Using hempen cloth to make gowns.
Heero's mouth - lips closed, hard, forceful - pressed against his; the kiss knocked Wufei's head back against the wall. A crime-scene photograph crinkled as it was crushed beneath his shoulder blades. Heero's body surged against his in a hands-off caress that would have turned Wufei into a bonfire...if shock and complete mortification hadn't drenched any kindling lust.
Despite his surprise at the unexpected move - and a rough grip tugging his thigh up against Heero's leg - he managed to keep his hands on Heero's shoulders, instead of decking his partner out of instinctive reflex.
Heero released him as suddenly as he'd grabbed him, and turned away abruptly.
"There. No problem. See?" He barked. Wufei braced himself against the wall, kept his face absolutely neutral with some effort, and turned towards the desk as if nothing had happened.
Une's face was a picture of incredulous shock, predictably enough; she looked like she'd caught their Gundams boning each other.
"I...I...," she gasped. "Ah, Agent Yuy, I didn't-...That's not-" Her voice was pitched higher than usual. She turned away abruptly, two ragged red spots staining her cheeks, and reached for a glass of water on the side table. Her hand was shaking slightly.
"That wasn't convincing?" Heero inquired coldly.
"Of course it wasn't, chun zi!" Wufei snarled, violently shoving Heero out of his personal space. "She said, 'I'm not sure you can pretend you're boyfriends'. She didn't say 'Throw Chang up against the wall and screw him'!"
"What? I didn't- Commander, are you alright?" Heero stopped glaring at Wufei and went around Une's desk. He looked ready to perform the Heimlich maneuver. Une had gasped most of the glass of water into her windpipe at Wufei's words, and she was hacking and coughing. However, she still had a fighter's instincts, and she was edging away from Heero with her hands raised protectively at this imminent threat. Wufei moved to her other side reassuringly and patted her on the back, forestalling Heero's efforts; he didn't want his annoying partner arrested for breaking every one of their commanding officer's ribs.
"Here, sit down, Commander. Yuy, get her another glass of water. I apologize for that, Ma'am. But despite Agent Yuy's...enthusiasm..." the two partners exchanged a glare that could melt lead, "I can assure you that we are quite capable of fulfilling this mission."
Please, please, please give us this mission! This wasn't something they were used to, in fact, under normal circumstances, Wufei would never have contemplated taking this on, despite the three dead officers. But it had been a couple of weeks since Heero had decided he'd recovered from his injuries and was now back up to operational capacity, and, to regain his full combat abilities, he'd been sparring, no holds barred, against Wufei on a twice daily basis; the L5 Preventer wasn't sure he'd survive this fitness program, or his partner's boredom, much longer.
"I...Chang?" Une turned towards him with an almost pleading look in her reddened, watery eyes. She was still coughing, but trying to speak calmly. "You realize it isn't just the, ah, that aspect. Right?" Cough. "I mean, I know you and Yuy will, ah, will-" Cough. "You're willing to do a lot for a mission, but-" Choke.
"Commander, both Yuy and I have performed some undercover operations during the war," Wufei said quietly, though he didn't add that most of them had been very short, and, in at least one case slightly similar to this mission, had ended up with them breaking their cover barely thirty minutes after infiltrating the base, and fighting their way out the hard way. But in this case, they weren't being asked to act like teenage prostitutes. Just a normal couple.
Quite challenging already, but they should be able to manage it.
Une seemed to read the assurance in his eyes. It went unsaid that Wufei would be the one counted on to decide what 'normal' was in these circumstances. He hoped he was up to the task.
Heero set a new glass of water on Une's desk and went to glare at the display on the wall. They'd been looking at the photographs when Une had dropped her bombshell of a mission outline - and immediately admitted her reservations about their ability to pose as a couple. Heero had said something about it not being an issue. The next thing he knew, Wufei had been grabbed by one shoulder, spun around and slammed against the evidence wall...Some of the photographs were askew; Heero righted them, unaffected by the sight of the executed officers in the shots. Three dead bodies: two local police officers and a Preventer. Heero frowned at the rest of the information pinned to a wall. Photographs of the man responsible for the murders, and his entourage. A floorplan of his huge house, taken from the colony's building archives; four stories, an underground garage, sixteen rooms...circled in red, the office where the target computer system lurked, behind a firewall that had defeated their attempts at hacking it to date.
"If you don't think we're capable of infiltrating the locale, Chang and I could always break into it." Heero threw over his shoulder, fingers tapping at various weak points in the mansion's security.
"No." Une sighed, regrouping behind her official persona. When she straightened up, she was Commander Une again. "No." She said more firmly. "Don't get me wrong, it would be my choice of approach. Faster, and more likely to succeed. I don't doubt you'd find enough evidence to get this man convicted. But there's a chance that you could get caught breaking in, and that would leave us in a very awkward position. The L3 authorities and the ESUN council have decreed that discretion is the highest priority on this mission." Une glanced at them and then shook her head, as if wondering why the hell she was asking Heero and Wufei to do this.
Wufei rather agreed with her unspoken assessment. He sat down in the chair in front of her desk, arms crossed over his chest, frowning. "Yuy and I will do our best, Ma'am, of course, but..."
"I know you're neither of you undercover specialists." Une inserted, guessing what he was about to say. "In fact, this job was tailor-made for Barton and Maxwell. Unfortunately, Barton is on another mission that takes highest priority. And Maxwell is injured."
"What?!" Heero and Wufei exclaimed together. Une blinked in surprise.
"Didn't he tell-"
"How did it happen?" Heero barked, spinning away from the information pinned to the wall, while Wufei leaned forward and asked: "Is it serious?"
"Calm down, gentlemen. He's got a badly sprained wrist and a mild concussion, and it didn't happen on the job, so I didn't think I'd be the one telling you. Though I guess I know why he didn't." Une smirked as if enjoying a private joke.
"He was fine when he left Brussels two weeks ago-" Wufei started.
"He was on leave at Winner's estate on L4 after his mission here." Une explained dryly. "Winner, who is normally an eminently rational person, must have succumbed to a fit of madness and suggested they go horseback riding. Why he ever assumed Duo had ridden a horse before is beyond me; if they saw that much meat on the hoof in the colony Maxwell came from, they'd eat it. But of course Maxwell wasn't going to admit that there was any kind of ride he couldn't master. Apparently, he went about it as if riding a horse and piloting a Gundam were roughly on par. The poor horse managed to throw him or it would have had a cardiac incident, I'm sure. Winner is the one who called to warn me that Duo would be unable to take on any missions for awhile. Maxwell is fine and recuperating at Winner's, but unavailable for at least a few weeks, since it's his gun hand he managed to sprain."
"Oh." Wufei and Une shared a small grin of wicked amusement at the thought of the cocky Deathscythe pilot defeated by a horse. Heero just sniffed and turned back to the far wall with its photographs and floor-plans.
"So the mission parameters are to infiltrate the group of clubbers that get invited to Exeter's mansion? Get invited repeatedly, become known to the guards, evade surveillance during those encounters, break into the office, familiarize ourselves with the system and hack open a landline access to the system." Heero had obviously dismissed the Horse Incident as if it had never happened. Maxwell was unavailable, so he'd take the mission in his stead. Good little soldier, Wufei thought, rubbing his eyes tiredly. He just doesn't have a clue how hard this is going to be...
"Yes. The two undercover police officers had been working this case for three months, with that aim in mind. You'll be following in their footsteps. Well, except for the part where their cover got blown and they were murdered before they could get into the mansion for their first visit."
"Isn't that enough to bring Exeter in for questioning?"
"We don't really care all that much about Exeter," Une explained wearily. "It's the information on his system that is our objective. He's Syndicate."
Wufei leaned forward abruptly. Besides him, Heero quickly slipped into the second chair, concentrating on Une's words.
"He's a financial backer, not a top player. But Exeter has information on high ranking Syndicate members and their financial dealings. This would get us up close and personal with the ones we didn't bring down during the Barton incident."
Heero grunted. Wufei glanced from his partner to Une, catching a troubled look between them. He'd not been involved in that near-disaster, though it had been his information that had led to the break-up of the plot. This had been the mysterious leader who had tried to recruit Wufei after the war, when he'd been wandering like a ghost, looking for a cause. The name he'd given Heero that day, after destroying Nataku and leaving for university, had led the Preventers to an L3 businessman by the name of Dekim Barton; the man who'd financed Heavyarms, as it turned out. Heero had given Wufei a curt outline of what had happened last December: Barton - their Barton - had infiltrated Dekim's operation, and gotten the Preventers enough ammunition to bring the man and his army down. All four of the active Gundam pilots had been involved in this - Wufei had been rather put out by that information, he'd not even read about this in the news. But he couldn't complain, since he'd been the one to walk away at the time.
It turned out that Dekim Barton had been one of several heads of a hydra known only as The Syndicate, a group that had infiltrated all sides of the recent conflict. They were the disease that had set in after too many decades of war. It was an old story, repeated throughout history. War forced the worst of the underworld to evolve, structure itself, protect itself, thereby leaving a virulent, all-pervasive organism behind once peace was declared. The end of martial law meant that the authorities could no longer use truly brutal means of repression, and, like a virus working its way through a weakened immune system, the organism spread, infecting all businesses and walks of life, and rooting itself in deep. Human society had taken decades - centuries - to rid itself of the Mafia, the Triads, and other similar parasites. Wufei didn't think they would be able to destroy The Syndicate for a long time, until it had grown too complex and heavy for its own good, and society had formed defences against it.
But that didn't mean they couldn't try. One of the Syndicate's main sources of revenue had been providing weapons to terrorists and rebels the world over. Peace had already been a blow to their finances, hence Dekim's attempt at destroying it. There was now a state of all-out war between the Syndicate and the Preventers; a quiet, hidden conflict without shellings and Gundams, a battlefield of financial manipulations and murders in the dark.
"Exeter has, of course, the usual protections: high ranking politicians, financial support, and enough lawyers to form an army in their own right. Most of his businesses are above board anyway. His links to the Syndicate are mainly for money laundering, and he has top-flight financial wizards to help him drown out the illegal influx of cash. His colony protects him almost as a matter of course...No, we'll probably never put Mr Andrev Exeter in jail." Une looked bitter, as she always did when it came to L3 and it's tolerance of such corruption. "But we need his information, and the moment he spots a warrant he'll wipe all of it from his systems.
"Fortunately, Mr Exeter is used to the L3 way of doing things, and the amenities of a wartime government, when he could bribe his way out of most trouble. He's careless. This gives us a chance to get in close to the higher ups in the Syndicate. Preferably before they pull another coup on us."
"He'd have to be careless to invite unknown people to his mansion, if that's where he keeps this information." Heero affirmed, cold and condemning. Then he went back to the important business: the mission. Une didn't really have to give Heero so much background intel; she just needed to tell him what had to be done. "So we are to infiltrate the objective by posing as a young couple, such as those he regularly invites to- What precisely does he want them for? Sex?"
Very briefly, 'Commander Une' faltered and the much more prim Lady Une threw Heero a horrified glance at his cold, matter of fact question, as well as what he was implying he'd be ready to accept for the mission. But she recovered quickly.
"No, Agent Yuy. He just...likes to have them around. He has a small private club there. Word is, he's bisexual, but he's mainly interested in young, gay couples, preferably men, erm..." Une was trying not to squirm under two, clear, hard gazes. "Which is why, well...We don't know how he spotted the two undercover operatives. They were professionals, and good at their job. But they were part of the L3 force, which means-"
"Someone sold them out." Wufei snorted in disgust.
"Probably. The Preventers are not local, so the L3 authorities - the reliable ones - asked us for help. I'm afraid we sent Agent Santoro in blind. He was really there only for a recon, his cover was a bit light. We didn't think-...he was just hanging around, as if trying to pick up people at the club, Désirs. It was too soon after they caught the two cops, though; they must have been keeping an eye out, and Santoro was, well, he was thirty, and not really trained for that milieu; he rather stood out."
"Which is why you're asking us." Wufei finished. "We're young enough where we won't look out of place at this...night spot where Exeter picks up his clubbers."
"Yes. And you'll be going in with a proper cover story. We're working overtime to build it, so it'll be ready to set in motion if you agree to-"
"Of course we agree." Heero announced, cold and sure.
"Just a minute, Yuy." Une sighed and rubbed her temples. "I want you two to realize what you're getting into. The investigation into the death of the two undercover policemen indicated they'd been placed under close surveillance by Exeter's men, shortly before they were killed. He's - this will sound strange, but he's not an animal, or a hardened criminal, though he will kill if threatened. Apparently all efforts were made to insure that these two men were, indeed, a threat to him before they were executed. Now he's going to be even more careful. You two may never be invited to his mansion at all; he may stop that behaviour now. But if he does ask you over, well, you can expect every aspect of your life to be under close scrutiny for a few days prior to the invite. He'll want to be sure you're not plants. And that means, well-"
"He'll have us followed, investigated, and he might bug our apartment. We understand that." Wufei interrupted calmly. "Don't worry, Commander. As Yuy just demonstrated, I think we can make it look convincing."
Une frowned and fiddled with a folder on her desk. Heero shifted beside him as if to add something at this point. Wufei quickly flicked his fingers on the chair's armrest, catching his attention. Heero's eyes lifted to his. They exchanged a glance; wait, let me do the talking, I'll explain later, Wufei indicated. Heero subsided.
"Well...I'm under pressure by ESUN to send in two more agents for another attempt at infiltration." Une said softly. "Young agents. I have some new recruits who can do the undercover part, but..." Her eyes lifted to them, hard, and angry. "But I'm damned if I'm catering to L3's sensitivities and their wish to avoid a scandal with Exeter, by sending two cadets into what could very likely turn into a deadly trap. Personally, gentlemen, I don't think you have much chance of making it into that mansion. I doubt Exeter is dumb enough to keep on inviting pretty young things to his house just to-"
Une's ears caught up with her words and she choked briefly. The 'pretty young things' - war-hardened soldiers who'd killed more men than Exeter and all his goons ever had - waited patiently for her to continue.
"Well, whatever. If you can get the information, I'll be very, very happy, and very, very surprised. But mainly I'm sending you two because if things hit the fan, I know you can survive it. There's only one thing I'm...worried about.
"You two..." Une's mouth pinched unhappily. "You're my best. You're the ones I send in when I know nobody else can do it. You've busted up operations that I would have normally needed an army to crack. I...don't want to compromise that. For anything. But I'm aware that putting you into this kind of situation, months living as a- well, it might stress the...entente you two have. It's...rather different from what I would normally have you do. I don't want this to ruin your partnership..."
Once more, Wufei could feel Heero stare at him, waiting for him to say the few words that would put Une's worries to rest. Once again, Wufei threw a cautioning glance at his partner.
"Ma'am, don't worry. Yuy and I are professionals. This won't be a problem."
"Very well." Une concluded, resigned. "Sam will brief you. If at anytime you have any doubts about -" she must have caught sight of their 'mission' faces and didn't bother finishing. "Do your best. Don't get killed. Dismissed."
Wufei wasn't surprised to feel hard fingers grab his arm and drag him off into a section of deserted cubicles, away from the main hallway leading towards Sam's office.
"Why didn't you tell her?" Heero's voice was cold, slightly annoyed but mainly curious. Wufei felt a touch of something...pride maybe; his partner trusted him implicitly, and knew he had to have a reason for keeping silent about the nature of their relationship.
"Tell her what?" Wufei asked patiently, knowing what Heero meant, but needing him to spell it out before he could take it apart.
"Well, that we won't have any problems acting like a couple, or having sex even if they bug our apartment."
"Won't we?" Wufei asked dryly. Heero stared at him, surprised.
"I won't say I'll enjoy knowing someone may be watching." Heero cocked his head to one side. "But that won't stop us. And that's what Une was worrying about. So why-"
"That was only one detail Une was worrying about. And that's why this is going to be hard." Wufei corrected him, suddenly uncomfortable. This was stuff they never talked about. "Look, Yuy...just stop a minute, and run one of our usual days through your mind. Now, remember we're supposed to be a normal couple, above suspicion."
A brief moment of silence...
"Oh." Heero frowned. "Well, we can act...I guess." The brief, uncharacteristic moment of hesitation spoke volumes. Wufei knew Heero hated to admit he wasn't perfect at every aspect of being an agent, but his partner was also brutally honest enough to admit that infiltration was not one of his skills. Not after successfully standing out as, at best, an unsocial jerk in most schools he'd hidden out in during his wartime career.
"Une's mainly worried that we can't act like normal people, in every day life, well enough to withstand even a light scrutiny. We're not just supposed to fool the hostiles by screwing each other in bed while they listen in over a mike. We have to convince every person we meet, who might be questioned by Exeter's men, that we're just a normal couple. And we'll be doing this for months."
Heero glowered at the floor, arms crossed over his chest. Wufei watched the lines of his shoulders expressing the inner struggle; the need to take on and succeed at a mission on one hand, the admission of a difficulty, a lack in his own abilities on the other.
"I don't have much experience. With normal." Heero bit out, still glaring at the floor. "I'm not sure what that entails." Eyes flickered towards Wufei's. "But you said we'd take the mission." There was a question in his words.
"I think we can do it." Wufei answered, quietly and firmly. "It won't be easy. But I have enough knowledge about 'normal life', as you call it, to pass. And...Une underestimates us."
The rest went unsaid. The closeness, the almost telepathic ability to understand one another, follow one another's near invisible leads in high-risk situations...damn, they'd managed to delude a live-in Duo Maxwell for two weeks, they could certainly fool a couple of thugs looking through a bad image feed for a few days. No, they weren't normal, but in this instance it was also a strength. Heero Yuy didn't know the meaning of the word embarrassment, as the demonstration for Une earlier proved; he wouldn't trip them up by hesitating or recoiling away from anything. And Wufei thought that, for a mission, and a chance at taking a bite out of the Syndicate, he could once more be the one who drew the attention away from Heero, put up the front. Bury his pride, his normal instincts, and lie to the world without shame, regret or remorse. Besides, if Heero could do it, so could he.
They nodded, arguments, logic and conclusions unspoken, as always, but understood and accepted. Wufei turned, but fingers caught his arm again, more gently this time.
"Still...why didn't you tell Une? That would have set her mind at rest about this mission compromising our team's integrity." Heero seemed simply curious this time, trying to understand his partner's reasoning. Wufei smirked in enjoyment at the thought of Une's face if he'd dropped that one on her, then he shook his head.
"That wouldn't be wise. You heard her worry about how even pretending to be involved would get us embroiled into some emotional tangle. I don't want her double-guessing our competence and detachment from now on, if we were to tell her we actually are fucking each other."
"Une knows us both well enough to realize that our arrangement will not interfere with our performance." Heero refuted firmly.
"Une is a fairly good commander, but she's also a woman." Wufei retaliated. "Women can be good combatants, but they will too easily let their feelings overwhelm them, and then they seem to forget all their common sense, duties and even self-preservation. And they tend to assume other people are the same," he ended with a sneer. Burying the slight pang of bitter regret as he remembered another woman who should have cared more about her self-preservation than the life of her unworthy husband-
Heero's eyebrows shot up. "Is that actually an observation, because I don't recall-"
"Noin and Zechs. She was all for stopping White Fang blowing up the earth, as long as she could do it without mussing up his hair."
"That's not exactly-"
"That brunette, Hilde, and Maxwell. She was with OZ, and she was supposed to shoot him down; instead she ends up saving his life and doing spy work for him!"
"Do I really need another example?"
"Two women don't make-"
"Relena." Wufei laid down his trump card.
Heero visibly winced. "That's not really a valid example." He muttered. "She has her ideals-"
"I wasn't talking about Berlin. Before she even knew she was a Peacecraft, you threatened to kill her what, twice? At least?"
"How did you know-"
"Maxwell has a big mouth, and found the whole episode very amusing. He tells it like its one of his best jokes if you give him half a chance. You know what I would do if you threatened to shoot me even once, Yuy?"
"You'd get me first," Heero muttered, conceding.
"Right! Women don't have the ability to make completely rational judgments in combat situations, it's that simple! They think with their hearts, not their heads. I don't think they should even really be involved in fighting. They should just take care of business or diplomacy, like the Peacecraft woman, or they should stay at home and make babies! What?"
Heero's eyes had focused on the hallway behind Wufei and widened in alarm. "H-hello, Sally," he said, tone and stance a warning.
Wufei stiffened and spun around, bracing himself. He turned back slowly from the quite empty hallway to glare at the growing smirk on Heero's face. Good touch, he granted reluctantly, though on the outside he simply sneered dismissively.
"All I'm saying is that we should not divulge the -"
Heero actually laughed, a twisted little snicker. "You're right, men do have a better sense of self-preservation,"
"-the details of our arrangement, Yuy, concentrate, I-"
"Maybe we should discuss this whole issue with Une."
"Mission, Yuy. Dead bodies. The Syndicate-"
"But don't mention the thing about the babies."
"- dead fellow officers -"
"She'd castrate you."
"If you're quite finished, Yuy!" Wufei snarled at that smug look, acknowledging defeat. Score, Yuy.
"Yes." Heero smirked. Then he was all business again, indifferently locking away the Heero Yuy that Wufei was the only one allowed to see. "Let's go talk to Sam."
Wufei went to get the next box from the van. Heero wasn't helping; he was inside unpacking the computer system and the hub, and glowering at the rather primitive setup he'd have to make due with. Student life sucked, Wufei thought with a sly grin.
"Mr...Chan Gen Lin?"
Wufei had kept an ear on the footsteps behind him, curbing his desire to turn around and face the potentially hostile person approaching at his six. He looked around only when she spoke, turning with the last box in his arms. Ah, the lawyer. He noted how she'd tripped over his assumed name and gotten it in the wrong order, but he supposed that she wouldn't be familiar with Asians and their customs, here on L3.
"Yes? May I help you?" Wufei asked politely.
"My name is Phillipa Scarriot." The young, horse-faced woman in a tidy green suit was looking at him curiously. "I work for the firm Meier and Konstanz."
"I was very sorry to hear about your uncle, Mr Lin." Not, of course, that she'd known him, Wufei reflected, or that the uncle had ever existed.
"Call me Chang. It's a nickname." Wufei said easily enough. He'd practiced saying that for the last week. "Oh, and this is Yuy Summers. My boyfriend." Boy, that had taken some practice, too. But he barely stuttered anymore.
Heero had come out of the apartment with a scowl on his face, probably ready to complain about the computer system again. He was now looking at the lawyer as if wondering if she were armed.
Sam had taken personal charge of their cover story, much to Wufei's relief. The old Fox knew how they worked. It meant they could still call each other Chang and Yuy, when the regular information services of Ops were going to set them up with fake identities using their first names, the ones they never used with each other. Sam also insured that they both had a bit of military background in their falsified records - OZ cadets, ironically enough - and that Heero had left behind him in his previous 'job' a record of being sullen and uncommunicative, an unsocial computer nerd. It all helped...
Phillipa's eyebrows had jolted a bit at the mention of 'boyfriend', but she'd covered it over with the promptitude and smoothness of someone with a job where she was expected to be nice to all sorts of people. "A pleasure to meet you, Mr Summers. Phillipa Scarriot, from Meier and Konstanz."
"What do you want?"
Shit, Yuy, you could at least make an effort, Wufei thought resignedly, as Phillipa bridled ever so slightly at the curt demand. He firmly shoved the box into Heero's arms, and turned towards the lawyer.
"Sorry, he didn't sleep much in the shuttle over. What can I do for you? I thought I'd signed all the papers already."
"Yes, we just need you to fill in this form here, taking formal possession of the property and acknowledging that all was left in order by the former tenant. Take your time checking it, and send it in by fax or mail. You're settling in well, I hope?" Her eyes trailed after Heero who was carrying the box upstairs without further word to either of them.
Wufei nodded at the moving van that had brought their few personal items, well, those items that people in their circumstances were supposed to have. "We had to buy some furniture, but mostly, we're good."
"I understand that you're enrolled in our university?"
"Yes. Both Yuy and I were taking courses by correspondence and working part-time back on Earth, but now, of course..." Wufei let the expected minute of silence elapse in memory of his supposedly deceased uncle, who'd left him a bit of money, this apartment and a few other properties, allowing him to attend university full time on L3. Phillipa let the minute pass with ingrained professional courtesy, then pretended to look interested.
"What courses do you attend, Mister- sorry, Chang?"
"Asian Literature, modern." Wufei didn't have to fake the small smile. It wouldn't be a drag keeping up his cover; he had enough knowledge to do so, and he was actually looking forward to a few months of proper courses. "Yuy is doing a degree in advanced computer engineering." The only difficulty about maintaining that cover would be for Heero not to let his professors realize that he knew ten times more than they did. And to handle the boredom. Heero hadn't been overjoyed at his proposed coursework, but he'd muttered something about doing some research on AI security programs or something to keep him busy. As long as he didn't reinvent Zero, or a computer that would try to take over the world, Wufei wouldn't interfere. A severely bored Heero would be rather unpleasant to live with.
"Well, I hope you enjoy your stay on L3, Chang. Here's my card. Please don't hesitate to call me if you have any questions or problems. I think you'll enjoy it here. This is a fairly nice neighborhood, and it's so convenient for the University! It's got handy transport to the centre of town - the night life on this colony is much more exciting than in many other clusters. Where did you say you were working, before you came here?"
"Ah. Well. Of course, we're just a colony. Ah-" Phillipa might have added more civilities, but at that moment Heero returned from the apartment. He stopped right next to Wufei and looked silently at the lawyer. Wufei could almost read the thoughts going through her mind. Boyfriend; probably jealous, possessive, and definitely unpleasant. In fact, Heero obviously just wanted a word with him, and was waiting for her to leave, but Wufei could see how she could misunderstand that silence and intense look. It was why they might actually manage this infiltration, Wufei thought, not for the first time. Heero didn't act normally, true, but his actions were often open to a normal interpretation, and anything he did that was truly bizarre would hopefully be put down to the fact that he was an unsociable computer geek and left at that. And, put plainly, it didn't feel like he was playing a part, simply because no one would be expected to be that bad at it. They might not make any friends, Wufei thought, watching Phillipa hastily excuse herself, trot back to her car and drive off a bit abruptly, but they probably wouldn't get spotted as undercover agents either.
"Yes?" He whispered, watching Phillipa's fast departing vehicle.
Heero turned without a word and left Wufei to follow him back into the apartment. It was much smaller than their safe-house. The living-room and kitchenette were big enough for two people, as long as they didn't have the territorial instincts of male tigers. There was a very small study for Heero's computer, still in its boxes, and a bedroom where Wufei could read when he wanted some solitude. He could see it from here, the door opened, boxes piled here and there. And a single bed, queen-sized.
"We're clear." Heero announced, closing the front door carefully behind them. "I checked, no bugs yet."
"Checked?" Wufei tore his eyes away from the bed. "What do you mean?"
"Sam left me some detection equipment. He'll send a courier to pick it up in a couple of hours." Heero added as Wufei's eyes widened in alarm. Though it would be weeks, months, before they might expect Exeter's men to check their apartment, they couldn't have anything like that around when it happened. "Foxwood wanted to be sure we were clear at least to start with, though there's no reason we shouldn't be. He said we might need some time to settle into our roles." Heero shrugged and idly switched on the overhead light; they'd drawn the curtains from force of habit when they first walked into the apartment, Wufei suddenly realized. Damn. Well, they'd start ironing out small details like that tomorrow. Sam was right, this was going to be a bit of a shock, and would take some getting used to. It was nice to know they could at least discuss things out loud for a day or two to start with.
"We need to set up a system of communication, now that we're here." Heero's eyes were sweeping the apartment professionally. "A set of codes and signals we can use once we're no longer sure of this place's integrity. We can also talk at the university, in case of emergencies. We'll scout out possible RV spots tomorrow. When do we recon the preliminary objective?"
"If you mean, when do we wander over to Désirs and have a drink, we'll go tonight." Wufei answered dryly. He felt suddenly curious to know what it would be like to live with Heero when he wasn't acting like, well, a soldier. Or a rival, or a brother-in-arms, or a fellow tiger. Wufei assumed he'd be doing most of the talking once they were fully undercover. The idea of Heero making small talk just...didn't fit into his view of the world.
"Tonight?" Heero looked askance. "So soon?"
"Yes, we might as well establish ourselves there. We won't go for long, just an hour or so. Get a feel for the place and let them see us. It's a fairly well-known club on the gay scene, it's not unlikely our alter-egos would have heard of it on the net before coming. And I want to go before the weekend; there won't be so many people tonight."
Heero nodded, in acceptance rather than informed agreement. It was understood that this was Wufei's operation, at least until they became regulars at Exeter's mansion, some of the beautiful people he collected for his private club. Then, assuming they could sneak away - or even get there in the first place - Heero would once more be in his element, cracking their computer and security systems for Ops to access whatever information Exeter kept there, as discreetly as possible.
In the meantime...Wufei found that he was looking at the bed again. "Are you going to be able to sleep on that? I mean, sleep with me?" Damn, that had sounded...weird. As weird as 'boyfriend'.
"I can catnap with someone in the same room." Heero answered, without turning around. He was digging through the boxes in the study, pulling out cables.
"We're going to be at this for months, Yuy, until we get into Exeter's place or until Une pulls the plug on this mission. You can't catnap for months!"
Heero paused, hands entangled in cables, eyes thoughtful. "My university courses end at five most days. So do yours, right? I can come back here and sleep for a few hours. That will keep me operational." He'd be able to sleep, alone in the bed, while Wufei kept watch in the living room; it really went without saying.
"The courses end at five, but we're supposed to be students. They don't come back home and take naps, Yuy. I think part of your curriculum forces you to stay late at night with the other geeks, doing odd things to your computer networks and playing marathon sessions of the latest strategy game."
"If I play a strategy game, it won't last long enough to qualify as a marathon." Heero pointed out dryly. Wufei snorted and decided not to remind Heero that they had to blend in. He'd feel the situation out later, how much deviation from the norm his partner could get away with. Wufei and Sam had taken care to place the 'Yuy Summers' character at the far end of the 'unusual' scale anyway, so it was likely he'd be okay.
"I'll go get us lunch from the local deli." Wufei announced. "You stay here, start putting the furniture we bought together, unpack a few things. And I don't mean the computer equipment, Yuy. Start with our clothes, they may need an iron. We'll unpack this afternoon, then we'll get ready for tonight." He cast one last look at the bed and left to see if the deli had something edible. He was tense; there were so many small details that could trip them up. And they might end up killing each other before the week was out, he added with a mental snort; they weren't used to cohabitating peacefully, without sparring matches and missions to relieve their natural tension. But there was a small part of Wufei that felt a twinge of anticipation, too. This would be different, challenging...and interesting. He found he was rather looking forward to it.
On to part twenty-two. Back to part twenty.