"What are you trying to fix?"
Duo jumped at the sudden voice and almost brained himself on the motor he was tinkering with. The voice was friendly, a curious young man; he came up with a rueful smile and hoped the guy hadn't seen him start to go for the gun holster in his boot.
"My number of pesky brain cells apparently. Ow."
The guy was in his twenties, black-haired, and laughing. "Sorry, sorry. Didn't mean to surprise you."
"You're quiet as a ghost, aren't you." A second later, Duo recognized the funny purple glow in the guy's eyes as a magical-super-soldier-of-death thing and realized how come he'd gotten the drop on him.
"Heh, sorry, ingrained training, I don't even notice anymore... I'm Zack."
Duo shook his hand, because dog of the evil, greedy oppressor or not, the guy read as sincere enough.
"Need a hand? I know a bit about those bikes."
"Sure, thanks! Name's Duo, by the way."
They started working, Duo pointing out the problem areas and Zack assisting him, attentive to his movements and doing an okay job at guessing what Duo would be reaching for next.
"You ride this thing before?" Zack asked.
"Not this one, but the guy who sold it to me let me ride its replacement." Duo patted the side of the bike in obvious affection. "It handles like a grumpy dragon, but man, it's got some power in there."
Zack burst out laughing. "No kidding, it was created as a SOLDIER vehicle. The fact that you can control it without being six feet tall and 200 lbs is already pretty surprising." He grinned. "Sure you don't want to enlist?"
Duo shuddered and leaned away from him, laughing through his fake grimace. "Ew, no way. Can you see me as a trooper? They'd make me cut my hair, I bet."
Zack snickered. "Eh, I don't know, the SOLDIERs and their cadets have a little more freedom like that. 'Course it's hard to enforce a hair regulation when your friggin General has hair down to his ass."
"Yeah, I notice your hair ain't really in a crew cut either," Duo drawled, giving the mass of spiky locks a pointed look.
"Eh, it's only shoulder-length. That's nothing. In my unit there's a guy who enlisted with his afro, and another with hair that's grown to shoulderblade-length in the last six months, and they've never had any problems."
Duo laughed and fixed a screw. "Thanks for the invite, man, but I work better as an independent agent."
"Really? What's your job?"
"I freelance a little bit of everything, as long as it finances my trip. About that, you might be able to help me out... I'm looking for this guy, see, and I'm pretty sure he came to Midgar, but I have no goddamn idea where to start looking."
"That's your job?"
"No, that's the trip. He's -- well, he's a true friend, and I don't have a lot of those. Anyway, he had to leave without any warning, and I'm afraid he's in trouble."
Zack frowned a little. "What kind of trouble? Borrowed money from the wrong guy?"
Duo chuckled, though he didn't smile for long. "Fei? No way. No, it's not legal trouble... Hell, if he managed to get a job, it's probably in law enforcement. It's -- his wife died."
"Oh. Oh, sorry."
The awkward silence didn't last long before Duo cracked a joke, and then they were back to easy chatter. The bike didn't take long to fix; once they were done, it purred like a tiger. Duo sat on the seat and grinned, caressing the handlebar lovingly.
"I think I love you."
"I'll let my girlfriend know," Zack quipped. Duo rolled his eyes at him.
"Yeah, you're a real charmer alright. Come on, I'll buy you a drink or two."
Zack beamed and jumped on the saddle behind him. "Score one for the Good Samaritan! Just so you know, I don't put out for less than a whole bottle."
Snickering, Duo started the bike, following Zack's pointing over his shoulder to the bar his unit had taken over -- "the only good one in the Sector," he assured. The bike was chained down properly upon arrival, and Zack sauntered inside the bar, waving at Friedman, Karl and a couple others, who sat at the bar drinking the first beers of the evening. "Hey guys, I made a new best friend! Sorry, Chang, you're fired."
Grinning, he turned around to introduce Duo.
Duo stood frozen in the door, eyes wide. Twisted around on his stool, Chang sat just as frozen.
"That. That. ...Chang's your friend?" Duo asked, voice coming out a little squeaky.
"Uh." No one had ever accused Zack of being stupid. ...Wow. What were the chances? "Yes?"
A second later, surpassing his SOLDIER speed, Duo grabbed his face with both hands and reeled him in for an enthusiastic, noisy kiss, complete with enthusiastically grateful tongue. Zack was left wondering if he should get a pregnancy test.
"Oh god I love you. Fei, you asshole, you're alive!"
Bemused, Zack watched as Duo raced his way through the bar. "Don't even
think of kissing me, Maxwell!" Wufei was saying sternly from the bar, but
he'd already slipped off his stool in prevision of the impact, and if that wasn't
a Chang invitation to tackle him and cling and squeeze until he turned blue,
Zack couldn't tell, and neither could Duo.