by: Kracken
Disclaimer:I don't own them and I don't make any money off of this.
Warning: Male/male sex. Graphic. Language. Violent. Duo hurting himself. (All right, so I couldn't make him a happy Duo! I tried, really I did!)

After The Rain series + Part 3
Sky High

"Ready?" Heero asked as he checked his watch.

Duo hefted his pack and nodded. "Ready."

Heero gave Duo a steady look. The young man was dressed in an Oz uniform, his braid tucked underneath the collar. Some attempt had been made to tame his wild, chestnut bangs under his pill box uniform hat. Heero was critical of his success.

"You look like walking insubordination," Heero growled. "Someone will stop you."

Duo quirked a smile. He touched his back pack full of bombs. "I'm wearing the insignia of a mechanic and I look like I've been working hard. They won't expect me to be spit and polish, Heero. They would be more suspicious if I was."

"Hn." Heero growled back. He checked his watch yet again for the thousandth time. "You have exactly-"

"Forty five minutes to hack the computer," Duo sighed patiently, "Thirty five minutes and forty seconds to lay the charges. Twenty minutes to get the Hell out before you blow them."

Heero nodded. "With the computers and the remote systems bugged, we can return and move at will to sabotage other parts of the complex later."

Duo frowned. "I think it would be a lot easier to just wade in with our Gundams and slice and dice it all up. That place is going to be swarming with troops once we start blowing things up."

Heero couldn't help the gleam in his eyes when he replied, "The charges are a diversion to distract from the real goal, hacking the computers. Once I have the computer codes, I can track Oz movements and shipments and return to destroy and disrupt their operations. "

"A beam cannon fired up their asses would disrupt them too," Duo growled. "I don't like allowing them to continue operations for any reason." He shot a look at Heero, "And what's with this 'I' business? We're in this operation for the long haul. That's what Doctor G told me."

Heero kept his face blank.

"What's going on, Yuy?" Duo demanded as he shifted the weight of the pack on his shoulders. He said angrily, "If you don't think that I'm going to make it out of there, just say so." He stiffened as an ugly notion occurred to him. He held out his hand. "Give me the detonator."

"No."

Duo put down his bombs. He brushed his hands together as if taking off dirt. "See ya later. I'm getting Deathscythe and carving this place up. I'm not going to be your stooge. I'm not stupid enough to let you blow me up along with the bombs."

"That wasn't my intention," Heero argued, growing angry.

"You're keeping secrets," Duo replied with narrowed eyes, "and you're not very good at it. We had a plan and you've just changed it. I don't like that, not when my life is riding on pulling this off perfectly."

Heero held up the detonator. Duo froze. "You will pick up the bombs and complete the mission," Heero told him coldly, feeling a surge of comfort in his brain; a reward for making Duo afraid, for being willing to complete the mission at any cost. "If you refuse again, I will blow us both up. I won't accept failure."

"What's the difference between being blown up here or in there?" Duo asked with a fearful glitter in his purple eyes. "I'll be dead either way."

"If you go in there, you'll be able to take some of Oz with you," Heero replied simply.

The fear was still there, but it was now being overlaid by steel nerve as Duo said, "If that's what you're going to do, Yuy, at least wait until I plant the bombs where they're supposed to be. I want to do as much damage as possible." Those words were said with a fierce edge, the tone of someone who ached with all of their being for revenge.

"I don't make promises," Heero replied without compassion. "I'll blow the bombs at the first sign that you're in trouble."

Duo took off his communicator and crushed it under his heel. He grinned at Heero. "Now we don't have radio contact. You'll have to wait until my time is up."

Heero's jaw worked as he ground his teeth together and then he warned, "If you compromise this mission-"

Duo laughed, short and sharp. "You'll kill me? You're an idiot, you know that, man? You're not going to win this war single handed. You're going to have to trust me."

"I don't trust anyone. I rely only on myself," Heero replied.

"I'm so surprised," Duo shot back sarcastically.

Heero glanced at his watch. "You've wasted two minutes of your time."

Duo grabbed up his pack anxiously. "Shit!" he exclaimed and disappeared into the darkness around the Oz installation without another word.

Heero stared after him and fingered the detonator. Duo's bravado in the face of death, his acceptance of a possible suicide mission, and his flippant manner were generating an odd feeling in Heero. It was respect foremost, yet there was something else underlying that. Heero analyzed it, dissected it, and felt somewhat uncomfortable with the conclusion he drew; that working with Duo might not be such a bad thing.... if Duo survived the mission, of course.

+

Duo walked boldly down the halls, his fake ID flapping on his chest and a low whistle on his lips. He smiled engagingly at everyone who passed, flirted with the women, winked at the men who were clearly interested, and didn't hesitate to look confused and new at his job. He even asked directions to various places just to cement the impression. Once he reached the correct section of the base, he switched IDs and changed his performance. Now he was a computer geek, confused still, but less flirty and more intelligent. As he entered the computer complex of the base, no one looked at him twice.

Duo felt contempt for Oz arrogance. They were so sure that no one would dare just walk in, that security was at a minimum. The one guard was lounging against a wall and eating a sandwich. He didn't even look up as Duo passed him with a murmured, "Evening."

Finding a terminal away from the few men and women that were working late, Duo settled and began hacking. Numbers flickered madly over the screen as his fingers flew over the keys. Security codes were entered by such and such. Going into such and such's files, Duo read that the man had five very nice children. It was ridiculously easy to figure out that his security protocols all started with one of their names. The rest was random numbers and Duo inserted the program that would search every possible combination in nanoseconds. As it found each one, Duo moved deeper and deeper into the system. Finally, he reached the downloading protocols for top secret files. Duo placed the bug that would allow Heero to access the files any time and any where from his laptop.

"You're new," a female voice said behind Duo.

Duo didn't stiffen or look startled. He smiled and didn't attempt to conceal what he was doing. To do so would have only brought attention to it. Instead, Duo turned and looked up at a very leggy, blonde woman in a tight fitting, short skirted uniform. Her hair was pulled back in a tight bun and her eyes were huge and as blue as Heero's. Duo frowned inwardly at the slip. Why was he comparing anything to Heero's eyes?

The woman smiled in return and her lips were very luscious looking, Duo thought, as she leaned close and peered at his badge. The top buttons of her uniform coat were undone. Duo had a nice view of soft, rounded breasts and just the hint of nipples. She wasn't wearing a bra. Duo preferred men, but he could appreciate a beautiful woman too and he hadn't been above bedding one or two when the mood struck him. At that moment, he had the distinct urge to reach into her coat and see just how soft those breasts were, yet, at the same time, he was thinking about the glimpse of Heero's nipples he had seen once and wondering how they compared to the ones right in front of his face.

Stupid, Duo! He thought to himself. Get it together and stop thinking about iron man Yuy! Bringing himself to order, Duo let his amethyst, killer eyes go sensual as he replied, "Yeah, I'm new. I'm here just for a few days to update some files. Classified, you know, so..."

The woman nodded and took a step back. "Of course. I shouldn't be looking at them, then." She gave Duo a slow once over. "Later, maybe, we can get together and I can show you around?"

Duo stood up and closed the space between them. He reached out a hand and fiddled with one of the woman's gold buttons, looking down into her cleavage with a clear, interested expression as he said sexily, "I would like that very much, Ms. ...."

"Tanya Reid," she replied and Duo saw her nipples harden. She flushed and her eyes looked liquid as she said. "I'm in the directory."

Duo lowered his hand from her button and let it trail over one of her hard nipples. She shivered. "They're going to be keeping me very busy," Duo replied, "but... I will try to make the time."

Time. Time was running out, Duo thought, as he played his role of romancer to the hilt. When the woman finally went away, satisfied, and he was seated at the computer again, he had sweat trickling down into his collar. He had now wasted four precious minutes. Still, Duo took the time to leave some false entries to mislead his true intent. After he blew part of the base, he was sure the woman would report seeing a new soldier looking at secure information, especially after he failed to show for his date with her.

Mission complete, at least in that respect, Duo thought, as he finished his hacking. He casually picked up a coffee cup, looked dolefully into it's emptiness, and then made a show of looking for a coffee maker. Knowing that there wasn't any in that section, he looked irritated, hefted his pack, and pretended to go in search of one.

Duo winked at the guard who was now watching him with bored curiosity. Duo grimaced as if in embarrassment as he jiggled the empty cup. He said softly, conspiratorially, "I'm sneaking off to find some java and, uhm, have a little private time, if you know what I mean?" He patted his pack as if it contained something naughty. "Cover for me, okay?" Duo begged.

"Yes, sir," the guard replied with a bland expression, but Duo heard the disgust in his voice.

"Thanks, man!" Duo said in not so feigned relief and moved past him and out of the door. He checked his watch, swore silently to himself, and hurried his steps to his next destination. As he walked, he switched his badge and changed his uniform coat into one he pulled from his pack, that of a lower grade engineer. Confuse the story, Duo thought with an inward chuckle. The intruder was going to be so many different people by the time he set the bombs, that a clear description of him was going to be impossible.

Development and research, Duo read over the metal doors as he entered the huge hanger, and attached offices, unchallenged among a group of other late night shift workers. He even joked with one, who didn't say much, only frowned and tried not to let on that he didn't know who Duo was. Duo played on that embarrassment, talking to the man as if they had been working together for weeks.

As they made their way towards the offices, another young man leaned close to the one Duo was talking to and asked, "How's the baby?"

The man he was talking to smiled lopsidedly and dug a picture out of his wallet. He proudly showed off his newborn son and his smiling wife. "Looks like his old man already," the man said. "Ryan's healthy and he laughs already. Me and Monica couldn't be happier."

"That's great!" the other man beamed and clapped him on the back.

Duo dropped back, all smiles and good nature suddenly snuffed out. He was Shinigami, death, and he was about to kill all of those unsuspecting men walking ahead of him. Ryan wasn't going to see his father ever again. Monica was about to become a widow. Shinigami was about to take them all into his embrace and crush the life out of them.

Duo went numb and he welcomed it. The scar and the brand on his lower leg twinged, trying to remind him why he was there, to get revenge, to make them pay, to stop Oz from hurting other people as they had hurt him. Ryan's father, Monica's husband, was designing engines of death to enslave the people of Earth and Outer Space. He wasn't pure. He wasn't without blame. He knew what he was doing. He knew that his job might ask for the ultimate sacrifice. He was a soldier. Soldiers died. That evening, Duo was going to be the one to kill them.

Duo broke away as the other men were splitting up to go to their work stations. He clung to the shadows and became one with them as he planted his bombs, lithe body reaching and bending to find perfect hiding spots that were still open enough to do great damage. When he planted a bomb outside of an office, one where the blueprints were kept, Duo heard the voice of Ryan's father. He flinched, steeled his nerves, and finished the job.

"May God have mercy on you," Duo said softly, "and me, though I know He won't." He clutched at his gold cross and hurried to escape the coming destruction, trying to get the picture of a smiling woman and a newborn baby out of his head.

The bombs blew before he reached Heero. When he came out of the darkness to let the fires of the burning complex show his presence, Heero was staring at the base with the detonator in one hand and his watch cocked towards his face as if he had forgotten to move and lower it, all of his attention on.... what? Duo wondered. What did Heero Yuy care more about? Was he looking to see how much destruction there was or was he searching for a certain braided pilot?

"Hey," Duo said unnecessarily, because he was suddenly almost eating the barrel of Heero's gun. Heero's eyes were glittering, the reflection of flames licking over the pupils; the eyes of a killer. He recognized Duo in the next breath and then he simply grunted without apologizing and lowered his weapon.

Duo found a smile, wide and manic. "Thanks for padding the parameters by a few, Yuy. You're not such a bad guy after all."

Heero caught at Duo's wrist and looked at Duo's watch. He let it go before Duo could say anything. He shrugged. "Your watch is fast. I didn't pad the time."

Duo blinked, "Oh," he replied, scratching his head in consternation. He reclaimed his smile with an effort. Turning on his heel as he began to leave the area, he said, chuckling darkly , "I stand corrected."

+

"Good mission," Duo said with a yawn. Back at the school dorm, reaction from an adrenalin high was making him feel ready to pass out on the floor, but Duo forced himself to pick up a towel and make his way towards the bathroom. He could feel the edges of hysteria beginning to take hold, his hands and legs beginning to tremble ever so slightly. He didn't want to let Heero see his vulnerability. A loud shower would help to cover up any sounds until he had worked the self loathing, the guilt, and the tension of the mission out of his system.

Heero was at his laptop, fingers flying over the keyboard as he checked the access codes that had cost so many lives. He was nodding and smiling. A smiling Heero Yuy wasn't pleasant, Duo thought, he looked like some imp from Hell with his dark blue eyes and his thatch of wild dark hair. Duo supposed it was because the expression wasn't that of a normally happy man. It was more the uncontrollable reaction to an overwhelming feeling of self satisfaction. Duo took that self satisfaction as an indication of 'mission successful'.

Duo shut and locked the bathroom door. Turning on the shower, he made the water hot enough to steam. The droplets of water, pounding on the tile floor of the shower enclosure, gave him welcome white noise. Undressing, he tossed his clothes into a corner in a black, grimy pile and then stepped into the shower.

Duo sank to his knees on the tile as he unwound his hair from his braid. Raking his hands through it to separate the long strands, he welcomed the sharp pain. It was only the beginning of his self punishment.

Bending over himself Duo dug his fingers into his upper arms and squeezed until his nails broke skin and bruises began to form. He kept squeezing as the hot water burned the skin of his back, not hot enough to blister, but hot enough to make the skin as red and as outraged as a sunburn. When the pain reached it's pinnacle, Duo began to cry and shake under an onslaught of grief and guilt. He let it wash over him like the hot water and consume him utterly.

By the time the water ran cold, Duo was rising, stiff and wincing with pain, but calm and purged. He touched the scar and the brand on his lower leg, fingered it, and caressed it as he reaffirmed to himself the reason for the deaths he had just caused, the reason for the fight, the reason for his need for revenge. Switching to his other leg, he touched the tattoo that said, 'Solo n' Kid' and remembered the loving hand that had put it there.

"Duo's back in business," Duo whispered with a determined smile.

Heero stared at the closed bathroom door. The water had been running for a very long time. His keen ears, filtering out the sound of the shower, had picked up the definite sounds of Duo crying. He should have been finishing his mission report, Heero thought, testing his codes, planning the next attack on the installation. Instead, Heero simply sat and kept staring, waiting for Duo to reemerge.

When Duo finally opened the door and stepped out, he was walking stiffly, a smile on his face and his easy going expression firmly in place. When he dropped his towel to dress in a pair of shorts and a loose cotton shirt, both black, Heero saw the red skin of Duo's back and the virulent bruises and nails marks on his upper arms. Heero noted the pattern and the position of the marks. Self inflicted, he determined, and superficial, meant more to cause pain than any real injury.

Heero should have dismissed it from his mind then. Something like that wasn't going to hamper Duo's efficiency in the upcoming missions. As long as that was true, how he coped with the stress of the war was his own business. Yet Heero kept staring, kept ignoring the glowing screen and his mission report. Instead, he watched as Duo gingerly stretched out on his stomach on his bed, face snuggling into his pillow as he sleepily yawned. He looked very young just then, a little boy who had just completed a mission a much older man would have found daunting.

"Basketball tomorrow for sure," Duo mumbled around his pillow. "It supposed to be a nice day. Can't wait...," Duo trailed off and then began breathing deeply in sleep.

Heero was confused at the odd subject. What had made Duo think of basketball after risking his life sabotaging an Oz installation and then hurting himself in the bathroom? Was it a grasp at a delusion of normalcy? An attempt to retreat into the fantasy of actually being an innocent school boy? Duo's thought processes were a mystery to Heero. It made him that much more keen to find out about the pilot of Deathscythe, the self proclaimed Shinigami. Heero was the type of personality who needed things and individuals in neat, non surprising boxes. It bothered him that Duo refused to fit into one, that he refused to be analyzed and understood.

Heero's eyes lit on the shipping brand on Duo's leg. He memorized the numbers and then turned to his computer. He had the perfect resource now for finding out what he needed to know about that brand. The security codes, that Duo had risked his life for, were now going to be the instrument for betraying his secrets to Heero.

Heero gained access to the Oz computer system and typed in the tracking code. He waited with infinite patience as the remote system searched its numerous files. Behind him, Duo began to snore softly. Heero glanced at him briefly and then back at the computer.

"Kuso!" Heero exclaimed as he slammed his hand on the disconnect with lightning speed. A screen had popped up warning of Heero's security breech. The remote system was automatically searching the net for who ever had hacked into it. As the screen went blank, the last thing Heero saw was a message. The computer was changing it's security codes automatically. Heero was now locked out.

Mission: a failure.

The pain was a hot poker between Heero's eyes. The word, 'failure', was a cry that surrounded him inside and out, a mental torture that he couldn't escape. He thrashed, knocking over table and laptop, and clawed at his head, trying to stop the pain, dig it out somehow, any way he could.

The pain rose inexorably. It was every nerve scraped raw and a thousand wounds dipped in salt all rolled into one. It caused Heero to fall to the floor, every muscle twitching, eyes rolling back into his head, and teeth barred in a grimace of agony. Finally, his mind couldn't take it any longer. He passed out with the word 'failure' still ringing in his tortured mind.

[part 2] [part 4] [back to Kracken's fic]