Part 4

 

Christ, did Quatre make a fuss! 

 

I didn’t have the heart to tell him I’d broken more ‘n a coupla ribs before now, and a few bruises weren’t gonna make or break any career aspirations as a male model.  But he nursed me well enough, despite my pain and my anger and my stubborn refusal to tell them what had happened.  We established most of the damage was on the surface – I was assured I’d be eating and drinking and on my way back to normal in a matter of days.

 

Yeah, most of that happened.  But not the ‘back to normal’ bit.

 

It probably took me over a week before I could roll myself easily out of bed – another few days before I could go up and down stairs myself, and do all the other things you take for granted when you’re fit and able.  I had bruises on bruises.  I reckoned a rib may have been cracked, but I told Q it was just a wrenched muscle.  It’d heal on its own, and I didn’t want any further fuss.  Spent too long in the last coupla years avoiding hospitals and the like.

 

I slept a lot.  I brooded a lot.

 

My nights were anguished; my dreams were wet and frustrated, and when I woke in the dark with a heavy sweat on, there was no comfort in the memories of that sudden, shocking beating.

 

I just wished I knew what the fuck was going on.

 

 

*

 

 

I really didn’t want to drop the guys off at the club that Saturday.  Even for the chance to drive Q’s sleek new car. 

Couldn’t they get a cab? I argued. 

Why was I so upset about it? they countered. 

I wasn’t fucking upset, I growled. 

Why was I growling then? they said…

 

Anyway, the argument was lost, and I drove them to the end of the street.

 

Quatre tumbled out of the car, resplendent in black satin sprayed-on pants, and a shirt that barely covered his nipples.  He was already waving to a coupla friends arriving at the same time.  Trowa slid his way out of the seat to join him.  I risked a glimpse at the club, weighing up the door monuments – two of ‘em again, wide guys in heavy black suits and the ridiculous shades. 

 

I couldn’t see the guy I thought I’d recognised.  But, then, why should I?  How could I have recognised someone I’d known almost a year ago, in another city, across state; in another Life, for God’s sake?  Guess I was hallucinating, or something. 

 

I felt the pain returning, but it wasn’t just my aching ribs.  The sight of the club was disturbing me; the sight of the steps where he’d stood, leaning insouciantly against the car, waiting for me.  The memory of the alley; of the cloakroom.  Of it all.  Something else was aching, and it was fucking annoying me.

 

I started to pull away from the kerb.

 

“Duo!”  The call was peremptory – it was annoyed.  I knew it was Heero. 

 

Fuck. 

 

My heart raced.  My cock throbbed.  I cursed every nerve I possessed for betraying me like this.  I wondered why he was here again.  Why he’d think it necessary to waste further time on me.  Most of all, I wondered why the hell I couldn’t have driven away that little bit faster.  God knows, Q’s car had the acceleration.  I wondered, I wondered….

 

Meanwhile, Heero strode quickly and easily to the car, and his hand was on the open window.  I didn’t like to drive away and leave him fingerless, so I stalled it.

 

Damn, I should never have thought about his fingers at all…his fingers on my hips… his fingers at my mouth… his fingers sliding into me.

 

Damn! I missed him.

 

“Duo, where have you been?”

 

“I got your message,” I said, sharply.  I could smell the tang of his cologne in my nostrils.  My damn body reacted of its own free will, and I was immediately, fiercely aroused.  I hoped to God he couldn’t see it.  “There’s nothing more to say, is there?”

 

“Message?”

 

“The postcard with a punch,” I spat out.  “The warning off.  Couldn’t you have just left me a note behind the bar?  Tucked a dollar in my pants and patted me off home -?”

 

“What are you talking about?” he growled.  But he met my eyes, and in that instant he knew.  So maybe it was a sudden realisation.  Or maybe he had known before.  Whichever it was, his eyes darkened with even more anger.  “A warning about what, Duo?  Who brought you a warning?”

 

“Some lumps of cretinous concrete like those heavies up there,” I snapped.  “Told me to keep my fuckin’ fag hands off you.  You think I can’t understand my native language, Heero?  And as I don’t welcome a coupla more bruised and bent bones, I think I’m gonna take some heed of it…”

 

“They beat you?”  The tightness of his tone jarred on my nerves.  I wasn’t sure what was happening here, but I knew I wanted out.  And fast.

 

“They tried,” I replied.  “Like, a coupla months back I’d have given them a better run for their money.  I might’ve taken a few bones in return.  But I don’t need that now, Heero.  I got better things to do.  And safer guys t’see…”

 

I was genuinely angry, but I knew my words were largely bravado.  I didn’t want other guys, did I?  And he knew that.  He knew I didn’t want ‘safer’.  Else I’d never have come anywhere near here again.

 

“I’ll take care of it, Duo.”

 

“Sure you will,” I sighed.  His hand was too close to mine.  His breath curled the hair on my neck.  His existence made me vibrate with desire.  Fuck, I told myself again.  “Doesn’t matter to me.  I gotta go.”

 

“You always go!” he spat.  I was temporarily stunned.  It was like the words had forced themselves out of his mouth – like he hadn’t wanted to say them.  “You fuck and run –“

 

I didn’t know what to make of this.  He seemed genuinely disturbed – and still angry about the attack on me.  I didn’t know what else was going on in his handsome, well-groomed head.  I put my hand to his, to push it away.

 

He grabbed me instead.

 

“Come with me, Duo.  It’s been weeks… I want you, you know that.  I told you I’ll take care of what’s happened… “

 

No! I thought, fiercely.  His hand was strong over mine – he leant into the window, and his mouth ghosted its words at my ear.  Half of my mind begged me to listen to him.  Every instinctive inch of me tried to squeeze its way out from under the belt and flow against him.  His lean, sensual body; his rich, acquisitive lips…

 

The other half of my mind – the bloody-minded, masochistic half – won the battle.  “Fuck off, Heero!” I growled.  “My hands ain’t good enough to touch you.  Maybe those guys’ll be down to show you who you can and can’t touch –“

 

I wrenched my arm away – I wrenched all the protesting inches of my flesh back under my control.  He leant back, surprised – I saw it flash brightly in his gorgeous eyes.  Then I slammed my foot on the gas, and the car lurched away from the kerb.  Difficult to concentrate on the wheel when your cock is hammering to be let out of your too-tight pants, and there’s a strange, painful tightness in your throat.

 

I didn’t do that corny old thing of looking back in the mirror as I drove off.

 

No, I didn’t.

 

So maybe that was gonna be the last time I saw him.

 

I still didn’t.

 

 

 

*

 

 

Two days later, I was still prowling about the apartment and making everyone’s life a misery.  Couldn’t settle to anything except dragging myself through work.  At break times, I took myself off to a corner of the site, ignoring the others and hiding behind the local paper; not that there was ever anything to read in it.

 

Today, there was only a small paragraph at the bottom of page 4.

 

Guy found dead in alley – various speculative theories as to who and why.  A guy with several names/pseudonyms.  A criminal record substantially longer than my braid.  Recently in the employ of the Club Underground. 

 

Local police thought it was an argument turned dangerously vicious – a falling-out among villains.  No details of the cause of death.  Investigations continue.

 

I read the report with some shock.  The words weren’t too interesting – the less-than-complimentary mug shot that accompanied the words was more so.  It was one of the guys who’d roughed me up.  It was the guy I thought I’d recognised.

 

You reap what you sow, I thought.  Like – I had little sympathy for him.  He lived that life – he died that death.

 

But it did confirm to me that I had known him.  Too well to be mistaken.

 

Things were getting murkier by the second.

 

 

 

*

 

 

Quatre had another of those looks on his face.  I wondered sometimes how Trowa put up with the exhausting range of emotions that he inflicted on us all.  Then I watched Trowa’s calm, possessive hand on Q’s ass, and I knew they had it sorted between them. 

 

But I knew I had nothing sorted out with anyone.  I really needed to.  And it was way overdue.

 

“Tell us, Duo,” said Trowa.  They sat themselves down on the couch, effectively cutting off my retreat from the room, where I sat curled up on the armchair.  When Q opened his mouth to add his penny’s worth, T hushed him.  “Tell us what happened while you were away.  There’s something going on that I don’t understand, and I suspect it ties in with your past, as well as your present.”

 

I tried to shake my head, but it hurt.

 

“I don’t see how we can help you, Duo, if you don’t tell us everything.”

 

“Don’t need –“

 

“Yes, you do,” he replied, firmly.  He had a full cup of steaming fruit tea in his hand.  He was in for the duration.  Damn friends, I growled inside.

 

So I told him.  It was a relief, to be honest.  I told him about Rik, and why I left school, and that’s when I discovered that he and Quatre had known all along.  Or guessed, at least.  It was a large school, but not so large that rumours got lost.  And Q was already developing his spooky empathy, even then.  We were close, y’know.  Close enough for him to know what was running through my body.

 

“And then?” prompted T.

 

“From bad to worse…” I smiled.  But the joke seemed to have lost its humour somewhere along the way.  “I was on my own, y’see.  Wanted to be the great Independent – the great Man.  Making my own way – making my own success.  Instead, I had no money, no food, got hit on whenever I tried to sleep on a park bench…”

 

Q leant over and touched my shoulder, and for once I didn’t mind.  It was comforting.

 

“So I got offered a job, didn’t I?  This guy would protect me from the jackals if I did some couriering for him.  At first I just did some low level running – some messages; some packages.  Drugs, probably, I dunno.  I didn’t care.  My guy got me regular food, somewhere to sleep – “ OK, I thought, quickly editing the story.  So I had to sleep with him a few times, but he was never that keen on the whole thing; it was over real quick.   “And then he gave me more to do, and I had a band of kids to run wherever they were needed – I sorta looked after them.”

 

“Duo…”

 

“Yeah,” I sighed.  T was no innocent – he was getting the picture.  “So I was foolin’ myself, I know.  They were whores, of course they were, and most of ‘em from homes like me.  No-one gave a fuck what happened to them.  But I thought I could ease the way a bit.  And then I got real good at it – I got put in charge of the whole lot.  I didn’t have to run for my guy anymore  - got good money, my own apartment, though it was never anything like yours.”

 

I had a feel for it, y’see – for the sex trade.  Never had many inhibitions, did I?  And morals weren’t my strong point then, either.  These guys found that there were no places in the world of sexual pleasure that Duo Maxwell couldn’t go – couldn’t service one way or another!  I had a smart mouth, and fast moves – I moved them out of trouble; moved myself into the way of opportunities; moved my poor little brood around so fast no-one ever had to challenge me.  So they trusted me more and more.  And I honestly thought the kids would be better with me than without.  I knew what each of ‘em could do – what their limits were.  And I could tell on the other hand what the johns were like – how safe; how stable.  So I made good matches.  I kept most of the kids alive and uncut.

 

Most of ‘em.

 

I didn’t tell the guys that on occasions, the kids couldn’t do it, for one reason or another – fear; illness; whatever.  I’d been known to put myself forward instead.  I was tall, and older than most of ‘em, which was never a good selling point.  But I was skinny, and boyish, and the braid used to be a real attraction.  Felt like they were getting a boy and a girl, all rolled into one…

 

My mind shied away from the memories.  I did it to save the kids.

 

Most of ‘em.

 

“I ran around with the gang for a long while.  Hung around the clubs all the time – did a smattering of drugs.  Never got that interested in ‘em, myself.” 

 

And, to be honest, it was a heady, exciting time – I was someone important, albeit in the strange, warped world of the street.  Guys looked up at me with respect.  They feared me.  They admired me.  I had my choice of lovers, then – lots of ‘em wanted me.  And many of the partners I had were like me – quite decent people, but caught up in an indecent business.  We might’ve stayed together longer in a different life.  I might’ve found someone special.

 

“But I knew it wasn’t gonna last.  I was the liaison – I was never in control.  I just made contacts for the dealers.  They were the Controllers.”

 

“Friends?”  Q was very pale.

 

“Controllers,” I repeated.  Rather harshly.  “Dealers.  Contacts.  I had no real friends there, Q.  When it came down to it, it was a life of complete and utter solitude.  Full of sudden, unexpected violence.  Sickness; drug abuse.  Pain.  Cold, wet, fucking misery.  No honour among thieves, that was all crap.  That first guy fucked me, he beat me, and he made me work.  And when I found the time and the appetite to beat him back, and take my own cut – well, he just did it to someone else.  The cycle continued.”

 

“Was he the man?  In the paper?” T’s voice was low.  He musta seen me clutching it to me, ever since I came back from work.  He musta read the story himself – made the connection.  He seemed calm, but he clutched his cup like it was a lifeline.  I saw how Q had eased his way up closer to him on the couch.  Like I said – our lives had begun to compare less and less.

 

“Yeah…” my voice seemed to fail me a little.  It had been a long time ago.  Not long enough, obviously. “Peck, he was called.  Pretty much on the lowest rungs of the scum scale.  He reported to another guy called Shad.   He was our personal Controller, I guess you’d call it.  Though I don’t think even he was the top man.  God knows how many other layers of ‘management’ there were above him…”

 

“You – dealt with him?”

 

Trowa was pale, too, but there was a sturdier look to him; he knew more of the life I’d led than he told Q, I suspect.

 

“Yeah.  I dealt with Shad.  In drugs; in kids.  Peck tried to keep control over me, but I was faster ‘n sharper than he’d ever be.  Finally I bypassed him, and dealt direct – I was Shad’s main contact.”  The memory of the other man made me shiver, against my will.  Peck had been a gross, ugly bastard – but Shad was a whole different matter.  He was a lot smarter than many others in the organisation.  There were times he vanished for a day or so, I always assumed to collect his orders from the top guy – but the rest of the time, he ran his own personal empire around us.  Staffed by us.  He creamed off the best of the kids and added his own percentage to everything I did – I wondered sometimes how he got away with it.  “We never saw anyone more important than him – than Shad.  Most of us were terrified of ‘im.  There was talk sometimes, between him and other Controllers –“  Yeah, I’d been a great eavesdropper.  I could crawl around the alleys like a snake, and had ears as sharp.  “They talked about a guy called Mr K, who was in charge of the whole city.  But Shad never seemed afraid of him.  He seemed to be invincible then.”

 

And then Peck himself had turned up here, months later, to beat the crap out of me.  Was he still working for Shad?  Were they both here?  What had happened to the shadowy Mr K?  Had it been him – or someone else – who’d helped Peck on to his just desserts, a coupla days ago?

 

T’s quiet, strong voice brought me out of those thoughts and back to my sad little story.  “And who was Wufei, Duo?  Where was he in all this?”

 

Ahh, I thought.  Here was somewhere I did not want to go.  But I did.

 

“He was something unusual, y’know? He came round the parks at night; at first I thought he had some kinda death wish.  I think he may have been looking for someone.  Then he gave up on that, and started looking out for the kids.  Like I did – but not like I did.  He was some kinda counsellor, I think.  The kids used to hate ‘em – the do-gooders.  Never did them any good.  But he was different…”

 

“Tell me, Duo.”

 

“No…” I sighed.  “Don’t think I can.  It hurts too much.  What he did for some of ‘em – it hurts too much to remember.  He took Joe in.  He got Luce a place at some canteen.  Got some medical help for others.  He got sucked in, I guess – my area was around his apartment block, so I saw him often.  He caught my eye once – talked to me.  Tried to get me on side.  Tried to get me to get out of the business, and find something else.”

 

“Something better…”

 

“Yeah,” I smiled.  Christ, it was hurting!  And that was just talking about him…

 

He caught my eye more ‘n once, of course.  Wufei Chang – Mr Care Extraordinaire.  He worked on me, all right - especially once he saw who I was; where I stood in the management myself.  But he never blamed me – he was never aggressive.  That wasn’t his way.  He’d let you know what he thought, and what he thought of my job was that it was shit, and I should stop it.  Stop it, and find something else.

 

I was gonna do it, as well.

 

I told Q I didn’t have any friends then, but Wufei was the nearest I got.  I learned that he had been looking for someone, but they weren’t in that city anymore, and he was gonna move on.  But then he watched some of the kids round his block, and he didn’t turn that disgusted-but-blind eye to it all that other folks do.  No – he wanted to do something about it.

 

“He had something that I should have protected.  I should have recognised the decency for what it was, and treasured it.  Not shit on it.”   Like I did with Rik, I thought.  Destined to fuck up whatever and whoever was good, and show the same, stupid response throughout my life…

 

We hung around together for weeks – I still did some of my job, but I was easing myself out gradually, hoping they wouldn’t notice I was moving on.  Wufei was in some kinda talks with the cops – with the social services.  I dunno – I’d have told him how fucking stupid he was, if he’d asked me.  That nothing would change; that only the kids would suffer either way.  And the kids themselves were getting a bit restless – I was losing control over ‘em, I guess.  I guess I’d have been dumped pretty soon, myself, as soon as the Controllers saw I wasn’t delivering anymore. 

 

Wufei said he’d get me a job.  Wufei liked me, I know – but he never made a move on me.  It wasn’t like that.   Christ, I sorta wished it had been… I liked him in return.  He was a damn good-looking guy.  I wanted to give back whatever I could for his attention and care.  And what else did I have to offer?

 

“But then -?”

 

It was another night when I’d been with Wufei, instead of on the street, fixing up appointments.  A night like the other hundred-odd nights that I’d been Mr Big in the world of Bartered Bodies.  I thought it was gonna end the same way – me rounding up the kids, collecting the money, crashing on my mattress and wondering when I could peel off enough to buy a fare to somewhere Wufei was going.  Then…

 

“This kid lurched out from nowhere –“ We’d been laughing at my clumsy attempts to do up his winter coat for him - he had arms full of papers and files, and I was just glad to touch his warm body, his clean, comforting, civilised body with my thin fingers, trying to help him out in the cold night, to keep him warm.  Then there was the flash of a blade, the cold slice into my back, even as I saw someone out of the corner of my eye and twisted out of reach.  It was so cold I never felt the pain for a minute or so.

 

“God, your back!” Trowa gasped.  “The scar -!  And he attacked Wufei as well…?”

 

“Yeah,” I said, harshly.  “Knifed four times, one cut an artery, one half severed his neck.  Blood everywhere.  All over his new suit, and that damn coat – all over the sidewalk.  All over me.  He gargled a bit – it all bubbled out so damn fast I couldn’t believe it.  Only ever seen someone die from cold before.  And once when I was new on the streets, I heard how Shad strangled a bony little kid who’d gone mad.  But this was horrific.  And by the time I’d started yelling for help, the blood had stopped flowing so fast, and he’d gone.”

 

No-one spoke.

 

Except for me.

 

“No last dying words or all that shit.  Just shock and blood and mess.”  I turned away from my friends, because I couldn’t trust the stinging in my eyes, and the disgust and horror I knew would be in their faces. 

 

“So - what about the boy with the knife? you say.  He was rifling through Wufei’s pockets when I recovered enough to grab him.  I broke his wrist, probably his arm.  But as soon as I turned back to Wufei, he ran, the little bastard.  Paramedics were real quick, y’know, considering the neighbourhood… they patched me up in the van, and wanted to take me in for observation – and statements, of course - but I skipped as soon as we got to the hospital.  I could see Wufei was off to a body bag.  They wouldn’t be patching him up.”

 

“Duo… if we’d known…” Q is the only guy I’ve ever known who could sob and still look OK with it.  Which he was doing, right now.  Trowa’s eyes were wide and fierce, but I was surprised to find that he didn’t seem to be directing the anger at me.

 

“You got out, then, Duo.  Didn’t you?  That’s when you came back here?”

 

I didn’t answer him directly.  I was still away on that sidewalk.  Weeping myself.  “The wound - I just keep seeing the wound.  Never seen anything like it.”

 

I let my head hang back.  My eyes closed, and I wailed soundlessly against the world’s injustice.  It was vividly raw – the way I felt then.  The stirrings of hope in amongst the cynicism and the sagging self-esteem.  I was gonna do it right, this time, I’d told myself – another guy wanted to help me.  I was gonna be a friend to him.  I was gonna live up to what he wanted. 

 

But I never got the chance, did I?

 

“Yeah, I got out then, Trow.  I didn’t have anything of my own, so I took a night’s takings, and there was enough to get a coach fare across a coupla cities – to get back here.  I wanted nothing more to do with it all.  That world of pimps and that so-fucking-dangerous desire.  It’s the worst in men, Trow.  The worst and the best – and the strongest.  I fed it – fed it with my kids.  With me.  I despised the power it had – the power it still has.”

 

“Only in the wrong hands, Duo…”

 

Why would I be interested in listening to him now?  To me, the memory was of another person I’d destroyed – another life ruined -

 

T’s hand was on my shoulder, and he was none too gentle.  “Duo, you’re too harsh on yourself!  I know what you’re thinking, and you’ve got to snap out of it!  What happened to Wufei – it was hideous, but it was a mugging; it was pure chance.  How could it have been your fault?”

 

I turned large eyes on to him, and from the way he flinched, I knew that my expression reflected the slide back to that world – it happened all too easily.   My voice sounded frighteningly calm; it sounded like someone else’s. 

 

“But you don’t have all the facts, my dear T, do you?  You should know that the guy who knifed Wufei… he was one of my boys! 

 

“Baz was ill, he was mad – I dunno what he was.  Dammit, there were times I nearly strangled the little bugger myself!  He was no good on the street except for the simplest of errands – he hung around Shad when he saw who was really in charge, and I guess he found jobs for him, because I couldn’t.  I should have run him out long before.  I’d not seen him for days – I wasn’t fucking looking for him, to tell you the truth!  I hoped he’d run off – even hoped he’d turn up in a gutter and he’d be no trouble to me anymore.

 

“And so he turned up OK, didn’t he?  ‘Praps he came looking for me, I dunno.  Baz was so dumb he probably couldn’t feed himself without help – he needed me, or someone, to keep him this side of lunacy.  And instead he found someone who offered more.  A watch and a wallet more – that was all.”

 

That was it – I’d had enough confession for the night.  I threw off their touch and the cloying air of their concern, and I lurched towards the door, holding out my hands to keep them away from me.  T and Q – great guys.  Guys who’d found their best friend had been a pimp – had been the worst kind of parasite.  Tomorrow I’d face them.  Tomorrow they’d tell me to move out.  But tonight I had demons to keep me company instead.

 

“Offered more, that’s what Wufei Chang did.  It was just up to us whether we took it or not.”

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

I lingered as long as I could outside the club.  It was a coupla days after I’d spoken to the guys about Wufei, and my past life.  A coupla days when I avoided Trowa and Quatre like I had the plague.   A coupla days when the bruises had finally almost healed, and I could get about again without the inhibiting pain.  And now I had to attend to some personal business.

 

There was a fine sheen of rain spattering on my shoulders and head.  I hadn’t bothered with a coat.  Damn, I remembered – but I hated the rain!  It was early evening, and despite the grey clouds, there was still plenty of daylight.  But I’d seen enough things happen in daylight to realise that was no particular protection.

 

The club looked blank and harmless at this time.  There were no guys on the door – just a weedy little management type.  Even so, my ribs ached in memory.  I clutched the daily paper in my hand. 

 

Finally, I marched up to the door and asked for Mr Yuy.  I stood my ground when the Weed tried to tell me he didn’t know anyone called that name.  I know what I do with weeds, and it ain’t anything to do with gardening.

 

Heero was there.  I knew he would be.  Things were starting to click together in my mind.  My angry mind. 

 

Weed made some mumbled call into his radio, and I stood for another ten minutes in the rain.  He pulled back into the relative shelter of the doorway.  I scorned it.  Things had changed, y’see.  For whole minutes at a time I slipped in and out of another world – a far less comfortable one.  A world where rain was no kinda trouble at all.

 

Heero came out, a few minutes after that.  He stared at me, and I stared back. 

 

“Duo.”  He inclined his head in welcome, like he often had before.  He was dressed in a full suit today – like working gear.  He looked spectacular.  It was obviously hand made – a soft, charcoal grey fabric that hung from his broad shoulders with perfect grace, and hugged his narrow waist and hips.  The plain white shirt shone with an expensive glare that I’d never found in the stores myself.  His tie was subtly and richly understated – silk, I expect.  The damn clothes didn’t matter, of course, because all I could think of was the body underneath, though I’d seen little enough of it. 

 

His eyes flared at the first sight of me, then settled back into a dark wariness.  It had been a coupla days since we’d seen each other.  Since I’d pushed him off and driven away.  It’d been a coupla weeks since we’d last fucked.  Did I wish I could forget that particular statistic…

 

“I knew him, Heero,” I blurted out.  I could feel trails of water running down my collar – the rain was getting heavier.

 

He didn’t answer – just waited for me to say more.  His eyes were slightly hooded; they seemed to look straight through me, but it felt like they dragged my entrails as they went.

 

“The guy who died.  Peck, or whatever he may’ve been calling himself now.  He worked here – but, of course, you know that already.  I knew him before he beat up on me.  Dammit, he’s been a regular visitor to my whole life of being beaten up on!”

 

Heero spoke at last.  The rain was beginning to make sodden patches on his shoulders.  “You’re still talking away, Duo, aren’t you?  But it’s OK, because I want you to talk to me.  Yes, he was called Peck.  He’d only worked here for a few weeks, as part of the security team – I didn’t know him.  But he’s gone now, anyway.  I assume that he beat up on someone else, and it was one too many for him.  I don’t know what happened – the police don’t know.  How do you know – people like that?”

 

I was suddenly, insanely angry.  I was wet; I hurt all over; I wanted to hit the very man I wanted to caress.   “I don’t think it’s me who should be answering questions, do you?  Was he one of your guys, Heero?  Who the fuck are you to have such guys around you?”

 

Weed was hovering in the background, and I saw Heero raise a hand and wave him back.  There were a few people about, but the rain was sending them scurrying back to shelter and to home.

 

“My guys?”  His voice was cautious.  Almost expressionless.  But there was a spark in his eye, and it looked like he was in pain.  “What are you saying?”

 

“Don’t fuck with me any more!” I hissed.  “You move about here like you own the place.  And when we’ve gone away from the club, I know of at least one occasion we’ve been followed.  Probably by some of these guys.”

 

He stared.  I tried not to think any of the water running down my face had the salt of tears.  I was being caught up in something that was developing around me, too fast, too hidden.  Too vague for me to catch it – to bring it under my control.  I was so very, very angry!

 

“Answer me!”

 

He took a deep breath.  “OK.  You say I move about like I own the place – well, I do, in a way.  I run this club, Duo.  It’s owned by my family – it’s owned by my uncle.  I have managers, but I’m essentially in charge.  I never used to come here myself, but as you know, I have been visiting recently.  And when I do, it seems – well, my uncle’s men see a necessity to look after me.”

 

It explained a lot.  It explained his familiarity with the place.  The way that no-one ever questioned him.  The fact that I’d never seen him pass money over the bar for anything.

 

“His men?”

 

He shrugged.  That elegant, sensual movement that set up warning bells in my damp, shivering body.  “They work for him.  They look after the family.”

 

“Christ, Heero, it sounds like the mob!  What other sort of rackets is he involved in?”

 

He shook his head impatiently.  He’d moved a little nearer me.  “Don’t be so melodramatic! He’s just a businessman.  And this is the only thing I know about – the only thing I do.  It’s just a nightclub, you see; it’s nothing sinister.   And the protection…” he sighed.  “It’s not what I want, Duo!  I don’t need it, for God’s sake, and I tell my uncle so.  And you should never have been threatened by any employee of ours.  It’s unforgivable.  I’ve spoken to - to my uncle.  It won’t happen again.”

 

“Too fucking right it won’t!” I gasped.  “Damn guy’s dead, now!”  Rain ran into my mouth.  I brushed the wet hair out of my eyes, angrily.  “You know what Peck was into, Heero, before he was here - you must do!  And it was a hell of a lot more than security!  What connection does it have with you?”

 

“Come into the dry, Duo –“

 

“Fuck off!”  I looked into his face, blinking against the rain, and for the first time, I saw his confidence waver.  That superb, sexy arrogance that had attracted me in the first place.  Was that how I wanted to see Heero?

 

“Why won’t you listen to me, Duo?  I don’t know anything else about it.  Is there something else bothering you?”

 

I backed away, very slightly.  I heard the squelch of a shallow puddle, as I stepped into it.  He put out a hand to hold me; to help me.  All I could see were his eyes.  Bright; fevered; almost scared that I was moving away from him.  I wanted him; oh by Christ, I wanted him!

 

“Don’t go, Duo.  I don’t want you to be scared off.  It’s the last thing I want.  But you must tell me if there’s anything else between us; anything that’s troubling you.”

 

“Why?” I gasped.  And his hand touched my arm.  All I could feel was the wet fabric of my shirt; all I could feel was the heat of his body, flowing into mine.

 

“I want you, Duo,” he hissed.  His face was close to me now.  “I don’t want any misunderstanding.  And if you tell me everything, then I can protect you.”

 

I hit him, then.  Or else, I tried to.  I was prepared for a fight, this time; and Heero and I were more evenly matched.  I’d had months of life on the streets as my training ground – there was no way I shouldn’t have been able to lay him out.  But he dodged, eyes widening sharply, and his hand came up with astonishing speed to catch mine.

 

We leant into each other, arms straining against each other’s lock.  I tried with my other arm to get purchase around his waist – he gasped with the grip, because I’m deceptively strong, but he stood firm.  His free hand pressed against my shoulder, putting hideous strain on my already bruised ribs.

 

And the rain continued to pour down on us.

 

It was all I could hear - It won’t happen again.  I can protect you. 

 

Heero – a pampered child, who had obviously never been crossed, never been refused anything.  Who had wealth and power and people to watch over him.  Who wanted me.  Who didn’t want me to leave him this evening.  Who had no idea of my life, and what I’d lived through in the last years.

 

Duo – please –“

 

I was shocked.  I didn’t think I’d ever heard Heero use that word like that.  ‘Praps when I’d been at my most teasing with sucking him off; when I’d challenged him before he took me – held myself apart from him, even if it was only for brief, charged seconds.  It had never been true begging; it would only have been a game – he knew I‘d always surrender, and be glad to do so.

 

But this didn’t feel like a game anymore.  I felt the energy drain from my body.  I’d not seen this side of Heero before – the desperate, supplicant touch; the faint plea in his vibrant voice.  My face was chilled from the rain, the skin aching with the tension - but I felt the soft heat of his mouth even before it touched me.

 

He was damp all over as well; his face shining with the trail of raindrops; his hair was flattened to his head, and pasted over his forehead.  I wanted to wipe it away – gently.  I just wanted to touch him.  To hold him that way.  I accepted the kiss because – in all truth - it was my dearest wish.

 

My arm relaxed, and I let him fold it down to my side.  The hand around his waist became enfolding, rather than aggressive.  I held him to me, wet cloth against sodden skin;  I kissed him back fiercely, tongues battling inside our mouths, when we’d been almost fighting with fists a moment ago.

 

“Relax, Duo, please.  I want you!”  The hiss was deep inside my head.  My body was throbbing with the sudden remembrance of what I’d been missing.  Of the touch of him.

 

I want you…” my voice was echoing.  Or was it begging?

 

“Come to my apartment.”

 

“What?”  Had I heard right?  Was the noise of the hammering rain confusing me?

 

He scowled.  His face was so close to mine that when he licked his tongue out of his mouth to catch the fall of drops beside his nose, he licked at my lips as well.  I moaned. 

 

“You wanna fuck, Duo, don’t you? And this is not the place or time to do it, even I can see that.  Even though I wanna drop you to the sidewalk now and fuck your tight ass into the wet, slippery concrete...”

 

His breath was heavy and a little hitched.  His eyes were wild.  I think I just stared.

 

Christ, Duo…” he hissed.  “I want you now, and I don’t like to wait, remember?  Besides –“ his laugh was small and tight – “I know how you hate the rain!  Come with me…“

 

His voice was insidious – our short, passionate tussling had exhausted me.  He was tugging me with him, over to where he had his car, I guess.  He kept his eyes on me, very close; like he was afraid I’d run.  In the other direction.  The arrogant smile was sliding back, like the first time;  the possessive spark flared in his eyes.  But there was that same hint of nerves that I saw earlier; he wasn’t so sure of me, perhaps.

 

Was I sure of myself?

 

“…now, Duo…”

 

And I was clutching at his jacket, leaving creases that I knew the cleaners would struggle with, but just wanting to be up against him; to hold him.

 

No-one followed us to the car.  Weed seemed to have scuttled back indoors; there were no more of Heero’s uncle’s men to contend with that I could see.  Heero pushed me into the passenger seat, my boots pooling water all over the thick carpet and brushed upholstery; his hands were up under my shirt, picking at my flesh like I was a gift; like he wanted to unwrap me.  With a sharp, irritated gasp, he tore himself from me and swung round to the driver’s seat. 

 

I coulda jumped out then, if I’d wanted to.  Made my way home.  Broken away from him.

 

But what did I really care about guys following me, when I could follow Heero?

 

 

*