by: Kracken
Disclaimer:I don't own them and I don't make any money off of this.
Warning: male/Male sex. graphic. Violent. language. Drug addiction.

Crossing Paths + Part 11
Shadows


Duo awoke feeling as if his blood had dried up. He was cold, his head ached, and, when he opened his eyes, he felt confused and disoriented. He remembered being at the doctor's and undergoing tests. He shivered from more than cold. He hadn't like any of those tests. Some of them had been invasive, embarrassing, and painful. Some of them had reminded him of his time in an Oz interrogation room, arm strapped down and needles inserted under his skin; blood going out and blood going back in full of drugs that burned the mind as well as the body. Before he had been given the sedative, Duo remembered shamefully gibbering in fear, "Get them out! Oh, God! Please get them out!" over and over again like a mantra of despair and loathing.

"The Doctor wouldn't tell me either," Quatre's voice complained. "He cited Doctor/ patient confidentiality. We'll just have to wait until Duo wakes up and reads the test results."

"Duo frightened me, Quatre," Heero said and he did seem on edge still.

"He was so pale and his skin was cold. He was very confused. I didn't think that he could even focus on me."

"Well, you did the right thing, calling the Doctor in to look at him," Quatre reassured Heero. "It turned out all right in the end. Duo should have told you and the Doctor that he hadn't eaten. It made the drugs in his system that much more powerful."

Heero sighed and Duo, trying to wake up completely, heard him walking about, pacing. "I wish... I wish he would trust me, Quatre. He doubts himself so much. He doesn't believe-"

"I'm awake," Duo said quietly. He didn't care to eavesdrop any longer.

Heero, ever observant, would have noticed in a few more moments anyway. Heero came to the bedside, Quatre staying seated not far away, as if he knew that he had to accede to Heero's dominant position at Duo's bedside. Heero looked down into Duo's face, a crease between his dark brows. "How do you feel?" he asked.

It took Duo a moment to gather his thoughts. He had been expecting Heero to... what? Duo remembered, uncomfortably, declarations of love before oblivion. The only experience he had with relationships was restricted to terrible vid shows. Not knowing much more than that he had been a little apprehensive that Heero would suddenly begin to act that way, declaring his love, showering him in kisses, and calling him pet names while reading poetry. To be confronted by the usual, no nonsense Heero Yuy, was a relief, even though Duo was still tied in knots about how to proceed with a man he hardly knew, yet loved so much it was hard, even now, to deal with it. He had to keep Heero at arm's length, he thought, until he figured him out and knew all there was to know about him. Until then, their declarations of love were going to remain the 'elephant in the room'. It had to be that way, Duo thought. If Heero was doing something wrong, something he didn't want to admit to, then Duo wasn't going to look the other way, even for something as strong as the love he felt for Heero.

"I feel like I was buried and then dug up a week later," Duo whispered and then coughed, his throat bone dry. Heero handed him a glass of chilled water and Duo drank it gratefully.

"We have food for you," Heero told him and turned to pick up a tray from the side table.

Duo hitched himself up on his pillows and was glad to feel the strength to do so. He wasn't injured, he concluded. The sleep had helped him greatly. When Heero placed the tray in his lap, he grimaced at the Jell-O, thin broth, protein drink, and crackers. "Guess a beer is out of the question?" He didn't need to look up to know that both Heero and Quatre were taking him seriously. "A joke, guys, come on, lighten up."

Quatre made an exasperated sound. "Duo! This isn't a joking matter! I have everything a man could want or need at your beck and call. Is it too much to ask that you take advantage of it and care for yourself?"

"It was worse than dumb, I know," Duo said apologetically. "I guess that I was just nervous about the doctor and forgot to eat. I also didn't want to get so nervous that I threw up. I do that on occasion, right Heero?"

Heero nodded, remembering the gym incident. "Try to be more careful in the future," he said, as if he were giving an order, but Duo heard an underlying anxiety. Heero really had been frightened for him.

Seeing that kind of vulnerability in Heero was frightening to Duo. He felt as if he had drilled through a mile of permafrost and been rewarded with a glimpse of unexpected sunshine. Heero's thinly veiled emotions were just as startling and unexpected. Duo felt that he owed Heero something for allowing him to see it, because, Duo suspected, it was Heero's choice to allow it. How much that had cost him, fighting ingrained training and his own dour nature, Duo could imagine.

"Sorry," Duo apologized and meant it. "I didn't mean to upset you... you either, Quatre."

Quatre stood up and finally decided to encroach on Heero's space. He gave Duo an impatient, blue-eyed look. "We have your test results Duo. Let's forget about your being an idiot, for now, so that you can read through them."

"Are you feeling well enough?" Heero asked Duo, ready to fend Quatre off if Duo gave him even a small sign that he wasn't.

Duo held out his hand though, as eager as Quatre. "Give it here. Let's get this over with and then I'll eat, k? I think my stomach is going to be in a knot until I know how things stand."

Heero picked up the computer pad from the side table and handed it over to Duo. Duo took it, smoothed his long fingered hands along the sides of the pad, and then pressed the on button, using his fingerprint on the code pad. When the screen flickered to life, and words scrolled down, Duo experienced a flash of fear that almost caused him to fling the pad away from him and not look. Muttering, coward, to himself, he forced himself to begin reading.

"Well?" Quatre prompted impatiently after awhile of watching Duo's face go through a range of emotions, none of them good. Heero surprised Duo by saying seriously, "If it is too personal, you don't have to tell us, Duo. I only wish to know whether to continue your rescue efforts."

"No," Duo replied, his face white and his fingers trembling as he let the pad drop.

"No?" Quatre echoed and felt Duo's anguish wash over his sensitive empathy.

Duo stared very hard at the tray in his lap. He began to eat, mechanically and methodically. Heero and Quatre both stared at him, waiting for more. When Duo wasn't forthcoming, Quatre suddenly looked sympathetic and touched Heero's arm lightly. "He needs to be alone, I think," Quatre told Heero, and then to Duo, "I know that it would have been easier to believe in a plot against you, but, now that you know the reality of your situation, perhaps you might consider staying here, Duo? I can get you the best doctors to help you. I'm sure that the government won't mind if I request that they take the place of their staff. With work and patience, I'm sure you can heal, both mentally and physically, enough to be allowed to return to space."

Duo felt the sting of tears and the searing heat of anger burning him up inside. "It doesn't matter what I do, Quatre."

Of course Heero Yuy would be able to read upside down with ease and with a speed that made Duo's sudden grab at the pad and his quick move to turn it off, fruitless. Heero's face went very dark and his jaw clenched so hard that Duo thought that he would break teeth. His voice, though, came out surprisingly steady, shockingly matter- of -fact. "The drugs are a slow hormonal/ mood enhancing poison and you are permanently addicted."

"Doesn't life just suck!" Duo hissed back and then shoved the tray off of his lap so that it splattered everywhere. Heero didn't make a move to get out of the way. His pants were covered in red Jell-O and hot soup.

Quatre had backed up, wide eyed, confused, and guiltily contrite.

"Life didn't do this to you," Heero replied steadily. "Men did. 'Why', is the question and why this method?"

"It doesn't matter!" Duo repeated viciously. "Who cares why? Maybe someone just hated me enough to want to make me crawl and suffer. People are like that, right? Shit happens! This shit happened to me!" He quieted himself with an effort, panting with reaction, and then he shook his head sharply. "I'm going back to my apartment, back to what I know, back to ignorance. Life was much better when all I had to think about was a beer and a video game."

Heero said firmly, not to be questioned, "Quatre, leave us alone."

Quatre looked ready to protest, his face ashen, but then his lips pressed tightly together as he sensed that Heero had what Duo needed just then and that Duo didn't need an unnecessary fifth wheel to be a witness to his grief.

When Quatre was gone, the door closed softly behind him, Heero faced Duo squarely. "Nothing is impossible," he said. "Doctors have often been known to be wrong."

Duo felt outrage. "Are you going to give me false hope, Heero? Are you going to try and sugar coat a death sentence? That is what this is, you realize? The drugs are slowly weakening my body and my immune system. Dementia and organ collapse are a real possibility in the future. I can't stop taking them. If I do, the trauma of withdrawal will be so severe that my body won't be able to handle the stress. Someone wanted to hurt me Heero, hurt me good, and make it take a long time. My end isn't going to be pretty. In fact, that diagnosis paints such an ugly picture of my future, I don't think I want to be there for it."

"The body is an incredible thing," Heero persisted, his blue eyes intense. "With training, it can be forced to endure stresses and work at levels most physicians would consider impossible." Heero picked up the tray, smeared by food. It was a heavy metal coated in sterling. Without seeming effort, Heero simply flexed his shoulder muscles and bent it in half as if it were butter. "I have been trained to do the impossible," he continued as he let the tray drop with a clatter. "If you allow me, Duo, I can train you to do the impossible too, overcome these drugs, overcome what they have done to your body already."

"You left out the agony of enduring withdrawal, the physical pain of your training, and maybe the agony of failure on top of all of that," Duo replied. "Why should I bother? They'll still keep me locked up on Earth. They'll still force me to see their doctors and jump through their hoops. Maybe I can get off the drugs. Maybe I can save myself. What for, though, Heero? What the Hell for? What kind of life is this for anybody?"

Heero replied, "Any life is better than no life at all, Duo. You know that. You also know that giving up isn't an option. That isn't who you are."

"Not who I am?" Duo sneered. "I don't know you, Heero, and you certainty don't know me. What makes you think that there is anything I have left worth living for, that makes this life better than no life at all? What possible incentive can you give me to go through with what you are suggesting?"

Heero leaned very close and Duo almost felt threatened by Heero's penetrating stare, a stare that seemed to lay bare his soul, his weakness, and his despair, showing it to Duo, making him feel it fully, before he offered up the one thing that would make Duo overcome it all.

"Revenge."

Duo blinked, shocked, and then a hot glow of understanding began to burn inside of him. Heero touched his braid, lifted it up, and ran it through his fingers. Duo wore it to remember the dead, to remember why he had fought and killed during the war. Revenge. It had been enough then and it was enough now. "Do you think it's possible?" Duo asked, the light of Shinigami glowing in his amethyst eyes.

"I can find out who did this to you," Heero promised. "'Why' is harder, but 'why' is not as important, is it?"

"No, it isn't. Fuck their reasons. I don't care about that," Duo replied sharply. He ran his hand down his braid and settled on Heero's hand, squeezing it painfully tight, emphasizing his next words. "You find those bastards for me, Heero, you get them to where I can take care of them, and I'll give you what ever you want, k?"

Heero smiled and it was the smile of a soldier, blades and blood for the people who had harmed his Duo. "There is only one thing that I require," he said.

Duo felt a tinge of wariness, still unsure of Heero's motives. "Only one?"

Heero reluctantly let the braid drop and he turned away, suddenly tense. "It's not to be given," he replied. "It can't be a reward. It either is or it isn't, yet it is the only thing I care about or want."

Duo understood then. "You offer me a gift and ask me to trust you," he said. "If you hope to ever get what you want, you'll have to trust me too. Tell me who Heero Yuy is. Tell me what Heero Yuy is doing trying to recruit screwed up Gundam pilots."

Heero was silent for so long that Duo thought he had forgotten he was even there, but, finally, Heero turned to him, determination in his face. "You suffered Oz torture and didn't give them even your name. I remember that. I will trust you."

Heero licked nervous lips as he came very close to the bed, his voice dropping into almost a feral growl as he said quickly and concisely, "I am working for the Preventers. The remnants of the Tiger Cell have formed a crack unit, an anti terrorist task force that eliminates threats to the alliance. We train new recruits and take on very difficult and dangerous missions. Our newest mission is still in the planning stage. We suspect that anti unification rebels have infiltrated an Earth installation. We suspect that they are trying to manufacture weapons of mass destruction, including advanced suits. Reconnaissance, at this stage, is essential, but the only entrance into a suspected site was so narrow that none of our trained agents could fit."

Duo let loose with a bitter laugh and Heero stopped talking. "So, you remembered scrawny Duo Maxwell and thought to recruit him to snake through a pipe?"

"Yes," Heero admitted simply. "I was hoping that you were still fit and willing to deploy your extensive training in the area of infiltration."

"Why not just storm up to the front door and knock it down?" Duo wondered sharply. "Doesn't that make more sense?"

"The situation is delicate," Heero replied as if he wished to do just that and was being held back. "It involves important individuals. We have to be absolutely certain of our facts before we can act."

"I suppose you aren't going to tell me who is involved?" Duo asked. When Heero remained silent, Duo relented. "All right, I suppose that's enough. It could all be a lie," Heero glared and stiffened, but Duo continued unperturbed, "and I'll have to have a way to confirm what you're saying eventually, but... I know that took a lot, to say these things to me, Heero. I know it goes against your training for you to blather details of a secret mission to a loud mouthed guy who loves you, who doesn't even have the good grace to believe you. Sorry about that and all, but you have to understand, my love isn't blind, ya know? The guy I love is going to have to be as good a guy as I am... uh, well, maybe better. Sometimes I'm not the most law abiding citizen."

Heero reached out and caught Duo's chin. Duo stopped talking. His grin was wide and dangerous. Heero grinned back and it was like a wolf, especially with his tangle of chocolate hair in his face making him look untamed and wild. "Love?" Heero said.

"Well, yeah," Duo replied. "Don't get all mushy on me, okay? Just because I love you, doesn't mean I'm going to put on a skirt and start baking cookies, so don't get any ideas. ..., " he went quiet, thinking about his admission, watching Heero's face reflect his inner joy. Heero was beautiful, Duo though, achingly beautiful when he let his inner self shine through his granite like exterior.

Duo couldn't keep up his attempt to hide his anxiety. "It's going to be tough.... getting over the drugs, getting back into shape... I'm not sure... If it gets too much, revenge might not be enough to get me through it. If that happens..."

Heero touched Duo's braid, ran it through his fingers again, and then tightened his grip on it convulsively. "I won't lose you," he said with determination, but then softened uncertainly as he asked, "Am... Am I enough, Duo? If I'm with you. If I'm there for you at the end of it. ... Is that enough?"

Duo sighed, closed his eyes, and thought about it. How much did he love Heero? Was it shallow and easily blown away? Would it go away when the first pangs of withdrawal, the reality of screaming, enduring, and maybe dying in a messy way hit him full force? Revenge should have been stronger. Revenge seemed more dependable. Duo knew that it wasn't either of those things. Duo knew that it wasn't going to be his strength when he needed strength the most.

Duo opened his eyes and met Heero's worried cobalt ones. His mind could dance circles all it wanted and pretend otherwise, but his heart knew what rock to hold onto during a storm. It knew that the love he felt for Heero wasn't a tenuous or weak thing. It had started as a spark and fanned into a flame during years of separation, longing, and fantasizing. Now that he had the real thing in the real person of Heero Yuy and, wonder on wonder, Heero loved him too, Duo knew that love had become an unbreakable lifeline.

"I told you not to get mushy on me!" Duo protested half heartedly, not sure he could admit feelings that deep to Heero yet. He was still coming to terms with it himself. "Well, let me get out of bed and let's get the torture started, okay?" Which was a reply, of sorts, and one Heero understood. Duo saw him smile as Heero turned away to hide it. Before it was hidden by his shoulder, Duo wondering why Heero would try to hide it now when he had revealed so much else, Duo caught the glisten of a tear. He had made the perfect soldier, stone-man Heero Yuy, cry. Duo felt a lump in his own throat and it was the sight of that tear that kept him from killing Heero when the man took his pills, went to the toilet, and began flushing them down, while Duo screamed, shouted obscenities, and fought him tooth and nail with his weakened strength.

+

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