Chapter 25: Monotony
by Casey Valhalla
In the bowels of the Resistance mothership, currently posing as a Voudoun Cruise Line pleasure freighter, a battle of wills was taking place. Two fierce warriors guided their legions in a full-out attack, shouting battle cries that rang hollowly against the steel grating of a service corridor. The hostilities were drawing to a dramatic close-
-as the Dragon found himself in a somewhat compromised position.
Trowa poked his head up out of a gaping access panel, tugging at a handful of loose wiring. "I told you not to sacrifice that rook, Wufei."
The young man in question grumped and settled his elbows on his crossed legs, bending to examine the muddled chessboard thoroughly. Across from him, Meiran leaned back on her elbows and grinned. The elf ducked back down into the electronic guts of the mothership, singing a little tune to himself in one of the Niccon languages.
"He's right, you know," Meiran declared, wrinkling her nose at Wufei's bowed head.
"I know he's right!" the Dragon snapped. "It doesn't mean I have to like it!"
"You might as well give up."
"If you were any more stubborn you'd be a rock, Chang."
"Pliers." The voice drifted up through the panel in between verses of the song. One long, slim hand peeked out and felt along the edge of the grated floor. Meiran reached over and rummaged through the large toolbox, pressing a pair of pliers into the wriggling hand.
"Ah HA!" Wufei announced blithely, and moved his knight into a chink in Meiran's defense.
"Oh, please," she huffed.
"Your puny strategies have no chance of defeating me!"
"Wrench," came the request from the access panel. This time Wufei blindly found the object and offered it to the elf.
"Really?" Meiran smiled sweetly and reached forwards over the board, leaning until her face was mere inches away from Wufei's. Up close his coal-black eyes held a touch of color, a deep, rich chocolate tone that melted into the pupil. Her hand flicked surreptitiously over the board. "Then how do you plan on dealing with this one, Dragon?"
Wufei's eyes widened slightly, then he jerked backwards and quickly returned his attention to the chessboard. His knight was now hemmed in by a queen, and his king was threatened by bishops on either side. "I'll destroy you."
"Bolt cutters," Trowa sing-songed, waving his hand at the pair idly. His voice instantly dropped back into the incomprehensible melody.
"Your defenses are weak!" Wufei said, meeting Meiran's gaze again. "How do you expect to win when your enemies can break through your flanking troops at any time?" To drive the point home, he relocated the knight again, deeper into enemy territory.
"Perhaps that's what I want," Meiran mused, her lips quirking into a smirk. "To lure my opponent in, cater to his self-confidence, and at the height of his security-" she raised an innocent pawn, "-strike with an ambush and cut him down." She landed the pawn neatly, knocking over the knight.
Wufei gaped for a moment, then frowned. Meiran reached out and tugged teasingly on a lock of his hair, free from its regulation tail and falling loosely around his shoulders.
"Welding torch!" the elf called, both hands wiggling in the space over the open panel.
The Dragon started. Meiran was suddenly several inches closer than she had been a second ago. He blinked intelligently. "Welding torch?"
"You're the one with the weak defenses, Wufei," she replied, smiling. The smile wasn't dangerous, or berating, or mockingly sweet; just a simple expression that somehow made her dark eyes sparkle slightly.
"I don't know what you're talking about," he said after he realized she'd changed the subject. About the same time he realized her face was even closer and he had yet to move away.
"Hello - o!" The hands were still waving from the access panel. "Welding torch!"
"You just charge in and fight," Meiran said softly, that smile still on her face. He could feel her breath against his lips now, she was so close, and the sensation sent a little thrill through his spine. "You never think about anyone daring to sneak in through the back door."
Wufei tried to form a few words of retort, but not a single syllable managed to work its way through the somewhat tangled thought processes between his brain and his mouth. Instead, he found himself instinctively leaning into the warmth of Meiran's breath, his eyelids drooping, all while one little corner of his addled mind smacked him and asked him just what the hell he thought he was doing.
Then, suddenly, the warmth was gone. Puzzled, Wufei blinked his eyes open, to see Meiran bent over the access panel, handing Trowa a welding torch and a face-shield.
Wufei blinked several more times and turned his gaze to the chessboard, picking up his fallen knight and staring at it as though it were the most fascinating thing he'd ever seen. He barely registered Meiran returning to her seat and watching him carefully.
He jumped, dropping the knight with a clatter, and tried to regain his composure. Meiran looked bored.
"What-" Wufei began, then frowned, his forehead creasing, now completely befuddled. A tapping at the opening in the grated floor distracted him.
"Hack-saw!" the elf demanded brightly.
The Dragon stared at the elf's raised hand, the fingers dancing impatiently, and his frown deepened. "What in the Seven Hells are you doing down there?"
The hand waved absently back and forth. "Tinkering."
"Tinkering," Wufei echoed, blowing a breath out through his nose. "With bolt-cutters, a welding torch and a hack-saw."
"No," came the drawling response. "You haven't *given* me the hack-saw yet."
"What in Kaminari's name are you doing to my ship, Barton?" Meiran demanded, crawling over to peer down the access chute.
"Nothing that will cause any permanent damage," the elf assured her, pleasantly.
Meiran handed him the requested tool curtly and sat back with a humph, glaring needlessly at Wufei as he nudged a bishop into battle. "I suppose I should know better," she sighed finally, "than to put a sabotage expert in charge of on-board mechanics."
His composure restored, Wufei smirked. "Ah, so you're not perfect, after all."
"Doesn't mean I can't still beat your ass, Chang," she shot back, grinning. "Your move."
Yoko's green eyes glimmered faintly in the darkness. She navigated the small confines of the bunkroom easily, leaping up onto the bed and nudging her person's hand until his eyes cracked open, the pale violet glow illuminating his features. "Hey, kitty."
Duo shifted position until he was lying on his side, and picked absently at the rough blanket beneath him. "I don't want to talk about this."
Yoko licked her nose and stepped over his hand, curling herself up in the crook of his arm. She butted her head against his shoulder and meowed.
"No," the demon said firmly, his backlit gaze darting away from her. Not to be dissuaded, however, the little cat nuzzled into the curve of Duo's body and began purring.
"Stop it," he demanded, but his voice was weak, crackling around the edges. He drew his knees up and curled tighter around himself, and around the steadily purring cat. "Stop, Yoko. Please."
Duo started trembling, and abruptly bent his head to bury his face in the cat's warm fur, a tiny sob escaping his throat. "But it *is* my fault, girl. I killed him. He was just following orders. He hadn't even done anything. And I killed him."
"Yeah, but that doesn't make me feel any better."
Yoko, being a cat, responded with a cat's deepest affection, and began carefully grooming her person's temple while he sniffled against her fur. After a time, the demon stopped shaking and relaxed, his breath evening out, and she completed the bath by rubbing her nose against his chin.
"Heero." Duo murmured, lifting a hand to scratch behind her ears. "Yeah, he would. But I can't - I can't, Yoko. I can't."
"It doesn't matter!" he spat, and threw himself around onto his back.
"I - I don't know. I'll live with it, somehow." Duo flung an arm over his eyes and reached out with the other hand, tangling his fingers in a shadow. "It's better. I'd rather forget the bad instead of desperately trying to remember the good."
"Mrr." Yoko sat back on her haunches and flicked her tail, once, then raised a paw for cleaning.
"Yeah," he drawled slowly, and dropped the arm off his face to reach out and rub her head affectionately. "But this is the last time, girl, I promise. I can't torture myself like this anymore."
The cat made an odd noise of resignation and found a warm patch on the blanket to curl up on. She watched Duo's eyes slip closed, and his hand draw the shadow around himself. Once he had vanished from mortal sight, she rested her head on her paws and let sleep wash over her, wondering if all persons were as difficult as hers.
"Heero, you're falling asleep at the wheel."
The assassin jerked himself back into wakefulness. "Huh?"
"Intelligent," Quatre quipped from the jumpseat behind him. The Prime Operative's face was half-hidden behind a hand of cards. "I call."
"Full house," Chea announced, wagging his own cards mockingly. "Go to bed, Heero. We're already in hyperspace, I can handle this baby myself."
"Straight flush. Pay up." Quatre watched Heero rise groggily to his feet, tracking the assassin until he had stumbled out of the cockpit and closed the door behind him. He shot a grin at Chea. "Now!"
The cadet hopped out of his seat and collapsed into the pilot's chair with a contented sigh. Quatre darted into the co-pilot's chair and swiveled to face the control panel. "Okay, how do you work this thing?"
"Not so fast, boss-man," Chea laughed. "We start with the basics. Let crash course Piloting 101 come to order!"
"Yeah, yeah. What does this button do?"
"Don't push that!"
"I didn't touch it!"
"Whew, okay. We're gonna start with hydraulics," Chea straightened and clasped his hands in front of him with an authoritative air. "But this is just a review for the purposes of future practical application. So don't touch anything."
"Because altering any of the controls at this point would affect the hyperspace calibrations, and we'd drop suddenly, resulting in one of three things." Chea held up three fingers to represent his point, ticking off the reasons one at a time. "A planetary or stellar collision, a busted hyperdrive, or a space rip."
"The technicalities are complicated, but the result is a big explosion."
"Okay. Ripping space bad. Got it." Quatre nodded decisively.
Chea let out a long breath. "So, hydraulics-"
"When do I get to fly?"
"When we're not in hyperspace."
The blond raised an eyebrow. "Which will be.?"
"About forty hours."
"Don't worry," Chea said with a wink. "When I'm through with you, you'll be able to take this ship apart and put it back together again." He leaned forward and looked Quatre square in the eye. "Just sit still for half a second and let me teach you, okay?"
The first thing Heero noticed was a warm body pressed up against him. He felt like he was floating, lying prone on a soft, silky cloud. He forced his eyelids open slowly, peering into what was now a familiar darkness. He sighed, comfortable and content, and let his eyes slip closed again, relaxing into the dark and the warm surroundings.
The second thing he noticed was his complete nakedness.
The body at his side shifted, and his nose was filled with Duo's scent, the musky mixture of blood and fire and something undefinable. The snaking tail of the demon's braid slid over his bare stomach, and a head settled on his shoulder, bangs tickling his chin.
It's a dream, he thought, turning to wrap his arms around the demon's lithe form. I can hold him here, and he'll let me. I can touch him, and he'll touch me back. I can. I wish.
The fact that Duo was clinging almost desperately to his shoulders registered at the same time as the fact that the demon was also naked, and that their bodies were now pressed together from chest to thigh. A gasp left his body with a shudder, and he slid his fingers along the smooth skin of Duo's back, frowning to himself when Duo only responded by pushing closer, burying his face in Heero's shoulder.
"What is it?" Heero whispered against the demon's neck. He could feel the heat rising off that skin, and pressed his lips against it gently. "Tell me. Tell me what to do."
Duo's skin was sweet, and slid like silk under his mouth. He kissed again, his tongue darting out to taste fully, and felt Duo shiver in his arms. His body began moving unconsciously, sliding in a slow grind against the demon, while he continued his exploration of Duo's neck. The sensations coursing through him drew his muscles as taut as a strung cord, quivering, fire building in the molecules of space between himself and Duo. He sucked lightly at the patch of skin behind Duo's ear, and the demon strained against him, a gasp of air hot on his shoulder. A hand grabbed his chin and pulled his face around to be met by a pair of warm lips.
Heero felt himself falling headlong into the kiss, wondering idly how someone's mouth could feel both burning hot and cool at the same time. His awareness dimmed to allow only for that strange, idle part of his brain and his body's raging hunger for the demon that was kissing him, rubbing deliciously against him, pushing him onto his back and trailing fingers down his chest.
He wasn't certain how his hands ended up buried in Duo's hair, but knew it happened about the same time that he teased Duo's mouth open to slip his tongue inside. Every taste was intoxicating; Duo's lips, Duo's skin, the little noises Duo made in his throat while he rocked his hips against Heero's, sending jolts of pleasure through the assassin's body that made his knees jerk and his back arch up into the touch. He could barely tell whether his eyes were open or closed in the darkness, and the idle part of his mind wished there were some light, any amount of light to see by, to watch desire creasing Duo's features, to see the pale skin before him, to know what sort of light Duo's eyes glowed with when he came.
That thought, combined with the sensation of Duo's fingers tweaking his nipples, sent the last of his senses spiraling out of control. Something that sounded like a growl tore through his throat and he grabbed Duo by the hips, throwing the demon onto his back and rolling quickly to cover Duo's body with his own.
He felt legs wrapping around his waist, fingers digging into his shoulders, the reverberations of deep moans against his lips. He kissed roughly down the line of Duo's neck, sucking, nipping; his hands found taut stomach muscles under soft skin, his mouth found round nubs of nipples before returning to Duo's lips. The demon's kiss was fierce, demanding, one hand fisting in Heero's hair. He thought Duo was saying something to him, the words a breath against his lips, but he couldn't comprehend them. Only the plaintive tone in the demon's voice made itself understood.
His last rational thought concerned the crossed ankles pressing into the small of his back, and then he was lost, buried deep inside Duo's pliant body in one swift stroke. A sound like a moan ending in a scream echoed in his ears, a feeling of tight muscles clenching around him and hips pressing roughly back against him, the taste of Duo still on his tongue.
And then a massive jolt ripped him backwards, spinning him through reality and unreality until he fell heavily onto a cold, hard surface.
Heero rubbed his aching forehead and waited for his surroundings to come into focus. A thin stream of light shone through a space underneath a door, casting shadows over the bunk he had fallen out of. His skin burned feverishly, his entire body trembled, beads of sweat rolled slowly down his temples. His breath came in huge gulps of air, and he was painfully hard.
He groaned and pushed himself into a sitting position, trying to separate the threads of his dream from the reality of waking, and glared at the crack of light under the door. He was reasonably sure the sudden jolt had been real, and that was what had woken him so abruptly.
Heero was justified in feeling somewhat murderous about that fact.
Mindless of his current state, he clambered to his feet and threw the door open, stomping up the short corridor to slam the door to the cockpit open. "What the fuck is going on?"
Chea jumped to his feet, eyes wild for a moment before his expression grew puzzled as he looked Heero over. Quatre was peeking out from beneath the control panel. The cadet opened and closed his mouth a few times before Heero grew impatient.
"There was a jolt." He spoke slowly and carefully for the benefit of Chea's addled brains. "What was it?"
Chea looked from him to the console and back, stuttering. "Huh - hyperdrive malfunction. We dropped."
"Hyperdrive," Heero echoed blearily, rubbing the sweat away from his eyebrows with the back of his hand, "malfunction. Fuck!"
A loud noise in the corridor jerked at his attention, and Duo appeared in the doorway, slumping slightly with his shoulder against the frame. His tone was snappish. "What in the Seven Hells *was* that?"
The demon was breathing heavily, his face flushed and his expression bordering on an enraged snarl. His black clothes were rumpled, the hem of his sleeveless shirt rolled against itself, exposing the pale flesh of his stomach. His hair was falling out of its braid, long tendrils of chestnut snaking over his face, his long bangs plastered to his forehead with sweat.
The thought came unbidden to Heero's mind. It wasn't a dream.
"Uhm," Chea ventured, crooking his arm to scratch the back of his head. "Were you two in the same room?"
"No!" the pair shouted in unison.
Duo frowned at the cadet and turned the expression to Heero. His eyes widened slightly, and he took a step back.
Quatre had climbed out of his hiding place, but was carefully keeping the co-pilot's chair between himself and his two unhappy and out-of-sorts operatives. "Duo, what-"
The demon jumped at the sound of Quatre's voice, cast one last startled look at Heero, and turned to race back down the corridor.
"Fix it," Heero snarled and took off after Duo, catching the door just before it slammed closed.
Chea blinked at the empty doorway for several moments before Quatre stepped forwards and closed it. Then he turned to blink helplessly at the Prime Operative. "Uh, what was that?"
"I don't know," the blond admitted, and shrugged. "Let them work it out themselves. I wash my hands of the entire affair."
The cadet puffed his cheeks out and blew out a stream of air. "Well, great. We have a hyperdrive to repair. Wonderful."
"Is it that difficult?"
"Not necessarily," Chea said with a smirk. "But this is what we get for flying a Corellian."