by Kracken
Disclaimer: Don't own them and don't make any money off of this.
Warning: This and future chapters in the arc; male/male sex, graphic, language, drugs, attempted non consensual sex, violence, badly adjusted Gundam boys (not violently so though)


(This chapter has attempted, non consensual sex)

Crossing Paths + Part 5
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"I know what you're doing," Duo snapped, arms crossed over his chest and hugging himself as he tried not to shout in anger. Heero, just walking through the door of Duo's apartment, paused with a raised eyebrow.

"What do you think I'm doing?"

"Every day, you go out and then you come back sweating and needing to change your clothes," Duo replied. "You aren't exercising with me. You're helping me and then going out and doing your own exercises somewhere else, aren't you?"

Heero's face went tight. He closed the door behind him and made his way towards the bedroom as all the locks clicked into place. "I thought that it was best."

"Why?" Duo asked as he followed, leaned against the doorjamb, and watched while Heero began pulling off his clothes.

A week had gone by and they had both fallen into a routine of sorts. Wake up, have breakfast together, exercise in the gym, and then separate while Heero had gone to take care of his business, or at least that had been what Duo has assumed that he was doing. After finally dismissing the notion that Heero had become overly concerned with cleanliness, changing his clothes and showering twice a day, Duo had come to another conclusion entirely. All he needed now was for Heero to admit to it.

"After your exercises, you are forced to rest," Heero explained. "I require an hour of training a day. It seemed inefficient to make you wait while I executed my exercises."

"Why not tell me that?" Duo demanded. He squirmed, tightening his arms even more about himself, and tried not to lower his eyes from Heero's as the man dropped his pants, stepped out of them, and headed for the shower.

"You appeared uncomfortable with the differences in our bodies," Heero replied before he passed the door of the bathroom, "I didn't want to further agitate you by displaying that I had a much higher level of exercise routine than you did."

Duo turned away and hunched over himself, "Yeah, thanks!" he growled. "It looks like you learned some compassion for the weak while you were away."

"You are not weak," Heero replied from the bathroom and then the shower went on and Duo was left to think about that statement, unable to reply and be heard over the sound of the water.

Heero was obviously able to show some tact and compassion, but Duo didn't think it extended to lying about someone's abilities. That went against Heero's training, a training that required him to measure each person's abilities exactly, whether enemy or comrade in arms. So, if it was the truth, what did Heero mean by it? How was he, Duo, not weak? Duo found that he wanted that statement to be true, that he desperately needed something to bolster his non existent self esteem. Since Heero had arrived, ignoring his flaws had become almost impossible and Duo had found himself looking more and more into the mirror and hating his reflection, knowing that, next to Heero, he was nothing less than a stick figure, a joke, a caricature of what could have been a man.

Duo made himself coffee, took his pills, and then settled into a chair to wait for Heero, to wait for his explanation. He needed one. He needed to know that Heero's words were true.

Heero came in to the living room wearing a comfortable pair of pants, a cotton, black tee shirt, and rubbing a towel over his chocolate hair. He looked as if expected to talk and he snagged a chair with his bare foot and brought it closer to Duo's. Sitting down in it, he positioned himself on the edge, body leaning towards Duo's.

"Explain," Duo said simply and hated the needy tone in his voice.

"I have had time to observe you closely," Heero began. He draped the towel across his shoulders, his eyes intent on Duo, still studying him, trying to anticipate Duo's reaction to his next words so that he could prepare for that reaction. "Observing how you exercise, and seeing how your muscles react to stress and strain, I quickly concluded that you do have the ability to grow stronger, to improve your resistance to Earth's gravity, and to improve your stamina. It isn't a weakness of your body that is causing your difficulties."

Duo scowled and stood up. He took a few steps away, seething. "What? Are you going to say that I'm just lazy?"

"No," Heero assured him, paused, and then carefully said, "I think your pills are causing your difficulties, Duo." He went on to explain quickly, "I think they are effecting you both mentally and physically. I think that they were given to you as a means to control you, to keep you from having the energy to make trouble, to keep you from being fit enough to be an operative of any kind, and to, mentally, effect your memory." Duo turned and glared at that, puzzled, but Heero reminded him, "Your cross, Duo. Where is your cross? Besides your braid, you often told me that it was the most important thing in your life, that death was preferable to not having it, yet you don't remember it at all now."

Heero pulled the towel from his neck and tossed it over the chair arm. He stood up, facing Duo. Duo couldn't help laughing, though it was a bitter, depressed sound. "I'm skinny as a rail and I don't have a muscle to call my own, Heero. You and the others grew up, but I never did! I'm stuck like this, Duo Maxwell, the teenager, the little Gundam Pilot with the stupid grin and the baby face! Now you're trying to tell me I'm like this because of those pills! I don't want to hear that! I can't hear that! You know why, Heero?"

"Why?" Heero replied quietly.

"Because I can't stop taking them!!" Duo shouted furiously, hands curling into fists and face twisting into an intense expression of hate and pain as he revealed the truth to Heero and faced it himself, knowing it already. "You're telling me, 'Hey, Duo, just stop taking those pills and you'll get to grow up', but... but... I tried that already... I thought that already... I'm not stupid, Heero. I'm not..." Duo collapsed into his chair again and put his face in his hands, trying not to break down all together. He muttered between his fingers, "Thanks for yanking away my little illusion of control. So nice of you." He went silent for a long moment and then sighed, "So, I'm a drug addict. Add that to your list of why Duo Maxwell should stay fucking grounded on Earth."

A hand gently touched Duo's shoulder. Duo tensed and looked sideways at Heero, reluctant to leave the comforting shadow of his hands and face, but wanting to know if Heero was disgusted by him now. Heero didn't look disgusted. Instead, he looked concerned, his eyes glittering and determined, as he said, "You are not doing this to yourself. I'm going to help you."

I miss you. I'm worried about you. I'm going to help you. It was like a row of dominoes stretching off into a hazy distance. Very slowly, Heero was setting them into motion, the dominoes his phrases, leading Duo to an understanding, but not ready to show Duo the end yet.

"How?" Duo wondered, trying not to disgrace himself completely by crying, but the drugs were weakening him, making him vulnerable, just like his enemies wanted him to be. "Maybe your bosses could have helped me get away from the government, but, I'm sure you've already sent them your report. You don't need to tell me what they thought of it. You don't need to tell me that they're not going to help me because they don't need someone like me. So, what's the plan, Heero? How are you, and you alone, going to go up against a leg locator, addictive drugs, a system where everyone knows who I am on sight and has orders to watch and detain me at the slightest provocation, a medical establishment that helps enslave me by making sure I take my control drugs and by tweaking them whenever they think I'm getting 'upitty', and a psychologist who hides behind a veil of 'professionalism' and falsifies my psych report twice a month. Tell me the plan, Heero, because I would sure like to hear it!"

"There is a weak link in every chain, a point where it can be attacked and overcome," Heero replied. "If you are patient, I will help you. I will make certain that you get into space, and away from these people."

"I keep asking it, so I'll ask it again," Duo snapped back, "Why?"

"Because you don't deserve to be treated this way," Heero replied and Duo felt a holding back, emotions shuttered behind Heero's cobalt blue eyes.

"If that's what you think," Duo pointed out viciously, "Then why did you wait four years to come to my rescue?"

It was plain that Heero didn't want to admit the truth, but he replied quietly, "I didn't know. I spent a great deal of time in space and the affairs of Earth, and the other Gundam pilots, weren't of any concern to me."

"But they are now?" Duo rubbed at his eyes, feeling the hated weariness dragging him down, wanting him to sleep, making it hard to deal with Heero and everything else in his life. He forced himself to wait for Heero's reply, forced himself to wake up enough to care.

"I can't reveal to you what brought you to my attention again, what made me research and discover what was happening in your life now," Heero replied with that detached, cold, soldier mode that Duo had learned to hate so much whenever he spoke about a mission. "It's classified." Heero took a step closer and his face changed subtlety as if he were making a great effort to overcome his ingrained training and open up to Duo. "This isn't about missions or operatives any longer, though, Duo. It's about you and it's about corruption. They are making you suffer unjustly."

Duo sneered. "Are you so sure that it's unjust?"

Heero narrowed his eyes, clearly surprised and suddenly wary. "Explain."

Duo shrugged and looked away. "You must have this image of me that's innocent and good. You're not even questioning whether I deserve what I'm getting or not."

"Do you deserve it?" Heero asked tightly.

Duo went sour. "Maybe... I don't remember all that well. They told me that I tried to hurt somebody important... Milliardo Peacecraft, and that someone saw me talking to a terrorist, anti- unification, type, but... it's all kind of fuzzy."

"The drugs," Heero surmised.

Duo shrugged again and then frowned, wondering how much he had forgotten, how much of his earlier life had been stolen by those drugs. Was he even remembering Heero correctly? "You said that I had a cross and that I was real attached to it?"

"Yes," Heero replied as if he were following Duo's thoughts and didn't seemed puzzled by the change in subject.

Duo raked at his wild bangs with one hand and then rubbed at his forehead trying to remember. "I can remember talking to Milliardo. I can remember.... a party. Quatre was there... and Trowa. Quatre was wearing this stupid white tux, way over dressed.... Milliardo had a red rose in his uniform lapel. He was making a pass at me... he wanted me to go back to his quarters and have a few drinks. I told him he was a pervert and to find somebody legal. He was pretty smooth though. I was actually getting around to saying yes... his hands were-" Duo blushed and his eyes flicked up at Heero. He finished lamely, afraid that hew as being judged, "Jeez! I was fifteen years old, Heero, and I had a libido like it was powered with jet fuel. I was ready to get laid, especially after Milli kept rubbing me everywhere with those long fingers of his." Duo scowled as his memory turned unpleasant. "Relena, his sister, showed up though and took him off to do something or other... don't remember what. I could tell that she didn't like me. Next thing I know, I'm having charges filed in court and a leg locator jammed under my skin. I think, if I can remember all of that, I should remember owning a gold cross."

Heero didn't address that. He couldn't without more information, but he drew the same conclusion that Duo had long ago. "Your confinement is an act of revenge, then?"

Duo sighed and threw up his hands. "I guess! Who knows?! What's it matter? Maybe I just tell myself that so I can blame someone for this mess instead of me? That's what the psychiatrist keeps telling me anyway."

"I will find out what the truth of the matter is," Heero promised.

Duo glared. "Okay, Detective Yuy, but how are you going to do that when you probably have a limited visa and a job to do? You seem to think that your job is all noble and that you're going to save people's lives. I seem to remember that the old Heero Yuy didn't compromise things like that for individuals."

Heero met his eyes and Duo flinched at the shadow of pain he saw there. Heero replied stiffly, "I will do what I say, Duo. How, is my problem, and not something that I can discuss with you."

Duo rubbed at his eyes again and then waved a hand dismissively, almost rudely at Heero as he trudged towards the bedroom. "Yeah, yeah, do what you want if it makes you feel better. I think I'm more savvy to reality."

Duo threw himself onto his bed and hid his eyes behind an arm, trying to gain control of his emotions and thoughts. Hadn't his wildest dreams been answered? Hadn't he wanted Heero to care about him? Hadn't he wanted Heero to be his friend? Duo had wanted him to be more than that, but he couldn't yet make the mental stretch and imagine Heero caring for him that much. The plain truth of the matter was that Duo WAS savvy to reality. He was a prisoner of Earth, chained by drugs and a sentence. He couldn't see Heero, even if all the odds were beaten and the man actually did have a deeper interest in him, making himself a prisoner as well by staying with him.

Reality became too stressful and Duo sought comfort in dreams, letting the drugs lull him and take away all thoughts of resistance and Heero. His attempts to pull forgetfulness over his senses didn't last long though, as a dream caught Duo and held him tight in its grip. It began to play and Duo felt like a helpless spectator, until he was sucked into the scenery and made a part of the action. It was then that Duo realized that the dream had the taste of reality. Images and people shifted and pooled, but the facts pricked at Duo's brain cells and Duo's brain confirmed their validity. Duo was remembering and the memories quickly took on the tone of a nightmare.

"Shit!" Duo sat up and groaned, hands rubbing at his eyes sharply as he tried to wake himself up completely and escape the images that burned his senses; Milliardo and his hands, hot and insistent, a room with red decor, a bed, soft and pliable beneath his back, clothes being undone, white hair sprayed all about him, a needy mouth covering his own, tongues doing battle... and a voice shrieking, bodies being pulled apart, protests on all sides, a fight, punches thrown and taken, wildness, disarray, confusion, and... a cross, a gold cross, being drawn into a big hand and pulled sharply as a fist crashed into flesh and brought darkness.

Duo was shaking. He found himself calling out, needing a lifeline, not caring about pride, only needing reassurance and the strength he knew one man in particular possessed, "H-Heero?!"

The lights were low. Someone, probably Heero, had covered him with a blanket and left a cup of water on a side table as if Duo were a child. Duo felt like one just then, needing reassurance as badly as any child that had been frightened by a nightmare.

"Heero?!" Duo called again and then, still not receiving an answer, he crawled from the bed and went looking for the ex-Gundam pilot. On the small coffee table in the living room, Duo found a note propped up on the remote. In Heero's precise, block lettering, it read, 'Business. Unable to specify return time.'

Duo crumpled up the note. He was unjustifiably angry and he didn't care. He had needed Heero and Heero hadn't been there for him. The how, the why, or even the unreasonableness of Duo's judgment didn't concern him. He was depressed and disappointed. He was alone and on his own just as if Heero had never appeared.

"It's your fault that I had the nightmare," Duo growled at the crumpled note and then turned on his heel and stalked into the bedroom again. He needed to get out, he thought. He had stayed in the apartment, not needing the cacophony of city life to drown out his loneliness and despair while Heero was there and being a distraction. Now that Heero was gone, Duo found that he needed that chaos, that pulsing beat, of the city again. He needed something to drown out his pain. He was going out.

Dance club, Duo thought with a hard smile, and put aside his darker clothes for a white pair of jeans, a white tank top, red boots, and a knee length red coat with a black velvet collar. Slipping on black gloves, Duo stood in front of the hated mirror as he brushed out his long hair. He glared at his reflection, trying to convince himself that the young man who stood there could turn a few heads in such an outfit, that his long, chestnut hair was purely amazing, and that anyone would be glad to be with him. It was a mantra that he repeated to himself silently as his fingers flew, weaving his hair into a long braid and tying it off with a snap of elastic at the end and a black velvet bow.

It was almost like preparing for a mission, Duo thought, rather than a spontaneous action. He felt the same adrenalin rush, the same nervousness, the same need to plan and organize. He found himself running over in his head likely scenarios that might occur that night, and his responses to each one, as he left his apartment and made his way down to the city street.

No Heero. No constant feeling of being analyzed. Duo should have felt relieved, even liberated, but he found himself missing Heero instead, his thoughts returning again and again to that grim man. Anger was leaving Duo, reason returning in its place. Duo felt ashamed now for having blamed Heero for telling him the truth, something he had already known, and for bringing on a nightmare, one of a number that Duo had been used to suffering anyway. Heero had said that he wanted to help Duo. Heero cared about him. As much as Duo was finding that hard to believe, the man deserved more from him than a foul mouth, senseless anger, and baseless accusations.

"Duo!" A female voice screamed. Duo looked up in time to not smother against the breasts of a larger woman as she hugged him and gave him a kiss on the cheek. Tall, and dressed all in black club clothes, the woman had purple hair cut close and a broad, flat face with lively black eyes. Her silent companion, a muscular man in a loose shirt unbuttoned to his navel, overlarge pants, combat boots, tattoos everywhere, a shock of white hair, and a hatchet face with a sneering smile, gave Duo a wink as he rocked on his heels with his hands stuffed into his pockets. "'Lo, Duo," was all he said.

"Going dancing?" the woman wondered. When Duo nodded, he winced as she squealed in delight, "Good! Come to club Zeo with us. We'll hook up with Kaeko and Janine!"

"Kay," Duo replied, carefully disengaging himself from the woman and straightening his coat. "Sounds like a plan."

They began walking, in a close knot, along the street, heading towards the blinking lights of the club up ahead. People swirled about them, gave them a wide berth, and exclaimed to themselves as they recognized Duo. The woman preened and grinned. The white haired man grinned back. They loved the notoriety of being with Duo. It was why they stayed with him, followed him everywhere, and played the game of being his friends. Duo bought the drinks for them and gained them entrance to every night club and restaurant by using his reputation as a passport. He was famous and they basked in his glow, even though it was a sick glow, even though the notoriety was mostly negative. They, and a few others, were the only friends that Duo had. The rest, true friends, had been unable to cope, unable to stand in the fish bowl with him and take the constant barrage of false stories and false speculation.

"What'chya been doing?" The woman asked Duo, breaking into his sour thoughts. "We all missed you."

Sure, Duo thought, growing even more bitter, you missed the false Duo, the one the media and the government had created, not the real Duo, who, if he had not been haunted by his depression and despair, would have been at home, a happy recluse sipping coffee while Heero grunted one word replies to his conversation. That Duo, they would have been horrified by. That Duo, the skinny, underdeveloped, war hero, wouldn't have rated their acknowledgement of his existence.

"Busy," Duo replied shortly. Both man and woman looked at him. He was usually the chatter box, the grinning fool who tried to dance with everyone despite the gravity making his steps awkward. He was the one who paid for everything, drank too much, and sang off key to crappy music. Duo expected his near silence to puzzle them, but he wasn't ready for an edge of fear in their expressions. Fear? They were afraid of him?

Duo felt suddenly ill. He wanted to turn around and retrace his steps, wait for Heero to come back to the apartment, and enjoy his honest, plain presence. Heero wasn't afraid of him. Heero wasn't a leach, attaching himself and hoping to suck off of his ill fame. Duo felt almost angry again, realizing that Heero had hurt him by his very presence, by highlighting just how pathetic his, Duo's life, had become. Without a friend in the world, he had created a delusion as sure as the one about the drugs not controlling or effecting him; a comfortable lie to hide what was, in reality, a void in his life as deep and as dark as space. He was alone. The people with him were not his friends. He doubted that they even liked him.

They reached the club. The line was long, everyone talking excitedly in groups, everyone dressed like wild peacocks as they tried to look worthy of access to the exclusive club. Duo bypassed the line and went straight to the bouncer at the entrance. He stood expectantly. The man looked down his great height and, instead of letting Duo proceed with his usual greeting, he barred Duo's path.

"Not tonight," the man said in a gravely voice that hinted at a warning. "News is too fresh. People will come to take a look at you, but others won't stick around, not after you beat up that guy and threatened his girl."

Duo narrowed his amethyst eyes. "You know that didn't happen."

The man shrugged, a rising and falling of broad shoulders. "They think it did."

The woman tugged Duo away, angry and disappointed. "Well go to another club, Duo, right?"

Duo had found his excuse. He took it and shook his head. "'fraid not," he replied. "They'll all be nervous. I guess I'll lay low for a week. Don't worry, we'll hit the town after that."

They tried to argue, tried to suggest wilder alternatives, but Duo was firm, almost rude as he turned them down. Finally, it took him walking away with a growled dismissal that finally made them cease and desist. He saw the fear in their faces again and hated himself. He hated them almost as much when they stayed and were let into the club, using his reputation to accomplish it.

"Nice night for walking, but not for being alone," a voice said at Duo's elbow. Duo twitched sideways and faced the man defensively.

Broad, dark skin, black hair. He had a look that reminded Duo of Heero, slightly flat, thoughts well hidden, but a sparkle in the man's green eyes that betrayed him. That's where the similarity to Heero ended. Where the glitter in Heero's eyes was concern and something else, something that Duo knew would reveal itself in time to be positive for him, this man's eyes held the promise of harm and darker things, things that Duo didn't want to know anything about.

"I don't want company, sorry," Duo said firmly and began walking away. The man matched his steps. Duo stopped and faced him again, putting a hand into his pocket as if he had a weapon and was willing to use it. He wished, just then, that he did, uncertain of his martial arts training. He hadn't had to use it since the war, his reputation enough to keep people from challenging him, and his exercises had been less than stellar, even with Heero helping him.

"I saw them turn you away from the club," the man said, voice smooth and cultured, yet eager, too eager, his smile pasted on and very wide and wolfish. "You wanted a good time. I can get you in a few places or, if you like, we can go back to my home. I have some good entertainment there... drugs, liqueur...," He reached out and caressed Duo's cheek, warm skin against Duo's quickly chilling skin. Duo shivered as the man finished meaningfully, "or we could do with each other and think of some more, personal entertainment."

"Contrary to everyone's opinion," Duo found himself snapping back, "I'm not a weirdo or a whore! Get your freakin' hand off me and get lost!"

The man's hand tightened on Duo's cheek instead, painfully. Fingers flicked and Duo felt something sharp rest against the side of his face. That sharpness trailed down, following the path of the man's hand down Duo's neck. Fingers dug into Duo's collar, gripping it tightly, and the spike pierced the material and rested against Duo's flesh as the man said very dangerously, "Don't move. I have a shock needle."

Duo's blood turned to ice, and the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end, as he kept perfectly still. Illegal on Earth and In Space, shock needles were home made weapons, a lethal charge of pinpointed energy, that, once inserted into a victim's nerves, set off a mind destroying chain reaction that killed slowly and painfully. Sometimes, a person didn't die. Sometimes, they spent their lives comatose.

"You will do exactly what I say," the man said with a grin. "Be good and I may be nice and let you go after I'm done with you." Duo didn't ask what the man wanted him to do. He knew. He had lived on the streets of L2. He wasn't naive. Only, this time, he didn't have a friend named Solo to protect him.

"You think you're so high and mighty," the man said in disgust. "I've been watching you, those sick little bitches hanging on you, hanging on your every word, the way everyone lets you pass, the way everyone looks at you in awe. You need a dose of reality. You need someone to show you just what and who you really are. I'm going to be the man to do that. I'm going to show you that you're not better than everyone else and that you're certainly not better than me!"

"I'm not better than you or anyone else," Duo replied softly.

"Shut up!" The man snarled back.

"I'm a prisoner," Duo persisted. "People are afraid of me. They watch me every time I show my face, but then they make up my life as they go along and the life they've made up has no relation to reality."

"Deep!" The man grunted and pressed the needle into flesh. "Don't say another word. We're going to go to that fancy high rise of yours so that I can play with your toys and you," he said, his grin reappearing in anticipation. "Like I said, play along and you'll only end up with a sore ass and a well deserved beating. Make trouble, and I'll turn this needle on low and let you stare at the ceiling for the rest of your life. Got it?"

Duo nodded, shivering, knowing that he didn't have a choice. He couldn't defend himself and he couldn't call attention to his danger. There wasn't any way that help could arrive before the man turned that needle on. And the man would use it, Duo thought, frightened to his core, he could smell the madness, sense it in the way the man moved; the madness of a killer.

Duo led the way back to his apartment, passed the security guards, and acknowledged their bored greetings. He knew they stared with interest after he passed and made phone calls, eager to report that bizarre Duo Maxwell was taking yet another stranger up to his apartment. By morning, a dozen stories would be running through the papers and on everyone's lips on the street.

"Nice," The man said in his ear. "I'll be famous, just like you. Make sure you tell them Dan Mickel plowed you and took you down a few pegs, okay?" He thought and then added, "If you're still alive, that is."

Would Heero be at the apartment? Duo wondered. Should he hope that he was? Duo's mind went in circles, knowing that, if anyone could take out the man it would be Heero, yet also realizing that Heero wasn't super human. He couldn't attack fast enough to stop that needle from setting off its charge. If Heero did attack, if Heero didn't realize what weapon the man was using... Duo felt tears sting his eyes, imaging life as a vegetable. Would he know? Would he be locked in his body, aware and unable to do anything at all?

They reached his apartment door. Duo fumbled with the locks. The man slammed his head against the wood. Duo gasped and saw stars. "Just a taste," the man chuckled. "Hurry up."

With pain radiating throughout his skull, Duo still managed to get the locks undone. Opening the door, he staggered, but the man wasn't letting him get away. He kept a tight hold and jerked Duo back against him as he looked around. He was disappointed.

"This isn't your main apartment!" he accused. "You've got nothing here! You're going to pay for that, little bitch!"

"This is where I live," Duo insisted. "I don't have another place. If you heard differently, it was just a story like all the rest."

The man sneered, "I can't believe that you would fucking play games with me like this just to save some of your stuff! Don't you get that I am seriously going to mess you up and that the more you jerk me around, the worse it's going to be?"

There was nothing to say. The man was crazy. Duo knew that he couldn't reason with him. As the man dragged him into the bedroom, and he didn't see any signs of Heero, Duo decided that he was glad. He didn't want to be comatose. He also didn't want to be hurt badly. His decision now was a cowardly one. He didn't want Heero there to witness it. He wished that he didn't have to witness it himself.

Duo took a shuddering breath and then forced himself to turn and say, "I'll do what you want, okay? You can call me every name in the book, if it will make you feel better, but... don't break me and... don't use the needle."

The man looked at him, stunned, and then Duo realized that he was mocking him. Viciously, the man ripped off Duo's jacket, popped the buttons on his shirt, ripped his shirt open down to his navel, and then smashed Duo up against the full length mirror against the wall.

Leaning in close and shouting into Duo's ear in fury, the man said, "You think you actually have something that I want?! Look at you!" He slammed Duo against the mirror and it shivered with the force, but didn't break. "Look!" he commanded and pulled Duo back so that he could see his own reflection. "Skinny, boney, fish- skinned boy-cunt! I've seen ten year olds that are bigger and more manly than you! Fucking you is going to be like fucking a stick! You think I'm going to enjoy it?! You think I'm actually looking forward to it?" The man laughed. "Maybe you're the one who should lay back and enjoy it. Who else is going to want you, hm? Who would want somebody who looks like you?"

Duo felt the tears start. He tried to choke them back. He was a Gundam pilot and a war hero for Christ's sake! He had withstood Oz torture without breaking. Why couldn't he be that strong now? Why couldn't he spit in the man's face and tell him to go to Hell? Why? Because he believed every word the man was saying.

There was suddenly a sickening crack. Duo focused on the mirror and saw his attacker's eyes behind him go wide in surprise right before they glazed over. Heero was standing behind him, one hand on his neck and the other on the hand that held the needle. That hand was as crushed as the man's spine.

Heero let the body drop and then he met eyes with the reflection of Duo's eyes. Duo didn't move, still too stunned by the suddenness of it. When Heero stepped over the twitching body, reached past Duo to the mirror, and covered the reflection with his hand, Duo stared at the broad back of it as Heero said very intensely, "A mirror shows only what you want to see."

Duo swallowed convulsively and his tears tracked down his cheeks. "I know what I see. I know what that asshole saw," he replied in voice hoarse with growing shock. "What do you see?"

Heero's fist suddenly smashed the mirror. Duo turned to look at him then, confused and wondering if he should be afraid of Heero now, but Heero said with more emotion than Duo had ever heard from him before, "I don't need a mirror to show me how beautiful you are, inside and out. What that man said was a lie."

Duo's mouth opened, his shock complete. He looked down at the body of his attacker, growing quickly cold, and then he looked back up at Heero and the promise in the man's eyes beginning to be revealed for what it was. "I think... I think I'd rather believe you, Heero, than someone like him."

Heero nodded as he reached out and took Duo's hand. Gently, he led Duo away from violence and death, saying, "Good, because you will need to believe in me when I take you away from this world."

+

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