Chapter 4

    Heero scuffed his feet on the lush hall carpet as he hesitated outside of the elevator. The doors shut behind him with a chime as the machine continued its cheerful way to the top of the ritzy hotel. Heero wasn't exactly nervous, per say. He hadn't been frightened of anything since his childhood. But he was out of his element, and he was painfully aware of the fact. He looked around at the scattering of paintings on the creamy wallpaper, then down at his feet and the thick -looking carpet that lay across the entire hall's floor.
    Definitely too high-class for an ex-soldier and current chief of security. He'd never been able to afford a place like this in his life, not that he would want want to. This was more Quatre's kind of place... but then, he'd been the one to foot the bill for this, hadn't he? Supplying his generous donator with a prime suite for his stay...
    And that brought up the whole "nervous" question again. But he wasn't nervous. No sir, Heero Yuy was always always confident, cool to the touch, and unaffected by flashy surroundings. That went double for pretty faces. How many countless beautiful young girls had fluttered their lashes at him only to be met with a dead stare? More than he cared to count. Right. That settled it. This was just another mission. Keep calm, keep cool, keep your face emotionless.
    Squaring his shoulders, Heero Yuy, invincible warrior, marched firmly down the hall to say goodbye to Chang Wufei.

    Room 210-- that was it. He hesitated in front of the door, then raised a hand to knock.
    The door swung open before he'd even touched it, startling him just enough that he almost darted to the side to avoid an expected attack.
    But there was no attack forthcoming. Wufei stood in the doorway, blinking in surprise, balancing a basket of laundry on his hip. Heero glanced over his shoulder into the room. The clan leader's suitcase lay on the bed, half packed. There was no sign of anyone else. The two escorts the warrior had brought with him must be staying in other rooms, undoubtedly close to hand.
    "May I help you?" Wufei drawled, sounding a little amused and a little wary at the same time.
    Heero looked back at him to answer, and hesitated again. The clothes Wufei were washing were apparently everything he needed to get packed. And most likely the outfit he was going to wear for the trip back was in that pile somewhere, as well, because he was wearing nothing but a pair of loose silk sleeping pants.
    Heero's mind went blank.
    Wufei watched him for a moment, eyebrows arched, then leaned his arm on the doorjam and stared at his unexpected visitor. "Did you want something, Yuy?" he demanded, the shadow of a smirk twitching at his lips. He'd caught him gaping.
    Heero shook himself mentally and met the other man's gaze. Emotionless, he reminded himself belatedly, and let his soldier's mask slam back into place. For a moment he wondered what kind of face he could have been making upon being confronted with a topless Wufei, then decided it would be better for his pride if he didn't think about that .
    He kept his gaze firmly locked with Wufei's. "I wanted to apologize in person for the incident the other night."
    The faint smirk died on Wufei's lips before it could blossom, and his eyes narrowed slightly, his mouth turning into a slight scowl. His eyes flickered sideways, avoiding his guest's gaze, and if Heero didn't know any better, he would have sworn that had been a slight blush on the other man's cheeks. "I started it," he mumbled. "I was being too forward. Adrenaline got to me.." He slipped past Heero, still avoiding his eyes, his expression distant and arrogant. "You didn't have to apologize for that," he added. He was trying to sound indifferent, but there was a chilly undertone to his voice.
    It took Heero a few seconds to realize he'd been misunderstood. His mask slipped in surprise and embarrassment. "Wait-" He snagged the warrior's elbow as Wufei tried to walk away. "That's not what I meant," he said hastily.
    Wufei had stiffened at his touch, and shot him a narrow look over his shoulder.
    "I- I wasn't talking about that," Heero stammered, cursing himself silently for the sudden knots in his tongue. His face felt hot. "I meant the statue. The Jade Dragon."
    Wufei relaxed just a little, his irritation seeping away to be replaced by a puzzled frown. "That wasn't your fault, Yuy," he pointed out. "There was bound to be some lowlife somewhere desperate enough to take a shot at such a prize. Besides, he didn't succeed. You stopped him in time."
    "We stopped him," Heero corrected quietly. The distinction suddenly seemed very important. "If you hadn't caught his partner, they might have gotten away with it." He realized belatedly he was still gripping the other man's elbow and dropped his hand by his side.
    Wufei gave a one-shouldered shrug. "Personally, I'm surprised the braided one didn't leave him. And anyway.." he glanced up and briefly met Heero's eyes, "You did your best," he admitted gruffly. " The statue's safe now. That's the only important thing. But what about you?"
    "Huh?" Heero felt suddenly foolish, caught unawares by that quick, sideways glance.
    "The thief. Everyone-- including that ass Kushrenada --says you have an unbeatable record of always getting your man. It must have been a harsh blow when those two idiots escaped. I'm sorry we weren't able to catch them."
    Heero shook his head slightly. "I'm not keeping score," he muttered. "I'll catch up to them eventually. I suppose I could tear the whole city apart looking for them.."
    "But they've probably left already," Wufei finished drolly.
    "And I must admit," Wufei said reluctantly, "a part of me almost.. admires the little punks for what they tried to do. They almost pulled it off. Of course, if you'd been there at the time, I'm sure it never would have gone that far.." he trailed off as if suddenly remembering the reason Heero hadn't been in the room to stop them at the time. Heero watched in fascination as a slow blush rose to the proud man's cheeks. "Er.."
    Heero managed to shrug nonchalantly. "It doesn't matter. The statue is safe. And.." he allowed himself the shadow of a smile. "I didn't mind the.."
    "Distraction?" Wufei supplied, lips curving in a smirk, despite the blush.
    Heero nodded, and for a few moments there was an almost awkward silence.
    "So, when are you leaving?" Heero asked abruptly when he felt as if it was getting a little too awkward.
    "Oh.." Wufei looked down at the forgotten basket of dirty clothes in his hands, then shrugged uncomfortably. "Probably later this afternoon or.."
    Heero wasn't sure where the words came from or why he wasn't allowed to stop them, but they were already coming out. "They're still at large."
    Wufei looked at him blankly.
    Expressionless face, expressionless face, Heero coached himself. "The thieves. They might try again."
    For a second Wufei looked startled, then angry, then determined. Then, all at once, it dawned on him, and he shot the other man a sharp look. Slowly, his mouth pulled into something between a grin and a smirk. It was probably supposed to look a little scary. Heero thought it looked..
    "You're right," Wufei declared airily, pushing past him and catching the other man off guard. He entered his room and dropped the basket by the end of the bed with a mock scowl. "I refuse to let them get their grimy paws on the Jade Dragon. If you don't mind, I would rather stick around a few days just to be on the safe side."
    Heero felt a grin tugging at his mouth and fought to control it. "Aa. I'll inform Quatre." He was turning to go when Wufei cleared his throat. He hesitated, glancing back at the other man.
    "I'm going to have to unpack everything, and then I'm going to make lunch." Wufei's hands were on his hips, his expression haughty, but his eyes betrayed his nervousness as he waited for Heero's response. "Do you have to report to work?"
    Heero paused, gazing at the other man for a few moments in silence. His face felt hot again and his heart had started beating a little faster, as if he was in the middle of a fight. But instead of feeling dangerous and violent, he only felt..
    Relief. And pleasure at the unspoken invitation.
    He turned back to face the man, hesitating in the doorway. " Iie. Not until tonight." His eyes flicked towards the suitcase. "... Do you need help?"
    The tension left Wufei at Heero's offer, and this time he did smile. "Aa."
    Heero allowed himself to offer a small smile in return. He stepped inside, starting to close the door behind him. Wufei strode towards him, arching a brow. Heero felt flustered and confused for all of two seconds as the Chinese warrior closed in; he almost jumped when Wufei reached past him and flipped the sign on the door so that it read "Do Not Disturb". Then he pushed the door shut, eyes locked with Heero's.
    Heero snorted in amusement and leaned in to capture the other man's lips with his own.


    "I blew it," Duo sighed, dropping gracelessly onto the couch in a tangle of limbs and braid. He covered his face with a hand and grimaced. "I should've looked up the weight of the damned thing before the mission."
    "Never mind," Trowa consoled him from where he was seated at the table, long fingers curled around a steaming mug of tea. "We're lucky we got out of there with our lives and our freedom. I'm grateful for that, at least."
    "..Yeah..." Duo lifted his hand and squinted at his partner morosely. "Woulda been the steal of a lifetime, though."
    Trowa offered him a vague smile. "A green rock is not worth your life, Duo."
    "Feh." Duo sprang from the couch in a surprising turn of agility, and wandered over to the table. He slumped in a chair, propping his chin in his hands and looking intently across the table at the other man. "What about you, are you sure you're all right? That Woofy guy didn't cut you, did he?" he asked anxiously.
    "I'm fine, Duo," Trowa assured him, eyes on his tea.
    "Then what's up? You've been real quiet ever since we got back." Duo tried to keep his voice light, despite the churning in his stomach. Trowa had gotten quite a scare last night-- he'd narrowly slipped away from another term behind bars. "Look," he muttered, glancing away, "I won't blame you if you're mad at me. I mean, you didn't even want to go on the damn heist. I'm the one who dragged you into it, and it almost got us both arrested. I'm sorry, man."
    Trowa lifted his eyes to stare at his partner. "I'm not mad at you," he said, sounding genuinely surprised.
    "Hah? You're not?" Duo looked up, half hopeful, half confused. "Then-"
    "I'm just.. I guess the right word is grateful," Trowa said quietly, gazing at him solemnly. "Not everyone in your shoes would have made the choice you did. Another man might have kept running. You didn't. You stayed. Thank you-- for not leaving me behind, I mean."
    Duo gave a short bark of laughter to cover up his embarrassment. "Aw, c'mon, Tro, you know me better than that! I couldn't have just left you there for Yuy the Wonder Cop and Woofy Ching or whatever his name was." And there it was. His opening. The opening he'd been looking for all along. Duo recognized it and seized it all in the same instant, hoping to God Trowa couldn't hear his heart hammering from across the table. He reached out and touched the other man's slender hand, holding his gaze. "You're too important to me," he said seriously, catching his partner off guard. "I'm not gonna lose you, Tro." When the hand nervously started to twitch away from his, he added quickly to lighten the mood, "Not to a geek with an oversized butterknife, anyway."
    Trowa managed a small, forced smile, then he pulled his hand carefully free and rose to his feet.
    Duo felt his heart drop to his feet and his face burn with humiliation and hurt. He quickly looked down at his fists clenched on the table, biting his tongue to keep himself from saying anything else that could ruin their friendship. Well, that silent response was more than enough of an answer. Trust Trowa to use actions instead of words to tell what he thought of something. His retreat was an obvious " Don't go there". I won't, Duo told himself fiercely. Even if it kills me. I'm not going to lose our friendship over this.
    He started to mumble an apology, but Trowa beat him to it.
    He'd been standing at the sink, clutching the rim and gazing blankly out the window. Abruptly he turned to face Duo and blurted, " I'm sorry."
    Duo gaped at him. "That's my line," he said weakly. "Why the hell are you sorry?"
    "For a lot of things," Trowa admitted, lowering his eyes, his voice carefully controlled, as always. "Hiding things. And lying."
    "Lying? Hiding? What are you talking about?" Duo asked uneasily.
    "This mission made me think," Trowa continued quietly. "It made me realize what a loyal friend you are, and how much this partnership depends on trust." He took a deep breath and met Duo's gaze, his face set in its perfect, dispassionate mask. "This partnership isn't going to work."
    "What??" Duo leapt to his feet so hastily his chair fell over. He didn't notice, his eyes glued to Trowa. "Why not?!"
    "Trust," Trowa repeated simply. "We look after each other, but we have to be sure we can take care of ourselves, as well. Otherwise it would be a distraction. You trust me to watch my back, just like I trust you to watch yours. But last night I didn't watch my own back, and because of it, I almost got us caught. I made you give up the statue. I broke your record; you're the one who always get your prize ."
    "W-wait a minute," Duo sputtered. "I don't care about--"
    "And I can't keep pretending to be your friend."
    That statement hit Duo in the stomach like a shovel. He opened and shut his mouth stupidly, staring at the other man. His gut began to twist with hurt, shock, and betrayal. "P..pretend..? What...?" He took a deep breath to keep his voice steady. "You mean all this time, you didn't even like me?"
    "No, that's just the problem," Trowa corrected him, his eyes flinching away. "I liked you too much. And that's not fair to you, especially when I'm hiding it from you. I know all about those girls you go to some nights, so don't worry, I'm not disillusioned. But it's wrong to hide something like this from you, because--"
    Duo was across the small kitchen in three long strides. Trowa caught the movement out of the corner of his eye and jerked back reflexively, expecting an attack. Duo ignored the hands that came up in automatic defense and locked his arms around the other thief's neck. Leaning forward into the startled acrobat's usually strict personal space, he pressed his mouth to Trowa's and kissed him hard.
    Trowa went rigid with shock, and continued to stare dazedly at his partner when Duo finally pulled back. Trowa's voice, which had been calm and nearly inflectionless during the whole conversation, sounded a little shaky now. "Wh-what..?"
    Duo offered a dark scowl to hide the relief and the sudden hope he felt bursting in his chest. "Idiot."
    Duo's expression softened, but he kept his arms locked stubbornly around the other man. "When I said you were too important to me to lose, I meant it," he said firmly. "And you don't have to feel guilty and apologize for yourself. I've been hiding things from you, too."
    "Like what?"
    Duo kissed him again, quick and sloppy. "Like that," he breathed when he was done.
    Trowa looked a little shell-shocked. "Oh," he managed to squeak. Hesitantly, he raised his hands to rest them against Duo's lower back. When the braided thief didn't disappear, the confused, stupefied look in Trowa's eyes started to fade into something much happier.
    Duo offered him a wide smile. "Besides," he corrected quietly, "you were wrong about one thing. I don't care about that crummy lizard statue. I don't need it."
    "Oh?" Trowa murmured, and Duo felt a shiver go down his spine as the taller man's breath tickled his lips.
    "Yeah," he mumbled, tangling his fingers in unruly auburn hair. "I've got my prize.. right here." This time when he kissed the other man, Trowa kissed him back.

    And so, while sometimes things don't turn out exactly as planned, it seems there is yet some truth to legends, after all. So the lesson of the story remains:
    Heero Yuy always gets his man.
    And Duo Maxwell always gets his prize.
    And they all lived happily ever after.

The End.

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 4
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