Author: Gloria
See Ch. 1 for other warnings, notes, disclaimer

Summary: Melting clocks. In the age of fallout, memory will persist--even if nothing else does.
Alternate Warnings: Rating MA is for violence, swearing and adult sexual situations, which include, but are not limited to, homosexuality. Also contains characters dealing with serious subjects like death, war and grief, so standard angst warnings apply.
Author's Note: I've been looking forward to this chapter since I began the fic, because we learn A LOT in a few very short moments. This chapter officially closes the Madrid arch, and marks the beginning of Duo and Heero's partnership. This is fun, because I can get more into the plot now, which has been identified since the beginning but purposely left unclear in the interest of mystery.

Oh, and in case there is any confusion, I'm pretty sure the original "Persistence of Memory" oil painting by Salvador Dali is in New York...but I thought, hey, this is futuristic, so its could be assumed that the painting would return to Spain at some point in the last hundred years.

Prerequisite + Chapter 5: Kimchi-Flavored Humble Pie

A.C. 203

Heero paused in front of a painting, and Duo paused with him. They'd chosen to wander art museums today, which was perfectly fine by Duo. In fact, it was more than fine. It gave them something to do that didn't include waiting around the hotel for their ultimate stand-off with Wufei, who was supposed to be in Madrid at some point that day. Okay, at least Duo's ultimate stand-off with Wufei, because Heero, specifically, didn't seem to care much about the matter at all. Duo had the feeling that if it weren't for his decision to wait for the Preventer, they'd be somewhere in the middle of the Mediterranean by now.

Weird. They'd stopped by this painting already. Twice, actually. Heero seemed drawn to it, peering at it with this oddly suspicious glare, like it was a particularly difficult prisoner to interrogate. Duo squinted at the plaque, reading the inscription. La Persistencia de la Memoria ~ Anno Domini 1931; Salvador Dali. Duo straightened, taking the time to look at the painting. Instead of appreciating the art at the museum, Duo had spent this fine morning being twitchy, glancing at every security camera, memorizing faces, marking exits--everything Heero did, but as silently and as effortlessly as the man breathed. But third time's a charm, as they say, and Duo's eyes moved over the canvas. Melting clocks. Huh.

"Did you mean it?" Heero asked suddenly, looking at him.

"Uh." Melty clocks apparently made his brain sluggish. Duo was caught off guard, and sent him a startled glance. "Which 'it'? I say a lot of things."

"What you said to Kim. That you go where I go."

Enough to make Duo smile. Really smile. "Yeah, Heero. I meant that." Because he did. Duo may not know, precisely, what the hell he was doing with Heero, what he was weaving their friendship into, but he at least felt like he'd gotten the upper-hand again, and that made him content, made him feel safe. Nice, too, that Heero would let him wrest control, give him the pace, the lead. At least they weren't fighting anymore. At least they'd gotten past that.

Heero's gaze dropped to his mouth, like on the train, only this time Duo didn't think Heero was plotting a dirty trick. Heero's expression was odd, somewhere caught between blank and painfully open, like he was revving up the guts to do it--Jesus Christ, in front of everyone and their third cousin twice removed. He wouldn't. Duo almost panicked, because he looked like he might've. Duo's breathing hitched, his pulse seemed to sharpen in his gut--but Heero didn't. God, how long again? Too long. Weirder and weirder and weirder. Peacemillion was a thing brought on by stress and exhaustion, carefully initiated behind locked doors and never spoken of again. Not even the others, who knew of course. It was a ship. There were no secrets on a ship. But it was ignored; because things like that didn't need to be explained. And Duo found himself not being able to quite meet Heero's gaze after he moved half a step away. He looked back at the painting. Melting clocks. Time got skewed in memories that wouldn't quite let go. At least that much made sense. Duo glanced at the camera to his left, to the couple that wandered by, to the mother shushing her toddler down the corridor. At his tattered watch, that read it was fourteen past noon.

Rules were different now, facilitating events not as rushed, nor as dangerous. Neither of them expected to die in a few hours, and they weren't alone. Melting clocks. It went unmentioned because it was natural on a battleship, natural to snatch an hour away from the mayhem of war in some dark place, to use the nerves for a different conduit, so one could go into the next fight a little calmer, a littler more clear-headed. They weren't on Peacemillion. There wasn't a war, a battle to fight. Sure, Duo was on edge because Preventers was breathing down his neck, Wufei was breathing down his neck, but if they became intimate, it would be a different game, a romantic one, and Duo was as crap at that game as he was at Monopoly. Fifteen past noon now. The toddler was crying, the mother picked him up. Rent-a-cop to their left sparing the two of them a lazy glance.

And Duo wasn't quite sure he was ready to fuck up his friendship with Heero. It'd barely been a week. Heero was stiff beside him, turned again to glare at the painting. Duo knew he should say something, a joke, a consoling gesture, anything. But because he didn't know what the hell he was doing, he didn't. Weird that the clocks would actually melt. Rent-a-cop looked away, moved away, to ask the mother to control her child.

"You like this painting." Duo gestured to it.

"I do."

"What does it mean?"

Heero turned to look at him, glaring still, but not in the way that suggested he was angry or anything. "What do you think it means?"

"I think it's fuckin' weird."

Heero smiled a little, for that, a lift in his frowning brows. "It's about now, about the 'after'. The fallout." He turned back to it. "Not entirely off the mark," he added softly.

Okay. Duo frowned at the painting. Weird and depressing. Rent-a-cop was gone, escorting the mother and her child to the cafeteria. Time to go. "Let's get out of here."

Wufei was waiting for them in their hotel room when they got back. Flipping through Heero's photo albums, sitting casually on the bed. Duo shot a look towards Heero as he let the door swing shut behind them. Heero didn't like it, but he didn't seem about to charge at Chang either. Wufei noticed too, Heero's expression. He closed the album and set it on the bed beside him. The bathroom door was closed; Heero moved to the wall beyond the handle.

Wufei wasn't in dress blues today; khakis and Preventer-issued jacket instead. Duo wondered if the casual attire was meant to put them at ease. Wufei stood, gazing intensely at Heero, who had relaxed immensely when Wufei put down the photo album, when Heero had settled into a proactive offensive to his anonymity against the wall.

"Heero," Wufei said, the amount of affection in that single word enough to throw Duo off balance. "It's very good to see you."

"Likewise," Heero nodded, a smile on his face that was a little more than polite. Duo's nerves were beginning that quick, blackened plunge into dangerous. Duo glanced at the bathroom door.

Wufei's black eyes flickered over Heero's shoulder. "Duo."

Duo's chin jerked up by way of greeting, returning the Preventer's gaze.

Wufei was already looking at Heero again. Duo was getting the impression this visit was more for Heero then it was for him. It shouldn't have bothered him, it should have relieved him. Wufei gestured to the bed, to the photo album. "Seems you've been keeping your own advice."

"Of course." Heero smiled again. "You've done very well with it yourself."

"Thank you." Wufei seemed younger then, almost vulnerable. He put his hands in his pants pockets, glanced at the floor. "It's not as difficult now as it was at the beginning."


It was definitely obvious they were speaking about something Duo had never been made aware of, a continuation of some private conversation they'd had another time. Melting clocks indeed. Duo moved very quietly towards the terrace, intent on letting them have their conversation privately. Of course, Wufei had other ideas.

"How did you like the museum," Wufei asked quietly, just as Duo moved by him.

Duo smiled, taking the bait, grinning because he knew he would really only need a little push to lose his shit all over L5's surviving miscreant. "About that--"

"Duo, you know it's necessary that we keep an eye on you. Your record pre-colony wars are enough for your name to be on our lists. The faster you reconcile that, the faster we can reach a win/win here." Wufei's stare was all intense severity when Duo finally turned to regard him.

"Actually," Duo said slowly. "I was going to say that you shouldn't put the fear of God into inferior officers when you know damn well that not even you could trace me if I didn't let you. Poor kid thought he was going to get demoted if I skipped town."

Wufei shrugged unapologetically, a rare smile hovering over his lips. "I was counting on your feeling sorry for him."

"You bastard." Duo straightened, his mouth curling into an even broader grin. "That's not playing fair."

The toilet flushed, the sound of a faucet. Heero became immobile, Duo turned fully towards the bathroom, ready to meet whoever's been hiding in there since they came in. Christ, that was hardly fair either.

It was fucking, goddamned Sally Po. Duo wanted to surrender and throw in the towel the moment the door opened and the woman stepped out of the bathroom. She threw him a dazzling smile, which Duo answered with a sullen scowl.

"Oh, fuck that." Duo turned and mimed a dodge for the terrace.

"Don't even think about it, Duo Maxwell. Get your butt over here and hug me."

She smelled good, really good. Not fruity or flowery, just clean and fresh and bright. The woman smelled like spring. When Sally finally released him, Duo felt subdued, even a little sleepy. Women like Sally Po always made Duo want to curl up into a ball and let them spoon feed him soup.

"Have you been starving him?" Sally demanded over her shoulder with a frown, grabbing Duo's chin and turning his face this way and that. "He's way too thin. Duo, hon, you're way too thin."

"Am not."

Heero was smirking behind her.

"Are to. In fact." Sally stepped back, threw a grin and a small wave in Heero's direction, and grabbed a satchel by the dresser. "Seems you've made quite the impression on Preventer Kim, you shameless flirt." Sally retrieved several containers from her satchel and shoved them into Duo's arms. "Eat that," she commanded.

Duo sighed and used his nose to push back the tin foil covering the topmost in his tower of Tupperware. Radish kimchi. Duo laughed aloud and set the containers on the dresser. Cabbage and cucumber kimchi there was also, a zip lock bag of Korean pancakes, and a larger container of steamed rice. "I am not a shameless flirt," Duo disagreed as he unwrapped a set of chopsticks. "I happen to exercise a fair amount of humility when I flirt. Gives me ambiance."

Heero snorted; and Sally zeroed in on him next. Duo met Wufei's calculating stare in the reflection of the mirror above the dresser, brandishing his chopsticks. Wufei rolled his eyes.

Sally's presence did what it was intended to do, and Duo had to give Wufei credit for thinking it. She kept the conversation light-hearted and friendly for a whole twenty minutes as Duo dumped all the kimchi into the rice bowl and stirred, eating a pancake and licking the grease off his fingers. Wufei unpacked his briefcase, carefully laying out files on one of the beds as Sally occupied Heero. Duo peered over Wufei's shoulder.

"Sharing sensitive material with known terrorists, Chang? Tsk, tsk."

Wufei jumped and whirled a glare at him. Duo smiled and bit into a radish, chewing noisily as Wufei picked up one manila folder. Heero and Sally drifted over to stand beside them. Wufei offered the folder to Duo. "L2's RE Commission sold your lot to--"

"I don't care."

"Fine." Wufei tossed the file back onto the bed and picked up another. He opened it, pulled out a glossy photograph and flipped it so Duo could see the image. "Do you recognize this man?"

Mid-thirties, sandy blond hair with a groomed beard and a friendly smile. Brown eyes, shadowy because of the light the picture was taken in; he looked like he was in the middle of telling a very pleasant story. "No."

"Never? You're sure?"

"I said I didn't." Duo finished the radish, blinking away the tears brought on by the spicy sauce it was fermented in.

Wufei selected another photo from the file. Duo could feel Sally's gaze on him like hot coals, gauging his reaction. "He was with the mob that torched your place."

Duo stabbed his chopsticks into his rice and took the photo. Same man, an oddly calm expression on his face as he hurled a glass bottle of gasoline topped with a flaming rag at Maxwell Scrap. Duo wondered, idly, if he'd been inside at the time the photo was taken. Duo swallowed his mouthful and licked his lips. The spice was burning his mouth, warming the pit of his stomach. Wufei's voice floated to him as if from a dream.

"He's a journalist. His family died in the war, when Colony L4-XX137 exploded. His research has been committed to unraveling the identities of the Gundam pilots, to finding evidence on who was responsible for his family's deaths."

Duo returned the photo, turning his face towards the terrace, where sounds from the busy street below wafted in. Colony L4-XX137. "Quatre," was all he said.


"Did the journalist incite the riot?"

"We're not ruling that out, but finding the source of a mob is never simple."

"Does he think I did it?"

"We're not sure. We're thinking the riot might have been some sort of warning. To the rest of us."

"Quatre," Duo said again.

"I have a man up there," Wufei said. "Neutralizing anything that leads to Quatre Winner."

"Does he know?"

"That's classified."

"Does Trowa know?"

"That's classified."

"Damn it, Wufei." Duo let out an explosive sigh. "What do you want from me?"

"You know."

Duo glared at him, and then looked at Heero. The man stared back at him expressionlessly. The thing is, if the guy ever got close to identifying who piloted what, it would more than likely incriminate Heero more than Quatre, because Wing Zero was flown primarily by 01--even if it was 04 that fired on the colony inside Wing Zero.

"I'll take the fall," Duo said, looking at Wufei again. "If this guy wants to go to court."

"That's not what we're asking," Sally said, shaking her head.

"And Quatre would never stand for it," Heero murmured.

Duo continued to stare at Wufei, who stared back. "I wouldn't ask for his permission."

"You have no right to be anyone's martyr," Wufei said quietly, so quiet, it was almost a whisper.

"I won't be asking for your permission either, Wufei."

"There's another option," Wufei continued in that quiet tone. "We have a position for you. PFO."

The atmosphere thickened noticeably. "What the hell is that?"

"Prerequisite Fundamentals Officer," Sally said beside him, even though Duo kept his eyes trained on Wufei. "A position designed specifically for people like you, like us."

"That's nice."

A black thundercloud was gathering on Wufei's face. "I didn't give you this information so you could go vigilante on a grieving journalist, or martyr yourself because you've got nothing better to do with your time."

"Wufei," Sally warned, too late.

"Fuck you." Duo took a step into Wufei's space. "You've got nothing to do with how I spend my time."

Wufei didn't back down. If anything, he edged closer. "Incorrect, Maxwell. I have everything to do with how you spend your time. You can choose to be my case and force me to hassle you until the end of your miserable life, or you can choose to be a comrade; part of my team instead of a thorn in my fucking side."

Duo laughed in his face, low and dangerous; close enough to feel his breath bouncing back off of Wufei's features. "It just eats you alive, doesn't it, that I could give a shit about your little boy scout intelligence agency, and your little boy scout department, that I don't think its salvation like you do. You're not as content as you pretend to be, with all your posturing and preaching. Are you? You don't fool me, Wufei."

Wufei smiled, cold and chilling. "Your problem," he said, tugging at the Preventers emblem stitched onto the breast of his jacket. "Is that you want this. Pride will be the end of you."

"You're fucking one to talk," Duo snarled, his blackened nerves bursting in a single rush. He was suddenly jerked sideways, Heero's grip on his arm preventing his fist to fly like his brain was telling it to. It took some juggling to keep his prized kimchi and rice bowl from toppling out of his other hand. "Goddamn it, Heero. Let me go."

"Alright, boys," Sally chimed in, casually sitting on the bed between Wufei and Duo. "Let's play nice. Duo, why don't you take a walk?"

Wufei sent a mild look in Duo's direction. "We have some things to discuss with Heero."

"Anything that needs to be said to me," Heero said, releasing Duo's arm. "Can be said in front of him."

Before Duo could send Heero the appreciative grin that that warranted, Wufei added: "About Relena."

If Wufei didn't deserve to be punched in the face before, he certainly earned it now. Heero went still and stared at Duo, his mouth parted like he wanted to recant. Duo thought maybe a walk was a good idea.

"Fine; it's cool," Duo said before Heero could speak. He grabbed his cap and headed for the door.

"PFO," Wufei called out after him. "Last time you're getting the offer. Take that under advisement."

"Take this under advisement," Duo retorted, flipping him the finger. "Bitch."


Duo took the metro until it went to the edge of downtown, dropping him somewhere amidst the business district. He was down the block before he realized he was headed for the Preventers building. He did a one-eighty and headed the opposite direction, went to the park at the end of the street. Didn't know if they called him, warned him he was aimless and pissed and rampaging across the city. Didn't know if it was just coincidence--but Duo didn't much believe in coincidence, anyway. Kim stood by the fountain in the middle of the square in plain view, scuffing the point of his shoe in a crack in the pavement. Duo walked right up to him, and the smile Kim gave him when he looked up was enough to make Duo wish he'd grabbed his sunglasses on the way out.

"Fancy seeing you here."

"Yeah, fancy that." Kim eyed Duo's rice bowl. "You like it?"

Duo shoveled some in his mouth and gave him a seafood grin.

"Aw, come on." Kim made a face. "Gross."

"Ha ha, hey, where's tall, dark and glaring?" Duo asked after he swallowed.

"Who, Manuel?"

"That your partner's name?"

"Yes." Kim put his hands in his pockets. He wasn't wearing anything that made him look like a Preventer, just slacks and a white undershirt. Probably so Duo could see he wasn't wearing a wire. "I left him at Headquarters." Kim sent him a sly look. "He didn't like you much."

"I'm crap at first impressions."

Kim grinned. "Hard to believe, since you're so charming."

Duo picked through his rice bowl, cornering a diced cucumber and plucking it up. He ate to hide his smile, more than a little pleased with Kim's casual flirting. "I know, right? I just don't understand it."

"So, where's your, ah, friend?" He looked cute, looking up at him through his lashes like that. Not nearly cute enough, though.

Duo looked at him, chewing slowly.

Kim licked his lips, looked away, and then back again. "Is he who the Deputy Director wanted to see?"

Duo looked at him, swallowing his mouthful.

Kim frowned. "Po said you'd be in a mood."

And Duo looked at him, lifting a chunk of cabbage from his bowl and letting it hover in the air until Kim relented and took a bite.

Kim surprised him by laughing and turning away. He walked over to the fountain and sat on the edge. "Fine," Kim said as Duo followed. "No more questions."

"Oh, you can ask questions." Duo sat beside him, resting his elbows on his knees, effectively bent over his kimchi and rice as he continued to eat. "You just have to ask the ones I'm willing to answer."


"Um." Duo glanced askance at him through his hair. "Because I make a point of being honest, and sometimes that can bite me in the ass."

"Oh." Duo could feel Kim's eyes on him. Didn't mind as much as before. The guy had a certain generosity to him, a yielding, pleasant personality that welcomed easy conversation. Medicinal, for Duo's nasty mood a la Chang Wufei. "Is that like a moral code or something?"

Duo tongued a spice caught between his teeth. "Hm, no. Doesn't really have anything to do with morality. Just...habit. M.O., maybe. Part of what makes"


"Sally sent you to babysit me?" Duo glanced at him, daring him to lie.

"Sort of." Kim was smiling at him again. "Thought you could use some company that didn't have an agenda."

"You did, or Sally?"

Kim grunted, but didn't answer, the weight of his gaze leaving him for a moment. Duo liked him better for that.

"You know anything about PFO?"

"They want you to be a Floater?" Kim asked him in an awed, hitched sort of way.

Duo glared at him, albeit ineffectively. "A fucking what?"

"Floater," Kim repeated, his dark eyes skipping over Duo's face. "That's...It would be great for you."

"Why," Duo asked apprehensively.

"A PFO is a cut outside the rest, answerable only to the Directorate herself," Kim said, lowering his voice so only the two of them could hear over the rush of the fountain water. "They move within departments as consultants, wherever they're needed, wherever the hell they want, really. They're like the glue that holds Preventers together; especially in the beginning, when we were really underfunded."


"Specialists," Kim nodded. "Overqualified specialists for any one department. Directorate figured out a way to outsource, but keep it within Preventers. A way to facilitate soldiers and pilots and technicians from the war that were too, um, prodigious to fit into regular society. She was really big on utilizing resources from the war when we first formed, gave a lot of us somewhere to go. Like Deputy Director Chang and Po. They started out as PFO's."

"Like recycling," Duo said sourly. "Wufei and Sal were able to choose a department?"

Kim nodded. "Chang couldn't until he turned eighteen, so Po waited too. They've been partners since the beginning. Now they work in SPG." Kim paused, scratched at the inside of his wrist. "Some of them have codenames, their identities too sensitive even for a regular Preventer to know. They probably won't bother with you--but the first PFO was someone named Wind. Gave Mariemaia and company a really bad day with the Tallgease during the last revolt."

Duo was quiet for a moment. Zechs Merquise. Duo knew that. Duo also knew that the guy was on Mars with Noin, which made Duo wonder at how far Une was sinking her Preventer claws in the universe. "You're gonna have to help me out with the acronyms here, buddy."

"Special Preventions Group, under Covert Special Activities Division." Kim glanced sideways at him. "CSAD."

Duo frowned at him. "Yes, thank you. And what do they do?"

Kim looked at him for a long time. Long enough that Duo almost thought he wouldn't answer. "Covert political influence and paramilitary operations. Among other things." Kim licked his lips, rubbed his hands on his slacks. "SPG specializes in operations. They...don't exist."

Kim held his gaze for a long moment before breaking away, allowing the information to resonate. Basically, Kim just revealed that Wufei and Sally were second in command to an entire paramilitary division supported by the Earth Sphere Unified Nation. And they were in Madrid playing recruiter with him? That tumbled in Duo's brain like a bundle of bricks.

"So," Duo said, recovering a little. "So, this PFO thing--it's a sweet deal?"

"Absolutely," Kim said firmly. "Short cut through all the bullshit, straight to whatever career you want." Kim looked at him again, the serious expression almost endearing on his youthful face. "You want to be a mechanic forever," he said softly, "you can be one in Preventers and no one'll ever give you shit for it. Or you could blow shit up for the rest of your life, develop weapons, security for politicians, decipher code--whatever. All of it, none of it. You're as qualified as it gets...and they want you because you're causing them PR problems, so they sent their finest, someone you knew from the war, to collect you. Everybody wins."

"But I want to go to the beach."

Kim blinked at him several times. "I'm not here to tell you what to do."

"I know." Duo ran a hand through his hair, tugged painfully at the thick of the braid at his neck. "Damn it."

Kim's cell phone chirped and he answered it, turning away slightly--and then sitting ramrod straight as if Wufei were standing right in front of him. God, that made Duo ill. "Yes. Yes, I have him. Yes, sir!" He closed the cell and gave Duo a pained smile. "They're ready for you now."

"Do you have to be so fucking earnest?" Duo closed his eyes. That's nice. He considered making them wait another four hours, but that would probably only piss off Heero--which sounded fun, but not today. "Alright, let's go."

The drive took about twenty minutes, which was mostly silent with Duo glaring out the window and chomping on the rest of his kimchi like an insolent child. They were pulling onto his street when Kim finally braved The Question.

"You okay, Duo?"

Duo was ready for it. "You drive like old people fuck," he muttered. "Slow and sloppy."

Kim sent him a dirty look. "You don't have to go back."

Duo snorted.

Kim shook his head and sighed. "That guy must have one helluva mouth."

Duo shot him a startled look.

Kim returned it levelly, after parking and turning off the ignition. "To make you so willing to walk back into the lion's den."

Duo erupted into laughter, his black mood cracking finally. "You're alright, Kim. You're alright. Hey." He handed Kim the now-empty rice bowl. "Tell your mother 'kam sa ham ni da' for me. You know, for the kimchi." Duo grinned at him. "I like a little more heat on my cucumber, but at least she did alright by you."

Kim went a little pink in the cheeks, but he looked away as he laughed a breathy laugh. "My mother's dead, Duo."

Oh. Shit. Well.

"Dead by broken heart," Kim murmured, gazing out the windshield. "Like half the women widowed by a stupid war nobody remembers anymore."

"I feel like I just ran over your dog," Duo said after a moment. "I'm sorry, Kim."

Kim shrugged and smiled a little at him. "I know there's a nice guy in you somewhere, Duo. Forgiven."

"I used to be," Duo admitted. "A little bit. Forgotten how."

Kim's eyes on him were making him uncomfortable; they were staring into him, not at him. "Forgot how to be nice? That sounds an awful lot like bullshit to me. Remember."

Melting clocks. In the age of fallout, memory will persist--even if nothing else does.

Sally appeared on the sidewalk, knocking on the window to get their attention. Duo broke their stare to look at her, and then opened his door. He bent low to look at Kim one last time, but didn't know what to say, so he just tapped the hood of Kim's car and straightened. Sally was murmuring something to him on the other side and Duo caught Kim's discreet wave through the windshield as he came up to the sidewalk and headed in. Duo waved back and went inside. Heero was standing by the terrace, and turned when Duo came in. Wufei stood on the other side of the room, briefcase in hand as he leant against the wall by the door.

Heero caught Duo's gaze and held it. Three, two, launch: "I'm enlisting, Duo. They have an opening for me, for us, in D.C."

Duo gaped at him, struck speechless for the second time in all of five minutes. He flinched when Wufei placed a hand on his shoulder. Duo's mind was too numb to remember to glare at him.

Wufei bore down on him with dark eyes, serious as a seizure and oddly soft. "I know you're irate with me, Duo. And I'm sorry for that. Just know that I'm here only because I'd rather we be on the same side. I really care for what happens to you. Both of you."

The fucked thing was: Duo believed him. Wufei left, leaving the two of them alone.

Heero Yuy was quite a few things, but a coward was definitely not one of them. He stood there and waited, waited for Duo's fury to catch up with him.

"What did they do, dangle Relena in front of you like bait?" Duo spat.

Heero looked at him blankly.

Duo was working himself up now; he could feel the tremble in his gut. "Did they torment you with the thousand and fifteen ways she could be taken hostage, defiled and murdered?"

"You don't have any reason to be jealous of Relena," Heero said flatly.

Duo reared his head back for that, straightened, an odd instinct to try and make himself seem taller. "I have never in my life been jealous of Relena fucking Peacecraft. You know, it'd be perfect if she was actually going to Kenya, because then I could actually see--Oh, Jesus ever-loving Christ! She is? What the hell, Heero? Is this gonna be a regular thing with us? Meet up, screw, save the princess, blow some shit up, and then go our separate ways? Because it's fucking twisted--"

"What the hell made you so goddamned bitter, Duo?" Heero suddenly shouted. "You can't keep going around screaming 'Fuck the world!' just because Hilde decided to go marry some straight guy and leave you by yourself. I know what your problem is."

"What's my problem, Heero," Duo asked darkly, hands curling into fists. "And make it quick, because I didn't confide in you so you could throw it back in my face later."

"Your problem," Heero grated, his voice a deep rumble between them. "Is that before on L2, whenever you lost somebody, you could blame it on Alliance, on Specials, on Oz--and later, you could blame it on a violent war and shrug it off because everything was fucked anyway. Now, the only person you can blame when people leave you is yourself, because you're the common denominator, and that just kills you, doesn't it? That's why you only give me scraps, isn't it? You think that if I get too close, I'll see how ugly you are and leave. You need to fucking knock it off."

"Fuck you."

"Right," Heero scoffed, throwing up his hands and turning to step out on the balcony. "Fuck me. Fuck Wufei. Fuck everyone."

Duo stormed over to the bed, grabbed the postcard of Formentera from under his pillow, and stalked out to the balcony. He shoved the thing into Heero's chest. "What about this, huh? Was all that lip-service, just jargon to keep me still until Wufei got here?"

Heero's fist closed over the postcard, met Duo's eyes quietly. "This has absolutely nothing to do with Wufei."

The tremble in his gut was dying out to a quiver, and that never bode well. "You said it would be good for me. You said I could go with you." Duo knew he sounded pathetic, but he felt like he was being forced, and he never liked feeling forced. His whole body resisted the notion, trembling with the quiver in his gut, the burn in his throat.

"It would--I still want..." Heero's eyes were searching his, his glare melting into something softer. He reached out to touch Duo's face, but Duo flinched away. "Duo."

"Don't 'Duo' me," Duo muttered, stepping back into their room. A hand on his arm suddenly, turning him around. Heero's other arm snaked around his waist, holding him there.

"There's no growth without discontent," Heero murmured. "And you've got it bad. You said you trusted me."

Sad, because it was true. Nothing changed unless people are unhappy about the way things were. Nobody rebelled when everything was perfect. Duo felt miserable. "Please don't tell me you enlisted because of me."

Heero's hand moved from his arm to the side of his face. Heero kissed him very softly on the mouth. "Okay. I won't tell you that."

Duo turned his face to avoid the second kiss. Heero moved his face back for the third. "Don't fuck with me, Heero."

"I'm not fucking with you."

Duo fisted his hands into Heero's shirt and kissed him violently. He saw stars when Heero lifted him and pressed him against the wall, his head smacking smartly against the hard surface. Wufei wasn't lying when he said he knew Duo, knew both of them. Clever bastard. Used Duo to find Heero, used Relena to snag Heero, used that to snag Duo. And they both knew it. They both knew it. Made the sex angry, because it was frustrating. Frustrating that they were predictable, easy to maneuver them if you knew them well enough. And Wufei knew them well enough. Used his good cop/bad cop routine with Sally to get Duo fired up, to get Heero alone. Duo never should have left Heero alone with them.

They screwed on the floor, among the pile of their discarded clothing. Duo rode him until he couldn't lift himself anymore, spent and boneless, draped limply across Heero's shoulders. Then Heero grasped Duo about the waist and held him there until he came, jerking Duo's body down as he thrust up, making Duo whimper helplessly until he was finished. It was good. It was really good. Duo might never get a line on whether Heero was gay, or just gay for him. Whichever, Heero was a damn fine lay.

"Alright!" Duo exclaimed much later, as he panted on his back, Heero fixed between his legs, Duo's knees draped over Heero's shoulders as he went down on him, working him balls to slit for Round Two. Duo thumped a fist onto the floor, causing Heero to look up at him. Duo wagged a finger in his face, breathless because just the idea of Heero's mouth on his cock was enough to make him plenty hard.

"Fine," Duo gasped. "But I want a dog."

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