And did he ever mention how much he disliked urban environments?
He scowled at the facade of the building. The local branch of the Jurgensen's family holdings dominated the utilitarian side of the L3 colony. It was a tall, square building with small windows and little cover, but that didn't stop him from successfully hiding in the shadows across the street from it, nor did it stop him from catching sight of at least four security guards on three different floors walking rounds that were less than complacent.
"Security's kinda high, don't you think?"
He whirled around, startled by the sudden sound by his elbow. Years ago, maybe his hands would already be dealing an equally sudden death to the intruder. Tonight, he just got surprised. And irritated. He scowled. "Thought you weren't interested."
Duo watched the windows instead. "I thought about breaking into this place before. Just for kicks, you know. Back in the day, when this sort of thing was all kicky still. Thought there had to be something interesting going on in here, what with all the guards for a civ op. Then... you know. Just sort of lost interest."
A glare decided to keep the scowl company as Heero retreated a few steps closer to Duo's position to minimize their volume. "They say anything about this place?" he asked grudgingly. It would be a foolish waste of resources not to ask, and whatever the games Duo liked to play, he was typically honest.
"The usual crap," he answered, pulling a cigarette out of his front pocket and twirling it idly between his fingers. "It's been here for a while. Started beefing up the security six, seven years ago? Lost a lot of money in the post-war market, so they say, but they kept up the security. There were some layoffs. Didn't go down so sweet."
"Did they do any of their manufacturing here, or was it just the mergers and acquisitions?"
"M&A. Pissed off the white-collars, those layoffs did. It ain't so smart to piss off the people with connections. Heard the whole company started going south."
"It's still strong," Heero updated him. "Smaller, consolidated, but influential. Like you say, they have connections. Especially to government."
"Hmpf. Figures. They have a loading bay in the back. Or if that doesn't work, there's always the vent system on the spinward side, and the fire escape stuff right next to it."
"Security, other than guards?"
"Never got that far."
Well, that was a pleasant chat. Moving on. Heero reached out and snatched the wrist attached to the hand toying with the smoke and looked at it pointedly. "How'd you get it off?"
Duo smirked. "Unlike you, I didn't have to go getting my head smashed in to do it." Fortunately, he hadn't had it implanted underneath his skin, either.
"How did you get it off?" Heero repeated flatly.
"Even gundanium bracelets have their weaknesses." He would have let that answer stand, if not for the raised intensity of Heero's glare. His own eyes narrowed at the indignity. Pissing Heero off with a mystery was one thing, but the insinuation of collaborating with the enemy would not be tolerated. "Courtesy of the Sweepers, if you must know. Those micro-fusion cutters they have these days are real gems."
"And when did you pick up one of those?" There was no appreciable decrease of suspicion in Heero's voice.
"A while back," Duo answered just as flatly, though managing to pull it off with a bit of drawl just for added insult. "They's got their ways."
"And you just decided to use it now?"
There were too many ways to answer that question, and no few of the answers incriminating in some way. He found one that suited his purposes. "You know, irony of ironies... the suits tried to place me here once, long time ago. Before the layoffs called off the deal. But I did go in for an interview."
"I won't believe that made you bitter enough to want to help out."
Though he would likely have been just as untrusting of his motives, had he been on the other side of this exchange, that didn't stop Duo from getting irritably exasperated. "I told ya, I always wanted to do this place. Just for kicks, yeah?"
"A lot of trouble, just for kicks." Even with the micro-fusion cutter, it would have taken some time and patience to break through the gundanium seals without cutting his hand off in the process. Luckily, the Sweepers had provided him with a quality device. Nothing less would do for one who was even still a legend among them.
"What else has a guy to do around here?"
They heard steps approaching from the street side, and before they could move, a flashlight pinned them to their places. "Hey, you there! What do you think you're doing?"
"Shit," Duo muttered grumpily as the security guard crossed the street to their side.
Since Duo's wrist was still trapped in his grasp, Heero took the ready excuse and snatched the cigarette with his free hand. "Just trying to convince my friend here to stop smoking."
"What? Aw, come on..." Duo's tone took on an appropriately whining tone.
"I don't like smoke," Heero responded, releasing the wrist while involuntarily recalling the taste of Duo's kisses from the previous night.
"Geez," was mumbled before a glint sparked in Duo's eye and he shrugged nonchalantly. "Fine. You want it, you got it, baby."
"Excuse me?" What was his game now?
"You don't like smoke, I don't like smoke. That's it."
"You've got to be kidding me." This didn't seem to be the first time Heero was in such a situation.
Duo turned to the security guard. "Do I sound like I'm kidding?"
The guard frowned. "You two sound like you need to get out of here."
"Hey, no worries," he said placatingly, taking a hold of Heero's elbow. "Me and the boytoy will move right on along. But I gotta point out, we're on the sidewalk. Public property, man."
Heero pulled his arm out of Duo's grasp. "Boytoy?"
"What?" Duo asked innocently.
With an annoyed quirk of his lips, he turned and started to walk away.
"Hey." The sound was a mild plea. Without another glance to the security guard, Duo went after him. "Come on, baby, don't be like that."
He threw another irritable look over his shoulder. "Baby?"
"Aw, come on," Duo sighed loudly, pulling Heero into the alley behind the Jurgensen building. He pinned the body of his slimmer companion against the wall and let out a smirk just centimeters from Heero's face. "You know you like it."
"Duo," Heero stated dryly. It had a touch of an exasperated warning to it.
"Aw, come on," he murmured again, this time against the skin of Heero's neck. "That was an adorable little lover's spat you started."
"What, did you think he'd actually believe we were a cute and fully functional pair?"
"Oh, you're not fully functional?" He slid his hand between them and palmed Heero's crotch. "That would explain why you buggered out so early last night."
Unimpressed, Heero snorted. "That was the fault of your stamina, remember, not mine."
"What do you say we make the fiction a reality, hmmm?"
Well, lips were for talking, right? Duo let his answer the question to their heart's content. It took three seconds for Heero to pull his mouth away just enough to mutter in an irritably smothered fashion. "I told you, I don't like smoke."
Duo chuckled lowly. "And I told you, I'll stop. Just gotta give it some time to clear out. A guy doesn't get minty fresh all by himself, yanno."
"And I thought--"
As much as Duo valued his opinion in theory, in practice, now really wasn't the time. His words were swallowed before they hit the air. He might have pushed Duo off, but the beam of a flashlight fell on them again.
"Hey! I told you to get out of here!"
Heero carefully noted the smug smirk he felt against his lips and saved it for later. For now, he resigned himself to the kiss, remaining somewhat unenthusiastic despite Duo's urging for more participation. He doubted the guard would be looking close enough to tell the difference. And Duo seemed to be doing enough for the both of them.
"Oh, for chrissakes...." The guard made a sound of disgust, but he turned around and left them alone, which was all that mattered.
When Heero managed to turn his mouth away again, Duo allowed it. He let his head rest against the wall as his eyes drifted upwards, studying the side of the building. The fire escape was on the side of the building off to their right. On this side, the side with no windows since it would have looked straight at the blank surface of the building behind it, there was an access ladder crawling up the flat plane of the wall. The bottom segment of it was retractable to discourage random passersby from making use of it, but an ex-Gundam pilot, even a somewhat depressed and out of practice one, was no random passerby. "I wonder if this building has rooftop access."
"Damn, you really are dysfunctional, aren't you?" Duo muttered against his jawbone. Heero's attention may have wandered, but his hadn't.
"It'd probably be too noisy to lower the ladder. It doesn't look like it's very well maintained."
"Hello? Anybody home?" His hand had long since made way its way into Heero's pants. Receiving only a minimal response, he kneaded a little more emphatically this time. Heero's flesh showed a half-hearted interest, nothing more. He shook his head sadly. "You're missing out on all the joys in life, man."
It took a moment for Heero's focus to shift. "Joy? In an alley? With security guards shining flashlights at you?"
Duo's expression took on a dark humor. "What, you had some better ideas?"
His lips parted to respond, but nothing came to mind. Maybe some time years ago, he had had a thought or two on the subject, but those days were in the distant past now. Troubled by that feeling of loss, he resorted to his only defense and changed the subject. "I'm going up. Your presence is not required. Please remove your hand from my pants."
It didn't budge without first a long, hard stare from Duo. Then with a shrug, he removed his hand, daintily did up the partially undone zipper and refastened the button, smoothed the hem of Heero's shirt back into place, and even gave the crotch a pat of farewell. When his face rose from observing the task, however, it carried an tight grin that Heero recognized, sending a tingle down his spine. It was the edged smile that had greeted a welcome challenge, and it had rarely boded well for the person on the other side. "Oh, for chrissakes, Duo," he sighed, consciously echoing the curse of the security guard.
"It's pretty easy to find little purple pills around here," Duo said, the deliberate casualness sitting atop an obviously mocking layer. "You don't even have to know where to look."
He laughed. Softly, perhaps, and maybe a little bitter, but still a laugh. His case worker had given him a prescription for anti-depressants fourteen months ago. He had ignored it. Medication was no cure for a life that had trickled away. It was gone, and it wasn't coming back. A brief pang of something he might have labeled regret tried to take a breath of freedom, but it failed.
Without another word, he pushed Duo off of him and padded over the handful of steps necessary to bring him to the base of the retracted ladder. He had lost many things, but self-confidence was not one of them. The sure knowledge of how to scale the obstacle slid its way forward without his having to dig for it. He took a position opposite the ladder, bounced on his toes briefly to get a feel for his body, then ran the few steps across, planting a foot on the wall to assist in his jump upward. He caught the bottom rung of the ladder with room to spare, but was still displeased with his performance. Steel-tipped his boots may have been, but their tread was wearing smooth. With a determined frown, he hauled himself up the ladder, daring his muscles to protest. They let out only a mild whimper before settling into an old rhythm.
He slithered over the lip of the rooftop, automatically minimizing his profile before he took the opportunity to take stock of the situation. Turbines, air conditioning units, electrical boxes, and most important of all, a door. He tried it. It was locked, of course, but the security on it didn't look too sophisticated. There was a padlock on top of some wiring leading to a small electronic device installed to the side. He frowned again. The electronic security he could deal with easily, but he cursed his lack of lockpicks. His situation had not left him many avenues for decent preparation.
A faint rustle made him snap his head around, and thus was he granted another opportunity for cursing. Though modestly hiding another smirk, Duo calmly finished pulling a set of lockpicks from his pocket and held them up. "Need these?"
Despite his claims of disinterested civilian living these days, he had obviously kept up with a few skills and habits. Heero scowled mildly at the lockpicks, grumpily contemplating their price. "Make up your mind, Duo. Do you want to help me? Or do you want to sit this one out?"
"Maybe I just wanna play with you." It could have been said suggestively, and it was, but mostly it was spoken dangerously, in a happy, sort of psychotic way.
"I don't enjoy being played with," he answered flatly.
"Not 'playing' as in 'toying' with you." The explanation was patiently magnanimous and overdramatically patronizing. "Playing *with* you."
"I'm not 'playing'." Duo favored him with an expectant look, as if waiting for some sort of point to be made. Heero let it hang for a while before deciding that their time could be spent more productively. "I fail to see the fun factor here. I am, after all, not letting you fuck me in a dark alley."
"You implied that I should find fun in other things. Well, here you go. Now I have."
Be careful what you ask for, the old adage ran through his mind. You might just get it. Hn. But at least there were ground rules, even in games. "And you're not going to suddenly find it 'fun' to leave me high and dry, are you?"
Duo shrugged noncommittally. "Don't give me a reason to."
"And what sort of reasons would those be?"
He shrugged again. "Maybe we'll find out. But I'm guessing you're hoping we don't."
The guess was quite correct. Knowing that he wouldn't get anything more concrete out of Duo, he took a few seconds to brood over the situation. In the end, he decided to accept Duo's 'help', at least for now. He could always ditch his unpredictable companion later. Surely nothing terrible could happen in the next hour that would flip Duo's allegiances. He grunted his reluctant acceptance. "Get the padlock. I'll rewire."
Once the simple matter of the locks was dealt with, they entered the building. An unlit staircase greeted them. There was a closed door at the bottom sealing off the stairwell from the rest of the building. "Ooh, creepy," Duo declared.
Heero threw him a dark look before pulling the roof access door to a nearly shut position. The only illumination came from the small gaps between the door and the frame. Descending almost blindly into the darkness, he almost expected Duo to take advantage of it to do something inappropriate, but the thrill seeker simply listened for sound coming from the hallway outside. Deeming it safe, he silently opened the door a crack and listened again, peering out as well. With a sound laden with satisfaction, he pushed the door open enough to slip out and beckoned Heero behind him.
"Where to now, chief?"
Though Heero was certain that the compliance masked disrespect, he disregarded it to think instead on the probable layout of the building. They currently occupied a nice hallway with several widely spaced doors. If he judged correctly based on his view of the windows from the outside, they probably led to conference rooms. "Was there an elevator?"
"Yeah. That side." Duo gestured down the hall.
Heero headed in that direction. The elevator lobby yielded a brief directory, but it was sufficient to let them know that two floors down they could find the accounting offices. It wasn't clear whether those were the offices that they were looking for, but failing any more informative labeling on the office directory, it would suffice as an initial objective.
The map of emergency exits posted in the lobby led them to the stairs down. On the third story landing, they froze when the door leading to the first floor opened. Holding their breaths in suspense, they listened as one pair of footsteps clacked against the metal stairs on its way upwards. They were gesturing out a plan of attack to each other using their old war codes when the footsteps stopped on the landing below theirs. The door to the second story opened, and the person exited.
They continued on their journey without further incident. The hall on the third floor was empty, and they quickly scanned the name plates next to the doors. The accounting department had a large office to themselves, with the center a mess of cubicles, and a few window offices lining the edges. The lights were dimmed to a standby mode, bright enough for the security guards or some late-working employee to find his way to a light switch, but dark enough to be insufficient for actual work. Scanning the contents of the cube closest to the door, Heero's eye caught sight of an employee directory pinned to the partition wall. Flipping through it and squinting, he found the name of a person whose title was public relations and local resources. That sounded like a good bet.
Matching the name to one of the name plates was easy. Getting into the office was easy, too, since the door was unlocked. Finding the information was not so easy.
As they might have expected from the man's job title, the office was filled with quite a bit of paperwork. From Heero's point of view, the best way to get to know a man through his office was from the perspective of the chair in front of the computer, so there he sat, studying the office by the ambient light through the window. "I'll take the computer and desk," he said eventually, swishing the wireless mouse around. He hurriedly reduced the brightness of the display when the monitor lit up. After a few moments, he noticed that Duo was still leaning against the wall next to the closed door, arms crossed. "Why don't you take that cabinet over there?" he asked rather pointedly. He should have known better to think that Duo might take the implied hint.
"Aren't we looking for the guy's dayplanner?"
"Really think he'd keep something like that in a cabinet that's nowhere near his desk?"
Grr. Good point. "Go... look for something else, then. This guy is a PR worker in a major branch of their operations. He must have something interesting lying around for you to entertain yourself with."
Duo waited motionlessly for a good handful of seconds before shrugging carelessly and moving towards the bank of drawers. No point in breaking into a place if you weren't going to snoop around. He pulled a thin pair of gloves out from his pocket and put them on before starting.
Heero noticed the odd movement. "Do you always carry gloves around with you?"
There was a bland blink in response. "Don't you?"
Again, he should have known better than to ask. The computer would be less unpredictable, so he turned his attention to that instead, making a brief check for log files before proceeding to explore the system. It had been a while since using a computer for anything much more than mind-numbing games of solitaire, but he hadn't lost his skills, and paper-pushers weren't all that creative.
Shaking off the unsettling feeling of a comfortable déjà vu, Duo started tugging on drawers, quickly dismissing the ones that were unlocked. Those wouldn't hold anything juicy. He found a locked one on the bottom, closest to the desk, and pulled his picks out again, unlocking the simple mechanism with an almost absent-minded skill.
The illumination filtering in through the window on the opposite wall was faint, but it was enough for him to make out the bold lettering on the tabs of the file folders. Names, dates, not much of it held much meaning to him, but there was one acronym that stuck out. He leaned in to take a closer look at it. "Hey, Heero."
"What?" Heero triggered a buffer dump on the printer in the office, hoping that the last page still held in memory would hold something interesting.
"Lemme climb under your desk a sec."
He grabbed the file and crawled over to Heero's side. "Don't want the light to show," he said, holding out his cigarette lighter in explanation. The front panel of the wooden desk reached all the way to the thin carpeting. An attempt to make the office look more stately, perhaps.
Heero pushed his chair back. He'd been about to get fetch the printout, anyway. Once he was out of the way, Duo scurried under the table for cover, but Heero leaned over to speak to him with his hand outstretched. "Don't want you to set anything on fire, either." His fingers uncurled to reveal a set of keys, dangling from a keychain with an embedded LED light.
"You take all the fun out of things," Duo pouted, but he took the mini-flashlight and got to work examining his purloined documents.
Heero pulled the sheet from the printer and angled it toward the window. It appeared to be a bill of sale, nothing more. He folded it up and stuck it in his pocket for later disposal.
"What?" he repeated, this time with an edge.
"Dude, you drive a scooter?" Duo obviously found that amusing.
It took him a moment to figure out where this had come from. No doubt Duo had recognized the logo on one of his keys. "...I don't get out much."
"Yeah, I could tell."
He went back to the desk and sat down, forgetting for a moment that Duo was underneath until he heard a muttered warning. The moment came and went and soon he was back to pondering the depths of the PR agent's desk. There was an in basket with a trade magazine and a few requisition forms in it, an out box with a few bills to be mailed. He started checking the drawers for schedule books.
A chuckle floated out from underneath the desk. "Hey, Heero. You'll never guess what these people bought back in ninety-seven."
"No, really, guess."
"Hn. Ten reams of paper?" He asked only because he was sorting through so much of it at the moment.
"Nope, guess again."
Heero stopped short of kicking him, but it wasn't quite a friendly nudge with a steel-toed boot, either. "Twenty ink cartridges?"
His foot was caught by the ankle by one tight grip. The hand slid upwards until it squeezed just beneath the knee. He looked down and saw Duo glaring up at him, face peeking through from between his legs for a proper viewing angle. The eyes that typically were purplishly blue looked black in the darkness.
"Don't even start with me, Yuy," Duo growled. "I don't play the boot-licking scene."
Heero opened his mouth to name another scene that might involve Duo beneath a desk somewhere, but his sleepy sense of self-preservation reminded him that perhaps now was not the best time. His position was somewhat vulnerable. And they were on a mission. Of sorts. He altered his comments appropriately. "You started it. You could just tell me what the hell they bought."
"Hey, I was just trying to make things interesting. I can see that my efforts were wasted."
'Interesting'. Is that what he called these games? Heero snorted. "Just tell me what they bought."
"No, never mind," Duo dismissed airily. "Moment's passed. Lost my interest."
"Nope. Missed your chance, buddy. Game over. Nothing more to see here. Move along." He pushed Heero's chair out of the way and slithered out from underneath the desk.
"Duo," Heero repeated flatly, but it wasn't long before he gave up on it. Duo was clearly occupied with putting the file back and searching through the others. "Does it have anything to do with Relena?"
A terse silence passed before Duo answered. "Nope."
Heero believed him. And if it didn't have anything to do with why they were there, then he didn't really care. "Give me my keys back."
Duo jingled them lightly, treating them to another inspection before throwing Heero a pointed look. "Why? You ever gonna need any of these keys again?"
The automatic response to that was that of course he would need his keys. A person always needed his keys. But the answer stuck on his tongue when the truth of Duo's words sunk in. "I like my mini-light," he eventually said.
Apparently that was enough to satisfy. He caught the keys that were tossed his way, then went back to sifting through the desk, his progress far slower than he would have liked. Finding nothing of any interest, he soon moved back to the computer, digging around for a schedule keeper, and studiously ignoring Duo's occasional exclamation of delight, wonder, or derision. Duo was better at getting under his skin tonight, though. He finally broke down. "What the hell is in those files, Duo?"
"Nothing to do with the little princess," Duo drawled. "You have your fun, and I'll have mine."
"Fun. Right." He opened another file and scanned it. "Here it is. I have her itinerary for tomorrow." He memorized it and began putting the computer back into its starting state.
"Of course," Duo continued lazily a couple of minutes later. "I suppose that, if you wanted to know a little something about this family your little princess is about to marry into, then maybe you could say this has something to do with her."
Heero hesitated slightly in readjusting the monitor to its former brightness, wondering how it was his mind was working these days. He probably should have thought about that sooner, and yet he still had the presence of mind to do such little things as clean up after himself in the computer system. His concentration was proving unreliably inconsistent these days. Most bothersome.
Maybe he should have expected it that Duo would shut the drawer just as he got to it. He suppressed a sigh, having neither energy nor interest in dealing with this. "Get out of my way, Duo."
"Oh, so now he's interested. Well, there's plenty of other files here. Why don't you go look through one of them?"
Heero reached out and slid a finger underneath the collar of Duo's jacket, fingering the edge of it contemplatively while Duo smirked at him, shortly before firming his grip and pushing Duo aside into the indulgently wooden cabinetry. It lacked the necessary force to be truly threatening. "You don't get in my way, and I won't get in yours. Those are the rules of this game."
Duo was typically unconcerned by this change in positions. "You can't change the rules when we're in the middle of the game, buddy boy."
"Then let's call this a different game. I asked before if you were in on getting in here. You wanted fun; you were in. Now I'm talking about the rest of it. You want in on the next stage of the game, you don't get in my way. Don't make trouble for me, and I'll let you do as you please."
"Mmm, anything I please?" That sounded promising.
As if he would agree to that. "Don't make trouble for me, Maxwell."
"So if I wanted to blow this building sky high?"
"The resulting investigation would cause trouble for me."
"And if I wanted to fuck you through a mattress?"
Well, it was an upgrade from the alley. "I 'ask' that you cooperate with me. If you're going to be here, you might as well make yourself useful. You can ask for my cooperation all you like in return. I may or may not give it."
Hey, he didn't say 'no'. "Molesting you doesn't really require your approval."
"No. But suspicious stains on the file cabinets here would probably be a bad clue to leave behind."
"Oh, so you do know how to come, after all, eh? I was beginning to worry."
He'd actually been thinking of blood stains, but whatever. "I don't think it's really a matter of 'knowing how', Duo."
"Oh, so then you admit your body would just react to mine, eh?" Duo grinned, and leaned forward to steal a kiss. "Game's on, then."
last modified : 1/6/2006 22:39:25 PST