'A tAsTe Of ViOlEnCe'
Duo leaned across the table and lowered his voice so that he wouldn't be heard above Quatre's chatter. "All right, what did I do now?"
Heero stared down into his coffee and tried to force the steel band of tension out of his spine. His eyes flickered up briefly, to check on Relena. She was still talking with Quatre; the two of them had finished their business the previous day, and were busy catching up on gossip. They always had gotten along.
Duo tilted his head, trying to catch Heero's gaze. Relena hadn't even batted an eye when he'd made himself at home next to Heero. She'd been smiling and almost a bit smug after last night. Perhaps mentally she thought she'd won some argument.
"Hellooo, earth to Yuy."
And she had... sort of. Or she would have, if Heero hadn't been forced to think about... about a certain suicidal American's unwanted-- And they were unwanted. Very very unwanted, and not interesting in the least --advances. Not that he would ever tell her that. Not even if he was tortured for hours with rusty scissors.
"Dude, what the hell did your coffee do to piss you off so much?"
Heero finally forced his heated glare away from his mug and settled it on its appropriate target. Duo rocked back instinctively, nose crinkling in displeasure. "I knew it. Well? Fire away. What's got you so pissy at me today?"
Like he was going to answer that. Heero reached for a roll and buttered it furiously. He wished he could fend Duo off by talking to either Wufei or Trowa about surveillance, but neither of them had bothered to show up for breakfast. A certain blonde Arabian's appearance probably had a lot to do with that.
Heero tried to concentrate on Relena and Quatre's concentration rather than get trapped in another verbal war with Duo. It was hard enough to focus with the other man sitting so close. It made his skin prickle and his heart rate go a little faster than necessary.
Nerves, no doubt.
"Honestly, sometimes I think, after all this fuss, I'll end up killing myself in some silly accident," Relena was tittering. "Sometimes, out of nowhere, I can be such a clutz."
This was true. Since Relena was naturally graceful, Heero had been a bit caught off guard the first time he'd seen her trip over her own feet. These fits of clumsiness were few and far between, but interesting to witness nonetheless.
"Just this morning, I almost cracked my own head open with a flower pot." Relena placed a hand against her cheek to show her embarrassment as Quatre chuckled. "I keep some flowers in my room to freshen the place up, and I guess I put one of the pots a little too close to the edge when I was watering it last night. It missed me by a hair. And the other day I nearly fell down the stairs!"
Quatre winced sympathetically. "That would be a nasty fall," he noted.
"Luckily I caught myself on the banister. I'd like to think it was a bump in the rug, but it was probably my own foot getting in the way."
"Hey." Duo leaned forward, blocking Heero's view of Relena. His face was serious. "Dude, I thought we were cool again. If I've done something to piss you off in the last few hours, I need to know about it so I don't do it again. Or did you just wake up on the wrong side of the bed or somethin'?"
Heero realized he'd put an extravagent amount of butter on his roll and turned his stubborn attention on scraping half of it off onto his plate.
Duo sighed theatrically and fell back in his chair again, making a face at the ceiling. "Fine, be a dick. Whatever." After a moment he abruptly rose to his feet. "I'm gonna go find Wufei and do a perimeter check."
Heero was too busy meticulously wiping butter from his knife to bother watching the other man leave.
"Are you feeling all right, Heero?"
He looked up, startled, to find both Quatre and Relena gazing at him in concern.
"Of course I'm all right," he snapped. "Why wouldn't I be?" He took a vicious bite out of his roll.
"...OK..." Quatre glanced at Relena helplessly, but she shook her head to show her own ignorance. "Did you and Duo have some sort of fight?"
"Next time she's in the mood, see if you can even--"
Heero found he had suddenly lost his appetite. Tossing the half-eaten roll onto his plate, he excused himself from the table.
He almost ran into Pearson as he entered the foyer.
"Whoa-- Oh, sorry, Mr. Yuy." The older man drew back the steadying hand he'd reached out automatically. "I guess I wasn't watching where I was going."
Heero stared back at him blankly for a moment. When he married Relena, was she going to expect him to officially drop his role as her Chief of Security? Maybe not right away, but... The thought had crossed his mind once or twice. He was going to have to pick out someone to take over. Pearson had always been more than competent; maybe he should keep an eye on him and make sure he had what it took.
At the very least it was a decent distraction. It kept his mind off of... other things. Speaking of distractions, perhaps this would be a good chance to work off some steam and see how the man worked with a bit more responsibility.
"I'll be in the training room for the next hour," he said, meeting the older man's eyes. "You're in charge until then."
Pearson blinked, obviously taken off guard, but managed to control the pleased smile that tugged at his lips. "Yes, sir. I'll make sure Miss Peacecraft is safe."
Heero nodded and strode off.
The training room was actually the mansion's old ballroom, which hadn't been touched since before the war, when the Peacecraft family had once hosted lavish parties. Relena had graciously donated it to Heero and his men to use as an indoor training ground for exercise, sparring, and other training. There was even a boxing ring set up, though Heero had never used it himself.
He closed the double doors behind him; the room was empty for once. Ever since the Gorgenstern scare had started, everyone had been working double shifts, leaving little time for exercise. Heero shrugged out of his jacket and button-down shirt, leaving on his undershirt and toeing off his shoes by the door. He found a roll of hand tape on one of the benches and wrapped his hands as he made a beeline for the battered punching bag chained to floor and ceiling. He had only used it a few times, mostly for demonstration for his men, but he felt the distinct need to hit something hard.
He warmed up with a few quick, light jabs, and then let his full aggression out with a round of blows that shook the bag and made the chains creak in protest. The sound of his fists and legs slamming into the bag echoed in the large empty room, relentless and aggressive.
It was loud enough to cover the sound of the door opening, and it was instinct that made him spin around, fists still up and ready for another blow.
Trowa was standing a few feet out of immediate reach, but he raised his arms defensively just in case. He studied Heero with his impassive mask still in place, taking in the way his chest rose and fell rapidly. "I didn't think you wore out as easily as most men," he pointed out.
Heero turned his back on him and dealt another crashing blow to the bag. It wasn't exertion that made him breathe so heavily; it was the anger he was letting out with each strike. "What do you want, Barton?" he snapped.
"Duo was grumbling," Trowa said mildly. "I didn't catch it all as he went stomping by, but I did catch the words 'Yuy', 'moron', and 'denial'. I assumed you were in here working something out when I heard the thumps. I was half afraid it would be a person instead of a punching bag."
Heero glared at the swaying bag silently. He'd been imagining Duo's face imprinted on the battered red cover, so perhaps Trowa had a right to feel concerned. "You didn't answer my question," he pointed out.
Trowa moved around so he was on the opposite side of the bag, slender fingers holding the wobbling thing in place as he stared at Heero. "I assume this has something to do with Duo," he said as if reading Heero's mind.
Heero offered him a flat glare and struck the bag viciously. Trowa swayed back slightly, but didn't relinquish his grip. "If you have a problem with Duo that words won't solve, maybe the two of you should spar."
Heero looked at him in surprise. Aside from Quatre, Trowa was the last of the ex-pilots he would have expected to suggest violence as a means to solving an argument. Trowa was known to fight only when cornered, and even then, he preferred weapons to fists.
Trowa read his look correctly and moved one shoulder in a small shrug. "Duo's temper is explosive, and yours is dangerous when it gets to a certain point. I'm hoping it hasn't gotten that bad, yet. But the two of you might only get out this aggression if you take it out on each other... in a civilized way." His eyes flickered towards the boxing ring.
Heero frowned. Trowa might have a point. But boxing was out of the question. The few times Heero had stepped in the ring during training sessions, he had been able to best his trainees with simple superior strength. But when it came down to it, his best weapon was his gun. He couldn't use his whole body as a weapon as Wufei could, and Duo's style of fighting was simple down-and-dirty street fighting. He was quick, and used to throwing punches. A boxing match might end up only frustrating Heero more if he lost.
"Perhaps you should take your own advice," he grunted, hitting the punching back a few more times in quick succession.
Trowa blinked, nonplussed. "What? Why?"
"You and Chang." Heero glanced at him. "Duo seems to think the animosity between the two of you has something to do with Winner."
Trowa released the bag abruptly. "How so?"
Heero shook his head, attacking the bag once more. "He has some insane theory about your love lives, or lack thereof. I don't know, I wasn't paying a lot of attention. It isn't any of my business-- unless it means you'll be unable to concentrate on the security of the grounds."
Trowa bristled slightly, then quickly regained his composure. "Duo's imagining things," he said shortly. "Wufei and I are perfectly fine."
"...What do you mean, a theory about our.. 'love lives'?"
Heero hesitated, looking at Trowa in surprise. The taller man's face was still carefully impassive, but his voice was a little too casual. Had Duo actually hit close to the mark? "Ask him yourself," he said at last. "All I know is it had something to do with Quatre."
Trowa winced ever so slightly, then turned and strode towards the doors quickly. "Think about what I said," he called over his shoulder. "The problem isn't me and Wufei; it's you and Duo. Work it out."
Before Heero could retort, Trowa was gone.
Heero spent an hour beating the punching bag to a saggy pulp, then went in search of Relena. He felt the rare urge to kiss her for no reason. He needed to prove to himself that she was still important to him.
Unfortunately, Duo found him first. Heero ran into him as he was going up the stairs, and the other man refused to move aside. He stood three steps above, staring at Heero with a strange look on his face.
"You two fucked last night, didn't you?"
Heero rocked back slightly, taken completely off guard by the crude assumption. "What??"
"Relena. You do did the horizontal tango." Duo descended a step, eyes narrowing pensively. "That's why you've been snarling at me all morning."
Heero realized with horror that his ears were beginning to burn. He opened his mouth for an angry reply, but Duo beat him to it. "Yeah, yeah, it's none of my business, etc etc. And before you ask how I know-- I'm not blind. Relena's been glowing all morning, and she keeps flicking me these smug little smiles. It didn't take a genius to put two and two together." He stepped down again, so that he was only one step above Heero, staring down at him. "You must be really confused now. Guess that's my fault."
"You guess?" Heero growled, unable to get anything more coherent out.
"And you thought about me while you were doing it."
Heero could only stare at his old friend, shellshocked.
"I'm guessing I have about ten seconds before you snap out of it and take a swing at me," Duo said quickly. "So just let me say this first. Instead of feeling so guilty and horrified by it-- because I know how you tick, and I'll bet you've been beating yourself up about this all day --try thinking about it in another way. Don't think of it as an emotional thing. You two obviously care for each other for some reason. I didn't really change any of that." He offered a quick, humorless smile. "It's the sex, buddy. You may like Relena, but that doesn't mean you're sexually interested in her. Did it ever occur to you that it's because she's a woman? And that maybe you're just g--"
Duo was quick, but he stumbled a bit trying to backpedal up the stairs. Heero's fingers fisted in the front of Duo's shirt and hauled him up close so that they were nose to nose. He froze, staring unblinkingly into Heero's eyes, hands up defensively. "I am not having this discussion with you," Heero said quietly but heatedly, glaring at the other man. "Especially not on the stairwell where anyone can hear."
"Hey, man, it's nothing to be ashamed o--"
"If you don't shut up right now, I will break your nose."
Duo scowled weakly, but shut up.
"Don't you dare try to be supportive now," Heero continued furiously. "Your plan this entire time has been to drive a wedge between me and Relena and force me to look at things from a point of view you set out for me, whether I wanted to or not. What kind of friend does that?"
Duo's temper got the better of him, and he was unable to maintain his silence. "Hey, you didn't even know the meaning of the word 'friend' until you met me, buddy," he pointed out irritably. "So don't try to tell me what makes a good one or a bad one."
"It's easy to tell the difference," Heero snarled. "I just compare you and Relena!"
"Ouch." Duo actually did look hurt for a moment. "..All right, look. I know they say you should marry your best friend, but--"
"YOU'RE supposed to be my best friend, Duo!" Heero exploded. "Instead, you selfishly shove all of this on me! You don't care that I might be happy!"
"Hey!" Duo tried to pull free, but Heero's grip refused to loosen. "Look, maybe I've been a little forward--"
Heero made a noise of disbelief.
"--but if you really hated it, and if you wanted me to stop," Duo continued doggedly, "do you really think I'd be able to get away with it? You've had plenty of opportunities to beat the shit out of me, or even kick me out! But you haven't! And don't use the 'I don't want to hurt one of my friends' line. You're the kind of person who acts first, then considers the consequences. A part of you wants what I'm offering, Heero. You just wish you didn't."
Heero was so full of blinding rage and confusion, he couldn't see straight. "I DON'T--"
Duo kissed him.
It wasn't rough and devouring like it usually was. It was quick and desperate, with no tongue. He was pulling back before Heero had a chance to push him away. "I learned a long time ago that if you don't grab what you want when you want it, you might never have another chance to have it," Duo said quietly, gazing at him steadily. "And sometimes force is the only way to get what you want." His eyes narrowed. "I'm not going to give up until you make me, Heero. You're going to have to beat me up, or tell me that you never want to see me again. Is that what you want? Because I can leave right now, and never talk to you again if that's what you really want."
"Stop what? Making you face this?"
"Stop..." Heero let go of him and stumbled back down two steps. "Stop using our friendship to--"
Duo was down the steps separating them in the blink of an eye, his hands clasping Heero's face. Heero tried to jerk back, and almost ended up falling down the stairs. "I've wanted you for a long time, Heero Yuy," Duo said quietly but firmly. His face was completely serious. "You have no idea what it did to me when I heard you were living with.. with her. I was too much of a coward to make a move when it might have mattered. But I don't care anymore-- and maybe that's selfish. But when I keep getting signs that maybe you want it too... even if you're in denial..." his grip tightened painfully on Heero's face, his voice hoarse. "Why won't you even give me a chance? You'll never be completely happy with Relena. She keeps you in a cage."
Heero stared back, his heart hammering against his ribs. "I'm the one that closed the cage door," he finally said. "I don't want to be who I was. I want this, Duo. I want her."
"You don't," Duo denied fiercely. "You only think you do. You want what she offers-- a chance at being normal. But don't let her define what you are, Heero. You should be able to discover that on your own."
"With your help, you mean," Heero said bitterly.
"Just let me show you that there are other options," Duo argued. "If you can't handle it-- if you don't want it-- then tell me to go. Tell me to go home, Heero."
Someone cleared their throat from the bottom of the stairs.
Duo let go of him quickly, and Heero turned around, mind still spinning wildly.
Wufei was staring deliberately at his hand on the railing, avoiding looking at them. He seemed embarrassed at having caught them. "Where's Pearson?" he muttered. "He's supposed to be at the gate."
"Uh--" Duo blinked, trying to pull himself together. He gestured over his shoulder, clearing his throat. "He just relieved me watching her holy--" he glanced at Heero, "I mean, Relena."
Wufei frowned. "You've only been watching her for half an hour. He knows he's supposed to be at the gate."
"I'll go get him, then," Duo said, seeming relieved at the chance to leave.
Heero faltered. He still needed to see Relena, but that meant following Duo. He glanced back at Wufei, but the other man was already making a hasty retreat. Slowly he ascended the stairs after Duo, following him in uncomfortable silence towards Relena's room.
Thankfully, Duo seemed to have decided their conversation could wait. His shoulders were tense, but he didn't try to speak to Heero again.
Their silent approach ended up being extremely fortuitous.
Duo opened the bedroom door with only the briefest of knocks. He took one step inside and froze in shock.
Heero was just behind him, and his heart froze in his chest at the sight that met his eyes.
Pearson looked up quickly from where he was kneeling on the bed. Relena was beneath him, and he was putting all of his weight into holding one of the thick pillows over her face with one hand. He was pressing the barrel of a gun to the pillow, finger curved around the trigger. Relena was struggling weakly, her fingers digging into his shoulders.
Duo was too stunned to react for a few seconds, but Heero was already drawing his gun. "PEARSON!!"
Pearson lifted his gun automatically.
"Watch it!!" Duo shouted, shoving Heero to the side and dodging the other way simultaneously. Pearson fired on reflex; he hadn't put on a silencer, and the gunshot echoed throughout the house as the bullet tore a hole in the doorframe, narrowly missing both men.
"Son of a bitch!" Duo snarled, yanking his gun from its holster.
Pearson was already off the bed and springing for the balcony. Heero took hasty aim and fired, catching the older man in the calf. He stumbled, shouting with pain, but managed to make it out onto the balcony out of sheer desperation.
Heero could hear feet pounding up the stairs, but he was already racing for the balcony doors. He expected Pearson to be scrambling over the balcony railing, but instead he was waiting for Heero.
He tried to get off a shot, but Heero threw himself at the man bodily. They hit the patio with a grunt, and both guns spun out of reach. As soon as his back hit the ground, Pearson bucked, rolling them over. He straddled Heero and wrapped both hands around the younger man's throat in a crushing grip.
Heero struggled for air, straining to pull the strangling hands away. Pearson made an animalistic sound of fury and surprise as Heero managed to wrench his hands away with brute force alone. Two seconds later Duo was there.
He threw an arm around Pearson's throat, catching his wrist in his elbow in an efficient headlock. Pearson gagged, falling backwards, but Duo caught his weight against his legs, teeth gritted as he put all his strength into the stranglehold. Heero scrambled to his feet and snatched up his gun. He shoved the barrel against Pearson's forehead, panting for air, adrenaline singing in his veins.
"Let him go," he ordered, voice cold.
Wufei appeared in the doorway, taking the scene in at a glance. "Yuy," he said sharply, "don't kill him. Let the police question him first."
Heero's finger tightened on the trigger. "He doesn't deserve to live."
"Maybe not," Wufei admitted soothingly. "But Relena's all right, and this man has a lot of other lives to answer for. Let him give his confession. Relena fought for the justice system that will put this man away. So did you. Don't do this."
It took all of Heero's willpower to remove his hand from the trigger.
"Restrain him and call the police," he said in a deadened voice. "Duo, let him go."
Duo flashed a dangerous smile. Pearson's struggles were getting weaker. "I think he'll be easier to handle if he's unconscious," he pointed out.
Heero didn't bother to argue. He turned and stumbled back into the bedroom, while Wufei watched Duo carefully to make sure he didn't go too far.
Trowa was issuing orders to the wild-eyed guards in the hall. Quatre was seated on the bed with Relena, murmuring to her in a calming voice. She was crying so hard she was hiccuping. Heero had never seen her so frightened.
The minute she saw him she ran to him with a wail and buried her face against his chest. His arms rose automatically, encircling her protectively. He felt a rush of relief. If he and Duo hadn't gotten there in time... if they hadn't been so quiet in their approach... Relena would....
There was a thump from outside, and Duo and Wufei reappeared. "His heads gonna hurt like a bitch when he comes to," Duo said cheerfully. "He's out for the count." He noticed the state Relena was in and sombered up. "Hey, it's all right, princess. He's no threat to anyone anymore. You're safe now."
Heero flicked him a grateful look over Relena's head, glad that Duo was compassionate enough to put aside his differences with her when it mattered most.
"D-did you k-kill him?" Relena sobbed, voice muffled against Heero's chest.
"Unfortunately, no," Wufei answered grimly, sending the prone figure outside a quick glare. "The police will have a lot of questions for him."
"I have to admit, I'm surprised," Duo said with a frown. "I mean... Pearson?"
Heero was just as baffled, but his emotions were in too much of a tangle to think about anything in depth at the moment. He felt betrayed and furious, and grateful that Relena was alive. For now he needed to concentrate on calming her.
Quatre rose to his feet. "I'll have Rashid bind him and keep watch over him until the police arrive," he offered. "Even if he comes to before they get here, I doubt he'll have much luck trying to escape with Rashid as a guard."
Trowa turned from the doorway and looked at Wufei meaningfully.
Wufei looked from him to where Heero was still comforting Relena and cleared his throat. "I'll be at the gate."
Duo held up a gun. "Here's Pearson's weapon. I'm assuming the cops will want it. They might be able to use it to compare it to the gunshot wounds in Quatre's friend."
He helped Quatre haul the unconscious Pearon out of the room, and in a few minutes, Heero and Relena were alone.
He sat on the bed with her and held her until she stopped crying.
Author's Notes: OMG TEH GUILT O_O I kept stumbling along with this chapter, but you all make me feel so guilty ^^;;;; I've been wrapped up in NaNoWriMo, so dragging myself away from that to work on fics is going to be hard this month. @_@; You get a chapter tonight cuz the NaNo site is down for maintenance >>;;; However! This story is drawing to a close, so I might actually manage to pump out the next chapter fairly soon.
But don't go asking a million quesions about this chapter... Shit will be explained soon, I promise XD;
P.S. It's 3AM, so please be forgiving of any typos ;_;
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