Pyractomena Borealis Part II
Note: KnM had one too many Dr Peppers before writing this part.
Warnings: Spontaneous combustion, gratuitous use of the word "weenie."
The hot dog cart, which had been peacefully sitting not three meters away from me, exploded in a giant fireball.
My first reaction was completely automatic. I threw myself back from the explosion even as the heat of it washed over me, hit the ground, rolled, and scrambled away, staying as low as I could. I've been told before that it looks kind of...well...cockroachy, but hey, any soldier worth his salt knows to get away from an explosion as quickly as possible and to stay low to avoid shrapnel. Better Duo the giant cockroach than Duo the human pincushion that can't get through a metal detector even when naked. I was behind the ice cream cart in less time than it took to blink.
The nice vendor lady was just standing there, staring at the flames. I grabbed her and threw her to the ground, just in case. The moment she hit the ground, she started screaming. It was like a signal. Everyone else started to scream, too. Damn civilians. I mean, geeze, it was just a flipping hot dog cart, for god's sake. Never mind that hot dogs are normally not that combustive. At least it wasn't anything bigger.
Well, I guess it was kind of a compliment to us Gundam Pilots that the civilians were so untouched by war that something so mild would freak them out.
The ice cream girl was screaming even more loudly, and when I glanced over at her, she was staring at me, not the merrily burning remains of the hot dog cart. I had my knives out. Oh. I guess it was a good thing that I hadn't brought my gun. God only knows what she would have done then. Passed out or something, probably. As I shifted my grip on my knives and she screamed even more loudly, I really wished she would pass out. I didn't need a headache.
Something hit the bright white and red umbrella that was over head with a soft, hollow thump. I looked up, ignoring the screaming girl in favor of ascertaining if there was a new threat. Little bits of flaming hot dog were raining down around the general area of the explosion, causing yet more havoc among the civilians.
I'll admit it, my next reaction to the entire thing was a lot less than professional. In fact, it was down right juvenile. As I watched the flaming weenie bits falling majestically from the sky, I could only think of one word to describe the whole situation.
Ok, I guess you would've had to have been there.
My arms were grabbed roughly and I was spun around. One of my knives flew out of my hand and skittered under the ice cream cart in a silver arc, but I kept a firm hold on the other one, and it was pressed against the grabber's throat even before my eyes had finished refocusing. I found myself looking into a pair of intense blue eyes. Heero.
I quickly pulled the knife back, and his eyes narrowed slightly, flicking downward to look at the silver blade for a moment. I looked down as well.
There was a faint red sheen on the edge of the blade, and blood was welling up on Heero's throat in a thin line.
My eyes widened and I dropped the knife. "Oh shit, man, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to..." I started babbling incoherently. I couldn't tell if he was angry or not, but I was damn upset. It was just a little nick, but I'd done it to Heero.
Heero gave me a firm shake that set my teeth rattling. "Stop apologizing," he said, "It's a good reaction. It'll keep you alive."
I shut up mid-word. He kept his iron grip on my arms, and I suddenly became aware of just how close he was. Heero was abruptly the focus of my world, the screaming girl and the crowd and the fire suddenly retreating until all that was left for me was him and the pressure of his hands on my arms. Blood was still welling slowly from the shallow cut I had made on his throat. It was fascinating. The cool power inside me, the thing that lets me wake the dead up, stirred sleepily in the place it normally hid in during the day, deep in my gut.
I reached forward, and Heero relaxed his grip on my arms enough to let me do so. His eyes were mirrors; I couldn't see what was going on in his head, but that was no change. I barely touched the line of blood on his neck with my fingertips, and his eyes widened at that, his breath suddenly catching in his throat. I quickly pulled my hand back. There was blood on the tips of my fingers, and for one freaky, irrational moment, I wanted to lick it off, then lean forward and lap the blood from his neck, because he was MINE, and press him back against the ground until--
"HEERO!" came a shrill cry.
I shook my head and quickly wiped my fingers off on my pants. Black's great for not showing blood stains. I felt utterly disgusted with myself. What the hell was that? I wasn't a freaking vampire or something, for god's sake. Heero wasn't...Heero wasn't...
Damnit. I pulled my arms out of Heero's grasp and sat back on my heels, still scrubbing my fingers on my pants as Relena appeared on the scene and latched firmly on to Heero's arm.
"Heero, are you ok? What was that?" she was babbling, and she was doing it even faster than me, which was a major achievement. But hey, you win some, you lose some. She'd never beat me where it counted. All I had to do was check down the front of my pants and keep telling myself that...
If only. Who the hell knew which way Heero was bent? If any. Maybe his idea of sex was binary fission or something.
I felt around under the cart until I found the knife I had dropped. That went into one of the wrist sheathes. The other knife was still laying on the grass with Heero's blood on it. I didn't really want to pick it up, but I did anyway. That got wiped off on my pants as well. I've lost count of the number of sheathes I've ruined by putting a dirty blade back in them. This was only a little blood, but all it took was a teeny bit to gum up the works and make it impossible to draw the knife.
"Heero! What happened to your neck?" Relena explained. "You're bleeding!" Hoo boy. There were people running around, having hysterics and afflicted with third degree weenie-burns, and she was acting like a tiny little cut was the end of the world. Never mind that I'd been acting like that too. THAT was a different matter entirely. Yeah.
"What happened?" There was a white paper napkin blowing along the ground, presumably an escapee from the mini inferno still going on just a few meters away. Relena grabbed the napkin and tried to blot at the cut on Heero's throat. Heero easily fended her off and shot me an unreadable glare. "Did HE do this??" Relena demanded, shooting me a glare as well, but hers was eminently readable. I know the fires of hell when I see them. Either that, or it was flames reflected from the weenie cart. Not sure which.
Damn, I was just stepping on everyone's toes...
Heero transferred his glare to Relena. "Go home." he said, effectively ignoring her question. Thank you, Heero. I didn't want to deal with a pissed off Relena.
"What? Why? I don't want to leave you when you're hurt!"
Needed a reason...I glanced at Heero. He wasn't talking, apparently, so I jumped in. "Too dangerous, Ojou-san." I inserted myself deftly between her and Heero, intercepting the napkin she was still attempting to attack Heero's neck with. Sometimes I am just too smooth. "Leave the exploding," somehow I managed to keep a straight face, "hot dog carts to the professionals. We wouldn't want you to get hurt or anything like that. Right, Heero?"
Heero blinked. Good enough for me.
"What?" Relena stopped. "Was that aimed at me?"
Not a chance in hell. Even if you ignored the fact that she was nowhere near it when it exploded, explosions are simply too unreliable to be an assassination tool when they're that small. Not that I was going to tell her that. I smiled and nodded. "You're the most visible person there. It must have been for you." I've found out from long time experience that flattery is one of the most effective means of manipulation around.
That gave her pause. "One of the war mongers?" she said incredulously. "You think someone's trying to kill me?"
I wanted to say 'there's a line forming right now' but I didn't. See? I'm getting better at controlling my mouth. Instead, I nodded. "Anyone that doesn't want peace is going to be after you. It's not safe for you to be here."
"Go home." Heero said again.
Relena bit her lip and looked over my shoulder at Heero. "But..."
"This is no place for you. Go home." Heero said again.
Relena nodded reluctantly. I love how she listens to Heero's one word, rude responses, and acts like I don't exist...and I'm a hell of a lot nicer than Heero. As much as I like him, he's a taciturn little SOB at the best of times. "I understand, you're worried about me." Relena smiled.
Yeah. Real worried about her. If she stuck around much longer, I might just give in to temptation and kill her.
"I'll come and find you again! I'm sorry that our afternoon was ruined. I know you must be upset." she said, standing up.
"Go. Now." I made a shooing motion. "You know how Heero hates long goodbyes." Oooh, I was going to pay for that one. I could feel his glare boring into my back.
"Goodbye, Heero..." she slowly backed away, then turned reluctantly and kept walking. Thank God.
As soon as Relena was out of earshot, Heero grabbed my arms again and jerked me around to face him. We were almost nose to nose. He glared at me. Oh shit. "Sorry, I was just trying to get her to go away, please don't kill me...er...what?"
Heero slowly raised one of his eyebrows, his look, if anything, increasing in its crustiness. "Leave the exploding hot dog carts," he said, his slightly nasal voice incredulous, or at least as incredulous as it got for him, "to the professionals?"
I couldn't help myself. I started laughing. "Sorry, man, it was the best I could come up with at the time, you know?"
Heero actually smiled...well...smirked as I kept laughing. I wished that he'd do that more often. That little smirk of his is pretty damn sexy.
Abruptly, the smirk disappeared and his hands tightened, his fingers digging into my upper arms. I stopped laughing and did my best not to wince. "Are you alright?" he asked.
I nodded, grinning from ear to ear. "Perfectly fine. It takes a little more than a couple exploding wieners to hurt me. I mean come on, man!"
His eyes narrowed. "Did you...?"
"Of course not!" I said indignantly. "Give me SOME credit! If I wanted to cause havoc, I could do a lot better job than this!"
"Sorry." he muttered.
"I can't feel my arms."
He got the hint and let go. I sat back quickly on my heels and rubbed my upper arms, trying to restore a little blood flow. I had a feeling that I was going to have bruises there tomorrow. "Geeze, what's gotten in to you?" I muttered. It just wasn't like Heero to grab me like that. It was kind of disconcerting, when I thought about it. Then again, maybe it meant that he was worried. That was a nice prospect.
I glanced over the ice cream cart for a moment. The fire was still going. A quick check around revealed that the vendor lady from this cart had split a while back...funny, I hadn't noticed. It had probably been when I was dealing with Relena, so understandable. I popped up to my feet and opened the little freezer doors on the top of the ice cream cart. "Ne, Heero, what do you want? Looks like there's plenty of everything left."
He was standing next to me almost instantly, peering down into the depths of the little freezer. Cool air washed out of it, and it felt good. My shirt was starting to stick to my body, I was so sweaty. The situation wasn't helped, of course, by the fire.
"What are you doing?" Heero asked.
"Getting some ice cream. What does it look like?" I found the metal ice cream server and helped myself to a double scoop of espresso and chocolate on a waffle cone. Yum. "I lost my other cone when that," I gestured toward the flaming wreck, "exploded."
"Hn." Heero commented. "Do they have any cookie dough?"
"Lemme check. Yep." I plopped a couple scoops of ice cream in a cone and handed it to him. We stood there for a minute and licked at our ice cream, watching the little wreck flame away. It was kind of pretty, in a weird way. But then again, considering that we're Gundam Pilots, nothing is too weird. This was like nothing. Later, I knew, I'd go over the entire scene mentally, and try to figure out what the hell happened, and let my suspicious imagination have free reign with the entire scenario. But for now, I was content to just stand in the melting heat next to Heero and eat my ice cream and watch someone's livelihood go merrily up in flames. Simple pleasures are the best kind.
I could hear sirens in the distance. Sounded like the fire trucks were finally coming. "Man, took them long enough, didn't it."
Heero checked his watch. "Aa."
I nibbled on my waffle cone. "What's this world coming to?" I asked everyone in general.
"HEY! What the hell do you kids think you're doing?" A voice demanded loudly. As one, Heero and I turned. A very angry, very large man was storming toward us. I had a feeling that he was the guy that owned the ice cream cart.
"Sounds like they're playing our waltz, ne?"
We took off running, ice cream cones still in hand.
Later that night, after I'd taken a nice long, COOL shower to wash all the sweat off of my body, I came out of the bathroom to discover that the room had been turned inside out. Heero was sitting on the floor with every gun in our arsenal arrayed on the floor around him. He was cleaning and loading all of them.
I didn't have to ask why. I already knew. As nonchalantly as we'd played it this afternoon, exploding things weren't standard fare for us when we were off the job. So I straightened the mattress back on my bed and sat down, toweling my hair off. I had to carefully cross my legs at the ankles to keep from flashing; the towel I had wrapped around my waist was way too short, and I didn't think Heero would really care if I flashed--though God only knows that I hoped that he would care, in the voyeuristic sense--a guy's still got to have a few manners. I watched him fiddle with the guns for a couple minutes before I finally got tired of the silence. "Well?" I said.
"It wasn't an explosive device. The way it went up wasn't right."
"I've come to the same conclusion."
"So...it could have been something natural." I offered, combing my fingers through my wet, clinging hair to get the worst knots out.
"It could have been. The internal gas tank in the cart might have been leaking."
"But you don't think that's what it was."
"No." Heero set the gun he was working on to the side for a moment and glanced back at me. He raised his eyebrow slightly. My turn to say something again.
"You don't think it was natural, at all."
"I don't think it was either." I crossed my arms across my still damp chest. "I don't know what it was, but I don't like it. I have a bad feeling about this entire thing."
"So do I."
"I already mentioned it to Quatre and Wufei and Trowa. They're all on alert." I sighed. "So much for relative normalcy."
The only answer I got was the crisp metallic sound of a clip shooting home.