The Cost

Chapter 10:What Does It Take?


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

What Does It Take?

"You're having problems?" Duo frowned as he let his chair glide to a stop. "No, let me get this straight, you're admitting that you're having problems?"

Wu Fei stopped walking beside him and stared at a point beyond him, looking very uncomfortable in his Preventer uniform. "They are rough men, undisciplined. Their commander was Deakin. He could keep them under control. Now that he's out of commission, they've been unwilling to accept anyone less."

"I heard about Deakin," Duo mused. "Bad accident. Someone's ass should hang for letting that shuttle off the ground with a wing in that condition. He's lucky to be alive."

"Yes," Wu Fei agreed, finally looking at him as his temper over rode his embarrassment. "He is a very lucky man, especially to have men so loyal that they are determined to wait until his return rather than accept any other commander."

"You tried?" Duo asked sympathetically.

Wu Fei nodded, jaw tightening.

"Must have been pretty rough on you," Duo guessed. He frowned, hands smoothing over the wheels of his chair. "So, what do you expect me to do? You think they're going to let someone like me tell them what to do? Do you think I can convince them Deakin's not coming back?"

"I would like you to tell them that, if they don't do as they are told, there will be consequences," Wu Fei growled."You have worked with them before. They might listen to you."

Duo grunted, checked his watch, and then admitted, "Look, Fei, I want to help, but I'm in deep shit with Une right now. Besides, Heero's waiting to take me home."

Wu Fei became concerned, but not about any trouble that he might be in. "Are you in pain?"

Duo sighed, hating to reply, "Yeah, this was a lot more than I'm used to."

Wu Fei looked as if he were struggling with himself and then he said, "Another day, perhaps."

Duo felt his gut tighten. He didn't like being weak. He didn't like that expression on Wu Fei's face, the one that was bordering on pity. He couldn't end his day this way. "Forget Une. Forget Heero," he growled. "Let's go have a talk with your guys."

Wu Fei straightened and Duo knew that he wasn't wrong when he saw respect there. He would have crawled through broken glass to get that from him, taking a small side trip to talk to hard heads, didn't seem all that difficult.

The barracks were outside and to the rear of headquarters, sprawling buildings bordering a wide expanse of training ground. Sidewalks made Duo's passage smooth, but halfway there, Wu Fei began pushing him without comment. Duo was grateful, he was getting very tired and sore.

"Breathing all right?" Wu Fei asked cautiously as a light wind began stirring up dirt.

Duo nodded, relaxing and trying to gather his strength. When they reached a barracks, he took over the wheelchair again as Wu Fei opened the door. The agents were inside, a dozen men and several women, lounging in a state of grungy half dress, their uniforms a hodgepodge of by the book and their own style. They all scowled when Duo and Wu Fei entered, but all eyes were on Duo with a mingling of shock, pity, and a bit of awe.

Duo didn't say anything right away. He let them get used to him, ignoring Wu Fei's tense presence a step behind him. "Deakin's good," Duo finally said. "I don't blame you for not settling for less."

There were nods, eyes sparking with passion, and a few grunted 'hell, yeah!' and 'damn, right!'

"I've worked with you," Duo continued, wheeling further into the room. They circled him, looking down, wanting to know now what he had to say. "You're a crack unit. There's missions I'd only trust to people with your skill." They were glowing under the praise. He was speaking their language."That's why I'm going to suggest to Une that she promote one of you to commander."

Wu Fei's hand clamped onto the back of his chair even while cheers and whoops filled the room. A man clapped hard, grinning from ear to ear. "Tango! It's gotta be Tango!" he shouted. The call was repeated all around the room.

Tango was a serious looking agent, dark like Heero and with a file full of commendations, Duo knew. He was young, perhaps too young for consideration . He shocked the hell out of Duo, though, when he waited for a lull in the shouting and then asked, eyes intent on Duo. "Why not you?"

There was a long silence.

Duo gave him a long, level stare. "Do you think anyone else in this room wants me?" he asked at last.

The quiet continued and then Tango moved from his bunk and stood before Duo. "You're the best, not Deakin. I want the best."

There was some murmuring and confusion at that.

Duo's hands knotted in his lap. He gave the suggestion it's due, mind turning over the possibility. "Are you telling me that you're willing to have a commander lead by remote?"

"You suggested that I step up," Tango reminded him, hands going into pockets and a smile lighting his lips. "I can do the leg work and step up when it's called for, but we're all too young to be commanders. I figure, we can get what we want this way."

"Me as commander and one of you leading the actual team?" Duo rubbed the back of his head, mind still turning over logistics and electronic possibilities. He wouldn't endanger them for his own desires to lead a team again.

Wu Fei suddenly placed two devices in Duo's lap. Vid/com remotes. Duo looked up at him in shock and saw Wu Fei's superior smile. "Give him one," the man told him. "Try it out on the course."

"Now?" Duo was blinking stupidly as Tango took one of the remotes and fitted it over his head. He positioned the vid unit and then nodded at Duo. Duo fumbled with his own and put it on. He could see himself, pale and scarred, sitting in his chair, with Wu Fei beside him wearing that damnable smile.

"I can't get to the course," Duo said doubtfully.

"Men, ladies," Tango said to the room at large. Without question, everyone gathered around and lifted Duo in his chair. They carried him to the obstacle course, across soft dirt and sand pits, and then put him down on a high vantage point.

"Your call, commander," Tango told Duo and they all stepped back.

Young, strong, and with fire in their eyes, they were willing to follow Tango. Were they willing to follow his orders, though? Duo wondered. "Infiltration," Duo told them as he adjusted the mic and saw Tango nod that it was enough. "Target, scaffold B. Mclellan, Thomas, Baskins, Reno, Kawalski, Demit in Alpha team. Forward assault. Renard, Kelly, Peters, Mormon, Kavi, in support. Your team, Tango. Take them out. "

Duo kept his eyes on Tango's vid feed and listened to his running orders and reports. In a real situation, he couldn't rely on his eyes, and he didn't rely on them now. As far as this exercise was concerned, they were half a world away and on a true mission. There were stumbles and regrouping, as Duo and Tango learned to work together, but they reached the scaffold in good order.

"They are very good," Wu Fei commented.

The team was laughing and cheering their success at the top of the tower. Tango was at their center. Let him have his moment, Duo thought, and felt the bite of bitterness. That had been his place not too long ago.

"So, you planned all of this?" Duo wondered, looking at Wu Fei's pleased expression to distract himself.

"I had hopes. You limit yourself too much, my friend," Wu Fei replied. "You settle for desk work when there is so much more that you can accomplish. As you heal, this arrangement will grow better and stronger, but you will be able to lead them, not matter what may come."

"Even if I stay in this chair, you mean?" Duo asked angrily and then throttled it. He took a deep breath, let it out, and then said, "I'm sorry.... You've given me something really important, Fei. I don't want to act like an asshole."

"I know, my friend," Wu Fei replied. "I also know that I wouldn't have handled this situation with nearly as much grace."

Wu Fei looked beyond Duo, blinked, puzzled, and then straightened. "I think your team wishes your attention, Commander Duo."

Duo looked up at the scaffold and then felt a wash of emotion so strong that he felt tears sting his eyes. His entire team was standing at attention and saluting him.

Duo slowly, and clearly, saluted back. The cheering started again and his team began climbing down to join him.

"Duo?" Heero met them in the hallway leading to Une's office. Duo stopped, gave Wu Fei a jerk of his chin, a clear signal to go, and waited until the man was gone, before giving Heero his attention.

"I don't want you to be angry about this," Duo began.

Heero looked anxious, crouching to be at Duo's level. "Angry?"

"Wu Fei decided to show me how much I'm capable of... or will be capable of," Duo explained. "I might be a freakin long way from leading a mission on the ground, but... Fei showed me that I can still do it by remote... that I can still give some good advice to agents... that I'm not down and out when it comes to doing what... I want to do."

Heero sighed, both hands steadying himself on the arms of Duo's wheel chair. "I'm glad that you can see that now," he replied, but then grimaced as he asked, "Did he take you to the barracks? You're so tired and in pain already..."

"I had to know," Duo replied softly, as his hand gently stroked over one of Heero's. "The other agents suggested that I lead them. Yeah, it was a plan to get what they wanted, which was to keep control of their own unit, but I think I can keep them in line, despite that, and they respect me."

Heero shook his head and said, "I should have known that a desk job wouldn't hold you. Une knew that too. You realize that she'll be very hard on you... if she allows you to do this at all? She won't jeopardize a unit if she thinks that you aren't able to lead them successfully."

"I won't do that either," Duo snapped back and then ran a hand over his face wearily. "I don't think I can face Une right now with this. I need to think. I know she still wants to tear me up over that jerk in command, but she can do that tomorrow... if she still lets me in the building. Can you take me home, Heero?"

It sounded weak, too much like a child begging, but Duo was drained completely and throbbing with pain at every point. He was beyond pride. Heero kissed him briefly and then wheeled him to their vehicle. When he had Duo settled in the passenger seat, he made sure that Duo was cushioned and sitting properly, to relieve as many pressure points as possible. Pain pills were handed out and Duo took them without question. As Heero finally pulled out of the parking garage, Duo closed his eyes and tried to endure until the pills took effect.

"Tell me what they said to you," Heero asked after a few minutes.

Duo smiled. "Just what I wanted to hear, that someone still thinks that I'm something more than mangled meat in a wheelchair." Heero made a noise of protest, but Duo pushed on, wanting him to understand. "Most people look at me, like I'm some sort of pathetic ghost, you know? A charity case. These guys... they don't bother with bullshit like that. Either you can do for them or you can't. That's all that matters, not the package you come in. They have a good man to be my second on the ground. He didn't bother lying about his goals. I think I can count on him to tell me the straight shit when he's on a mission."

"Timetable?" Heero grunted, not voicing any of the questions that he knew that Duo was already trying to answer for himself.

"Field work with remotes, as soon as I work up my stamina for just getting to work and sitting for more than a few hours," Duo replied as the drugs began making him fuzzy. "I need at least three men with aptitude in the unit before I'll consider remote leadership. One man goes down, another needs to be there to replace him. I also need to make sure there's good leadership if the remote goes down."



Heero reached and squeezed Duo's hand.

"I know," Duo replied to the unasked question. "I can't screw myself up again. I have to let my body tell me how much I can do... and when I can't do it at all."

"I don't want you to give up completely, just because you may not be physically ready for it," Heero told him. "You may have to do this... later."

Duo nodded, thinking about how tired he was now, and how he wanted to rest in the grip of the drugs and let the pain go. He couldn't do that during a mission, however long it took. There might be costs that his body wasn't ready to pay... yet.

Duo's cell phone rang. He fished it out of a pocket and put it to his ear. "Maxwell," he answered it, knowing who it had to be.

"Une," her voice came back, tight and unhappy. "It seems that you've been visiting one of my units. A request was placed on my desk for a remote commander by the name of Duo Maxwell to lead a particularly troublesome team of men and women. If you have the strength to recruit agents for your own unit, Agent Maxwell, then I expect you to also have the strength to report to my office when I order it. Is that clear? As for this request, I need a full plan submitted to my office, detailing your leadership strategies, qualifications, and your picks for seconds. Everything will be approved by me. I repeat that, everything, Agent Maxwell. Report to my office first thing tomorrow morning. Une out."

"Who was that?" Heero asked as Duo turned off his cell and pocketed it again, expression amused.

"Une," Duo looked at his lover with a sparkle in his eye. "She just reinstated me as an agent and wants a full run down of my remote plan. It seems that my team wants to hit the ground running. They've already submitted a request for me."

Heero looked worried. "This is... too fast, maybe."

Duo nodded. "I think so too. Don't worry, I'll slow things down."

Heero looked skeptical, knowing Duo too well, but Duo had learned his lesson, several times, about doing more than his healing body was capable. He didn't want to spend any more time in the hospital having joints re-inbedded with pins and strapped with new braces.

"You're smiling," Heero pointed out, amused.

"It's the drugs," Duo snorted as he closed his eyes and let himself drift.

"It's still good to see," Heero chuckled. "I'd like to see more of it."

"Then stick around, buddy," Duo told him, still smiling, "and keep sticking around."

"I intend to," Heero promised.


On to Chapter Eleven

Back to chapter nine

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