Relena Peacecraft, Prime Minister, was an honored guest at the big event at the Winner Museum that night. As the guests drifted over in little clumps at various times that evening to say hello to her and to congratulate the smiling curator at her side, she found herself unable to do much more than stand in one spot and wait for them all to be done with their greetings and compliments.
As she waved to the retreating men who had just finished speaking with her and Quatre, she spoke quietly around the smile on her face to the man at her side. "All I want is some punch. I'm starting to think I won't be able to get anywhere near the snack table unless I have Heero Yuy clearing a path for me."
Quatre chuckled, reaching out to touch her arm sympathetically. "I wouldn't let him hear you say that. He just might do it. He has no patience for.." he hesitated.
The blond young woman on his other side gave a little sneer, finishing his sentence for him. "Ass-kissers."
Quatre coughed, but didn't correct her.
"Dorothy," Relena admonished her advisor, but couldn't stop a little smile from teasing at her lips. She turned hopefully to the tall woman just behind her. "Noin," she murmured, "I don't suppose you could snag us some punch?"
The short-haired woman glanced around, hands behind her back, uniform crisp and starched: the very picture of a competent bodyguard. "Here comes Yuy, anyway," she allowed, looking towards Quatre and Dorothy. "Do you two want anything?"
"No, I'm fine," Dorothy said absently, waving a hand airily as she studied some of the more gaudily-dressed guests with a vicious glint to her eye.
"Punch, please," Quatre said. As the woman made her way through the crowd towards the snack table, he turned a knowing smile on Relena. "A little overprotective, isn't she?"
Relena heaved a sigh, adopting a mask of long-suffering. She was unable, however, to keep the note of affection from her voice. "Just a little." She turned a sunny smile on the man striding towards them. "Good evening, Heero," she greeted cheerfully.
The security guard nodded slightly in acknowledgement, face set in its typical stone lines. He barely spared her a glace as he focused on his employer. "Everything's quiet," he reported. "Anyone that tries to interrupt or infiltrate will be dealt with harshly before they get so much as 100 meters from that statue."
"Good." Quatre's eyes roamed across the room to rest on the curtain hiding his newest acquisitions from view: a few priceless antiques and of course the magnificent Jade Dragon. "Have you seen Chang Wufei? I'm going to begin in about fifteen minutes."
"I think I saw my cousin harassing him a few minutes ago," Dorothy spoke up with a little smirk. "He seems to like the glaring, aloof types." She leered at Heero.
"Kushrenada?" Heero scowled in annoyance. "I will go retrieve him," he told Quatre, and stalked off.
"Does he always talk like he's still in the middle of a war?" Relena sighed, watching him go a little wistfully.
Duo had decided the best time to retrieve the statue would not be in the dead of night, but rather the onset of evening. More specifically, during the actual party.
Trowa was of two minds about this. On one hand, it meant there would be enough confusion with all the guests, and might make it easier for them to slip past Heero Yuy's guard. Not to mention the security was not quite as tight as it would be later, due to the coming and going of so many distinguished guests.
On the other hand, they would be much more visible, and their escape might be a little tricky.
Trowa had a sinking suspicion one of the reasons Duo wanted to do the robbery at such a time was so that he would be able to laugh triumphantly in Heero Yuy's face as they made their escape with statue in tow. Duo liked being dramatic when he could. He liked being infamous even more. He would always get up bright and early the day after a successful haul just to sit in front of the TV and grin like the mad hatter as the authorities and media spoke in excitement and bafflement of his deeds. The whole 'who was that masked man?' and all that jazz really gave Trowa's braided partner a natural high. It had horrified him a little at first-- Trowa himself preferred to remain faceless, nameless, and forgotten. He'd gotten used to it eventually, even coming to appreciate the media's annoying chatter about it simply for the way it made Duo's eyes gleam in happy triumph.
If he had to pick one thing he hated most about the whole thing, he thought with resignation, it was the outfits.
Duo still wore the tight one-piece leather outfit he'd been wearing when he'd met Trowa. He'd added an eye mask to it recently- "I look like a hotter, more evil version of Robin!" -more for show than to hide his face. Trowa hated it when Duo wore the outfit because he always found it extremely difficult to keep his attention where it belonged- on his work and not on the way Duo's ass looked in leather.
To add insult to injury, Duo had managed to convince Trowa to wear a similiar outfit; this one was more of a reddish-brown color, but not any less revealing. It was embarrassing. He only wore it when Duo begged and threatened and pleaded.
This was one of those times.
He looked down at himself and gave a silent sigh of long-suffering. They were going to be spotted tonight; that much was almost certain. No way could they pull this off without running into a guest or guard. Which meant someone would see him in his getup. He gave himself a mental kick in the head for letting Duo wheedle him into wearing it. He looked back up to catch Duo staring at him, and fought back a blush. "What?" he demanded a little defensively.
Duo blinked and flashed a hasty grin. "Nothing," he said quickly. "You look good, Tro." He returned his attention to the rope and grappling hook in his hands, checking for tangles. Trowa thought of reminding the boy that they'd already checked, then decided to let it drop. Maybe his partner was nervous about the heist.
"Ok... You know the plan, right?" Duo insisted.
Trowa smoothed a hand absently over his web belt, reassuring himself that he had all his tricks of the trade on him. He wondered how on earth he had let Duo talk him into this suicide mission. "Aa."
"Great. OK, now remember, I want that hardass cop to see us-- but not until we're sure we've got a way out." Trowa assumed the 'hardass cop' was Yuy. "I'm telling you, Tro, this is gonna be the best job we ever pulled off." He struck a pose. "Duo Maxwell always gets his prize!"
"And Heero Yuy always gets his man," Trowa pointed out dryly. "I don't think we should let him see us, Duo. He'll hunt us down until the day we die."
Duo waved his hand dismissively, giving a loud snort. "Hey, don't sweat it. I'll cover our tracks. Trust me. Have I ever let you down before?"
Trowa sighed in resignation. "No, Duo." He gave his partner a keen look from underneath wild auburn bangs. "Just don't get too cocky."
"I won't," Duo said absently, wiping imaginary wrinkles from his outfit. "Put your mask on."
"I don't want to wear the mask," Trowa reminded him flatly.
Duo pouted. "But it's part of the costume!"
"This.. 'costume' thing was your idea, Duo, not mine."
Trowa's voice was quiet but unyielding. "You have a mask. You wear it. I'm not wearing mine."
Duo stared at him imploringly for a few long moments before realizing this was one fight he wasn't going to win. With a little huff, he threw his arms in the air in defeat. "Fine, fine. Be a party pooper, see if I care." He adjusted his face mask and took a deep breath.
At the sight of the other boy's wide grin, Trowa felt his countenance soften. "All right," Duo murmured. "Let's go."
Heero followed the directions given to him by fellow guards who had seen his cocky teammate wander off earlier.
As he approached the Asian Art Gallery where the Jade Dragon would later be housed, he could hear the familiar cadence of Kushrenada's cultured- and in Heero's opinion, rather snobby -voice. Heero paused just by the entrance, scowling at the two men by an enormous and ancient Chinese vase. Neither of them had noticed his silent appearance. When he wanted to, Heero could move as quietly as a jungle cat.
Treize was- predictably -chatting their guest up, lauding him with smooth praise and peppering him with polite questions about his homeland and his personal interests.
The dark-eyed Clan leader ignored the majority of the personal questions, but answered in clipped tones in regard to his Clan and his country. His pride in his country and his people was evident in the way he held himself, shoulders squared, head up, hands clasped behind his back. His eyes shone with a passion despite the stone-cut features of his angular face. Heero was fascinated in spite of himself at the depth of emotion muffled under firm decoram and arrogance. As a descendent of nobility, Treize had no doubt noticed this spark in Wufei, as well, which would explain his interest in the younger man.
Heero dragged his eyes from their study of the Chinese man and focused on the conversation.
"You seem to me the kind of man who did not earn his place as head of the strongest Clan in China by political influence alone," Treize murmured in the silk voice that made so many women swoon. "You carry yourself like a true warrior. Your eyes take in people much the way Yuy's do."
Wufei, to his credit, did not look indignant or outraged. His eyes did narrow a little, though, his nostrils flaring for an instant. "There are no 'politics' concerning the leadership of our Clans," he stated imperiously. "My family has ruled the leading Clan for centuries. My father is dead, I have no siblings- the role of leadership fell to me."
"Ah," Treize said with a nod of approval. "You are a man who views his responsibility as a burden, I take it? Is it true your family came to power in the past due to their prowness in battle? You claim you come from a land of warriors. Tell me, do you yourself keep up the traditions of your forefathers?"
Wufei frowned slightly. "If you are referring to the war five years ago--."
"Oh, yes, I know all about your involvement in the war," Treize assured him with a lazy little smile. "I quite commend you, actually. The war might never have touched your lands, yet you threw yourself into battle and your people followed you faithfully."
Wufei scowled a little in obvious distaste. "They knew as well as I that if the wrong side won, the entire would would be under the heel of a tyrant. They hadn't come to our lands, but they would have eventually."
"You're no coward," Treize declared with one of his winning smiles. "Just a little foolish." Wufei fairly bristled, but the other man didn't let him get a word in edgewise. "A little foolish," he continued smoothly, "for being such a loner."
That certainly threw Wufei. He blinked, lost, but too polite to say he was.
Heero recognized the guard's tactics- he'd gotten used to Treize's abrupt shifts in conversation. Treize was announcing the polite talk to be done with, and moving in for the kill. Heero swayed forward to interfere, then checked himself. He remained where he was, watching to see how it would play out.
Treize reached up, hand mere inches away from one bronze cheek as if he didn't dare risk touching the younger man yet. His voice lowered into a sultry murmur. "They say you have no wife, not even a single lover. It seems like such a terrible waste of the passion I can sense in you, Chang Wufei."
Wufei still looked blank. Heero couldn't blame him; until Quatre had spoken to him about it, he'd been completely clueless to Treize's subtle hints and offers.
Perhaps the older man sensed this, because he switched tactics. He cupped the palm in his big hand and leaned forward slightly, whispering words Heero couldn't quite catch. Wufei stiffened, his eyes going wide in shock. Treize leaned back slightly, meeting his gaze, and offered a charming smile.
Wufei swung his arm, knocking aside Treize's, and stepped back to reclaim some of his personal space. His eyes were blazing, his body tensed and poised like the man on the edge of a fierce battle.
Heero took that as his cue. Treize could look after himself for the most part, but there was no telling just how skilled a man from a Clan of warriors really was. He strode into the room, boots thumping on the floor; both men looked towards him quickly.
Treize looked irritated for all of half a second. Then he was smiling at Heero, eyes hooded, hiding his real emotions. "How long have you been standing there, Yuy?" he asked quietly.
Heero flicked him a quick scowl. "Get back to Quatre," he said shortly. He turned his attention on Wufei, who was glaring from him to Treize in mingled suspicion and indignant fury.
Treize gave a sigh and raised his hands in defeat. "Very well, Captain," he drawled, and retreated without a backward glance. Wufei glowered at his back until the man had disappeared.
"Chang." Dark eyes slowly slid his way, pinning him to the spot with fierce intensity. Heero met the glare head-on. "Quatre's going to start the opening speech in a few minutes. He wants you to be there."
"...Very well," Wufei said at last, throttling off his anger with obvious difficulty.
Heero nodded and turned to go.
Wufei's slightly accusing voice stopped him. "You never answered that dog's question."
Heero looked over his shoulder at the hard-eyed man. He could tell by the tightness between his eyes that his face was in what Quatre called his "soldier mask".
Wufei jerked his chin in the direction Treize had gone, never taking his eyes from the security guard. "How long were you standing there?" he repeated coldly.
Heero regarded him in silence for a moment before giving a little one-shouldered shrug. "Long enough to see you can take care of yourself," he grunted. He moved his hand slightly in an impatient invitation. "Are you coming or not?"
"Take care of my..." Wufei trailed off, eyes slightly incredulous as he realized Heero had been ready to step in if Treize had gone too far. His face tightened in a mask of indignant anger. "You are not my personal bodyguard, Yuy," he snapped, stalking foward. "Go guard a painting or something, you-"
As he passed Heero, he shouldered him aside almost contemptuously. Heero reacted instinctively, throwing his weight into his shoulder enough to knock Wufei back a step. His arm was up before he could stop it, ready to strike or block. Old habits die hard.
Wufei looked surprised for a fraction of a second, then his eyes narrowed in a mixture of irritation and challenge. "Don't tempt me, Yuy," he warned in a low voice. "If you're looking for a fight, you should pick your targets with a little more care."
Heero forced himself to lower his arm, looking coldly at the foreigner. "I'm not here to fight you," he said in clipped tones. "I'm here to take you to the statue."
"You're not my tour guide, either, Yuy," Wufei reminded him tauntingly, walking a slow half circle around the solidly-built young man. Heero shifted his feet, turning with him so that his back was never open. "They call you a one-man army-- a great war hero." There was a sneer in the back of his voice. "Are you telling me you never get restless in a cushy job like this one? You're made for the battlefield, as I am. Or are you not the man I've heard idiots talking about with such fear and awe?"
Heero was not particuarly proud of who he was and what he could do-- it was simply a part of him. The result of years and years of training and warfare. He was not usually one to take up a challenge without real need, but he found himself moving anyway, keeping the circling Chinaman in front of him. He fought an internal war. This man piqued his interest, but he had a job to do. "The ceremony is about to start," he reminded the guest coolly. "In just a few minutes."
"How many minutes?" Wufei breathed, eyes sparking with promise of a painful lesson.
"Five," Heero replied-- and followed his body into battle as the dark-eyed man came at him with blurring fists.
"I don't believe it." Duo's voice was ringing with glee. "He isn't in there!"
Trowa leaned over to peer over his teammate's shoulder, trying to ignore the other's body heat as he took a quick look through the window. He scanned the crowd in the main room quickly before returning his attention the grounds below, keeping an eye out for guards. "He has to be in there somewhere," he pointed out. "Winner knows how valuable that statue is. Yuy's in there somewhere. We just can't see him."
"But he's almost always at Winner's side during fuctions like these," Duo protested, craning his neck to get a better view. The strong black rope creaked under his tight grip. The grappling hooks were secured firmly over the roof's edge, and they dangled almost four stories above the ground, spying on the big event.
Duo fell silent, obviously scheming, and Trowa held his peace, letting his friend brainstorm as he kept a weather eye open for any guards or guests on the lawn that might happen to glance up.
"OK," Duo muttered at last, rubbing at his nose distractedly with his thumb as he stared down at the covered statue on the floor below. "We're still going through with it. I don't think this is a trap of Yuy's or anything. He might just be taking a piss. This could be our best chance." He shot a sideways look at his partner, his mouth twitching in a devilish grin. "Ready, handsome?"
Trowa bravely ignored the petname, feeling rather proud of himself when his eyes didn't stray to leather-covered limbs, his gaze fixed firmly on Duo's. "Aa."
"Then let's crash this party," Duo whooped.
Author's Notes: Geh.. @_@ Sorry it took sooo long for this chappy to come up. *wince* First I was all caught up in my WK fic.. then I spent weeks doing very little writing and a lot of drawing.
A few ppl bugged me about working on this, and finally I caved. You have Maldoror and Mami to blame/thank, for the most part.
Anywho, I worked on it, but then started to see Writer's Block on the horizon, so had to wrap this chapter up real quick before my inspiration left and it was left to sit here for a few more weeks. So it's shorter than the first chapter... ><;
Only one part left, methinks... Two at the most. ^_^ Ja~
Back to Amiko's fics