by Kracken
Disclaimer: I don't own them and I don't make any money off of this
Warnings: Guy/Guy sex. Graphic. Violence. Language.
Support a starving artist, buy Kracken's book, The Storm. (AMAZON.COM under Della Boynton) Yeah, so you now know my real name! Nobody sue me. I may be published, but I still have nothing, nothing I tell you, BWAHAHAHA!
For those of you who emailed me and wondered whether I am a guy or a girl... I AM A GIRL. No more love letters, please, though Kracken was very flattered anyway. :)

The Lost Soldiers Series #7
Picking Locks

Duo watched as people ran in and out of his room frantically and then began a search, servants getting their orders and streaming out of the front door of the mansion to look for him.

"Well," Duo whispered to himself from an alcove behind a potted plant. "At least they don't UNDERESTIMATE me." He was sitting on the floor, unable to stand, wondering if he had overestimated his own abilities.

Duo grimaced in embarrassment as he hugged his ribs and decided to just try and breathe around the pain and the dizziness. After luring a servant close to him and rendering the man unconscious, Duo had appropriated his clothes, glad that it had turned out to be the anemic, sour servant and not one of the others. He would have felt guilty if it had been. Duo didn't like the thought of hurting civilians for any reason. With the anemic servant, his dislike for Duo apparent, it didn't seem quite so bad.

The long, painful attempt at just getting out of the bed had almost made Duo give up before he had started, but, now that he had committed violence in Zechs' household, he knew that the next step would be involuntary detention and another stretch of mind numbing medication to control him.

A veteran of Oz prisons and modes of interrogation, Duo had a distinct phobia of hospitals and any form of medical or medicinal restraints. Even the likely hood of passing out under a hedge outside until Spring, didn't cause Duo to stop and see reason. His first visit to Zechs' home had been voluntary and that had made all the difference. To wake up and to find that he had been literally kidnapped and restrained by drugs, was unendurable to Duo.

Zechs. As if he had been called up by Duo's thoughts, the man appeared and walked into Duo's room with a frantic doctor in tow, face very grim. They had carried the unconscious servant out first thing so all that was left to see was the blood and the I.V. needles staining the white sheets of the bed. Duo could hear Zechs and the doctor speaking. He strained to hear for a moment and then gave it up. Escape was more important than relishing Zechs' reaction to his purely incredible feat.

Duo began to try and inch out from behind the plant. The world hazed and he blanked. He blinked furiously, finding himself with his back against the wall and his body shaking. "Come on, Duo," he growled at himself. "You've been in worse situations. Remember when you took a hit and had that piece of cockpit shielding go through front and back? Still got out alive. Still kicked Oz ass. You can do it this time too. Get up and be a good soldier."

"Revised function estimation:25%," Zechs' voice said casually.

Duo started badly, panting in shock. He blinked stupidly up at Zechs. The man was watching him, head to one side, fall of white hair like silk over one shoulder. He was wearing an ornate, red and blue, coat with gold trim and buttons. He looked as if he had just come from some important function or a military parade ground. His handsome face was both amused and amazed.

"Just thought I'd come out and admire the plants," Duo returned hoarsely.

"I did tell you that, if you wished to leave, and you had a destination, that I would order the servants to assist you," Zechs said in a tone of voice that let it be known that he didn't like his words doubted.

"Well, the destination part....." Duo swallowed hard as a wave of pain hit him. He managed to keep it off of his face, but he couldn't stop the trembling. Zech noticed it. His blue eyes narrowed. "I wasn't sure where I wanted to go," Duo continued flippantly. "I thought about coffee and dessert up town, but I also had an urge to do some window shopping around West street. I thought I'd walk around until I made up my mind." He brushed a palm frond out of his face. "Of course, once I saw the plants, everything else just went out the window."

Zechs nodded as if he were making perfect sense, one madman understanding another. Maybe it was truer than either of them realized, though it was a deeper understanding, Duo's ridiculous words having nothing to do with it. "I admire them a great deal myself," Zechs replied.

"Yeah," Duo grimaced as his ribs gave him another shock of pain. He suddenly didn't have the strength to keep up his mask of indifference any longer. Why keep pretending that he wasn't about to be thrown back into his room, a captive once again? "So much nicer being around them," he grated, meaning the plants, "than in a room with tubes stuck up my dick, and in my arms up to my neck, against my will."

There was an uncomfortable silence. Zechs thought quickly. He could see Duo's distress and it had little to do with his body's failings. He tried to put himself in Duo's position, weak and at the mercy of a one time enemy. It gave him a bad taste in his mouth. He had to rectify the situation at once or Duo would end up killing himself.

"I think I have a solution," Zechs replied carefully, not sure how Duo was going to respond, or if he even had the capacity at that point to think clearly and reasonably. "Since we are both enamored of plants, perhaps you wouldn't mind taking a trip with me to my Winter estate? It's warm there and I have a rather quaint villa at the center of a magnificent garden. I could arrange for you to have one of the bungalows close by where your physicians could attend to you and you could be fairly autonomous. You have disability leave pay coming to you. I could have it transferred to an account there. Once you begin working for me again-"

Duo wanted to laugh, but didn't. He knew it would hurt too much. "I'm still working for you? I did just harm one of your servants and, as I recall, my simulator test was less than stellar for a peace time shuttle pilot. I can't see you being so indulgent that you would ignore both of those things and keep me employed."

Again Zechs felt offended. His honor and his duty to his men was being blatantly questioned. He explained curtly. "My servant wasn't harmed. A nerve pinch, while inducing a severe headache, does not constitute an attack."

"I'm sure your servant would disagree," Duo replied sourly.

"He will be compensated."

"Nice, being able to pay people off like that," Duo mocked.

"I could leave his legal charges and impending lawsuit up to you," Zechs replied stiffly. "If you consider my help interference."

Duo huddled in on himself. He could feel himself fading fast. He had to resolve the situation before he passed out all together. He couldn't leave Zechs to make decision for him once again. Duo induced an adrenalin rush by taking several quick, deep breaths. His system flooded with oxygen. A little more alert, he replied. "I don't consider myself liable when I'm trying to escape from forced imprisonment."

"You are free to leave," Zechs replied quietly, "Or come with me now to my estate. I will respect your decision. As for failing the simulator test, I hardly call it that. You were given an impossible mission and you saved crew and passengers in the only manner available to you. Unfortunately-"

"Yeah, unfortunate, the story of my life," Duo muttered.

"You're decision making skills are not at the level I expect out of my pilots," Zechs continued, unperturbed. "You had options and chose not to use them. In light of that, I will have to ground you. I do, however, have openings in my civilian units for policing and infiltration of unlawful activities. I think your military skills would make you well suited to a high position there."

"The Preventers, you mean," Duo replied sourly. "I thought Sally Po was running the show there."

"Under my authority, yes," Zechs informed him.

"Hate to tell you," Duo snorted, "but she didn't think much of my military skills. She had me in the grease pits, or at least she did until she told me I had to cut my hair. She said it was dangerous with so much working machinery around."

"Prudent," Zechs replied with a nod, but then he gave Duo an intense look. "I suppose you played the fun loving fool with her when you tried to gain a position in the policing divisions." Duo made a face and Zechs nodded again. "It seems Sally Po doesn't know your skill level. She seems to have made a false assumption based on your personality."

Duo scowled, seeing white at the corners of his eyes. Hurry, he told himself, get to the point! But he couldn't. He felt it necessary to defend Sally. "It wasn't just that. I have a real problem with, well, authority and following rules and schedules," Duo admitted. It was hard saying that, but Sally didn't deserve a bad reputation.

"A field agent position would have suited you well," Zechs pointed out. "It requires innovative, by the seat of the pants, thinking. In a group, you would naturally be disruptive and undisciplined."

"Naturally," Duo echoed sourly.

"But in a solitary situation," Zechs continued seriously, "I think you would do well."

"Okay, ‘cept that I want to avoid killing anyone ever again."

"Investigative, rather than enforcement?" Zechs suggested.

"Yeah, maybe," Duo slid down further towards the floor, wiping at his eyes. "I can't think right now."

"Understandable, but my offer-"

"Fine," Duo replied quickly, feeling unconsciousness slipping over him. "Like you said though, my own place, my own life, and my own job. I don't trust you and I don't know what you want from me. You could be a complete weirdo. I don't wanna find that out. I come and go as I please, when I please, got that? Soon as I'm better, I make my own arrangements."

Zechs lifted a white eyebrow. "Perhaps you should admire potted plants more often. It makes you more reasonable."

Duo snorted. "If you're going to blame me for trying to get out of here-"

"No," Zechs replied quickly. "I think I would have done the same. I fail to see why you don't understand that this is a matter of honor and duty to me, and nothing else, but, if I thought as you do, I would attempt to leave."

Duo snorted again and then became serious. "Honor and duty. Okay, on your honor and duty, no more tubes, needles, or drugs. I hate them."

"As you wish, " Zechs agreed. "Now, may I take you back to your room and your doctor?"

"No," Duo retorted, winced, and then shook his head vehemently. "I don't want to go back to that room. It bothers me now... reminds me of an Oz interrogation room." He caught himself too late and swore at himself for revealing a weakness like that. He saw Zechs narrow his eyes and then look as if he completely understood. He nodded grimly.

"We will go immediately to my estate then," Zechs said and then, without permission, he bent and hooked his arms under Duo. Lifting Duo up like a child, he began a slow walk towards the stairway.

Duo wanted to fight, punch that overconfident face of Zechs and stop the feeling of helplessness that washed over him. He felt completely humiliated, but he was drifting now, cheek against Zechs' broad chest and body held close by Zechs' strong arms. He did feel like a child, smaller and as light as a feather compared to Zechs' more solid build. The man smelled of some spicy cologne, wood smoke and cinnamon, and an undertone of fresh pressed uniform. It spoke to Duo, that scent, and it strangely comforted him.

Exhausted, Duo let himself fall into unconsciousness, a feeling as abrupt as a wire snapping. He had reached his limit. He couldn't fight and he couldn't speak any longer. Zechs was in control again and Duo couldn't do anything but trust in the honor that Zechs felt so strongly about and hope that the man's intentions were good.

+

"Gone where?" Heero asked, eyes narrowing so dangerously that the servant at the door blanched.

"Well, sir, I am at liberty to tell you that Prince Peacecraft will be at residence at his Winter villa, but his itinerary is not to be made public knowledge. I'm sure you understand?"

"Yes, thank you," Heero said the words as an automatic reflex as he turned from the door, the servant forgotten already. His blood pumped and his mind began to fall into an old pattern, the Perfect Soldier he had been during the war; the trained, emotionless killer. The simple search for Duo, the expected easy arguments designed to get him to return with him to his apartment, the easy manipulation of a person without direction or credits, was suddenly changed into a mission; a mission who's adjective was clear, the reclaiming of Duo and the elimination of an old enemy.

Heero put down the box of Duo's things. It was an unneeded encumbrance, the manga, the odd sketches, the book filled with Duo's ridiculous ramblings and day to day life, the several machine parts, and a few pieces of clothing. Heero didn't need it as an excuse to see Duo now. No one traveled half way across a world with a box of useless things to return to a man. Heero had a much better excuse, one sure to convince Duo that Heero was the only logical choice of companion. Heero intended to become Duo's savior. In his experience with others, and especially Duo, gratitude could be made into a powerful weapon of control.

Planning the mission already, mind on floor plans, transport, and weapons, Heero didn't see the door open again, the servant having watched through a window, curious and suspicious about the strange man. When Heero had seemed reluctant to leave, he had withdrawn his cell phone from a pocket and poised it against his ear, ready to call for security. Now that Heero was striding away purposefully, the servant was still unsure whether to make the call. He timidly looked into the box that Heero had left behind.

Odd, colorful books. The servant poked about timidly with his cell phone as if he feared something might bite him. When he saw the journal, he fished it out and flipped through several pages.

"Duo Maxwell," he read and then brightened. "Ah, this is for Master Maxwell, then," he beamed, remembering the laughing young man who had graced their home. It was true that Duo had been very ill and had attacked a servant, but the boy surely hadn't known what he was doing. "I'll have this shipped to him at the Winter estate," the servant said to himself. "Poor lad didn't even have a coat on when they left. He will be needing his clothes."

Yates fingered his gun from the thick cover of bushes near the front door. He kept very still, breathing to a minimum, bruised and battered face suffused red with blood, as he listened to the servant mutter to himself. Winter estate? The little bastard was gone?

After the servant had retreated back in doors with the box, Yates was striding away back to his vehicle, a black truck parked on the road that led to the crew quarters. He knew they were expecting him at the checkpoint that led off of the compound grounds. If he failed to show, they would begin searching for him to forcefully evict him. He didn't have much time.

Yates threw himself into the front seat of the truck, holstering the gun with its silencer as he did so. He wasn't about to be thwarted in his attempt at revenge. Duo Maxwell was still going to pay. Things were definitely going to be more complicated and more risky for him personally. He had planned to kill the ex Gundam pilot quietly, leaving nothing to show who the murderer had been. Now he had to go the distance and commit himself, perhaps, to a wider, more long term strategy, if he couldn't catch up with the young man and Peacecraft before their shuttle took off.

Yates threw his truck into gear, stifled the urge to peel out, and made his way as quickly as he could towards Milliardo Peacecraft's personal runway and shuttle. He still knew people, people who owed him favors, people he could take down with him if he chose, Yates thought as he chewed viciously on his cigar. It was time for them to pay up.

+


[cont]