by Kracken
Disclaimer: I don't own them and I don't make any money off them.
Warning: Male/male sex ahead. Language. Graphic. Violence. Bastard Heero and Wu Fei being a complete jerk!

The Lost Soldiers Series #5
Ties That Choke

Yates, Duo's new boss, looked the ex Gundam pilot up and down angrily. To him, it was obvious how Duo had landed such a choice job. Everyone knew that Zechs had an eye for a pretty ass, man or woman. Well, Yates thought, he'd show this little piece that he didn't stand for that crap when men's lives were at stake.

"You have five minutes to run through the simulated crash landing," the big, hairy man growled as he thumped his clipboard against his leg. His army sergeant expression and crew cut were calculated to intimidate.

Duo was astonished. "Five minutes? Do you want anyone to survive?"

The man chewed hard on an unlit cigar, moving it from one side of his mouth to the other before barking. "What kind of question is that?!"

Duo shrugged as he opened the simulator door. "You've heard of acceptable casualties, haven't you?"

Yates closed a hand around Duo's braid, bringing him up short. "In this outfit, there are no acceptable casualties, got that?"

Duo looked down at the man's hand, hairy fist closed on one of the most important things he owned, his hair. "Let go or I'll-"

"Are you threatening me?" Yates snarled.

Duo glared. He was much shorter and definitely much slighter than his boss, but there was an air about Duo, a steely determination and a glint in his eye that spoke of Shinigami; the killer. Yates found himself letting go and stepping back. He raised the clipboard as if he thought that he could defend himself with it.

"No casualties," Yates ordered. "One try. No second chances."

The man fully expected Duo to whine and to bring up Zech's name in his defense. Duo only shrugged again and stepped into the simulator.

Duo was now in a shuttle mock up coming in for a landing. He settled into a chair meant for a much bigger man. Looking like a child, he strapped himself in, as if it were a real flight, knowing that the simulator would give him just as much turbulence as one. He checked his instrument locations and then, without even mentally preparing, he hit the switch that started the scenario.

Jettison fuel so that the shuttle doesn't become a bomb, Duo thought quickly. Detach wings so that they don't catch and tear up the shuttle on the ground. Drop engines so that the shuttle will glide better. Deploy stabilizer stub wings for stability. Belly down beside the hard runway into softer dirt. Elapsed time; four minutes, fifty nine seconds.

Duo climbed out of the simulator and met the purple face of his boss. The man was stabbing a finger at the monitor. "Three hundred dead on the ground!" He shouted at the top of his voice, startling the other workers in the hanger. "You dropped your engines on an apartment complex, your wings into the terminal, and dumped your fuel on a city street where it caught fire! What possible justification can you give me for murdering those people?"

Duo narrowed his amethyst eyes. "You told me, ‘No acceptable casualties'. I assumed you meant in the shuttle. Run any simulation you like, you won't find another solution that will allow your passengers to survive. I was just the pilot," he added coldly. "You gave the orders. You told me five minutes. You murdered those people on the ground, not me."

"You are insane!" Yates exploded.

Duo laughed. Yates was dumbfounded, not having expected that reaction at all. "You're forgetting who you're talking to," Duo replied mockingly.

Yates threw his clipboard hard at Duo. The edge of it caught Duo in his still healing ribs. Duo winced, but he refused to show any other indication that he was hurt.

"You're grounded!" Yates snarled as he spun and strode angrily away, throwing over his shoulder, "Get used to the grease pits. That's the only place where you'll be working!"

"So much for second chances," Duo seethed at the retreating man's back and then carefully sat on the cement hanger floor. Hugging his ribs with both arms, Duo rode wave after wave of pain.

"Not a good first day, Maxwell?" a voice said nearby.

Duo looked up and saw the familiar face of Chang Wu Fei. Duo grimaced. "It's just gotten worse," he replied. "What are you doing here? Last I heard, you had a cushy job with Relena Peacecraft managing her security details."

"That hasn't changed." Wu Fei gave Duo an arrogant, assessing, once over. "Looks like you haven't changed either. You're still a waste."

"Still such a ‘people person', aren't you Wufei?" Duo retorted with a grin, teeth gritted in pain and anger.

"Have some pride," Wu Fei growled, looking quickly about them as if he was afraid that Duo's behavior would make him look bad. "Get off of the damned floor and face me like a man when you insult me!"

Duo slowly rose to his feet, arms still wrapped around his middle, his plastered on smile never faltering. "I have stuff to do, Wufei," he replied tightly. "Unless you want to have a few drinks and talk about old times-"

Wu Fei snorted derisively, "With you? The worst Gundam pilot? The fool who soiled our reputation? We are heroes, Maxwell. Our part in the war is honored. You make a mockery of that; the pilot who works menial jobs, the pilot who insulted heads of state at our awards ceremony, the pilot who was so weak he was forced to seek mental help-"

Duo went white, shocked to his core. "Who told you that? Who told you I was seeing a doctor?"

Wu Fei sneered. "It was in the news, Maxwell. Did you really think that bit of information wouldn't be picked up by the people who wish to discredit the war and all those who took part in it?"

"Relena, you mean?" Duo snapped back, feeling a hot, molten flush of anger seethe through every vein.

"Mustn't glorify war," Wu Fei said without replying to that charge. " Mustn't have war heroes. You gave them perfect ammunition."

Duo felt a pit open up inside of himself and he felt ready to fall in. Everyone knew that he had seen a psychologist? Everyone was talking about it, laughing at him, maybe? Duo blamed the doctor. He knew that Quatre would never betray his trust, gentle kindness and morals aside, Quatre knew better than to piss off another Gundam pilot, another killer.

"You look awful, Maxwell, "Wu Fei said, breaking into his thoughts. The dark haired, young man slitted black eyes at Duo. "You look at the end of your rope. Why don't you do everyone a favor and hang yourself with it?"

He turned abruptly and walked away, returning to the business he had been attending to before he had met up with Duo. Duo glared after him and then slowly limped out of the hanger. Going to the dorm of one room apartments where the crew lived, where he was now living at the moment, he began to wonder what Heero was doing.

+

Zechs stared at the clipboard and then glared at the big man before him. "Yates, I want everyone to assemble here at the simulator, now."

Yates chewed nervously on his cigar. "Yes, sir," he replied and then began shouting for his men. As they began to come from all areas of the hanger to gather around him and Zechs, he angrily began to wonder what exactly the long haired whore had said to Zechs.

Zechs faced the crowd. "Yates has kindly volunteered to show you his new simulation and his skill at piloting it."

"Sir?" Yates started. "If this is about that Gundam pilot, I assure you, anything he said-"

Zechs eyes became like cold, blue, ice chips. Yates closed his mouth. "I haven't spoken with him," Zechs informed him. "I came to see your evaluations of All new recruits." He glanced briefly at the clipboard. "I can see that you used the standard simulation for all of the new recruits, except for Maxwell. If you've instituted a new simulation, I want to assure myself that it is up to my standards. A demonstration is in order, I'm sure you agree?"

"Yes, sir," was all that Yates could say.

"Very good then." Zechs smiled and it wasn't a pleasant smile. It was as sharp as glass. "You have five minutes, Yates."

"Sir?!"

Zechs frowned, playing confusion. "Isn't that the time you gave Maxwell?"

"Yes, sir, but-"

"Five minutes, Yates."

Yates' shoulders slumped. He pocketed his cigar and climbed into the simulator, knowing exactly what was going to happen and preparing himself for humiliation.

Six minutes later, Yates climbed out and faced the crowd. They were shocked, having watched him completely destroy the shuttle and everyone on board on a monitor. Yates said nothing, knowing his sentence before Zechs spoke, and wincing when he realized that Zechs was going to make it even more humiliating for him.

As if he were giving a lecture to a classroom, Zechs asked, "Who can tell me who was at fault in this crash?"

Calls of ‘Yates' peppered the crowd. Zechs waited, ignoring them. Finally, a middle aged mechanic said as he wiped grease off of his hands, "The mechanic who should have checked the engines before take off."

Zechs raised eyebrows. "Partly," he said.

"You sir," Another, younger voice said at his elbow.

Zechs looked at a tall, well built man in his late twenties. He had a shock of white blonde hair and dark green eyes. His uniform was a pilots. Zechs didn't make it easy for him. "My fault?"

"You gave the order for a five minute landing." The man replied without hesitation. "That Gundam pilot said the same thing to Yates. It's the truth. It's your fault that the shuttle crashed."

Zechs watched the young man's eyes. They didn't waver. Zechs nodded finally. "Excellent, but what possible landing could have saved both shuttle, passengers, and civilians on the ground, even if more time had been allotted?"

Another young man looked at the screen and the mock up scenery. He pointed to a farmer's field that was longer than the runway. "There sir. It could have landed there without any trouble. Plowed dirt is softer than hard packed runway dirt. Engine, wings, and fuel could have been jettisoned safely without ground casualties."

Zechs nodded, almost agreeing, but he waited for the blonde to speak. He could sense him itching for his turn. He broke in hard on the heels of the last man. "Space, sir," he said to Zechs. He motioned to the monitor. "Thrusters are still online. The shuttle could have been piloted into space to await rescue. Need for a crash would have been eliminated."

Zechs found a genuine smile. "Excellent. What's your name, pilot?"

"Riley, sir, Peter Riley."

"Peter Riley," Zechs repeated. "You are now in charge here. Yates," he didn't look at the man, "You are dismissed. Collect your belongings and leave. I don't tolerate a man who uses his position to carry out personal vendettas." He looked around at the others. "Thank you gentlemen, ladies. You are dismissed."

The crowd broke up, talking excitedly. Yates walked away in a daze.

Zechs cued up Duo's simulation on the monitor and motioned Riley to watch it with him. The scene was brutal, wild, and ... Zechs sighed as he turned to Riley. "Evaluation?" he demanded. It was another test. The man surely knew Duo had been there on his, Zech's recommendation. Would he give an honest opinion?

Riley swallowed, but he stepped up to the plate and told the truth. "His piloting skills are phenomenal, sir. In a battle, I would definitely want him fighting beside me. In a civilian situation though, he is clearly unstable, sir. He killed three hundred people in the simulation to carry out his orders to the letter, without question, and, I clearly saw, that he showed no remorse or willingness to consider another alternative. He should have known, just as I had, that taking the shuttle into space would have been the better solution. Instead, he chose to follow orders. I recommend that he be grounded, sir."

Zechs turned off the monitor and said the only thing he could, putting safety and other men's lives before his personal feelings; his desire to give Duo some reason for staying and being available to him, "I agree with your recommendation. I'll inform him myself."

+

Duo felt chill fingers running up his spine. He lay on his back on his hard bed and stared up at the ceiling as he talked to the vid phone. The image was off, but that didn't comfort Duo. It seemed more disturbing somehow to hear Heero's voice come out of the blackness.

"I know the way you think, Heero," Duo said nervously, twisting the end of his braid around and around in his hands. "You probably thought that you were being perfectly reasonable when you tried to-"

"I was," Heero replied, cool and sharp. "It was a logical solution to both of our problems."

Duo frowned. "I didn't have a problem, Heero."

Heero begged to differ. "We are both males in need of constant sexual release. The arrangement I proposed would have allowed for us to discharge that need and continue to concentrate on our work."

Duo wanted to grab the vid screen and hurl it at the wall. He clenched his hands on his braid and said, "That makes perfect sense to you, I can tell. The way you were raised, maybe you can't think of it any other way. What I want to know is, why you didn't stop... I was begging you, Heero." Duo began to shiver, the memory of it washing over him; Heero pinning him down, his hands on his ass, the spit, and the sure knowledge that Heero had been about to thrust himself into him.

"I've often encountered reluctance among inexperienced sexual partners," Heero replied. "I concluded that you were experiencing the same reluctance due to your confusion about your sexual orientation."

Duo bristled, "Dammit, Heero! I'm not a homosexual!"

"That statement is contrary to all of my information and observation," Heero replied. He paused and then said something that made the hairs on the back of Duo's neck stand up. For a moment, he didn't sound like Heero Yuy. His voice was too stiff, too contrived, uneasy with stating his next words. "If my proposed arrangement is unacceptable, then we will return to our previous arrangement. I will not ask for sexual relations with you again."

"No hard feelings, you mean?" Duo translated bitterly. "I can come back to the apartment?"

"Yes."

Duo let Heero wait. He stared at the four, plain walls of his apartment, at the very minimal kitchenette, at the table and chairs of metal, and at the bare, cold floor. He thought of working as a mechanic, greasing parts and doing basic maintenance. It wasn't a bad job and it paid well. There wasn't any shame in it, despite what Wu Fei had said, yet Duo couldn't help a sting of pride, remembering what he had been, Gundam pilot and hero. That pride wanted Duo to throw aside job and cell like apartment, even if it meant returning to Heero. It was a strong temptation to fall back into the old pattern and self destruct rather than be anything less than what he had been during the war.

But, what had he been living with Heero or even Quatre? Needy, dependent, and irresponsible to himself and everyone around him. In a hotel room a few days before, Zechs had shown him the inevitable end of that behavior, a self loathing so acute that he could only find one solution to cure it.

"Hey, Heero," Duo said at last.

"Hn?"

"Can you send my stuff to me? I think I'll be hanging out on my own for awhile," Duo told him, trying to sound confident, trying not to cut his ties all together. "Keep the door unlocked, though. I might need to come back if things don't work out, k?"

Heero's voice replied without change of emotion, "Of course. Give me your address."

Duo rattled it off and felt relief. Heero was sounding... odd, but not angry. "Great! Uh, Heero?"

"Yes?"

"Sorry about, ya know, hitting you below the belt and all."

Heero paused as if he had forgotten about it and then he replied matter- of -factly. "It was a good defense. Very effective."

"Uh, okay. Thanks Heero."

The vid phone clicked off without a goodbye from Heero. Duo lay in the silence and suddenly thought about the things he had just said to Heero. His stomach churned on bile. He- He had apologized for fighting Heero to keep the man from raping him! Why- Duo sat up and put his head in his hands. His temple throbbed. Why had he done that? He wondered. Was securing a tried and true safe place for himself so important that he would forgive Heero anything?

Again Duo remembered Heero's weight on him, his hands, that wet spit running down the crack of his ass, warm and threatening worse to come. Duo sprang up from the bed, ignoring his protesting ribs and bruises. He had to get away! It was unreasoning that impulse. What was he getting away from? It was done, over, the perpetrator half a city away. Still, Duo went to the door of his apartment and jerked it open, everything inside of him urging him to get away, run from the memory of what Heero had tried to do to him.

"Asshole!" Duo cursed at himself, remembering how weak and helpless he had been. "Worthless! Useless! Waste of Space! Wu Fei was right! Maybe I should just find a rope!" he shouted in self loathing at himself as he rushed through the door.

Duo ran straight into a broad chest, face burying into a long fall of white, silky hair. He smelled a man scent, heady and rich, and a cologne scent, faint and wonderful. It made his heart race, his face flush, and some inexplicable part of him deep down, respond in a way he had never felt before.

Confused, Duo recoiled, stumbling a little against the door frame. He blinked stupidly at Zechs. The man looked almost sad, regretful. Uh-oh, Duo thought, more bad news, but it was at least news he had known was coming.

"Let me guess," Duo bit out. "I didn't make the grade."

"No," Zechs replied.

"Guess I'll be leaving then," Duo snapped and hunched in on himself, feeling suddenly cold; depression flexing claws, readying them to pull Duo down into its depths. Suddenly, that emotional pain turned into a purely physical one. Duo gasped in surprise as his lungs suddenly felt full of liquid fire. He choked and then bent over, heaving and coughing. Something came out and splattered on the ground between himself and Zechs. It was blood.

Zechs stared down in shock and then he looked up at Duo. Blue eyes battled amethyst ones, wills clashing, males instinctively trying to position themselves as dominate. It seemed to last for ever, but only seconds passed before Duo sighed and slumped. Zechs caught him under the arms. Zechs had won the battle and now he gave his first order. "You're not going anywhere."

[part 4] [part 6] [back to Kracken's fic]