Disclaimer: I don't own them and I don't make any money off of them.
Warnings: Male/Male sex, graphic, language, violence.
My work had piled up. I spent the morning, head down, discs and folders under my arms, and computer using up all it's capacity. I accessed records and info feeds so many times, security buzzed me and checked to make certain that they didn't have a hacker. I was happy, though, despite the work load and my still aching body .Mentally, at least, I thought that I had made the right decision. I needed my work just as much as Duo needed his. It was our life's blood.
As for security, I knew that every camera was trained on me, and that the security man strolling by, once in awhile, wasn't there to get coffee from the machine outside my door.My 'gifts' had accumulated while I was gone, and that man had taken them away for examination this time, much to both of our embarrassment. The sticky notes about being a 'coward' were easy enough, but the dildo taped with a note, telling me to keep myself happy with it while Duo was gone, was above and beyond humiliating, as were the litter of 'from Gundam pilot to-' filled in with a number of different foul endings. I wondered how the team in investigations was going to feel about their morning assignment to find the perpetrators.It would probably make me more enemies.
It was easy to keep that worry from my mind when I was tracking down information needed to crack a serious case.Though most of these agents probably never considered the source of their information, I knew it was invaluable to them and that they were grateful to receive it.I suppose that thought kept me in my seat and working long after someone else might have decided to call it quits. And yes, once I had gotten over the anger over my isolation in that office, I did begin to consider it a worthwhile move. I could concentrate on my work, entirely, instead of having to deal with my coworker's noise and interruptions.
A small part of my brain, that spoke, suspiciously, in Duo's voice, told me that isolation was a bad thing and that I was hiding, but, after the stress of the recent past, I found it easy to ignore.I made a point, though, of going to the Preventer commissary and sitting in the main dinning room with my lunch.
People, I've found, love to be in groups. It had made some aspects of the war ridiculously easy because of it. Take out an entire group of elite Oz forces? Of course they would be all sitting at table three of their favorite restaurant, eventually. A gruesome thought, but I suppose it was a defense against a certain feeling of loneliness to be in a group of one. The 'bomb squad' was near the door, laughing and having, what seemed, to be a good time.The secretaries were in another group, talking quietly, but giving the squad looks that ran from flirtatious to annoyed.The second shift hanger crew looked tired and were eating quietly. Forensics was laughing at one of their group describing a graphic case, that somehow, had an amusing twist. My own group of clerks, that I was excluded from, were half listening and looking green.
Looks were thrown my way, not all of them unpleasant. A few were curious, and even one gave me a smile and nod; one of the bomb squad. I returned it with surprise. One woman, though, was hunched over her lunch, looking miserable. She was alone too, but her isolation was intentional. I could tell by the tight expression on her face, and her intense concentration on the two bites taken out of her sandwich.
I passed the woman on my way to the garbage bin. After depositing my trash, I turned and caught sight of her tears before she ducked her head enough for her long, blonde hair, to cover her face. I will be the first to admit that my skills were lacking when it came to dealing with other people. Duo was the out going talker. Breeching a self imposed defense line was hard for me, but I felt compelled to ask, "Is everything all right?"
The woman twitched and wiped at her eyes. She sniffled and then nodded, though it was an obvious lie. "I'll be fine, thank you," she managed.
Duty done, I should have felt all right about leaving it at that, but something warned me that I shouldn't. I took a careful few steps her way, not sure of my reception, and then asked, "Is there anything I can do to help?"
Her blue eyes came up, swimming with tears. She blinked at me rapidly, and then choked out, "Thank you. I just... I just had some bad news."
"I hope it isn't something serious?" A man like me could think of many terrible things that might happen. I tried not to fill in the blank, letting her tell me, if she wished.
I had overstepped some line for her. She was suddenly getting up, fumbling with her purse, and saying, "Yes... yes, it is serious..."
I've been trained to notice details in a very short amount of time. It keeps a soldier alive. The pill bottle was a prescription one. It rolled over and over as it headed towards her open purse, her hand scooping it there rapidly. It took four turns for me to notice the date on the bottle and the fact that it was nearly empty. The two didn't make sense and I came to a frightening conclusion. She had overdosed herself, sitting right there, in a commissary full of people.
"Medic!" I shouted to the room at large and saw six people toss over their chairs, in well trained reflex, as they jumped up and headed my way.
The startled woman confirmed my suspicion, by trying to run. My hand snaked out and caught her wrist as her purse spilled and things went rolling everywhere.
"Overdose!" I told one of medics that arrived first. I snatched up the prescription bottle and handed it to her. Her eyes went wide and she flipped open her cell to call for a med evac.
"You don't have any right to stop me!" the crying woman was shouting at me as she continued to struggle in my grip. "My life is shit. Tony's gone! I don't have anything without him!"
"Susan!" another medic called her and helped me hold her. "That bastard isn't worth killing yourself over. What were you thinking?!"
"I loved him and he left me!" Susan wailed.
The pills were taking effect. The woman began slumping in our arms.It was a heart pounding wait until help arrived and took her away for emergency treatment. Being left behind afterward, in the war zone of overturned chairs, gaping people, and the spilled contents of a woman's purse, while I was asked questions about what had happened, seemed almost surreal. I knew it was the downside of an adrenalin rush and it was hard to keep myself focused and under control until I was allowed to go.
Sitting in my office once more, work all around me, and requests blinking on my computer screen, I found myself simply staring at nothing and wondering at the total despair that could make someone take their life. I didn't accomplish much for the rest of the day, and, when I went home to a silent house, I found myself holding Duo's pillow and wishing that he were home. There was nothing like someone else's tragedy to remind a person how very lucky they were in life and love, and to remind someone how their own self destructing efforts might have succeeded.
I was at the hanger doors when Duo's ship touched down, skewing sideways with a protest of stressed metal, one landing pod missing, and heat pinging all over the hull to show how fast he had come in. Emergency jets dusted the bay automatically, warning sensors imagining a fire. No one had argued my place this time, even the bay guards inside and poised for the crash doors to open. Duo didn't often send emergency codes and everyone was ready for the worst.
When warning lights went to yellow and the doors wooshed open, the heat hit us all in the face as we rushed inside. Equipment was scattered, a repair tower was down and twisted over the top of the ship.It had hit a wall and taken a chunk out. I knew, then, that Duo wasn't piloting.
Space mission, I thought, noting the type of ship, as cold fear gripped my gut and gave my feet wings, as I pounded towards the hatch. For the millionth time, I wished that Duo could tell me about these secret missions. I think I could have handled them better if I knew that there would be a chance for this kind of home coming. Space battles were always damned ugly, and heated re-entry, with a damaged ship, generally didn't end well.
The hanger crew grabbed machinery that was five times their size and swung them on mechanical gyros into position over the hatch. Inoperable hatches weren't easy to cut through, and the damage to the ship was costly. They never did it unless absolutely necessary.We all stood back while the thing made a circular cut in under five seconds, rotating blades cutting metal like butter. It jerked it out of the hull with mechanical arms and then the crew was shoving the entire machine sideways and out of our way.
The medics were first in and I was one step behind them.
Duo was organized even in the midst of mayhem. Seriously injured were closest to the door. Walking wounded were further in. The dead were bagged and out of the way. I ignored the tags on those bags, not wanting to see Duo's name, as I climbed over equipment and seats to bypass the medics and wounded. My progress was stopped by flickering lights, and the sound of an engine under stress.
"Get out!" the pilot shouted as he came bursting out of the cockpit. His arms were flailing at us as he ran himself, helmet and oxygen gear flying off behind him, as he flung them off and began grabbing the wounded. "Fuel breech!"
Curses and shouts of alarm went up and down the ship as more emergency crew were called in and everyone began grabbing live bodies, forgetting the dead, and trying to get them to safety. I knew with a shock of fear, where Duo was then, if he was alive, and then I couldn't think about it anymore as I began helping.
I felt muscles protest, tendons go beyond stressed, but I didn't slow down as I helped take the crew out of there. Eleven men and women, who needed my strength, made it past the blast doors, as the sound of something seriously wrong, set off alarm sirens and lights on the ship and in the hanger.
"Duo?!" I shouted at the pilot, grabbing his flight suit in one fist as men and women streamed by me and the hanger was cleared.
"He went to manually lock down the fuel," the pilot replied, wincing as my grip took in some skin."We wouldn't have made it down planet without him."
My duty was done. It was time to join the love of my life. I slipped past the closing blast doors, ignoring attempts to stop me, and heard the heavy, metallic thud as they locked behind me. The blast foam was about to be deployed, nozzles on mechanical arms, coming into position. If I didn't make the gaping maw of the hatch, then I would be trapped outside when the hanger was sucked dry of air. I might survive the three minute oxygen deprivation, and the blast, if the foam held, I knew, but that wasn't an option. I had to make that hatch. I had to take my chances with Duo.
My lungs burned as my feet hit the metal ramp. I threw myself through the hatch just as the nozzles began squirting, hitting one of the jump benches hard. I recovered, feeling the bruise on my hip, and scrambled down into the bowels of the ship. Lighting flickered as the ship powered down. Emergency lights came on. I could hear metal stress all around me as the foam hardened into an impervious cocoon. I had a fleeting thought that Une was not going to be happy to lose one of her best ships.
Duo was crouched and working feverishly, curses muttered in a nonstop litany, at the end of a narrow, double bank of machinery. When he heard my steps behind him, he grinned and said, without turning. "Good to see you, love. In my back pocket. Fliers I picked up before we made Earth launch platform. I was thinking that a vacation on L4 would be really nice. Why don't you look them over while I take care of this?"
Nerves of steel. Never defeated. I slowly pulled the fliers out of his pocket. There as blood on one and they were creased and a bit filthy. Unfolding one with shaking hands, I saw the resort; an idyllic vision at all odds with the smoking, noisy, enclosed space, filled with death, that we were in now.
"I was thinking Paris," I admitted, trying to keep my voice steadier than my hands. "But this seems nicer."
Duo waggled eyebrows at me as he jammed a hand into a hot, greasy section of machinery. "They have antigrav options in all the rooms."
I laughed. I couldn't help myself. "That does seem... interesting."
Duo laughed with me."Everyone out?" he asked, more seriously.
"Yes," I replied. sobering as well.
"I can't vent with the foam," Duo admitted.
And he needed to, to keep the repaired lines from blowing.
"Laser?" I wondered as a yellow alarm light changed to bright red.
Duo frowned, thinking about the danger to everyone else, ignoring the fact that we probably had thirty seconds to live, at best.
"I think we can do it," he replied at last and left the machinery to scramble by me, heading for the cockpit. "Stay here at the vent control," he called back unecessarily."I'll signal."
I watched his braid swing as he hurried, and slap the wall as he jumped through the hatch into the main compartment of the ship, knowing that it might be my last sight of him.
Waiting was hard. My hand stayed poised over the manuel venting control, mentally seeing Duo slam into the pilot seat and adjust the laser with precision. Shooting through the foam, at an angle that would uncover one of the vents, was a calculation not one in a million pilots could accomplish in seconds.Dealing with the foam ,hampering the side laser, was just another added difficulty.
"Love you," I said to the air, knowing that Duo had on the internal com.
"You know I love you," Duo returned.
Sweat trickled down between my shoulder blades. I couldn't help doing a mental countdown. When I reached five, there was nothing sweeter than to hear Duo's voice say, "Now!"
I hit the vent control and felt the ship shudder.
Waiting after that was even harder. When the red lights flicked to yellow, showing stress, but not overload, I let out a breath I hadn't known that I was holding. Duo appeared, grinning widely, and unzipping his flight suit to cool himself off, letting me know, with that action, that we were safe.
"Do they have a pool at this resort?" I asked.
"Three," Duo replied with a chuckle, "and a spa."
We would be there awhile, waiting for someone to cut through the foam. Duo sat beside me, shoulder to shoulder, and gave me a kiss on the cheek. He tasted like grease and sweat.
"Are you sure you want to go?" I asked. "Will Une let you go?"
"Let me?" Duo snorted. "After wrecking her best ship, I'll be on suspension at the very least. We might as well take advantage of the time off. And, yes, I really do want to go."
I sighed in relief, wanting it more than anything, but for the right reasons. I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket and searched the flier in my hand.
"What are you doing?" Duo wanted to know.
"Making reservations, now, before something else happens," I told him.
When they finally reached us, we were booked and ready to go.
back to chapter nine
on to chapter eleven