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

Broken Warriors + Chapter 29
Love and Baseball

Duo immediately recognized that shiny black and gold gift-wrapping on the packages Heero presented him with late the following afternoon. There were five of them, an armload. No one had ever given Duo so many gifts at the same time. Sitting speechless on their bed, he looked from the expensive wrapping to the shy, hopeful, doubtful look in Heero's eyes and wanted to cry. But he wouldn't do that to the guy, because Heero probably wouldn't understand.

It had been a weird day. Heero had refused to tell him anything, except that they were heading out to dinner at seven thirty. Then he proceeded to look unbelievably happy and pleased with himself all day as they worked out and cleaned the living room and played cards over lunch and worked in the studio. Finally, at five, Heero sent him off to the shower alone. When Duo came out, the boxes were waiting for him on the bed.

"So this is what you were up to."

Heero shrugged, grinning. Duo opened the gifts, one by one. A Dolchi leather jacket. Ibieza rubbed silk jeans and a Dolchi belt. Sartori boots. The teal muscle shirt was French. Opening the last, smallest box he let out a shaky laugh. A dozen or more bracelets spilled out, a jumble of leather and silver and seashells. He touched the Shiva's Eye necklace he'd taken off only long enough to shower. More mermaid jewelry.

The necklace, roses and chocolates last night had been enough, more than enough. This was beyond belief. He knew how much this stuff cost! He knew how many months of his pension it would take to even begin to buy an outfit like this. Part of him wanted to throw every bit of it back into those shiny expensive boxes and make Heero take it all back. But that look on Heero's face wouldn't let him do that.

"Loose Threads, huh?"

Heero was clearly proud of himself. "Nicky said to tell you 'hello', 'welcome back' and 'you are one lucky guy.' He was very helpful."

"I'll bet." Note to self, thought Duo: kick the living shit out Nicky the next time he saw the rat bastard. Not in these boots, of course. "Did-- How did-- That is, did Kat send you to that store or something?"

Heero's grin widened. "No. I just did some research and looked around in New Provincetown yesterday." The grin faltered. "I thought--That is, you're on file there, and your picture is on the board and Nicky really seemed to like all of you . . ."

"You just stumbled in there? It's not exactly an easy place to find." At least he wouldn't have to beat up any friends over this. That was a relief.

"You don't like the outfit."


Duo gave him a kiss. "I love the outfit, babe. I really do! I just, y'know, didn't expect anything like this. You don't have to buy your date's outfit, you know." Outfit? Shit, this was a fucking dowry!

Heero shrugged. "You didn't bring much with you from Madrid, and I didn't have anything that was right for the occasion. I wanted to surprise you--"

"Mission accomplished."

"And this seemed an appropriate solution."

"A very expensive one."

"Duo! Even I know it's not polite to question how much was paid for a gift."

"Sorry. You just really surprised me, that's all. I hope you got yourself something nice."

Heero got that happy secretive look again. "Dry your hair and get dressed. I'll meet you downstairs."

He left Duo there with the clothes and torn wrapping paper. A moment later Duo heard the downstairs shower.

Duo took his time in the bathroom, trying to figure out how he felt about this. The worst part was, he did love the outfit. It was amazing. But all the Threads sales boys were good at their job. Quatre had taken him there a couple of times even before the wedding planning, and even bought Duo a few nice things as gifts, not taking no for an answer any more than Heero would have. But mostly Duo had bought only what he could afford himself, which was damn little in a place like that.

He went back to the bed and lifted the jacket. Soft as a girl's face, just like the ads said. He put on the rest of the outfit except for that, slipped on the boots and the bracelets, adjusted the necklace in the low-scooped neck of the shirt. Then he turned to the long bedroom mirror and his jaw dropped. It could have been custom made just for him. And damn, but he looked good!

But some part of him was still going Shinigami about charity and being a kept man and why the fuck had he let Heero loose to be taken advantage of. It was that damn embassy room, and that fucking private jet. Heero was right; Duo did love luxury, but those situations had been temporary and hadn't cost either of them a cent. This was different. This was a matter of pride, of being self reliant, but dammit, he still couldn't shake off the sight of that happy look in Heero's eyes.

He let out a low growl of frustration, found his cell phone, and dialed Trowa's number. It was still early there, but Trowa answered on the second ring. "Duo."

"Hey, Tro! Long time no see, huh. How ya doin'?"

"What's wrong?"

Duo blinked and squirmed a little on the bed. "Nothing. I just had a question. A sorta relationship thing."

"Would you like me to get Quatre?"

"No, I need your input on this."

"OK. Shoot."

"Heero's taking me on a date." He heard a stifled noise that could have been either surprise or amusement. Maybe both. He was just glad he wasn't on vid phone. "Yeah, a date. Wipe that smirk off your face, Tro. I can hear it. This is serious! He got this idea in his head we needed to go on an actual date and in typical Perfect Soldier fashion, he prepped very thoroughly for the mission. He found his way into Loose Threads and now I'm sitting here in about a grand's worth of designer clothes."

"How'd he do?"

"What?"

"How do you look?"

"Fucking stunning, but that's not the issue!"

"Ah, the money thing."

"Yeah." Duo relaxed a little, hearing understanding in his friend's voice. "How did you handle that, before you started making your own money?"

"I'll never make enough to compete with Quatre's fortune," Trowa reminded him.

"Oh yeah. So, is it a problem?"

"Only if one of you makes an issue of it. Knowing Heero, he just did it because he's being logical again, right?"

"Yeah, I guess. And--"

Trowa waited.

"Jeeze, Tro. You should have seen his face! He looked like a little kid getting a new bike, only I was the one doing the getting."

Trowa chuckled. "Yeah, Quatre does that, too."

"Did it make you crazy?"

"At first, yeah, sometimes. Until I'd hurt his feeling a few times too many, and finally figured out that he wasn't trying to buy me."

"I already figured that part out. It wouldn't occur to him."

"Then quit worrying about how to keep things even, or paying him back."

"That's real easy to say. But you saw his bank account."

"It's not all about price tags, Duo. Did you ever stop to think maybe he's trying to pay you back?"

"For what?"

"Duo?"

"What?"

"You're an idiot. Tell him thank you, have a wonderful time tonight, and rub his feet when you get home. And pictures! We want pictures."

"You are such a hard ass."

Trowa chuckled. "That's why everyone loves me. So, aside from being showered with expensive gifts, how are things going?"

Duo fought back a goofy grin. "Good. Real good, but a little weird around the edges."

"Weird how?" Trowa must have misunderstood what he meant, because just like that, he sounded ready to fly down and slap his boyfriend around for some imagined misbehavior.

"No, nothing bad! He-uh, he-- picked flowers for me yesterday morning."

That got an outright laugh, and he heard Trowa relaying this info over his shoulder to Quatre. He heard Kat laugh, too, and say something Duo didn't quite catch.

There was a rustle on the other end of the line as Quatre claimed the phone. "Duo?"

"Hey, Q-man!"

"We miss you!"

"I miss you guys, too!" He really did, too, he realized, and in a way that had nothing to do with being with Heero.

"He really picked flowers for you?" Duo didn't need to see his friend's face to picture the delighted, incredulous grin that went with that. "Heero? Our Heero?"

Duo sighed and rubbed at his eyes. "Yup. Left 'em with my morning coffee. And he brought me a dozen red roses last night. And jewelry. Flowers and jewelry, Kat! Think I should call Batoosingh? Jesus!"

"Be gentle with him, Maxwell, or I'll kick your ass. And not in a way you'll like, either." He didn't sound like he was kidding. "Go have your date and quit looking for the dark side. See you in a couple--" Trowa said something in the background. "Oh yeah, I almost forgot. There's some mail here for you, and a package from the Sanque embassy addressed to Heero."

"From Relena?"

"Can't tell. I'll send it all down, in case there's anything important. Some of it looks to be fan mail."

Duo groaned. They all got it, letters from total strangers who thought they were wonderful or that they were in love with them, mixed in with the occasional "You killed my brother/father/son/daughter/mother/dog/fill-in-victim-of-choice-here in the war, you bastard" hate mail. Probably Heero would now, too. Duo remembered how he'd grumbled about it when he was working in Sanque. "Oh, and Mikos has called three times. Twice since that new picture of Heero kissing you in Madrid came out."

"And you told him my answer is still no, right?"

A meaningful pause followed. "Well . . ."

"Quatre?"

"I sort of told him you'd get back to him. 'Cause I really think you should at least consider--"

"No."

"But you'd be so--"

"No!"

"Trowa's thinking about it."

"Good for Trowa. Bye bye, Q-ball."

A sigh. "Bye bye, baka. Have a good time tonight. And be nice!"

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Love ya, Duo, bye!"

Duo stared at the phone for a minute. What the hell did they think he was going to do, kick Heero in the shins?

"Well, buddy," he told his reflection. "If you're going to do this, you better do it right."

Stripping off the new clothes, he went into the bathroom and removed the chipped toenail polish from Madrid, then put on two fresh coats. While it dried he used the eyeliner Heero had liked so much, but went light this time, to accentuate without looking slutty. It had been kinda funny when Relena had called him that, but he didn't want to show up in the pages of Vargas or Vanity Fair looking like Heero Yuy's kept whore.

When his nails were dry, he got dressed except for the jacket, then undid the fresh braid and shook out his hair. It was still a little damp and the braiding had accentuated the natural wave. It fell in a shining, sandalwood scented cascade over his shoulders. He'd finally talked Heero into letting him trim the ragged ends and it looked good. He looked good, he had to admit, better than he had in forever. He looked healthy and rested and well fed. Well fucked, too. He shook his wrists, settling the bracelets, and took a deep breath.

Showtime.

Heero was waiting for him at the bottom of the stairs, leather jacket slung over one shoulder. At least he thought it was Heero. Stunned, he stopped halfway down, and saw his own grin of amazement mirrored on Heero's face. The guy looked like a freaking fashion model! Duo's mouth actually watered at the sight of that studded black belt slung low on Heero's slim hips under the brilliant greens and blues of the heavy washed silk shirt. The black western boots had a heel and between that and the all-black shirt and jeans, Heero looked about seven feet tall. And those eyes! Was he wearing make up or contacts or something?

"Damn, Heero!" he said, knees a little weak as he walked around Heero, eyeballing this amazing vision. No make up. No contacts. Just 100% pure Heero Yuy in designer casual. "Ya got it all backwards. This is my present, seeing you like this! What I got on must be for you."

"Affirmative." Heero caught Duo by the belt buckle and pulled him close, then ran his fingers through Duo's hair, over the shimmery soft leather jacket, down to Duo's bare waist underneath. "I told Nicky you look beau--handsome in anything. I was right."


"Back atcha, buddy!" He slid his hands under the silk shirt, marveling at the play of color against Heero's pale golden skin. "You make those clothes look good!"

Maybe he should tell Heero about Mikos? Yeah, right. His hands slid lower, loving the feeling of Heero's perfect ass though the snug microsuede. They were both hard now, their erections brushing, silk to suede with a delicious friction. "I don't know what you've got planned, baby, but uh--that is, if time isn't off the absolute essence--"

Heero smirked and rolled his pelvis against Duo's, making him catch his breath and close his eyes. A kiss on the nose made him open them again, and he was lost in amused blue as Heero stroked his hard on through his jeans. "Later, baby. Let's get going."

"Baby? I thought I was your mermaid?"

Heero chuckled and kissed the pendant lying against Duo's throat. "Come on, then, my mermaid."

"Uh, Heero? There's just one little problem." Duo lifted his jacket and turned around, showing off his bare mid section. "I got no place for my gun or knives."

"Do you trust me?"

"You know I do," Duo replied, and meant it.

Heero showed him the Glock tucked into the top of one boot. "I doubt we'll need it, but if so, I'll take care of any gunplay. Acceptable?"

Duo felt a twinge of misgiving, but nodded. Time to start at least trying to live like normal people, right?

Heero draped Duo's gray overcoat over his shoulders, opened the car door for him, found a soft jazz station on the car radio, and did the driving into town. With Quatre's warning echoing in his ears, Duo bit his tongue, refused to either laugh or feel insulted, and tried to relax and enjoy this strange new experience.

Not that he hadn't had anyone romance him before, but they were all trying to get into his pants. Treatment like this set off alarm bells; treatment like this meant someone was going to expect someone like the guy Duo Maxwell had been to put out. Then again, more often than not he'd been the one doing the seducing. Staring out at the moon rising over the bay, he decided he had some bad habits to unlearn.

Heero started their magical mystery tour at Jack's, a pleasantly casual restaurant with incredible seafood. The maitre'd quietly fussed over them, and didn't raise an eyebrow when Heero turned down the wine list and ordered a couple of non-alcohol beers. They ate by candlelight, and Duo found himself trading uncommonly shy glances with Heero over their crab cakes and scampi.

"So, what's up?" Duo asked at last.

Doubt flickered in Heero's eyes again. "Am I not doing it right?"

"Doing what?"

"Being your date?"

Duo reached for his hand and held it, trying not to smile. "I don't have much experience myself with this kind of thing. Real dating, I mean."

Heero looked puzzled at that. "But I have seen pictures--"

"That was different." As in he was either out with Tro and Kat, and wasn't planning on getting laid, or on the kind of "date" in which if you took the time to get a meal first, someone would have had his foot in the other guy's crotch under the table by now. He laid his fork aside and propped his chin in his hands. "So, tell me. What brought all this on?"

Heero sat back, looking totally adorably uncertain of himself in the candlelight. "I--I want you to know that I love you for more than just sex."

Duo's jaw would have dropped if it hadn't been firmly resting on his hands. "I never thought you did--want me for just sex, I mean. No one ever made me feel so-" He searched for the right word. "Special. And loved."

"And safe?" Heero asked.

"Yes, very safe. I mean, ya know I can usually take care of myself-when I'm not around the bend, anyway, right?"

"Absolutely. It's one of the things I always liked about you."

"Yeah, but even then, back in my Shinigami days, I liked having you around. Even if I didn't need back up or help. Or saving, like that day in Finland, or when OZ had me."

"I was meant to kill you that time."

"I know. I was glad it was going to be you." There were maybe three or four other people alive who could overhear this conversation and get that it was romantic repartee. "Even that time, or all those times when you were treating me like a pain in the ass, I felt safe with you, more than with anyone else I've ever known. I used to piss you off on purpose, just to get your attention, back in the day."

"Is that what that was?" But Heero was smiling as he fidgeted with his salad fork.

"Yeah. You always had the weirdest effect on me."

Heero laughed outright at that, a quiet sound that was as much a brief shake of the shoulders as anything else. Their fellow diners were probably wondering why the dark-haired hunk had been scowling at his date all night. They probably thought they were having a fight. But Duo knew different. He could read Heero perfectly and knew this was the equivalent of him up dancing on top of the table.

"Man, you really do love me, don't you?" Duo asked softly, clasping Heero's hand again.

Heero laced his fingers through Duo's. "Of course I do. And you love me."

"Affirmative." Marry me, Duo thought, but it came out, "You look incredibly handsome, by the way. Hey, you wanna hear something funny? There's this designer named Mikos Villerakos-he designed that shirt you've got on, actually-- who's been calling me, wanting me to be in some print ads."

Heero didn't laugh. He seemed to take it quite seriously, in fact. "As a model? When will this happen?"

Duo snorted. "C'mon! Me?"

"But you're beautiful! Much better-looking than those emaciated, sulking people I see in most ads."

Duo chuckled. "Thanks. But--I dunno. It would just feel too-I dunno. I get enough people staring at me as it is, and the news people always play up the whole ex-soldier thing. The Vanity Fair writer did, even with me lying there on the cover in a skirt, looking like--Well, you saw, right?"

"Yes."

"You didn't like it either, huh."

"You didn't?" Heero was surprised.

"It was fun at the time. They had music going and everyone was making a big deal over us. I was a little high, too, if you want to know the truth. And the other guys were really into it. I mean, it seemed like a good idea, clowning around and all. That photographer must have shot ten or fifteen rolls, all kinds of poses, but that's the one they went with. When it came out two months later, it was just too weird. Tro and Kat love it, so don't tell 'em I said that. They've got it up on their bedroom wall. I mean, I think they look great in that picture, but I guess it just hit home a little too hard, the way people were starting to see me. Not much sign of Shinimagi in that one, right? So no, seeing myself plastered across billboards and covers and the walls of subway stations doesn't really appeal to me much."

Heero nodded slowly. "It would not be who you are, just someone's image of you. But people might mistake it for an accurate representation."

Duo blinked. "Yeah. Exactly! Trowa might do it, though. They asked him, too."

"He's used to being looked at. He wears masks and costumes all the time."

Duo shook his head and smiled. It wasn't like he ever thought Heero was dumb or anything; they'd just never had this sort of conversation before. Who knew Heero was right up there with Quatre on the whole insight thing? "Anyway, the only one I want ogling me is this amazing, handsome, sexy guy I got sitting here holding my hand in public. That should get us in enough magazines as it is."

Duo did hear a few camera shutters clicking as they left the restaurant and walked across to Ma Rainey's. It was Saturday night and there was a long line of hopefuls stretching down the block, but the guy working door had spotted them coming out of Jack's and he waved them inside, but not before giving them both a look that could have scorched asbestos. Heero didn't notice; Duo slipped an arm around Heero's waist and gave the doorman a grin and a wink. "All mine, buddy!" he muttered, aware of other admiring stares as they checked their coats and made their way through the murky, shifting colored lights to a booth near the dance floor.

The dj was playing some fast retro reggae, the air sparkled with glitter dust and maybe a few mood enhancers, and the floor was jammed with a pulsing, grooving crowd of good looking guys. Discreetly placed cameras panned the crowd, zeroing in on couples and projecting them on large screens around the room. Duo inhaled the familiar thick aroma of hot bodies, mingled colognes, and pot. This would have been a good night to hook up with someone if he was alone, he thought without the slightest pang of regret. He already had the best-looking guy in the room, or any damn room anywhere.

"I love this place! More research?" he asked, raising his voice over the music as he slid over to snuggle with Heero.

Heero put an arm around him, looking pleased with himself again. "Nicky recommended it. I had planned to go to a place called Starz, based on their website, but he warned me off."

"It's an OK place, but this is better." The reggae number ended and Duo recognized the opening bars of a favorite southern rock classic. "Hey, you got the boots on for this one. Come dance with me, baby!"

+

The sort of unstructured dancing that accompanied this sort of music had been the hardest for Heero to master, but unfortunately, the kind of skill most often called for during his undercover work at various high schools. After a few rather embarrassing experiences, he learned to relax, find the beat, and emulate the dancers around him. He did that now, dancing for the first time with Duo, and for the first time, it felt more like fun and less like just another act of subterfuge.

He and Duo attended the same school dance once, before the New Edwards attack. Duo was a great dancer then, and maturity had only improved him. He lost himself in the music, head thrown back, smiling at Heero as they gyrated together in the crowd, almost touching, but not quite. He'd never seen his hair loose in public like this. It swirled around him, catching the lights and brushing across Heero's arms and hands. Duo took off the leather jacket after a few dances and Heero found himself mesmerized by the way the bracelets moved on his lover's wrists as he flung his arms up and rocked his hips to the driving beat. Heero was aware of other men staring at his date. He even felt eyes on himself, and saw men catch his eye and lick their lips in a suggestive manner. Heero ignored them, and didn't even feel jealous. Duo was dancing just for him.

A slow song came on, moody and erotic. Duo stepped in close and rested his forearms on Heero's shoulders, inviting closer intimacy with half-lidded eyes and swaying hips. Heero clasped those hips loosely, wanting to feel that movement without controlling it. They moved together effortlessly, naturally, with the same unspoken connection they'd felt backing each other up in hand to hand combat situations. Their bodies weren't pressed together, just the subtle contact of thighs and bellies and swaying pelvises. It felt good, sort of like sex, but mostly like walking on the beach together in silence or waking up in the morning with Duo spooned in behind him under the covers, that long hair tickling Heero's cheek. So good that suddenly Heero was swallowing a tightness in his throat and gently pulling Duo in closer to brush those slightly parted lips with his.

Duo's eyes fluttered shut, and he reached to lightly stroke a hand over Heero's hair and cup his cheek as he kept up that light friction against Duo's lips. The song ended and another slow one came on. This time Duo did press against him, wrapping his arms around Heero's waist and resting his cheek on Heero's shoulder. It was a lot like cuddling in bed, only they were both standing up, swaying slowly to the music. Heero pressed one hand to the warm, bare skin at the small of Duo's back. The other stroked down over that long hair to rest just between his shoulder blades. Resting his cheek against Duo's head, he breathed in the much-loved scent of sandalwood and Duo Maxwell.

This was good. Really, really good. He kept his eyes closed, savoring the feeling of Duo's warm body moving against his. Before the song ended, however, he was suddenly aware of space around them. Opening one eye, he realized that the crowd had cleared around them, leaving them in a small circle of open floor. The cameras had found them at last and Heero saw multiple incarnations of the two of them, swaying together in a pool of blue spotlight. He felt Duo chuckle and knew he'd noticed, too.

The Duo in his arms, and half a dozen Duos on screens around the room leaned back slightly, winked at the unseen camera, and kissed all those Heeros again. The room exploded with cheers and applause as a fresh fall of glitter drifted down over the room, dusting his lover's hair and bare arms with tiny sparkles. Heero brushed a few from Duo's upper lip and kissed him again, just because he could.

"This is gonna be on the news for sure, y'know," Duo whispered when Heero let him up for air.

"Probably."

"You don't mind?"

"Why would I mind?"

Duo kissed him again as the song ended and the crowd surged back around them. Total strangers murmured happy greetings, even shook their hands. Heero tensed again, feeling uncomfortably exposed. For a little while they'd been anonymous, just another couple in the crowd. Now they were celebrities, public property. Duo fended them off, turning down drink offers with considerable charm, but Heero could tell he wasn't any happier about it.

No one hounded them back to their table, but something had changed. With a pang of regret, Heero leaned close to Duo's ear and whispered, "Stay or go?"

Duo nodded toward the door, so they reclaimed their coats and slipped out a back way Duo knew and into a dimly lit alley. There were other people out there, smoking or making out against the damp brick walls. No one seemed to take any notice of them as they strolled out to the street.

"You did great in there," Duo said softly, as he claimed Heero's hand again. "You didn't even try to shoot anyone."

"Did I look like I was going to?"

"Once or twice." Duo hugged him. "You still got it, babe."

"Got what?"

"That special Yuy Death Glare. And it still totally fries my circuits."

"That's a good thing?"

"Very good."

Heero kept an arm around Duo as they wandered down toward the harbor. The stars were bright overhead and the cold ocean breeze felt good after the closeness of the club. It was late enough that the club set was still dancing and most everyone else was home inside. A few cars passed them as they crossed the main street and followed it along the waterfront. A bell buoy chimed mournfully somewhere out across the water, and the boats in the marina creaked in their berths. A rusty van with a bad muffler rumbled by, breaking the quiet, then a pickup truck. Heero tracked them absently.

"I really like it here on Earth," he murmured. "The open space, and all the smells."

"Yeah, me, too." Duo sounded a little sad.

Heero looked down at him. "What?"

"We've sorta been on vacation since Madrid. That'll be over soon. You've been on the streets, and the closest thing I've got to a home anymore is Trowa's trailer. I don't even have my own bed. No stuff, except some clothes. No real job."

"I thought you worked for Trowa."

Duo shrugged. "I guess. But that started out as pity work, and me wanting to pretend I was earning my keep, staying with them. No one else would hire me after-well, you know."

"But you do good work for them. Quatre said so. And those masks are very good. And you seem to enjoy it."

"Yeah, I guess." He found an elastic in his coat pocket and gathered his hair up over one shoulder, plaiting it into a loose braid.

"What do you want to do? For work, I mean."

Duo wrapped the elastic around the end of the braid and sighed. "Not be a killer anymore."

"What else?"

He shrugged again. "That's as far as I've gotten."

"Yeah. Me, too."

"At least you got J's trust fund money to fall back on, along with that oh so very generous pension ESUN granted us."

Heero stopped and turned to Duo. "I've got more than that. During the war I used to hack Alliance contractor bank accounts just for the practice-- and to take it away from them."

Duo laughed. "We all wondered what you were up to, all those hours on the computer. Guess it wasn't all sex research, huh?"

"No, I actually have quite a lot, hidden in numbered accounts. Not like what Quatre has, but enough so that I don't have to worry about money for a while." He paused and shook his head. "Funny, but this is the first time I really thought about spending any of it. I didn't think I'd live to use it, just wanted to fuck with the enemy."

"Well, sounds like you're set."

Duo started to move on but Heero put his hands on his shoulders. "So are you. It's not charity or pity, either. I don't care about money. I hardly know what to do with it. But I want you with me, and I've got more than enough to keep us both comfortable. It's as much your money as mine, as far as I'm concerned. It's not like I actually earned it."

Duo was about to argue when they heard the van coming back their way. It came around the corner ahead of them, the truck still trailing in its wake. Heero bent and retrieved the gun from his boot, hiding it in his right coat pocket for now, but keeping his hand on it.

Both vehicles stopped across the street from them and eight men climbed out, along with several girls. Three of the men were armed with baseball bats. Heero could smell the alcohol on them from here.

"Well well, whata we got here? Coupla fags, out for a stroll," a beefy guy in a ball cap sneered. He and his buddies looked just drunk enough to be dangerous. The others were hooting and making kissing sounds, no doubt to intimidate and shame their intended prey.

Swinging his bat from the shoulder, as if at a pitch, the leader ambled toward Heero. "Good night for fag hunting, right, boys?"

There was more hooting and catcalls as Duo stepped away from Heero and let the long topcoat fall away. Their adversaries might think they were looking at a longhaired, skinny club kid, but Heero recognized the fight-ready stance. Gun or no gun, Shinigami was about to make an appearance. If Heero had been in better shape, he might have done the same. Instead, he quietly drew the Glock, keeping it hidden behind his thigh as he slipped the safety off.

The leader was halfway across the street when Heero leveled it at the man's face. "Is it a good night for you to die? I have more than enough bullets for all of you."

"Aw, c'mon, baby, let me play with 'em a little, first!" Duo whined. "I haven't kicked the crap out of any redneck gay bashing pussies in days. I don't wanna lose my edge."

Heero obligingly lowered his weapon. "Go for it, baby."

The rednecks had come to a halt, too surprised or drunk or stupid to quite grasp this reversal.

Duo walked toward the lead redneck in question and his voice dropped to a dangerous purr that sent a thrill through Heero. "C'mon, shithead. Let's dance!"

The others began to edge back toward the cars, but their leader was either drunker or braver and took a swing at Duo's head.

For a moment Duo was a blur. He ducked the swing easily and whirled into the air, landing a flying kick to the man's gut. The redneck went down hard and Duo caught the bat before it touched the ground. He took a few fast practice swings that whistled in the night air and nodded approvingly. "Nice balance. Good weight. OK, then. Who's next?"

The man on the ground recovered enough to make a grab for Duo's ankle and Shinigami took his first game swing, smashing the man's hand against the pavement. The man let out a howl of pain and curled up into a ball. One of the girls screamed. The rest of the gang hung back, gaping at Duo and keeping a wary eye on Heero's gun hand.

"Jesus fuck, they're nuts!" someone muttered.

Duo flipped the bat into the air and caught it in another roundhouse swing. "Truer words were never spoken, my friend. We are nuts. Certifiable. And between us we've killed more assholes like you than you've got teeth. So, ya got one strike out and no one on base. Who's up next?"

The others turned tail and piled back into the vehicles, peeling out in a screech of tires and roar of exhaust, leaving their fallen leader behind.

Duo rested the bat on his shoulder and turned to Heero, Shinigami grin still bright. "Aw, they're no fun! I didn't even get warmed up."

Heero walked over to the fallen man and pressed the gun muzzle to his temple. "You insulted my date."

Terrified bloodshot eyes goggled up at them. "I--I didn't mean nothin'!"

"Yeah, asshole, you did," Duo purred, leaning on Heero's shoulder and licking his ear.

The redneck's fear was palpable in Heero's nostrils as the stink of sweat and cheap whiskey. "Apologize to my date."

"Sorry! Sorry for--O Fuck, don't kill me, Mister!"

Heero pressed the gun a little more firmly to the man's head. "Apologize better."


"I'm sorry. I'm an asshole. A pussy redneck, just like you said," the man babbled, caught like a doomed rabbit in that Yuy Death Glare.

"Tell my date he is beautiful," Heero growled.

"Huh? What the-- Oh, yeah. You're beautiful, kid. A real knock out."

Heero frowned down at him. "That didn't sound very sincere."

"You're fucking gorgeous," the man whimpered. "Best looking fag--guy I ever saw." Duo's braid fell forward over his shoulder and recognition surfaced trough the fear and alcohol haze in the prone man's eyes. "Oh fuck. It's you guys! I didn't--We didn't-- Holy fuck, sorry we jumped you."

"Jumped us?" Duo chuckled darkly. "Don't flatter yourself, asshole. Let him go, babe. He's stinking up the street."

Heero stepped back, but kept the gun out where the man could see it. The man cowered, apparently thinking he was being played with. Duo gave him a helpful kick in the ass. "Go on. Go and sin no more and all that good stuff."

The man staggered up, cradling his broken hand.

"Go on," Duo said again. "Before my friend and I lose this merciful feeling we got going. Trust me, you don't want to see us mad. In fact, you don't ever want to see us again, right?"

"Yeah, right. You got it!" The guy staggered off in the direction his friends had gone.

Duo tossed the bat into the harbor and turned to Heero, still grinning. "Hey, that was fun! Part of your grand plan?"

"No." Heero picked up Duo's fallen coat and draped it around his friend's shoulders. "Time to go home?"

"Yeah, let's go home. Oh, and the way you defended my honor and all that?"

Heero swallowed, bracing for a lecture on how Duo could take care of himself.

Instead, Duo pressed up against him, letting Heero feel the hard grind of his erection as he ran his tongue over Heero's bottom lip. "That was really romantic!"

[chap. 28] [chap. 30] [back to pyrzm's fic]