by Kracken
see ch 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer

Paparazzi + Chapter 2

"Well, he needed my help," Duo was saying on the vid show to a very attentive talk show hostess. "We were such good friends during the war, I couldn't turn him down. A man like that, he can be very dangerous. I was afraid that he would get violent and hurt someone. He needed a way to diffuse all of that training, all of the emotions left over from the war."

"Dr. Singh, " The blonde hostess said as she swivelled in her chair to face a nervous man. "You've had several cases like Mr. Yuy's, soldiers unable to let go of the day to day violence that they were subjected to during the war. Could you tell us how Mr. Maxwell's 'treatment' has proved to be effective in your patients as well?"

The man went on at length, but Heero was watching Duo's face, his patently false sympathy and concern for these other patients. The small, smug, upturn of one of his lips told Heero what he was really thinking. Dressed in a long, black, leather coat, black fingerless gloves, and knee high boots that were decorated with barbed wire and studs, he looked dangerous and confident, rather than overdone and ridiculous. His long hair was braided neatly, but he was sporting a piece of barbed wire through one ear and his eyes looked over bright, the same as when he was high on a mission adrenalin rush.

"I know that this is a very controversial and delicate subject," the hostess finally said after the doctor had finished. "The next segment will be of a very adult nature. Viewer discretion is advised. Mr. Maxwell is to be commended for his assistance to Mr. Yuy, not condemned. Helping a former war hero, and protecting the public at the expense of his own reputation, goes far beyond the call of duty."

"Thank you," Duo replied, looking embarrassed by the praise. "He deserves any help he can get. He saved Earth from destruction, after all."

There was an murmur of agreement from the audience. Heero blinked in surprise. He hadn't known that the general public honored his deeds during the war that greatly. He had been subjected to a constant attempt, by the media, to catch him doing something newsworthy, preferably something controversial. He was certain that he had bored many of them to death with his mundane routine and his almost reclusive lifestyle. He had assumed that their interest had been fueled by a public need to confirm that he was anything but a hero.

"Now, I realize that this segment might make you very uncomfortable, Mr. Maxwell," the hostess said as if she were embarrassed already, "but I know that there are some in our audience who have neither experienced nor read any detailed account of the lifestyle that you have been forced to live to help your friend, Mr. Yuy."

Images of leather clad men in a club were suddenly on the screens behind them. The camera panned down to a table full of erotic and somewhat dangerous objects. Duo touched one tentatively. "You have to understand that men, like Heero, were used to having their lives completely controlled," he explained. "They didn't have any free will and, when the war ended, they found the absence of direction frightening. It was something that some of them couldn't stand. Many of them committed crimes so that they could be imprisoned and controlled that way. Others joined these clubs or formed attachments with strong individuals who used certain means and instruments to control them. This is a collar and a leash. They signify-"

Wu Fei threw a remote at the vid screen. It clattered into the image of Duo's face and then bounced off. "He's reading from a Preventer psychological report pertaining to post war syndrome," he growled as he strode to the vid screen and turned it off with a harsh movement. Turning to where Heero was seated at the large conference table, he continued, "You see our dilemma. He's the best agent in Preventers, but he's made himself a magnet for the news media. He refuses-"

"Why don't you give him what he wants?" Heero wondered, cutting Wu Fei off. Alone in the large room with the angry man, he felt uncomfortable and cold. He wanted to leave, to return to his apartment and his work.

"Do you know what he's asking for?" Wu Fei demanded. When Heero nodded, Wu Fei paced in agitation. "It's dishonorable and mercenary. Since he intends to retire once he's purchased his property, it's not in our interest to help him accomplish it."

"He is a free man," Heero argued and stood up. "He may be your best agent, but you can't force him to serve."

Wu Fei glared at him. "Perhaps not 'force', but we can make his refusal very detrimental to his future."

Heero's hands tightened into fists and he felt a dark emotion roil through him. He didn't like Duo threatened. Something inside of him was actually pleased by Duo's rebellion and his sheer daring. That was the Duo that he had known during the war, the man who, no matter what means Wu Fei employed, would not do anything that he didn't want to.

"How does any of this concern me?" Heero asked, knowing full well what Wu Fei wanted from him.

"Preventers wants you to counter these statements," Wu Fei told him. "We want you to claim that Duo is suffering from a mental breakdown and imagining his involvement with you. If he is discredited, then these opportunities to appear on these foolish shows will disappear."

"Duo knows that he has an obligation to help people," Heero replied. "He doesn't have to be a Preventer to accomplish that, though, and he doesn't have to live in this city to operate as an agent either. If you allow him to move to his land, away from the media and any chance to do these interviews, then isn't your problem solved?"

"Is it?" Wu Fei wondered. "What more will he demand from us if we cave in this instance and give him his land? You know what he is."

Heero growled, "Are you going to say that, because he's from L2, that he is a natural thief and an extortionist?"

Wu Fei looked insulted. "He's a man who's lived by his own rules for his entire life, Yuy. He's a survivor, without morals or any inclination to live by society's rules. If he's given power and a blank check to get his cooperation once, there will be nothing to stop him from attempting it again."

Heero turned to leave.

"Yuy?" Wu Fei called after him. "You haven't told me your answer."

"My refusal would be detrimental to my future as well, correct?" Heero asked him without turning. When Wu Fei didn't reply, Heero scowled and left the office, closing the door hard behind him. He needed to talk to Duo.

Heero tried Duo's cell phone, home phone, work number, and even waited for hours outside of his apartment, all to no avail. The man was purposefully avoiding him and Heero knew why. It became clear, early on, where he was making himself visible and available, places that would stir the controversy even more and confirm the truth of Duo's claims.

Heero hunched into his jacket, standing outside of the club in jeans and a plain shirt and looking completely out of place. Leather clad men appraised him with interest, but his dark looks kept a clear space around him as he debated with himself whether to follow Duo inside. There was nothing outside of the building to indicate what lay inside. A strip of lights, an old facade of granite and cement, and two burly men standing at the double front doors were the only indications, beside the name in dark red letters above the door, 'Tension', that it was indeed a club of some sort.

Heero checked his gun automatically and then decided to enter. When he approached the doors, a man to his right said, "This is for hookups only. Anything else goes on elsewhere. ID please?"

Heero frowned. He knew better than to carry any of his official ID with his normal wallet. He had a false ID ready at all times and he used it now. The man looked it over, grunted, and then handed it back.

"If you're just curious," the man suggested, "then stay to the right where the bar area is. If you want to get into the scene, hang out by the booths and couches."

"If you want a good first time, I'll be your master after work," the second man said from behind the anonymity of dark sunglasses.

Heero thought of his hard training and his treatment at the hands of the enemy. "You wouldn't be my first," he muttered as he passed into the club.

There was music, but it wasn't loud. It was a background, primal beat that gave energy to rather dull decor. The room was indeed made up of two wings, one for people to settle and talk, and the other for drinks and casual observers. Leather was the dominant dress; leashes, collars, pants with large sections missing in erotic places, and shirts that were no more than simple intersecting strips held together by metal studs. There were only a few dressed as normally as Heero and Duo wasn't one of them.

Duo was settled at a booth with two drinks. His hair was braided with leather strips and studs. He wore barbed wire through one ear. His coat was long and black, his collar high, and his shirt missing. When he moved to get his drink, Heero saw the glint of a nipple ring. That made him raise an eyebrow, worried that Duo would go to that extent to carry out his plan. Below the table, Heero knew that he was wearing tight leather pants, a set of metal cuffs he was sure were Preventer issue, and large, black, field boots with straps and buckles and so many scuffs, that Heero knew that they were fresh off of a mission.

A man paused by Duo, looking submissive and uncertain. With eyes downcast, he said something. Heero glared as he approached. The man wasn't wearing much and his collar was very thick and spiked.

Duo grinned, reached out, and snagged the man's collar. He pulled the man's head to the table, rubbed his cheek there, and then shoved him off. The man staggered, going a little pale. As Heero came close to the table, Duo said, "I've got a hole. I don't need a pussy."

Heero's frown deepened at the crudeness and the would be slave almost ran into him as he beat a hasty retreat.

"And there he is now!" Duo snickered and raised his glass to Heero. "Finally get the courage to come in? How many pictures do you think they got of you, hm? Hope it was your best side... oh, sorry, you have that covered up!"

Heero sat down. Duo shoved the extra drink towards him and Heero saw that it was a drink that he preferred. He took a sip and let the alcohol burn down to his stomach as he considered what to do. "You want me to become angry," he finally said. "You want me to make a scene, here, with everyone watching."

Duo looked annoyed only briefly and then he shrugged. "It would have helped me get a few more gigs where I explain how my 'therapy' is helping you deal with that anger."

"Your problem isn't me," Heero told him, brushing that aside. "Preventers is making war on this plan of yours. You know that they get what they want in the end. They don't want you to have your land. They don't want you to retire. They do want you to stay low profile." "They never get tired of 'using'," Duo sighed as he took a long drink from his glass, finishing it. He grimaced at the strength of it and then continued, "But Duo Maxwell can't be beat. They'll find that out." He thunked his empty glass down on the table and motioned to a server for another. "I've taught the other agents all I know... so did you. They can do the job. I'll jump in when I have to, but I shouldn't have to, you know?"

Heero nodded. Duo looked surprised.

"You agreed with me," Duo said and eyed Heero. "They let you have your paper shuffle job because you like to kill everyone and destroy everything to get a mission done. I have more finesse and control. You don't have any stake in this, so don't try to make me think you're on my side."

Heero took another drink, swirled it around his tongue, and counted and identified the chemicals that had been mixed with the drink. "I've been threatened as well," he admitted. "I do have a stake in the outcome of your rebellion." He pushed the drink away from him. His body had already negated the reaction and, aside from slight dizziness, he wasn't otherwise impaired. "It seems that I have to become an active member in your plan in order for me to regain my life back as well."

"The drug isn't working, is it?" Duo guessed nervously and his hand slipped under his coat, touching a gun there, Heero was certain.

"No," Heero affirmed. "I won't kill you for it this time, though."

"That's good," Duo breathed, slumped in his seat, and then suddenly straightened, looking startled. "Wait? Did you actually say that you wanted to... go along with my plan? You gotta know that I'm not really into this shit, right?"

"What were you going to do to me?" Heero wondered.

Duo chewed on his bottom lip and then admitted, "They have a 'dungeon' downstairs. Nothing sexual, just S&M stuff. I was going to put you on a crossbar, clamp a few things, and then take some photos." He looked uncomfortable. "I wouldn't have hurt you, though."

"No?" Heero felt a blush and tried to hide it by rubbing his face with one hand, not sure why he was allowing the situation to embarrass him.

Duo blinked and then said as if he didn't really want to admit it, "I was mad, but... not that mad, Heero.I don't do shit like that.... especially not to you."

"Why not?" Heero wondered and couldn't help remembering the many times that he had seen Duo ruthlessly kill people during the war.

Duo rubbed the back of his neck nervously and then shrugged dismissively."What's it matter?" He leaned towards Heero. "Uhm, let's get back to how you want to help me. Exactly, what's that mean?"

"Carry out your plan," Heero replied, but then added distastefully, "To my specifications. You are not... clamping things."

Duo shuddered. "I didn't really like that part of the plan at all, but... we do have to make it look... authentic."

"We need to make ourselves so high profile, that we become a complete embarrassment to the Preventers," Heero told him. "Wu Fei was looking for a quick scandal. If we draw it out, keep it from dying, we will become the thing that Wu Fei fears most, agents that are so well known and compromised that we will never be able to work covert ops again."

"What happened to wanting to be left alone?" Duo bit out angrily. "You were fucking willing to step on my dreams to get that."

Heero looked into Duo's puzzled eyes, his handsome face, and could only find the truth on his tongue, "Perhaps the cost of being alone is too high?"

"Freak," Duo snorted, but he was laughing too. "I will never figure you the hell out, Yuy."

Heero looked Duo up and down, finding his own amusement in the situation. "This is your plan."

"Yeah," Duo chuckled, "but you're the one wanting to get on all fours and bark like a dog."

Heero frowned. "Is that...?"

Duo shrugged. "Got me, but that would explain all the freakin dog collars."

"Perhaps we should find out..." Heero suggested, not really liking that idea.

Duo looked just as uncomfortable. "Let's wing it," he countered. "You always did over plan a mission, Heero." He stood and edged out from behind the table. "Come on, they sell gear at the back. Maybe that'll give us a clue what to do."

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