The pain at the back of Duo's neck was intense as the big hand slid under his braid and pinched hard. He winced and glared at the well dressed man that towered over him.
"Let go," Duo warned in a low growl.
"Your eyes are wandering, when they should be on me," Milliardo replied coolly."I allowed you to come to this party only to show you off, on my arm, not to allow you to shop the crowd."
"Are you saying that I'm a whore?" Duo retorted. "Well, I'm not a whore, or a pussy, so get your hand off or you'll lose it."
Milliardo smiled in satisfaction. "That's why I love you, pet. You have such fire."
"What we have isn't love, it's debt, and blackmail, so get over the bullshit," Duo replied as he shrugged away from Milliardo's grip and straightened his black dress clothes. He was in sharp contrast to Milliardo's white suit and pale hair, and he knew the man enjoyed that bold difference. It made them stand out, and made all eyes take note that he belonged to Milliardo Peacecraft.
"I hear that congratulations are in order," a dignitary said as he approached, glittering with old war medals, and sporting a ponch and a handlebar mustache. He shook Milliardo's hand and looked down at Duo curiously. "Ah, and a nice wedding ring, too. Milliardo spoils you, sir."
Duo made a fist over the large diamond ring, flushing red in anger and embarrassment. "Yeah, no expense too great," he muttered under his breath.
"And a honeymoon in Morocco," the dignitary continued with a smirk. "The papers are full of your extravagance, Peacecraft. You never struck me as a man who flaunted wealth, or controversial companions."
"Duo is a greater jewel than the ring on his finger," Milliardo responded smoothly. "I hope that you don't fault me for indulging him, or in showing the world how lucky I am to have him on my arm?"
"And in your bed?" the man snickered.
Milliardo was chill as he gave a curt nod and a tight smile.
"The license of youth," the older man sighed as he gave Duo a patently lecherous look. "I could wish to be so young again."
"I'm sure," Milliardo responded, and Duo didn't stay to hear any more as he broke away and entered the swirling, glittering crowd, in the main ballroom.
Duo knew that he would hear about his rudeness, later, but he didn't care. He wouldn't stay to be talked over as if he were a pet on a leash, even though that description held more truth than he liked. Milliardo owned him and it was his own fault for allowing himself to be that needy, and to be put in a position where a single word from the man, could put him in a moon base lock up for the rest of his life.
"I want you. I'll have you."
Duo remembered those words, spoken shortly after the war, the man's ice blue eyes drilling into his. It had been a promise kept some years later, when an opportunity had arisen, and he had been weak. The predators were always waiting for weakness. Duo knew that he should never have forgotten that, or the fact that Milliardo was less than stable. That beautiful, cool exterior, masked a mind that had once considered destroying the Earth to make his point. It wasn't any great leap, for a man like that, to take a man that he wanted, and force him to his will. The marriage had been a surprise, but there was no fathoming the mind of a madman, who seemed to need that stamp of legitimacy on their black mail relationship.
There he was. Duo peered through the crowd at the man that he truly desired, and who was completely oblivious to that desire. Heero Yuy, in dress Preventer uniform, was sipping a drink, wild hair falling softly into his deep blue eyes, as he watched the crowd with a bored expression. There had almost been something between them, Duo remembered fondly. A spark had definitely been there, during the war, a comradeship that could have become something much, much more, given time. Time had run out, though, and Duo belonged to someone else, now, a man with his finger on a trigger of information, that could destroy his life.
Those deep blue eyes swept towards Duo, but Duo ducked out of sight, behind a couple. There wasn't any reasoning to his action. He was sure that Heero had seen enough of him already, paraded around the party by Milliardo. He hadn't seen Heero's expression, then, though, and he didn't want to now. He was too afraid that he would see disgust.
"Time to go, Maxwell," the driver said at Duo's elbow. No 'sir', for him, not their employer's kept man. He was a troublesome pet that none of them respected.
"I didn't even get a chance to get drunk," Duo replied with false disappointment, but that was why they were leaving early, he supposed. He wasn't a lap dog completely. He could still embarrass and rebel, in small degrees. Milliardo wasn't foolish enough to push him far enough to consider prison, or even death preferable to his treatment at the Prince's hands.
Duo took one last look at Heero, unable to resist, and saw the man looking back at him. The expression was far away, across the ballroom, but Duo didn't think that he saw disgust there. He was almost certain that he saw regret, instead, before he ducked again and followed the driver back to his 'husband'.
Milliardo tossed his coat at a servant angrily and pulled open the collar of his dress shirt as they entered the mansion. Everything glittered and shone; marble, crystal, and fine furnishings. It was the home of a prince, and those who served him. It was also Duo's home, though he never liked to think of it as that. He trailed behind Milliardo and didn't acknowledge the servant who grabbed off his coat as if he were afraid that Duo might damage the expensive cloth if left to his own devices.
Milliardo rounded on one of the servants. "Give him nothing. Play tape c-4 in his room until I order otherwise. He is not to be allowed his freedom from his rooms until morning."
"Are you going to spank me too?" Duo asked sarcastically.
Milliardo glared at him. "You tend to forget exactly what your fate will be, if I release the documents in my possession, to the authorities. I grow weary of reminding you."
Duo glared and hunkered into himself as he passed Milliardo and headed for the stairs to the upper floors, and his suit of rooms. The man grabbed his braid, hard, and stopped him. He leaned in close, breath tickling Duo's ear as he said, "You know that I am far more preferable than hard time in a moon base prison cell. When you allow yourself to feel it, I give you great pleasure."
When I think of Heero, Duo corrected silently. When I put his face over yours and pretend that he is loving me, not you.
Milliardo's broad hand slid down to Duo's hip, as if the servants didn't exist, but Duo was already jerking away, refusing to acknowledge the pain it cost his scalp as his hair was pulled. "We already did that yesterday! Once a week, you said. That's it."
Milliardo fisted his hand, but he never resorted to that kind of violence. He was too much in control to harm his possessions when there were other methods to be used. "Was it a contract?" Milliardo wondered with an arched white eyebrow. "I'll have you as I like. We are married, after all. Your bed is mine."
"That's pretty fucking medieval," Duo retorted.
Milliardo chuckled. "If it were, you'd be castrated and in my harem, waiting my pleasure on pain of death."
Duo winced, but refused to be intimidated. "If you try and touch me, when I don't want you to, I'll castrate you."
"So, you do want it, then, occasionally?" Milliardo wondered with a vicious, self satisfied smile.
"Fuck you!" Duo snarled and went up the stairs, hating the man. Having sex with him was another necessary evil, but he had, so far, kept the man's visits to his bed at a minimum. He knew how far he could push Milliardo, how much he could deny him before the man forced the issue. He wasn't going to lose that ground, if he could help it.
Once in his rooms, Duo could hear the vid playing the recorded incidents at the Moon Base prison; the rapes, the beatings, and the day to day hard time, of men who had been unlucky enough to be sent there. Screams, begging, and the awful sounds of violence were at full volume, and there was nothing that Duo could do to turn it off. The controls were out of his hands. His only escape was the bathroom. He turned the shower on full blast, and sat on the toilet with his head in his hands, blocking his ears, and hoping that Milliardo would relent after an hour or two.
Relena Peacecraft had a frown on her face as she sipped her tea. Her head was dipped, ever so slightly, so that she wouldn't look Duo in the eye. She hadn't looked him in the eye, not even once, since he had sat down with her to tea on the back lawn of the estate. That told Duo where he was at, in her thoughts, down there on the ground with the dirt on her heels.
"I thought, since you were now married to my brother, that we should get to know each other better," Relena was saying. The 'married' came out filled with tension.
Duo hadn't bothered dressing up for the visit. He had been working on his sports car, when she had arrived, and the servant had announced her intentions as if he were the guest and she owned the place. 'You will attend, Ms Relena, on the south lawn, for tea.', the man had said with a disdainful air. He might as well have said, 'Heel, spot, sit.' It put Duo in a foul mood, at once, and he wasn't going improve it for her sake. Her brother was his keeper. She didn't have a thing on Duo to make him do what she wanted.
"I'm page one on every magazine and newspaper in Space, and on Earth," Duo ground out around a bite of a small, delicately made, sandwich. "The Nova Sentinel actually had a pretty accurate history, without the bias, or the 'money whore' innuendo. You can read that, if you like. It would save a lot of chit chat."
Relena's mouth tightened. She sat stiffly, her expensive clothes lending starch and formality to her already uncomfortable appearance."That may be true," she replied at last, "but it wouldn't tell me how you feel about my brother. His happiness is important to me."
Duo laughed and she flinched, a little. "You really don't have a clue what he's really like, do you? I can tell you, that he doesn't need his little sis to vet his ass for him."
Relena went pink and her hand shook a little as she lowered her tea cup to the linen covered table. "You are a crude man, Mr. Maxwell."
"I'm a Peacecraft, now, just like you," Duo corrected her. "I didn't get to keep my name, you see, because it was made up; the name of a bastard. I'm supposed to be honored to be called a Peacecraft."
"Are you? You don't sound as if you were," Relena sniffed.
"You don't know what's going on, and I'm not about to tell you," Duo told her as he grabbed a fine, white napkin, and wiped grease from his hands on it.
"Milliardo gave you an expensive ring, but he didn't give you the family heirloom ring," Relena pointed out. "He gave you on an expensive wedding, yet didn't hold it at the ancestral estates, as is the custom in our family."
"I'm just the ass, ma'am," Duo chuckled darkly as he stood up. He dug his hands into his grimy jean pockets, his white shirt, stained with auto grease, hanging out of his waistband. "Ask your brother what's going on. If he tells you, maybe you can tell me, then, because I sure as hell don't know."
"It doesn't make any sense," Relena replied in confusion."You sound as if you were doing all of this against your will."
"Does it?" Duo sneered.
A servant stepped closer, as if Relena might need protection. He was giving Duo a warning look. It was clear that he would report every word to Milliardo later.
Duo scowled as he snagged one last sandwich, from a fine china plate, and said, "I guess that I'm just so hot, that straight as an arrow, Milliardo, turned queer for me. He does whatever I ask him to, so that he can keep getting a piece of this." Duo slapped his ass. "He's totally under my control. Is that what you wanted to hear?"
"You are not the kind of man that Milliardo holds in any kind of esteem," was Relena's reply."I don't understand what he is doing."
"You do know that he's crazy?" Duo asked with raised eyebrows. "Last I heard, crazy people only had crazy reasons for doing things."
"Then he is unbalanced?" Relena pounced on that and Duo felt a tingle of hope deep down. It was almost on his tongue to agree, but he didn't need a calculator to know the odds of any kind of action, to commit Milliardo, would be. He was simply too powerful.
"I'm not digging a hole, to get dumped and buried in," Duo retorted. "I you want to dig one for yourself, go right ahead."
"He wouldn't harm me," Relena insisted.
Duo laughed. "Whatever. Can I go now? I'm putting a decal on my sports car. I want to finish it sometime today."
"Cars, clothes, rings, houses... " Relena began but Duo rounded on her.
"The fucking car is mine!" Duo snarled. "It's always been mine. Nobody gave it to me. I worked three years in Preventers for it!"
"Is that what your career was about?" Relena asked as if vindicated. "With Heero, it's about selfless service and honor."
That stung like a scorpion and Duo couldn't help taking in a sharp breath when the pain hit his heart.
"It's well for Preventers that you retired from service, then," Relena went on. "They require men with better morals."
"I have to go, now," Duo told her with barely leashed violence.
"To work on your car," Relena added, as if he were talking about rolling in garbage.
"No, to keep from doing something that I will only half regret!" Duo shouted back, and stalked away.
Duo kept his eyes closed, ear buds planted firmly, and hard rock music beating a deep base into his brain, as he ignoring the man who paced and shouted at him about his joyride around town. Decal finally done, Duo had needed to show it off. The striking samurai, leaping down the length of his car, sword point towards the front bumper, had been a riot of scarlet, blues, and golds on the black, mirror finish. The word, Shinigami, flowing along the bottom of that decal had declared his defiance, his need to rebel and spell out, to anyone who cared to look, that he was still Duo Maxwell, God of Death, not the kept plaything of a mad rich man.
It wasn't so much the drive, that had bothered Milliardo. It was the lack of permission, the feeling that his short leash had left his grasp, and that what was his had defied his carefully laid plans. What those plans were, Duo wasn't sure, but they were important enough for the man to rage until he was red in the face and close to violence.
The grab at his shirt wasn't unexpected, or the hard sex, after he was thrown on the bed, but Milliardo left him his music, and it helped drown out the man's groans. If Milliardo thought that sex would allow him to exert his control again, and punish Duo at the same time, he was mistaken. He was harsh, and Duo knew that he would feel it for days after, but it wasn't anything that could touch him where it counted. Deep down he was smirking, knowing that he had made the man lose his temper. That was Duo's way of exerting his control over the man, though it had its painful consequences.
Finished, and panting hard, Milliardo jerked out Duo's ear buds and glared into his eyes. "We will be spending several weeks at my sister's estate, for Christmas. If you step out of line, even once, while we are there, I assure you that I will make you pay dearly for it."
Milliardo's weight was crushing, and he was still a solid presence inside of him, but Duo still managed a cool reply. "Who am I being shown to, this time? Not your sister?"
"Not my sister," Milliardo replied as he thrust away and strode across the room to the bathroom, to clean up.
Duo glared after him, feeling a flush of trepidation. Not his sister, but Duo didn't have any doubt that there would be someone Milliardo wanted to impress with a kept Gundam pilot on his arm. He jammed his ear buds back in, and tried not to think, while he waited his turn to wash Milliardo off of him.
"I'm not your fucking doll!" Duo growled and pulled away from Milliardo's attempts to straighten his clothing one more time.
Sitting together, in the man's white limo, Duo knew what kind of impression he was supposed to make when they exited at Relena's mansion. He was Milliardo's jewel on his sleeve, to be admired and obedient before the inevitable crowds that always populated the homes of the famous. In his white dress coat, and slacks, embroidered with gold at collar, hem, and cuff, and hair pulled back, and braided plaited in gold silk, he was a well dressed doll. The large wedding ring sparkled on his finger, and gold bracelets, and gold hoop earrings, encrusted with diamonds, flashed with the light. He was wearing a fortune and could have cared less.
Milliardo was dressed in scarlet and gold, and it wasn't an accident that his coat had military overtones. Everything about him was masculine, a definite counterpoint to the rather effeminate impression that he had forced on Duo. A prince and his princess, Duo thought angrily, even though ' A Prince and his slave' was far more accurate.
"If you try and kiss me, in front of anyone..." Duo tried.
Milliardo's white gloved hand grabbed him by the chin, hard, and jerked his head to face him. Milliardo's blue eyes were molten. "I tire of your disobedience. Are you losing your fear? Are you convincing yourself that I won't carry out my threat? This game could easily lose it's appeal for me, if it gives me only displeasure."
"Maybe prison is looking better than spending time with you?" Duo sneered, his temper boiling over.
"Is it?" Milliardo raised a white eyebrow and pulled out his cell phone. "I'll make certain that you are given a prison cell, with several men, who have a great many scores to settle with a certain Gundam pilot."
Duo glared, calling his bluff, even though he was going pale.
"Milliardo Peacecraft here," Milliardo said into his cell, his hand still gripping Duo's chin tightly. "I would like to speak to Warden Kominski, please. I have information..."
Duo jerked the cell out of Milliardo's hand and turned it off. "All right!" he shouted, furious and embarrassed to his core by his fear.
Milliardo smiled in satisfaction. "Good girl," he purred, and then leaned in to seize a deep kiss.
Duo endured the searching tongue, the forceful mouth over his, for a full minute and then he broke away, flushing darkly. In the next instant, he realized that they had stopped before Relena's estate, that the tinted window had been rolled down, and that a great many people had seen their kiss. Heero Yuy was among them, having just climbed out of his own car into a throng of servants and guests. Duo saw the man's frown, before he turned away and disappeared into the crowd.
Milliardo's smile was self satisfied, as a servant opened their door, and he gave Duo a small push to proceed him. Duo climbed out and stood to one side, waiting while Milliard made a grander exit. Standing straight and impressive, he gave the crowd a moment to admire them, and then he was holding his arm out to Duo. Duo knew better than to hesitate to slip his hand through it and allowed Milliardo to take him into the estate.
"Should I check to make sure that I still have my balls?" Duo whispered angrily. "If you want a woman, why don't you get one?"
Milliardo didn't let his anger show on his face, as they moved into a marble hall, where Relena was greeting people near a huge Christmas tree. "If you persist, I may have them removed."
Heero was being greeted by Relena. Her eyes were sparkling and she was holding his hands in hers as if she didn't want to let go.
"I'm so glad that you could come, Heero,"Relena fairly gushed.
Heero was frowning as he reclaimed his hands and replied, "I assure you, that security will be air tight, Ms. Peacecraft."
"I want you to enjoy the Christmas celebration as well, Heero," Relena insisted. "Don't do all of the work yourself."
Heero murmured something polite and then turned, almost running into Duo. He stopped abruptly, eyes going a little wide, and then he was making a polite nod, and attempting to sidestep them. Milliardo blocked his retreat.
"Heero Yuy," Milliardo said pleasantly, and held out a hand for the man to shake, "It is good to see you again. You are looking well. Surely, you remember Duo Maxwell, my betrothed?"
Heero shook Milliardo's hand with marked reluctance, his expression guarded, but didn't hold his hand out to Duo, to shake, when Milliardo released him. Duo found the Christmas tree interesting, staring at it over Heero's shoulder.
"Congratulations, on your marriage," Heero said with stiff formality.
"Duo has been an extraordinary companion," Milliardo replied with a soft, adoring smile at Duo. "So passionate and attentive to my every need, I feel very lucky, indeed."
Duo felt a hot blush scald him.
Heero seemed unsure how to proceed after that statement.
"Truly, he is beautiful, inside and out, and so 'accommodating'," Milliardo chuckled, and let Heero come to his own conclusion as to what 'accommodating' meant. "He likes to face the world with a brash demeanor, but he is a gentle soul, really, with capacity for peaceful pursuits that one rarely finds in men."
Duo's hands turned into fists, and he felt ready to explode.
"You are very fortunate," Heero replied, but it was empty of the envy that statement should have owned. "I hope that you both enjoy the Christmas celebration." It was nearly a repeat of Relena's words , as if he were at a loss to think of anything else to say, and was making a clear attempt to leave their company.
"You as well," Milliardo replied and then allowed Heero to pass him.
"I require you to be more pleasant," Milliardo warned Duo. "Especially, when I present you to important people."
Duo said nothing, mind still on Heero. What was the man thinking? he wondered. Duo felt as if he had been emasculated and embarrassed in front of Heero for a purpose. Milliardo hadn't introduced him to Heero by accident. He had wanted Heero to witness how well he had tamed Shinigami.
"If you've come here, simply to annoy my guests, brother, then you may leave," Relena warned as she appeared beside them. "Leave Heero alone."
Milliardo pressed her hands between his own and gave her a formal bow along with his tight smile. "I wouldn't dream of bothering your dear Heero Yuy."
"I don't want to room with you!" Duo protested as he took off his earrings and flung them away from him, without a thought for where they landed. Unbuttoning his coat, he paced the large suite like a cornered tiger, glaring hotly as Milliardo calmly checked to make certain that the servants had unpacked their things correctly.
"What you want isn't important, is it?" Milliardo smoothly replied. "You will not make scandal, by rooming separately from your husband."
"You went out of your way to say hello to Heero." Duo grabbed a decanter from a stand and poured himself a drink "You wanted him to get a good look at me. Am I here because of him?"
Milliardo was silent. Duo turned to him, drink in hand, scowling. He saw the smile on Milliardo's face, before the man turned to take off his dress coat. So, that was it, he thought. He was there to stick it in the face of Heero Yuy.
"Son of a bitch!" Duo exclaimed. "Has this shit always been about Heero? Is that why...?" Duo had to pause and consider how ridiculous that sounded. Why would Heero care that Milliardo had taken one, Duo Maxwell, and married him? He wouldn't, Duo concluded. "I don't get you!" Duo exclaimed at last, downed the drink, and then poured himself another one. "I need to stop trying to put reason to anything a crazy person does."
Milliardo suddenly reached out and took hold of Duo's sleeve. He placed Duo in front of a full length mirror and stood behind him, still smiling. "We are very handsome together," he said. "All eyes were on us. With jewels and fine clothes, you are beautiful, but you are like fire, and all are amazed that your fire is at my beck and call. That is power, isn't it, to hold someone like you, at my right hand? What man wouldn't want the world to see that?"
"One man, especially?" Duo asked as he shrugged away from Milliardo and sat on the bed.
Milliardo loosened the top button of his shirt and then replied thoughtfully, "We have always been competing with each other. It's only natural that I would want to-"
"Show him that you're spreading my legs?" Duo finished with a sneer. "I don't think Yuy is impressed by homos getting it on."
"You always revert to crudeness," Milliardo's smile had faded. "It's a sad reminder of your poor beginnings."
"Quoting magazine articles now?" Duo sneered and then quoted the article from memory. "Milliardo Peacecraft has definitely found a jewel among the trash of L2. Maxwell's manners, and language are a sad reminder of his poor beginnings, but, with a cadre of teachers, and Peacecraft's personal tutelage, this reporter is certain, that he will overcome his faults."
"You read too many of those magazines," Milliardo replied as he chose more comfortable clothing from a closet.
"It's good to know where you stand with millions of people," Duo said as he downed his drink and then let the empty glass fall to the floor. He stretched out on the bed, arm over his eyes.
"Or one person in particular?" Milliardo wanted to know. "I think Yuy's opinion means more, to you, than the opinion of millions."
Duo was quiet, yet tense.
"Ah, then it is true?" Milliardo prodded Duo's inner wound, once he was sure of it's source. "Twice I have seen how you look at him. Twice I have come to the conclusion that he means something to you."
"Are you going to pretend to be a jealous husband now?" Duo wanted to know with a sigh. "Do I get beaten? Fucked into the mattress? Shown my place, by spending a few days in a prison cell?"
"All of those punishments are tempting," Milliardo replied as he slipped out of his shirt and showed a muscular upper body, one that Duo had, many times, found it impossible to fight against. "You haven't earned them, though. I haven't found fault with your behavior. They are something to keep in mind, if you are considering being less than faithful."
Duo's hand turned into a fist and his fingernails bit into skin. "How much longer are you going to play this game with me?"
"As long as I wish," Milliardo replied. "There will be an end of it, though, eventually, I promise you."
"Why don't I believe you?" Duo retorted.
Milliardo frowned. "Being with men, is not really in my nature."
"Could have fooled me," Duo replied angrily.
"I do what I must," Milliardo said, sounding very much the soldier.
"For what?" Duo wanted to know, and lowered his arm to look at Milliardo. "At least tell me what this is all about?"
"In good time," Milliardo replied as he poured his own drink. "You will know the answer, to all of your questions, and you will be set free from our marriage, when I have what I want."
"You're always going to have that evidence on me," Duo reminded him. "I'm never going to be free of that."
"I've promised you freedom," Milliardo insisted, with a touch of temper. "I do keep my promises."
"Milliardo's twisted sense of honor," Duo mocked. "Excuse me if I don't trust it."
Milliardo looked annoyed, but he didn't retaliate. He wandered into another room of the large suite and Duo felt, finally, safe enough to undress and put on jeans and a T-shirt. His jewelry, he tossed onto a dresser, including his wedding ring. The ribbon in his hair was yanked out, lastly, and he re braided his hair as if he were preparing for a mission, determined to put his old self back into place. Milliardo could dress him up, and make him say whatever he pleased, but he wouldn't let the man change him.
The vid screen beeped and Duo took the call. He was shocked to see Heero Yuy's face on the monitor. "Heero?"
Heero's eyes took him in, puzzled at the change from 'princess' to plain ex-gundam pilot. "Mr. Peacecraft?" he said the name with an edge, as if he didn't approve.
"That's me, unfortunately," came out of Duo's mouth before he could stop it. He glanced nervously towards the room where Milliardo had disappeared, but the man didn't reappear to shout at him.
Heero was looking confused. Duo tried to recover.
"What can I do for you, Heero?" Duo asked.
"I wanted to brief you, and... your husband, on security procedures," Heero replied.
"All right," Duo replied and then was treated to a long, boring, recital of all the security measures that Heero had put into place, personally, for their protection.
Duo had stopped listening after, 'In the West Wing...' which had been Heero's first measure. Instead, of listening, he had watched Heero's face, drinking it in, liking how he had matured, and enjoying the confident, steady blue eyes that looked into his.
"Is that acceptable, Mr. Peacecraft?"
Duo blinked, coming back to the conversation. "Of course," he replied, without knowing what he was agreeing to.
"Then I will see you at eight a.m., in the Sun room," Heero told him and ended the call.
Duo frowned, not having a clue as to what he had agreed to.
"Who was that?" Milliardo asked, dressed in a robe, now, and showing signs of having taken a shower. His hair was a mass of wet tendrils that he was toweling dry.
"Yuy," Duo replied truthfully. "He wants to go over security protocols tomorrow morning."
"We're having breakfast with Relena in the Sun room," Milliardo told him with a frown."Security protocol will have to wait."
Duo felt a blush. Heero had been referring to that breakfast, not security protocol, he guessed. Were they all having breakfast together? As Milliardo left him to dress, Duo found himself sifting through his own clothes and hoping that Milliardo wouldn't insist that he wear feminine clothing again. If Heero was going to be there, he wanted to look more like himself.
"Good Morning, brother," Relena said warmly, and pointedly said nothing to Duo as they sat at a small table adorned with crystal, fine china, and a breakfast that seemed more a work of art than anything that was edible.
Milliardo gave a small nod of his head in reply and didn't comment on her rudeness. Duo didn't care what point she was trying to make. He was still stinging, mentally, from his fight with Milliardo earlier. The jeans and comfortable shirt, that he had planned to wear, had been disdainfully pushed aside in favor of pastel casual clothing, that would have looked more at place on a tennis court or a golf range. The flower, that the servant had insisted that he wear in his hair, had been crushed angrily in Duo's fist.
The servant's comment, that he failed at being able to dress a junk yard dog to appear to be a well bred poodle, had brought Milliardo into the dressing room to begin their fight. The clothes had stayed on, but the flower and the jewelry, aside from his wedding ring, had been discarded.
Heero, at his station near the table, had given Duo's clothes a frown, that had lingered longer than Duo had liked, but then he was all business again. Seeming deaf and dumb to the diners, his eyes were on the distance, an ear bud funneling him information from other guards around the estate grounds.
"What is this, exactly?" Duo asked as he pulled a plate closer to him. Yellow, pink, and orange were accented by mint leaves.
"Eggs," Milliardo replied absently as he began serving himself a crusted fish dish.
"Why all the colors, then?" Duo grumbled. "And mint leaves? Who ever heard of scrambled eggs with mint leaves?"
Relena's expression looked irritated, but she said pleasantly enough, "I hope your rooms were satisfactory?"
"Very much so," Milliard replied.
"I mean, mint really doesn't go with eggs, does it?" Duo went on as he found some sausage and put it on his plate. He rolled one around suspiciously and then forked it to smell it.
Relena turned as if to exclude Duo from her existence, and put a hand on Milliardo's sleeve. She said, "I was hoping to speak with you privately. Perhaps later, in the Red Room?"
"Solar, Red Room, Flamingo Room, Grand Entry..." Duo was muttering. "Why don't you just put numbers on the doors like a hotel?"
"Duo and I will be otherwise engaged then," Milliardo replied between bites of his fish. "You understand, I trust?"
Relena's hand tightened. "Are you avoiding me, brother?"
Milliardo smiled, but it didn't reach his eyes."Of course not, sister, but what you wish to tell me, will not effect anything at all."
"Perhaps it is proper to say it anyway?" Relena countered. "Perhaps you need to hear it?"
"I think not," Milliardo replied.
"Why even color the eggs?" Duo went on after eating his sausage. "What's the point of that?"
"I doubt that the chef had alley trash in mind when he created the dish!" Relena snapped as she rose. "Enjoy the meal, brother. I'm afraid that I must leave. I've developed a sudden headache."
Duo watched her go as he ate another sausage. "Ally trash? That's the best she could come up with?"
"I hope that you can forgive her?" Milliardo said smoothly. "Our relationship is difficult for her to accept."
"It's hard for me to accept," Duo sneered. Milliardo's heavy foot pressed down hard on his. in warning. "Love," Duo added with a growl, and then stood up, shoving his plate away from him. he grabbed one more sausage, saluted Milliardo with it before he took a hard bite, and said around the mouthful, "Going to walk this weird meal off. Later."
"I don't think.." Milliardo could see Duo's tenseness. He retreated, for the moment, but was quick to say, "I want you back at our rooms in one hour. Don't leave the grounds."
Duo gave him another mock salute.
Milliardo sat for a moment, fuming, and then glared at Heero. "I hope that you know to keep personal conversations confidential? My husband can be moody, at times, and rather bad mannered. It's to be expected, though. He's not used to living in the fine style that I've given him. He redeems himself in all other ways, of course." The last was suggestive and he smiled as if in slight embarrassment.
Heero replied carefully,"I wouldn't be in the position that I am in now, without being trustworthy, sir."
"Of course, forgive me," Milliard apologized with a bow of his head as he rose and tossed his napkin onto his plate. "You are a professional, as always."
Heero touched a hand to his ear, listening, and then frowned.
"What is it?" Milliardo asked.
"Duo has disappeared from our monitoring system," Heero replied and then began striding away, calling out orders over a cell.
Milliardo's face went red. His hands worked into fists, and then, suddenly, he shoved the table, and all its contents, over with a crash! "Damn him to hell!"
"Mr. Peacecraft?" Heero said politely.
Duo frowned. Back against a tree, he was sitting and facing a lazy brook, the babbling sound, and the call of birds, adding to a very picturesque landscape of shade trees and ferns sparkling with morning dew. "How did you find me?"
"Vectored from your last known position on camera," Heero replied.
Duo sighed and closed his eyes. "Milliardo going apeshit?"
"In a gentlemanly fashion, yes," Heero replied and stepped forward so that he could see Duo behind his tree. He noted that Duo had placed himself at an angle that allowed the tree trunk to block a nearby camera.
Duo chuckled, but there wasn't much humor in it. "I realize that I'm playing with fire, but, sometimes, I just have to pour jet fuel onto it."
"Why?" Heero regarded Duo's dejected pose, studied a face marked by weariness and some inner pain.
"It lets me feel like I'm still a man," Duo replied. He opened his eyes and dappled sunlight caught in their purple depths as he looked up at Heero. A smile played on his lips. "Don't ask any more about it. I can't tell you."
There was a long silence and then Heero said, "I won't ask. It's none of my business."
Their eyes did an odd dance, as if they both longed to look away, and couldn't. Duo broke it by standing up. His clothing was stained with dirt. He brushed at it ineffectually, his wedding ring sparkling with the motion of his hands.
"Your actions don't make any sense," Heero blurted out suddenly and then went stiff, as if he had broken through his own self control.
Duo kept his back to him. "I'm glad that you think so," Duo dared. "I'm glad that you remember who I was."
Heero looked frustrated, fighting himself back to silence.
"I made mistakes," Duo told him. "I stumbled after the war and someone was there to take advantage of that. I'm paying for my stupidity. I'm not sure how long I'll have to pay."
Heero was trying to understand and failing.
Duo shrugged. "Don't worry about it. It's my life, my troubles."
Duo shoved hands into his pockets and started walking back to the house, Heero at his elbow. Duo glanced at the man's troubled face, a question on his own lips.
"So," Duo asked. "When did you decide to join Preventers?. Didn't you promise 'not to kill again'?"
Heero grimaced. "I was young and idealistic. Reality needs me, needs my abilities."
"Reality sucks," Duo agreed, nodding. "If I ever get out of this, and Une lets me, I think I want to join up, too."
"Get out of what?" Heero asked, confused.
Duo bit his lip hard and then replied with an air of annoyance, "A bad patch in my life. Everyone has them. This one is just... kind of big. It may take awhile to smooth out."
"I'm certain Une would welcome you," Heero told him.
"That's nice to know," Duo replied with a smile, but that smile dropped when Milliardo strode up to them.
Milliardo's anger was barely leashed, a vein throbbing in his forehead. His blue eyes swept over them both and then settled on Duo with cold threat. "Where have you been?" His hand had turned into a fist and he flexed it. Duo dared him with temper in his own eyes.
"Mr. Peacecraft unwisely left the walkway to look at a brook," Heero interjected smoothly. "The ground is soft from a recent rain. He slipped and fell."
"Just sightseeing," Duo agreed. "Sorry to worry you...love." Duo forced the last word out with difficulty. "Yuy makes a good watch dog."
Milliardo recovered with difficulty and managed a calmer voice as he said, "Thank you, Agent Yuy. I don't know what I would have done if any harm would have befallen my beloved husband. I know that he's been a gundam pilot, but he's not as he once was. He can be... delicate and easily hurt."
Duo almost couldn't contain a snarl of fury, but he bit his lip until it bled, knowing that he had already come too close to the line with Milliardo.
"I apologize for losing visual contact with him," Heero replied with stiff correctness."I'll make certain that the monitors are adjusted to cover that blind spot where Duo had fallen."
"Good, see that you do." Milliardo slipped Duo's arm in the crook of his and held him at his side, painfully tight, as he led Duo back to the house, Heero trailing behind to give them privacy. "Come, dear, you'll need to change and rest after your ordeal."
Milliardo said nothing until they were once again at their rooms. Ordering Heero to keep watch outside of their door, to deter visitors from disturbing Duo, his attitude changed once they were inside, and with the door firmly between them and prying eyes. Then Milliardo's hand clamped onto Duo's arm and spun the man to face him. He bent down and snarled, "You're slipping your leash and that I won't allow any longer. Your use to me is done here. Hodgkins? Durham?"
Two of Milliardo's personal guards appeared, coming to attention. "My husband has taken ill from his recent fall. In fear for his health, I've decided to have him escorted home and to have my personal physicians see to his health."
"Very kind of you, I'm sure," Duo sneered, but he was hard pressed to stop a tremor of trepidation as Milliardo forced him, face down on the bed, his knees on the floor. Tying him down that way, with the bed sheets binding his wrists to each bedpost, and looping once around his neck, was only the beginning. Cold air kissed his lower body, as Milliardo yanked down his pants and left him bare, in a final humiliation.
"Don't remove him, just yet," Milliardo told the guards. "Stand watch for one hour, let him realize how easily he could be in this very position in prison, and then take him home and lock him in the basement. Keep him there until my return."
Milliardo bent and let drop a player by Duo's face. He said, "You are of no use to me if you rebel against my wishes." His hand wrapped in Duo's braid and yanked."Just in case you're deciding to play with Yuy, I'll have to make certain that he knows how much you love your husband."
Milliardo pressed play and the sounds of Duo's groans filled the room full blast.
"Oh, God! You're too big! Come on! Come on! Stop your freakin teasing and get it in! That position? You are such a freak, but it goes in easier that way. Shit! Your pounding me into hamburger! Come on! Do it! I want it! I want you!"
"Bastard!" Duo swore. "You edited that! I never said those things!" but Milliardo stuffed his mouth full of sheet with a slow smile of satisfaction.
"No one knows that but us, love," Milliardo replied and gave Duo a languid kiss on the cheek.
Duo's face burned as his moans and cries, that had been from pain, filled the room.
"I will see you after Christmas," Milliardo told him, "And I will see that you receive a more proper punishment if you still have rebellious tendencies after this."
Duo bit into the sheet and banged his forehead against the bed in fury as Milliardo strolled into another room and closed the door. With Milliardo gone, the guards grinned, exchanged looks, and decided to amuse themselves at Duo's expense.
I'm done, Duo thought, as he set himself to endure, knowing that the guards wouldn't dare take it too far. He had reached his limit and Milliardo had made a fatal error in judging his fear and the level of abuse that he would endure to avoid prison. A threat wasn't effective if the alternative became just as bad. It wasn't even the humiliation, or the man pretending to take him with a lear. If he was honest with himself, it was knowing that Heero was outside, listening to that tape of him groaning and whimpering. Any dream of 'some day' was snuffed out completely now. Duo hadn't realized until then, how much he had kept that lonely candle for Heero burning.
Duo pressed his face into the bedclothes, letting the feeling of suffocation block out the men, as he tried to crystallize a means of escape.
They expected him to stay docile. They were used to him bowing to Milliardo's wishes, angry, yet no trouble to them, in the end. Duo grinned, releasing all of his pent up fury, as he pounded both of his guards into unconsciousness. One, he punched with a hard, sideways, blow to the head. The other, he rammed against the glass of the side window. The man's head splattered the safety glass with a satisfying crack. The driver, he took out, by slamming the door into him when he stopped the car and came to see what was wrong.
Ditching the limo, and the men, on the side of the road, Duo took off at a run across Relena Peacecraft's vast estate. The cameras were sure to see him, but he hoped that it would take some time for security to decide what to do about Milliardo's husband running, in fine dress clothes, and dripping with jewelry, into the woods, when they had just seen his grand exit at the estate's front entrance. Milliardo had made certain to kiss him fully, and to have him looking his best; a final showing of his property before he sent that property back to his home.
He wasn't acting logically, Duo knew. He should have waited for a crowded place, a chance to slip away, a moment of confusion, anything, but a wild run, in a stark white suit, three feet of hair flying loose, and wearing enough gold to buy a shuttle. He had no hope of 'disappearing' . He supposed that had been part of Milliardo's thinking when he had dressed Duo. It showed that the man had felt uncertain of his hold.
It came to Duo, as he muddied his suit, slithering into and up the other side of a stream bed, that he knew, himself, that he had very little chance of escaping. It was an act of defiance, more than anything else, a moment of spitting in Milliardo's face, having a bit of free will, and going down fighting, he thought, before the man had him shipped off to prison. Duo wondered what Heero would think, when Milliardo showed the world the tape of him shooting down a guard in cold blood. A man with two kids, and a young wife, hadn't deserved to be taken down by an ex gundam pilot, looking to score easy money. It was time that he paid for that crime, Duo thought, time to stop avoiding what he deserved.
A root caught Duo's ankle and leather dress shoes slid in the mud as he tried to recover. He went down in a tumble and heard a sickening crack as the root kept his ankle from following the rest of him. Pain lanced up his leg and he saw red, blood pounding in his ears, as his ankle let him know that it was broken without a doubt.
"Fuck!" Duo panted as he unhooked the ankle from the tree root and rolled to sit up and get it away from the ground. It hung at a definite angle. "Shit! Shit! Shit!" Duo swore as his head reeled with adrenaline, and nausea, and the realization that his escape attempt was over.
Heero crouched by him, in a dark turtleneck and pants, boots muddied as if he had been running as well. His face was full of confusion and concern as Duo started back from him with another curse.
"F-Fuck! Warn a guy, n-next time! Where did you come from?" Duo demanded.
Heero pointed to the trees and Duo understood, without looking, that he had been monitoring the cameras. The man's attention was on Duo's ankle as he gingerly lifted Duo's filthy pants leg.
"Broken," Heero judged quietly and began to take out his cell to call for assistance.
Duo grabbed the man's hand hard. "No, shit, it's broken," he retorted, "but the man you're about to call is going to do a lot worse to me when he finds out that I was making a run for it. Call the police. I'm done. Time for prison."
Heero frowned, taking in Duo's wild, tangled hair, his mud covered clothes, and the golden hoop earrings, and many bracelets and necklaces ,that Duo was sure, were making him look effeminate and crazy.
"What's going on?" Heero asked simply.
Duo snorted and then grimaced as he panted with the pain. "This is good. The guy I think the most of, gets to hear my confession before anyone else."
"Confession?" Heero moved closer, forgetting the ankle for the moment.
Duo grinned weakly and closed his eyes, as he replied, "I heard about a shipment of mobile chips slated for the furnace. No good to anyone, since their processors were all smashed, but worth some money, since their components were made with some expensive, hard to get, materials. Easy job,in and out, nobody gets hurt. It was just military waste. I wasn't counting on a guard coming in, leveling a gun at my face, and starting to squeeze the trigger. I took him out, roll, point, shoot, just like in the war." His closed eyes squeezed tighter shut with the painful memory. "Just a kid, not where he was supposed to be, scared out of his wits and thinking, like me, that it was him or me. I was better. I was faster. He didn't have a piss of a chance. I got out of there, but I didn't get away without leaving evidence. The whole thing was taped."
"Then why aren't you in jail?" Heero asked, his voice neutral, not giving anything away.
"Milliardo Peacecraft found me, how, I don't know," Duo replied. "He told me, I have the tape, do everything that I ask, or be someone's pinata/fuck toy in Moon base prison. The decision was simple, really, until lately. I couldn't see much of a difference this morning, so I decided to have it over with, make one last run for it, and turn myself in."
"Why would Milliardo Peacecraft do such a thing?" Heero wondered as Duo lay back in the mud, one arm over his eyes.
"Who the hell knows?" Duo replied bitterly. "He's nuts, that's for sure. He liked showing me off, his pet, his property, especially to you. He seemed to get his rocks off every time he jerked my leash over to you."
There was silence. Duo peeked from under his arm, and saw Heero looking stricken and distant.
"Call the police," Duo prompted.
"How did he know?" Heero whispered in anguish. "I..." His face darkened. "I told Relena. She must have...."
"Heero. I would love some pain killer, right now, and to get out of the mud, and into my goddamn prison cell, so make the call, already."
Heero's dark blue eyes finally focused on Duo. "This is my fault. I should never have confided in Relena. I misjudged her reaction... her anger. I had only wanted her to understand why we could never have a relationship."
Duo stared. "Heero, what the fuck are you saying?"
"She must have told Milliardo that I..." Heero choked on the words and shook his head hard. "He is mad, to try and wound me like this. He was always willing to risk everything to prove that he was better than me."
"Why should you care whether he's doing me, or not?" Duo sneered, the pain washing over him and making consciousness a tentative thing. He hardly heard Heero's reply as the pain finally took him under.
"I...I do care," Heero choked in reply, as if he were dragging the words from deep inside of him.
On to chapter two