The Cost

Chapter 2: Pinata
by Kracken


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


Quatre winner leaned on Heero's desk and slammed a fist down on the paperwork there angrily. Heero looked up slowly into the blonde's piercing blue eyes and didn't let his hair trigger responses try to defend him. The man before him looked young still, even in his three piece suit, and he still had the face of a choirboy, but this man before him had killed a great many people during the war and he wasn't to be taken lightly.

"Why?" Quatre demanded.

Heero took a deep breath and then replied simply, "Because he needed help and he's never been one to ask for it... not from anyone."

"I wanted him to go back to the hospital!" Quatre shot back. "I wanted him to see how impossible his expectations were for his recovery. You're only making-"

"It possible for him to live more comfortably," Heero cut in. "He was in pain, Quatre, and almost helpless. You were expecting him to give in and to do as you wished. He was ready to die rather than go back to the hospital. You weren't going to win your battle."

"It's... It's not a battle," Quatre said as he slumped into a chair and put his head in his hands. "Don't you think that I want him to be right? Don't you think that I want Duo Maxwell to walk... to be an agent again... to..."

"He wants that as well, but I don't think he aspires to that much," Heero replied. "He simply wants to be independent. He doesn't want to rely on others to take care of him. If he can manage that, I think that he will learn to accept his... limitations."

Quatre sighed and looked up at him in relief, "Then you haven't lost your mind? I thought that you were falling for Maxwell's dream."

Heero frowned darkly. "I've been in situations where I wasn't expected to live, Quatre. I managed it, though. Duo can reach for whatever goal he pleases."

"Even if it kills him?!" Quatre exploded, angry again.

"A man's life is his own, to keep or throw away as he wishes," Wu Fei said as he dumped more paperwork onto Heero's desk. He looked crisp and neat in his Preventer uniform, the gun at his side worn from constant use "We've all tried to reason with Maxwell, Quatre," he continued. "He is immovable in his decision."

Quatre snarled at them both as he stood up, fists clenched. "Duo is strung together by bolts, wires, and bio skin! He will never fully recover from those injuries, despite every dollar that I have poured into his treatment."

"He saved a baby and turned a young girl's life around because of his selfless act," Wu Fei replied calmly. "For some men, that would be an honorable sacrifice."

"Does he think so?" Quatre demanded. "That's not what he's said to me."

Heero replied, as he stacked his paperwork carefully, "Duo has been very bitter. He says things that aren't true because of it. I know... under the anger... he does think it was worth what he paid."

"Suddenly you're his friend?" Quatre slammed his fists onto Heero's desk again. "I've been with him since the war, Heero. We've been close. You've never even made a phone call on his birthday, as far as I know."

"Does he have one?" Heero asked, puzzled, and Quatre wasn't sure whether he was mocking him or not. "We've worked together. I do know him." Heero shrugged a shoulder. "I've considered us to be friends." There was a small blush just discernable on his cheeks as he remembered the times that Duo had whispered things under his breath, things that he thought that Heero hadn't heard, things that had let Heero know that he had been waiting for the right time to approach him. Heero had been waiting for that time, until the accident had happened.

"You aren't qualified to take care of him!" Quatre shouted, attacking from a different quarter. "You can't make competent decisions on what type of care or equipment he needs."

"I've talked to his physicians and therapists," Heero replied.

"And you fired all of them!" Quatre raged.

Heero nodded. "You didn't see... The nurse was cold and indifferent. The therapist made him... she didn't clean him up afterward... I helped Duo after she left." Heero's eyes looked haunted for a moment and then he focused on Qautre like a laser beam of intensity. "The doctor showed no interest in correcting the situation, so I've helped Duo hire a different staff."

"Who don't know his history?" Quatre was pale now. "He could die from their ignorance, Heero."

Wu Fei glared and confronted Quatre. "My friend," he said tightly. "I know that you are very concerned for Duo, but it blinds you. You are too willing to listen to experts instead of what Duo is telling you. If he is in danger, it is from your guilt."

Quatre sucked in air and then turned away from them. "I'm not-"

"You couldn't make him whole again," Wu Fei persisted, his dark eyes concerned. "Everything that you have... wasn't enough. You'd rather believe that he failed rather than that you failed him."

Quatre rubbed at his eyes. "When I first saw him, I ran and threw up. I couldn't face him again for days. I wanted my friend back... more than anything."

"You still have him," Wu Fei stepped forward to grip Quatre's elbow, "but you can't make him do as you wish... You can't make him live for you."

"You're too... close... too emotional about this," Heero suddenly cut in. "He needs a firm, steady presence."

"You," Quatre guessed and chuckled darkly. "I don't understand... what he sees in you that makes him think you're a friend... or how you can think that professional, callous, relationship you've been carrying on with him constitutes friendship...but... I don't know what to do any longer." His voice trembled on the last part.

"Let Duo do as he wishes," Wu Fei told him sternly, "and be there when he needs you."

Quatre looked back at Heero. "I wasn't there... you were." He walked away then and Heero sighed.

Wu Fei stood quietly for a few moments and then asked, "Why? Why did you go there and help him?"

"I could hear him dying... on the phone... when I called," Heero replied. "I remembered then how he would never ask anyone for help."

"Is it only duty then?" Wu Fei wondered, dark brow arched curiously.

Heero thought about that, but he was remembering the many times that he had been with Duo and how they had always seemed to be two halves of a whole."No, not just duty."

Wu Fei nodded solemnly and then left Heero to his thoughts.

Heero changed his clothes before leaving work, later that day. In comfortable jeans and a tshirt, he made the walk to Duo's, stopping now and again, to pick up things for him to read, food that might tempt his non-existent appetite, and a bouquet of flowers. He hesitated at the last, thinking about implications, but then growled at himself and made the purchase.

Duo's apartment was much different from his last visit. It had a state of the art bed, handholds and rails to help him move around more easily, and a wheelchair that could lift him up so that he could move more easily from it to the bed. In the next apartment, ready to answer a call button, was Duo's new nurse, a good natured woman that looked strong enough and even tempered enough to be on the front line of a battle force. She was proof against Duo's sarcastic humor and bad temper, but not unsympathetic to his condition.

Duo was in his wheelchair, slumped to one side and rubbing a knee. A remote unlocked the front door for Heero and he didn't say anything as Heero entered and put the flowers in a glass of water.

"You've been reading again," Duo accused as he finally eyed the flowers that Heero placed near the bed. "They do that at the hospital, you know? Plants give the patient a sense of well being... and all that crap." He grunted and rubbed his knee again. "They're kind of nice, though. I guess they can stay."

"You've been... depressed," Heero hedged as he placed his other things on a new table.

"More than usual, yeah," Duo admitted. "These damned pills. The doc upped the dosage again. They have... side effects."

"You're pushing too hard," Heero warned him. "You've been given a schedule of exercises and goals. Stop trying to surpass them."

"I could almost hear the doc laughing when he made it up," Duo sneered. "He doesn't think I'm going to meet any of those goals."

Heero didn't reply. Duo glared at him and demanded, "What happened to my cheering section?"

"It's not necessary for anyone to believe, except for you," Heero replied as he sat down in one of the chairs.

"Ah," Duo said and then wheeled his chair towards the window. He shoved the curtain aside and looked out, sunshine streaming down around him. He blinked against it. "Did you stop believing , when you had to clean me up after...?"

"No," Heero replied, "but, I don't know what you are capable of, Duo. You have to show me what's possible."

Duo smiled grimly. "So, you're just my... what? What are you, Heero Yuy?"

Heero thought about what Quatre had said, about his doubts, about... "I'm here when you need me. Do I need a title?"

Duo chuckled and turned his chair around with an effort. "Stick around long enough, and I might find one for you."

"It didn't go well," Heero guessed as he put the groceries into the refrigerator.

"Not that I believe that doctor's bullshit..." Duo groused as he stared out of the window at the warm day beyond. "I think I did better on his mobility test. He doesn't. Matter of perception. How would a guy, who has a hundred other patients, remember what I was like a week ago, anyway?"

"Charts," Heero replied as he closed the refrigerator door and moved to stand behind Duo.

"You can allow me a little.. delusion... okay?" Duo shot back and his voice wasn't completely steady.

Heero felt a moment of tenderness and it surprised him. He couldn't remember feeling it for anyone else before. It kept him silent and thoughtful as he explored it and studied the man he was growing more and more attracted to. Despite Duo's broken state, and despite the daily trials of helping with his care, it was Duo's spirit, and his boundless strength, that was turning Heero's sense of duty towards a friend and a fellow agent, into something much more. He kept that growing feeling checked, though, and under control. Duo, he was certain, wasn't ready for it and would probably consider it only pity.

"Has the nurse been in this afternoon?" Heero asked as he looked down at the top of Duo's hair.

"Don't smell anything, do you?" Duo wondered, sounding embarrassed.

"No," Heero replied. In his favorite loose pants, and a wrinkled, over large shirt, it was hard to tell, from day to day, if Duo had been physically tended to.

"Good," Duo said as he leaned closer to the window and watched a woman walking a dog. "Ms. Pink Shoes is out again. I think she's trying to hook up with Jogging Guy."

"Duo?" Heero persisted.

Duo frowned. "Yeah, yeah, she was in and gave me her patented wash n' shine." He nodded at the window. "See, told ya. There's Jogging Guy. Ms Pink Shoes just turned so that he sees her."

"Therapist?" Heero wondered.

"Called off sick," Duo grumbled. "How's a guy supposed to get healthy when they can't stay healthy enough to do their job?"

"Did you take your pain meds?" Heero asked.

Duo looked up at him. "Yes, Mr. Interrogator. Do you wants the plans to my Gundam next... or the recipe for my killer ham sandwich?"

Heero's eyes flicked towards the window, running possible scenarios in his head as to the possible outcome of his next decision. It could go wrong or right in so many ways, he decided, but it was worth the risk. "Would you like to go outside, Duo?"

Duo's eyes widened a little and then he brushed his hand along an arm bound by a brace and pins. There was a hint of fear there, the fear that there would be even more pain, or worse, more damage if something should happen. "I don't..." He licked dry lips, and then his expression firmed. "Yeah, thanks. Let's go. I'm beginning to feel like a freakin' mushroom in here."

It wasn't simple. Duo had to be worked into a coat, an oxygen tank had to be attached to the chair in case his damaged lung became irritated by outside conditions, and Heero had to pad his damaged limbs as best he could against any bumps. Lastly, Heero held out a mask. Duo put it on reluctantly and then frowned, his pride almost making him change his mind. The draw of fresh air and sunshine was stronger, though.

"Let's get going," Duo urged.

Heero smiled and pushed Duo to the door. When he opened it, he found Duo's nurse raising a hand to open it herself. Her eyes widened in alarm when she realized their intent. "Oh, no! What are you doing, Mr. Yuy? The germs, the pollen, the smog! Any undue strain will harm him, sir. You mustn't take him outside."

"My decision," Duo told her firmly. "So, if I die out there, nobody's blaming him, okay?"

"Die?" The nurse's eyes grew large. "What are you planning, sir? You can't mean to undue all of your healing?"

"No," Duo snapped back. "I'm not stupid. Heero, here, will make sure even crashing shuttles and runaway transit trains make way for me. He won't let anything happen to me."

"He's right," Heero interjected. "Nothing will disturb him."

The nurse put a hand to her mouth in horror as Heero rolled Duo past her and into the elevator. When the elevator started down, Duo clutched at his stomach and looked green. He chuckled weakly. "Not used to moving around that much, I guess."

"Promise me," Heero said, worried now, "that you will tell me when you need to go back inside."

"Need? What's my yardstick for that?" Duo looked angry and then he made an effort to wrestle it under control as he replied tightly, "I'm in agony, I feel like I'm gonna throw up, and my lung is already hating this elevator. Will any of it kill me? Probably not. I'll let you know when I think it is, okay?"

Heero tightened his hands on the wheelchair, ready to protest, but then, didn't. He reminded himself that he couldn't force Duo to live or do anything that was wise. The man made his own decisions.

"You aren't about to knock me out and take me back upstair, are you?" Duo wondered and looked up with his purple eyes. They looked bone weary already, but weary with confinement and the prospect of being taken back to it again.

"No," Heero replied and hoped that he wouldn't regret it.

Duo sighed in relief and that sigh wheezed from his bad lung.

Once outside, they were given curious, almost horrified looks by people walking by. Duo turned his face up to the sun and watched the leaves rustling in a light breeze. His expression of contentment was only marred by his grimaces and winces as Heero maneuvered him along a sidewalk towards a park. The sidewalk was cracked and bumpy.

Heero saw Ms. Pink Shoes talking to Jogging Man, her golden retriever panting beside her. She did indeed have pink tennis shoes on and he was wearing a jogging outfit. The dog saw Duo and took off towards them, ignoring the calls of his mistress.

Duo saw a dog coming to play and be petted and reached out a hand. Heero saw disaster. "No!" he shouted.

The dog crouched, tail between it's legs, terrified.

"Good going, Heero," Duo grumbled as he lowered his hand and the woman came forward to snap a leash on the dog. She began to shout angrily at them and then cut that off when she realized how extensively Duo was injured.

"I-I'm sorry," she stammered. "Jolly really is a dear."

"It's okay," Duo called back.

"No it wasn't," Heero ground under his breath as the woman led the dog away.

Duo shot back sarcastically, "Maybe you should go into Preventer dog training? How to scare the balls off your dog in one easy lesson, by Heero Yuy."

Heero didn't reply. He knew that he didn't have to explain his actions.

"Maybe we should go back?" Duo continued. "A bee might attack me next."

"I'm not a mind reader, or a psychologist," Heero replied and crouched down in front of Duo, staring into his eyes. "Talk to me in a way that I can understand."

Duo stared back, looking uncomfortable and then contrite. "Sorry," he said, looking down at his bent hands. "I was looking for some 'normal'. That kind of ruined it."

"I can't give you that," Heero replied. He reached out and put a hand over Duo's, feeling the chill there. "As much as I would like to."

Duo nodded and blinked rapidly for a moment before he firmed his chin and said, "You know you gotta ignore me, right? I am an asshole at the best of times."

Heero studied him and then straightened. "Should we still go to the park?"

"No," Duo shook his head and picked at his coat. "It's getting hard to breathe.... and it hurts."

Which was fueling his frustration, knowing that he couldn't go even that short distance.

"We'll try again, after your therapy day after next," Heero promised.

"Not tomorrow?" Duo asked wistfully as Heero turned the chair and began taking Duo back.

"I have a case," Heero explained and felt a frustration of his own.

"Don't give up your life for me," Duo warned as he pulled his coat around him and hunkered down into it.

Heero thought about that, knowing all of Duo's doubts that were fueling that statement. "That's my decision," he replied and Duo looked startled. He smiled behind his mask in the next moment and then set himself to endure the short journey back to his room.


On to Chapter Three

Back to chapter One

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