Quatre blinked, looking up from his quiet afternoon tea as Wufei's furious voice echoed through the hangar. Something crashed to the floor behind Nataku, a clanging noise followed by a definite `splat', and Wufei yelled again.
Duo skidded out from behind the looming Gundam, laughing as he easily dodged a flying spanner. "Sorry, Wu-man, but it wouldn't've gotten you if you hadn't turned up just then!"
"Sorry?! SORRY?! If you were sorry you wouldn't DO things like-- argh!" More clanging noises, and vicious swearing in Chinese.
"Duo, what have you done now?" Quatre asked, putting his cup down with a sigh.
"Nothing much! Just a little surprise that wasn't even supposed to go off yet, and wasn't going to get him, exactly, if he'd just showed up when he was supposed to-- hey, Q, how come you always have real teacups with saucers and everything, no matter where we are? D'you carry a set around in your Gundam or something? Do Rashid and the guys keep extra teacups with all the other spares? Is--"
A paint-spattered Wufei came around Nataku's leg in an all-out, dead serious run, and Duo `eep'ed. "Looks like I've gotta make myself scarce until the Wu-man calms down, Q, see ya, bye!"
"I will kill him," Wufei growled, coming to a halt next to Quatre's chair as Duo vanished out the hangar door.
"But not today?"
"Oh, possibly today." Wufei's lips skinned back from his teeth in a humourless smile. "The thing to remember when chasing Maxwell is that he may be able to run faster than you, but if you allow him to get out of your sight for a moment he will hide. And if you then give him a few moments to decide that you have given up, he will stop hiding, and _then_ you can catch him."
"I see." Unruffled, Quatre leaned forwards to pick his cup up again. "Paint?" he inquired, flicking one finger at the virulent purple spatters down Wufei's side.
"Yes. All down Nataku's leg, too. I will remove it -- after I inflict sufficient damage on the perpetrator to regain my composure."
"I don't think I should wish you luck, exactly, but-- wait!" Quatre's nose twitched at a faint, familiar scent, and he grabbed Wufei's sleeve with his free hand. "Let me see that..."
A quick sniff confirmed Quatre's suspicions. "Forget about chasing Duo, Wufei. That's quick-drying automotive enamel. If you don't get it off with solvents _now_, you're going to have to sand it off Nataku with a power grinder."
Watching Wufei bolt back to his beloved Gundam, Quatre sighed again, raising his cup for one last sip. "This time Duo's really gone too far."
"I agree." Heero moved up on silent feet, wiping oil off his hands onto a rag. "We're going to have to do something."
"And how long have you been there?"
"Why am I not surprised?" The blond pilot set down his cup and started to shrug out of his jacket. "Shall we help him?"
"I'll get Trowa." Heero smirked faintly. "It'll go faster if there's four of us... and we can discuss how we're going to handle Duo while we're at it."
They got most of the paint off without recourse to power tools. Wufei was still finding tiny spatters on Nataku's previously-pristine skin hours later, though, and for a while there they thought the splash on his hair was going to have to be cut out. His clothes were never the same again. Besides, Duo had played tricks on all of them. Many tricks. Far too many tricks. Especially, far too many tricks of a type that required the trickee to clean up the results while the tricker hid, giggling, and only emerged much later when the trickee was so tired from the aforesaid cleaning that they couldn't properly revenge themselves.
Clearly, something had to be done.
It was Trowa who said it.
"He'd never expect us to do anything to _his_ Gundam."
There was a pause while the other three solvent-drenched pilots looked at each other, then back at him. He blinked calmly, and went on.
"He knows that Heero would never do anything that might impact on mission performance. Wufei respects the Gundams too much to involve them. Quatre doesn't do revenge. And I don't get that mad."
There was another, longer pause, before Quatre began to smile.
"I know what we can do." The smile widened. "He always says that being in a Gundam's cockpit feels kind of safe... and _cozy_... doesn't he?"
Duo was suspicious. Well, okay, yes, he was generally a suspicious character, but this time he was _feeling_ suspicious. Thinking suspicious thoughts about another pilot's behaviour... namely, Wufei.
Wufei was not trying to kill him. Wufei was not trying to inflict grievous bodily harm on him. Wufei was not even attempting to wither him with his gaze. Instead, Wufei appeared to be... considering him. Thoughtfully. Amusedly, even. Wufei, in fact, was acting rather like _Duo_ tended to act when he was waiting for someone to discover a prank that had been played on them, only with fewer manic grins and more fractionally raised eyebrows.
This did not bode well. Duo was spending an awful lot of time checking for booby-traps and pranks wherever he went, and they just weren't turning up. Not even the old glitter-in-the-shampoo standby.
Duo finally decided that Wufei was attempting psychological warfare by making him look for a revenge that just wasn't coming. It was a subtler form of payback than he'd expected to see from a person he'd always thought had a terminal case of stick-up-the-ass, and he had to give Wufei points... besides, okay, maybe he'd gone a _little_ too far with that last one. Just a little. Picking the wrong type of paint had been a definite flaw in the execution, but the cans had looked awfully like the cans for the water-based paint he'd planned to use and by the time he'd discovered his mistake it was too late to change without calling the whole thing off, and really, nobody could expect him to do that, could they? And yeah, getting Wufei in the spatter radius had been a boo-boo, but that had only happened because he was trying to redesign the trap on the fly so that it would spray paint all _around_ Nataku without actually redecorating Wufei's precious object of worship, and that had taken long enough that it had eaten into the safety margin he'd built into the timing, and it had turned out that the safety margin wasn't all that safe after all.
Whatever. The paint had all come off in the end, hadn't it? Wufei's revenge hadn't materialised, he'd worked out what was going on so he didn't have to worry any more, and now he was leaving for a short surveillance mission so he would be out of range, anyway. Surely Wufei wouldn't bother to continue the psychological warfare thing after a three-day break.
"He's gone. We've got three days alone with his Gundam before he comes back."
"It'll only take us a day to do it. How long will it take to get in?"
"Two hours maximum. I wrote his password algorithm."
"Do we have all the stuff?"
"I bought it all when I went for provisions yesterday. It's hidden in the woods."
"Any trouble getting it?"
"No. I just told them I was helping my sister redecorate."
"That's _nearly_ true..."
Duo yawned as he hauled a duffel full of dirty clothes down the hall and punted it into his room. He could do the laundry later; right now, he was planning to say `hi' to Deathscythe, fire off a quick `mission accomplished, details later' e-mail to G, scarf down a triple-layer sandwich and conk out. He was mentally weighing the benefits of inserting a shower between e-mail and sandwich, versus showering _and_ washing his sheets after he woke up, when he ambled down the stairs into the underground hanger and came to an abrupt stop.
Wufei was standing in front of Nataku. Considering him. Thoughtfully. There was a smirk lurking somewhere in there.
Outwardly, Duo smiled at him. Inwardly, he groaned. Obviously the psychological war was still on.
"Chill, Wu-man," he said, flipping one hand casually in Wufei's direction as he passed. "I'm not planning any assaults on your Gundam's dignity today, so you don't have to stake it out or anything."
There was a brief, hard glint in Wufei's eye; then it vanished, and his smirk widened. "I'm not worried. I just wanted to say `welcome back'."
"Yeah? Okay, thanks then," Duo shrugged, grabbing onto his lift wire and hitting the button to raise himself to Deathscythe's hatch. "I appreciate the thought, but I'm planning to crash in a few minutes, so 'scuse me if I don't wanna chat right now OH MY GOD WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU DO TO MY 'SCYTHE?!"
Wufei started laughing as Duo collapsed to his knees on the armorplate surface of Deathscythe's hatch.
The cockpit's interior was... _cozy_. That was the only word that came to mind. There was paisley carpet. There was _wallpaper_. With roses on it, even. The computer screens had been given frilly lace curtains, with tasselled cords tying them back. There was a little table lamp perched on the control panel, with crystal fringe on the lampshade. There were fringed throw pillows. There were _knickknacks_.
There was an awful lot of pink.
His pilot's chair had been re-upholstered in a warm flowered fabric. Somehow, despite the fact that it was still pretty much the same size and shape as before, it managed to give the impression of being an overstuffed armchair. It was The Comfy Chair, with -- and this was the ultimate indignity --_doilies_.
It sounded like Wufei was going to hurt himself if he kept laughing like that.
"You BASTARD!" Duo flung himself to the edge of the hatch platform, knuckles clenched white. "You've polluted 'Scythe's SOUL! He is a lean, mean, fighting machine, not-- not-- not the front parlour in some little granny's retirement cottage!"
"I would have said grand_father's_ retirement cottage, myself." Heero sauntered out of hiding, hands in pockets, smirking. "We put in an ashtray, after all."
"It says `A Present From Bognor' on it," Quatre added helpfully, sticking his head out of Sandrock's cockpit. "Do you know how hard it is to find a souvenir from a small British town when you're doing your shopping in Canada?"
"The beer mug plays a tune when you pick it up, too," Trowa commented. "The local shopkeepers think Quatre's sister has really odd taste in furnishings now."
Duo gaped. "You... you were all in on this?"
"Can you imagine _Wufei_ shopping for `A Present From Bognor' and a musical beer mug?"
Wufei tried to regain a little composure, wiping at his eyes. "Not to mention the d-d-d-doilies!"
"I n-never did anything like _this_!" Duo was stuttering too, but not enjoying it. "Th-this is going too far, you guys!"
"And using enamel paint wasn't?" Heero asked calmly. "I think that deserves a few doilies."
At the word `doilies', Wufei doubled over laughing again.
"You may not have done anything this elaborate, but you have done an awful lot of things," Quatre pointed out.
"Turnabout is fair play, Duo," Trowa said with a faint smile. "Consider my share of this payback for the green goo in Heavyarms's gun barrels, the giant Gundam-diaper, the itching powder, and the glitter in my shampoo."
Heero's smile thinned. "The hacking of my computer, the fifty-seven times -- I counted -- that you short-sheeted my bed, the replacing of my spandex shorts with g-strings, and the glitter in _my_ shampoo."
Quatre's blue eyes were cool. "The tutu on Sandrock. The tie-dying of the Manguanacs' underwear. The stuff in my tea that made me froth at the mouth, and the fluorescent green dye in my _conditioner_."
"I think you can work out why Wufei wanted to do it."
"It'll all come off, Duo." Heero hauled Wufei upright by one elbow and turned to leave, supporting the giggling boy. "It'll just take a while... about as long as it would take to, oh, strip enamel paint off a Gundam's leg without ruining its finish."
"Have fun!" Quatre waved bye-bye and hopped down to walk out with Trowa.
"Don't throw it all out," the tall pilot advised. "Quatre's sisters could probably re-use some of it... like the lamp, or the doilies."
Heero frowned faintly. "Trowa, would you mind not saying that word right now? It's hard enough to keep Wufei walking in a straight line as it is."
Main Gundam Wing
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