(Not sure where this is going)
Warnings: Well, you know me, anything can happen, so be warned in general.
"Get the hell outta here, you stupid fuckhead!" Duo shouted as he tried, one more time, to rip his leg free of the crushed machinery. Skin gave, blood seeped around the jagged metal, but the leg refused to come out of its metal cocoon.
Duo's hand went to the eject handle. If he pulled it now, his leg would stay behind when the powerful explosion rocketed him out of the damaged ship. Panting with pain, adrenalin, and gut wrenching nausea, as his ship continued to tail spin towards the ground, the choice was becoming easier by the nano second.
Could he live with one leg? Images flashed in his mind's eye as he stared at the ground coming up to meet him. A life time of having an artificial leg, attached to a stump, however life like prosthetics had become, was still a hard choice to make. Ego, an attachment to his body parts, and a natural fear of rejection in the future, tangled with the need to survive.
Proximity alarms sounded again, and Duo used his limited steering to pull away from his pursuer again. "I said get the fuck away from me!" he shouted again. "You are not pulling some goddamn, miracle rescue, with your grapplers. It's impossible! I'll get myself out of this!"
He would, because he was a survivor, and because he had never been afraid to make the hard choices in his life. Fuck the green pilot who had veered into him, and was now a collection of scattered bits on the wind, plummeting to earth before him. Fuck his ship for collapsing and trying to take him with it. Fuck Une, most of all, for sending them on a search and recover mission with green pilots.
His con was blinking, alerting him to a backup of incoming calls, but Duo ignored them as his hand caressed the yellow and black eject handle. His instruments told him that he was almost in the red, the limit of safe eject altitude. He swallowed hard, and then fished out his silver cross. Kissing it hard, he then tucked it back into his suit, tightened his zipper and straps, and then slammed down his crash visor. The last thing that he needed was to smash his head on the cockpit canopy going out. It was bad enough that he was going to be bleeding to death on the way down.
Duo gave the belt around his upper leg, one last, tightening tug. The thought of bleeding to death, became his main worry as he committed to doing the deed. Gritting his teeth, he shouted, "Fuck!!!" and then pulled the handle. Goodbye career, was the erroneous thought, flitting through his head, before the explosive force under his ass engaged and his leg screamed agony.
He was free. Duo refused to look down as pain almost took him under. He busied himself with survival as the chute opened, and he jerked madly, from the force, as his plummet to earth was slowed. His recovery ship was doing an ungainly tumble, and the ship taking the dive with it, angled off sharply to escape it and gravity. The jungle below was receiving the first of the shattered ship, large chunks thudding into the treetops, and, soon, Duo would be joining them. Survival was still not one hundred percent assured.
As the ground grew closer, Duo was forced to finally look down, to spot his landing. Finding his leg still on the end of his thigh made him almost loose his senses in relief. It was in bad shape, though, ripped cloth showing deep, ragged wounds, and a flapping and impossible twist telling Duo that it was broken badly. Keeping it might still be a crap shoot. Landing with it in that shape, doubly so.
The trees were coming up fast, the thick, green, branches giving him hope that he wouldn't simply fall through, tangle his chute, and dangle helplessly until someone found him. He knew who would find him first, and that he would do so as quickly as possible, but rescue would be much quicker if he stayed on top of the canopy.
The chunk of ship hit him as his feet touched broad leaves. It slammed into his helmet and cracked it. Slabs of helmet went flying as his head and neck rocked with the force, and blood splattering into his eyes as his chair and his body hit the canopy, and went through it.
"Hurts like a bitch," Duo slurred as he automatically unbuckled from his chair and pushed away from it.
Ingrained habit was telling him to get moving before the enemy found him, and worry about injuries later, but his mind was having trouble remembering who the enemy was. Oz, the Alliance... which one? What had he been trying to do? Where was he? Where should he try to go? His hands met dirt. His eyes were too cloudy to process anything and one leg seemed mangled to hell and back. He smelled blood, engine fuel, and something burning. If there was a fire, moving was even more important.
Fingers met hot metal parts. The fear that they were parts from his gundam was a twist in his gut. Without Deathscythe he was S.O.L. in a lot of respects.
"Don't be Deathscythe," Duo muttered.
He crawled until he felt a tree, and then used it to force himself to his feet. The pain made his head reel and his heart throb hard, as it coped with the overload of stress and shock.
"Which direction?" Duo wondered as his hands gripped tree bark hard.
Duo tried to listen for the enemy, but only heard strange birds and animals calling all around him. It was damned hot and humid. Jungle, his mind supplied, but then refused to offer up anything else,not even the reason as to why he had been fighting there. Trying to remember only made the pain in his head intensify. When he reached up, Duo felt something wet and a jagged line of flesh. That explained his disorientation.
"I'm fucked," Duo ground out and almost sat down again. Waiting for the enemy, seemed the only sane course of action. If he was lucky, they might patch him up, and, if he was very lucky, they might even give him some pain medication while they did it.
"Wuss!" Duo called himself and tried to take a step. He stumbled as his bad leg dragged. Red danced behind his eyes with the blur and he panted, trying to breathe through the pain. He leaned, hands out, and found another tree trunk. He used it to brace himself as he searched for a branch of any kind. He found it, just before the pounding of blood and pain took consciousness away again. Pushing himself back upright, he tested the branch.
"Goddamn it!" Duo cursed as ants bit his hand. He shook it and then the branch to dislodge any more that might be clinging to the dead wood.
Duo didn't have any hope that he would get far, and absolutely none that someone would rescue him. He worked alone. Shinigami lived and died by his own strength and wits. Anyone who remotely cared about his welfare was in space and out of reach. Sweat trickled down his face with the blood and he wiped at it with the back of a shaky hand, as he considered what he was capable of in his shape. Could he go a few feet? A few yards? A few inches, maybe, his body replied in pain and growing weakness.
A few inches might be enough, Duo told it, if he could hide from search parties. If he could cover himself, or find enough ground cover, the jungle might be his best friend, but using a twisted, rough branch to accomplish that objective, while he trailed blood, or worse, was a problem that could make the effort useless. Still, if it didn't work, he wasn't any worse off than he was now. Trying was better than simply handing himself to the enemy on a silver platter.
Bugs bit him, and a few flies took an interest in his blood, as Duo leaned on his stick, and hoped that it held, as he essayed a step. He cursed in a steady stream, and tried to ignore the fact that tears were mingling with the dirt, blood, and sweat on his face, as he managed yet another step.
Duo wasn't certain how many steps he managed before he was forced to sit and let the world slip away into unconsciousness. When he opened is eyes once more, some time later, he startled some sort of furry creature, investigating his 'corpse'. The animal squeaked and ran before Duo could focus enough to identify it, That he could focus was a relief, though it didn't enlighten him as to where he was or why he was there. The jungle all around him was a mystery that he needed to solve, and quickly, if he wanted to keep on living.
"Good going," Duo grunted in a dry mouth as he sat up and saw that he Hadn't made it far at all from the remains of his chair and chute. That he hadn't been picked up by the enemy yet, he cold only attribute to the denseness of the jungle. Unless they took his route, by dropping themselves into the canopy, which was damned dangerous, they had to hike in. That could take time, if he had managed to drop into a place that was relatively inaccessible What that meant for him, though, was that rescuing himself was going to be impossible.
"No such thing as impossible to a gundam pilot," Duo growled as he searched himself for a med kit and his survival gear. Both were small packages, in pockets, on his uniform. That uniform made Duo frown in confusion. "Preventers?" He fingered the name badge, that said, Capt. Duo Maxwell, and the patches. He tried hard to remember. Had he been fighting some new force? Had he stolen the uniform during an infiltration operation? Why did the badge have his name on it, though? Nothing came to him, but an intensification of his throbbing head.
"Shit," Duo swore as he finally noticed the strap around his leg. He loosened it with frantic fingers, knowing the damage a tourniquet could do to a limb when it cut off circulation too long. The bleeding started then, and Duo found himself in a race to stabilize his wounded leg before he lost too much blood. Clotting agent was liberally stuffed into his wounds and bio suture was applied with trembling fingers. The bandages went on last, stretchy patches of bio skin that adhered like glue to wounded flesh and would be absorbed as the wounds healed. The broken leg was something that Duo could do little about, but it was something that could kill him, eventually, if he left it twisted and hanging, untended.
Duo shot the leg with his few, precious, injections of pain killer, and welcomed the numbness, as he searched for a way to set the bone.
Hurry, Duo warned himself. He couldn't know how much time he had until the enemy found him. He had to get the bone set, and get back on his feet, as soon as possible. He had to do better than a few steps, a lot better.
Duo awoke, not knowing how long he had been unconscious. His leg was set with collapsible supports, and a flexible bandage, from his med kit, so he had gotten that far at least. His eyes were going in and out of focus, though, and he felt nauseous. His head wound was serious, he concluded, and added it to the list of things that were most likely going to kill him before he saved himself, or the enemy discovered him. The fiery stings on his arms and legs alerted him to what had awakened him to begin with. He slapped at the ants and tried to move away. The chunk of metal behind him stopped his progress.
Duo blinked eyes to clear them as his hands investigated the chunk. Half of a name was printed in red on the black piece of hull. Captain Duo M- "What the hell..?" Duo muttered as he fingered the half scorched name. Why was his name there, and beginning with a military title? He was good at infiltration, but that good? What had he been doing? Looking around him, Duo was amazed that he was still breathing. Any number of metal chunks could have easily killed him, and a close by clump of burned vegetation told him how close he had been to burning to death. The mix of parts, though, was another puzzle. Two ships had gone down, and they were makes that he wasn't familiar with.
"At least it wasn't Deathscythe," Duo said in relief, as he found his crutch in the leafy forest loam, and wondered if he had the strength to use it. Why he hadn't been piloting Deathscythe was yet another question.
It began to rain. Duo lifted his face to the droplets and tried to catch them with his parched tongue. The cold on his skin cleared his head a little more as he then tried to stand. His leg was swollen and useless, his head made him think about concussion, and his neck refused to straighten completely, telling him that there was some damage to either the muscles or his vertebrae. He swayed and hopped, trying to get his balance, and made it a few steps. Any progress, he thought, was better than none, and was a few steps closer to escaping the enemy.
"Cheery little bastard, aren't you?" Duo muttered to himself as he tried a few more painful steps.
"Well, I'm not sure that I am a bastard," Duo replied to himself.
"I guess not," he shot back, "but, then, you don't know a lot of things, like how to survive in a jungle. You are a colony brat, after all."
"A smart colony brat," Duo replied to himself.
"Smart assed brat," Duo snickered. "A smart assed, little bastard, brat."
"Who's been hit on the head too hard, and is now talking to himself," Duo sighed and shut himself up as he made a few more steps.
"You should talk to me, instead," a voice suggested.
Duo started and almost fell. A boy, slightly taller than himself, with chocolate brown hair and dark blue eyes, was standing beside him. Wearing black spandex shorts, and a green tank top, he was better dressed for the climate than Duo. "Who the hell are you?" Duo barked as he pulled out his gun.
The boy cocked his head to one side, puzzled. "You don't remember?"
"Remember what?" Duo demanded.
"You shot me, once," the boy replied.
Duo's gun firmed, "Then we're enemies?"
The boy shook his head. "No, friends." His look turned intense. "Remember me, Duo. It's important."
He was gone, then, between one blink and the next. Duo nosed his gun, this way and that, eyes wide in panic, as he tried to find his target. The jungle was empty of a blue eyed boy, though, and Duo had to admit, to himself, that he had hallucinated him. His head wound was worse than he thought, he realized.
"Why would I hallucinate someone that I don't know, though?" he wondered, and then put it from his mind as he concentrated on walking and not having another hallucination.
The rain came dripping down through the canopy of the jungle more than once, and Duo suffered through bouts of shivering wet and scorching, humid heat, alternately, as he forced himself to limp. The world lost focus and his heart pounded in his chest as he rode, wave after wave, of pain, and fought off utter exhaust ian as long as he could. When he couldn't go another step, and the gaping maw of unconsciousness threatened once more, Duo found shelter under the arch of a great, fallen tree. It was too much to hope that other creatures hadn't taken advantage of the same shelter, and Duo used the last of his strength to eject large insects, frogs, and a disgruntled, furry, animal, with large eyes, that he couldn't identify. The ever present ants were another problem, but Duo could only try to sit as far away as he could manage, from several ant trails, and hope that the nest wasn't close by.
The leg felt swollen. Duo loosened the splint and grimaced at the mangled sight of discolored flesh, bio bandages, and dried blood. He gave it an injection of antibiotic, but felt how useless the act was. The leg needed surgery, he was sure, and sticking patches on those kinds of wounds, was like kissing a gun shot wound to make it all better.
The head wound was even more problematic. His eye sight was still going in and out of focus, his head throbbed with the worst headache that he had ever experienced, and his stomach continually threatened to eject, violently, the only thing in it, bile. Coupled with a disturbing lack of memory, and the neck injury, Duo could only conclude that things in that area were just as serious, if not more, than the leg.
Duo squinted at the jungle beyond the shadow of the tree trunk over his head. There wasn't any way, short of doing an impossible climb to the top of the canopy, to determine where he was. Even that might turn out to be useless, depending on how far into the jungle he was. His ignorance of Earth was going to kill him as surely as a beam cannon, he thought, and kicked himself, not for the first time, that he had blown off survival courses in favor of more gundam training modules.
He couldn't sleep, but he needed to sleep. He couldn't go any further without some rest, but that rest might kill him as surely as his wounds, Duo knew, and shuddered at the thought of slipping into deep unconsciousness, or even coma, and being eaten alive by the ants and the creatures around him.
"People always live near water," a voice said, and Duo blinked as the image of that strange boy appeared, in a school uniform, and writing something at a school desk. "Animals must drink. They make regular trails to rivers and lakes."
The boy and the desk seemed so solid. Duo blinked, trying to chase the hallucination away, but it refused to dissipate. He could even hear, faintly, the scratch of a pen as the boy continued to write something.
"How do I know that... when I don't know that?" Duo whispered.
"Survival course," the boy said, without looking at him, intent on his writing.
"I didn't take one," Duo replied and then frowned. He shouldn't talk to a hallucination, but it seemed so real. He could even see a small mole just under the boy's ear, and the scar across the back of one hand.
Duo moved out of his shelter, something pricking at his mind, doubt and a need to prove to himself that the image before him wasn't real. He limped, laboriously, the four steps to the desk. Looking down, he could see rain drops splattering the desk top, the paper, and the words written there. Remember me. The boy was writing those two words, over and over, again. The image was gone in the next instant.
Duo almost fell in surprise. He gasped and rubbed at his eyes, despair filling him, a hopelessness that almost made him sit and accept his inevitable demise. The hand lowered from his eyes in the next instant, though, and grabbed hold of his walking stick hard.
"Get moving, Maxwell," he growled at himself. "Find a trail and follow it to water. There might be someone sympathetic to the colonies somewhere in this damned jungle. Someone who can save my ass. Someone who can make these fucking hallucinations go away."
Duo shuddered as he forced his exhausted body to move again, when all that it wanted to do was to crawl back into his shelter and sleep there. That meant death, though, he realized, possibly a slow, and painful one, if he never managed to wake up again. It disturbed him that his hallucination had possibly saved him from that fate.
"Who the hell is he?" a voice wondered.
"He's wearing a damned uniform, so it's kind of obvious, dumb shit!" another voice snarled. "They know we're out here! Bug out! Get the equipment loaded."
"And go where?" the first voice wondered. "If they know we're here, we got nowhere to run to."
"I'll take my chances in space," the second voice retorted. "We'll follow the plan that I had to begin with, get into space and hide our operation out there."
"We don't have that kind of capitol," the first voice reminded him. "That's why we're in a stinkin' jungle to begin with."
"We have a completed beam cannon," the second voice growled. "That'll get us enough credit-"
"I'm sure government troops are going to wait until we make that sale, too," the first voice sneered. "We're done! We can only hope not to get shot, at this point."
Duo reached up and grabbed cloth, someone's pants leg, and managed in a dry throat, "Rebel... I'm a rebel... I'm one of you... infiltrate..."
"What the hell did he say?" the first man demanded.
"That he's one of us," the second replied.
"He's full of shit and trying to save his ass," the first retorted. "Pop him and let's get under cover."
"We should take him back to Kirkland," the second suggested, calming down a little as an idea struck him. "Maybe we can get some info out of him as to how long we have? He looks fucked up, like he crashed. Maybe... and that's one hell of a maybe... he ain't part of a force at all?"
"Fuck, are you in denial!" the first man sneered. "Still, better that Kirkland make the decision than us get it wrong. I don't want to end up like Anderson."
"Buried up to his neck for the ants to eat," the second man remembered with fear and disgust in his voice.
" And he just crossed wires on a firing harness," the first man recalled.
"Yeah, let's take him to Kirkland," the second man agreed and Duo felt himself lifted out of dirt and dead leaves, and dragged along the ground.
"I'm not cleaning that up," Duo heard, almost in his ear. "I can splint and bandage, but this guy needs a damned surgeon."
Duo opened his eyes, feeling the slight burn of fever, the all encompassing pain, and his terrible thirst come back like a tidal wave. He heard his own groans as he tried to focus on the people standing around him.
"Inject him with antibiotics, Varney," a big man said to Duo's right, "and pain meds. I want him stabilized enough for me to talk to him."
"Who is he?" Varney wanted to know. "His uniform had a name badge, but it's all screwed to hell."
Duo remembered picking at the threads that had spelled out his name, during the few rests that he had allowed himself. While there was small chance that anyone would recognize the name Duo Maxwell, habit made him cautious about revealing it anyway.
"I intend to find out," the big man replied. "If he's part of some larger force, he will reveal that to me, I assure you."
"The guys said that he claimed to be a rebel, like us," Varney said as Duo felt needles going into his flesh. "What if that's legit? How would we know for sure, Commander Kirkland?"
"If he is military," Kirkland replied as he leaned into Duo's hazy vision, "and he's turned rebel, then he would be invaluable to our cause."
Duo tried to talk, to declare himself, but his mouth was too dry to make a sound. He felt the prick of more needles and the raging pain in his leg subsided. He almost cried with relief.
"How he knew to find us here, is the question of the day, though,"Kirkland continued. "We need to find the wreckage of his ship. The flight recorder will give us all the information that we need. Send out scouts. In the mean time, we can only assume that our position is known. Since relocation is out of the question, we need to mount our new beam cannon and prepare for a fight."
There was a heavy silence and then Varney said, "That's suicide, sir. Even with a gun like that, we can't hope to-"
"Freedom from tyranny, or death," Kirkland intoned.
"Yes,sir," Varney replied, though he sounded unsure.
"If any man here, thinks otherwise, they will be shot on sight," Kirkland added.
"Of course, sir," Varney responded, coming to fearful attention.
The blur that was Kirkland went away and the other, Varney, busied himself gathering supplies to clean Duo. He muttered to himself about madmen, and wishing that he had stayed in medical school.
"Mission specs," the blue eyed boy said in Duo's ear. He turned his head and found his hallucination clear and unwavering, the boy's face only inches from his own. "Timetables. Drop off. Pick up zone. Cover fire. Dust off."
Duo frowned, trying to make sense of it. The boy looked older, somehow, the jaw firmed and the face not so cheeky with youth.
"G'way," Duo said in a ghost of breath.
The boy, no, young man, looked hurt. That bothered Duo more than anything else. For some reason, he didn't like hurting this hallucination.
"Didn't mean it," Duo thought more than said and the young man's expression looked relieved.
As Varney turned with a grimace, cleaning supplies in his hands, and not liking his new task, the young man said in Duo's ear. "You have to remember me, Duo. You're almost out of time."
The young man was gone, between one blink and the next, as Varney moved into the space that he had occupied and began cutting Duo's uniform away.
"Shit, leeches!" Varney swore, shuddering and backing up a step. He fished an instrument out of a bin and then approached again. As he began pulling the leeches off of Duo with the instrument he growled, "You better be worth this, you little fuck, or I'll pop you between the eyes myself."
"He looks worse than dog meat," Kirkland growled. "Is that the best that you could do?"
"Without a real medical unit, yes," Varney retorted. "I did my best, sir."
Kirkland leaned down, cigar clamped at the side of his teeth and shouted, "Hear me boy?"
Duo winced at the strong smell of tobacco. "Y-Yes," he managed. He was pumped full of medications and his wounded leg was a numbness at the end of his thigh. He was afraid to feel and find it gone. Instead, he clenched rough sheets, and forced out, "Rebel, like you. Not military."
Kirkland flicked a finger on Duo's mangled name badge. "That's not what this says. Care to tell me another story?"
"Infiltration," Duo replied. "Mission. It went bad. I crashed." He worried that he still couldn't remember.
"Who were you working with?" Kirkland asked as he switched his cigar from one side of his mouth to the other with unconscious ease.
"L2, then Sweepers..." Duo frowned as other images crowded those memories. One of them was of the blue eyed boy in a uniform like his own. Duo blinked those images away, desperate to keep his concentration.
"Sweepers?" Varney looked confused. "There hasn't been sweepers since the war salvage act. All space debris becomes property of the government, once it has been abandoned. With all of that military hardware floating out there, they didn't have any choice."
Since the war. Duo latched onto that phrase and reached out to grip the sleeve of the medic. "What? Since the war?"
Varney almost replied, but Kirkland was suddenly pulling him away. Duo saw them talking, in tones too low for him to hear. Varney looked startled, gave him a look, and then nodded. They returned and Kirkland looked pleased with himself as he said, "Varney, here, misspoke. He watches too many damned vid shows and not enough real news. It's the government putting down free salvage, that's all. The sweepers are still out there and the war is still going on."
The blue eyed boy looked solemn, head very close to Duo's and breath in his ear.
"You know he's lying," the boy said again.
About the war? The sweepers? Duo's head ached. The air was full of danger. The men were tense with it.
"Okay," Duo finally replied, knowing where there was safe ground. "We should... fight together. I.."
"That's for me to say," Kirkland told him. "Right now, you ain't worth nothing to me. We're down planet, with some hot shit on our tails, and no way to get into space. You get me to blast off, and I won't cut off your balls and leave you for the ants out there in the jungle. Prove yourself, is what I'm saying, boy. You don't get two chances either."
"I have contacts, with shuttles," Duo replied,"I can get you to launch in three days if any of them are down planet."
"For your sake, they'd better be," Kirkland warned.
"Mission," the boy said in his ear. "Removal of beam cannon, or elimination of target. ETA, six hours, mark."
"Get him juiced up enough to work," Kirkland told Varney.
"That stuff could kill him,"Varney protested."It's bad on a healthy man."
"Do as I order!" Kirkland snarled back.
Varney went white and then nodded shakily.
Kirkland nodded in satisfaction and left. Duo stared after him and muttered, "Asshole," and then, "Get me a damned drink, then...I'll call."
"Remember me," the boy begged. "They're lying."
"And... get him... out of here!" Duo snarled.
Varney looked to the empty space beside him, in confusion, and then filled a hypodermic needle. "First things first. Some good old 'adreno rush' will get you going."
"Bad stuff," Duo said, remembering men who had taken it.
"Yeah, pretty bad," Varney replied as he sunk the needle into Duo's hip,"but even your invisible friend will agree, that it's better than Kirkland killing you."
Duo wasn't to be trusted, of course. A gun was placed to his forehead while he made his call, monitored by two men on instruments and Kirkland listening in with a headset.
With adrenalin and drugs surging through his body, making his heart beat painfully, Duo tried to remember his contact numbers. They had been drilled into him before the start of his mission on Earth, and he had been so sure that he would never forget them.
"What's the problem?" Kirkland snarled. "Your memory get fuzzy, now that you know that we aren't going to let you make a call without listening in on it?"
"The drugs..." Duo rubbed at his aching forehead, trying to pull himself together, and find the numbers he knew where in his scrambled brain... somewhere.
He teased a small bit out of memory, concentrated hard, and then a bit more. His fingers began pushing buttons, suddenly, as if they knew the number that his brain didn't. At the end of the string, he paused, and then watched his finger slide over and push another number, though he couldn't have said why. When he put the phone to his ear, he heard a voice answer.
Wing. Duo's heart beat even more painfully. He knew that name, he was sure of it, knew it like his own right arm.
"This is Shinigami," Duo replied slowly, trying to dredge up the memory that was hovering, just out of reach.
"Status?" The voice sounded worried, and familiar.
"Compromised. Need to bug out," Duo replied. "I need a ship, ready for dust off, as soon as possible."
"Will do. Coordinates?"
The voice. Duo shivered. It was the same as the mysterious boy's voice, only it sounded older, deeper. He looked at Kirkland in question and Kirkland was rubbing the butt of his gun.
"I suppose, if you are military," Kirkland said, "Then it's possible that they already know our position. I won't lose anything by giving you our coordinates now." He gave them and Duo repeated them.
The voice repeated the coordinates and then said, "ETA, eight hours."
"Close," Kirkland grunted. "Where is this person stationed?"
Duo tried to remember. "I don't remember." He had flashes of images in his mind. People in uniform. The boy, older, like his voice, and others that he almost knew... almost. "I don't know," he said and rubbed at his arms. His blood seemed to be pumping through every vein at an alarming rate. He could feel them bulging, as if from the strain. "I need a downer, now," he begged.
"Not yet," Kirkland said as he put aside his headset and approached him. "I still need to have some words with you. If you tell me what I want to know, I won't let your blood vessels pop, all right?"
"I don't know anything," Duo argued, hands going to his aching head. His heart was beating hard, as if it was marking a countdown to his last moments. "I crashed, and my memory is shot." He gritted his teeth for a moment, against the pain, and then glared at Kirkland. "That transport won't land without my say so. You better make sure that I live to see it."
"Getting cocky?" Kirkland sneered. He twisted a hand into Duo's borrowed medical smock. "I'm very good at getting people to do what I want. I'm also very good at making people pay for crossing me. You'll pay slow and painful, and beg me to kill you by the end of it, if you don't follow my orders to the fucking letter. Got that?"
"We're on the same side!" Duo shouted back. "We're both rebelling against... against..." He rubbed at his forehead as the pain mounted.
"Oz?" Kirkland supplied helpfully.
"Oz," Duo repeated, nodding, and remembering that much. "We both want to free the colonies."
Duo wasn't sure why he was given startled looks by the technicians, or why Kirkland glared at them. The boy's voice came to him again. 'They're lying.' Lying about being rebels? Were they the Trieze faction, then, or some other group that might be at odds with his mission?
Oz. Trieze faction. Duo struggled as memories collided in a jumble, lacking any reference in time. Romafeller foundation. White Fang. He could see them clearly in his mind's eye, but where did those memories fit in with a young man fresh off the colonies and fighting a rebellion? They didn't. Something was very wrong.
"Shinigami," Kirkland said, leaning down. "What does that mean?"
"Code name," Duo replied. "For mission communications cover."
"What's your mission?" Kirkland asked.
"To cripple the enemy as much as possible, so that a rebel force has some chance for success in an attack." Duo replied. "Every strike against the enemy is important. I need to get back to my mission. If I can have your help-"
"Right now, you're helping us," Kirkland told him as he released his smock. He nodded to the medic. "Give him a low dose downer. I want him talking, but very aware that he needs another dose if he wants to keep on breathing."
A needle plunged into Duo's arm. He rubbed the spot when the medic stepped back. The feeling of impending heart attack faded, but he could still hear his blood rushing in his ears.
"Take him to lock up until we need him," Kirkland ordered.
Duo couldn't walk. They half carried him between two men, instead, and kept his bad leg off of the floor as they moved down into the depths of the installation. The men talked over Duo's head, unconcerned with a seemingly half dead prisoner over hearing anything that they said.
"Damn greens are making a mess of everything," one muttered. "We'll be lucky if we're ready to travel in eight days let alone eight hours."
"You know Kirkland, always crazy," the other man replied. "He'll shoot off a few heads, slowly, and get the greens to do their jobs right."
"I'd hate to be one of the men packing up that beam cannon," the first man said. "They didn't have time to put on the shielding. It'll be scrambling DNA within twenty feet of it.
"Until they get it packed and in hanger four," the second man replied. "Then that bulkhead will at least keep it stable until it can be shuttled into space."
"Then the shuttle crew has to worry about it, not us," the first snickered. "I'll bet that no one will tell them that they're the ones carrying the hot cargo."
Greens. Duo cringed as an image of his leg, trapped in machinery, and the sickening spin of an aircraft, out of control, over took his senses. "Goddamn greens!" he swore.
The men tensed and looked down at him, but Duo had passed out cold.
The voice went along with a firm shake.
"We have to go. We are running out of time."
The voice was anxious. It was familiar.
"Just wanna sleep," Duo slurred, not wanting to come back to the pain.
"Duo, you have to wake up," the voice insisted and the world spun as Duo was hauled upright. "Status?"
"Leg busted to hell. Full of adrenaline juice. Concussion," Duo replied automatically. "Good night,now," he ended and tried to topple over.
Arms caught him around the waist and kept him sitting up.
"Report," the voice asked.
"Found fellow rebel soldiers," Duo replied, hating the hard pounding of his heart in his chest."Fringe group, though. Suggest ending contact. They may be part of Trieze faction."
"What? Duo...," the voice was confused.
"That's not right, Oz, I meant," Duo corrected. He let his cheek rest against a strong chest.
A hand felt his head. "Duo, the war is over," the voice explained. "You have to pull yourself together. They're going to take out this installation in twenty minutes."
"Why?" Duo replied, "These guys have a beam canon. We can use it. Let them finish packing it up in the bay, and then we can just take it."
A hand caught his chin and squeezed tight. "Look at me, Duo. We are not in the war any more. We are Preventers."
Duo blinked blearily at the face in front of him. "Oh, you're just my imagination again, playing shitty tricks with what's left of my mind. At least you're a damned sexy shitty trick."
Blue eyes frowned and the hand tightened painfully. "Duo, it's Heero."
"Still mad about me stealing your Gundam parts?" Duo snickered and felt the pain start to take him away again.
"Yes,"Heero replied as Duo felt himself lifted and slung over one shoulder.
"That was just my way of flirting," Duo laughed.
"It was?" Duo felt them moving cautiously as Heero spoke in low tones."You never told me that."
Duo tried to put a finger next to his nose and failed, "It's a secret."
"Oh, Well, I promise not to tell anyone, then," Heero replied.
"Good, 'cuz Heero would murder me," Duo slurred.
"I don't think he would," Heero said and then tapped Duo in a signal to be silent.
Duo's mind churned out a slow realization, "But, you said that you're Heero and I just told you." He sighed. "I am so dead."
The tap came again and Duo not only fell silent, but he let unconsciousness take him away again.
The world rocked. Duo's eyes flew open and he found himself strapped to a man, tight enough to break his spine, and hanging high above a fireball that was quickly climbing towards them. A deafening roar mingled with the burst of a jumpship's engines as it tried to keep climbing in the turbulence.
"Shit!" Duo exclaimed and clutched at the body attached to him. He looked into Heero's face.
"What the hell is going on?" Duo demanded.
The fireball reached it's zenith and then black, hot smoke engulfed them. Duo choked, expecting to feel the fire at any moment. When it didn't come, and the jumpship cleared the smoke, they were in blue skies and headed towards the north over a canopy of trees.
"We almost didn't make it," Heero told him, shouting to be heard. "Preventers couldn't chance that they might use the weapon. They had to risk us to take them out."
"I don't understand any of this!" Duo shouted at him. "What's Preventers? Why are you so much older? I don't get it!"
"Later," Heero told him, expression concerned,as he hit the upreel and the cable holding them began taking them to the jump ship.
"How does it feel?"
"You are a total bitch, do you know that?" Duo grumbled as he looked down at his strapped leg.
Sally frowned, but didn't reply to the insult. It was hard to get angry at a man who looked so lost and vulnerable in his hospital bed. Hooked up to IVS, bandaged, and strapped, he seemed fragile and shrunken, everything taken out of him by his ordeal.
"It's necessary," Heero said from his constant post by Duo's bed."Your leg was close to developing gangrene and it was fractured in several places. It has to be treated aggressively."
Duo's purple eyes slid sideways at Heero as he replied, "So says, doctor Gundam Pilot."
Heero didn't rise to the bait, but he looked pained.
Sally sighed as she pushed a cart full of equipment aside and allowed a nurse to take it away. "Heero is right, and you're not stupid, Duo Maxwell, so you know it too.Crawling through jungles, with wounds and fractures, causes a lot of infection, aside from the main injuries. You're going to have to tough your way through a few days of having your body aggressively drained and disinfected."
Duo muttered expletives under his breath as she readjusted his blanket to cover him, but his eyes were searching her face, trying to grasp at hazy memory.
Sally squeezed his hand and said, knowing his thoughts, "Give it time, Duo. Your memory will come back. You took a nasty blow to the head, but there wasn't any permanent damage."
"You're just blowing sunshine up my ass," Duo retorted. "You don't know that."
Sally squeezed his hand harder and then forced herself to let go as she replied, "No, I don't, but the odds are in your favor."
"That would be a first," Duo sneered. "I'm safer placing my bet on being screwed up for life."
"I'm going to try my best to make you lose that bet, then," Sally told him firmly., and then, after making a few notations on his chart, "I'll be back in an hour to check on you."
"I'll try not to run any marathons, while you're away," Duo grumbled sourly and then looked over at Heero after she had gone. He blushed a little, not sure what to say to the man who had saved his life.
"I guess... I said some things..." Duo tried. "Back there, while I was all drugged up. You do know that I wasn't... " He found that the lie wouldn't pass his lips. I didn't mean any of it, was a larger lie than he was willing to make.
"You remembered something from after the war," Heero replied His blue eyes were intense, but a small smile tugged at the corner of his lips. "It proves that you do still have those later memories."
Duo frowned and rubbed at his aching head. "You were using those two gundam gyros like paper weights," he remembered with an effort. "It seemed... wrong... disrespectful. I had to take them." He struggled. "Why can I see that so damned clear, but I can't remember where that was, or why I was even around to see it?"
"Preventer headquarters," Heero supplied. "We both work for them. Those gyros were spares from my Gundam. I wasn't being disrespectful. I just... enjoyed looking at them... and remembering. Now I have to go to a museum to see them. You donated them, remember?"
Duo looked pained. "No. I do remember that you were mad. It made you look at me, though. It made you take your damn eyes out of your files and really... look at me." Duo frowned and fisted his hands in his blanket. He hadn't meant to say that. The drugs were still playing havoc with his self control.
"I noticed you a lot sooner than that," Heero replied and Duo felt a shock go through his aching body.
"I want to remember that!" Duo exclaimed in anguish. "If I'm reliving the war in my head, that's the same as being in hell, Heero! I want to be in that place where it's all done and over with, where I'm working with you! I'm fifteen, though, up here," he pointed a stiff finger at his forehead, "and I have a suicide mission to accomplish. You're just a kid trying to find a good way to die, just like me... but you're not. You're... a man... I can't square that with what's in my head. It hurts when I try."
"Give it time," Heero urged. "Let yourself heal. You aren't in the war. There isn't any mission. You have as long as you need."
Duo gave Heero a long look, trying to understand why someone, who had been so fanatical about dying for the cause during the war, would be by his bedside, would stand by him while he was treated, and would save his ass when an entire instillation had blown.
It was hard to ask the question. There were so many very bad answers that Heero could make. "What are we to each other, Heero? What happened with us after the war?"
Heero reached out and took hold of Duo's hand. A ring flashed on his finger and Duo studied it curiously as Heero replied, "We're partners, Duo. The best of friends."
Duo's eyes widened, "Oh...." He felt warm inside, having Heero touching him like that, but... friends? It wasn't as much as he had hoped for, but it was worth remembering. He clasped Heero's hand hard, as he promised, "I'm going to remember that, Heero, because I want to, more than anything in the world."
Duo touched his face, the slight stubble over his chin, and the adult planes and angles. There were scars and frown lines, and an odd nick in one ear. The mirror was showing him what he had become, but it still seemed nightmarish. He almost expected to wake up, at any moment, strapped in his Gundam and ready to take on his next mission.
Duo lowered the mirror and looked down at the holopics spread out across the doctor's desk. Men and women smiled and moved. Two young boys, with blonde hair, made faces. One had a braid like his own, but only a foot long. A dark haired woman looked cross, hands on hips, and wearing a Preventer uniform. She smiled in the next moment even as she turned her back and waved as she walked away from who ever was taking the picture.
"Do you recognize anyone here?" the doctor asked, computerized notepad before him and stylize poised.
Duo frowned and then pointed at Heero. "Him, of course." The dark haired woman tweaked memory and feelings of annoyance and fond affection. "Hilde," he managed, but then frowned. "She's supposed to be younger, though..."
The doctor replaced pics as if they were playing a card game. "And these people?"
"Zechs," Duo replied promptly and pointed to the well dressed blonde. The blonde woman and man were a mystery, though. The Chinese young man was, as well, until he scowled at the camera and looked as if he were saying something in fury. "Fei," Duo remembered and laughed.
"Interesting," The doctor said as he made notes.
Duo sighed. "I can tell that I didn't do very good with this."
The doctor brought the other pics back onto the table. He pointed to the boys. "That's Karl and Rashid Winner. Quatre Winner and Relena Peacecraft's children. They are genetically yours as well. Your DNA was a stabilizing agent against certain genetic defects in the Winner line." He pointed to the blonde couple. "That is Quatre Winner and his wife Relena. I thought that they would be the most familiar to you, but, instead, you've remembered people that have been volatile personalities in your life."
"And that's bad?" Duo prompted when the doctor took his time stacking the photos neatly.
"Not necessarily," the doctor replied as he handed the pics to Duo."The memory can act like a hard drive failure. Sometimes, it only takes the right reboot to get it going again."
Duo shuffled through the pics. "I get you. I just need to find something to kick my brain back into gear."
"Perhaps, being with friends will be that kick?" the doctor suggested.
Duo grimaced as he repositioned his broken leg. "I hate to be a freeloader, but I'm still damned shaky. I hope my friends don't mind me staying with them when I can't remember who they are."
Heero stepped forward with Duo's coat over one arm. He looked nervous as he said, "You don't have to do that, Duo. You live with me."
Duo started, wide eyed. "I do? What the hell..." He blushed and then said, "Great! I feel better already. I hate to make you a nursemaid, though, Heero. It sucks to admit it, but I'm going to need some help."
"I don't mind," Heero replied and exchanged a look with the doctor.
The doctor looked disapproving and then slid a chip towards Duo. "This is your discharge from the hospital and some home care instructions. Please follow them. They are very important to your recovery. I would also like you to return, every week, for a scan to map your progress."
"Okay," Duo replied, still blushing as Heero helped him into his jacket. He picked up the pics with the chip, after, as Heero moved behind his wheelchair to push him out of the room. "Can I borrow the pics?" he asked, afraid of a no.
The doctor smiled and nodded, yes. "Of course. The pictures aren't mine, Mr. Maxwell, they belong to you."
Duo frowned, gripping the pictures tighter. He continued to look at them as Heero pushed him out of the room.
"Your memory will come back," Heero promised him.
Duo frowned as he looked up at Heero. "You sound pretty sure of that."
Heero smiled and nodded. "I am, because I know you. You won't let anything defeat you."
"Never," Duo agreed in amusement, "especially not my own damned mind."
They fell silent as Heero found the exit and pushed Duo onto the outside ramp. Then Duo blushed again and asked, "So, we live together? How did that happen and why am I still alive? Even the Sweepers couldn't live with me."
Heero replied, carefully, "We found out that we worked well together and that we... complimented each other's personalities enough to get an apartment together."
Duo blinked, stunned by that information, as Heero left him on the ramp to retrieve a black SUV from the parking lot. Pulling up to the ramp, he slid out and then pushed Duo to the passenger side. He cleared a laptop and some file disks from the front seat to make room for Duo as Duo asked, "How long have we been... friends?"
"Four years," Heero replied as he turned, slid hands under Duo, and easily picked him up. Duo clutched at him nervously as Heero managed to get him into the seat.
"Four years since the war?" Duo had to ask.
"Seven years since the war," Heero replied carefully.
It hit Duo hard. Seven years. Seven years swallowed up by a head injury. He tried to recover, to keep his shock locked down tight, as he asked, "Why'd it take so long to move in together?"
Heero looked down at the wheelchair, hands caressing the back handles, and then replied, "I had issues after the war. It took years to find out who I was and what I wanted with a life that I never expected to have."
"Working for Preventers and being Duo Maxwell's room mate, was what you wanted out of life?" Duo snickered. "Maybe you should get your head examined while we're still here? Either that, or learn to raise your expectations a bit higher. A wife, kids, two dogs, becoming a general... those are the kind of goals most people want, not putting up with a loudmouth, like me. Hell, I don't even do dishes, or pick up after my self."
Heero looked up at him with a smile and replied, "I'm not most people... and you did learn to pick up after yourself."
He left Duo to return the wheelchair and Duo stared after him, totally confused, and wanting desperately to remember those seven years.
''Well?" Heero asked after Duo stared at the apartment for the longest time.
"There are a lot of pictures of us together," Duo snorted. "We must have become really good friends."
"Yes," Heero replied warmly, but he was looking concerned too. "You don't remember this place?"
Duo shook his head. "Not really." He awkwardly wheeled his chair around, wincing at the pain in his leg, as he examined the apartment closer. "This my room?"
The room had Gundam models on one desk, the bed was half made, and a leather jacket lay skewed over one chair.
"Yes," Heero replied. "Do you remember it?"
"No, not really," Duo sighed. He wheeled out of the room again and turned to enter Heero's room. The bed there was unmade, everything half tumbled off, and sleep pants on the floor. Heero had a locked case of weapons, and a display case full of medals.
"This is my room," Heero said unnecessarily.
Duo frowned. "Pretty damned messy. That's not like you... I think... right?"
Heero gave a dispirited shrug. "Not usually. I haven't been back here since our mission together. I stayed at a hotel, near the hospital, to stay close to you."
"Really?" Duo blinked at him in amazement.
"Really," Heero chuckled, but the humor was forced.
Duo stared at the bed, frowned, and then rubbed at his forehead. "I....think I... remember.... something... about this."
Heero stiffened, alert. "You do?"
"Did we leave in a hurry?" Duo tried.
"Yes," Heero replied tensely.
"I was...mad," Duo remembered, but seemed unsure.
"You were," Heero affirmed.
"Why?" Duo rubbed harder at his forehead. "Something... about... you... I wanted... more time... but... there was a call."
"The mission," Heero told him.
Duo wheeled closer to the bed and then reached out to touch the disordered blankets and sheets. "I wanted..." He struggled.
"It's all right," Heero soothed. "Maybe it will come back later."
Heero reached out and squeezed Duo's arm in comfort. Duo looked down at Heero's hand and saw the ring again. It came to him in a flash, a flood of memory that broke through a mental damn.
Duo gripped Heero's hand and brought the ring closer. Pale and panting, he looked up at Heero. "I gave you that. We... Oh, God, we were 'doing it together'!"
Heero blushed and then nodded carefully. "We were having a relationship. We were both living for missions, hiding from life, being soldiers. We suddenly realized that we could have more than that, that we could have each other."
"And I wanted... to make it official," Duo remembered. "I gave you the ring... and forgot all about it! It's all coming back, Heero!" He cried in anguish. "Why didn't you say something?"
"We didn't have time to talk about it," Heero explained."I never gave you my answer. I was afraid to remind you, to pressure you into something that you might not want any more."
"Dumb ass!" Duo choked and pulled Heero down into an embrace. "Of course I want you, still! Question is, though," he said as he pushed a little back to look into Heero's eyes, "Do you want me? Hell, I forgot all about this after a little hit on the head!"
"It wasn't little," Heero growled. He kissed Duo deeply and then said. "I'm still wearing the ring. Of course I want you."
"Some things are still fuzzy," Duo admitted, "but you're as clear as blue skies, Heero."
"The rest will come back, eventually, but I'll make certain that you never forget me again," Heero promised as he picked Duo out of his chair and carried him to the bed, kissing him passionately the entire way.
*OOOH, the fluffy sapp!* Runs and hides....