by Kracken

Disclaimer: I don't own them and I don't make any money off of this.

Warning:Male/male sex, graphic, language, Duo in S&M gear, maybe a bit of S&M, *ponders...* violence... not real sure where this is going....

Paparazzi + Chapter 1
Low Blows

Heero glared at the magazine with Duo center cover. Dressed in a black leather coat, a white tshirt, and faded jeans with holes at the knees, he didn't look that much older than he had during the war. He was just as happy go lucky looking, yet wearing that same glint in his eyes that warned that he could be dangerous too.

Heero flipped to the story. Ex Gundam Wing pilot still looking for a bride. This reporter asks, 'What does Duo Maxwell want in a wife?' Inquiring single women are dying to know if they can fulfil his dreams.

"Buy it or put it back!" the news stand attendant snarled.

Heero started. His glare deepened and he tossed the man the money. The man tossed back his change with a grin. Heero caught the coins deftly, rolled up the magazine, and stalked away back to his apartment.

Once inside, he tossed the magazine on to a small table, made himself tea, and then sat down in front of it. Sipping at the hot drink, he continued to glare at Duo's photo. His cell phone rang and he growled irritably as he pulled it out of his pocket and flipped it open.

"Yuy here."

"Duo is on another magazine cover. It's reported that he enjoys walks on the beach, pretzels, and wears briefs," Wu Fei said with an annoyed sniff. "That's far more than I cared to know."

"This isn't the war," Heero growled back. "He can do as he likes."

"Not when we he still works special assignments for Preventers," Wu Fei snapped back. "A low profile-"

"How can any of us have low profiles?" Heero wondered angrily. "We're public figures. My photo was taken several times simply going to get my morning newspaper."

"Duo is actively seeking this publicity, though," Wu Fei retorted. "He allows these inane interviews and speculation. He allows photo sessions and attends numerous parties and functions."

"Why does this concern me?" Heero wondered sharply. "I'm not a Preventer's agent any longer. I only work with computerized security programs."

"We need to kill his popularity so that we can get him back to business," Wu Fei replied. "Une suggested that we could enlist you, because you had expressed your desire to be left alone by the press as well."

"A scandal?" Heero was skeptical. "I believe that would generate a great deal of publicity."

"For a time, but then it would make both of you very unpalatable for these interest pieces and appearances," Wu Fei explained.

"I don't like this. I don't want my life disturbed," Heero told him.

"We will do everything," Wu Fei argued. "You will simply not deny whatever charge is leveled at you. Unless, you care about your reputation?"

"I know who I am," Heero retorted. "It doesn't matter what the world thinks."

"Good. That has always been my attitude as well," Wu Fei replied, pleased.

Heero stared at the magazine cover again. "I don't believe Duo shares it."

"He is crucial to our operations," Wu Fei replied. "Even after the war, we are all still required to make sacrifices."

"I asked to be relocated and given an alias," Heero complained.

"Unless you change your face, that's impossible," Wu Fei scoffed. "You know as well as I do how well known our faces are. You would be recognized, where ever you went."

Heero scowled at the phone and then carefully closed the magazine in front of him. "I want them to leave me alone."

"Then play along with whatever happens," Wu Fei told him. "Begin by going downstairs."

Heero automatically checked his gun in it's under arm holster. "Downstairs?" he echoed.

"Go to the sidewalk and wait," Wu Fei told him and then impatiently, "I think we know each other well enough to dispense with ridiculous suspicion."

"I do know you," Heero countered and made a well practiced move, drawing his gun and taking aim at an imaginary target. He re-holstered it and then stood up, "but I'm going."

"Good."

Heero turned off his phone and pocketed it as he made his way downstairs. As he walked back out into sunlight, he was instantly aware of the press lounging at every point and waiting for him to make news. It had been that way since Relena Peacecraft had decided that the entire Earthsphere should know how important the Gundam pilots had been in bringing about the peace.

"Son of a bitch! There you are!"

Heero turned and reached for his gun, but he was unprepared for the fist that connected with his jaw. He went down hard on the pavement and then quelled the urge, with a great effort, to fight back. His attacker was Duo Maxwell.

Duo was dressed in the same clothing that he had been wearing in the magazine piece, giving the odd impression that he had stepped out of it and become flesh and blood. He was furious, fists clenched and one of them gesturing at Heero as he shouted, "You don't know fuck about me! Why are you saying that shit to the press?"

He was still wearing a long braid and it swung wildly as he leaned over Heero. His eyes were large and that odd mix of purple and blue that had always fascinated Heero. He rubbed his jaw and stopped himself from staring to the point where he was counting a splatter of small freckles along Duo's cheek Play along, Wu Fei had said. "It's true, so why not say it?"

Duo yanked a paper out of his coat pocket and flung it down onto Heero's chest, panting in his fury. "If you don't take all of that back, I'll beat you into an ugly smear!"

"Afraid the press won't want to take pictures of you any longer?" Heero wondered calmly as he sat up and looked briefly at the paper. In large headline print it read, 'Heero Yuy claims Duo Maxwell is gay and kept him caged as a love slave'. Underneath it was even more lurid. 'Enduring daily beatings, he narrowly escaped with his life. Yuy describes elaborate and systematic abuse by bizarre and perverted instruments...

Heero felt his gut clench in disgust.

Duo grabbed him by his shirt and gave him a hard shake, shouting in his face, "You don't know what you've done! I needed-"

"Shit, it's true! Somebody call the cops!"

They turned their heads as one and both Heero and Duo saw the press coming out of hiding and snapping digital pictures, pictures that would be on the next news cycle in a matter of moments.

"Leave him the hell alone, you freak!" One of the newswomen shouted. "You've hurt him enough! Somebody be a man and help Mr. Yuy!"

Duo let Heero drop and he straightened. "It's all a lie!" he shouted at them and looked so furious that they stepped back. He looked back down at Heero. "Preventers put you up to this, didn't they? Well, they just screwed themselves! I'm not working for them any more."

"You know why they did it," Heero replied darkly as he rose to his feet. "Don't you want to be free of them?" He nodded to the gathered men and women. "Why aren't you as sick of them as I am?"

"Because I needed them!" Duo screamed and then stalked away.

Heero didn't understand and he didn't like not understanding. He was a man who had been used since the day he had found himself in the care of an assassin. He had just been used again to ruin a fellow Gundam pilot's reputation. It was possible that Wu Fei was right, that now it would be less likely that they would feature him in news articles, but the cost... Heero wanted to know what price had been paid for his freedom.

"Mr. Yuy!" the woman scrambled up to him, microphone in hand. "Are you all right? Do you wish to make a statement?"

Another man came up on his left. "Is it true that you're gay, sir? Is it also true that you enjoy S&M clubs and was experimenting with Duo Maxwell when he took you captive in his 'dungeon'?"

Heero grimaced. "Yes, it's all true," he said stiffly and then turned and went back into his apartment. The papers were soon full of alleged witnesses, lurid stories of S&M lifestyles and what Heero Yuy and Duo Maxwell might have been experimenting with, experts evaluating their mental state and what might have driven Duo to imprison Heero, and random photos of each of them in less than flattering circumstances or angles. After awhile, though, true to Wu Fei's promise, the outrage and shock wore off and the press decided that Heero and Duo had become unseemly news. No one asked Duo for interviews or to speculate which type of woman he thought would make him a perfect bride. He was gay and labeled a pervert. Heero was the victim, garnering sympathy, but also carrying the stigma of perversion as well. The news lost interest completely when ratings dipped sharply and Heero found himself, once again, on the fringes of their notice.

The lawsuit wasn't unexpected, but Wu Fei took it and told Heero not to concern himself. It was dropped not long after, and Heero's last contact with Wu Fei revealed that Duo was working for Preventer's once more, with a salary that had been considerably raised to compensate him for his embarrassment and lack of income from his numerous appearances and interviews. That made Heero feel somewhat better about his role in Duo's disgrace. Duo had seemed the kind of person to move quickly past all adversity, but Heero couldn't help feeling more than a tinge of paranoia that Duo might seek some revenge.

When Duo showed up on his doorstep, he was understandably cautious. Duo held a large duffel bag over one shoulder and he was dressed in jeans and a black tshirt. His expression was tight and not friendly.

"Heero," he said. "Can I come in and talk to you?"

Heero studied him, used his soldier's sixth sense to estimate his threat to his person, and concluded that, if he stayed alert, Duo wasn't competent enough to harm him. "All right," he replied and stepped aside.

Duo came in, eyeing the apartment. Plain, but comfortable, his eyes lingered on the enlarged, framed photos of the Gundams on the wall. Another frame held Heero's awards. Yet another, smaller one, showed him frowning, with Duo hanging on his neck and flashing a peace sign at the photographer.

Duo grunted in surprise. "I look like an idiot."

"You were an idiot," Heero replied as he walked behind him. "An excellent pilot, though."

Duo smirked. "Why this pic? You could have cut me out of it."

"End of the war," Heero replied, keeping his stance loose, but ready.

"There were other pictures," Duo pointed out, standing close and staring at the picture.

"Not good ones," Heero replied. "The Gundams are in the background. Fireworks. The banner overhead."

"Me," Duo added and gave him a sly look. "Are you holding a torch for me I didn't know about? I mean, we're both outed gays now, so you can come clean."

Heero frowned, sensing the sarcasm. "It seemed a logical solution, Duo. We've both regained a great deal of our privacy. You can work freely with Preventers now without having to worry about reporters compromising your missions."

"I guess you don't care what people think of you," Duo growled and turned to face him. "I do. I do care when people snicker at me, call me pervert, and ask me if they can be my slave. I do care that people think I'm sick enough to chain you up and electrify your ass. You think some privacy is worth spending your life pegged as an S&M dungeon master? Or in your case, the slave of one?"

Heero shrugged. "Wu Fei had already released my supposed statement on the matter before he informed me of his plans. He only wanted me to voice a confirmation. If I had refused, I think he would have continued to generate the rumors regardless."

"They don't own me!" Duo seethed.

"Yet you continued to work for them when they met your price," Heero reminded him. "You could have refused."

Duo slung his bag onto Heero's couch. He sat down next to it, arms crossed over his chest. "I needed that money, but saving people's lives doesn't carry a price tag. I would have continued taking missions... after I stopped being pissed."

Duo stared at Heero. "You're nervous. What's the matter?" he wondered. "If I was coming to kill you, I wouldn't have let everyone see me come to your apartment."

"Why did you come, then?" Heero wondered as he slowly sat down in a chair opposite Duo.

"To let you know what you were screwing with," Duo replied as he unzipped his bag. "It's real easy to be a self centered bastard when you can stay in your apartment and never face-"

Heero felt a chill run up his spine. "I know about consequences, " he bit out, trying to suppress ugly memories.

Duo raised an eyebrow. "Yeah? Then why was it okay to screw me?"

"We're survivors," Heero explained. "Already notorious. They make up enough stories. A little more didn't seem a problem."

"A big chip on your shoulder there, Yuy," Duo replied "You really hate the press that much, don't you? And you think I should have hated them too. Well..." He dumped out pictures of rolling green hills on the edge of a forest. Mountains were misty shadows in the background. "They were paying for my dream with every pic and expose' they did on me. I was making the payments on my slice of peace. Land is damned expensive Yuy. People mortgage for lifetimes to get a plot of it. This is twenty acres on the edge of nothing; a preserve with the only spot of land where a man can build. A lot of restrictions, but that's what makes it nice. Milliardo Peacecraft owed me a favor, a little matter of saving his life during a mission, so he shaved off this bit of what's his and gave me a chance for it. It's not free, and it's not cheap, but it's a chance."

Duo pulled out a plastic bag full of odd pieces of rubber and leather.

"Even with a Preventer raise, I'm not making enough to pay this off," Duo told Heero angrily, "So I figure you owe me."

Heero frowned and asked cautiously, "What are those?"

"Props," Duo replied as he emptied them out on the coffee table. "You want everyone to think you're a pervert? I intend to cash in on that."

Heero recognized what the items were and reached for his gun. "I don't know what drug you're on to think that I would go along with this."

Duo grinned. "They're not for you, they're for me. I'm just giving you a preview. They think Duo Maxwell's a pervert, well I'm going to be a pervert on the news. You're going to see my face everywhere, Heero, so be prepared to be a first class pervert right along with me. Keep nodding and agreeing with everything they ask you, because you are now my number one love slave."

Duo scooped the items back into his bag. "You bought your peace with mine, but you're not getting off without losing some of yours too."

Duo stood and strode for the door.

"Remember, Heero, "Duo called over his shoulder. "Keep saying 'Yes', or I might be back for that revenge yet." He paused with his hand on the doorknob, half in and half out of the door. He said, without turning, "Too bad you had to do this. When I got my place, I was thinking of asking you... " He cut that off with a hard shake of his head. "Oh, well." and then he was gone, closing the door behind him.

Heero felt a hot and cold flash go through his body and he shivered. Duo had said... Heero was completely surprised, never imagining that Duo felt anything for him. He looked over at the picture of them both standing together. He had kept it for more than ascetics, but he hadn't been willing to tell Duo that. Now he was beginning to understand what price his Peace had cost him.

[ch. 2] [back to Kracken's fic]