by: Sunhawk

Situations Or Duo Maxwell's Awful, Bad Day (cont) 

He repressed a chuckle as he came to lean against the fender next to me. "I'll take that as a yes."

"Yes," I sighed, rubbing at tired eyes. "This is Anderson's fucking piece of shit car."

Wufei stifled a sharp little laugh. "Apt description," he said rather enigmatically.

Heero stood at the front of the car and gave me a gentle, somewhat sympathetic smile. "Sorry I'm late. Why don't you climb down from there and we'll get out of here."

"Because," I groused, "my legs went to sleep a half an hour ago." I poked my wrench rather viciously at the damn alternator that I was starting to suspect was totally shot. "I do not understand why the man insists on using this car. It has to be the oldest thing in the entire fleet."

Wufei and Heero were both grinning rather broadly and Wufei had to stifle another one of those evil little chuckles. "Because he lost his virginity to his first partner in the back seat."

"What!" I yelped and didn't see the same amusement factor that they did. "You mean to tell me I bust my ass working on this damn thing at least once a week because... because..." I was so pissed that I hurled my wrench into my toolbox. Succeeding in knocking the whole damn box off the stool it had been sitting on and unbalancing myself in the process. My legs really had gone to sleep and I would have fallen right off the damn car if Wufei hadn't been there to catch me.

He was grinning before he even had me eased off the fender.

"Laugh at me and die," I growled, and he did everything but bite his lip to keep from it.

"Get him the hell out of here while I still have a garage!" Griff yelled across the bay. "He's been like this all damn day!"

Heero came around the car and took my one arm while Wufei held the other and they kept me on my feet until the feeling came back into my legs.

"I gotta pick up my tools," I mumbled, feeling like a total idiot.

"Leave it!" bellowed Griff and I had to look across the bay at the man. How the hell did he do that?

"You are not going to believe the day I've had," I told them as we started for the door. "I just want to go home and go the hell to bed."

There was a strange stiffening in Heero's shoulders and Wufei chuckled lightly. "Maybe after dinner... did you forget what night it is?"

Oh for the love of God. The thrice-damned pilot's dinner. I think I groaned out loud. "That's tonight? Please tell me you're kidding?"

"How could you forget?" Wufei said with a raised eyebrow. "It was your turn to pick the restaurant."

I really did groan out loud that time.

There was a very uncomfortable feeling in the air and they both got quiet. My legs were working again and I slipped free of them, glancing at one and then the other. They had lost their amused smiles and looked... disappointed. Disappointed in me.

Something twisted in my gut like a knife.

I gamely reached for... fairy dust, I guess. Fairy dust and bull shit.

"Please tell me I don't have to go without a shower?" I grinned at them. "I stink... see? Even my hair stinks." I grabbed the end of my braid and made as though I was going to shove it in Wufei's face. He fended me off with upraised hands.

"I will take your word for it, Maxwell," he chuckled and I danced lightly ahead of them.

"I can't go to McMurphy's without my drinking shirt," I quipped and even Heero seemed to be losing that _expression. That look of... sad reproach. I would sell my soul to not see that look directed at me again.

Eventually, they laughingly agreed to allow me time to go home, shower and change. Wufei took directions to the place and said that he would pick up Trowa and Quatre and meet us there in an hour and a half.

Heero began to tell me about his morning 'jog' with the good Senator during the drive back to the apartment and I just left off telling him about my own interesting day for the time being. He was laughing again, and happy, and I just decided that it could wait until later.

I made the climb up the stairs to the apartment feeling every ache and pain, wanting to beg him to call this damn night off. Would it really be the end of the world if we just put this off for one day? I felt... shell-shocked. But when I thought about speaking up, I saw that look on his face again. That faintly unhappy, disappointed look.

Dinner out wouldn't kill me. At least, the way this day had been going... I hoped it wouldn't.

When we stepped into the apartment and the door was shut, blocking out the rest of the world, I turned to catch at him... claiming that hug I'd been wanting all afternoon.

His arms felt like heaven around me and he chuckled softly as he nuzzled the side of my neck. "What brought this on, love...' and then the chuckle turned rueful. "You really do stink. What is that? Smoke?"

I drew away and laughed at him. "That's what you get for living with a mechanic." Would not do to get into it now, we'd be late to dinner by the time I got it all told and reassured him that I was all right.

So I reluctantly slipped out of his arms and went to shower and change. I turned on the water, hot and steamy, meaning to soak out some of the aches and pains... until the hot water hit my burned back. I was fairly quick to turn the heat down after that. I remembered to take a couple of aspirin before I left the bathroom though.

I don't own a drinking shirt. Don't know what in the hell one would look like. But I figured that Heero or Wufei would remember my little remark. I ended up wearing the 'hand basket' shirt that Clint had given me, mostly just because none of the guys would recognize it. I could call it a drinking shirt if I wanted to.

I did feel a little more human with the smoke and grit washed off, though my skinned knees were stinging now and my back felt as tight as a drum. I'd lived through worse. It would only be a couple of hours. I could do this for the guy's sake.

When I emerged from my room, Heero was changed and ready to go, sitting on the couch and waiting for me. He stood to meet me, taking me in his arms with a bright smile. "Well... that's much better," he told me as he nuzzled and kissed his way down the side of my face and into my shirt collar. I think I melted. He chuckled huskily at me.

"Oh God, Heero..." I began, barely stopping the pathetic pleading to stay home for the evening, managing to turn it to, "I will pay you copious amounts of money for a backrub later tonight."

His arms unwrapped from around my waist and his hands dropped to my hips, sliding further down until he could cup them just under my ass with a wicked little grin. "Copious amounts?" he teased and slid his hands upward until he was kneading at my lower back. I let out with a deep throated groan that was somewhere between pain and pleasure. He stopped and his _expression became a little concerned. "You are all knotted up... what's wrong?"

I sighed and pushed away before he could accidentally touch any higher. "I spent most of the afternoon bent over the stand-in for Stephen King's 'Christine'," I grumbled and took his hand to head him toward the door with a camouflaging shake of my head. "I still can't believe that asshole Anderson is hanging onto that stupid car because he had his first... roll in the hay in it."

He laughed, letting me lead him out the front door. "Well... don't you have fond memories of your first time?"

I think my face must have turned an interesting shade of red, because he chuckled at me with wicked glee.

Actually... thinking about my first time, which had been a rather pathetic round of dry-humping with Heero aboard my ship on that ill-fated trip to L2 with Relena 'stick up the ass' Peacecraft... I'd have to say no. Yes. Ah hell... maybe?

Ok. It'd had its sweet aspects. The core of it would always be this treasured little jewel in my mind. But to think about it, I had to cup it tight in my hands and try hard not to think about all the other aspects. It had happened aboard my ship. The ship that I'd had to sell. It had happened with Relena and her damn chaperone right across the hall. The next morning, I had felt like the whole world was staring at us, knowing what we'd done. I had been suffering with a newly fractured arm and so the memory would always be laced around with pain.

But worst of all was the realization that I had now, that I hadn't had then; it might have been my first time... but it hadn't been Heero's. It had taken me some time to figure that out, we'd never freakin' talked about it, after all. But it had become apparent over the next couple of weeks that he... knew what the hell he was doing. I tried not to let it bother me... but it did.

That comment about fond memories was something like a slap in the face. He obviously had not figured out that he had been my first time.

I suppose I should have thought up some bantering response instead of getting all introspective, because his smile faltered a little. "Duo love, what's the matter?" he asked me gently.

Nothing much came to mind. Ok... nothing came to mind. I could not think of a single thing to say. My face got a little redder and I worked at words like I was chewing on something stubborn. What was the matter, he wanted to know? How could I tell him that it made me utterly heartsick to think about him with... someone else? That it made me feel God awful self-conscious and awkward whenever I let myself think about it while he and I were... together.

His look suddenly became... stricken and I watched him jump to a here-to-fore un-thought of conclusion. "Duo," he fairly whispered, reaching to catch my arm and stopping us in the middle of the stairs, his eyes searching mine. "You haven't been... no one has... hurt you... I mean..." He couldn't even finish it, his eyes warring between fear and anger as he let himself contemplate it.

I stepped back up a step to be on even ground with him and looked him straight in the eye. "No, Heero," I hold him firmly. "No one has ever hurt me sexually; I swear."

Jensen didn't count... did he?

I saw the purest relief flood his eyes, like watching cool water wash over hot coals and he slipped his arm around my waist to draw me near. "Then... what's put that sad look in your eyes, love?" he asked gently, cupping my face in his hand.

"I don't know, Heero," I sighed, leaning into his touch. "I'm just so tired..."

I felt him stiffen and go all still and I realized what I'd just said. That phrase that I had spent weeks beating out of my vocabulary; the all-purpose 'I'm tired'. That thing that I had taken to using as an excuse for everything from 'I almost cut off my arm', to 'I can't sleep alone without screaming nightmares'.

I was madly cueing a thought hamster, hoping for a little help, when my stomach decided to let out with a thunderous growl. "I uhmm... missed lunch," I grinned at him sheepishly.

He dropped his hand from my cheek and rubbed teasingly at my belly, raising an eyebrow. "Sounds like you missed more than that," he admonished.

"Maybe breakfast too?" I grinned at him, taking full advantage of the moment.

It did serve to change the subject and I launched into a rant about Griff and his anal retentive problem with the Preventor's logo and polo shirts in general. Expressing my severe doubt that I would forget how to work on engines if I were wearing a blank t-shirt. Or that I would suddenly become an all-star first-baseman if I wore, for instance, Heero's ball shirt to work. By the time we got to the restaurant I had him laughing so hard he was having trouble driving. I had just really gotten warmed up to the topic and begun to conjecture about the possibility of being able to perform neural surgery if I happened to put on a pair of surgical scrubs when he pulled into McMurphy's and parked.

The guys were there, sitting in their car watching for us. They climbed out when we pulled in next to them and I led the way inside.

McMurphy's is a spacer bar. A restaurant really, with nice simple food where ration bars are actually on the menu. I hadn't been in the place since before the accident. I found my palms sweating a little bit. This hadn't entirely been my idea, but Quatre had been on my case about taking my turn in picking where we went and when I had tried to beg off, Wufei had remembered hearing me mention McMurphy's. So... ta-dah; here we were. I felt a little odd about going in the place. It's far, far from an exclusive atmosphere... McMurphy is not a bigot about spacers versus ground-bounders. He sees all people in a nice, even shade of green - the color of their money. But... I wasn't in the trade anymore and I couldn't help but feel... odd about coming back here.

It hadn't changed one bit on the outside and I took a deep breath, reaching for the door, wishing my stomach wasn't knotted like a drunken python. I suppose the whole thing just sort of topped off my day.

We walked in and I let my eyes adjust to the dimmer interior, doing a quick scan and finding the place moderately crowded. I saw Jessamine, the evening hostess, grab a handful of wrapped silverware and some menus and head toward the door when she heard the bell, not even looking. I grinned and waited.

She didn't disappoint me when she finally did look up, letting out a little squeal of delight and running the last couple of steps to throw her arms around my neck and plant a big motherly kiss on my cheek. "Duo!" she grinned at me, and then she drew back and whopped me up the side of the head with the menus. "Where the hell have you been, you jerk? Go off and try to get yourself killed and don't even come back to see your old friends. I ought to make you sit by the kitchen door and eat plate scrapings!" Then she was whirling away with my wrist trapped in her hand. "McMurphy!" she bellowed, "McMurphy... look what the hell the dog dragged in!"

I had to dig my heels in to get her damn attention. "Jess, dear-heart, light of my life, keeper of my dinner... hold up a minute; I'm not alone."

She stopped hauling on me, for which I was grateful because she had me by my sore wrist, and turned back around with her ponytail swinging and an embarrassed look on her face. Not for the first time, I wondered where in the hell she kept all the energy she seemed to exude, in that petite little frame of hers.

"I need a table for five before you feed me to McMurphy," I grinned at her and she fell all over herself apologizing and getting us settled at a nice big table near the front corner, not anywhere near the kitchen doorway she had threatened me with.

"What can I get you boys to drink?" she inquired, remembering she had a job to do and gave me a quizzical look after she listened to the orders for iced tea, water and soda. "These guys are with you?" she snickered at me. "You want your beer?"

God that sounded good; about ten of them... until I was so pleasantly sloshed that I wouldn't care anymore about all the people sitting around the place staring at me. Until I could forget about the damn morning I'd had. Something to wash that lingering taste of smoke out of the back of my throat. I opened my mouth to tell her yes and caught Wufei looking at me with an oddly... concerned look on his face. I remembered confessing to him almost a month ago that I was mildly afraid of drinking alcohol of any kind. At the time, I had been rather afraid that if I got started, I might not be able to get stopped. I sighed. I really didn't think that was going to be an issue any more, but if I ordered a drink, Wufei was going to sit there all night and worry himself sick. I really needed to see to it that I stopped getting seated across from him. Somehow, I always got the seat beside Heero and across from Wufei.

"Water, Jess," I told her with a sigh, "and shut up about it."

She laughed out loud and headed for the bar.

I turned my attention back to my little group, only to find them all smiling at me in varying stages of bemusement. "I tried to warn you guys about this place," I groused.

"I take it," Trowa smiled at me, "that you used to eat here fairly frequently?"

"Hey," I grinned at him. "I didn't live completely off ration bars!"

"Sounds to me," Quatre snickered at me, "like eating wasn't what you were doing here."

"It's the atmosphere," I informed him haughtily, gesturing vaguely in the direction of the television over the bar that was currently tuned to a local channel and showing reruns of some old sci-fi show or other; I caught a glimpse of a girl in a ridiculously short skirt carrying what looked like a bazooka. I sighed. "Ok... maybe not."

"And what kind of atmosphere is that?" he deftly returned. "Early sci-fi T and A?"

I opened my mouth to retort, and something bounced off the top of my head, landing on the table in front of me. Beside me, Heero tensed slightly and I had to grin at him. "Don't get your knickers in an uproar, soldier boy." Only Heero could react to a paper wad like it was a hand grenade. I turned in my seat to find the three musketeers sitting two tables over grinning at me madly. I palmed the paper wad and smiled at the guy sitting behind me, a tech worker from the docks if I remembered right. He grinned back, catching the flick of my eyes to the ball of paper in my hand and subtly eased to his right, out of my way.

"Damn Smitty," I laughed. "I even called ahead to make sure you weren't going to be here tonight!"

"I think you're stalking me, Maxwell," he chortled, elbowing Bernie in the ribs. "What do ya think, buddy? We keep running into him everywhere!"

"We've run into him twice, asshole," Bernie told him with a roll of his eyes. Smitty turned away from him to seek Havers support and I nailed him on the end of the nose with his own paper wad. Even the tech guy chortled at the startled little yelp.

Smitty went off on an indignant little tangent, and Havers and Bernie just waved at me. I started to turn back around but the tech guy suddenly stuck his fist out in a spacer's greeting. "Good to see you around again, Maxwell," he grinned and I flushed while I tapped my own fist against his.

"Thanks, Grant," I murmured, his name suddenly coming to mind, and he beamed.

If at all possible, my own table full of guys was grinning even wider.

"Floor show's over," I growled and I think I would have gotten something more out of Wufei, but Jess showed up with the drinks and we spent some time going over the menu. I warned them away from ordering anything that had McMurphy's name in the title, and we ended up just ordering steaks all around.

Quatre asked about Heero and Wufei's 'interview' with the Senator and we talked about that for a little while. Jess came back by and refilled all the drinks, teasing me about hanging out with a bunch of 'stick in the muds'. Smitty lobed another paper wad at me and managed to sink it in my drink. I lobbed it back, still dripping water, and hit him in the top of the head. Cortaine, one of the 'tug' drivers from the shuttle field came in then, stopping to speak before heading over to take a seat at the bar.

"Is there anybody in this room that you don't know?" Heero asked me with a cock-eyed little grin.

"Sure," I told him and did a quick scan of the room. "The guy in the corner with the black jacket and..." I finished my scan. "The two girls sitting together at the bar."

Wufei laughed lightly, looking at me with a very strange light in his eyes, but just shook his head ruefully.

I shrugged, suddenly finding myself a little embarrassed. "Trade's kinda tight... I guess," I muttered, trailing off when I realized that, technically, I wasn't actually in the trade anymore.

I was saved from further discomfort when dinner arrived, McMurphy coming out from behind his beloved bar to help Jess serve it. I grinned up at the guy, but he made me stand up so he could give me a big bear hug. McMurphy's like... the Papa bear of the trade. Won't take any crap off anybody, but treats everybody who falls in his circle of acquaintances like little nieces and nephews or something. And a lot of people fell into his circle.

"Bout time you got your ass back here, Maxwell," he grinned down at me after he'd let me sit back down. "I didn't even get a card on my birthday!"

I laughed at him, "I've never sent you a card, you old bear... birthday or otherwise!" That got a smattering of chuckles from some of the surrounding tables as people watched us banter.

"I'm wounded, kid!" he told me with a dramatic hand clutched to his heart. "I think you owe me one."

I groaned loudly. "Owe you what?" I asked guardedly and heard some snickers, telling me that something was up. I looked to Jess for help and found her standing there with a pitcher of something... oddly orange, and a pained little smile on her face. "Oh God, McMurphy... not tonight!" I wailed and the laughter spread through the room until I realized the whole place was watching this play out.

"Come on, Duo!" I heard Smitty yell. "He's been waiting for you to come back for months. Had this concoction under wraps just waiting for you!"

McMurphy was grinning at me like a loon. "If it isn't toxic, I'm gonna call it 'Maxwell's Hell-fire'." He took the pitcher from Jess, produced a glass from I couldn't begin to tell you where, and poured. How could I say no to a glass of Maxwell's Hell-fire?

I took the drink and looked up at him imploringly. "Mac... with the day I've had so far; this is likely to kill me."

Behind me, Smitty began a low chant of "Maxwell... Maxwell... Maxwell..." and quickly got Havers and Bernie to join in with him. Before long, most of the room was chanting with them. I glanced around at my table, embarrassed beyond words and found the guys looking vaguely confused, but grinning at me all the same.

"You won't think its so damn funny when you have to drag my dissolving corpse out of here when it kills me," I groused and rose to my feet. If I was going to do this... I'd do it with style.

The chanting, at least, stopped when I stood. There was a smattering of applause. I raised the glass to the room in general.

"You all remember the legend of the blue concoction that shall ever remain nameless," I intoned solemnly. "If anyone here has a convertible... go put the top up now." There was more laughter and I pretty much had the attention of the whole room.

"Get on with it, Maxwell!" Smitty hollered.

"Care to join me, smart guy?" I prompted, but he just grinned.

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