Crossing Paths Arc: Part 15

Part 15: Bones
by Kracken

Disclaimer:I don't own them and I don't make any money off of this.
Warnings: Male/Male sex, graphic, violence, language.

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"Captain Maxwell, after looking at your very thick file, and reading your previous doctor's notes on your appearance and behavior, I have to say that this 'vacation' has been anything but. I seriously suggest that you return to your home and see your physician and psychologist there immediately."

Seated uncomfortably in front of the doctor, Duo felt his stomach turn into a sick knot. After Heero and Wu Fei's strenuous training, Duo was surprised that he had been able to even walk into the psychiatrist's office unaided. Every muscle screamed pain and the tension of Wu Fei's intense mind work, stressful on so many levels, was clear on Duo's face. He was pale and drawn, cheeks sunken slightly, and his body was pulled in on itself with his arms held tightly against his aching sides. He had worn his loose, long, black coat, but it couldn't hide that he was physically and mentally worn down to the bone.

The doctor was standing, holding Duo's journal, facing Duo as if he were an Oz interrogator, one hand on his hip and sallow face drawn into a sour scowl of disapproval. He looked like a gawky bird, Duo thought, complete with a beak of a nose and long sticks for legs. His office was bland, just like the man, and Duo wondered if there was a catalog for bland that all doctor's offices subscribed to.

Duo attempted to diffuse the situation. If the doctor suspected... if he ordered Duo to return home... Duo tried for a lighter mood, forcing himself to uncoil and not scream in pain as he made muscles assume a relaxed pose in his chair. He even managed a self deprecating smile as he said, "I guess you caught me. I was having way too much fun at Captain Winner's estate. He has the money, ya know?" he drawled good naturedly and winked. "Can't blame a guy for taking advantage of his generosity. I just partied a little too hard."

The Psychiatrist gripped the journal with a white knuckled hand. He made a small motion with it, scowling even deeper. "I know. I read your journal, Captain. Let's just say, I didn't believe the stories about you until now. You are a man of.... excess."

Duo grinned and shrugged. He had always made up every word in his journal. In the limo, on the way to the office, he had scribbled outrageous nonsense to account for his time since seeing his last Psychiatrist. He never knew whether to be amused, amazed, or disturbed that no one ever questioned his account of his day to day life.

"I didn't realize that Captain Winner was so... progressive in his activities," the doctor was saying.

Duo winced, realizing too late that he should have reigned himself in and not included Quatre in his more eccentric, made up, activities. "Well, he just sort of watched disapprovingly," Duo quickly amended. "I think I exaggerated a bit."

"I see." The doctor pointed the journal at him. "Is there anything else you would like to amend, Captain Maxwell?"

It was hard to tell what mood the doctor was in. He seemed eager and moderately friendly, yet ready to be... disappointed? Annoyed? It was hard for Duo to figure him out. He felt that he needed to. The man was going to write a report and submit it to the government. Duo couldn't afford a bad report so late in the game.

"I'm afraid not," Duo admitted, as if he were proud of being the perverted, eccentric, ex- Gundam pilot he had described in his journal. "The pills make me too damn spaced for getting it on with anyone, so I'm kind of stuck with partying and hanging from the chandeliers instead."

"And other things...," The Doctor added pointedly, eyes watching Duo very carefully for his response.

Duo smiled impishly. "And other things," he repeated in agreement.

Duo's other doctor had always been pleased when he had admitted to debauchery. It's what the government wanted, for Duo to discredit himself and make himself a non threat by ruining himself in drink, drugs, and disgusting behavior. If he fell low enough, Duo surmised, then making him suddenly and mysteriously disappear, wouldn't be a hard job for the government. Duo could imagine everyone breathing a sigh of relief, if the sad, young, Gundam pilot were suddenly not around to embarrass them, or himself, any longer.

The doctor made some notes on his chart and then handed Duo back his journal. As Duo took it, the man slid a hand along Duo's arm and gripped him tight there. Leaning down to be at Duo's level, he said in a very suggestive voice, "If you promise to take better care of yourself, I won't order you to return to your own home. You can continue to enjoy Quatre Winner's generosity. When you visit my office next, if you are agreeable, I can provide you with some 'entertainment' that might interest your particular 'tastes'."

Duo didn't let his burning shock reach his face. His hands tightened on his journal and he said with a stiff smile and fierce, purple eyes, "Are you sure that you're up to satisfying my particular interests?"

The man smiled back, believing that Duo was agreeing to his overtures. His breath was hot on Duo's skin as he said confidently, "Oh, yes, Captain Maxwell, be assured that I can meet every need that you can imagine."

"I'd like to see that," Duo replied, but he was slipping out from under the doctor and standing up at the same time. "No previews until then, though."

The doctor licked his lips as he straightened and said, "Of course not. We don't have the time. I'll make certain to clear my schedule at your next visit."

Duo eyed the chart in the man's hand pointedly. "I don't think I have to tell you what my price is?"

The doctor laughed and it wasn't a pleasant sound. "There is only so much that they will allow me to do, but I will write a report that will keep the authorities complacent.... as long as you play nicely."

"Count on it," Duo smirked and turned so that his braid swung enticingly against his hips as he left the office and the excited doctor behind.

Once outside the office and down the hallway, Duo found Heero pacing agitatedly with his hands in his pockets, face scowling in concern. He was dressed in a loose, dark blue jacket and a black turtle neck sweater. His blue jeans had a hole in one knee and he was wearing steel toed, black work boots. He looked like a young punk just then, hair a wild, disordered, chocolate tangle, but as Duo approached, and he saw Duo's drawn, pale expression, he looked like a man again in an instant; a very dangerous man ready to protect someone he cared deeply about.

Duo tossed his journal into a nearby trash can. It hit bottom with a satisfactory, thud! "Time to burn some bridges," Duo said in a shaky, but determined voice. "I'm not going back there again."

Heero didn't say anything until they climbed into the limo and began the long drive back to the Winner estate, then he leaned back into his seat and looked sideways at Duo. "Maybe you should start with the hospital. You didn't say anything when you left there either."

Duo grimaced, unconsciously rubbing at his arm where the psychiatrist had pawed him. "I think that I suddenly don't count," Duo replied.

Heero was puzzled, but he gave himself time to think about that statement. "Did they hurt you?" he asked at last and Duo heard a threat; fatal consequences for anyone who dared to harm Duo.

"No," Duo replied, "but, they weren't 'nice'. They acted like I was fair game and that nobody was going to punish them."

"Duo..." Heero reached out, but Duo avoided his touch and hunched in on himself. Heero reclaimed his hand, clearly stung by the rejection, but he asked gently, "Tell me what happened."

Duo looked down at the floor of the limo, at his booted feet and the way his long coat was worn at the hem from dragging on the ground at his heels. He didn't want to tell Heero about how the doctors at the hospital had joked, close enough that he could hear them, about his chances of surviving the year. They had laid bets on it and upped his medication dosage so that they wouldn't have to wait too long for the outcome. The psychiatrist... Heero would go back and hurt him severely, Duo was certain. That would blow up in their faces. They would have to run if that happened and Duo didn't have any illusions about their chances.

"I don't understand...," Duo said softly, paused, and then finished. "I don't understand how so many people can be in on this, or why they are doing these things to me."

Heero replied, "I am certain that, if I researched the backgrounds of all of those men, I would find Oz at the heart of their histories. We made many enemies, Duo, and the reach of Oz is still long even in peace time."

"It scares me," Duo admitted, "that level of corruption. It's so much easier just to believe that I'm being paranoid."

Heero was very quiet. Duo looked up at last. Along with obvious signs of exhaustion, Heero had a bitter expression on his face. Duo tried to remember the last time that he had seen Heero sleep, eat, or just relax, but couldn't remember Heero doing any of those things.

"It's a long drive," Duo told him. "I just want to think about things right now. You can take a nap, if you want." When Heero began to object, Duo added, "I'll keep watch, don't worry." He tried to look more alert than he really was and he kept the pain off of his face, knowing that Heero was still too much of a soldier to want to sleep in a strange place unless he felt safe.

"I will be more helpful to you later, if I rest now," Heero acknowledged, but studied Duo skeptically as he asked, "You will be able to stay awake?"

Duo nodded confidently. Heero nodded back, choosing to believe him, and then simply composed himself and fell quickly asleep. The speed of it amazed Duo. He almost thought that Heero was faking it, but Heero's slow, even breaths, and slight eye movements under his eyelids, told Duo that he had slipped into REM sleep.

Either he was that exhausted or he absolutely trusted Duo. Duo felt a warmth spread through him, pleased by either reason. He had been feeling completely helpless, almost an invalid. During the war, he had prided himself on being tough, on being resilient, and on pulling his weight among the group. It gave his self confidence a slight boost to be able to watch over Heero, to guard his sleep, and to give him a chance to be cared for. Duo knew that, in the very near future, he was going to have to ask for that favor to be returned to him in spades.

Duo tried not to move too much. He didn't want to set off Heero's hair trigger defenses. Instead, he leaned back into the car seat and stared out at the scenery passing by. It was rocky and bright with sunshine, but the grass was bitten by cold. A few fat cows and goats grazed alongside the sharply rising road. In a beautiful place like that, dark government intrigue seemed an impossibility; the mad dream of mad Gundam pilots.

Duo looked sideways at the bag at Heero's feet. The man had taken it from him after he had left the hospital and Duo knew why. He suspected that the pills the doctors had given him, with their deadly increased dose, were already gone and lining a garbage bin just like his journal. No turning back now? That wasn't true. It was too easy for Duo to slip away from his would be lover, and Quatre's estate, to get more of the same. As Wu Fei had told him, it was all up to him. The decision was entirely his to make. Heero could put pressure on him and help him to succeed in kicking his pill habit, but, ultimately, the task was in his, Duo's, hands.

A few more days, Duo thought anxiously. Not much time to learn to control his body, not much time to tone it to the point where it burned energy quickly and, so to, the effects of the pills. He had tried to stop taking the pills before and had failed. The government had found out about each of those attempts and Duo's doses had risen with his rebellions. This time, if he failed, knowing what he knew now, that they didn't fear him or retribution any longer, he could imagine what his fate would be. Increasing his pills to another level, he felt, wouldn't even be a consideration.

In the corner of his eye, Duo saw Heero twitch. His breathing had grown a little ragged. Duo turned his head, concerned. Heero was obviously dreaming. "No," Heero suddenly muttered, almost angrily, "work isn't more important than you, David, it's just... it's just that I don't love you." A pause, as if Heero were listening to the ghost of his dead lover, and then, "I can't produce feelings that I don't possess. Nothing you can say will change my mind, least of all threats." Another long pause and then Heero frowned as he continued, "I'm taking an assignment on Earth. I think a permanent separation is in order. Please remove your personal items from my apartment. I shall be vacating the premises in two days.... David... I will not talk about this matter any longer. There is nothing more to say. Yes, I will miss you. I hope that we can stay on speaking terms. Though I don't love you, I do consider you a friend."

Duo was shocked. If what Heero had just said was true, and not just a dream, then 'David' had killed himself shortly before Heero's arrival on Earth and his appearance in Duo's apartment. Duo felt his stomach clench tight and his heart ached with a pain fiercer than the pain already radiating throughout his body. If Heero could shrug off the suicide of an ex lover, and start pursuing a new relationship within days of it, then what kind of cold hearted, stone man was he?

Duo had thought that he had seen compassion, sympathy, gentleness, and , yes, even love in Heero, but what if he had been wrong? What if his own loneliness, his need for help, and his own feelings for Heero were clouding his judgment? Duo suddenly experienced doubt and that was the last thing that he needed to feel when he had to be able to trust the people closest to him.

There was a an all too familiar click. Duo froze and his eyes focused on Heero again. The man, passing into another dream, had clutched at his gun reflexively, half pulling it out of a waist holster and its hiding place under his dark blue jacket. Duo had automatically reached for his own gun, a gun he hadn't carried since the end of the war. He cursed when his hand touched only empty air.

Heero was still a soldier for the Preventers, probably still killing men on occasion. One wrong move, Duo felt, and he would be the next man to fall under Heero's gun. Duo thought quickly. He had mostly worked solo during the war, but even he had learned a few tricks about waking comrades with deadly reflexes. He took a soft, un-threatening tone and said something familiar to any soldier that had been out in the field on the front lines. "Your watch."

Heero was instantly awake, hand still on his gun, cobalt, blue eyes looking out from that cold, inner place that he had lived in all during his childhood and the war. Duo knew that look well from the war. It was like suddenly seeing an old friend. "Ready," Heero said automatically.

Duo waited until Heero slowly realized that he wasn't on the edge of some bloody confrontation between soldiers, that he was safe and comfortable in a plush limo, that his hand was on the trigger of his gun, and that Duo was uncomfortably close to having a hole blown into him. Only when Heero released his gun, set the safety, and let it slide back into its holster, did Duo allow himself a sigh of relief.

Heero started trembling, a lost, terrified look on his face. Duo found himself in Heero's arms without consciously deciding too do so, holding the man, reassuring him that he was all right. Heero held Duo so tight in return that Duo thought that his bones would crush under the pressure. Heero rained kisses on the top of Duo's head and then pulled his chin up to softly kiss his face as he looked anxiously into Duo's eyes.

"If I had- If anything- I-" Heero stammered and then held Duo tightly again, burying his face into Duo's neck and just clinging.

It didn't make any sense, Duo thought as he tried to calm Heero down. How could Heero ignore the death of an ex lover and then break down completely now when nothing had happened? Heero's emotions, his entire demeanor, told Duo that he wasn't lying, that he was genuinely terrified at Duo's close call. There were questions that had to be asked, more layers of Heero's history that Duo felt that he needed to peel back before he could take that final step, trusting Heero completely to keep him sane and alive when he stopped taking the pills. Any doubt at that point could be as fatal as Heero pulling the trigger of his gun during a nightmare.

They reached the Winner estate after some time. Heero calmed down, though it was clear that he was ashamed of what had happened. Duo could see 'what if' thoughts running behind his eyes during the rest of the limo trip and Duo, wisely, decided it was better to talk later when the episode wasn't so fresh and troubling to Heero.

A servant was waiting just inside the front door of the estate and Heero and Duo were informed that Quatre and Trowa were waiting to speak to them in one of the many solariums.

"Let's not," Duo protested. He felt fragile, exposed, and raw just then and he didn't feel that he could survive any type of questioning. Too late, he realized that he had said 'Let's' as if they were a couple. He quickly amended, letting real weariness and pain seep into his voice at last, "I mean, you can go and tell them what's going on, but if I don't take my pills and get vertical soon I'm going to fall to pieces."

Heero dismissed the servant with a polite excuse. "We'll join them for dinner and , afterwards, you can tell them as much about our trip as you feel they need to know."

There was an unspoken plea in Hero's tone. Duo understood and assured him, "We all went through Hell and back in the war. We all have our problems because of it. I know that the other guys would understand, Heero, just like I do, that you couldn't help your reflexes. The rest, well, that's our business and not anyone else's. I won't be telling anyone, k?"

Heero relaxed almost imperceptibly. "I'll help you to your room," he said, but there was gratitude in his voice.

"I always thought that I was the one with all the troubles, that I was weak, or stupid, or something," Duo said as they limped up a flight of stairs and moved down a hallway. "Everyone else seemed to have their act together. Wu Fei was teaching. Quatre was the rich, respected, business man. Trowa was the entertainer, and you... well, you disappeared, so I just assumed that you had found your niche in society too."

"Quatre showed you that even he has trouble coping from time to time," Heero replied. "We all have our demons and we can't always exorcise them completely."

"Yeah, and some of us have more demons than others," Duo agreed as they entered his room.

Heero helped Duo to sit down on the bed. Duo couldn't help a hiss of pain as he slowly allowed his knotted up body to lie back on the gel mattress. It hardly helped. His muscles seemed permanently tensed, unwilling to relax and give up the pain.

Heero worked off Duo's boots and then snagged an afghan blanket from a chair back and spread it over Duo's body with care. Duo watched him go into the bathroom and then come out with his pills and a glass of water. Duo used the mattress to line the pills up and take them one at a time. As he finished, Heero took away each bottle.

"I won't take the pills away in secret," Heero told him. "I've seen how you constantly check for them. I'm going to put them back into the bathroom."

"Good," Duo sighed, trepidation fading. He licked dry lips and took another sip of water. He knew that he couldn't wait to ask Heero some very important questions, but he didn't want to hurt Heero either. He took his time with the water, trying to sense Heero's mood and an opening to begin.

Heero took the water glass from Duo, after he had finished with it, and put it aside on a table. "Are the pills reducing your pain?"

"Yeah, well, not all of the way, but enough to convince me to go on living," Duo replied, "You and Wu Fei sure know how to torture a guy. Between you two, and the doctors, I feel like I'm going to shrivel up and blow away."

"It's necessary," Heero replied grimly, but there was a hint of compassion and regret in his blue eyes. "You know there isn't any other way."

"I do know," Duo said and then, seeing his opening, he continued, "In the limo, and a couple of times before that, you showed me that you can be something other than a piece of frozen granite in the personality department, Heero," Duo began. "But, I guess you aren't completely cured of that super soldier mentality."

Heero paused in placing Duo's boots and socks under the bed to get them out of the way. He straightened and blinked at Duo. "I do care for you," he said seriously. "It's true that I still have a great deal to learn about relationships and 'normal' living, but I think that I have improved a great deal from the way I was programmed to act in the war."

Duo nodded and said, feeling as if he were poking a sharp stick at a bear that might be vicious, "I guess that programming still takes over once in awhile, like when you were sleeping and reaching for your gun, or when your ex committed suicide."

Heero went very still, a look of consternation on his face. "Explain," he finally asked and his voice sounded on the verge of being either very sad or very angry.

"I hope that you didn't talk in your sleep to Oz, when you were their prisoner, the same way that you did to me in the limo," Duo said. Heero was quiet. He couldn't be tricked into giving information. Duo had to tell him what he knew. "You acted as if you were talking to David," Duo told him, "You were telling him that you were splitting up and going to Earth. I suspect that he killed himself shortly after that, right? The old soldier mentality must have kicked in big time for you to show up in my apartment, talking about getting together with me so soon after something awful like that happening." It was a question, one Duo hoped Heero could answer in a way that was both understandable and acceptable to Duo.

"He was a good friend," Heero admitted slowly as he sat on the edge of the bed. He frowned as if trying to work something complicated out in his head, "but he wanted more than that. I thought that I had made myself clear..."

"He was just a fuck, then?" Duo wondered.

Heero's head snapped around and his jaw tensed as he glared blue fire at Duo. "No! That was not the extent of our relationship!"

"If you're saying it was more than that, then I have to wonder why you didn't seem to morn," Duo persisted bravely. "I have to wonder if you're telling the truth."

Heero stood up abruptly and turned away from Duo. He sank his hands into his pockets and stood stiffly. "I still don't understand David's motivations, why he committed such acts and blamed his emotional state on my actions, but you are mistaken, Duo, if you think that I don't feel sad or regret what happened between us. We were friends and he was a mentor to me. I didn't love him, though, and I never pretended otherwise. David was an independent man with a full life. We moved in together only to be more efficient in our work, not out of a shared desire to spend our lives together... or so I had thought. I never suspected that David considered our relationship to be deeper than that of friends."

"Heero..." Duo fiddled with the afghan, trying to find the right words for what he wanted to ask. Finally, he decided to be blunt. "I want to know that you gave a shit about this David, that you were upset that he killed himself, that you felt SOMETHING when he died, that coming to me and trying to start a relationship wasn't- well, wasn't because he never counted and you could forget about him like a light switch going on and off." Duo gritted his teeth and added, "Because that's not the kind of man I want with me, or want to trust when push comes to shove with my pills."

"I had planned to come to Earth, to find you, long before David's suicide," Heero explained. "The Preventers wanted me to evaluate you for the mission, that was true, but I knew that I was going to try to use what David had taught me to initiate a relationship with you at the same time. I planned to tell David, to explain that I had always felt strongly about you, that he had given me the skills and the confidence to believe that I had something to offer you at last, besides a cold, emotionless, soldier. I was never allowed to tell him. He started an argument about work and then he revealed to me his hopes for a relationship between us. I was forced to reject his overtures."

"So, when he died...," Duo prompted when Heero fell silent.

Heero turned and faced him and Duo saw that his face was pinched and full of confusion. "David decided, not simply to commit suicide, but to 'punish' me by trying to destroy part of the Preventers building. He wanted to destroy the thing that he thought was keeping us a part, but he killed himself along with several other people as well." His hands clenched into fists. "Duo, I asked people why he would do such a thing. I wanted to understand what he had hoped to gain. If he did it to force me to begin a relationship with him, then why kill himself? Why destroy innocent people along with him? Why destroy buildings as if they mattered in the conflict that we were having?"

Duo thought about it, but David's actions were shocking and he felt himself almost as confused as Heero. "I'm not sure why he did that," he replied at last, but then a reason occurred to him. He offered it tentatively. "It's possible that David knew that you would never love him or want to be with him. It's possible that he wanted revenge, that he suddenly hated you instead of loved you; wanting to destroy what he considered important to you."

"People do that?" Heero wondered in a small voice. "The war was easier. Being an assassin with Odin Lowe was easier. We were paid, we killed. We needed peace, we killed. Killing for spite, because I refused to return emotions that I didn't possess, disturbs me." He looked at Duo like a naive child suddenly given a taste of a cruel, confusing world.

Duo knew what Heero was asking without asking. "Don't worry, Heero," Duo reassured him. "I'm not that kind of guy. Most people aren't like that. I think you were right when you said that David was mentally unstable. You have to remember that and not go sour on the human race all together."

"I hated him," Heero admitted suddenly.

Duo blinked, "What?"

"I hated him for killing those people," Heero explained. "That's why I didn't morn his passing."

Duo asked carefully, "But you were sad, sad that someone who had been a friend, had died in such a terrible way?"

"Yes," Heero replied and sat on the edge of the bed again, hands lax between his knees. "I want to deny it, but I can't. It hurts when I think too deeply about it. I don't understand that feeling either. Why should I feel anything, but hate and contempt, for him? Why should I wish that he were still alive, that I could have said something that would have prevented him from taking people's lives?"

Duo let out a small, sigh of relief. Heero did care. Heero was hurting. He had just covered it up and locked it away like a good soldier, until now, until Duo had been able to pry the box open and make Heero face his neglected emotions. "It's all right to be sad, Heero. It's all right to care for someone, even though they did something terrible. You don't have to deny those feelings and feel guilty about them."

Heero stood again, running a distracted hand through his chocolate colored hair while his other hand remained deep in one pocket, as if he were chilled suddenly and needed to be warm. "I am not in control," he said self deprecatingly. "I need to be if I'm going to help you. I can't let my personal life distract me."

"You forget," Duo said with a nervous smile, giving Heero something back for his revelations, "I'm your personal life now. You're supposed to work things out with someone you care about. Besides, it's better to get it all out now, rather than when I need you so badly that I won't be able to help you with them."

Heero nodded, "This HAS helped, Duo, though I'm still confused about David."

"It's a fact, Heero," Duo told him, "that we can never understand other people, and their motivations and actions, completely. Everyone is wired differently. You can't understand or predict people with one hundred percent accuracy, so don't beat yourself up about it."

Heero nodded again. "I have to be alone and think about what you've said... and about David."

Duo sighed and pulled the afghan up to his chin. "Don't worry about me. I need some sleep. You go get your head on straight, Heero."

Heero considered Duo for a moment and then asked, "You will be here when I come back?"

Duo sighed. Why couldn't Heero just come out and ask him things? That last question was so pregnant with deeper meaning that it hung thick in the air between them. "Yeah, yeah!" Duo replied, making a tired, shooing motion., "Get out of here! And don't worry, the door is always open for you, Heero."

Heero managed a smile, but it was heart weary. As he left, Duo thought to himself, 'Who am I kidding? I hide in my words just as much as he does.' It helped that he had managed to peel back more of Heero's history, but Duo was beginning to suspect that he wouldn't completely trust Heero until he had uncovered the man all the way down to the bone.

Go to Part 16: Crux

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