Disclaimer:I don't own them and I don't make any money off of this
Warning:Male/male sex, graphic, language, violence.
"Here," Smirkowski crouched by Duo and held out a steaming cup of
"Tea?" Duo made a face as he took it. Wrapped in blankets, he was nestled against some of their baggage, two rifles, and some climbing equipment.
"I have a son your age," Smirkowski said with a grin. "He makes that same expression when I give him his medicine."
"Son? But I thought-" Duo began, puzzled, but Smirkowski shrugged in a way that let Duo know that 'things happen'.
"The tea has some antibiotics in it," Smirkowski told him. "It won't help you soon enough for the mission, but it might take the edge off."
"You are not a doctor," Heero said with an expression that Duo could only call, 'pissed'. He crouched down near Duo as well, putting Duo between himself and Smirkowski, and he began to reach out and take the tea.
Duo pulled the tea away from him and sipped at it, his eyes laughing at Heero's discomfiture. "Tastes like toffee," Duo said appreciatively.
Smirkowski looked embarrassed. "Put a bit of candy bar in it. I didn't have any sugar."
Duo took another sip. He could expertly taste under flavors, and didn't object to any of them. "Thanks," Duo told him.
Smirkowski nodded, gave Heero a look, and then moved away.
Duo appraised Heero, but Heero was watching Smirkowski. "What?" Duo prodded. "You don't trust him?"
"He likes to use 'natural' remedies," Heero complained. "You shouldn't have had the tea. It might make your illness worse."
"Well, too late now," Duo sighed and sipped at the tea again. "This is really good."
"Duo...," Heero began, his eyes on the tea cup.
"Heero?" Duo returned with a smile.
"Out there... when you fell...," Heero began haltingly.
"Yes? I did thank you, didn't I?" Duo leaned close. "You risked your life, when you were supposed to let me drop and have Mill take my position."
"I should have done that," Heero admitted, "but I couldn't."
"No?" Duo felt that Heero was on the edge of an admission. He could see it in the tenseness of Heero's shoulders. Duo's stomach tightened and his mind was already supplying a reason that he couldn't believe in, not without it coming from Heero's lips.
"A few hours and the storm should lift," Wu Fei announced from where he was sitting, nursing the gain on his instruments."The system is moving through quickly."
"Roger that!" Duo called back without taking his eyes away from Heero.
Heero had stiffened and Duo knew that the moment was slipping away. He reached out and gave Heero's sleeve a small tug.
"Level with me," he asked seriously.
Heero shook his head. "This isn't the place for it." He stood, but his dark blue eyes were searching Duo's. "After," he promised.
"I'll hold you to that," Duo replied sternly and then sighed and sipped at his tea again as Heero walked away to find a place to rest.
"I feel well done," Smirkowski said as he returned and took Duo's empty cup.
Duo was confused. "What?"
Smirkowski jerked his chin at where Heero was preparing himself to go to sleep. "He's the jealous kind. His eyes are like beam cannons. I thought relations between people in a group was against regulations?"
Duo glared at him and said in warning, "If you know what's good for you, you won't repeat that. Heero and me are not a couple and I'm not sure that he would want anyone suggesting that we were."
Smirkowski chuckled. "Okay, whatever you say, but you better not believe that load you just handed me."
Smirkowski moved away and Duo found himself looking over at Heero. Jealous? Protective as hell, maybe, but he'd always been that way, Duo realized. It came to him just how many times Heero had been at his elbow in their confrontations with danger..
Duo sat back and tried to find a comfortable spot as he shook his head and tried to clear it. He couldn't start thinking about any of that. Heero was right... after... whatever that meant...
Duo drifted and he wasn't sure why. He wasn't that sick. He wasn't that tired. He needed to plan. He needed to talk with his people and make sure that everyone was holding up. Leaders walked among their troops, checked on their morale, and rechecked equipment and supplies. Duo couldn't keep his eyes open, though, as much as he tried.
When he came back to the world, he was staring at an empty cave and Smirkowski checking a heating cell. Duo rolled to his feet, staggered, and then shouted in fury, "You drugged me!"
Smirkowski stiffened and turned in a way that let Duo know that he was ready to defend himself. "Po's orders. She outranks me," Smirkowski replied apologetically. "I trust that you're professional enough not to take it out on a grunt?"
Duo's hands fisted and then he was turning away and searching for his gear, hoping against hope that they hadn't decided to strand him with nothing but the clothes on his back. He found his pack and dragged it up. Slinging it over one shoulder, he began buttoning up his parka.
"You're going?" Smirkowski wondered. "You won't make it. Your temp went up to one hundred and five degrees. You're going to be a corpse if you try to finish the mission."
"I'm a Gundam Pilot," Duo growled. "You don't know what I'm capable of. Heero knows. He should have stopped her."
Smirkowski rubbed the back of his neck. "Well, she made sure that I didn't tell anyone."
Duo looked incredulous. "So everyone thinks I couldn't handle a cold?!"
"Uh, yeah, guess so," Smirkowski admitted. "Look, Duo... Why don't you see sense?" He suggested in a friendly manner, "I have some hooch I put back. We can have a few drinks, tell some war stories, and keep each other warm."
Duo glared, going cold. "I thought that I was too young for you?"
"You're a shorty, that's all," Smirkowski grinned. "You're not as young as you look, am I right?"
Smirkowski was down and flat on his back with one kick of Duo's booted foot. Snarling, Duo warned, "Better pack up your gear and get the hell out before I get back. Looks like Heero is a better judge of character than I am."
Duo strode out of the cave and then almost fell over. The cold was so intense, his heart beat painfully in his chest and his vision blurred. He gritted his teeth and forced himself to start walking as he tucked his scarf over the lower half of his face and put on his gloves. Fumbling, he brought out his GPS and checked his location.
"Bastards probably have a good start on me," he muttered as he checked the time. The cold was clearing his head, but he still felt hot and his nose was runny. It was hard keeping it from freezing to his face. He could make it, though, he felt. He'd finished missions with gaping wounds. He could finish one with a fever.
"I know my limits, Sally Po, " he growled. "You are going to learn not to second guess me."
Duo tucked his head down and made his way over the rocky, snow covered landscape. He had to be careful. He couldn't barge into the rear of the operation if they deployed before he reached them. That would endanger them and himself if they didn't realize it was him. Everyone knew their parts and everyone was an expert, but they still needed his part of the team. He wasn't being arrogant, Duo felt. Milliardo might take his place, if necessary, but that would compromise his own part of the mission. Optimum success depended on all of them being there and working together. It would save lives, enemy and targets alike, if they could adhere to the plan.
"People are not going to die, because I wasn't there," Duo swore."I can't live with that."
He couldn't rest if he hoped to make it. Duo passed likely spots with a longing eye, but he forced himself onward. He ignored the urge to find a warm place to curl up in and suffer his fever out of the cold. Dizziness came in waves and, at one point, he found himself kneeling in the snow, not sure when he had decided to do so. He forced himself back up again almost at once, but he could feel his joints aching and his head throbbing with the effort.
"You're going to be shit... even if you do make it," Duo told himself. "Maybe Sally was right..."
Duo shook his head sharply. "Fuck that! She was not right. It's the damn drug Smirkowski slipped me. I just need... to wait it out. It'll be out of my system before I reach the target."
It was easier to deal with the sickness, now that he wasn't to blame. It was
all Sally's fault... and Smirkowski's. Duo growled under his breath, "I
should have done more to that asshole than just kick him."
A rifle powering up stopped Duo in his tracks. He raised his arms, feeling a spot between his shoulder blades twitch in anticipation of getting shot there..
"A strange place to find a lone man taking a walk," a voice said, "Drop your weapons. If I find one when I frisk you, I'll put a blast through your head."
Duo began fumbling, making a show of unzipping his parka. He listened very carefully. He heard only one small sound and nothing else. It was a gamble, but he was almost certain that the man was alone. That gave him better odds for what he was about to do. He eyed the trail up ahead and saw the twists and turns before it dipped down and out of sight. A person would have to be crazy to take it at a run, especially with the sharp drop off to one side. The drop had an unknown bottom. It could be a few feet or a few hundred feet down. Duo wouldn't know until he was right on it, or falling into it.
Duo steeled himself as he tossed aside a small pistol. Part of the gamble was to take a chance that the man's eyes would momentarily follow it, that it would take a moment for him to realize that Duo was on the move, and that the man wasn't a good shot.
Duo sprinted for the trail and took it at a breakneck run as rock blasted all around him. Some of it slammed into his face, but most of it was deflected by the thickness of his parka. He whipped out his secondary gun, but didn't dare turn to fire.
He reached the turn, felt a sharp burn at the top of one shoulder, and then used the sheltering rock to whip around and fire his own weapon. He was far more accurate. His bullet took the man in the neck. The man clawed at the wound and then toppled over. Duo was back up the trail and at his side as quickly as he could. He ignored the pain as he knelt in the snow and searched the man over. He found a radio, a gps, and ID. He read it and frowned, before pocketing it and a code card. Shouldering the man's rifle, he began to feel a prickle of trepidation. The man might be a guard at an outer post, but it was far out of the way of normal traffic.
"Damn," Duo muttered angrily and whipped out his com. He didn't want to break silence, but he didn't have any choice.
"Potential trap," Duo said shortly when Heero picked up the line without speaking. "On your tail, E.T.A. one hour."
"Roger that," Heero replied and the line went dead.
Did he sense anger? There were many things to be angry about, Duo thought grimly. If that man was a rear guard for a troop movement, then his team was in danger. If Smirkowski was part of it...
"I'll kill him myself!" Duo snarled and hurried down the trail, leaving the body to be covered over by the snow.
Duo eventually caught up to the remains of a firefight. He crouched down, gun drawn, and saw the sensor arrays tucked back into the rocks. He swore. It was Wu Fei's job to spot those. Blast marks littered the snow, as well as parka clad bodies. None of them were from his team, but Duo didn't allow himself to be relieved. There was blood everywhere and packs and equipment left behind. Sloppy. Any soldier worth his salt would have taken everything back to headquarters to be gone over with a fine tooth comb. Unless they already knew who they were dealing with, a nagging voice in the back of his mind told him.
"Then why take them hostage..." Duo muttered as he scrounged through packs, found one that was Sally's, and shouldered it. Wu Fei's was gone, being the one full of expensive instruments, and Heero probably kept all manner of weapons in his. Milliardo's was ripped open and and plundered. Even idiots knew the worth of the scopes and clips the man had been carrying, but there were parts for the weapons cache they had yet to reach, and those had been left behind. Another blunder.
Duo kicked at a shattered bottle of expensive cognac. It seemed they didn't have refined tastes. Duo didn't let his guard drop in the slightest, or allow himself to feel confident. Stupid could be mean and stupid could kill valuable team members out of hand.
Keeping low, Duo followed the wide trail of tracks, gun held ready. He hadn't made very good speed and everything was windblown and full of snow, but he was ready for more outer sentry posts and a potential straggler.
This was all wrong, Duo thought, as the track lead away from the target area.
He checked his position again to confirm it and wasn't comforted by being right.
Were these men even part of their target's forces? What if they had stumbled
on a completely different operation? The implications of that had Duo's head
pounding with anxiety.
He topped a rise and longed to let his shaking knees buckle, if just for a few moment's rest, but Duo stubbornly bit his lip and refused to allow it. He knew that a moment's rest might turn into an eternity in that cold. The wind was picking up as well, and he wondered how long the weather was going to hold. If thing's worsened now... He shoved it from his mind. Concentrate on the here and now, he told himself, don't make up trouble.
Duo took a downward trail and saw the sensor array too late. He saw the light blink and then he was throwing himself forward, taking the sharp, rocky trail at a breakneck run. His lungs ached from the cold, his face felt numb, and his legs screamed for him to stop, but his team was depending on him. He couldn't fail them. He couldn't be captured or killed.
Duo's only warning was a buzz. He ducked and a stun blast went over his head, sizzling the air. Another went past his knee. They wanted him alive. They must have received orders. That was in Duo's favor. He was fast, he was quick, and he didn't have that healthy regard for his own skin that kept men from taking the risks that he was about to.
Duo ignored the sharp drop in the trail and jumped down to the next level. His knees buckled at the impact, but he rolled, came to his feet, and kept running. He longed to drop his pack, but that was as good as cutting his own throat. Equipment meant survival. Unfortunately, it also felt as if he were carrying a very heavy child on his back.
He couldn't keep it up. His lungs were going to freeze solid and his heart was going to burst. A blast against the rocks at his back let him know that he had pissed someone off. They weren't using the stun charge any longer. That was all right with Duo. It made him feel less guilty when he dropped the timed charge in the snow and put on an extra burst of speed.
Burning his bridges. They wouldn't be returning that way, not when the charge took out a shelf of rock and whoever was behind him in a blast that threw him to the ground and showered him with rubble, ice, and snow .
"I'm coming, bastards," Duo growled as he forced himself to his feet and continued down the trail, "and I'm getting my people back."
see Kracken's original, published yaoi fiction, The Angel Within, at amazon.com
Latest updates at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/KrackenficsML/
and for general fanfiction talk: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/krackenml/
On to Chapter Seven
Back to Chapter five