by: Kracken
Disclaimer: I don't own them and I don't make any money off of them.
Warnings: Male/Male sex. Graphic. Language. Violence.

After The Rain series + Part 6
Phoenix

He had to sleep some time. They whispered it more than once, not understanding that Heero wasn't like them, that his endurance could carry him for days. Sitting in a hard chair, gun resting in one hand on his lap, and feet planted firmly on the floor, he was ever ready to leap into action. The doctors didn't have a chance against him.

They operated, slicing with lasers, replacing two organs with cultured ones, and closing wounds with micro stitches. Bones were reset with the best in reconstructive bio materials. A cracked skull was filled and internal bleeding stopped. Transfusions revitalized a body bled white. It was the best medical treatment that money could buy. Heero Yuy was stealing it, stealing it for Duo Maxwell to save his life.

When Heero had pulled up Deathscythe, using Wing as a stabilizer, they had both landed hard. Deathscythe had been inoperative, systems blown and fused, energy depleted in it's last bid for safety. Miles from pursuit, and deep in a rugged rocky terrain blanketed with forests, Heero had dragged the dark Gundam into the side of a jutting rock formation and then had used Wing's strength and reach to pull down branches and vegetation to hide it. Putting on a radar jammer, Heero's only fear had been that Oz would track the machine by heat before the machine could cool off.

The Gundams were invaluable. Heero's first concern had been to save them from discovery. That done, the all important pilot had been next. Opening the hatch of Deathscythe, the smell of blood, vomit, and urine had hit Heero's nose. His mind had assessed the situation in seconds and come up with a course of action even as he approached Duo's still body.

Duo Maxwell had been sprawled over the controls of Deathscythe, feet bare, leg broken and twisted in a strap attached to the command chair. His braid tangled all about him, his face had been full of blood and vomit. Heero had checked his pulse and found him, incredibly, still alive, but not for much longer. Loading him into Wing, Heero had flown Duo out of the woods and mountains and brought him to one of the few places, Heero had felt, that could save a pilot so important to the war effort.

It hadn't taxed Heero's skills to round up the best doctors in the hospital, under a pretense of a meeting, and coral them into a little used operating room. Donning surgical gear, Heero had taken up his vigil, while the coerced doctors had worked on Duo, turning aside any interruptions from curious hospital personnel, who happened on the operation, with the truth; a delicate operation was being preformed that would take most of the day and night. In it's eighteenth hour, Heero was still alert and diligent while the doctors themselves, all operating room veterans, were no less alert and waiting for him to make a mistake.

"He's stabilized," a doctor finally reported with a sigh, "but you won't be able to move him without endangering his life."

Heero's answer was to hold his breath and let loose a gas bomb. The doctors tried to get away, but none of them made it to the exit before they succumbed. Satisfied, Heero rose from his chair and began pulling out all of Duo's tubes except for a saline and morphine drip. Tucking these in beside Duo, he then lifted the pilot of Deathscythe, still in his operating sheet, and transferred him onto a gurney.

Heero experienced a satisfied feeling as he headed for the emergency entrance of the hospital without anyone questioning him. The entire operation was going smoothly, like a dance, and he could feel the perfect rhythm in the beat of his feet as he reached the exit door of the hospital at last. It slid open automatically, revealing waiting ambulances, bored drivers, and safety. It was then that an alarm went off.

Heero frowned, his mind working at hyper speed to determine the flaw in his plan. That flaw was on Duo's wrist. A patient monitor had been placed there by a clever surgeon. Not missing two beats, Heero jerked the wrist band off of Duo, hopefully not breaking fingers or delicate wrist bones to do it, and jammed it onto a teenager walking by with a limp. The young man howled and jerked away, flapping a hand that had been nearly crushed in an iron like grip. The hospital staff converged on the boy and Heero was ignored and allowed to continue out of the hospital.

He had a few moments before the boy could explain and convince elders that the band didn't belong to him. Heero used those precious moments to utmost advantage as he flipped open the doors of an ambulance and accepted the help of a driver. Once Duo was loaded, Heero knocked the man unconscious with a violent punch, calculated to keep the man out for hours, and then flung him into the ambulance to lay sprawling beside where Duo lay.

Heero drove the ambulance only a few miles, abandoned it on a back city street with the unconscious driver, and hot wired a car that was only a few steps away. Loading Duo onto the backseat, Heero peeled away from the scene of the crime and headed for the coordinates of the safe house, the place where the other Gundam pilots were waiting for them.

+

"Just like you, Yuy," Wu Fei growled as he twitched the blanket back over Duo's leg, hiding the numbered brand there once more. The oriental, Gundam pilot scowled at Heero, arms crossing over his chest. "You don't trust anyone, and because of that, you blew the mission!"

"Duo was a part of that mission," Heero explained stonily. "The mission required a complete trust in his abilities and his affiliation to the cause. I couldn't risk that he would give away my position and follow me back to you and the other Gundams. He retrieved the codes far too easily. I was right to be suspicious."

"Knowing that your computer search for those numbers triggered a security alarm, I suppose you still don't trust Duo," Quatre assumed sourly. The blonde Arabian came up on the other side of the bed and looked down at the unconscious Duo. Duo was milk pale, bruises and swellings surprisingly minimal after being treated and a broken nose set and already reducing it's red, swollen appearance. Quatre had fingers on some of the biggest hidden accounts in Space or on Earth, and money wasn't a concern for him, yet even he could appreciate the expensive, cutting edge, professional treatment Duo had received.

"He risked his life to get Gundam Deathscythe out of the hands of Oz," Heero replied. "The actions he took were not survivable for a pilot. They were not the actions of a traitor. A traitor would have been allowed to escape, not attacked with killing force. If Duo were a traitor, he would have been allowed to follow me to my rendezvous with you without receiving fatal injuries."

Quatre nodded. "I've worked with him the most. I know he's not a traitor, but I'm glad you're not suspicious any longer, Heero."

Wu Fei growled, "He will always be suspicious. He questions my honor, your honor as well Quatre... Trowa. If he wasn't essential for the war, I would kill him for the insult."

Heero gazed back at the pilots dispassionately. He wasn't going to apologize for something that had been trained into his blood and bones. Trowa was the only one who looked like he understood. He gave Heero a short nod from his position by Duo's IV's, confirming it. Quatre caught the look and he sighed, as if Trowa's distrust was a long running problem as well.

"Well, we should let Duo sleep without all of this shouting," Quatre suggested. "Will you watch him, Trowa, or should I send one of the Maganocs?"

Trowa didn't look worried. He never had much of an expression no matter how he felt and he usually hid that behind his fall of hair. Now he was doing that again, bent somewhat over Duo and checking his breathing as he replied, " I'll watch him for now, but I'm trained in basic medical techniques only, Quatre. If Duo should go critical again, I won't be much use to him."

"He won't, " Heero assured them. "He had the best medical care. All of his critical damage has been repaired."

"Doctors can't repair fever or bio rejection, Heero, you know that," Trowa replied.

"Living or dying is up to Maxwell," Wu Fei said as he headed for the door of the room. "We can't give our position away by getting a doctor." He glanced back at the damaged Shinigami. "I'm surprised that you didn't let him die, Yuy. I'm still finding it hard to believe that you risked everything to take Maxwell to surgeons. Maybe there is a soul in that cold body of yours after all."

Quatre stared after Wu Fei and then he looked back at Heero. "I know why you saved Duo and it didn't have anything to do with a compassionate soul."

Trowa smirked as if it were funny and Quatre looked at him, confused by the taller boy's sense of humor.

Heero turned on his heel and walked out of the room, not replying to the obvious. He didn't have to answer to anyone, but Dr. J, and he didn't care what the other pilots thought of him and his motives. He had retrieved an important weapon in the war, Duo Maxwell, and kept another important weapon, Deathscythe, from falling into enemy hands. The retrieval of the Gundam was still a priority, but Heero was confident that his actions had been successful and proper. He hadn't let anything as distracting as compassion or friendship sway him in any of his decisions. If things had gone wrong, he would have used his beam cannon on Duo and Deathscythe without a moments hesitation.

Friendship... The soldier part of Heero's mind sneered and pain threatened. Why had he thought of friendship? Duo wasn't his friend. He was a tool, unwieldily, loudmouthed, and opinionated, but still a tool. He couldn't deny that Duo's skill as a soldier pleased him, and that his surprises of insight were intriguing, but allowing Duo to become too close was out of the question. Heero had never been close to anyone, not even the men who had trained him since he could remember. It was a weakness he had been trained not to allow.

Heero cut off all traitor thoughts, traitor emotions that wondered if Duo would recover, wondered if he would get to work beside him again, and wondered most of all what other intriguing surprises the young man might reveal if contact was maintained. Heero settled the cold, detached, core of his training about him like a protective cloak and deleted all thoughts of Duo Maxwell, self proclaimed Shinigami, from his mind. Forget him. Let the others take care of him and bring him back to fighting strength again. Heero needed all of his attention placed where it belonged, on retrieving Deathscythe and making a report to send to Dr.J.

His report to Dr. J would be without reproach, Heero thought, even the part where he had lost the security codes in a search for information. That information had been vital to the mission. Heero knew that he had been right to pursue it, even at it's high cost. He had to be absolutely certain of Duo's loyalty and of the loyalty of all the Gundam pilots. The only person he could trust, was himself, but he knew he couldn't win the war alone.

+

"And then he just left?" Duo wondered with an arched eyebrow as he sat on the veranda of the backwater Winner estate and sipped at a cool drink. The sun was filtering down through trees and flowering vines draped over the roof, but it was still hot. It felt good on his still aching body. He wasn't used to the inactivity or the quiet. The run down estate, buried in the back hills and accessible only by an overgrown dirt road, didn't have even a caretaker. Quatre's desert soldiers had cleaned it up enough to be livable, but it still had the air of decay, of a pile of wood slowly going to seed. Quatre found that uncomfortable. That condition had been bearable in the many safe houses they had taken shelter in, but he was finding it hard to accept in one of his own family's homes.

"Yes, he just left," Quatre replied. "He packed a bag and went without a word. You shouldn't be angry, Duo. It was remarkable the way Heero took care of you."

Quatre was leaning against a support post of the veranda, arms crossed over his vest, blue eyes half hidden under his fall of gold curls as he faced Duo. Seated in one of the overstuffed garden chairs, Duo had his feet propped up on a low table and he was dressed in very short shorts and a thin, tank top. Both of them were white and he looked odd in that color. It made his pale skin look translucent and the bruises that much more livid.

Duo clenched an impotent fist and frowned. "He was a complete bastard, Quatre. He's going to pay for that."

Quatre looked Duo up and down pointedly. He had recovered quickly, but he was still weak in many ways. His broken bones were sealed with bio material, but they still hurt, still made him limp, still caused him to sit down when the energetic, hyper, young man wanted to be up and doing things. The headaches were another, troubling problem. They came and went without rhyme or reason, sometimes so bad that Duo couldn't do more than hunker in a dark room and just try to breathe. Trowa had whispered about damage from a cracked skull and had warned Quatre to watch Duo carefully for any mental abnormalities. Aside from the headaches, Quatre had yet to see any.

"Heero didn't specify a return date or a destination," Quatre said. "Sitting out here all day, waiting for him to return so that you can attack him, is very foolish in your condition, Duo. Besides, even if he did return now, you know that we need him, healthy and whole. Just as he couldn't kill you or leave you to die because of your worth, Duo, so too you can't harm him for the same reason."

Duo grimaced and hunkered into his chair sullenly. "You're right, but I don't have to like it." He stared out at the overgrown yard and the rocky hills beyond, the dirt road winding between them. "I just don't get him, Quatre. He's like a hunk of stone. He doesn't feel and he doesn't want to feel anything. A few times, I thought I cracked him, made him react, but then he just iced over and reverted. A person can't live like that Quatre. A person has to enjoy life sometimes or he screws himself so tight, he can't see the point any more. The passion dies, the passion that keeps us doing what we're doing. We all have a cause, a reason for fighting. It keeps us going when we all should have happily lay down and died long ago. What's Heero's story? He can't just do it because he was ordered to."

Quatre sighed, feeling sad, memories of his murdered father and sister prominent suddenly in his thoughts. Yes, Duo was right in that respect. He had a passionate need for revenge and a desperate need to see Earth and Outer Space at peace no matter what the cost to himself. Yet, Duo was wrong too. "Heero does have a cause. He wants peace."

"Does he? I don't think that, Quatre, and neither do you, so don't give me that crap as an explanation to make me less angry," Duo growled.

Quatre flushed uncomfortably. "All right, but the real reason won't please you either."

"Try me."

"Heero fights to be perfect," Quatre explained tersely, "to complete a mission as efficiently as possible, to be what he is to the exclusion of all else, even his humanity, so that he can know that he is the best. He doesn't have a past. He doesn't have a future. He only has a 'now' and now he wants to be perfectly himself."

Duo scowled and finished his drink. He put the empty glass aside on a table and glared at Quatre. "Yeah, that's what I figured. Guess beating the crap out of him would be as stupid as beating my fists against a rock. It just wouldn't matter to him."

"No, it wouldn't,' Quatre agreed. "You won't get an apology or the satisfaction of making Heero think differently about you."

Duo sat up in his chair, surprised and embarrassed. "Stop using that Space Heart thingy on me , Quatre. That's stealing, stealing my thoughts."

Quatre smiled, shaking his head. "I can't read your mind, Duo, but I am good at reading people emotionally. I can tell you are interested in Heero."

"Interested like a guy is interested in a train wreck," Duo corrected. He shrugged. "I guess he's a challenge. I want to see who's underneath all of that conditioning."

Quatre looked sad. "There might not BE anyone underneath, Duo."

"There is," Duo replied with a glint in his yes. "I've seen him."

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