Disclaimer:Don't own them and don't make any money off of this.
Warning:Male/Male sex, graphic, violence, language, NCS references and flashbacks.
"Are you going to say anything?" Duo wondered a they rode the elevator up to Heero's office. He was holding Heero's hand loosely, needing that contact, but needing reassurance more.
"When we were in the war," Heero replied quietly, "I watched you go on missions, knowing that it was very possible that you wouldn't come back. I accepted that, because we didn't have any other life then. We loved, we endured, and we both dedicated our lives to a cause. " Heero paused, remembering, and then went on. "It's different now. When you made that call, I imagined you dying. I imagined a life without you. A life that, during the war, I never imagined would be a long one." Heero's voice hitched and Duo saw, with amazement, tears rolling down Heero's cheeks. "I was terrified, Duo!"
Duo slid an arm around Heero's waist and tried to comfort him, feeling the beginnings of reaction himself. He knew, though, that he had to stop being a martyr. He chose his words carefully, but it was impossible to soften their impact. "Every day that you walk out the door of our home, I wonder if you'll be coming back. I had to accept that your work was part of who you are and that it wasn't going to change. I think you've had it easy, keeping me at home, making me your safe house' to come back to. I can't be that Heero. I tried. In that alley, I was alive again, saving the day, making a difference, and I was GOOD. I haven't lost it, Heero, my abilities, and I don't want to lose them. Kit said something to me that made sense. She wondered why you should be exempt from having to juggle home and work like everyone else. She's right, Heero. Neither of us has ever had a stress free life. You don't have one now and you can't, as good as your intentions are, force one on me either. "
Heero wiped at his eyes and tried to regain control of himself. "I know that. I do. It isn't just me and my feelings on the matter though, so don't sidestep that issue. I'll accept that you want to become a Preventer agent, and I'll be afraid on a daily basis just like you are for me, but whether you can mentally handle that kind of daily stress is the larger question."
"You can't predict that sort of thing," Duo told him. "I don't know myself. I was going to bow out gracefully and not distract you, but Kit WAS right, Heero. I can't be a martyr. I'll go work somewhere else if I have to, but I'm not going to back down again. You are just going to have to learn to do your job without worrying about me."
Duo reached up and brushed at Heero's tears with his thumb. Heero nodded and sniffled. "There's something else you should know, too," Duo added.
"What?" Heero wondered, his face saying clearly that he wasn't prepared for any more shocks.
Duo looked up at the lighted floor number on the wall above the door. "We've been stuck between floors for awhile now. Mind calling someone?"
Heero stared and then chuckled. He sniffled again, nodded, and then opened up a panel to take out a phone. He paused and then gave Duo a stern look.
"Love?" Duo wondered.
"Even though Kit was in trouble, you overstepped your authority," Heero told him. "You were correct to call me and warn her against her foolishness, but you had a bit of your own insubordination. Standard procedure is to call for an agent. We have rules and regulations. This isn't the fly by the seat of your pants' operation like during the war. Step out of line again and I'll have to report you."
Duo frowned, "Isn't that what we're doing now? Going to your office so you can chew me out in private?"
Heero sighed. "It was on my mind, but, now that I've calmed down, no. We do still have to fill out paperwork though." He reached out and took hold of Duo's braid. He rubbed it gently at the very bottom as he said, "I want you to see my office, as well."
Duo crossed his arms over his chest and replied sourly. "Wu Fei won't mind?"
Heero looked angry. "Wu Fei was out of line. I'm going to discuss the situation with him as well. He's used to having a partner totally dedicated to his work. He's going to have to adjust. Cut him some slack for now, though, all right?"
"Yeah, fine." Duo nodded to the phone. "Are you going to call or what? People are going to think we're doing something in here besides talking."
Heero turned a deep shade of red and chuckled as he pushed the number for service.
It didn't take long to get extricated from the elevator, but there were curious looks from the Preventer personnel they found waiting when they did finally exited. Duo gave them a smirk and a wink, but Heero made a disapproving face as he led the way into his office.
"They are supposed to respect me," Heero told Duo as he settled into a leather chair behind a narrow desk, "Not think that I'm fraternizing with a research clerk in an elevator."
Duo settled into a chair in front of Heero's desk and looked around. The office was small. There were two desks. Wu Fei was seated behind the other one, giving Duo a look that Duo couldn't decipher. It seemed a combination of anger, concern, and irritation. "Maxwell," Wu Fei said, "I heard about your altercation. I'm sorry that I was unprofessional over the phone when you called for an agent."
"Then why is your face doing that?" Duo wondered as he motioned Soda to settle by his legs.
Wu Fei frowned. "Doing what?"
"Looking like you ate a lemon," Duo replied.
"Wu Fei," Heero said quickly in an attempt to avoid a confrontation. "Why don't you go and find out what happened to that forensics report I requested yesterday? I won't be long with Duo and I'll be ready to go over it and our new information by the time you return."
Wu Fei grunted as he stood up and inched past Soda, watching the dog carefully. As he passed Duo, Duo said, "I will prove myself, even to you, Wu Fei."
Wu Fei paused and then replied, "You proved yourself a long time ago Maxwell, especially to me. You proved yourself earlier by saving Kit. If I question, it is to wonder if this is the proper place for you, working, not only with rules and regulations, but also so closely to someone you care so much about. It's not only in a war time situation where that can be a liability."
"And you're saying that you don't care about Heero?"
Wu Fei stared and then he replied. "You know the difference."
Duo flushed and felt cold. His hands gripped his chair arms to keep himself under control. As Wu Fei left them alone, Duo was even more determined not to back down again. Perhaps there wouldn't be a place for him as Heero's partner, but there would be a place somewhere else.
"Thank you for not getting into a shouting match," Heero said with relief.
Duo looked at him and saw that Heero's expression was nervous. Duo wondered why. "He hasn't changed," Duo commented. "He still wants to run everything his way."
Heero's expression grew defensive. "He made a name and a place for himself here by being an outstanding, by the book, agent. I think he imagines chaos when he looks at you."
"I don't intend to be your partner," Duo replied, puzzled, "and I'll have to go through the same training as any new agent. They won't give me the badge if I can't do the job right." He stressed, feeling that Heero was perhaps worrying about chaos as well, "I won't get in your way, Heero. I won't see you all day, if that will make things easier. You don't even have to let people know that we're a couple. I'll deny it, if they ask."
"Wu Fei will see sense, eventually," Heero said, brushing the subject aside. He brought up a screen on his computer. "I'll need your statement on what happened in that alley."
"All right," Duo agreed as he made himself more comfortable in his chair and fiddled with the end of his braid. "Should I go to work after you're through?"
"I think you should check with Sally Po about that," Heero replied. "She might give you the day off to recover."
Duo looked incredulous. "Really? Why? It's not like someone I knew died or anything."
Heero grimaced as he began typing. "Most people would need time to recover and think an incident like that was pretty shocking." His eyes slid sideways at Duo before returning to his screen. "You did seem... shaky about it afterwards."
"So did you," Duo replied. He crossed his arms over his chest defensively. "That was just me running out of adrenalin. That's all. I wasn't afraid, Heero."
"I didn't imply that you were."
"All right." Heero turned to Duo fully then. "Describe the incident to me."
Duo began by describing the men and their obvious intentions towards Kit. "I could tell that they were going to kill her. They were just about to pull her down the ally and-"
"You're sure about your descriptions?" Heero suddenly broke in.
Duo blinked, "Uh, of course. Kit can confirm what I'm saying."
Heero frowned. "It appears to me, Duo, that you aren't very observant. That's why I'm asking you to be certain of what you saw."
Duo glared. "What the hell are you talking about, Heero?"
Heero suddenly sat back in his chair, his blue eyes going soft and a softer smile on his lips. "Sometimes, people don't always see things clearly." He nodded to the wall behind him.
Duo's eyes focused and, for the first time, he realized that the framed pictures behind Heero weren't random, unknown people from his or Wu Fei's working life, but were all of Duo and Heero, separate and together. Duo with Soda. Duo playing with the puppies, one tugging on his braid playfully. Duo at the beach, making a face and wearing ridiculous sunglasses. Heero and Duo together in a picture that one of the other pilots must have snapped during the war, arguing at the foot of Deathscythe, faces intent, hands raised in heated gestures. Duo and Heero receiving their medals. Duo and Heero together, lounging on a veranda at one of Quatre's estates. Duo and Heero standing in front of their dream home, locked in a kiss, the world forgotten in their contentment.
"I'm not going to hide the fact that I love you, no matter how much chaos you create," Heero chuckled.
Duo was suddenly out of his chair and into Heero's chair, straddling Heero's lap and devouring Heero's lips with his own. "Love you, baby!" Duo exclaimed passionately around the kiss and his soul was in those words and every bit of his heart.
"Together," Heero promised. "Together we'll be happy. Together we'll find a way that we can both have what we want, not one sacrificing everything for the other."
"You make me believe it," Duo chuckled as he caressed Heero's face.
Heero leaned into that caress and said intensely, "Believe it, Duo. We will figure this out."
After finishing the report, Duo reluctantly left Heero's office, passing Wu Fei in the hall, he said to the grim man, "Now your day can go back to normal, Wu Fei."
Wu Fei growled under his breath, "I knew that it would never be normal' again as soon as Heero began putting up those pictures."
Duo decided to let it go. He had a feeling that Wu Fei's dedication and single mindedness, would always make him bias against any agent who dared to have a life outside of their career. A man like that would most likely spend his life alone, Duo thought, and managed to feel some sympathy.
Approaching Sally Po's office, Duo paused just outside the open door when he heard his name and Kit's voice. Stepping back so that the occupants of the office wouldn't see him, Duo couldn't help himself from eavesdropping. In the war, stealth and information had been critical. On the streets of L2, having one ear to the ground had saved his life several times.
"He broke some bones and gave one man a concussion, but they are still both alive," Sally Po was saying. "I saw Duo during the war. I can appreciate how remarkable that accomplishment is knowing what a deadly and unstable young man he can be." She paused and then said almost angrily. "I thought those agents would have protected themselves better. They are two of my top people. He shouldn't have been able to lay a finger on them."
Kit agreed. "As much as him and the other pilots act like adults, they are just kids. Duo shouldn't have been as strong as Rice and Lepure."
"It doesn't take strength," Po replied. "Just speed and know-how."
"He was fast," Kit said, sounding a little in awe. "He just walked into the alley and started kicking and punching. When the dog started in too, I had my gun in my hand. I almost shot him until I realized that the dog was just holding Lepure."
"Holding?" Po snorted. "The dog broke his arm!"
"Things definitely didn't go as planned," Kit sighed. "It seemed so simple; let Duo follow me, pretend to get the gun away from Lepure, accidentally' drop the gun at Duo's feet, and then have both men attack us. The last thing I expected was for Duo to jump in unarmed and take out two armed men!"
"Blanks for bullets, body armor in case Duo had a knife, and trained veteran agents," Sally Po lamented. "All defeated by a skinny teenager with a yard long braid and an unhealthy disregard for his own life."
"He didn't kill them," Kit stressed. "He told me that he specifically tried to avoid it."
"In that situation, we know he can control himself," Sally agreed, but then added, "but we weren't able to play on his real trigger'."
"I think we did," Kit replied thoughtfully.
"What do you mean?"
Kit sounded uncomfortable. "Well, Duo said that Lepure was looking at me like he was planning on raping me."
There was a silence and then Sally replied. "What was Duo's reaction to that?"
"I'm not sure," Kit said. "He seemed... matter-of-fact, maybe, like that sort of thing happens every day and it was his job to make sure it didn't happen to me because I was, uhm, well naive."
"Interesting," Sally replied thoughtfully and then she continued briskly, "Still, though he passed this one test, I think that we should observe him further. One year in an institute doesn't change a man that much. I'd like to see how he handles stress at a more personal level before I make a decision about upgrading his position."
"Yes, ma'am," Kit replied dutifully. "I think he will make a great agent if he proves he's stable. Him and that dog are a perfect team and there is just something very selfless about Duo, especially in the way he was willing to step down for the sake of not causing disruption."
"I agree," Sally said. "I'll talk to him tomorrow, get a feel for his goals. I'm certain Agent Yuy sent him home for the day. You should-"
"I'll be fine. I don't need any time off, Ma'am," Kit assured her, "But I'm still curious about Lepure. I know we were supposed to play act him making suggestive comments to Duo, but I wonder why he was directing something like that at me."
Sally replied pointedly, "Duo may have been imagining it, Kit. I wouldn't worry too much about it."
"Duo seemed so sure...," Kit said.
Duo backed away from the door and felt a shock of anger go through him. It had all been a test? He had injured innocent men! Sickness gripped Duo's stomach. Sally Po, of all people, should have realized just how dangerous Duo could be, yet she had made the classic mistake of seeing him as a teenager instead of as a skilled and deadly soldier. Two men, even though older and well trained, could have been toe tagged and in the morgue instead of nursing some minor injuries. That she was even considering further testing....
Duo walked away, deciding that the best thing to do was to go home and sort out his anger and shock in privacy. Soda was concerned, sensing Duo's agitation. Duo calmed himself with an effort and rubbed behind the dog's ear. How was he going to be able to function at work now, being afraid that, at any moment, he might confront another of Sally Po's tests? It reminded Duo of the desensitizing exercises in the Institute and... he shivered, remembering a harsher type of desensitization done by Dr. G in his training to be a pilot. Could she really come up with worse scenarios than he had already endured?
Entering the elevator, the doors closed and Duo stared at the buttons. The anger suddenly became stronger than the shock. With sudden determination, Duo punched a button and rode the elevator to the basement. Exiting with Soda pacing sedately by his side, Duo went straight to his cubicle in the research section, sat down at his desk, and dug through his bag. Fishing out his picture of Heero, Duo plunked it down on the corner of the desk and then booted up his computer.
Duo reached for his assignment bin. "I'm a Gundam pilot!" he growled. "An L2 orphan! A street rat of the lowest caliber! An ex whore! A killer! A terrorist! A thief! A war hero! A damned desk job isn't going to shoot me down in flames! Shinigami is ready for whatever you've got, Sally Po!"