Kel: *whistling innocently as she takes a seat at her rolling computer chair* Good morning!

Sephy: *snort*

Kel: *blinks* What?

Sephy: Well, for one thing...

Duo: You can't whistle, you haven't gotten up from that seat since you woke up, and it's not even morning. In fact, the sun is setting and it's raining. What you just did and said was a whole crock of bull.

Kel: ... Figurative. Speech. *glares* What crawled up your behind today?

Duo: *grumbles, grumbles*

Sephy: The question should be, what HASN'T `crawled' up his behind today? *smiles nastily*

Duo: Gah! *tries to kill Sephy*

Sephy: HAH! *tries to save his life*

Kel: Oi... *tries to figure out where everything went wrong...*


DISCLAIMER: It's been awhile since I've done one of these... I can tell you truthfully that I don't miss it. *sighs* The Gundam Kiddies do not belong to me, nor do Howard, Relena, Dorothy, or any other Gundam Wing character. If you want Jada, you can have Jada. She serves one purpose, and that purpose is filled in this chapter.
PAIRING: See earlier chapters for details... ^__^
AN: HaHAH! Finally, I am back! *does a little dance* School is out, I have no distractions from my work.... Ah. Tranquility...
Sephy: Now she doesn't have an excuse not to write. Sure I do, Sephy-boy! Stressful family life... It's a killer. Anyway, I still don't know how long I plan to drag this out, but I'll tell you one thing. Things are beginning to heat up a bit, and I'm not only meaning Heero's bed, if you catch my drift...


The Professional and the Amateur


The alarm clock was blasting unmercifully in his ear.

It wasn't that he minded the minor annoyance–-okay, big lie–-MAJOR annoyance blasting really loud country music into his left ear. Alarm clocks were nifty gadgets created to have a person all nice and ready for the morning and day to come. They were meant to blast ruthlessly wailing songs into one's ear. It's how the whole schematics of things worked.

But damned if it wasn't annoying.

With a burst of unusual bad-temperament, he reached his hand out from his nice cocoon of warmth to tap the snooze button. That `tap', however fortunate, accidently turned into a vicious swipe and clatter as the radio alarm clock banged against the wall and fell to the floor.


Duo Maxwell was an hour and forty-two minutes late for work for the first time in his employment history.



"Oh, man, Carla, I am SO sorry–-" Duo rushed in, breathless and panting, his hair unusually lose from his familiar binding. Though lose, it fell in layers down his back, blessfully smooth and not sticking out all over the place. He straightened his shirt, doing a last second tuck in before finally facing his boss.

He was sure she was going to crack on him about his slip up. Despite threatening of certain lazy individuals, she rarely ever got on the case of a usually punctual worker. She'd rag him/her out unpityingly and pick with the unfortunate soul until she found fresher meat to bother. Since he himself was a hard worker, he didn't expect a scolding. In fact, he more or less expected her to print this rare even of history in the nearest newspaper.

Her face was a mask of seriousness and pain when he looked at her, and he was momentarily taken aback.

"Duo," she said monotonously, flickering a glance over her shoulder. "I thought you called in sick today. Didn't you say you caught a bad cold from your accident a few days back?" Uh-oh. Carla, his usual chippery boss, was trying to tell him something. He took her advice well enough.

"Um... Yeah. My check. Didn't I tell you I was coming over to get my check today?" he asked, fiddling with a few strands of hair with hidden confusion in his violet eyes. "That and I... need to turn in my two weeks' notice."

Her eyes, wide and sweeping for eavesdroppers, finally settled on him, startled. "Your two weeks notice?..."

"I'm resigning." It was probably a bad time to mention it, with Carla being so nervous and jumpy all of a sudden, but he needed to clear the air. "I can't ask Howard to rearrange his schedule to fit mine, since I'm under his employment. So..."

"Oh!" Her eyes lit up, and she finally gave the long-haired boy a genuine smile. "The big break, ne? I'll miss ya, littling."

Littling. Duo laughed, shaking his head. "It's not the end of the world. I promise to do my best to visit you as much as I can."

"Why don't you come to my office? We'll take care of matters there..." With sudden strength his friend gripped his arm and yanked him bodily into her office, nearly slamming the door on any prying eyes.

"What the–-?" Duo began, but Carla cut him off with a pained look.

"Mark's lurking about somewhere." That shut the usually braided boy up, and Carla felt shamed she even had to say it. Her younger friend's complexion blanched, his lips thinning as he pressed them tightly together. "I would throw him out if I could, Duo, I really would. But I can't!"

"I know, Carla, and I don't expect you to," Duo soothed. He was well aware that, even if Carla had him thrown out for harassment, Mark Dermail would sue for wrongful treatment of an upstanding citizen. Not that it would be true, but Carla was clearly a middle class patron while Mark's father was an influential upperclassman of the town. No one would go against Mark's claim without consequences, and Carla would be ruined. They didn't come to that conclusion on mere speculation; Mark often threatened just that case whenever Carla became close to doing just that.

"You'll have a bitch of a time getting out of here without him seeing you," Carla admitted after they finished with Duo's resignation forms. "When he found out you were late, he was furious. I told him you'd called in sick and hinted that you'd had an accident. He was fuming."

"Let him fume," Duo said with a glance at her office door. "I won't be around, and he'll have to get used to that idea." Although Duo pitied the poor soul Mark would latch onto next, he had a feeling it wouldn't happen. The Dermail heir clearly zeroed in on the braided boy like an unhealthy obsession.

"How's the movie coming along?" A teasing smile tilted Carla's lips when she attempted to change the subject. "Any hot men on the scene?"

"Hm. Well, there's Quatre Winner and Trowa Barton, but, ahh, their `not available'," Duo used his fingers as quotations, "and I haven't met Chang Wufei yet, but Dorothy says he's hot and taken. Milliardo Peacecraft is said to be the flirt of the set, but again I haven't met him yet. I know I have a scene with everybody and everybody with a scene, so I'll eventually meet the actors and stuff."

"Milliardo Peacecraft and Quatre Winner?!" Carla yelped, hopping from one foot to the next in excitement. "Omigod, those two are, like, my favorite actors, besides Heero of course."

"Of course," Duo grinned. "Maybe I can drag you away from your job and you can meet `em, proving that Milliardo can worm his way on my good side."

Carla wasn't listening anymore, as she had dug up a few favorite issues of Teen Beat, with clear pictures of the aforementioned blondes and Heero on the covers. She was hugging all six of them and smiling blissfully, sighing in adoration. "You'll be mine one day, Quatre..."

"He's taken," Duo piped in happily.

"That never stopped me from daydreaming of my pursuits of Kevy when he got married, did it?" she asked flippantly, reminding Duo of her huge obsession with the pop sensation named simply `Train' when he married one of his dancers.


"Don't spoil my mood, and he's eighteen for crying out loud."

"And your what, twenty-eight?"




He peeked his head outside the door, the barest of movement as his eyes flickered from left to right and then down the center. To the left were the cashiers and their registers, diligently registering and aiding the customers of the Kwiki Mart. To his right, the sliding doors to his freedom, though certain individuals could quite possibly be lurking around the corner outside. Down the center, at the end of the long area, were refreshment machines of every kind.

Coast was clear. Time to make a break for it. Steeling himself, Duo slipped quietly out of the office, his hair tightened into a makeshift ponytail. If he hurried (driving the speed limit, of course) he would be able to arrive at his interview early. As torturous as the other actors had described, between an interview with the seediest of interviewers and Mark...

Bring on the interviewer.

He could have been acting totally ridiculous. Mark could have been far gone after he realized that Duo wasn't coming. Frankly Duo thought he had a right to be a little nervous, what with the possibility of being harassed by Mark, the most relentless of jackasses there ever did exist.

Soundlessly he slipped out the doors, glancing around the corner and sighing in relief when he saw no one. Feeling high spirits he walked swiftly down the parking lot, bringing out his car keys and poising to disarm the alarm...

"Well, well. I was told you were sick today, Duo Maxwell."


Duo flickered his gaze on the source of the voice, feeling a faint ting of loathness creep up his spine as he narrowed his eyes on the tall, broad-shouldered figure. Standing over six feet tall, Mark Dermail wasn't an ugly man on the outside. Slick, short-cropped golden hair and narrow, coal-like onyx eyes were piercing features, along with his square jaw and large, callous hands. He stood from his leaning position on a car Duo was sure didn't belong to Mark.

"I just came by to pick up my paycheck," Duo said hoarsely, feeling his throat go dry as he hooded his eyes. Even then he was unwilling to lie, but he wasn't about to tell the vindictive creep Carla had lied for him.

Mark made an amused sound deep in his throat, grating on Duo's nerves. "Lord forbid you do one day without it. Tell me, how is your darling cousin and her son? I remember seeing him two days ago, but you weren't anywhere around."

//Damnit.// "They're fine." Duo turned away, hurriedly walking nearer the car given to him by Heero. "I'm sorry, I really must be going..." He wanted to leave before Mark asked about the car and had the chance to make any other stinging remarks about his lack of a bank account. Car alarm control in hand, he ignored Mark making a scathing remark as he pointed and pressed the green button–-

A roar of sound, the sight of flames, and the force of the explosion knocked Duo off of his feet and into the nearest car. The distant sound of screaming and cursing ringing in his ears, pain where he had hit his head escalated until the point where all went white...



"We seem to be seeing a lot of each other, aren't we, Mr. Maxwell?"

With a jerk Duo was back in awareness, blinking stupidly at the familiar Cantonese woman in a white coat. Perplexed, he veered back when she noticed her hand reaching for his forehead...

"Relax," she said soothingly. "In addition to the bump in the back of your head, a piece of falling debris managed to beam you in the front, too. I'm just disinfecting the small cut."

"Oh..." Duo searched for a name with the face, distinctly remembering her as the doctor that treated him after nearly drowning. "Doctor Po?"

"That's right," she smiled, taking away the cotton swab. "Well, you only have minor injuries. A goose egg from where your head hit the window and a small scratch from falling debris. A skinned knee and only a bruised wrist from where you supposedly tried to brace yourself from the aftershock, right?"

"I..." Duo wrung his head for the answer to that question, but it slipped his mind. "I don't remember."

"That's okay. I didn't expect you to," Doctor Po answered gently. "As a precaution I'll be asking a few questions. Do you feel up to answering?"

"Um, sure."

"All right. What's the date?" And the questions continued, ranging from "How many people live in the same home as you?" and "What were you doing at the Kwiki Mart?" Finally satisfied with his answers, she nodded and wrote something down on a pad.

"Okay. I'll be giving you a prescription for minor painkillers. Wether you use them or not is your choice, but if you don't you'll have one horrible headache for a while. You can leave any time if you please. Mr. Yuy has taken care of your bill." She gave him a playfully stern look. "No more dynamic stunts, you hear? Next thing you know, I'll be treating you because you fell out of a car going thirty MPH."

He didn't want to admit that he'd done that before. Only the car had been going more like forty-five instead of thirty.

Outside the E.R., Duo immediately sought out the Japanese youth he was accustomed to seeing around his time of need. The doctor had mentioned that Heero had paid for the bill again, and it only made sense that the Japanese boy was hanging around, most likely worried out of his mind. The American boy had found him easily. The other two, however, he did not recognize...

"Duo." Hard Prussian eyes softened upon sight of the violet-eyed boy. The other two, a tall lean African American and a younger, shorter, and broader Mexican in black suits turned to meet him with Heero.

"Hey, Heero," Duo said softly, finding his disheveled ponytail in his hands as he nervously glanced at the two unfamiliar strangers. Sensing his distress, Heero nodded to the two.

"These are Detectives Rico and Donner from the San Francisco Police Department," he introduced stiffly. "Detective Rico, Detective Donner, this is Duo Maxwell."

"Police department?" Duo demanded hoarsely, eyes widening in shock.

"Yes, Mr. Maxwell," Rico nodded firmly, flashing a badge. "We have reason to believe, due to a threatening notice left at Mr. Yuy's doorstep, that the car bombing was intentionally for your attention. There is no evidence of who could have possibly planted the bomb, but we are certain it involves the small factor of people against the filming of your movie."

"It's not my movie..." Duo replied absently, still trying to acknowledge the words spoken calmly by the major. "So this is a prejudice thing? Some assholes decide that a movie is far worst than murder, so to murder means right?"

Heero looked a bit startled, noting the spitfire under those violet orbs at the venomous statement. He couldn't remember ever hearing the American wildcat curse in front of others without looking deeply embarrassed by his outburst. Heck, he couldn't remember hearing Duo curse ever.

"I'm afraid that's the case, Mr. Maxwell," replied the colored man as he stood from his seat. "Unfortunately it happens a lot. Mr. Yuy explained your situation," Duo glanced at Heero wordlessly, wondering exactly what that meant, "and he has offered you and your family a place to stay with him."

"Wha? No!" Duo blinked. "I mean, not that I don't mind or anything, but I had the impression you already have four people in the same place with you, Heero."

"I have a big place," Heero replied seriously, crossing his arms in a way that meant he wasn't taking no as an answer. "Four more won't be a problem. I'll even have an extra bedroom to spare, and I'm sure Solo would love the space."

//Oh sure, bring him into it, you little devil,// Duo tried not to scowl at Heero's slyness. He really did. He even made a note that Heero was doing what he was doing because he was truly worried about them all. But damned if he didn't know how to manipulate a situation so much that Duo ended up in the same house has him!

Duo... scowled. Not heavily so, but just enough that Heero would dutifully note his disapproval.

"Mr. Yuy has excellent security, Mr. Maxwell," Rico continued after the lull in the conversation showed no hint of reviving itself. "You would be safer staying with him until we can have something arranged. Unfortunately that can take up to a month, three months at the most. Donner and I would feel better knowing your safe while we look for the attempted murderer or murderers."

"Duo," Heero put in firmly, "I'll not allow your pride to get you killed. There have been successfully cases like this where a star, music and movie alike, are killed because of skin color or sexual preference. Some do it because of true prejudice. Others do it because they simply feel the need for the publicity. Sometimes it's both." Heero's worry and fearfulness etched itself into his handsome features. "I'll not allow your pride to get you killed or put your family in danger."

That finally seemed to hit Duo. Knees failing him, he dropped into the nearest seat and cradled his head in his hands. He felt the beginnings of a headache coming on. "How many people were hurt?"

Donner looked surprised at the question. //Huh. Probably pegged me as the type that cares only for his own skin,// Duo thought darkly. "Seven. One woman and her child are in ICU with critical injuries. They were loading up in the car in front of yours when the explosion happened."

Duo squeezed his eyes shut and flinched, rubbing his temples in a circular motion to relieve the tension forming there. "Do what you have to do to get those assholes off the streets. If they're willing to hurt innocent people to get my `attention'," Duo spat, "then they don't deserve to see the light of day."

Heero nodded in full agreement with Duo's vehement words, reaching over and squeezing the long-haired boy's arm softly in offered comfort. With a dismissing nod toward the two detectives, Heero silently helped his friend stand and walk out the door into the cool night air...

To be continued...

Kel: The heat is on! We've finally met Mark. Isn't he the asshole, ne? *turns on her creepy announcer voice thing* Who is out to make bodily harm on our beloved braided baka? Will the movie ever be completed? How many times will Duo visit Doctor Po? And where will Duo's next relocation be? Hmm... Could it be... *lewd grin* Heero's bedroom?

Duo: Ye~ha~hah, baby! ^__^v

Kel: *cackles* Find out next time, on The Professional and the Amateur! *upbeat music in the background as the title flashes across your eyes*

Sephy: *gives her a funny look* Are you sure you haven't been watching Drangonball Z unknowingly?

Kel: Yep, pretty sure. ^.^v C&C welcome and wanted!