Author: Anria Lalumin
Warnings: language, angst, sap, humour, shounen ai and yaoi later on

Lizards = thoughts/emphasis
::Lizards:: = sound effects

Trust + Part 8

Things weren't easy after that, not by a long shot.

Duo was quiet and seemingly embarrassed by the words that had spewed out of his mouth to Zechs, never mind that the blond man was certain Duo couldn't have stopped them if he tried. But then again, it was always frightening to bare yourself completely to another person, to have them know everything about you, because then they knew where to hit to hurt the most. And their relationship had taken on another change, as Zechs' arm began to heal and the waspishness caused by pain faded, and Duo's antagonism completely disappeared. Once again the dynamic between the two of them had altered and even if this time it was for the better, it was a disconcerting change to get used to.

It didn't help that the very next day Duo finished the communicator.

It was an incredible stroke of luck that when they held their breath and tested it they found it sent a traceable signal on the private Preventers' frequency. Duo's washed-out grin was the first sign of joy he'd given since their fight the previous day.

"We're gonna have to keep this up," Duo murmured to Zechs as he tapped out the SOS code. "I mean, sending it once isn't gonna be enough ­ we don't know when they'll pick up on it, or how long it'll take them to trace it. We've gotta do this twenty-four hours a day." He didn't sound particularly happy with the realisation.

"How about taking it in shifts?" Zechs offered. "You do six hours, I do six hours."

"We'll be bored as all hell," Duo snorted.

"Then I'll just have to keep you entertained, won't I?"

Duo stared at the blond incredulously. "Y'know, if it was anyone but you, I would've said that was a pickup line."

Zechs burst out laughing at that, his rich voice sending chills up Duo's spine. Subsiding, he shook his head, amused. "Only you, Duo," he said, chuckling, "only you."

And then he stood up and walked into the kitchen, and Duo was left to ponder what exactly that had meant.

Unfortunately, that conversation was one of the very few times Duo forgot himself enough to loosen up and joke around with Zechs. Most of the time their exchanges were awkward and stilted, tense with the constant reminder of their fight in the bruises both of them sported. When Zechs took his turn tapping out the SOS on the communicator, Duo vanished and stayed in other parts of the apartment for the entire six hours ­ which the man took to mean that he was still uncomfortable in his presence, but for an entirely different reason this time.

The six hour shifts of tapping the communicator were boring as hell. Zechs found himself slipping into a sort of trance, lulled by the rhythm he kept up on the communicator. His mind blanked out and he stared at the table, focusing on the patterns of grains in the wood.

He had no idea how long he stayed like that, but he was abruptly jerked out of it when a plate of eggs slid into his vision, covering over the spot on the table he had damn near memorised. He looked up in time to see the tip of Duo's braid disappearing around the kitchen door, and smiled to himself before beginning to eat.

They switched over at the end of Zechs' six hours, and Zechs decided that since Duo was too nervous to make the first conciliatory move, it was up to him ­ and so he sat next to Duo and made use of the talent for small talk Treize and years of moving among diplomatic circles had instilled into him. Duo's naturally talkative nature, however, was suppressed almost to non-existence by his fear that he would say the wrong thing and accidentally offend Zechs, ending up with them having to start all over again.

Several painful hours of this passed, when suddenly Duo lifted his head and asked, "Do you hear that?"

Zechs frowned, listening. It took a moment for him to hear it, but suddenly he was aware that off in the distance there was a very faint clanging and the unmistakeable sound of gunfire. He turned quickly to look at Duo. "Could it be the Preventers? Is there enough time for them to have traced the signal and done reconnaissance?"

Duo rapidly calculated in his head. "If they caught the signal on the first day, yes," he said after a moment. He grinned and jumped to his feet, suddenly brimming with energy because this was a situation he knew how to handle. "You up for some quick planning?"

Zechs nodded. "We've probably got only a few minutes at most before they get here ­ securing the hostages is the first thing Falcon would think of," he warned.

"Right," Duo agreed. "Most likely if the Preventers have arrived full force, he'll want to command these morons himself, though, so I'm reasonably sure he'll send his underlings at us instead. If you wait in the main apartment and tap away on the communicator, then hopefully when they find you they'll get pissed off and stop thinking straight. That's when I'll ambush one of them, grab his gun and see how many I can take down. Then we run for it."

Zechs frowned. "It's got a lot of holes in it," he said dubiously.

"Yeah, but we haven't got time for something flawless," Duo replied. "Have you got any—" He cut himself off as they heard the main door to the apartment slam open. Their eyes met for a split second before Zechs grabbed the communicator and Duo lunged for the door to the kitchen, barely getting it shut before two of Falcon's thugs armed with machine guns crashed into the main body of the apartment.

Their eyes landed on Zechs, who did his best to look surprised. The one in the lead stalked up to the table and swept his arm across it, knocking the communicator in pieces to the ground and pointed his gun at Zechs' chest. "Stupid little fuck," he snarled. "Up against the wall! Check the rest of the apartment," the thug said to his companion before returning his attention to Zechs. "Face against the wall and arms up! Don't try anything, I've got my gun on you at all times!"

Zechs stepped up to the wall, listening intently for Duo's first move as the thug prodded him with the tip of the gun, more out of belligerence than any real searching method.

There was a sharp cry from behind him, and Zechs' captor stopped prodding him. He got as far as "What the fu—" before the blond man brought his plaster-encased elbow down on his head, hard. He fell to the floor with a satisfying thud that almost made the sudden pain in his broken arm worth it.

Duo was rapidly stripping the other man of his weapons, then yanked off his belt and tied him to the table leg. "It's not permanent, but it'll slow him down some when he wakes up," he said critically, eyeing his handiwork. Zechs picked up his captor's machine gun and routinely checked it over.

Duo tossed him a small container and Zechs caught it without thinking. He looked at it and found it was the painkillers the Blackbirds' doctor had given him. Giving the other man a grateful grin, he shook out a couple and swallowed them dry.

"Thought you might need those at some point," Duo grinned at him, eyes sparkling. Damn, but this was fun! "Here, let me get that guy." He grabbed the man Zechs had felled and tied him up rapidly, then stopped and frowned. "It would probably be a good idea to take their uniforms."

"What are we waiting for, then?" Zechs asked impatiently.

Duo eyed his arm. "Uh, are you going to be okay to change with that thing?"

Zechs blinked and looked down at the cast, then gritted his teeth. "I'll manage," he said.

Duo made short work of stripping the two men down, and quickly changed into their pilfered clothes. He watched Zechs struggle for a few moments, before rolling his eyes and taking over.

"It'll go quicker this way," he said to Zechs' glare, bending down to shove the trouser legs inside the other Preventer's boots. Straightening, he grabbed his gun and he looked at Zechs. "You good to go?"

"Lead the way," Zechs replied, settling his own machine gun into a professional grip and ignoring the pain in his arm. The painkillers would kick in soon, so there was no need to worry about it.

Duo led the two of them out into the corridors, keeping them close together. If they were in a larger party Zechs suspected the smaller man would have gone scouting ahead to root out danger zones, but as it was it was safer for the two of them to keep going together. The blond man let Duo lead, and soon realised that they were gradually coming closer and closer to the source of the noise, and therefore closer and closer to the main battle.

As they came to an alcove Duo ducked into it and crouched, gesturing for Zechs to do the same. He leaned in close to speak to him. "Most likely whoever's in charge of this mission will try to keep them all in the same building and all in the same spot," he breathed. "If the Blackbirds are allowed to disperse and the fighting ends up trailing into the halls some agents will end up dead in ambushes, so they're most likely throwing everything they have at one place. Have you seen anything familiar here? Is this Victoria Base?"

"Some things are familiar, most of it isn't," Zechs responded, eyes darting warily back the way they had come. "If it is Victoria we're most likely in the West wing. When I was here I spent most of my time in the command rooms and the East wing, which would explain why everything's familiar but I don't know any of it."

"Dammit," Duo muttered, scowling at the wall.

"If the Preventers are throwing everything at one place, though, it's likely to be the hangars," Zechs continued on. "If so it doesn't really matter which hallway we go down, since damn near all of them lead there anyway."

Duo snickered, finding that inappropriately funny. "All roads lead to Rome," he whispered.

"There is a problem with that, though," Zechs said, frowning. "From what I recall, all the corridors in each wing converge into a hall on either side of the hangars, and those two are the only entrances from the base. They're both likely to be heavily guarded, so there's no way we could force our way through and we can't sneak around them since it's open ground for about fifty metres before you get to the doors."

"Shit," Duo muttered. "Is there another way out of the base than through the hangars?"

"Not that I recall," Zechs told him.

"What about the ventilation system?" Duo asked him. "Cliché, I know, but it has to exit somewhere."

Zechs shook his head. "It's an idea, but there's no way I could fit through it, especially not with this," he said, waving his cast at Duo. "The main vents were deliberately made small enough that even you would have difficulty getting through. Which was the whole idea."

Duo scowled. "Then we're stuck, unless you have some other information you've forgotten to tell me."

Zechs grinned at him. "Not quite," he said. "I only said the main vents were made small, didn't I?"

Duo eyed him warily. "What are you thinking?"

"It's dangerous, but if I remember rightly larger vents were put in leading out to the hangars because some officers complained about wanting better ventilation, and it was deemed not a big enough security risk," Zechs told him. "We'd have to get quite close to the group defending the West wing hangar entrance, but if we can avoid being spotted we can easily slip into the hangar. There's enough cover there that we can make a break for the exit."

Now Duo was grinning, too. "Can we sabotage the equipment they've got in the hangars, too?" he asked with almost childish glee.

"You're psychotic, you know that?"

"I'll take that as a yes." Duo rose to his feet with a silent grace Zechs envied, encumbered as he was with his cast. "Do you know the way to the vents?" he asked.

"In theory, yes," Zechs said.

"In theory?"

"It depends on how similar the layout of the West wing is to the East," Zechs said in frustration. "I'm betting on it being as near symmetrical as they could make it, but I could be wrong."

Duo frowned. "We're just going to have to count on it being symmetrical," he said at last. "I can't see that we have any other option. If we come across differences, we'll just have to improvise."

Zechs nodded, and they emerged from the alcove and headed towards the thick of the fighting.

[part 7] [part 9] [back to Anria's fic]