Two out of Three
Chapter 2: Hum Hallelujah
Say a prayer but let the good times roll in case God doesn't show...
I knew Trowa's work routine by heart. Having slaved mindlessly away on the same floor for four years together, I'd memorized it for something to do. Hell, I'd memorized everyone's respective routines for something to do. As far as I could tell, Trowa had never once deviated from his and I didn't expect he'd start today. So there was no point in me rolling my ass outta bed before 9:30 a.m. since Trowa was going to be cleaning the bathrooms until about then. I did not want to have our next conversation in the john. Ugh.
I got my exhausted, insomniatic ass up at 9:35 and re-braided my hair. I brushed my teeth. I shaved. I stuffed myself into my usual monkey suit and slipped the necktie on over my head. Quatre had given each of us one of these damn things after our fates had been sealed. This was still the only one I owned. I never even bothered to unknot it. I just didn't care enough.
Today, I cared about the wrinkles in my shirt and the lint on my suit jacket, though, which was weird. It wasn't as if I had to work at impressing Trowa; he'd already agreed and all. Pretty enthusiastically, too, I might add.
I cleared my throat nervously. Right, enough of that shit. I had to get moving.
I swiped my pass card at my apartment door and ventured down the hall. At the elevator, I swiped it again. I bypassed the sports gym and medical bay on the second floor and got off on the first. The cafeteria was closed at this hour and, across the way, the door to the small chapel was open as always but the interior was dark. Later, I'd have to have a chat with Father Daniels after he got in, but for now I had a maintenance closet to look in on.
Pass card still in hand, I swiped my way out of the residential condo, crossed the guarded drive and swiped my way into the lobby of my personal hell.
"Hey, Bret," I greeted.
"Morning, Mr. Maxwell. It's good to see you made it in before I went on my coffee break."
I snorted and sauntered over to the elevator. "But please, hold your applause until the end!" I quipped and he chuckled.
Another swipe of my pass card and in I went, up to the eighth floor. I summoned up my hatred of the place and twisted it into something I could stomach. Our days here were numbered; I kept that in mind as I grinned into the cavernous, administrative office space. I made my first obligatory stop of the day and leaned over Wufei's cubicle wall to mock his punctuality and work ethic. I then tap danced my way over to the maintenance closet.
I successfully resisted the urge to straighten my tie and adjust my cuffs and got on with banging out a sappy message in Morse code against the door. I got all the way to the "o" in "I missed you!" before it swung open.
"Trowa," I greeted.
"Duo," he replied.
My brain stalled. I just kinda stared at him for a minute, remembering that I'd had my hand on his hip just there last night, and that mouth had sucked my lower lip, and his hair had tickled my nose when he'd leaned in, and...
Oh, fuck. What the hell was wrong with me?
A tiny smirk pinched those warm lips together and he reached out to tap my forehead with a single, callused fingertip. "Knock knock. Is anybody home in there?"
"Nope. Sorry. Come back later."
"Out to lunch already?"
"Never left, actually."
"That would explain why you act like the office is your personal jungle gym."
"Nah, it's my sandbox. I've got something else in mind for my personal jungle gym." Oh, Christ. Had I just said that?
Trowa's smirk broadened into something positively evil. "Something tells me you play well with others."
Holy... mother... of...!
I sputtered through a laugh. "I can't keep any secrets from you, huh?"
"Keep at it," he encouraged, moving his mop and bucket cart out into the aisle. "Persistence," Trowa advised in a come-hither-into-my-bed voice, "is the key."
And then I was watching his khaki-covered ass stroll away. Shit. How was it he always got the last damn word?
I turned on my heel and marched around to Heero's desk. "Cheer the hell up," I ordered him. "Tonight's lasagna night."
He glared harder at his computer, the contrary bastard. I glanced past his shoulder at Quatre who I caught in the act of looking up from a report that could be the evil twin of the one he'd been attempting to conquer yesterday. "Who's winning over there, Q? You or the ledger?"
"We're going best out of seventeen," he replied, grinning in spite of his obvious frustration.
"Keep me updated!" I tossed that last bit over my shoulder before strutting off to my desk and more or less diving into my squeaky chair.
"Mr. Maxwell" my supervisor began with a rather obnoxious growl.
I immediately started humming to myself as I turned on my computer screen. It wasn't until I made it to the end of the first stanza that I realized I was entertaining everyone with an old space junker drinking song well known for its raunchy lyrics. Well, given that everyone in this damn place (except for a few, select former Gundam pilots) was Earth-born, I didn't figure I'd be offending anyone if I went right ahead and finished the song.
I clicked my way through the three hundred and thirteen messages that had poured in overnight with my left pinkie. With my right hand, I was doodling away on a yellow sticky note.
When Trowa approached on his daily meander, I halted him with a whine. "Oh, man! Tro, do you have something in that cart that'll get this gum off the bottom of my shoe?"
He raised a brow – or maybe he raised two; that damn hair of his was always in the frickin' way – and glanced down. I stuck out my leg, indicating the afflicted sole.
He snorted. "Your powers of observation are failing, Maxwell Man," he droned, swooping down and flicking a used sticky note off of the tread. He held it up for me to see, his fingers obscuring the doodles thereon.
"My hero," I falsetto-ed and commenced with the mandatory mock swoon.
"I'll be expecting my kiss of gratitude once you get off work," he informed me flatly.
I barked out a laugh. "Feelin' lucky are we?"
He let me have the last word. But the smirk? Oh yeah, that we shared.
I turned back to my desk then to find no less than four pairs of eyes on me. "What?" I defended. "He may be the strong and silent type, but he can talk."
It was clear by the way they hesitantly pivoted themselves back to their computer screens, one by one, that no one quite knew how to respond to that. I swivel-squeaked back to my own work; the shriek of my office chair masked the sound of my chuckle nicely.
Damn, but this mission was turning out to be a freakin' barrel of laughs. I wasn't sure how long we'd be able to keep it up, but I was sure as hell gonna enjoy it while it lasted!
Unfortunately, I entered the doldrums after that. The rest of the day crawled past... on amputated limbs... over a field of broken glass. I was pretty sure I'd crack before lunch, but I squeaked by with my sanity and then I was in the four-hour home stretch. It was too bad Trowa's daily patrol only brought him by my desk once because I had way too many one-liners to choose from today.
In between clicking, banging my head on the desk in front of my keyboard, and compulsive doodling, I did a lot of glaring at the clock. I could tell it was trying to defy me as I psychically urged it on, but resistance was futile.
The minute hand ticked one last time and yes! It was officially quittin' time. Trowa was organizing the carpet cleanser bottles by expiration date in his little clutter cubby when I zoomed past.
"Catch me if you can, hot lips!" I jeered and took off for the elevators. I glanced over my shoulder in time to see Trowa leaning out of the janitorial closet giving me a look of deep and profound promise. Cackling, I made my escape.
Of course I ran right over to hallowed ground to claim sanctuary.
"Father Daniels?" I called, poking my head into the tiny chapel. It was kinda sad knowing that the only reason this, the meditation room, and the mosque upstairs were here was because Relena had raised a huge stink about morality or some such. I think most people assumed that all five of us attended one of these holy temples. Unfortunately, I was pretty sure the other guys with the exception of Wufei, perhaps were normally too damn zombified by our soul-sucking work to bother. I attended mass religiously (if you'll pardon the pun) more to escape the stomach-churning nausea of my life than out of any true religious fervor. On weekday nights and weekend mornings when I wasn't praying to the holy Virgin Mary, Heero and I were usually found in the gym, trying to choke, pin, and basically trash each other into another dimension. Obviously, neither one of us had managed to do so yet. I probably would have felt kinda down about knowing that wrestling with Heero wasn't going to be the same anymore since he'd tucked tail if not for the fact that I had every intention of gettin' us out from under Big Brother's thumb in T-minus one week.
"Duo!" Father Daniels called, grinning with delight. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"
And then suddenly, I just had no clue how to begin. Shit, I was supposed to be in love or some such. Would I be nervous or euphoric about getting married? Maybe nervous and shy. I was honestly a little too wiped out from all that mouse clicking and email scanning to manage euphoric. Besides, I didn't want Father Daniels to get the idea that I'd been sniffin' around Trowa's aromatic cleaning cupboard and had just stopped by to admire all the pretty colors in the stained glass windows.
"I... I'm getting married," I informed him softly and watched the old man's wrinkle-lined face stretch into a joyous smile.
"I'm so very happy for you, Duo!"
"Th-thanks," I stuttered, playing up the bashful bit. "I was hoping you'd agree to conduct the ceremony for us...?"
"Of course! Have you and your fiancée decided on a date?"
As I named this coming Sunday, I half expected him to object.
"That's fine. After mass, then? Or an evening ceremony?"
I nodded, letting a hesitant smile begin to curve my lips. "Evening," I decided on a whim. "Yeah, that'd be great."
"I'll send for a marriage certificate. Would you like me to ask Imam Raja and Tanaka Sensei to act as your witnesses?"
"Er, maybe?" Damn, it looked like I'd be writing up some invitations tonight if I wanted someone I've actually spoken to to do the honors. "I'll let you know."
He nodded. I briefly wondered if it was his impending retirement or inherent Catholicism that made him so freakin' agreeable. Oh, which reminded me. He still didn't know I wasn't intending to marry a woman. "Thanks, Father. Trowa and I really appreciate this."
This was news to him, I could see. But, then again, I'd never given him any indication that I swung that way. Father Daniels didn't frown, but he did look saddened. Yeah, I knew where this was going.
Anticipating his next words, I mumbled, "I know you can't perform a traditional ceremony for us, but you can still marry us, right?"
"Oh, yes. It'll have to be a civil ceremony, I'm afraid."
"That's fine." Seriously, it was. He didn't have to look so heartbroken over it.
"I am so sorry, Duo. I'm sure you were hoping for something more spiritual..."
OK, this was gonna take all night if I didn't head him off at the pass here with something trite and sappy. "It will be," I soothed him, "no matter what words you use, Father."
And finally, he let it go. "It warms my heart to hear that."
I focused on not gagging on my own lameness. "I suppose you think we're moving way too fast," I heard myself sigh out. I knew I had to test the waters here before we faced shock and possibly resistance from the others, but damn did I want to boogie my ass upstairs and at least change into my comfy combat boots before grabbing a ration of lasagna in the building's cafeteria.
To my surprise, Father Daniels just shook his head at me and placed an arthritic and ointment-smelling hand on my shoulder. "Duo, you've been here for four years. I'm happy to see you moving forward with your life."
Wow. That sounded... creepily accurate in a psychic-premonition kind of way. I rolled with it by letting out the breath I'd been holding and nodding. "Well, there's nothing we can do about our circumstances but we've decided to make the best of it together."
"That's all any of us can do," Father Daniels agreed sagely. "Will I see you at mass this evening?"
I nodded. I figured I'd better come; of the residential complex's two dozen or so fellow Catholics, few bothered with Wednesday evening mass. Call me a pushover, but I felt kinda bad thinking of Father Daniels going through the motions in an empty room.
I turned at the sound of Trowa's voice calling from the doorway. I invited him in with a smile and dared to hold my hand out to him a bit. "Trowa, I was just talking to the good father here about our big day."
Trowa reached my side but, instead of taking my hand, he slid a possessive arm around my waist. Do you know how hard it is to force yourself not to tense? I was pretty sure that was an oxymoron.
"Is a civil ceremony OK?" I checked, a little taken aback by how totally his attention was on me.
"That's fine." He nodded and finally turned his gaze toward Father Daniels. "Thank you."
Trowa offered his hand and Father Daniels shook it. Words of wisdom were offered and Trowa hummed noncommittally. He was almost as accomplished as Heero at that sort of thing. And then I was promising to be back later as Trowa nudged me toward the door.
"Where's the fire?" I asked him as he herded me toward the elevators.
"It's lasagna night," he retorted and I resisted the urge to guffaw right there in the echoing lobby, "and I'm not going to sit in my own fumes through dinner."
"That explains you," I observed as we both scanned our pass cards and stepped into the empty elevator. I hated how the damned thing could sense our combined weight and individual heat signatures and freakin' refused to budge until all pass cards had been presented.
I continued, "But what do I have to do with you getting de-fumigated?" I'd meant it to come out sounding scrappy but playful, but I had no idea whether I'd managed it or not.
Trowa leaned bodily across me – and, if I didn't know better, I'd say he did it deliberately in an attempt to tease me – and I huffed out a breath to keep myself from shivering as he pushed the button for our floor. The doors slid shut and, in the next instant, I found myself crowded against the wall of the lift, Trowa's single, visible green eye squinting down at me.
"You owe me a kiss."
I had just enough time to process the reminder and start getting my back up over him being all high-and-mighty over it before he swooped down and just laid it on me.
Oh, God but he could kiss.
"No fair," I whined, turning my head to the side before that lip sucking thing he did drove me total bugfuck insane. "What's your ex's name?"
"My ex?" He almost sputtered.
I took a page from his book and returned squint. "Or is there more than one?"
"Hundreds," he admitted readily and then his tone took a snarky turn, "what with all the free time I've had since my pilot training and the generous selection of trustworthy, single men living in our building."
I gawked at him long enough for the elevator to stop moving. With his hand pressing into the small of my back, he guided me as I stumbled down the corridor to my front door.
"Wait up," I said, coming back to myself with a jerk when he reached for the pass card dangling from the strap around my neck. Grasping his wrist, I growled and hissed with incredulity, "Are you telling me this is all natural talent?"
"This, dammit," I choked out before I pressed my lips to his. He crowded me forward again and the card scanner jabbed me in the shoulder, but I didn't pay it any attention. He pushed, he brushed, he nibbled, and yes damnitalltohell he did that lip sucking thing until I thought I was going to start riding whatever part of him I could wrap my legs around.
I let my knees sag until the kiss broke and I could duck under his arm. I planted my feet in the middle of the hall with no small amount of relief and glared.
"Play fair, Barton," I scolded him, absently formulating a strategy for getting into my apartment to change clothes for dinner despite him standing between me and my palm scanner and card swiper.
"Hm," he hummed softly, giving me an evaluating look. I resisted the urge to tug at the front of my pants. Let him look if he damn well wanted to, and it seemed that he did in fact want to. "Wufei is the one who plays fair."
"And just what do you play then?" I challenged.
He answered. "For keeps."
And then he leaned forward and whispered in my ear, "I'll save you a seat at dinner."
Dumbly, I nodded. I didn't turn as he brushed past me. I didn't inhale the warm puff of air that he stirred in his wake. Fingers numb, I slid my card, scanned my palm, and frickin' scampered into my apartment. I waited until the door whispered shut behind me before I took my next breath.
Holy shit. Oh shit oh shit oh shit.
That wasn't the only thing running through my head, but I preferred indulging in that litany to recalling Trowa's preference for trustworthy, single men.
Shit. Shit shit shit. Trowa liked men and I was pretty sure I didn't – at least not on general principle, but my body seemed to like Trowa plenty, didn't it? – and we were gettin' hitched in four days and—!
"Hold up, Maxwell," I heard myself say. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and stepped off of the freak out wagon. Of course Trowa would say something like that. He was acting. With all the security cameras in the public spaces of this building, he couldn't very well indicate that he liked women, not when our freedom hinged on him marrying me and managing it convincingly! He'd just been performing for our watchers, whoever they were. None of it had been real.
Well, except for the mighty cell phone just about vibrating its way out of my pants, but hell, that was par for the course at my age.
I rubbed my hands briskly over my face and then lurched into the bathroom. Bracing myself against the sink, I cranked open the tap and started splashing around in the water before I remembered I was still wearing my damn suit. Irritated all over again, I tore the thing off and tossed it, piece by piece, onto the nearest chair beyond the open door. Last but not least, I jerked the noose of a necktie – still knotted – over my head and sent it sailing on a direct trajectory for the coffee table.
And then I washed my face, my overheated neck, my too tense shoulders and quaking arms. Shit, either I had to get a grip or Trowa was gonna have to stop pushing me. I scowled when I realized the former would be the logical solution here. Hell, if we weren't dying to get in each other's pants, there'd be no rush for the ceremony, right? So, dammit, Tro had the right of it.
So much for him following my lead. Some suave Casanova I was turning out to be.
I turned off the tap and stood there dripping into the small basin. I couldn't hear anyone moving out in the hallway, but I imagined Trowa exiting his room, glancing at my locked door, and then just heading for the elevators. On the security screens somewhere across the street and on the second floor, he'd look just fine and dandy. In my head, though, he looked pissed.
Damn, but I'd come close to fucking up.
That got me moving. I jumped into a pair of black cargo pants and a black turtleneck. I stuck my feet into my black combat boots and boogied the hell outta there. I entered the cafeteria just as Trowa was approaching the checkout with two identical trays of lasagna. I made it over to him and scanned my ever-fucking-present pass card along with his after snagging it from his jeans back pocket. I replaced his card and took my tray from his hand with a sheepish grin.
"Thanks," I mumbled. "You didn't have to do that."
"Isn't that what fiancés are for?"
"What if I'd been late?" The cafeteria wench wouldn't have let him take two helpings for himself.
"I knew you wouldn't be." And right then and there, I knew he still trusted me, still had faith in me. I didn't think I deserved it, honestly, but I was going to try to be that guy try to be the partner I should be starting now. I held his chair out for him and slid mine so close that I could feel his leg press against my knee beneath the table.
We ate in silence, watching the room fill with our coworkers and colleagues, although there were a helluvalot of people I'd never seen in the office building across the street. I had to assume they worked on different floors. At first glance, it might have seemed kind of strange that so many outsiders were living in the same building with us. But, given the fact that the nearest town... hell, the nearest highway was over twenty kilometers away, beyond the three-story tall, electrified razor-wire-topped concrete walls and past wide open fields with no scrub brush, forests, or other natural cover to speak of, almost everyone who worked in this facility had to be residents. The people came and went pretty regularly. I noticed new faces every sixteen to twenty months. I figured many of them had families that they went home to on weekends and holidays. I'd never asked, so I didn't really know.
But, I was going to be one of those guys soon; in a few days, I'd have a husband to come home to.
Fork nearly to my mouth, I froze. Damn. How had that thought managed to blindside me?
I started breathing again at Trowa's soft prompting. "I never realized," I mumbled contritely, "that we didn't discuss who would perform the ceremony." The sticky note I'd passed him today had depicted stick figures of us standing at the altar in the chapel, but he hadn't exactly weighed in on the issue. "Are you OK with me asking Father Daniels?"
I glanced at him, noting that he was moving as slowly and neatly through his meal as I was. I wondered at that. Perhaps his own past, like mine, hadn't exactly been set in the land of plenty.
Still, I hesitated to put my forkful of hovering pasta out of its misery. "Would you like to come to mass with me tonight?"
He gave me a sardonic look and I rolled my eyes.
"Christ, Tro, it's not like one time is gonna turn you into a good little catholic boy."
He chuckled softly and I joined him when I realized that even I wasn't all that good, all that little, or all that catholic. And I'd had years of exposure to mass.
He relented with a roll of his right shoulder that could have been some exotic variety of shrug. "What time?"
I glanced at the clock. "Not for another thirty minutes. You want a coffee or somethin'?"
Trowa nodded but held up his hand to stop me when I started to stand. He went and fetched the cups for us and shocked me speechless when I found a single chocolate chip cookie balanced on my saucer. A coffee and a cookie – a nod to childhood nostalgia and should-have-been's – was my usual dinner wrap-up. Huh. Maybe I hadn't been the only person studying everyone else's routines over the years.
We sipped in silence. Whenever I shifted in my seat, my knee would rub against Trowa's leg and I held my cup with both hands because... well, just because. The quiet space we occupied soothed me as effectively as our snarky one-liners in the office kept me sane. Now that I thought about it, I was kind of impressed he could accommodate me like this. Although, looking back over the years, I could see this very pattern emerging. He'd always had a comeback for me at the office and provided quiet companionship during the infrequent dinners we'd shared.
I wasn't really sure what to make of that.
We left before Heero finished up with his workout in the gym. I'd bet actual money (if I'd had any) that the guy prayed to dumbbells; if Heero had any kind of religion, it'd be found in sweat and adversary. I imagined Wufei was stubbornly continuing to meditate on an empty stomach at the Buddhist temple on the third floor, purging his mind of all the numbers he'd crunched today, and Quatre was probably still across the street wrestling with ledgers and reports, to be honest.
Oddly enough, I liked that it was just the two of us: Trowa and me.
I saw the evening mass service with new eyes now that I had someone to explain its intricacies to. Trowa obligingly bent his head down so I could breathe explanations and instructions in his ear. I kinda suspected that this wasn't his first time attending, though. He was too graceful and sure of himself for him to be a true novice. I couldn't bring myself to feel chagrinned over it, though. It had been nice feeling his shoulder lean against mine, time and time again. Nice and, well, warm.
I chuckled softly. I guess Trowa was just naturally, um, hot.
It was probably a good thing that only five other people had showed up for the service and they were all sitting in the pews ahead of us. At several points during the liturgy, I was startled to feel an uplifting deep within me, as if my soul were waking and stirring. And, I ain't gonna lie, I flushed when I caught my hand twitching toward Trowa's beside me. Luckily, I got that under control real quick.
When it was all finished and "Thanks be to God" was still echoing in the tiny space, I stood and, with a hand on Trowa's elbow, guided him out. I would usually go up and have a few words with Father Daniels, but tonight a woman sought him out and I didn't feel like hanging around.
I was a little surprised that Trowa let me escort him into the elevator just as he'd done to me earlier and I realized several things right then. First, even though Trowa seemed to be the more comfortable of the two of us with our new, er, relationship, he also seemed perfectly willing to let me lead if I felt the inclination. Second, he'd been doing quite a lot of the work here, in essence covering for me. He'd upheld appearances without pushing me in the intimacy department of things.
This last thought came to me when I realized that he and I haven't played tonsil hockey yet. I briefly wondered if he'd held back for my benefit or because he objected to sticking his tongue in my mouth for the sake of the mission.
Well, I guess there was one or two ways to find out. Naturally, I chose the course with the most potential to blow up in my face.
As it was my turn to walk him to his door, that's where I turned him toward me. There was no resistance in him when I reached up and slowly guided his head down to me. And then my lips were on his again and I didn't waste time hemming and hawing about whether or not this was a good idea. A tiny lick was his only warning and then things were up close and very personal.
OK, this would be my first of this kind of kiss. I relinquished the lead to him when he brushed his tongue against mine and then I just freakin' rode it out. And damn, what a ride.
Trowa freakin' rocked me against him, his tongue surging into my mouth again and again, charting every ridge in my palate. His breath puffed against my cheek and I answered the soft growly noise he made with something embarrassingly moan-ish. At some point, I closed my eyes. Probably because my brain had been going into overload from the sudden influx of sensory data and I had to make some cutbacks to non-necessary systems.
In the dark, his scent mixed in with his heat and the hardness of his muscles and it was like being eaten alive.
When we finally parted, both my arms were wrapped around his shoulders – although, for the life of me, I had no idea when that had happened – and his hands were gripping my waist, holding me snug against him. I stared at him, occasionally blinking. And I'm not saying I was panting or anything, but, um, you get the idea.
"Um," I rasped, brain buzzingly numb. "Um..."
"Hm," he answered on a rumble, massaging my sides with his palms.
"Um," I tried and failed again.
I suppose he was due bonus points for somehow not laughing at me. "Would you like to come in?"
His voice was pitched low and soft and disturbingly sexy. Damn, but I was still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that I'd tangled tongues with a man, with one of my war buddies, with my future mission partner, and I so could not handle that tone. Not now. Maybe not ever.
I shook my head. "Ca" I had to stop and clear my throat. "Catholic," I reminded him.
He didn't look surprised. I told myself – firmly – that I was not seeing either disappointment or resignation in his expression.
"Good night," I managed.
"Good night, good catholic boy," Trowa replied with a tiny smile. He smoothed a forefinger down the bridge of my nose and then left me standing there with my heart still pounding, my lips tingling, and a serious situation developing in my pants.
I tripped down the hall to my apartment and sequestered myself inside. Things down south settled a bit after a few calming breaths. Yeah, I figured Trowa and I were gonna handle the kissing part of the wedding ceremony just fine what with all the practicing we'd been doing. I was kinda looking forward to seeing the gob smacked expressions on our friends' faces.
Which reminded me: I had invitations to pen and deliver.
It's probably abnormal how much enjoyment I take in my missions. But, y'know, if it's the last thing I do, then I wanna be laughing my ass off through it. That's just a slice of my super-secret personal philosophy.
"What. Is this?" Wufei demanded when I popped by his desk at an eager beaver 9:15 the next morning.
"A surprise!" I responded perkily just so I could see his eyebrow twitch. Yes. I love my work.
His black gaze flicked between me and the card. "You... Barton... This...!"
Since he seemed to have processed the gist of it, I rescued his floundering ass. "Yup, yup, and this Sunday. Hope you can make it. Well, I'm off to finish my deliveries," I sing-songed, waving the other two invitations in the air.
Wufei ignored the data he was supposed to be entering and stared at me.
I gave him a grin, a wink, and then danced back two steps before sashaying myself over to the CEO's den.
"Hey, Heero," I greeted, leaning a hip against his immaculate desk. He ignored me, so I took my time lining up Quatre's invitation like I was about to toss a shuriken and then I let it fly. I must still have the ol' Maxwell magic because it zoom-tumbled through the air and conked him on the head before bouncing onto the stack of budget reports that he was communing with.
"Duo?" he asked, picking up the invitation.
"The one and only," I affirmed, and then I plopped Heero's onto his keyboard where he'd have to touch it in order to move it out of his way.
A gasp from Quatre's office had me looking away from Heero and meeting Q's teacup-saucer-wide eyes. "When...? How...?" he sputtered.
I smirked. A motion out of the corner of my eye drew my gaze back to Heero. He'd just flipped open the card.
He then flipped it closed, methodically stuffed it back into the envelope, and set it aside. "Tonight. Wrestling mat. 1730 hours," he informed me.
"Oh?" I retorted, determined to make him work for it. "Would you like me to come and cheer for you, buddy?"
He glared at me. "Bring your game."
I just about choked on a laugh. I'm pretty sure he'd picked that little phrase up from me. Hearing it come out of his mouth made me question if I was in the right dimension.
"Do not bruise me," I ordered, laying down the conditions of my compliance. "If I end up limping to the altar, Trowa will eat your spleen for lunch."
And finally I got the standard Heero grunt. Christ, I'd been starting to despair of never hearing it again. At least there was something of my former partner in there somewhere. Too bad I had to drag him out into the light of day with a winch and hooks made of frickin' Gundanium.
Satisfied that my work here was done – for the time being anyway – I killed the next twenty minutes contemplating the water cooler and then I moseyed on over to Trowa's closet of crap, right on time for our daily dose of snark. Or was it more like a metaphorical pinch on the ass now?
"Guess who?" I crowed through the closed door.
Trowa answered almost immediately. He swung the thing wide open, propped it against the wall, did that bracing himself thing with his hands on the jamb, cocked his head to the side and mused, "Hm. You look familiar." He proceeded to look me up... and down... and up again. "Have you come out of the closet, too?"
Definitely more like a pinch on the ass. What the hell?
"Somebody's feeling witty today," I retorted around the choking sensation of nearly swallowing my own tongue.
He raised a brow and his left eye freakin' twinkled. "How's that working for me?"
Pretty damn well, I didn't say. "Don't quit your day job," I quipped.
He tossed his head back and actually barked out a laugh. I found myself huffing out a chuckle right along with him, as if his mirth were contagious.
And then he leaned forward, still bracing himself in the door and the subtle motion caught me completely off-guard. That's my excuse for completely and utterly losing my mind: I had a sudden flash of Trowa – a black tank-topped and legging-ed Trowa – in a gymnasium, wrapped and resined hands each gripping a ring as he pulled himself into that damn iron cross pose that has always made my mind go blank and jaw drop open whenever I've seen it on vid broadcasts of gymnastics championships. I don't think I mewled or anything, but there must have been some change in my expression or breathing because Trowa's lips stretched into a secretive smile.
"Penny for your thoughts?"
I rallied. "Luckily for me, you're penniless."
"That's all right," he returned. "There's a good chance we'll both be getting lucky soon enough."
This time, when he pushed the mop and bucket out of the closet, he deliberately brushed by me. I felt his long fingers trail over my wrist and palm before he was meandering down the aisle on his way to being productive.
I'm pretty sure my productivity was at an all-time low after that little interlude. I plunked my ass down in front of my computer screen. I clicked. I forwarded. But I couldn't tell you what a single one of those damn emails had actually said.
When Trowa wheeled the garbage pit by, I didn't give him a doodle. I just stared at him as he strolled past. And, was it just me, or had the guy gotten exponentially sexier in the past two days? I mean, damn. I couldn't look at his mouth without remembering that hot, deep, rocking kiss from the night before. And, shit, I couldn't even shift my gaze to his ear without remembering how warm he was or how nice he smelled. The last insult was the bare patch of soft skin at the nape of his neck above his collar. Goddamn but that little temptation ensured that my boosters hit full throttle. It was only by some length of my pride that I kept the rocket on the launch pad.
Oh, how I was looking forward to quittin' time today. I was all wound up with no one to torture. Thank God Heero had already – sorta – volunteered.
"Remember what I said about bruises?" I said by way of greeting as I toed off my shoes and socks at the edge of the gym's wrestling mat. It was early evening yet and the place was deserted. I figured since there weren't any witnesses, a reminder was in order.
Heero, already standing on the mat and wearing those damn stupid spandex shorts, gave me a brief glare.
"Yeah, well, the same doesn't apply to you," I informed him and then we started circling each other, hands up and at the ready.
This wasn't the first time we'd met on the mat. Hell, until recently, it'd seemed like this was my other religion. If we kept at it long enough, Heero usually won but, by God, I made him earn it. Nobody escapes a choke hold like Duo Maxwell.
Heero surprised me by lunging first. I wiggled out of the way, laughing. "Hey, now. If you keep that up, I'm gonna start wondering if you missed me, buddy."
His right eyebrow twitched. That was my one and only warning. He swatted at me with an open palm, but I knew this maneuver was only meant to put me off balance before he pounced. I danced out of range with a manic grin.
"I guess it's just not the same when Wufei kicks your ass, eh?"
Heero's lips pulled back into one of his creepy smiles. I was on guard instantly. "Yeah. My ego's been suffering."
And then he launched the Unavoidable Yuy Attack of Underhanded Nastiness™. I landed on the mat with an echoing smack! I rolled. I wiggled. I writhed. And then I had him right where I wanted him.
I twisted my entire torso under his weight and threw my hips upward. If I'd been breakdancing on the street somewhere, I would have ended up doing a spinning headstand, but the momentum was just enough to knock him to the side. I whipped around, felt my braid smack him right across the nose, and then jackrabbited myself out of range.
I crouched just beyond his reach and tried not to laugh at his dumbfounded expression. Maybe I should have just used a rolled up newspaper. He had that same startled puppy look.
"Hah! That was a Lightning-Fast-Reflex fail, buddy. You slowin' down in your old age?"
He didn't answer my taunts verbally, but then again he was kinda busy trying to keep up with me. Anyone who tells you wrestling is all about strength is obviously playing by the rules and, in a real fight, that kinda thinkin' will get your ass D-E-D, dead.
The third time I took Heero down and then rolled away, regaining my feet at a safe distance, I thought to apply a little Maxwell Obnoxiousness to my tactics. "How's your ego now?" I checked with devilish delight.
"Just getting warmed up," he replied flatly, not the least bit peeved.
From extensive experience, I knew that did not bode well for me. I dived for his ankles before he could make good on that threat. We tumbled and twisted. Heero was strong and freakin' heavy, but I was fast and flexible. When we faced off for the sixth time in our ongoing match, I noticed a silent figure leaning by the door.
That was as far as I got before I was dodging and spinning my ass out of Heero's reach. Before he could regroup and I could start obsessing over our audience, I executed my patented Shinigami Kamekazi Blitz.
It sounds more impressive than it actually is. Basically, I took him down with a flying glomp, bounced off, and then clobbered him from behind.
"Hah! I win!" I declared and then got my ass the hell outta there before he could retaliate. I grinned at him from the edge of the mat. With both my feet on the gym floor, Heero had little choice but to drop the wrestling pose.
He did so with a disgusted snort. "Cheat," he announced.
"Well I sure as hell ain't no Wufei." And if he wanted a fair fight, that's who he ought to recruit for it.
Heero shook his head in mock dejection as he joined me near the shoe pile. I waved to Trowa, signing for him to give me just one more minute, and then I moved to a nearby bench to put my boots back on. Surprisingly, Heero sat down next to me.
Very quietly, he rumbled, "Are you sure you know what you're doing?" He didn't have to glance in Trowa's direction for me to put two and two together.
I rolled my eyes. "It's not rocket science, man. People get hitched all the time."
Heero continued, scowling slightly. "There's going to be fallout." That was all part of the plan. "Those records will be public," he added. Again, part of the plan.
"Yeah, yeah, I know. But, shit, it's been four years. As long as the five great terrors who freakin' saved civilization are locked up and being useful, no one's gonna give a damn."
Heero just nodded. It wasn't one of his "Dammit, you're being logical so I have to agree with you" nods, though. It was his ninmu ryokai nod.
"Good luck," he said flatly. He gave his shoelaces a final tug, stood, and strode out of the room. I watched him give Trowa a nod in passing, but he didn't say anything else.
I didn't doubt that he had a few words for Trowa, too, but he'd probably wait until I wasn't around to come out with whatever was on his mind. It was kinda nice that Heero was worried about me. Hell, any indication that there was still a spark of the old fire in him was welcome. He'd been my first comrade-in-arms since... well, since I'd shot him. It was good to have him back.
Looking up, I caught Trowa's eye. He looked like his old wartime self, leaning in the doorway, dressed in jeans and a turtleneck with his arms crossed over his chest. He was perfectly still. Too perfectly still. Shit. Maybe he was thinking that I would have preferred Heero for this mission. Maybe he was thinking that I'd call off the wedding now that my old partner seemed to be coming around.
Which was just plain ridiculous. Sure, Heero was my original partner, but if I'd had the choice to make all over again, I still would've picked Trowa for this. Like I said, Heero was my original partner so I knew him and myself well enough to know one or both of us would be screaming and tearing our own hair out before the end of Day One.
I stood and swaggered over to my, er, fiancé, showing off my impressive, sweaty glory. "Good timing," I congratulated him. "Not only did I get to awe and amaze you with my warrior prowess, but I think I was starting to miss you."
And just like someone had flipped a switch, he was relaxed again. His arms sagged and then dropped completely. He pushed himself off the wall and, with a tiny smile, teased, "Already?"
"Short attention span," I admitted.
He nodded thoughtfully. "Noted. The next time I need to get your attention, I'll try a flying tackle."
"That will definitely get you noticed, although it may not win you any points."
Without a word, Trowa swooped down and freakin' planted his lips on mine, drawing a gasp from me and then inviting himself into my mouth. It was brief, hot, and very noticeable.
"How was that?" he inquired, leaning back.
"Pretty good," I had to admit. It still bothered me that I'd liked it but... to hell with it. I was marrying the man. I was supposed to like it when he kissed me.
"How many points did I earn?"
I grinned at his earnest expression. Christ, it was almost as if he actually gave a damn. I snorted. "I'll let you know when the scoreboard stops tallying."
"You do that," he answered, watching me with one of those glittering green sidelong glances. I told myself I was still flushed from my earlier exertion. There was no way I was blushing just from a look. No freakin' way.
The "D-E-D, dead" thing is my it's-funny-yet-so-true way of describing a situation so serious that anything but phonetic spelling would be pointless. Duo really can spell. He's just saying that you'd be, like, SRSLY dead. SRSLY.[ ch. 1 ] [ ch. 3 ] [ back to The Manwell's fic ]