Disclaimer:I don't own them and I don't make any money off of this.
Warning:Male/male sex, graphic, language, violence
Trial by Fire
It wasn't completely dark. I wasn't sure whether that made it better or not. A thin line of light ran along the bottom of the door and a very small trace of air seeped through along with it. I wasn't going to suffocate. Harker's orders were being followed to the letter, though. Having air was just going to make me suffer longer. I wondered how long it took a man to bake to death and what was involved.
The container stank. Fuel rods had been stored there at one time, and some sort of hydraulic unit, I thought. I paced my prison and felt grease on the walls and gritty dirt. I touched the seals on the metal plating, felt screw heads flush with the wall, and searched the hinges on the door. The hinges were my best bet. I searched my clothes, but I had traveled light and they had taken everything else. I took off one of my ID cards and used the metal clip to try and work something apart. It was like digging a tunnel with a spoon, but I wasn't going to go down without a fight.
The heat grew. I knew better than to hope for rain or a cold snap. Might as well hope for Hell to freeze over. I peeled my uniform down to my waist and used the sleeves to mop the running sweat from my face. My fingers cramped, the edges of the card cut my skin, and blood began to run with the sweat streaming down my arms, but I continued to pry. If a door could swing open, it could be jimmied, I reasoned. I just had to have the time to do it.
My improvised tool snapped. I sat down abruptly on the hot metal of the floor and fingered the two pieces. Neither of them were long enough to use. I squeezed them in my fist and then jammed them into my pocket. When you didn't have anything, you didn't waste material.
I felt over my body, over my clothes, trying to find something else to use. I didn't find anything, but I couldn't stop searching. As my hands roamed, I thought of Heero. I hoped that he'd found the children by now and saved them. I thought about might have beens, too, and realized that he had managed to make me believe... believe in him, believe in us, believe that something could happen after all of this was over. My pessimistic street sense had been lying, putting up a rough front of denial, but... there it was, crying along with Hope at the loss of my future. Heero had convinced even it.
"Shit," I whispered to the dark.
I thought about writing Heero a note, maybe in my sweat and blood, to let him know... It would have been great? We could have been something? How I felt? I shoved wet bangs out of my eyes irritably. He knew all of that already. The only thing left for me to do was to not to die like a wuss. I wasn't fifteen anymore. I wasn't going to cry like I had when, during the war, I had nearly suffocated along with Wu Fei in a holding cell. I was a man, I was tough, I was... When Heero found me... he wasn't going to find me crawling.
The heat grew. I cut back a whimper and sat up when I realized that I was banging my head against the hot metal wall. I stopped my hands from tearing off my clothes. Nobody was going to find me nude. I latched onto that resolve. Die like a man, I told myself firmly. Mind over matter. I didn't have much longer. Pain was pain. I'd suffered worse. Pretty soon, I would pass out and then I would get the relief I wanted.
A slight breeze touched my hand. Ever seen a man dying of thirst find water? I couldn't stop myself from stretching out flat and getting my face as close as possible to the crack under the door. The breeze tickled my nose, my lips. I lay there, ignoring the burning floor, and thanked the bastard in charge of the weather controls that had decided that a breeze would be nice that day.
Light and a breeze. For a moment, it was blessed relief, but the heat wasn't going to be denied it's victim. It was crushing me, wringing out my life in sweat and a heat that would slowly melt my brain. While I waited, I tried seeing out, wanting some last look at something besides darkness, even if it was the concrete slab the container was sitting on. It was then that I saw a possibility. I pulled apart my sleeve, slipped it through the crack, and just moved it rapidly.
I remembered the guards at the front door of the government complex. I was so sure that they had been completely ignorant of their boss's dirty business. If I could find someone else like that, some ignorant dock worker... All they had to do was look my way, see the rag of sleeve moving, come over... Hope was working over time.
I felt myself fading. I kept up the movements, but there were patches were I 'came to' and had to start the motion again. I was running out of time. I thought of Heero and it wasn't about his love, his smile, or his warm attentiveness to me....I smirked when I thought of him in bed, supported on strong arms, arched back, slim neck exposed, moans coming up from the depths of his chest as he rode me. I remembered the feel of his stiff nipples under my fingers, the feel of his swollen erection shoving in and out of my tightness, the feel of the slip and slide of his hard muscles under his hot skin. I wanted to remember him like that, wanting me that badly, wanting to fuck me, own me, be in me. It's as romantic as I could get, really.
I wondered how Heero would remember me and I winced. I was a screw up, a loser.... I'd screwed up even this stupid mission... well, I had done my part, but getting out was part of being able to label it as a success and I hadn't managed that. Maybe Heero would remember me in bed too. I guess it's one of the few things we did together that was good. It was better than being 'the guy who ate twinkies with me' or 'the guy I was in the war with'. Being 'the guy I used to have hot sex with' was infinitely better. I snickered darkly.
I faded again after that. I'm not sure how long. When I came to, I stayed fuzzy, disoriented. My fingers were tucked under the crack of the door and they were really raw now. Sometime in my delirium, I had tried to crawl through the crack. Damn! So much for dying with dignity. I forced one hand back, but it was too late. They would see my blood and skin there. Heero would know.
It made me furious, that betrayal of my body. It had robbed me of my last dignity. I found myself kicking out, pounding with my fists, punishing my body and the walls of my prison with the last of my strength in an 'episode' of gand proportions. When I finally collapsed, bruised, bleeding, and... dying... There was a moment of peace, of utter quiet, and then I heard feet scuffing on concrete.
"Hey?!" A voice called out uncertainly. "Is somebody in there?"
I tried to reply. My throat was raw and a croak was all I could manage until I swallowed and used the last of my spit to wet my tongue enough to say. "Yeah... yeah! I'm trapped! Some asshole didn't know I was here... locked the door!"
"Mother fucker!" the voice exclaimed. "Hey, Rogers! Get over here! Somebody's in here and the damned thing is padlocked!"
I rolled onto my back and just panted in relief. Now, if they could only get me out before I died or before Harker's goons came back and stopped my rescuers.
"Here, buddy!" Water squirted through the crack. I jammed my face in it, my hands, bathed as much as I could. It seemed freezing but it was probably only luke warm. When the stream ended, the voice said, "I need to refill my water bottle. I'll be right back. We have to pry the lock open. The key is gone."
"Shit," I mumbled and closed my eyes as I rested my cheek in what was left of the water.
There were sounds of prying, pounding, and cursing. The lock was a strong one. More water was squirted. I drank some as best I could, but I knew that wasn't going to stop the heat from frying me alive. I was still feeling disoriented and I didn't think I could sit up if I had to.
"You there!" I knew Deiter's voice and my gut twisted. If he was back, if he wasn't dead with Heero's bullet between his eyes or cooling in a cell, then those children.... "Get the hell back to work!"
"But there's someone trapped in here!" A voice protested.
"We'll take care of it! We have the key," Deiter snarled. "You're garbage men! Take the garbage and get the hell out of here."
"We called for you guys to help," the man told him, confused and unwilling to abandon me. "Nobody came."
"That's why I'm here!" Deiter retorted. "You called and I came down to take care of this. Now get the hell out of here!"
I heard a gun clicking and a curse from one of my rescuers. "Dan," Deiter ordered coldly. "Looks like our trash men have gotten into some trouble. Why don't you put them where they won't bother us? We'll take care of them later."
"Will do,"a strange voice replied. "Get moving or I'll shoot you two right here!"
Feet moved away from the container. I closed my eyes tightly, knowing my last hope was leaving me.
"Comfortable, Maxwell?" Deiter asked loudly, sounding amused. "You'd better keep quiet or you're going to get some more people killed."
Deiter laughed at his own evilness. I summoned up enough strength to reply. "When my boyfriend gets hold of you, he's going to yank off your balls, fry them well done, and make you cut them up and eat them."
"With hot sauce," Heero's voice suddenly said, deep and as cold as the space between stars.
My entire body, my soul, my heart, and my head, jolted in shock as if I'd been give a thousand volt charge. I grinned from ear to ear and laughed in relief.
"Heero," I whispered hoarsely.
"Give me the key," Wu Fei's voice demanded. "Don't make me take it from you. That might involve killing you."
There was silence and then something rattled.
"Take him," Heero barked to someone else and then the padlock was being shifted. "Call for evac to the nearest hospital."
The click of the lock, the rattle of metal on metal, and then the opening of the door, was like seeing the gates of heaven open up in front of me. I couldn't help rolling out, not caring if I hit the concrete, just wanting out of that hot box. Heero caught me, eased me down, lips kissing my face while his hands looked for wounds.
"Just the heat, I think," Heero finally announced and I heard Wu Fei's sigh of relief very close by. I rolled my head and saw him crouched by me. I smiled weakly.
"Mission accomplished, boss," I told him.
Wu Fei looked... moved. He said gently, squeezing my arm just a little, "Well done. You can stand down now."
I didn't realize how tense I was, how I had been waiting for something like
that. I guess you can't take the terrorist out of Duo Maxwell as easily as I
thought. Heero was holding me. I had room for a little embarrassment, trying
to turn my head to see who might be there to see me... well, needing to be held,
but my senses spun and I really hoped this was just passing out and not... death.
Preventer hospitals are nice. I had my own room, a picture window that looked out on the park, and room service. I think I would have enjoyed it more if tubes weren't stuck into my wrists and monitor patches weren't pulling hairs out of my skin. Just being able to wake up, though, made me pretty damned forgiving of just about everything.
I fingered the small medal on my hospital gown. I had found it in the first few moments after waking up and, for three days now, I was still marveling at it. Sure I had medals from the war, but that was for killing and trying to sacrifice my life while, well, killing people. This was different. Heero, who had been hovering by my bed like my damned shadow, had grinned while explaining what it was for.
I had saved those children. Deiter hadn't gone with the truck. I hadn't failed. Heero and Wu Fei had found them just in time and they were all now back with their parents. The little girl had been the one to save me, returning the favor as soon as she had worked her courage up to tug on the sleeve of the frantic, dark haired, Preventer agent. She had told Heero that the nice man with the long hair had been put in a box by nasty men. She wanted to make sure that I went home to my mommy and daddy too.
And here I was, no mommy and daddy, but an attentive lover who was eager to get me out of that hospital so that we could start our life together... only he could see that future really clean and really bright and I... I was just seeing a fog. I didn't confess it, of course, it was just too good to be alive and seeing him so damned happy. It was only after I'd had time to stew in my hospital bed and take stock of life, that the fog grew into something dark and impenetrable. Maybe he saw it to, finally. Heero had grown concerned and I... I had verbally pushed him out of my room, wanting to be angry and disgusted with myself without any company.
Heero was a stubborn man. I knew he wouldn't go far or stay away long, so I looked up when I heard the door opening, expecting either Heero or a nurse. Instead, Wu Fei came into the room, dressed in a clean, crisp Preventer uniform. His expression told me his errand was business. He came to my bedside and I saw grave respect in his eyes. It made me confused and I found myself not saying anything.
"I misjudged you. I ask for your pardon," Wu Fei said and gave me a stiff bow.
"Yeah, sure," I replied and felt awkward. I fiddled with an IV tube as I said sarcastically, "I can see how you would think I was a loser, selfish, street trash, ex thief..." Wu Fei's irritated expression stopped me. I sighed and stopped my attempt to put off the inevitable. "Okay... so... You just came to apologize?"
That was too much to hope for. Wu Fei shook his head and told me, "I'm here on official business."
I scowled. "What now? Am I being arrested? Business foreclosed on? Tax man prosecuting? Plague? Locusts?"
Wu Fei raised an eyebrow and he actually smiled, amused, "Locusts?"
I shrugged. "I saw it in a movie once."
Wu Fei snorted and I finally saw the guy Heero called a friend, but only for a moment, and then he was composed and all business again as he told me, "I am here to make you an offer."
I tensed and looked towards the window. We were high up. I could see the dust rising to the station ceiling in the far distance as the filters engaged. I thought about my lot, my business, my life. "I was forced to do this mission," I said, "I don't want to do any more."
"You are not disciplined enough to be an agent in the field," Wu Fei replied, "though your skill is unquestionable," he added.
I grunted, "Then, what?"
"Une is offering you a position as a consultant, a field expert, " Wu Fei explained. "You'll be in charge of outfitting and mission planning." I scowled, off balance, but then he continued, as if uncomfortable with it, "To sweeten the deal, Une has also offered you the position overseeing the Preventer stock yard.... the dump, in other words. It contains all of our damaged vehicles and equipment. With funds being so tight, Une is interesting in salvaging as much as possible."
I laughed, I didn't care that it made my patches yank out hair or the needles in my arms jiggle painfully. Wu Fei watched me, probably wondering if he should call a nurse. I sounded on the edge of hysteria even to myself. I calmed myself with an effort. "So," I said, getting back my breath, "The Lady takes and the Lady gives. Bet she likes that kind of power." Before Wu Fei could argue, I continued acidly, " But, you know, it just wouldn't seem right without people like that in my life."
Wu Fei looked down at his slim hands and then up at me again. "Maxwell... You've been hiding here. You know you have. When what we are so good at causes so much destruction and death, it's normal to try to lock it up and forget that kind of talent ever existed in us."
Wu Fei sounded serious and he sounded as if his words came from personal experience. I suddenly knew that he had done his own kind of running, too, and had ended up with the Preventers in the end.
"I wasn't hiding," I argued. "I did want my own business, my own scrap lot."
He gave me a hard look. "Did it ever make you happy?"
I opened my mouth and then closed it. I was that sure he would know I was lying if I tried to say it had. Being alone, thinking of drinking myself to death along with my drunken employees, knowing that I had failed at 'normal'... I knew I had been sliding towards something and happiness hadn't had anything to do with.
My train was coming. It was time to jump on and ride it to a new destination. "I'll have to leave L2?" I asked softly.
"Yes," Wu Fei replied. "We're headquartered on Earth."
I nodded. I didn't trust my voice. I comforted myself by telling myself that I wasn't giving up. I hadn't really failed as long as I was still moving forward, still taking advantage of options... of life.
"We leave in two days. You'll be released tomorrow morning," Wu Fei told me.
" 'Kay," I mumbled. When I looked up, he was gone, the door sliding
slowly shut by itself.
My things were packed, locked, and sent special delivery to my new home; a place I'd never seen before, but an address handed to me by Heero and therefore to be trusted. As he sat with me at the port, both of us waiting for a transport to take us to Earth, we were quiet. I guess I looked pissed. Heero knew I had agreed to take the position, but he wasn't sure how I was feeling about it... about us. I guess my anger did include him. When I hurt, I bit everything in sight, even the person I loved. So, we sat in silence, separated by my anger and his uncertainty.
"When I found those children," Heero said suddenly, looking at the crowd in the port and not at me, "instead of you... when I realized what you had done... I thought I was going to die. Even if this mission ruined whatever we could have had between us... Please, don't shut me out of your life completely. I-I don't think I could stand-"
I reached out and took hold of his hand tightly. Screw anybody who was looking. "I have every fucking right to be pissed as hell!" I grated at him and squeezed Heero's hand until he winced, but he was looking at me now, a whole new kind of hurt in his eyes."I have every right to kick your ass from here to the next planet, " I told him. "I have every right to turn my back and just walk away." The pain in Heero's eyes intensified and he was suddenly squeezing my hand back harder than I was squeezing his.
I leaned in close, saying through gritted teeth, "I love you, though,
and whatever bad happened during this nightmare, that was definitely not part
of it. In fact... It is the best thing that's ever happened to me. " I
swallowed uncomfortably and then bulled on when I saw him begin to glow, begin
to smile in relief, "You gotta know, though, I'm not taking that kind of
shit again, even from you, got that?" He nodded quickly, the smile leaving
him and his expression going tense at my tone. "So...." I trailed
off, trying to find words and coming up empty. I ended up saying abruptly, "So,
let's move in together, and all that."
I turned away, arms crossing over my chest as I sank into my seat.
There was a long stretch of silence and then Heero replied carefully, obviously struggling with the joy of my suggestion and the fear that he might be about to piss me off again. "I... uh... already..." He cleared his throat and tried again. "I picked out an apartment and sent your things there... mine as well. It was the address that I gave you..."
I scowled. "You were that sure about 'us'?" I snarled.
Heero leaned so that his shoulder was against mine. It was as if the world, the bustling space port, and everyone around us, suddenly disappeared when he said, "No. I ... I had hoped, but I made sure my things stayed in my duffel just in case I wasn't welcome.. Mostly, the apartment is for you, so you won't have to worry about a place to stay, and to keep your things safe. I didn't want them sent to a space port locker. Things happen there. Things get stolen."
Keep your things safe. Heero couldn't have said anything else that would have made my heart burn for him as much as those four words.. I turned, grabbed him by the back of the neck, and looked deeply into his startled eyes. There were so many things that I wanted to say just then, how I was feeling, my sudden hope that everything was going to be okay now, that maybe we did have more than a chance in hell of being a couple. It was just too big to squeeze into sentences though. I struggled, growled in frustration, and then knew exactly what to do. I picked up the end of my braid, the thing I never wanted anyone to touch, the thing that I guarded so fiercely, because of what it reminded me of, the small bit of my past where the gentle fingers of a nun had shown me, if only briefly, what it was like to have a mother, and I placed it in Heero's hand.
Did he get it? I was ready for him to frown and look confused, to say something... not right about it. I waited for him to ruin this gift I was giving him, this big, important chunk of myself, this tangible sign that I wanted him with me and that, whatever had happened before that moment, I was ready to trust him, love him, and be with him.
Heero held the end of my braid, looking down at it. He didn't frown. He didn't look confused. He trembled, then he kissed it, and then he was pulling me into his arms and clutching at me so hard it hurt.
Okay, throw the rice and play the wedding march, we were married. I grinned as he kissed me, making it goofy and sloppy, and then we both laughed like little kids. I had jumped to another train, passing in the opposite direction of where I had thought my destination in life lay, but Heero had been waiting for me on that train. We would ride where ever it went, together.
see Kracken's original, published yaoi fiction, The Angel Within, at amazon.com under Kracken
Latest updates at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/KrackenficsML/
and for general fanfiction talk: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/krackenml/
Back to chapter23