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

Through the Furnace, Unshrinking + Part 3
The Club

3a. Heero

I can sense it
Something important
Is about to happen
It's coming up

- "Big Time Sensuality" Bjork

Heero knew the moment he walked into the club with his three friends that this was no ordinary fuck in a hotel room, no hand job in an alley. This was different -- bigger. The place -- Odyssey, or some such ridiculous name -- was pricey. The clientele were all very well dressed and carried themselves with an air of entitlement. He knew this would bug Wufei and probably Duo, too, except the latter was much better at mixing with the high-rollers than their more volatile companion. Almost immediately, they were asked for their jackets, a formality that made Heero uneasy. He'd lived almost his entire life clinging desperately to every possession he'd ever owned, not knowing if or when it would be stolen or forcibly taken from him. To willingly hand over his leather jacket went against every instinct he'd developed over the last twenty years. But after a quick glance at Duo, who gave him a reassuring nod, he gave it to the young man expectantly holding out his hand.

Heero had the feeling that, while on the surface of things, they didn't have all that much responsibility, tonight was a test. They would be watched to see how they handled something other than sex. With the stubborn determination that was, as Duo put it, "not your most endearing characteristic," Heero decided that tonight they would all prove themselves. If they were watched, the Boss would see that they could handle more than just tricks. Tonight would be their ticket up.

He and Duo had been working for the Boss -- a man by the name of Gael -- for about five years. When they were 15, they'd signed on as thieves -- the eyes and ears of the organization on the street. In a city this size, no one noticed a couple of skinny, undernourished teenagers with dirt on their faces, even when said ruffians were busy stealing food and guns. As a team, Heero and Duo were unstoppable, two shadows that disappeared at the first hint of suspicion. Having lived on their own as far back as they could remember, the boys knew the city and everyone in it better than they knew the alphabet. They proved invaluable to Gael's steady takeover of the city's underbelly. Heero hadn't particularly liked stealing -- that was Duo's strong suit. He preferred the slow and careful infiltration of street gangs, the investigation of members to find out who was running what for whom. He loved seeing them brought down, scattered and taken over by the Boss's more legitimate business. He'd seen enough children dead from cocaine cut with something cheap and dangerous; at least now street kids couldn't afford the Boss's prices. Heero figured he'd done them a favor, even if after a particularly nasty gang had gone down, he and Duo had to lay low for awhile. And if rich trust fund kids wanted to get hooked on chemicals with Daddy's cash, that was their business. He wanted nothing to do with their affairs; none of them had ever helped him.

He didn't mind that the only thing the Boss offered them was protection. He and Duo had been on their own long enough to find food and shelter themselves. When they were on the street, everyone knew they were Gael's, and that was enough. If anyone gave them trouble -- which happened pretty often given Duo's big mouth -- they could handle that too. They'd obviously never had any official training in self defense; however, playing the hands they'd been dealt gave the two of them the incentive to not only know how to defend themselves but also have enough skill to prevent future fights.

Except, of course, when Duo went looking for them. Which he did. Regularly. Heero was a better fighter than Duo, but that didn't bother either of them. He knew that his best friend could simply disappear if he had to. That kid could just vanish like smoke and be out of danger, even with a dozen hopped-up thugs on his tail. Not that Duo would ever leave Heero alone in a fight. They trusted each other implicitly. They'd fought... and killed for each other in the past. Not something either of them would forget. They were a unit, and so when they were offered the hustling gig, they didn't even consider the position unless they took it as a team.

Duo had spent a fair amount of time convincing Heero that a roof over their heads and steady pay were worth the sacrifices to their dignity. Heero's dignity was not a concern. He'd never known parents, or security, or hope for a bright future in marketing or consulting. He had no dignity to lose. He did worry about safety. Over the past couple years, Duo had grown into those long limbs and turned into a striking young man, graceful, agile, and beautiful by some peoples' standards. And that goddamn braid. If they took the hustling job, Duo would be a target simply because of the way he looked. Heero didn't know why the fool didn't just cut his hair and keep his head down. But that was Duo. And where he went, Heero went.

So, now, they were prostitutes, working for the largest family in organized crime in the city. They had an apartment, a steady cash flow and even a couple friends -- though he knew almost nothing about them.

Trowa Barton had started the same time they had. With a head full of dark red hair, big green eyes, a long lean body and a faint French accent, the man got plenty of business. He was out on jobs a lot and when he was at the apartment, he stayed in his room. As far as Heero could tell, he didn't hate the job, though he certainly didn't appear to enjoy it. Hard to know what he enjoyed.

The same did not apply to their other flat-mate. Chang Wufei had joined them six months ago, a ticking time bomb of wounded pride, honor and justice. Next to Heero's own temper, this man was an angry dragon 24 hours a day. They did not know how or why he'd ended up with them -- something to do with his clan back in China. It was no doubt messy. But Heero didn't really want to know and Wufei clearly didn't want to tell them. Wufei only seemed interested in shouting and raging about justice. He'd been quite insufferable. But once Heero had nearly put him through a wall for insulting Duo's integrity, and Duo had reminded him that he was a hustler just like Heero and himself and therefore in no position to cast stones, Wufei had calmed down and the four of them now got along rather well. Well... Trowa didn't really talk. And Heero, himself, didn't much either...so Duo and Wufei were now fast friends and he and Trowa lived with them.

All in all, it was as decent a situation as Heero could hope for. He had food, a roof over his head, clothing, a small stash of weapons to afford him some semblance of security and friends that he knew he could trust.

But... He wouldn't tell Duo this, but he wanted out of the hustling business. He'd only been in it a year and he desperately wanted to move up in the organization. If he could just... not have to feel another person like that... not have to surrender himself, deny his reflexes. He'd almost rather be back on the street, stealing.

But Duo assured him that with his fighting skills and strength, not to mention his paranoia and constant readiness for ambush, he'd make some high-roller one hell of a bodyguard. If he stuck it out, he'd be one, one of these days. And Heero believed Duo. Because Duo didn't lie.

So, here they were at a posh dance club, playing the pretty distractions for some unknown bigwig meeting. It got under his skin that he had nothing really important to do, but he knew that tonight was a step in the right direction to attention and eventually promotion. Heero's target was a young girl, the daughter of some drug lord in a near-by city. He had to find this girl and keep her busy while the bosses met upstairs and discussed... whatever. He hadn't been briefed on that little detail. Much to his chagrin. He shook his head and squinted around the dimly lit room. The music throbbed so loudly, he could barely hear his own thoughts, and the bass thudded against his ribs in a most distracting manner. This would be a long night.

A step in the right direction. A step in the right direction. A step in the right direction.

3b. Duo

I don't know my future after this weekend
And I don't want to

- "Big Time Sensuality"

Duo could not have been more excited. He knew Heero was about three minutes away from clocking him, but he didn't care. At that moment, walking into that club, with his best friends around him, he was ready for anything. Mostly, though, he wanted to dance. And not have to suck anyone's dick. Tonight would be dick free if he had anything to say about it. All he had to do was find this blond kid and dance him under the table until 'negotiations' were over with his family.

Whatever that meant. Like he cared anyway.

Maybe the kid would be hot.

Maybe he could get Heero to dance. Unlikely.

He examined his friends has they headed for the bar. Heero's iridescent blue shirt made his dark blue eyes flash, and he'd actually let Duo help with that unruly hair. It still stood up everywhere, but it did so in a sexier way. Trowa had needed no help. The form-fitting jeans and the tight green tank top were all he required. Besides, he was after a lady tonight. Didn't wanna be too flashy. Wufei looked downright gorgeous. His compact and wiry frame looked lethal in black. The shirt he wore was sleeveless, trimmed in silver, the pants all black. Duo had convinced him -- somehow -- to put a few silver streaks in his hair, and with his eyes lined in black, he looked almost feline.

He'd come a long way from the snarling wounded dragon of a few months ago. Those first weeks together had been brutal, especially after the poor guy got his first blow job. The others quickly learned that he couldn't be on the receiving end. For an entire week, he had gone from ruthless hours of his martial arts forms, to meditation, to shouting matches with whoever he encountered. It'd all been cleared up when Heero had nearly put Wufei through the drywall after he'd called Duo a cheap whore.

Duo smirked at the memory. He watched Wufei politely address the bartender and order a soda water, and the smirk grew.

There will be dancing, he thought, violet eyes taking on a predatory gleam.

3c. Wufei

It takes courage to enjoy it
The hard-core and the gentle
Big time sensuality

- "Big Time Sensuality"

Tonight, Wufei was looking for the same boy as Duo. He must be quite important for both of them to be keeping track of him. Whatever. It gave Wufei the excuse to stick close to one of the three people he knew in this ridiculous establishment. Shifting uncomfortably in his clothes, he tried to tug the shirt a little lower so that his abdomen wouldn't show when he raised his arms.

"I will get you for this, Maxwell," he muttered.

"Don't do that , Wu!" From behind, cool fingers wrapped around his and pried them away from the soft fabric. "You'll stretch it. The shirt fits perfectly. You should let it work its magic." Duo slid around to face him, drink in hand.

"I look like a...like a..."

"A Chinese god of smoke, sex, and dance?" Duo finished. His grin was blinding. "No need to thank me, Wu. Just looking at you will be my reward...and dancing with you of course."

Wufei snorted and hoped the dim lighting hid his blush. "Have you spotted our target yet?" he asked, eager to change the subject.

"Nope. I'm headed out to the floor soon as I finish my drink." And with that, Duo was gone, shouting to someone or other he knew at the bar.

Scowling fiercely, Wufei threaded his way along the edge of the dance floor. Perhaps if this kid was anything like him, he'd be watching from the sidelines. As he wandered, he felt many sets of eyes on his back and he caught a few open stares. He cursed Maxwell yet again for his skill in persuading him to wear eye makeup. And his hair -- every time he moved his head, he caught little flashes of silver. And, well, it startled him. Yes, he was a jumpy dragon tonight, a jumpy painted dragon. As he thought of interesting ways to pay Duo back for his "help," a small voice interrupted.

'Better to be painted than dead,' the voice whispered.

He closed his eyes and tried to keep that little voice from growing any louder.

'If the Dragon Clan hadn't found this city with its loose morals, its pretty men, and a boss willing to take you in, you'd be a banished, shamed and most likely dead dragon. What must your wife think?'

"She alone understood," he muttered.

'She felt sorry for you. It was her mercy that saved your life.'

"I know," he whispered.

'She took pity on your pathetic tainted soul and when the time came to decide your fate, she begged for your life; risked her own honor to see you put somewhere 'safe' instead of cast out or outright killed for your weakness.'

Wufei abruptly left the dance floor and headed straight for the bathroom, his stomach churning with familiar anxiety. He faced his reflection in the mirror and pleaded with his treacherous brain to leave him alone for a few hours, to let him do his job.

'Your job? Selling your body to not even the highest bidder is your job now? You have truly disgraced yourself. Meiran should have killed you herself instead of tossing you into this pit of temptation, instead of handing you over to people like Duo Maxwell, Trowa Barton, and Heero Yuy. They're as sick as you, just a bunch blasphemous faggots.'

Wufei slammed his fist into the countertop, effectively silencing the cruel voice of his clan. He wrapped one arm around his middle, fighting the cramps in his stomach. His heart thudded so loudly in his ears, he didn't hear someone come in, didn't notice the footsteps behind him until he looked up to see Trowa in the mirror, standing a few paces behind him. With one precise movement, Wufei turned to face his flat-mate.

"You alright?" the taller man asked.

Wufei smirked and ran a hand through his silvered hair. "Not really, no. Not much I can do about it, though. We're hear for the duration."

Trowa nodded, wordlessly grabbing a paper towel and dampening it in the sink. "Eye makeup's running a little," he said, voice completely void of emotion. He handed the towel to Wufei and turned him around to face the mirror. When it looked like he was about to wipe it all off, Trowa snatched it back, muttering, "Here, let me."

Wufei knew better than to talk about their job tonight in a public place such as this, but the words tumbled out anyway. "I look like a joke gone wrong. I don't have the foggiest idea how to dance. And I don't have the inclination to learn."

Trowa gave him a rare smile as he dabbed at the Wufei's eyelids. "You look like a work of art. Duo outdid himself."

"Precisely. This was unnecessary."

"Perhaps, but you made him very happy. And you're out with your friends in the most expensive club in town and you don't have to pay. Try to have a little fun."

Wufei scowled. "Fun?"

"For Duo, if not for yourself. He-"

"I know he's been looking forward to this. He's told me many times."

"That, and I think he needs a break from all the shit jobs he's had recently. Try not to be another one. You're supposed to be an ally." With that, Trowa tossed away the paper towel and walked out, leaving Wufei startled and rather ruffled. Trowa was right, of course. Duo had been through hell today -- he had the bruises to prove it. And now, out with his friends, finally able to have a good time, and Wufei was bitching about his makeup.

He drew himself up to his full 5'6" and examined his reflection again. His almond-shaped eyes did look exotic and almost dangerous painted in black, and his clothes -- well barring the strips of silver -- were actually quite sensible, perhaps even attractive. The hair was another matter, but it would be back to normal in a few days. All things considered, he did look rather impressive.

'You look like a fag.'

"Well, I am one. So it's fitting I guess." He turned and strode out of the bathroom, Duo Maxwell his target. Dancing couldn't be that hard. He'd mastered over two dozen of his forms; he could certainly dance for a night.

Besides, it wasn't like he had any pride to cling to or salvage. That had all been stripped from him a year ago.

3d. Duo

We just met
And I know I'm a bit too intimate

- "Big Time Sensuality"

Much to Duo's delight, the kid could dance -- just not really in any style he was accustomed to. He found himself laughing and attempting to imitate the blond boy's jubilant and carefree movements. This young man didn't dance to be sexy and he certainly didn't dance to impress anyone. He did it for the sheer joy of moving; stretching his body, testing it and enjoying the freedom of motion that only the truly athletic possessed. He jumped, turned and bent his lithe frame in time to the music -- an old techno tune that Duo recognized from a German movie -- radiant smile never leaving his angelic face. Duo grabbed his wrist and pulled him closer, resting a hand at the small of his back, pressing lightly against the sweaty t-shirt.

"I've never seen anyone move like you," he shouted into the boy's ear. "You're amazing!"

"Thanks!" the boy yelled back. His blond hair flew around his head in a gold haze when he moved and stuck out like a scarecrow's when he stood still. Duo was enchanted.

He leaned in close, brushing his lips against the boy's earlobe. "You're beautiful." He watched the youth turn bright red and grinned.

"So are you," he shouted, spinning away from Duo and right into a very startled Wufei. They caught each other easily, the young man twirling Wufei around in a wild arc. Duo laughed and gracefully cut in, grabbing his dark-haired friend around the waist and pulling their bodies together.

"Meet our boy, Wu. He's a quite a looker, doncha think?" Duo heard Wufei mutter something under his breath and felt lean muscles try to escape their tight embrace. In that moment, Duo decided he liked how the dragon's body felt flush against this. He also enjoyed the glare shot his way as his arms tightened around that narrow waist.

Then the blond boy was back in his field of vision, a ball of kinetic energy. Duo released Wufei and threw his arm around their target. "Wufei, let me introduce you to my new friend, Quatre Winner." The youth stopped moving for the length of time it took give Wufei a delicate bow before bouncing back into the song.

Duo watched the dragon's mouth quirk upwards in a surprised smile. The kid's exuberance was infectious. Then his expression abruptly changed and he turned surprised black eyes on him.

"Winner?" he mouthed, eyebrows knit together in the beginnings of a frown. Duo nodded and beckoned Wufei closer.

"You bet, buddy," he said into his friend's ear. Again he circled his arms around Wufei's waist and drew that tense body into the steady pulse of the music. Their hips moved together, weight shifting on the downbeat. Warm breath puffed in Duo's ear and when he drew back slightly, he saw a look of intense concentration pulling his friend's striking features into an intimidating scowl. Wufei's friendship was not for the faint of heart. Pretty much anyone but himself, Heero, and Trowa would have run screaming had a look like that been in their direction. But Duo knew he was just making sure he had the feel of the music down.

Finally, when it looked like he had a firm grasp on their movements, Wufei looked up to meet Duo's gaze. "Quatre Winner, as in Winner, Winner? The richest family in town, Winner?"

"Indeed."

"What could they possibly be negotiating with our Family? They've got a clean record, right?"

"Dunno, Wu, but this kid's due to inherit. He's worth millions."

Wufei glanced around quickly, scanning the crowd. "Where's his-"

"Posse? I thought the same thing. And I asked him, but he said he's here on his own until his family's done with the meeting."

Wufei frowned. "That doesn't seem right. I wouldn't let him out of my sight if he were the heir to a fortune like the theirs."

Duo nodded. "I know, right? Methinks something has gone awry within the Winner family. The meeting's with Quatre's father and older sisters, but from what I've heard Dad's a few cards short of a full deck. He's almost 80 and about ready to buy the farm, as it were."

"Quatre should be at that meeting."

"You're tellin' me. But we're just supposed to keep him happy until it's over."

"What are you two talking about?" Quatre asked innocently, returning in a wild flurry of arms and hair. His breath came in short puffs of air, warming their faces. His hair stuck to his forehead, damp with sweat.

"Just how lucky we both are to have the honor of dancing with you," Duo said with a grand arm gesture.

Quatre's smile got bigger, if that was possible and he gave each of them a kiss on the cheek. "I'm having so much fun!" he shouted. "My sisters should come here for meetings more often." Duo locked eyes with Wufei and look of worry passed between them, Duo's sense of unease ratcheting up a few notches. Something wasn't right, here.

Then the music changed and he shouted, "I love this song!" pulling them both into a frantic dance that had the entire place jumping up and down.

[part 2] [part 4] [back to Singles a-k]