So now we see which side of the fic polygon Emily came down on tonight. Um... a few notes about this fic... I have no clue where it's going, what it's about, or when it's going to end. Just what y'all wanted to hear, ne? The inspiration hit me while I was at the gas station, waiting for my sister to finish pumping the gas (her car, she pumps, she pays...... I drive)...

It's AU, *not* fantasy, OOC, weird a la Emily, and probably a touch darker than my norm. Yaoi. Please smack me if there's anything that is glaringly unrealistic.

None of it's mine but the writing, so don't sue me for it, 'kay?

Playing the Game by Lys ap Adin
Prologue

The heat rose off the pavement in shimmering waves, cloaking the gas station and the higway with an air of faint surreality. The rust-red car roared into the scant shade offered by the overhead canopy; the engine sputtered as teh driver killed it. He stepped out of the car and glanced around with a practiced air, then calmly went about the process of unscrewing the hidden gas cap and filling the tank.

The attendant, with nothing better to do but snitch half-stale doughnuts from the display case and re-read the newspaper, watched with idle curiosity. The appearance of the driver and the car contrasted sharply. The car was a 1976 Chevrolet Nova, looking a touch battered and worse for the wear, and desperately in need of a good wash and wax. It fits its environs--a sleepy, dusty Midwestern town with one stoplight that was slowly baking to death in the noon sun. The man pumping gas, on the other hand, was all chilly angles and shadow. Lean, he wore a dark busines suit that showed by its cut and fit that it had never seen a rack in a men's clothing store. Sunglasses so dark that the attendant doubted that a person standing a few inches away would have been able to discern whether he had eyes or not perched on his nose.

He finished pumping the gas and wiped the windshields clean with suprising finesse. Then he turned and headed into the tiny convenience store, walking with such purpose taht he seemed capable of taking the world on and winning.

"Afternoon," the attendant greeted him as the bell over the door jingled, letting a whoosh of stifling air in with the suit-wearing stranger.

His customer spared him a single glance of contempt before moving to the cooler in the rear of the store. Without hesitation, he selected two sodas. He moved back up the aisles, seemingly looking for something specific as he grabbed a bag of chips and a couple packs of hard candies. Then he saw the display of cookies and grabbed two bags of the double-stuffed Oreos. Apparently satisfied, he strode to the counter.

The attendant glanced back out at the car and noticed for the first time the head pillowed against the passenger window frame. "On a trip with the wife, sir?" he asked, ringing up the items.

The man snorted softly, face unreadable. "Hardly. How much do I owe you?" he asked pointedly.

"Twenty-four ninety-six, sir," the attendant replied stiffly, offended. *Arrogant prick, aren't you?*

The man, who was still wearing his sunglasses, pulled out his wallet and extracted a twenty and a fie. "Keep the change." He replaced the wallet and picked up his purchases.

The attendant stared at him, face suddenly white and his gaze inexorably drawn to the slight bulge tucked in the waist of the man's pants. The jacket had mostly camouflaged it, but the customer's retrieval of his wallet had revealed the grip of a handgun.

The man saw the glance and smirked, then walked out the door, the door jingling once more behind him. The attendant watched him get into the Nova, speaking to the passenger and handing over a drink before starting the car and roaring back onto the highway.

~*~

"You awake?"

The young man slumped in the passenger seat uncurled slightly, mumbling indistinctly. "Yeah, I guess so."

"Got you something to drink."

"Is it cold?" He stretched and sat up straight, muscles creaking in protest.

"Of course." The driver shoved a bottle at him, then started the car with practiced ease.

"You're a saint, you know that?"

"Hn." The driver stole a glance out of the corner of his eye as the other man rearranged his lanky body and masses of hair. "I got some of those cookies you like, too."

"You're *so* good to me." The coke hissed and he took a long drink. "How long did I stay under?"

"A few hours... most of the state."

"Want me to drive for a while? You've been behind the wheel for a while now."

"I'm fine."

"Whatever. Let me know when you're ready for a switch."

They rode in silence for several minutes, before the quiet was broken again. "Man, Heero, what are we going to *do*?"

"I have a couple of contacts, they owe me a few favors. They'll see to it that we're taken care of."

"You should go back... none of this is your fault, man. I should be taking the heat, y'know?"

"No. I'm not abandoning this now. It's my fault you got into this mess, Duo, and I'm going to damn well make sure I get you out of it."

"D'you think we can make it?" Duo asked softly.

Heero looked at him again, and then reached over to grasp one of the other man's hands. "Yeah. We'll manage."