Crossing Paths Arc: Part 20

Part 20: Chances
by Kracken

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

"I highly advise against this," the doctor protested. A short, graying, wide set, older man, he looked very concerned.

"Noted," Milliardo grunted as he picked Duo up off the bed and carried him out of the room. He seemed unconcerned with the gun held to his head or Duo's determined expression. "I hope that your objection doesn't preclude you from attending Duo," Milliardo continued. " I would hate for him to suicide and take me with him. For now, I would like to do everything that he asks. He has asked for you to come along."

"Yes, sir," the doctor replied, a little pale as he followed Milliardo down a hallway. He directed his next questions at Duo. "Where, exactly, will we be going? If you are intelligent, Captain Maxwell, and this stunt makes me doubt that, then I advise you to keep the trip short and Earth bound. You are only a step away from Death's door. It wouldn't take much to push you through it."

Duo grinned, despite the way that the world was blurring in and out. He had been flat on his back for too long. The sudden upright position in Milliardo's arms was making him ill. "I am Shinigami," Duo replied. "Do what you're told and I won't have to convince you of that fact."

The doctor became paler, but he didn't stop talking, even when they exited out onto the roof and climbed into Milliardo's personal transport vehicle. "Judging from the instruments you forced me to pack, I would guess that you intend for me to remove your leg locator. I will also lodge my disapproval of that as well. Leg locators are especially inserted into the bone. I am not trained, nor do I have the proper equipment, to remove it without laming you."

"I'm just a damned anti-unification terrorist," Duo reminded him, "What's it to you whether I get hurt or not?"

Milliardo settled Duo into a plush seat and buckled him in. Duo groaned at the unfamiliar pressure on his aching body, but his gun never wavered from Milliardo's head as the man slipped into a pilot's seat nearby, put on headphones, and began calling for clearance on the radio. He was using emergency codes.

The doctor secured his medical bag and then sat in a seat opposite Duo. After strapping himself in, he gave Duo a level look. "I'm a doctor. That title means something to me. I won't let anyone suffer, not even a criminal." He looked Duo up and down and then added, "Besides, I think the government is guilty of a heinous crime against you. They gave you a medication used for assassinations, a drug that causes slow deterioration and painful death. Whatever you may have done, that punishment is beyond what anyone would deem civilized or lawful. That kind of behavior from our government threatens everyone, not just you."

Duo didn't lower his gun. He had grown up with violence and trust wasn't his strong point. He nodded acknowledgement of the man's words, though, and the doctor relaxed somewhat, confident that he had gained a safer position with Duo.

The cabin was both pressurized and sound proofed. There wasn't much besides the clouds outside the window to indicate that they had taken off. Duo allowed himself to relax then, knowing that Milliardo would take some time to play cat and mouse while Heero and the others escaped.

Duo swallowed hard. "When I was 'sleeping' early on, I heard you, well, I think it was you, and Quatre talking," Duo began uncertainly. "You seemed to think that I didn't have any hope of becoming, 'normal'. Exactly... exactly what did you mean by that?"

The doctor looked uncomfortable. "This should really wait until you are with a counselor," the doctor started to reply, but then he looked around him and sighed, "but, I suppose that isn't going to happen soon, if at all. Still, I don't want to make an early prognosis. I'm not completely familiar with the dynamics of the drug combination you were given. I could be mistaken. I don't want you to worry or be depressed over something needlessly."

Duo was quiet, head lowered, bangs hiding his tense face, and then he said, "There's really only one thing I want to know and, I think, you can answer it. I know that I'm done growing. That can't be changed unless I fill my body with cyber parts. It still wouldn't look... right, though, so that's out. I have to live with being a short, scrawny guy. The important question is... the one that really matters is.... will I ever..." Duo stopped and put a hand to his mouth, unable to finish, unable to face a negative reply.

The doctor let out a relived breath Duo hadn't known he'd been holding. He looked up and the doctor was smiling slightly, still nervous, but glad to give his bit of good news. "If you're asking about your hormone and testosterone levels, you don't have to worry. That is renewable. In fact, once you recover some strength, you should notice a marked change in how you feel both sexually and physically. You might gain some muscle and some body hair. You might even mature a bit more, though, I'm afraid, you shouldn't hold out hope for much improvement where it pertains to height."

"So, no basketball career," Duo sighed in mock disappointment while he was grinning at the same time.

The doctor was pleased to give good news, but he had an edge of pessimism as well. "It doesn't do you any good, Captain Maxwell, to know that you can please yourself and the ladies, if you permanently destroy your health, or even kill yourself, by acting unwisely."

"It's not the ladies, I'm worried about pleasing," Duo replied, becoming reserved again as he glanced at Milliardo to make sure he was still following the plan. "And as for acting unwisely, you know what the government would have done if they had caught up with me. I don't think putting me on the drugs again was going to be an option. After the operation at Winner's estate, I'm labeled a full-fledged anti-unification sympathizer. That merits the death penalty. You know that. I don't like turning tail and running, but I'd rather die free than by injection in a cell somewhere. If they want me, they'll have to take me down where everyone and God can witness it."

The doctor thought about that and then he pulled up his bag and began checking his instruments. "Where will we operate on your leg? Do you have a hospital in mind, or a clinic, perhaps?"

"Neither," Duo replied. "In fact, as soon as we find a surface that doesn't move, you're operating."

The doctor's eyes widened. He looked frightened. "But that's unsanitary! The infection possibilities... I have to cut to the bone, Captain Maxwell..." He licked nervous lips and then nodded when he saw that Duo's expression wasn't naive of the possibilities. The doctor admitted, "I was a field surgeon during the war. I never thought that I would have to deal with that again." He firmed and began going through his bag again. "I will do my best, Captain Maxwell. I hope it will be enough."

Duo looked out of the window, expression tight as he replied, "I do too."

Duo fell asleep. He tried to fight it, but the slight vibration of the ship, and the quiet boredom, took their toll. When he woke again, he could hear the doctor talking anxiously to Milliardo.

"Sir, he is exhausted and not likely to wake. I don't understand why you won't take this opportunity to take control."

Milliardo replied, as if revealing a personal, embarrassing secret. "He is a Gundam pilot, Doctor, and highly trained. I am not a match for his skill."

The doctor was confused. "Captain Maxwell should be in intensive care, hooked up to fluids, antibiotics, and protein solutions. He is unable to stand for more than a few moments. I don't understand what danger he could possibly represent to you."

There was a silence and then Milliardo replied. "All right, Doctor, I must admit to you that I am a complete coward. It's fear that keeps me from overpowering him and winning our freedom."

Another silence and then the Doctor said carefully, "Sir, for a politician, you are a terrible liar."

Duo snorted laughter as he opened his eyes and saw Milliardo's amused expression. "You didn't expect a doctor to be an idiot, did you, Zechs?" Duo wondered softly.

Milliardo frowned, but his lips were still smiling as he checked their altitude and adjusted a control. "No, I didn't, but I had hoped for an understanding one."

"I suppose I am that," the doctor replied and settled into his seat again. He reached across the space between himself and Duo without hesitation and took hold of Duo's wrist. After taking Duo's pulse, he nodded, pleased. "The rest was good for you."

"I do feel better," Duo replied. He refrained from yawning and tried to appear more alert than he was. The gun was a heavy weight. He rested it in is lap, not willing to drop his guard completely.

"I'm amazed," the doctor admitted.

Duo was puzzled. "By what? My nerve?"

"That too," the doctor replied, "but mostly I'm amazed by your stamina."

Duo smiled. "I spent a few years living hand to mouth on the street. You learn not to whimper about your circumstances there and, unless you want to die, giving up isn't an option. I learned to endure there, Doc. I learned to be tough as nails."

The doctor nodded. "It shows."

"Company!" Milliardo called back to them.

"What?!" Duo stiffened, his grip on his gun tightening unconsciously. "What the Hell happened? You were supposed to keep them guessing for a few more hours, 'Lightning Count'!" Duo said Milliardo's nickname in disgust.

Milliardo shot him a hard look. "Duo, you have a homing device inside of you! It was inevitable that they would find us."

"Not this soon, though!" Duo snapped back. He reached down and began unlacing his boot. The doctor's eyes widened in dawning horror. "Change of plans, Doc," Duo told him briskly. "Start cutting."

"You can't be serious!" the doctor protested. "I'll be using a laser. One wrong move of the ship and I might cut half your leg off!"

"Then do it the old fashioned way!" Duo snarled as he rolled up his pants leg. "Cut, or the last thing you're probably going to see is a government beam cannon cutting through this ship. They may not bother with the nicety of taking us alive."

"You'll be lame; a cripple maybe," the doctor protested one last time.

Duo shouted at the top of his voice, "Do you think I give a flying fuck about that?! People's lives are counting on me. I'm not going to let them die so I can keep a leg!"

The doctor swallowed hard and nodded. He was already sweating and going pale as he pulled up his bag and crossed the space between them. He settled onto the floor and began placing his instruments beside him in a particular order. "Keep the ship as steady as possible," he told Milliardo.

"I can't promise that, but I will do what I can," Milliardo replied. He glanced back at Duo, looking very tense, and then he turned back to the controls as if he couldn't bear to watch. It wasn't out of squeamishness, Duo knew, and recalled again the conversation he had over heard between Milliardo and Heero. Had it been real or a fever dream?

Duo took up the small kit that Trowa had packed for him. He fished around inside until he found the pills he was looking for. Putting them into his mouth, and biting into them to break their casings, he then swallowed them determinedly. "Start," he ordered, staring off into the distance and trying to find the place down deep inside of himself where his greatest strength lay.

The doctor cleaned off an area on Duo's ankle and then he marked it off with a pen. The pen was trembling ever so slightly. "What did you just take?"

"Meds to numb me to pain," Duo replied distantly.

"I have pain medication," The doctor retorted, incensed.

"Not like these," Duo replied, giving him a hard look. "I need to be numb, yet able to move if I have to."

"Pain blockers?" The doctor winced. "Those are dangerous."

"What isn't in a life like mine?" Duo replied bleakly as he settled back into his chair and braced himself. "You don't have much time. Cut the locator out now."

Duo felt the cut. He gritted his teeth as blood ran down onto the floor. A whimper escaped his lips involuntarily. The meds hadn't kicked in completely and, even if they had, they wouldn't cut out the pain entirely. When another whimper exploded from his lips, Duo jammed his hand into his mouth and used his thick coat to bite down on.

Every instinct told Duo to get away, to use the gun, to stop that cutting knife going deep into his ankle. It took all of his willpower to hold still, to deny the fear/flight response that threatened to overwhelm him. Tears of pain ran hotly down his trembling face as Duo chanted his mantra and tried to employ Wu Fei's meditation techniques. It was a distraction that he sorely needed and, even though the pain didn't lessen, Duo felt a steady calmness fill his mind, enabling him to bear it better.

"This is inhuman!" The doctor swore as he began using another instrument, one that cut and pulled at something embedded into Duo's bone. "Bastards! They put two anchors in instead of one! They weren't taking any chances!"

The meds began helping with the horrible pain, but the pain was rising to where Duo knew he was about to begin screaming. When his hand tightened convulsively on the gun, he put it out of reach. He had to trust the doctor now. He was powerless to do anything but endure.

"Hurry!" Milliardo shouted. "I'm running out of cloud cover and I can only dodge in and out of mountain ranges so long before we get smacked down by wind currents."

"Just fly the fucking plane and let me do my job!" the doctor snarled back.

"Yes, sir!" Milliardo replied sarcastically, "but I won't have a plane to fly much longer if we keep this up."

The doctor suddenly stood up and turned so that he was sitting in Duo's lap. Duo blinked, startled and confused. The pressure of the doctor's weight held him pinned, almost cutting off his breath, as the doctor leaned back down to his leg and began tugging and cutting in earnest.

Duo shrieked and thrashed as the pain lanced through meditative state and medication. He fought against the doctor's weight. He would have used his deadly skill to kill the doctor, if the man had presented him with a target. As it was, with the doctor bent down, all vulnerable points were out of Duo's reach.

"Shit!" the doctor cursed, and then again, "SHIT!!!! How could they do this! They put bio cement in the holes! They never meant the locator to come out!"

The plane leveled and Milliardo slapped on the autopilot. Unbuckling himself from his seat, he moved to crouch by Duo's leg. As Duo passed in and out of a red, throbbing haze, he heard Milliardo say, "Damage the locator with your laser. It's not coming out."

"But the possibility of infection, deterioration..." the doctor replied, stunned.

"Can't be helped!" Milliardo snapped back. "Do it!"

Milliardo went back to the controls. The doctor took up his laser. "Please, Captain Maxwell," he begged, "don't move. I don't want to accidentally cut through your leg. The locator has a laser proof shell, so I can't cut through it, but I may be able to damage the booster on the outside. With that gone, they will only be able to track you at close range."

"F-F-Finish, pleeeasse!" Duo whimpered. "J-Just.... finish!"

"I'd knock you out, and damn to your distrust," the doctor muttered, "but if we have to land quickly or fight, I'm a soldier enough to know that you'll need all of your wits."

"Yesss," Duo breathed in agreement.

The doctor was quiet. The ship shuddered under the impact of an updraft. Duo tightened fearfully, knowing that the laser could cause considerable damage and he wouldn't feel a thing. Duo hardly dared to breathe until the doctor stood up, turned, and began cleaning up the cauterized incision with antiseptics. Duo sighed in relief as he saw his ankle, swollen and ugly, yet still attached to his leg.

"A-All right, Lightning Count," Duo stuttered through the pain. "Time-Time t-to show what y-you've got. Lose 'em!"

"With pleasure," Milliardo replied and the ship banked sharply. G forces climbed as he left their pursuers behind.

Duo didn't remember much of the long ride. He was curled in around himself in his chair, clutching his leg and panting through wave after wave of pain. More than once the doctor begged him to take something for it. Each time, Duo shook his head emphatically no. He kept his eyes on Milliardo, willing the man to be successful.

"Rendezvous point coming up," Milliardo announced. "Pack up, gentlemen, we're going to be in a hurry. I have ground troops ready to hide the plane and a transport ready to take us out of the area."

Duo nodded and the doctor gathered up his bag, looking nervous. "How long will I be with you?" the doctor asked.

Duo considered the man that they had plucked out of his posh position at Milliardo's estate house. "Do you have a family?" he croaked, barely able to voice the words.

"Yes, but they didn't live with me," the doctor replied. "It will be some time before they notice that I am missing."

"If you want me to make some sort of promise, a guarantee that you'll be with them again-" Duo began.

"Don't bother," the doctor grunted as he looked out of the window and tried to see in what kind of place they would be setting down in. "I don't need to be reassured by promises that you can't keep."

"I'm sorry," Duo sighed.

"Why?" the doctor replied with an arched eyebrow. "It seems to me that the one to blame is the government and certain forces taking advantage of the situation." His expression firmed. "At least this time I'm fighting for the right side."

"Landing!" Milliardo called back. "Brace yourselves!"

There was a solid thump that sent Duo rocking in his seat and then the rattle and klink of metal buckles being thrown off as Milliardo released himself from his seat hurriedly and then crouched to do the same with Duo.

"Let me take him!" The doctor urged as he pushed Milliardo aside. "You take care of whatever's waiting for us outside."

"But..." Milliardo began to protest about the doctor's age and his ability to carry Duo's weight.

The doctor scoffed irritably. "He doesn't weigh much over ninety pounds. I think I can handle that! I'm not that old or out of shape!"

Milliardo conceded his place. Hooking his bag over one arm, the doctor picked Duo up as if he were a child and quickly proceeded to the hatch as Milliardo opened it, gun twitching this way and that for enemies.

Some of Milliardo's personal troops met them at the bottom of the ramp, snapping smart salutes. Milliardo began shouting orders at them at once, and they scrambled to obey without question, as Duo and the doctor followed Milliardo across an expanse of overgrown runway and past a few dilapidated outbuildings.

Duo saw steaming jungle all around them, encroaching like a many tentacled beast of green to engulf what was left of the old military runway. South America? Africa? Mexico? Duo couldn't tell from so few clues. There was the smell of salt air and a few lonely seagulls drifting on a hot breeze. A coastal runway made sense, especially in a jungle setting. Supplies and troops could move in an out by boat.

"We're going out on the water?" Duo wondered sharply. "That's a crappy place to hide, Zechs!"

"Patience!" Milliardo snapped back.

"Be still!" the doctor warned. "It will be easier for you and me."

Duo kept quiet then, but his hand held his gun and his eyes strained to see through a haze of pain. A confusion of men and vehicles seemed to be in constant motion around them, machinery roaring and men shouting and tossing equipment about. It looked very chaotic and unprepared.

"Zechs...," Duo began to protest, not liking what he was seeing at all.

"Patience!" Milliardo snapped again.

They were almost to a covered transport vehicle, grouped with many others exactly like it, when bullets started popping all around them, splattering the ground and pinging into the metal of the vehicles themselves.

It was as if everything suddenly went into slow motion. Duo blinked and howled in pain while at the same time grasping at the doctor in horror and disbelief as the man turned sharply, presenting his back to the oncoming bullets and hunching over Duo's body in his arms. There were sickening splats and the doctor jerked and staggered, his grip tightening on Duo as he took a few steps towards the vehicles. Milliardo already had his hand on a bottom rung of a ladder on the back of one, intending to swing up and inside, glancing back to check on their progress.

The doctor fell. Duo landed hard on pavement, every fiber of his body screaming at the impact against his back and the jolt to his ankle. He dragged himself up despite that, pushing at the doctor's suddenly dead weight... dead weight, Duo saw, because the doctor was very dead. His eyes were open and staring at nothing.

The world swirled in a red fog. Duo panted and trembled, but managed to reach out and gently closed the man's eyes. "Sorry," he whispered just before Milliardo was jerking him up into his strong arms and tossing him into the truck.

Duo landed hard and rolled, shrieking in pain as Milliardo threw himself in after with a flailing of limbs and shouted, "GO!!!" to whoever was driving. Duo rolled again as the truck took off, but Milliardo was grabbing him and pulling him close.

Duo realized that he was sobbing in reaction while he continued to scream in pain as Milliardo put his back to the wall of the truck and held him tight. He anchored Duo, giving him a haven of flesh and warmth, while he whispered the lie that everything was going to be all right.

Go to Part 21: Knights

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