Author: June
see part 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer

Through the Furnace, Unshrinking + Part 2

In bathrooms and barrooms,
On dumpsters and heirlooms,
We bit our tongues.
Sucked our lips into our lungs
'til we were falling.
Such was our calling.

-"On the Bus Mall" The Decemberists

"I'm so fucking sick of bugs!" Duo shouted, squashing a cockroach as thoroughly as possible. Grimacing, he turned up his nose as he threw away the paper towel with the remains of his nemesis folded into it. "When we make it big, no more bugs, baby. We'll have the latest in bug-neutralizing technology. A perimeter check. 'Excuse me, sir? Do you have an exoskeleton or at least six legs? Well, I'm sorry, but you'll have to leave the premises.' Squish!" he shouted enthusiastically.

He turned as he sensed someone behind him and grinned at the black-haired man poking his head into the kitchen. "'Sup, Wu?"

"Who were you talking to?" the young man asked, taking a tentative step inside and idly looking around the room.

"The insect population of our apartment." Duo's grin widened when his friend flinched almost imperceptibly and cast another, more wary glance at the base boards. "S'okay. I got'im. And I think I scared off the rest with my threats."

Wufei looked back up at Duo, raising an eyebrow. "You know, if we have an anti-insect policy around here, we'll exclude the bulk of our clientele." He paused. "Which would be great. I fully endorse your idea."

Duo's lip curled and then he shrugged. "I guess we'll have to add a warm-blooded exception, 'cause as much as you and Heero would love a drastic reduction in clients, Boss Man really wouldn't." He sighed and grabbed the toast he'd been about to eat when the cockroach had skittered in front of the trash can. He took a bite and turned back to Wufei. "Speaking of which are you ready for tonight?"

Now it was Wufei's turn to scowl. "I don't want to talk about it. Are you sure I even have to go?"

Duo laughed and walked out of the kitchen, calling over his shoulder, "It's gonna be a night to remember. Make sure you pick out something pretty to wear."

Duo strolled into the bedroom he shared with Heero to find his roommate standing in front of their full-length mirror, applying kohl to his lower eyelid. "You're looking sexy tonight, Ro, " Duo said around a mouthful of toast. The only response he got was a grunt. Rolling his eyes, Duo flopped on his bed and continued the conversation, responding for Heero. "Why thank you Duo. You're looking fine as usual. Hey thanks, man! You sure do know how to make a buddy feel good about himself. Well, you're my best friend and I want you to know that you're appreciated. Aw, stop. You're too kind. You're making me blush. I haven't even gotten dressed yet. Yes, but you should know that even those old jeans look really great. And that shirt. The holes are-"

"Duo, you look like a slob. And you're getting crumbs all over your bed."

"Heero Yuy, ladies and gentleman. He does weddings and Bar Mitzvahs, too."

"You should get ready. We have to leave soon."

Duo shoved the last bit of toast in his mouth and stood up again, coming to stand behind his partner. "I know. I know. And I will. You've gotta give a guy his privacy though. How am I supposed to come up with the perfect ensemble with you glaring at me in that mirror?"

Dark blue eyes met his for a second then flickered away. "I'm not glaring." Duo snorted. "Are you aware of the parameters for tonight's mission?" Duo snorted again.

"Yes, Heero. You've told me at least half a dozen times already." He turned away and wandered over to his closet, gesticulating dramatically as he went. "We get to the club, look unbelievably hot, dance our asses off like the gods that we are-"

"Duo…"

"What? Oh, and we make sure certain individuals notice us. We keep'em happy until the Big Guns can take over. Piece of cake!" He turned away from the closet and flopped back on the bed, folding his hands behind his head and watching appreciatively as Heero removed his jeans and threw them in the hamper. He then pulled a pair of black pants from his closet.

"I just want us to be ready."

Duo smiled at his back, a small and affectionate expression, one that very few people ever saw. "Heero," he said quietly, and his partner turned to face him, painted eyes narrowed in concentration. "We have essentially no responsibility tonight. I know you wish we did, but seriously, buddy. You should try to relax and have a little fun. It'd do you good."

The Japanese man turned back to the mirror, fighting his way into the pants. "Right." He frowned as he inspected his appearance. The pants were quite tight and vaguely iridescent.

Duo could tell that he hated them. Duo thought they hugged his hips and ass in a most flattering manner. "You look good," he said honestly. But he knew that Heero was frowning because there wasn't room in those pants for favorite dagger. "And you're gonna have to settle for the old switchblade, like the rest of us. Tis a glamorous life we lead, Ro. There's no room for big blades."

Heero grunted in response and grabbed his boots, deftly lacing them up. When he'd finished this task, he slid his knife into the right one and straightened to face his partner. He looked Duo up and down, taking in the ratty jeans and torn long-sleeve shirt. "You should get ready," he said again. "You can't go like that."

Duo looked down at his clothes then back up at his best friend. His eyes sparked. "Why, Heero, when did you grow a sense of fashion?"

The young man looked confused. "I didn't. I- looked into the appropriate clothing for…" He trailed off when Duo's grin reappeared. His mouth quirked upward in a small smile and he shook his head. "Hurry up and get ready."

Duo's eyes followed him out and he frowned before turning towards his closet. He pulled out a few piece of clothing and threw them on the bed, wincing as he bent over to grab his boots and a shirt that had fallen off its hanger. Damn, he was sore. That asshole he'd had earlier was making his presence known well after the fact. Duo hated those johns. He didn't like to remember the bad ones. He straightened a bit stiffly and stripped out of his old shirt, pulling on a sleek tank top and tugging it down over his chest. Turning to face the mirror, he bit back a curse and angrily strode forward to examine his reflection more closely.

He gently pressed long fingers to his collarbone, frowning at the bruises darkening his pale skin. Fuck. He'd hoped he wouldn't bruise. And if he did, he thought they'd be well below the neck. He looked down at his waist and saw similar bruises forming over his hip bones. And around his biceps. Fuck! He seriously hoped that dick was off the client list. He'd filed his complaint as soon as he and Heero had gotten home. The Boss usually listened to him about these things, and he really really didn't want to see that guy ever again. The fact that Heero had dropped him was the only good part of the whole afternoon.

Duo turned away from the mirror, pulling the tank top back over his head as we walked to the bed. "Looks like long sleeves tonight," he grumbled, bending down to pluck a stretchy black shirt with a dark red lining from the pile on the bed.

"Why? Modesty has never been your strong suit."

Duo yelped in surprise, turning quickly to face the young man behind him. "Jeez, Wu. Don't sneak up on a guy like that. I'm liable to stick ya with Lola." Duo flashed a quick grin and glanced significantly at his knife where it rested on his dresser.

Wufei sniffed. "Just try it."

"Careful, buddy," Duo warned good naturedly, swiftly pulling his shirt over his head. But he wasn't quick enough. When his head popped out of the neck hole, he saw that Wufei's eyes were wide with surprise and dawning anger. The young man stared openly at his bruises, then looked up with rage sparking in black irises. Duo quickly jerked the shirt down to cover his stomach and hips, but the damage was done. The Chinese man stalked forward, body rigid and, in spite of himself, Duo felt the need to back away.

Grabbing Duo's wrist, Wufei yanked back the sleeve and glared at the reddish-purple bruises darkening his friend's skin. He looked back up and Duo's strange blue-violet eyes were immediately everywhere but on him.

"What happened, Duo? Who did this to you?"

Knowing that Wufei wouldn't let this - or him - go until he answered, Duo frowned and met his friend's gaze. "Troll I had to day. Guy was a real bruiser."

"Does Heero know? Are- are you injured anywhere else?"

The braided man shook his head. "No, Heero doesn't know, and you're not gonna tell him. And no, I'm not hurt. Just a little stiff and a few more bruises than I like."

"Why shouldn't I tell him?" Wufei asked, voice rising. Duo glanced over his friend's shoulder, frantically looking for Heero. He didn't see him. Must be in the bathroom or kitchen.

"Wu, please keep it down."

The young man's scowl only deepened. "Why? Where was he when this asshole was beating you up? You went on this job together. Where was he?"

"Wu, sshh!" Duo pulled his hand free, looking once more for his partner, then turning away from the door and pulling Wufei out of sight. "Look, I'll tell you what happened. Just, please don't tell Heero. He- won't understand."

"Neither do I! Duo, you're paid to give people pleasure, not take their shit."

"I know, I know," Duo said in his most conciliatory tone. "Just, listen, okay?"

Wufei crossed his arms over his chest and raised an eyebrow, inviting Duo to speak. He swallowed and looked down at the bruise on his wrist. "The two johns we had today were…polar opposites. The one was just in awe of us. The other wanted… he wanted us to put up a fight, wanted to hurt us. So, I took him because I knew Heero wouldn't put up with it and would probably rip his balls off."

Wufei nodded, probably thinking Heero's violent reaction would have been the logical and most prudent course of action. Duo spared a moment to reflect affectionately on his two best friends. Heero Yuy - stoic, quiet, reserved, strong, smart as hell… and very violent when he had to be. The oldest and best friend he'd ever had. Chang Wufei - sarcastic, fast, intelligent, a bit prudish, surprisingly funny…and also rather violent. A short-tempered dragon Duo knew would never betray him.

"So, we were in separate rooms and…" familiar anger and shame blossomed in his chest. "He said I was enjoying it too much, wanted me to work a little harder." He thought he heard Wufei's teeth grind together. "Asshole shoved me around, fucked me so hard I thought I'd go through the wall, but I didn't want to say anything 'cause Heero was in the next room. He- well, I let it go too far. I should have stopped him, but I figured I was handling it better than Heero would. And anyway," Duo smirked, a fierce grin sliding along his wide mouth, "Ro ended up decking the prick by the end. Might have broken his jaw."

Wufei snorted, satisfied. "So much for avoiding Heero's temper."

"I know." And now the grin was in full force. "But, Wu you shoulda seen it. The guy bled and everything." And then the grin was gone just as quickly as it had appeared. "You can't tell Heero about it though. You won't, right?"

Wufei shook his head, no. "He'd put himself in more danger by avenging your already dubious honor."

Duo barked a laugh and punched his friend in the shoulder. "Thanks, buddy. It's good to know you think so highly of me."

Wufei looked him over once again, from head to foot, one last check to make sure he was alright. "You know, you couldn't ask for a better friend and protector. Heero will always be there…so long as he doesn't find out about this, go murder that john and then 'mysteriously disappear' when the Boss finds out."

Duo nodded. "I know. Hence the long sleeves." Turning away, he threw his hands in the air in frustration. "Figures. The night we all get to go out and dance our hot little asses off, I gotta wear a sensible shirt. I'm gonna be sweatin' my balls off!"

"Thank you for that image."

"Oh, come on, Wu. Like you haven't seen sweaty balls before, like you don't encounter balls every fucking day. Balls, balls, balls! Oi! Don't turn away from me when I'm talking to you! I swear, your sense of propriety knows no bounds."

Wufei had put his hands over his ears after the second 'balls' and turned to leave. "I'm not listening to you."

"Clearly," the braided man laughed, grabbing Wufei by the arm and pulling him back into the bedroom. "Okay, okay, I'm done now, I promise. What was it you wanted anyway? You need help picking out that pretty outfit?" Duo had the immediate satisfaction of seeing a blush rise up Wufei's neck and turn his face pink underneath that enviable golden skin. "You do, don't you."

"Maxwell-"

"You need help picking out a pretty outfit."

"No, I just-"

"He's mine!" Duo crowed, sweeping his friend up into an enormous hug.

"It's not that; it's just that I don't know-"

"All mine!" They stumbled out of the bedroom, Duo half-carrying Wufei, the latter thoroughly ruffled and affronted, the former keeping his eyes trained on Heero as he emerged from the kitchen to see what all the commotion was about. They watched each other for no more than a few seconds, but Duo could read surprise and slight suspicion in that dark blue gaze. He shot his best friend a small smile and the look evaporated. Heero offered a half smile in return and Duo felt his heart jump. Then he nearly fell into Wufei's bedroom and, laughing, closed the door behind him.

[part 1] [part 3] [back to Singles a-k]