Disclaimer: Don't own them, don't make any money off of this
Warning: Male/Male sex, Violence, Graphic, Language.
"How do you feel?" Wu Fei asked as he sipped at his tea.
Duo used his crutches to awkwardly hop to a chair and collapse into it. Sweat was running down the side of his face, but he had made it all the way to the conference room with only a helping hand from Heero once or twice. He put his ankle gingerly up onto the chair next to him and just breathed for a long moment, before he nodded and replied, "Okay."
"Liar!" Sally snorted as she fiddled with a disk and then inserted it into a computer slot embedded into the long conference table. "Did you go to therapy?"
"Torture, you mean?" Duo snipped back and then nodded again.
"Good," Sally approved. "I made clean laser cuts, but there were some muscles involved and scarring from the first attempt to remove the locator." She read from a screen with a very serious face. "You should be operational in another week, but I'm afraid that you're going to continue to have trouble with that ankle. At some point, the locator, or part of your leg, is going to have to come off. The degradation factor-"
Duo cut in impatiently. "Yeah, yeah, let's not deal with that right now. Let's talk about getting back my reputation and my passport back into space. What are we going to do with the information I risked myself for?"
"It's complicated," Wu Fei replied. He took another sip of tea and then put the cup down carefully. He gave Duo a dark eyed, thoughtful look. "There are problems."
"Heero's already told me what the information is," Duo informed him, nodding to the silent man standing at his shoulder. "I know it involves the Peacecrafts and the government."
"It especially involves Senator Santoro," Wu Fei said. "Part of the information was about unauthorized troop movements and communications between the man and questionable groups. It seems that both Santoro and these groups were funding research at the installation that you broke into. It's clear that they are attempting to create weapons powerful enough to cut through Gundanium in violation of every law."
Duo made a bitter face. "Another war in the making."
"Yes," Sally replied determinedly, "but it's a war we will stop. With this information, we'll be able to root out many of the anti-unification sympathizers from the government and eliminate Santoro."
"And help me," Duo added. When there was silence and closed expressions, Duo repeated. "And help me?"
"What's going on?" Heero suddenly demanded, frowning fiercely.
Both Wu Fei and Sally looked at Heero with a hint of trepidation, but it was Wu Fei who was brave enough to reply regretfully, "Surely you can see the ramifications of accusing Relena Peacecraft of unfairly sentencing Duo for her own ends? We can't possibly try to exonerate Duo without bringing her name into our case against the government."
"Wait a minute!" Duo exclaimed, amethyst eyes wide in alarm and hands held up as if to ward of a blow. "Are you saying that all of this crap I've gone through was for nothing? Are you trying to tell me that I'm going to have to be a good boy, take my poison, and go back to my apartment like nothing happened, so that Miss Relena doesn't get her reputation smeared?"
Wu Fei began to reply, but Sally cut him off impatiently. "Of course not, Duo! We'll expose the drugs Santoro gave you when we have him arrested. You won't be forced to take them any longer."
"But the rest," Duo demanded, fury rising. "You expect me to do the rest?"
Sally sat back in her chair and looked down at her hands. "Yes, it's the only way. If I had known that Relena and Zechs had foolishly embroiled themselves so deeply into this matter... Understand," she said. "Peace depends on their government succeeding. We can't jeopardize that in any way. I'll have you taken back to your home, Duo."
"Making choices for me again," Duo ground out. He looked over his shoulder at Heero. "It seems I'm not worth as much as everyone else, Heero. It seems a corrupt, peaceful government, who uses its people for bait, is more important than Duo Maxwell. What do you think about that? I wonder how many more people Relena Peacecraft and her brother will decide aren't as important as their quest for pacifism? Where does it end? Is this how you save the Universe, just in bits and pieces depending on which ones Sally Po or Relena think are important?"
A piece of plastic hit the table. Heero's photo on an I.D. stared accusingly at Sally. "I resign. Duo is right," Heero grated.
Duo stood awkwardly and turned , meeting Heero's intense gaze questioningly. Heero smirked and snaked an arm around Duo's waist. "Why stop being a rebel now?" Heero replied to Duo's look. "Let's go."
"Where to?" Duo wondered suspiciously, tensing against Heero's arm.
"I'm saving you, Duo," Heero replied, "Just as you asked."
"You ARE a hero!" Duo laughed and leaned into Heero's embrace. "Well, do your job and get me the hell out of here, Yuy!"
As Duo hobbled out of the conference room supported by Heero, Wu Fei stood up in a smooth motion, finished his tea in one gulp, and then carefully put the cup down. Moving around the table, he came to stand by Sally. She glared up at him.
"You're going too, aren't you?" Sally demanded in exasperation.
Wu Fei smiled, leaned down, and captured her lips in a passionate kiss. When he broke it, he looked deeply into her eyes. "Justice demands that I do what is right, not what is politically convenient," he replied and then gave her a deep bow. "I will return."
Sally looked angry and then her eyes softened. "Get Duo off planet. It is what's right," she agreed, "but please, don't destroy everything accomplishing it. We aren't Relena's lap dogs, but you know that her goal is our goal; a peaceful, elected government for the colonies and Earth."
"That's your job," Wu Fei replied as he straightened. "I would just like to return to my books."
"And me?" Sally added hopefully.
"You above all else," Wu Fei replied.
"Then catch up to those fools," Sally retorted in mock irritation as she held back tears, "and make sure they leave Earth in one piece."
Wu Fei complied. When he had caught up to the slow moving Heero and Duo, he said calmly, "This way," and led them to the upper levels, using his fingerprints in pass keys to gain them entrance to the hanger pads above ground.
Heero took the crutches from Duo as soon as they entered the hanger and tossed them aside with a clatter. "Too dangerous on a ship," he explained as he picked Duo up in a fireman's carry and stalked after the retreating Wu Fei.
Duo scowled, feeling self conscious as personnel turned to stare. "I feel like a duffel bag," Duo growled and then grinning sarcastically at the crewmen making way for them, he pointed to Heero and said, "Just married! He's carrying me over the threshold!" There was some laughs, but a few looked as if they wondered if the strange group should be stopped. Wu Fei and Heero appeared to be respected though, and no one questioned them as they reached a sleek looking ship.
Duo admired the clean lines. It was obviously built to move through space and atmosphere and it looked deadly. Duo saw an array of weaponry attached to the undercarriage. The coloring of the ship was familiar. Duo puzzled over it as Wu Fei pushed the control to bring down the ramp and then he remembered. He gave Wu Fei
a serious look as he asked, "Nataku's colors?"
Wu Fei's jaw tightened at painful memories and he nodded once as he led the way up the ramp. Duo had a chance to look around as Heero carried him to a jump seat and lowered him into it. The ship was definitely state of the art. That Wu Fei was willing to risk it in a run through military checkpoints either said something about his commitment to Duo or his confidence in the ship's ability.
Wu Fei took the pilots' chair and Heero settled into the co pilot's as their fingers flew expertly over the controls. Wu Fei asked for clearance. Duo expected the controller to abort immediately. A flight plan hadn't been submitted, but, surprisingly, the controller didn't ask Wu Fei any questions. They were used to covert operations, Duo supposed.
"We'll meet up with Trowa and Quatre before they reach planet side," Wu Fei said. "Quatre's space station will make a good hiding place for you Duo."
Duo scowled. "No!"
Both Heero and Wu Fei looked back at Duo with wide, puzzled eyes. "No?" Heero echoed.
Duo replied in exasperation, "I know who messed with me. I know who's corrupting the government. Maybe I can't touch your precious Relena and Zechs, but I'll be damned if I'll go back into space without some revenge! I'm done going through the 'proper' channels. It's time for some old fashion vigilantism."
Wu Fei looked disapproving. "You're not in any shape to fight."
"So take us some place safe Earth side," Duo told him. "We'll hook up with Trowa and Quatre and they'll help take these guys out."
"Why would they agree to do that?" Wu Fei wondered. "Quatre's a respected member of Relena's government."
"Still?" Duo wondered. "After that raid on his estate, I don't think he has much to lose in the way of reputation. Everyone thinks he's a sympathizer."
There was a gleam in Heero's eyes, a look from the war that Duo remembered; a man ready to give his life for a cause, for Duo's cause. "Relena can't touch Santoro and his sympathizers," Heero said, "Not without implicating herself and her legitimacy. If we destroy the man and his support, it would leave her hands clean of the matter."
Duo had a thought. "Maybe that's what Zechs had in mind all along? He seemed very concerned with keeping us under his control. He could have been planning this very thing, bringing us all under his orders and dangling us in front of Santoro. He might have been hoping that Santoro would attack outright at the threat and destroy himself."
"It is possible," Heero replied and then slumped in his chair as he turned his attention back to the controls.
"Don't like it, do you?" Duo wondered. "All the politics. You just want a clean fight and a clear enemy."
"Yes," Heero replied.
"War and battles are never that simple," Wu Fei interjected, eyes on his instruments as he began to taxi the ship out onto the launch pad. "There are always egos involved and political expediency."
"Except this time," Duo retorted and grinned. "This time we're cutting those people out of the action."
Wu Fei sighed at Duo's innocence as he laid in a course. As the ship launched, he said, "I'll be taking you to a retreat that I have. It should do for our purposes, but, Maxwell, if you want to take the time to heal, it might have been wiser to stay back at the installation and allow Sally's staff to take care of you."
"They're the 'people' I'm trying to cut out," Duo replied. "I've always been able to rely on you guys, so I'm going to do things with you watching my back, not them."
"Sally is not dishonorable," Wu Fei argued with an edge of temper.
"No, but she's playing the game, Wu Fei," Duo replied. "She's going to think of the government first, not me."
"That isn't wrong," Wu Fei told him.
"Then why are you here?" Duo asked. "Why not stay with her?"
"After four years, you should be allowed to take yourself out of the game of governments," Wu Fei replied. "It's only honorable."
"Especially since you are not useful as bait any longer,"' Heero added.
Duo nodded thoughtfully, but then he smiled and it was Shinigami his companions saw looking back at them. "I'm going to enjoy going from bait to exterminator."
Heero looked pleased by Duo's fierceness, but Wu Fei was shaking his head in disapproval. "I can take you into space, right here and now. You can hide and live a long life. Sally and Heero will take care of Santoro eventually."
"Eventually?" Duo looked contemptuous. "It's been four years. When exactly was someone going to make a move? I think Relena and Zechs have had enough time to dance around a confrontation. I won't let them use the Gundam pilots to murder Santoro and his people and then take the fall for it. I intend to go after Santoro in a covert action. Nobody but Santoro is going to know what hit him."
Duo crossed his arms over his chest and sank down sullenly into his chair. "I know I have to run, eventually, but I'm not going to do it until I bite them in the ass!"
"All a hundred pounds of you, and injured as well," Wu Fei scoffed.
Duo glared. "I'm a mean hundred pounds, thanks so much, and I heal quick. A week at the most and I'll not only be ready for the mission, but the other guys will be here to help out."
"If they agree," Wu Fei reminded him.
"With or without them," Duo promised. "I'm going to get my pound of flesh, Wu Fei. You don't have to come either."
"Yuy," Wu Fei pleaded. "Make this fool see sense."
Heero's face had a troubled expression. He kept his eyes on the controls as he replied quietly, "I know that I can't change his mind, Fei. Duo is going to go and confront Santoro. I have to be there with him, at his side, if he's to have any chance of succeeding. I do agree that the man and his close allies need to be eliminated. Sally won't authorize it because of Relena's involvement, but it doesn't make it any less necessary."
"I agree," Wu Fei replied sourly, "But there can't be any room for error. I trust in your abilities, Yuy, but Duo has been non commission for a long time."
"Do you think four years can erase a life on the street?" Duo snapped back. "Do you think four years can erase the kind of training that Dr. G gave me? You've had your nose stuck in a book for years, Wu Fei. If you're going to ask something stupid like that, then ask yourself while your at it."
"I've done missions for Sally," Wu Fei admitted. Duo stared, "and I've kept myself fit."
Duo was quiet for a long moment and then he knew exactly what to say. "It's about honor, Chang Wu Fei." Duo was pleased to see Wu Fei suddenly incline his head in a small bow. The man wasn't going to argue with that kind of reasoning.
Duo relaxed then. He could see outside the window opposite him. The clouds and blue sky enticed him. Why struggle any longer? Why put himself through more torture and possible death when space was so close? Wu Fei simply had to hit thrusters and they would skim as easy as silk out of the atmosphere.
So close. Duo felt the ache, the absolute need to be weightless again, to have damnable gravity release his joints, release his heart, and release his mind from the twenty four hour torment he had been under for four years.
Duo remembered Santoro's face, the man's fanatic glaze. A man like that would pursue him, Duo was sure. Honor and revenge aside, Duo knew that it was necessary to eliminate a threat to himself like that. Heero knew it as well. They both knew that the people needed a man like that gone as well, and so did Wu Fei. It would have a duel purpose, the assassination he planned, and neither Relena's government nor the Gundam pilots would have to be implicated in it.
"Trouble," Wu Fei suddenly said.
Duo tensed. "What is it?"
"Let's get the hell out of here, then!" Duo exclaimed as he fumbled to put on a combat strap across his chest.
Wu Fei and Heero were both staring at their instruments. They exchanged a look and then Wu Fei sat back in his chair in an attitude of defeat. "Beam cannon. Delta formation. Six ships. Checkmate."
Heero growled in frustration. "They were waiting for us to trip the atmosphere alarms. You flew too high!" he accused Wu Fei.
Wu Fei glared at him and crossed his arms over his chest. "I was expecting to go into space. That was the course that I laid in when I left the installation."
"Out run them!" Duo shouted helplessly from the jump seat, "or get the fuck out of the pilot's chair and let me fight!"
Wu Fei glanced back at him with a raised eyebrow. "I don't have shielding against a beam cannon, Duo. Unless you wish to suicide, we are now prisoners."
"They're demanding our surrender," Heero announced as he looked at the com screen. He frowned. "It's Milliardo Peacecraft."
"Then we have some chance of getting you out of this," Wu Fei said to Duo. "He's helped you already."
Duo covered his face with his hands, not wanting them to see the grief stricken look on his face. He felt the chains tightening around him already, especially the cruelest one, the one that kept him bound to the Earth. He knew that he had made the right decision, deciding to go after Santoro, but that didn't make his failure any less bitter or keep himself from wishing that he had done as Wu Fei had begged and escaped while he had the opportunity. Now...
Duo unsnapped all of his restraints. He then limped to Heero and put his arms around the man from behind. Heero looked up at him as Duo pressed his face against Heero's. Duo knew that Heero could feel the wetness of tears against his skin, but he didn't care. "I don't know what's going to happen, but... " he tried to ignore Wu Fei, ignore embarrassment, and ignore his own hatred of appearing weak as he said softly in Heero's ear. "Remember, no matter what happens, that I love you and I wish... I wish a lot of things, mostly that we could have had some sort of life together."
Heero gripped Duo's hands and kissed them passionately and with desperation. "It's Zechs out there!" he said as if trying to reassure himself. "He won't let them hurt you!"
"After what happened at Quatre's estate...," Duo sighed into Heero's hair and buried his face there, pressing himself tightly and smelling Heero's scent. "I'm not sure what's going to happen to you, but I'm already on record as a terrorist and anti- unification sympathizer. I broke all the rules, Heero, and the death penalty is the usual punishment for that."
Heero said, suddenly fierce. "We'll try to escape! There must be a way!"
"No," Duo said and then straightened. He wiped at his face and looked at the tight formation of ships on the screen. "Wu Fei's right. Checkmate. We never had a chance. No use in everyone dying. Give up and do what they want Wu Fei." Duo turned and went back to his seat. Slumping down into it, he stared out of the window again at the blue sky. A few more minutes of freedom was all he had, he thought dejectedly, and spent it dreaming of space.