Disclaimer: This is fanfiction based on the characters and universe of Gundam Wing.

Another Version of Events
by Karan Seraph
Chapter 54

Waking up, washing and dressing was the toughest part. Not only did Heero wake in a slowly rolling room, entirely alone, without even Koi for company, or the now familiar weight of a ring hanging from his neck, but when he was finished washing up he looked in the mirror and he did not even recognize himself.

The hair was not his natural brown or the green that he liked, but black, and his eyes, they were brown. Even the clothing he had packed for this trip was unlike clothing he would wear. Heero felt like... well he felt like Quatre's servants had dressed him, for these khaki colored pants and bright shirts looked like something Quatre could have been forced to wear before he found his own sense of style.

During the war he had done things secretly, but not undercover. It had not been like this.

It was necessary. The ship was to be tested. If he looked like himself, he would be recognized and possibly connected with the testing. The testing would not be accurate if those who might cause breaks in security knew they were being observed. If he looked like he was testing, and snooping, that would also invalidate the test.

So, Heero had to pretend. He had to be this ethnically Japanese ex-British national tourist on an Alaskan cruise. He had to gain access to as much of the ship and personnel as possible. He had to maintain this false persona every day for most of the day. He removed the contacts when he slept, but that was it.

He did not sleep very much. Of course, he could tolerate the conditions. He had been trained to tolerate much worse. So far as he remembered, when he had been a child his rooms and beds had always been small. The bed he kept in his apartment was big enough for two bodies, but as Heero had acquired Koi before settling in he rarely slept in it entirely alone.

This 'stateroom with porthole style window' as they billed it was so large and the bed was huge. Heero had slept in the bed for a little while after leaving Vancouver and the past two nights of their cruise and every night he had woken and reached for the gun.

It was only loaded with tranqs, but he should not have been able to get it on board. That was only part of the test, what bothered Heero was that he reached for it.

And the room did move. The crew said that the ship was so large and that its course controlled such that there should be no obvious pitching or rolling to sicken passengers. Heero did not suffer from motion sickness, but he noticed the shifting. It was unsettling, different than standing with magnetic boots on a spacecraft or colony as it moved through space. It was just different.

The ship, Artic Accord, had sailed from Vancouver at night, leaving recently boarded passengers on the decks looking back at the city lights. Heero took advantage of their distraction to begin familiarizing himself with the ship, after capturing a few quick photos of the Asianized city behind them.

Friday morning they docked in Victoria, where Heero had been obliged to participate in several organized outings, including morning tea at the Empress Hotel, in order to observe the security procedures when passengers came and went from the ship and to keep up his cover. The cities were lovely. Heero thought he might have liked Vancouver or Victoria if he had not been on assignment. The time of year and maritime climate made them cool and scented with many live trees and flowers.

Saturday had been spent cruising along the Inside Passage between Vancouver Island and the mainland. Heero had spent some time on the various decks at the different levels of the ship, watching the other passengers look out at the Pacific or Vancouver Ranges and the inlets of water along the narrow straights they passed through. Otherwise, he had gone from one organized onboard activity to another, looking for suspicious activity or dangers to passengers or crew.

They had various informational lectures as well as instructional classes, but all were designed as leisure activities. The geology lecturer did not test his listeners on what they learned about glaciers and mountains. Yoga and Dance instructors forced smiles and seemed resolved to tutoring passengers who might lack talent or physical fitness.

They had a casino onboard as well; Heero had visited for a short while and determined that the games were not mechanically rigged in any way. In the evenings, he had even attended a horrible musical production with singing gold miners and the performance of a ventriloquist.

The Yoga class had been the most genuinely stimulating, well, mentally. The body was meant to be more calm than stimulated during the exercises. Heero thought he might go back to that class if time allowed.

Today they arrive in Sitka, if there had not been some change in schedule due to conditions in Glacier Bay. Scenic as it was, the seasonal glacial runoff into the bay and the humpback whales in the area were of concern to environmentalists and tourist vessels were only allowed into the bay under permits. If the day they were to visit had to be changed due to conditions of the permit the ports of Juneau, Ketchikan, Sitka and Skagway might be rearranged.

Heero left the bathroom; it seemed large by Colonial standards. Some people that lived on boats had more space than people living in space. He pulled on a shirt. This one was cyan colored, and not as bad as the rest, he thought. It reminded him of antique computer screens for some reason.

He powered on the room's multifunctional a/v and communications system. Some people liked big streamlined machines that did everything from record your favorite programs to retrieve recipes for dinner from the net while you were at work but Heero preferred separate components. That way you could just get rid of one small faulty component, rather than have to take the factory-sealed monster into a shop when something did not work properly. Still, this one functioned. The announcements channel said that they should be in Sitka shortly after lunch was served in the three onboard restaurants.

Heero sighed, looking at the door. It was a mission... assignment. It was an assignment that he chose because it would keep people safe. This was his job now and he had to do it. He had to tolerate days like this. It was normal, not liking assignments at work. Even if he was his own boss, this was normal.

Normal was good.

He wished Koi were with him. He had not really thought that the dog did very much, on a daily basis, but Koi did a lot, not least of which was being a companion. It was not easy facing the world without guns and giant robots as backup. Life would have been easier to face with a dog.

Heero smiled to himself, thinking that he had become so comfortable with the idea of having a dog and that he was quite attached to Koi.

Heero's dog might even be recognized by now, and these ports might not be safe for canines, due to the disease Heero had heard about. He would feel bad if Koi became injured or ill or died as result of a decision he had made. The worry was not enough to keep him from wanting the dog, but he did worry.

So, Koi and Heero's apartment were in Trowa's care for the time being. It was a more pleasant environment for Trowa than headquarters. Sometimes he stayed with Quatre, but in his few days' preparation for this trip Heero had learned that Quatre was busy working with Wufei's team.

The attack on X18999 had been tragic, but on that day many other attempted attacks had been foiled, and resulted in capture and arrests of those who involved. Wufei had been placed in charge of interrogating those prisoners and in investigating their motives and possible accomplices and backers. In the weeks since leaving X18999 Quatre had been assigned to Wufei's team while Trowa had been returned to reserve status as had Heero and Duo had remained on an injured reserve list with attachment to the Director's staff.

Heero had not heard any news of his friends since boarding. He had spoken to Midii and Duo briefly after landing in Vancouver. Heero had sent his findings to date to Midii as backup the night before but they had agreed not to speak unless necessary. Heero had also told Duo not to contact him unless it was very important. It was unlikely communications would be monitored and Heero was sure he could secure them, but it was best he was not distracted.

Heero went to the most casual of the onboard restaurants and got breakfast from their buffet line. After breakfast, he went to one of the larger meeting rooms where the destination lectures were held.

These lectures were held before the ship stopped in any port and only casually mentioned security or gave advice on how passengers should remain safe in the cities that might be new and foreign to them. Mostly the speakers went over areas of interest to tourists and history of each city.

Heero had already researched all of the ports they would be stopping in, so he could use the time in the lecture to observe others. The Artic Accord was a 50,000-ton vessel and could take on nearly 1000 passengers. With crew and staff included, the population of the ship at any time was approximately 1000 people.

That was not a very large number. In theory, one could know everyone on the ship. Heero had obtained a passenger list without much difficulty. Finding a staff or crew list had been difficult and Heero had decided that security around the staff was adequate. Though, most of the staff who worked with passengers gave enough information away to make searches on them easy. The crew operating the ship was more distanced from the passengers, though the Captain did sometimes make appearances. He seemed to have a clean background.

The lecture room was not crowded; there would be repeats of this speech until it was time for debarkation. The speaker was a young woman, with that same permanent smile that tour directors all over the Sphere had. She went over the basics of describing Sitka's geographical location, on Baranof Island in the Alexander Archipelago, on the east coast of Sitka Sound, which sheltered the city somewhat from the Pacific. She then went over history, beginning with the settlement of the area by indigenous peoples, including the Tlingit. Russians had begun occupation of the site that would become the city in 1804 of the old calendar as part of their Colony in the Americas. 'Sitka' was the Tlingit word for the Island that became Baranof, after Aleksandr Baranov, the first governor of the Russian Colony of Alaska, and the city was the capitol of the colony. The United States showed interest in a purchase of Alaska and in 1867 took possession of it from Russia. In 1880, gold was discovered in rivers in Alaska and many new settlers moved north, as they had moved west several decades before, in pursuit of gold.

This period of the Gold Rush and boomtowns, such as Juneau, which was also in the archipelago that Sitka was and became the capitol under the Americans, was apparently considered a romantic period in Alaskan history. 1880 had been the late Victorian period in England and in the States post civil war and a period of continued Western Expansion. In Russia, they had still been under the Tsars.

The lecturer skimmed over the later history of Sitka and Alaska, that in 1959 it became the 49th State of the United States of America.

The speaker then began to describe specific tourist attractions within the city they would visit and places to shop. Heero was convinced the cruise line got kickbacks for bringing tourists in. These speakers were always telling people how to find places to shop in the ports. There was a guided tour available, but for the most part passengers would be free to roam the city for several hours, before the ship left port that evening to go on to Glacier Bay.

If the lecturer was to be believed then most tourists were attracted to Sitka for it's Russian period history and architecture. Heero was certain he had seen much more impressive building within Russia, but he supposed he was generally interested by History.

He decided he would leave the boat again, but not go along on the guided tour.

Heero spent some time wandering the ship again, generally looking for ways that he or others might gain access to areas where they might cause damage and looking out for suspicious activity. When they did dock, Heero returned to his room briefly to collect the items he would need for the outing. He passed through the checkpoint at the ramp, where passengers were counted and showed tickets. Heero took the memory key rather than the paper maps as they were offered.

On land, Heero plugged the key into his pad and viewed the destination guide. Suggestions for local public transportation were given with schedules. Tourist attractions were listed and maps were provided.

Heero considered visiting the Historic Park where many years ago Tlingit people had resisted Russians in battle, but he decided he would rather go to the Sheldon Jackson Museum, where they had various artifacts of the indigenous people in their collection.

His job requirements did not specify that he report on security at locations in the ports, but on the cruise ship and passengers in general. As the passengers were free to wander the city and not made to follow a tour they were all acting 'at their own risk,' and it was not necessary for Heero to investigate where they all went.

He had roughly four hours to himself.

Heero took the cab to the museum. He watched the buildings move past the windows. Sitka was a city, but younger than many cities on Earth, and not very large. There was a Russian element here and there but overall it seemed a midsize American city. Its climate was considered maritime, wet and cool, like Vancouver, or even San Francisco. In that respect, it felt like home, as Z00001 was designed to feel like a northern seaport.

As Heero got out of the car he felt the weather was doing something. He had been on Earth enough to know that he did not have natural ability or experience that allowed him to know what the signs meant, but he knew that more or less wind and the color of the sky meant something. He was not sure if it had stormed previously, if it might, or if it was just a cooler day.

Heero stood on the walk watching the sky for several minutes, and then he went into the museum.

Heero was looking at some tall painted and carved wooden poles when he first felt that someone was watching him. Heero scanned the hall casually but no one stood out to him. He left the room, checking reflective surfaces for a tail. He saw none, but then, while looking at a display of scrimshaw made by sailors on whaling vessels Heero felt sure he was being watched.

Heero looked around again. This time he saw several people looking at him, but, they did not look threatening. In fact, half of them looked at him as if the thought him cute. Heero decided he was either too paranoid or too good looking for his mental well-being and moved on.

Heero looked at some more artifacts and then came to a semi-enclosed area where an education video was playing. He checked the time on his pad and then sat on one of the benches to view the video, just as it started again. It was about the peopling of the Americas and began with a basic explanation of genetic tracing through mitochondria and mutations in Homo sapiens over thousands of years.

Heero was aware of a few other people entering the dim area around the monitor but he kept his focus on the video, over his suspicion that anyone who looked at him or came close must be a threat. He should not be overly trusting, but being paranoid was no good either, he told himself.

The voice over went on describing ice ages and the peopling of Asia and Beringia. The video showed some archaeologists digging for skeletons of ancient people. The video showed one of the early skull types found in North America, this one from the area that became Washington State. They showed forensic scientists creating a computer-generated model of what this man had looked like. The voiceover said that among existing peoples this individual had most resembled the Ainu.

Heero knew they were an indigenous people of Japan and Sakhalin as well. There were not many left now, but they existed. Some of them even lived in the Colonies now, mostly as fish farmers. But, that was a very lucrative business in Space.

The skull was of a many who had lived over 10,000 years ago, before known civilization, agriculture or husbandry. Sometimes that seemed strange to Heero, when he took history classes: that there had been Homo Sapiens for so long, for 100,000 years possibly in Africa and in the thousands of years afterward spreading to other parts of the Earth. There were people in Siberia and China at least 30,000 years ago, if Heero was remembering correctly, maybe before that. Settlements moved slowly and developed mutations that caused them to differ in appearance over tens of thousands of years if they did not continue to mingle with people in previously settled areas.

And agriculture was only known to develop somewhere around11 or 12 thousand years ago. What did humans do all those 90 or 20 thousand years before anyone thought to cultivate plants and keep captive animals for food? Before farms became towns and then cities and there was civilization? They just walked about beachcombing, hunting and foraging for all those thousands of years?

Maybe it had to do with that flood theory. Maybe there had been some cataclysm that made people fear they would find no plants and animals unless they raised them. If not, why ever farm if they had not needed to for such a long period of human history?

Heero did not know. That got into religion and hypothesis. But he did wonder what these humans 11,000 years or more ago had done without cities. He could hardly imagine it, just walking around hunting and foraging with a tool bag of stones of various size, sharpness and composition. Would he have sat around with a piece of skin and rows of pebbles making calculations as if on an abacus and going out at night to site stars and planets and making marks on trees and stones where they passed?

Heero did not think he could live without technology, so if he had lived then, he supposed he should have wanted to be a Shaman so he could do math and track stars. Heero wondered what his spirit animal would be, if he had one as he watched the monitor.

The video showed a reenactment of how that Ainu-like man may have died. He had been injured by a stone tipped spear and then fallen into water and died. He was being chased by a few other men as the voice over explained that at the time when he had lived a new wave of humans were moving into the Americas, from Siberia this time. They had had conflicts with the earlier people there.

They said that most of the indigenous people in North America were more like Siberian peoples than like other groups of humans.

"Heh, guess that makes you more American than me."

Heero froze still. He knew that was Duo, but none of the people that had entered this small room had registered as Duo in his subconscious and intellectually Heero knew of no reason Duo would be here. All the more reason for it to be true; Duo is not predictable, Heero told himself.

He turned slowly. It was Duo, sitting at his right side and not very far away. He was wearing a wig, but the clothing did look like something Duo would wear. He was wearing a red kilt and a black sweater. Well, Heero could not remember Duo ever wearing a sweater, but since it was black, he supposed it was the sort of sweater Duo would own.

"Post-civilization people began mixing with each other and moving between cities with ever increasing speed, how we relate to the peoples that first settled the globe is rather irrelevant except to some historians and geneticists. We are all becoming more like each other now, rather than different. In any case, genetic tracing only works through the maternal line, so I would likely trace to Japan and pre-civilization they probably trace back to China."

Duo laughed. "That is very you," He said, "You were so shocked to see me but you still got all analytical and told me how I was wrong."

True, but logic was sometimes a defense mechanism for him. Heero reached for Duo's left hand and then stood. He drew Duo after him, into another display area. He looked to be sure that no one was listening and then spoke. "What are you doing here?"

"Not even glad to see me?" It was a good wig, Heero saw in the brighter light: straight, black shoulder-length hair, with a faded-in hairline that was no doubt imperceptibly glued in place so that it looked natural. Heero did not believe Duo would cut and dye his hair.

Heero squeezed Duo's hand. He was very happy to have Duo with him, but what he most felt was an uncomfortable confusion. "I missed you, but it bothers me to not know your plan. I have to be back on the ship in a few hours."

Duo grinned. "I'll go with you."

Maybe they could manage it. It would be a good test. They would have to change the original passenger list, and they would have to change the count and list of names taken at the checkpoint today.

"I can practically hear the drives whirring in your skull," Duo laughed. "It's taken care of. Passenger list, count, and everything."

"You are sure?" Heero asked. "What about the key? Did you give yourself a spare room? Did you…?" Heero made his voice even lower, "Did you pay them or hack the payment records?"

"I was going to just add me to you room, but Midii said not to interfere more than you gave permission for, so we gave me a stateroom with balcony with view, starboard side."

"Why?" Heero asked, dropping Duo's hand. That was the most expensive type of accommodation on the ship.

Duo smiled guiltily. "And we hacked the payment records, so you can just include that in your report and maybe they'll take it out of what they ow you, but they were paying you a good deal of money anyway."

Heero nodded. "The key?"

"They have them at a desk onboard and passengers got them when they came onboard?"


"I'll take care of it. They switch shifts at the desks, right?"

"Three shifts a day, coming on at 8, 4 and 12."

"Right, so the people there won't have been there when we left the boat."

Heero nodded.

Duo grinned smugly again. "So, everything's kewl. If anyone on the boat happened to notice you, it will just look like you hooked up with another single passenger who mostly stayed in his room for the first few days with a cold."

Heero smirked. "Hooked up?"

"You think I came down to Earth to not be all over you while you work?" He laughed, and then stopped, "You do give me permission to be all over you while you work?"

Heero reached up, took Duo's head gently in his hands and pulled him down so that he could kiss him. Heero felt Duo's arm press his back, and then a hand went for his ass. Heero smiled against Duo's lips. The three days without even talking to Duo had been the hardest but the days Heero had only been able to call without seeing Duo in person had not been easy to bear. It had been a week.

Duo put his lips to Heero's ear and whispered to him. "I want to drag you off someplace secret right now. I bet I could make a public bathroom sexy."

"No," Heero hissed. That idea was not OK with him. "No bathrooms."

"Mm, let's get out of here."

Duo took Heero's hand and led the way. The left the museum and quickly wandered the streets, apparently in search of something, but Heero did not know what. He feared Duo was looking for somewhere to have sex, and as much as he had missed Duo, there were some places Heero found waiting preferable to.

Several times Duo almost stopped, but after looking in windows, he moved on. Finally, Duo decided to enter a shop, instead of going on. It was a clothing store. Duo checked his duffel at the counter. Apparently, the manager insisted as an anti-theft measure. Heero wondered what clothing had to do with sex and then decided that perhaps Duo really had abandoned that plan.

He was singing to himself as he rifled through racks of clothes, apparently no longer pressed for time. Heero looked around. They sold men's and women's clothing and after some study Heero decided this must be a vintage clothing store. He had never been to a store like this that he could recall, though he knew of them.

Unlike thrift stores, which could potentially have some of the same items, Vintage stores tended to sell clothing that was at least several decades old and which had been fashionable or novel at the time. They found rare articles of clothing and charged as much as other stores did for new clothing, sometimes more.

Duo came toward Heero and thrust a pair of jeans toward him. Heero looked down as Duo went down on one knee and took the cuff of one leg in his hand. It seemed he was trying to measure Heero's inseam.

"You could just ask."

Duo stood, laughed and went back to the rack. "You want to help, you look through the rack."

Heero shrugged then pushed the hangers to each side to look at a pair of jeans. He saw a tag on the back. Levi's. 517s. Heero flipped the pair aside and looked at another. All this rack was Levi's 517s. And then Heero realized why Duo had laughed. "Inches?"

"Uh huh. Don't suppose you know the conversion between inches and centimeters?"

This was not information Heero often needed. It's 2…2 point something…"

Duo laughed again. "It won't help if you don't know exactly. Here, hold this by your waist." Duo held out the pants for Heero to take. Heero held the waistband of the jeans to his waist. "It looks about right. Maybe slightly larger. It is hard to tell holding them like this."

"I need to find a few more pairs anyway," Duo said, smiling.

Duo collected a few pairs of jeans and then giving a nod for Heero to follow walked quickly toward the dressing rooms. This area was crowded as the store was large enough that Heero had not noticed many people nearby, the dressing rooms were concentrated in this one area. There were a lot of them. Men and women of various ages had stacks of clothing they wished to try on and one harried attendant was counting garments that went in and out of rooms.

Duo thrust the jeans into Heero's hands just as the girl looked toward them. "How many?"

Heero counted them in front of her. "Three."

She gave a nod and turned to a woman with a huge pile of clothes, then began putting those clothes on a rack.

"This one's empty," Duo said. He opened the curtain.

Heero peered into the dressing room.

"Go on. Tell me when you find one that fits."

Heero moved into the small space, seeing Duo smile then close the curtain. Heero looked at the sizes and started with the smallest. He tried this by his body and it looked small. Heero held the next largest pair to his body and it seemed right. He removed his shoes and pants and then pulled on the vintage jeans. Heero closed the fly. They fit. He looked in the mirror. It was on one of the side walls, as the rear wall was made of cement block and common screws did not penetrate it well enough to hang the looking glass.

Heero liked these jeans. These did seem to be just the right size. They were faded, but not too faded. The knees felt worn, but were not ripped through.

"Hey, how ya doin', Hon?" Duo called. Before Heero could answer he said, "Oh, yeah, let me see if I can help."

Duo turned his head and saw Duo slip around the curtain. That look on his face…

Heero knew Duo had not given up his plan to find a secluded place to have sex. He shook his head.

Duo nodded emphatically and put his hand to the crotch of the jeans. Heero took a step back, but that ultimately, fell into Duo's plan as well, for Duo trapped Heero between himself and the wall. "Yeah, jeans are hard to fit," he said almost loudly. "These look much too tight." Heero looked away in refusal, but that also seemed to provide Duo an opportunity. Within seconds, he was leaning against Heero, fingers at the waist of the jeans and his tongue tracing Heero's ear.

Heero felt weak. He felt that maybe he really wanted to go along. He had missed everything about Duo including the sex. He had not expected getting to see him for a whole other week. Now He could feel him and smell him.

Heero lifted a hand to Duo's jaw and held Duo as he turned his own head to face him. "Punishment later," Heero whispered, "for putting me in this position, whether I let you continue or not."

"Letting me continue?"

"You want me to fuck you deep and slow up against that mirror, here, in public?" Heero growled under his breath.

Duo gaped. He was wordless. He wanted that.

"We can do that some other time when you are not being naughty, secret, and manipulative, but you can suck me off if you want to."

Duo grinned. "This pair seems tight too. Have you grown?"

Heero did not fall into that trap; He simply leaned against the wall and watched Duo open the jeans he had put on. Heero tried pulling the curtain more closed, but the way the curtain was constructed there was always this tiny strip between partition and curtain where someone could peek through.

Even as Duo had pulled down the jeans and his underwear and lapped at his erection, Heero kept thinking that someone would peer through that small space and see that he was leaning against the wall looking pleasured. He kept wondering if anyone would try to open the curtain. He wondered if they would make a noise that would give away what they were doing.

Maybe it was illegal. Heero was not sure about the exact law, but if anyone saw them, Duo and Heero might be arrested. That would be embarrassing: being arrested for having sex in public. Heero had a false ID, but he was not wearing false fingertips or contacts that would fool a scanner and his face was undisguised. If they found out who he was, it would be worse. He was famous, so everyone would find out.

The more he thought about it, the more the paranoia made his heart race, and Duo was already making his heart race.

Heero lifted one hand to the hook on the wall and braced the other against the cool cement wall. He bit at his lip, afraid to make even a small sound. He could see them, in the mirror, he could see the back of Duo's head, his wig, and the movement it made was so obviously sexual. It was so obvious.

Obvious, and they did not look quite like Duo and Heero. He felt like he was watching two other young men having sex in a dressing room.

Paranoia and voyeurism.

Oh, Maybes, someone will open the curtain at any second and we look so hot!

Heero took his hand from the wall and clamped it over his own mouth. He had felt like he would shout Duo's name. He usually was the quieter one, but now he felt like he really had to restrain himself. The hand that held the hook was cramping up, Heero held it so tightly.

His back slipped against the wall as his pelvis rocked forward, seemingly on its own. He felt Duo's hands squeeze his buttocks and he knew that in a matter of seconds he was going to come hard.

And he was right. The orgasm was completely stupefying. Heero sank to the floor, Duo still trying to suck him dry and clean. Duo looked up, grinning. When Heero managed to focus on him, he grinned back.

If he had known what this felt like before he was eighteen the war might have gone differently. Fifteen or not, he might have tried fucking his way close to Treize. Heero laughed quietly at that thought. Better to not tell Duo.

Or, maybe not. Duo had known about sex, known enough not to do it with people he did not trust on some level. Maybe if he had known, Heero would have just fucked Duo. He could have made them roommates while he was hacking boarding school admissions records. Blow something up, fuck Duo, blow some more shit up, fuck Duo.

That sounded like what Duo used to describe as 'his way.' If they had not learned to care about each other first, at least as friends, things likely would have gotten bad after a while. They would have started hurting each other.

This was nice, being in love, having understanding, and still doing things like having sex in dressing rooms.

It had been good. Heero was going to have to think of a way to pay Duo back, after he punished him. Two separate things. Punishment for not letting Heero in on his plans and the hottest sex Heero could manage for managing to convince Heero to do what he would not have thought of, and which he ultimately enjoyed very much.

"I like what you are wearing right now," Duo said. Normal volume. "I'll let you get dressed so we can buy those, OK?" He twisted to look in the mirror as he spoke, then wiped his mouth with his fingers. "You do like them?"

Heero stood up. He stepped out of the vintage jeans. "Yes. They are just what I wanted."

Duo smiled as he stood up. He opened the curtain just enough to step out. "Hand me the ones you do not want."

Heero gave the other pairs to Duo and then got dressed. He looked at himself in the mirror. No obvious signs of what they had done, well, except he was still feeling so happy. Heero checked the dressing room. There was something on the floor. The hook. He must have pulled it right from the wall.

Heero lifted it. It had not been held by screws, but only nails. Heero slipped the hook and nails back into place. It was loose, but it was not obvious. He did not want to explain how he had ripped it from the wall, however, so he was going to have to live with the small guilt.

They could get a few screws, he thought. Screws did not cost a lot.

Heero opened the curtain and looked for Duo. He was nearby, smiling, though his head was bowed to hide it.

"How are we on time?" Duo asked.

"We should get back."

"Good, I'm already spending enough here." He took the jeans from Heero.

"That makes one punishment and two rewards," Heero told him.

"Does it?" Duo asked. He did not wait for an answer but walked to the cashier.

They returned Duo's duffel and put the vintage Levi's into a plastic bag for him. Heero walked with Duo to the door then and they saw it was raining. "Did you notice what street we were on?"


"I have a map, but we will need to find either a taxi or a street name to get to the port."

"So, we go into the rain. Ever been caught in the rain?"

"Yes. I d not seem to be able to read the signs."

"Ever been caught in the rain with someone?"

Heero shook his head.

Duo smiled. Let's go.

It was cold rain. In a way, it was invigorating. The cold itself did not bother Heero, and he liked water. He had forced himself into a cold shower before. It was strange moving through it. They ran, and the water still came down wherever they were. This was probably what they called pouring.

They had rain in his colony, but it ran on a schedule and was always light.

Heero read the signs and glanced at his map, while Duo pulled him along, shouting that the next street or Avenue might be bigger and have more taxis. Smaller cities were like that, they had fewer taxis that roamed the streets for their fares and more cars for hire if one called in advance.

Heero stopped beneath a sort of shelter. He felt the cold when the wind gusted through his damp clothing. Cold temperature did not especially bother him, but it definitely registered as cold.

"I don't suppose you have a bus map?" Duo asked, ducking into the shelter. It was a bus stop, Heero realized. He looked at the schedule posted on the wall of the shelter.

"If we get on the bus here, it should take us where we need to go, short of a few blocks. It should be a few minutes only, during these hours. We can make it."

Duo gave a nod. "So, what do I call you, Max?"

Heero's traveling alias was Maxwell Croft. "I think Maxwell is someone who would want his full name used. What is your name?"

"Thomas Braider." He smiled. You can call me Tom."

"Tom braider," Heero said thoughtfully.

Duo seemed amused and cold.

"You are cold? I do not have anything warm to give you or I would."

"I have clothes here," Duo said of his duffel, "but if I take them out, they will just get wet too."

"Come here," Heero said. He extended an arm and Duo walked toward him. Heero stepped in so that their chests were pressed together. He held one arm around Duo. "I probably just feel wet," Heero said.

"It's not so bad. I just feel a little cold is all."

"Are you sure you thought of everything? The ticket? Did I ask about the ticket?"

"Oh, right."

Duo took a step back and retrieved a printed ticket from his bag. He dropped it to the walk where it landed in a puddle. Duo promptly stomped on the ticket several times. He lifted it then and shook the water off. "Barcode's still readable."

"Is it a bad fake?"

"It should be a very good fake, but I want to acquire a real ticket, so I will make this one unreadable except by live humans." Duo put the ticket face down and stomped again.

"The bus is coming," Heero said.

Duo lifted the ticket and straightened. The bus stopped. One person got off and then they hopped on. Heero got out a cash card and swiped for two passengers. The others on the buss all had coats, hats, or umbrellas and looked at them as if they were mad as they made their way to empty seats.

They got off the bus several streets away from the port. It was still raining, though not as hard. They ran the few blocks and then across the area of the docks. A tent had been put up at the bottom of the ramp to allow passengers to stay dry while lining up at the checkpoint.

Heero took the shopping bag. He let Duo go before him. He wanted to see that Duo's plan worked.

"It fell in a puddle. It's still OK, right?"

The ship security officer swiped the ticket alongside the reader and nothing happened. He spoke to the staff member beside him. "I cannot make this out for certain, escort him to the desk." He looked to Duo. "It is OK. They can check your ID and make sure you get a new ticket."

"Thanks. I was so worried when it fell onto the sidewalk."

Duo moved up the ramp with his escort. That was Duo, hiding in plain sight.

Heero showed his ticket and one ID and was told to proceed.

When Heero got to the desk where Duo was taken, he saw Duo leaning over the tall counter on the passenger side. There was only one staff member there now and she was bent over a keyboard. The keys were on hooks behind her. As Heero was wondering how Duo would get the key, he saw Duo speak to the woman. He had not put himself close enough to hear everything, but he heard 'key.'

The woman looked over the keys behind and Heero remembered that at many hotels guests could leave their keys at the desk during their outings, to prevent losing them. She had not been on duty in the last shift so she thought nothing of retrieving the key, as she had Duo's ticket right there.

Heero might have thought of that after a while.

"There you are, Maxwell," Duo said, turning. "I feel so bad that I got you caught in the rain the day we met, what do you say I get you a drink?"

Duo turned again to take his new ticket. It was done. He had the key and an officially issued ticket. He left the desk and joined Heero.

"So, my room?"

"I will need clothes."

"You have pants," Duo said. The rest was unsaid. Heero would not need clothes. They could always dry his. He could borrow Duo's clothes long enough to get back to his room. Duo did not want to wait.

"I think your room is that way," Heero said, turning Duo around.

"I must have been drinking already."

"Please, let me help you to your room, Tom, you have had too many drinks as it is."

Duo laughed.

They found his room and Duo opened the door. As soon as they were inside Duo turned on the lights, locked the door and slid the indicator to 'Do Not Disturb.' Both of them stripped out of their clothes without a word. Duo peeled off his wig and then rubbed at the glue around his forehead.

The front part of his hair, in front of his ears, was all drawn back into braided rows, but everything behind his ears was loose, as soon as the hairpins were pulled. It seemed strange, seeing Duo with his hair pulled away from his forehead.

"I cannot take the contacts out without a place to put them."

"That's OK. I know it's you. We can get warm in bed." Duo moved to the bed and turned down the covers. This room was larger than the one Heero had, and it had a pair of doors that led to a small balcony with a view of Sitka. They had made it back in plenty of time, the ship did not get underway until 6pm.

Heero paused near the bed as Duo was climbing under the covers. He looked through the glass in the doors. "You do not notice all the trees when you are there in the city. There are so many trees around it." The nearest thing Heero could compare the sight to in his experience was Sakhalin. The trees were different here, but still evergreens.

"Sitka spruce," Duo said.

"It's the state tree of Alaska. I heard the destination lecturer talk about it. The flower is called the forget-me-not."

"Well, I'd let you make out with me in front of the window, except I'm still pretty cold!" Duo said. He was entirely beneath the sheets and from his shape, curled in a ball.

Heero lifted the sheet where it was closest to him and ducked under. He could see Duo then, he was naked, of course, he had the usual earrings, nipple rings, light cast on the left leg, and the claddagh on his left hand. Heero reached out and touched the ring.

"I didn't think anyone could easily identify it."

"I was just looking." Heero lay down on his side. "Should I hold you like you were my very own shower puff?" Heero asked.

Duo laughed loudly, and then scooted into Heero's arms. "I just need to warm up."

"I do not mind." Heero rubbed Duo's arm and then his back with his right hand. His left arm was folded between their bodies. Heero finally touched his left hand flat to Duo's chest. "I did not pack anything, like your restraints or…anything, when I packed. I did not know you would come here."

"I thought of a few things we might need, but I packed light. It's really OK. It is satisfying enough just to be with you. Maybe we can improvise some fun things."

"I really did like being in the dressing room. I did not know that I would. I kept thinking someone would find us. I was so paranoid. My body was so much more excited."

Duo laughed softly. "That's why people have kinks, Baby, because the circumstances get them even more hot than just who they are with. I am so turned on by you, but when you've had be bound or when you were in that costume…or…" Duo sighed. "What you did that night with the eyeliner and rosary beads."

"That was like a mandala too," Heero said.

"Yeah, you mentioned that a few days ago, but it was the charcoal, right? I had forgotten about the eyeliner at the time, I suppose."

"I only remembered it now, too." Heero looked Duo in the eyes. "I think I liked that. It does not seem like much, maybe, but there was just that extra amount of detail and touching involved and I just enjoyed it. It is the same when you wear a lot of clothes that I have to figure out how to remove, or even when I put you in the restraints."

"That is really good to know. I bet I could think of a lot of stuff that will cause the same sort of reaction. Just knowing how you do focus on detail and these tasks or games that involve looking at me and touching me…I think I like that idea too."

Heero smiled. "I do also like the looking. In the mirrors or in pictures."

"Yeah, the mirrors in particular work for me too. And you in a costume and makeup. God, that was so fucking hot. I still have dreams about that. You in that schoolgirl costume."

"I liked that night we ordered takeout. I still have those chopsticks. Not here, but I have them at home."

"That was pretty good. I still think about that day at Christie's sometimes. I totally know why you did it. It worked."

"I want to know more about that. I want to know how much you need it."

"It's not the pain, really. There's people that get off on that a lot, kinda like how you were saying with the fear of being discovered in public. You get off on the adrenaline rush from being beaten or panicked. But I think it was more the punishment as discipline that I always wanted. I don't know how much I need it. I always thought I shouldn't be the one to decide that. The whole idea is to really trust someone else to tell me when I need it, ya know?"

"I do. I am just not always sure that I am the one who knows."

"That's OK. I don't think it's bad for you to admit it. I think I wouldn't trust you as much if you just pretended to be strong because you calculated that weakness would not help me, or some shit. I know you are a strong person. I trust you. It should be pretty obvious I trust you…more than anyone."

Heero felt like Duo was saying that he would even feel content if Heero punished him for rather trivial things, like not sitting up straight, so long as he was fairly consistent and not petty in determining what punishment fit each offense. Heero recalled Duo reacting very well to the past punishments. The bondage as well worked. They did not always have to go together.

"Are you warm?"


"Since we are away from home and you took me by surprise I will have to resort to bending you over my knee and spanking to punish you. You deserve it for the way you manipulated me into the dressing room and then tempted me with your body, which I can hardly resist. It does not matter that I enjoyed you there. You should have just asked."

"Gomen nasai."

"It is good you feel sorry, but you must still take your punishment."

"Hai, Atashi no Sensei."

on to chapter 55

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