For the first time in many years, Heero Yuy, the "human stopwatch" as Quatre had once called him, had lost track of time.
Heero was perhaps one of the best soldiers ever to live. He was not used to losing, or admitting defeat, and he had yet to go hand to hand with anyone his equal. Until today. He'd been trained to fight, to kill, to use a weapon.
Chang Wufei's entire body seemed to be a weapon.
Heero had been trained in some martial arts, but not in the way Wufei had. The swordsman had been trained since youth in one of the most fluid and deadly arts of hand-to-hand Heero had ever come across. He was inwardly surprised that he was actually breaking a sweat as he danced across the floor with the dark-eyed warrior, blocking more and more often. He could, of course, end the fight quickly if he wished to. But that would take a crippling or even killing blow, and Wufei was, after all, Quatre's guest. It would be impolite to kill the guest of honor. Heero was holding back, but he was beginning to think better of it.
He jerked his head aside just in time to avoid the palm that swiped at him, intent on breaking his nose, and grunted as he just barely managed to catch the other fist flying for his stomach. Wufei was nose to nose with him, now, battle light in his eyes. The hint of a fierce smile played on the edges of his mouth, and Heero felt his own lips curve in a rare answering grin more grim than anything else. Another man might have been angry, but Heero had no ego to speak of. He was pleasantly surprised- and intrigued -that the sharp-tongued clan leader was able to match him blow for blow.
"Not bad," Wufei muttered, the first words uttered since their spar had begun. He leapt back lightly to avoid a knee to the abdomen and took up a defensive stance, his grin widening just a bit. "Perhaps the rumors about you are true."
"Hn." Heero reached up to knuckle a drop of blood from his lip, reminding himself absently that he must take care not to make any obvious marks on the other man's face. That would certainly have Quatre's guests abuzz with questions and gossip, and might inadvertently give Wufei the title of a brawler...
At the thought of Quatre's guests, Heero shot a quick glance towards his watch. Damn it.
"They're expecting y-" he started to say, but Wufei was darting forward again, taking advantage of the momentary relaxation of Heero's guard, and he was forced to block the blow and take a few quick steps back.
Wufei had discarded his traditional overcoat at one point to gain more freedom of movement, and Heero was able to see with approval the body underneath, now that his opponent remained only in his pants, slippers, and a dark tanktop. Wufei was well built, wirey and lean, but with undeniable strength evident in his arms. It was unspoken proof of hours and years of training.
"I'm not leaving this room until one of us lies on the floor," Wufei stated imperiously, narrowing his eyes as if to dare Heero to turn his back and try to walk away.
Heero began to circle him slowly, looking for a chance for a quick blow that would knock the boy down without injuring him too badly. "You want me to pin you?" he guessed.
Wufei was circling with him, never presenting his back. He arched a brow at Heero's words, and his mouth quirked again. "If you were your friend Treize, I would wonder at an ulterior meaning to those words. And who says you'll be the one doing the pinning?"
Heero took two more steps to the left, then surged forward. Wufei caught the arm that came at him and twisted his body in one lithe, strong movement. Heero could feel gravity pulling at him, and his foot slipping from the floor as Wufei yanked at his arm up and over in a move meant to slam him onto his back. Heero writhed like a snake, almost in midair, and locked his other arm around the startled swordsman's neck.
They fell to the floor with a crash, but Heero recovered a split second quicker. He squirmed out of the loosened grasp, seized the man's shoulders, and did a swift roll that perched him on top of the panting Asian, effectively pinning him.
Wufei's initial reaction was anger, evident on his face as he bucked in an attempt to throw the other man off. Heero would not be budged. He slammed his legs and hips down, forcing Wufei down again, and tightened his grip on the strong shoulders-- that will probably leave bruises, he realized belatedly.
Wufei's arms shot up, calloused fingers wrapping around Heero's throat. They tightened slightly, but not enough to strangle. They both froze, panting for breath and glaring at each other, Wufei furious, Heero stubborn.
"You're pinned," Heero said helpfully after a few moments, when he'd regained most of his breath.
Wufei growled something in Chinese, his eyes narrowing, but he relaxed his grip on Heero's throat and let his hands drop to the floor. He let out a deep breath, and most of the anger drained from his face. "Feh." He quirked a brow again in what could have been mocking scorn. "So did you plan on letting me up, Yuy, or are you here for the same reasons as your smooth-talking friend?"
It took Heero a moment to realize what Wufei was talking about, and when he did, he released the man's shoulders as if he'd been burned. He glared, affronted. "My intentions were not to--"
Wufei arched suddenly, twisting his body. Heero slapped a hand to the ground in a desperate attempt to counter the move, but was caught off guard. They rolled, and this time Wufei was on top, his fingers circling the wrists as fists flew up, slamming Heero's hands to the ground and holding them by his head as he leaned all his weight into the other man and gave a fierce grin of victory. "Foolish, Yuy," he chided.
Heero offered his best death glare, straining against the hold, testing its strength. It would take a vicious blow to get the other man off of him, he decided, so he stopped struggling and continued to glare in mute displeasure.
Wufei startled him by laughing, a low, throaty sound that somehow dissipated most of his indignant anger. "You're a sore loser, Yuy," he pointed out.
"So are you," Heero shot back, but the rest of his anger was gone. He should suggest they get back to the party, he knew, but he didn't really feel like getting up just yet, or telling Wufei to move.
Wufei's eyes flicked back and forth, studying his face, his mouth tugged into a little frown as if he was thinking hard about something. His grip hadn't loosened in the least, so Heero did something he normally wouldn't, and acted on impulse.
He lifted his head and pressed his closed mouth to Wufei's.
It had the expected result; the warrior jerked back, eyes wide, sputtering a protest. Heero had only just started to tense when the grip on him suddenly tightened painfully and Wufei leaned against him more firmly. His smile was grim and a little taunting. "That's a dirty trick, Yuy," he pointed out wryly. "Trying to scare me off?" He gave an amused snort, smile softening a little bit. "Anyway, who taught you how to kiss?" he scoffed. "That was horrible."
Heero couldn't think of anything to say to that; it wasn't exactly a question he'd been expecting or knew how to answer. He blinked, opening his mouth dumbly, though no words came out.
Wufei seemed to hesitate, his smile fading, then abruptly he leaned down and pressed his mouth to Heero's, which was conveniently still open.
Heero's head would have jerked back out of pure shock if the floor hadn't been there. Which was probably just as well, he thought irrationally a moment later. Wufei's kiss was hard and quick, but his lips were a lot softer than they looked, and then the tip of a tongue touching his-- he felt a shudder go through him. Frantically he tried to bring common sense, training, and analyzing back to the front, usually an easy enough task, but for some reason Wufei's forceful kiss was scattering his thoughts. When Wufei started to pull back, then thought better of it and kissed him again, Heero didn't fight it. For once he let his body take precedence over his mind, and he molded his mouth to the other boy's, arching his hips up against Wufei's.
Wufei gave something like a grunt-- or was that the hint of a groan? --against his mouth, and Heero decided yes, definitely body over mind for now. He met the tongue that came questing into his mouth with his own, and when strong fingers slid from his wrists to his palms, he curled his own fingers to interlace them with Wufei's.
Then slender hips were rocking against his, and Heero forgot all about the party awaiting them in the main lobby.
It was Duo's lucky day.
Due to Heero Yuy's absence-- he was a little busy learning firsthand the pleasures of the mysterious 'making out', though of course the little thief didn't know that --getting inside the museum was turning out to be much easier than he'd anticipated. Of course, Heero hadn't been expecting a thief of his caliber, he congratulated himself.
He'd twisted and squinted until he'd spotted the small box just inside the window, nestled against the sill. It was an alarm meant to go off if the window was opened or the frame damaged. Whistling quietly to himself while Trowa kept watch, he settled a fist-sized suction cup onto the pane of glass and carefully cut out a hole large enough for either of the two slender men to squirm through. When he was finished, he handed the cut glass over to Trowa, who reached out with a long arm and balanced it carefully on the edge of the drainpipe. Then, with a saucy wink, Duo unhooked himself from the grappling wire and slid through the hole. Trowa followed a moment later, and the two thieves were inside Quatre Winner's museum.
They crouched on the decorative ledge running the length around the ceiling just a foot below the window, watching the milling, chattering crowd.
Duo's greedy eye was drawn immediately to his cloth-covered prize in the middle of the room, while Trowa fixed his attention on the small group of people that seemed to be getting the most traffic. He nudged his partner and nodded silently in their direction.
"Well well, there's the mayor herself," Duo murmured, tugging at his earlobe with a gloved hand thoughtfully. "And her bodyguard lady-- she's no Heero Yuy, but we'll need to watch out for her. She's likely armed. And there you are, Mr. Curator." He grinned at the sight of Quatre, who was smiling politely and casting an inconspicuous glance at his watch. "I guess Yuy's taking a piss break or something. Now's our chance."
Trowa arched a brow at him. "Are you sure this is going to work?" he asked doubtfully. The plan had sounded dangerous to begin with, and now that he could see the layout of the area, it seemed almost impossible.
"It better," Duo muttered, reaching through the hole in the window to pull in their rope. "I'm not leaving without that thing." And later, he reminded himself with a mixture of nervousness and excitement, I find out just what you think about me behind that mask of yours.
Trowa frowned slightly. "It looks bigger than we'd thought," he pointed out.
"That's just whatever podium it's on," Duo scoffed. "C'mon, Tro, don't go getting cold feet on me now." He leaned closer, fingers flicking as he outlined the plan once more. "When or if Yuy the wonder boy comes running, make sure you keep him good and distracted-- him and those guards of his. I'll pull a Tarzan, nab the statue, and we'll be out of here.." he pointed towards the exit on the other end of the hall, "..before you know it. You parked the car there earlier, right?"
"Of course. I would have preferred to leave the engine running, but I'm sure Yuy is paranoid enough to have had it towed if he caught wind of it."
"So what's your idea for distraction?" Duo asked, glancing at him sideways and secretly pleased at their close proximity. "Smoke bombs? Lights?"
"Something like that," Trowa answered mildly, his dispassionate face hiding what he thought of their shared body heat. He leaned back a little as Duo tossed the grappling hook high overhead; its cloth-covered spikes caught in the rafters with a muffled noise that no one below seemed to hear. Duo rose carefully to his feet, holding the rope tightly in his fists and grinning wildly in anticipation.
Trowa pulled a flare gun from his belt. "Ready?"
"As I'll ever be," Duo assured him.
Trowa aimed the gun carefully at the entrance to a hall opposite the statue, on the other side of the room. "Go.." he breathed, and fired.
The bang and the high whine of the gun startled yelps out of everyone, but when the flare struck the wall and burst into vermilion sparks and light, several people screamed. And as Trowa had anticipated, all heads swiveled in that direction, their backs to the two thieves.
He turned to his partner, but Duo needed no urging. The instant the flare had hit its target, he'd leapt from his perch with a quiet whoop of excitement, and was soaring across the room, Tarzan-style, heading straight for the covered statue.
Heero had managed to gain the upper hand in the midst of the heated kissing session and had rolled so that he now topped his dark-haired opponent. He'd forgotten about Quatre, the statue, and the museum in general. For once in his life his concentration was focused on only one thing, and that was the panting man underneath him.
It was perhaps residue adrenaline and the rush of unexpected pleasure that was making it so hard to drag himself away, he consoled himself-- not that Heero cared all that much at the moment. He wrapped a strong hand around the narrow hip under him and crushed his mouth to Wufei's, his scalp tingling as nimble fingers dug themselves into his thick hair, massaging his scalp encouragingly.
It was the shot of the flare gun and the screams of the guests coming from deeper in the museum that snapped him out of his pleasant euphoria. He was on his feet in a flash, yanking his gun from its holster. Wufei, who he'd half expected to remain flushed and confused on the ground, was by his side an instant later, his hair mussed, his lips bright from kissing, but his eyes wild and dangerous.
"The statue," he hissed.
"An attack," Heero said shortly at the same time. He took off at a dead run, not stopping to see if Wufei was following. Wufei stopped for only one thing-- he ran to the wall and seized one of the ornate swords hanging on a frame, ripping it free before dashing off after the other man.
Duo released his rope and landed on all fours right beside the covered statue. Some of the museum guards were trying to put out the flare's small fire, but some of them had spotted him, and were rushing towards him shouting. They had no guns-- it seemed only the Chief was allowed that priviledge --but they were waving tasers and black clubs.
Duo didn't have a moment to lose. With a small flourish he whipped the cloth aside and reached out to claim his prize.
Holy fucking shit.
For one frozen instant he didn't move, hand outstretched, grin of triumph still in place.
It was bigger than they'd thought. Much bigger. Off the podium and on the ground, it would probably reach his knees, at least. And even as he wrapped his arms around it in determination, he knew it would be a lost cause. Solid jade. The thing was made of solid jade. It had to weigh--
He grunted and nearly dropped the precious dragon as he pulled it from its perch. It was by pure stubbornness alone that he managed to keep his grip around the thing and hold it to his chest. Christ, but it was heavy! Would he even be able to run with it?
No time to find out-- a quick glance over his shoulder proved that the guards were getting too close for comfort. Even as he started off at an awkward, shuffling run, he felt a pang of real fear for the first time that night. He could make his escape if he dropped the statue, but his pride was too much for that. He'd come here, gone through all this trouble, and he was not about to let a bunch of stick-weilding rent-a-cops scare him out of it. Duo Maxwell always got his prize. Always.
But he couldn't run, only do a strange little half-jog, and they were nearly on him now. That was when Trowa saved the day, making good on his promise to distract.
He'd seen the guards going for his partner, and hadn't hesitated for an instant. Hurling himself into space like a swimmer from a diving board, he'd produced an eye-widening twist in midair and managed to land graceful as a cat atop a wooden statue of some ancient god. The statue wobbled under his weight, but an instant later he sprang from its top and was on the ground, his hand snapping out to scatter the small orbs in his palm towards the running guards' feet.
Each orb exploded upon contact with a heavy boot like a noisy firecracker, the sound like many guns firing in quick succession. The guards did an odd dance of fear and confusion, and the guests shrieked and covered their heads, some of them fleeing for the front exit.
It gave Duo the few precious moments he needed-- he was nearly at the door. Trowa was about to race after him when heard a sharp hissing sound that set off all his warning bells.
He dropped to the ground instinctively, and overhead a blade whistled like a scythe, missing him by a hair. Trowa rolled onto his back and took a quick look at his attacker. The sword weilder was an Asian man, looking rumpled and flustered, his face a mask of cold anger. The sound of the sword being drawn from its scabbard had been what saved Trowa's life.
Trowa did a quick handspring, then a swift backflip, narrowly missing another swipe of the lethal blade. And there was Heero Yuy, he saw now-- running across the room like a wolf at an incredible speed, gun clutched and aimed skyward, his narrowed eyes set on the boy lugging the statue towards the door.
"Duo!!" Trowa shouted out in alarm.
His partner shot a quick look over his shoulder and spotted his foe. He leaned over slightly and released the statue-- the swordsman gave a sharp gasp at the rough treatment --so that it thumped hard on the floor. Miraculously, it remained intact. Duo's hand was in and out of one of the pouches in his belt in a blink, and he hurled a small object at the ground at Heero's feet.
It blew apart on impact, and out rushed a blinding cloud of smoke. Heero screeched to an immediate halt, narrowing his eyes in an attempt to see through the smokescreen. Duo had already lifted the statue with a grunt and was heading for the door again when he shot a look towards Trowa to see if he was following.
"Behind you--!" he cried out, his eyes wide in horror.
Trowa didn't waste time turning around. He let himself hit the ground and rolled, hoping to get out of reach before his attacker could recover.
A hard kick connected with his ribs, driving the air out of him and stilling him for an instant. That quick moment of pained hesitation was all Wufei needed. He was on bended knee in a second, fingers seizing a painful fistful of auburn hair, blade whipping up to press dangerously tight against Trowa's throat.
Trowa went completely still, his eyes flicking from the blade at his neck to Duo. He felt a momentary wave of despair. Just like that, it was over. He would see the inside of a cell again, if Yuy had it his way, and his days of thievery with Duo Maxwell would be over for good. "Run," he mouthed.
Duo didn't even look indecisive. He set his mouth in a tight line and shook his head fiercely.
Heero stepped through the dissolving mist at that moment and aimed his gun at Duo's chest across the yards that separated them. "Freeze!" he barked.
The whimpers and cries of the confused and frightened guests died down. Quatre, who had instinctively flattened himself to the ground at the false gunshots of Trowa's little orbs, rose carefully to his hands and knees. Noin, who had pushed Relena to the floor and covered her like a living shield, also raised herself up cautiously, one hand clutching her gun, the other holding her employer's shoulder in a grip ready to shove her back down at a moment's notice.
Duo slowly tore his eyes from Trowa and managed to offer his enemy a tight and condescending smirk. "Go ahead, fire," he offered airily. "That is, if you can. I doubt your little pea shooter will work properly until you clean the hell out of it."
Heero's face twitched, his eyes narrowing. If the smoke screen had done something to jam his gun, he wouldn't know unless he attempted to fire. And in being shot, Duo could drop his priceless burden. It was a face-off.
Wufei had Trowa at swordpoint, and Duo had the statue. Everyone held their breath, watching and waiting.
Finally Wufei's clear, hard voice rose. "Release the statue," he ordered.
"Forget it," Duo scoffed, though his eyes darted nervously towards the sword at his friend's throat.
"Relinquish the statue and I let your partner go," Wufei growled.
Heero shot Wufei a quick look of warning that was ignored.
Duo's quick eyes didn't miss the exchange. He narrowed his eyes thoughtfully at Wufei. "What does it matter to you?" he demanded cheekily. "Wait, let me guess. You're the donator, aren't you? Yeah, I read about you in the paper... Change Woofy, right? The haughty little clan leader. Mr. Honorable."
"That's Chang Wufei, you urchin," Wufei growled angrily.
"Whatever." Duo's eyes were fixed on him steadily. "You're the clan guy who's so caught up on morals and honor, right?"
Wufei hesitated, sensing he was somehow being led into a trap, but unable to see just what it was yet in his concern for his family's heirloom.
"If it's true," Duo called challengingly to him, "then how about we make a deal?"
"I don't make deals with-" Wufei started imperiously.
But Duo went right on as if he hadn't heard the interruption. "I put down the statue and let you have it back, and you let my partner go. Fair?"
"You're in no position to parley," Heero pointed out coolly.
"Oh~?" With a grunt of exertion, Duo managed to lift the Jade Dragon almost over his shoulders, arms trembling slightly with the effort. "You know, this statue thing is reeeal heavy. Would be a shame if I dropped it...and it, y'know, broke into about five million pieces. I hope you have a bucket of super glue somewhere in the janitor's closet, Mr. Winner."
"Wait-" Quatre said quickly, scrambling to his feet. "Let's not be so hasty."
"Let my buddy go," Duo said, starting to sweat a little with the weight he held. "And I'll put down the crummy lizard statue. And I hope you don't think you're being sneaky, because I can see you," he shot over his shoulder.
Treize, who had been trying to creep up on his left, hesitated at a swift glare from Heero.
"How do I know you'd keep your end of the bargain?" Wufei demanded.
"Because he's Duo Maxwell," Trowa murmured, eyes on his partner. "And Duo Maxwell has never told a lie in his life. He has his own sense of honor, same as you do."
The blade pressed against his throat a little tighter in a warning to be silent, but Wufei's brows drew down in contemplation.
"It's not getting any lighter, yanno," Duo hollered, arms visibly shaking with his effort. "What's it gonna be, Woofy?"
"Don't you dare," Treize snapped, shooting Wufei an intense look. "They're criminals. Leave this to Heero. It's his job. And.." he smirked at Duo pityingly. "Heero Yuy always gets his man."
For some reason at those words Heero felt his gaze flicker towards Wufei.
Wufei caught the glance, and stared back in silent entreaty. He couldn't bear the thought of the statue being destroyed, and Heero could see as much in the line of persperation on his brow and the hint of desperation to his eyes.
Slowly Heero lowered his presumably useless gun, glaring sullenly at Duo. Duo offered him a wide grin of triumph, sensing he was winning.
"No-" Treize started to say quickly, but Wufei spoke louder.
"Agreed," he growled.
"Right-o. On the count of three," Duo said, locking gazes with the swordsman. "..One..."
Quatre held his breath. Heero continued to glare at Duo. Treize sputtered. Wufei's grip on his sword tightened. Trowa tensed in preparation.
Duo slowly lowered the statue a bit, arms shaking badly and sweat on his brow. "...Three!"
Four things happened at once.
Wufei's sword whipped back and his fingers slid loose from Trowa's hair.
Trowa leapt to his feet in an agile bound and raced for the nearest hall and the emergency exit at its end.
Duo heaved the statue with a grunt at Heero, who dropped his gun and just managed to catch the dragon, staggering under its weight.
Treize leapt for Duo, intent on nabbing him.
"Grab him!" Heero shouted. Treize actually had his fingertips on Duo's shoulder, and then the dark little thief was twisting away like greased lightening and bolting for the door like a jackrabbit.
Wufei jumped up and raced in hot pursuit of Trowa, eyes burning with a promise of revenge.
Quatre ran over to help Heero settle the statue down, shouting for the rest of the guards, but Duo was already through the doors and running across the parking lot towards the getaway car.
He slid into the seat, twisted the key savagely, and stomped on the gas pedal just as Treize, racing to catch up, reached the door. With a squeal of rubber, Duo peeled out of the lot and swerved for the side entrance. A moment later Trowa burst out of the exit, setting off the alarm. Wufei was hot on his trail, sword upraised. A moment later Heero came running from the door as well, already aiming his gun at the tires.
His finger tightened on the trigger-- with no results. The gun was indeed jammed. In frustration and desperation, he hurled the useless weapon at the back of Trowa's head in a blow that would knock him senseless if it connected.
Heero's aim was true, but luck was with the acrobat that night. Trowa didn't bother with the passenger door-- in the time it took him to open it and slide in, Wufei would be on him.
He rolled across the hood-- the gun sailing overhead and missing by mere inches --as the car screeched to a stop and dove through the open window of the back seat. Wufei seized the passenger door's handle, but Duo was already slamming on the gas. Wufei's grip was wrenched free, and the car flew out of the parking lot and onto the dark street, leaving Wufei shouting Mandarin curses in their dust.
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