Needless to say, morning came too soon for Duo and the others involved in the Mad Spider Escapade of the previous night. Trowa’s personal alarm clock went off at six thirty and stayed on until seven fifteen. Duo awoke, rolled off the TV stand and onto a sharp suitcase. Taking his gun in hand, he fired the last shot at the clock, sending its entrails of sprockets and springs onto the wall. The gunshot caused Heero to snap upright from his position draped across the top of the bureau. Quatre, Trowa and Wufei all were jolted awake as well.
Tossing his gun away, Duo crawled onto the TV stand, curled up like a cat, and went back to sleep. Heero shook his head and closed his eyes, hoping for a few more minutes of much-needed rest.
At 8 o’clock sunlight sliced through the busted blinds, falling right across Duo’s face. He opened one eye and felt his pupil shrink down to a pinprick, causing him to grimace. “I see the light,” he murmured, “and it’s pissin’ me off.”
“You can always draw the curtains,” came a voice from below, and Duo looked over the side of the stand to see Quatre lying on his back, one bamboo bed leg clutched to his chest like a rifle, looking as if he had spent the whole night staring at the ceiling. The mattress, or what remained of it, had been dragged across the room, and that was what Quatre was currently lying on. Smears and smudges of dried blood were all over his clothes and the bedsheets.
“Jeez, what happened to you?”
“Oh, it’s not my blood, it’s his.” Quatre nudged Trowa, who was lying beside him and undoubtedly still unconscious.
Duo squinted. “Quatre,” he said, “are those . . . tampons? In his nose?”
“Yes. He wouldn’t stop bleeding, I had no other choice.”
“Where did you get tampons, Quatre?”
At the apparent stupidity of his question, Quatre got a sudden case of Forrest Whitaker Eye. “I packed them in case I started my period.”
For a moment Duo looked as if he didn’t know if he was joking or not.
“The ladies room, stupid. Honestly.”
“Alright, sheesh, sorry. My bad. Happy fuckin’ morning to you, too.” Pause. “Seriously, though. You might want to change ‘em. They look nasty.”
“Em Why Oh Bee, Duo.”
Just then the bathroom door opened and Wufei emerged, neatly groomed and primly dressed in eye-stabbing-super-white clothes and looking very rested. He spotted his friends and remarked with a superior grin, “Ah. So you are alive.”
Duo oozed off of the TV stand. “Har. Har. Does this dump serve breakfast or do we have to go chop open some coconuts with our hand-made machetes?”
“They serve a continental breakfast in the dining hall a short walk from the visitor’s center, or you can order something from the menu.”
“You gonna eat with us?”
He shook his head. “I already ate. I didn’t feel like waiting for you lazy slobs to wake up.”
“I’m awake,” came Heero’s hoarse voice. “I just can’t move my body.”
“I told you not to sleep on that thing,” said Quatre. “It’ll give you cramps.”
“And you’d know all about those, wouldn’t you?”
Quatre, still lying prone on the mattress, raised his arm high enough that Heero could see it and saluted him with his middle finger.
Just then Trowa stirred and sat up groggily. “Whud happ-ed las nide?” he groaned. “Add why am I talkid fuddy?”
Heero lifted his head and squinted at him. “Trowa, are those . . . tampons?”
Everyone agreed that it would probably be in their best interest to grab some breakfast while it lasted and then sit around afterward and argue about their embarrassing incompetence when it comes to taking care of a simple home invasion.
In the dining hall they sat down at a table for four. Aside from a few guests, the place was nearly empty. Wufei said he would rendezvous with them later and disappeared to perform a reconnaissance of the immediate surroundings, leaving Trowa, Quatre, Duo and Heero alone in the dining hall. Needless to say, the remaining four vacationers looked exhausted and harassed, and at least one of them looked like a ringside casualty.
Duo was still wearing his pajamas, which consisted of a ratty Nickelback tank top that looked as if it had spent weeks in a heap at the bottom of his dirty laundry hamper, and the same khaki shorts he had been wearing yesterday. He seemed a bit bowlegged after getting skulled in the crotch, but he was recovering quickly. Balls of steel, he had said proudly, and then had to evade a kick aimed at said balls since Heero wanted to see if they clanged when struck.
Heero himself looked slightly more tucked in than Duo, dressed plainly in jeans and a t-shirt, but his hair was pointing in every direction of the compass and he walked funny because of the way he had slept on the bureau. He still had a bruised eye and a busted lip from yesterday, yet he seemed to be coping well. Then again, Heero was programmed to cope.
Trowa looked as if he and Mickey Mantle had engaged in serious battle and he’d barely managed to escape; luckily his nose had stopped bleeding, so he had been able to take the cotton mice out of his nostrils. His uncombed hair nearly completely shadowed his face but, considering the way he looked with that bluish-purple shiner across his cheekbone, it was all for the better.
Quatre, who at least attempted to look decent, was wearing a white button-down shirt, his favorite red vest, and a pair of Duo’s khaki trousers since his own had been punctured by projectiles last night. The trousers were wrinkled and too big for him, and the only thing keeping them from falling around his ankles was his belt.
The waiter showed up with the menus and took their drink orders.
“Coffee,” Heero grunted. “Black.”
“Regular or decaf?”
“Something between 100 and 130 octane.”
“Jet fuel, got it. And for you, sir?” he addressed Duo.
“An extra large Mountain Dew.”
“If you say so.” The waiter scribbled on his pad.
Duo folded his arms and laid his head down on the table miserably. Quatre ordered Earl Grey and Trowa followed Heero’s lead and got coffee. The waiter then left and allowed them to make their breakfast selections.
Duo leaned over and whispered to Heero, “Doesn’t our waiter look like Tom Green?”
“No. And furthermore, did you brush your teeth this morning?”
“Uhh . . . I guess I forgot.”
Heero grimaced and waved his hand in front of his face. “Good God. Run a buzzard off a shit wagon.”
“Dragon breath,” Trowa murmured.
Duo and Heero gazed at him. “Pardon?”
“Dragon breath,” he repeated.
“I always called it Morning Mouth,” Quatre said.
“More like Monster Mouth,” Heero reiterated.
“I swear, our waiter IS Tom Green! His name tag said ‘Tom’, too! I wonder if he’ll sing the Bum Song if I—”
“Duo, could you please not talk? You’re making the wallpaper curl.”
“Speak for yourself, Mr Nocturnal Flatulence.”
The waiter who bore an uncanny resemblance to Tom Green showed up and took their orders. Quatre decided on French toast and a banana, Trowa chose the cardboard-flavored oatmeal, Heero was content with lox and a bagel, and Duo ordered two of everything.
“—the pancake plate with the side of bacon, two hash browns (scattered smothered covered diced chunked flipped tricked pimped and punked), the Belgian waffle plate with a side of bacon, a whole grapefruit with sugar, toast with butter, a side of bacon, toast with jelly, toast with cinnamon, a side of bacon, toast with peanut butter, an apple bran muffin, a side of bacon, a steak and cheese omelet . . .”
The other three died a little bit inside. It was going to be a long day.
They met up with Wufei in the bungalow after breakfast, which was even more of a disaster in full light. Wufei was attempting to straighten it up out of shame for his compatriots.
“You’re all a bunch of slovenly, filth-wallowing swine,” he declared when they entered. “Our first night here and you turn the whole place upside down. I’ll bet room service will take one look in here and tape it off like a crime scene.”
Duo shrugged. “If anyone asks, we were just testing to make sure the structure’s sound.” And he hastily began to undress.
Heero examined his surroundings with dismay. “Chang’s right, Maxwell. I can’t live in this sty. You’ve got to learn to take . . . um. Take . . .”
“Duo!” Quatre cried. “It’s not polite to expose yourself!”
“I’m just changin’ clothes. We’re all guys here.”
“Excluding Winner,” said Wufei. “But he’s just saying that because his vagina is really sensitive today.”
“Trowa, Wufei’s making fun of me again!”
Trowa glanced up briefly. “Quatre, don’t whine. Wufei, knock it off. Duo, go change in the bathroom. Heero, quit staring before you give yourself a nosebleed.”
Miraculously it worked: Quatre stuck his tongue out at Wufei. Wufei ignored him. Heero looked askance and wondered about himself. Duo skulked into the bathroom and made sure he slammed the door hard enough to dismount the hinges.
“Well,” said Heero, “this vacation blows. I’m getting to work.” He pulled his laptop out of his suitcase and set it on the bureau, then dragged the TV stand over so he could use it as a chair. He began to type and ignored everything else around him.
Trowa turned to Quatre. “So. What do you feel like doing?”
“Something fun and dangerous and exciting.”
“Like last night wasn’t enough?”
“YOU’RE GONNA GET THE DANGEROUS PART IF YOU STAY IN THE SAME ROOM WITH HEERO!” Duo called from the bathroom.
Heero looked up and nodded. “He’s right, you know. I’m a magnet for danger. There’ll be secret agents and mutant killing machines busting through the windows in fifteen minutes, so you’d better think about leaving soon.”
Trowa and Quatre slowly began to inch their way toward the door.
Duo emerged from the bathroom with a colorful towel thrown over his shoulder, dressed in swimming trunks bedecked with palm trees and pink dolphins, and proclaimed, “I’m headin’ out to the pool! Anyone wanna join me?”
“Uh, Quatre wants to go parasailing,” said Trowa. “Isn’t that right, Quatre?”
“What? Oh. Yes! Paras . . . paraceiling. Simply have to. It’s my favorite hobby. So sorry, Duo. We’ll be back later!”
Then the two bolted out of the bungalow so fast they left Trowa-and-Quatre-shaped smoke clouds where they’d been standing.
Duo turned. “What about you, Wufei? Cannonball off the diving board?”
Wufei blinked. “Relax? Here? Are you insane? I’m heading out to reconnoiter the whole island. Something isn’t right about this place, and I’m going to get to the bottom of it.”
“Right,” said Duo. “Tell Scooby and the Gang I said hi.”
“Up yours, Maxwell. Nice shorts, by the way. I didn’t know it was Pride Week at Saint Abalone. Congratulations on coming out.”
“There’s nothing wrong with these shorts!”
“Of course not. Just keep telling yourself that.”
And Wufei departed, leaving Duo standing there in his festive, flamboyant attire with Heero, who was typing on his laptop. In addition to his ammunition, Duo also wished he had asked Heero to leave the laptop that was more of a lifetop at home. He sighed, realizing that the situation was practically hopeless, but decided to give it a try anyway.
That one went over as well as Pavarotti jumping hurdles. So, with his heart bruised and his feelings irreparably hurt, Duo dried his tears with the end of his braid and left Heero alone in the bungalow.
Heero paused, poised, and listened to the footsteps fade. When he was sure that Duo was gone, he slammed the laptop closed and jumped up. He thumped his silver attaché case on the bed and clicked it open, taking out a pair of rhinestone-studded, horn-rimmed, shiny black sunglasses that were so dark and so slick and so cheap that they could have inspired a ZZ Top song. He slowly slipped them on, heaved a long sigh of relief, and marched out of the bungalow door like a runway model at Paris Fashion Week.
Trowa sighed contentedly as he lay down on his beach towel and folded his hands beneath his head. “This is the life.”
“You said that about the hotdog stand,” said Quatre as he slopped sunscreen all over himself.
“I keep my expectations low. Less disappointment that way.”
The sun was hot and the sand was scorching and the ocean was practically boiling out on Saint Abalone beach where we find our two heroes, Trowa and Quatre, stripped down to their swimming trunks and ready to do a whole lot of nothing for the next three hours.
“That was some nice parasailing you did back there, Quat.”
“Yeah. Until I hit the water going sixty miles an hour.”
“Still, for someone’s who’s never parasailed before, you were pretty good. I hope you didn’t get any salt water in your va—” Trowa stopped himself short.
“Your va . . . vaaaaaa. Vvvvvvvibrant blue eyes.” Somewhere on earth a crowd cheered.
“Why, how thoughtful of you, Trowa. No, I didn’t get any water in my eyes, thank you for asking.”
“I’m flattered you think my eyes are vibrant.” Quatre smiled brightly and rolled over onto his belly, swinging his legs in the air. “What else do you see? I’m curious.”
Trowa turned his head and looked like a small animal in the headlights of a monster truck. “Wha . . . y-your eyes?”
“Yeah! Look into them and tell me what you see.” He batted his eyes flirtatiously.
Trowa swallowed dryly. “I see . . . endless oceans of . . . water.”
Quatre giggled. “You’re funny, Trowa.”
“I’m a clown. It’s in the job description.”
“You know, I’ve never asked you this before: what’s it like working in the circus and performing before hundreds of people?”
“Well, it’s a lot like being a prostitute, only the pay is much worse. You see, when a carnie falls in love with a zoo . . .”
And that was how it happened. Quiet discourse on a warm, peaceful beach, surrounded by sparkling blue water and miles and miles of nowhere in every direction. Given all that had happened the night before, it would only have been a matter of time before the lack of sleep caught up to them both and they skipped off into Dream Land. But it caught up to them sooner than planned, and in one of the worst places to fall asleep:
Three hours later
Quatre sat up groggily and yawned. That’s strange, he didn’t remember falling asleep. Of course, no one does. Suddenly a fiery sensation seized him, like a sheet of hot metal being pressed into his skin, and he looked down at his body . . .
Ten billion light years from Earth, a big green alien by the name of Maldaar was sitting down to tea when a human scream reverberated through his space pod, rupturing his entire collection of Swarovski crystal kittens.
“,” he muttered.
Duo was the first one back in the bungalow that evening. It looked as if gangsters had ransacked the place and then decided to blow up any evidence, but then he remembered that it had been left like that that morning. Now endowed with a ravishing new tan, Duo was relaxing on the one bed that still had legs beneath it, playing with the Bug Out Bob squeeze toy he had won from the claw machine at the arcade when suddenly the door opened, and Trowa and Quatre limped into the room, letting out little meeps and moans with every step.
Duo’s jaw dropped and he stared. “You assholes. I can’t believe you went to Hell without tellin’ me!”
Quatre had the worst of it by far, even though Arabians have thrived beneath the sun’s harsh rays for thousands and thousands of years without damage. Quatre was different because he happened to have just enough European blood in him to get a sunburn from anything brighter than a 75 watt light bulb. The sunscreen had been broiled off of his skin after the first half hour like butter on a sizzling ham. But it was too late to blame genetics—the boy was burnt to the hue of a boiled lobster, at least on the back of his body; he had fallen asleep on his stomach.
Trowa didn’t look nearly as bad as Quatre, although he was definitely red enough to be used as a stop sign. At least the ugly bruise on his face from last night had been roasted over like the rest of his skin on his front side. His lips looked like two pieces of overcooked bacon. The two of them were going to have the weirdest tan lines in a few days.
Wufei arrived at the bungalow a few minutes behind Trowa and Quatre, and after a brief lecture about skin cancer and narcolepsy, had gone diving into his duffel bag in search of a lotion he said would help ease the pain. Duo had run down to the dining hall to fetch some ice since that was about all he was capable of doing without fucking things up.
“OWCH! That hurts!” Quatre cried.
“Hold still! You whine worse than a woman,” Wufei snapped as he applied the clear lotion to Quatre’s already blistered shoulders.
Trowa was sitting on the unbroken bed, rubbing the gel onto his chest. “What is this stuff anyway, Wufei? I hope it’s got morphine in it.”
“Ancient Chinese secret.”
Trowa just barely smiled and tried not to be surprised that Wufei did indeed have a sense of humor. A small one, just small enough to be frightening, but a sense of humor nonetheless.
At that moment, there was the sound of somebody crashing into the door . . . and he-or-she very nearly took it down. The bolts on the hinges popped out and the door frame cracked.
“Damn it,” Wufei muttered. “Maxwell forgot how to use a doorknob again.”
There came another full-bodied crash followed by a burst of raucous laughter. The three young men stared as the door finally slammed open to reveal a very drunken Heero Yuy dressed in nothing but a lizard skin loin cloth, several animal tooth necklaces, and a slew of red paint streaked across his bare chest.
Quatre, Trowa and Wufei were speechless.
Heero grinned lopsidedly, holding up a coconut cup in one hand and a cooler full of bottles in the other. He was swaying like a palm tree in a hurricane, and his eyes couldn’t seem to stop crossing themselves.
“GUYS. You GUYS,” he slurred. “You guides gotta gine summa my conocacut. Id’ll sock yer knocks off.” He had only managed to take one step forward before his eyes rolled back and he collapsed on his face.
Duo appeared at the door, breathless, with a bucket of ice. He stepped through the threshold and over Heero’s body. “Sorry it took so long, but the door was locked in the vending area so I had to go around and—” He stopped in his tracks and turned around. “—Jesus Christ. When did this happen?”
“Just now,” said Wufei as he stood from the mattress on the floor and went over to kneel by Heero’s side.
“Holy shit. Is he drunk?” Duo set the ice on the nightstand and went to help Wufei drag their inebriated comrade onto the unbroken bed.
“Is he conscious?” as Quatre as Duo leaned down close to Heero’s face. The intoxicated pilot slowly came to. He saw Duo’s face and grinned wider than anyone had ever seen Heero Yuy grin.
“Duuuuo!” he brayed, and Duo had to turn his head when his eyes began to water. “My tomochadi chomodotty tomodaaaaa—”
“Goddamn, hide the matches! Heero, how much have you had to drink, man?”
Heero struggled to sit up. It was like watching a turtle try to get off its back. “Noddie nuff. Needa refill. My noconut’s empty. Les doe gown to the store. Don’ worry, I’ll drive.”
“Dude, you couldn’t even find the door,” said Duo, grabbing Heero’s shoulders and pinning him down. “You’re grounded, buddy. Wufei, help me get all this shit offa him."
Wufei studied the sloppy red paint markings on Heero’s body with a dark expression. “I don’t like this. These marks mean something bad.”
“Ya like ‘em?” Heero babbled. “These nice people I met an we went to the junkle like Axel Rose an they were havvin a loo-wow pardy but I was the best so they pained me like one a their own an can we go to the store now? I can drive.”
This time Duo had to struggle to keep Heero down, but Wufei decided he’d heard enough and struck Heero right on his pressure point, effectively immobilizing him. A dumb look crossed Heero’s face, and before he flopped down unconscious he muttered, “Watch the . . . pineapples.”
There was a brief silence. Duo and Wufei looked at each other.
“Well. I guess that’s the end of that.”
“Until he wakes up. God. His hangover’s gonna be so bad even I’ll be puking,” said Duo. He stood with a groan. “Here, darlings. Your ice.”
“Thanks,” Quatre said as he took the bucket from Duo and turned to the other sunburn victim sitting on the mattress. “Hey Trowa, why don’t you lie down and let me rub ice cubes on your chest.”
Trowa’s eyes slowly widened and widened until he resembled a petrified owl. Then he abruptly stood to his feet and went into the bathroom, closing the door. They all heard the lock click into place. Wufei shook his head. Quatre looked confused.
Duo, who had been taking a closer look at the red symbols painted on Heero’s chest, rubbed his finger through the paint, sniffed it, licked it, smacked his lips thoughtfully, then began to spit like a spastic viper. “Oh my God, it’s blood!” he cried.
Wufei scowled. “Are you sure?”
Duo leaned down and dragged his tongue across Heero’s clavicle while the others watched in horror. “Oh yeah, it’s blood alright.”
“Don’t lick it, Maxwell, you dumb bastard!” Wufei shouted. “It could be infected blood!”
“It could be menstrual blood,” Quatre added, and everyone stared at him. He frowned and pointed at them warningly. “The first person who says ‘vagina’ dies.”
“I did some research at the civic center today,” Wufei muttered, changing the subject. “The natives once believed that a mighty volcano god ruled this island, and that if they did not appease him, he would destroy them all.”
“Huh. Nice guy,” said Duo.
“Once a year the natives would hold a celebration to honor the volcano god’s mercy, and select a virgin to be sacrificed in the fiery pit of Mount Killamangina, the largest volcano on the island.” Wufei looked down at Heero grimly. “They would mark their sacrifice by stripping him (or her) naked and painting the volcano god’s name on his (or her) body.”
Duo and Quatre stared.
Quatre screamed in horror. Duo screamed also, but it was with laughter.
“What the hell is so funny, Maxwell?” roared Wufei.
“Hee-! Heer-!” Duo gasped, eyes watering. “Heero’s a virgin! Ah-haaaaaaaa! Ha ahaha! Hahaha! Aha! Aha! Haaaaaaaaa!” He slid to his knees and pounded the bed with his fist, wheezing and guffawing. The bathroom door opened and Trowa looked around worriedly.
“It’s not something to laugh about, numbnuts!” Wufei shouted, punching the American in the back of his head. “In three days the sacrifice must be carried to the top of Mount Killamangina and tossed into the molten lava, or else the volcano god will unleash his fury and the whole island will erupt. We’ve got to leave this place now!”
“We don’t know if that’s true,” Trowa countered from the bathroom door. “For all we know it could be a joke, or a lighthearted tradition that the native islanders use to boost the tourist industry. It’s not like Heero got lost in the jungle somewhere and met a tribe of natives who took him to the liquor store. Where did he get that cooler?”
“Maybe he picked it up on his way back,” Duo suggested, rubbing the back of his head.
“All I’m saying is, we shouldn’t panic over something that we only marginally know about. How about we just dump Heero in the bathtub for now and keep this to ourselves, yeah?”
“You’re so awesome, Trowa,” Quatre gushed, glossy-eyed and blushing.
“You’re wrong, Barton,” said Wufei. “I’m telling you, we need to get out of here tonight. Besides, there’s no way Maxwell’s going to be able to keep Yuy’s secret to himself.”
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