by Kracken
Disclaimer: Don't own them and don't make any money off of this.
Warnings: Male/Male sex, violence, graphic, language, (You know the drill. Not for the sensitive)

Crossing Paths + Part 8
Sparks


"I did a lot of things during the war that I'm not proud of," Heero said as he shrugged into his shirt.

"During the war?" Duo wondered sharply. "What about now? That tiger tattoo was worn by members of the Tiger Cell to mark them, to assure their solidarity, because, anyone captured who had one, was given an immediate death sentence. You could have had it removed, Heero. Why didn't you if you're not proud of it?"

"The Tiger Cell liberated Oz occupied towns and cities-," Heero began. Duo cut him off viciously, "By any means necessary. They didn't care who was hurt, who was in the way of their objectives. I saw some of the carnage that they had left behind. The government was right to hunt them down and have them executed."

"Duo..."

Duo motioned sharply with one hand in a curt sign for Heero to shut up as he bent by the bed, jerked up his bag, and slammed it on top of the bed. As he stuffed his clothes into it, he accused, "You said no lies, but you don't want to tell me the truth either, do you? It's all 'classified' and 'I can't trust you not to spill the beans', but now that I see what kind of secret you're keeping, I finally get it. Your part of that anti- unification movement that put my ass in the sling to begin with! You came to evaluate me all right, to see if I was angry at the government enough to betray them and join with you and your murdering friends!"

"Duo!" Heero's grip ground bones together as he grabbed Duo's arm and pulled him roughly away from his task. Duo glared at Heero, nostrils flaring and amethyst eyes snapping with anger.

"Are you going to kill me now that I've figured it out?" Duo wondered. Inside of his chest, his heart was breaking. It was the worst pain he had ever felt. He wanted to die then and there rather than face yet another betrayal, a betrayal far greater than the one of his trust. This betrayal was of his heart and soul.

Heero glared. His chest was heaving, his half open shirt showing his bunching and releasing shoulder muscles. His face was seething, eyes like dark blue fire and mouth set as hard as granite. "Why are you so blind?!" Heero demanded in a deep, wounded voice. "Why can't you see... Why can't you understand how I..." Unable to express what he felt in words, Heero suddenly grabbed Duo's chin in a grip made cruel by his passion. He leaned in and devoured Duo's lips with his own.

Duo's eyes flew wide. He struggled, shocked, feeling softness, sweetness, and a hot tongue trying to force an entrance between his lips. Duo's free hand reached back behind him. He found a solid object to grab onto and then brought it around hard, straight at Heero's head. Heero snatched the lamp from Duo before it could connect and let it drop without stopping his attempt to make Duo's lips open to him. When he wrapped an arm around Duo's slight body and pressed him close against his own, wanting Duo to respond, Duo did respond, kneeing Heero straight in the groin.

Heero couldn't cry out. He choked, making a strangling noise, and folded over onto the floor. Duo put some space between them, face livid with fury, as he shouted, "Mother fucking asshole! I hope your balls go straight up to your eyeballs and stay there!"

"D-Duo? I- you- misunderstand... s-sorry," Heero managed.

"You think that cuts it?!" Duo snarled back and looked for something heavier than a lamp to subdue Heero further. "Nobody tries to rape me, fuck face!"

Heero went still, skin going alarmingly pale as he looked up at Duo with stunned eyes. Duo stopped his search, surprised. Heero's shock was plain. He had never seen Heero display any emotion that clearly before. It made him forget about self preservation long enough for Heero to say. "I was- I was only trying to... to show you that...." Heero made a visible effort to bring emotions under control. His face smoothed out and his voice sounded as if he were uttering a mission report, level and precise. "Duo Maxwell," Heero said firmly, forcing his voice to be steady and clear, "I was not going to rape you. I was attempting to make you understand that I was not trying to use you for the benefit of the Tiger Cell. I was attempting to make you understand that I wish to help you for purely personal reasons. I thought that we shared a mutual attraction. I did not expect my declaration of my feelings towards you to be rejected. I am sorry. My inexperience in this area caused you to make a wrong assumption about my intentions."

"Shit!" Duo glared down at Heero, hands on his hips tensely as he tried to absorb Heero's words. His heart was still pounding and it was still hurting. His mind was a mass of confusion as he replied angrily, "You must have a pretty low opinion of my intelligence, Yuy!" He glared, "Or a pretty high opinion of yourself, if you thought a little kissing was going to make me forget about you being a member in a 'baby killer' cell!"

"I was preparing to explain," Heero argued as he sat up, both hands holding his crotch and face still deathly white.

"Didn't seem like it to me!"

Heero began to launch into his explanation without preamble, wanting Duo to understand. "It is true that I am a member of the Tiger Cell."

Duo turned towards the bed and his bag again, mouth trembling as he tried to hold himself together and not let Heero see how devastated he was. "Then you don't have to say anything more."

"I do!" Heero retorted more strongly and then stopped himself, controlled his temper, and went on, "When I joined, it was after the Colonies had rejected us and when I wasn't in possession of Wing. I fought with the Tiger Cell in a plain Suite because, at that time, their cause seemed to mirror mine. We were both committed and willing to give our lives for peace. After several battles though, and seeing that some of the people we had been attempting to liberate were siding with Oz to achieve an occupied peace, some of the Tiger Cell leadership decided to take a more radical stance. They declared sympathizers with Oz our enemies as well, and were of the opinion that they had to be taught 'a lesson' so that more civilians didn't make such deals. I, and some of the other members, rejected this change and we stood against them when they attacked a city." Heero touched the tattoo hidden by his shirt, eyes on a bitter memory. "Many men died to hold to the first ideal of the Tiger Cell. I, and only a handful of others, managed to make it out alive. We keep our tattoos to honor that first ideal and the men who fell protecting it."

"And?" Duo prompted as he zipped up his bag.

Heero blinked. "What more is there to say?"

"Why were you hiding it? What operation were you on where that tattoo was a danger to you?" Duo demanded.

"I can't tell you that," Heero replied quietly.

"Then we REALLY don't have anything more to say to each other!" Duo snapped back. "You asked me to trust you, and I have, but you have to trust me in return. Since you won't do that... Shit! Yuy! Can't you understand why I'm so upset? Every time I turn around my illusions are getting ripped up. Those illusions are all I had that made life worth getting up in the morning for. Now, I have nothing! I have a psychiatrist who's telling my deepest, darkest secrets to Oz, a government who wants to see me go down for some unknown reason, pills that are making me a hundred pound, junkie, and a stinking boyfriend who thinks even the time of day is 'classified'!"

Duo froze, hands gripping his bag convulsively, face white, and eyes wild as he realized what he had just said. He heard Heero stand up slowly and then take a step towards him. "Boyfriend?" Heero repeated.

Stupid, stupid, stupid! Duo thought to himself. "Well, you did kiss me. What else am I supposed to think? Do you go around trying to french kiss all of your friends?" He added acidly, faking an 'I could care less' attitude, "Don't get delusions of grandeur or anything! It's not like I'm feeling too good about you right now, especially after," he made a vague motion with one hand, "everything that just happened."

"Oh," Heero replied.

Duo heard a thrumming hurt in that one word. Cursing himself again, he tossed the bag aside and turned to Heero. "Look, I guess we're all screwed up now," he said. "I think we just had a Gundam Pilot version of knocking heads on the first kiss. I want to laugh about it, but I just can't right now, because my gut hurts too much. I have to figure out what's going on. I have to know that what you're saying about the Tiger Cell is true, because if it isn't, if you are part of the anti unification forces, then there will be a lot more than a lack of words between us, understand, Heero?"

"Yes," Heero replied shortly, face very still and intense eyes on Duo, as if Duo had his life in his hands, or his heart.

"I'm done being kept in the dark and manipulated like a puppet," Duo continued. "You told me that I had to make choices and to be strong if I wanted to be free. Did you think that you would be exempt from that philosophy?" Duo asked.

Heero quirked a smile, but it was sad. "No, I suppose that I didn't. I knew you would begin to question me soon, that Quatre would be devil's advocate and make you doubt me."

"I'm doubting everyone until I figured some of this out for myself," Duo replied firmly and he felt suddenly stronger, adrenalin rushing through him and counteracting some of the weakness and disassociation caused by his pills. "First, I'm going to have a visit with Quatre's doctors to get a non-government opinion of my condition. Once I have that, I can better plan what to do next." Duo gave Heero a hard look. "Bottom line, Heero. I'm done following you until you think you can trust me enough to give me some real information that will convince me that I should."

Heero nodded and Duo saw a look of respect. "You sound like the Duo that I used to know," Heero said softly.

Duo grimaced. "The old Duo would have broken some bones." When Duo saw a flash of pain in Heero's expression, quickly controlled, he relented as much for his own heart as Heero's as he said gruffly, turning away, "Next time, don't kiss so damn hard!"

"Hn," an expression of Heero's that said volumes or nothing at all, but Duo thought that he heard surprise and relief.

"I need some alone time," Duo said. "Is food a possibility later? I mean, do I have to ring for a servant or anything?"

"Dinner is at six in Quatre's personal dinning room," Heero replied as he headed for the door. "A servant will come to take you there."

"That's good," Duo replied, "because this place is like a rich rat's maze."

He turned towards the door and found Heero gone and the door closed. Duo sat heavily on the bed then and just stared, face flushed and mind running on all pistons. Heero had given him a great deal to think about and he wasn't sure where to start. Touching his lips, remembering Heero's kiss, Duo wished that he could start right there, trying to figure out what had just happened and how it could have gone so terribly wrong, but, as much as he wanted it to be otherwise, danger was all around him, he felt, and finding out which forces were arrayed against him, and for what reasons, had top priority. It was time to think like a soldier again.

+

Duo sat down at the well-appointed dinning table, feeling very out of place. He had spent his life, either standing while eating, enduring rough accommodations, or suffering through night club restaurants who's tasteful decor often included blaring rock music, red plush, and ugly bouncers at the door. A few award ceremonies, and two dinners with the elite, hadn't made him prepared for the fine china, the silverware, and the gold edged plates. He blinked in amazement at the fresh flowers in Ming vases, and the fine linen tablecloth.

"There won't be a test afterwards, so relax," Quatre joked as he sat across the table from Duo, completely at ease as a servant came forward and poured tea into his eggshell china cup. "Just tell Gibbs here what you would like to drink, Duo, and he'll get it for you."

Duo looked at the proper serving man and changed his mind about asking for a beer. "Water's fine," He managed without too much embarrassment, "and, uh, some coffee after I eat."

"Very good, sir," the man said and signaled to someone else. That man came forward and poured Duo his water.

Quatre began to speak, but Duo forestalled him, "Can we- Can we not talk about anything too important right now, Quat?" he pleaded. "I have a nervous stomach. I can't think about things and eat at the same time."

Quatre nodded. "All right, Duo. Please don't worry about it. I was just going to say that the others will be down shortly."

"Okay, good," Duo replied. He looked down at his shinning service. "Uh, I don't know how to use most of these utensils."

Quatre shrugged, "I just use one. The serving people like to keep up the appearance that I'm the cultured Master Winner, even if I don't comply most of the time."

Duo found himself laughing, but he said, feeling rude, "Do we have to eat like this the whole time I'm here? I mean, can't I just have a hamburger in the kitchen or something?"

Quatre laughed as well. "I usually have something brought to me in my rooms. You can too. I'm afraid the kitchen is very large, commercial grade, and you wouldn't be comfortable there. The employees do have a commissary. If you like, you can join them."

"That last sounds like a plan," Duo replied. He was used to that kind of atmosphere, especially from the war when he often had to share a mess hall with soldiers.

"Good evening, sir,' the servant said as Heero entered the room. Heero only gave the man a nod as he walked to a chair, pulled it out, and sat next to Quatre. He had been walking gingerly, still sore from the knee to the groin, Duo surmised guiltily, and then frowned as he amended his reaction. It wasn't his fault that Heero was keeping secrets, it wasn't his fault that the man lost his temper when his motivations were questioned, and it definitely wasn't his fault when the man had been so inexperienced that he had hurt Duo by pressuring him into a kiss.

Pressuring him into a kiss... Duo glanced furtively at Heero and found the man staring at him frankly in return as he placed a napkin in his lap. The man had kissed him. Now that Duo wasn't so shocked and angry, the act began to sink in. The why and wherefore of the kiss demanded answers. How serious had it been? What had Heero been thinking when he had done it? What did he intend to do now that Duo had all but admitted that he was interested in him and then had rejected him?

"Everything all right, Duo?" Quatre wondered. There was a soft nervousness to the question. Quatre was empathic, not telepathic. He could probably sense the emotions thick in the air, but not know exactly what they meant.

Duo pulled his eyes away from Heero. "Fine, Quat. Just fine," Duo mumbled as he looked down at his plate. "Can we eat now?"

"Yes, of course," Quatre replied, letting the matter drop diplomatically. "Gibbs?"

Dinner was a cut of beef Duo was unfamiliar with, a mustard sauce he found himself scraping off of the meat, and pan fried vegetables that he half-heartedly nibbled at, hating vegetables. He was going to find the commissary right after dinner, Duo thought, hoping to find some plain food there that he could stomach.

"Gibbs," Trowa said from behind Duo. "Get Duo whatever he wants to eat and stop trying to make him eat that crappy foo foo food."

Quatre looked up from his own plate and blushed when he saw Duo pushing his food around his plate. "Duo, I'm so sorry. I didn't know that you were disliking your meal. Yes, of course, Gibbs, find Duo something else at once. He needs to eat."

"So'kay," Duo mumbled in embarrassment. "I didn't exactly speak up. Sorry to be trouble, but I'm not used to this kind of food. I've been living on ration packs and instant meals too long."

"Far too long!" Quatre agreed.

Trowa was coming around the table. Dressed in a green turtle neck sweater and dark pants, Trowa had grown very tall and slim, his body the tightly knit, muscular frame of an acrobat. His face was hatchet thin, more sharply planned than it had been, but his quiet , solemn eyes were still hidden behind a fall of mouse brown hair. The most distinguishing change, besides his height, was his beard and mustache, cut close around his chin and lips.

Duo knew how close Trowa was with Quatre. If he hadn't, he wouldn't have been able to guess that it went far beyond friendship now. Quatre gave Trowa a warm smile and Trowa squeezed Quatre's shoulder as he sat next to him on the opposite side from Heero. That was the only display Trowa afforded Quatre, his attention all on Duo as he looked Duo up and down intently.

"What the Hell happened to you?" Trowa finally asked in his softly accented voice.

Duo scowled, "Nice," he replied tightly, meaning anything but.

Quatre the Peacemaker was quick to step in. "Duo's been ill, Trowa," Quatre informed him. "Let him eat in peace and I'll tell you about it after dinner."

Trowa arched an eyebrow, "Ill?" he replied doubtfully. "According to all the news stories he's been-"

"You shouldn't believe everything you read," Heero stated with a warning in his tone. "Follow Quatre's advise." It wasn't a request. Duo saw Trowa take offense, but Quatre touched his arm briefly and he relented and didn't say anything more.

"What would sir like?" Gibbs asked at Duo's elbow.

"Sir would like to go back to his room," Duo said irritably as he stood up and tossed his napkin aside. "Bring sir a hamburger, a coke, and a pot of coffee."

"Duo..." Quatre began.

Duo gave a sharp shake of his head as he turned and began walking away from the table. He tossed over his shoulder. "I'm not in the mood. Later, Quat."

Duo tried to find his room and failed. He was too angry, too irritable, and too depressed to bother asking anyone where it was. Instead, he wandered, going up and down halls, searching his temporary home and making a mental map. As he did so, he began to feel better, less lost, more comforted. Being flown half way across the world, and being deposited in a room on a unknown estate, had rattled Duo's soldier's sensibilities more than he cared to admit. He needed the comfort of familiarity, he needed to know where all the exits were, he needed to know where his place was in the midst of it all. The first two were easily accomplished. The last was still unattainable, and that kept his depression weighing heavily on him.

A garden? Duo pushed open thick paned, glass doors and entered a solarium. It was dark already, the sun having fallen behind the mountains. There were a few dim lights, but the deep shadows were as inviting as the few, potted plants and the marble walkway that ended at the room's center and a glass dome in the roof. A bench was placed conveniently underneath the dome. Moving carefully through the shadows, Duo sat down and stared upwards at the stars and the blackness of space longingly.

"There, but for the plots of 'men', go I," Duo whispered angrily, purposefully misquoting that famous line. He stretched out on his back on the bench and kept staring at the stars. Sleep claimed him soon after and, when it did, Duo dreamed of warm, sweet lips on his and cobalt blue eyes trying to tell him something...

+

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