by Kracken
Disclaimer:I don't own them and I don't make any money off of them.
Warning:Male/Male sex, graphic, violence, language

Crossing Paths + Part 26
Ghosts

"I want my ankle to stop hurting," Duo growled as he limped to his bed and sat down heavily. He whipped his hair over his shoulder and attacked it with a brush, beginning to unsnarl days of untended tangles and knots.

"I gave you medication," Sally pointed out. Sitting in the one chair in the bare, barracks like room. She didn't look relaxed in her starched Preventers uniform. "If you're in pain, it's your own doing."

"I don't like taking mind dulling medication when I'm in a unfamiliar place," Duo retorted, "and running from government troops." He winced as his brush snagged.

"I could do that for you," Sally suggested.

Duo glared. "Nobody touches the hair!" he snapped.

"Except Heero?" Sally replied with an arched, blonde eyebrow that seemed very judgmental.

Duo stopped his motions and said, "If you're going to try and say something about two guys together being disgusting or something... me and Heero are not together anymore, so can it! I've decided to stick with women."

"Which one?" Sally wondered sarcastically.

Duo glared and blushed. "I had a few-"

"Don't even try," she retorted. "I'm a doctor, remember?"

"Friends," Duo finished tightly. "They could be something more if I wanted it that way. I was told that I would get better in time, that I could-"

"I'm sure," Sally said dryly, cutting him off again, but then added, "So, how long are you going to pretend that Heero doesn't mean anything to you? I need him competent, both mentally and physically, not drinking himself into a stupor because he thinks you hate him."

"He's drinking?" Duo was astonished, even though he tried to hide it by turning slightly away and attacking his hair with the brush again. "That's not like him."

"When has he ever been in this kind of situation?" Sally wondered in exasperation.

"David.." Duo began bitterly.

"Do you honestly think he feels the same way for you that he did for David?" Sally scoffed and then stood up. "Look, I'm not your shrink, or your babysitter. Take the drugs or don't take the drugs, it's up to you, but stop messing with the head of the best agent I have. Make up and screw like bunnies, because that's what you two really want to do. Cut out the middle crap. He loves you, you love him. Heero has a job to do. He saves lives, Duo! Sorry he has to force you to be a hero too, but that's life, right? Sometimes, we have to do something good and worthwhile whether we like it or not!"

"He lied to me," Duo grated. "He used me. Sorry you don't get that."

"Don't you mean sorry you were such a pathetic shit that you had to be forced?!" Sally snarled back.

Duo's jaw clenched. "I'm not the bad guy here, so shut up."

Sally shook her head sharply as she headed for the door, waving a hand dismissively at Duo. "This entire unit was mobilized to help you and to root out the corruption in the government. People at Quatre's estate and elsewhere died for you and for that cause. I guess I was expecting you to be grateful and to appreciate being given a chance to give something back."

"Must be nice to have such a black and white view of the world!" Duo called after her, but she was already gone, slamming the door behind her.

Duo threw his brush and it clattered against the slick metal, bounced, and skittered across the bare floor. He rubbed hands over his face, saying to himself in bitter amazement, "Jeez, I'm throwing tantrums like a little girl! I'm not taking any more damned drugs!"

Duo glared at the door and then collapsed onto his back on the bed, one arm thrown over his eyes as he tried to block out the light of a glaring bulb as well as block out the truth; that Sally, in her own rough way, was right.

Duo tried to make his bandaged ankle more comfortable and failed. He had spent two days in the windowless, below ground, bunker installation, Preventer and special core personnel prowling the corridors and all sensitive areas restricted access. The first day he had spent asleep, recovering from surgery, but now he was restless and full of questions that no one was answering. He had thought that Sally had come to enlighten him, but, instead, she had checked his body over with clinical thoroughness and offered nothing in the way of information.

"Ours is not to question why, ours is but to do or die," Duo muttered, knowing that statement completely summed up Heero Yuy. Heero would always be happiest fighting the good fight. He didn't need to question, didn't want to. He was exactly like Sally Po. It was all black and white.

Duo was too suspicious, too much the survivalist to ever settle for anything at face value. He couldn't help thinking of his own skin, even when he was trying to save the universe, and knowing all the facts so that he could preserve his life, while doing good, was second nature. Heero had forced him to suspend that consideration, had denied him information, had endangered him without his permission. The stark truth on top of all of that was that Duo didn't WANT to fight any longer. He had lost his childhood to the war. He didn't want to lose the rest of his life to keeping the peace. He wanted to pass on the sword and Heero not only didn't, but had forced the sword back into Duo's hand. It was something Duo was finding it hard to forgive.

The door buzzed. Duo didn't feel like seeing anyone else. He needed to think. When the door opened, he growled in exasperation, until he saw that it was Heero. "If you're drunk, you can turn right back around."

Heero frowned, confused, but he didn't retreat. His dark, blue eyes studied Duo. "I wanted to see how you were doing. I was concerned when you didn't answer the door."

Duo made an impatient gesture of one hand. "I'm fine, so you can go."

Heero bent and picked up the hairbrush. He brought it to Duo and tossed it a short distance so that it bounced on the bed beside Duo. "I also came to talk to you about the information on the disk."

"Finally? I'm glad I rate a debriefing," Duo snapped and crossed his arms over his chest defiantly. "All right. Go ahead."

"I don't understand why you are always so angry," Heero replied softly and looked suddenly at a loss.

Duo felt his heart ache, but he kept it bitter and hard as he said, "I thought I was getting back to my old self. I thought, finally, I was the one in control of me, not some shadow who's name I don't know. You showed me how much of a lie that was. I don't understand why you don't understand how wrong that is."

It was clear that Heero was struggling inwardly. "I don't want to lose you, but I don't know how to make you love me."

"You can't MAKE me," Duo told him.

Heero met his eyes, frowning. "I think-"

"That's your problem, both you and Sally," Duo snapped. "All you do is think when it comes to a mission. You do what ever is necessary. Can't you see that it's wrong to sacrifice, to use and abuse, the very people you're trying to save? When did I start being worth less than everyone else, Heero? When did it become okay for me to lose my life and my freedom of choice for the greater good? Why can't you save me too?"

Heero stood rigidly, a frown mark between his eyes. "I-" Heero stopped and swallowed hard.

"You know I'm right," Duo said. "I'm sorry that your training won't let you accept that." He cleared his throat and repositioned his ankle to make it more comfortable. "Now, are you going to debrief me or not? I need to go to a therapy session, in a half hour, for my ankle."

"Wu Fei is here and making plans. Quatre and Trowa will be planet side in two days to help us implement them," Heero replied with the automatic correctness of a soldier.

"If you're going to tell me that the information is classified, I'm limping out of here, right now," Duo growled warningly. "Tell me what the information was."

"Sealed court documents. Transactions. Orders. Encrypted messages," Heero replied. There was video of you talking to an anti-unification sympathizer and of you fighting, half naked, with the soldiers who came to arrest you."

"What..." Duo's face went white. He glared away from Heero, jaw working, and then he said, "I was drunk. I'm not sure what happened."

"The orders for your arrest were signed by Relena Peacecraft," Heero continued, "and given to the commanding officer by Milliardo Peacecraft."

Duo's mouth hung open and he looked at Heero, startled. "Come again?! I was with Milliardo, Heero! He couldn't have!"

Heero replied carefully. "You told me that you don't remember much of what happened that night. You still don't remember how you found yourself in Milliardo's bedroom?"

"No," Duo admitted.

"It's possible," Heero surmised, "that you were drugged and taken there."

"Why?" Duo wondered. "How does that make any sense? It was minor scandal for Zechs!"

"Was it?" Heero wondered. "or did it give both Relena and Milliardo cover for their operation?"

"Why would they need a cover?" Duo demanded. "Heero! I was drunk and I wanted to lose my virginity! I went to Zechs. I know you don't want to accept that, but it's probably true!" He shoved his loose hair behind his shoulders and sat up to face Heero squarely. "Yeah, Duo Maxwell was a slut that night, but he didn't go rubbing up against anti-unification sympathizers!" Duo thought for a moment and then asked. "Did you check the time of the signing of the order and compare it to the time on that video of me?"

"No," Heero replied, intrigued, "but I will."

"If the signing is earlier than the video then we have something to go on," Duo explained. "We also need a motive. Why smear me? What did they hope to gain?"

"That's simple enough," Heero replied. "You were bait in a trap. Relena and Milliardo stood for peace and so did the Gundam pilots. Their enemies were our enemies. They were a new government. To survive, they most certainly had to identify the forces arrayed against them both in their own government and among the military. According to records, Santoro was the first to snap at the bait, asking to preside over your punishment and monitoring to further his vendetta against you."

Duo nodded, but he was going pale. "Why let it go on for four years, though? Why not arrest their enemies?"

Heero thought about that and then offered, "On what charges? It's one thing to know who your enemy is, and another to eliminate him. As long as they kept their agenda hidden, and didn't make overt attacks, Relena was powerless to do anything more than keep watch on them. Records show that Relena proposed a stay of sentence for you several times, essentially re-baiting the trap and seeing who opposed or actively attempted to impugn your character to make that option unviable. A freed Gundam pilot, grateful and loyal to Relena Peacecraft, is something an enemy would actively try to prevent. They would want her as vulnerable as possible to their attacks."

"Why have her enemies waited so long? Why haven't they moved against her already?" Duo wondered.

"All battles aren't fought on the battlefield," Heero explained. "There have been people openly trying to discredit her and her government. That's why it has been the goal of certain people to discredit the Gundam pilots and all things concerned with the war. It is much easier to conquer if popular support is taken away from those you are attempting to conquer."

"Something changed," Duo said softly, remembering the doctors and how they had suddenly ceased to play the game any longer. "Four years of dangling me on a stick and no one had the guts to devour me completely, until lately. Someone must be getting ready to make their move."

Heero nodded and then met Duo's eyes keenly. Duo suddenly understood. "That's what the other information was about, wasn't it?" Duo demanded. "You're finding out who the enemy is too, just like Relena."

Heero nodded again and admitted. "Relena is a pacifist. She believes in defusing situations rather than confronting them and extinguishing them all together. Her view is that there will always be factions aligned against her, so meeting each threat with violence is useless and disruptive to society."

"I thought that the Preventers worked FOR Relena, Heero," Duo pointed out suspiciously. "You're talking as if you're working against her."

Heero was silent for a long time. Duo watched his face, and, when he decided that it wasn't going to give anything away, Duo said with certainty, "You're still a part of the Tiger Cell, aren't you? It's the Tiger Cell that's acting against Relena's enemies, not the Preventers."

"We're acting against the enemies of the people, Duo," Heero replied, confirming it. "Pacifism only works in a perfect world. The sheep need a sheppard to protect them from the wolves."

Duo glared. "The people aren't sheep, Heero, and neither am I."

Heero sat on the edge of the bed in exasperation. "What should we do then, Duo, sit and close our eyes? Pretend that nothing is happening? The Tiger Cell is a government sanctioned branch of the Preventers. We are an elite force. We were given the mission of rooting out and destroying threats against the people. That mission hasn't changed now even though it's the government we are fighting against." Heero looked down at his hands in his lap. "You want the world to be a happy, safe place, where you can live a normal life, but I'm afraid that's being as blind as Relena and her quest for pacifism. It's Fantasy. Evil never really goes away and people like us, who have the skill to stop it, can't rest when there are people in danger from it. It's wrong to turn your back."

"Who said anything about turning my back?" Duo wondered sharply.

"Isn't that what ignoring trouble to lead a normal life is all about?" Heero retorted.

"I just wanted to be asked, I never said that I would have refused to do it," Duo told him angrily. "You just assumed that I was a coward. `Nice', Heero." Duo shifted on the bed to get further away from Heero as he glared. "Sure, I want a normal life. Sure I want to put down the sword and never pick it up again. Wanting that, though, and letting people die to get it are two different things." Duo tried one last time. "Heero, if you don't give me the freedom to chose, if you order me to risk my life not caring what I think about it, then how are you any different from the `evil' people you're trying to root out? Why should I like your tyranny over theirs?"

"I think...," Heero frowned and then nodded. "I think I understand. You would have said yes if I had asked you to do the mission, if I had explained to you fully why it was required."

"Yes," Duo replied, not daring to hope yet, "but I COULD have said no too. It would have been MY choice, not yours."

"I doubted you," Heero admitted.

"And that's what this is all about in the end. isn't it?" Duo replied, jumping on the opportunity Heero had presented him. "You didn't trust me to do the right thing. Sure, I'll complain and fight the whole way, maybe, but I know what has to be done and I do it, just like you do."

"I have to give you the information and trust you to do the right thing," Heero said, summing it up.

"Yes," Duo replied.

"It seems..." Heero stopped.

Duo finished, "Like a dangerous variable where a mission is concerned?"

"Yes." Heero replied.

"Too bad. That's life ... or life if you want to stay with Duo Maxwell." Duo saw Heero's eyes reflect sudden hope. Duo added uncomfortably. "I know I can't change you, that you're going to keep doing this job of yours as long as you can. Well, I guess Sally was right about one thing, I shouldn't stand in the way of that. If I want you, I have to share you."

Heero gave Duo the full force of his blue eyes. "Do you want me, Duo?"

Duo stared back and gave him the truth, "Yes."

Heero suddenly pulled Duo into his embrace. He kissed Duo deeply and Duo melted, his heart pounding in his chest as he felt his back touch the bed. Heero stretched out on top of him and clasped his hands in Duo's as he devoured Duo's lips. It was as if he wanted to taste Duo's very essence.

Duo felt Heero hard against him, but the man didn't go any further than to gently rub in an unconscious motion. Duo found himself concentrating on that hardness, Heero was long, he thought nervously, and thought of his own inadequate body. Heero must have felt him shrinking away. Heero broke the kiss and rolled until he was laying next to Duo, still holding him, body pressed to body.

Confidence, Duo thought. No more whining. No more feeling sorry for himself. He had what he had. If Heero couldn't accept it, that was too bad for Heero. He felt Heero's hand touch his unbound hair and stroke it where it lay along his back. Duo let go of his need for control, his need for dominance, and ignored the fear of rejection as he slipped arms around Heero and pulled him as close as he could. He put his ear against Heero's chest and listened to the man's heart. He was surprised at how good it felt to just let go, to surrender to the need for comfort.

"I'm going to forget all of my troubles and all of yours too," Duo said softly. "Just for a little while, Heero? I need... I need you to hold me, to love me. Forget about being a perfect soldier. Forget about saving the Universe and just save me, okay?"

"Rest easy," Heero replied as he kissed the top of Duo's head with protective concern, sensing that Duo had reached the end of his strength both mentally and physically. "The Universe can wait, for now."

+

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