to the house. "Okay. If 'Fei's not back by three-thirty, I break a window."

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Noin and Wufei walked -- no, stamped -- into Preventers HQ. Everyone who caught sight of their expressions suddenly had something to do elsewhere, or discovered an absolutely fascinating piece of paperwork on their desk.

Wufei held his hand out to Noin. "Okay. The morons have been delivered to the proper authorities. We don't need the datapad any more. Give it to me."

Noin held it behind her back. "First, just let me download the memory, okay? Five minutes, I swear."

<<Pikachuu!>>

"Oh, shut up."

Five minutes later...

The Preventers currently using the indoor firing range looked up in surprise as two well-known officers stalked in, still in cold-weather gear. Finding all the lanes occupied, they walked up to the nearest and tapped the man using it on the shoulder.

Noin smiled brilliantly at him. "Do you mind if we cut in? Just for a minute? We won't be long, we promise."

"Um -- sure!"

"Thank you!" she chirped. Wufei hit the control to wind the target back up the lane.

The range was silent as everyone craned their necks to see what was going on, target practice forgotten.

Wufei took the paper target off the hook and handed it wordlessly to the man. Noin ceremonially hung the datapad in its place, dangling from its wrist strap. Then they wound the new target out to the very end of the lane, drew and checked their guns...

...and just stood there, guns pointed at the floor.

They seemed to be waiting for something.

<<Pika-->>

BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM!

Wufei reeled the hook back in, picked the strap still dangling from it off with finger and thumb, and dropped it fastidiously in the bin full of spent shells.

Noin took the paper target from the man's slack fingers, hung it back on the hook, and sent it back out to where he'd had it set. The two of them reloaded their guns, holstered them, then turned in unison and sauntered out.

"See you tonight, Noin."

"We'll be there at seven."

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