by Kracken
Disclaimer: I don't own them and I don't make any money off of them.
Warning: Violence. Graphic. Language. Sex between two men. Abuse. Really bastard Heero. Angst.

The Lost Soldiers series #4
Devil May Care

"I still recommend a hospital," the doctor said as he packed up his bag and began to leave. "But, since you still refuse that advice, I've started an I.V. to rehydrate him and I've added antibiotics. I don't see any drug scars on the boy. His urinalysis came up negative for enhancers, but it seems he was taking antidepressants not too long ago at very high levels. The physical abuse is bad enough, but, luckily, there wasn't any sign of anal tears, indicating rape, or internal bleeding. His ribs are still healing fine and a leg injury is only minor. He is beginning to have a fever and he does show signs of borderline starvation and acute stress. Those factors could push him over the edge into critical, so it is very important that he be monitored constantly." He eyed Zechs accusingly. "I still don't see why a cot can't be brought into this room to allow me to stay with him and make sure his vitals stay stable."

Zechs felt respect for the doctor's commitment to his patient, but he needed time alone with Duo and he didn't want the man used to being underfoot at all times. It was better that he be regulated to a room adjacent to Duo's . On call, but not an annoyance to Zechs plans.

"He's a trained Gundam pilot," Zechs finally admitted, knowing what would convince the man the easiest. "He was trained from a very early age to kill people, Doctor. I wouldn't want him to accidentally mistake you for an enemy. Unconscious, he is harmless, but he may begin to wake soon. I insist on being in the room when you treat him from now on. It is the safest arrangement. Only a trained soldier can hope to combat another trained soldier."

The doctor looked at the pale boy under the heavy covers of the bed, tubes running up to bags on metal hangers and tangled hair splayed all around him. He looked harmless, a child, but there was something about his hands, the doctor thought, small, long fingered, but hard and nicked with white scars. They were corded and worn, like the hands of someone twice his age. Those hands had piloted a Gundam and had killed men in the war. Resting and relaxed, they still looked deadly. The doctor swallowed hard and nodded.

"It may be inconvenient for you, sir," he replied. "I may have to visit him many times tonight, but, if you still insist... I will be grateful for your assistance."

Zechs nodded quietly and closed the door behind the doctor as he left. Locking it, he turned back to Duo and approached the bed with slow, measured steps. He could take his time now. All distractions and barriers were gone. Duo was his.

Even worn to the bone, the boy had a luminescent beauty, Zechs thought as he reached the bedside and simply looked down into Duo's face. The boy opened his mouth a little and Zech's saw surprisingly white, even teeth, and a delicate, moist, pink tongue. It made his crotch tighten, imagining that mouth doing wonders on his manhood.

"Mine," Zechs whispered and rubbed at the front of his pants. "Mine, now, however I want you. You owe me."

Zechs took hold of the blankets and slid them down Duo's body, revealing slowly and sensually, his other, beautiful attributes. Even the tubes in his arms, the bruises, the cuts and scrapes, didn't detract from Duo's perfect form. He was built like a dancer, all corded muscle wrapped in silky skin. Zechs could imagine him writhing underneath him in fierce passion, clawing and biting, being hot and vibrant, not like the venal, insipid creature he had bedded much earlier that night. No, Duo was fire, not milk and thin blood. He didn't look like the type to lay quietly and take whatever someone gave him. He would give as much as he was given, and then some.

Caught up in the fantasy, and beginning to loosen his belt in preparation for the conquest, Zechs didn't notice the change in Duo at first. It wasn't until he was caressing his own manhood, standing tall and eager, and reaching a hand to Duo's smooth belly, that he felt the shivering and the blistering heat of Duo's skin. The boy groaned at the touch and his skin flinched like a skittish colt.

"Heero!" Duo sobbed.

Zechs straightened as if he had been struck. He stared, wide eyed, as Duo half opened his eyes in delirium and then began to struggle. "No, Heero! Don't! Please don't do that! I'll do anything else, just don't rape me! Don't! God, Heero! Stop! Please Stop!" He was sobbing wildly now and beginning to pull at the tubes in his arms, panicking.

Zechs yanked up his pants and leaned over to restrain Duo. The boy went wild then, eyes flying open wide, but blind, caught in a nightmare or a memory. A tube came loose with a spray of blood that splattered Zechs in the face. He flinched, but held on. There was a pounding on the door. The doctor's voice demanded entrance. He had heard the cries from his room next door.

This had to stop, now, Zechs thought, and backhanded Duo hard. The sound was loud even over Duo's cries. Duo's head snapped sharply to one side and then it was rolling back, eyes aware now and narrowed with fury.

"Get off me!" Duo snarled in a weak, hoarse voice. "Where the Hell am I and what the fuck are you trying to do to me?"

"You are at my home," Zechs snarled back, "and I am attempting to save your life. You are very ill. If you will calm down, I will let the physician in to take care of you!"

Duo was shaking and distrustful. It took a long moment of staring into Zechs' blood splattered face, and trying to think with his fevered mind, before he stopped his struggles and lay limply. Zechs didn't trust that. He released Duo and backed up sharply, putting space between himself and a young man trained to kill with his body.

Duo suddenly smiled, a manic grin below glittering, fevered eyes. "Yeah," he said. "Let the doctor in and then explain to me why you're in here and he's out there behind a locked door. The explanation better be a good one too, or I'll show you what I can do even when I'm shitfaced sick."

Zechs gave him a hard look as he walked towards the door. "Like you showed Heero Yuy? Is that why you ended up on my doorstep wearing practically nothing and freezing to death?"

Duo bristled even though he was turning very pale and his eyes were becoming glassy. "I -I had stuff... I was robbed... and yeah, I kicked Heero's ass, but that's my business, not yours!"

Zechs stopped, ignoring the pounding on the door. He narrowed his eyes at Duo and Duo went quiet and nervous. "Do you think you're OWED my help?"

Duo didn't reply, but his hands were knotting in his blankets.

Zechsanswered his own question with measured intensity. "I will ask for repayment, Duo Maxwell, even if it may be only an acknowledgement of my generosity on your part... a thank you, perhaps, and dare I ask it, some trust?"

Duo closed his eyes and tossed his head, fighting the fevered delirium. "Trust?" he croaked, "I'm through trusting people. I knew better than to do that on L2. I shouldn't have forgotten the lessons I learned growing up there. People there either wanted something from you or they wanted to do you. Seems the Earth... isn't... any... different." His last words trailed off and he was suddenly unconscious, muscles going limp. He looked like an abused and weary child.

Zechs felt something... respect, maybe, that such spirit and will could make such a thin and beaten body so powerful and alive when Duo was awake. Guilt nibbled at the corners of Zech's mind, followed by doubt. He tried to ignore those feelings, opening the door and turning his thoughts to the alarmed and red faced doctor.

"Sir?!" The man exclaimed as he looked wildly about. "What happened? I heard shouts! The door was locked! I was about to call the staff to help me break it down. Why didn't you answer my calls, sir?"

Zechs pushed his long hair out of his face in a weary fashion. "Maxwell became delirious. I had to hold him down to keep him from hurting himself. Forgive me for locking the door. It's on old soldier's habit. I had intended to stay and keep watch on Maxwell myself, to allow you to rest. I never imagined that he would take such a quick turn for the worse."

They both approached the bed. The doctor examined Duo anxiously and then looked very concerned. "Fever," he said. "We were too late administering the antibiotics."

"You can treat him?" Zechs asked.

"Yes," the doctor replied. "It's a complication I was preparing for."

"Excellent," Zechs approved and then frowned as he added, "Maxwell said some shocking things while he was struggling."

The doctor was reattaching the I.V. lines and taping them in place. He only glanced at Zechs briefly, intent on his work. "If he was delirious, you shouldn't put too much trust in the validity of anything he said, sir."

"Still," Zechs replied. "I think you should check him for signs of rape again."

The doctor raised eyebrows as he began wiping away the blood with alcohol swabs. "Is that what he spoke about? Rape?"

"Yes."

The doctor nodded and began taking out specimen collectors. "I'll do a DNA scan then and look for intestinal damage. I didn't see any blood in my first exam, but there wouldn't be if the perpetrator was careful."

Zechs jaw tightened. "Make certain you sedate Maxwell heavily before you start. We wouldn't want him waking up during that kind of re examination and breaking your neck, Doctor."

The doctor went pale, stammering, "Y-Yes, sir, I mean, no, sir, I certainly wouldn't."

Zechs turned away as the doctor lowered the blankets on Duo and injected him with a strong sedative. He didn't watch the exam or the sample gathering. He waited until the doctor had finished, tucking Duo back into bed comfortably, and then appearing at Zechs' elbow.

"I didn't see any intestinal damage or blood," the doctor reported quietly. "I'll send my samples to the lab in the morning and have them screened for semen DNA. If the young man was raped, we'll know by whom by early afternoon."

Zechs nodded and went through the motions of thanking the doctor and convincing the man to leave once again. "You need your rest," Zechs insisted. "I've done field surgery. I know something about caring for sick men. I think you sedated Maxwell so well, he probably won't be waking up until your lab results arrive tomorrow, anyway."

"Yes, sir," the doctor agreed as Zechs began to close the door on him. "Please, leave the door unlocked this time, sir?"

"Of course," Zechs agreed. He closed the door and listened until he heard the man return to his own room. Then, Zechs locked the door despite promise not to. No more interruptions, Zechs thought as he returned to Duo's bed.

The boy was very pale now, the sweat of fever on his brow. Zechs felt that smooth skin and felt the heat. Brushing the damp bangs out of Duo's eyes, Zechs couldn't stop the sick images from entering his mind of Heero Yuy, pinning that young man down and doing his worst, wringing shrieks out of Duo, a proud, strong ex Gundam pilot. Duo had escaped, unviolated hopefully, yet certainly not without some revenge on Heero Yuy. Duo had left almost everything behind, been robbed of what little he had managed to take with him, and then had made his way through cold and rain to Zechs doorway. Zechs remembered his pride, his strength, and his calculated manipulation of Zechs and his staff to secure himself a place out of the weather.

Zechs dropped his hand and took a step back. An L2 criminal, a nobody, a shallow, irresponsible, waste of space. Zechs had justified his own actions with those images of Duo. What did it matter to street trash if a prince decided to pick him up out of the gutter and show him some favor? A person like that should be grateful, eager to ...

Zechs turned away from the bed. He felt the darkness gathering at the edges of sight, threatening him, holding up a putrid picture of himself, no better than Heero Yuy; a rapist. Madness, Zechs thought as he unlocked the door and left the room. He was mad to have considered crushing the bright flame of Duo Maxwell under his lust and need to keep away the depression. The mental image that depression gleefully showed Zechs couldn't be avoided no matter which way he turned. He could clearly see the monster in him, slowly taking over, a monster who had thought nothing of using men as diversions. Had he really considered raping Duo for a diversion?

Zechs groaned and clawed at his handsome face, scratching his skin and mingling his blood with the blood of Duo still there. Giving orders to the alarmed staff to give Duo all he wanted and to allow the doctor access to whatever he needed, Zechs packed a bag and left his home, searching for a place to buy strong drink and a hotel room to drown himself in.

+

"He was here. He left," Heero said as he typed up a report. The vid phone was to his right, Quatre's worried face a blur on the edge of Heero's sight.

"Again?" Quatre sighed. "Was he taking his medication or seeing another doctor?"

"He didn't confide in me any information," Heero replied. "Medication? Explain?"

"Uhm, well, I guess I can discuss it with you, you are his best friend," Quatre said nervously.

"Hn," Heero grunted.

"He was having a problem with depression," Quatre explained. "I told him I wouldn't help him unless he sought professional help. His medication was for the depression."

"Hn," Heero stopped typing and brought up a profile of Duo Maxwell. He began adding the new information to it.

"I'm worried about him, Heero. The doctor said that he was sounding suicidal."

"He was not suicidal when he arrived here," Heero told him and saw some relief on Quatre's face. "But we had a disagreement and I am not certain of his state of mind at this time." Quatre tensed again.

"What did you argue about?" Quatre wondered and then tried to answer his own question. "I suppose he lost another job?"

"No," Heero replied. "I wished to set up a new arrangement between us and he strongly resisted. His reaction puzzled me until you informed me of his mental state."

"What arrangement?" Quatre asked.

Heero paused, not out of guilt or embarrassment, but out of an ingrained reluctance to let anyone know so much about him. He still considered it a compromise of his safety and position. Enemies as well as friends could make use of such information and Heero knew that he had many enemies from the war.

Quatre filled the silence suddenly with an apology. "Uh, that's okay, Heero. I know you've been under a lot of stress. I can imagine that even a simple request for Duo to do the dishes would have seemed intolerable to him."

"Hn," Heero replied as he began typing more information into Duo's file.

"You're a good friend to Duo, Heero," Quatre finished by saying. "He's lucky he has you to take care of him, at least when he lets you. If you see him again..."

"My arrangement to him is still available," Heero replied. "He may live here again if he chooses."

Quatre nodded and smiled in relief. "That's good, Heero. I hope he comes to his senses... well, he always does in the end, doesn't he? At least for a little while. Take care Heero and tell Duo my offer of treatment still stands as well."

"Acknowledged," Heero replied. "Goodbye, Quatre. I have reports to finish."

"Of course," Quatre said with a small chuckle. "I will wish that your dedication to your work , and your complete integration into civilian society, graces Duo someday as well. Goodbye, Heero."

The vid screen went blank and Heero closed it. He glared at Duo's profile. Where was the braided baka? The apartment was as chill as ice and empty without him. Heero was finding it hard to function efficiently. His nights were becoming sleepless, listening to the silence and feeling that emptiness creeping up on him to swallow his control whole.

Heero stood and gave the apartment a severe look. He didn't understand why the loss of Duo bothered him so much. He had spent his life alone, unloved, untouched, his inner being wrapped up in training and missions. His fingers closed as if longing to feel those hard muscles and silky flesh underneath him again.

Pinning Duo to the couch, feeling him struggle and call his name... it had validated Heero's existence somehow in a way the women in his life never had. Duo SAW him, reacted to him, and maybe feared him, but it was better than the inane chatter of females who only wanted him for his position and the men sycophants who sought out his company for the same. Only Duo looked at him and saw Heero Yuy for who he was, flesh and blood and sometimes friend. He had the magic to make the perfect soldier feel alive. Heero had to have that back. Duo had to be found.

Heero sat at his computer, hooked up to the Internet, and began to search and hack through files, a shark slicing through the waters of technology and bypassing civilians bathing in it's power, unaware of their danger. He patrolled for a drop of scent, a drop of blood in an ocean, Duo's blood, Duo's scent. It as there, somewhere....

+

"Nothing keeps me down for long," Duo told the doctor as he put on his boots. "I've always healed fast, but I think the doctor who trained me modified me in some way to heal even faster."

The Doctor watched Duo, who had been borderline critical two nights ago, stand and stretch and look, except for a slight wince in acknowledgement of some unhealed wounds, as if he had never been ill. He had lazed in bed, read newspapers and magazines, eaten an incredible amount of food, and talked non stop to anyone who would listen. The doctor had found the ex Gundam pilot to be funny and very pleasant, not at all put out by his confinement or illness.

"Still, you should rest and avoid a relapse," the Doctor told him. "Milliardo Peacecraft has given orders that you are his guest and to be treated accordingly."

Duo frowned as he flipped his long, thick braid over his shoulder. He ran a hand down the black pants he wore and touched the lapel of his long, black coat. It had a very thick, black fur lining and warm gloves in a pocket. All gifts from Zechs. It left a sour taste in Duo's mouth. He had a hazy memory of waking up in a panic, Zechs leaning over him, and someone... the doctor trying to get into the locked room. The doctor had been confused on the details, unable to explain. Duo, still raw from Heero's abuse, felt an unhealthy paranoia concerning the white haired aristocrat. It was better to deal with the situation and maybe get an explanation from the safety of his own place, or the place he intended to have if he still had his job at the tile factory.

"I think I've imposed long enough," Duo replied at last. He grinned at the doctor and the doctor found it infectious. "Thanks for taking such good care of me, Doc. You sort of revived my faith in the medical profession."

The doctor clapped Duo on the back good naturedly, "I'm glad to hear it. If you need my services, please call." He paused and then added seriously. "If you need more antidepressants, I can fill a prescription for you."

Duo's smile faltered, but then it gained strength as he realized that the doctor had found out, somehow, and was asking only out of concern. "Ah, no thanks, Doc," Duo replied as he went out the door. "They didn't help me much. See ya around!"

Duo made his way downstairs, whistling a happy tune and ignoring the aches, the pains, and the fatigue from fighting his brief illness. A servant approached at once. "Mr. Maxwell," the servant greeted him.

Duo grinned. "Henry! What's up?"

The man smiled, but he looked disappointed as well. "I take it that you are leaving us, sir?"

Duo nodded. "Time to leave the lap of luxury and stop sponging off of old Zechs."

Henry chuckled. "It was a pleasure hosting you, sir. I'm certain, Prince Milliardo would not mind in the slightest if you were to remain a while longer."

Duo grimaced and scratched his head as he said apologetically. "Yeah, well, I wanna take advantage of that, but... something happened that made me realize how important independence is. I need to get some of that." Henry looked worried so Duo disarmed him with another smile. "Never mind, Henry. I just need to thank Milliardo and then I'll be on my way. Where can I find him?"

Henry looked uncomfortable. "Well, sir, it isn't really my place to say. He didn't give orders to that effect. I will say that he isn't in residence at the moment, hasn't been actually, since the night you took so ill."

Duo blinked, surprised. Again he remembered Zechs' face above him, looking at him with intensity. Disturbed and not certain what to think, Duo asked again, "Come on, Henry! Me and Zechs go way back!" The man quirked an eyebrow at the lithe youth in front of him, speaking as if he were a grizzled war veteran instead of someone barely legal enough to drink. "He'll want to know where I'm going. He'll want to talk to me. I have to thank him. You can understand that, can't you?"

Henry thought it over and then he nodded. "He did say that you were to be given anything you asked for."

"Then I'm asking," Duo laughed.

+

Zechs finished the last bottle of whiskey and tossed it aside. It thumped and rolled on the lush white carpet of the hotel room, leaving spots in its wake. This was his third day of being drunk and still he couldn't avoid self knowledge. It ate at him like acid, carving wounds in his mind that he didn't think would ever heal.

The depression covered him like a dark cloak or a dear friend; a false friend, a friend who wanted his destruction. No more distractions, Zechs thought, and the drink was powerless against it this time. The depression was consuming him. What would happen when it consumed him utterly? Zechs was too much of a coward to find out.

Meticulously cleaned gun, metallic with silver fittings. A wealthy man's toy. A soldier's lifesaver. This time, Zechs thought bitterly as he took it from its shoulder holster hanging over a chair back, it was going to be his executioner. It was time he stopped avoiding his punishment.

Zechs strode to the center of the room. He stood dramatically at attention and raised to gun to his temple. "Milliardo Peacecraft, for your crimes against Earth and Outer Space, I do hereby sentence you to d-"

"Could you hold up the execution for a moment, Zechs?"

Zechs flinched and turned. Duo Maxwell was standing inside his bedroom, watching him with serious, amethyst eyes and a strained smile on his lips. Zechs blinked, thinking it was some sort of alcohol hallucination, but the slim figure of the ex Gundam pilot came closer and seemed very solid.

"What-?" Zechs didn't lower the gun. "How did you get in here? I locked the door."

Duo flicked open his hand for a moment. In it were lock picks. He pocketed them and then cocked his head curiously at Zechs, "I don't want to get blood all over me and brain bits. Do you mind waiting until I say what I came to say? I'll say it quick and then leave you to uh, your weird kind of fun, I guess."

Zechs lowered the gun, staring, not able to comprehend that Duo was standing in his bedroom having a nonchalant conversation with him, as if what Zechs had been about to do was perfectly normal and acceptable.

"Ah, good," Duo said and grinned engagingly. "I ah, just came to say thanks for the hospitality. Everyone was great to me."

"You are most welcome," Zechs replied numbly, automatically polite. "Feel free to call again. The doors of the Peacecraft home are always open to you."

Duo shook his head with a frown. "Well, they won't be after you, uh, execute yourself."

Zechs blinked and then sluggishly thought that over. "I suppose you are right. I am sorry."

Duo chuckled. "You are, aren't you? You're such a polite man, Zechs. You're even politely executing yourself, not bothering anyone, except maybe the maid who has to clean it all up."

"There are certain responsibilities that one must take on oneself," Zechs replied. "Now, If you'll excuse me, I really must attend to business. I thank you for your courtesy in acknowledging my hospitality."

"Well," Duo replied, scratching his head thoughtfully. "I remember you said something about being grateful and how it wasn't owed to me. It made me think. Maybe I've been expecting help from too many people for too long. I'm going to try to make it on my own for awhile."

Zechs stared at the beautiful face, confident eyes, and determined mouth of Duo Maxwell. He felt longing and regret. If things had been different, if he had taken the time to befriend Duo, if he had not fallen under the dark hands of depression, If he had not tried to take from Duo... as if it were owed him, something might have developed. He could feel a definite attraction to the young man and it wasn't all lust.

"Well," Duo said as he turned for the door. "Thanks again.... oh, ya know, if you're executing yourself because you tried to blow up everyone on the Earth, I personally would rather you stayed alive and suffered guilt for the rest of your life. A bullet to the head is too quick. Just a thought."

Zechs felt a chill of shock at Duo's calm, matter of fact words. It brought home, brutally, the realization of who he was talking to, a young man who had seen more death, more atrocities, and more battle than Zechs had seen in his entire career. That he continued to grin and contemplate growing up and becoming independent despite it... Zechs felt suddenly very weak and cowardly. He had been going to take the easy way out and it had taken Duo to point it out to him.

"Where will you go?" Zechs wondered in a small, ashamed voice.

Duo shrugged, pausing at the doorway and rolling eyes in thought. "I don't know. I don't have anything... maybe," he hesitated and Zechs heard a definite edge of apprehension to his voice. "Maybe I can have Heero send me my stuff. Probably not though. He was... well, he'll still be pretty mad, though we've punched each other's lights out before. I guess I'm broke until my next paycheck. I'll have to use my charm to get some landlord to rent to me on I.O.U.s."

"What job do you have?"

Duo looked wary and then shrugged. "Tile making."

"Do you enjoy it?"

Duo scowled. "Of course not! I'm a pilot!"

Zechs licked dry lips and then said, hopefully, "I have many positions on my staff. I'm certain I can find you some piloting work. I have eight transport vehicles, two jets, and a shuttle. You won't be coddled, of course, you will have to show skill and dedication and you will be under the complete direction of the heads of those areas. Room and board comes with all positions on my staff."

Duo looked wary. He had his pride and he didn't trust a man who's motives were a mystery to him. It was plain that he was about to refuse, despite a glitter of eagerness in his eyes at the opportunity to pilot again.

Zechs caressed his gun and then reholstered it. "You're wondering why. We have distinct problems because of who we are. No one cares. No one wants to help. No one wants to be bothered by ex soldiers who can't forget the spilled blood and who don't know any other way than war. They have their peace. They don't want to be reminded of how much it cost. We have to help each other, because they won't help us. Let me make a place for you that you can accept and function in. I can't bring you peace or make you forget your devils and nightmares. I have too many of them myself, but I can make life a little better for you. After the sacrifices you made for Earth and the colonies, you are OWED that much."

"Stay of execution then?" Duo wondered with narrowed eyes, still considering. "None of that is going to happen unless you're around to give the orders."

"Stay of execution," Zechs agreed and found a sickly smile. "Agreed, then?"

Duo broke into a grin. "Agreed."

[part 3] [part 5] [back to Kracken's fic]