Disclaimer:I don't own them and I don't make any money off of them.
Warning:Male/male sex, duosufferitus, angst,violence, language
Force of Will
"Stop your goddam hotdogging!" Duo shouted into his mic. "One more man thinks that he can do it on his own, and he'll be doing it on his own flipping burgers at Burger Bart's down the road!"
"Yes, sir," Tango's voice came back to him with a snicker. His message was related and there was a snide comment about hot shots on wheels.
"I heard that!" Duo growled back. "Make him run thirty laps, Now!"
The order was relayed and Tango muttered, "Baskin's an asshole, Commander, but a good guy. He actually has a signed pic of you under his pillow."
"... and I kiss it every night, too!"Baskin interjected with a chuckle.
"Right now, you're trying to kiss my backside and I don't care," Duo snapped back."Get him running and that's an order!"
"Yes, sir," Tango replied promptly and shouted the order.
Duo watched his team run their course from the confines of a newly added cement track that ran alongside it. He felt tired, but he would never admit it, because he felt revived, as well, alive, and where he belonged. Almost, he corrected himself. He was close to where he belonged. His element was out there on the field and with the men.
"You're showing remarkable restraint, Maxwell," Une said as she came to stand beside him.
"The chair won't go into the dirt... yet," Duo told her without taking his eyes off his men. "I am getting a modified version made."
"Not now, though?" Une guessed.
Duo made a face. "I still want to wait... give it some more time. Why buy equipment that I might not need?"
Une sighed and then she rocked on her heels for a moment. At last, she said, "Don't cripple yourself now, in the hopes of some better 'later'."
Duo's hands tightened on his wheelchair arms.
"By the way," Une told him, "I'm RSVPing my invitation to your party. I'll be looking forward to it."
Duo hadn't know that Heero and Wu Fei had invited her. He flicked eyes at her in amazement, not sure what to say to that.
She had her hair up in a tight bun, her glasses flashing in the sunlight. A small smile was on her face as she watched the agents on the course. Duo wondered if she were enjoying tongue tying him.
"They're almost ready for a field assignment," Duo told her, wanting to change the uncomfortable subject.
Une cocked her head slightly. "Not yet, I think. Perhaps a small, local, policing situation first."
Duo glared. "They aren't going to like that."
"That's the trick, isn't it?" Une asked, "To make them do what they don't want to... for you... for Preventers... for the peace."
Duo blinked and then said, "I... That sounds right." Which sounded stupid. Duo didn't like either sounding stupid or being at a loss for words.
"I'll have the assignment on your desk later today," Une told him. She nodded towards the field, then, and said primly, "Your men need some direction, Commander."
Duo turned back to the course just as Tango started yelling for agents to shut the hell up and listen to him. They were tangled at one obstacle and gesticulating angrily. One man was covered in mud from the 'trap'.
"What the hell?" Duo shouted into his mic. "Do I have to diaper all of you? Even first year agents don't miss that one!"
His leg hurt like hell. Something during therapy had gone very wrong, but Duo hadn't wanted to show it, hadn't wanted to miss out on this, his very first mission with his squad. He gritted his teeth, refused to take pain pills, and chewed on a stylus instead as he tried to watch every move Tango observed. In a command van, not far from the scene, Duo tried not to direct Tango as if he were a remote camera. He was his commander in the field and he had to respect that. Duo had to settle for a running commentary of whatever information Tango thought that he should know.
"People are a little edgy," Tango told him. "Group one is protesting the ban on iriduim 3 used in mining operations. I have a man watching them close. Group two is protesting the intended storage facility for contaminated fuel rods from the war, but they're looking orderly . Group three... something about Indonesian muskrats... I'm not sure what they're talking about... anyway, I'm putting them on the highest threat level, with three men on watch. They must feel strongly about displaced muskrats..."
Duo tried to ease his leg. The knee felt swollen. The computer stylus was getting marks from his teeth. He hated babysitting politicians. Agents shouldn't risk their lives, so that a person could stump for re election, he thought irritably, especially when they could have done it just as effectively on a vid screen.
"Tango, those people to your right..." Duo waited until the vid panned that way. "See them? The five men with coats? Either they're punks making a fashion statement, or they're hiding something. It's too damned hot for that crap. Tell-"
"Shit!" Tango exclaimed and the vid jogged as he took a few running steps. A fight had erupted between two different groups of protesters.
"Get in there!" Tango was ordering."Baskin! Take your team-"
"Belay that order!" Duo shouted. "Take your men and find those-"
"Shit," Tango shouted again. "One of them has a club. Baskin!"
Duo shouted into the com, "You'll follow my orders, goddam you, and follow them now!"
"Fuck your but!" Duo snarled. "Get your men where I tell you or-" He was already checking the cartridge in his handgun and about to wheel for the door, ignoring the stammered protests of his two aids in the van with him, when Tango replied, "Your orders, sir!"
The vid panned and then jogged as Tango began running and shouting, "Move it agents! I want everyone locked and loaded. Shut up! I have my orders! Yeah, I know people are getting the crap beat out of them, but Commander's orders, dumbshit!"
The group of coated individuals were gone from their former position and moving as a group towards the podium. Duo saw them as darker flecks of color flowing through the crowd ahead of Tango.
Duo barked into the com. "We have a level one! I repeat, a level one!" He reached for the controls to the door and the ramp that would get him out of the van, but a hand descended on his wheelchair and one of the aids said, looking unsure of himself, "Sir, you should stay here."
Duo almost swore at him, beyond frustration, but he knew that the man was right. He couldn't do anything to help on the ground. He had to control the urge to be a part of the action. Wheeling back, he saw his agents fan out and then close in. The targets were careless, believing that their distraction, the fight between protestors, had worked to draw the agents away. They barely had time to try and get their weapons into position before they were being taken down.
Duo had three full minutes, watching the crazy bob and tilt of Tango's vid, as the man worked with his fellow agents to handcuff and disarm the men. He heard heavy breathing, curses, people in the crowd scattering and crying out in alarm, and a steady voice reading them their rights.
"Would you shut the fuck up, so I can read you your fucking rights?" Tango snarled at one man who seemed eager to shout at the crowd his political opposition to the candidate. "Don't make me get cited for police brutality now...."
"All secure," Tango reported at last as he stood and the vid steadied.
"Turn them over to lock up and get back into positions," Duo ordered, feeling relief make him shake."These men may only be a part of the planned attack."
"Yes, sir," Tango replied.
"Good job," Duo told him. "Tell everyone else, good job."
"I almost fucked up," Tango told Duo critically. "You're the man of the hour. Guess that's why you're commander and I'm not."
"Experience," Duo told him. "You'll learn."
"Yes, sir," Tango replied and Duo could hear the grin.
Duo realized that he was still gripping his handgun tightly. He eased off and holstered it. He looked up at the two men waiting anxiously for orders. "Thanks," he told the one who had stopped him.
"I can understand," the man replied. "I want to run out there sometimes too, but they're counting on us to give them info."
Duo nodded, feeling embarrassed. He rubbed at his aching knee. It was definitely swelling and feeling hot. Heero would have something to say about that, but he needed to finish his mission. Wheeling back to his command station, he began giving orders again.
"Duo..." Heero swallowed hard as he faced Duo. "Why didn't you say something?"
Duo had his head tucked down, bangs hiding his eyes. Words choked in his throat. Sitting on the crinkly white paper over the exam table, it made small noises as he trembled with reaction. The doctor was standing off to one side with his report, looking grim.
The doctor sighed and decided to step in. "We need to operate at once. The knee has to be drained, the bioparts repositioned, and..." He stopped, slapped his computer clipboard onto a thigh in frustration, and then said bluntly, "The leg might have to be amputated. I won't sugar coat this. If there's too much rejected tissue, and too much infection, and I do suspect that there is, Mr, Maxwell, that is the only course."
"It felt better," Duo finally gritted out. "I thought it was okay..."
"You are held together by wires and bioparts!" Heero exploded. "How could you think that any injury would be a small one, something to be ignored? I can't believe..." He covered his face with his hands, scrubbed hard, and then turned away. "You did this to yourself. That goddam job was more important to you than your health."
"No," Duo replied in a small voice, hands clenched in his lap. "I'm just tired of being cut open, of going backward. I guess I convinced myself it would be okay..." He couldn't help the trembling in his voice as he asked, eyes still down, "Will you still love me... even with one leg?"
He was almost crushed in Heero's embrace then and Heero choked on a sob as he hid his face in the nape of Duo's neck. He said harshly, "Of course, you stupid bastard!"
A small, almost hysterical, laugh escaped Duo, before he could throttle it. He took a deep breath, found the core of his strength, and said to the doctor, "Let's operate."
Duo pulled uncomfortably at the collar of his dress shirt. He wheeled his chair away from the window and tried not to let it hurt. Of course no one would come to a party for him. Food was piled high on a long table, music was playing softly, and Heero and Wu Fei were still making things perfect, as if they still believed that people would show.
"No one likes to be early," Heero said, as if reading Duo's mind. He bent and tied a red carnation into the lapel of Duo's jacket.
"No one likes to go to a party, where the main attraction looks like a poster child for a charity," Duo retorted. "Please give to the 'Impulsively Heroic' fund, we're running out of splints and bandaids."
Wu Fei chuckled as he positioned napkins near a punch bowl. In a very expensive black on black tux, with a nehru collar, he looked very handsome. Heero had chosen a more informal, red, dress shirt and black slacks, but he seemed even more handsome to Duo. "Calm him down, Yuy," Wu Fei urged. "He's going to exhaust himself before the party even begins."
"He's right," Heero told Duo. "Relax. How is the leg?"
Duo guiltily put a hand over it. It was braced and healing, stuck out straight in a leg prop on the wheelchair. "Hurts," he admitted.
Heero looked pensive for a moment and then said, "I don't know what to say about it, you realize?"
"Because you don't want to seem to be praising me for being stupid?" Duo guessed. When Heero nodded, he sighed. "Yeah, well, I'm not patting myself on the back, either. It doesn't make it all good, just because they discovered stuff was messed up anyway. I was getting close to losing a hell of a lot more than the lower half of my leg."
Heero was pale as he crouched down to be at Duo's level. "You have to do everything right or..." he couldn't finish and Duo caressed his cheek.
"I know. " Duo looked around at the party decorations, wondering why he was even going through with it. It had been reduced to fit into their home, but it still seemed more than he was ready to handle just then. Antibiotics, regen injections, vitamin enhancers, and at least a half dozen procedures that had to be performed every other day to insure that he didn't lose himself below the waist. The damage had gone as far as his pelvis, a creeping death, that had been silently trying to murder him for some time.
"What are we celebrating again?" Duo wondered, hearing the bitterness in his own voice.
"You," Wu Fei reminded him firmly. "So, relax and indulge us."
There was a knock on the door. Duo jumped despite himself. "Relax," Heero reminded him. "You don't have to do anything, except be the center of attention."
Wu Fei opened the door and Une stepped in, handing him a non alcoholic bottle of wine and a dish of pastry. "Sorry, I'm late," she said without a blink at their still empty home. "Traffic." She breezed over to Duo, looked down at him with a smile, and said archly, "How is the man of the hour?"
"Recovering," Duo told her. "Guess you'll have to find another commander for my squad."
"I don't think that's necessary, yet," she replied as she repositioned her glasses. "I think your dry run was a success. I'd like to pursue it further... when you're better, of course."
Duo wanted to snap back, 'And when would that be?' but he held back. Those agents had become important to him. He didn't want to give them up. He realized that it was unrealistic, that he very well might lose his fight with his body, but he was too stubborn to contemplate that defeat.
There was another knock at the door. Heero answered it that time and Quatre and Trowa came in. Quatre with a fine bottle of wine and Trowa with baked bread.
"Forgive us for being late," Quatre apologized. "I hope we haven't missed anything?"
"Nothing yet," Heero assured him with a smile.
Trowa came over to Duo, hands in pockets, and looked him over, one eye hidden behind his bangs. "Something for you," he said in a soft voice. He pulled a gift out of his pocket and put it into Duo's lap.
"What is it?" Duo asked, still shocked that Trowa had come at all. The man had been strangely absent most times that Quatre had visited.
"I had a friend once," Trowa told him, "who was badly injured. A trapeze accident." He seemed pained, his words becoming hesitant. "That's why... It's hard for me to see you like this... It's not because I've forgotten our friendship. You remind me... he didn't die well...."
Duo looked at the thing in his lap, turning it over and over. "A panic button?"
"A silent one," Trowa said. "One that won't alert anyone, but... a friend. Much more discrete than a cell phone. You can program it to send your location when you push the button."
Duo smiled and fisted it. "You know me pretty good, don't you? Yeah, I didn't want to call a few times... because I didn't want people knowing."
"The price of being proud," Trowa replied with a small chuckle. "My friend had that same pride."
"Thank you," Duo told him, "For coming, for this."
Trowa smiled and nodded just as more people began coming through the door.
"Let's get this party started!" Kirkland crowed as he came through the door with a six pack of beer and a bag of chips.
"If you get your ass out of the door, maybe the rest of us can come the hell in!" Jenks growled in mock anger and pushed the man through so that he and Duo's squad could enter. Tango grinned and gave a small, thumbs up, sign to Duo.
Duo couldn't help grinning back as Heero came to squeeze his shoulder and say, "Just for a little while and then you'll need to rest," he warned. "Everyone knows that this won't be a long party."
Quatre fairly beamed and called loudly, "Speech, Duo?"
"Wait for us!" More agents squeezed into the room and Heero and Wu Fei both frowned. It was clear that these agents hadn't been on the shortened list of the invited. They were joined by others.
"I don't think..." Heero began, but was drowned out by the rising noise of people greeting each other and Duo enthusiastically.
"Hey!" Duo called out and everyone fell silent to look at him worriedly. "I'm supposed to make a speech," Duo continued, grinned, and then shouted, "Thanks for coming, everyone! Make yourselves at home! Don't mind me if I fall asleep on you, doctors orders, but I expect you to keep partying, okay?!" There were wild cheers.
Heero almost protested, but Duo took his hand and squeezed it hard. "I'm a big boy," he told Heero. "I'm not going to be stupid anymore. Let'em have their fun and let me enjoy... knowing... knowing that they didn't forget about me."
Heero was suddenly down and holding him, only a moment, both of them needing the contact, and then Jenks and Kirkland were laughing and wanting to 'cut in', wheeling Duo to greet his guests and giving a wink and a raised hand in silent vows to Heero that they would take care of Duo.
Heero let them go, as hard as it was to trust anyone else with him. He watched his fragile Duo laugh, mingle, and gain back some of the life lost by his latest battle with his own body. His inner strength would never cease to amaze Heero and it gave him hope, hope that they would, eventually, reach that light at then end of the tunnel. It might not be as bright as they wished, but Duo made him believe that it would be brighter than anyone predicted. Someone with that much determination couldn't fail... not completely.
On to Chapter thirteen
Back to chapter Eleven