I went out the back door and slipped through the yards, ghosting out to
the street and I finally figured out what the odd noises were I'd been
hearing for the past hour.
"Looks like our pit bull buddy is running a dog fight tonight."
I murmured, 'Watch yourselves... there'll be a lot of drunken nasties
wandering around the neighborhood for hours."
I shut up then, realizing that I was talking only to Heero unless Quatre
had come out of his room after I left. I couldn't maintain the same banter
unless I felt like I was talking to the more sympathetic of my two partners.
Besides, I needed to get Helio out of his box in my head and get him tried
Slow down the walk; need more of a saunter. Stroll... don't stride. Eyes
up and scanning; looking for potential clients. Swing the hair, flash
the smile... accentuate the positive. God I hated this.
I managed to swing by the house with the odd repairs and muttered into
my collar, "Still no lights at target A. No sign of activity."
By the time I hit the business district, Helio was firmly in place and
enjoying himself; swinging his hips and smirking his ass off.
Have I mentioned that I don't like Helio?
The strip was like a place transformed; the grates were pushed back from
all those places that had been closed that morning and there were people
just fucking everywhere.
I passed a bar and got a catcall. Where I would normally have ignored
it and walked on, as Helio, I turned and flashed the guy a bright grin,
tossing the hair and giving him a wink. I was here to make contacts and
find information after all.
The guy wasn't really interested though and backed down when he got a
response from me. I walked on.
I wandered like that for a while. I could tell the regulars from the appraising
stares I got; somebody new in their territory. I got a couple of propositions
and used the high price tactic to blow them off; entered into a couple
of absolutely nothing conversations.
It took an hour before one of the local girls got in my face; just a little
territorial pissing. In this business, you need a lure... something that
makes you stand out. For me... I mean, Helio... it was the hair and the
eyes. Violet is a very rare color.
For this girl, it was also her hair. Mine was better.
Hers was long but not as long as mine and flaming red where mine is a
light chestnut. Usually when I'm doing Helio I have it streaked but I
hadn't had access to a lot of supplies.
I briefly debated getting into it with her but decided to at least give
a friendly exchange a try. I went straight for the jugular and complimented
her hair. She preened. I lamented my boring, mouse brown color and raved
a little about her hair color. She preened some more and we bonded.
I had to keep myself from shaking my head.
It wasn't as hard as all that; we really weren't in any serious competition
for clients. The kind of johns that would be interested in me wouldn't
be interested in her anyway. I think she only got in my face to start
with out of boredom.
I got her to talk to me a little bit. The clichéd hookers with
the hearts of gold really do exist. They usually don't last long... but
On closer inspection, I realized that she was a little older than she
had looked at first and I played to that, managing to get some maternal
instincts going with a calculated show of a little trepidation.
"Now you listen here, Honey," she told me after we'd talked
for a few minutes, "You stay away from the 'Red Dog'... them people
is just plain mean. They don't care nothin' about marks."
You got scarred up in her line of work and it dropped your street value.
Most johns will at least honor the face. Some like it rough and will sometimes
get carried away but they will usually stay away from the face.
I nodded in understanding, appearing to hang on her every word, even as
my eyes were scanning the street, looking for things that were out of
place. A lot of this kind of surveillance work is pure instinct.
She went on in that vein, warning me away from this or that person; letting
me know which ones were the gay bars, until a car cruised by and she got
a nibble on the hook she was dangling in the water. She forgot me like
yesterday's news and was gone, sidling up to the car and engaging the
man behind the wheel in conversation.
I wandered on.
There was a small altercation after that, from a... gentleman who approached
me from a bar. Before I quite knew what he was up to, his hands were slipping
through the gashes cut in the back of my jeans and he was kneading my
spandex covered ass. As Helio, I had to smirk and simper instead of breaking
his damn arm.
I finally managed to work my way free with a teasing, "you go much
further and I'm going to have to start charging, sweetie."
We did the price thing and he got a little pissy with me. I thought it
was going to get rough but he finally backed down and went away muttering
to himself about high-priced hookers.
I couldn't keep the shaky, "Shit," from passing my lips after
he was gone.
Then I spotted something that made alarms go off in my head. Like I said,
a lot of this job is instinct and the guy I saw making his way down the
street was kicking my instincts right in the head. This was a predator...
but wrong somehow. Like finding a tiger shark trolling through the Sahara.
Damn dangerous... but out of place. People were giving him a wide berth
but eyes were following him from all over the street.
"Well... this is interesting," I murmured to my shirt collar
and put myself in the guy's path.
He was hunting; I just wasn't sure what. His eyes snagged on me and homed
in. I smiled, keeping my body language inviting without making too much
of a statement. I wasn't sure what this guy was after yet, I didn't want
to commit to being one thing only to find he was looking for something
He stopped and I could see the people around us writing me off for dead.
Shit. I hoped this guy didn't have a reputation for snuff jobs.
I cocked my head to the side and looked him up and down. His clothes were
a little better than this part of town usually saw but they were nondescript
to a fault. The guy was freaking huge; a good six inches taller than me
and probably twice as broad. Good looking in a crew-cut kind of way. And
that thought brought it home to me; military. He fairly reeked of it.
In some distant part of my memory I heard Solo's voice tell me, "Run,
you fucking idiot."
I let my eyes roam back up his impressive height and made eye contact
with a grin. And saw him dismiss me.
When he walked on, I wasn't sure whether to be disappointed or weak-kneed
relieved. I just stood and watched his retreating back trying to decide
between the two until a quiet voice at my elbow said, "Damn, honey;
you really are new at this."
I turned with a start to find my earlier redheaded acquaintance standing
beside me, I opened my mouth to speak but she didn't wait.
"Don't you know bitchin' bad news when it almos' runs your ass over?"
I leered in a typical Helio way. "But he was damn fine lookin' wasn't
She actually reached up and smacked me in the back of the head; 'Fine
lookin' don' mean nothin'!' she snapped and walked away as though
I was obviously just too stupid to talk to.
So I started to follow Mr. Military without seeming to, stopping now and
again to respond to whistles and offers but always keeping a close eye
on my quarry.
He was looking for something with a little more spice to it. He completely
ignored the few who bothered to approach him but actively sought out the
ones who were obviously avoiding him. He wanted at least the illusion
of a little bit of fight; the thrill of the hunt and all that. He was
looking for a challenge. And he was looking the guys and the girls over
with equal interest. I tailed him for close to an hour and was pretty
sure by the time he finally connected up with a girl who looked desperate
enough to risk him, that I understood what it would take to get his attention.
I called it a night and began my meandering path back toward the safe
house, things were starting to thin out anyway; it was near two in the
Even though I was getting tired, I made a point of going down Fifth Street
and was rewarded with the sight of lights in our second potential building.
"Target B seems to have a third shift," I murmured softly, a
little more leery of talking to myself out here in the night. The loons
generally wandered around in the daylight hours and holed up someplace
safe when it got dark.
"There are lights," I observed for my silent listeners. "But
only on the lowest levels. No vehicles either... curiouser and curiouser."
I briefly toyed with the idea of going in for a closer look but decided
that wasn't what Heero had assigned to me and I would just piss him off
if I overstepped his instructions for no better reason than 'I was in
Out here, away from the relative, semi-safe 'business district', I felt
like I was creeping through a minefield. I was strung tight as a bowstring
and jumping at every little shadow. I was within a couple of blocks of
the house and needed to decide which route I was going to take.
"Sure wish you guys could tell me how long the damn dog fights have
been over," I murmured, thinking how much faster it would be to come
right down our street. If I circumvented that area, it was going to add
four or five blocks to my path. I settled on the direct approach and picked
up the pace a little bit.
The dogfights had obviously not been over long enough and two blocks from
'home' a rather large, drunken, dog lover suddenly loomed up in my way.
From his attitude I was willing to bet his dog of choice had lost.
I stopped and cocked my head to the side, looking him over and preparing
some flippant remark but this guy was so far gone there wasn't any preliminary;
he just grabbed for me.
"God damn it," I muttered and danced out of his reach.
He kept coming, forcing me to sidestep or attack him. Drunk as he was,
he probably wouldn't have felt any punch I might have connected with,
so I settled on sidestepping... right into the waiting arms of his buddy
who'd been hiding in the bushes.
I realized then that the first one wasn't quite as drunk as he had seemed
to be. Well didn't this just suck? I couldn't believe I hadn't seen the
They weren't playing around, there wasn't any toying with me. The guy
who had me by the arms was twisting so hard I thought for a second he'd
broken something. There was a flash of burning pain across my shoulders
as ligaments stretched to the limit. The original dog-boy came in and
punched me hard in the stomach and when my breath exploded out of me,
bush-boy let me fall to the ground.
I had my knife out of my sleeve the moment he gave me the opening to do
it, but kept it tucked up tight to my body while I sucked for air and
tried to get my bearings. Then they were hauling me to my feet by the
back of my jacket and I brought the knife into play.
"Back off, asshole," I wheezed and had the blade at his throat
before he knew I even had it.
"Shit!" dog-boy yelped and let go of my jacket.
We stood and stared at one another for a minute.
"What the hell do you want?" I growled and bush-boy, who didn't
have a stiletto under his chin, was more than happy to talk to
"Fucking little whore!" he snarled and I suddenly recognized
him as the guy who had grabbed my ass earlier in the evening.
"Well isn't this just a happy little coincidence," I drawled
and shifted my stance to get them both on the same side of me.
"Think you're so God damned hot... " bush-boy was saying and
I cut him off in true Helio style.
"Oh, sweet-cakes... I am damned hot. Damned expensive and
damned worth it. But the likes of you will never know." My voice
dripped utter contempt.
I could tell that dog-boy had only gotten involved out of boredom and
some misdirected desire for a little excitement. He was regretting his
choice to throw in with bush-boy and I shoved him away from me hard enough
to send him sprawling in the dirt, turning my attention to my real problem.
"You wanna dance?" I asked him in my coldest voice, letting
the knife weave while I beckoned him with my free hand.
"What?" he blurted and I swear to God for a second the guy actually
thought he still might get a piece of me.
"I am most definitely not speaking Japanese," I told
him roughly, delivering another message to my waiting partners at the
same time. "I said... do you want to fight me?"
He mulled it over, looking at me, looking at the knife. I heard dog-boy
getting to his feet and scrambling away.
"I ain't easy," I told him, hoping to speed his decision, "I
ain't cheap. And I sure as hell ain't no push-over."
His eyes were following the blade in my hand and he must have finally
decided that I knew how to use it, because his hands came up and he backed
off. We maneuvered around each other and he let me go on my way and I
let him go on his.
"Gonna take the long way back," I sighed into my shirt collar
when I was satisfied that he was headed back toward the business district.
I couldn't take the chance that I might lead someone back to the others
and so walked on by the house without even looking at it. I wasn't sure
if bush-boy had followed me somehow, without my seeing him or if my running
into him out here really was just a coincidence. I took another damn hour
to work my way around and make absolutely sure that I wasn't being followed
before I made my way up through the yards to the back door.
"Coming in the back," I breathed, just to make sure I didn't
get my head shot off, and again, the door was opened for me when I got
I was surprised to find them both there, Quatre hauling me inside while
Heero shut and relocked the door.
"I thought you were going out?" I exclaimed to Heero before
I had a chance to think better of it.
"Don't be ridiculous!" Quatre snapped at me, wide eyed, "He
couldn't go off with you in danger!"
I stared at him for a minute. "I'm not in any... "I began and
got a full-fledged Quatre death glare. He'd been practicing.
"We heard you being attacked," Heero said flatly, "Are
I shook my head; unable to think what to say in the face of this... pissed
off concern? Whatever the hell it was.
"They hit you,"Quatre accused. "We heard it."
"Will you guys calm down?" I blurted, "I got careless and
got jumped. They only landed a couple of punches. I'm fine."
There was a moment of strange silence and I decided to break it in an
effort to change the subject.
"You're not still planning on going out are you?" I questioned.
"It is too late now." Heero said and made it seem somehow like
it was my fault. "It will be light soon."
"I'm... sorry. I didn't realize you were waiting on me to come back,"
I said sullenly.
A look was exchanged between Heero and Quatre and I suddenly realized
that he hadn't gone on his recon mission because Quatre had not let him.
I sighed heavily, imagining what the last couple of hours had been like
in this house.
"Look." I tried to keep my voice steady and reasonable. "We're
not doing anything else tonight. Let's just get some sleep. I think I
might be on to something, we can go over everything in the morning."
Heero only grunted, turned on his heel and went to his room.
"He is the single most pig-headed God damn son of a bitch... "
Quatre hissed through gritted teeth.
"Qat!" I gasped at him and suddenly his face crumbled and he
was throwing his arms around me.
"Duo... " he blurted, "I was so damn scared! I didn't really
believe you about what it was like out there! Those people are so... "
I wrapped my arms around him and held him close, using his need for comfort
to answer my own need for just some damn physical contact.
"S'ok little brother." I grinned where he couldn't see it anyway,
"I'm all right. I was only in over my head for like... maybe ten
The joke fell flat but the new little nickname made him draw back and
smile up at me, a little reassured.
"Go to bed," I told him gently, "It's been a long night.
I'm going to shower. I really, really feel the need of a shower."
He nodded and retreated to his room.
I went to the bathroom and stared at Helio in the mirror for a minute.
"You're going to get my ass killed one of these days, Helio,"
I told him and he just grinned.
I showered in water as hot as I could get it and scrubbed until my skin
was raw. Then I went out to get a little sleep on my couch and about fell
over when I found a blanket folded and lying there.
Well damn. It had to be from Heero; Quatre didn't have a clue I was sleeping
out here. I rolled up in it and tried to stop grinning. And no, I am not
that stupid; I knew it didn't mean a damn thing. But I was just so hungry
for him to... hate me a little less... that it meant the damn world to
me. Especially after the night I'd had.
Faces and voices swam in my head. I couldn't stop thinking about Mr. Military;
trying to figure out what he had to do with all this. Mulling over my
observations, thinking through my strategy for making a connection with
him. Wondering if I truly wanted to make a connection with him.
The man looked like he could tear me in half without breaking a sweat.
What if I managed to get him to proposition me? What then? How the hell
far was I willing to go for the mission?
I remembered the feel of bush-boys hands on my ass and I shivered. I flopped
over on my side and let my hand fall on the pile of denim and spandex
on the floor by the couch, I fingered the material and tried to follow
that scenario through. Nope. Not that far; I knew I wouldn't be
able to go through with it.
I wished Heero weren't so damn... tight assed. I could really use somebody
to talk to right now and I just could not talk to Quatre about
this. He was already so upset he was on the verge of imploding. He'd never
met people like the ones prowling around out there. Fighting against faceless
pilots in mobile suits is one thing; these were civilians and were not
supposed to be a threat. I don't think he had known that there were people
in the world who were that close to being animals. It had scared the crap
out of him and it was about to drive him insane that I kept wading out
into it. That and the fact that Heero kept sending me.
I rolled over onto my stomach and ended up jabbing my bruised abdomen
into the corner of the couch cushion and hissed in irritation. With a
muttered curse, I threw myself back over onto my back and stared up into
My shoulders ached from where bush-boy had damn near ripped them out of
their sockets. I heaved another sigh; I wasn't going to get any sleep
tonight at this rate.
Across the living room, I heard the door to Heero's room open quietly.
His shadow came silently out and padded toward me. He stopped beside the
couch and just stood there for a minute. I blinked up at him and waited
for him to speak. What the hell?
"You are injured," he said and I could not have told you if
it was a question or a statement.
"What?" I asked brightly.
"I can hear you muttering and cursing from the other room.' It held
a hint of accusation.
I thought about what I had been doing since I had lain down here. Surely
I hadn't been that damn loud? "Well excuse me; I'll try to
There was a long silence and then, his voice sounding cold; "I need
to evaluate your condition."
"I'm fine," I growled.
"I will be the judge of that."
I was pissed. And well aware that it was driven by the unreasoning fact
that I wanted him to come out here and care if I was all
right. Wanted it so damn bad I could taste it. I wanted him to sit down
next to me and say my name and ask me if I was ok and truly fucking care
what the answer was. This... this cold, detached checking of my status
as it related to the mission was enough to just about push me over the
edge of... whatever the hell I had been sitting on the edge of
He turned away only to flick the light on and then turned back to face
me, 'Show me,' he said, voice was angrily sullen.
I threw the blanket off and flung myself to my feet, spitting mad and
for a minute I couldn't even speak. He just ran his eyes over me; calmly
looking for wounds.
"Where?" he asked after a minute.
I had to take a couple of breaths before I could open my mouth without
snapping at him, "I took a single punch to the stomach. I may have
strained some shoulder muscles. Nothing more," I gritted.
He stepped in toward me and it was all I could do not to jerk away. It
was probably the surreal unlikelihood of his hands on me that kept me
standing there, still as a stone, as he pressed on my abdomen checking
for internal injuries. He turned me around and checked my shoulders, making
me raise my arms up against the downward pressure of his hand. He was
efficient and thorough and the clinical coldness broke me in a way I had
not expected. My anger washed away on a rising tide of pain.
"Satisfied?" I said coldly, my back turned to him.
I got the standard, "Hn."
"Then leave me the fuck alone."
He quietly turned the light off and walked away. I didn't move until I
heard his door close. I didn't dare. When I was sure I was alone, I balled
the blanket up and threw it on the floor, then balled myself up into a
shivering lump on my couch. I always have had a penchant for slicing my
own nose off just to spite my damn face.
"The wounds are on my fucking soul, you bastard," I whispered
into the dark and silently cried myself to sleep.
It was out of my system by morning. I'm funny that way; sometimes I wonder
about my sanity. I'm thinking about willing my psyche to science when
I die. They can put my brain up on display in a jar labelled 'Abby Normal'.
Should make an interesting exhibit; the universe's only naturally coal-black
brain. Ok... maybe it wasn't completely out of my system.
I opened my eyes to see Heero through the kitchen doorway, making breakfast,
his back to me. My blanket was off the floor and draped across my legs.
He was wearing the sweater I had bought for him. My first thought was
just pure shock that he had come that close to me without waking me. The
second was that he was obviously some sort of psycho, split-personality
lunatic. I give up. I just fucking give up; I won't ever understand the
damn son of a bitch if I live to be a thousand years old. I can't read
him. I can't figure out his reasoning. I quit.
I rose, folded the blanket and carefully took it back to his room. If
I left it out in the living room, I would have to explain it to Quatre.
Nothing more to it than that. Yeah.
I killed a little time in the bathroom, braiding my hair and dressing
in my Dockers and a turtleneck. Maybe I could get my black sweater back
from Quatre; I was freezing to death. I had a feeling that I might just
as well face up to the fact that I was not going to be warm again until
this damn assignment was over. I rinsed my mouth and scrubbed at my face
and met dark circled, blood-shot eyes in the mirror. I had to grin; maybe
tonight Helio wouldn't get quite so many offers. He looked like shit.
I stayed in the bathroom until I heard Quatre stirring, then emerged and
waited for him so that I didn't have to go into the kitchen alone.
It was as though the previous night had never happened. We ate and went
over my observations and suspicions from my stint as Helio.
Heero seemed a little... subdued. I suppose he hadn't gotten much sleep
last night either; I knew how late he had been up, after all. Quatre was
so openly curious about everything, that he seemed to have forgotten how
pissed off he was at Heero. I found myself dominating the conversation
as I warmed to my theories, telling them about Mr. Military. I dug out
some paper and did a quick sketch of the man, describing his clothes and
expounding on my idea of approaching him. The room went rather icily quiet.
I looked up from my drawings to find two pairs of blue eyes drilling holes
through me, "What?" I asked, unsure what in the hell I had done
"Duo," Quatre said quietly. "Isn't that the man that lady
warned you to stay away from?"
All I could do was stare at him. He turned his gaze on Heero for a second;
looking for some support before deciding he probably wouldn't get any.
"The man is obviously dangerous!" he snapped at me and I just
lost it. I felt like I was being assaulted on the one side with Heero's
cold-hearted disdain and on the other with Quatre's heart-wrenching fear
and anxiety. I had been waffling back and forth between them, opening
myself to Quatre's emotions, trying to keep him reassured and calm but
then having to throw the shields back up with every encounter I had with
Heero. I think I just overloaded my system; pain, comfort, pain, comfort.
Isn't that a torture technique?
"No fucking shit, he's dangerous!" I yelled, "I am ninety-five
percent sure he's a damn Oz agent! That sticks him in the dangerous category
just on general principal! That is kind of the whole God damn reason we're
Shock registered on Quatre's face and Heero's turned to stone. I was flaming
losing it and couldn't seem to get my mouth to shut.
"I don't know about you two... but I'm a fucking soldier here to
do a God damn job! I thought we were a team. I thought we
were supposed to be working together. But you are about to mother
hen me to death... you're making me do shit that I wouldn't ordinarily
do, just to keep you from worrying!" Mouth just would not shut up
and my momentum turned me in Heero's direction. "And you! I want
to know what your God damn problem is! You do not treat any other
member of the team the way you treat me! I have never failed a mission.
I have never refused to do anything you have asked of me. I'm sick of
you treating me like I'm some kind of... of... baka!"
Ever kicked a puppy? Unless you are a severely twisted individual you
will regret it pretty damn quickly. I was sorry almost before the last
words were out of my mouth. I found that somewhere in there I had stood
up so fast that I'd knocked the kitchen chair over and I was standing
there panting and glaring at both of them. I threw my hands up in that
'no threat' gesture and backed away, turning to brace my arms on the counter
and letting my head hang down while I got myself back together.
So much for having all the clutter out of my system.
"Duo... "' Quatre ventured and there was a world of hurt in
his voice. I was opening my mouth to tell him how sorry I was when Heero
His voice was calm and very quiet. "He's right."
I couldn't help it, I had to turn around. He was just sitting at the table,
looking down at his hands.
"I have been letting my... emotions affect my handling of this situation."
I wondered if my eyes looked as wide and round as Quatre's did. Somebody
find me a calendar; I need to mark this day down.
There was a frozen moment when not one of us knew what in the hell to
say next. I toyed with 'I'm sorry' but I really wasn't... it had needed
saying. Perhaps not at that volume, nor laced with quite that many swear
words... but it had made Heero Yuy admit that I was right about something.
Later, I would let myself think about the fact that he had just admitted
that he truly didn't like me.
Heero finally broke the stillness. "You have shown yourself to have
good instincts and strong powers of observation. I... trust your... evaluation
of the targets."
It took Quatre a minute to realize that meant that Heero was going along
with my plan to approach our possible Oz soldier. He opened his mouth
but then his eyes flicked in my direction and he shut it again.
I moved to pick my chair up and sat back down at the table, I took a deep
breath and just tried to get back into mission mind-set.
"We can't afford to waste another night"' I said to nobody in
particular, "The recon of target B can't wait until I'm done with
my scouting mission."
Quatre was trying hard to focus as well and when his voice came, it was
calm and totally objective. "I disagree. The two missions should
not coincide with each other. Duo might need backup."
I turned to Heero. "You're the mission leader." I told him,
dumping it in his lap.
He grunted and the look on his face flashed irritation for a moment but
quickly stilled. "I have had no contact with the operative in question.
I can not make a judgment on your ability to handle him." And he
dumped it right back in my lap.
I started to speak and then thought better of it for a moment. I had been
reacting with my gut for the last couple of hours. I needed to really
think about what he had just asked me. My eyes flicked down to the rough
sketches I had made. I remembered the man towering over me. Thought about
what his eyes had promised for whoever ended up accompanying him for the
night. Yes... I was afraid of him. But was it merely the thought of what
he intended to do to me... to whoever... that was unnerving me? The mental
picture of the man overpowering me and... pinning my naked ass to the
wall? Why was that any more frightening than getting shot or knifed?
"In an out and out wrestling match?" I said at last, "I'm
dead; he outweighs me by a good hundred pounds. But I think I can keep
the situation from coming to that."
Heero nodded sharply and I think I earned points for blunt honesty.
Quatre saw the vote go in my favor without having to be told. "Do
you have anything that would allow me to contact you in the event Duo
gets into... trouble?" he asked Heero and only got a shake of the
He looked at me then, not ready to give up just yet, "Could you possibly
come in earlier than you did last night?"
I considered it; "I can't control that"' I said at last, "It's
going to depend on Mr... .the target. It was fairly late before he made
an appearance last night."
"He might not show up at all," he said then, a bit of emotion
trying to thread its way into his voice. "How about you call it a
night and return to base if you haven't made contact with him before...
"That seems reasonable," Heero agreed before I could speak.
I felt an instant's irritation but I had to remind myself that he was
the team leader here.
Quatre eyed me warily, something in his face I couldn't quite read, "What
makes you think you can attract his attention?" he asked me suddenly,
"He didn't seem to have any interest last night."
That one caught me rather flatfooted. "I... followed him.
I watched to see what attracted him and what didn't."
"And?" he prompted.
I sighed and ran a hand through my bangs; he's a persistent little shit.
"I was too forward last night... he's the kind of guy who's looking
for... a little challenge."
"Challenge?" he asked and I wondered, not for the first time,
if Quatre had any sexual experience at freaking all.
"He's an intimidator. He wants his... " I thought about wording.
"Partner to be afraid of him."
That got me another one of those looks from Quatre and it was all I could
do not to bang my head on the table.
"Can you do that?" Heero asked softly before Quatre had a chance
to open his mouth.
"No problem whatsoever." I grinned at him. "Six foot three,
two hundred pounds, shoulders out to freakin' here... probably
Oz; I think I can work up a little nervousness."
I did not get the laugh. I didn't even get a smile. I sighed again.
"Look." I said before things went any further, "I am not
going to sit here and play sex education teacher; do we have a plan or
Quatre reddened and Heero only grunted.
"Fine. Then if you guys don't care, I'm going to try to get some
more sleep. I'm probably going to be out late." I glanced at Quatre.
"Mind if I use your bed? It's in the back of the house."
"Go ahead." he murmured and I was rather pleased with myself
that I managed not to go running from the room like my ass was on fire.
The dark of Quatre's room was a nice comfort. It was pure bliss to stretch
out on a bed and have a real blanket to roll up in. Even if the bedclothes
did smell a little... musty.
I hadn't lain there two minutes when there came a light tap at the door
and it opened to spill light and Quatre into the room.
"Duo?" he said softly, holding something in his hands, "Heero
sent me to look at your shoulders."
"What?" I asked, totally agog.
He slipped into the room and flipped the light on and I could see the
thing in his hands was a tube of liniment.
"Quatre, I'm fine," I told him with a sigh.
He only grinned at me, coming the rest of the way into the room. "Oh
shut up and take your shirt off. I wanted to talk to you anyway."
I threw him a half-hearted glare and sat up with an exaggerated sigh;
pulling the turtleneck off.
He sat down on the bed behind me and poked at my shoulders for a minute.
"You've got all kinds of broken blood vessels back here. Hurt?"
"Not all that bad," I told him, "Just a little stiff."
I heard him rubbing his hands together briskly and I had to grin; only
Quatre would think to warm the stuff up first. Then he began to gently
work the ointment into my sore muscles.
"Duo," he said softly after a minute or two of rubbing, "I'm
really sorry... "
"No," I interrupted him before he could go any further. "I'm
the one that should be sorry. I had no right to yell at you just for being
"I shouldn't argue with you over your every decision."
"It wasn't... you." I sighed, feeling the liniment beginning
to warm my skin, "I just feel like things have been... running hot
and cold for days."
"Tell me about it," he muttered.
"I just... " I stopped and let a sigh escape me, feeling my
shoulders relaxing almost against my will, even as my stomach was starting
to knot again.
I wanted to throw my arms around him; someone who could understand what
I was feeling. I love him, I wanted to say; the words were right
there in my mouth, I love him so much it hurts... and he hates me and
I don't even know why! That's what I wanted to say. Instead I smirked
and whispered, "Pinch me, Qat. I cussed Heero Yuy out and I'm still
He laughed with me and I put the pain back on the shelf where it belonged.
Sure, I could talk to Quatre about it but what good would that do? Only
upset him further and might actually push him enough that he would try
to make things better by talking to Heero. Now that would be a
very bad idea.
His hands worked over my shoulders and I felt my head sagging forward
almost against my will.
"Did you mean what you called me?" he blurted suddenly.
"What?" I thought back, trying to remember if I had called him
something... rude when I'd thrown my little temper tantrum.
"Little brother?" He said it very quietly, an odd sound to his
"Yeah, Qat." I told him firmly. "I did. I... kinda think
of you as a younger brother."
There was a moment or two of silence. "You know I've got enough sisters
to start my own Country... but I don't have any brothers."
I snorted a soft laugh, "Well... I think I might look a little out
of place at the next Winner family reunion... but; there's more than one
kind of brother." I didn't tell him that was how I'd originally imagined
the five of us, together; like a band of brothers. That was obviously
not meant to be.
"I'd like that," he said simply and he finally stilled the movement
of his hands, "Better?"
I rolled my shoulders and had to grin at him. "Yeah; it is. Thanks."
"Then go to sleep." He laughed at me and I reached for my shirt.
"Qat... I really am sorry for yelling earlier; I was completely out
He smiled, his eyes twinkling with mischief. "If you can't yell at
your little brother; who can you yell at?"
It gave me something warm to hold next to my heart when I lay back down
in the cold bed to sleep.
I had weird-ass dreams but didn't really remember much when I woke up
that afternoon. Something about black spandex and Relena Peacecraft; all
I know is I woke up chuckling so evilly that I kind of scared myself.
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