Disclaimer:I don't own them and I don't make any money off of this.
Warnings: This and future parts of the arc will contain the following:
Male/Male sex, angst, graphic, violence, after some consideration of the
plot line; attempted non consensual sex, war flashbacks, post traumatic
stress syndrome, language.
Crossing Paths + Part 3
Duo trembled, his arms straining to keep the weigh above him up and off
him. Heero's face, very close to his own, was stern and unforgiving, cobalt
blue eyes wells to the soul of a merciless man.
"P-please, Heero..," Duo begged. "C-Can't...!"
"You can," Heero replied. "You will."
Warm breath against his face, slight smell of some masculine aftershave
filling his senses. At any other time, Duo might have enjoyed it, enjoyed
Heero so close, face close enough to... but his mind was filled with other,
more immediate problems, problems that his body shrieked at him to solve
He couldn't hold it any longer, Duo thought wildly. That weight, that
he was so desperately keeping at bay, was going to come down hard and...
Heero's hands caught the barbells and lifted them effortlessly back onto
the stand above Duo's head. Duo shivered in relief. For a moment, he had
wondered if Heero would miscalculate, step in one second too late to stop
Duo from dropping that barbell onto his chest and crushing his narrow
ribcage. So far, his timing had been impeccable, but it never ceased to
worry Duo that the Perfect Soldier might develop a flaw at the worst possible
"Better," Heero grunted as he stepped away and began calibrating
another exercise machine for Duo.
Duo closed his eyes, grateful that Heero was allowing him the privacy
to pull himself back together. Duo took a breath and let it out slowly.
He did this several times until his trembling stopped and he convinced
his heart to stop its wild beating. Only then was he able to sit up, using
a small hand towel to wipe the sweat from his forehead, and take notice
of what new torture Heero wanted to put him through.
"Leg weights?" Duo exclaimed incredulously as he stood up and
moved over to the machine, "Heero, I'm on leg weights every time
I get out of a chair! This gravity is killing me as it is. I don't need
to add to it!"
Heero was unsympathetic. "It's clear that you haven't attempted to
acclimate your muscles to Earth's gravity in the four years that you have
been grounded. If you could explain your reasoning behind your lack of
attention to something so necessary, I can amend my opinion on that matter."
"Heero speak for, 'I think you're a lazy ass, Duo, please correct
me on that.'" Duo translated sourly as he positioned himself in the
machine. As Heero strapped on the leg weights, Duo continued self deprecatingly,
"Well, I wish I could change your opinion about that, but I think
it's the plain truth. I'm just so tired all of the time..."
"Your medication," Heero surmised. "With your permission,
I would like to have the pills tested to find out their actual medicinal
properties. I have contacts with a lab."
"No can do!" Duo replied anxiously. He couldn't explain, even
to himself, why the very thought of Heero taking away his pills made him
feel on the verge of panic. "They check for them in my system. If
you take some away, they'll know, they'll report me."
"I wouldn't need to take them," Heero explained, studying Duo
curiously. He finished adjusting the weights, but he didn't straighten.
He stayed in position at Duo's feet, looking like a bronzed, Greek statue
of an athlete in his white shorts and white tee shirt, as he reassured
Duo by saying, " A few grains would suffice."
"How few?" Duo replied, not comforted at all.
"Minute," Heero clarified.
"No," Duo refused without hesitation or thought, a gut reaction
that was automatic. He scowled down at his feet while Heero continued
to look puzzled, more concerned about the awkward appearance of his feet,
than in his own strange reaction to Heero's suggestion.
In black, hi top sneakers, Duo's feet looked far too large on his skinny
legs. Heero had his hands resting on each of his ankles. It made Duo uncomfortable,
knowing that Heero could feel how small they were, how useless for what
Heero intended. Weak, worthless, and weird, Duo labeled himself bleakly.
Why Heero was even bothering with him was unfathomable. There had to be
a catch, an ulterior motive, a game in play. Duo was still too street
wise to believe anything else.
"Slow," Heero said, putting aside the mystery of Duo's reaction
for the moment, and turning his attention on the weight machine. "Lift
with a steady motion. The goal is to strengthen the muscles, not strain
them. If you feel pain of any kind, you are doing it improperly."
"K," Duo breathed and did as Heero directed. He was able to
finish six leg lifts before he felt a twinge. "Hurts," he explained
as Heero lifted a critical eyebrow. Heero took off some of the weight
and Duo tried again. He managed ten more legs lifts and then shook his
head. "I'm done."
Heero didn't comment. He took off the leg weights and put a hand out to
help Duo sit up. He said, "We don't have sufficient time to begin
another exercise. I have a meeting. I'll escort you back to your apartment
before I go."
"Meeting?" Duo wiped his sweating face with his towel and then
let the towel drape over his shoulder as he asked, "Is it a meeting
with your superiors?"
"No," Heero replied and didn't explain further. His manner had
turned cold, his motions becoming efficient and quick as he helped Duo
to his feet and gathered up their gym bags.
Duo was looking up at Heero. He was a pale, frail, ghost next to the ex
Gundam pilot. "Guess you don't trust me," Duo surmised softly
and felt the place where his self esteem used to be, ache and grow darker.
"Trust is not something I am allowed to indulge in," Heero explained.
"Secrecy is part of my work. It is necessary and not indicative of
my estimation of your trustworthiness."
Duo worked over that and then asked, "You do trust me then?"
"I don't know you," Heero replied reasonably.
Heero motioned Duo to proceed him out of the gym. Curious eyes followed
them, the few other patrons wondering about Heero, trying to guess what
his relationship was to the notorious pilot of Deathscythe; a few maybe
even trying to estimate how much money they could get for such information.
"We seldom worked together during the war," Heero continued,
"and two days in your company is not enough to form any kind of opinion
about your trustworthiness."
"Guess you're right," Duo said, feeling a little better.
When they entered Duo's apartment, Duo felt his usual relief when the
door was closed and locked, safe in his haven once more. He looked at
Heero as he sat in a chair and turned on the television with a remote.
"Go ahead and shower first," Duo told him. "I can wait."
"Hn," Heero grunted, a sound that expressed both agreement and
gratitude, as he headed into the bedroom.
Duo stared after him, only half listening to the news displayed on the
television. Two days Heero had been living with him. Two days that Heero
had been sleeping on that couch, drinking from his cups, eating on his
plates, breathing the same air, being a warm, welcome presence in Duo's
apartment. Far from being intrusive or disruptive, Heero's quiet, thoughtful,
meticulous, and calming presence had been a wonderful respite from loneliness.
Heero wasn't cold, Duo had discovered, only too used to wearing an emotionless
mask for the benefit of enemies. His actions were contrary to that stone
like expression. He was always ready to help Duo, always ready to do his
share of the housework, always willing to step in and be of service.
Of service. Duo thought about that, lips pursed and brows drawn down over
his purple eyes. Heero had been raised and trained thoroughly to do just
that, serve with complete, single minded selflessness in the protection
of those who desired peace. Duo wondered if Heero's actions towards him
were nothing more than that; unconscious reflexes instead of any genuine
concern for his well being, any real sense of friendship. It made more
sense to Duo, to believe that about Heero, than to accept that Heero could
actually care about him.
"In other news, Duo Maxwell, one time war hero and pilot of the Gundam
Deathscythe, was reported to have assaulted this man, Wald Gruen, at nightclub
Zeo, last night."
Duo blinked and looked at the television screen. A rather large man, balding,
ugly, and sweating nervously, stuttered, "H-he was threatening my
girlfriend! Said- well, he said he wanted to do her in a graveyard and
carve a scythe on her tits! Of course, I - I tried to stop him, but he's
a Gundam pilot!" The man didn't have a mark on him, Duo noticed as
the man continued in outrage, "He beat me bloody and then just up
and left! I demand compensation! If the government is going to let crazies
like that run around with decent civilians, then they should be ready
to pay for the damages!"
"Charges easily refuted," Heero said from the bedroom doorway
as he toweled his hair dry. He was naked, body glittering with water drops.
Duo stared and swallowed convulsively as Heero continued, "There
are surveillance cameras throughout this building that can attest to the
fact that you did not go anywhere last night."
Duo found his tongue with difficulty. "Doesn't matter. The government
will pay and the legend of Shinigami will grow, bolstering their case
that I should be locked up."
Heero didn't question Duo's line of reasoning. He nodded, as if he understood,
and retreated back into the bedroom to dress. He had only brought a small
valise with him when he had first appeared at the apartment, but a subsequence
suitcase had been delivered shortly after a phone call. Duo had given
Heero a few drawers in his dresser to use and a space on the sink for
his toiletries, but Heero didn't have much, his clothing consisting of
a few dark shirts, the one turtleneck, a pair of shorts, a workout shirt,
and two pairs of dark jeans. Where ever he was going, what ever work he
was going to perform, it was informal.
Duo was still coming to grips with having seen Heero naked. The man had
been perfect, absolutely perfect, every muscle toned, every line smooth
and in proportion. Scattered with drops of water like glittering diamonds,
the member resting in the dark, wet hair between Heero's legs, slightly
swollen from the heat of the water, had been as perfect as the rest of
Duo, curled up in his chair, arms wrapped tightly about an inadequate
jumble of limbs and white skin, felt his face go hot . Aside from some
unfinished fumbling with a few girls and one male friend, sex for Duo
had been restricted to a few, disturbing, sexual dreams about a shadowy
male and some alone time with his right hand. Like the rest of him, sexual
desire was underdeveloped, seldom needing Duo's attention. Seeing Heero
naked stirred up far more feelings of inadequacy and embarrassment than
any strong desire.
It was obvious that Heero was comfortable with his own body, used to being
in rough conditions, or sharing quarters with a lot of men. It also seemed
obvious, Duo thought, with a pang of sharp regret, that Heero wasn't sexually
interested in him. His stance, his relaxed body, and his casual attitude
seemed to say, plainer than words, that an agenda, whether work related
or, a slimmer hope, friendship based, was the only thing on Heero's mind.
"Stupid!" Duo muttered. Stupid to have even entertained the
idea that Heero might have been interested in him; a bisexual, ugly, freak
who was too confused to even know what he wanted and too messed up to
even perform if he ever did manage to figure it out.
Absence of sexuality aside, Duo thought bleakly, he had still craved Heero
on a more honest level, having horded a spark of hope through the war,
and in the years afterwards, in what Duo now realized was a ridiculous,
childish fantasy, that he would meet Heero again in peacetime and be able
to fan that hope into a blaze.
Why Heero? Duo tried to think of the reason his hope had first formed,
his fantasy that something might happen between them some day. During
the war, Heero had been passionate and dedicated in the fight for peace,
but in all other areas, he had been cool, plainly letting Duo know that
his companionship wasn't wanted outside of completing a mission. Still,
Duo had sometimes caught a hint of humor crossing the Perfect Soldier's
face, and once, he had experienced an eye meeting eye moment in which
Duo had felt as if Heero had hugged him and confided in him. That momentary
humor, and that one look of interest, had made the spark that Duo had
carried around like a precious treasure for years.
It was hard for Duo to school his face into a smile, to lift the mask
of happy go lucky Duo Maxwell. During the war, and throughout his four
years of 'treatment', he had perfected it, perfected the smile, perfected
even a false twinkle in his eyes, and the casual, humorous tone in his
voice. He had learned never to show weakness, never to let someone see
that he could be hurt, knowing that enemies were ready to exploit it.
With Duo's fellow pilots, wearing the mask had been a way to lighten their
mood, bring smiles to their faces, and to not burden them with problems
he had always felt that he could handle himself. They had been his friends,
even standoffish, cold Heero, and Duo had been more than willing to sacrifice
his own comfort for theirs. Why was it so hard to wear the mask now? Duo
wondered. Maybe it was because he had let Heero see underneath the mask
for a little bit, let him see the vulnerability no one else ever had,
and maybe it was because Heero, strangely, was showing compassion and
concern, putting Duo off balance, disrupting his thoughts so that he couldn't
muster, completely, his controlled facade. Whatever it was, when Heero
returned from the bedroom, dressed in a black shirt and dark pants, Duo
still wasn't ready to face him with much hope of hiding his emotions completely.
"Will you be going out?" Heero wondered.
Duo shook his head and it ended as a nervous jerk of his chin as he replied,
"Not after that news report. They'll be hounding me to get my side
of the story, not that they'd print anything I said anyway. Making it
up is more their style."
Heero nodded and said, as he tucked his wallet and passport into his back
pocket, "You're not used to exercising. You're going to be sore.
When I return, I'll give you a massage to loosen up any spasms."
Duo felt that warm flush creep across his cheeks again and he said in
a choked whisper, "Massage?"
Heero nodded again as he headed for the door, mind on his business and
not noticing Duo's discomfiture. Duo found his voice as Heero undid the
locks. "Uh, Heero?"
Heero kept working the locks. "Yes, Duo?"
"Why?" Heero echoed.
"You said it was because I was an old pal and all, but...,"
Duo paused, licked nervous lips, and then plowed on, "It's gotta
be more than that. You have better things to do than to sit with my scrawny
ass in an exercise room and better places to be while you look for a new
operative, than to be hunkering in my fish bowl and getting your good
name smeared along with mine, so, I'm asking you straight out... Why?"
Duo could imagine Heero frowning, though he couldn' see it, the man not
wanting to reveal anything about himself or his motives, old habits hard
to put aside. At last, as he opened the door, Heero offered a bone to
Duo, albeit a meager one, "I missed you," he replied and then
was gone, closing the door behind him, the locks sounding loudly in the
sudden silence as they reactivated.
Missed you. It echoed down deep inside of Duo and put to flight all of
Duo's bitterness, his belief that Heero couldn't possibly care about him
as a friend or anything else. Duo sank back into the cushion of the chair,
hands gripping the arms hard as he shook his head in disbelief and then
slowly smiled. Maybe it wasn't a declaration of love, or even an indication
of romantic interest, but it was hope, it was a relighting of the spark
within Duo. Stubborn spark. Stubborn heart. Duo's mind called him a fool
and a dreamer, but he didn't stop smiling and he couldn't stop hoping
as his heart began to fan that small spark into a flame.
2] [part 4] [back
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