Part Sixteen: The Greatest Of Teachers
and the greatest of teachers won't hesitate
to leave you there, by yourself,
chained to fate
--- Ed Kowalczyk
Heero pulled the bike up to the curb a block away from Enny's corner, his stomach twisted into knots. Now that he was actually facing the reality of dealing with Jeet, he wasn't so sure his earlier cockiness had been well-placed.
The kid's a whore, he thought, disgusted.
Shaking his head at his own stubborn pride, he popped the romchip back into his mouth and gunned the engine. When he came around the corner, Jeet was waiting for him.
Heero pulled up, letting the engine idle as he stared at the blue-haired kid. Jeet had his arms crossed, and was glaring at the Wing Zero pilot with barely masked loathing.
"You again," the kid spat, and then yelped. Enny had just smacked him in the back of the head.
"Hey, Hito," she said as she waved casually and walked back to the crowd of girls clustered on the sidewalk. Heero grunted, letting his gaze return to Jeet's scowl. The pilot let mission mode take over, and he met the boy's gaze with an equally strong glare. He was pleased to see the boy take a half step backwards.
"Get over here," Heero growled. Get over here, he thought, before I spit this out and risk everything by breaking the rules and palming it instead. What's at stake, anyway, that small voice pestered, and Heero squashed it down angrily.
A half-second later Jeet was straddling the engine, his head tilted as his lips pressed up against Heero's. Startled, the pilot paused to get his bearings, and then he opened his mouth to Jeet's prying tongue.
The sensation was startling. Heero could only close his eyes as Jeet's tongue met him, swirling and pushing and tasting. Absently Heero wondered how one of his hands ended up on the back of Jeet's head, the other on the boy's hip, pulling him closer. Jeet didn't seem to be in any rush to exchange the romchip, either, but content to suck on Heero's tongue, pulling away long enough to nibble on Heero's lower lip before plunging his tongue back into Heero's mouth.
The press of groin against groin was making Heero's head spin, and he was already hard as Jeet grabbed his hips, slipping one hand inside Heero's shirt to press against the small of his back. Almost angrily Heero pushed back in turn, sucking on Jeet's lower lip, and was pleased to hear the boy bite back a moan. His heart was pounding, and his fingers dug into the boy's ass, yanking him even closer as the kiss deepened. Heero's gut was shifting and flipping as his body melted in a hot fire of sudden need.
This isn't who you want to be kissing, the small voice whispered.
Cold water drenched his veins at the realization, and he shoved the romchip into Jeet's mouth, aggressively seeking the second chip. His right hand let go of Jeet's hip long enough to dig in his own pocket for the twenty-five credits, and he quickly tucked it into Jeet's back pocket. The kid murmured something through his lips, but Heero swallowed the sound. There was a heartbeat's pause as they each froze, a temporary truce and then the new romchip was pressed into the pilot's mouth, tucked up behind his teeth.
Heero bit down, closing his lips firmly, and shoved the kid backwards. Tucking the romchip between his gum and his cheek, he glared. Jeet's face was flushed, his eyes glazed, his lips swollen. The kid blinked once or twice, then scrambled off the bike, confused.
"I'll come back when you're a better kisser," Heero snapped. He gunned the engine and pulled away without a backwards glance.
At the station bay Heero parked the bike, but it was several more minutes before he could unwrap his legs from the motorcycle's belly. His whole body was shaking. He stared at his open palms. He could still feel the coarse hair running under his hand, and Jeet's firm ass against his clawing fingers. Heero concentrated, but the flashing sensations were flooding his system, and his jeans were still impossibly tight. Calm down, he told himself sternly, or it's all going to be really obvious.
What will be obvious? That I enjoyed it?
Heero bent over until his head was resting on the handlebars, and choked back a groan. The position put more pressure on his aching cock, pressed between his body and the gas tank, but he couldn't move, didn't want to move.
What was the point of insulting Jeet, anyway? Covering for bruised pride, the little voice taunted. He's a whore, and you liked it. And even more, you nearly let him know. Heero wasn't sure which was worse, and he groaned out loud after all when his mind actually started trying to imagine kissing -- Heero shoved the thought away, fighting to regain his composure.
The dark-haired man closed his eyes, breathing slowly through his nose, obdurately ignoring the urge to find someplace private and jerk off until he could see stars. See stars again, he amended, helplessly acknowledging he'd been seeing them since Jeet first pushed up against him.
No. That's not true, the voice murmured.
He sighed, his fingers loosening as he let the tension drain from his shoulders, down his arms, out his fingers as though dripping water onto the storage unit's floor. He'd been seeing stars since he saw Duo's tongue flicker out and back in again, since he'd seen those wide indigo eyes studying the romchip poised on his tongue.
Heero slowly sat up, rubbing his eyes with the back of his knuckles. This wasn't the way things were supposed to happen. Almost unwillingly he found himself smiling a little at the silent statement, given that he had no clue of anything that was going on. He certainly wasn't in a position to determine what constituted just another day on the job. With that strangely reassuring thought planted in the forefront of his awareness, Heero pushed himself off the bike. He tucked the keys in his pocket, spat out the romchip, and squared his shoulders, pasting a neutral expression on his face as he headed for the ship.
Hilde was waiting at the ship's back door, and Heero nearly sagged in relief. He didn't think he was up to Trowa, let alone Duo.
"Hito!" She was perched on the back step, her leather pants and black shirt soaking up the light. There was a leather jacket laying next to her. "Drive me somewhere?"
"What about--" Heero didn't finish his sentence.
"Gimme kiss," she ordered. Heero blushed deep red, scowling, and she laughed hysterically. "Just kidding," she told him, jumping down and putting her arm around him. Her nimble fingers slipped into his jacket pocket and were gone just as quickly. "Let me get my stuff and then you can take me into town."
Nodding, he waited as she dashed into the ship. She was soon back, a grin on her face as she grabbed the leather jacket. Taking Heero by the elbow, she dragged him back to the storage unit, waving and yelling greetings as they passed other people in the docking station. Heero kept alongside her, glaring at nothing in particular.
Great, he thought. Now I'm a taxi service, too.
It turned out Hilde wanted a ride to Pop's bar. She slid off the back as Heero locked the motorcycle, taking him by the elbow again as they entered the bar. Once inside, she steered him to a secluded corner and sat him down across from her.
"How are you doing?" The girl's eyebrows were raised, but her voice was soft. Heero furrowed his brow at the question and shrugged noncommittally. "Beer?" When he nodded, she waved two fingers at the bartender.
They were both quiet for a moment as the bartender brought two beers to the table. Hilde waited until Terry had left before she turned her blue eyes on Heero.
"Do you like me?"
It wasn't even close to what Heero was expecting, and he counted to ten before he thought his answer could sound neutral. The serious look in her eyes worried him.
"Yes," he said, drawing the word out.
"How much?" The girl's gaze dropped away from him. She turned her head to stare steadily across the room, as though something at the bar was fascinating.
Heero absently scratched his neck and thought about how to answer. "A bit, I guess," he said. "You're okay."
"Just okay!" Hilde snickered, her gaze returning to his face. "But that's it?"
"I guess... "
"Hunh?" Heero's brow was wrinkled, his blue eyes confused. "I don't understand."
"I told you you're an idiot," she said, tossing her head to get her bangs out of her eyes. "I just wanted to check. The way you danced, after all... " She let the implications hang in the air. The only change in her bright expression was the sudden tightness around her smile.
"Oh." Heero remembered his beer and stalled for time by taking a long swig. "I haven't danced... in a long time."
"You're good at it."
He ducked his head, uncertain as to what he was supposed to say, and made a show of staring at the label on the bottle.
"Did you know, when we were dancing," she continued nonchalantly. "You were two steps away from getting your ass pummeled all the way back to L2."
"What?" Heero glanced up, irritated. She'd already slapped him. How often did she have to get on his case before her honor had been properly defended?
She must have read the expression in his eyes, because she shrugged lazily and glanced back across the bar, not quite meeting his eyes. "Day can be... protective."
"I think it runs in the family," Heero replied, his lips quirking.
Hilde grinned, but the expression faded almost instantly as she spoke. "And don't you ever forget it," she said, her voice suddenly low and serious as she cradled her beer between her hands. "My loyalties are squarely in Day's corner. What hurts him... hurts me."
He nodded, again lost as Hilde abruptly stood up, giving him another Cheshire flash of a wicked grin.
"Glad we had this chat, Hito," she announced, leaning over the table until she was nearly nose-to-nose with him. "You hurry up and figure things out, and you might be surprised how well everything could turn out."
Heero could only stare as she tossed her jacket over her shoulder and strode from the bar.
He had remained in his seat, and had almost finished off his beer when Pops arrived. Spying the dark-haired man sitting at the side table, Pops beckoned Heero over with a grin.
"I heard you got in early this morning," the older man said. "Come on back. As long as you're awake, you can tell me all about it."
Heero followed Pops to the back office, settling down into the familiar seat. Pops already had a cigarette lit, and he studied Heero for several long minutes. The young man stared back, his face impassive. Finally, Pops grinned.
"So you're getting to be friends with Hel," the man said.
"She's a good leader," Heero said, choosing his words carefully.
"She's a crazy girl who needs to get laid," Pops said with a snort as he stabbed the cigarette into an overflowing ashtray on the desk. "Any chance of that?"
"Not as long as Day's around."
"Figures," the man said, still grinning. "So that's what they were arguing about?"
"What?" Heero kept his face perfectly calm.
"Don't give me that," the older man replied, the smile suddenly replaced with an icy stare rivaling Heero's. "We picked up too many noises in the kitchen for it to be random clutter. You heard them, and I'm curious about your take on it."
"We danced at a club while on the job," Heero replied, his tone bland. "Perhaps she was worried he'd kill me for the presumption."
"He would, and could, too," Pops said, the grin reappearing. "Heard you threatening to shoot him. Too bad he was too far out of it to respond. Would've liked to hear what he might've said to that!"
Wouldn't you, Heero thought, suddenly relieved the listening devices had limits. Either the bugs couldn't pick up barest whispers, or the guy was playing him along. Steeling himself, Heero simply half-shrugged, a subtle movement.
Pops was still grinning, but something in his eyes shifted. "What do you think of Trey?"
"Strong. Very good at what he does," Heero answered. "Bad luck he wasn't needed in his role, though."
"Any ideas of how he was caught?"
Heero shook his head. "Lucky break on the union's part," he finally offered.
"Probably," Pops said, seeming to think it over. "Some stunt you folks pulled, getting everyone out of there."
"Any reason you weren't the pilot?"
"Wasn't up to me."
Pops leaned over and dug through several stacks of paper lying on the desk. Finding the one he wanted, he read it over for several minutes before setting it down and studying Heero carefully. "You could've done it just fine," he said. "Without the hysterics, I'd bet."
Heero's expression didn't change.
"I had a little research done, and it seems you've had an interesting life, Hito Young." Pops tapped his finger on the paper. "With OZ until the Alliance fiasco, moved to the Treize faction, and ended up programming mobile doll units for the Barton Foundation. Pretty impressive for someone who was probably only, what, fifteen? Sixteen?"
Heero narrowed his eyes involuntarily at the information, as a part of his brain went into overdrive. Hito Young didn't exist until the photographer had opened his mouth and created the name barely two weeks before. Where did this come from? Who had the time and ability to put it there? And why?
Pops interpreted the reaction differently, to Heero's relief. The older man winked, leaning back as he lit another cigarette.
"No reason to be ashamed," he lectured the young man. "Programming, piloting, and reportedly an unparalleled ability when it comes to hand-to-hand combat. Not surprising you've flunked college twice. I imagine peace is hard on you, after experiences like that."
Heero did his best not to blink, and succeeded. That small voice in his mind was screaming indignantly. He'd graduated with top honors, damn it. Breathing through his nose, the Wing Zero pilot kept his voice low as he spoke. "What's your point?"
"Just wanted to let you know that we're aware of why you fit in so well," Pops told him in voice that was probably supposed to be soothing. "And we're also aware that our... business is your only chance. In this pacifist era, the minute someone knows you fought at that level... " Pops shrugged. "Hard to get a decent job."
Slowly, Heero nodded.
"Basically, we know you can hold your own. You're a soldier, and that means your take on this group of... crazies, as they're affectionately called... Well, let's just say your perspective has gained a great deal of credibility."
Heero bit back the questions bubbling in his mind, and waited.
"And there's your work so far," Pops added in a conversational tone. "You're far more creative than the last three jerks we placed. No one was surprised to see the team take to you so quickly, what with Hel being so unconventional herself."
"It's what I do," Heero said, and shrugged.
"Yeah, I've gathered that. This is the deal," Pops said, and then took a long drag before continuing. "There're some questions about this Trey. Few records of his childhood. Then he shows up as a low-level soldier during the Eve Wars. Spent time being a test pilot for OZ. Then he disappears completely for two years and shows back up in the system as a mercenary in some third-world country back on Earth."
There was a long silence, as Pops stared at his cigarette. Finally his gaze shifted back to Heero.
"Hel's a good kid. I knew her fiancé, and he was one of the best. She was a wreck when she got the news," Pops said. It was clear his sorrow was sincere, and Heero's brows came down in concentration as the man spoke. "There were a lot of rumors about what happened, and some folks said he'd turned sides... traded information to a competitor. Maybe he did, but Hel never believed it. Her foster father was in the syndicate, over on L5, before it was blown up."
"I heard about that," Heero said.
"That's war," Pops commented dryly. "But I suppose you know that. Anyway, after we lost Joe... Hel heard the rumors. I'd never met her before, but she has that way of just getting to you, and before you know it, you like her... " Pops paused, and shook his head, cutting off that line of conversation. "Hel was adamant. Here every day, arguing for a month before word came down that she was in. She was taking over Joe's ship, and his business. Brought along her brother."
"Right. And then Trey joined. He's never done anything to make us suspicious, but that gap in his history has my bosses a little worried. We've been hoping to find someone like you, who knows the importance of a mission but could also... click with the man."
"I wouldn't say we clicked," Heero answered.
"Don't lie to me, kid," Pops warned. "I heard it real-time. You did a good job taking care of him, and he clearly warmed to you. He's been hard to crack."
"And you want me to be the nutcracker."
"For starters," Pops said, the grin back on his face. "But if you could get Hel... Who wouldn't want a minx like that?"
Heero raised his eyebrows at the man. Pops grinned even wider, his eyes glinting in the office's single overhead light.
"Consider it a perk," Pops told the dark-haired man, and laughed at Heero's flat expression. "Anyway, I'm sure you'll be wanting to get some sleep, after all that arguing the two of you did about who'd be sleeping when. And by the way, enjoy the next job. I hear it's supposed to be a real doozy."
Pops waved his cigarette at Heero in a dismissive motion, and Heero nodded once more before heading back to his table in the bar.