Author: pyrzm
see ch. 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer

Broken Warriors + Chapter 26
Settling In

Heero waited until he heard Duo singing in the shower, then slipped into the tower room next door, started up the computer, and opened his first search of the day.

Ten minutes later he'd established to his own satisfaction that the term "Indian summer" had originated here in Old America in the eighteenth century, pre-Colony. It was defined as any spell of warm, quiet, hazy weather that may occur in October or even early November. Other weather phenomena associated with a true Indian Summer included dry, hazy conditions and southwesterly winds that occurred after the first killing frost. He wasn't certain what a killing frost was, but they must have missed it, for the weather was certainly as described. Earliest documentation of the term appeared to be a letter written by an expatriate French farmer named St. John de Crevecoeur in Pre-Colony year 1778. "Sometimes the rain is followed by an interval of calm and warmth which is called the Indian Summer; its characteristics are a tranquil atmosphere and general smokiness." Another listing's author seemed to feel it had something to do either with Native Americans who'd used the mild weather to hunt and harvest crops in preparation for the winter, or with white settlers who'd used the word "Indian" as a pejorative, suggesting falsity and something to be distrusted. Whatever the case, Heero thought it was a very nice time of year to be on this part of Earth.

He cleared that search and typed in the next one. "Courtship, homosexual." This proved to be less than helpful, mostly historical references and condemnations by various religious groups. While the ancient Greek laws and customs for carrying off "boy brides" looked like interesting reading, it was not relevant to the morning's mission.

He cleared the window and typed in: "Dating, gay." This came up with hundreds of hits, but they all seemed to be advertisements for matchmaking services and online chat rooms. Heero growled in frustration. He already had a lover; he just needed to know how to entertain him! According to what he saw here, sex was the be all and end all for any type of relationship between two men. He knew better.

The shower had stopped, but Duo was still in the bathroom and still singing. Still off key, too, but he didn't mind. A singing Duo was a happy Duo. Sex clearly did make Duo happy, at least for a while. But Heero kept remembering the look of challenge in Duo's eyes as he'd pushed Heero for a reaction on the shuttle flight. There was something he needed from Heero, something the violence and spanking and rough sex had assuaged for the time being. But Heero still felt like he'd been asked a question and not understood what the answer had been.

Which left him floundering for alternatives.

He stared at the screen for a moment, recalling what he'd read about Duo in the news during all those lonely months. Duo and the others had frequented sex clubs; there had been many stories about that. Not applicable to the current mission, he thought, frowning in a way that would have alarmed a casual onlooker.

They'd also enjoyed going to dance clubs. Heero's training had covered that skill. He'd never actually enjoyed the few times he'd had to exercise it as an infiltration strategy, but he'd been told he was good at it and so was reasonably certain he could perform at a level that would please his current prospective partner. He ran a search on "Dance club, gay, New Provincetown, MA." This yielded eighty-seven hits. He scanned the first few pages and was quickly overwhelmed by the number of duplicate, incomprehensible, or simply inappropriate sites. He had no idea what a "tea dance" was, but it sounded boring. He knew what "leather" meant and dismissed those as well. He refined the search further, filtering out "lesbian", "girl", "drag", "leather", "S&M", "B&D", and "tea dance." This left him with a dozen or so likely prospects, establishments that catered to male patrons whose intention seemed to include at least some actual dancing. Scanning the various offerings, he now realized he didn't know what sort of music Duo liked to dance to. Heero's training had been extensive and he was reasonably certain he could blend in to most venues, but that wasn't the issue. He wanted to surprise Duo, and please him. Taking him to a place that played music he did not enjoy would be counterproductive.

He could simply ask Duo, but he was already committed to the element of surprise. He wasn't certain why, exactly. Perhaps it was a matter of habit in mission planning, only this time he was surprising a lover rather than an enemy. Whatever the case, he wasn't willing to admit defeat just yet.

Quatre would know. He glanced up at the clock reading in the upper right corner of the screen. It was currently the middle of the night on L-4, too late to call. Clearing the search field again, he pulled up a global news archive and typed in "Duo Maxwell, clubbing."

Bingo. Dozens of stories scrolled down the screen: celebrity sightings, mostly, and arrest reports. Now it was a simple matter to research the clubs he'd been seen in. Many of them had websites.

This strategy proved sound. By the time Duo finished in the bathroom and started bumping around in the bedroom, Heero had a representative sampling that suggested that Duo liked techno, retro rock, and something called "hyper glam." The latter, upon further research, appeared to involve a form of dress Heero did not want to adopt-lots of make up and revealing clothing. Quatre had something of this look. That was fine for the petit blond, but Heero cringed at the thought of see through jeans and three colors of glitter on his eyelids. He added that classification to his search filter and concentrated on the other two.

New Provincetown had a number of clubs specializing in techno and rock music. Scanning pictures at their websites, Heero found several places that looked promising. Reformatting his parameters yet again, he filtered by age, whether or not they offered a waterfront view, required reservations, and if they served food. In the process he looked at some photos on their sites and realized that while his current wardrobe was more than adequate for his usual needs, none of it except perhaps the leather jacket qualified as club wear. Neither did the few clothes Duo had with him, for that matter.

Duo had gone very quiet. That could be a bad thing, given how quietly Duo moved when he wanted to. Heero turned with a start, half-expecting to find the grinning baka right behind him, but the door was still closed. Committing several club names to memory, he purged the history and memory cache, did a quick search on New Provincetown clothing stores, purged that. By the time Duo did drift in to see what he was up to, he was at his favorite online computer store, ordering his new laptop.

"Y'know, when I fell for you, I didn't know you were loaded," Duo chuckled, nuzzling the back of Heero's neck as he watched him enter his credit info from memory.

"You hacked my bank files."

"Wufei helped. We were just trying to figure out where you'd-"

"I don't mind," Heero assured him. "In your place I'd have done the same. It was a very astute tactic."

A proximity alarm keyed into the computer flashed a warning on the screen, chiming softly.

"That's the one off the main road." Going to the window, they watched a large brown Global Parcel Service truck appear over the lip of dunes.

He was halfway to the door when Duo tossed him the Glock. "Take back up," he said, drawing his Sig Saur. "I'm more likely to recognize them."

Heero followed him downstairs and remained concealed just inside the door as Duo stepped out to greet the deliveryman. The young black driver greeted Duo as if he knew him and chatted amiably as Duo followed him to the back of the van. As soon as it was open, Duo gave a subtle "all clear" sign, signaling Heero to stand down. Heero slipped the pistol into the back of his jeans and pulled his sweater down to cover it as he went out to join them.

The delivery consisted of two large plastic shipping containers and a locked duffle. All of them were labeled in Quatre's neat script. One of the boxes was marked as fragile.

As soon as the deliveryman had been seen off, Duo hauled the boxes into one of the empty downstairs bedrooms and pulled them open with obvious delight. "There, now I can get to work!"

One box was packed with squares of very fine, supple leather in a variety of colors. The other held various artist supplies-sketch pads, paints and lacquers, little bottles of gilt paint, and canvass rolls of brushes and knives. Lifting out the stacks of leather, Duo took out two smaller boxes and opened them to show Heero life sized, very accurate plastic casts of Trowa and Quatre's faces.

"What's all this?" Heero asked, intrigued.

Duo grinned. "You are looking at the new official mask maker for Barton and Bloom's Traveling Show of Wonders! At least for the guys, anyway. I started out doing face painting on kids, and I guess I must have had a knack, 'cause Catherine apprenticed me to the old guy who does the mask. Turns out I've got a knack for that, too. Tro and Kat asked if I'd come up with something new for the New Orleans shows." He flipped open a sketchpad and showed Heero some drawings he'd done in colored pencil. They were only preliminary studies, but Heero thought they were very good, if rather bizarre. Some looked like animals, and there were several sets clearly modeled on their Gundams' faceplates-which had been designed to scare the piss out of Oz soldiers and done a pretty good job of it. But many of the drawings were darker than that, even. But others were ethereal, even pretty.

"Are these for Catherine?" Heero asked, pointing at some of the latter.

Duo grinned and shook his head. "Nope. Guess again."

"Quatre."

"Right! But I'm just playing around. I've still got to nail down the final designs and get started. It takes a couple of weeks sometimes, to finish one, what with drying times and lacquering and all. You can help, if you want."

Heero nodded. He'd never done anything vaguely artistic, but he'd been trained to draw accurately, and to manufacture things. As he bent to take another sketchbook out he felt the Glock dig into his back. He drew it and handed it back to Duo.

Duo shook his head. "Hang onto that, why don't you?"

Heero looked down at the gun, considering the question carefully. This was the second time Duo had offered him a weapon. It was a show of trust, a demonstratoin that he didn't think Heero would hurt himself. Heero did not feel suicidal, hadn't since he regained his senses in Madrid. No, the gun felt good in his hand, even though it was smaller than the one he'd once carried. The sheen of gun oil, the faint smell of it and cordite-- there was a rightness and familiarity to it that made him slip the weapon back into his waistband. As Duo handed him the ankle holster he'd been wearing, Heerp was surprised to catch a glimpse of relief on his lover's face, and something else, too. He wasn't quite sure what to call that look but suddenly he knew that he'd done something right, given Duo some sign he'd been waiting for.

He'd made Duo feel safer! Heero wondered if this was Duo's idea of a romantic gesture? If so, it was one Heero could comprehend all too well himself, but it still smacked too close to their violent past for comfort. He'd keep the gun, and use it to make Duo feel safe but damn it, he was still taking him dancing!

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