by Kracken
Disclaimer: I don't own them and I don't make any money off of this.
Warnings: Guy/ Guy sex, eventually, I just don't know when. *smirk*. Violence. Language. Graphic. Angst.

The Lost Soldiers Series #6
Dark Divides

Pleasant numbness. Duo was happy to let himself drift in it, only slightly aware of people moving around him, bright lights, cold instruments, pricking needles, and a warm voice that constantly told him to lie still and allow whatever was going to happen to happen. Something deep down inside of Duo, where the drugs couldn't reach, bristled and whispered warnings, but that's all they were, whispers. Duo was too far gone in a drug haze to do much more than listen.

‘I can't open my eyes', was Duo's first coherent thought in what seemed like forever. He struggled mentally, feeling the bite of panic, memory returning in jumps and starts.

Blood on the floor. That image sent Duo's heart racing. Adrenalin gave him strength and allowed his eyes to open at last. He blinked. Blinked again. His amethyst eyes were dry, stinging with it. They didn't want to clear for a moment, but, when they eventually did, Duo found himself staring up at an ornate ceiling, white plaster with a sunburst design of flowers painted at the center. Duo recognized it.

"I guess I can assume that Zechs is my host again?" Duo hoarsely said to the ceiling.

A voice replied, "Yes, sir."

Duo turned his head. His neck was stiff. It was actually painful. He grinned at the servant sitting in a chair by the bed, a paperback novel lax in his hands. "Pretty soon, you'll have to put up a sign on the door that says, Duo's room."

The man looked disapproving. Duo could see thoughts running behind his eyes, none of them flattering. "Yes, sir," he replied noncommittally and then stood, unfolding a tall, anemic looking form, in a starched uniform, as if rigamortis had set in. "I'll inform Prince Peacecraft that his guest has awakened. Is there anything you require, sir, before I go?"

Duo blinked, trying to think, trying to understand the expression the man was giving him. "Uh, I'll probably have to pee," he said and was surprised how weak his voice was. "Other than that-"

The servant paled even more and pointed to a door not far away. "The facilities are there sir, or, if you find the distance too daunting, there is a urinal by the foot of the bed." His next question was said as if it were forced from him only by a strong determination to do his duty. "If you need assistance..."

Duo almost said that he did, just for the hell of it and to make the man squirm, but embarrassment at what that request would entail stopped him. "I can manage," Duo replied. "I'm a big boy." The man turned to go with definite relief, but Duo wouldn't let him go that easily. "Hey! Before you go, I need to know what happened! How did I get here?"

The servant sniffed and didn't pause as he walked towards the door saying, "Prince Peacecraft will be with you shortly, sir. I have been ordered to inform him as soon as you awakened so that he may come and answer your questions himself."

"Oh, okay," Duo replied, waited for the door to close, and then, with a soldier's thoroughness, he dropped his mask of congeniality and began looking himself over to assess his condition, his ability to defend himself or escape if necessary.

Duo's hands were shaking and he felt cold; low blood circulation. It told him that he had been unconscious for a long time. A heavy duty I.V. needle in both arms alerted him that he hadn't been force fed only liquid nourishment. Someone had been drugging him. That squared with his groggy mental functions. Pushing down the blankets, Duo discovered that he was nude underneath and that someone had been operating with a laser on his ribs. He felt the familiar, uncomfortable presence of a binding agent holding them together.

Blood on the floor. Duo felt at his ribs as the memory flashed and burned in his brain. Duo hissed and withdrew his hand. His ribs flashed pain. Punctured lung? He recalled Yate's clipboard plowing into his ribs edgewise. Shinigami seethed and thought about modes of revenge, especially when he saw the catheter.

"Duo Maxwell," the throaty voice of Zechs said from the doorway, alerting a fellow soldier of his presence, well aware that the end of the war hadn't dulled either of their reflexes.

Duo dropped the blanket, face going hot as he glared at the tall, white haired man. For some reason he didn't bother with his mask. Something told him that, not only was Zech's not fooled by it, but that the man knew to a hair's breath what his abilities were. The ‘Lightning Count', as Zech's had been known in the war, wasn't going to be taken by surprise.

"What's going on?" Duo demanded simply.

Zechs entered, long legs pacing toward's Duo like a panther getting ready to spring. Graceful, Duo thought, swallowing and getting nervous, powerful, and commanding. Duo didn't like the feeling of helplessness that rolled over him as he waited for Zech's to explain and make his intentions known.

Zechs spoke as if he were giving a casualty report, precise information given in a dry, calm voice. "Punctured lung. Severe blood loss. Borderline malnutrition. Anemia. Acute stress. One operation on right lung and bio cement applied to fifth rib on right. Down time so far, eleven days," Duo started in shock at that bit of information, but Zech's continued without giving him time to wrap his mind around that. "Drugs given to induce complete unconsciousness for the express purpose of allowing a critical wound to heal properly. Projected down time; three weeks. Present function; 20%."

Duo shivered, despite himself. He was that bad? He remembered the blood filling up his lungs, but it had been too sudden, to shocking. He hadn't had time to consider that he might have been dying. Duo tried to speak. He made a hoarse noise. Zechs poured water from a pitcher into a glass from a nearby table. He handed the glass to Duo. Duo drank automatically, disturbed when the glass of water felt heavy and uncertain in his hand. It trembled as his hand continued to tremble, water threatening to slosh out. Seeing Duo's difficulty, Zechs retrieved the glass and put it back down on the side table without comment.

"Why am I here and not in a hospital?" Duo wondered, voice under his control once again.

"You were in a hospital," Zechs replied in that same dry, informative tone. He didn't meet Duo's eyes. Instead, he studied the pitcher and glass as if he were fascinated by the condensation of the cold liquid making slow trails down their sides. "After you were stabilized, I had you brought here so that you could be under the expert care of my physicians. They are some of the best."

"Why?" Duo asked, short and sharp.

Zechs did look up then, ice, blue eyes keen. "It was my duty. You were under my employ and you were injured by a man of mine abusing his authority. I take my duty and my responsibilities very seriously, Duo Maxwell."

It didn't explain anything, but Duo knew that he wasn't going to get a better answer. "Okay, thanks for helping me out like this, I guess," he said. "Can I get my clothes now and get these tubes out of me?"

Zechs shook his head and his white hair shimmered and swayed. "No, I'm afraid not. I argued for, and won, the concession from your physicians to allow the drugs to be discontinued, but they still insist that you remain in bed until your ribs and punctured lung are well on their way to recovery."

"Meaning," Duo growled angrily, "That they don't trust me to take care of myself?"

Zechs nodded. "You have already been hospitalized on many occasions for that very reason. The diagnosis of ‘manic depressive- suicidal' has been entered into your personal medical records on your last three admissions."

Duo felt the bite of shame and embarrassment. It caused him to retort viciously, "Me, manic depressive- suicidal? You're the one who had the gun to his head, Zechs. Why aren't they drugging you?"

Zechs stared, blue eyes giving Duo a slow blink. The silence stretched until Duo wanted to squirm. He suddenly felt like a rude boy in front of an elder. He didn't like that feeling at all. Zechs finally spoke and his tone was slow and measured. "I deserve that. "

It was a moment of vulnerability, Duo realized, an opportunity to go for Zech's throat and get some payback. It confused him that Zechs was allowing it. When Duo frowned and let the moment pass, he saw an infinitesimal expression of relief on Zech's face, a relaxing around his blue eyes.

"We all have our bad days," Duo finally said lamely and moved his arms so that the tubes tightened. He grimaced. "I'm having more than most, though." He fingered a needle in his arm. "You do realize that you can't keep me here?"

"Law 340-c subsection alpha, paragraph 67, states clearly that those suspected of mental instability can be forcefully restrained by medication and given treatment," Zechs cited officially.

Duo cocked his head to one side, narrowing his purple eyes. "In a hospital, I'm sure, not Prince Peacecraft's home. If you don't mind me saying, Zechs, all logical explanation aside, it does seem a bit eccentric."

Zechs found a smile. It surprised him. He was tense and unsure. Duo was turning out to be remarkably unpredictable. That unpredictability was making it hard to make a coherent plan.

Did he still even have a plan? Zechs wondered. Things had definitely changed since Duo had found him in that hotel room, ready to deliver summery execution. All thoughts of conquering and possessing Duo had disappeared that day. His intentions now were unclear. His emotions hard to fathom. Zechs still wanted Duo to stay, and he still needed to be distracted from the darkness with in him, but the two had separated in his mind.

Seeing Duo's blood on the floor, and knowing how close he had come to never seeing that maddening ex-pilot again, had shocked and frightened Zechs in ways he wasn't ready to analyze yet. He had never sought a relationship with anyone. To suddenly feel the need for one was hard to accept or comprehend. That Duo Maxwell, someone so different and opposed in nature to himself, seemed to be the one generating that need in him, was even more disturbing.

"If you were free and able," Zechs asked at last. "What would you do?"

"Leave," Duo replied promptly and with challenge in his voice.

"Why?" Zechs countered. "You'll want for nothing why you stay and recuperate. You'll have only the best doctors, the best treatment. Since it was a man in my employ who caused your injuries, nothing will be charged to you. Leaving now would be completely illogical."

It was so tempting to just accept and bask in a rich man's hospitality, Duo thought as he continued to examine the needle in his arm. Having someone else take care of the bills and the details of every day life had always been a necessity for Duo. All of his attempts to take on those responsibilities himself had been dismal failures.

Everyone else had made the transition to adult life, none of them seeming to anguish over lost childhood, lost teen years, or lack of family. Only Duo couldn't make the leap, the transition. His mind was as stunted in growth as his body, a body that didn't look much different than it had when he had been fifteen and a Gundam pilot. Too many missed meals and too much stress, one doctor had diagnosed, and Duo wondered if the same could be said for his mind. He couldn't grow up, mentally or physically, no matter how much he tried, and here he was feeling tempted to play the child again and let Zechs, who's motives were a mystery to him, take care of him.

Duo remained firm as he said. "That's nice of you, man, but I think I should be getting back to my life, ya know?"

It was Zech's turn to go for the throat. How much did he know? Duo wondered as he watched the thoughts play over the Prince's face. Did he know that Duo didn't have a life to go back to? In the end, Zechs also chose not to go in for the kill. He looked disapproving instead. "The argument is moot. You are too weak to go anywhere, Duo Maxwell. If you wish to be taken to a hospital, I will arrange it, but, I assure you, either there or here, you are bedridden."

Duo could feel it. He tensed muscles in his legs and felt them tremble. He knew that they wouldn't support him if he tried to stand. Duo hated Zechs at that moment, hated the man's quiet dominance and control of the situation. Even though it wasn't Zech's fault that he, Duo, was injured, Duo still found it easy to blame him. The man was taking full advantage of the situation and it was still a mystery why.

"Let me think about," Duo said finally, meeting Zech's eyes and trying to convey to the man that he was dangerous on his feet or flat on his back and that any plans Zechs had for him were going to be thwarted. "I need to wait until the drugs wear off before I can make any major decisions."

"That's only wise," Zech's replied.

Without warning, contrary to all common sense and training, Zechs suddenly leaned over Duo. Duo froze as pale hair brushed against him and Zech's warm body and warmer, masculine scent hit his senses. It was only a moment, but a moment of complete, overwhelming confusion on Duo's part.

Zechs was straightening again, before Duo could react, and placing a touch pad near Duo's hand. He backed away as Duo fought to wipe a wide eyed, astonished look, and an accompanying blush, off of his face. He replaced it with a hard scowl.

"You shouldn't do that," Duo managed to say in a voice that was strangled sounding, distorted by the odd feelings rushing through him. "I don't need a weapon to hurt you."

Zechs nodded, saying quietly. "I know." He motioned to the touch pad, explaining in a stronger voice, "That allows you to call for assistance at any time. The red button is for your physician. The green button is for your nurse. The yellow button is for a servant. The black button is for my pager. I have given orders to my staff to indulge your every whim."

Duo found composure at last, shoving confusing emotions and feelings into a mental box, a box he wasn't sure he wanted to ever open up again. "Every whim?" Duo wondered. "Including leaving?"

Zechs went very still and then he replied, "Yes. If you have a destination in mind, they will help you go there." He paused for emphasis and then added, "But if you intend to commit suicide, and that would be nothing less, I'll fetch a gun and I'll be the one to politely stand aside this time while you pull the trigger."

Duo felt cold suddenly at the thought of a metal gun barrel pressed against his forehead. "You're good," Duo said at last and meant it.

Zechs simply nodded, but he couldn't hide a smile of satisfaction. He had seen Duo's blush and his restrained reaction to his proximity. It confirmed that there was a chance, a chance that he could convince, instead of force, Duo Maxwell to.... Zechs dropped his smile. He bowed to Duo without thought and left him there, probably confused by the abrupt exit. On his way back to his own quarters, Zechs put his own feelings and emotions inside of his own mental box, like Duo, not yet ready to confess to himself what exactly he wanted from the ex Gundam pilot.

+

Heero knocked for the third time. Still no one answered the door. He checked the address on the paper in his hand. Correct. He checked the schedule of Oz personnel. Pilots on down were released from duty promptly at six p.m. unless they were on active night duty. Duo's name had not appeared on the night duty roster.

It took Heero only a moment to trip the door lock. He let the door swing open, cobalt eyes sweeping Duo's one room apartment while his hand rested on the gun in its holster under his black jacket.

Heero's mind absorbed every detail of the place in seconds. The impression left by Duo's body on the bed. The start of some reconstituted meal left on a counter and reeking from decay. Training manuals and schedules scattered over a simple table. Blood splattered across the doorstep. All of these details combined and formed a definite pattern in Heero's mind. Violence had occurred. Duo was gone. Zechs, an old enemy, was Heero's automatic choice of perpetrator. Revenge was an age old motive.

Heero felt something powerful coil and grow within him. He tried to control it. It didn't wish to be controlled. It wanted blood. It wanted to kill the person who had dared to spill Duo's blood. His Duo, Heero thought possessively, the young man he so desperately needed to drive away the silence and the loneliness that had all but engulfed him during Duo's absence. Heero needed answers and he needed them fast. If Duo was alive, Heero needed to find out where he was, if he was dead, Heero needed to know whom to kill.

Heero holstered his gun and stepped to the door of Duo's neighbor. He knocked twice, hard. The door yanked open and Heero found himself eye to eye with a big man chewing on an unlit cigar. Behind him, Heero noted open boxes and packing material.

"What the Hell do you want?" Yates snarled.

"Duo Maxwell," Heero replied.

The man turned red with anger. "You a friend of his?"

Heero frowned. He supposed they were ‘friends', but he couldn't fit their relationship into so simple a description any longer. It was becoming more and more complex. "No," he found himself saying without elaborating.

Yates grunted. "Little fag got me fired! If you have a beef with him too- "

"Where is he?" Heero cut him off sharply.

Yates looked Heero up and down, noting Heero's tense almost manic expression and his obvious displeasure. "They took him away to the hospital," Yates replied and then with some satisfaction. "They fined me and gave me a mark on my record, but it was worth it to break that little shit's ribs. I punctured a lung. Almost killed him, they told me." He smirked. "Good thing they couldn't prove that I did it on purpose."

The powerful emotions within Heero uncoiled. "Your confession is enough," he said. "I don't require proof." and then his fists lashed out and Yates fell.

+

"Trowa," Duo said in exasperation. "Ya have to say SOMETHING! I can't read eye blinks!"

Trowa stared at Duo from the vid screen, green eyes pensive under his long bang and face closed and hard to read. "Quatre isn't here," he said at last.

Duo pried out a needle from his arm below the small tray holding the vid screen, not wanting Trowa to see the sudden flow of blood and Duo's frantic attempt to get it to stop. Damn! He had always been a bleeder! Duo thought as he used some of the tape that had been holding the needle in place to close the wound shut tight. The bleeding slowed and then stopped. Duo breathed a sigh of relief.

"I know Quatre isn't there," Duo replied tightly, trying not to hiss at the pain as he began working out the other needle in the opposite arm. "You told me that when I first called you! What I want to know is, do you think it's cool if I drop by? I know Quatre has some physician's on staff-"

"You're injured in some way?" Trowa suddenly became more animated, though it hadn't reached the level of sympathy yet.

"Yeah," Duo replied as he stopped the bleeding again. "Punctured lung, 20% function, estimated recuperation, if I do everything right, three weeks."

Trowa narrowed eyes past Duo, taking in the expensive wallpaper and the ornate headboard of the bed. "Where are you now, not a hospital?"

"No, not a hospital, but definitely in enemy territory," Duo replied. "I need to escape and I need to know I can get help pronto when I do."

"Are you compromised in any way?" Trowa asked, slipping back into soldier mode easily.

Duo felt a strange roil of emotions when he thought of the scent of Zechs' masculine body and the touch of that long, white hair. He banished it by reminding himself of Zechs' easy control of him and the forced drugging of his body. "Definitely," Duo replied. "I am definitely compromised, Trowa. Milliardo Peacecraft has decided, for reasons unknown, to keep me at his personal residence. I am in the process of escape."

"Chances of success?" Trowa asked skeptically. "You don't look well."

"Chances of success; excellent," Duo replied, lying to himself as well as Trowa. "You know me," he said with a tight smile, "Mr. Determination."

Trowa was very quiet.

Duo prodded sharply with his next words, "Come on, Trowa! I know you sleep with Quatre! I'm sure you're able to order his people around with impunity. Order me a limo and a doctor when I get there! Come on, man. Don't let me down!" His voice went hoarse with weariness and desperation.

"You never approved of our relationship, Maxwell, and you used Quatre and hurt him the last time he helped you," Trowa replied.

Duo gritted his teeth. Now wasn't the time to start shouting and getting angry. He had to keep up the Maxwell charm. It had always gotten him what he wanted before. It couldn't fail him now when he most needed it. "Yeah, sorry about all of that. I guess two guys doing it makes me, uh, nervous. I shouldn't have cracked all those jokes when we were all working together. Forgive and forget though, right, Trowa? I've grown in the last few years. You two could do it in front of me right now, and it wouldn't bother me a bit. Just let me come there and you can test me, okay?"

Trowa was lost in some memory and it was sour and bitter. "You made things very hard for us," he recalled. "I couldn't understand why since you and Heero were together as well. What has happened to Heero?" he wondered. "Why not call him?"

"I'm not gay!" Duo bristled. "Heero and me were never a couple! We had a big fight." Duo shivered, still feeling Heero's grip on him. Duo blinked and shuddered, trying to concentrate on winning Trowa's help, not a bad episode with Heero. "Look, man, I need help. Are you going to send the car or not?"

Trowa considered, his green eyes steady and assessing. Duo was relaxing, feeling victory at hand, when Trowa said curtly. "You may forget such slights, but I do not. I can see medical equipment and fine furnishings. Someone is taking care of you Maxwell. I will not feel guilt by refusing. Quatre does not need to be saddened by you any longer. I will not allow you to take advantage of him again. Good day."

The screen went blank. Duo stared at it, stunned. He was being abandoned. None of his tricks or his charm had worked. Humiliated and angry, Duo took hold of the catheter line and bit his bottom lip as he pulled that out as well. Shoving needles and tubing aside viciously, he felt a sense of relief along with his other emotions. The feeling of being trapped by those needles and tubes had been acute.

"What now, Shinigami?" Duo muttered. He looked around the room, trying to make a coherent plan. All of them entailed having clothes, though, and there was a distinct lack of them at the moment. Well, he thought, that could be rectified as well. Duo pushed the call button on the touch pad by his hand, the button that would summon a servant. The man wasn't his size, but his clothes would do in a pinch. Putting on his best, congenial grin, Duo waited.

+

Heero stared down at the mess that was Yates. The man was sprawled, face down, in his own blood and unconscious. He hadn't been much of a challenge. Heero stepped over him and collected the box of Duo's things that he had left by Duo's doorstep; his excuse for seeing the man. It would still be useful in that respect, he thought as he made his way towards a main complex of offices. He needed to find out whether Duo was still alive and, if so, where he was being held. Not being a relative, such information, he assumed, would be off limits to him. The excuse of having things to return to Duo would garner sympathy, he hoped, and convince someone to break the rules. At the very least, it would win him entrance to the building and a chance to hack the information himself.

It was easier than Heero imagined, gaining access to the offices. Key cards were essential for entrance, but a man saw that Heero's arms were full, assumed that he had a key card and was unable to use it, and swiped his own to let Heero in. Heero thanked him pleasantly enough, mindful of his cover, but inwardly the soldier Heero seethed at such a breech of security protocol.

Heero didn't meet with any resistance walking down the hallways either. He was amazed. I.D. tags were required at every level, yet no one checked for them. Heero kept the box squarely in front of his chest to hide the fact that he didn't have one, but he was amazed that no one recognized him as a stranger, asked about what he was carrying, or wondered where he was taking it too. Heero felt a shiver of memory. Dr. J would have imprisoned him in a tin box, in the zero g of space, and in the direct light of the sun for such a breech.

Heero didn't go to the main office to get his information. Instead, he made his way down an empty corridor until he found a door open and an office empty of its owner. It was ridiculously easy after that to sit and break into the employee files and look up Duo Maxwell.

Fake birth date. Fake birthplace. Fake history. Under a large list of skills it listed Gundam pilot at the very end as if it weren't important at all, an afterthought. Beside the picture of a grinning Duo in a Peacecraft uniform, it listed a hospital and a series of health stats. Broken rib. Punctured lung. Severe blood loss. Heero was surprised at the last entry. Released. It didn't make sense. If Duo was critical... Heero thought of Duo's brashness, his inability to gauge his own limits, and his aversion to hospitals. In light of those facts, it was possible that he had insisted on his own release. That they had released him when standard procedure would have dictated forced treatment, was a testament, perhaps, to Duo's ability to charm most people.

Where was he now? Why hadn't he called? Heero knew that he was always the safe house for Duo, the place he always returned to because it was familiar and because Heero understood him. Heero analyzed his last vid phone conversation with Duo. He had made all the appropriate responses. Duo had been friendly and agreeable. Though Heero still didn't understand Duo's violent reaction to his, Heero's, initiation of sex, it had been clear to him that Duo had accepted Heero's offer of returning to their former arrangement. There wasn't any logical explanation why Duo would not have called him for assistance.

As Heero hacked into different sections, trying to find a clue as to where Duo had gone, he fought with a memory, an acute one. It was almost as if he could feel again, Duo's warm body beneath him, submitting and ready, rounded ass soft in Heero's hands. He remembered Duo's long hair, slightly damp, hanging all around him, making him seem like a beautiful woman, a desirable woman, more desirable than any woman Heero had ever been with. The sudden stiffening between Heero's legs was distracting and unwanted. He grabbed a stapler from the corner of the desk, poised it over his hand, and punched it several times. The sharp, agonizing pain of the staples going into his skin, brought him back to focus and reduced the swelling in his pants. He needed Duo, he thought as he moved from section to section in the computer, as a companion to stave off the loneliness, as a partner to share the bills and the upkeep of the apartment, and, he finally acknowledged, as a partner for mutual sexual release. It was logical that they remain together. It was the most efficient way that they could function. Duo had to be made to see that.

Heero stopped and narrowed his search in a supply category. I.V. supplies, catheters, antibiotics, bandages, medical monitors, anesthesia, and a whole host of other items a doctor would need to treat a patient in critical condition. All of it had been sent to the Peacecraft residence.

Heero stood up, jaw going tight. His old enemy again and his suspicion confirmed. Milliardo Peacecraft had his Duo. Heero snatched up Duo's box of things and he made a hurried exit, a plan already forming in his head for reclaiming Duo and violently executing Zechs. The only good enemy was a dead enemy, Heero remembered the age old adage. He would make certain that he adhered to that philosophy this time.

+

Yates made his way to the office of his superior, nursing the bandaged and bleeding bruises Heero had inflicted on him. He had posted a warning to security after regaining consciousness. They had been over curt and not helpful, promising a search he hadn't seen any signs of. They all knew his status with Prince Peacecraft and he had made enemies in the lower ranks. He could almost hear them snickering at his predicament, glad that he was finally ‘getting his'.

Yates fought off a wave of dizziness. He couldn't avoid this one duty and he wanted it over with, even if he passed out moments afterwards. He had to report to his superior for dismissal orders and his severance credits. A last duty before he was turned into a nobody.

When he reached the office of his superior, no one answered the door. It was slightly ajar. Curious, Yates opened the door all the way and found the office empty. He ground teeth into his cigar. He didn't want to have to wait, humiliation and seething anger eating his insides.

Wanting some indication of when his superior would return, Yates scanned the man's desk, cigar twitching back and forth in his mouth. The desk was neat and tidy with nothing to indicate where the owner had gone to. The glowing screen of the computer caught Yates's attention then. He narrowed eyes at it and saw the unusual supply list and the small, reduced screen showing Duo Maxwell's profile and status. Yates wasn't stupid. He put two and two together and realized what the equation was.

"Finally," a voice said behind him. Yates turned and saw his irritated superior. The man glanced at his watch. "I've been waiting for you. It's past quitting time."

"Sorry, sir," he bit out.

The man gave Yates's damaged face a wide eyed look, before stalking past him and sitting at his desk. He had decided not to ask about it. He only glanced at his computer screen briefly before blanking it, not even curious about the content, probably thinking that some associate had needed to use it while he was out. Sloppy, Yates thought. His own superior didn't notice a security breech when it was staring him in the face.

"Let's get this painful business over, Yates," his superior sighed, "so we can both get out of here."

"Yes, sir."

Yates kept his expression flat as the man read the charges and the verdict. As they pushed papers back and forth and Yates signed them, Yates felt hate and the need for revenge grow. He was ruined. His career was over. No one was going to hire a man cashiered by Milliardo Peacecraft. Duo Maxwell had to pay for that. As Yates' superior finished off the last of the humiliating details, Yates began to make plans, plans that included a very painful and very messy form of revenge. When he finally left the office with papers and check in hand, Yates grinned around his cigar in anticipation.

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