Disclaimer:I don't own them and I don't make any money off of this.
Warning:Male/male sex, graphic, language, violence
"I sent the command through all channels," Milliardo told Duo as they entered the meeting room, "But I can't control which mail they open first."
"I know that," Duo grumbled as he plopped down into a leather chair at a large, oval table. Heero was already seated in the chair next to him. "Heya, Heero," Duo greeted him, trying to gauge his mood, "Ready to saddle up again?"
"Yes," Heero replied simply, eyes down as he fiddled with the computer pad in his hands. His messy chocolate bangs covered im too well for Duo to figure out his expression.
"You too, Fei?" Duo tried again, this time with Chang Wu Fei, who was sitting down across the table from him.. The man scowled back at Duo and didn't reply.
Duo sighed as he sank down into his chair. This was the last thing he needed, Duo thought sourly. He would have to make the two Preventer agents understand that it hadn't been his joke. He couldn't go into an operation with his two best men angry with him.
Sally Po took a seat next to the empty chair at the head of the table. Milliardo sat on its other side. "Gang's all here," Duo said, trying to lighten the mood, "Where's boss woman?"
"Coming," Sally replied as she checked her notes.
Duo's fingers began tapping on the counter top. After a few minutes, he had a decent rhythm going and a nice backbeat. Suddenly aware of eyes on him, he stopped and looked up. Everyone was staring at him in varying stages of annoyance. "Sorry," he mumbled and then snapped, "Look, I have three operations going on right now. I don't have a lot of time to hang ar-"
"Forgive me for being late," Une apologized as she breezed into the room with an armload of briefs. She walked around the table handing them out as she explained, "This is a very intense operation, not something I can trust to anyone but the best."
Duo frowned. He didn't want to ask. He wasn't ready to face his new nemesis, not until he had managed to lock down his anger, but he knew that his personal problems had to be checked at the door in this case. He cleared his throat and then asked, "Shouldn't Rachel be here?"
Une took her seat, arranged her computer pad in front of her with meticulous care, and then replied without looking at Duo, "She is already on assignment."
"She is?" Duo blinked, taken by surprised, and then he was angry. "Why wasn't I informed? Who's coordinating her mission? What are the details?"
"Commander Maxwell," Une replied quietly. "She is not under your command. The details of her assignment do not concern you or your command at this time. Please, concentrate on the mission at hand.."
Duo almost argued further, but then he saw the warning glint in Une's eyes. It was still hard to remember that he couldn't act like the hot headed pilot of Deathscythe any longer. He had to be in control. He dug a finger along the inside of the tight collar of his dress uniform jacket and then nodded, once.
"Let's go over the maps first," Une said as she switched on a fully three dimensional map that took form at the center of the table.
Duo sighed. "Mountains in Asia. Do we get any guides?"
Une nodded with a smile. "Two natives, both with solid security clearance. They will meet you on the north side of that peek in twenty days."
She used a pointer to indicate a jagged splinter of rock topped with snow.
"I've been in those mountains before, during the war," Heero suddenly said as he narrowed eyes at the map. "I suggest not using the guides. I can lead us."
Duo eyed Heero appraisingly. The man's dark blue eyes were unflinching, sure of his knowledge and skill. "You'll brief us on the terrain, then," Duo told him, "so that we all know the way in case you're taken down."
Heero nodded, unsurprised by the order. It was logical. A verbal description wasn't as good as having walked the terrain personally, but Duo didn't want to set his men down without at least a working knowledge of the area.
"There will be supply stashes, here and here," Une told them as she pointed out the areas. "We placed them as close to the target as possible."
"That still leaves..." Duo whistled at the distance. "You have a lot of faith in us."
"I do," Une replied with a firm smile. She steepled her fingers and looked over them at her agents. "This mission is very delicate," she told them. "It's an extraction. Four civilians; three men, one woman They're scientists. In exchange for their rescue, they're promising to come clean about a military project being headed by rebel factions."
""What sort of project?" Duo wondered sharply. "Chemical? Biological? Weaponry?"
"Genetic," Une replied as if the word left a bad taste in her mouth, "and biological."
Duo's fists clenched, remembering the plague of L2. He had survived when many hadn't, giving him first hand knowledge of just how horrific germ warfare could be."Tell me what I need to know," He demanded icily, "So we can take these bastards down."
After the meeting, Duo met with his people in his informal office, the living room of his home. The stack of faxes and the steady beep of his computer, telling him that his mailbox was full, greeted him as he unlocked the door and led the way inside.
"First order of the evening," Duo said as he tossed his uniform coat at a chair and began turning machinery off. Sally walked past him into the kitchen and then returned with an armload of canned drinks.
"Beer," she said as she tossed one to Heero. He caught it as he sat down on the couch and loosened his tie. "Beer," she repeated as she tossed one at Duo. He caught the ice cold can without looking up from the faxes that he was shoving into the garbage and opened it one handed. "Diet soda," She said in a teasing tone as she tossed it to Wu Fe. She winked at Wu Fei's scowl as he caught it and sat in an overstuffed chair."Champaign peach cooler," she said with a distasteful frown and tossed it to Milliardo. He leaned against a wall, opened the can, and toasted her with it. She looked at the last drink as she settled on the couch near Heero. "And my double mocha coffee shot." She opened it, took a drink, and then sighed happily.
"Plan on unpacking this year, Maxwell?" Sally asked as she motioned with her can at a stack of boxes. They were all open, but not emptied.
Duo shrugged as he plopped down on the couch between her and Heero. He stretched out his feet, putting them on the scratched coffee table, and draped one arm over the back of the sofa and behind Heero. "I'm still not sure I like this place," he told her.
Milliardo raised an eyebrow. "Usually someone determines that after a few weeks, not months."
"Sir," Duo corrected him.
Milliardo smiled and gave him a nod. "Sir."
Duo laughed, "I think you like taking orders."
"From certain people, yes," Milliardo replied, but then his eyes flashed. "Just remember, sir, that outside of this mission, I am your superior."
"Yes, sir," Duo smirked and then unloaded maps and disks from a leather satchel. Laptops came out of cases and everyone settled down to work out their roles in the mission.
Milliardo found a chair near Sally and everyone managed to arrange themselves around Duo. He was the center and the commander. They questioned, they found the answers together, but Duo was the final say in everything. He kept tight control, made everyone confident in their abilities and the mission, and managed to play host as well. After pizza, snacks, and more drinks, the living room was full of trash, sated and weary Preventer agents, and scattered notes, maps, and supply lists.
"Any more questions?" Duo asked as he stretched out on the couch and opened another beer. He sipped it lying prone, his head propped up on a cushion. Heero was sitting at his feet, but everyone else was taking their que to leave.
"Just one," Wu Fei said as he put his laptop away. "Who's your second?"
There was tension. Duo pretended not to notice. This was always the hard part. Most commanders had a man or woman that they could depend on to take command if something happened to them. They chose the best on their teams. Duo's problem was, that everyone on his teams were the best. They knew it too, so this moment was always fraught with a certain rivalry.
Duo's bare feet were resting against Heero's thigh. The decision was as simple as that. Duo could have argued about ability and Heero's intimate knowledge of the area, but he had just given them a thorough mental walk through. Any one of them could have been just as competent.
"Heero, he'll be my second," Duo said and rubbed at his forehead as weariness and beer began to take their toll. "Dismissed everyone. Take tomorrow off. Do all the civilized things you love, because we're going into hard training day after tomorrow."
Wu Fei's eyes almost gleamed with anticipation. The man loved missions and loved challenging his skills. Duo hoped that Sally's presence would keep him grounded and remind him that he was supposed to come out of the mission alive. Milliardo had a look on his face that promised a day of fine wine and classical music. Sally was slipping an arm through Wu Fei's. Her smile told Duo clearly what her plans entailed. He blushed and hid it as he pretended to scratch an itch on his cheek.
Everyone was going out of the front door and saying their goodbyes. It was then that Heero finally stood up. Duo tried to divine his mood, but Heero's scowling face gave nothing away. He watched everyone leave and Duo was suddenly anxious, wondering if Heero was really going to be crazy enough to try and get even with him for embarrassing him earlier that day.
Duo waited for Heero to make the first move. Heero fiddled with his tie, tucked his laptop more securely under his arm, and then said, looking at the open door, "I would like to be removed from my post as Second, sir."
Duo sat up slowly and put the beer aside on the coffee table. "Why?" Heero and Wu Fei never called him 'sir' and Duo never insisted on it. He supposed that he badgered Milliardo for the respect, only because Milliardo so clearly outranked him and Duo needed to emphasize to the others that he was in charge, not Milliardo.
"Personal reasons," Heero replied and looked as if he would rather be facing fifty Tauruses than admit that something personal was going to effect his performance.
Duo was instantly angry. "If you're having a fight with one of the others, then I think we should clear the air right now, Heero. I know Wu Fei can be an arrogant s.o.b., but you noticed that I picked you and not him. You keep your cool better."
Heero clutched his laptop very tightly. "I can ignore Chang's insufferable arrogance. He's an excellent agent."
"So....?" Duo prompted. "Is this going to be twenty questions, Heero? I have to tell you, I had a very shitty day, and I just want to forget about the rest of it and go to bed."
Heero checked his watch. It was still early.
"Heero, get to the point, or you're going," Duo warned.
"It's you," Heero said and then gritted his teeth.
"Ah." Duo leaned back into the couch again and motioned for Heero to sit down. "Tell me all about it."
Heero sat stiffly, as if he had just sat on a spike. Duo's feet were against his thigh again and Duo refused to make more room for him. Heero went even stiffer, if that were possible, and stared down at them.
"Spit it out," Duo ordered. "You hate me. You think I'm a screw up, L2, slum baby, and you just know you should be in charge, not me... that about sum it up?"
Heero was very still and very quiet for a long moment and then he replied, "No."
Duo frowned. "No," he echoed, confused. "Then what the hell...?"
"You said..." Heero struggled and then said in a rush, "You said that you were gay."
"If you're going to tell me you're a homophobe, Heero, I'm going to call you a liar!" Duo exclaimed. "We have the same friends and I know you don't have a problem with Quatre and Trowa."
Heero clasped his hands in his lap tightly and his knuckles went white. Feeling the man's leashed tension, Duo pulled his knees up and gave Heero more room.
"Heero, talk to me," Duo insisted. "If this is about those freakin emails and faxes, I told you that I didn't send them... oh!" Duo suddenly understood. "I get it!You thought I was coming on to you and it creeped you out. Now you can't look at me without thinking I might really try something... is that it?"
Heero frowned and then stood up. He said, "Yes." but it was said as if he had meant to say something different and he was surprised by his own lie.
Duo shot to his feet as well, furious as he shouted, "That is the lamest excuse I've ever heard, Yuy! Get it together and lock whatever the fuck your problem is down, because you are going to be my Second. Got that?"
Heero looked almost shaken. "Yes, sir."
"Damn right, yes, sir," Duo snarled. "Now get the hell out of here!"
Heero left, closing the door behind him, but Duo kept glaring at the closed door for some time afterward. He hadn't been prepared for that to hurt so much. What the hell? Heero was just the ex terrorist who deigned to do missions for him, wasn't he? He was the man who was as unemotional as a rock and as serious as death about everything. Maybe they had formed a working relationship and they could talk from time to time, but he hadn't really expected... Loyalty? Respect? Friendship?
Showers, gym, last target practice... the images played themselves for Duo and he remembered teasing Heero about whether he dated guns or not, remembered sneaking a look at the muscled beauty that was Heero under a spray of hot water, joked about his ability to do so many pushups and how that would probably make someone very happy.
Duo scrubbed at his face. "Idiot!" Duo suddenly saw the attraction that he had been trying to keep locked down and bottled up. He did have a thing for that perfect killer, that top agent, that handsome man... who was totally uninterested in him and well within his rights to be totally pissed at Duo and unable to work a mission with him.
It didn't matter, Duo knew. He still needed Heero for the mission. He couldn't let their feelings get in the way of something so important. Duo would have to forget his attraction and Heero would have to forget his fear that Duo would compromise the mission and him because of it.
Duo picked up his beer, took a last drink, and then smashed the can in one hand.
"Fuck this day to hell!" Duo shouted in anguish and threw the can at the door.
see Kracken's original, published yaoi fiction, The Angel Within, at amazon.com under Kracken
Latest updates at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/KrackenficsML/
and for general fanfiction talk: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/krackenml/
On to Chapter Three
Back to Chapter One