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

Through the Furnace, Unshrinking + Part 23
No Looking Back

23a. Duo

Tonight we'll dream
We'll wash our hands of it
Tomorrow we'll stand
Tomorrow we'll walk away, walk away.

- Idatel “Sons and Daughters”

The call came late at night, much like the first, and like the time before, Duo held the phone in numb fingers, brain stuck in a loop. He went over the instructions he'd been given again, knowing he'd heard them correctly, knowing he had to tell his roommate, knowing he had to tell his lover. But he was still unable to lift his hand and open the door to his own bedroom. Finally, he swallowed around the lump in his throat and turned the knob.

+

Heero didn't say much of anything - just sat there in bed, hugging his knees to his chest. Duo knelt beside him, arms resting on Heero's quilt, fingers playing with the seams in the fabric. They didn't look at each other, didn't touch, didn't speak. For several minutes, Duo left it alone, allowed Heero to absorb the information he'd just been given. His best friend's fingers flexed against his knees and the muscles in his jaw tightened. He closed his eyes, but his eyelids twitched, and Duo could see his Adam's apple jump in his throat. He couldn't tear his eyes away from the body that struggled not to betray the anger and torment boiling just below the surface.

"Have you told Wufei?" he finally gritted. Duo shook his head, no.

"Do you want me to?"

Heero opened his eyes and nailed Duo to the floor with a piercing blue gaze. He felt stripped and vulnerable before those steely eyes. For the 1000th time, he wondered just what Heero knew - if he knew about Wufei, how the young dragon pressed him against the bedroom wall and they fucked with clothes on, relying on friction and a burning attraction between them to get themselves off. He wondered if Heero knew how much it hurt that they're growing friendship had been put on hold while he disappeared in his hacking programs. He wondered if Heero could feel the guilt, anger and giddy excitement slamming through his arteries and oozing from his pores. That piercing gaze wasn't talking, though and neither was Heero. Not any more than usual anyway.

"No," he murmured. "If Chang and I have to fuck in front of an audience, I should be the one to tell him." He unwound his lean and wiry frame from its hunched position on the bed, uncoiling with unconscious ease. Duo shivered. He rose and followed Heero to the door of their bedroom.

"Heero," he said, voice soft. "It's not the end of the world. Don't… make it the end of the world."

His best friend's lip curled in a small smirk, but he didn't respond. Instead, he turned and strode to Wufei's closed door, entering without knocking or hesitating. Duo flinched as he heard the unmistakable 'snick' of Wufei's switchblade and sharp Mandarin curses.

Across the living room, Trowa appeared at his door, a question in his green eyes. Behind him, a bleary-eyed and tousle-haired Quatre stood shivering in his pajamas. Duo felt his heart ache just a little at the boy's apparent sleepy innocence. He hadn't looked like that in months. Then he jerked his chin toward Wufei's room. The cursing was getting louder. He wished he knew what his lover was saying.

"They're next," was all Duo said, but Trowa's eyes widened in surprised comprehension.

"What?" Quatre asked, rubbing the heel of his hand in his eyes. "Who's next? For what?" Trowa turned around without another word or glance in Duo's direction and gently guided Quatre back inside the bedroom, closing the door behind them. Duo thought about joining Heero in Wufei's room to break up any brawls. But he decided against it; he'd probably only make things worse.

Instead he shut his door and crawled into bed, burying himself in his thick comforter. He hugged himself tightly, and let the pit of fear that had started in his stomach grow until he shook with the force of his apprehension.

The two people he cared for most in the whole world, his dragon lover and his closest friend, were to be shipped off to a private party as the entertainment. They would perform for a group of "friends." "Close personal friends" of the Boss. Nothing fancy. They wouldn't have to touch any of the guests, just do whatever they were told. Right. Duo's dragon lover and his closest friend, the two people he cared about most, were also the two deadliest peopled he'd ever known.

It'd be a massacre.


23b. Heero

All the damns will give
At the end, at the end, at the end of the world
Will you swim for me?

-"Catastrophe Keeps Us Together" Rainer Maria

"Are you planning on killing someone tonight?" Wufei's exasperated voice followed Heero into his bedroom, but he didn't bother to respond. Of course he wasn't planning another person's death. He'd never planned death before -- he didn't count the many gruesome ways he wanted to end Gael's miserable existence -- and the two people he had killed… they were… well, they'd hurt Duo. But that wasn't the point. The point was, no, no plans, only preparation. Serrated blade in his bag, knife in his boot, he returned to the living room. Wufei stood there, hands in fists at his sides, cheeks flushed. "Because I don't think we should plan on killing anyone. It doesn't seem like a wise- "

"I'm not planning on killing anyone."

"Then why are we going in with weapons stashed in clothing we're going to have to remove anyway?"

Duo emerged from the bathroom, face pale and drawn in worry. Grumbling internally, Heero gave in. "Because I want to be ready… I don't want any surprises that we can't handle. I want us to get out of there alive, Chang."

"You think someone's going to-"

"Alive and in one piece. In here mainly." He pointed to his own skull. He watched Duo approach the dragon then gently apply more kohl to the young man's eyelids. Wufei was used to this by now and didn't flinch.

"Heero doesn't much care for crowds, Wu," he explained quietly. "He's just doin' what he needs to do to be comfortable." Wufei snorted. "And I think it's a good idea, too. Have a blade ready. This whole thing smells worse than Ro's favorite fish market." Duo produced a delicate choker; a piece of onyx strung on a black silk cord. Reaching around Wufei's neck, he fumbled with the clasp until it caught. Then he withdrew his hands, pausing a fraction of a second before stepping back. Heero noticed his hesitation and quickly looked away. He recognized that moment immediately for what it was: shared, quiet, intimate. They'd made eye contact, exchanged a look. Heero kept his hands down at his sides and then looked back up when Duo stepped away from the dragon.

Again, Duo had outdone himself with Wufei's appearance: the tilt of his almond eyes accentuated with skillfully applied kohl, his short black hair, soft, shining and wild, his slim body sheathed in black leather. He looked like a whore tonight, but he also looked dangerous. Heero knew the power in that body.

Then his best friend was standing in front of him, violet eyes hooded but focused on trying to smooth down a particularly spirited lock of thick dark hair. "You look like a little kid with your hair sticking up like this. Heero, you've gotta be…" he trailed off, fingers combing steadily.

"I have to be what?" Heero asked softly.

"You're not going to be able to-" Wufei shifted where he stood, subtly drawing attention to the fact that the two friends were not alone, and Heero felt his cheeks grow hot. This was not a conversation for anyone but himself and Duo. He snatched Duo's wrist from the air by his ear and pulled him abruptly and without hesitation into their room. Duo made no sound as Heero closed the door. Then violet eyes met steely blue and didn't flinch. "You're not gonna be able to shut this one out, Ro. They won't let you. Those men… they'll want blood, yours and Wufei's. They want pain and discomfort, humiliation and sacrifice. If they think you're somewhere else for the evening… they'll find a way to bring you back. And that'll involve Wu. And he doesn't need that. He needs you to be there with him the whole time. You're a team and you need to trust each other. Trust him and protect him." Strong hands reached out to run briskly up and down Heero's arms. "Do what they want until you can't… and try not to kill anyone." He took a breath and dropped his arms, crossing them over his chest. "So that's my advice. Please come back okay. Keep Wufei focused on you. Try to forget the others are watching. And don't rise to their insults, of which there will probably be many. Just-" Heero cut off Duo's warnings when he closed the distance between them and grabbed hold of his long rope of hair.

He looked down at the chestnut braid and swallowed. "I will make it better for you. For us," he started. "After tonight, I'm ready. It's finished. And I'll make it better."

Duo smiled at him and Heero felt the ache in his heart ease a bit. "I know you will. I trust you. But right now, just take care of yourself and your partner. Just come home, okay?" Heero slowly wound the braid around his fist, until his hand rested at the back of Duo's neck. He pulled him close until he could lean his forehead against Duo's. Then he closed his eyes and took in a slow breath, pulling Duo's scent into his lungs.

“Wait for me?” Heero whispered. It was a plea that surprised him. He knew Duo was looking at him, confused. Heero himself didn't really know what he meant by that statement either. But before Duo could reply or Heero could think too much about the consequences of his actions, he tilted his chin forward and touched Duo's lips with his own. It was soft and quick and he ended it way before he really wanted to. He turned away swiftly and kept his eyes on the floor, but his insides thrummed with the realization that he'd finally kissed his best friend.

Wufei waited for them in the living room, trying to loosen some of the buckles that held the sides of his shirt together. He looked up when they re-entered, brow creased in frustration. "This looks suspiciously like a corset, Maxwell. And much like that archaic garment, it's restricting my movement and breathing." Duo laughed out loud and Heero cracked a smile.

"It's what the Boss sent for you to wear," Duo said with a shrug. "Take it up with him. But Heero and I both think you look sexy, right Ro?" Heero raised an eyebrow and didn't say anything. "And besides," he added. It's not like you'll be wearing it for long, anyway."


23c. Wufei

And the lights could go
At any time, any time, any time, any time
How will you look for me?

- Rainer Maria

It was a very nice limousine: spacious, good lighting, fancy drinks, cheese and crackers. Wufei, however, found that he couldn't really appreciate the slick, expensive aesthetic. He couldn't appreciate much of anything at this point, except the solid, reassuring press of his knife in his boot and two more along his spine. He felt like he was going to be sick; he in fact wanted to throw up all over the nice clean upholstery of this nice clean limo. He'd feel better instantly and he'd run a up a large cleaning bill for Gael. But Heero was keeping his cool, so he could too. At least it looked like Heero was cool, but sitting a few centimeters away from him and knowing the fighter's body better than most, Wufei knew the kid was a ticking time bomb, a spring wound so tightly that it threatened to break loose, shredding anyone lucky enough to be close to him with shrapnel.

Wufei couldn't believe that Duo actually thought it was a good idea to come to this thing armed. Wufei thought the idea was suicide, was certain that they'd be searched before they even got there. And if they weren't… hello, they were prostitutes. They weren't going to have clothes in which to conceal a weapon before the evening was out. But Heero had insisted and damnit, so had Duo. And Wufei did feel better knowing he could now take on just about anyone who didn't have a gun. Hell, he'd take on the whole fucking party anyway. He and Heero could fight their way out, striking down the wicked and twisted men who would doubtless be asking for it. It was this image, this vision of potential violence and carnage that kept Wufei from losing it before they even got to the party. That, and the memory of Duo's hand squeezing his in a strong and reassuring grip. It wasn't the embrace of a lover, but of a brother in arms, seeing him off to battle. Wufei realized how absurd it was to think of this job as a battle, of his friend and lover as a fellow soldier… but he wasn't going for accuracy or even reality. His goal was survival; his own and Heero's. They both had to make it out in tact, mentally and physically, because Duo had grabbed Heero's hand in that same grip, pulled their heads together until they touched, hand at the back of Heero's neck. They would both return.

Wufei cast a sideways glance at his partner's stony countenance. He knew almost nothing about this young man's life or how he handled his work. But he knew Heero's emotions as expressed through that dangerous body. Despite his consistent stoicism in the articulated language department, Wufei knew him as an intensely versatile, expressive, and emotional fighter. And even though his official job description required none of that, Heero'd never really been a hustler. He'd been biding his time. And even though they hadn't discussed the fact before they got in the Limo, Wufei knew that Heero was just about at his breaking point. The thought of him actually unleashing the anger and frustration percolating just under his skin made Wufei's fingers tingle.

+

Something was off about this. He could tell by the number of bodyguards, or complete lack thereof. Two in the limo and they stayed in the limo. One at the door. He looked them over as they entered, eyes bouncing off their clothing and away without more than a second glance. Odd. He stayed at the door; didn't escort them in, just pointed up the stares where it was abundantly clear that something was happening behind those closed double doors. Then two Muscle right at the doors. The young men stopped in front of them, looking up expectantly. The Muscle didn't say anything, but gave them the same cursory glance-over.

"So…" Wufei started. He glanced at Heero but received no help there. He looked back up at the bodyguards . "We're here."

"Bathroom's through these doors on the left. You can keep your stuff in there. Or there are shelves under the table inside. That's where I'd suggest you keep it if you want easy access later." The one on the left had spoken, but neither looked at them. He could feel Heero relax infinitesimally next to him and that was good enough. Apparently, they'd just been given permission to keep their weapons within arm's reach. Without another word, the doors opened and they were instantly assaulted by blaring music and strobe lights. The Muscle came in with them and closed the doors once they were all through, now standing guard inside. Wufei glanced at Heero again, looking for some kind of clue as to how to proceed, but the young man was a stone.

'Alright, Yuy. If you're not going to be any help…' Wufei strode forward, glaring around the room with what he hoped was a superior yet sultry stare. Heero instantly followed, eyes sweeping over the room, probably looking for exits. As they approached the middle of the room, the knot of men standing behind what looked to be a large pool table turned and, noticing the arrival of their entertainment, disbursed and came around the table to look them over. One of them turned the music down. Wufei, grateful that it was quiet enough for him to think, now felt his face go red as he realized they expected him to talk.

"Welcome!" one of the men shouted. He was tall and generically handsome, with a shiny pink face. He looked excited. "So glad you boys could come tonight. Gael promised something exotic and beautiful and…" Wufei tried to keep himself from rolling his eyes. "And he wasn't wrong."

Looked like he wouldn't have to talk much. All he needed to do was look exotic, apparently.

"Let me introduce you to all my friends. We're about to become rather intimately acquainted with you both; the least we can do is offer our names."

'That's fine; make it easier for me to track you all down later.' There were only eight men -- a small party. And they only gave him their first names. But Wufei remembered them anyway. Two Michels, two Daniels, Ivan, Carl, Henri and… Ralph. Well, fuck. There he was, in the flesh, the snake who had viciously insulted Duo and forced them to screw in front of him, the slimy gent who had relished Wufei's pain and humiliation. He stood skulking in the shadows at the back of them room, but his pale eyes never left Wufei's face. And he was grinning. The dragon immediately looked away, examining the faces of the other men. But his mind was racing and muscles twitched in anticipation. He'd vowed that night that the next time he saw Ralph, he would pay him back for the horrible things he'd said and the humiliation he'd caused. It looked like their would be blood spilled tonight.

'That's right, Ralph. Get an eyeful. Watch me squirm, yet again. It'll be the last thing you see.'

The man who'd originally spoken to them, one of the Michels, turned back to Wufei. "And you are?" he asked pleasantly.

Jerking himself out of his bloody vision, the dragon let a smile slide across his lips. "My name is Chang. This is Heero." At the mention of his name, Heero ceased his scrutiny of their surroundings and stared down each of the men in the room. An awkward silence fell as they examined each other. Hungry eyes crawled over their faces and bodies. Wufei let them look; he'd been in the business long enough now that it didn't bother him.

Finally, he took a deep breath -- or as much of one as he could with his ribs held tightly in his goddamn costume. He refused to call the thing compressing his chest a shirt. Besides the sleeves came separately; they were attached by zippers. Whatever this piece of leather, metal and bone was, it wasn't a shirt. "So, what's the plan, sirs? Do you have an outline for the evening?" He forced his voice into a lighter tone, ala Duo Maxwell. He didn't think these men wanted Chang Wufei talking to them right now.

Michel #1, apparently the speaker for the bunch, smiled and nodded. "Oh, yes. It's very simple, actually. You two get on that table and do exactly what we want." A couple men chuckled nervously, embarrassed by his forwardness. A couple poked each other in the ribs, their grins wide and malicious. One, Henri, looked downright pissed that he was there at all. It looked like he hadn't been expecting two men when Gael had promised “exotic and beautiful.” Ralph kept his small smile.

And so did Wufei. Heero remained, by all accounts, blank. "Sounds about right," the dragon said lightly, voice lined with steel.

+

They stood stiffly on the table, fists clenched. The music was cranked again, shouts of 'dance for us!' falling around their feet. Wufei held Heero's gaze, black into dark blue, demanding his attention. Heero stayed still, body radiating tension. Sensing the impatience of the men around them, Wufei let his hips begin to move in time with the music as he stepped toward his partner.

"Come on, Yuy," he mouthed, knowing Heero could read his lips. The young man shook his head almost imperceptibly in response. Wufei came closer. "What's wrong?" he said silently. Heero almost smirked, mouth twitching slightly, eyes darting around the room. An obvious answer. Now Wufei stood directly in front of him. "Just move." He leaned in and put one arm around Heero's waist, draping the other over his partner's shoulder. Hard muscles jumped underneath the thick material of his fitted jacket. Wufei wondered in a brief flash of jealousy, why Heero didn't have to wear a bone-bruising corset. At least he could get his hands underneath the elaborate layers of fabric and buckles. When the dragon's hands touched that hot skin, he felt muscles jump again and he looked up into panic-filled blue eyes. "Heero," he mouthed. Another shake of his head. Wufei ran his fingers along sharp ribs padded with muscle, traced hip bones and the soft fuzz running from belly button to waistline. "You have to trust me." He said this aloud into Heero's ear. He jumped when he heard teeth grinding. Steel bands masquerading as fingers wrapped around his bicep in a bruising grip.

"I can't do that," came the strained reply. Both their bodies were moving in time to the generic, pulsing beat, hands roaming over leather, buckles, zippers and skin. Wufei didn't think their audience knew anything was up, but they wouldn't stay quiet for long if this was all their entertainment planned on doing.

"Why not?" Wufei hissed back.

"I- can't explain."

"Take his clothes off, Chang!" one of them shouted.

'Here we go,' he thought.

"Skin!" Heero could not hide his shudder. Wufei slid one hand up and down Heero's waist, the other fingering one of the buckles. "Is this okay?" He easily slid it open, having practiced for awhile at home. At Duo's behest. He'd have to thank him later for that bit of advice. The last thing he needed was long minutes spent awkwardly fiddling with buttons, zippers and buckles.

Heero nodded his consent, a sharp motion. His fingers tentatively rested on Wufei's hip. He altered his posture slightly so his pelvis arched outward and toward his partner.

'Okay. This could work. Just keep it together, Heero.' The beat throbbed and thudded in their heads and through their bones. Wufei found that it sort of soothed him and he let himself relax a bit. He watched Heero move with him and admired how easily the fighter's body could go from violence to something pulsing and seductive. But his movements were still utterly focused and controlled. Wufei would be more easily seduced by the violence this body was capable of. Dancing would never be the way he'd choose to express his body's abilities.

But he had to admit that the feel of his volatile partner's skin under his fingers was exciting; he felt like he was getting away with something dangerous. When they fought, they were actively trying to bruise and break skin. Now, as Wufei finally succeeded in ridding his partner of his complicated shirt, he enjoyed the pause he took to actually admire the defined muscle sliding beneath dark skin. Heero was not perfect. His chest and back and shoulders were marked with the shallow pail scars Cecile had given him over the last two years… and he had a knife wound above his hip bone…and tattoos, the very same tattoos he'd glimpsed on Duo's back the few times they'd had the opportunity to remove clothing during one of their 'outings' around the city. They had the same tattoo. A small piece of their past fell into place and Wufei marveled at the kind of friendship they possessed that they would have it branded on their skin. How had he not noticed these before? They'd sparred shirtless in the past. Had he never gotten a good look at Heero's back? Well, regardless, he could see well enough now. He traced the tattoos with his fingers -- tiny lines in sets of two on either side of his spine. They ran like road markings up and down his back bone, splitting at his shoulder blades and curling around the base of the bone. They disappeared into his pants.

Heero shivered at his touch and spun back around, reaching around Wufei to place his hand at the small of his back and pull them together. "Nice ink," Wufei murmured in his ear.

"Thanks."

Wufei brought his mouth down to his partner's neck and licked the tender skin above his collar bone. "Is this okay?" He murmured. Heero shivered and again clenched his jaw.

"Okay enough."

Wufei was quickly losing patience. "What is okay, then, Yuy? Because it will get a lot worse than this before the night's out." Wufei hadn't meant to snap at his partner, but honestly what was his deal? This wasn't his first job by a long stretch.

"Chang-- I can't do it this way."

"What does that mean?"

"I can't-- talk. I just have to do it. I can't-"

"Do what you need to, Yuy. We both just need to survive tonight. This isn't time for bonding." Heero grunted a response and returned to the task of undoing the laces and buckles keeping Wufei's 'shirt' together. The dragon tried to keep his scowl from reaching his mouth and ruining his attempt at a seductive expression. But as he watched Heero's fingers fumble with the corset, he realized he was pissed. And a little hurt. They were stuck here; why not make the best of it?

If there was one thing Duo had taught him, it was take what you can from your work. Make it so at least you don't hate yourself when it's over. Over the past months, Wufei had taken this advice to heart. Rather than his tricks humiliating him with their demands -- and some of them were more than pushy -- he looked at the job as a challenge: try to make this man feel good even if he's a homophobic asshole ashamed of the fact that he likes to fuck men. Or, if he had to work with a picnic like Heero Yuy, take comfort in the safety and familiarity of his body. Heero would not try to humiliated him or judge him. Wufei thought that Duo would have imparted that bit of wisdom to his best friend, but Heero showed no signs that he had. Well, he was a stubborn bastard. Maybe he'd chosen not to listen and continue doing this his own way; whatever that was.

While Heero unlaced the corset, Wufei undid the zippers holding the sleeves to the body of his 'shirt.' Bringing his arms together over Heero's head, he grabbed the cuff and pulled, sliding the leather down his arm. He tossed it on the floor next to Heero's bag. He'd practiced this move for Duo, too, he recalled with a faint blush. Then he unzipped the other sleeve, smirking when several men whistled. He cast his eyes over his audience. They looked happy, eyes glued to his arms and shoulders and also to Heero's lean chest, stomach and back. Ralph stood back, eyes never leaving Wufei's face. Henri still looked pissed and offended. They'd have to be careful with him.

Wufei turned his gaze back to his partner, watched the fingers methodically loosening and tugging. 'Come on, Yuy. Grow some originality.' The dragon grabbed Heero's wrists and wrapped them around his own waist, bring their bodies flush against each other. Arms automatically began to roam up and down his back. Wufei ran his fingers along Heero's spine, feeling the slightly raised tracks of the tattoos. Their hips met and Wufei pushed aggressively into his partner, forcing him to step back. "At least try to have a little fun," he growled. He lightly bit down on the young man's throat, waiting for the flinch and unhappy grunt. When none came, he drew back a little and sought Heero's eyes.

What he saw froze his breath and made his heart lurch. His partner was gone… just blank. His expressive blue eyes had turned to gunmetal. His body only reacted or performed the most automatic and reflexive tasks.

"Yuy." He searched the empty features and found nothing. His body moved to the beat, bending and twisting along to the music. Hands touched him, ran along his biceps, but they always strayed back to the damn corset laces. A knot of panic formed in his stomach. This was wrong. "Heero?" No response. Not even a blink in that vacuous stare. This was how Heero dealt with the job? Disappearing? Wufei took a deep breath. He let Heero lift the corset over his head, carefully pulling the knife strap along with it. The bundle of leather, bone and metal clattered to the floor along with everything else. He took another deep breath, relishing the freedom of movement he'd been denied in that damn costume. The two young men drew together again, arms winding around each other, tongues tasting shoulders and necks. Heero essentially imitated everything Wufei did, conscious enough to be aware, but totally non-responsive to any of his advances. He was like a stranger.

And the johns knew something was up.

"What's his deal?" "He too good for you, Chang?" Givin' you the cold shoulder?" "Cold fish more like." "He needs to wake up. Wake him up, Chang." "I'll wake him up." "Get his pants off That'll get him into it."

Wufei felt the ugliness of the mood growing. He started to undo the fly of Heero's jeans, desperately trying to make it all look real. But any enjoyment, amusement, or arousal to be found in the situation had gone along with Heero's presence in the act. His dangerous body held nothing in it.

Wufei dropped to his knees, looking up at his partner's still form and vacant stare. Swallowing hard, he grabbed the waistband of Heero's jeans and pulled downward exposing his partner and friend to the admiring stares of the audience. But their satisfaction was short-lived.

"He's not even hard!" "What's his deal?" "You should just ditch that kid, Chang. We'll take care of you."

He shivered under their words and stares. The thought of all eight of them, especially Ralph, touching him made his stomach churn. Not going to happen. Not tonight, not here. Tonight, there would be blood, none of it his or Heero's, all of it cleansing. He set his jaw in determination and went to work.

[part 22] [part 24] [back to Singles a-k]