STRAWBERRYSHORTCAKE: Du@!!! :DDD y@u're finally @nline where have y@u been?!
JOLLYREAPER: le gasp, ambushed!! haha I totes forgot id even set up this messenger thing.
JOLLYREAPER: whyre ur Os @s?
STRAWBERRYSHORTCAKE: ja du@ let us w@nder why the pers@n y@u haven't seen f@r ten days and HAVENT WRITTEN T@ has typ@ issues this is t@tally relevant. :X
STRAWBERRYSHORTCAKE: my keyb@ard br@ke stupid.
JOLLYREAPER: cant u use zeros or smth, I keep reading them as *at*!!
STRAWBERRYSHORTCAKE: HI HILDE IT IS S@ NICE T@ HEAR FR@M Y@U H@W ARE Y@U W@W THAT IS ACTUALLY INTERESTING BY THE WAY Y@UR KILLERBABY HAS ADAPTED SUPER WELL AND IS ALREADY HITTING IT @FF WITH T@NS @F CLASSY BITCHES Y@U WILL BE A PUP AUNTY S@@N.
JOLLYREAPER: I see how it is, u care more abt the fur pile than abt me. :|
JOLLYREAPER: cold, schbeiker, cold.
JOLLYREAPER: so how r u? I ask bcs I totally care & not bcs youll tell me anyway. yup. :D
JOLLYREAPER: jk. XD whassup, babe?
JOLLYREAPER: also run this file plz: hildiereadability!!.exe
STRAWBERRYSHORTCAKE: :o oooooooohh duo you are magical.
STRAWBERRYSHORTCAKE: well actually there have been a lot of...
STRAWBERRYSHORTCAKE: things that were exactly the same as when you were still here. :X
STRAWBERRYSHORTCAKE: except now I have no one to bitch about friedriks with anymore.
JOLLYREAPER: we could have a bitching session now, those r fun. :D
STRAWBERRYSHORTCAKE: or you could stop delaying and tell me everything about how things are going for you and the carpetmonster!
STRAWBERRYSHORTCAKE: cough it up. >:(
JOLLYREAPER: aw cmon whyd u think anything is weird enough that im trying not to tell u.
STRAWBERRYSHORTCAKE: becaaaaause you pretty much just admitted it to my face right there. :X
JOLLYREAPER: curses, foiled!!
STRAWBERRYSHORTCAKE: :X :X :X
JOLLYREAPER: yes yes ok.
JOLLYREAPER: killers doing ok I think, or as good as can be reasonably expected haha ... ha :/ almost tore off a few throats but whoa you would not believe what a difference it makes that theres a queen bitch here. just, whoa.
JOLLYREAPER: she was all like *bad puppy* & he was all like *whine whine sorry plz lick my head* & then she licked his head & they sniffed butts & he was like *I got ur slipper*-dance happy.
STRAWBERRYSHORTCAKE: awwwwww!! X3333 <3<3<3
JOLLYREAPER: yeah. :) so that was good.
STRAWBERRYSHORTCAKE: so what's not good?
JOLLYREAPER: ehh. idk. theyre all *oz* around here srsly fuck those guys. 9_9
STRAWBERRYSHORTCAKE: HEY. >:O
JOLLYREAPER: hahaha just kidding. actually half of them are cops or firefighters or customs guys or search&rescue, didnt expect that.
JOLLYREAPER: but the rest are oz but theyre oddly cool about that, I mean cool people in oz, soon theyll tell us gravity is like optional or smth.
STRAWBERRYSHORTCAKE: yeah like yesterday when L2 15846 stopped spinning for a while man was that fun wish I'd been there.
JOLLYREAPER: ...... what.
STRAWBERRYSHORTCAKE: they didn't mention it on the news down on the ole dirtball? Well no one got really hurt so maybe that's why?
STRAWBERRYSHORTCAKE: just a lot of geezers floating around waiting to be pulled back down before they turned gravity back on.
JOLLYREAPER: man, killer woulda loved it. :(
JOLLYREAPER: they have a gravity room here but we dont get to take joyrides in it. sob sob gotta wait for that part of the training. & its kinda tiny anyway so it wouldnt be super great fun.
JOLLYREAPER: haha now hes looking at me all *flying? when? when when when want floating!!!!* poor disappointed pup.
STRAWBERRYSHORTCAKE: aww my baby give him ear skritchies for me.
STRAWBERRYSHORTCAKE: I miss you baby
JOLLYREAPER: I miss u too tastiest strawberry shortcake, says he himself. no actually he says where where want whine. :(
JOLLYREAPER: send him ur socks or smth
JOLLYREAPER: not ur panties plz.
STRAWBERRYSHORTCAKE: you're so GROSS! D:<
JOLLYREAPER: ;D u know u love me hur hur yeeeeeah.
STRAWBERRYSHORTCAKE: I know I love your brother. I'm just using you to get through to him. >:X
JOLLYREAPER: redneck party!
JOLLYREAPER: but srsly no panties, gossip goes kinda fast around here & wufftser might hear abt it & do his *I am not going to *say* anything, I am just going to **stare it in letters of fire into the back of ur skull** * thing.
JOLLYREAPER: the letters will be in ye olde nonsimplified chinese characters w/ like a bazillion squiggly bits that no one actually uses anymore & no u cant use a dictionary, do it frm memory!! I expect a twenty page paper on ur deep & srs reflections over it.
STRAWBERRYSHORTCAKE: pff. XD
JOLLYREAPER: meanwhile my most esteemed brother & I shall be escorting ur poor beleaguered brother to the nearest car wash for funtime shower action.
STRAWBERRYSHORTCAKE: whaaaaaat??? XDD XD XD
JOLLYREAPER: wuffster sez his glen likes to run thru car washes. I cracked up like my spine wasnt even a thing.
STRAWBERRYSHORTCAKE: omg XDDDDDDDDDDDD
JOLLYREAPER: wu was all like *no I r v. srs man* but he looked all *I am so not laughing I swear!!!!*
JOLLYREAPER: I cracked up again. :X
STRAWBERRYSHORTCAKE: ahahahahahaha XDDD I would have too omg.
JOLLYREAPER: anyway looks like the peace has done him good. hes all ass unstick'd & stuff. at some points it was even like we were *buddies* or smth
STRAWBERRYSHORTCAKE: :o nooooo way.
JOLLYREAPER: yes way! went drinking with the guys a couple times & he came by *both* times! kinda late & didnt stay too long but glen was all hi how r u gentlemen & he kinda trailed after & stuff.
JOLLYREAPER: so weird, hildie. so weird. sooooooo weird.
STRAWBERRYSHORTCAKE: but kinda nice huh :D
JOLLYREAPER: ... :X
JOLLYREAPER: maybe a lil bit. >__>
STRAWBERRYSHORTCAKE: what about the hot one? :D
JOLLYREAPER: WAAUUUGH STOP RIGHT THERE.
STRAWBERRYSHORTCAKE: cmon you knew which one I meant straight away this is proof. how can you not?? :3
JOLLYREAPER: v easy considering how can u think his ass is hot **HE DOESNT HAVE ONE.**
JOLLYREAPER: its like. a void where an ass should be. negative ass space. concave buttflex area. hes a straight line *from shoulders to knees.*
STRAWBERRYSHORTCAKE: you lying liar who lies. It's a very tight butt is all. mmm. best of all pilots bar none.
JOLLYREAPER: fuck u mines best.
STRAWBERRYSHORTCAKE: yours is definitely more comfortable to the touch. :D
JOLLYREAPER: u saying im fat???? D:< bitch I will cut u.
JOLLYREAPER: ... off from seeing the carpetshark.
STRAWBERRYSHORTCAKE: D: not fat at all just more uhh springy???
JOLLYREAPER: I dont get u. if u like them tight & small heeros is way more
JOLLYREAPER: oh look at that, curfew time.
STRAWBERRYSHORTCAKE: slink off offline now and I will come down and shank you. :3
STRAWBERRYSHORTCAKE: it's nine pm where you are I know I'm a girl but I can do math I swear.
STRAWBERRYSHORTCAKE: way more.......?
JOLLYREAPER: ... :X
JOLLYREAPER: ffff I dont even know. urgh. last I saw him he was barely sixteen, way to make me feel like a pedo.
STRAWBERRYSHORTCAKE: you're eighteen now you're SO old wow!
JOLLYREAPER: nineteen! ... almost!! ... ... maybe!!!!
JOLLYREAPER: why are we talking about who of my old GUY buddies has the best ass
JOLLYREAPER: why does that list not include me. okay yes id win by default *but.*
STRAWBERRYSHORTCAKE: biiiiii curiosityyyyyyyyy
STRAWBERRYSHORTCAKE: hell curious nothing. I bet you've made out with more guys than I have by now.
JOLLYREAPER: why do I tell u anything.
STRAWBERRYSHORTCAKE: because if you didn't you'd have no one to brag to.
JOLLYREAPER: oh yeah.
JOLLYREAPER: if its any help you kiss a lot better than most of those bozos. u__u
JOLLYREAPER: I MEAN GUYS I HAVE ACTUALLY KISSED NONE OF WHICH BELONG TO BOTH THAT SUBGROUP *&* THE PILOTS ONE.
STRAWBERRYSHORTCAKE: ahahaha X'D <3
JOLLYREAPER: im srs, its one venn diagram where one circle is like at one end of the room & the other circle is on mars.
STRAWBERRYSHORTCAKE: but you'd have so much in common!
JOLLYREAPER: hilde if u try to matchmake me w/ any of them I will end u.
JOLLYREAPER: especially tro-man, where the hell would I put my hands when necking srsly, theyd slip off right to his thighs. :X
STRAWBERRYSHORTCAKE: okay okay fine. :( apart from your horrible lack of action how are things?
JOLLYREAPER: I told u already ;p
STRAWBERRYSHORTCAKE: no you told me three anecdotes and distracted me with funny wufeis. I see right through you.
JOLLYREAPER: sheesh, nothing can escape u.
JOLLYREAPER: lets say there havent been more fights but.
JOLLYREAPER: im in the dorm now & all the wolves are piled in the middle or going round between bunks & stuff.
JOLLYREAPER: killer is lying in wait by the end of our bunk & he doesnt even growl at the wolves who come close but considering hes bit three of them by now they wised up to the situation :/
JOLLYREAPER: not v. srs bites or anything but
JOLLYREAPER: he just goes straight to biting, no fuck u go away before that or even ear semaphore much, & he wont talk to most of them in the pack sense, so the other wolves rly dont like him. they dont try to chase him off cause theyre civilized wolves & their brothers asked them not to but they kinda want to.
JOLLYREAPER: & the more they want to, the more their brothers want to.
STRAWBERRYSHORTCAKE: aw shit. :(((((((((
JOLLYREAPER: basically. :((
"Waaaaangai," Duo crooned when he was only a dozen steps behind her. The woman's ground-eating strides didn't falter, but she did throw a half-serious glare his way over her shoulder. It was her seventh lap, and his eighth. (When they'd started basic training two weeks ago he usually passed her in the middle of her fifth; his endurance was going back to where it'd been during the war slower than hers.)
"Damn you, Maxwell," was all she bothered to waste air for.
He matched her stride for a while. She was taller than he was -- a lot of people were -- and leggier, too, and while he hadn't grown as much in height as he'd hoped since he was fifteen and had a body made of coat hangers and steel cable for muscles, he had more mass to move now he wasn't half-starved. Maybe it wasn't surprising.
Blaming Hildie and her desserts, he thought to himself, and twitched a little when Wangai looked his way with an eyebrow up, like she'd heard.
"You -- think you're fat -- Maxwell?"
Argh. Stupid wavery pack sense. Most of the time he got nothing, maybe some vague sense of presence, sometimes a burst of high emotion, and then it went clear for a second and lost itself again. He tried on a winsome grin. "Can't even see my -- full collection of ribs -- damn right I am! Won't fit in my dresses."
She gave him a short bark of a laugh, and kept running. Duo paced her until the next turn, and allowed himself to speed up until she stopped trying to match him and fell back to her normal speed with a twinge of competitive frustration, quickly smothered.
The thing was, Duo tweaked her because he was competitive, too, and a bit of healthy competition was fun and usually a bonding thing for him, and he liked Wangai quite a bit as a person.
The thing was, them getting competitive was just about the last fucking thing Killer and Shark were waiting for at this point. He and Wangai both knew that no matter how they struggled to keep the peace, there was a reckoning coming up where one of their brothers would maul the other one -- likely they'd maul each other -- and it strained everything.
(Ozone and burnt wires and a sparking engine.)
S'all good here. Having fun, buddy?
The human track was boring as hell, flat and in straight lines, only good for endurance training which he would have done on a machine just as well, only that would have left his brother bored instead. He craned his neck to look at the wolf track that ringed it -- grass and sand pits, walls and wooden fences to jump and tunnels to crawl through. It'd make a neat obstacle course for the humans as well. Sometimes it was, but so far only for supervised exercises, with the drill instructor and his sister following closely.
Killer burst over an obstacle and sailed several feet past the sand pit supposed to catch him upon landing, hit the ground and bounced up like a ball of springs, and dodged the next obstacle to come jog at Duo's side on the human track, muzzle up to sniff toward his face.
Fun! Climb with me. Climb, jump, mud!
"Yeah, I... noticed that."
Duo couldn't even be annoyed. Killer was just so happy -- even with the pack uneasy and distant around him, he once again had things to do, different things each day to keep him engaged, an obstacle course to get him moving that wasn't the forbidden, nose-killing pile of rusty, unsteady shit in the corner that Hilde wasn't throwing away yet. He was happier here than he'd been.
Though Duo could have done without the insecure, tense undertow that could at any time drag him down into a veritable sea of defensive anger and thwarted territoriality.
He caught up to a small clump of other trainees, wolfed or not, and young agents -- Makisig, panting already, a few other men and women, only on their fifth laps. They politely ignored each other, and ignored best as they could the way the wolves on the obstacles had gone tense and started growling when Killer cut between them and their bondmates.
Look, that obstacle over there, so much fun, soo much fun, Duo chanted in his mind, hoping to be distracting enough. It was a wooden beam suspended by chains, so any impact made it swing; you had to have the balance of a cat to make it through. Killer had the balance of a Gundam pilot's wolf, which was almost as good.
Poodle growling from the nice-smelling shop, Killer returned, ears flat on his head. Duo winced. Killer rarely bothered to dwell on memories, but oh lord, that poodle. In its fuzzy little head Killer had been a murderer come to feast on its owners and all the contents of the shop, and it was a hero of legend, keeping the dragon at bay. Disdain was laced through the memory, and annoyance, but underneath was mostly hurt. Duo had told him so often to make nice with the poodle, and he'd tried -- there were so few animals on L2 that weren't vermin, but dogs were too stupid for pack sense to make much sense to them.
Wolves wouldn't be as easy to fight as a poodle, Duo cautioned, because he knew where it was going. Killer only snorted, unconvinced.
Running!! Running hi, big, runwithus packrunning yay!
Duo cracked a smile as the cub -- too young for the obstacles yet -- burst out of the group of humans and came paddling hard after them, tongue hanging out. "Hey, Chiquito."
Too fast, mean, stop!
Killer slowed down a little to touch noses, though they'd greeted each other at the start of the run already, sent a burst of awkward images -- wolves communicated better with scents, but Killer almost only communicated with Duo. Chiquito with sausage dog legs, with poodle fur. Little legs, poodle-wolf? It made Duo laugh.
It made another wolf weave in behind them and clack her fangs at Killer's heels, ears flat and thinking thoughts of bad-strange-male, mauling-cubs.
"Killer, race," Duo ordered with a hard snap, and narrowed his eyes at the women behind him. "Agent Lusitaner."
"It's not my fault!" she snapped back in a way that made him think maybe it was a little. Killer's body language around Chiquito should give no pack-raised wolf any doubt as to his intentions, and the cub was old enough by now that not even his mother should be aggressive to other adults on principle.
Fuck that noise. He sped up, and Killer with him, progressively enough that it didn't look like they were running away from the people behind them.
Angry. Bite them. Ozone and burnt wires bite them too.
We can't, Duo thought, instead of no, it's bad, which he knew he should have thought instead but... fuck.
The drill instructor was staring at them. Duo nudged Killer to go back to the obstacle course. Duo himself was running faster, to burn out his anger, but Killer wasn't pushing himself at all at this pace, and he probably should, no matter how much he didn't want to leave Duo's side right now.
Killer crossed the balancing beam in four big lopes, and didn't fall only because he'd gone too fast to leave either gravity or the heavy wood's momentum any time to catch up. Then he was climbing up a slope-y little thing, and then he was coming to a screeching stop.
Surprise was so strong Duo almost threw himself flat on the ground, only because surprises that violent were almost never good, and then --
Racing -- oh my god he's charging that -- oh no new people there -- too far to stop that -- Agent Strauss! Agent, Killer!
Duo shook his head (like that could help) and ran after his wolf.
There were two people by the side of the track, in Preventers jackets -- full agents, not junior agents or trainees -- and two wolves. A grayish brown one with a docked tail, and a somewhat runty black one, not quite hip-deep on his brother, and Duo was never going to get there on time.
He couldn't hear himself think over that fucking noise, how the fuck was he supposed to talk to Killer?!
Surprise, from a few different people, sorry, quieter, and then the black wolf limped forward to meet Killer and Killer dodged by a hair -- the shock would have been violent -- and circled back to jump on him from the side.
Oddly gently, at that. The other wolf let himself fall almost more than Killer felled him.
The scent of woods and tree pulp exploded in his nose, and a dry, soft smell that after a second he remembered was feathers. A bird. A bird up in a tree.
"Trowa, you son of a bitch, you've cut your hair!"
Duo grinned, laughed, more than half from relief. Killer was snuffling Coyote all over, from lazily offered throat to tail, busy nose fluffing up reddish-black fur. Coyote's tail beat in the dust as he waited patiently for Killer to allow him back up. Duo walked up to Trowa (still had his bangs! only they stopped in a straight line over his eye) and grabbed his offered hand to haul him into a hard, mildly revengeful hug.
"How am I meant to recognize you without the bang, man?! How--"
Bam, Forest-Fresh Pine Ambiance to the snout. Like that? Trowa suggested with an innocence Duo distrusted by pure kneejerk reflex, before he even processed the words.
After that he grabbed him around the neck and half-strangled him, playfully so.
Asshole oh my god I missed you. (we weren't even close this is weird)
(yeah I know.)
"Agent Barton," said the agent beside them, tone terse, a hand caught in her brother's ruff. Trowa snaked free of Duo's hold effortlessly, leaving him holding air. After a startled second he lowered his arm to his side and smiled.
"Right. Agent Strauss, Humvee, Trainee Maxwell and Killer."
Coyote got back up on his feet, limped back to Trowa to touch nose with Strauss' Humvee. The wolf was normal-sized, but his tail had been cut short -- in all likelihood an accident, as bobbing bondwolves' tails was a fashion that had never, ever caught on -- and he was missing half an ear. Duo thought he saw scars under that fur, too.
He held out his hand for Humvee to sniff, palm up, trying not to pay too much attention to the wary way Killer followed to investigate.
Shh pack, said Coyote, tangling scents of hot asphalt rust on steel and ozone and burnt wires with his own bird in a tree and Trowa's pine in brisk mountain air, with a mess of rats and sneezy plaster dust and another echo of asphalt and heat, scorched rubber.
"Agent Strauss is my partner," Trowa told him, at the moment/we get on okayish/waryarmedtruce.
"--Oh, okay. Hello, ma'am."
"Duo was a Gundam pilot," he said to her, and Duo wondered if she got to have her own aside too.
She already knows everything she wants to think about us, Trowa replied with faint amusement.
She was the one with the rat smell, muted a bit like it was -- huh, like they were hidden behind a drywall. Okay. Rats behind a drywall. Why not. Gus' scent name was ~delicious (!!!) carrion, after all. Which meant Humvee was the one with the scorched tires on asphalt. Probably where he'd gotten the spoken name.
Humvee and Killer were sniffing each other's butt cautiously. So far it was going well. Coyote sat beside them and watched, tail beating once in a while, tongue lolling.
Duo could smell everything. Awesome.
Good smells thank you, Coyote said, and -- nudged him a bit, inside his head, somehow.
"Why's he limping, by the way?"
"Twisted his leg on our last mission. To avoid a pepper bomb," Trowa informed him with a kind of calm that Duo recognized as 'I am meticulously planning the most efficient way to shoot someone full of holes over this'. "His sinuses are still burned; he'll be trying to smell through you and Killer if you give him half a chance."
Duo dropped his hand on the smaller wolf's head and gave off-black fur a scratch. I don't mind/don't know how/okay. "Okay."
A burst of affection and trust came back from Trowa's wolf, wrapped in the easy certainty that it could have been no other way. Duo and Killer were good pack, had found Trowa for him when Trowa was lost. Of course they would find scents for Coyote now.
Duo laughed, trying not to choke. We found him and then promptly knocked him off his trapeze, yeah.
Not my fault! Killer protested, coming back to Coyote and Duo to nip on Duo's hand and Coyote's ears. Silly human-thinks-he's-a-bird, forgets he's yours/ours/mine.
(Duo and Hilde had been sitting in the bleachers. Killer sat in the alley -- there was no space for him between the rows. Trowa had seen a bondwolf and almost flashbacked himself off his swinging perch -- and then Killer had said hi.)
"Is Catherine still pissed off at us about that, by the way?" Duo asked, trying not to laugh.
"She'll tell you she's not, but she'll be lying." Trowa shrugged. "Don't see why. There was a net."
"Oh yeah! Me neither. It's not like you almost missed the net, and she had to throw herself at you in mid-air to correct. Nah."
"Could you guys stop having coded conversations around me, if you don't mind," Agent Strauss said. Her features were drawn and even when she wasn't scowling she looked tired and cranky, possibly even more cranky than tired. Anyway she was scowling now.
"Just reminiscing about that time I got my amnesia cured," Trowa replied, letting her annoyance slide right off. Strauss' frown deepened like she thought they were bullshitting her. Meep.
Okay, even if it wasn't perfect now Duo didn't want to aggravate their working relationship. He smiled at her, apologetic. "No, seriously, he was hiding at that circus wondering what the heck, and it just happened I was on a date with my girlfriend, and then Killer tried to talk with him. Bam, flashback." A thoughtful pause, mouth pursed to keep from laughing. "He was kind of on a moving trapeze at the time."
Her mouth only pinched itself flatter. Um. What next, bring out photographic proof? Duo wasn't in the habit of keeping any.
"We're going to be late" was all she said, though. Trowa nodded.
"I'll see you later, Duo." He turned away, paused briefly to let Coyote lick Killer's muzzle, and then followed Strauss and Humvee toward the administrative building. "By the way, you've got three laps to catch up on."
Laughing, Duo went back to the track.
He'd hoped they could all get away for lunch, but Coyote was having a checkup cold hands poking me in bad places augh needles can't smell the stinky drugs??? nooo, so they went to the mess and ate with Agent Dagher and her bitch wolf. Sekhmet wasn't either challenging or afraid around Killer, just not extremely interested, and it was goddamn restful.
The strangest thing about training that day was the constant nudging into his head of floating thoughts -- Trowa in meetings he don't have the clearance to see yet sorry Duo, Une's desk from waist height, brief moments of amusement. Sometimes he was aware of a twinge down his shoulder, or maybe Killer's shoulder, a pain that belonged to Coyote.
He was aware of everything Killer smelled.
Which wasn't at all distracting for anyone! The brouhaha of opinions Coyote had about it thankfully stayed quiet, at the edge of his awareness.
"Okay, uh, Killer. Sit."
Duo pinched his lips and refrained from commenting, or thinking anything at all. The lesson right now was supposed to get the wolves used to taking spoken commands from other Preventers, in case their brother was unavailable (read: too badly injured to control the wolf themselves) or there was too much distracting thought-noise. It would have helped a bit more if Maguire -- one of the wolf-less trainees -- sounded a little more convinced.
At least the dude wasn't afraid of Killer, which was a step up from the rest of the class.
Sighing, Maguire went to push Killer's rump down manually; Killer sidestepped and went to place himself on Duo's other side, vaguely offended by the manhandling attempt.
Come on, he gives you treats, listen to him.
Killer grumbled deep in his throat and started grooming one of his paws pointedly. Not stronger. Not mine. No.
"S'okay. At least he likes me a bit now. Didn't even growl or anything."
At this rate he might even let the dude touch his head by next month. Duo laughed a little through his groan, and shoved Killer's shoulder. "Why are you such a diva, buddy."
Killer's reply was thoroughly unprintable, by which Duo meant it was a big jumble of smells that implied Duo stank like a veterinarian office.
That's mean and I am very hurt, Duo thought, and tried not to ruin it by laughing.
The drill instructor wound his way through the class, such as it was -- bit of a mess, because Chiquito was here, and so was his mom, Bianchi, plus her other two cubs who hadn't chosen a brother or sister yet. Wangai and a couple of wolf-less trainees were trying and so far failing to teach them to sit on command.
At least you're not being outdone by the cubs, I guess.
Vet office and needles.
"Maxwell, still no progress?"
Segura didn't look judgmental at least, just reserved. Duo gave him an apologetic wince. "No, sir, sorry. I told him he was supposed to obey but he won't hear it. Says Maguire's not his and not stronger. He likes him okay, just won't obey for a treat."
He was prepared to hear something about how he wasn't trying hard enough, but the drill instructor startled him. "Yeah, happens sometimes with the dominant ones. Okay, let's think smaller steps, can you manage to teach him the words yourself? If you don't think about the action, so he doesn't respond to what he sees in your head instead of the sounds. That'll be a start."
Duo blinked. "Oh, I could try."
"Does he know any verbal commands at all?"
"Some, but they were all hammered in when he was still pretty young and I don't even know what did it. I mean, the way I hurried to throw myself on the ground when one of the trainers yelled 'incoming'--"
Killer startled, lifted his muzzle, ears up, confused by the calm, easy tone it had come out with.
"No, buddy, just talking. I mean, he knew if he didn't follow we'd be pelted with rubber balls next, and those hurt, and I was definitely thinking about that."
Segura snorted, gave a wry nod. "Too bad those aren't Preventer-approved training methods. Reward-based only."
Better than taking a bullet to the head, Duo thought, but he wasn't out of patience enough to say it.
"What other commands does he know?"
"Urr, let me think. I'm not sure. He's learned a lot of words by association from hearing them a lot, but..." Duo scratched his chin, thoughtful. "Like how b-o-m-b means 'run away.' Papers -- if you said it like a cop to loitering kids he's kinda pissed off at -- used to mean 'create a distraction so I can get out of here.' And I'm afraid he thinks 'drop your w-e-a-p-o-n' actually means 'disarm the dude who yelled it'. That's, uh. Yeah."
Segura started massaging one of his temples. "It's going to be fun retraining him, I see."
"Sorry." Shit, why was Duo even apologizing. Blargh.
The drill instructor sighed. "No, it was what you two needed at the time, I get that. Just... don't get knocked out until we're done."
"Uh, sure thing. That is something I will give my utmost effort to accomplish."
Segura snorted. "It'll take private lessons, I think. Okay, rest of the hour, keep working with him on sit and stay -- yes, Agent Barton?"
Duo turned. Killer was already making his way to the door, ignoring the cubs tumbling between his paws entirely.
(bird in a tree) not here where want?
He's sleeping, Trowa replied. Tired, paw hurts, shh. "Can I talk to you a minute, Segura?"
The man excused himself; Duo got Killer to come back to him, and then started trying to figure out how to say 'sit' without visualizing it. Maybe he should say it every single time he needed Killer to sit from here on, so he'd associate the two... yeah, maybe that'd work as well, he was going to start from there and once Killer understood that this was a (super boring) game they'd started playing it'd be easier to move on to the next step... And maybe he could get Wufei and Trowa to help with the 'yes even when it's not me who's saying it' aspect, he was sure Killer wouldn't dismiss them out of hand.
Segura looked at him, nodded toward Trowa. Go with him/follow. (Not very pleased no choice Une said.) "You get to skip out for today. Try to work on what we talked about anyway, alright?"
An eyebrow up, Duo called Killer to him and made his way to the door, trying to ignore the brouhaha of curiosity/confusion. One of Bianchi's cubs came to bite at his shoes and Killer nosed him away, grumbling bad puppy no. Wangai arched both eyebrows at him, and he had to shrug and throw I don't know either! through the bond, and hope that it worked. Possibly his expression was meaningful enough.
"What's up, Trowa?"
"Une will tell you," he replied placidly, and went about leading them back toward the administrative building.
"Aw, come on, you gotta know what it's about. Share some intel with your old friend."
Trowa's lip curled up in a faint, brief smirk that meant "good try" and he pretended Duo hadn't said anything. Grumbling, Duo decided not to stop Killer from poking his cold wet nose in the inch of bared skin over Trowa's waistband. Not the most awesome revenge, but that'd do.
Especially since his wolf gained himself ear pettings from that stunt. Fff. Traitors everywhere.
He pretended he wasn't bouncing a bit on his toes as he followed them to the elevator.
Une was at her desk, like last time, only apparently a folder had exploded on it; there were sheets of paper spread out everywhere. She waved them in without looking up, and to two chairs. Killer went to lap at a water dish in the corner that Duo was concerned was supposed to be for watering plants, at first, until Killer told him he could track another dozen wolves' scents on it. Okay, Une had a watering hole in her office today. Why not.
Whoops. He just couldn't naturally play the polite-to-superiors game with her. Just... Something stuck in the gears. Luckily she didn't seem to want to take offense; a quick, narrow-eyed look was all the reprimand he got.
"Any progress with training?"
One thing he liked about her was that she understood terse and to the point. He shrugged and went with it. "Some, but we're well under the median curve."
"Hm. Problem areas?"
"Mostly pack integration, but we knew that coming in. There have been no more fights, at least." It was embarrassing to have to say that around Trowa. Duo stared at Une and allowed Trowa to make himself fade in the background. "And he won't take commands from other people."
"Logical. If he doesn't trust them as his pack yet, he won't recognize their authority or care about their feelings."
"Huh," Duo went, an eyebrow up. "Yeah, it'd be easier to get him to obey someone else because he likes them and wants to be nice than because he honestly thinks they top. Stubborn bastard."
Une allowed herself a faint smile, and glanced at Killer, who was done drinking and was cautiously making his way to the side of her desk, head low, wary but curious.
"Killer, sit," she said calmly, no tension at all in her voice save the calm certainty that he would.
And Killer sat. The traitor.
Beside him Trowa was impassive but Duo could feel him fighting not to snicker through the pack sense. He kicked him under the desk.
But bigger-nastier? Dry-blood-on-shadowed-marble's territory? Also she's loudsharpstrong?? And whiskey-and-deer-on-snow is hers and he's kindof ours too ...???
Duo relented, blinking. "Wow. I didn't know you were..." He didn't even know what it was called. Quatre could talk with bondwolves just as easily as their own brothers could, but Quatre was really special and Une didn't ping him quite that way. And a lot of ordinary people could communicate a little bit when they knew the particular wolf and its brother well, but...
"They hear me better than I hear them," she said in a quieter, sadder voice, and gave Killer her hand to sniff when he got back up to get back to investigating her desk. And then she looked back up at him and squared her shoulders. "Let's get to the point."
Duo nodded, refrained somehow from pointing out he was waiting for her.
"Your current problem with standard commands notwithstanding, do you have any issues at all controlling Killer in public, noisy environments?"
... Oh. Was this going where he thought it was going? He gave the question a moment of thought, met her seriousness with his own. "On our own time I don't keep him at heel, he knows not to scare the wolf-less and to leave pets alone and he doesn't make messes. He's fine so long as he doesn't get cornered. When we're on the job, we're on the job."
"He's good at it," Duo said with a bit of deserved pride. "Good nose, stubborn, won't get distracted." And then he -- huh. Huh. Yes. Coyote had been pepper-bombed. "And I'm good at watching out for him when he's busy."
Une gave an almost noiseless chuckle in acknowledgement. "And Agent Barton tells me Killer is at ease in low and zero gravity."
Killer's ears sprang up and he came to immediate, intense attention. Floating??! Want, want! he threw, nosing insistently at Une's desk like a gravity room might be found underneath the papers. Duo laughed at his reaction.
"Fuck, he likes it almost better than Earth-normal."
Une patted Killer's muzzle and pushed him off her desk. "Good. As you may have deduced -- there's something up there we need to track down, and dogs don't work in zero-G, and neither do most bondwolves." She fixed him with a sudden hard stare, just as he was starting to smile. "Your mission, Trainee Maxwell, will be to track, and then to step back and let the agents on the field handle the rest. You are not to attempt to join in on an operation when you know nothing of standard procedure, and you are most certainly not to go solo because you believe you know better. Am I making myself clear?"
"... Yes ma'am."
It was still great. Going out, doing important things.
Hunting, Killer was saying in his head, reverent and intense. Hunting.
Yes, Duo echoed back, and realized how straight-backed he sat.
"Good. You will be assigned to a pair of Agents for protection. Do not lose them."
He almost protested that one; protection? Who needed protection now? But... argh. Duo guessed that officially he was nothing but a trainee, and who was going to care if he used to pilot a Gundam if they wanted to bitch Une out about him getting himself shot against regulations. He supposed she needed to cover her own ass too.
Better than staying here and dragging themselves along morosely. Duo was sure that after a refreshing little break Killer and the local pack would be once more ready to attempt to build a friendship.
"Three, four days. An asteroid mining hub off of L3."
Seven-hour flight out, seven to come back, about two days on the ground. Hm. "What if we don't find the target in time?"
A line formed between her brows; her voice went a little terser. "We're currently tightening the security, but we cannot keep up this level of scrutiny on comings and goings through the hub for longer than a week. Past that point in time we'll have to assume they either have a good enough hiding spot that we won't find them, or that they fled already."
She handed him a thin folder. "Here are the mission specs. Go pack up. You leave in two hours."
"Two hours? What am I going to do with all that free time," he shot back, grinning from ear to ear and rather too toothily, and he stood.
Hunting, hunting, Killer was whispering endlessly, oddly still, honey-gold eyes gleaming. Hunting now?
Travel first. Need to go where the prey is.
They walked out, Trowa on their heels, silent, almost not there. Duo grinned over his shoulder, to bring him closer. "Give us the rundown?"
"Sure thing." What are packmates for?