Author: The Manwell
Notes:
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 6: Nostalgic for Disaster

The only thing I haven't done yet is die...

Work on Monday morning was, well, y'know... it was work on Monday morning. That's kinda one of the staples of modern life, right? I did my little dance at Wufei's cubicle, ordered Heero to grow a sense of optimism, warned Quatre away from the deep end of the bureaucratic pool, and kept my ass the hell outta Trowa's little temple of temptation. Somewhere between brushing my teeth and oohing-and-ahhing over Bret's monster log photos from his fishing trip two weekends ago, I'd decided that if Trowa was going to continue onward with his campaign to make me lust unrepentantly after him, then I was going to be as obnoxious as possible about it. Oh, yeah. We'd see who caved first. We'd just see about that.

"What are you drinking?" Trowa wondered aloud, eying my fizz du jour warily.

I hadn't tried to avoid him for lunch, so here we were, contemplating the bright blue carbonated beverage I'd just punched out of the vending machine. We were very obviously not talking about last night... or the kiss from this morning... or the implied more that was probably gonna happen later.

Oh, yeah. Denial wasn't just some overrated riverside resort area in Egypt. We were up to our unmentionables in it right smack dab in the middle of the eight floor of purgatory.

My grin was lopsided with mockery. "This?" I asked waving the bottle of blue bubbly back and forth. "I have no idea what the hell this is, but it's guaranteed to turn my tongue blue."

Trowa snorted, his lips twitching. "Are there any other body parts you'd like to dye a primary color?"

Despite the fact that I was slightly on edge today for more than one reason, I silently marveled at our ability to sit here and banter like old beer buddies. Was it just me or was our marriage just freakin' bizarre? And we were still in the "honeymoon" phase.

"Well, there's the clichéd ‘red-handed'," I mused aloud, cranking open the bottle cap and releasing a burst of carbonated pressure.

"And ‘yellow-bellied'," Trowa offered with dry amusement.

I took a swig of my Kool Razzberry Rush and manfully held back the grimace of disgust. Man! What the hell kinda crap did they put in these drinks and why in the hell didn't some government public health office shut these people down already? I was pretty sure I was drinking fizzified radiator fluid.

Despite that, I gave Trowa a knowing grin. "And you're the green-eyed monster?" I teased.

Those green eyes – well I could only see the one, but I assumed they tended to work in concert – narrowed. Trowa leaned forward, very deliberately bared his teeth, and then he freakin' growled at me.

I just about knocked my own chair over laughing. Damn but it was easy to like Trowa. It was easy to more than like him. I could tell this little contest of ours was going to be one hell of an interesting challenge. And I wasn't anywhere near ready to cry "uncle."

"Hey, babe," I inquired after I'd wound down.

"Yes, darling Duo?" He ruined the deadpan delivery with a playful smirk.

"How's my tongue?" I stuck it out at him.

He shook his head, breathing out a chuckle. "Blue-ish."

"Awesome. One down; only a couple hundred body parts left to go."

Instead of Trowa joshing me about my choice of pastime, he inquired, "And just how many people are connected to the body parts you're plotting to... dye?"

"It's a short list," I consoled him.

He didn't look reassured. "Hm."

I took another swig of the swill and then, leaning closer, I purred softly, "Wanna help me find out if this stuff is, ah, transferable?"

Trowa's visible eyebrow arched with wry amusement. "Don't you mean ‘contagious'?"

"Hah. You only wish I was contagious."

"I thought we were talking about your cosmetic coloring."

I shrugged and grinned unrepentantly. "Hey. Love me, love my blue tongue."

"Hm," Trowa replied on a quiet purr of his own. "You have a point."

Shocked as I was by not only my sudden victory in our war of words, but also by what he'd implied in the process of forfeiting, I didn't even bump him back when I felt his leg rub deliberately against mine beneath the break room table.

I had to remind myself yet again that Trowa was just doing what was necessary for the good of the mission and, at this point, maintaining our cover of hormonal newlyweds was the priority. Still, there could not be a better actor in the whole damn Earth Sphere. Trowa was top shelf, as far as that goes.

Returning to our respective work routines at one p.m. was just as dissatisfying as our parting had been that morning. Our brief exchange, which consisted of a "See ya later" and the following acknowledgement of that declaration – "You know where I live", was just so painfully full of potential torment that I burned to take it a step further. But really, what could you say in the middle of the office in front of freakin' everybody? "I'll race you to the bed, hot stuff" just wasn't kosher. "You rocked my world last night; let's have an encore" wasn't much better.

Part of me was just frickin' gob smacked that I even wanted to be with him That Way again. But another part of me, a part which wore combat boots and carried a garrote and smiled a grin full of sharp teeth, was rolling up his black shirt sleeves and cracking his knuckles, preparing to have an awesome time kicking my metaphorical ass.

Focus, Maxwell, Shinigami warned me in a scary sing-song.

Still, I was allowed one more glimpse of my own husband, wasn't I?

In the midst of forcing myself to take another drink of blue bile, I put off that oncoming sip – cap in one hand and bottle in the other – and glanced back over my shoulder. I was still moving in the general direction of my cube as I savored the sight of Trowa Barton strolling toward his cleaning closet. Reaching his destination, he paused, turned, and suddenly our gazes met. Inexplicably, it felt as if I were moving toward him rather than further away.

And then—!

Smack!

Splash!

Fizz...

"Oh, shit!" I yelped, feeling the ice-cold liquid splatter my hand, arm, chest, and even my chin. I glanced, uncomprehending, at the bottle clutched in my right hand... and then I noticed the fact that I was still holding the cap in my left.

Fan-freakin'-tastic.

I reluctantly turned my attention away from my soaked clothes and toward the obstacle I'd just plowed into.

My boss glowered back at me.

"Um, whoops," I offered, cringing. "Sorry, man." He didn't look all that mollified. "That's probably not gonna stain," I volunteered lamely as he tried – and failed – to incinerate me with his gaze. Hell, I've survived Heero this long and my supervisor had nuthin' on him.

Still, it was a good bet I wouldn't be getting nominated for WEI's Employee-of-the-Year.

Without a word, he pivoted on his heel and stalked down the aisle, disappearing into the men's bathroom. Now, yeah, the collision had probably been my fault, but there was no way in everlasting hell I was gonna follow him in there. In all honesty, it wasn't as if he'd gotten frickin' drenched like I had. That little sprinkle on his light blue dress shirt was hardly enough to bother with. I, on the other hand, was gonna be a walking ball of half-dried, sticky syrup in T-minus fifteen minutes.

I sighed.

"Duo?" Trowa called softly from right behind me. He must have seen the whole embarrassing thing.

"Thanks for warning me," I grumbled.

He retorted, "As if there was time."

Yeah. That's how these sorts of things tended to happen: sudden-like. I summoned a sarcastic smile and informed him, "That's what happens when you engage in unprotected beverage transport!" I held up the now half-empty bottle, blueness dripping from my suit sleeve and shirt cuff onto the carpet tiles.

Despite the fact that I was clearly making a mess that he'd have to clean up, Trowa's lips twitched. He didn't outright laugh at me, though, so I guess that counted for something.

"C'mon," he urged, nudging me toward the janitorial closet.

Knowing that there was a water faucet as well as a plethora of other things that would aid me in my quest to renew my cleanliness, I stumbled my ass in there without much more prompting. When Trowa moved as if to squeeze himself inside with me, I warned him off.

"It's cool, babe. I got it." He paused on the threshold, but hovered uncertainly. Well, as uncertain as Trowa gets. It was more of a psychic vibe I picked up on than an actual worried expression. I continued, "'Sides, both of us aren't gonna fit in here with your crash cart."

"We did before," he daringly pointed out and that little smirk of his joined the conversation.

I gave him a wink. I was onto him. Oh, yes I was. "Yeah, but now there's an actual chance that we'll get, y'know, stuck together. Literally." The soda was already starting to congeal, adhering itself to my skin in an itchy, sugary film.

Clearly sensing my nonnegotiable refusal, Trowa remarked, "In that case, we'll try your transference experiment another time."

"You can count on it!" I enthused, glad that he'd let it go without more of a fuss. He leaned in and grabbed a spray bottle of carpet cleaner and a rag.

"Paper towels," he informed me, pointing to a shelf beside my head. "Hand soap." Another point to another shelf. "Cold water only," he concluded, gesturing at the facet.

"Roger that," I said and he left me to it.

I didn't waste time admiring the scenery. As soon as the door shut behind me, I got the hell to work. I enjoyed Trowa's hospitality, helping myself to the necessities as I dealt with the mess on myself as best I could.

I passed him as I headed back to my desk and noticed the used rag in his hand. Damn, he'd just cleaned up my puddle for me. Head slightly bowed in contrition, I said, "Thanks. I owe you one."

He appeared rather happy to hear it and, smiling softly, replied, "I look forward to collecting on that."

Yeah, I'll just bet he was.

When I plunked my ass down in my chair, clothes still sticky and blue-ish, my boss, who had returned from the restroom, pointedly ignored me. I ignored him back – hell, even I knew when not to rock the frickin' boat. I set the bottle of gunk on my desk and got the hell to work.

Although I had every reason to make a mad dash for the elevators at quitting time, I stayed at my desk, playing with the now-safely-capped bottle of blue stuff. I was waiting for everyone to clean up and go before I went to find Trowa and offer to help him finish up whatever he was buffing, mopping, or dusting. He found me first, however.

"Looks like I'll be dragging you into a shower... again," he remarked softly, reminding me of our after-swim bathing session on Saturday. Jesus. Had that only been two whole days ago? Christ.

"Inviting yourself to join me?" I teased back, collecting the jacket I'd discarded after lunch and my pop bottle.

Trowa's gaze zeroed in on the latter's presence. "You didn't dump that out?"

I gave him a look of outrage. "No way! That'd be like giving up and I want revenge, dammit."

I got to see Trowa's wry smirk. It'd been conspicuously absent for the last few days, pushed aside by a variety of his sexily amused grins. "You want revenge for walking around with an open bottle of Kool Razzberry Crush and then not watching where you're going?" he checked.

"It's Razzberry Rush," I corrected petulantly, determined to find some error in his reasoning, no matter how superficial.

He laughed softly as the office emptied around us. "Only you, Duo," he rumbled affectionately. "Only you."

We followed the herd toward the elevators and endured the ride down. Catching sight of me as I crossed the lobby, Bret called out with embarrassing candidness: "What in the world happened to you, Mr. Maxwell?" He then noticed the half empty bottle in my hand and chuckled. "You know you're not supposed to shake those before you open them, right?"

"Tell that to him," I retorted, nodding at Trowa and directing all the blame his way.

We were nearly to the doors at the point, so Bret didn't offer a parting comment. Trowa, however, quietly observed, "So now it's my fault?"

"You're the reason I crashed and totaled my, um, beverage."

"Ogling me again?" he teased, placing a hand at the small of my back as we crossed the drive between the buildings.

I snorted to cover up the fact that he'd pretty much lined up my biggest weakness in his crosshairs. I fought back. "What makes you think you have anything ogle-worthy?"

"This," he replied and I watched, helplessly, as he lifted a hand to the collar of his shirt and deftly undid the first button. When his hand drifted down to the next in the row, I gulped.

But he paused there and, teasingly, concluded, "Enough said."

Really, what could I say to that? He'd caught me red-handed, so to speak.

It was just as well that we were still following the herd because I might have done something emotionally demonstrative in the elevator if we'd been alone. It was a toss-up between flipping him the bird and knocking his ass to the floor before I freakin' climbed down his throat.

Ahem.

The elevator pinged, delivering us to our floor. We strolled to our door. We scanned. We swiped. And as soon as the door whispered shut behind us, we just sort of crashed into each other like high tide against towering cliffs. I couldn't tell you who was the wall of rock and who was the surging ocean. It didn't really matter at that moment, anyway.

What mattered was I finally had him right where I wanted him, right where I'd been wanting him all damn day.

I groaned as he pulled away and applied his mouth to my neck. "You missed a spot," he murmured and proceeded to suck the purported droplet from my skin.

I had no proof there actually was a trace of the blue bilk on my neck, and I wouldn't put it past Trowa to make up a story about one being there. "Excuses, excuses," I complained, stumbling us toward the bathroom. With one hand, I gripped the back of his neck, urging him forward as I shuffled backward blindly. In the other hand, I clutched the pop bottle.

"Leave it," he growled, nibbling at my ear. It wasn't until he reached for the Razzberry-whatever in my grasp that I replied.

"No," I breathed, turning toward his mouth and biting his lower lip. "It's coming with us." I rubbed my hips against his. "Color transference," I reminded him in a sultry tone.

"I object," he retorted, reaching for my shirtfront and leaning in to tease me with tiny licks and nibbles on my panting mouth.

"Objection noted." I grunted as I came up against the wall. Damn, I'd missed the bathroom doorway entirely. Trowa didn't seem to notice my shamefully bad piloting. He leaned in, pressing against me, and braced himself with one arm while wrapping the other around my waist. I reached past him and tossed the bottle into the bathroom sink, grinning when I hit my target. Yeah, my navigation was wonky, but at least my aim was on.

And then I was back to having an armful of hip-rolling, hot-handed, panting Trowa. Christ, he was all over me like we were counting down to the end of the world, like he'd suffered through the entire day because he hadn't been able to touch me, like he couldn't stop himself.

To tell you the truth, I didn't really want him to stop. Hell, I was on the verge of wrapping my legs around his hips just to see what he'd do about it.

And then the doorbell chimed.

"Ignore it," he rasped, his hands reaching for my hips and I actually did raise one of my legs then, hooking my knee over his hip and earning a growl of approval.

I had one arm around his shoulders and the other was popping the buttons loose on his shirt and—

The doorbell chimed for the second time.

"Please," he breathed against my mouth before kissing me deeply. My eyes slid shut in surrender. I wasn't sure if he meant "Please ignore it" or something a little more blatantly X-rated. I decided I didn't care. I liked it when Trowa said "please." I liked it a lot.

Ping! Ping! Ping! Ping!

Holy hell. Someone – namely, the person now freakin' leaning on our Goddamn doorbell – was gonna die a slow, drawn-out, agonizing death.

"Let's kill the bastard," I hissed, rocking my hips against his.

"Yes," he agreed wholeheartedly.

Ping! Ping! Ping!

The hell! Come back in twenty minutes, I wanted to shout but didn't. It wouldn't have done any good. The apartment – like all the others in this damn pile – was freakin' sound-proofed.

"We'll finish this later," Trowa promised, glaring down at me.

I felt my whole body flush at the heat in his gaze. "Oh, yeah."

Reluctantly, I peeled myself off of him and let him stomp – well, OK, it wasn't quite a stomp, but it was Trowa's version of it – over to the door. He had to pause, take a deep breath, and assess the state of his pants before he opened it. He scowled and untucked his shirt so that the slightly wrinkled tails would cover the bulge tenting his fly. As he reached out to swipe his card and open the door, I ducked into the bedroom. I wasn't hiding, not really. I did have to grab a change of clothes.

"What do you want, Quatre?"

I grinned at Trowa's disgruntled tone. Damn, but if someone had told me this time last week, that Trowa had a temper and that he was freakin' steaming with sensuality, I would have laughed my fool ass off. This time last week, I hadn't even given a thought to how he would kiss, if he even liked kissing, or how he'd react to being interrupted in the middle of doing it.

You can learn a lot about someone in a week.

The sound of Quatre's voice cut through my grinning amusement. "Is Duo here with you?" he checked, his tone the embodiment of innocence.

Before I could call out, Trowa growled, "Of course he is. Why do you think it took me so long to answer the door?"

I was pretty sure Quatre was smirking because I could frickin' hear it. "What's up, Q?" I called from the bedroom, not bothering to abandon my search for clean clothes.

"Uh, it's dinner time?" he prompted us.

"Save us a pair of seats," Trowa ordered him in a tone that was very final.

Quatre laughed. "I don't think so. If I walk out of here, it'll be the last I see of you both until tomorrow morning."

He was probably right about that. If I had my way with Trowa or vice versa, we'd probably be too exhausted to bother seeking out food afterward.

Our mutual menace – er, I mean friend – further argued, "You both need to keep up your strength."

And because that was true – very true, considering the mission-related plans I'd made for this evening following dinner – I had to reluctantly agree. Clothing in hand, I moved into the doorway. I tried not to laugh at the tableau on the apartment threshold: Quatre was smirking his lily-white ass off and Trowa was standing there with his hands fisted, looking thoroughly consternated.

"Um, I got slimed at the office today," I informed our guest, gesturing to myself. Quatre's eyes widened at the overabundance of blue stuff staining the right side of my dress shirt. Indicating the clothes I'd just picked out, I explained, "Gotta get changed and then I'll be right with you."

"I'll wait," Quatre happily offered and I thought Trowa was actually going to give in to the urge to strangle him.

"Babe, you wanna eat in your sexy cleaner duds or what?" My teasing tone worked and Trowa took another calming breath before relaxing.

"Give us a minute," he told Quatre and started toward me and the bedroom beyond.

"I hope it takes longer than that," our super CEO muttered and, I swear to God, Trowa almost turned right around and ejected him from our place.

I, on the other hand, chuckled darkly and informed him, "Oh, yeah. A minute is not nearly long enough."

Quatre finally shut the hell up, which was a definite improvement. There wasn't much I could do about his shit-eating grin, though. Trowa brushed past me and went straight to his wardrobe. We changed clothes in record time and, just as I started to head for the living room, he caught my arm gently and whispered, "After dinner..."

"Uh huh," I agreed, leaning in so I could whisper in his ear. "We're gonna be busy."

"Good."

He didn't kiss me and I didn't kiss him. Hell, we both knew that if we got started again, Quatre would have to call for reinforcements to pry us the hell outta the freakin' bedroom.

We were just about the first ones in line for tonight's chow – which I think was something vaguely Chinese, but I just didn't care enough to pay much attention – and Heero and Wufei never did join the three of us. I guessed Heero was probably in the gym and Wufei was either sparring with him, doing one of his katas, or meditating up on the third floor. I suspected that Quatre was going to head back across the street to work after dinner and I wondered if we'd have a different escort tomorrow night. Were the guys going to treat our nutritional needs as some kind of mission?

Oh, wow. Just freakin' wow. Yeah, I didn't know what to think of that.

Quatre, the sickeningly happy bastard, made both Trowa and I actually engage him in conversation as we ate. He asked us pointed questions and stared expectantly until the one of us he was speaking to had to stop shoveling food into his mouth and answer. Quatre has a talent for being obnoxious in that it's-good-for-you kind of way. If it had been just Trowa and I eating together, we'd have been done in under five minutes and back in the elevator, itching to tear each other's clothes off. With Quatre holding court, dinner took fifteen minutes and then he rode the elevator back up with us, saying he wanted to change into something more comfortable before he trekked back across the street.

Don't let that innocent look fool you; the guy's a sadist, pure and simple.

But the downtime was necessary. It woke me up to the fact that Trowa and I weren't married so we could screw each other silly and pass out in a sweaty tangle on the bed. (Although, damn. Just... damn!) We were married because I needed backup, because it'd been four days since I'd planted the microtransmitter and Howard was probably standing by, waiting for my signal. If I dithered around any longer, the guys Howard was borrowing get-outta-jail goodies from were gonna start doubting the capabilities of us former pilots. Hell, if we couldn't pull together a distraction on familiar territory, then what good would we be to them and their cause? If they started thinking like that, then our extraction wasn't gonna happen at all and that was not acceptable.

I felt kinda bad knowing I'd be putting Trowa off yet again, but the mission had to come first. And I had every intention of making it up to him later.

I think he sensed my change in mood because, after we wished Quatre well and our apartment door slid shut behind us, he didn't tackle me to the floor. He didn't even touch me. It was kind of like last night all over again: he just stood there and waited for my move.

I made it.

Turning to him, I placed a hand over his heart and then slid my palm up until my fingers brushed the onyx pendant thing on the leather cord he was still wearing. "I need you," I whispered. I felt him shiver. I saw the flash of regret in his eyes. Yeah, work before play sucked. There was no gettin' around that inconvenient fact.

"Shower with me?" I invited.

Eyes clear of passion, he leaned forward and kissed me. It was deep, but it was measured and almost wary. In a way, it felt cold.

"Lead the way," he responded and his words were devoid of emotion.

This time, when I led him toward the bathroom, my navigation was up to spec. After he crossed the threshold, I closed the door behind him and turned on the hot water tap in the tub. Once it was steaming, I flipped on the shower and slid the shower doors shut. I then faced my partner, both of us standing in the middle of a bathroom filling with steam, fully dressed. I had my black, turtleneck on and my black cargo pants. I was wearing my favorite black boots. Trowa looked me up and down and I saw it in his eyes when he accepted the fact that I was ready for my mission, whatever it was.

I deliberately stepped close enough to embrace him and then I looked up. Above our heads was a removable panel in the ceiling. I'd heard about this lovely feature when one of my coworkers had once complained of a leak somewhere in the plumbing. The following day, he'd mentioned how the repair guy had fixed it by climbing into a crawlspace through a panel just like this one. The dinky little efficiency apartments that had been given to us former Gundam pilots didn't have this wonderful convenience. I'd checked.

So, I'd known I'd have to find a way into a regular apartment in order to stage a diversion or cause mayhem undetected. It hadn't been until last Tuesday that I'd realized I could probably move into one of them if I had a valid reason. Like getting married.

Trowa had been the perfect candidate for the detailed, multi-layered op that had been stewing at the back of my mind for years. I'd need his skills at infiltration to make our cover story believable, and – later on – I'd need his steady presence and ability to maintain his balance in tricky situations. Hell, his acrobatic skills might even come in handy. If I was successful in getting the cavalry to ride to our rescue, that is.

"Help me take this off?" I whispered, knowing that if anyone was listening in, it would sound like a completely different request. Just like I was hoping that the steam from the shower would confuse any heat sensing devices scanning the room and fog up any hidden camera lenses.

From one of the many pockets in my slacks, I removed a contraband letter opener – when I'd hit Wufei up for help on Friday, I'd snitched it from the desk of someone in HR (who'd clearly forgotten that, as per the employee handbook, "no dangerous or potentially dangerous items were to be brought into the administrative offices") – and handed it over to Trowa. It wasn't perfect and it would probably scratch the panel, but I was hoping we'd be long gone by the time anyone thought to check. I braced myself on the edge of the bathtub – careful of the increasing condensation – and the sink counter opposite. It was awkward as hell, but Trowa needed the only available fixture in the room that offered a perfectly stable surface to work from.

He climbed up on the closed toilet seat and slid the letter opener into the crack between the panel and the ceiling.

"Yeah, that's it," I encouraged, suppressing a smirk at the suggestive words. Little did any potential peeping Toms know, instead of doing something that normal newlyweds would be doing, we were taking the next step in busting the hell outta here. My lips stretched into a grimly anticipatory smile.

"Like this?" Trowa asked softly as he slid the letter opener into place. The sound of his voice covered up the noise of the metal sliding against the bathroom paneling.

He settled his weight, balancing himself on the steam-slick surface of the toilet seat, and wrenched his arms up. The panel popped out and I gave a well-timed cry of surprise. It landed in my arms and I waited for Trowa to climb down and take it from me before I challenged Murphy's Law by trying to get down unaided. As he set it aside and out of the way, I slipped the pop bottle into one of my larger pockets. I then tucked my braid down the back of my shirt. It itched, but at least it wouldn't get caught on anything.

When Trowa turned back around, he studied me long and hard. "Are you all right?"

I knew what he was asking me. Don't get me wrong; I wanted to invite him to come along – after all, what I had planned was bound to be fun (or a variety thereof) – but I needed him here just in case someone came to check on us. "Give me a hand up?"

He motioned for me to get on top of the commode, which I did, and then he bent down so I could hook my knees over his shoulders. I managed it by grasping the edge of the hole in the ceiling and then he stood up, positioning me directly beneath it. I pulled myself up, thankful that I hadn't had to do this part on my one-some. I could have done it, but it would have been extremely tough and I would have expended far too much effort just getting the hell started on my quest. Trowa's hands very helpfully pushed me up off of his shoulders. I felt his firm grip on my thighs first, then knees, and finally feet as I hauled myself into the crawlspace.

I wiggled into the pitch-black realm above the apartment and retrieved the flashlight I'd borrowed from our apartment's emergency kit. Clicking it on, I swept it around, noting the fantastic fact that there were no walls separating me from where I needed to go. There were plenty of cement columns and metal pipes and air ducts twisting between the floors, but I could see what looked like the elevator shaft straight ahead.

I leaned back over the hole, getting a faceful of steam, and gave Trowa a thumbs up followed by a countdown. I signed at him that I'd be back in thirty minutes. He nodded and I started to squirm away, but then he held up a hand, and I halted reflexively. He then freakin' leaped up and caught the edge of the access opening. I blinked at him as he levered himself over the rim, leaned closer and—

I expected one of those hard, Hollywood lip mashes. You know the ones that always happen in those big budget action movies, right before the hero heads off to risk his life and save the day? I braced myself for one of those. Trowa, however, had other ideas. His lips met mine and it was so soft, so warm and tender. A much better kiss than the one he'd given me a few minutes ago out in the living room. This one made me tingle. It made me freakin' melt. I did the whole eyes-closed-and-sighing-breath thing. Damnitall, that probably made me the damsel instead of the hero.

Just my frickin' luck.

It only lasted a moment before Trowa leaned away and dropped silently back down onto the bathroom floor. This time, when he raised a hand, he signaled for me to go. Mind numb and body still tingling, I went.

I had a job of it putting that kiss out of my mind, but I did. After a few deep breaths to focus my thoughts and with finding my way through the crawlspace-slash-labyrinth demanding all of my attention, I managed it.

I squeezed soundlessly over an arching section of ductwork, moving like a shadow, like death itself. God, I'd missed this. Infiltration with the intent to do damage was my personal schtick. Going as long as I had without pulling off another sneak attack had been making me feel like a damn amputee. It was good to be back doing what I was meant to do, flashing back to my rebel roots, y'know?

Moving through however many years of dust was not fun and, more than once, I had to stop and bite back a sneeze, but I wormed my way to the elevator shaft in record time. Now I just had to go down. This was the tricky part. The elevator itself looked like it was waiting on the first floor. If someone who lived above my current position called the elevator – and I was pretty sure they would since it was still officially dinnertime an' all – I'd have to make sure I didn't get creamed by the passing, um, car. Cab? Room-thing? Whatever the hell you called the passenger-carrying part of the elevator.

Anyway.

I spied an access ladder recessed in the shaft on the right-hand wall. Hah. Bingo.

Glancing down at the elevator cab, I calculated how long it would take me to swing my ass over to the ladder. Until I was hunkered down on the rungs, it would be open season on Duos.

All was quiet, though. I moved into position, took a deep breath and—

Shit-damn-holyfuck!

In the near-darkness, I just about missed the rung when I reached for it, lost my balance, and would have tumbled down the shaft and crashed onto the roof of the elevator if my other hand hadn't managed to find some traction against the wall.

Great. Now I was stretched out like the proverbial lamb at slaughter.

And because God hates me, that was exactly the moment when I heard the elevator doors open and someone climb inside.

Oh, hell.

It was all or nuthin' now. Someone was about to get a ride upstairs and if I didn't want to be on it, I needed to move. Now.

I braced my foot on the ledge I was leaning over, fitting the edge between the tread, and then I freakin' lunged across open space. I caught the rungs in teeth-gritted silence, and held on for dear life as the elevator climbed upward. I squished myself into the available space and held perfectly still as the cab was pulled up past my feet, my legs, my back, my head... and kept going. Whew. That was a close one.

I didn't wait for it to stop and make a return trip. I freakin' boogied.

I went quietly although not silently. I was pretty sure there weren't any security systems in here. If there were, there wasn't a whole helluvalot I could do about it. This was pretty much a one-shot deal. Sooner or later, someone would think to check our apartment and make sure all the access panels were welded shut. I figured it'd be sooner rather than later. The only reason for the oversight that I could figure was sheer dumb luck combined with complacency. But, it would eventually occur to someone to check and then they'd see the scratch marks and... yeah. Game the hell over.

The basement was five freakin' floors down and my wrists and ankles were objecting mightily by the time I got there. Above me, someone on another floor called the elevator and I got the hell to work opening the doors.

It was a risk forcing my way in through the main entrance, but I wasn't budgeted for taking all freakin' night to get the job done. Our ration of hot water wasn't gonna last forever and when it ran out and it'd be hard to hide the fact that there was only one person's heat signature in our bathroom. Speaking of which, I hoped Trowa had replaced the panel. If not, somebody was surely going to wonder where all that damn steam was going.

As it was too late for regrets and second-guessing now, I pressed onward.

Thank God for my regular weight training. I bothered with it so that I'd have something in the way of offense at my disposal just in case Heero ever did get me in one of those mythical, unbreakable headlocks. Now, I used my strength to pry open the elevator doors. Not all the way, of course, but just enough to squeeze through.

Fingers aching and back muscles straining, I took care of business, slipping inside and letting the doors snap shut behind me. It was just as dark down here as it had been in the crawlspace above our apartment, so I dug out the flashlight again and did a thorough, sweeping scan of the area.

All clear.

Recalling the schematics and building layout that I'd downloaded what now seemed like half a lifetime ago, I ghosted toward the far wall, where I knew I'd find a veritable forest of circuit breakers. I also found the standard chain link fence between me and my goal. The padlock was joke and I had it off in about ten seconds, which was good because I was starting to go over budget on time. I wasn't sure what Trowa would do if I was late, but I didn't think it'd be pretty.

Access (unwillingly) granted, now came the delicate stage of the operation. I removed the pop bottle from the pocket in my pant leg and carefully twisted off the cap. Considering how damn many circuit breaker boxes there were, I had to conserve my resources. Moving from one to the other, holding the flashlight in my mouth, I opened each metal cover and dripped fizzing blue stuff on the connections and wires.

I forced myself not to count the seconds as I worked. I focused completely on my task, slowly emptying the bottle on each electrical system and then shutting the breaker box doors behind me. By the time I was done, my eyes were watering and (despite the bandana I'd thought to tie over my nose and mouth) my lungs were burning. I ducked down and recapped the bottle, returning it to my pocket, and got my ass the hell outta there.

Chain link gate closed and locked, I booked it back to the elevator doors. Getting them open from this side was a bitch and a quarter, but I got my ass into the elevator shaft, losing only a layer or two of tooth enamel due to enthusiastically gritted teeth. I was panting a bit and my shoulders were screaming at me, but I didn't pause. I started my climb back up, flattening myself when the elevator rumbled past, and swung my aching ass onto the ledge of the crawlspace I'd nearly tumbled off of earlier.

I was late. I knew I was late, but there wasn't a damn thing I could do about it. I didn't dare speed up and risk someone hearing a booted footstep over their living room. The distance between where I was and the outline of yellow light I could see ahead just seemed to get further and further away as I moved, stretching out like chewing gum. It didn't help that my eyes were still watering and stinging. I desperately wanted to reach up and rub them, but I quashed the reflex.

I tugged the bandana off and breathed a sigh of relief when I made it to the edge of the slightly-ajar panel and tapped softly on it. In the next instant, I was blinded by a searing flash of light. The bathroom light was one of those typical, softly-glowing-and-warm deals, but it didn't look all that damn soft after forty minutes in near-pitch-black darkness. I hissed along with the water still running in the shower. The no-longer-trapped steam billowed upward and adhered to my eyes, making them feel gummy.

Super.

I reached blindly through the painfully bright opening and felt Trowa's hands grasp mine. I didn't waste time on another sigh. Trusting him to catch me, I released his hand and rolled, slipping feet first back into the room. His hands guided me down as I squirmed and wiggled. He told me with a touch that my feet, my knees, my hips were clear. I carefully transferred my weight from my elbows to my hands and reverse-pull-upped myself down.

His hands steadied me and kept me from falling on my ass on the slippery floor tiles. I immediately turned toward the sink and cranked open the cold water tap. Behind me, I heard Trowa replace the panel. I knew should be helping him, but I was kinda getting a little concerned about the sticky tears blurring my vision.

"Tell me," he ordered softly, leaning in close as I rinsed my arms and hands and then began to splash cold water on my face.

There was no way I could just tell him what was wrong, not if someone really was listening, so I shook my leg at him, rattling the empty bottle in its pocket.

I was still rinsing out my eyes and was starting to relax now that the stinging seemed to be lessening when Trowa's hands smoothed down my leg, passing over the pocket with my impromptu lock pick – thank you, WEI ballpoint pen – and zeroing in on the one with the plastic bottle. He ripped open the Velcro, yanked out the bottle, and there was a moment of stillness, of absolutely perfect stillness.

Curious, I dared to glance in his direction between rinsings and the look on his face...

Holy. Fuck.

He didn't say anything as he stared at the blue droplets clinging to the inside of the plastic bottle, comprehension dawning. He didn't make a sound as horror widened his eyes. He uttered not a word as his nostrils flared and his jaw clenched with complete and utter fury.

He dropped the bottle and reached for my clothes. With speed I had no idea he possessed, Trowa had my boots off, pants and underwear around my ankles, bandana untied, and turtleneck over my head in less time than it takes to hotwire a scooter.

"Shower. Now," he hissed, reaching around my naked ass to adjust the water temperature and then he freakin' manhandled me into the tub.

Yeah, he'd figured out pretty quick what it was I'd had in that bottle, and it sure as hell hadn't been Kool Razzberry Rush. See, last Friday when I'd invited myself into his cubby of chemicals, I'd spied a wondrously caustic and deadly blue cleanser. Thereafter, I'd plotted how to extract some of it for the purpose of wreaking havoc on the residential building's power grid. (Which, I think we'll all agree, would be a more than sufficient diversion for Howard to make good on his end of things.) My plan had, naturally, involved getting my hands on a blue-colored soft drink and staging a major spill near the janitorial closet. It had all worked out perfectly. As Trowa had cleaned up my puddle in the aisle outside, I'd dumped out my drink and, donning protective rubber gloves and goggles, I'd refilled the bottle to about halfway with the strongest degreasing cleanser known to humankind. I'd then cleaned up after myself and spent the rest of the afternoon with my secret weapon blatantly displayed on my desk, waiting for quitting time. No one had suspected a thing as I'd strolled out of the office and across the street, bottle in hand.

Not even Trowa.

After all, it wasn't exactly the most glamorous way to sabotage a building, was it? Who would even think of using toxic, household-variety chemicals to bring down a power grid?

Well, I did, for one.

I smirked.

Oh, yeah. I knew all about getting the most bang for your buck. It wasn't like the L2 rebels had gotten a government subsidy or anything to fund operations against the Alliance. Still, I was particularly proud of myself for my plan. If that wasn't ingenuity, then I don't know what the hell was. Surely, Trowa could appreciate that.

And then I startled as, suddenly, a body joined mine in the shower. "Trowa!" I hissed. "I'm fine!"

He wasn't listening to me, though. I could see it in the harsh planes of his frozen expression. He was as buck naked as I was and thoroughly, flaming pissed. His hands weren't rough, but their grip was unbreakable as he shoved me directly beneath the shower spray. When I stayed the hell put, I felt him catch the end of my damp braid and tear the elastic band off the end.

I could feel the rage just rolling off of him in waves. His fingers seemed to be shaking a bit as he untangled my hair with desperate dexterity.

I'd known the risks when I'd appropriated that cleanser. I'd known it was corrosive enough to damage steel and copper. I'd also known that once it made contact with the aforementioned substances, its fumes would get in my eyes and lungs, cling to my hair and skin, and give me chemical burns if I didn't get to clean water fast. I should have taken the gloves and goggles from Trowa's maintenance closet. I'd tried, but they hadn't fit in any of my suit pockets and they'd looked damn bulky tucked under my dress shirt. And, hell, even I couldn't explain walking around with those in my hands. I'd had to leave them behind.

I was pretty sure Trowa was going to read me the riot act for that.

I winced as his fingers speared the wet hair at my scalp, working the warm water through every lock, over every strand. He didn't say a thing as he set about washing every trace of those damn chemicals off of me. I could understand the necessity, sure. Christ, all I had to do was rub my eyes with hands that had those damn molecules clinging to the dermis, and, um, yeah. Very not pleasant stuff could happen.

But what I could not get was his damn overreaction. He was just about freakin' drowning me in the shower. No sooner would his hands sluice the water from my skin and he'd start rinsing me all over again.

"Trowa," I tried, water pouring over my face and I had to spit out a mouthful just to frickin' talk. "I'm fine. Trowa!"

"Damn you," he finally ground out. He lifted my face toward the spray for the damn near hundredth time and ordered, "Open your eyes."

"I'm fine!" I stressed, pulling away. My fingers were pruning up. There wasn't a dry spot on my entire body. Even my lungs had stopped sizzling thanks to all the clean, humid air I was breathing. "Stop!"

It was the magic word. He paused, hands gripping my shoulders as if he were about to shove me back under the shower head. The beads of water beat relentlessly down on us both and I just stared at him, suddenly hyper aware of the fact that we were both naked and crammed together in a space that was half the size of the office cleaning closet.

And then something flashed in his eyes and I just knew he was now aware of the exact same thing. Despite the deluge surrounding me, my mouth dried up like the Goddamn Sahara Desert. I reached for the shower door.

The next thing I knew, I was pinned against the tiles and Trowa had a thigh between mine. His mouth was on my neck and I felt his teeth against my skin.

"Ow, dammit," I complained, shoving at his shoulders.

He didn't budge. Not that I'd put enough oomph into the gesture to force him to move, still, I thought he'd get the freakin' point and back the hell off. What he did was the precise opposite.

I gaped, utterly astounded, as I found my wrists pinned to the wall on either side of my head. "What the hell—?!"

I was denied even an indignant squawk as his mouth came down on mine. Have you ever been eaten alive? Devoured? Probably not. Well, lemme tell you, it's freakin' terrifying. I could barely breathe. I winced as the back of my head rocked against the tiles, as his body crushed mine, as his fingers dug into the flesh of my wrists, as Trowa's tongue surged into my mouth again and again and again.

Summoning my strength, I jerked my chin to the side. I wrenched one hand free and grabbed his wrist as I gasped for breath. My mouth felt raw. Fucking raw.

"Wait," I wheezed. Wait, let's just calm the hell down here!

Although I couldn't get all the words out – my brain was still in some kind of shock, maybe – he froze. I could feel him trembling with the effort to keep from squashing me into a Duo pizza against the tiles.

"Don't," he choked out and the sound of his voice startled me. I glanced up and just freakin' gawped at the pain in his eyes. With the exception of that moment I'd stumbled upon him at the circus, when he'd been so damn vulnerable and his memory terrifyingly blank, I'd never – and I mean never – seen pain in his eyes before, not in all the years I'd known him, but there it was. "Don't ever do that again."

He stared at me, waiting for some kind of response. Belatedly, it occurred to me than a simple agreement might be what he was angling for. I nodded.

And then he sighed, slumping against me. Now that he wasn't pinning me anymore, I could have shoved him away. I could have, but...

I felt his lips move against my shoulder. His hands settled on my waist. Pressing his forehead against the wall, he leaned his head toward mine and said the one word I just could not refuse.

"Please..."

It wrenched something deep within me, something primal. "Shh," I responded. I'd liked it when Trowa had said the same word to me earlier, but now it was a plea. I didn't want to hear him beg. Never. I never wanted to hear him beg for anything. I wrapped my arms around him and ran my palms over his back. "Shh..."

For a long moment, he seemed content to just stand there in the lukewarm water with me, not grasping or clutching or crushing, but just leaning. Eventually, I became aware of his chest brushing against mine with his every breath. I felt his nipples against my skin and I shivered. His hands stirred on my hips and caressed. His lips brushed gently along my neck.

"Trowa—" I began, not at all certain as to what I was gonna say.

And then he drew my earlobe into his mouth and gave it a long, gentle suck.

"Oh, shit!" I gasped, feeling the sensation zing down my spine and zap me where I was sure to notice it. And whoo boy did I ever!

Trowa noticed it too, moving restlessly against me and I felt myself harden against his hip. He murmured something, words I couldn't make out, and then he shifted and—!

Holy-hell-oh-my-God-of-everlasting-death!

Those long, slender, graceful, dexterous fingers wrapped around my length and, tightening their grip, slowly began to pump. With every pull of his hand, I heard someone whimper. It wasn't me – it couldn't be me – making that desperate noise. I'd never whimpered in all my life.

Oh God. Trowa's tongue was licking my ear. His breath was tickling my skin. His body was shifting and rocking against mine. His hand was touching and squeezing and gripping and pumping and—!

Oh God oh God oh God oh God...!

I realized dimly that I had one hand on his ass, clutching him helplessly as he rolled his hips against me. I could feel his length sliding against the edge of my hip and I blindly – and dumbly – reached for him. My fingers just brushed him, but it wrenched a groan from the depths of his being. He lifted his head and I saw his green eyes, glittering and darkened with want. I felt my lips part as he leaned in and gently kissed me. Oh God. His tongue was so warm and soft and his fingers were so sure and strong. I moaned as I swelled even further in his grasp.

Oh God, he was touching me. Touching—!

"Trowa..." I whispered, thrusting harder, clutching him closer to me. I couldn't decide where to brace myself. His ass, his hips, his arms, his shoulders... God, what was he doing to me? I was straight I was straight I was straight I was—

"Touch me," he breathed pleadingly and I didn't even think about refusing. I smoothed my hand down his body from neck to navel and then I—

"Ah! Duo!"

I was holding onto him as he moved forward, forward, forward like the eternal ocean waves but condensed into one body and I was the shore and he was lapping-sucking-crashing-drawing at me, evoking a rush of sensation with every pass and I wasn't sure it was pleasure, but it wasn't pain and I wanted it. I wanted this – this whatever he was doing to me – and I told him so.

"I want I want I want I—"

He shivered, shuddered, swelled in my grasp and my fingers twitched with surprise, tightening around him.

He screamed. It was soft, just louder than a whisper, but it was a scream nonetheless. I forced my eyes open – when had I closed them? – and watched his expression blank, heard his breath catch, felt his release against my hip.

And then he reaffirmed his grip on me and... well. How could I not give in as he had?

He braced me against the wall as I shuddered in surrender. He held me up with the weight of his body. He moaned softly against my arched neck as I gasped for breath.

My God. After a minute, I lowered my chin and looked at him, meeting his gaze. He didn't say anything and, when I closed my eyes to hide from the intensity in his expression, I felt his lips brush my chin, my jaw, my cheek, my nose, my eyelids...

He leaned against me and I locked my knees. We held each other up under the cooling spray in silence. In his case, maybe words weren't necessary. But in mine, I simply had no freakin' idea of what to say.

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