Work in Progress by Covenmouse

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When Duo woke it was usually a sudden and immediate affair. One moment he would be seemingly deep into sleep and the next those curious blue eyes were open and watching the world with complete and utter clarity. His “usual” wake up, however, did not include furred, five-pound objects falling onto the middle of his back at five in the morning. Giving a startled noise, the boy came up swinging, flipped over onto his back and got tangled into his bed sheets. Then he met the floor.

The yowling of Rattrap was his first indication that what had attacked him had not been a burglar or angry ex-oz soldier or any of the other number of things Duo’s sleep-fogged mind had conjured for itself in its moment of terror but a simple, annoying, god-damned cat. Duo pushed himself up to a sitting position and looked around for the increasingly loud sounds of distressed feline coming from somewhere in the tangle of bedding. Then he saw it, the writhing lump of linen that was slowly making its way across the bedroom floor.

He surged to his feet and tackled it, knowing that it wasn’t going to hold still no matter that he was trying to help it get free. Somehow the cat had managed to get itself wound up in a bundle of the sheets. Duo sat cross-legged on the floor once he’d managed to get the cat-bundle into his arms and began to figure out how to free the thing without hurting either of them. He’d almost succeeded, but then Rattrap’s paw came snaking out of the linen to leave yet another set of fresh, bright red scratches on the back of his hand. Dropping the whole bundle, Duo cussed at the cat and put his hand to his mouth to suck on the wound.

Rattrap wormed herself free of her trap and took off like a shot for the door. “Yeah you better run!” Duo called out after her, not that he thought the cat would care. “Why did I even bother to take in your ass, anyway?”

He dug at one eye with the heel of his unwounded hand, getting the sleep grit from it as his other hand slapped at the night stand behind him. Eventually he came up with the alarm clock he’d been looking for and he sighed at the glowing red numbers listed there. “It’s Saturday,” he whined to himself and put the clock back with a huff. It didn’t matter now, though; he was awake.

Pulling himself to his feet, Duo grabbed the blankets up off the floor and began to straighten them out. He sighed when he got a good look at the one that had been the closest to Rattrap’s paws; it had more than a few holes shredded into it. With a roll of his eyes, the braided boy began to remake his bed, carefully tucking each of the blankets in and spreading the comforter over the top neatly. The pillows went next; each was fluffed and put into its proper place and then he pulled the comforter over those as well and straightened the blanket until there wasn’t a single wrinkle.

Bedroom back in order, the boy stumbled his way into the living room and through to the kitchen. The grey-furred annoyance came back, winding his body around his legs and trying to trip him. Duo resisted the sudden urge to kick him and instead sighed, “What do you want?”

Rattrap mewled. As if he actually understood the human he ran over to the bowl that Duo left out for him food at the far end of the tiny kitchen. It was empty, save a few kernels left. The boy frowned and shook his head. “I didn’t think you’d eat through all of that in a night…” He opened one of the top cabinets and took out the bag of food he’d picked up when he’d decided to take the cat home last week. Rattrap dived onto the food almost before he’d finished pouring it. Duo had to laugh a little at that, a little bit of a smile crossing his lips.

Sinking down to sit on the floor, Duo carelessly put the food bag on the floor beside him and ran a hand down Rattrap’s back. He didn’t even lift his face from the food but he began to purr loudly. “Yeah, I can relate,” Duo told the cat with a stronger smile. He scratched gently behind the cat’s ears, feeling his spine and rib cage underneath the dark grey fur. Rattrap really wasn’t so bad looking of a cat, he thought. His fur had the faintest of grey stripes to it, that weren’t visible at all when she was wet, and it was short and silky when kept clean. Now that he’d gotten all the bugs off of the cat it wasn’t scratching constantly. One of its ears had a big chunk of it missing, true, and his tail was a little scraggly in places. Somehow he’d managed to miss the “mange” part of being a stray; Duo was glad for that. Having fleas was bad enough, losing one’s hair was worse.

“I get a bit cranky when I don’t have food, either,” Duo found himself telling the cat as he continued to pet him. His good ear cocked back towards him. “You and I aren’t so different, ya know?”

The boy shook his head and laughed at himself, “Of course you don’t know …maybe I’ll tell you about it one day.”

He was just about to climb to his feet when Rattrap looked up and mewled at him curiously. Duo settled back down on his bum and leaned back onto one hand while his new flat-mate turned around and curiously sniffed at his pajama bottoms. He tilted his head to one side, watching as the cat hesitantly crawled up onto his leg and then into his lap. Unable to smother it, the boy chuckled a little when the cat’s long whiskers brushed against his stomach and the noise caused Rattrap to freeze temporarily. Duo sobered, eyes lift and felt a grin tugging at the edges of his mouth.

“Oh? I’m not allowed to laugh, am I?” He asked him and, as if in response, the cat put his white-socked paws upon Duo’s pecks and leaned in to rub his face against his master’s jaw.

“Wouldn’t you know it, my first kiss.” Duo winked at the cat, which blinked its green eyes up at him and then dropped back down to all fours in his lap. That was a lie, of course, but how would the cat know that? Duo shook his head; a grievous error for all in turn. The cat’s ears suddenly perked and it turned its head towards the same hand which it had clawed earlier. The boy watching him frowned, unsure where it was going, until the animal suddenly dived for his hand.

“Gyah!” Duo lifted the hand up quickly on to find that that was not what Rattrap had been after at all! The tug on his hair alerted him to something quite a bit more dangerous and he scrambled to his feet, jerking the brown rope of hair away from and out of the cat’s clutches. “OK, no! Bad cat!”

Once he was on his feet, Duo pulled his braid over his shoulder to examine the ends of it, frowning at the bit of cat saliva glistening on one of the plaits, as well as the bunched and loose pulled hairs going everywhere. “This.” He stated, bending down over the put-out seeming cat and holding his braid just out of reach, “Is not. A chew a toy.”

The cat blinked at him and eyed the braid; it obviously wasn’t listening. After a moment of staring at the animal Duo sighed and stood up straight. It was pointless to argue with a cat, he knew that, and he scratched his head idly as he yawned. “It’s too early for this,” the boy muttered to himself and turned to jerk open the refrigerator door. He managed to pour himself a bowl of cereal, coat it in milk, grab a spoon and make it into the living room without any further cat-related incidents. Flopping back upon his well worn and wonderfully soft couch, Duo reached one foot forward and pressed the large, red “power” button on the TV remote that was in its normal spot on the coffee table. Brilliantly coloured and utterly pointless Saturday morning cartoons greeted him cheerily and almost immediately the boy found his spirits beginning to perk a bit. He loved cartoons.

There were plenty of people out there who would tell him that he was “too old” to watch these sorts of shows… Duo even had to agree with them a little. Yet there was something about being able to watch the little stuffed-animal looking characters walking around talking about friendship and hope and happiness that made life just a little more bearable. He liked the ones best that were had silly villains and nonsense stories, rather than the more serious-seeming “boy’s” cartoons. Duo didn’t quite understand the appeal in super-charged fighters beating up super-charged villains and everyone ranting about how powerful they were.

And though he’d been living here for months, now, it once more occurred to him that he was able to sit on a couch he had bought, watching that TV he had paid for, in an apartment that was warm and comfortable and clean and his… and just how amazing that truly was. Eating his own cheerios, to top it off. Duo shoveled another gigantic spoonful of the grain-based breakfast into his mouth and munched on it, much the same as the cat had done with its own food earlier. If anyone had ever asked him what he thought Heaven would be like, he would have described this.

Two months ago he wouldn’t have considered that this would have ever been his.

The war had left a lot of people at loose ends and Duo hadn’t been an exception to that. While proud of himself for his part in bringing it all together, the days after that New Years Eve had been filled with confusion and uncertainty. Until Howard had helpfully offered him a permanent position with the Sweepers, that was; Duo smiled at the thought of his old friend and laughed around a mouthful of food at a mad scientist on his show which inadvertently reminded him of his friend.

They had set about cleaning up all of the old debris from the space battles, a job so enormous that it still wasn’t complete to this day. Those had been good times, Duo thought, some of the best… except when it hadn’t. Cereal finished, he put the bowl down on the table and didn’t object when the cat hopped up to drink the milk.

Watching the cat, Duo’s face fell a little as he remembered the scrap yards he’d helped to fill. Though the work had been plentiful, the money decent and the company great, Duo had always hated to return to colonies after a “junk run.” Out in space he could just look at the debris as piles of scrap. He fought with them, cursed at them, and forced them to go the way he wanted them to go so that they could get them inside to break apart and sort. But when you were standing inside, with nothing to fight with except your own conscience, and looking down at the piles upon piles of mobile suit parts…

Most of the suits from space were mobile dolls, but not all of them.

Duo flung his arms over the back of the couch and tipped his head back. His eyes went back to the television and its soothing, nonsensical fantasy world. The boy couldn’t help but crack a smile at a really bad pun. Soon he found himself laughing again and the memory of the corpse’s face withdrew from his mind.

The flashing colours and cheery jingle-esque songs woke him up enough so that when someone knocked on his door a few minutes later he was able to answer it without resorting to “Mr-grounchy-pants-mode...” as Sally had so helpfully named it. A little wary of the sort of person who might come knocking on a person’s door just after six in the morning in this neighborhood, Duo got to his feet slowly and checked the peep hole before he moved to undo the locks. Much to his surprise there was a slicked-back black head of hair whose owner was just short enough that only the top of his head could be viewed. Duo knew that ponytail.

He pushed the chain back and unbolted the door lazily before pulling the door open to reveal the rest of Chang Wufei, partner and annoying-person-who-calls-at-insane-hours-of-the-morning. “… It’s five am.”

“I’m well aware of that,” the Chinese man growled, “and there is a cat drinking from your cereal bowl.”

Duo followed Wufei’s gaze to the coffee table where Rattrap was still quite happily downing the milk he hadn’t drank. Offering the sight a shrug, Duo turned back to the other boy and quirked a brow. “Yeah, it is. Uh… what’s up?”

“You weren’t answering your phone. We’re on assignment.”

“My phone didn’t go off,” Duo replied helpfully and finally moved aside so that the smaller boy could enter. Wufei stepped into the room carefully, eyes wary of the dark apartment as if something (possibly the cat, who his eyes kept returning to) was going to jump out of the gloom and bite him. He looked almost disappointed when the dark shapes within were nothing but furniture. “What’s going on?”

“I can’t tell you here.”

A frown crossed Duo’s lips even as he entered the bedroom to find some clothes. He glanced at the bathroom as he passed it, wishing he’d taken a shower the night before; with the way that Wufei was acting it didn’t seem as if he was going to give him the time to take one. Neither was he terribly impressed with the other boy right now. The scene he’d witnessed the night before replayed in his mind and he thought about asking about it… maybe this had something to do with that?

Before he could say them the words died on his lips. It was more than a little catty to ask it that way, and certainly not the sort of way he wanted to start a conversation with the touchy Chinese boy. That would only go badly, Duo knew, and so as he shrugged on a sweater he tried to find a better approach, “Can you at least tell me where we’re going?”

From the other room he heard Wufei respond: “L4, at the moment. If you want to know why check your text messages.”

“That would require knowing where it is…” Still muttering to himself, Duo wormed his way out of his pajama pants and into a pair of blue jeans before he stopped to think about it. Uniform? … No, Wufei wasn’t wearing his. Where the hell was his phone?

The boy buttoned and zipped his pants and then went about to find the stupid device. He hadn’t yet managed to buy or install a vidphone, as the complex he was at hadn’t yet added them to their list of supplied amenities. It had to have been the last complex in the country to do so, but Duo wasn’t complaining as there was a tendency for those sorts of contracted services to be very expensive—at least this way he had his choice of cell plans and didn’t have to worry about what he was wearing when someone called.

That he hadn’t heard the phone go off was very odd indeed. A light sleeper by habit, Duo usually woke up at the first sound of something strange in his apartment. The first night with the cat had been absolute hell because of that… and yet the phone had never woken him. The one logical conclusion lead him right back to his nightstand and then he dropped onto his knees and looked under the bed. The little black box-like object was there, dark as pitch, and he reached forward to grab it. It’d probably fallen there when he’d taken the tumble off the bed that morning.

The boy sighed to himself when he realized that he hadn’t plugged it in the night before. Trying to turn it on just confirmed that it was, in fact, quite dead. He rolled his eyes at himself and stuffed it into his back pocket. “How long?”

“It depends. Did you find it?”

“I forgot to charge it last night.” Duo got to his feet and set about pulling some of his clothes, including a uniform, from his dresser drawers. The familiar sound of Chinese cursing came from the living room, only slightly masked by the insane singing of the cartoons he’d left on. “Got a cab waiting?”

“Work car,” Wufei replied shortly; the TV shut off. The bag he kept for long assignments, a green-grey rucksack from the war, was stuffed at the top of his closet. Duo had forgotten to repack it in case of emergencies but he thought it best not to bring that up. Instead he quickly stuffed the clothes into the bag, an extra pair of shoes and his amenities from the bathroom. Another stop at his nightstand gave him his wallet, which he shoved into his pocket and headed out into the living room.

Duo threw the now stuffed rucksack on the couch, startling Rattrap, and he bent to take the bowl up off the coffee table. As he headed into the kitchen to clean it, Duo noticed that Wufei was looking about the small living room with an expression of awe on his face. “What?”

The boy stiffened. Duo crossed into the kitchen and washed the bowl clean as quickly as he could. He absolutely wasn’t going to leave his apartment with an unwashed bowl of milk lying about! If he leaned forward just a little, Duo realized that he could see Wufei in the living room beyond, face yet again an unreadable mask. He smirked faintly, to himself, and when the Chinese boy noticed him, he shrugged.

“Nothing,” Wufei finally answered, “Are you ready?”

“Just a minute.”

Duo poured another bowl of food for Rattrap and filled his water bowl. For a quick moment he wondered what on earth he was going to do about the cat… and then shook his head. There were ways of dealing with it and this was obviously important. Back in the living room, Duo threw on his jacket, grabbed his rucksack and slipped his shoes on, “Alr—fuck, wait.”

Wufei visibly winced at Duo’s language but didn’t object. “Twenty bucks says that he hasn’t had his coffee yet,” Duo thought to himself as he dug a car charger he’d bought for his phone out of a small cabinet. “OK!” he said aloud and grabbed his keys off the shelf by the door, “Now I’m ready.”

He paused outside the door for Wufei to get out, then shut the door on Rattrap’s desolate mewl. For a moment Duo felt guilty and he hesitated on locking the door. Then Wufei barked out “come on!” from the stairwell and Duo turned the key in the lock. After looking around for a moment, he checked to make certain that his spare was still hidden with some gum over the mantle of the door and then turned to follow Wufei down the stairs.

Moments later they were in the army green jeep that any Preventer could use with the proper paperwork and heading towards the nearest airport. The minute Duo had gotten himself settled Wufei had thrown a pile of manila folders into his lap with two curt words: “Mission brief.”

Duo nodded and buckled himself before he opened the one on top and began to read.


Relena wasn’t sure why her pillow had suddenly decided to smell of cigarettes, but it did. Cigarettes and mint, she corrected herself when she’d pressed her face further into the stuffed object and taken a good whiff. An unusual combination, really, and the woman groaned faintly in displeasure. That wasn’t enough to force her eyes open, however, or to even allow her to register shock around the thumping headache that was currently pounding between her ears.

Instead of turning away from the stench, she buried her face further into it and pulled the heavy comforter a little higher over her head to try and drown out a strange, incessant tapping noise coming from somewhere in the room with her. “Go away!” she called out to the bodyguard that was thumping at her door. Work could be damned for another five minutes, so far as the Vice Foreign Minister was concerned; it wasn’t often that she bellowed such things out at anyone, much less Mike or Gareth, and she fully expected them to come barging in at any moment to see what was wrong.

The tapping stopped as soon as she yelled and in that minute-long respite the girl quite nearly managed to drift back into slumber-land. Then the noise began again and she growled. Sitting up temporarily, the woman grabbed her foul smelling pillow, chunked it at the noise without looking, and then flopped back down, face first upon the equally smelly mattress and buried her head in her arms.

Much to her surprise the tapping stopped with a grunt.

Around the headache wormed the thoughts that there was someone in the room with her and that she would never again stay at this particular hotel if all their beds smelled like this. Really, you would think that they would have a better cleaning staff for all the good those five stars did them. Why was there someone in her room?

Relena lifted herself upon her elbows and opened her bleary, sleep clouded eyes. The light caused her headache to double its efforts and as such thinking became far too much work for casual use. Yet… it did distantly occur to her that when she’d fallen asleep the night before her bed had had a headboard.

The clatter of porcelain near the bed caught her attention. Relena lifted one hand to her eyes to rub the sleep from them as she sat up further onto her knees. There was a blurry, human-shaped blob in the corner fiddling with what appeared to be an equally blurry tea set placed in a room that was… not her hotel room. Reality snapped home in the manner of an instant and the Vice Foreign Minister clutched the comforter to her chest.

The room was drab, though comfortably warm, with old water-stain marks splashed across the ceiling and down the half-wallpapered walls. There were still some cracks in the plaster and the molding of the lit fireplace and her bed was nothing more than two mattresses stacked on top of one another on the floor. Her pillow currently resided on the floor near a half-closed laptop.

The girl started as the human-shape in the corner turned around and headed towards her. She quickly backed away three paces, almost to the edge of the bed, before her eyes reached his face.



The Chinese man came towards him still in a huff and cup-less. An immediate alarm spread through Duo’s body, worse than what he’d felt when he’d realized their mission—Wufei without coffee was not going to be a pleasant experience. “What? Was the line too long?”

They’d arrived at the terminal just in time to hear the first announcement stating that their flight was going to be delayed. No amount of “this is important Preventer business” or flashing of badges was getting them around it, either. Briefly the two had considered stealing a shuttle, yet had only gone so far as planning out the heist—there was a reason why the flight was delayed and trying to fly in the conditions described actually was suicidal, not just ill-advised. In the end, they’d been forced to wait it out with everyone else. And every minute more was another minute that the Vice Foreign Minister was missing.

That was a hard lump to swallow. Duo tried not to think about it, instead focusing on the smaller boy beside him. Wufei glare might have actually been enough to freeze Hell, had someone killed the boy right at that moment and sent him down there. “How can Starbucks be out of coffee?” the Chinese boy snapped as if Duo would have the answer to that. “This is insane. Why did they even bother to open? You would think that if your coffee shop had the ill-taste to be out. of. coffee. that opening the doors anyway would just be pointless and cruel!”

“They probably still have tea…” Duo offered. He was rewarded with the blackest look imaginable. The braided boy turned his head away so that Wufei wouldn’t see him smiling. It was all he could do not to laugh. As soon as he could control his voice, he couldn’t help but adding, “This is why I never drink the stuff. Too easy to get addicted.”

“I’m not addicted.”

“Really? Because the fact that you’re frothing at the mouth over the lack of an addictive substance really hints otherwise.”

“Maxwell,” Wufei warned.

“Y’see, there’s this little thing called ‘caffeine’ which is present in most coffee mixes. It tends to drive people crazy if they don’t get it, if they let themselves become dependent on it to, say, wake up.” Duo grinned out at the crowd around them. He kept his voice light and cheery, despite that the other boy about him was quite noticeably grinding his teeth. It really was too easy.

“It’s OK, you know,” Duo said seriously when Wufei didn’t reply. He turned to him, daring to drop a hand on the shorter boy’s shoulder as he affected his most concerned look, “Lots of people are caffeine addicts. You just have to be willing to admit it.”

“Maxwell, if you don’t get your hand off of me—”

“Ah, sirs…?”

Both the agents looked up at the rather sheepish looking stewardess standing not too far away. “Why is it that people always seem scared to approach us?” Duo couldn’t help but wonder. He didn’t bother to ask, however, and instead just tilted his head and flashed her the smile that caused most women to relax in his presence. It was amazing what the right body language could do.

It worked almost immediately and the woman’s own lips drew into a small smile and her posture became more confident. Duo didn’t miss one of Wufei’s hands tightening into a fist beside him. Thankfully that was hidden by his coat and so the woman never noticed. “My supervisor asked me to tell you that there should be a weather window for your flight in eight hours. We’re doing all we can to get your flight out at the first opportunity.”

Wufei muttered something in what sounded like Chinese and so Duo jumped to reply first, “Thank you for telling us. Are you sure there’s nothing before that, though?”

“I’m sorry,” the stewardess shook her head, “These freak storms happen sometimes in the early spring. We’re really doing the best that we can.”

“Thank you,” Duo nodded to her, resisting the urge to sigh until she was gone. Wufei glared up at him and, feeling more than a little irritated himself, he snapped, “What? If there isn’t anything she can do there isn’t anything she can do. You saw the satellite as well as I did.”

Wufei made a rude noise. “I’m going to find some coffee.”

“Good luck,” Duo called after him. He watched the back of the shorter man’s jacket for as long as he could see it in the crowd milling around the airport. “Please let him find some coffee,” he muttered to himself once he was certain Wufei was far out of hearing range. Tipping his head back against the wall he was leaning his hips against, the boy let his eyes turn towards the windows lining the outer wall of the terminal. It really was coming down hard now. When they’d first gotten to the airport there had only been the faintest of sprinkles and nothing to indicate the horrible storm that had grounded all the flights minutes after they’d stepped into the terminal itself. Now they were stuck in crowds of angry, snappish people, screaming kids and harried staff. It had been all Duo could do to keep Wufei in order… maybe that was why he kept pushing at the other boy’s buttons. The more that Wufei was angry at him, the less likely Wufei was to take it out on anyone else.

The mischievous side of himself couldn’t help but note that it was more than a little fun to push those buttons.

Above all, however, they couldn’t risk attracting attention to the station they were headed for. Most of the Alliance knew that Relena had gone there the day before and they only had a few hours, maybe a day, before the girl’s disappearance would have to be made public. It was imperative that they keep that silence about it as long as possible… and that they reach L4-RS01 as soon as they could.

It took a long minute for Duo to realize that his cell phone was ringing. When the distinctive, pop-music finally reached his ears over the din of the crowd, Duo dug quickly through half of the multitude of pockets on his person before he finally found the compact device. Flipping it open quickly he pressed it to one ear, “Yello?”

“Good morning!” Quatre piped from the other side. Duo couldn’t help but smile at the cheery, disembodied voice; the blonde had always been a morning person and today, despite the weather, seemed to be no exception. It was nice to have someone else around that was so easily cheery.

“Morning, yourself… not so sure about the good.”

“What’s wrong?” Cheery, yes, but Quatre was also easy to sober when he needed to; it was really easy to see why he made such a good business man. Duo chuckled faintly and shook his head. As much as he wished he could confess the entirety of the situation to the former pilot, that simply wasn’t permisable… especially in so public a setting.

“Nothing!” Duo laughed and knew that Quatre would see through it, “’Fei and I just got called out for some stupid little mission. Why the local police can’t handle something this small I don’t know, but they’re begging the big shots to take it off their hands. You know how it is.”

“OK, I’ll keep my eyes open for anything big hitting the fan,” Quatre responded. The corner of Duo’s lips lifted and he knew that Quatre hadn’t lost his edge, even after so much time had passed. “Can you tell me where?”

“Nah.” That, at least, didn’t have to be changed. “Listen… I know it’s rude of me to ask, since it’s your vacation and all, but I had to leave pretty suddenly and I didn’t have anyone I could leave Rattrap with suddenly…”

“I’ll make sure he’s taken care of.”

“Thanks, man,” Duo smiled softly, “The key’s over the mantle. It’s stuck there, so you might have to get Rashid to look.”

“Oh ha-ha-ha, I do you a favor and you bring up the short jokes. I see how it is.” They both laughed and some of the tension fell out of Duo’s shoulders. “Do you know how long you’ll be gone?”

“If I’m lucky only a few days… but I don’t know. You know how they like to drag these things out.”

“Mmm… I see,” Quatre muttered to himself. Duo’s smile wavered a little and his brows knitted together for a moment.

“Well at least now you’ll have Trowa to yourself.”

“What is that supposed to mean?” Quatre asked suddenly. Duo couldn’t help but be a little surprised at how defensive his friend sounded and he shrugged, despite that Quatre couldn’t have seen the gesture. At that moment, Wufei returned bearing a large, generic-looking coffee cup and a similar one of smaller stature. He handed the small one to Duo, who took it and sniffed to find that it was chai tea. It seemed that this was the morning of surprises.

“Nothing,” he finally responded to Quatre and indicated the phone with his eyes when Wufei gave him a questioning glance. “Just that you’ve been wanting to see him again; go catch up or something.”

“Oh… right.”

Duo couldn’t help a laugh at that, even around his mouth-full of tea. It was surprisingly good, and Duo briefly spared a thought as to what coffee shop had the balls to compete with a Starbucks in the airport. Whatever it was, they were certainly getting business right now. “So. Go see him. I’ll see you when we get back, K?”

“Right. And… good luck,” Quatre replied. Though the boy had tried to shove as much happiness as he could into his voice, it still fell far short of the mark and Duo closed his phone with a worried frown. Wufei was still giving him a curious look, though he doubted that Wufei would admit to that if questioned. Instead, Duo just sipped his tea as mulled over a response.

“Quatre,” he finally told him and was met with a grunt. “Trowa’s in town remember?”

“Ah, yes.” Wufei responded and sipped his coffee. With all that needed to be said, said, the two stood beside one another, drinks in hand, and watched the rain pour down.


She stared on the bed and glared at him. He sat on the floor and glared at her. The tea between them grew cold, the laptop monitor went to sleep, the fireplace crackled and the light outside the bedroom window began to grow. In the distance a bird made its first, tentative chirps to the morning air.

Ever since she had entered politics, Relena had had her fair share of staring contests. As childish as it sounded, even politicians ran out of words eventually and were reduced to staring one another down until someone cracked. She tried to convince herself that this wasn’t any different than that, yet the thought kept intruding that the man she was currently staring at had a horrible case of bed-hair and was wearing his pajamas and bunny slippers.

Heero Yuy wore bunny slippers.

Relena’s eyebrow twitched as she resisted the urge to giggle. No. No, she would win this contest, goddamnit! At least the tea that he had provided her had made some headway into relieving her headache. When she’d first woken up it had been a monster fit to devour her brain; now it had softened to a faint whisper at the back of her mind that didn’t make any sense until she concentrated on it. It also helped, in a strange sort of way, that she was currently seeing red.

“You poisoned my chocolates.”

“Laced,” the boy corrected her with his usual straight forward manner. “I laced your chocolates.”

Her eyes narrowed a little further and his did as well. Ignoring that answer, she continued, “To kidnap me.”


Had it been anyone else, Relena might have been shocked. Instead she was livid and broke eye contact as she shot to her feet. “You kidnapped me!”

Heero’s face turned up towards her, the faintest (and most infuriating) of smirks upon his lips. “I believe we covered that point already.”

Relena, the Vice Foreign Minister of the Alliance, the Queen of the World, the Queen of the former Sanc Kingdom; Relena, who had been in politics for years now and faced down men older than her own father, and who had an argument and rebuttal for everything… screamed a single note of frustration and turned away from her captor. Stomping over the mattress to the other side of the room, Relena turned an about face when she reached the wall and stomped her way back. This time she stopped before him, bare toes a mere hair’s breadth from the tea set, and pointed a finger at his unflinching face.

“Gyah!” She told him quite verbosely and then followed this by making a series of squeaky, high-pitched noises. When her incomprehensible tirade ended, she closed it with a huffed “Grruhh!” and marched right past him, out the door that seemed ready to fall off its hinges at the slightest touch.

Thankfully it was made of sterner stuff than it seemed, and the door stayed on well enough that she was able to slam it behind her. It opened almost immediately and the bunny-slippered kidnapper followed her at a sedate pace. Relena paid him no mind, instead walking down the carpeted, decrepit hallway of what looked to have once been a fine hotel.

“Where are you going?” He asked and Relena couldn’t help but note the boredom in his voice. She found a stairway and headed down it.

“Away from you!” The girl responded with a huff. Much to her surprise, he didn’t seem terribly interested in stopping her. She reached the landing unmolested and took a moment to look around the lobby of the ancient hotel. It was an odd sort of style… the typical western-style hotel features were everywhere and yet there was something just slightly off about it that Relena couldn’t quite put a finger on. It was as if someone had tried to imitate a style they weren’t native to.

She located the double doors that looked as if they would lead outside and began her way across the lobby just as Heero caught up to her. He walked with her to the doors and stopped a few feet away while she tried to open them. They were stuck or locked, and Relena would bet on the latter. After she’d tugged at it for several minutes and beat upon the wood in frustration, she turned to her captor.

“Open the doors, Heero.”

“Why should I?” He countered and leaned upon a wooden column that she wouldn’t have had the guts to touch; it looked as if it would fall away at any moment.

“Because!” It took her a moment to come up with something that sounded even half-way logical, “I have work to do, Heero.”

“I know that.” The Japanese boy replied evenly. He stood straight, then, and slowly advanced on her. “Have you forgotten that I kidnapped you?”

A frown tugged on Relena’s lips. As he took a step forward, she took one backward. “You can’t be serious.”

“Why not? I went through all this trouble, didn’t I?”

“Heero, I know I told you to kill me during the war—I was a different person then.” The look in Heero’s eyes caused Relena to gulp nervously and she resisted the urge to squeak when her back met the wood of the doors. No matter what they looked like, both were very solid and very much locked.

Heero shook his head, stopping mere inches from his prey, and leaned in until their noses had almost touched. Relena could feel her chest growing tighter, her pulse pounding in her throat. Whether it was fear or… something else, she did not know, but her eyes were glued to the boy’s and she did not even dare to blink.

“You work too hard.”


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