La Carne is la rata

Duo grew up on the streets, but he swears he can to cook. What does a street rat cook? (Do you really want to know?)

Duo: Can to cook!

Heero: Ack.!

Wufei: I'm not staying around if you're telling that one.

Quatre: It wasn't that bad.

Trowa: La Rata stew is good.

Yanagi: Go! I'm writing. I'll make steaks if you're good.

All: We'll be good!

Disclaimer: I don't own Gundam Wing. I don't make any profit all that jazz. If I owned anything it would be Deathscythe.

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Trowa delivered the bad news with a thump, no sense in holding back.

"Quatre is sick so someone else is going to have to cook. I can't because I'm taking care of him."

"Who's going to cook if neither of you does?" Wufei didn't want to admit that all he knew how to cook was rice and steamed vegetables. Besides, he'd just come back from a mission and wanted a shower and some sleep.

Duo bounced on the balls of his feet. "I'll cook! I'll cook! I know how. Really guys I do."

Heero wasn't too sure about this, but he didn't want to hurt Duo's feelings. He was beginning to be attracted to the manic, braided baka and decided that eating a badly cooked meal was a small price to pay for one of Duo's real smiles.

"Ok, do you need any help? I'll be happy to do scut work, since you all don't like my nutri bar soup."

Everyone shuddered; it was hot, which was about all that could be said about it. And it was quick; but other than that, the word 'Yuck' came to mind.

Duo grinned, he liked Heero even though he seemed to be stiff and sullen. He saw what the others didn't, that sad, left out look that he got when no one was looking except him. Long bangs hid a lot and if he tipped his head just so he could see everything right through them. He was determined that he was going to get the pilot of Wing to loosen up if it killed him. (Well, not really killed. But maybe unbent a little?)

"Yeah, I could use some help with the peeling and stuff. Why don't you peel me some potatoes and an onion or two? If there's some carrots and celery left, chop that. Oh, and don't bother cutting the leaves from the celery, they'll cook away and add flavor. I'll be back in about an hour."

"Where are you going? Remember we have to keep a low profile here. They're looking for us. And they got a decent description of you."

Duo gave Heero a big grin and a thumbs up. He wasn't going to be anywhere that Oz could see him. They wouldn't even think of looking for him where he was going.

Duo rummaged around in the cockpit of Deathsythe until he found what he wanted. All he needed was some string and a few pegs. He dug deeper and realized that he was going to have to make the pegs as he'd used the last of his supply pegging detonator cord down on the last mission.

"Maxwell, this is no time for whittling. I thought you were going to make supper." Wufei didn't wait for an explanation he just marched off to get the medicine Trowa wanted.

Duo gathered up his traps grumbling, "I don't know how he can hit and run like that he never listens to me. Come to think of it he never listens to anyone. He's just a big grouch, must tie his ponytail too tight."

Entering the sewers he set his traps and waited for something to come along. After an hour he had enough 'sewer squirrels' to feed them all, with seconds.

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"Hey Wufei, is there any flour left. I don't need much. Just enough to coat the pieces of meat. And some left over to thicken the broth. Oh, and . . . hey, Trowa, you want me to save out some for Quatre? He might like some, if I don't thicken it and skim off any grease it ought to set fairly easy on his stomach."

Trowa smiled at Duo, he might come off as a fool but behind that jesters mask was a shrewd, hard, competent man. He couldn't have been other and survive on L2, especially as young as he'd been when he was abandoned. So Trowa looked behind the mask and liked what he saw.

"Yeah, I think he'd like that. What did you catch? Looks like rabbit."

Duo put one finger beside his nose, nodded and smiled. "It's meat. With what we've got in the way of veggies we'll have a nice stew. And plenty of it. There's a good catch here and it didn't take me very long to get it either. The Sewer Squirrels are careless around here. I don't' think any of them have ever seen a trap before."

Trowa blinked once and then said. "Undoubtedly they haven't seen a trap in their lives. Good catch, although I hope you caught them somewhere . . ."

"I caught them in the intake of a bakery so they're really fat and lean. Here, hand me the pepper. You know, it's nice to have all this kind of stuff. Pepper, salt and real cooking oil."

"We used motor oil if we had to." Trowa sat at the kitchen table and started to peal a potato. "Did you know that in the twentieth century old calendar and even later, you couldn't do that? The oil was some kind of hydrocarbon fossil fuel based stuff. It was poison."

"Wow, didn't know that. What a waste. I'm glad it's all vegetable based now. Recyclable forever and clean burning. I've used it for frying before myself, but it was hard to get into the recycling center. We usually just drained it out of a car or something, not too bad if you didn't mind the burnt taste. But if they caught us, they'd beat hell out of us and then turn us in."

Trowa finished with the potato and started on another. "Well, I can't say I blame them, you drain the oil out of their car and burn up the motor. Not real good."

"True, but what does an eight-year-old know about stuff like that. All we knew was we were hungry . . . um . . . Heero was going to do that, where did he get off to."

"Went somewhere with Wufei. I think it's a mission, but they said they'd be back by supper time. So don't skimp on the stew, besides it'll be good for several days. We've got a good fridge this time."

"Trowa? There's a whole bag of flour, and some lard or something like it. Do you know how to make biscuits? I love them, can't get enough. Howard had a cook who could make them light as a feather. Made myself sick as a dog first time I had them."

"Yeah, I know how. Would you like me to teach you? It's not hard, you just can't over handle the dough. You just kneed it enough to get it to stick together."

"I'd really like that. I need to know how to cook more than just stew and dumplings. I like it well enough, but you can sure get tired of the same thing day after day . . . you done with those potatoes?"

"Yeah." Trowa eyed the pieces of meat that Duo had been cutting up as they visited. They were clean and neatly cut.

Duo dumped the pieces of meat into a bowl of flour and stirred them around to coat and then carefully put them into the hot grease to brown. While they were browning, Duo sat down with a whet stone and one of his knives, sharpening the knife while he waited for the meat to brown

Quatre leaned on the door frame and watched the domestic scene for a moment before he interrupted them. "Guys, is there any juice, I still feel like shit and I'd really like some juice and something to eat. But . . . how about some toast. Is there . . ."

"Damnit, Quatre get back in bed. I told you to call me if you needed anything. You'll only get worse. These floors are cold as ice, and you lost your slippers last move. Come on. I'll carry you."

"Trowa, you're worse than a mother hen with one chick. I'll be fine. And I'm wearing socks, in case you didn't notice. I'm too heavy for you to carry."

Trowa picked Quatre up, much to Duo's amusement, and carried him back to the bed room, he could hear him scolding the blond Arabian all the way. Duo hummed happily. He'd prove that he was more useful than just for blowing stuff up.

While he waited for the meat to finish browning, he cut carrots and celery into chunks and pealed onions, tears streamed from his eyes and his nose started running.

"Damn onions."

Heero stuck his head into the kitchen, only having heard damn, he grabbed Duo and dumped him into the nearest chair. Something bad had to be wrong with him to make him cry like that. He ran his hands over Duo's arms and started to check his chest.

"Hey! What the hell's wrong with you? Get offa me."

"Where are you injured? What's making you . . ."

Duo crushed his first impulse; which was to smack Heero, and his second; which was to laugh his head off. Going with the third option he just explained that the onions had made his eyes water, which had made his nose run.

"I'm ok! I'm fine, but thanks for caring, anyway. Here, finish up with the onions so I can keep a better eye on the meat. 'K?"

Heero just grunted and reached for the knife but Duo noticed that his cheeks were suspiciously pink. He was glad he hadn't done something stupid, he was attracted to the pilot of Wing, but wasn't sure if he was attracted back. That guy is seriously pre-verbal.

They worked in companionable silence for several minutes, until Duo finished with the meat. Duo forked the meat out of the hot grease and plopped it into the pot. Adding water he turned just in time to keep Heero from dumping the potatoes into the hot grease.

"NO! Don't! Geeze Heero, you'll burn the hell out of yourself. Those 'taters are still wet. You dump wet stuff into hot grease and it'll pop all over the place."

"Oh, I didn't know that. The hot grease must turn the water into steam and . . ."

"Yeah, yeah. I don' care how it happens, I just know it does and it'll burn 'til the grease cools off. So just cut the stuff up and leave it. Oh, and don't scare the crap out of me like that again."

"Ok." Heero eyed the braided pilot for a while, then went back to work, wondering why everyone seemed to think the man was an idiot. Then he sighed. The Deathscythe pilot was a lot more complicated than he appeared. He needed to watch him a lot more closely.

"O2 to 01, come in 01 Heero are you in there somewhere? I need the rest of that stuff. If you're done with it, I mean."

Heero realized that his hands had been on autopilot while he'd been thinking and he was done with the vegetables. He gave them to Duo and watched as he dumped them all into the now simmering water. He walked up behind Duo and leaned over to look into the pot. The pieces of meat were nicely browned and smelled good. The rest of the stuff in the pot was all recognizable, it was going to be a good stew.

"Where's Wu-man? It'll be about an hour before the stew is anywhere near edible and I think Trowa was going to make biscuits. I have no idea how long that takes. I'd sure hate for him to miss this. It's been a while since we've had anything besides some kind of casserole. Not that I mind that. Quatre makes a mean tuna noodle and it's easier to just help yourself and nuke it. But sitting down all together is nice, real homey like. Know what I mean?"

"Chang is in the shower, he managed to get blood on himself and wanted to wash it off. Incase the . . . er . . . person had some disease or something. He'll be along in a little while."

Duo grimaced that was one of the things he hated to think of. Some of the people they dealt with weren't very nice and probably had all kinds of diseases, they'd been inoculated to a fair thee well, but still, bodily fluids carried all kind of bugs.

"Does he have enough soap? If he doesn't, I've got plenty. I've been lucky lately. Haven't gotten in contact with anyone that bled on me . . . Hah! Water boiled at last. Hand me that pot. I think I got it right. If I didn't, you'll have to show me."

"What is it?"

"Tea. I've been watching you and Woofers making it. I prefer coffee myself but everyone else will do tea so I figured, 'what the hell. I might as well learn to like it'. But I have to have sugar or it's too bitter for me."

"And coffee isn't bitter? You're just spoiled." But Heero smiled when he said it. He knew that Duo was no more spoiled than any of the rest of them and way less than some.

Trowa came back into the kitchen just then and stuck a spoon into the pot. Stirring it, he sighed. It wasn't ready yet and he wanted to get something into Quatre while he was awake, if he fell back to sleep he wouldn't want to wake up to eat. And he needed something in his stomach besides juice.

"Sorry, Trow. It's not ready just yet, but here, I made tea. See if he won't drink some. It'll keep him awake long enough to eat."

Duo poured a mug of the tea and gave it to Trowa, then he gave another to Heero and waited for his verdict.

"Good."

"Well thanks for that glowing complement. I think."

Wufei came in, picked up the pot and poured himself some, taking a sip, he nodded to Heero and left again, headed for his room and the waiting mission reports.

"You got a report to do? Or is Wu-Wu doing for both of you?"

"Chang Wufei is doing the mission report for both of us. And if you don't stop mangling his name he's going to cut your throat. It's disrespectful and he won't put up with it for long. Why do you do that?"

"Oh hell, I don't mean to be disrespectful. It's just affectionate. We all did it on the street. I guess it's just a habit. I'll try to be more careful. I really don't mean to upset him. You think he's mad at me now?"

Heero shook his head, he knew that Duo didn't mean to upset Chang, but the Chinese man was sensitive about names, and as the last of his line, he guarded its dignity fiercely.

"He'll get over it. Especially when he finds out that you made the tea. It's really good. Thank you."

"No. Thank you. If you really do like it, I'll try to have some ready for you after your next mission. I'm not going on any for a while, there's too many things wrong with 'Scythe. I'm gonna be wrenching on him for weeks. I'm having trouble getting parts, so I'm gonna have to machine them myself. Thank God I don't have to fool with trying to fix his skin. It's all internal stuff. If I could just find some UHP braided hose. That's the only thing I need that I can't make myself. I'll have to see. . . ."

"I've got some I can spare. How much do you need? I've got about a hundred feet in the auxiliary locker in Wing."

"Hey, thanks. That's a real help. I need about half that much, but if you'd give me sixty feet it'd be better. I probably wouldn't have to replace hoses nearly as often if I could run this one a different way. It binds in a joint. But . . . hey, beggars can't be choosers. I'll be glad for what I can get."

"I'll give you the whole thing. Forty feet won't do me much good and if it saves you having to mess with hydraulics all the time it's well worth it. I'll have J send a replacement. No trouble."

"'K. Here, give me that spoon. I'll check to see if this stuff is going to be fit to eat . . . " Duo dipped the spoon into the pot and sipped at the broth. "Well . . . not so bad, but it'd go better if we had some herbs like . . . well, I don't really know the names of most of them. I just know what they look like. We used to snitch some off the window boxes sometimes. There's needle like stuff that tastes good and some fuzzy leaves. Oh . . . and a big leaf, that one's really good. Some other stuff, but one I do know the name of. That's savory. Really good stuff, makes almost anything taste better."

At Heero's stunned look, Duo laughed, "See? I told you, I could to cook. I can do stuff, I just don't know what to call it."

Wufei came in looking for more tea.. Heero lifted the pot and shook his head. He'd absently drunk all the tea, so he reached over to snag the still hot kettle. When he poured more water over the leaves, Duo blinked, then just handed him the tin of leaves.

"Here. You don't have to use the same tea more than once. We've got plenty."

Wufei eyed him over the edge of his cup, the second brewing had come quickly.

"Some tea's are good or even better brewed twice, and others you can even get three pots out of. I think this one should have brewed a little longer. I should have had more patience. You should learn how to make tea, Maxwell. Make yourself more useful."

"Chang." Heero stopped the Chinese man with a hand on his arm "Duo made the first pot. And I thought that it was fine. You shouldn't judge him so harshly. He's trying to be friends. Help him out a little."

Wufei flicked his eyes from Heero to Duo and then back again, at Heero's jerky nod of assent, he turned, bowed and said, "Your tea was very good. I apologize for my rudeness."

"Sure man, whatever. Stew will be done soon. All I have to do is thicken it. I still wish we had some herbs to put in it. Right now would be the time to do it."

"What sort of herbs do you want? I have a few packets I use for my camp cooking. I can go out to Nataku and get them."

Duo tried to imitate the bow that Wufei had given him, "I'd be grateful. Thank you, Chang, for your offer."

Wufei returned his bow with a raised eyebrow. The idiot was trying at least.

Wufei returned with the packets of herbs and watched as Duo opened them and smelled each one. He took some rosemary and some sage. Also, some marjoram and basil. He added them and stirred the stew which wasn't very stew like to Heero and Wufei who looked into the pot and wondered silently

"Ok. What's the what? Why the odd looks?"

"It doesn't look right. Are you sure you know what you're doing? I looks . . . thin?"

"You mean watery. I haven't thickened it yet. I won't do that for a while yet. I want it to cook good and I'm going to dip out some for Quatre before I put the roux in it"

"Rue. What's that?"

"It's French. R-o-u-x." Duo spelled it for them "Flour and butter. To make the liquid thick."

Duo took up the dipper and dipped out a big mug full of the soup. He carried it down the hall to Trowa who took it with a nod of thanks and closed the door again.

Duo sighed softly, Quatre had really looked sick when he'd come into the kitchen and Duo could only hope that the soup helped a little. He hated being sick and he was sure Quatre was no better, at their age and level of activity, anything that made them be still was a major annoyance.

Trowa came into the kitchen with the empty mug and started rooting around in the cabinets, looking for flour, shortening, and all the other things needed to make biscuits. Duo helped him find what he needed and watched as he efficiently made the bread by the dump method.

"How do you know how much to use?"

"I just go by how it looks. I think I need a little more lard. Then I'll add the milk."

"Eww! It soured!"

"That's ok. It won't make any difference. Add a tablespoon of sugar to it and hand it here."

"Ok, I'm glad it wasn't wasted. I hate waste. Especially food."

"Don't ever throw away sour milk. You can bake lots of things with it. Even cake. Sour milk will keep the cake moist longer that regular milk. But if it is skim throw, it away before you use it. It's not worth the trouble."

Duo made a face, he wasn't that fond of milk, skim or regular, anything that came out of a cow's butt couldn't be that good for you and he said so.

"Milk doesn't come out of a cow's butt, it comes out of its udder."

"Udder? What the hell is that?"

"It's . . . " Trowa gave Duo an exasperated look. "Well, a cow's teats. Breasts. You know."

Duo got a arrested look on his face, then grinned

"Oh. Ok. Well, that makes it better, but I still don't like it."

Trowa grunted and started cutting the biscuits with a knife. He didn't have a cutter so he was just cutting the dough into squares. He'd made a big batch on the general principles that they'd eat them sooner or later.

When the stew was done and thickened and the biscuits baked, Duo called the rest of the pilots to the table and started dishing out portions to each person. Adding a biscuit to the plate, he handed one to each of them.

Trowa bit into the hind quarter and chewed for a moment. Heero started on the potatoes and Wufei dipped a bite of biscuit into the gravy. As they ate, they all made appreciative noises. Quatre called Trowa asking if it was as good as it smelled.

"Do you think you would like some."

"I want to come to the table please."

"Only if I carry you. You've had a dizzy spell and I don't want you falling."

"I . . . Ok."

Trowa went to get Quatre and plopped him in a chair. Duo dished him up some stew and a biscuit and handed him the plate. He dipped his spoon into the broth and sipped at it appreciatively.

"Very good, Duo. I knew you could cook. I just knew it. Where did you get the meat?"

"Trapped it."

"Oh. Where?"

Trowa got an arrested look on his face and then dipped his head to hide behind his bangs.

Duo smirked happily, they wouldn't believe it when he told them how lucky he'd been.

"I got them in the intake of a bakery. Really clean, lean and tender. Never seen such stupid fuckers either. They practically jumped into my traps. All I had to do was knock them in the head and clean them. Here Heero. Want another serving?"

Heero was eyeing the meat with a jaundiced eye. He never wasted food, but he wasn't sure exactly how he was going to keep this down. Wufei left the table quickly and went to his room. They didn't hear anything from him for the next hour.

Quatre smiled happily. "Oh, I'm glad you didn't go to the dump. I don't like the idea of what they might have been eating."

Trowa blinked at Quatre then asked him, "You mean you knew want that was before you ate it?"

"Of course I did. I don't eat anything that I don't know what it is. You mean you didn't?"

Trowa admitted that he had, eyeing Heero for a second as his fingers twitched.

"But I'm a mercenary and used to eating whatever there is, you're rich. What . . . "

"Trowa. My father was a diplomat as well as a magnate. I've eaten sheep eyeballs, monkey, guinea pig, bird nests and some other things even less appetizing. Rat, as long as it's clean, doesn't even budge my gross meter. Hand me another biscuit please."

Heero manfully ate what was on his plate and, deciding if Quatre could do it he could too, asked for seconds. He ate that thinking Quatre was right. It was meat, it was good, and they should be glad to have it. Even if he didn't plan on eating it again. Duo went to a lot of trouble to get it, even if he wouldn't admit it.

"See? I can too cook. Sewer squirrel is good. Next time I'll barbeque it."

Duo smiled around at them happily, ignoring the fact that Chang had walked out, no knowing what bug he had up his butt.

Heero gave Quatre and Trowa a look, there wouldn't be a next time, they would make sure that there was beef on hand next time Duo cooked.

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