Author: The Manwell
Chapter titles and subheadings are from the album,Infinity on High,by Fall Out Boy.
Disclaimer: I don't own the boys, the Gundams, the copyrights, or the patents. But the snappy one-liners are mine, all mine.

Two out of Three
Chapter 3: Love Songs for the Genuinely Cunning

It's a strange way of saying that I know I'm supposed to love you...

Quatre cornered me next. I knew it was coming and I knew I wouldn't be able to avoid Mr. Space Heart CEO, so I took a page from Heero's mission manual and met him head on with a Beam Cannon when he launched his frontal assault right after dinner.

"Hey, Q. Truth or dare?"

"Wh-what?" he coughed out on my threshold, bemusement forcing his bright grin to shuffle off and exit stage left.

I motioned him into my apartment with a grand gesture and a bow. It was too bad my place looked pretty much identical to his. All five of us had "cozy" efficiency apartments. I guess that was to discourage block parties. And then the fact that the security camera and mic installed over the doorway blinked on whenever I had a visitor provided a convenient wet blanket in the case of private chats and co-conspiracy.

I angled myself so that I herded him into my one and only armchair. I perched on the desk, my stockinged feet on the seat of the provided plastic chair.

Keeping in mind that the security zombies had a clear line of sight and audio into the room, I said, "Truth or dare. Or I choose for you."

"Er, truth, I suppose. What—?"

"Give it to me straight, man. Is there any reason Trowa and I shouldn't go through with it on Sunday?"

He blinked at me.

I waited. I've known Quatre almost as long as I've known Heero. In fact, Quatre and I had spent a lot of time lying low together after Heero's successfully failed self-destruction. Of course, at the time, I'd really thought he was dead so... Quatre, more than any of the others, has seen me at my worst. Maybe not my absolute worst, but still pretty damn wretched.

He'd pretty much dragged me from one safe house to another, pulling me along like I was the king to his queen in a game of chess called "life.” So I knew that look in his eyes, that subtle calculation as he ran through all the possible interpretations of my question.

I helped him with a little camouflage, just in case he was waiting for an opening. "I know you and Trowa were close. He was the first fellow pilot you met—"

Quatre's expression cleared and he shook his head at me. "Yes, that's true but, we're just friends. That's all we've ever been."

"And you're happy with that?" I probed.

He nodded, his bright grin returning. I guess when he'd dropped it in the hallway, he hadn't lost it completely. "Very."

"That isn't... um...” How to say this tactfully? I wracked my brain but couldn't come up with a nice way of putting it, so I blurted, "That isn't the Zero incident talking? Because, y'know, it's been years and—"

"Duo. It's fine. Trowa and I came to an understanding on that long ago.” And I could see the kind of peace in his expression that comes from catharsis. Yeah, that was old news. I blew out a relieved breath.

"So what brings you by if you're not planning on challenging me to a duel over his honor, Winner?"

He chuckled softly. "A little thing called congratulations," he replied, his blue eyes sparkling merrily. "And the fact that they don't deliver themselves."

"Ah.” I gave him a sheepish grin.

He stood then and crossed the room to give me a one-armed hug. I came off my perch on the top of the desk to receive it, one foot still hooked awkwardly over the edge of the plastic seat.

"Congratulations, Duo. You'll be very happy together."

"Thanks, man," I replied, rubbing his shoulder the way he has done to me many times in the past. In fact, he was the one who actually taught me that particular hug accessory. "So, we'll see you in the chapel on Sunday evening?"

"Of course!" he replied aghast. He leaned back and gave me an unarguable look. "I wouldn't miss it for anything."

"Not even spinach quiche?” Because I was pretty sure that was what was on Sunday's dinner menu. I was also pretty sure it was his favorite.

"Not even for spinach quiche," he informed me and I suddenly felt like my chest had turned into a warm, gooey mess. Phlegm clogged my throat, so I patted him on the shoulder.

"And," he continued, "if the press tries to give you and Trowa a hard time over this, I'll do what I can to help."

"Thanks," I rasped, knowing what the offer might end up costing him. Quatre was as much a prisoner here as the rest of us, but he still had tiny smidgeon of Winner Heir Brand clout. Interceding on behalf of Trowa and myself would probably use it all up, though. "You should keep that five-hundred-pound gorilla in reserve, though, buddy," I insisted, "and get us a movie theater or something installed in this damn pile."

"Or an Armani?"

I barked out a laugh. "Hell, where would we wear those fancy duds? The general store on the first floor is good enough for this thriving metropolis and you know it."

His smile dimmed then and he got kinda quiet and kinda sad. "It's your wedding, Duo. Surely you wish you could wear a tuxedo?"

"Naw.” I shrugged off the regret-on-my-behalf that I could see in his eyes. "How does that old saying go? Something old, something new, borrowed and blue?” I held up a hand and counted off each: "My braid is old; our relationship is new; I guess my pass card counts as borrowed and the tie you gave me is a nice navy. I've got it covered, man."

If I hadn't known better – if I hadn't known that Quatre had been a pretty damn tough soldier and a freakin' awesome pilot during the war – I'd have thought he was fighting tears. Nah. Couldn't be.

Before I could joke about him walking Trowa down the aisle, I was being smothered à la Winner. He had his arms around my shoulders in frickin' bear hug. Hell, I would have expected something like this from Rashid, not petite Mr. CEO.

"I'm just so, so happy for you," he explained in a rough voice. "Trowa is so happy with you. And it's clear you feel the same..."

Er... it was?

He stepped back and admitted, "This is the first time in the last four years that I've felt certain we did the right thing."

I gave him a lopsided smile. "Yeah.” I didn't say how weddings in Hell might be different. Or how prison weddings just... weren't. I just shut the hell up and went with it.

As Quatre gave me one last smile in farewell, I wondered if he suspected what this wedding was really about, if he thought for even a moment that this sudden romance wasn't, y'know, genuine.

The problem was that I caught myself occasionally forgetting what the whole damn point of it all was, and that, ladies and gentlemen, was dangerous.

Speaking of dangerous, I still had one more visitor to deal with in this Christmas Carol and he, more than the other two, specialized in the kind of sneak attacks you couldn't see coming. Hell, you didn't even feel it when it hit; you only realized you'd taken damage after the wound started stinging.

I figured Wufei was probably done meditating away all the random urges to slam the heel of his hand into people's faces around the office, so now was as good a time as any to deal with his reaction to all of this. It would have been nice to have Heero at my back, though.

I paused as I stuffed my feet back in my boots and reconsidered that last thought... and I came up with the same result. Yeah, I'd choose Heero for this. I didn't want Trowa to have to face the sharpness of Wufei's all-seeing insight. That's what makes the guy so abrasive. Hell, for Wufei, words truly were a weapon and he used them well. If he had something harsh to say, Trowa didn't need to hear it. Especially if it was something both harsh and relevant.

Swinging my pass card around on its cord, I whistled while I moseyed my way down the hall to Wufei's apartment. He didn't answer the bell, though, not even when I leaned on it for a whole minute and then started buzzing out Christmas tunes. Hm. Even if he were in the shower, he would've heard that and decided that I deserved to die. He must still be meditating.

I boogied down to the temple. The temple wasn't the only thing on the third floor, of course. There was a Japanese tea room which I've never had more than zero interest in. There was also a library. No Internet access, of course, but they had both real and electronic books. I'd bumped into Trowa among the stacks once or twice before. In fact, I'd once caught him sunk down to his chin in a poofy beanbag thing with his nose stuck in a copy of Walter Farley's The Black Stallion.

What is it with that guy and animals?

Hell, if we were ever allowed out of this glorified ice cube tray, I guess it'd come up. No point in asking about it now when we're not even allowed a pet flea. Although, if Trowa did have one of those, I'm pretty sure he could train it to fly a Gundam.

And yes, I'd so pay to see that.

The third floor was utterly silent and I automatically quieted my footsteps in deference to it. I crept along the hall toward the wall of sliding doors along the front of the temple. Good thing I had, too, because the door on the far right was open and, seated upon the tatami mat in the center of the room beyond, was Wufei. He wore his wartime whites, which probably symbolized a mind free of distracting shit like comic books and girls, and he knelt on his knees with his bare feet crossed one over the other beneath him. He was, in a word, perfectly serene. Hell, I wasn't even sure if he was breathing. And then I remembered that time on the Lunar Base when our captors had shut off the oxygen to our cell and how he'd just freakin' meditated himself down to something like three breaths a minute.

The guy was impressive. In more ways than the aforementioned verbal ninja smack attack.

I leaned into the room and debated how best to take my boots off soundlessly.

Despite being in Undetectable Mode, Wufei still called me out long before the urge to pounce became overwhelming. "Took you long enough," he informed me.

"Trowa might agree with you there," I retorted, feeling a bit evil. "The man's got a serious case of unresolved sexual tension."

Wufei didn't dignify that with a response. Somehow I wasn't surprised.

"So," I began again. "Let's have it. Heero and Quatre have both said their piece."

He snorted softly. "And you've made the trip down here to deliver a pound of flesh?"

Had I? Wait. This is what Wufei does. He has a PhD in Mindfuckery. "Forget it then, man," I replied, turning to go.

"Life is very fragile, Maxwell," I heard him say softly. I didn't turn around and look at him again. I just waited and braced myself.

"Take care of each other," he concluded.

And, with that, I released the breath I'd been holding. "Will do," I promised and then got my ass the hell outta there. It wasn't until I felt the pull of gravity in the elevator as I rode it up to the residential floor that Wufei's words really hit me.

In marrying Trowa, I was accepting – to some extent – responsibility for his happiness and wellbeing. And, given what I was pretty sure was gonna happen in the wake of the ceremony and our little addition to public record...


I leaned against the wall of the elevator and tried not to throw up.

Damn Wufei . He hits you where you least expect it every freakin' time and he doesn't pull his punches, either. There's a reason why I go to so much effort to mock and irritate him during the daylight hours: because even the smallest comment from him has the power to torment you all frickin' night long until you cry uncle and promise your first born to whatever gods of sleep exist in exchange for an hour of respite from your own thoughts.

Is that the voice of experience, you ask? No freakin' comment. OK?

So, yeah. I'm not saying I didn't sleep well that night but, if I hadn't, at least I would've known whose fault it was.

The next morning I was up at the crack of dawn – well, OK, 6:32 but close enough – and I shocked the mocha java outta Bret when I strutted into the lobby of my corporate purgatory across the street.

"I must be hallucinating," he declared with some small amount of panache, setting down his still-steaming cup of coffee and showily rubbing his eyes.

I help up a finger in a mute demand for him to hold that thought and continued my journey over to the vending machines near the elevator bank. A card swipe later and I had a bottle of something cold, fizzy, and glowing with neon food coloring to give me a jolt. I was pretty sure my second wind wouldn't be making an appearance until something like 9:30 so I'd need all the sugar and caffeine I could get. Not that I made a habit out of drinking tooth-rot-in-a-bottle, but at least one occasion arose every week in which I deemed the evil a necessity. Today, I could tell already, was going to be one of those days.

Returning to the lobby reception desk where Bret was still eying me like a man seeing an approaching alien life form, I commenced with my classic Maxwell Lean of Nonchalance against the polished teak.

"So, g'morning an' all that," I greeted, popping open the lid on the pop bottle and taking a sip of manly proportions.

"Good morning," he replied a bit woodenly. He blinked at me a couple of times and I smiled.

"Got a question for ya, man," I segued. Generally speaking, it's to your advantage to launch an attack while the enemy is still figuratively grabbing for his ass. "If a guy were gettin' hitched, who would he see about a change in living arrangements?"

It was fun watching Bret process that. It almost made up for the hour I'd spent the night before dithering over if it was already too late to drop in on Trowa once more (despite the fact that we'd exchanged our goodnights – rather enthusiastically and wordlessly – on my threshold not an hour earlier). It also almost made up for the guilt that was nibbling away at my ass regarding the fact that I still hadn't told Trowa the game plan for getting all five of us the hell outta here for good. The guy still had no clue as to what he'd signed on for and I was thinking a bit too much of myself if I thought for even a minute that a little nookie from me was gonna make up for it. I just prayed that, when all was said and done, that the ends would justify the means.

Oh, I was pretty sure Trowa – chameleon that he is – would be OK once the shit hit the fan, but I just could not afford to take the risk of being overheard or spied on. If I were an artist, this mission would be my masterpiece and there could not be any unveiling prior to it being completed. If my plans were exposed, that would be the end of it. We'd probably never have another shot at this. And, dammit, I didn't care how badly Q's puppy dog eyes tugged at my heartstrings, I was not agreeing to spend the rest of my life as a corporate slave again. Death first, I say. And since I was 99.9% sure Trowa felt the same, the guilt backed off and started sniffing around for a fire hydrant to piss on.

I took another sip of unnaturally flavored citrus-something carbonated whatever and waited for Bret to get all his ducks in a row.

"Is that a hypothetical question, Mr. Maxwell?" he finally inquired.

I gave him my-just-between-us-guys grin. "Come this Sunday it won't be."

He blinked again and then rallied with a heartfelt-sounding, "Congratulations."

"Thanks. So... who do I gotta see about gettin' a place for two?"

"I'll check," he offered eagerly enough and I lounged as he punched the button for the outside line and got on the horn. Well, I guess it looked like I was lounging. I wasn't of course. Microtransmitters don't plant themselves, y'know.

I fished the innocuous-looking device from my pants pocket. Until this morning, I'd been keeping it and the data it contained hidden in a concealed compartment in the heel of my boot. Hence my love for my boots.

God bless Howard. He totally set me up for this day when he figured out where things were headed. I'm pretty sure he's got a soft spot for the five of us, given all the trouble he'd gone to back then to set things up for our eventual escape. The email code he was using to spam me with updates via the WEI Charitable Works inbox was new and completely different from our wartime encryption. Another helpful item was this microtransmitter on which I'd stored the compound's layout schematics and security system specs. Five minutes after Quatre had told us his plan to keep us out of prison for life, I'd scouted the sites we'd likely be sent to. I'd known we wouldn't end up on the colonies. Too much room for mischief there what with the five of us being trained to within an inch of our lives (literally) on how to hack and crack every electronic system in the known universe. No, they couldn't seal us up on a colony that we might one day take over. Hell, thirteen minutes with the colony database and we'd be freakin' kings in space. They'd have to get Zechs to blast up the whole colony. Pretty sure he'd do it, too. Psycho bastard.

But no, there'd been no colony life for us. Unsurprisingly, they'd sent us to Earth. Somewhere remote. This and three other WEI installations had fit the bill. I'd hacked and downloaded everything on each of them and saved them on this nice, handy-dandy microtransmitter. Now all I had to do was clamp it on an outside line and the data would be blasted off to some old, wartime contacts. One of which – namely, Howard – was now in a position to supply the logistics needed for an extraction.

Yeah, Howard probably already had all the building schematics and shit, but what he didn't have was a sign from someone on the inside that they were willing to break out. That was the key. Given the guys Howard was currently in bed with (and wasn't that a helluva visual!), he'd have to prove we wanted out before they risked an assault. But I was pretty sure it was a risk they'd deem worth taking if they thought they could get the immediate cooperation of at least one former Gundam pilot.

The trick, though, was I couldn't let the defector be identified, not if I wanted to get all five of us out. If they figured out that I'd sent the message, then they'd only take me, which wouldn't do a whole shit-lotta good for the rest of my plan.

So, today I implemented phase one, using a semi-public phone. With all the signal hopping my message was programmed to do, it'd take a whole lotta computing to track it to either its source or destination and by the time someone found this little gizmo attached to the phone line, I was planning on not being anywhere near here.

So, when Bret got on the phone, I dangled my hands over the edge of the desk near the back of the device and, using the day-glo pop bottle as cover, I clipped the tiny, black wire cuff to the equally black phone cord. The needle-like metal contact on the inside of the microtransmitter slid into the rubbery sheathe of the cord and tapped into the metal wires.

I was in.

And as Bret was currently using an outside line to talk to someone in HQ, that meant my little bundle of joy was already on its way. I figured it'd take the better part of three days for Howard to scramble the jets – one for decoding and tracing the message, another for blowing hot air and kissing ass, and a third for actual logistics to be sorted – so I calculated a comfortable four-day window before our "rescue.” Howard would still need a diversion in order to get into the compound and that's why I needed a cozy honeymoon hut for two.

As Bret hung up the phone, I asked, "So what did the grande guajolotes say?"

He gave me a thumbs-up. "Security has to reissue you and your spouse new pass cards and key them to one of the empty suites."

"Ah. So you need the name of my fiancé, huh?"

"That's the general idea."

"Trowa Barton," I answered with a twinge of anticipation, wondering how that was going to go over with good ol' Bret.

He gave me another blink, glanced at the braid of hair snaking over my shoulder, and nodded. Now generally, I like Bret. As I mentioned before, he's got a sense of humor to go with the Taser in his sidearm holster. A plus in anyone's book. But I had to restrain myself from clocking him for that little gesture. Just because a guy's got long hair doesn't mean shit when it comes to his sexual orientation. I had to let him think it did, though. Running around and screaming "I'm straaaaaight!" at the top of my lungs wasn't gonna be terribly productive.

Besides, I wasn't so sure I was straight when it came to Trowa "The Kiss Master" Barton. I took another sip of pop instead of fidgeting guiltily.

Bret continued, "I'll let security know."

"So we can expect a visit later?" I checked.

"Highly likely," he conferred.

"Right-o, I guess that means I have time for my cornflakes after all.” I sauntered over to the door, tossing a wave over my shoulder. I considered heading upstairs, but I knew I'd just be resisting the urge to ring Trowa's bell. (In more ways than one. Heh.) And come this time Monday morning, we were probably going to be getting our fill of getting in each other's way if we were cohabiting by that time, so I detoured myself to the cafeteria.

The coffee was perking and it smelled fresh, so I ditched the partially drunk bottle of fizz and fetched myself something decent to drug myself with. I then found myself some company. Heero was ensconced in a chair at a table that was near the door but shielded from immediate discovery by people entering. Typical. I plunked my tray down across from his sweating water bottle and empty dishes.

"You're sitting in Trowa's chair," Heero informed me.

"He's not using it," I pointed out. "Besides, when he gets here, he can have mine."

Heero blinked at me, clearly not amused. "You do not have a usual chair at this table."

I patted my thigh. "Seat transference," I explained and grinned as Heero got it.

"I am not going to have a conversation with someone sitting on your lap."

"Huh. That's a first," I remarked. “You've never explained why you're not going to talk to someone."

He grunted.

It was nice baiting Heero. Hell, it was even nice having a little heat of irritation back in his glare, but we didn't have much to talk about, he and I. We worked well together when we had a common objective, but small talk? Not so much.

Luckily, at that precise moment, guess who showed up?

"Hey!" I greeted, craning my neck over backwards to greet the owner of the silent yet intent gaze I could feel on the back of my head. I happily whipped out my biggest, moronic grin at the sight of Trowa regarding me from the doorway.

"Hey," he replied softly, an understated smile dancing upon his lips. "You're in my chair."

"I'm saving your chair," I corrected with a wink.

He stepped forward and, dropping a kiss on my forehead, remarked, "How lucky I am to have such a considerate man for a fiancé."

He went to fetch some sustenance, leaving me awkwardly draped all over the damn place, grinning like a true idiot now and wrestling with the suddenly panicking hive of bees buzzing through my veins. Damn, but the man had an amazing talent for making shampoo and soap smell damn fine.

Untwisting myself from over the back of the chair, I sat forward and met Heero's contemplative gaze. There was something in his eyes that was dark. Something I'd say could almost be called protective.

"So you're bi?" he asked me and it was just as well I hadn't started in on my cereal because I probably would have choke-coughed it all back out and splattered him. I enjoyed breathing sans the pain of cracked ribs too much to actually do such a thing (and I'm pretty sure Heero would crack one or two of them for me in retaliation for being cornflaked on), but what a fantastic mental image I had pirouetting through my head!

"Er, looks that way," I hedged. As uncomfortable as it was to admit, Trowa did things to my libido that no one else in my (admittedly limited) experience had ever managed.

"Have you asked Trowa about his preferences?"

Um, no. Obviously I hadn't. In the grand scheme of the mission, it hadn't been all that important. Still wasn't, as a matter of fact. It ain't pretty, but that's the deal: Trowa's sexual preferences were need-to-know and, in order to get us the hell outta here, I didn't need to know.

"He hasn't made a secret out of it," I temporized again.

"Dammit, Duo," Heero growled softly. He gaze darted off in the direction of the coffee station which I took to mean that Trowa was already heading back this way. I decided to cut to the heart of the issue.

"Look, man. I dunno why this has your ass all a-twitch now, but when I get up there on Sunday and say my vows, I'm gonna be making Trowa what amounts to one helluva promise.” I gave Heero a hard look. "You know I keep my promises."

"I know," he growled unhappily, his voice trailing off and I braced myself for the inevitable "but..."

"That's enough," Trowa said calmly, returning to the table and cutting through our staring contest.

Amazingly, Heero actually gave him a belligerent glare. Trowa didn't even meet it as he replied, "I'm a big boy. I know what I'm doing."

Well, hello, Guilt! Welcome back! Scone?

To hide the restless shifting of my guilty conscience, I hefted my ass outta Trowa's usual chair and, borrowing a chair from the neighboring table, I plunked myself down on his left. Hell, not only was I intruding on Heero and Trowa's breakfast club, but there again was that annoying reminder that I was keeping Trowa in the dark about this whole mission. Having been there and done that only fifteen minutes ago, I focused on shoveling calories into my gullet and getting the hell outta there.

Trowa, apparently, had other ideas. He actually reached over and pulled the bowl out from under my spoon with a soft, "Where's the fire?"

For once, it wasn't in my pants, thank God, so I could reply with a wry grin. "T-minus thirty seconds unless Heero tones it down from incinerate to broil."

Trowa hummed and damned if he didn't give Heero a look right back. "Knock it off, Yuy."

The glare Heero gave him in response to that promised that Words would be exchanged later. Words of the epic and possibly God-of-Genesis variety. I experienced a weird moment of pride in response to the thought that Trowa could handle whatever Heero was intending to throw at him. I'm not saying Trowa's the atheist to Heero's One God in that situation, but he just has this unruffle-able calm. I mean, I could offer to abduct Tro and hide him from the Wrath of Heero, but... nah. I'd rather cheer from the sidelines.

"Duo?" I glanced up as Quatre strolled through the door, Wufei just a half step behind him.


"But... it's seven o'clock in the morning.” The poor guy seemed completely befuddled.

"That it is," I gravely concurred, lifting my coffee cup for a gulp.

With the arrival of the others, Heero seemed to deflate and Trowa relaxed. It was actually kinda nice having breakfast with everyone. Although even this wouldn't be motivation enough to get me to roll my ass outta bed at 6:30 a.m. every day but, then again, it wasn't as if we'd all be here that much longer, anyway.

Wufei called my cereal dog food and I called his bowl of rice-in-tea baby puke. Quatre pretended we were behaving ourselves and mentioned something about helping Trowa and I get new suits on Saturday. I kicked Heero under the table for the hell of it and sneakily rubbed my knee against the side of Trowa's thigh.

Fun times. Fun times. All made possible thanks to copious amounts of caffeine. Bhoo yeah.

Heading across the street to start the workday was not nearly as entertaining and I had to stop transferring the lint from my suit jacket – pinch-of-fluff by pinch-of-fluff – to Quatre's pristine clothing in order to tell Trowa to expect some sort of interaction with the security golems soon.

"They're gonna wanna confirm our request for shared living quarters," I obligingly explained in response to that expectantly-lifted-single-brow thing he does instead of actually bother to cough up a few words. Christ. I wasn't sure how I ought to feel about the fact that, at some point, Trowa had trained me to answer his nonverbal cues. Maybe he did have a pet flea. A flea named Duo Maxwell.

At least I was an attentive flea. I answered all his unuttered questions, walked closer to him than I did to the others and just generally did that couples' thing where you know two people are a unit even though they're not in physical contact with each other.

I nodded to Bret and he gave me another thumbs-up. I guess things would be moving ahead today, then. That was a relief.

The elevator ride was a bit of a crush that could have soured my mood in less than two seconds flat, but I used it to my advantage, taking half a step back until I was pretty much leaning my back against Trowa's chest. I felt his hand on my waist and I had to fiddle with my necktie to distract myself from, um, whatever. Yeah, was it suddenly hot in the elevator or was it just me? Couldn't be me. I just wasn't used to riding it at full capacity this early in the morning. Twenty people in an enclosed space generate a lot of body heat. No, seriously.

Ahem. Anyway...

Trowa walked me to my cubicle, brushing a hand down my arm as he promised in a soft voice that he'd see me at lunchtime. Of course, I argued back.

"Not unless I see you first.” I winked. He grinned. And then I watched him make his way toward the closet au chems.

This was probably the first time I'd sat my ass down in my chair on time since, maybe, the second week of our lease on life-as-public-servants. My boss clearly didn't know what to make of it, which was good for a moment or two's amusement. Sure, I booted up the computer and stared at the company charity division's inbox for a bit, but mostly I was wondering how the whole security thing would play out.

In the end, it was kinda disappointing. A pencil pusher from HR stopped by my cube and thrust a small tower of documents at me.

"New residential quarters request forms," he explained before geeking himself back to his workstation.

I glared at the forms. And here I'd been imagining a glorious display of ham-handed authority: lugs from security manhandling me down to a detention cell or interrogation room while they grilled me about my relationship with Trowa. Yeah, there I was, eatin' the drama of it up with a spoon, and then a dweeb from the troll department smothered it... in triplicate.

Thumbing through the papers, I felt my brows rise. Holy fuck. If I had to fill all these damn things out by myself, we'd be married and living separately a frickin' year from now.

I flipped through them and decided, after some painful honestly, that I could probably get most of this done by the end of lunch if I busted my ass and called in some reinforcements. Right. Ninmu ryoukai.

As it was closest, the first stop in my troop-mustering circuit was Heero's desk. I was a little surprised to find it empty and Quatre's office door pulled nearly shut.

What the hell? Since when did Yuy leave his desk in the middle of his shift? I hadn't felt an earthquake, didn't see a hurricane bearing down on us through the windows, couldn't smell smoke... Damn. And here I'd pretty much figured that it'd take a natural disaster to pry his ass outta that chair before noon.

The sound of voices drew my attention toward the almost-closed door. As nonchalantly as possible, I approached the target on silent feet.

"...clear he doesn't know. This is a bad idea," I could hear Heero growling.

Quatre sighed. "Even if that's so, it's his choice."

"Moron," Heero summarized in his usual succinct manner. "I told him to follow his emotions, not let them lead him around by the nose."

"I'll talk to him," Quatre offered in that rallying tone that never fails to evoke the hell-yes-we-can! vibe. It was practically a genetic response. And yeah, I knew the story of how Quatre'd won over the Maguanacs, but I'd bet Q had used that tone at some point and – I'm just sayin' – it couldn't have hurt.

It didn't work on Heero, though. "Talk.” He snorted. "It won't do any good."

Quatre replied with the ever-sagely remark: "Then we'll have to let it go and trust it all to work out in the end."

Heero muttered something in response. I think I heard the words "train wreck" in there, but I was more interested in making my escape now that it sounded like the conversation was over with and Heero'd be returning to his station momentarily.

I booked it down to the maintenance cubby.

I glanced over my shoulder as I rapped my knuckles on the door and, despite the fact that the angle was wrong and I couldn't see Heero's desk from this point in the aisle, I felt adrenaline surge through me at the thought of him maybe scenting my ass-shredding guilt and following after me. Or maybe my stinging conscience was leaving a blood trail in my wake.

I hadn't heard any names mentioned, but I figured it had to be me Heero'd been bitching out. So, my secret plan was not as secret as I thought. What was slightly more surprising was that they seemed to think that Trowa hadn't figured it out yet. I guess he really was just that good an actor.

My salvation arrived with the opening of the door and I lunged into the room. It was a tight fit. I kicked a plastic bucket, stumbled against Trowa, and then nudged the door shut behind me with the heel of my useless dress shoe. I placed my hands – well, my free hand and the fistful of mind-numbing forms – against Trowa's upper arms, intending to lever myself off of him.

That's what I intended. Didn't quite happen that way, though.


"Um... surprise!" I chirped, rattling a soft chuckle loose from him. I tried not to notice how the sound somehow made his presence seem, I dunno, warmer... better... more freakin' everything?

"And it's not even my birthday."

Which reminded me... "When is that, by the way? I've got to write it down in triple-triplated-triplicate a couple thousand times."

"No idea," he murmured, his hands settling on my hips. "It says February 3rd, after colony 179 on my official ID."

"I'll use that, then.”

At this point, I would have reached for the pen clipped to my jacket lapel and jotted it down if Trowa hadn't massaged my sides through three layers of fabric and purred, "Triplicate with care."

And, oh man, when he used that growly whisper, my hormones stood at attention. The word "triplicate" was not supposed to sound like "fornicate"... was it?

"Um...” That's as far as I got before I realized this was so not the moment for talking. He was in my space or I was in his – there was no way to objectively determine which was the case – and his mouth was brushing mine. Fireworks whizzed and burst in my blood vessels as I inhaled and the scent of him made me remember his taste and damn but I wanted...!

The next thing I knew, his tongue was in my mouth and he was pressing me back against the door. I dimly heard the rustle of pages as I wound my arms around his neck. I was 99% sure that security didn't have the closet bugged, but it was the very last thing on my mind. To hell with giving people a free show. I just freakin' did not care.

It boggled my mind that Trowa was firing up each and every booster rocket I had and, as the kiss deepened, rocked and rolled, I was discovering just how populated my personal arsenal seemed to be.

Eventually, I just had to—

"Stop!" I hissed. Despite that wholehearted assertion, I found my free hand clutching his shirt which I was rather rudely tugging up and out of the waistband of his company-issued khakis. A band of naturally tanned skin met my gaze and I had to close my eyes and focus on releasing his clothes.

"Sorry," I muttered, not quite sure of what else I could say.

He hummed at me. I was starting to think it was the standard Trowa purr for acknowledging the fact that I'd said something either too stupid to dignify with a response or something that was blatantly obvious. Or... wait. Weren't those two pretty much interchangeable?

"I'm not," he finally informed me, rubbing his chin along the edge of my jaw. "Accost me in a closet anytime."

Oh, God. I was totally in the closet with him. I bit down on a slightly hysterical giggle.

"Well," I rallied, "you were taking too long to waylay me."

"Impatient as well as prone to a short attention span," he summarized. He could have pretended to sound more put out about it, but I was kinda glad he didn't. He actually kinda made it sound like my character flaws were about five-and-a-half kinds of awesome.

"And wimpy in the face of bureaucratic paperwork," I added, rustling the slightly crumpled forms which I'd somehow not dropped in the tussle.

Trowa turned his attention to them and flipped through the sheaf with a few graceful flicks of his long fingers.

Shit. What the hell was wrong with me? I was noticing the man's fingers for Christ's sake!

"Ah," he remarked with deceptive blandness. "Change of residence forms.” I found myself being the wide-eyed recipient of a very sultry stare. "I'll help you fill those out at lunch, shall I?"

"Er, yeah. Unless you want to be married and living separately for the foreseeable future."

"Is that an option?" he asked in a carefully neutral tone.

"No.” It absolutely was not. I needed to be in a normal residential suite and I needed a partner to be ready to supply a distraction while I tended to the next part of my master plan. "I need you with me," I informed him, only belatedly realizing how that could be taken two distinct ways. The arousal that was pressing mindlessly against the warm, solid heat of his thigh seemed to imply something, er, not mission-related.

I winced in anticipation of Trowa's oncoming reaction.

To my surprise, he tucked a knuckle under my chin and tilted my face up to his. He met my gaze and solemnly vowed, "Then that's what you'll have."

There wasn't a single, solitary iota of sex in his tone, but hearing his words sent a shiver through me nonetheless. "That's what I love about you, Tro," I tried to tease. My voice came out a bit too thick to manage it, though. "Your spectacular leaps of faith.” And the fact that, like a cat, he somehow always managed to land on his feet.

His gaze seemed to soften, although I couldn't tell ya why it did. Feeling a little put on the spot now, I crab-scuttled my way sideways into a new topic. "So, now that I'm here, are you gonna give me a tour or what?"

"Now that you've invited yourself in, you mean?" he teased back gamely.

"Hah. See if I ever surprise you again."

"Oh, did it sound like I was complaining?"

"Well, since you've still got a hand on my ass, I'm guessin' you weren't."

"My hand is not anywhere near your ass."

"True, but I could tell you were thinking about it."

"Point," Trowa conceded.

Smirking, I commenced with a thorough study of the closet and its contents. I felt my brows arch and my eyes widen as I spotted a very unfriendly blue liquid in a translucent bottle. I whistled low and long. "Damn. Does this building even have proper ventilation for using that shit?” To my knowledge, it was one of the most corrosive degreasing and cleaning agents known to mankind.

Glancing over his shoulder at the shelf I was currently blinking at, he rolled a shoulder. "Doubtful. I've never had to use it."

"Yeah, not much call for scraping up charred plasma around here, huh?"

"But when you put it like that..." he drawled, his tone turning contemplative and suggestive.

I waggled my brows at him and asked in a low, sultry tone, "Lemme guess. You're thinkin' about gettin' up close and personal with some blacked gunk now, aren't ya?"

Trowa groaned softly. Oddly enough, he made the sound seem both pained and desperately wanting. "Get your ass out of here, Duo. There's too much wood in this room as it is."

"You're kicking me out? That's cruel, man. Cruel.” But I went. It took a bit of shifting and an instance of stumbling, but we eventually got the door open and I flailed my way into the cube-y aisle. I didn't wait around to see Trowa and his mop cart off on the daily wipe down of the break room. I had forms to mutilate and some petty theft to contemplate.

Oh, yes. Things were lookin' up. And I'm not only talking about the things on the other side of my trouser fly, although that was something to take into account as well. I scowled slightly as I realized that in a little over 48 hours, I was going to be a married man and the goings-on in my shorts might end up being not only my concern. As my husband, Trowa was going to have every right to investigate my attraction to him and, thus far, he hadn't given me any indication of a boundary line in our relationship.

That should have been more worrisome that it actually was. And the fact that I wasn't worried actually worried me quite a bit, to be honest.



Ah ha!! In this chapter, we have an appearance by a close cousin of Sunhawk's Guilt Beast, which lurks throughout her wonderful Heero/Duo Ion Arc. I simply had to pay tribute. Besides, with a past like Duo's, there's no way he could escape that lumbering monster.

Wufei's breakfast could actually be a Japanese dish called "ochazuke" which is rice, spices and other flavorings like fish or wasabi or pickled plum, in green tea with stuff like nori (dried seaweed) for garnish. I love it. It's the bestest ever.

"Follow your emotions" is actual advice Heero gives to someone during the series. And that someone is not Duo. If you can guess who it is he's actually talking about (and not who Duo assumes he's talking about) then you can probably guess why Heero's peeved and who he's peeved at. If you can't guess, no worries. I'll come back to this point later.

Trowa's birthday was randomly chosen by me. In this 'verse, it hasn't occurred to Trowa that he might actually be the long-thought-dead, younger brother of Catherine Bloom (i.e., Triton Bloom).

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