Love, Black Eyes, and a Mystical Understanding of the World
by Pink Whirlwind
Timeline: It's set in the Dangerous Valentine's timeline.. maybe six months after Don't Drink the Koolaid. Heero is a medical student. Duo does odd jobs that suit him.
Duo lifted the corners of his cards, glanced at the five and six of hearts without the slightest motion on his face, ran his tongue over his teeth - his tell for having a very good hand, and raised forty.
The pretty blond woman across from him took a slow breath, her full lower lip shifting very slightly. She folded.
Her twin brother hadn't looked at his cards yet. His chin rested on the back of his hands which bridged over his cards, his elbows on the table. He and Duo stared at each other for a moment. Angel's fingers laced together, brushing lightly over his lips which were only slightly more masculine than his sister's. He pushed in two red twenty chips.
Craig looked bored. A Whitefang tattoo half showed under the edge of his tee-shirt's collar. He called, looked at the bar's entrance, eyes narrowing with a tell that had nothing to do with poker.
The bar's dealer spread the flop - 7H, QD, KS.
Duo had another five hundred in chips, but that was money he wanted to deposit into Heero's tuition fund. One whole credit, but sometimes money was hard to come by. There was some chance of a straight though, even a straight flush. The bigger prize was what Craig was probably also waiting to come through the door.
Since dropping out of college, he'd put on twenty pounds of muscle and grown two inches. He was taller than Heero now, which irritated his lover quite a bit, but he was still shorter than Craig who had fifteen years on him and probably forty pounds of solid mass. The bounty was worth three thousand though and that was a whole class.
Rainbow, Angel's sister eyed him, her calculating mind counting up the seconds that he seemed to be deliberating. Duo smiled brilliantly at her, gave her a flirty wink, and checked. She laid her hand on the table, smiled back, taunting, knowing he didn't want to unwrap her present.
Angel raised by a hundred.
Duo let his emotion float away on a Heero scented breeze. Without looking, he raised by twenty.
Angel's eyebrow twitched just the tiniest bit. He raised by twenty.
Duo leaned back in his chair, told himself that the soles of his feet were not sweating, and raised by another twenty.
Duo imagined Heero sitting in one of those great lecture halls, listening intently to some boring ass professor, blue eyes all focused and full of life.
The dealer turned the first river card. It was the four of hearts.
Duo grinned, called.
"If you're waiting on a straight," Angel taunted.
"Hell," Duo said, "maybe it's my birthday."
"Unlikely," Rainbow said, smugly.
Duo's public file gave his birthday as January 1st, the birthday shared by people actually born on January 1st and everyone else who got Earth paperwork with an unknown birthday.
"Better odds of that than a straight," Angel pointed out, not unfriendly, but more interested in unsettling an opponent than in making friends. He put in another hundred.
There was always the chance that Angel had a set of ladies. Duo called.
The last card of the river turned as the eight of hearts. Duo sighed like it as the end of the world. Angel chewed his lip, seeming to wallow in internal debate. He pushed the last of his five hundred buy-in into the pot.
Duo swallowed, violet eyes big, and went all in as well.
Angel smirked happily, fanned his cards with a flourish. "Queens over Kings."
Duo flipped his cards. "Yeah, but I'm pink up-and-down."
Angel's eye genuinely twitched.
With a bigger grin, Duo held out his arm, collected the winnings into his armband. "That's it for me, kids."
Craig's head jerked around though dragging Duo's attention to the back of the bar. A one-eyed Asian man, carrying an old fashioned computer bag. Duo blinked, dropped his retinal computer lens into place, got a positive match, but Craig hadn't waited for confirmation or had just been faster and was already sprinting after the terrified man.
Their target ran towards the front door like he was a new year hare and it was two minutes to midnight. He was a bail jumper, worth twenty-five thousand to the office that staked him, and twenty-five hundred to the hunter that brought him back.
Angel screamed as Duo landed on the table, his boots spraying chips in all directions. With a leap he made it to the next table, not even knocking drinks over, then back to the ground, arms out. The quarry screamed. People scrambled. Craig hit Duo hard in the shoulder, knocking him off step. Duo went down, a leg sweeping at Craig's legs, which sent him down as well. Duo sent drinks flying as he caught himself on a table, overhanding along until he had his footing back.
Hand reaching to the holster at the small of his back, just for a stun gun, but Duo wasn't sure if he were going to shot the little Asian bookie or his fellow hunter.
People around them shouted odds. The bar wasn't that big.
Duo grabbed the guy by his shoulder strap, spun him around. The mace he was carrying sprayed across Craig's face. Duo ducked, pistol in hand, and elbowed the guy in the stomach. The bail jumping booky went down with a whoosh, just as Duo came back up and caught Craig's fist in his face. Stars exploded. Duo let go of the guy, barely kept hold of his gun.
"Shit," Craig growled, grabbing Duo by the front of his shirt. "Sorry! Crap! I was aiming for him! He's yours."
Duo's head spun. He could hear Heero bitching about the black eye... and loose tooth he could feel coming on. Empty hand to his face, he spun, trying to re-home on his prey. "Asshole! Come back here!"
Running on will power and unpaid tuition, Duo half threw himself after the fleeing bookie. They landed and rolled. The bar erupted in cheers and laughter. A bar full of poker playing bounty hunters is a very bad place to get lured to.
"You can't arrest me!"
"I'm not arresting you," Duo shouted back over the din in the place. "I'm lawfully detaining you in the name of Queen of Hearts Bonds. You missed your court date, Mr. Song."
"No," Song said with dripping innocence. "I didn't!"
"Well, today just isn't your birthday," Duo said, his eye already swelling shut.
"No, it can't be!" Mr. Song struggled, but Duo rolled him over and sprayed foam cuffs over his crossed wrists. "You must let me go!"
"Not a fucking chance. I'm going to have to explain this shiner to 'Ro and that's gonna make for a hell of an evening."
"You're hurting me!" Song wailed.
"I am not," Duo snapped, a hand fisted in the man's coat, he jerked him up to his feet. As soon as he had him vertical, he found Heero Yuy watching them both with an excellent poker face. "Hey, 'Ro. Are you cutting class?" Duo asked, opening aggressively to cover for the fact that his face was fucked up and he was doing work that Heero didn't approve of. Heero took his post-Mariemaia pacifism very seriously.
Heero titled his head, adjusted his nice wool trench coat that Relena had bought him. "Is this man injured?"
"Not by me," Duo assured his lover. Seeing Heero, the soft brown hair, blue eyes that could touch on every emotion, those thin lips with their infrequent smile, and Duo's heart melted. He knew he'd do almost anything for Heero. He'd tried college. It wasn't him. He desperately wanted Heero to be proud of him, or at least not mad at him. "He's worth twenty-five hundred bux."
There it was. Anger flashed in those precious blue eyes.
Apologies fumbled unsaid on Duo's tongue.
"Did he do this," Heero asked, ungloved fingers reaching out to caress the swelling rising on Duo's face.
"No," Duo whispered.
"That would be me," Craig said. "It was an accident. I'd appreciate if you didn't kill me, Mr. Yuy."
Duo hadn't seen that glare in a couple years. "And how will you make it up to Mr. Maxwell?"
Craig went pale under Heero's glare. Duo kept his own poker face in place. Heero didn't even eat meat any more. Though, really, Duo didn't know that Heero wouldn't hurt the other bounty hunter for the black eye.
"How about this," Craig said, "I'll take the annoying Mr. Song in to Queen of Hearts and Duo can have all the credit for it, er, Mr. Maxwell can, how's that?"
Heero looked at Duo, waiting for his acceptance or rejection of the offer. "Oh, that'll be great, Craig."
As Craig dragged Song off, Heero took a step closer to Duo and reached for his hand. "I wish you would not do this kind of work."
Duo didn't want to point out that it was this or whoring and he won't whore himself out. "Maybe Une'll get me a spot in Preventers or something."
"I do not think I'd like that more," Heero said softly. "You must remember that when you're out here like this, you carry both of our lives."
"Uh," Duo said softly, leaning into Heero's shoulder. "Don't say shit like that."
"Are these people your friends?"
"Some of them," Duo allowed.
Heero's free hand slipped behind Duo's head, pulling him down into a kiss. With their lips very close together, Duo's bangs hiding their faces just a little. "I am not missing class. It's Saturday. You haven't come home in two days."
"I ran an aging test on your DNA."
Violet eyes blinked. Blue eyes smiled.
"Am I gonna get a disease?"
"I will never let that happen."
"Today is likely your birthday. You're nineteen."
"With 99.3% certainty."
"You're older than I am."
"That does not make up for you being taller than me."
His voice full of wonder and innocent joy. "So today is really my birthday?"
"I have a cake in the car. Trowa, Quatre, and Wufei are available if you'd like to celebrate."
"Hot fucking damn!" Duo bounced on the balls of his feet. "It is my birthday!"
Angel shouted back, "Well no more poker for you then!"
The whole bar suddenly seemed filled with light and laughter. Heero drew Duo into a kiss, a tight and desperate hug like he could have lost him at any moment. "Happy Birthday, Duo Maxwell."