Pairing: Unrequited Creepy Old Neighborly Lady/Duo. Alas, if she were only fifty-three years younger.
Warnings: Scifi culture references, my utter lack of tech knowledge, slightly insensitive talk of mentally handicapped.
Summary: Most people become Preventers to maintain world peace. Most people, except Duo.
Minor Revisions: 27 May 2010
Because Duo isn't a hyperactive idiot and I like him being smartassed. I keep thinking it should be a prequel to In Possession, so why not.
It had seemed like a good idea at the time. After all, the other four Gundam pilots were affiliated with Preventers in some way: Wufei and Heero were the organization's star agents, Quatre had been known to provide security access and bureaucratic shortcuts just shy of being illegal, and Trowa could've been the most highly paid undercover agent if he'd been willing to give up the circus.
Then again, it had seemed like a good idea at the time to go bar-hopping while in Amsterdam, but then Duo had woken up the next morning in a field with cows. Quiet mooing, slimy bovine tongues, and a hangover from the lowest level of Hell somewhat killed the previous night's enthusiasm. So with the perfect clarity of hindsight, Duo was starting to think that this had seemed like a good idea but really was about on par with combining Purple Nurples with special brownies.
"That's stupid," he said bluntly.
Une tiredly massaged her temples. Her secretary gasped at the horribly rude behavior of this young, disreputable boy. "Maxwell," Une said shortly, "despite popular opinion, I know you're perfectly capable of following orders."
Well, sure. Find OZ base, blow it to hell, and then kill shit. Building the Gundams might've been rocket science, but using them certainly wasn't.
"Following orders are fine when I get big fiery booms. Are there booms here? I see no booms."
"Getting cleared for fieldwork would very likely give you your booms," she said dryly.
"But those orders are stupid." He crossed his arms and would've looked like he was sulking if he hadn't had his muddy workboots propped on her desk irreverently. "Standardized tests ain't the way to go in measuring ability. You were in command of OZ's armies, you should have some personal experience with that."
He grinned unrepentantly at her narrow-eyed glare.
"You are very close to finding yourself on the wrong side of a prison door, Maxwell," she said flatly, ignoring the little mutter of, Been there, done that. "Whatever you might think doesn't matter in this case. My hands are tied."
Une took the moment of rare silence to run an eye over the pilot's generally grungy, uncaring appearance. He looked more like a teenage punk than the former terrorist he was, in torn jeans and a faded black shirt, the kind of kid that parents eyed carefully as they hurried their children to a safe distance. Unlike most punks, however, she knew that his scruffiness came from not-so-honest work in salvage yards, not some designer label.
The streaks of machine oil on his hands and arms had better be from his own vehicle, or she was going to need the bomb-squad to inspect the Preventers' garage.
"So do I get to do the whole Rorschach's blot routine?" he asked. "I wanna know if those ink things really look like dicks. I've heard the criminally insane totally touch themselves at night to that shit. The guy that lives under the park bench, he kinda liked them. The ink things, I mean, not dicks. Nice guy, too, Steve is always happy to share his newspapers."
Having him as an agent was going to be interesting.
"Be here at oh-eight-hundred sharp on Monday morning," she barked. "I want this taken care of immediately."
"Aye-aye, Captain Lady Ma'am," he smirked, and sauntered out of her office with a jaunty wave and the last word.
That irritated her, and then she got outright annoyed at the realization that he'd already gotten under her skin. She reminded herself that it was better for everyone's blood pressure to keep the Gundam pilots all mollified and in the same place.
"General," he secretary asked, "this isn't proper, someone like him – "
"He's a Gundam pilot," she said tiredly. The creak of her desk drawer as she went for the pills nearly snapped her last nerve. "He might be...unconventional, but he's one of the best. Someone needs to keep an eye on him."
Even if he was an annoying little shit.
So what was the test that Duo considered stupid?
The IQ test, naturally.
Few people seemed to understand that smarts didn't always mean jack. There'd been this one kid in Solo's gang, brilliant as hell, able to multiply numbers in his head like no one's business, but he hadn't lasted a week before his utter lack of street-smarts got him nabbed. No one knew quite what happed to him, but on L2, you didn't need much imagination to have a good idea. Numbers alone wouldn't feed you or keep you alive. What mattered was competence, and hell, if a Gundam pilot wasn't fit enough to be a Preventer, who was? Duo might have been a little unorthodox, and he was somewhat below the average age of government employees, but he could run fucking circles around all these hotshot assholes calling themselves the best and brightest of the peace-keeping force. Excepting Heero and Wufei, of course, but that was a given.
Having been on the receiving end of Quatre's sweet smile and his utter ruthlessness, often at the same time, the Preventers psychiatrist was about as threatening as a poodle. The shaved kind, with the pom-poms and nail polish. Tall, thin, and beady-eyed, the man looked like a praying mantis stuck in a white lab coat with an expression like sour lemons. Duo didn't think this was very professional of him. Quatre would be so ashamed.
Maybe it was the lack of his medical degrees talking here, but Duo thought it rather ironic that an IQ test had to be explained. Maybe the shrink just thought Duo was stupid, but if the guy (what was his name? Something boring; Duo would call him Dr. No because it was so true in several different ways) was stupid enough to fall for outward appearances, then he deserved to get fucked with.
"It's the time-honored meaning of life. Are you going to deny ancient human knowledge?"
Dr. No didn't seem to know what to say, even when sitting behind an Ostentatious Mahogany Desk ™.
"Well, sex, too. Gotta procreate the species or else we'd lose all that ancient wisdom." Make love, not war, and pass the doobie, please. Or something. Duo honestly wasn't that big a fan of drugs save the occasional MJ hit, hadn't exactly grown up with a positive relationship with them.
"Mr. Maxwell, this is a serious procedure. Please have some shred of decorum," the man snapped, compulsively straightening his manila folders.
Duo sighed and drooped in the padded chair, lanky limbs seeming to overflow onto the floor. "I'm sorry, Doc. The common perception is a complicated paradigm whose Gestalten composition should be regarded without hubris or disdain. Although I'd like to point out that the continuation of our species really does necessitate frequent sexual intercourse.
Dr. No's lips thinned, but he moved on determinedly as though he hadn't been interrupted. "The test involves problems from the domains of short-term memory, verbal knowledge, spatial visualization, and perceptual speed—"
If Duo sunk any lower in his chair, he'd slide onto the floor. He let the man ramble on, keeping half an ear on the stream of utterly useless and pretentious words and amusing himself by imagining what the other pilots would do in his place. Quatre would probably redefine the bell curve. Wufei might break the dishonorable cur's face for daring to be so condescending. Trowa…who the fuck knew, the guy was as easy to read as a blank wall. Heero would make a rock look like a genius in 'verbal knowledge.' Perhaps Heero could be token savant in their little group, Affirmative Action and all that.
Duo's sudden snicker made the shrink sniff with martyred pride and no little sense of fuck this, I'm not getting enough benefits for this.
Two hours later, Duo strode out of Dr. No's office with his hands in his pockets, a cheerful tune on his lips, and the distinct sense that he was going to regret all this.
Huh, Duo thought to himself a week later. I was right.
He was looking at Une over the thick packet of paper in his hands. She was rubbing her fingers in slow, methodical circles over her temples, and he had to manfully suppress the urge to ask if her other self was being a pain in the metaphorical ass.
"Maxwell," she finally began, "I…find it difficult to believe that the results of this test are accurate."
"Hey, Captain Lady Ma'am, this was your idea. Don't go blaming the innocent parties here."
She didn't even give him the dignity of a smart response. "Did you even take it seriously?"
"Of course. Not my fault Doc Chuckles doesn't have a sense of humor. That's not very professional, you know, a psychiatrist holding a grudge against one of his patients. Did you do a background check on him? He was probably an Ozzie, he's got that unique tendency to ignore company protocol." The asshole had probably taken unholy glee in using his Big Red Sharpie on Duo's test.
Une groaned. It was the kind of sound a person would make after breaking an expensive lamp while trying to squash a single persistent fly.
"Maxwell, so long as you continue to test positive for being clinically retarded, I'll have to take back my offer."
Ouch, that was a little below the belt. "Une," Duo tried, using the woman's proper name for the first time in…well, ever, "you and I weren't always this buddy-buddy. You know perfectly well that I can hunt down an enemy soldier with both hands cuffed behind my back and several bullets in my cute little ass. You know that the only person who can fuck with a computer better than me is Heero Yuy himself."
"Yes, Maxwell, I do know." She knew it very well, thank you very much. "But this isn't wartime. This organization has rules, and those rules require a minimum intelligence score. Officially, you've only managed to prove that a negative IQ is actually possible."
"Fine. I'll take it again."
"You can't do that."
The words I have a fist here that says otherwise were on the tip of his tongue, but Duo manfully choked them back. There was a reason he'd always forwarded the diplomacy missions to Quatre.
"You may only take one IQ test every six months. You'll have to wait."
"What, do the feds think a person can spontaneously grow that much grey matter so quickly?" he snarked. "We're already born with all the neurons we're going to have in our lifetime. What if I was just having an off-day? Maybe I was having horribly traumatic flashbacks to the war. To my sordid childhood. To what the old lady next door said to me last week."
Une gave him a level stare.
"Hey, if you were there, you'd be having nightmares about her too. I mean, paisley bathrobes. For all you know I was tied down and molested by an eighty-year-old woman. Maybe a neighborhood hooligan nailed my precious puppy to my front door. My poor, precious Fido, may he rest in peace. You should really take a look at the education system of our youth, y'know."
"You don't own a dog, Maxwell."
"You're psychic as well as psychotic, now?"
Through a clenched jaw, Une managed to grind out, "Because the same voices that tell me so are the same voices telling me that I'm this close to forgetting that blanket pardon and letting your ass rot as a political prisoner."
"Hey, free meals and the time to write incendiary essays on the nature of our government, all in the fine tradition of past revolutionaries."
He promptly shut his mouth and mimed zipping his lips, reflecting that Une looked a bit like the OZ interrogators after they got through a session with him: the same angry flush, a similar light of madness in the eyes.
"I didn't make these rules, and so long as Preventers is a federal organization everything has to be done by the book. So you will walk out of this building, without a badge, and if you're willing to take these laws seriously in six months, then we'll talk."
Damn it. If Duo had known that this goddamn test was so important, he wouldn't have doodled cartoon Gundams stomping on praying mantises in lab coats in the math problems.
So the pilot left Une's office feeling like he'd been cheated and the idea that things were a hell of a lot easier during wartime. He was a thief, and one of the best; he'd been capable of memorizing whole OZ base layouts in just a few hours, capable of calculating complex coordinates in his head while in the middle of a fire-fight, capable of rewriting programs to increase Deathscythe's mechanic efficiency beyond what most would think possible. Not just any thief off the street would be able to impress a man like G, after all, and it was insulting to think that some hard-assed shrink had the kind of power to keep Duo Maxwell from the job everyone knew he'd be damn good at. He was more aware than most that Life was unfair; it'd ram someone up the ass with a fucking beam cannon if given the merest glimmer of a chance.
Shinigami was hardly halfway out the door to the Preventers headquarters before he was already coming up with plans to tear Life a new one first.
"Yuy. Come in and close the door."
Brows furrowing ever so slightly, Heero closed the door to Une's office and stood at parade rest before her desk, ignoring the stiff-backed chairs.
"There's been a security breach in our computer network. Someone's been accessing confidential files."
Heero's vague frown deepened. That shouldn't have been possible; he'd designed the security himself, and unless someone - or several someones - had the same ability to program Gundams and break into the cutting-edge technology of OZ, they'd shouldn't have been able to get past all those little traps and honey pots Heero left behind. Why hadn't Heero been alerted at the first signs of a halfway competent hacker?
"From what I've been told, we've received no demands from whomever is doing this, and nothing sensitive has popped up on the black market, so far as we can tell." She visibly hesitated, then added reluctantly, "Several of our top-secret administrators have been left viruses that we haven't been able to remove, however."
"What kind of viruses?" Heero demanded sharply, envisioning the entire digital failure of the Preventers' databases.
"…The visually stimulating kind."
He blinked at her in confusion, and she sighed. "Pornography, Yuy. And just about every kind, too, except child porn or blood-play. Agent Biggs hasn't been able to access the server without triggering a loop of what he called the most disturbing example of interspecies orgies he's ever seen."
Which implied he had to have seen a fair number of examples of such in order to make that claim, but no one really wanted to think too hard about that.
"Indeed," she said dryly, leaning forward with her elbows on the desk and her fingers pressed together. "I'm pulling you off your current case and putting you on this one. None of our regular programmers have been able to stop this, and it's a matter of international security. If this hacker decides to get serious, we could find every top secret file posted across public Internet forums." Or worse, but she didn't need to enumerate the possibilities. Heero could imagine them perfectly well, and a few more besides.
Over the next week, however, the top secret files remained secret from the public, or anyone else who might have the idea of trying to blackmail the Sphere government. Instead the hacker (or hackers, as Heero was leaning towards, because he didn't think there was any one person capable of cracking his security so thoroughly) appeared content to…play.
Besides the porn, Agent Biggs found his 'Net history cache emailed to every address in his account book. A few hours later, his irate wife stomped into his office and demanded to know who Pearleen the Randy Donkey was.
The R&D Department found reruns of old kids' cartoons blocking access to their research; cartoons in which a hapless coyote's creative inventions were foiled every time by a roadrunner.
The Financial Department was given the bill for two hundred cases of good, pre-colony Irish whiskey, brought alongside the cases themselves. Mysteriously, almost twenty of those cases disappeared before the mistake could be corrected.
Noin called Zechs and very calmly asked why his name had been put at the top of the mailing list for the local chapter of a gay fetish organization.
Une herself found a subscription to Psychology Today! delivered directly to her office. ("Does Stress in the Workplace Lead to Mania and Depressive Disorders?") Needless to say, Heero was feeling the pressure from his colleagues to fix everything, and it was making him more socially reclusive than ever.
Sitting in his chair with a sigh and several empty coffee cups at his elbow, Heero logged onto the server yet again to see if the worm he'd constructed had found a hit. Whoever the hacker was, he or she had effectively concealed his identity or location from which a digital World War was being waged inside Preventers.
The moment he logged on this time, however, his screen went black. Narrowing his eyes, Heero tried several key commands, but the system was unresponsive; instead, his external speakers nearly blew themselves with the sound of a roar. Out of the darkness formed a little pixilated bat, which flapped tiny wings and grinned fangs at Heero. Cthulhu rises! it declared in little bubbly text, and then, Smile! Death loves you.
It took Heero a moment to get over the shock that his laptop—his laptop!—had finally succumbed. When the dead hamster was replaced with a fresh one and the wheels started turning again, Heero's frown turned into the deadliest glare in his arsenal.
At least now he knew how someone had been able to get past his security.
Having leaned forward to crank up the volume on his stereo, Duo sat back and adjusted Y. Pestis on his lap. Pestis' round, plush body sat snugly in the vaguely circular space created by his folded legs, its wings flopping over Duo's thighs.
Duo patted the black bat absently on its tiny stuffed head and took a long pull of his beer, popped his shoulders, and finally resettled in front of his computer. The Preventers' server was open on the screen, as it had been for the last week, and he was starting to get bored. Sure, circumnavigating the pitfalls in Heero's security was both exhilarating and tedious—the guy was nothing if not thorough, and Duo knew it must be pissing him off spectacularly—but the lack of a response was making this whole endeavor lose its luster.
The door to his crappy little apartment opened. He didn't hear it all the way in the bedroom, but he was the only person who knew about the silent alarm on the door that would automatically pop up a window on his laptop. Danger, zero-two, danger!
Feeling a smirk stealing across his lips, Duo patted Pestis once more as his other hand slid towards the gun he kept in the top desk drawer. Since there had been no sound of someone's footsteps or the lock being forced, and considering current circumstances, Duo was willing to bet he knew exactly who it was; but as his hand closed around the nine-millimeter, he mused that it was better to be safe than sorry.
(It wasn't paranoia when they really were after you.)
Silence. Then more silence, although Duo felt his skin prickling with the presence of another person.
"Hey, Heero," he grinned, leaning his chair back so he could drop his head backwards and look at the other pilot upside-down. "It's been a while, buddy, what's up?"
"What are you after, Duo?" Heero asked. Rather calmly, given that Duo had been fucking around with him and the guy could be as territorial over his precious computers as a pissy tiger.
"After? Heero, my man, whatever are you talking about? I've been here in this chair with Pestis and my beer for the last several hours."
Duo held up the vampire-bat plush. Heero blinked at its red button eyes in quiet bemusement and recognition.
"Pestis?" he couldn't help but ask, and Duo's grin widened.
"Yersinia Pestis. Y. pestis, better known as the Black Death. Isn't he just adorable? Hilde gave him to me for Christmas last year."
Heero grunted softly. He kept a hand on the gun at his side, not because he seriously thought he might need it, but it'd been a while since he'd seen Duo and it was better to be safe than sorry. If Duo had really meant anything malicious, he wouldn't have been messing around so blatantly this last week, but. Still. Never knew, and the thought brought on a small pang of guilt for not having made a better effort to keep in touch.
"Why are you doing this?" he asked again, and was rewarded with a shrug.
"Seriously? No particular reason other than to make a point."
"I don't suppose you thought about talking to General Une instead," Heero muttered dryly.
"I did. It's her fault. Well, sort of. Even though she couldn't do anything about it. But still. Besides, you didn't think I'd leave you untested, did you? I mean, come on, flyboy, you've gotta find some way to earn your keep, and who better than the pilot of the most kick-ass Gundam ever made to keep you on your toes?"
Who indeed, Heero's brain commented wryly.
"And I've gotta say, I'm disappointed in you. Damn clever security you've got going on, but a week to catch me? You're slipping, Yuy."
As he spoke, Duo had let go of his gun and twisted in his chair until he was resting his forearms over the backrest, looking at Heero. Though he was barefoot and wearing black sweats and a ratty shirt declaring MY INNER CHILD IS A MEAN LITTLE FUCKER, his smirk was as challenging as ever. Some small part of Heero that had gotten sadistic satisfaction in stealing Deathscythe's parts once upon a time itched to match that smirk, but he fought it back down.
"You'll have to do better than that if you don't want me to take you in to headquarters," he pointed out.
Duo sighed. "Fine, fine. Take a seat on the bed or something, it's weird having you stand there and stare at me like a goddamn sideshow. Hey, you want a beer or something? Dunno if anything less than battery acid would have much of an effect on you, but you never know. Then again, since you technically broke into my apartment, I don't think I'm obligated to offer you a drink. That's just not cool."
Heero sat obediently at the foot of the bed.
"You want to hold Pestis? Looks a bit lonely all the way over there."
Duo huffed and turned partially around so that he was sitting in the chair sideways, one hand idly rotating the beer bottle on the desk. Heero had forgotten how restless he could be outside of a mission. "Did you have to take an intelligence test?"
"…I have, yes, though I don't know what context you're referring to specifically."
"For Preventers. To be an agent."
"And you probably took it as seriously as you do everything else, huh? I bet you don't take a shit without first calculating the composition of your last meal, the precise weight of the food, and time elapsed between consumption and bowel movement."
When he and Duo had been put undercover at a normal high school, Heero hadn't understood the concept of 'literary interpretation.' If a poem described a sunset, then it was a damn sunset. But for Duo, it could've been anything from the decline of socio-economic classes to existentialism. Nowadays Heero fancied that he'd gotten a bit better at this 'reading between the lines' thing, and he sighed quietly. "Why didn't you do well, Duo?"
A smooth shrug. "Didn't think it mattered. And before you say 'if I had to do it, I might as well have done my best'—don't look at me like that, I know exactly how your head works—answer me one more question. Are there people in your office that make you wonder if they've had a frontal lobotomy?"
One of the secretaries was blonde and prone to giggling whenever he passed her cubicle. An agent had been put in the hospital last week because he'd literally shot himself in the foot. But admitting that would mean letting Duo win, though Heero wasn't quite sure what they were competing for in the first place.
"My point, oh ignorant little grasshopper, is the fact that I'm as qualified for this gig as you or Justice Boy, and yet an absolutely useless rule has thus deprived the government of my services. Personally, if I were a politician, I'd make damn sure I knew what every average teenage terrorist was up to. Who knows, I might've gotten bored with daytime television and thought I'd spice things up with these little goodies." Duo propped his chin on a hand and looked at the other man sidelong. "Pretty fucking retarded, huh? Then again, politicians aren't chosen for their brains. No offense to Quatre, of course."
"Of course," Heero repeated flatly, but on the inside his old reflexes were rearing their respective heads. With his legs outstretched, lounging in such casual clothes and roller-skating penguin socks, he didn't look much more than threatening than a teddy bear with a morbid sense of humor. Perhaps it was something in his voice, something deeper than just outward appearance.
This time it was Duo that sighed. "Look, Heero, before you get your panties bunched up your ass, I didn't damage anything permanently. Except maybe Agent Biggs' marriage. A few clicks and all the madness will go away."
The admission made Heero sit a little more easily. Duo had been known to do some drastic things to prove a point, and he'd been partly afraid that his point-proving had finally gone too far this last week.
"Will you tell me how?" Heero asked, and wasn't surprised when Duo shook his head with a barking laugh.
"I have something else in mind, Heero," and Heero was leaning in to hear Shinigami's plan.
"You don't say."
Yuy just gazed at her levelly. Une wondered if there was a way to get the Preventers to reimburse her for all the headache relievers she'd been going through.
Behind Yuy, Maxwell rocked casually on his heels with his hands clasped loosely behind his back, the perfect picture of an innocent altar boy. Then again, if memory served her correctly, he'd routinely gone into battle wearing a priest's collar.
"Forgive me if I'm a little incredulous about your conclusions, Yuy," she growled.
His eyes narrowed ever so slightly at this insult. "The perpetrator displays a style of humor that Maxwell is more suited to understanding than myself. The lack of demands or ransoms to protect Preventer information leads me to believe that this is little more than a prank, a way for someone to show his or her abilities."
When Une's attention fell on Maxwell, he bestowed upon her the full force of his most shit-eating smile.
"And you think Maxwell can do what you cannot."
"…In this case, yes." Clenched jaw. Gritted teeth. She could practically hear his throat bleeding as he spoke, which was more convincing than the bullshit the two pilots had been giving her for the last half hour.
"Fine. Maxwell, you had better get our network back exactly the way it was or I'm going to push for that prison sentence, got it? I know you had something to do with this. Screw up the simplest game of Solitaire on an agent's computer and I swear I will find a way."
No, his smirk wasn't 'shit-eating.' It was a full-on soul-stealing, kidnap-your-firstborn-child expression mailed first class from the devil.
"Yes ma'am, Captain Lady Ma'am," he saluted smartly.
Twenty minutes later Duo was ensconced in Heero's office and happily spinning in the leather office chair as the laptop was loading. Heero himself sat on the edge of the desk and watched him, unable to help thinking that Duo's unique presence had been rather missed.
"Who's Cthulhu?" the asked suddenly when his screen was once more decorated with a dancing Pestis, and was surprised when Duo started snickering.
"What kind of geek do you call yourself, Yuy?" he laughed aloud as his fingers raced skillfully over the keyboard. The little bat faded into his familiar desktop.
"So, how's civilian life been treating you?" Duo inquired lightly as his unrepentantly looked at some of the files on Heero's laptop.
Keeping a close eye on what the other man was doing but otherwise letting him snoop, Heero murmured, "Civilians aren't Preventers agents."
"Technically, maybe not. But compared to the old days—dear Lord, Yuy, I sound like I'm ninety-three or something—this is like, oh, like trying to hack into a kindergartener's calculator."
"Preventers is somewhat less high-impact than piloting Gundams, yes," Heero agreed easily, if somewhat drolly, "but I would sooner be overqualified for protecting the peace than pushing myself to the edge in another war."
"True enough. Don't exactly need a constant reminder at just how good we are killing innocent people, right?"
Heero was hardly one for small talk, but curiosity overrode his normal reservations. "What have you been doing, Duo?"
"This and that," came the offhand shrug. "Helped out at Hilde's or the Sweepers', worked at a few local body shops. Nothing exciting."
Nothing like piloting a Gundam, but then, not much was.
"Why did you want Une's offer so badly?"
Duo glanced sidelong at him, fingers still on the keyboard. With the way he was leaning forward, his braid had slipped over his shoulder and smacked into Heero's. "You've gotten awfully wordy, Heero. Well, wordy for you, anyway. Seems close contact with Wufei's justice spiels rubbed off a few syllables onto you."
"It occurred to me that people in peacetime prefer negotiations with words rather than bullets."
Duo stared at Heero's straight face for a long moment before he burst out laughing.
"What do you know," he drawled, "your face didn't crack when you made a joke. Wait 'til I tell Quatre, he owes me ten credits now."
Heero felt it wise to keep his eye-roll at a purely mental level; no need to give Duo more ammunition. Figuratively speaking.
"Besides," he continued, turning back to the laptop's screen, "what else am I going to do? Overqualified for most jobs I could get, too young for the jobs I'd actually be useful in. I figured, hey, what the hell, I'd give this a shot and see if I can't annoy Une out of her office before I get bored with the place."
Heero made a soft sound of laughter under his breath. "Aah. And now it's turned into a personal vendetta."
"Nothing gets past you, does it, flyboy? Well, that and the fact that my neighbor who's old enough to have seen the Giza pyramids built has developed a bad habit of pinching my poor abused ass." Duo gave him an outrageous wink, then threw his arms in the air with a loud "Voila! Preventers database version two-point-oh, entirely free of any humor or vaguely interesting personal gossip."
Outside the office door, startled yells and cheers could be heard as people suddenly found their computers free of horny donkeys and hapless cartoon characters.
Heero thought about how Duo had wrangled Une into bending the rules to allow an IQ retest for getting rid of a problem he'd started in the first place. Having him as an agent was going to be interesting.
Wufei watched Heero pin a standard-issue Preventers' nametag to the lapel of Duo's standard-issue Preventers' jacket with a somewhat disturbed expression. Even with the clothes freshly pressed, Duo managed to make it all look like the thin veneer on someone who tended to toe the line of political anarchism more often than not.
"We're all going to hell," he muttered. Duo stuck out his tongue over Heero's shoulder.
"Think of it as a weapons acquisition," he retorted with dark humor, earning a light smack on the shoulder from Heero.
"I don't know how you did it, Maxwell. Perhaps they mixed up the names of the test results?"
"Kiss my ass, Chang. I'm not telling you my goddamn score, it wouldn't be fair of me to offend your pride when I already had the better Gundam."
Wufei sniffed arrogantly. "Deathscythe was a melodramatic and inferior tin can to Nataku's power. I have nothing to fear from you."
"An underwater thermal scythe to your crappy dragon chain says otherwise, Anal Righteousness Boy."
Before Wufei could retort, there was another light smack on his shoulder. "You're an agent now, Duo. Don't go out of your way to provoke anyone."
"Say what? Heero, buddy, old pal, you're asking me to cut off a limb here. A little ribbing never hurt anyone. Hell, most of these poor bastards around here could use a bit of life. 'S not like it's against the law, yeah?"
Heero's raised brow and Wufei's blatant smugness made Duo mentally backpedal. "You're shitting me," he muttered.
"Employee conflict is frowned upon in a pacifist's government organization," Wufei told him with no small amount of amusement, leaning against the wall with his arms crossed over his chest.
"'Pacifist' my ass," Duo growled with a pointed look at the guns snug against Heero's and Wufei's waists.
"Duo," Heero said quite seriously, putting his hands on Duo's shoulders to keep his attention. "You made your point and won. Now you have to live with it."
Perhaps Shinigami was capable of cutting off his nose to spite his own face. "Aw, hell."