by Kracken
Disclaimer: Don't own them and don't make any money off of this
Warnings: This story and others in the arc will have male/male sex, graphic, violence, language, maladjusted Gundam boys, drug abuse, unprofessional professionals, sexy Zechsy (sorry ^_^;) .... I hope people read this stuff.
I have now numbered and put the name of the series on all of the Shinigami's Lover Arc. Hope that makes it easier.

I love hearing what you think about the series and I've really been loving your detailed reviews. Thanks soo much! ^_^


Crossing Paths + Part 6
Flying


Duo was very quiet. He could feel Heero look at him repeatedly, patient, not willing to pressure Duo with questions when he was so obviously still in shock. Duo was grateful, but it didn't make him any more comfortable with the situation or less strung out by the rapid events earlier.

Heero had disposed of the body. How, Duo didn't know. The man had simply carried it out of the apartment without the slightest hesitation, unafraid of someone seeing him, and returned empty handed with a reassurance that no one would find it for a long while and, when they did, it was going to be hard to identify what would be left of the body or connect it to Duo in any way.

Duo had only nodded. A war veteran, and witness to horrible military crimes when he was very young, death didn't bother him on a conscious level any longer, especially not the death of a man like that. It wasn't that death that kept Duo silent and shaking imperceptibly. It wasn't that kind of violence that had made him pack clothes, his pills, and what few personal items he had, and want to leave his apartment as quickly as possible. It was more the realization that he had almost come to an end too, an end far worse than Dan Mickel's and that, before Heero had rescued him, Duo had been about to do a very cowardly thing.

"I-I have to call the government offices and report my position," Duo said finally, in a very quiet voice. He stared out at the clouds through a window as the small luxury jet arrowed through the skies towards an unknown destination. Heero had made the arrangements for the jet with practiced ease, no one questioning him, the two man crew respectful and obedient when he and Duo had appeared on the tarmac of the airport.

"Why?" Heero wondered just as quietly. "I read the orders that said that you were allowed to travel on Earth where you wished."

"I've never done it, though, " Duo replied, picking up his braid and fiddling with the end. The black, velvet bow was still there. He pulled it out and let it drop onto the plush, empty seat next to him. "They'll be nervous. Someone's probably going to be waiting when we land."

"Then you don't need to call," Heero told him logically. "You can explain, personally, that you will be Quatre Winner's guest at his estate."

Duo looked at Heero then, surprised. "Quatre?"

"He's expecting us," Heero informed him. There were several spaces between them. Heero closed the distance and settled next to Duo, eyes deep cobalt wells that belied his blank expression and his matter- of -fact, business like voice. Duo saw concern in those eyes and questions unasked.

"We didn't exactly part on the best of terms," Duo explained, swallowing nervously, feeling his trembling grow stronger. He was reacting to Heero's warmth. Duo felt cold, drained, and needy. He wanted, more than anything else, to reach out to Heero's warmth and pull it and Heero closer. He refrained, wrapping his arms about himself, telling himself that Heero was still an unknown, still a mystery. He had said words that had sounded like an admission, but Duo wasn't ready to believe yet, still too raw from having Dan Mickel paw him and still too afraid that Heero had witnessed his moment of complete cowardice. Duo was too afraid to see disgust behind Heero's concern, too afraid that he was misreading the situation and that Heero would reject him. It was much better to protect his spark of hope for now and avoid-

"You are not a coward," Heero said so abruptly and strongly that Duo flinched.

"I didn't know that you could read minds," Duo hissed, making a lame attempt to escape in humor and turn away from the topic as he turned his body away from Heero, a clear signal to the man that he didn't want to talk about it.

Heero gripped Duo's thin arm hard and turned him back to face him, making him listen, "If that man had told you that, after he had finished with you, he was going to kill someone else, would you have made that offer to him? Would you have tried to save your own life, let him have sex with you, hoping that he would let you go unharmed?"

"No, of course not!" Duo replied instantly, outraged by the very idea.

Heero nodded firmly, once, and then let Duo go as he stood up, saying, "What other point has to be made, Duo? None of us wants to die. If no one else will die, then what is wrong with deciding to suffer through an ordeal to live?"

Duo watched Heero open a small refrigerator under a tiny wet bar. He began taking out ice cubes and wrapping them in a towel. "I don't know how you made that seem logical, but you did," Duo replied. He thought about it. "I guess, I felt that I was being... dishonorable, by letting him- offering him what he wanted. Does that make sense?" he sighed darkly, "or maybe I'm just having a battle with my pride?"

Heero turned to him, offering the ice. "I don't doubt your honor, Duo, but I think it's more a case of the latter. Nobody wishes to concede to an enemy. Remember, though, that when we leave the field alive, we can always return to fight and win another day."

Duo nodded as he took the ice and cradled it uncertainty in his hands. "That sounds nice, but I still feel less of a man, somehow, and I didn't think I was much of one before that." He looked at the ice. "What am I doing with this?"

"You have a large bump on your face and a bruise along your cheek," Heero told him. "The ice will reduce the swelling and the pain."

"Ah, Thanks," Duo replied with a blush and put the ice to his wounds, wondering at Heero's manner towards him. He still seemed, physically, to be the Heero he had always known, cold, aloof, reserved, and a hundred other words that describe stoic, perfect soldier, but his actions were anything but cold or detached. Duo asked, feeling as if it were a bomb he was playing with, "Where you always this way and I just never noticed?"

Heero raised an eyebrow and Duo caught a brief, self satisfied smirk on his face. That could have meant something unpleasant, but Duo could sense that it was plain amusement. "You made the observation that I didn't know you," Heero replied. "So, too, you don't know me, Duo. We didn't have many missions together and even then we were mostly in our Gundams."

"You didn't seem to like me," Duo dared. "That's why I was so surprised, why I'm still surprised that you're being so..." Duo still didn't want to go there. He still didn't want to chance rejection. He finished lamely, "friendly and concerned about me."

Heero's eyes went half closed as if falling into memory, some of it unpleasant. "There wasn't much time, during the war, for caring about anything except freeing the colonies. I had to concentrate on the missions. I had to win the war. Afterwards, I had to find my place. I had to find where a man, who had always known killing and fighting, could fit into a world where there was peace. I decided to keep on fighting, to keep the peace. I stayed in the Preventers after the uprising."

Duo blinked. "I thought that they had disbanded after the rebellion. Didn't the government think that they were too violent a force to keep active? I remember hearing arguments that any armed, standing force could be taken over and used for another rebellion."

"There is always a need for a police force and a police force has to be armed," Heero replied, "But the members of that police force can be chosen carefully and screened diligently to keep out radical elements."

Duo found the illogic in that quickly enough. "Then why me?" he wondered bitterly. "You've seen at least part of the judgment against me. It doesn't make any sense that you would even consider me."

Heero looked down at his hands and his jaw tightened. For a moment, Duo didn't think he would reply and then he said, "After the war, after I joined the Preventers, I suddenly had time on my hands, time to build a life that didn't always include killing and missions. Most of our work is with petty disputes, petty criminals, and simple assignments policing government functions. That leaves a man a lot of time to think."

"Think?" Duo echoed, wanting Heero to continue, but not daring to ask the questions poised on his lips.

"I thought a lot about you," Heero replied and then stood up, letting his hands drop at his side as he paced to the opposite side of the small plane. Leaning against a wall, he looked out of a window at the clouds. "I read news stories about you, saw vid clips, looked into your files, wondering why-"

"Hm, well, I don't blame you for believing all of that shit," Duo sighed, cutting Heero off. "Everyone else does."

"I didn't believe it," Heero replied. "Not for an instant. That's why I needed information. I needed to understand why so many people would lie about you."

"The madness of crowds," Duo murmured.

"What?" Heero wondered, puzzled.

"Come on, Heero!" Duo exclaimed with a dark chuckle. "You're a soldier! Surely you've heard that phrase? People will often do something that they otherwise wouldn't, and know is wrong, if enough people are doing the same thing. Sometimes, all people are looking for is some legitimacy to do evil. Those people know, deep down, that I didn't do those things, but they still enjoy hearing about them and believing that I did, so they feed the fantasy engine by paying for the vid, paying for the news article, paying to show up to gawk at the perverted, dangerous war hero." Duo went even paler than his usual, remembering other, darker, things, how, in the war, a crowd would egg each other on to kick a fallen soldier to death, torture a prisoner in horrific ways, destroy towns, and slaughter people wholesale. Looking at Heero's drawn brows and tightening jaw, Duo knew that Heero was thinking of those things as well.

Duo broke through the memories by pointing out, "That's all very lovely, you thinking about me and all, Heero, but that doesn't explain why your bosses wanted anything to do with me. Maybe you didn't believe it, but I'm sure they probably did."

Heero shrugged. "They trust my judgment."

"THAT much?" Duo was incredulous. "Not with people's lives and the peace at stake, Yuy! Don't lie to me!"

Heero spun on him and Duo sank back into the cushion of the seat, wondering if he had been stupid enough to over step some boundary with Heero. Heero looked angry for only an instant and then he recovered and said, "I'm sorry," in a voice that was tightly controlled. "It's still classified why you were chosen. I can't reveal it. I was trying to explain why you came to my attention at all, why I submitted your name to the Preventers. The details, the criteria I was hoping that you would qualify for, I can't discuss."

Duo felt weary and he let it go. Putting the towel with the melting ice cubes aside, he shivered and stretched out across the seats, trying to make himself comfortable. "Okay, Heero," he said around a yawn, "You keep your secrets like everyone else who runs my life. It shouldn't matter to me anymore. I should just shut up and do what I'm told. " He pillowed his bruised cheek on his arm and closed his eyes as he finished, "I was almost raped and messed up, I'm doped up on my 'fix' like a good, little drug addict, and I just spent way too long just now trying to play, 'guess what Heero's thinking', so, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to sleep."

There was a definite silence and then Duo heard Heero moving around the cabin. Duo twitched, but didn't open his eyes when he felt a thick, warm blanket placed over his body. A hand that had killed innumerable men in battle and assassinations, piloted a Gundam in the war, and crushed men's spines, moved Duo's braid to where it wouldn't get tangled or caught underneath Duo and then, as lightly as the brush of a feather, as if he hoped Duo wouldn't notice, that hand gave Duo's braid the smallest of caresses before retreating.

Duo felt his face go red, but he kept his eyes tightly shut, hoping for more, mind doing battle with his low self esteem as he tried to convince himself that this was proof positive that Heero Yuy was attempting to be more than a friend. He fought sleep, wanting more than anything else to truly believe in that conclusion, but, he was too exhausted and still in slight shock. Sleep claimed him long before he could convince his mind to stop running from the obvious.

+

Duo awoke alone hours later. He sat up, mouth dry, body stiff, and bruises throbbing. He could tell that the plane had landed. Blinking through a window at a tarmac bathed in early morning light, Duo estimated that they must have flown half way around the world. There were snow capped mountain peaks in the distance. Duo felt a distinct pressure in his head from a rise in elevation, and the air had grown sharply colder. The Alps?

Gripping his rumpled, red coat closely around him to keep his thin body warm, Duo picked up his heavy bag from underneath the seats and made his way out of the cabin and to the cockpit. Heero was there, speaking with the pilots and giving them an order to service the jet and to keep a jump plane fueled and ready to go at a moment's notice. Duo shivered even more when he heard that. A jump plane was used to leave Earth's atmosphere and to dock with space ships.

"The Preventers must be flush with money to have a private jump plane," Duo said.

Heero turned and Duo saw Heero's quick appraisal of his condition. The way his face went even more grim told Duo that he looked as bad as he felt. "It's Quatre's." Heero replied and Duo was surprised and confused at the level of Quatre's involvement.

"I'd ask what Quatre has to do with all of this, but I expect it's classified too," Duo said in exasperation.

"For now," Heero replied. "Until we can get you away from the government and the doctors. I'm not certain what level of control they have over you. If I tell you anything, they may be able to retrieve that information without your being aware of it."

"You're more of an optimist than I am, Heero," Duo said dejectedly. "I've been a prisoner too long, I guess. I don't really think that you'll be able to get me off planet, even with the help of someone like Quatre."

"The plan is still being drawn," Heero conceded, "There are still too many variables and too many unknowns. For now, you will have to continue as you have with the pills and the treatment, until Quatre, my associates, and I can find out more."

Duo rubbed at his aching forehead as he followed Heero towards the ladder leading out of the plane. "Maybe I WAS being an optimist," he sighed. "Somehow, I was thinking that you had already helped me to escape."

Heero stopped at the top of the ladder. He didn't turn, but he was a solid, comforting presence as Duo accidentally bumped into his broad back. Heero said over his shoulder, "If normal channels are ineffective, Duo, I will take you off planet by any means necessary. Don't doubt that."

"Sorry, but it's hard not to," Duo said as he caught a glimpse past Heero at the armed men waiting for them. "Especially when I'm surrounded by guys like that."

"Captain Duo Maxwell?" a tall, hard faced man stepped forward, saluted Duo smartly, and then eyed Heero suspiciously as he said to Duo, "Proceed this way for questioning, sir."

"He's my bodyguard," Duo protested, still standing somewhat behind Heero. "He comes too."

"I'm afraid not, sir," the man replied and became nervous. That wasn't good in a man who was armed and had an armed detail under his command. Duo knew that a bad situation was about to start.

"All right," Duo conceded and, looking at Heero, he said, "See you in a bit." He wasn't sure if that was true or not, but it sounded good to himself. Heero simply nodded, appraising the men, but he stepped aside and allowed Duo to join them.

Duo was led to a bare room in the airport proper. All of the guard detail followed as if they were terrified that Duo would do something incredibly violent. They all kept their hands on their weapons. The tense situation hadn't ended with Duo's cooperation. There was still a chance that a hair trigger individual could start shooting.

Duo kept his stance relaxed as he stood and let them search him. With the expertness he had learned as a thief on L2, Duo slipped several things that he had wanted to keep secret into the pockets of the guard while they milled and tangled with each other.

"Hey!" Duo complained with a wince as a man ran a rough hand between his legs as he was frisked. "Those are not weapons and they are very sensitive!" That made a few men chuckle. That told Duo that they weren't bad men, just frightened by his reputation. Duo was able to truly relax then and even managed to crack a few more jokes during an intense round of questioning.

Satisfied, the leader had Duo sign a stack of forms and then gave him orders in a brisk, 'you had better comply, or else' tone. "Report to this physician and this hospital at this specified time. Report to this psychiatrist at this specified time." His thick finger ran down a paper that he held in his hands before Duo's face. Duo didn't focus on it, just nodded with a tight mouth. "You were to report your movements to the correct authorities, Captain Maxwell," the man finished as he lowered the paper and put it on top of the stack that Duo already held in his hands. "You will do so in the future, is that understood?"

"Yes, sir," Duo replied as he felt his stomach tighten on bitterness. When he had confined himself to one city and his apartment, it had been his choice, not a government order. It drove home to Duo that he was a prisoner. He wasn't in a cell, but he might as well have been.

"You may go now, Captain. Welcome to our country," that was said in a tone that told Duo that he wasn't welcome at all.

"Thanks," Duo replied automatically. He was handed his bag. Someone had checked to make sure that he was carrying his pills.

Slinging the bag and it's precious burden over one shoulder, Duo retrieved his things from his 'plants', including the small, laminated news clipping of Heero and himself that some reporter had snapped at the celebration party after the war's end. They were both uncomfortable in tux's and Heero was looking away from the camera with an intense scowl, but Duo was smiling and flashing a peace sign. Duo had often looked at it, wondering about Heero, and it had been one of the few things he had taken from the apartment. He had hidden it from the men, because he had been nervous about them knowing that he cared that much about Heero. If things had gotten ugly, being unconnected to him might have allowed Heero to escape unharmed.

Duo found Heero, holding his own meager luggage, outside the terminal. Heero looked him over with a stiff, anxious air. "They treated you well?"

Duo shrugged and managed a smile as Heero hailed a cab. "Soldiers are soldiers."

That didn't comfort Heero. As a cab pulled up and they slid inside, Heero said, "We will be safe from that sort of interference at Quatre's estate."

"You sound pretty sure of that," Duo chuckled as he leaned back into the car seat and closed his eyes against a bright sun coming through the window.

"I am," Heero replied.

+

They didn't say much to each other as the car wound through mountain roads. Duo watched the scenery go by between naps. They were definitely in the Alps. Everything seemed cleaner and fresher, more green, more crisp, than anywhere else. Even the cows in their pastures seemed to be smiling contentedly. It was relaxing and Duo found himself glad that he had made the trip, even if nothing came of it. He had been holed up, a recluse in one place, too long. He had always been an adventurer, looking towards the horizon and then going there. Now he was feeling as if he had been moth balled like an old ship and was now being put back into commission. He found himself looking towards the horizon again and feeling the excitement of wanting to know what was beyond it.

What was beyond that horizon was a very large, almost castle like estate set on the jagged bones of an old, snow covered mountain. Duo couldn't help a low whistle of appreciation. Money was a part of the Winner name and heritage. It was obvious that, for Quatre, this was still true.

"Nice," was all Duo could find to say as they left the cab and went up to the grand entrance of the main building. People were there already, official looking, armed guards in desert uniforms. "Maganacs," Duo said in surprise and Heero nodded. "No wonder you're so sure we won't be bothered. Quatre still has his army."

"Honor guard," Heero corrected. "They are restricted severely, only so many in one area and only certain weapons. Still..., " Heero gave a hard smile, "They can be very effective deterrents."

"I bet," Duo replied with a return smile.

Duo, eyes watering from the bright sun, was glad to duck inside and escape it. The rich decor he was greeted with made him stop and stare. Everything seemed to be gold and marble, dazzling to someone who had spent his youth in abandoned buildings, a rundown church, and then on decrepit sweeper ships. Duo had flirted with high society while he had been basking in the brief glow of being a war hero, but that lifestyle hadn't had time to sink in and become common place for him. He could still be awed, and stunned, by opulence and he couldn't help feeling very out of place and out classed.

"Duo! Heero!" The voice confused Duo at first. It was deeper than he remembered Quatre's voice being. The man who greeted him was different as well.

Quatre Winner had left the soft, boyish look of youth behind. He was tall and slim, but it looked as if he had put himself through intensive weight training. His muscles were all defined and his shoulders were broad for someone so slim. His features were finely chiseled now, his cheeks having become more prominent and his chin squarer after shedding their baby fat of youth. Dressed in a casual shirt that was tight on his upper body and a pair of comfortable pants, he still managed to have a refined air and a polite manner about him that was usually the hallmark of aristocracy.

Quatre's eyes were the same though and they were warm and caring as he approached them with arms held wide. He hugged them, Heero stiff and unresponsive, but Duo giving an eager hug back in return as he ignored that little voice inside of him that sneered at his need for Quatre's friendly contact.

Quatre felt Duo's bones, and his slight shivering, and he backed away in surprise, looking hard at his old war comrade. Duo saw his kindly face become shocked. "Duo!" Quatre exclaimed in concern, but then he recovered before he said something unfortunate and changed what he had been about to say to something more tactful. "Well!" he said with forced good humor. "Y-You haven't changed a bit!"

Duo went bitter. "Yeah, well, that would be good to hear if I was fifty years old, but now, it sucks."

Quatre winced.

Duo quickly made amends. "Sorry, Quat, it's just a sore point with me, okay?"

"That's all right, Duo," Quatre replied gently and then turned his attention to Heero, still as much of a soldier as either of them and needing a status report. "You didn't tell me much of what was going on when you called, Heero, except to be ready for trouble. What's the status now?"

Heero began telling Quatre about Duo's situation. Duo found himself on the outside of the conversation as if he were in another room entirely and, disgruntled by it, he wandered a few steps and tried to get his bearings, taking in the decor and making a visual map automatically. He wasn't long into that task before Duo felt his inner clock reach a certain time and begin to set off an internal alarm. It was time to take his pills.

Quatre and Heero's voices had dropped and they had stepped closer together. Heero was intense and Quatre was concerned. Let them talk, Duo said to himself, they'll be done shortly. He didn't want to take the pills where Quatre or Heero could see him. He felt on edge about that. It was a weakness, having to take the pills. After the incident with Dan Mickel, Duo felt the need to reassert at least a semblance of control and confidence to these people who's opinion he valued. He wanted their respect. He wasn't going to get it, if he started crying about his pills like a damned drug addict. And so, Duo waited and listened to them talk, ignoring the alarm.

It took concentration. Duo counted, sang a song silently to himself that he only half remembered, trying to recall the lyrics, and mentally tried to analyze the material that made up the floor when he finally dismissed it as being white marble. While he tried to distract himself from the growing agitation within him and the insistent, mental command to take his pills, Quatre and Heero began to argue heatedly.

"How much of this did you research before you decided to interfere?" Quatre demanded in a hissed whisper that still managed to carry to Duo. "You've been in space and insulated from Earth news by your own admission. You didn't see what I saw at the party that Duo attended. He was violent, out of control. I've heard that he was speaking with a known dissident before that. There are valid charges leveled against him, Heero. If I didn't know you better, I might think that you were letting emotions cloud your judgment, but, I do know you and I do know that you must have some sort of agenda in all of this, some agenda that requires Duo. If that is so, then I can't condone it. Despite what you say, I think Duo does need treatment. I think his violence at the party was symptomatic of something we've all suffered, post war syndrome, but, unlike the rest of us, Duo was unable to control himself and resorted to violence.

"What was a known dissident doing at your party, Quatre?" Heero wondered coldly.

"That fact wasn't known at the time," Quatre replied defensively. "After Duo's episode all security tapes of the party were analyzed. That man wasn't invited, Heero, and the tapes showed that he went straight to Duo, speaking to him and no one else."

"I'm tired," Duo managed to break in at last and felt himself beginning to fall apart. He needed a room where he could be alone and take his pills. The command in his head was growing, the need for the drugs beginning to burn and sizzle along his veins. He had fought that command before, fought the need, and had failed every time. He was failing this time too.

Quatre sighed. "All right, Duo. I'm sorry that I tried to discuss such heavy matters in the foyer of my home, instead of being a proper host and letting you rest first, but you can understand my concern for my people here. I don't want Earth security coming down on me unexpectedly."

"S'okay," Duo said shortly and then hated himself as his voice trembled along with his body as he said, "Can I get a room now?"

"Yes, of course," Quatre replied and called for a servant. When a man appeared, he motioned to Heero and Duo. "These are my guests. They are to be given everything they desire. Please take their bags and see them to the guest rooms."

The servant, a burly looking man who looked more like a soldier, bowed to Quatre and replied simply, "Sir," in acknowledgement before turning and reaching for Duo's bag. "Allow me."

What happened next was a confused jumble of motion, shouting, and anxiety. Duo reacted violently, perceiving a threat to his pills, and tried to save them. The servant went flying from a well placed kick, but then Duo was down and Heero was scrambling to hold onto his slight form as Duo kicked, bucked, and squirmed, screaming curses and threats at all of them.

"Heero!" Quatre's voice shouted commandingly. "Let go of him and back off. He's panicking!"

Heero obeyed. During the war, he had given over command to Quatre, telling Quatre that he was best suited for it. Quatre had the best combination of emotion, tactical sense, and an unerring gift for 'seeing around corners' and confusion. He struck to the heart of a matter and solved it. Things weren't any different now. Heero had reacted to a threat and had tried to subdue it. Quatre was able to react another way and offer the correct solution. Heero saw the sense of it and obeyed, letting Duo go abruptly and moving back warily.

Now that he had a clear space and the threat was gone, Duo went into a semi trance. He couldn't ignore the need anymore, even in that situation. He had to have his pills. On the floor of Quatre's foyer, Duo took out his pills and lined them up. Opening each one, he meticulously took out a pill and lined them up in front of their corresponding bottle.

"Water," Quatre ordered the recovering servant. The man, rubbing at a sore stomach where Duo had kicked him, limped into another room and then came back with a glass of chilled water. Handing it to Heero, he and Quatre watched nervously as Heero carefully put the water within Duo's reach. Duo took it without a twitch of acknowledgement and added it to his ritual. They watched him take each pill and swallow it down with a sip of water each time. That completed, Duo then carefully returned the pills to his bag and zipped it up.

Duo sighed and his body relaxed. He slowly looked around, coming out of his trance and beginning to take in what had just happened. Realizing that three people were standing and staring at him in shock, two of them looking injured and disheveled, Duo came to the correct conclusion. Something violent had just happened and he had been the cause of it. Duo couldn't help the choked sound of despair that erupted out of him then. He buried his face in his hands, hating himself and wanting to crawl away and die.

Heero approached slowly, He slipped a hand under Duo's arm. When Duo didn't react negatively, he helped Duo to his feet.

Quatre said softly, "We have to talk about this. I won't judge now, but, Heero, I think it's clear that Duo does need professional help and that some of your assumptions were wrong."

"No," Heero replied as he motioned the servant to proceed them up a flight of stairs, "I am not wrong, Quatre. I can explain this to your satisfaction."

"I will expect you to, Heero," Quatre insisted tightly, his concern for Duo making him hard, "but let him rest for now."

+

"Sir? Shall we move in now?"

The heavy set man, dressed in an old uniform, stared at the computer screen, reading the information just sent to him by his operatives. He left the other soldier hanging, the man standing at uncomfortable attention in his crisp uniform, the epitome of dutiful lieutenant. The commander, chin slumped on one fist as he leaned on a console and slouched in his chair, was the extreme opposite and he didn't care as he glared at the words and took his time, making certain that there weren't any omissions or assumptions. Finally, he straightened and leaned back, swiveling to face his lieutenant.

"Stand down for now," was the man's command and the lieutenant scowled.

"But, sir! They've obviously made their move!"

The commander nodded thoughtfully. One beefy hand dug into his uniform coat pocket and pulled out a gold cross on a long chain. He sifted it from one hand to the other, as if he were mesmerized by it's gold glitter, and then he ran the end of the cross along a thick scar that ran from one side of his face to the other as if he were using the cross to scratch an itch.

"I said stand down," the commander repeated more forcefully. "All the players aren't on the stage yet. I want them all, lieutenant, every damn one of them!"

+

[part 5] [part 7] [back to Kracken's fic]