Disclaimer:Don't own them and don't make any money off of this.
Warnings: Male/Male sex, Graphic, Violence, Language.
Paths + Part 22
"You are not going to lay there until every muscle in your body atrophies!"
Milliardo Peacecraft shouted as he pulled off Duo's blanket.
Duo curled up around himself convulsively, bone thin body shivering despite
the heat of the bungalow and the pair of shorts and white tank top he
was wearing. After finally leaving the ship and returning to dry land,
Duo had suffered such a bad bout of sickness and disorientation that it
had renewed his hatred for Earth's harsh gravity.
"I still don't feel good!' Duo moaned and tried to pull the blanket
back over himself. Milliardo jerked it out of reach, grabbed a thin, brittle
wrist, and pulled Duo off of the bed after it. Duo staggered, almost had
the dry heaves at the sudden, upright position, and then fell to his knees
"You are such a bastard!" Duo snarled, glaring at Milliardo.
He felt as if the rough wood of the floor had taken off the skin from
"When you've commanded men in battle, like I have, you need to be
a bastard," Milliardo replied tersely. "Do you think that wears
off because I spent four years behind a desk placating idiots?"
"What do you expect me to do?" Duo snapped back as he tried,
almost without success, to simply sit without falling over.
"I expect you to start taking care of yourself!" Milliardo replied
as if he were indeed commanding a lazy soldier to order. "You've
been allowed to rest for nearly a week now, doing nothing more strenuous
than listening to the seagulls and sitting in the sun. That can't be allowed
to continue if you hope to regain your strength."
"What 'strength'?" Duo wondered angrily. "I heard the doctor
talking to Quatre. I'm sure you spoke with him too. Old Duo Maxwell isn't
going to ever be anything, but a pitiful-"
Milliardo reached down again and hooked an arm around Duo. Helping him
to stand, he forced Duo into the bathroom, sat him on the toilet seat,
and then turned to leave. "Wash yourself, do your business, and do
something with your hair! I'm leaving orders that the men are not to help
you any longer."
Milliardo wasn't expecting the kind of expression that crossed Duo's face.
Duo looked as if he had been given a death sentence, one that he had been
waiting for. "What are you thinking?" Milliardo demanded.
Duo pushed his tangled bangs out of his eyes and turned hard, purple eyes
on Milliardo. "I was wondering when you were going to get back at
me for rejecting you."
Milliardo's lip curled. It still hurt, that word 'rejection'. It hurt
even more to see Duo's lips speak it. He refused to reveal that to Duo,
refused to show a weakness that would allow Duo to ignore him and indulge
himself further. "You think too much of yourself," Milliardo
replied in contempt and left him there.
"Too much?" Duo snorted. The bungalow was small. He knew that
Milliardo could hear him. "You're giving my self esteem too much
Duo did feel dirty and his hair was almost matted at the back from sweat.
He didn't smell good either. Duo unbraided his hair and ran his fingers
through it, trying to loosen some of the knots while he planned a strategy
for cleaning himself up without hurting himself in the process.
Hands and knees, Duo decided, since his legs wouldn't hold him and he
became too dizzy when he straightened up. Pulling off his tank top and
slipping off his shorts, Duo eased himself onto the hardwood floor, ignoring
the sharp pangs of his still heeling ankle.
The bathroom had a deep, almost oval tub with a handheld shower head that
had to be taken down from a holder high on the wall. Knowing that he couldn't
reach it, Duo settled for a tub bath. Turning on the water, he struggled
to get his body over the high, porcelain edge. Surprising himself when
he finally accomplished it, Duo settled back with his legs stretched towards
Duo watched the water rise. Sighing at the soothing warmth around his
aching joints and his sore ankle, he prematurely congratulated himself
on having accomplished the feat of taking a bath by himself. When Duo
decided that the tub was full, he tried to lean forward to turn the spigot
off. Instead, he lost his balance and slid underneath the water. Duo flailed,
wildly attempting to get his weakened arms and legs underneath him to
push his head out of the water. It seemed like such an easy thing to do,
yet Duo slid again and again, panic completely disorienting him.
A strong hand grabbed Duo and pulled him up. Duo gasped for air, sobbing
and spluttering at the same time. When his panic subsided at the realization
that he was safe and not drowning any longer, Duo's eyes focused and he
found himself looking into Milliardo's stern face. Without a hint of compassion,
Milliardo said, "You almost drowned in a bathtub, pilot. Are you
ready to try and regain your strength or should I let go and let you finish
Duo wiped at his wet face with a trembling hand. Unable to speak, he held
out his arms to Milliardo and let the man save him.
After a few weeks of Milliardo's grueling exercises and insistence that
Duo do things for himself, Duo almost wished that he had drowned. Duo
wanted to succeed, wanted to regain his strength, and wanted there to
be something for Heero to want when he returned. Not as important, but
certainly something Duo wished for strongly, was the desire to find Santoro
and the shadow figures in the government who had decided to destroy his
life and commit murder. Wanting, though, and doing, were turning out to
be even harder than Duo imagined.
"Five more!" Milliardo demanded.
"Go... to... Hell!" Duo panted, sobbing.
"Five more, Captain Maxwell!"
"Did you cry when Dr. G trained you?" Milliardo asked in disgust.
Sitting at his ease in a chair, with legs crossed and wearing a starched
uniform of white and red, he looked cool and collected. His eyes, though,
were like glaciers as they rested on the sweating, panting, and sobbing
figure of Duo at his feet. "Somehow, I don't think a ruthless man
like that would have given you a Gundam if you had."
Duo gave a wordless growl of fury and surged up off of the wooden floor
in a push up. He whined. He hated that he did it, but he couldn't help
it as tortured flesh screamed at him. Sweat dripping into his eyes, he
blinked rapidly as every part of his body shook like a leaf in a storm.
When he let his body touch the floor again, he sobbed, but didn't pause
as he surged up once more; fueled by pure adrenalin. He didn't know how
he made it to five, or even if he did. He stopped only when he heard Milliardo
"Shit!" the word exploded out of Duo as he curled up in a fetal
ball and just tried to breathe.
"Too slow," Milliardo said critically as he examined his stop
watch. "You did better last time."
"L-Last time I-I wasn't half d-dead!" Duo panted and then whimpered
as his entire midriff knotted in a spasm.
"Stop wasting breath," Milliardo growled. "You must know
by now that your complaining doesn't affect me. I am not going to make
it easier for you."
Duo recalled Heero's slow and patient training sessions. The man had let
Duo go at his own pace and had always stopped before pain had become too
unbearable. For someone who had months and months for rehabilitation,
Heero's method would have worked. Milliardo, as cruel as he seemed, was
doing what was best for Duo in the time that they had before Heero and
the others, hopefully, returned to Earth. Duo knew that, but it didn't
make it any easier for him. He couldn't help hating Milliardo for forcing
him to do the exercises and endure the pain. He couldn't stop himself
from shouting, cursing, and balking at every step. It was human nature
to avoid stress and pain, not to seek it out. Duo wasn't any different,
even when avoiding them could possibly cost him his life.
"Rest for exactly fifteen minutes and then join me outside,"
Milliardo ordered. "I expect you to do ten laps around the property
and I expect you to walk much more quickly than you did last time. It
is an exercise, not a chance to gaze at scenery." Milliardo stood
up and walked away, tinkering with his stop watch as if he thought that
there might be something wrong with it.
Duo stared daggers after Milliardo as the man left the room, long legs
moving in an unconscious, military style and white hair swaying along
his back. "Die," Duo breathed, and, at that moment, he meant
The bungalow was run down, the furnishings and the comforts sparse. Their
guards kept themselves on the perimeter of their lives and Duo and Milliardo
were left in each other's company far too long. From the time he woke
in the morning, until the time he collapsed into bed at night, Duo was
confronted by a calm, collected, and impeccable Milliardo. The man watched,
in seeming dispassion, as Duo sweated and cried. Like a white haired devil,
Duo thought one day, and began to think that he had died and was in some
sort of Hell reserved for Gundam pilots. Just like some sadistic demon,
Milliardo never let up and never stopped ordering Duo to new efforts.
He timed every one of Duo's exercises, measured the caloric and vitamin
content of every mouthful of food, and criticized Duo's every effort.
The exercises should have become easier in time, but Milliardo stepped
them up a notch each day and pushed Duo to the limit of what his sickly
flesh could endure without compassion and without an ounce of the love
that he professed to feel for Duo. He was the worst kind of boot camp
sergeant and, as Duo began to feel as if his body were being worn away
and destroyed by Milliardo's demands, he began to think that the man,
far from trying to bring him back to health, was actually trying to kill
It was an insane thought. There was nothing in the exercises that was
out of the ordinary if a person were completely healthy, yet the idea
began to gnaw at Duo and over take any common sense he might have had.
He was exhausted. His mind wasn't processing things as it should. Self
preservation instincts began to kick in, especially when Milliardo lost
patience and made the mistake of reaching out to Duo and taking hold of
him to force him back to his feet.
Something snapped. Duo wasn't sure what happened next, except that one
moment, he had been on his knees and feeling as if he had breathed his
last in the front yard of the bungalow, and in the next, he was thrusting
away and then coming back at Milliardo in a perfect karate kick to Milliardo's
Duo had a glimpse of flying white hair and surprised, ice blue, eyes,
before Milliardo ducked the kick and then struck back with a martial arts
move of his own. Duo blocked it, whirled, and then kicked again, his body
responding in a way that it hadn't been able to in far too long. Duo was
screaming; a wordless expression of utter frustration as he rained blow
after blow on Milliardo. The man blocked repeatedly, falling back and
almost stumbling in his haste to avoid Duo's chops and kicks.
Given room, Duo might have killed the man, but Milliardo was a soldier
too. He didn't allow Duo the space to launch a killing move. Instead,
he suddenly threw himself forward and tackled Duo to the ground. Pinning
him there beneath his greater weight, Milliardo stared down into Duo's
Duo glared back at Milliardo, chest heaving, blood boiling, and mind lost
in a fog of fury and pain. "Why- Why don't you just kill me quickly
instead of-of by slow torture?" Duo panted.
Milliardo's expression suddenly changed from anger to stunned concern.
"You really think that, don't you, that I'm attempting to kill you?"
Duo didn't reply, but his angry face said volumes.
Milliardo's hair hung about them both and they were panting, bodies heaving
against one another as they tensely waited to see who would make the next
move. It was an impasse. At first, Milliardo tried to simply hold onto
Duo until he regained some sense. When it was apparent that Duo was only
waiting for Milliardo to relax his hold to attack again, Milliardo tried
a different tack.
"I'm helping you," Milliardo said. "I don't know why you
don't understand that. Sympathy can be a two edged sword. I think that
your comrades were indulging you, because they felt sorry for you; because
they didn't realize, as I do, that you are capable of far more than most
"I spent a lot of time screaming and puking when I tried to get off
of your stinking Oz drugs!" Duo spat back, voice stronger now that
he had caught his breath. "After I was hooked up to a respirator
and IVs, I think a full body work out stopped being an option!"
"I know that they had attempted to make you stronger before you stopped
taking the medication, but it didn't seem as if they had much success,"
Milliardo replied, but then conceded, "Not that it would have mattered
much without the treatment. The drugs were made to be fail safe. They
would have killed you without the treatment."
"I was getting better," Duo remembered in confusion. "Before
Quatre's estate was attacked, before I took the 'soldier's helper', I
thought... I felt like I was getting better."
"The cessation of some of the drugs might have led you to believe
so," Milliardo explained.
"So, you saved my life by getting the treatment for me," Duo
whispered, tense muscles suddenly going lax.
Milliardo gave him an edged smile, "I've saved your life several
times, as I recall."
Duo went distant, considering that. He felt a flush of shame. "Sorry.
I guess... They've knocked me down to ground level for four years, Zechs.
They took control of my life away from me and made me suffer, day after
day, even questioning my sanity. The drugs... I was chained to them and
my life revolved around them. Do you know how hard it is to NOT grow up?
To stay small? Too be thin? I stayed a teenager while my old buddies from
the war grew tall, strong, and sprouted beards. Even little Quatre...
even he managed to grow up. I want to be like that. I want to be strong!
I want to do every hellish exercise you set up as easy as I used to do
them for Dr. G. You've got nothing on that sadistic bastard, Zechs! Your
routines should be walks in the park to me..." Duo sighed and closed
his eyes tight, hating self knowledge. "I'm afraid, pure and simple.
I don't want to fail. I don't want to know what my limit is, how much
I will never be able to do again. I want to think that you're trying to
kill me, that you're setting up impossible tasks, just so I don't have
to realize that... that it's me who is failing."
"Duo, I-" Milliardo began, moved by Duo's confession.
Duo went gruff, turning his chin away and refusing to look at Milliardo,
maybe afraid of seeing disgust. "I'm just a freakin' whus, I guess.
A chicken shit. I'm even talking like some damned girl, confessing my
Milliardo caught Duo's chin in one hand and turned his face towards him.
Duo opened his eyes, frowning, but Milliardo said intently, "You
just made me back up, Captain Duo Maxwell. I wasn't pulling my attacks.
You blocked them, you countered them, and you made me think that my life
was in danger."
Duo stared and then he said softly. "It was."
A hand grabbed hold Of Milliardo's shoulder. The fingers were strong,
strong enough to bend steel, and they dug harshly into flesh as the owner
of that hand flung Milliardo off of Duo. Milliardo hit the ground, rolled,
and tried to regain his feet as he faced the intruder.
Heero stood, breathing hard with emotion, facing Milliardo with one fist
clenched and the other griping a gun. He was glaring, nostrils flaring,
mouth set in a hard line, and eyes dark wells of blue that had a look
in them; a look that was usually the last thing men saw before Heero killed
"Heero," Duo whispered, stunned, not sure if he was hallucinating
"Duo," Heero replied, not taking his eyes off of Milliardo.
"Are you all right?"
"Yeah, no, I mean..." Duo trailed off, confused. He stood shakily,
arms clutching himself around the waist in pain as his body let him know
that Milliardo's tackle hadn't been without consequences. "Shit!"
he groaned, feeling as if his ribs had been bruised bone deep.
Heero lifted his gun and aimed it at Milliardo. Milliardo gained his feet,
uniform coat full of dirt and debris from the ground, his white- blonde
hair a tangle over his face. "You are assuming the worst," he
said carefully and then to Duo. "Explain to Heero the situation."
"Heero," Duo said, not sure he wanted to let Milliardo off the
hook yet, "What are you doing here? How did you find us?"
"I tracked a shipment of K rations to a ship registered off the coast,"
Heero explained, "I infiltrated the ship and discovered messages
between the captain and Milliardo. It was simple to follow crew movements
until some of them came to this place to rotate guard duties and deliver
Duo nodded and made a face of disgust. "Zechs thinks k rations are
nutritionally complete. I think something only loosely resembling food
shouldn't be eaten."
Heero's gun twitched. He frowned. "I need a status of the situation,"
he finally said and Duo sensed a deeper meaning. He realized that his
flippant joke had changed Heero's assumption about the situation, that
now he was assuming something else.
"Heero..." Duo began to explain, but then stopped. He felt angry
suddenly, angry that Heero wasn't looking at him, angry that the moment
he had longed for, had thought, in his worst moments of pain and exhaustion,
would be warm and wonderful, was instead ruined by Heero's assumption
that he had been rolling with Milliardo on the ground for all the wrong
Milliardo spoke quickly as he realized what was going through the ex-pilot
of Wing's mind as well. "I ordered the k- rations in case we were
forced to hide in more remote areas. I find it amazing that you could
scour an entire planet and pick out such a small detail. It seems I am
continually underestimating Gundam pilots." He paused to ascertain
Heero's reaction. Heero only narrowed his eyes. Milliardo went on nervously,
eying the barrel of Heero's gun. "I thought it was wise to rehabilitate
Duo while we waited here for you to return. I set up a rigorous training
schedule, knowing the time constraints, but Duo was not only refusing
to cooperate whole heartedly, he just now attacked me in anger and-"
"And?" Heero echoed with a raised black eyebrow.
"I think his exhaustion was clouding his judgment," Milliardo
finished, not wanting to elaborate further than that.
"He almost died before we met you!" Heero grated. "Not
once, but several times! Where is his doctor? Why did he allow you to-"
"He's dead!" Duo cut in. They both looked at him, Heero for
the first time. Duo saw Heero's face register shock at all the dirt, at
the way Duo's bangs were plastered with sweat to his forehead, and at
his drawn, exhausted expression. "He died saving me. He died helping
me and Zechs escape." Duo paused. He swallowed in a dry throat as
Heero's eyes searched him for... Duo knew what he was looking for. "Guess
you believed some of the stories about me," Duo finished bitterly.
Heero went pale. "No! That's not true!" he protested strongly.
He glared at Milliardo and then looked back at Duo with an intenseness
that made Duo almost afraid. "Every minute, every second that I was
away, " Heero said, "was time I wished that I could have spent
with you. I came here because my mission was accomplished. Quatre's people
are safe. I wanted to be by your side again. I didn't want any more wasted
moments slipping away from either of us."
"So," Milliardo snapped angrily, wanting to break the moment
between Heero and Duo and wanting to stop the inevitable from happening;
the moment when Duo left him again and rejoined Heero. "How many
red flags did you send up before you reached this place? How many government
officials or local citizens saw you and wondered where the intense young
stranger was going? You may have compromised our security!"
Heero ignored him, all of his attention on Duo. "Tell me," he
said at last. "Tell me that you want me here."
Duo knew that his heart was in his eyes, but he was still angry and ready
to be contrary. He growled as he began to turn away, "I can't think.
I need a bath and something besides k-rations. I'll let you know after
It was revenge of sorts, but the stricken look on Heero's face negated
any pleasure in it that Duo might have felt. Heero was afraid, Duo realized
in amazement. His reaction to Milliardo was suddenly understandable. Heero
wasn't simply jealous, or doubting Duo's fidelity, he was, instead, doubting
himself and doubting that Duo wanted him over the Prince of Sanq.
Duo stopped and began to turn back. It was all wrong, he realized. It
shouldn't be like that between them. He had to mend it, he felt, turn
back the clock and try and recapture the dream of how he envisioned they
would meet again.
Duo suddenly felt dizzy. He stumbled and felt Heero catch his elbow to
steady him. It happened all at once, a slick wet rush from his nose that
could only be blood. Duo put up a hand and confirmed it. His fingers were
coated in crimson. He stared at it in morbid fascination and then the
world went dark as fell unconscious into Heero's arms.
[part 21] [part 23]
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