The Cost

Chapter 19:Appearances


"What the hell?"

The new recruit was glaring as the man on crutches made his awkward way to a seat beside the training field, a dog patiently following. He lowered himself with difficulty and was clearly sighing with relief as he unslung a case from the dog's back, opened it up, and put it on his lap. His gesture towards his captain was obvious and Tango turned on his head set. He listened, nodded, and then began stretching as he yelled out to his squad,"Five minutes!"

"I heard, but I still can't believe it," the new recruit swore. His big shoulders flexed as he readied for the course, but his critical gaze was still on his new commander. "I asked to stay out of this squad, you realize?" He told Tango. "I told Peacecraft, 'I'm not letting some ex Gundam gimp be my commander.' He wouldn't listen, though."

"That right?" Tango grunted as he stretched up high and cracked his spine. "You're in this squad because you're good. Maxwell is the best. That's why he's our commander."

"Damn, right, I'm good!" the new recruit replied, "Which is why I know that a commander, that can't go into the field with his men, is a piss poor one. Why do you put up with it? Can't the squad protest to Peacecraft and get stumbles, over there, put where he belongs, in some cripple work program making place mats for the elderly? I mean, look at him! He's letting a dog help him!"

Tango looked over to where Duo was directing his dog to retrieve something he'd dropped. The dog picked it up and gave it back to him. "I wouldn't want any other commander," Tango insisted. "It takes more than two good legs to command well."

"It takes two good balls, too, and he probably lost them with the legs," the new man snickered.

"Yuma, right?" Tango interrupted.

"Porter Yuma," the recruit affirmed. "First in my class at just about everything, which is why I'm going to the top to protest this assignment. I'm not wasting my career jumping to a gimp's orders."

Heero Yuy walked across the field to Duo, bent, and said something with a smile. His arm, across the back of Duo's chair, made their relationship clear.

"God! He's gay, too!" Yuma swore with a sick grimace. "Why don't we all just put on aprons and start a cooking class?"

Tango adjusted his headset, nodded, and then said, "The commander wants to speak to you." He took off the headset and handed it to Yuma.

Yuma nervously put it on.

Duo barked harshly, "You'll follow all of my orders or you'll be the one without any balls, got it, Yuma? I'll serve them to you in hot sauce! Get into position!"

Yuma went a little pale, but he was frowning again as soon as he handed the headset back to Tango. "Why didn't you tell me it was on?"

"It's always on," Tango replied.

"Well, I meant what I said," Yuma insisted as they joined the squad at the start of the course. "I'm getting transferred."

"We're the best unit on the force," Tango reminded him. "It's not because of me, or any of the squad, either. Commander Maxwell made us that way. If you can't get that, then you aren't good enough to be one of us. We'll make sure that you get your transfer."

"Your loss," Yuma sneered.

Tango eyed him and then took off the headset again. "Here, you follow the commander's orders. Lead the squad."

Yuma took the headset, stunned. "Why?"

"A last chance?" Tango suggested with a shrug.

"Mine or yours?" Yuma wondered sarcastically.

"Lead," Tango ordered with a frown.

The course was the most difficult one, devised specifically to take a squad to its limits. Without working together in perfect synch, it couldn't be done. They faltered at first, Yuma rebelling against the shouted orders in his ears. Two men went down in the mud course, hanging up on barbed wire and getting painted with 'sniper fire'. They lost another to ordinance when Yuma decided that his 'gay gimp' commander was afraid to take a harder, but quicker, route. At last, he began listening, and responding, the course real enough to make an agent feel some pain and a fear of consequences for bad decisions.

At last they found synch, and Yuma became an extension of his commander, seeing wisdom in his orders, and the immediate results. They didn't lose another man and the squad became a thing of deadly beauty as the team finished the course with a last surge forward and shouts of triumph.

Grinning with the adrenaline rush, Yuma handed the head set back to Tango. Tango listened for a moment, nodded, and then told Yuma, "Commander says, good job, and welcome to the squad. He'll knit you a place mat in honor of the event."

Yuma colored. "Sorry about that. I guess... Okay, I was being a dumb ass. I just couldn't see how..."

"None of us could," Tango told him. "Commander Maxwell proved himself to us, too."

Yuma turned to where Duo was sitting, Heero and the dog flanking him. He snapped off a salute, and saw Duo return it."Orders, commander?" he asked, knowing that Duo could hear him on Tango's headset.

"Practice the mud obstacle again," Tango told him. "You were very sloppy there."

Yuma snapped another salute. "Yes. sir."

Tango jerked a thumb at his own chest, though, and reminded him. "I'm captain, remember? Get into formation agent."

Yuma smirked and replied smartly, "Yes, sir!"


"It's okay to be pissed," the doctor told Duo.

"And that will get me, what?" Duo wondered as he glared at the new brace on his leg and the long line of stitches.

"Some stress relief, at the very least," the doctor sighed. "Anyone, in their right mind, would be angry, depressed, or in tears."

Duo winked and grinned. "Yeah, anyone in their right mind. I'm just crazy enough to shrug and go, 'What the hell? Get on with it.' Crying will just get me wet."

The doctor pushed Duo's wheel chair within reach and Duo slid from the exam table and into it with practiced ease. The doctor strapped him in and watched Duo wheel himself out of the room. He followed, saying,"Blah, blah, blah."

Duo looked back at him, confused.

The doctor explained with a frown. "You don't ever listen to what I say, so I might as well just spout nonsense."

"Real good, doc," Duo chuckled. "I listen, but I have to modify everything to take me into account. I'm a lot tougher than most people."

"You also have a great deal more metal, in your body than most people," the doctor pointed out sourly. " This operation makes the pin and strap count, just in that leg, eleven."

"Crappy bio bones aren't worth shit," Duo growled. "I knew that I should have tried that new DNA bone enhancer."

"And end up with an amputation, or a massive body rejection, that'll put you in the morgue?" the doctor wondered. "The success rate is not exceeding the side effect rate, as of yet."

Duo stopped wheeling in the empty hallway, and motioned the doctor to come close. "Between the pills, and the pain, getting it up for the boyfriend, has been pretty damned tough. If you could give me something for that, I might be less pissed."

Duo was blushing. The doctor was understanding, though. "I'll have a prescription for you. A lot of men have this particular problem, Mr. Maxwell," he explained. "It's nothing to be ashamed about."

"Happen to you, lately?" Duo wondered.

"No," the doctor answered truthfully.

"Then don't act like you know," Duo growled. "If nothing else works, I at least want THAT in working order, okay?"

It was the doctor's turn to look uncomfortable. "Of course, but shouldn't things be easier, with a man, than with a woman? That's not so important, am I right?"

"Been with a man lately, doc?" Duo wondered with a snicker.

"No," the doctor replied, deflating.

"Then, once again, stop talking like you know," Duo told him. "We do use our dicks, just not on chicks." He laughed as he wheeled up the hallway and met Heero at the door.

"What did the doctor say?" Heero demanded and then looked over Duo to the doctor when Duo was slow to reply.

"He's healing well," the doctor replied. "He should be back on braces and crutches in three weeks."

"As long as nothing else gives way," Duo grumbled.

"Is that likely?" Heero wondered anxiously. "Wasn't this just a defect in the bone?"

"He needs to raise his bone density medication," the doctor replied, "and take bio reinforcers, or this might happen again. If there is one weak point, there might be more."

"They mess me up," Duo complained. "They give me cramps all over and make my muscles shake. I can't work like that."

"May I point out, that you shouldn't be working at all?" the doctor replied acidly.

"You can, but it won't do any good," Duo retorted.

"Duo," Heero warned in a worried tone. "Maybe you should take a few months off, and heal properly?"

"I've never been proper, Heero," Duo told him as he finished with reception and was handed his prescriptions. "Come on, No more lecturing. I'm juiced full of pain pills and going to the doctor always kills my day. Take me home."

Heero looked down at Duo's hand full of pill bottles and fished out the new one. He eyed the label. "What's this one?"

"Happy pills," Duo replied with a grin. "So take good care of that bottle."



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