by Kracken
Disclaimer: I don't own them and I don't make any money off of this.
Warnings: In this and future parts of this arc, Male/Male sex, Graphic, Violent, Flashbacks to war brutality including torture and non consensual sex in later parts. Language. Gore.


Crossing Paths + Part 2
Undertow


"Your eyes are dilated from drugs and alcohol," Heero said, "Speaking to you further, in this state, would be non productive. All that I require from you now is your permission allowing me several days to observe you. Once I have submitted my findings to my superiors, and they deem you able to operate within our project parameters, then more will be revealed to you."

Duo made a face, but then he rubbed at his eyes and knew that Heero was right. His mind was cloudy, the drugs and alcohol a potent mix. He sat on the couch, hands hanging between his knees and head bowed so that his chestnut bangs hid his expression. He wanted to ask so many questions, but all of them had to do with why Heero and his superiors had chosen to include him in their plans. He couldn't ask those questions without denigrating himself. If Heero was offering a way off planet, then highlighting his short comings was a definite bad move. Still, Heero had known about the drugs. What else did Heero know? How many faults was Heero already aware of? How many faults did Duo have the option of hiding? He wondered.

"I haven't had company in years," Duo replied, "and I never really learned to keep house or be a host. I have a maid come in every other day to clean up my messes. So, if you can look after yourself... sure, why not? Stay and join all the rest of the people who have made it their life watching me in my fish bowl."

Heero nodded as if rejecting most of Duo's conversation, replying only to the permission he had been given, "You will tell everyone that I am your body guard."

Duo grimaced. "You're a fucking war hero, Heero!" he exclaimed despondently. "All of those people down stairs will take one look at you and make up a thousand different stories about why you're suddenly with me, most of them sexual and kinky. Hope you don't mind having your name smeared into the dirt?"

"They won't know me," Heero assured him. "They will think that I am your bodyguard. I have credentials posted in the government computer database already, a false name, and a false history."

"I didn't figure you for delusional, but okay, play it that way, Heero," Duo sighed. He stood and began walking towards the bedroom. "I need some alone time. I had a long, bad day. Eat what you want. Watch what you want."

"No," Heero replied.

Duo turned at his bedroom door, puzzled and irritated, only sleep on his mind. "Huh?"

Heero was standing stiffly at the center of the room, his blue eyes level on Duo. "You have six hours until your medication reduces itself to a level that will be safe enough to allow you to sleep."

"You don't even know what I'm taking," Duo challenged, not sure of his own statement.

"Do you?" Heero shot back.

Duo licked suddenly dry lips and echoed Heero angrily. "Do you?"

"No," Heero replied.

Duo couldn't help his pained expression. "Neither do I," he admitted bleakly. "They won't tell me and, when I tried to hack to find out, it was so classified and pass protected that the whole code line unraveled when I tried to decipher it." Heero nodded, confirming that he had met with the same lack of success. "They give them to me," Duo told him. "They don't come from a pharmacy. I tried to get several pharmacists to tell me what they are, but I haven't found anyone who can identify them."

"What are there effects?" Heero asked.

Duo shrugged. "They make me dizzy for about fifteen minutes after I take them, but I haven't felt any other reaction."

"Curious," Heero replied thoughtfully. "I assumed that they were drugs for mental instability and to make you susceptible to direction."

Duo moved back into the living room, feet plodding as he tried to work against the pull of gravity and the lassitude caused by his drug cocktail. "I haven't been very good at taking direction, lately, so I doubt that's what they're for."

Duo paced, hating the way his joints popped and protested. Heero seemed at ease, as if he had grown up on Earth, and Duo wondered if he had. There was so little he knew about the ex pilot of Wing. They had only been on a handful of missions together during the war and they hadn't been on the best of terms even then. Like oil and water, Duo thought, their opposed personalities then. Now, they were more alike, more dark and morose, more likely to understand a shared reluctance to deal with society.

"Okay," Duo said, almost to himself. "You can sleep on the couch and gawk at me for a few days. Sorry for the rough accommodations, but I only have the one gel bed, and I'm not giving it to you. It's the only thing I can sleep on planet side without waking up in a knot."

"Acceptable," Heero replied, face unreadable. Duo was sure it wouldn't have changed no matter what Duo had said, even if his reply had been 'go to Hell'.

Heero was still in soldier mode, and it seemed he hadn't given up being a soldier as a profession. Special ops. For who? For the Colonies? It made Duo nervous to imagine them indulging in stealth operations. What had happened to peace and trust between Earth and the Colonies?

Heero was silent, offering nothing in the way of conversation. His dark, blue eyes were studying the apartment, though Duo was sure he had been over every inch already before Duo had arrived home.

"I don't want to fight again," Duo said suddenly and Heero turned those eyes on him. They were full of shadows and old pains; a lifetime spent killing and fighting for one thing or another.

"I didn't ask you to fight," Heero replied. "We are at peace. There are no more Gundams, no more wars to join."

"Good," Duo replied with some relief. "Not even to get off of this dirt ball, Heero. I'd rather spend the rest of my life-"

"It is nothing like that," Heero strangely assured him, an edge to his voice, as if Duo had accused him of something he didn't like.

"Okay," Duo replied, just as edgy, but for different reasons. He hated mysteries. He hated being in the dark about his own situation. He had suffered with that for four years, mind constantly trying to understand his own, forced predicament and why it had befallen him alone out of all the pilots. Theories had abounded in his head, but, conjecture all he liked, answers were never forthcoming.

"Answer me one thing, Heero, if you won't say anything else," Duo requested, trying not to sound needy and desperate. "These superiors of yours... can you promise me that they can get me into space again?"

Heero nodded. "They can, if you suit their needs."

"Always a charge," Duo growled bitterly.

"You know there is," Heero replied simply. "This much I will tell you, their goal is to keep the peace."

And how did he fit into that plan? Duo wondered, but knew better than to question Heero further. Heero's face was set like stone, his lips thinned as he waited to voice his rejection of any further questioning.

"Six hours...," Duo sighed. "I don't really want to pace the floor that long. I think I'll go down to the gym and work out. Make yourself comfort-"

"I am now your bodyguard," Heero replied. "I will be expected to follow you every where."

Duo frowned and then said jokingly, "I hope you aren't expecting to tag along when I try and get my girlfriend into the bedroom for some one on one?"

Heero's eyes were like ice. "You have several friends, none of them close and none of them sexual partners. Lying at this point is detrimental to my analysis of your condition."

Duo felt his face go hot and his fists clenched. "Uh, it was just a joke, I guess. What I was getting at, was that I don't WANT you to follow me everywhere. I kind of like to be alone sometimes... well, most times."

"Why?" Heero asked.

Duo felt his mouth go dry. Why? It echoed on down to the bottom of his soul. Why? "Don't you?"

"No," Heero replied and Duo was surprised. He couldn't imagine Heero liking company of any kind. Duo almost suspected Heero of making his own kind of joke, but he could see that the man was serious.

"I... uh... don't know," Duo replied at last, stumbling to find his own reason. "It's so hard, most times, to deal with people. I can't... It's like I have so many of my own problems. Being normal, being friendly, listening to other people's problems, hearing them talk about this or that... it's like a big pressure, a mental kind of pain actually, and I find I can't stand it for long. Doesn't make me popular in the long term, but for short periods of time, I can be the life of the party." Duo tried to smile and failed. "So, there you go. Add that to your Duo Maxwell's screwed up check list while I get my gym clothes on."

Duo had time to wonder what exactly Heero did think of him while he dressed in a pair of black shorts and a white tank top. Slipping on his socks and gym shoes, he stopped by a full length mirror and felt the wave of depression that usually accompanied anything more than a brief glance at his reflection. Long, thin legs, long arms with overlarge, long fingered hands, he still looked like a boy, a boy on the verge of becoming tall with shoulders threatening to fan out into something impressive. It was a false promise, shadows of a manhood that had fallen short of expectation. Another why that Duo couldn't answer. It was as if his body had been frozen in time, forever the youthful Gundam pilot. He had learned to hate his reflection. He hated it even more now that he had seen Heero, seen how much his ex comrade had fulfilled his promise.

Duo felt a flush burn his cheeks as he left the safety of his bedroom. He tried not to look at Heero as he went to the door and began to undo the locks. He could feel Heero's eyes on him, assessing him, maybe, and making note of all his flaws. Duo almost expected a derisive laugh at his expense, but he knew that Heero seldom laughed or even smiled. Still, Duo imagined disgust and it made him angry, real or imagined. He felt the need to say," I'm small, but I'm wiry. I know I look like an easy mark, but-"

"I know your training," Heero replied, "It is formidable." His voice was surprisingly soft, as if he understood Duo's shyness about his body and felt some sympathy.

Duo looked over his shoulder at Heero with knitted brows as he opened the door. "Thanks," he said and then self deprecatingly, not able to keep from pricking at his own shortcomings, "So, body guard, are you going to keep people from kicking sand in my face?"

Heero didn't understand the reference, but he replied, "You will not be bothered in any way, during my observation period, but I don't believe that my help is necessary in the area of your self defense. My position as your body guard is only a cover."

"Okay, meaning, you're not really going to get your hands dirty protecting me unless you really have to," Duo translated.

"Yes." Heero took out a comb and simply combed his hair over and down one side of his face, almost like Trowa, but not so severe. When he looked into Duo's eyes, Duo started. Heero's eyes were brown and contacts glinted there.

"That's going to be enough of a disguise?" Duo wondered as he moved out into the hall, sneakers squeaking ever so slightly.

"People identify acquaintances by certain outstanding body features," Heero explained as he took a position two steps behind Duo and followed. "During my training, I learned that people who know me only slightly, focus mainly on my hair and my eyes to identify me. Changing those features gave me instant anonymity with them."

"So, cutting my braid off and keeping on my sunglasses will keep people from knowing me?" Duo wondered.

"No," Heero replied. "You are a unique looking individual. You have many visual identifiers."

"Oh," Duo replied, wondering if that was good in Heero's book or bad. He said absently, thoughts still on his own looks, "We didn't spend a lot of time together during the war, but I'd know you anywhere, no matter what you did to yourself."

"Hn?" Heero grunted and Duo heard his own words as if there was a time delay. He bit his lip, waiting for Heero to ask further about his statement, but Heero didn't ask and for that, Duo was grateful. How could he explain to Heero that the man had mesmerized him since their first meeting and that he had spent the war hoping to see the wild, dangerous pilot of Wing again? He couldn't and he didn't want to try.

Duo shivered. The hallways were cold. Berating himself for not wearing his coat, he was eager to begin exercising to warm up. The coat would have given him some cover too, he thought. The alcohol and the medication must have been effecting his judgment. At any other time, Duo would never have felt comfortable enough to expose his meager body so plainly. He was too aware that Heero was behind him, staring at a bony ass and ghost pale skin. Like a big, damned frog, Duo thought to himself, he was all arms and legs. All he needed was a lily pad and some flies.

"Do you have a trainer?" Heero suddenly asked as Duo opened the door to the gym and entered the spacious room, it's floor covered in mats and exercise equipment. No one else was there. It was still early enough for most people to still be at work.

"No," Duo replied.

"Which exercises do you frequently execute?"

Duo turned to blink at Heero. "Uh, treadmill, mostly... and I practice my martial arts when... uh, when no one else is here."

Heero frowned, looking over the equipment. "Treadmill. Why?"

Duo shrugged. "I don't get out much. I need to walk. Helps me think."

"Treadmills are inefficient," Heero explained. "They are too easy. They don't maintain the right muscle groups to sustain any real running over real terrain."

"Well...," Duo scratched his head, trying to figure out where Heero was going with the conversation. "I'm not a terrorist any more, Heero. I won't be running from Oz, so walking's good enough exercise for me. In case you haven't noticed, I'm skinny. I have to watch how much fat I work off or I might disappear all together."

"A healthy diet, and the proper exercises, would correct your faults," Heero replied.

Heero was tall. Heero was built solid, a wall of muscle, bronze skin, and good looks. Next to him, Duo was a pale, short, wraith, a stick figure, he thought, without much hope of ever being anything more. Heero was being either cruel or terribly optimistic.

"The treadmill is acceptable at this time," Heero said. "You must avoid strenuous activity until drugs and alcohol have reduced themselves in your system to safe levels. One hour of walking at a steady pace should suffice."

"Okay," Duo replied and shrugged as he headed for a treadmill. "That was a long way to go for me to be do exactly what I had planned to do in the first place, Heero." Duo gave him a grateful look as he turned on the treadmill and began walking. "I appreciate the concern, though."

Duo was being effected by the drugs more than he realized. After several steps, he mis-stepped and fell, falling off the back of the treadmill. Heero was there to catch him. Duo was caught off guard by Heero's strong, competent hands, holding him up when he thought he would be sprawling onto the floor. He tried to regain his balance. Instead, they both went down in a jumble of Duo's flailing white limbs.

Duo felt his skin against Heero's fuzzy turtleneck sweater, Heero's face next to his, Heero's grunt of breath, as Duo fell on top of him, going into Duo's ear, warm and enticing. They froze like that, both of them clutching at each other, as they recovered from surprise, then Heero was pushing Duo gently off and standing up again. Duo kept sitting where Heero had deposited him, blinking as he felt a warm rush go through him. It was startling, as unexpected as the fall, and confusing.

"Are you injured?" Heero asked, perhaps wondering why Duo wasn't moving.

"No," Duo managed to reply and then, giving the lie to that statement, his body decided to react to the alcohol, drugs, fall, and confusion in a predictable manner. Duo bent sideways and threw up.

Heero crouched close and held Duo's braid out of the way while he retched. When Duo's stomach finally ceased trying to turn itself inside out, Duo leaned over the mess he had made and searched frantically. Beer, bile, and small capsules. Duo anxiously tried to pick the capsules out and failed, they were too far gone, disintegrating as soon as he touched them.

"No!" Duo snarled in anger and need. "I threw them up. They didn't dissolve all the way!"

Heero stared at the mess as well, frowning as he said simply, "Taking more would be wrong. You don't know how much of this was actually absorbed by your system. It would be better to wait until your next scheduled treatment." He didn't say 'I told you so,' about the mixture of beer and medication, but Duo was too agitated to care.

"They'll know!" Duo almost whimpered. "They'll check my system and see that I didn't take them! They'll put a mark against me on my record!"

"If you explain-" Heero began reasonably.

Duo fisted Heero's sweater with both hands, saying through gritted teeth, "They don't care, Heero! They needed proof that I wasn't cooperating to keep me grounded and I gave it to them!"

Heero slowly pulled Duo's hands off of him and stood up. His expression was irritable, but patient, one an adult would use on a child refusing to face reality. "You know that they never intend to allow you into space again. Taking this medication, visiting the doctors and the psychiatrist, living by their rules will never gain you your release papers." He held out a hand to Duo. "I will help you back to your apartment. Without the drugs and the alcohol, you will be able to rest now."

Duo felt humiliated. Stinking of vomit, weakness, both mental and physical, plain for Heero to see, Duo didn't have any doubt that Heero had already made up his mind about what to report to his superiors. Duo Maxwell was unsuitable. With one, stupid, rebellious move, drinking a beer with his medication, Duo had crushed his last hope of seeing space again. He was as worthless as everyone had been saying all along, out of control, dangerous to himself and everyone else around him, and mentally unstable without a doubt the way he was shaking now and trying not to cry.

Duo couldn't walk. Depression overwhelmed him. What did it matter where he went? Heero was right, that the government never meant to release him no matter what he did to please them, and he had known it all along. Heero had ripped away his comfortable self delusion of slim hope and it had been the only thing keeping him going.

Heero picked him up in strong arms, completing the picture of helpless child that Duo had tried to avoid. He tried to protest, but his voice was gone and he was afraid of sobbing. It was a relief not to struggle against gravity, a relief to close his eyes and let Heero do what ever he wanted to him, a relief to close up, mentally, like a clam and avoid his bleak future as long as possible.

Competent hands, strong and calloused, pulled off Duo's shirt. Duo came back to himself and shivered as he felt his back against a soft gel bed and felt blankets being drawn up to his chin. His shorts were still on, but his shoes and socks were gone as well. A wet cloth bathed his face, wiping away the last traces of vomit, and a cold drink pressed against his lips, water a welcome balm on his sore throat.

Duo opened his eyes, mere slits, and saw that he was in his apartment and in his own bed with Heero hovering over him. The man checked his pulse, checked his temperature with a soldier's efficiency and expressionless face. It was as if his hands belonged to someone else, as if he had borrowed them from some caring nurse. The rest of his body language didn't reflect the compassion of those hands. Heero's body was tense, rigid, uncomfortable with the duty he was performing. His eyes were serious, deep with concentration on his task, but considering many other things at the same time. Duo knew what those things were. He knew that Heero HAD made up his mind, that his report was finished and ready to be sent to his superiors. It was strange that his lips were set hard as if on bitterness, as if he didn't enjoy what he was thinking about.

"Sorry," Duo said hoarsely.

Heero raised an eyebrow. "I should have known that exercise at the gym was beyond your ability."

"Hm, well... thanks for bringing me here. " Duo swallowed and tried not to cry. "Guess... Guess you'll be going now."

"No," Heero replied.

"No?" Duo blinked, trying to clear his head enough to understand. "You know I can't do whatever you were evaluating me for. Why stick around?"

Heero pursed his lips as he neatly folded the wet cloth in his hands and put it aside. "I will need to find an alternate operative. That will take time. I will need a base from which to work from. If you will allow me to stay here, I will compensate you by training you in the correct way to exercise and to take care of your body for optimum performance."

"A body guard and a personal trainer?" Duo whispered, trying to get his mind around that. "Why bother? Why not just get a place somewhere else?"

Heero gave Duo a slow look up and down. "You need help."

"Are you sure you're Heero Yuy?" Duo wondered in shock.

Heero grimaced. "I am not without emotions or concern for a comrade in arms."

"Ex comrade in arms," Duo corrected absently and then said, "So, you're just trying to help out an old pilot buddy?" When Heero gave one nod, Duo tried to accept it, tried to fit this new image of Heero into the place in his mind where he had kept a cold, unfeeling image of him for so long. "I don't believe you," Duo said at last, suspicious, but he was managing a weak smile anyway, "but I don't really give a damn, right now, what happens, so, yeah, stay, make yourself at home, play house for all I care."

Duo turned on his side and tried to sleep. His smile grew wider even as his heart ached for the hope that had been ripped from him so cruelly. He wondered what it would be like, waking up every day with Heero Yuy as a roommate. Duo found that he was looking forward to it, that anticipation had replaced the pain and the sadness at least in a small way. It was enough for now, enough to keep him WANTING to wake up to a new day.

[part 1] [part 3] [back to Kracken's fic]