Part Nineteen: If Looks Could Kill
And I changed my name so only my looks remain
And if looks could kill I'd need a license for my face
--- Justin Currie
Heero got back to the ship by mid-afternoon. The ship's loading door was closed, and he punched in the access code. His anger had faded over an afternoon of shopping and wandering, but it was pulsing up again at the thought of running into Duo. The dark-haired man shook his head mentally, aggravated at the way Duo had so easily pushed him off-balance, and the way he'd been unable to fight back. It wasn't a familiar sensation, and that experience alone colored his memories of Duo's morning visit.
Sighing, Heero kept his head down and headed straight for his bunkroom. He let the bag hit the floor, dropping his shopping bags next to it, and began unpacking everything. The door slid open behind him, and he stood up with a growl, not turning around.
"Hel, one of these days I'm going to--"
"She does it to all of us," the voice said. Trowa.
Heero turned around, his face flushing slightly at the sight of the taller man leaning against the doorframe.
"Sorry," Heero mumbled.
Heero nodded. That doesn't begin to cover it, he thought. Trowa eyed the bags on the floor.
"I needed jeans that hadn't had the bottom three inches cut off," Heero told him quietly. He tucked the new jeans into the closet drawer and started hanging up the shirts he'd purchased.
"Eaten yet?" Trowa's voice was politely friendly. Heero turned around and gave the taller man a hard stare.
"Should you be standing up?"
"All better now," Trowa said, smirking. He flexed his leg, bending the knee up, and letting it down again. Heero noticed a small wince as the knee was compressed, but chose to ignore it. The acrobat would know better than anyone just what his limits were. "Speaking of all better," the man continued. "I presume Day found you."
"Couldn't have gone that bad," Heavyarms' pilot observed. "You're here, after all."
"I told him I'm staying."
"I'm sure it's an interesting story."
Heero glanced at Trowa, caught off-guard by the unexpected response. When he opened his mouth to speak, however, the taller man put a finger up, and then pointed to his ear. Smiling, he let his hand drop as Heero nodded in comprehension.
"You didn't say before... Eaten yet?"
"No," the dark-haired man said, still a little suspicious.
"Good, you can join me." Trowa waited until Heero had grabbed his leather coat, and then led the way from the ship.
Trowa's long legs set an ambling pace that Heero found easy to match. There was little conversation until the taller man swung his head, that dark sheaf of thick hair falling away from his face as he turned his gaze towards one of L2's few city parks. The trees were stunted in the colony air, but the grass was green and there were a few flowerbeds.
"That's a good place to talk," he told Heero. "When I get tired of the city, that's a place to be alone." The hair had slipped over his face again, but not before Heero felt those green eyes settling on him, suggesting something between the lines.
He knew right away: no listening devices in the park. He glanced around, measuring the park's boundaries as they passed. None of the street cameras were trained on the green space, either. It was an empty hole in the surveillance.
At the local Mexican restaurant Heero prompted the conversation with a topic that made Trowa raise his eyebrows momentarily. Heero met the look with a twitch of his lips.
"I understand you were a mercenary somewhere on Earth for the past few years."
Trowa simply nodded. He didn't answer further until they'd given their orders and gotten their drinks. Heavyarms' pilot ordered a margarita.
"I wouldn't have guessed you for liking Tequila," Heero remarked.
"I wouldn't have guessed you for being one to down five shots of whiskey in fifteen minutes and passing out at five in the afternoon," Trowa replied in that same even tone.
Heero could feel the flush going from his chin to his forehead in nothing flat, and he sighed, giving the other man a crooked half-smile. Trowa responded with a tentative smile, and then began speaking of his experiences as a mercenary in that unnamed third world country back on Earth.
Most of it was certainly made up out of whole cloth, or at least cobbled from Trowa's early years among mercenaries. Heero was more aware of the fact that it had been five years since Trowa had spoken to him, let alone at such length. Heero's mind wandered back to the day he'd woken up in Trowa's circus trailer to find Catherine knitting at his bedside, and the friendship he hadn't realized he'd missed. For that reason, the dark-haired man was satisfied to simply listen, nodding at appropriate intervals. When Trowa finally fell silent as their dinners were served, Heero decided to tackle Pops' question, and hope Trowa had an explanation.
"What did you do right after the war?"
There was a long pause, as Trowa carefully cut his enchilada with the back of his fork. Heero noticed Trowa ate in the European style, keeping his fork in his left hand during the entire meal. The Wing Zero pilot wondered absently if this bothered Quatre, whose culture, Heero was pretty sure, believed the left hand should never touch food.
"I was... a prisoner of war," Trowa finally replied. "Two years in a work camp until I was released. Built roads in Mongolia," he explained.
"Tried to go to college. Didn't get much of anywhere," Heero said. He hoped that would be enough. Pops hadn't said what colleges Hito Young was supposed to have flunked, and he didn't want to evade and raise suspicion on the part of anyone listening.
"Never figured out what you wanted to do?" Trowa nodded thoughtfully.
"Yeah." Heero ate his flauta, stalling for time. His senses were tingling, and he was certain the other man's question meant more than it appeared at face value. He stared down at his plate before looking up again, startled to see Trowa's green eyes focused squarely on him.
"How does one figure it out, other than time?" Heero asked softly.
"Time is important," Trowa agreed. "But sometimes you run out of it."
"Do something," the pilot said. "Even if you don't have all the information, you have to act on what you feel. Someone I knew told me that, once."
Heero's lip quirked before he could catch the motion, and he decided to let the smile show after all. He'd smiled at Hilde; perhaps it was time to start showing Trowa he'd changed, as well.
"You should smile more often," Trowa commented.
"Hel said the same thing," Heero muttered, suddenly embarrassed. He ducked his head and stared at his plate intently again. "But once you know what you want to do, it can be hard to go do it."
"Especially when it seems the world doesn't agree with your choice," the pilot replied. "But sometimes the world does agree. It's just too uncertain on its own to let you know. You have to make the first move."
"Make the first move," Heero repeated softly.
"Carpe diem, and all that," Trowa continued coolly. "But it doesn't work if you're not honest. The world doesn't reward half-truths."
"I see." And, in fact, Heero saw quite well. "It's good advice. When I know what I want to do with my life, I'll let the world know right away."
"I think the world would appreciate that," Trowa said. "You'd be surprised what the world will forgive, if your intent is pure." The taller man pushed his now-empty plate away and dropped several credits on the table. "I've got errands to run for our next job. I'll see you back at the ship?"
Heero nodded, a little surprised.
Heavyarms' pilot stood over the table for a second before smiling down at Heero, a sweet, private expression. Leaning over, he brought his face close to Heero's ear, and dropped his voice low. "We're going out tonight. Team tradition. Come with us. You might enjoy what the world could show you."
Heero answered the smile with one of his own, and enjoyed the rest of his meal despite being alone. Somehow it tasted better now that he knew Trowa was trying to help.
When Heero got back to the ship, Hilde was in the gathering room reading a magazine. She waved him in.
"Did Trey tell you? Tonight?"
"Yeah. Are you going bowling?"
Hilde's eyebrows shot up. "Bowling," she squeaked. "You know how to bowl?"
"No," he replied with a smirk. "If you said yes, I'd have to bow out."
"Another joke!" she cried, and smacked him on the arm, grinning widely. "We've got about four hours to kill. Want to challenge me to a video game?"
"Which one?" Heero furrowed his brows, uncertain. He really hadn't been into games. Scratch that, he thought, I've never really played video games.
"Universal Auto," she replied, pulling the game consoles over from where they were piled on the low table. She hit a button, the lights went dim and the screen came to life. "You have to steal a car, and get away from the cops, and there's car chases and pedestrians. Up for it?"
"Sure," he said, grinning shyly.
Three hours later, she'd stolen seventeen cars, crashed twelve, and Heero had stolen fourteen and crashed two. Neither noticed the sounds of Duo returning, taking a shower and leaving again, nor were they aware of Trowa's arrival with the first shipment of supplies needed for their next job.
"Who's winning?" Trowa stepped into the room, turning to see the read-out at the bottom of the large screen.
"I am," Hilde announced. "Hito would be, but he has this thing for pedestrians."
"They should stay off the--" Heero grunted as he swung the console's steering wheel with one hand and hit several buttons at the same time with his other hand. "--sidewalks while I'm driving."
"And you let him pilot our ship?" Trowa peered over Heero's lowered head at Hilde with a curious look.
"Shut up," Heero growled. "I wouldn't have two crashes if it weren't for Hel."
"He's ticklish," she announced, laughing when Heero threw her a glare.
"I never would have guessed," Trowa replied, leaving the room with a half-wave. His voice echoed down the hallway. "One hour, Hel. Day's already gone."
"Figures," she said with a snort. "That boy is crazy for going out."
Heero finished his turn with his fifteenth successfully stolen car, his lips quirking in a pleased expression, as the pedestrian body count became a three-digit number.
Heero was getting a bad feeling about the evening. Hilde had gone on ahead of them, but only after spending ten minutes fussing about every clothing choice Heero had selected. He'd gone through every pair of jeans, finally choosing his beat-up black jeans, ignoring the growing rip in one knee.
Now he was perched on the back of Trowa's bike, holding the other man loosely around the waist as the bike roared around the corner. The dark blue silk rubbed up against his chest, pressed between his body and the back of Trowa's leather jacket. Hilde had agreed to one of Heero's dark green shirts, but after she'd left, he'd caught Trowa staring at the selection.
Heero had raised an eyebrow, and the taller man simply shrugged, a quick smile darting across his lips. Heero remembered the afternoon's peculiar conversation, and stared at the green shirt for several minutes. Finally he tossed it aside in favor of the blue silk shirt he'd worn when dancing with Hilde.
Recalling that choice, Heero tightened his hold and leaned into a turn, and wondered where they were headed. Trowa was wearing black leather pants but his green turtleneck was tighter, smooth across his chest. The entire effect was... Heero searched for the right word. Delicious. He scowled at his thoughts and shoved the image away, deciding to blame everything on that single kiss with Jeet. Everything had gone downhill since then, he decided. Better to put it out of his head and get back into mission mode.
When they pulled up in front of the club, however, mission mode left him completely and Heero found himself gaping at the taller man, surprised at the venue. Trowa laughed quietly as he nodded to the doormen, pausing in the club's foyer to lean over and speak into Heero's ear.
"Welcome to where the world plays," he said, pulling away with another soft laugh. With that, he pushed the door open, and led Heero into the club.
The music slowly resolved itself into a low, sonorous moan, drifting across the dance floor. From their position at the raised entrance, Heero could see a hundred bodies, paused with their hands over their heads as the lights flashed and danced across the crowd. A single beat was pulsing underneath, and the melody shifted, became lighter, growing in volume as it sped up, weaving its wave through the deep bass beat pushing at Heero's chest.
During college, Heero had been dragged to clubs, but it was usually for live bands. The idea was to stand around and watch the band. The music was the entertainment, but here, in the throng of moving bodies and writhing limbs, the dance itself was the only purpose, the only reason to exist. Dimly he was aware of someone guiding him down the steps and pulling him gently towards a bar table along the side. Heero instinctively leaned against the wall behind the table, turning with a scowl to Trowa.
"I didn't--" he started, then frowned deeper and pulled the taller man to face him. "This is your team tradition?" he mouthed.
Trowa nodded, his lips twitching as a shot of tequila appeared in front of him, served by a cocktail waitress. She grinned at Heero and promptly put down a second shot. Heero groaned. Whiskey.
"Cheers," Trowa mouthed, raising it glass to clink it against Heero's. The two men downed their shots, and Heero winced as the sharp liquid poured down his throat to heat up in his belly. The music had fallen into a steady beat, and he stared at the dance floor, two steps down from the bar's level.
Trowa tapped him on the shoulder, and Heero turned to look. It took a second for him to comprehend the unfamiliar names in Trowa's words.
"Day and Hel are already dancing," Trowa was saying. "Are you going to join them?"
Heero shook his head and scowled, crossing his arms as he leant against the wall, his head down. Under his brows, though, he continued to watch the dance floor intently, his eyes roving across the crowd, seeking out his teammates.
Duo was dancing with Hilde on one of the raised portions of the dance floor, out in front. His braid was whipping around him as he swayed back and forth quickly, in time with the music, and Hilde's leg was wrapped around Duo's waist as the thief held her by the hips. When the lights skimmed the crowd and played up across the raised platform, Duo's chestnut hair shown as if pure fire against his black shirt.
Heero ignored Trowa's quiet chuckle and moved to the railing for an unobstructed view. Leaning against it with crossed arms, he did his best to appear nonchalant. His heart was thudding in his chest. He knew Duo had always been sensitive about the fact that people mistook him for a girl, with that long hair, but Heero couldn't see how Duo could be considered anything but completely masculine.
The man's hips were dipping, bucking into Hilde's as the girl leaned back, her arms swirling in sinuous movements over her head. Duo's head was down, his eyes focused on his partner, and he pulled Hilde back upright. She responded by wrapping her arms around his neck as he held her close, the two moving quickly with the deeper beat.
Duo spun Hilde so they were facing the opposite direction, and Heero could see Duo's long fingers treading their way up and down Hilde's exposed back, crawling down to her hips before he pushed her away as the music exploded in a frenzy.
The lights went down, came back up, and blasted into a strobe. Heero blinked, dizzy, and put a hand to his head, belatedly realizing someone was standing at his back. A second later and a hand fell on his shoulder, tightening before he could jerk away.
"Keep your eyes closed," the voice shouted over the music, and Heero realized it was Trowa. "It'll pass. They never keep the strobes for too long."
Heero nodded, letting his hand fall when Trowa released his shoulder. Giving the taller man a wan smile, Heero looked back across the crowd. There was no sign of Duo, and he scanned the area quickly.
Two arms wrapped around his waist, pulling him back sharply in a hug. Almost immediately he knew it wasn't Duo or Trowa. There were far too many curves on the body to be male, especially the breasts pressing into his back just below his shoulder blades. It was either Hilde, if she were wearing heels, or some other girl. Annoyed, he turned his head, raising his eyebrows when he caught a flash of green.
"Enny," he growled, disengaging from her hold.
"Hito," she chirped. "Dancing tonight?"
"No," he said, and stalked back to the table.
"You aren't drinking, are you?" She followed him, settling neatly into the gap between Trowa's seat and Heero's position. "Because you should really... " The girl cut off her tease with a laugh at Heero's glare.
There was movement on the steps to the bar level, and Heero glanced over to see Duo approaching. The thief had his arm over another man's shoulder, and the two were laughing. Sweat had drenched Duo's shirt, turning the black into a fathomless depth, but slick like oil on rainwater. His black jeans were molded to his body, and Duo turned to walk backwards, talking to a third person. His braid swung back and forth as he gestured with his free arm.
Heero growled quietly and crossed his arms. He wasn't sure whether he wanted to avoid talking to Duo, or just wanted to avoid the other man altogether. Shifting in his place against the wall, Heero waited, pinned to his spot.
"Kino," Enny said into Heero's ear. He glanced down at her, his eyebrows raised, and she grinned. "Day's ex."
Heero blinked, looking closer at the man standing next to Duo. He was as tall as Trowa, his short hair a white-blond that glowed in the black lights ringing the bar section. His shoulders were broad, his body muscled, his thighs clearly powerful despite being cloaked by jeans. Definitely someone who works out, Heero thought. He wanted to dislike the man suddenly, and found it wasn't difficult. He already disliked the way Kino was chatting happily with Duo, obviously able to keep up his half of the conversation without a problem.
"Careful," Enny warned the dark-haired man. "I think you're burning a hole in Kino's chest."
Startled, Heero shot her an angry glance and settled his face into an indifferent expression. Mission mode, his mind shouted, although he wasn't sure what mission could possibly ever require that he spend the evening in a club. Let alone while fighting off a migraine at the overwhelming volume, dealing with cheap whiskey, and watching his teammate hang on an ex-boyfriend.
Grumpily, Heero wished they'd gone bowling after all.