It could all be blamed on - well, no. Better to start with the limp, sprawled figure lying senseless... iie, that's wrong too. For a better picture, one should start with the game that kicked it all off...
Best, actually, to start with the beginning.
It was a gorgeous day off the coast of the Pacific, and two stolen sports utility vehicles were pulling up to a stop near the beach of Corona del Mar. A small team of elite pilots, as yet unknown to the world, were enjoying the hospitality of a trio of demons from the Makai - strange enough in itself, of course.
Stranger yet, that Heero Yuy was smiling.
A fist crashed into Duo Maxwell's face.
"That is the LAST time you backseat drive around me, Duo," the Japanese pilot growled.
"Itai!" the other pilot responded mournfully, rubbing at his nose. He turned to the white-haired youkai in the seat beside him. "Ne, Ariodh, is my doze broggen?"
"What?" Ariodh squinted at him. She blinked, translating. "Your nose looks fine, Duo."
"Oi, Heero, why-" The American pilot discovered he was talking to thin air; his lover had already jumped out of the car.
"Duo-kun, could you give me a hand with the net, please?" Kurama requested politely.
"Of course," Duo replied, tossing his braid over his shoulder and giving the red-haired youko a dazzling smile.
From the other car, Wufei was clinging to the door. "Iie! Iie! I don't want to be social! I refuse to run and play and cavort in the sand!"
Quatre and Trowa sweatdropped. "Wufei... you don't have to cavort," Quatre blinked.
"You don't even have to play if you don't want to," Trowa added, shrugging his indifference.
Wufei eyed them suspiciously and slowly his fingers uncurled. "Promise?"
"Nope!" Ariodh bounced up and glomped onto him.
Duo pitched the metal pole deeply into the yielding soil and looked up expectantly. "Oi, Kurama-kun... right here?"
The kitsune-turned-human tossed back a handful of brilliant red hair and nodded. "Aa, that's good - hold it steady, Duo-kun!" He smiled, an expression that held the power to cause swarms of girls to swoon and stammer.
Heero and Hiei set the cooler down with remarkably similar grunts. "It should not," Hiei began, crimson eyes slitted and sparking, "take two people to carry a cooler-full of drinks."
Heero nodded his agreement and they both directed pointed glares at the white-haired youkai seated precariously on the cooler lid, gnawing away happily at two hot dogs. One in each fist.
"Well, I did offer to make myself smaller," Ariodh said, looking sulky. "Besides, only one of you is a person." She blinked owlishly.
Quatre butted the ball into the air experimentally, then bumped it to Trowa. The tall pilot returned it with an expression of concentration. Wufei watched the two of them volley the ball back and forth, a puzzled expression creasing his thick dark brows.
"I'm not sure I see the point of this game," Wufei said dubiously from the sidelines.
"It's a game, Wufei," Quatre said, giving him a sunny smile and grabbing the ball out of the air to spin it on one finger.
"It's not supposed to have a point, Wuffie," Ariodh contributed enthusiastically. "That's part of what makes it fun."
Wufei sputtered. "'Wuffie'!?" he objected violently.
"Hold the net steady, Duo!" Kurama called again, then pitched his own metal pole into the sand.
Duo gave him a thumb's up then jogged over to the cooler. "Didja bring the beer?" he demanded, wiping sweat from his forehead. "Damn, it's hot."
"Beer," Ariodh replied, tossing him a frosty-cold can.
Duo sighed happily and held it to his cheek, then sidled over to Heero, trailing one chilled finger over the back of his neck. The Wing pilot's shoulders stiffened - the only warning sign.
A fist lashed out. A lean body went tumbling head over heels.
"Banzai!" Duo yelped as he went sailing over the volleyball net.
Trowa sat down heavily in the sand.
"Trowa! Gomen ne!" Quatre kneeled beside him, mortified, rubbing at the red mark standing livid on Trowa's thin cheek. The volleyball bounced over the sand once more, rolling to a stop at Wufei's feet. "I didn't mean to - I mean, I thought you saw it coming!"
"I was distracted," Trowa replied wryly, eyeing the limp sprawled figure of Duo, moaning pitifully in the sand.
Wufei picked up the volleyball, turning it over reflectively. "Now this is one game they can't turn into a strip show."
"Oh, don't be so sure," Kurama smirked, pulling suggestively at the bottom of his T-shirt.
"No way! I won't let it happen!" Wufei howled, as Duo and Ariodh bounced up, also fingering their clothing suggestively. "No more strip games!"
Then Ariodh, with one dramatic sweep, tore her shirt off completely.
Wufei dropped like a felled sandbag, gouts of crimson bursting from his nose.
... a wide grin, and pranced around in her snazzy blue swimsuit. Duo and Kurama whistled appreciatively and Hiei snorted as Ariodh preened with a satisfied expression.
Wufei remained prone.
"Are we going to play, or not?" Hiei demanded, squirming uncomfortably and picking at the tank top Kurama had proposed he wear - a light blue, to go with the stripe that ran down the sides of his dark green swim trunks. He looked distinctly unhappy without his black.
"How many people have we got?" Duo blinked, looking around.
"Seven," Heero replied promptly, before Duo could start counting on his fingers. Duo counted anyway and opened his mouth to object. Heero glowered. "And one halfwit."
"Heeee~eero!" Duo wailed, pulling a hurt look and tugging at his braid.
"Halfwit?" Ariodh snickered, popping up next to him and peering into one ear.
"Oi!" Duo clapped his hands over his ears and shrank back from her, scowling.
Trowa got to his feet and looked curiously at the fallen Wufei. He touched his cheek again where the volleyball had impacted, then watched Duo and Ariodh prancing around on the sand, then blinked at the sight of Quatre bottomed up in the cooler and digging around in the beer and soft drinks.
"I need a beer," he muttered.
"I second that motion." Hiei narrowed his eyes at his lover, who was advancing with a bottle of suntan lotion and a very determined expression.
Wufei sat up and surveyed his surroundings. "WHY are we here? We should be figuring out a way to get back to A.C. 195. Our strength is needed there." He looked sour. "Not here, playing... volleyball."
"Because it's fun!"
Duo popped up behind him, bouncing the volleyball in one hand with a wide grin plastered on his face. He stuck his tongue out. "Besides, what were you going to do, meditate at Nataku's feet?"
"Can't," Wufei muttered sullenly. "We hid our Gundams twenty fathoms under off of Honshu."
Duo scratched his head. "Oh, yeah."
Hiei grabbed a beer out of the cooler and tossed one to Trowa. He tilted his head, wide eyes with their crimson irises swiveling to fix on Kurama.
"Ne, Hiei... will you help me with my suntan lotion?" Kurama purred.
Hiei lifted a thin black brow. "It's just another excuse to get my hands all over you, isn't it, fox?"
"Bin-go." Kurama tapped Hiei's nose.
Hiei twitched his nose. "Then just ask, fox."
"Hiei, will you put your suntan-lotion-covered hands all over me?" Kurama queried, a mischievous light sparkling in his bottomless green eyes.
Hiei considered it. "I suppose." But his eyes, too, were gleaming.
Duo looked at Heero hopefully and grabbed the nearest bottle of suntan lotion. "Heero, will you put-"
"Don't even think about it." Heero's eyebrow twitched.
Duo sidled over step by step, popping the cap with his thumb. He squirted some of the white sticky stuff onto his hands, then advanced with a manic grin stretching his lips.
Heero turned to give him the full weight of his glare. "Duo... you... " he growled menacingly.
Duo pounced and they went rolling in the sand - Heero fighting dirty, throwing wild punches and ticking Duo mercilessly, Duo doing his very best to circumvent Heero's T-shirt and slather him with lotion - not too incidentally groping each other silly in the process.
"Will someone PLEASE hose them down!?" Wufei demanded, eyeing the sprawling pile of Heero-and-Duo.
Ariodh poked him in the bicep. "There's a whole ocean right there. You wannem to stop, you tossem in."
Wufei blinked at the writhing figures. Duo yelped and squirmed as Heero got in a lucky punch, then bit him.
"Heero!" he protested. "Save that for the bedroom!"
"Argh!" Wufei looked torn between passing out again, and hunting up the nearest firearm.
Heero punched Duo once more, then hauled him to his feet wearing a mask of stone. Duo was still bright-eyed, though, so he must've gotten in a few good feel-ups... or been felt up himself. There was a suspicious glimmer in Heero's eye.
"Cut it out, you two!" Quatre groused cheerfully, popping the tab on his beer. He watched, crestfallen, as it was plucked neatly from his grasp. The golden-haired boy turned to glare balefully at the unwinking green eye that confronted him -well, as balefully as Quatre could. "Trowa, give my beer back!"
"Iie," Trowa replied firmly, and Quatre's face fell. "Don't you remember what you said during the last hangover?"
Quatre shoved out his lower lip and grabbed unsuccessfully for his beer. "Don't let me do it again," he recalled with a sullen expression.
Trowa nodded and held the beer out of his reach.
Quatre coughed as a flying soda hit him in the chest. "Thank you, Ariodh," he sighed.
Duo grabbed up the ball again, tossing it to Heero, who volleyed it back. "Ah, this is the life! No war, no OZ soldiers, no responsibility." He gave Heero a sly look. "No Relena, eh?."
Heero grunted. "Knock on wood when you say that."
Duo caught the ball on his fingertip and spun it. "Why bother? There's no way in a million years she... could... " He trailed off, eyes wide.
"Heero! Heeeee~eero! HEERO!"
Heero turned pale. The volleyball smacked him in the face and he staggered.
Relena Peacecraft trotted up in a skimpy bikini. "Heero, are you all right?"
"Re-re-re-re-" Duo gibbered, pointing at the Peacecraft and looking around wildly for support. "Re-Relena! What the hell are YOU doing here!?"
Relena's eyes flickered over Duo dismissively. She darted forward to latch onto Heero's bicep, blue eyes proclaiming concern. "Are you all right? It looked like it hit you pretty hard!"
"It must've," Heero muttered, shaking his arm a little. The Relena wouldn't unstick. "I'm seeing phantom Relenas."
Ariodh blinked widely at the blonde girl. "What is it doing stuck to Heero's arm?" she inquired of Quatre and Trowa.
"She has a crush on Heero," Quatre replied in a stage-whisper.
Ariodh frowned, puzzled. "Demo... Heero's with Duo."
"Yeah, well... Relena doesn't know," Trowa answered her.
"Yet," Quatre added, eyes wide.
They turned to watch the drama unfold. Hiei was still rubbing lotion onto an oblivious Kurama's back, but Wufei edged up, eyes brimming with all the satisfaction of watching a spectator sport.
"Relena, why are you - HOW are you here!?" Heero demanded, trying to shake her off again.
Relena offered him a fulsomely seductive smile. "Don't you know, Heero? I'll always be able to find you, Heero. I lo-"
"That's enough!" Heero interrupted hastily, turning from pale to green.
Relena frowned. "Is that alcohol I smell? I really can't condone that, especially after we're married."
"MARRIED!?" Duo yelled, clapping hands to his head. The brown braid jerked along with his whole body.
Heero leveled a murderous look at her, but said nothing. He appeared to be choking.
"Hai," Relena purred, snuggling up to him, "As soon as the war is over, we're getting married."
"Oh, really?" Heero growled.
"Now it's done it," Ariodh whispered solemnly.
Quatre nodded, eyes expectant, and leaned forward. Trowa grabbed him to prevent him from edging too close.
Heero peeled the girl off his arm finger by finger then grabbed her by the shoulders, keeping her at arms-length. "Relena. We are NOT getting married."
Relena blinked. "All right, all right - I should've asked first, but I was so sure-"
"Well, we're NOT," Heero growled furiously. "So go HOME."
She frowned. "But I thought you'd be happy to see me!" she cried. "You love-"
"Duo," Heero inserted swiftly.
"-me, so why wouldn't... " She faltered to a stop. "What did you say?"
"I love Duo," he repeated, voice unsteady.
"You DO!?" Duo blurted, astonished.
"You do!?" Relena's face crumpled. She looked back and forth between the two boys. "But... but... you're both GUYS! You're joking!"
"No kidding?" Duo added, looking desperately, touchingly uncertain.
Heero shook off Relena's clinging fingers and marched over to Duo's side. He grabbed the thick braid in one fist, leaned forward, and bussed him thoroughly on the lips. "Mine," he growled, then squared off and faced Relena, braid still wrapped securely in his fingers.
Relena's mouth worked soundlessly. "But... but... you love me... "
Heero looked impatient. Duo was ignoring her completely now, staring at Heero with his jaw unhinged. Relena edged towards him, hand outstretched.
"I can't take this anymore!" Ariodh burst out impatiently. She jogged over to Relena, grabbed her by the arms, and increased in height, shooting up to the Peacecraft's eye level. Her blue eyes were sparkling with suppressed mirth - or anger, it was hard to tell which. "Relena. Heero-is-deeply-and-passionately-in-love-with-you."
Relena blinked into the youkai's wide, sincere eyes. She staggered back. "WHAT!? Heero loves Duo!?" Angrily, the Peacecraft tore away, brushing at her eyes. "How dare you mock me... "
Ariodh smirked at Heero.
Relena glared at the two boys. Duo wriggled his fingers at her, and draped one arm over Heero's shoulder. Heero stood impassively, still clenching Duo's braid in his fist.
"You'll pay for this," she threatened, and stormed off, slender shoulders shaking with anger.
Heero and Duo's eyes bugged out at Ariodh. "HOW did you-"
Ariodh shrugged matter-of-factly. "It's a woman thing. I told her you loved her. And she knew I was being sarcastic."
Duo blinked, suspicious. "It can't be that easy... "
"Can we just play the stupid game, already?" Wufei groused.
Duo was wriggling happily, sparkling violet-blue eyes fixed on Heero.
"Sure, why not?"
Wufei instantly recognized that look. "Duo-NO, Duo, we are NOT playing strip volleyball!!!"
"GAME ON!" Duo yelled at the top of his lungs. He cringed as everyone threw withering stares in his direction.
"A little louder, please, Duo - I don't think they heard you in Tokyo," Wufei glowered.
It was Ariodh's serve and the white-haired youkai lifted her arms, cradling the volleyball in one hand and swinging her other back. The ball flew over the net and Hiei flitted from one patch of sand to another, returning it instantly.
Duo dove madly for the ball, and missed, taking in a mouthful of sand and coming up sputtering.
"Maxwell, you inept joker - try harder!" Wufei exclaimed as the ball bounced past him, and Ariodh scooped it up, giving Hiei a raspberry. "If we lose, we have to go skinny-dipping in that!" With one shaking bronze finger he pointed to the rolling surf.
"At least it's a nice, warm day," Kurama said impishly. "The water should feel pretty good."
Wufei sweatdropped. "That's no consolation!"
"Maa, maa, and we're ten points behind," Ariodh exclaimed, body shaking as she stamped a tiny foot. She glowered at Hiei. "I won't forgive you!"
Hiei's eyebrow twitched.
Heero stalked over to the long-legged pilot of Shinigami, still sitting sprawled in the hot sand shaking grains of it out of his braid. "Duo," he growled, yanking the boy to his feet, "we are losing."
"Heero," Duo growled back, "It is not my fault."
Both of them levered accusing black stares at the small smirking spiky-haired youkai who folded his arms and raised an eyebrow. "What?"
They blew out nearly identical exasperated sighs.
"It's your serve," Wufei reminded Kurama's team, scowling darkly. The stakes were not to his liking, deserted beach or not.
Hiei smirked again and caught the volleyball Ariodh tossed him. "Well, you didn't want to play strip poker, justice boy."
"Prepare to eat dust!" Ariodh called out, cupping her little hands around her mouth like a megaphone. Duo and Heero squared off in the sand, fingers flexing. Wufei grunted and assumed a volleyball stance rather like his en garde one.
"Shouldn't we be saying that?" Quatre threw them a teasing glance.
"Duo, we're down ten points," Heero reminded his partner implacably. "Next time, dive like you mean it!"
Duo cast him a coy glance. "Ne, Heero, does that mean I should dive like I do when we're in bed and you--"
"Stop right there!" Wufei blurted, clapping his hands over his reddened ears.
Heero was grinding his teeth. "Just serve the ball, Hiei."
Hiei flitted to a patch of sand behind the "line" demarcated by stones and shells. He lifted his arm.
In the next moment the ball was hurtling for the sand on their side of the line and Ariodh was screeching as she dove for it. "Hiei, you cheater, I'm gonna kill you!" She hit the sand with a thud and the ball went up in the air.
"I got it-IgotitIgotitIgotit!!" Duo yelped, lurching to the side.
Heero was already moving. "Oh, like you got it the last six times?"
They collided with a meaty thump and the ball splurted up into the air again as Duo managed to bat it feebly with one hand.
"Stop groping!" Wufei sputtered at them, running for the ball as it neared the net -- it was going to fall short.
"I am NOT groping him!" Heero retorted. "I just have my hand up his shirt, that's all... "
Kurama and Quatre were laughing so hard they were bent over double, nearly falling into the sand. Ariodh snickered and jumped to assist Wufei, if necessary.
With a determined expression, Wufei spiked the ball.
It bounced off a very surprised-looking Trowa's head.
"Ahh--ow... " He reeled back, rubbing at his forehead, effectively distracted.
Hiei and Kurama were diving for the ball.
"OI! Look!! It's Koenma doing a striptease!!"
"WHERE!?" Kurama yelped, green eyes widening as he looked around frantically. With a painful noise he and Hiei ran into each other and fell to the sand. "Ow... "
"Made you look," Ariodh smirked with triumph.
The chastened kitsune turned to look at his lover. Hiei was glaring at him through slitted, burning red eyes. "And just why," he began, voice heated, "were you interested in looking at Koenma doing a striptease?"
Kurama blinked. "Ah... well... Hiei... just a minute... "
Hiei sniffed and flitted away.
Duo and Heero had fallen into a sprawled pile of limbs on the sand and the pilot of Shinigami was giggling softly.
Wufei had his face firmly averted. "Ano... Ariodh... do they still have all their clothes on?"
"Yes," Ariodh pouted.
"Heero," Duo put forth, his tone whiny, "there's sand in my shorts."
Heero raised an impassive eyebrow. "So? What do you want me to do about it?"
Duo blinked at him and rubbed his arm. "Get it out... "
"Oi! You perverts! Don't you have anything else on your minds!?" Wufei demanded, whirling and yanking both of them to their feet. "We're losing!! Even with that point, we only have six total to their ten -- and I, for one, have no intentions of baring my skin to the roaring surf!"
Quatre was kneeling by his dazed lover. "Trowa, are you all right... ?"
"I have a headache," Trowa mumbled. His visible green eye flicked to the cooler sitting on the sidelines. "Quatre, get me a beer, would you?"
Quatre eyed him sidewise. "No."
"If I can't have any, neither can you."
Quatre blushed furiously. "Well... Trowa... you're a sleepy drunk."
Trowa looked hopelessly clueless.
"He means if you get sleepy, he won't get any!" Kurama called out helpfully.
Quatre buried his face in his hands.
Kurama blinked. "What?" he responded to Trowa and Hiei's accusing stares. "Am I wrong?"
"Let's finish this game," Hiei said sourly, tossing the ball to Wufei and casting another cross-eyed look at his lover.
"That means get up and stop necking," Ariodh informed Duo and Heero.
Duo looked up. "We weren't necking," he protested innocently.
"Oh, yeah? Then why was your tongue--"
"Shut up!" Wufei growled, lifting the ball. "Yuy, Maxwell, detach your respective body parts and get ready. I'm serving."
"So serve already," Heero returned coolly, brushing some sand off his shorts.
"Let me help you with that... " Duo reached for him with a speculative glint in his eye.
Ariodh smacked his hand sharply. "Bad Duo. Game now. Foreplay later."
"Oh-kay... " Duo huffed, returning to his patch of sand. He scuffed his feet.
Wufei jolted the ball over the net and Hiei began to dart forward.
"WAAHH! It's Yukina and Kuwabara, naked!" Ariodh bleated, blue eyes wide and horrified.
"Nice try," Hiei grunted, bumping the ball back over the net, just barely.
"Ack!" Duo dove for the ball with all his might.
"Dive like you mean it!" Heero roared, then considered. "I'll let you experiment with Jello again... "
"I don't want to know... " Wufei shook his head.
Ariodh sidled up to him and blinked wide eyes. "Are you sure? But it can be so much fun... "
Duo butted the ball back over the net, wobbled on his toes, threw a very triumphant glance over his shoulder in Heero's direction... and just as Trowa was returning his volley, Duo tipped all the way over and crashed into the net. "WAAH!" he wailed. "Now I'll NEVER get to use Jello again... "
Heero snorted and moved to untangle him. "Baka."
"That's our point," Kurama announced with a smug expression.
Quatre clapped his hands. "One more, and we win!"
"That one was your fault," Heero said grimly, removing Duo's braid from where it was entangled in the net. The American pilot gave him a weak grin and then his face crumpled.
"Waah! Heero, I failed you! You must hate me!"
"Idiot," Heero repeated, dragging the boy to his feet. He glared across the remains of the net at Hiei. "This game was rigged."
Hiei raised a fine black brow. "Is it my fault Ariodh had too much to drink, and can't utilize her youkai speed properly?"
Heero switched his attention in mid-glare to Ariodh, who withered and clung to Wufei's arm. Wufei cringed and batted uselessly at her hands. "Can I help it if I'm a little fond of the al-kee-hol?" She tipped her head, considering. "The beer... the Hurricanes... the screwdrivers... the Tequila sunrises... the mudslides... the sake... the Bailey's... the Manhattans-on-the-rocks... the rum... good wine... awah... "
"We're losing," Heero's blue eyes sought to burn holes into Ariodh's head. "I say Ariodh gets to strip first."
"Sure!" Ariodh pranced around happily. "It's not like any of you are interested in me, anyway. That's what makes you all so cuddly and safe!"
Ariodh blinked at him. "Are you interested in me, Wufei? Ne? Ne?" She poked him in one firmly-muscled bronze arm and he recoiled.
"I protest the term 'cuddly,' " Heero speared her with another deadly glance.
"But Heero-chACK!" Duo fell twitching to the sand as Heero casually backhanded him. Duo exhaled a puff of sandy air and lifted one finger. "Better omit 'safe,' too... "
"I'm not! I'm not!" Wufei was running around their marked-off square, Ariodh in hot pursuit.
"You are! You are!" she squealed, giggling. "Aw, Wufei, you're so kawaii!"
Kurama and Hiei were laughing their asses off.
"Ne... one more point, and this game is over." Trowa rubbed at his temples, still kind of peeved at the 'sleepy drunk' comment.
"Let's just get it over with!" Duo announced loudly and rashly, jumping to his feet.
Heero grabbed his braid and brought his face very close.
"Oooh, pucker up!" Kurama called out impishly.
"Duo," Heero uttered, "we are NOT losing to them without putting up a damned good fight. You got that?" He punctuated his words by flexing his fingers painfully on Duo's scalp.
"Ouch... ouch... " Duo winced. "I got it!"
"WAH!" Wufei put on an extra burst of speed, tripped, and landed on the net. Ariodh leaped on him, sat on his chest, and grinned at him gleefully.
"I don't suppose you'd want to take her home with you?" Kurama asked hopefully.
"She's eating us out of house and home," Hiei added in a growl.
Kurama elbowed him. "Oi, you're not the one who has to work to pay for her gluttonous habits."
Ariodh quivered her lip at them. "You don't want me anymore... ?" She aimed wide, trembling eyes at them.
Wufei wormed free hastily and stalked over to his place on the sand. "It's Quatre's turn," he said loudly, changing the subject decisively.
"Ah... so it is... " Quatre blinked, picking up the ball. He scooted back behind the line and lifted his arms.
Heero squared off as the ball headed for him. "Right. I've got it."
"Heero!" Kurama squawked, flinging an arm out. "Relena's behind you--!"
"Won't work," Heero smirked, stepping back to meet the ball's trajectory.
Duo's mouth worked soundlessly.
"No, Heero, she really is... " Quatre trailed back as Heero stepped further.
Heero stepped back again, and bumped into someone. He narrowed his eyes. "Duo," he began angrily, "not again--" He froze as Duo wiggled his fingers at him from up near the net. "Ariodh... ?" he said hopefully.
The white-haired youkai grinned and shook her head at him.
"Well, it can't be Wufei... " Heero muttered, then whirled around, hands still outstretched to volley the ball.
"Relena, omae--" Heero growled, his eyes exploding with furious blue sparks. They widened as he looked down, at his hands.
"'I'll kill you,' I know, I've heard it before," the blonde-haired girl responded with a little smile, twirling a little metal ring around her finger. "I figured this would get your attention."
"JUST ONE MINUTE!" Duo stormed up furiously, his face red with anger. "NO ONE handcuffs Heero but ME, do you hear me, missy!?"
"WHAT!?" Relena sputtered, blushing with shock and Duo's blatant statement.
Duo dove at her like he really meant it. He grabbed at the little key Relena was twirling with one finger, and they both went down. It was a no-holds-barred catfight, with both parties pulling hair, screeching, biting, and Duo throwing dirty punches. Relena went for the groin and Duo blocked her knee, slamming her to the sand and sitting on her chest.
"I said," Duo repeated calmly, reaching for the key again, "no one handcuffs Heero but ME. Preferably to a headboard, really, but just the hands will do in a pinch... "
"STOP!" Wufei clapped his hands over his ears again. Ariodh popped up next to him. The Chinese boy started violently and ran for the nearest available cover -- the drinks cooler.
Relena tried to swallow the key. Duo growled and pried her jaws apart, fishing it out quickly before she could get very far with that. Heero looked extremely relieved.
Kurama took the key from him and released Heero, who rubbed his wrists and eyed Relena with death in his eyes. Kurama just twirled the cuffs and cocked his head at Relena, an impish gleam rising up in his green eyes. "Ne, Duo... " The kitsune tossed his American friend the handcuffs.
Duo caught them one-handed, still pinning Relena's wrists, and grinned. "Thanks, Kurama." Quickly he cuffed the Peacecraft. "Now, what to do with her... "
"Cuff her to the pole and leave her here," Hiei suggested ruthlessly.
"Toss her in the surf, naked," Ariodh suggested, equally vengeful.
"Nahh... " Duo got to his feet, pulling her up by the little chain linking the metal cuffs together. Relena winced and looked very surly. "I think we should just drop her off at a gay bar on the way home."
"WHAT!?" Relena's head wrenched around.
Heero was stone-faced. "Duo, we are not doing any dirty dancing."
Duo looked disappointed. "Meeean!"
Wufei edged up. Droplets of sweat rolled down his face. Uneasily he contemplated how far he would have to go with this, to preserve his honor. Then, very reflectively, he tried to figure out precisely how his fellow pilots, and his demon hosts, had gotten him to go along with this. It had involved beer, and threats of that ubiquitous-though-not-yet-visited gay bar. And more threats from a very cheerful glomp-ready Ariodh.
He dipped a toe in the water.
In answer, a wavelet crashed over the shore, washing up around his ankles, freezing cold.
"I am NOT going first!" he declared adamantly.
"Didn't we say Ariodh was gonna go first?" Duo scratched his head, clinging with the other arm to a stony-faced Heero. Wufei hoped desperately that the two of them did not intend to strip together.
"Yeah, make Ariodh go first!" Kurama cheered them on, waving his beer in the air and nearly clocking Hiei.
"Hn," Hiei smirked at Ariodh.
Ariodh blinked at the rolling surf. She blinked at Wufei, who had jittered back from the water's edge. She blinked very wide-eyed at the line of expectant boys. Then she did something very unexpected.
She blushed furiously crimson.
"Whahaha!" Kurama pointed at her, his beer sloshing around and nearly smacking Hiei in the face again. "Ariodh is embarrassed!"
"I am not!" she yelled back, red-faced. "I just hate water, that's all! I hate it!" She stalked over to the cooler, muttering something to herself, and grabbed more 'al-kee-hol' for reinforcement.
Duo eyed Heero, nervously. Heero eyed Duo, reflectively.
Suddenly the Wing pilot had grabbed Duo up in his arms and Duo was screaming and gibbering madly and they were a blur of arms and legs. A pair of red swim trunks went flying up in the air. A body with a long brown braid went flying up in the air, naked as the day he was born. With a resounding splash Duo landed in the shallows and thrashed around, spraying water everywhere and making a general fuss. "Waah!! Waaahh! Heero, I hate you!"
"Mission accomplished," Heero muttered to himself, satisfied, dusting his hands off. He lifted an eyebrow at Wufei.
"Oh, no you don't!" Wufei exclaimed, leaping back in a pose of exaggerated defense. He rather resembled a wide-eyed black-haired preying mantis. "You're not laying your perverted hands on me, Yuy!"
Heero raised an eyebrow. "Then get in the water, or you're next."
Wufei's nostrils flared. He looked around, trapped. Duo waved from the shallows. "Oi, it's not so bad, Wu-man! Come on in!"
Wufei squared his shoulders like a man. Then, in a simultaneous movement he took a running dive for the water and surfaced, spluttering and choking. He tossed his swim trunks onto the beach.
"No fair!" Ariodh pouted, glaring at him. "You cheated! You took 'em off underwater!"
"It was never specified," Wufei replied stiffly, his face completely tomato-red.
"That's true," Kurama said with regret.
Trowa and Quatre were seated on the sand, watching the show. The blond pilot was leaning against Trowa's arm, and Trowa watched the goings-on calmly. Somehow it just wasn't as much fun without the beer.
"Heero!" Duo called, waving at him madly. "Come join us! It's your turn!"
Heero growled, cursed, then pulled his trunks off and marched into the water, his back straight. Relena's eyes went very wide, from where she was handcuffed to the volleyball pole - a rear view was better than none!
Duo had a very wide grin on his face. He had the front view.
Wufei had dived under the water to prevent his eyes from being corrupted.
"Um, where's Ariodh?" Kurama looked around, nearly splashing Hiei with beer again. The Jaganshi growled and grabbed the can away from him irritably. He blinked down at the can in his hands. Then he took a large gulp. Kurama batted at his hands. "Oi, that's my beer! Get your own!"
"Aren't we supposed to share everything?" Hiei blinked at him innocently.
"My beer," Kurama groused, trying to grab it away from him unsuccessfully.
Hiei smirked. "I'll share it," he offered.
Kurama glared. "How generous," he replied with narrowed eyes. "Offering to share my own beer with me. You're stingy with the covers, too."
Hiei snickered and took another swig.
"Oi! You cheated, too!" Wufei pointed at the white-haired youkai who had popped up out of nowhere, treading water with a self-satisfied expression on her face. "No one even saw you get in the water!"
"Well, I'm here now," Ariodh replied, maddeningly smug.
"How do we know if you're naked or not?"
Ariodh swam closer. "Want me to show you, Wufei?" she purred.
"NO!" Wufei dove under the water again.
Ariodh dissolved into merry giggles, nearly snorting water up her nose.
"Okay, we did it!" Duo called at the foursome on the beach.
Quatre blinked at them owlishly. "So you did."
Trowa poked him in the shoulder. "Oi. You don't sound sober," he said accusingly.
Quatre gave him a wide fatuous smile.
Trowa plucked the soda can out of his hands and sniffed at it with suspicion. He took a sip. "ARIODH!! This is NOT soda!"
"It isn't?" Ariodh smirked. "Whoops. Siwwy me."
Wufei surfaced again.
Kurama and Hiei were still fighting over the can of beer.
Relena was cuffed to the pole nearly twisting her head off trying to get a good look at Heero.
Trowa had grabbed a beer in each hand and was trying to catch up to Quatre, who had started to build up a sand gundam on the beach. Since he was sitting in mostly dry sand, his efforts were doomed to frustration. "Waah! The spirit of Sandrock is not with me!"
Duo and Heero had swum a little further out and they appeared to be in a deep lip-lock.
Ariodh was heading for him with a determined expression, dressed only in water and long hair.
Wufei slid back under the water, groaned, and wished desperately that he could be anywhere else. Actually, that gay bar was starting to sound not so bad after all...