Saturday, January 24, 2015

Fic: The Fox's Bones

The Fox's Bones

by Nix Winter AKA Max

Copyright 2015, all rights reserved.


Vincent felt the bones under his fingers, some long, some short, some old and smooth. He imagined them stained as a tea bag twice used, but bone dry for the tea had long since gone. Without any real reason, he closed his hand around them, holding to them with firm conviction. Once his hand was tightly around them, he found the courage to open his eyes.

Forest.

Dry as bones, late summer, a touch of early fall, with dark golds, and then he knew when. The floor stretched out over a ground of the darkest soil, leaves far along their path back into the dance, and shadows laying across shadows of trees hosting the last light of day where no man ought tread lest nature respond unforgivingly. He sat up, reached to his cravat to loosen it, only to find it mostly undone anyway. Frustrated with that, he dropped the bones into the pocket of his waistcoat, then hastily straightened up his cravat. It felt like it had been out of order for the very longest of times, though he couldn’t place just exactly how long.

He leaned his head back against the alder tree behind him. He’d always loved alder trees. There had been great one in the backyard of the house he and his brother had grown up in.

Christopher.  Kit.  He needed to get back to his twin, to explain things.

Vincent ran a hand through slightly longer dark hair and looked up through the forest’s still clothed branches to the dark blue of twilight, as the light faded away. He really thought he ought to be cold. He rubbed his hands over his arms, ruffling linen shirt sleeves, and while it didn’t make him feel anything, the gesture was familiar and he felt better, nonetheless.

He had to get home. Tongue pressed against his teeth, he worked his way up the trunk of the tree until he was on his feet. How on Earth he had come to be in the deep forest in his dinner shoes was a question he really thought he should be more interested in. They were his favorite shoes, polished to a glass like shine, black patent leather and he leaned down to brush a bit of dirt from the toe. They’d been a gift.

There had been something he’d wanted to tell his brother. They were twins and Vincent felt a pang of guilt for being afraid to tell Kit this really very improper secret. They were going to have dinner and well, there would be a reckoning. That was how men did things, after all, and they were men now.

“Is that so,” a voice asked, sweet and slightly teasing, the voice of a lover and a person with, certainly, less decorum than a proper gentleman should have.

Vincent spun, chin lifted, blue eyes narrowing. “It most definitely is. That is how men work things out.”  He held up a finger, not quite pointing, but certainly preparing to point a finger at the other man.

This man wore tight black breeches, black boots to his knees, with straps around them each. His shirt was linen, but an odd Egyptian linen with a loose weave that was hardly proper, and even less so because it wasn’t buttoned neatly like a modern man, but open to his chest and only very loosely laced. He had wildly inappropriate red brown hair that lay on his shoulder in a thick braid, and hung down his chest to his waist. He was completely improper and that was before one lost time looking at those those curvy lips and violet eyes filled with amusement and lined with dark shadow, more so than any woman, more as if he were an Egyptian prince.

“Well,” he said, leaning against a tree as pale as ash, his tongue tracing over a rosey lip between the start and making his claim, “I do know something about settling disputes and the balance of the world.”

Heart beating so that he wasn’t sure he could breathe and be that unsettled at the same time, Vincent forced his eyes away from the man’s lips, lips that he was absolutely certain must be so soft, so warm. “Fortunately, I am not in need of any help and I, unlike some of us, am a proper gentleman.”

Proper or not, he couldn’t stop watching as those hips, under that tight black fabric, swayed with the man’s stride, and then, there he was, close enough to place a palm on the alder, and so close that those lips were warm and the air smelled of cardamom, a scent that made it harder to think clearly, sweet and drawing. A man could fall into those violet eyes. “I’m pretty sure that you need all the help I can give you, Vincent.”

“Hardly,” Vincent snapped. He tugged on his waistcoat just a bit, fully aware that it wasn’t going to be long enough to cover a hardness that there was no present help for at all. “I don’t need anything from you.”

Then there were those fingers ruffling his hair and his heart raced. The man’s hand came around, brushing a thumb over his lower lip, and he needed, needed so much that he could never fully express. Gentlemen just did not do such things, as one might understand, that some might, and he spun to accuse this presumptuous man, his thoughts as jumbled as the shadows of the forest. Accusation turned to attack in a moment and his arms went around the fox haired man, pulling him close, hard chest to hard chest and he breathed against those lips before pressing his kiss deeper, his tongue rushing forward, stealing what no real gentlemen must ever want. The wicked fox haired man’s lips opened, his tongue warm and welcoming, without even the slightest judgement or shame. It was like home, clean and welcome and full of the stirrings of life.

Vincent ran his fingers into the man’s hair, silky and warm, feeling like home. He found himself pushed back against the alder, the man’s knee between his and he wondered if this was all it would ever be for him, a pretend gentleman hiding in the dark of the forest, but connected and alive. His secret lover grabbed his crotch, shamelessly rubbing the hard manhood under fancy evening dress slacks. Insistent fingers opened the first button, then the second, making quick work of his privacy, until that hand took hold of the sensitive flesh of his cock, stroking him with such confidence and ease as if there were no sin in the world, only the perfect pleasure of lovers at their freedom.

Speaking was beyond him, head back against the support of the tree and he told himself that this was a dream, it was something that he could never be caught for and even if it were, that hand stroking him, gentle and loving, brushing over the head of his cock, down the whole length and then the other hand cupping his balls, this stolen intimacy was beyond his will’s ability to reject. “Oh my god,” he half prayed, fearful of the town rector at the very least, the angel of death at the very worst. “Oh dear god!”  Hot cream splashed into the woods, liquid proprietary, pure against the dark nature of the forest floor.

“There’s my darling,” the man whispered against his ear, genuine love and and connection in his voice, but then Vincent felt his hand move up towards his waist coat, towards the pocket with the bones.

Jumping back, he held his hand over the pocket with his bones tucked safely away still. His other hand moved to fasten up his trousers. “Now then, none of that, you pick pocket. I’ve no money for you, in any case.”

Braid in hand, he twirled the long length, smirking, a cocky and challenging smile on those full lips. “So there’s something I haven’t been called before. You don’t want what’s in that pocket anyway. I can give you treasure that’s so much better. I have books. You love books.”

Vincent turned, stared in the direction of what he was sure was his house. “I think I hear my brother calling me. We are to have dinner tonight, sir. What,” Vincent asked, looking back over his shoulder, thoughts jumping, slipping through his fingers like sand. “What should I call you then?”

“It’s those things in your pocket that make you forget. They’re unclean.”

“Nonsense! There is nothing clean nor unclean, except thinking makes it so.” He took off at a firm stride, moving towards the house he’d grown up in, where he was to make confession to his brother.

“Then why are you such a prude,” the man asked. “I think you’d be tired of these woods by now.”

“Sir,” Vincent snapped, irritated because he wasn’t sure, exactly, well, for certain, which way to go. Everything seemed so just slightly different. The trees were bigger. The path was different. “Do, give me your name, Sir.”

“I am Thoth.”

Vincent turned, an eyebrow raised. “Your good mother named you after one of the seven deadly sins?”

“With a Th, not an S. Thoth. I am the god of science, medicine, and letters,” he said, following casually, fingers laced behind his back.  “If I had a good mother, she’d probably think me following you around the forest more questionable than not. Your age corrupts me.”

“Nonsense,” Vincent stopped, looked back the way they’d come, forward the way he thought they should go, and wasn’t sure they hadn’t just come around that way for third time. “This is the best of ages. Men have never had such a mastery over the world. I was to London last year. There was a shop with thousands of books, hundreds of thousands, why more words than I can imagine counting. Had there been a god, that would be the church in which he would have heard my prayers.”

“I am the god of books,” Thoth said, patiently, “and you have a pretty way with your mouth. Take that waistcoat off and I shall show you what I can do with my mouth.”

“I couldn’t possibly,” he said, but really, and quite impossibly, he found his body was more than happy to oblige the very pretty, very insane man he walked with. Of course, there would be wood in the forest. “I must find my brother. I must.”

“Why must you,” Thoth asked, head tilting. “You might not find it brings you as much enjoyment as it promises.”

“I just,” Vincent said, considering moving off into the denser part of the forest because at least it would be a new path, “I just must. I must see him. I must tell him something.”

“I’m sure he’d find your attraction to men quite the shock.”

Vincent gasped, hand on his chest, mouth making this little circle in his shock. “How dare you suggest such a thing?”

“Well, for one thing, I just gave you a hand job and I am pretty sure you liked it a lot. For two, the idea of my mouth wrapped all around that beautiful cock of yours has made you hard as purity is to maintain.” He was  as close as could be again then, hands on Vincent’s shoulders. “Drop those nasty bones to the ground and I promise, you’ll remember so much about me that you will be able to write books and books on the great Thoth. Lovely books they shall be with dark ink and sacred passion upon the altar.”

“Seriously, you are rather full of yourself, are you not? I must find my brother.” Vincent ground his teeth, head aching just slightly.

“Give me just one of those bones and I shall take you to him, quick as lightning!”

“Just one?”

“Just one. A small one will be fine.”

Vincent used both hands to get out the smallest of the bones. It was ever so hard to part with, but he felt such a strong pull. Time was important.

The moment the little bone transferred into Thoth’s hand, Vincent found himself at the top of the stairs in the house he’d grown up in.

“Kit!”

His brother was there down the hall, in just his shirt and trousers, hair wild from having his hands in it. He spun and those blue eyes were full of a crazy despair. “She’s in love with you! With you! Not with me! Cassandra is in love with you!”

As fast as the memory came, it was gone just as fast. The distance between that moment and this moment felt much wider than Vincent knew they could be. “You said you’d show me the way home!”

“And I have,” Thoth said, gesturing towards a house. It wasn’t the house that they’d grown up in, but a bigger house, seemingly neatly kept with gas lamps in at the end of the walk. It stood by itself, the lights out, though just as Vincent thought how odd that was, a light came on in the upstairs bedroom and a baby cried. “This is your brother’s house,” Thoth said. “I took you at your intent, not your expectation.”

“Well, that’s not right,” Vincent said.  It was very foggy in his mind though, how to connect that moment at the top of the stairs, his brother so upset about the neighbor that he’d developed feelings for. “This is Cassandra’s house.”

“And so it was,” Thoth agreed.

As they stood there, a curricle glided nearly silently around the front of the house, drawn by a black horse with cloth bound around his hooves. For just a moment, Vincent thought the man was his twin, but the clothing was wrong, all wrong. The man was certainly up to no good.

“I’ve been in the forest a bit longer than I thought,” Vincent said, suddenly feeling that cold he hadn’t been feeling for a bit. “Why is that young man splashing oil on Cassandra’s house?”

“I’m sure he has his reasons,” Thoth said. “Men always do.”

“You there!” Vincent said, running towards him. “Stop that! Just what do you think you’re doing?”

The young man continued, throwing oil splashing it over the walls of a house that now that he was close up, could have used a fresh coat of paint.  There was no doubt in Vincent’s understanding that this man was Kit’s son. It was as if time had rolled in reverse, as if just a fresh coat of paint had been applied to the man. When he didn’t respond, Vincent gave him a hard shove. He was loath to resort to violence, but his hands went right through the man’s shoulders and the vile man went on with his oil splashing.

“This is rubbish,” Vincent howled. “Rubbish. You,” he growled, pointing at Thoth, “stop him! He’s to burn the house! There’s a baby inside.”

“There are two, actually. Twins seem to run in your family. The universe moves to work out a person’s sins as it will. In the underworld, I am master. When they cross into my world, I will weigh their souls against Maat’s feather. That’s the justice I can give you, my love.”

“I don’t want justice! Justice for what? I want to stop him from hurting my brother! I’ll give you the bones!”

“All, but one,” Thoth said, holding out a hand.

With shaking fingers, Vincent pulled out the bones and handed them over. “Let me speak with my brother.”

“Of course,” Thoth said, “but remember.”

He remembered then. He remembered falling, backwards arms reaching up, and he remembered remembering that more times than there were books in all of London, perhaps all of England. This time though, he remembered differently. Kit’s anger shifted to horror, a great fear as he reached out to grab Vincent back, to catch him, his fingers catching only air and Vincent fell, until his body slid to the bottom of the stairs, and there he stood, standing there, forever in fancy dress and never to be cold again.

The memory used to follow his brother as his body was dragged into the forest, but this time he let that pass him by. He didn’t care anymore. He ran into the house, up the stairs, his steps echoing in the nearly empty house. The same sound of his fancy dress shoes on the steps that had driven away the servants.

At the top of the stairs, a woman held a baby to her shoulder, her face pale as snow. “Kit? Holy Mary, Mother of God,” she prayed, holding her baby boy to her.

“I’m not Kit!” He stared at her, extremely irritated. “I’m Vincent.”

“No,” she said, pointing into the room across the hall from the babies’ room. “My husband is there. I married Vincent. He certainly wasn’t a maudlin and bothersome spector a moment ago.”

All the cold that he hadn’t felt had caught up with him, standing his hair on end. “Mistress,” he said, working the details out in his head. “I assure you, you did not marry Vincent. I am completely sure that I would know of such an event.”

“Why wouldn’t you leave us alone?”

He lifted his chin, nose and lips pinching as he glared at her for a moment before he strode past into the room that had been Cassandra’s parent’s room.

An elderly man lay in the bed, lifted up by pillows to make it easier to breath. “Kit?”

The old man turned his head, eyes dull with pain and illness. “Vinnie? Have you come to have your vengeance upon me finally? You’ve walked the halls so many times, but never have you spoken with me. Do you hate me so?”

“No,” Vincent said, appalled at that conclusion as he settled down on the edge of the bed so he could hold of his twin’s hand. “It was an accident. You didn’t mean it. I understand that now.”

Tears filled the old man’s eyes and his hand closed around Vincent’s, just enough as if he could really feel him. “I would give anything to trade places with you.”

“Nonsense,” Vincent said. “Then I’d have to trade with you and we’d be back where we are. All these years, I’ve been searching for you. I must tell you my deepest secret. It is your forgiveness I must ask.”

“You love Cassandra as well, do you not? I stole your life and the woman you loved.”

“No, no,” he said, leaning close, tears in his own eyes. “I’m fancy men, in that certain way, you understand?. I met a gentleman in London when I went and well, we’ve been exchanging letters, you see. I think I shall remain a bachelor for life. Can you forgive me, Kit? Please? I would it were other, but if you can forgive me, I can accept this defect of character.”

“Really,” Kit said, blinking, sitting up just a bit more. “You never wanted Cassandra?”

“Never.”

“Well, that’s ironic,” Kit said, chuckling softly. “Your great secret that we quarreled over was that you were exchanging letters with a gentleman you’d met in London?”

“It does seem a little tenuous now. Can you think of any reason that, perhaps, your and Cassandra’s son might wish to burn the house?”

“I changed the will. I have a new wife, Elsa, and we have twins. I named them Vincent and Christopher. Vinnie is ever so loud.”

Elsa opened the draw and with drew a pistol, a box of ammunition. Being loud herself, smacking wood to wood.

“Madame what are you going to do?” Vincent asked. “I shall deal with him. You needn’t trouble yourself.”

She looked at him in the mirror, a determined look on her face, as she closed the American style revolver and then cocked it. “You, sir, are dead and growing fainter with every word.  Your entire contribution to my household has been to make it impossible to hire staff.  I have every  intention of shooting that boy where he stands.”

“My goodness, things have changed.” Vincent swallowed.

“You have no idea,” Kit agreed, giving Vincent’s hand a squeeze, but going too far now, as if he could no longer feel the edges of him. “She’s a splendid lady.”

“Then what is she doing with you, you scoundrel? Old scoundrel.”

“I can’t rightly say,” Kit said, but then his grip was tight again and he was sitting there, kneeling in the clothes he’d been wearing the night that Vincent died, “Oh my!”

“Indeed,” Thoth said. He reached into Kit’s ghost and pulled forth a dot of light no larger than a berry, which he then settled on a scale, weighing it against the most beautiful of white feathers.

Balanced the scale was not.

“Pity,” Thoth said. “For one brother to be so light and the other to be so dark.”

Vincent’s hand brushed over his pocket, the last little bone, and he quickly pulled it free, set it on the scale, balancing it.

A grin, playful and conspiratorial grew on Thoth’s face. “Well, then, it looks like everything’s lovely! I love when the feather’s happy! Much less screaming.” The scale went up in a puff of smoke and the pretty Egyptian caught the falling bone. “Go then, Christopher Appleton. You are free.”

“Free?” Kit said, confused. “What of heaven?”

“There?” Thoth said, pointing towards a passage of light. “What you desire. We must really go though. It was lovely weighing you. Other souls to bounce,” Thoth said, giving a quick bow and reaching for Vincent’s hand to draw him along. They left as quick as they’d come, going around the house, to where they found a very shocked looking young man as he watched a determined young woman dragging his body into the forest.

“She shot me,” he said, staring at Thoth, then back towards his disappearing body, “to death.”

“You were attempting to burn down the house, with them in it,” Vincent pointed out.

“Well,  yes, but,” he said, then suddenly quiet as the scale reappeared, his soul there on the scale and well, Thoth was not a fan of the screaming, but sometimes the universe wanted its due.

Once the boy was gone, both body and soul, Vincent let Thoth lead him back to the forest. “Wait! What about weighing my soul.”

“Oh I weighed you years ago.”

“And?”

“We all have our secrets. The fox has his bones back,” Thoth said, tossing the last little bone back into the depths of the forest. “I have you. If you’d rather go to heaven, I’ll understand, but I’d love for you to come home with me.”

“So you have books in your house, you say?”

“Millions of books. I have every book ever written,” Thoth boasted.

“Well, then,” Vincent said, happy to be invisible to the rest of the unforgiving world as he leaned closer, close enough to run a fingertip over Thoth’s lip. “Let the fox have his bones. I have you.”





Wednesday, January 7, 2015

fic: Merry Misunderstanding 3/?

Fic: Merry Misunderstanding 3/?
by Max

Disclaimer: I don’t own Gundam Wing

There is a comic version of this same stretch of story:  http://www.faithinthemoon.com/2014/12/comic-merry-misunderstanding-3.html



Duo believed in the multiverse. He did. That’s how he was able to be on stage with Relena, wrapping his arms around her as the bomb went off, arching his back, covering her with all his will and trusting Heero to be in the best possible position. As the sound echoed over him he was also in a Sweeper hanger bay, half the size he was now, clinging to the cockpit of a salvaged mech, whose weapons had just blown a hole in the side of the bay. Another fragment of the multiverse had him in a trench with Quatre, a detonator in each hand, the percussion of bombs ripping across the hard rock ground, grinning, knowing death was likely imminent, but wanting to take fuckers with him, and then they were falling and it was Relena in his arms, not Quatre, not Heero. Shock waves from bombs past hit his back as if they were there in that present moment and he held her tighter, shielding her head from the debris he expected any second.

He’d long since stopped believing there was anyone listening to his prayers, but old rituals pulled and he held Heero’s name bright in his thoughts, wishing safety and protection on him.

When they hit, they landed on Duo’s feet, the impact drove him down to his knees and he rolled, taking the remaining impact on his chest, cushioning her as much as he could before, rolling them to protect her from any falling debris, shrapnel. She was peace. She was children being feed. She was families not dying. She was.. maybe... the one that Heero loved and wanted to be with, and if that was what he could give to Heero, dying doing it would be best.

Her hands planted on his chest, shoving hard.. an action he hadn’t expected or steeled against and he rolled back, landing on his ass, ears ringing from his trip through the multiverse and the landing. The space they were in was lit, so the electric was still on. There wasn’t much in the air for smoke or blood and Duo’s head spun. He sat there on his ass, tux jacket slipping down his arms, tie undone, one collar point completely unfolded and brushing his cheek, as he stared up at her...

... and she brushed off her arms, cute little nose wrinkled and lifted. “I feel so bruised! Did you have to hold on so hard? I know falling is scary, but seriously! I thought you were braver than that!”

Duo’s mouth dropped open, head tilted just slightly. “There. Was. A. Bomb. Relena... a bomb went off at the party. You know... fucking, bang, bang, splody.. body parts everywhere. I tried real hard to keep you from hitting your head.”

Elegant fingers tucked hair back into her updo and she stared down her nose at him, her lips pursing just a little. “Don’t be silly. It was all just smoke.”

Duo’s jaw dropped all the way to his gut. This was a part of the multiverse that he’d never been to before.  “You... Relena Darlian... got all sorta folk together for a Christmas party so you could set off a SMOKE bomb.. and abduct me?  Are you gonna try to kill me?  Cuz that’s gonna be unpleasant.”

“No, no, well, yes, but no, I have no intention of harming you, Maxwell. I just need your help!” She batted her hand at him as if explaining that she’d just borrowed his coat for a moment, after all, no big deal.

Head spinning less, he shifted up to where he was kneeling. Suspicious of her, he started at her with narrowed eyes. “Okay....”

“It’s for Heero,” she said while smiling like sunshine.

Duo knelt there, staring up at her, not quite sure enough of his body to stand up yet, lips pursed, violet eyes staring.  “Go on.”

“So Zechs came into possession of a safety deposit box that had belonged to Khushrenada. It has the only copy of Heero’s actual birth certificate. His birth name, the means to find his family. I need you to get it for me.” She smiled sweetly. “I have arranged for tools for you, tools of your trade, after all.”

Hate is like a little black sugar cube and it feels like you can lick that sweetness forever and it’ll never go away.  “You abducted me, in front of every world leader, so I could rob a bank for you?”

“Yes,” she said, picking up her skirt and moving towards a stack of boxes. “Everything you’ll need should be here.”

Duo stood up, head tilting, vision going white, mouth twitching. What he really wanted was a hammer. He could feel it in his hand, feel it impacting the back of her head, feeling hard give way to soft felt so satisfying.... “Relena! Are you insane? Are you fucking insane?” His hands made expressive gestures as he spoke, voice rising steadily as he went. “I’m going to go to prison for this! They’re going to think I abducted you! They’re going to blame me for the bomb! That’s terrorism, you stupid, irresponsible.....” his hands covered his face for a moment as he looked for the right insult, “politician!”
She turned, the light glittering in her dangling diamond earrings and from her pretty white teeth. She held up both hands waving them dismissively. “Now now. Calm down! I’ve arranged with Judge Murray for no more than six months more probation for you. It was all at terribly out of hand prank and you’ll cooperate fully. You’re very contrite.”

“Like fucking hell I am! I’m not contrite! I don’t need no viagra and what’s that got to do with it?”

Relena’s mouth dropped open, blue eyes confused. “What? What did you think I meant?”

His face contorted, arms across his chest.  “I ain’t gonna get no more probation! I want to be with Heero.”

“I know he’s your friend. He’s very important to you,” she said, hedging, wanting his agreement to that. “But I want him to accept who he is, know his family, have a family of his own, be a respectable member of the world community.”

Duo tipped his head back, that black sugar cube dissipating into his blood like it was him, always him that was that toxic in the first place.  “Not like some fucking felon with shady skills and homicidal urges?”

“Heero’s nothing like that,” she said, lifting her chin challengingly. “He’s going to keep the peace and bring humanity to new levels of well being.”

“Yeah. Heero could do that,” Duo agreed, committing to do what she asked in him mind. Heero deserved the best chances.

<><>

Chang Wufei was the Chinese Imperial Emperor. He smiled politely to the seemingly very nice woman who was the President of the People’s Republic of China. Until that evening, he’d never imagined wanting to sit at the same table as say Councilman from the Reggae World Republic. Wufei smiled at her. She smiled back.

And then Duo Maxwell saved him by taking all the attention of the world as he screamed out some classic song about lying love interests, in a pretty good voice and style, Wufei thought. Then he noticed Yuy sitting there politely at a front row table with Relena.. and reeled back through his memories... of watching them walk together, her on his arm. It was like a puzzle piece shoved into the wrong position. Yuy was supposed to be leaning closer to listen to Maxwell.  Maxwell was angry about Yuy cheating on him with President Darlian. Wufei’s mind lost all semblance of imperial dignity.

And that was before Relena lost her dignity. She was on stage, slapping Maxwell upside the head, her $10,000 evening gown hiked up as she attempted to kick Yuy’s lover in the nuts, and he was holding her at bay, no punching, just smacking back, this look on his face that Wufei wasn’t sure that he hadn’t seen on a baboon before. People were just... people.  He turned to the practical woman sitting next to him, smiled. “I would like to reopen negotiations on trade.”

She smiled back. “Excellent. I feel we can be very valuable to each other.”

“I’m sure we can be,” he said, feeling contented with the world. And then a loud flash bang went off and filled the space with pretty colored smoke.  Wufei sipped his tea.

Everyone who wasn’t him or Yuy seemed to be running and screaming. Tables flew. Dishes clattered. There was sobbing. Wufei sipped more tea, watched Heero not respond at all, not even moving as some man scrambled across his table and Maxwell and Darlian disappeared down a suddenly open trap door. Wufei made a disapproving tsk’ing sound. Someone was going to be in deep, deep shit for drugging Heero Yuy.

President Ming stared at him, her heart beating a frantic pulse in her throat, but she followed his lead and picked up her tea to sip.

Finally, he stood, hands in his sleeves and said in the most elegant and formal traditions, “We do not fear pink colored smoke. Be calm.”

No one paid him the slightest head. Sirens screamed. Some woman wailed seriously and Wufei suspected a broken bone preceded that sound. He cleared his throat to try again, but Ming held up her hand, climbed up on the table and screamed in the most common of American subdialects, “Sit’er fucking asses down! It was just a smoke bomb!”

The room calmed... and the boil tipped in a different direction. Fear turned to embarrassment. Embarrassment turned to ire. Ire turned to lust for vengeance.

“Where’s Maxwell,” someone screamed and then the concept of Duo Maxwell became the heat that boiled the pot.

It was only moments before the first of the reporter types was up next to Wufei. “How quickly did you suspect that Duo Maxwell was behind the abduction of President Darlian? Did someone diffuse the real bomb?”

One nice thing about being emperor was that it wasn’t really murder if he felt it was in the best interest of his people. That thought might have reflected in his smile. “Would you like to continue slandering an Imperial friend?”

Ming stepped up next to him, her smile pure party and method. “We have excellent skills at controlling the media. May I?”

Wufei smiled. This really did have potential. “We are happy to observe your great skills.”

<><>

Martha had expected them home before dawn, but snuggling in bed with Mary and Allen, she was happy to read the headlines about how the Christmas party was spectacular and glittering, pulled off without a single hitch. The photos were lovely.