The Cost

Chapter 1: Heroes
by Kracken

Disclaimer: I don't own them and I don't make any money off of them.
Warnings: Male/Male sex, graphic, language, violence.



Disclaimer:I don't own them and I don't make any money off of them.
Warning:Male/male sex, Duo sufferitus, violence, language. 1x2, 3x4, Sally x 5xZechs.

The Cost


On his way home from work, Duo Maxwell tried to balance a computer pad full of reports he needed to review, his lunch cooler, the bag of laundry that he had just picked up from the cleaners, and his take out dinner, as he negotiated a cracked sidewalk and a crowd of other people on the street. When his cell phone thrummed in his pocket and played a cute cartoon tune, he was out of hands to answer it. He ended up balancing his dinner on one elbow ,and weaving to keep it there, as he flipped open his cell and stuck it between his shoulder and his ear.

"Maxwell," he bit out irritably.

"Duo, " Heero said in his ear and Duo grinned. He always had time to hear from Heero. It didn't matter that he had just left his fellow agent sorting through a mound of work that he had refused to leave. The man was inhuman when it came to work load stamina.

"What's up, buddy?" Duo asked warmly. Get a clue, he thought. I love you, lust after you, want you in a bad way. We're both legal as of last month, all signed and sealed by the government, so let's have dinner, take off our clothes, and do it until the sun comes up-

"Where did you put that Sanderson file?" Heero asked in an irritated voice, curdling Duo's fantasy in an instant. "Why do you insist on using ridiculous file names?"

"Because that's the way I think," Duo shot back. "It's under taxidermist/mission/steak."

There was a sigh and a pause as keys clicked, then Heero's voice, "May I ask why?"

Duo snickered. "Our guy has a stuffed moose in his house, he used to be a mission target during the war, and he kept me from a steak dinner at Quatre's yesterday."

"If you want me to concede that any of that makes sense, you are sadly mist-" Heero began to growl back, but Duo had stopped listening.

A woman had rounded a corner in a frantic rush and barreled straight into Duo. The cell went flying and cracked on the sidewalk, his dinner slid under the wheels of a passing car, and one of his fumbling and grasping hands just managed to save his computer pad before it followed the cell phone. The woman tangled in the strap of his lunch cooler and they did a mad dance before he was able to grip her shoulder and bring it to a halt. It was then that he saw her panicked face, her trembling lips, and her tear filled eyes.

"My-My baby!!" She shrieked as she wrenched out of his hands and broke the strap of his cooler. "You have to save my baby!" When Duo looked blank, she shrieked the same words to the street at large.

Black smoke suddenly billowed from where she had entered the street. Duo knew the place. Ratty tenements, with dubious fire escapes, and access roads so narrow that emergency vehicles couldn't reach them easily. If she had called for help, it was a sure bet that whatever crew was responding would have trouble handed to them in a forklift.

"Floor and number?" Duo shouted at her.

"Three, room thirty-thirty six," she stammered as if she couldn't remember. She looked drunk, Duo thought, seeing her glassy eyes, or on drugs, but it didn't give her a pass for leaving her baby behind in a fire.

Duo scooped up his cell and heard Heero demanding to know what was going on. Glad that it was still working, Duo shouted, "Fire on 10th and Wilson! Send for emergency. I'm going in after a baby."

"Duo... what?" Heero shouted, but Duo was already pocketing his cell and rushing down the narrow road. He had to shove through a throng, standing and staring in shock. He asked, as he made it to the front stairs, "Anyone in there?"

No one seemed to have an answer. Duo hoped not. His entire mission now was to save a baby as he took the steps two at a time and ignored a few calls for him to not be crazy and to come back. That made him grin fiercely as he ignored the idiotic tune of his phone. It was probably Heero calling back.

The smoke was thick and Duo could feel heat all around him. Instinct was tugging at him, wanting him to run and escape, but he throttled it and charged up another flight of stairs. The sprinkler system wasn't working. He groaned inwardly when he found the emergency stairs blocked and locked. If he lived, he was going to fine the owners into the next life.

Ducking into the open door of an apartment, Duo grabbed a blanket and soaked it before he dodged back out with it over his shoulders. Dripping and weighed down, he put one corner over his nose and mouth to cut the smoke and dashed up another flight of stairs. Something high above crashed and Duo heard a woosh and the ominous sound of the fire. The smoke came pouring in as he raced down the narrow third floor and into room thirty six. The baby was screaming in its dirty crib by a television that was still on to some evening broadcast. It was obvious that the mother had been on the couch. A blanket and drug paraphernalia were littering it.

Anger almost burned Duo hotter than the heat of the fire to know that she had been that close and not thought to take her baby in her panic. He choked on smoke as he grabbed the baby and tucked it under his blanket. He was surprised at how strong it was as it squirmed and cried, but that crying turned to pathetic choking sounds as it drew in a lung full of smoke.

Duo was running out of time, if he hadn't already. He sprinted for the door and then bent as low as he could manage to get under the smoke. He had to find the stairs by memory and feel and then almost fell down them when he missed a step. He caught himself, squeezed the baby too tightly as he regained his momentum, and found an entirely new brand of terror when even it's small choking sounds went silent. Had he hurt it? Had the smoke?

The building was made of old wood and masonry. It burned like kindling soaked in fuel. Only a renovated floor above Duo had saved him so far. When it gave way with a crash, it took the floors above it into a flaming cave in that aimed straight for Duo as he reached the first floor.

Duo didn't take more than a second to react. He sent the baby sliding across the floor towards the front door, before the first fiery beam landed on his shoulders and then his back as he was slammed down hard.

Extensive injuries. Burns. Diagnosis; limited recovery potential. Discharged from Preventers. Sign the paperwork. Ward of Quatre Winner. Therapy. Endless therapy. Whispered voices; 'Why does he bother? Doctor already said he won't recover.' Stupid. Stubborn. Crazy. Deal with it. Deal.

Duo glared at his legs as Sally Po sipped iced tea and leaned back in her chair. She was looking at his apartment; one room, a bed, two chairs, and himself in his wheel chair. "Homey," she commented dryly. "Maybe some art on the walls..."

"I've already had the talk," Duo grumbled and ignored the throbbing pain of damaged bones that didn't want to sit any longer. His legs had been broken in so many places that only wire and cement were keeping them together. Four ribs had been replaced by metal ones. A repaired punctured lung still made a strange wheeze when he breathed. A hip protested a replaced joint and the wires and pins that were still keeping that leg attached to the rest of his body. A nurse visited him twice a day and a therapist and a doctor once a day. None of them had bothered hiding the fact that they were expecting him to die and to be unemployed sometime soon. Being blunt about that had probably seemed a way to make Duo wake up and return to the hospital, but it had only made him more determined to get away from them.

"I just wanted to see for myself," Sally replied.

"So that you could sign Quatre's papers and have me committed," he shot back.

"He did ask," she revealed without any attempt at denial. She shrugged. "I don't see enough here to do that, though. You have a stocked refrigerator, a hot plate that you can reach, dishes in the sink that have obviously been used, a bed that looks slept in, and professionals visiting you every day. Doesn't seem the actions of someone who is suicidal."

Duo let out a relieved breath and then winced as he tried to ease a cramp along his side.

"Pain pills aren't working?" Sally asked in concern. "I can change your prescription."

"They work," Duo replied, "but nothing short of death can stop it completely." He picked at his jeans as he added, "I can handle that. The brain gets used to it after awhile and kind of forgets to feel it. It's... not being able to get around like I want to. Once I get better..."

"Should I revise my opinion?" Sally said, though she looked sad. "You know the diagnosis as well as I do, Duo. You are not coming back from this."

Duo's hands clutched his knees and his mouth set in a hard line.

Sally stood and took a long drink from her ice tea as she went to a window and looked out at the city street. She gestured to the street with her glass and began to ask Duo if he had managed to get outside yet, when Duo's cell rang. The tune was dark and disturbing.

Duo tensed, frowned, and then picked the cell phone out of his lap. He checked the number and then answered it.

"Thought you might be Quatre," Duo said and then listened, nodding once or twice. "Jhervis/bluebook/chevy... Kirk/blueberries/Guichi. Got 'em? Good. Yeah, I'm great." He paused, looked uncomfortable, and then said, "No, I don't want you to come yet... uh, thanks for sending over take out for me. That's been nice... I... I'll send you a check to pay you back... no, I'll do it. Okay, bye."

"Who was that?" Sally asked without turning from the window.

"Heero," Duo replied. When she turned and looked shocked, Duo grew angry. "None of you give Heero enough credit. He's not a bad guy."

"But he doesn't get to visit either?" Sally pointed out."Being a recluse is a sign of mental instability."

"You're here, so I guess that doesn't apply to me," Duo retorted as he rolled to the refrigerator with an effort, and then took out a beer. Popping the top, he kept his back to Sally as he drank it.

"That's not a good idea, Duo, "Sally warned. "Drugs and alcohol could-"

"Make me messed up?" Duo wondered acidly. "Guess that explains why I can hardly get out of this goddam chair!"

Sally stiffened, but she didn't back down. "I mean it, Duo. No pills and alcohol or I will sign Quatre's papers."

Duo tossed the beer over his shoulder and Sally caught it awkwardly. It splashed her arm. She grimaced as Duo said, "Whatever."

"Duo," Sally said as she gathered her things and faced him. "You know, and I know, that being on your own, when you require intensive care in a hospital, is not the actions of a man who wants to go on living, but that's not something that will hold up in court. I can only say, that I wish you would reconsider. I wish you could see that there is still a chance for you to live a good life, even with your injuries."

"Doctors are not supposed to give up before the patient," Duo snapped back at her. "You all think that I'm a cripple for life. I don't want people like you taking care of me and trying to convince me of that... because... it isn't true. I'll prove it to you."

Sally swallowed hard as she turned to leave. "I've seen the scans, Duo. They don't lie."

She was gone then and Duo spent a long time glaring at the door, thinking of how he should have replied, but then his body let him know, with a wave of pain that slipped past the drugs, that he had to get out of the chair. Getting onto the bed was hard, but he managed it. Enduring the pain until his body decided to relax into the mattress, was harder.

The cell phone rang again. Duo answered it in exasperation without looking. Heero only called once each day, so it had to be... "Quatre, I'm blocking all your calls from now on-"

"I'm outside your door, and I'm coming in," Heero's voice told him.

"No!" Duo argued, but Heero was already opening the door and stepping inside. For the first time since the accident, he was face to face with Heero Yuy.

He wasn't a tall man, but he was well built and he looked strong and confident in his Preventer uniform, Duo thought, as he looked at Heero's shocked face. That fall of dark, chocolate hair into his deep blue eyes had never ceased to make Duo want to brush it back and seize a kiss. He had waited patiently, being an adult in everything but age, until the government had relented and given them that status. Free at last to do what he pleased, and to love whom he pleased, Duo had planned a slow approach; a few friendly outings, more serious dating, and then, when he was sure that Heero felt the same, a long talk about... But that was over now, taken to the garbage heap by a few minutes of selfless heroics. He had nothing to offer Heero now and he wouldn't turn the man into another nurse.

"Duo," Heero whispered and he sounded angry.

Duo turned his face to the wall, wishing that he could sit up or turn that way. It took a monumental effort to get up, though, and he refused to be forced by the pain into crying in front of Heero."Happy now?" Duo said harshly. "Seems like everyone wants to come stare at me. You just missed Sally getting her eyeful."

"Sally...?" Heero echoed and then looked down at what he held in his hands. "I brought you your medals. They were... gathering dust on your desk."

Duo made a choked sound that tried to be a laugh and failed. "Not my desk anymore, Yuy. I don't have much use for medals. You can give them to charity... they're gold, right, or has the government gotten cheap about that?"

"No... yes, they are gold," Heero stammered and then firmed his voice as he looked around him at the apartment. He put the medals on the small kitchenette counter and then returned to Duo, looking down at him with eyes that were fierce and filled with an emotion that Duo couldn't name. He tried not to look, but those eyes captured him and drew him in.

"Remember that game we played one time with Trowa?" Duo asked. When Heero looked puzzled, he elaborated, "Who's got the biggest scars?" Heero blinked at him and Duo smiled ferally as he said, "Well, I win."

Heero flinched slightly, remembering that he had won the first game. He knew enough about bad injuries because of that not to ask any ridiculous questions. 'Does it hurt?' and 'Is it bad?' were not going to cross his lips. He didn't disappoint, though, when he said, "This place doesn't have adequate equipment to help you recover."

"What do I need?" Duo wondered acidly. "It's not like I can actually do anything. The less furniture, the less I have to get around or take care of. Nurse Bitch makes sure the dishes get done and the groceries get delivered before she changes my tubes and checks all my wiring and grafts, therapist Major Bitch tries to get something to move and makes sure that I don't loose what I can do, and Doctor Asshole keeps telling me lurid tales of blood clots, hemorhaging, and rejection infections so that I'll go back to the hospital"

Heero looked him over, at the simple velcro clothing and the obvious signs of things taped to his body, braces, and bandages. His eyes flicked to the small bathroom and a low toilet. "How...," he faltered.

"Heh, no one's wondered about that yet, or they didn't think it was polite conversation," Duo snickered nastily. "No, I cannot get to the toilet nine out of ten times, because A, I can't feel it when I have enough drugs deadening my nerves, and B, I can't get over to the toilet in time. So, wanna help change me, Heero... because, you were going to ask if there's was anything you could do for me, right?"

Heero went tight lipped. His jaw worked a moment and then he said, "If you're trying to intimidate me, you will fail."

Duo glared at him and then rubbed stinging tears from his eyes. He kept his hand there, not wanting Heero to see. "Could you get me some water? I hate swallowing pain pills dry."

Heero took a bottled water out of the refrigerator and handed it to Duo. One of Duo's wrists, and several of his fingers on that hand, were crooked and awkward as he positioned the bottle and twisted off the cap. He popped pills and washed them down with the water.

"Why did you come here?" Duo wanted to know after a quiet few moments."It wasn't just the medals, right?"

"No," Heero replied and put his hands into his coat pockets as if he didn't know what to do with them.

"Shit!" Duo snarled and glared at Heero again. "Quatre talked to you."

Heero nodded once and then said, "What he had to say didn't interest me, until he told me how you were living here."

Duo chuckled darkly. "I knew you got it. A man goes his own way and fuck anyone who tries to say different. If I want to keep on trying to get better, that's my business. If I have to escape those assholes who keep talking about job training and minimal mobility exercises, that's my damned business too." He took another swig of water and muttered, "Fuckers... they don't believe. I can't be around people like that."

Heero frowned. "If you want to exceed expectations, then why are you living like this? You don't have anything here that can help in your recovery."

Duo capped the water and then let it slide to the floor. The pain began to slowly subside again and he enjoyed that lessening as he half closed his eyes, willing the drugs to work faster. He hated the side effects, the slight clouding of his thinking and the constant need to sleep, but he knew that he could never take the full brunt of the pain his body was truly in.

"Quatre and the insurance have the money,' Duo explained in a voice gone soft with his growing detachment from his own body. "They want to force me back to the hospital by making this impossible. They don't want me to die, though, so I get the help... just not the equipment."

"I'll need to research this and get some professional opinions," Heero said.

That confused Duo. He didn't understand and could only blink and say, "Huh?"

"I have a rather large bank account from the war, due to doctor J, " Heero explained. "It was originally for buying weapons and repairs, but I think it will be more than enough to finance your recovery."

Duo could hardly wrap his mind around two facts, that Heero was believing that there could be a recovery, when all evidence was to the contrary, and that the man was willing to spend his own cash to make it happen. "Why?" Duo asked dazedly.

Heero gave Duo an irritated look and said, "Who else can decipher your filing system, but you? I need you alive."

Almost, Duo believed it, and anyone else might have the way Hereo had delivered that sentence in his 'mission' tone of voice, but Duo saw grim amusement in Heero's blue eyes for just a moment before Heero flipped out his cell phone and called off of work for the rest of the day. Duo laughed, despite the sharp pain it caused, and felt better than he had since the accident.


On to Chapter Two

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