The Lost Soldiers Series #9 (cont)
A Hundred Strokes

Duo sighed and ran a hand through his unruly bangs. "I don't want to stay here, even though it's great, because it's your place and your choice that I'm here. I was too sick to refuse before. Now that I can get around again, I should get the hell out and get back to my old life... only I didn't really have one. I pretty much cut my ties with Heero and I screwed up my job again. There's nothing to go back to except rain, cold, and a sidewalk for my bed. It's hard to consider that when I'm lying in the warm sun with servants kissing my ass, as I'm sure you intended."

Zechs couldn't help a smile. "I assure you, I didn't plan it that way, but if it's independence you are complaining about, I thought that I had already made it clear that you are owed the care that you have received so far. You were injured, almost killed, by one of my men. When you feel that you are healed, you may return to work and pay me rent on the bungalow. If that's not to your liking, then I will have you taken wherever you wish with some severance credits." He made an exasperated sound. "We've already discussed this, Duo, and you agreed to stay."

"Until I was healed," Duo corrected, "and until I found out that everyone thought I was your pool boy. That changed the situation."

Zechs raised an eyebrow. "Pool boy?"

"Like I said though," Duo continued with a small flush of embarrassment, "You were right when you said that I was running away from what people thought of me. I made up my mind to change my life. Running away is part of it. Seems I'm always running when things get tough. I guess that's why the other pilots don't bother with me anymore. It's hard to help someone, invest time and money, and then have that person screw you by running away when life gets too difficult. Maybe It's time for Duo Maxwell to stop running and tough it out this time." He frowned. "I just don't like that I have to start here, in this situation, owing you."

"I understand," Zechs replied.

Duo grinned. "I think you do, and that's weird, because you're the first person who has. Well, no more running for now, as long as you keep your hands to yourself and forget any, uhm, ulterior motives about getting into my pants."

Zechs blinked and shook his head. "It was the furthest thing from my mind, I assure you," he lied smoothly and then stood up gracefully, stretching. "Hopefully that's settled at last, and we won't have to discuss your leaving again any time soon." Zechs suddenly leaned down impulsively and caressed Duo's skin, running a hand very lightly along his breast and across his nipple. Zechs was pleased to see that nipple grow instantly hard and a small shiver go over Duo's skin. "Perhaps you should go in now, Duo? Your skin is turning pink and it's hot."

"Uh, yeah, okay," Duo stammered, trying to recover from the unexpected touch. "Don't wait though. I'm still slow getting around and I'm sure you have better things to do that watch me hobble."

Zechs glanced to the distant bungalow and then down at Duo's light frame. "I could carry you."

Duo shook his head. His expression was good-natured, but Zechs saw another flush of embarrassment. "No, thanks. I need the exercise."

"Oh," Zechs grunted. "I understand your hesitation. That would make the servants even more convinced that you are my 'pool boy'."

Duo winced and grinned. "Yeah, that too."

Zechs smiled back, his whitest, most engaging smile. It had its desired effect. Duo looked suddenly dazed. "Now that you're feeling better," Zechs said, "and you've had a chance to take care of personal matters - "

"A bath, you mean," Duo smirked. "You are too polite, Zechs."

"Ah, yes, a bath," Zechs laughed. "Well, since you've had your bath, and being indoors with you would now be a more pleasant activity, would you like to join me for dinner tonight?"

Duo looked at him with narrowed eyes. "To talk?"

Zechs nodded. "Yes, just to talk."

Duo looked pleased. "It has been kind of lonely. Okay, as long as you don't serve any of that fancy aristocratic 'can't tell what it used to be' meals. I like things simple."

"Simple it will be," Zechs agreed. "I look forward to your company."

"Maybe you shouldn't," Duo replied with a glitter in his eyes. "We aren't exactly in the same class, Zechs."

Zechs shrugged and smiled sadly at old memories. "I was always a prince, but I spent most of my life without a kingdom and among soldiers. Soldiers, as a rule, aren't witty in their repartee. I find that preferable."

"Good, because I don't even know what repartee means, Zechs," Duo laughed.

"I rather that you didn't," Zechs replied smoothly. "Dinner is at eight. I will send a servant to escort you."

"Great!" Duo beamed. "You know me and food. Wherever it is, so am I!"

Zechs laughed as well and then he made a curt bow, "Until then," he said and began walking back to the main estate. His thoughts stayed with Duo, though, and he couldn't help a wide smile as much as he tried. You're a fool, he told himself, an idiot falling for the charms of an unstable young man who runs away rather than face life and his own sexuality. It can only end in pain. It can only end with the darkness. Still, Zechs continued to smile, and still he dared to carry the image of a purple-eyed man in his thoughts.

Duo sighed and looked after Zechs. His eyes were riveted on the man's long legs, his tight pair of shorts, and the way his rounded shoulders moved enticingly a he strode away. Duo felt himself starting to heat up and he bit his bottom lip hard. What was he thinking? He wondered. What was he feeling? He couldn't understand any of it.

"As soon as I get well, I'm going to find me the closest, willing woman and get laid," Duo promised himself, but he still looked after Zechs and he couldn't keep his eyes from staring at Zechs' rapidly retreating ass.

"Sir?"

Duo snapped his attention to the servant guiltily. "Uh, hi, Gibson. Did you get that drink, finally?"

Gibson handed it to him and Duo drank down the lemonade in a few gulps. "Anything else, sir?"

Duo handed the man back the glass. "Well, I'm going back inside. Can you give me a hand up?"

Gibson carefully put a hand under Duo's arm and Duo slowly, hissing with pain, made it to his feet. Gibson regarded him without expression, waiting for a new order.

"How long were you standing there, Gibson, before you announced yourself?" Duo wondered.

"Nearly fifteen minutes, sir," Gibson replied without evasion.

Duo had new respect for the man. "You're quiet."

"Yes, sir."

Duo began a slow walk towards the bungalow. Gibson followed at his shoulder. Duo gave him a sideways look. Was that disapproval he saw on Gibson's face? He wondered. "I am not Zechs' 'pool boy'!" Duo retorted.

"No, sir," Gibson responded flatly.

Duo blinked. "Does that mean you understand that I'm not 'doing it' with Zechs or are you arguing with me about it?"

"Sir?" Gibson asked in confusion.

"That's the first expression I've seen on your face," Duo replied sourly. "Never mind."

"Yes, sir."

"I'll need some clothes for tonight." Duo paused and winced, realizing suddenly that this wasn't going to help him convince Gibson, or the other servants, of his non-involvement with Zechs. "I'm going out," he amended lamely and didn't explain further.

"I'll see to a proper wardrobe," Gibson responded.

"Good."

Duo concentrated then on just moving without hurting, but his thoughts kept drifting back to Zechs and the way the man's hair had floated like a white mane behind him and his legs had flexed just so as he had walked. Duo involuntarily touched his breast where Zechs' fingers had brushed him. Duo's sudden heat didn't have anything to do with the sun and he couldn't help the anticipation he felt about seeing the man again that night.

"I guess I'm the freak," Duo muttered.

"Sir?" Gibson replied.

"Never mind, Gibson. Never mind."

+

Wu Fei grumbled to himself about truant dignitaries as he methodically searched the jungle garden for Zechs. Relena had sent him to inquire after her brother's health, badger him for paperwork he had left undone, and to spy on him. After flirting with White Fang, and having a taste of power, Relena didn't trust Zechs to leave the reins of power to her now. She was always wary of plots against her. Zechs always gave Wu Fei a sour taste in his mouth. On the one hand, he couldn't help but respect the man for his abilities, but, on the other hand, his personal life, the sycophants he paraded on his arm and the rumors of full blown bacchanalias in his bed, reminded Wu Fei too much of Treize Khushrenada and his sickeningly sensualist mannerisms. A man should have more honor and self-respect, Wu Fei thought.

Anyone else would have missed it, but Wu Fei was a professional. He saw the odd, darker patch of shadows up ahead in a stand of bushes. It pricked Wu Fei's nerves. That shadow struck him as sinister and out of place. He put a hand to his gun and walked forward on softly treading, silent feet.

Heero Yuy stood in the shadows, eyes watching something further up ahead. His expression was dark, angry, jealous? His emotional preoccupation allowed Wu Fei to get very close, something he wouldn't have even tried back in their war days. In peacetime, Wu Fei thought, Heero was a Preventer, an officer of the law. What he was doing on Zechs' estate, Wu Fei didn't know, but Wu Fei felt safe enough to call out to him.

"See something you like, Yuy?" Wu Fei wondered sarcastically.

Heero whipped about and Wu Fei suddenly found himself with a barrel of a gun, sporting a silencer, pressed to his forehead. He stiffened and swallowed hard. Looking into Heero's furious, glittering, eyes, Wu Fei realized that he had made a possibly fatal miscalculation as Heero pushed him further into the bushes.

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