Disclaimer: I don't own them and I don't make any money off of them.
Warnings: Male/Male sex, graphic, language, violence.
He's trying to type his report with only one hand, bringing the injured one into play with wincing reluctance every now and again. It's bandaged, white and bloody. One side of his face is covered in a large patch and tape bandaged as well, some blood dried and crusted along the bottom edge. His hair is almost out of it's braid, a few stubborn strands caught haphazardly in the elastic at the bottom, but most of it tangled and loose all around him. I'm always amazed at how much of it there is.
He should be home... scratch that... he should probably be in a hospital, being monitored for a concussion. The report was important enough to disregard that, though. The rebel cell that he had battled with, had only been a splinter group. Une and the Preventers needed as much information as possible to pursue it with fresh agents. The wounded could only have their rest after they were deployed.
"Hey, Captain Maxwell!!" One of his men, grunting with a male adrenaline high, knocked knuckles with Duo as he passed by, both of them grinning like maniacs. "We showed them!"
"Rock 'em and sock 'em!" Duo laughed back. "The rest are probably pissing themselves right now, scared to death. We'll get 'em on the rebound."
"Damn right!" another agent,limping and leg braced up to his thigh with a field strap, shouted.
They were tossing their gear to other agents, fresh off their transport and muddy and bloody. Duo's laptop was balanced on one knee and he was perched on a mountain of that gear, unconcerned with the bloodied and holed flack jackets as he worked. His own was open at the collar, stripped open on the side and showing a sweaty undershirt. His combat pants, black knife strapped to one thigh, were as filthy as everything else.
I waited for my time, leaning back against a wall, in shadow and out of sight. I knew that he needed to do this. I knew that I had to throttle all of my concern for him, until the mission was truly completed.
As his men filed out, laughing and joking with the ground crew, and he was left with only the few men who were logging in the equipment, Duo allowed himself to finally frown in pain and exhaustion. He blinked and blinked again, fingers slowing in their typing as he tried to keep his concentration.
Not for the first time, I thought, 'This could have been my place'. I had been a soldier, of one sort or another, my entire young life. My decision to never kill again, to stay at a desk job to keep my personal promise, sometimes weighed heavy on me, especially when I saw the man I loved go into combat without me there to watch his back.
When the laptop closed, though, and Duo took in a shuddering breath, my decision, once again, became the right one. He needed me here, as well, needed me to be here to catch him and care for him when the missions were done.
Sliding a supporting arm around him, and helping him off the mound of gear, he grinned at me lovingly and with relief. "Hey, baby," he said with a chuckle.
I scowled at the ridiculous endearment, and his head wound, and grunted,"How many times do I have to tell you to duck, asshole?"
Duo laughed outright and then winced at the pain it caused his head. "As many times as you want to," he replied. "As long as you'll always be here for me."
We limped towards medical as my arm tightened around him and I replied,"I never intended to do anything else."
His smile was warm, but it soon turned into a grimace of pain as we managed the long corridor to medical. We were told to wait and we sat on plastic chairs, in an outer room, for a very long time, letting the medics patch the more seriously wounded first. I handed Duo drinks to re hydrate him and worried when he said that he wasn't hungry. Nausea was a sign of concussion, yet he told me irritably that he was fine.
At last, when Duo's men were either released or put to bed in the main hospital wing, it was his turn. An old field medic waved him to an exam table with a tired and harried expression, I helped Duo as he rose stiffly and moved to comply. Undressing and putting on an exam robe, I gave him steady support and helped him onto the exam table covered in crinkly, white paper. Legs swinging just short of the foot rest, Duo didn't look like the soldier he was or any where near his twenty two years. He looked more like a boy who had had an accident during some sort of rough play.
Duo was patient when the doctor looked into his eyes with a light, turned his head this way and that, and cleaned out his wounds, but he growled impatiently when the doctor suggested twenty four hour observation. He opted for foam sealer over his more serious wounds, instead, and grinned and winked at the irritated doctor as he signed his release form.
Duo reached back and made his errant hair into a long pony tail, snapping the elastic on with practiced ease, as he stood, swayed unsteadily, and then leaned on me. "Just need some damn rest," Duo assured me, "So stop looking that way at me."
I was worried. I had good reason. I had seen men assure everyone that they were all right and then die rather suddenly. Adrenalin was a powerful force.Iit could make a body operate long after reason said that it shouldn't.
Duo's cell beeped and I almost swore. He had sent his report electronically, but his computer was still stubbornly clutched in one hand. Duo kept his hold on me, tucked the computer under an arm that was slow to close around it, and flipped open his cell.
"Maxwell." He listened, frowned, and then nodded. "I'll be right there."
When Duo closed the cell, I knew better than to protest, just as I knew better than to insist that he stay in medical for observation. Duo didn't let his body dictate his limitations. He went where he was needed.
"Sorry, baby," Duo sighed. "Duty calls. Get me to Une's office and then you can-"
"Wait until you're done debriefing," I said, cutting him off. "Going home is not an option."
Duo draped an arm over my shoulders and pulled me into a tight hug, ignoring the curious stares of the people passing us in the corridors. "I wish I didn't keep dragging you into this. You made your decision."
I frowned at him. "My decision was not to be placed in a situation where I would need to kill again, it had nothing to do with being a part of your life and your choices."
We slowly limped down the corridor and into an elevator. As we went up into the depths of Preventer headquarters, Duo said, "I see how they look at you, like you're some kind of damned coward. They've forgotten everything you did during the war, the sacrifices that you made. You shouldn't have to deal with them."
"I like the work," I replied. "I'm still fighting for peace, just in a different way."
Duo nodded. "I'm front line and you're support. Nothing gets done without those two things working perfectly together, but they'll never get that. They think, if you don't hold a gun, you're not an agent."
"I don't need them to validate my life," I told him firmly, but I didn't say how it did make my life harder. Some part of me, the one that had always been a soldier of one kind or another, was in complete agreement with those who were all too ready to say that HeeroYuy had turned coward.
We reached Une's office. I let Duo go reluctantly and said, "You're going to eat as soon as you're done debriefing, even if it's a liquid meal supplement."
"Yes, sir, 'Light of my Life'," Duo replied with a grin and a small, tired, salute, as he left me in the corridor to wait.
It was several, boring hours later, when a medic came down the corridor with a heavy case and an anxious expression .I threw open the door to Une's office, without waiting for him to reach me, and found her bending over my Duo. He was slumped in his chair, pale as milk, and completely unconscious.Her tactician's were standing in a knot off to one side, at a loss.
"Maxwell?" Une was saying urgently.
"Duo?" I crouched down and checked his pulse. It was ragged. The adrenaline rush was over and he hadn't had anything reserved in its place."Damn it, Duo!" I snarled and made way for the medic as he hurried into the office and began slapping instruments inside Duo's T-shirt. He checked monitors and then relaxed.
"Moron," the medic growled. "Nothing life threatening," he assured the room and me, "just exhaustion. He needs bed rest and fluids. I'll have him transported back to medical."
"He wouldn't agree with that," I protested.
The medic eyed me irritably. "He's hardly in a position to argue."
"I have the legal right to make medical decisions for him, and you know it." I was tired of repeating that. It was something that they liked to forget. It reminded them that Duo was gay, and that I was more than just a friend. It was something that no one liked to remember about their heroic Captain Duo. Even now, it was a topic to be avoided, something someone kept in the bedroom and didn't wear on their sleeve, along with their medals, for everyone to see. Some even acted as if I had 'turned him gay', as if he would never have had such an inclination without my help.
Duo roused, blinking stupidly, and then he saw me and looked confused. "Wasn't I in a meeting?" he asked wearily.
"It's over," I told him. "If you can stand, they'll allow me to take you home."
Not that they could stop me otherwise, but it sounded less unreasonable to their concerns.
Une put hands on hips and pursed her lips, for a moment, while she looked down at us both from over the rim of her glasses. then she said, "Go home, Maxwell. I don't need you cluttering up my office furniture."
Duo snickered and then levered himself onto his feet, with my help and the help of Une's desk. He made a motion, when he was almost upright, that said, 'See, everything's fine.' and then he gave them all a salute and let me take him out of there.
The braid was all business, stark and tight, and ready to be tucked into jacket or flight suit, when called for. The pony tail made him look innocent, and very young, and I loved his hair that way, even though it was trying its best, at the moment, to escape its hair band in long, cinnamon strands. It was his signal that he was off duty, relaxed, and ready to be mine, instead of a Preventer agent. When he fell asleep, in the passenger side of our car, it was another sign that he was done with his mission, and it showed his trust in me.
Getting him home was my duty. Convincing him to get into bed and sleep, once we were there,was my challenge. Duo was in love with sacrifice. He'd give his last drop of blood for his job, and to me, if he thought I needed it. Days away on a mission, nights spent holding nothing but his pillow, and he was concerned that he was cheating me out of a homecoming, making me suffer with loneliness for a little longer than I might be able to bear. He wanted to hold me, sit with me, even have dinner, but I could see how pale he was, and how his eyes kept almost drifting shut. Once I was certain that his head wound wasn't going to be dangerous if he slept, I coaxed him into bed and ignored his leer as I undressed him. Slipping on his soft, sleeping pants, he sighed as if disappointed, but it didn't take more than a few moments for his exhausted body to succumbed to the soft mattress and pull him down into deep sleep.
Duo twitched and dreamed of missions, but that was all right. His mind needed to work them out, and I knew that it didn't really bother his sleep. I checked on him, off and on, until it was time for me to sleep. I went to bed on the couch, though, knowing better than to trust Duo's unconscious reflexes right after a mission. That did give me a feeling that was cold and lonely, but I knew that Duo would more than make up for it the next day. I mused about how much I had changed since we had become a couple, and I knew that insisting on a desk job, and a normal life, had gone a long way into creating the person that I was now;a person that Duo needed so very much.
I had dreams as well, dreams of old battles and death. I wasn't free of that old life completely, and I didn't think that I ever would. Going from a weapon, with no future, to a man of peace, with gentler aspirations, left a battle ground of mental difficulties. A tiger might be tamed, but it was still a tiger. I had therapy twice a month, Duo needed it more often. He was still making history, after all, still battling for peace, and still filling graveyards with those who wouldn't follow the law. It was a burden that he was willing to bear, so that others wouldn't have to, he had told me often enough.
I awoke to morning sunlight through a window, and found myself looking at one of our photos, propped lovingly on a side table. I was looking stern and Duo was hanging on me and flashing a peace sign. His grin was infectious. I returned it, reached out to touch the frame, and thought about how many people wished that I weren't a part of that picture. It was almost as if they thought that I was a traitor, or a pervert, sullying their hero and crushing their image of me, the man who had saved them all. Heroes didn't fuck each other and refuse to fight. It wasn't any more basic than that.
Duo came padding down the stairs, robe hanging on his slim frame and sleep pants drooping to reveal one hipbone. His hair was a mess, strands all around him, as he covered a yawn with his bandaged hand and blinked sleepily at me. Guilt flashed briefly in his eyes when he saw me on the couch, but then he let it go, understanding and knowing that there wasn't a solution to it.
He was stitched here and there, the skin bruised and unlovely around them. He had a few nasty scrapes, and an impact bruise, as big as my hand, along his ribs. He wasn't moving stiffly, though, because of his excellent physical shape, and I was struck by his controlled, cat like grace, as he reached the bottom of the stairs and cinched up his robe.
"My mouth tastes like road kill, and I stink like you wouldn't believe," Duo told me in a gravely voice, "but I need food worse than a cleaning. If you'll please keep to a wide safety perimeter, I won't kill you with the stench."
I chuckled, wrinkling my nose as I stood. "I'll cook. You sit and try to stay downwind."
He grunted, sat slowly on the couch that I had vacated, and switched on the vid news. With the announcer's voice in the background, I went into the kitchen and put together a meal containing as much protein and vitamins as possible. He needed to refuel, not waste time on empty calories. Because I took meals that seriously, and never spared a thought for taste or eating for the enjoyment, Duo often cooked instead. I doubted that he would complain, though. He looked worn to the bone.
"That smells great!" Duo called from the living room, as I fried sausage and eggs, mixed with greens and fruit. "Did you learn to cook while I was gone?"
"I did get a lecture from Quatre," I admitted sourly as I turned on the coffee maker. "He wasn't happy with the last meal that I served. He said that it would make a good interrogation technique."
Duo barked laughter, but then asked worriedly, "You had him over while I was gone?"
I knew that tone. He was worried that I was feeling lonely. "He invited himself," I replied.
Duo thought about that, weighed it, and wondered if I was telling the truth. Finally, he asked, "So, he gave you cooking tips? I didn't know that he could cook."
"He can't," I replied as I dished the food onto a plate."He told me that his cook says that fruit makes everything taste better."
"Fruit?" Duo sounded skeptical as he made his way into the kitchen and sat at the small table. I set out his mug of coffee and he gratefully drank it as I put down his breakfast. I tried not to breathe as I did it. He did smell rank with sweat and blood.
Duo put aside his coffee and then used a fork to spoon around his food. "Fruit..." he repeated doubtfully, and then took a bite. He quickly began almost inhaling the food. "This's good," he mumbled around it.
I gave him second and third helpings before he burped and pushed his plate away. He reached out with a thankful grin, to pull me in for a kiss, but I jerked back, scowling. "Bath, first," I ordered.
Duo snickered as he stood up. "Yes, sir, Captain Yuy."
"And then back to bed," I added as I followed him to the stairs.
Duo eyed me over his shoulder. "Bed? With you in it, I'm hoping?"
I felt a keen warmth. "Of course," I replied.
Duo smirked and then continued up the stairs.
That made it all worth it, I thought, all the ridicule and more complex hatred. Duo was mine and I was his. What we made together, love, warmth, and a perfect completeness, wasn't something that I ever wanted to do without.
On to chapter two