Disclaimer: I don't own them and I don't make any money off of them.
Warnings: Male/Male sex, graphic, language, violence.
Saying no to Duo was worse than spitting in the wind. He could only take inaction so long before every fiber of him rebelled.A dirt track, a bike that he had made from scratch, and dangerous ravines on either side, were part of the recipe that he liked to call, 'having fun'. I called it slow torture, because I was forced to watch it on the sidelines, up on a rise of dirt and rock, and hope that he didn't break his damned neck. It was his way of showing me that he was really ready to return to work, as well, and that he wasn't just fooling the medics into signing his re-activation papers.
Braid tucked into his suit, and helmet over his head, his bike, and his skill, were the only things that identified him in the pack of other insane bikers trying to race each other to the finish line. Since that was a cooler of ice cold beer, the competition was fierce.My only comfort, was that Quatre Winner was in that pack as well, though he had as little sway as I did when it came to getting Duo to see reason.
I had tried to join the madness only once, but Duo had frowned and given me his patented 'Cut the shit, Yuy,' look. He wasn't about to let me do something that didn't interest me, simply to watch over him.I had set up a chair on the rise, a book tossed into the seat, and told him that I was more interested in catching some sun and reading, but I hadn't turned one page of that book, and the seat of the chair was getting lots of sun.I couldn't rest until he was done, and safe, and back at my side.
Quatre's ever present guards were set up along the track, guarding one of the most important men on Earth and in space, and Trowa, who shadowed him when he wasn't doing his own brand of 'having fun' in the circus, was watching not far from me. I doubt that we had exchanged a dozen words since our lovers had joined the race, but we understood each other. We were both anxious, both completely centered on using force of will to get those two men to the finish line safely.
Duo almost spilled his bike to avoid another biker, who had slid in the dirt, and I bit my lip hard, clenching my hands into fists, until he regained control. A large rock had been too close. I know he'd scraped an arm against it. Not for the first time, I cursed the person who had made the track. Men of their caliber, couldn't run a normal course, of course. It had to have it's dangers, it's chances for death. It was only by their extreme skill that serious injury had been avoided so far.
Quatre popped a wheelie over a high rise. I imagined him laughing, pumped up on adrenaline, as he came down in a spray of dirt. Duo revved his bike at the top of the same rise and his wheels left the ground, coming down hard yards on the other side.For a moment they were matched, a white dirt bike and a jet black one, both covered in dirt, racing down the track side by side, their riders looking like wild teenagers as they reached out to one another and slapped gloved palms. Then Duo was pulling ahead, cutting it far too close around a patch of deeper dirt.
Quatre bogged down in that same dirt, wheels spinning as he tried to follow Duo, but Duo was racing ahead and crossing the 'finish line', already, the bold blue cooler sitting out temptingly on the track.
I let out a sigh of relief as Duo hopped off his bike and greeted the losers with an open cooler, tossing beer cans right and left into eager hands. Quatre pulled off his helmet, shaking out his gold curls and laughing good naturedly at Duo, as he refused the beer and took the bottle of water that one of his guards handed to him. Duo popped his beer can top and saluted him before taking a long swig. That signaled the end of the event.
I folded my chair, tucked my book under my arm, and turned to go and join him. I found Trowa watching me, amused. I stopped with a frown. I suppose that I was over sensitive, but I had reason to be. I didn't have reason to be that sensitive with Trowa Barton, though, and I rethought the words that wanted to come out of my mouth. None of them were deserved.This man had been a good friend during the war, a constant companion when it would have been better for him to forget even my name.
Trowa said, sensing that he needed to explain himself, "You were the best soldier, trained like no other, but I knew that you were like a zebra forced to wear spots. It wasn't who you truly were."
I didn't want to remember those dark days and my smile was a bit brittle as I replied, "I followed my emotions, in the end."
"Despite everyone," Trowa said, and then nodded to where our men were having a good time."Which is why we indulge their madness.They follow their emotions as well." He chuckled as I smiled, and he followed me down from our rise of ground, to make sure Quatre and Duo were all right.
It was a two edged sword, our determination to be who were were. It meant that we had to allow the people that we loved the most, their freedom as well.
Duo slung a filthy arm around my neck and pulled me in for a hug, as I made it to his side."Did you see that sweet jump, Heero?!" he exclaimed as he tossed off his helmet and plopped it down on his bike seat. His eyes were bright with adrenalin as he yanked his braid out of his jacket, one handed, as if he couldn't stand it trapped for long.
"Madness," Trowa snorted as he took Quatre's helmet as his lover bent to check his bike. "You could have landed on that pointed rock to your left."
"But I didn't!" Duo protested. "I had it planned, don't worry."
"I missed it," I said in a bored tone. "I was too busy reading."
"Liar!" Quatre and Duo said at the same time and then laughed.
Duo ruffled my hair with his gloved hand and looked into my eyes. "I know you worry, but I know what I'm doing."
I didn't go into how he wasn't in control of accidents, but he didn't need to hear that. He knew it as well as I did. I also didn't ask how he was, in front of all of his friends. I saw that he looked a little pale and tired, but that he was doing all right.It was his moment to shine and I didn't have to worry about what anyone thought, as he drank his beer and kept me tight against him, as he argued the pros and cons of the race with the others. The bikes and the race were everything. 'Side ornaments' were there just to fetch beer and take home the wounded.
When the party broke up, and everyone began walking their bikes to their vehicles, Duo finally showed that his arm was hurting him. I handed him the chair, and my book, and pushed the bike myself. I didn't ask how bad it was until I had the dirt caked machine locked down.
"I saw you hit that rock," I said. "Should I get the med kit?"
Duo grimaced as he flexed it. "Bruised. It'll be okay, though."
I grunted and decided to drive. As we pulled away from the track, Duo sunk in his eat and closed his eyes. He looked a little depressed.
"Cut yourself some slack," I told him with a growl. "Of course you're tired, but you will get better, as long as you don't over do it."
He rolled eyes at me and smiled, "Yeah, I know, but I get tired of being so damned tired." He frowned, a thought occurring to him. "I wonder if this is what it's like being old... just tired all the time?"
I glanced at him and then wondered what he would look like with a bald spot, graying hair, and lines in his face. I tried to imagine him being more excited by a vid show than hopping on a dirt bike and risking his life. The images wouldn't come. I grinned and he frowned at me.
"What's so damned funny?" Duo wanted to know.
"When you're a hundred," I replied, "you'll still be parachuting out of planes, trying out your new and improved dirt bikes, and saving the world. Age won't change that."
He thought about that and then agreed. "Okay, so I'll be a geriatric daredevil. What will you be doing when you're a hundred?"
"Planting huge gardens, reading War and Peace instead of romance novels, and discovering new and improved ways to organize Preventer files," I replied.
He frowned, considering whether I was joking or not. "What about the midlife crisis thing? Maybe you'll decide to run off with a guy half your age and train elite warriors in a hidden dojo in the Himalayas?"
I laughed. "You've been watching too many movies." I became serious then, reached out, and took his hand. "Whatever I decide to do, you'll be there with me."
"Ditto," he replied. He closed his eyes again, then, content, and was asleep before I pulled onto the interstate for home.
"It's only two days," Duo insisted as he shoved in one last t-shirt into his duffel bag. He eyed the inside critically and then tied it shut.
"Then why are you packing as if you don't expect to come back for a week?" I demanded, arms crossed as I leaned against the door jam to our bedroom.
Duo paused, rubbed the back of his neck, and then turned with the duffel over one shoulder. He looked steady, strong, and bright eyed. He had a doctor's written report stating that he was one hundred percent. He had Une's blessing. I couldn't shake the worry, though, and that may have been what was driving his evasiveness.
"It could, possibly, go longer," he admitted reluctantly,"but that's not a sure thing. You know how it is, Heero. If we can't pin down the bad guy, if he makes a run for it, we have to take up the chase. I just want to make sure I'm fighting in clean underwear, if that happens."
I laughed and he grinned. I pulled him to me and held him hard, breathing in the scent of him, and wanting the feel of him to last me until he returned. "Get them, love."
"That's 'Go get 'em', idiot," Duo snickered.
"That, too," I amended and then let him go.
He was a Preventer agent then; professional, mind on the mission, and ready to give all that he had to succeed. Having watched him put on every conceivable weapon, dress in his green fatigues, check all of his ID and electronic gadgetry, the hardest part, strangely, had been watching him braid his hair. I suppose it bothered me because it was his way of mentally separating his home life from his professional one. The braid was for work, for dedication, for sacrifice, for his life without me. I could almost say that I hated it, if I didn't love him so much. I wondered, remembering our conversation after the dirt bike race, what he would do when he aged enough to lose it. I couldn't see that happening, though. He would probably still braid whatever straggle of gray hair he had left to him... until the end.
I shook myself at that thought. Death was always on Duo's right hand. I didn't need to strengthen his position there by thinking about dying from old age. In my darker moments, I think I doubted that Duo would ever live that long. His life was just too damned dangerous and he loved riding the edge far too much. If he wasn't in Preventers, it would be something else, drawing him to it's danger like a moth to a flame.
He gave me a kiss before he went out of our front door, but then paused when he saw the shadow in my eyes. "Heero?"
I blinked and smiled for him. "Thinking too much," I admitted.
"Don't," he retorted lovingly. "I'm the one that needs to worry. Let me get all the worry lines, okay? You just take care of things here, needlepoint, read books, arrange flowers, and- "
He dodged a blow that was only half faked as I scowled at him. I hated when he treated me as if I was the 'little wife' being left home while her man went off to battle, and he knew it.It distracted me, though, just as he had planned, I'm sure. I gripped him by both arms, hard, then, and said fiercely, "Keep your damned head down and don't do anything stupid."
"Yes, sir," he chuckled, pulled one arm loose to salute me, and then kissed me again, deeply, before he pulled away, and walked down the driveway to his car.
I didn't have time to watch him go any further than that. I had to be at work and I wasn't the type to be late.
When I reached my desk at headquarters, I barely read the crude message someone had taped to my chair. I crumpled it and tossed it into the garbage can automatically, and sat down to begin working immediately. So much for an office making my presence more tolerable. I wanted to drown myself in work, then, and shut out everything else.I was glad that my in box was full.
Most of the messages were the usual requests for files, one was a last message from Duo with a smiley face and a heart, that made me feel better at once, and , near the bottom, was a message from a source that I didn't recognize. I mulled over the unknown name for a moment, bothered by my lack of recognition,and then opened it. A picture appeared on my computer screen.
I did grab for the gun that I didn't have, my blood turning to ice, and an inarticulate sound erupting from my throat, before my brain registered that the picture of Duo, bloody and hanging in the arms of two men, was from the war.The men's uniforms had been doctored to look like street clothes, but the editing job was sloppy, and Duo had been left in his old priestly black and white. The words underneath were cruder than the ones that had been taped to my chair. Someone had a very clear idea about what he wanted to do to fags.
I saved the information on a data stick and rose to take it straight to Une. I was hot with anger. I wanted who ever had sent that to me to pay for making me feel that awful moment of terror for the man that I loved. If the perpetrator had been in front of me, just then, I couldn't have guaranteed that I wouldn't have gone over that line that I had made for myself.
Duo always complains about my anal nature.This time, it saved lives. Whoever had sent the messages, hadn't known that I had been off of work the previous day. That's when he had sent the picture. The one that I quickly opened, making sure that an agent didn't need my immediate help, before I went to find Une, was the bomb threat that he had sent that morning.
Ignoring the 'stick this up your ass, Preventer fags,' I quickly read where he rambled on long enough to tip me off to the location of the bomb. The old file room.The place that I knew better than anyone else there.
I blew through the main office at a run, as I flipped open my cell phone and called Une directly, by passing her secretary.
"What's the hurry, Yuy?" a man sneered. "Missing out on a lingerie sale?"
"Who was that and who are you?" Une asked in my ear. "I'll have him written up as soon as I get out of this meeting. As for you, it'd better be good, or you'll be written up too. My personal line isn't for your amusement."
"This is Yuy," I told her. "Get the bomb squad down to the old file room and clear the building. I received an email bomb threat and he gave the file room as the location of the bomb."
"Shit!" Une said and there was the sound of a chair being flung back. "Get bomb squad down to the old file room!" she bellowed. "I want this building cleared! Now! Move! You're not moving fast enough! I mean, now!"
An alarm started going off as I entered the emergency stairwell, leaving the elevator for the bomb squad, and began sliding down metal stair rails at a dangerous speed. I nearly flipped over, half way down, but caught myself, said, 'The hell with it!', and then let myself drop to the next level rather than take time regaining my balance.
Lights flicked on automatically as I reached floor level, flung myself through the door, and crossed the hall into the old file room. Musty air filled my laboring lungs, but it was a familiar smell, and I ignored my own coughing to charge, full tilt, down several long, metal rows of shelving. I found the long box tucked in between old files and simply stared death in the face.
My mind switched to soldier mode. I flipped out my cell and called Une again. "Where are they?"
"They should be reaching the file room... now," Une told me and I heard the men come running into the room.
"Back here!" I called.
"Are you there, in the file room?" Une said over the cell, shocked. "Get out, now. Let them handle it."
"As soon as I show them where it is," I replied.
She didn't ask how I knew, and neither did the men who showed up in blast suits, dragging equipment.
"Hey, look!" one of the men sneered, his voice muffled by his helmet, "It's Maxwell's boyfriend. Riding Maxwell's tool not exciting enough for you?"
"Shut it!" another man, Agent Lorimer, I recalled, growled as he pulled a containment robot into position and another man adjusted the remote. "How long we got, Yuy?"
"Didn't say," I replied. "I just found the email. It gave me enough information to know that it was here, but nothing else." I didn't tell them that I had guessed from the bomber's whine, about mold and mildew, and using the bomb to clean up more than fags, where he had put it. The section had been a pure guess.
A man eyed the section where the bomb was innocently sitting. He snorted. "It's in our section, ballistics and explosives. That's damned funny."
"Get out," the first man snarled at me. "We don't need your kind of expertise." That sentence was loaded with innuendo.I wondered why he bothered with it. It was pretty clear how he felt.
"Yeah, go evacuate with the others,"Lorimer agreed. "and thanks."
I nodded and started to turn away as the containment bubble opened up and the person controlling it sent the robot forward, on it's tractor pads, towards the bomb. Mechanical arms would lift the package, place it into the bubble, and allow it to detonate within it's controlled environment. It had good chance of success, but that margin for failure showed how brave those men were.Crazy, Duo called them, but always with the light of appreciation in his eyes.
"Report, Yuy!" I heard Une's tiny voice say in my cell phone.
I began to lift the phone to my ear, and that's when I heard it;a faint noise, the barest click above the whir and grind of the mechanical containment robot. It was the same sound that I heard every morning, the alarm clocks mechanism getting ready to sound its alarm. I had a bad feeling that this was more than about setting off an alarm, though.
The cell went flying from my hand as I threw myself forward. I heard men exclaim, one swear at me, and many hands grab at me to stop my madness, as I ran past the robot, grabbed the package from the shelf, and stuffed it into the containment bubble.
"Close it!" I shouted.
They were used to split second reactions. They closed the bubble, even as they came forward to grab me and pull me behind the blast shield they were frantically setting up.It went tumbling over as the bomb went off and everyone made a useless ducking gesture. It was instinct, I suppose, as I covered my head with my arms and joined the man who had insulted me in a close huddle.Nothing was going to save us if the bubble didn't hold.
The bomb wasn't large, though, and probably made by an amateur. It made a muffled noise, and the machine rocked almost off it's tracks, but the bubble held without any trouble. When it settled again, we all straightened and stared at it. We needed a moment to convince ourselves that we were still alive.Then the men were making rude comments about the bomb and the maker as they moved forward to investigate the robot and check the room for other bombs.
"Not even level two," one man said as he checked the readout on the robot. "What a wanker."
"That wouldn't even have taken out two goddamn floors," another grumbled, "and now I have to clean out Bessie, here."
"Will someone report to me!!" Une's voice shouted on my cell phone.
I picked up the phone and said, "all secure," and then closed it again, needing more time than these men to recover.
"Hey, baddass Yuy?" Lorimer called with a snicker. "Why don't you go, now. I think we lesser mortals can handle it from here."
I smiled shakily and nodded as I made my way out of the room and into the elevator. I crouched down after the doors closed, feeling sick and dizzy, and wondered why I was having such a bad reaction. During the war, I had faced that sort of thing every other day. It came to me, three levels up, that I had a lot more to lose now. If that bomb had ended my life, I would have lost Duo, Duo's love, and the life that we had made together. It was that near loss, that I was reacting to. Fear for my life had nothing to do with it.
back to chapter six
on to chapter eight