The Cost

Chapter 9:Workdays
by Kracken


Disclaimer:I don't own them and I don't make any money off of them.
Warning:Male/male sex, duosufferitus, angst,violence, language

The Cost

Work Days

"This is not happening," Duo growled as he tried for the hundredth time to get his wheelchair unstuck from a crack in the flooring. He had avoided it going into the records basement of Preventer Headquarters, but had failed to notice it on his way out with a lap full of discs.

His cell phone was on his work desk, three levels up, discarded after yet another call by Heero to check up on him. The nearest help was up a service elevator and two hallways away.

"I'm such a moron!" Duo snarled to the empty room. He glared at the crack and the wheel. "I should sue them. This room is definitely not wheel chair accessible."

There were options open to him, of course, but the fear of failure, of ending up sprawled on the floor and unable to get up again, kept him trying to free the wheel. He could painfully imagine being found like that and his pride didn't like the image. He was trying to keep his self respect; top agent turned file shuffler.

"Goddam things should be in the system anyway," Duo grumbled as he made yet another attempt. "I'm going to kill the lazy fucker who didn't bother entering them."

Duo tapped his fingers on his chair arm, and then pounded it with one fist. Glaring hard at the wheel and then at his legs, he took a deep breath and then let it out, making a decision.

"I just have to stand up and move the chair an inch," he decided.

Duo hadn't tried to stand again since his heroic second rescue. Exercises had remained intense. A corner of his mind was sure that he could do it, yet a coward part of him was afraid that it wasn't so. He didn't want it proven to him in a spectacularly humiliating way. He didn't want his first try to be without doctors, nurses, and Heero, especially, to keep him from falling and hurting himself even more.

"Goddam wheel!" Duo snarled as he shoved the discs off his lap, gripped his chair arms, and slowly, shakily, pushed himself up.

Braces kept his legs stiff, but the joints screamed pain as his weight settled on them. Duo could feel things beginning to give. He jerked the chair forward as he plopped back down into the seat, shaking with pain and the overwhelming feeling of failure.

"Duo?" Heero's voice called in worry and his lover came into the room at a fast walk, taking in the room and then seeing Duo where he sat, face lowered in one hand.

"A couple of seconds earlier..." Duo forced through his disappointment.

"What happened?" Heero demanded, crouching by his chair. "Duo?"

"Got stuck," Duo told him shortly.

He didn't have to explain it any more than that. Heero looked down and saw the crack behind the wheel of his chair. He wasn't stupid. He put it together perfectly. "Duo," he whispered, sounding as pained as Duo felt.

"Hope you don't mind," Duo managed, "but I guess I'm going to be sitting this life out."

"You don't know-" Heero started to protest, but Duo cut him off with a sharp gesture of one hand.

"I should have been able by now, at least a little," Duo replied.

Heero snapped in exasperation, "You always make the moon your goal!" When Duo looked at him, startled, Heero gentled his voice. "You stood long enough to move your chair. I'm sorry, but I'm going to see that as a success."

Duo blinked, gnawing on his lip to still strong emotions. "I'm being a baby," he said after he felt that he could without choking. "I have to get back to work."

"Of course you do," Heero told him as he straightened and let Duo roll past him towards the door. He followed Duo into the elevator and said, "Next time, don't leave your cell phone, love. I came looking for you when you didn't answer."

Heero placed the phone in Duo's lap and kissed his cheek. Duo blushed and fiddled with the thing in his twisted hands. "I want a walker that I can take to work, Heero."

Duo expected a hot protest, but didn't get one. Instead, his request was met with quiet consideration.

"You won't always be around," Duo explained. "Maybe I can't get to the moon... just yet... but I should be able to get out of a crack in the floor."

"I'll see to it," Heero replied at last. "Something that folds to hook to your chair."

"Sounds good," Duo agreed with relief and then reached out to take Heero's hand. "Sorry. Sometimes, the mountain I have to climb, seems too damned high."

"I know, but I will always be here to give you a boost up when you need one," Heero replied with a smile. "You don't have to do it all yourself."

Duo smiled back. "Thanks, because, you know, I don't really want to climb it alone, love."

"I am officially dying of boredom," Duo sighed as he tossed his last paper airplane towards a waste basket.

He had completed his work very early, despite only being allowed four hours of work time. His trip to the Preventer's record basement had taken up one hour and finishing his duties had taken up only an hour more. A request for more work, landed on deaf ears. The secretary in charge of him, had her orders and she wasn't about to tangle with Une.

"You can go home, Agent Maxwell, if you're done with your work," she told him, patting him on the hand as if he were a four year old. He was an assistant, not really an agent any longer, but he had outranked her for a long while and old, respectful habits died hard.

"I'll talk to Une myself," Duo told her and was rewarded with a frown. He was being a bad boy and she had her own work to finish. It was true that he wasn't used to sitting for such a long time, and that he had grown used to long naps and slow, careful days, but he didn't want to cut short an already short day. That, Duo felt, would prove that he really wasn't ready for work.

"I'll recheck my work," Duo told her, which she rewarded with a relieved smile and another pat on his hand.

"Good for you, sir," she said as she turned back to her own work. "Getting record requests filled properly is very important."

Duo grimaced behind her back and then rolled his chair to the retrieval system two doors down. For a top notch outfit, the Preventers had terribly outdated systems and protocols for basic information distribution. He could think of a dozen upgrades that were necessary without breaking a sweat. Not being able to do anything outside of a sealed 'command' center gave them all a false sense of security.

"Back again, Maxwell?" Tyndan grumbled. He was a bad tempered, Preventer grunt, the kind of man who didn't have much in the way of brains outside of his one area of expertise. His expertise was making sure that his subordinates were doing their jobs. Duo doubted that he even knew what they were doing.
"Just checking systems," Duo replied and tried not to make it as unfriendly as he felt. His chair wheels squeaked on the floor and several of the systems specialists looked up to watch him pass; two with annoyance and a third with a small smile of acknowledgment.

"Get it done and get back to your station," Tyndan grumbled. "My men don't need your interruptions."

The man who had smiled gave Duo a look of sympathy. Duo shrugged and rolled to a retrieval station. He glared at the old system as he checked that he had sent the information to the appropriate agent. It all checked out far too quickly.

"You know," Tyndan's voice said behind him. "They're just feeling sorry for you, giving you this pussy job."

Duo tensed. "We do have regs against language like that," Duo pointed out as he stared at his outbound report on the screen.

"I forgot," Tyndan snickered. "You don't like pussy, do you?"

Duo backed up his chair on Tyndan's foot. The man howled and shoved his chair off again, causing Duo jarring pain. "Sorry about that," Duo said through gritted teeth. "Guess I better watch more carefully."

"Damn better!" Tydan snarled as he jabbed a finger at Duo. "You got nothing to do here. Get going before I report-"

"What?" Duo asked, eyes innocent and wide. "I'm sure the vid feed will show it was an accident, right after it plays back what you just said to me."

Tyndan went red in the face. "Get the hell out!"

"Just a sec," Duo replied as he wheeled forward, hit a few keys, and then pressed send. "Okay, all done. Guess I'll go home early for the day and get out of your hair."

Tyndan didn't have any hair. Duo ignored his swearing as he wheeled out of the room and down the hallway. He was grinning as he pulled out his cell phone and dialed Heero.

"Something wrong?" Heero demanded even before Duo could say more besides, 'hi'.

"A little tired," Duo told him honestly. "I guess I need to go home for the day."

"I'll get the van and meet you in the garage," Heero replied, but then made a startled sound.

Duo played it calm. "Heero?"

"The computer system suddenly went down," Heero told him with a puzzled tone. "It looks like it's happening all over the building."

"Guess I have another reason to go home," Duo told him. "I can't work without the computers."

"This looks familiar..." Heero was saying, though, and Duo felt his gut tighten.

"What does?" Duo tried to stay calm.

"This code..." Heero went quiet and then he whispered angrily, "Duo! Why did you do this? I know that code anywhere. If you think you're going to fool Une-"

"Maxwell?" Une stood at the end of the hallway with a security detail. Her arms were crossed over her breast, her manicured nails drumming slightly. The light from the overheads were catching on her glasses, making her almost sinister.

Duo had to recall that this was the woman who had ordered him executed at one time. He chose his words carefully as he discarded a desperate plan to make his escape in his wheelchair. "I thought that Preventer systems needed a test," he finally replied as he faced her and stopped his chair from rolling towards the elevator behind her. He so dearly wanted to keep on rolling and get into it. "As you can see, it failed, and I wasn't even using a complicated virus. I didn't even need to hack into second level protocol."

Une frowned. "Did it occur to you to request this 'test' before implementing it?"

"I'm sorry, I-"

"You will return to command core and remove the virus at once," Une demanded. "We will discuss your lack of clearance after you are done."

Duo sunk miserably in his chair. "I suppose this means that I'm fired?"

Une lost her temper, "This means that you are as irresponsible as ever, Maxwell! This means that I can only expect you to continue to be a thorn in my backside as long as you are one of my men!" She regained her composure with an effort. "However, your 'test' has its usefulness. My attempts to convince higher ups that were are in need of systems upgrades has fallen on deaf ears. Perhaps now they will listen. Fix systems... but not too quickly."

She moved to enter the elevator with her men just as the doors opened and Heero came rushing out. Flustered, he tried to speak with her, but Une brushed him off and let the doors close in Heero's face. Heero then whirled on Duo.

"How could you do this, Duo?" Heero asked, more sad than angry.

"She didn't fire me," Duo told him, a little confused. "I guess I was just being myself."

"But why?" Heero demanded.

Duo sighed. "I guess I was bored... and this guy... he pissed me off... and... that system is so damned old a baby could hack it... I just..."

"Had to," Heero finished, raked a hand through his hair, and then sighed in exasperation.

"Guess I'm not going home yet," Duo told him. "I have to go and fix the mess."

"Yes, you do. " Heero leaned down and touched his forehead to Duo's. Duo was afraid that Heero was angry, but he only gave Duo a soft kiss and then chuckled lightly.

"What's funny?" Duo grumbled defensively.

"You are acting like yourself," Heero replied as he backed up towards the elevator. "I find that wonderful and frightening at the same time."

Duo laughed and Heero gave him a smile. "Shinigami's back," Duo told him and then turned his chair on the elevator as he squared his shoulders and went to face Tyndan again.




On to Chapter ten

Back to chapter eight

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