by: Kracken
Disclaimer: I don't own them and I don't make any money off of them.
Warnings: Male/Male sex, graphic, language, violence
6x2x1 with Heero ending up as a very good friend.

Princes and Soldiers series + Part 1
I Can't Stand You

"I told you that I have my own, hand picked, agents to assist me, Sally," Milliardo Peacecraft said as he tossed back his long, white hair, and glared at her from under his long bangs. His blue eyes were daunting, but Sally glared back and refused to bend. He sighed in exasperation and slammed two files onto her table with pique.

"They are experts in infiltrating those old Oz bases," Sally pointed out, "They know them better than we do. You have two months to prepare and to learn how to work with them. You can train them how you like without any arguments from me."

Milliardo narrowed his eyes, "How I like?"

Sally grimaced. "Within reason, of course. I won't allow you to harm them."

Milliardo's nostrils flared. Sally was not improving his mood by suggesting that he would be an irresponsible commander. "I'm a soldier, Sally, a General. They're fly-by- the-seat-of-your-pants terrorists. What do they know of rank and file and following orders?"

"They've been with the Preventers for two years," Sally reminded him. "We don't tolerate insubordination or an agent making up the rules as they go along. We have procedures that must be adhered to."

Milliardo nodded, but his jaw was tense and twitching. "Yuy seems to have been an exemplary agent. I met him in the war, fought against him, and learned to respect him, but Maxwell.. I don't know anything about him except that he called himself the God of Death during the war and that he was a terror to my troops. His file is thick with warnings and cases of insubordination... pranks, he called them. If adhering to procedures is so important to the Preventers, I fail to see why he is still an agent."

Sally smiled. She pointed to her mouth and said, "That's why." When Milliardo lifted a white eyebrow, she explained, "He keeps the moral up with his pranks. They're harmless and they don't stop people from doing their jobs. You'll find out, quickly enough, that he's damned good at what he does. Sometimes, someone can bend the procedures and still get the job done. I stress, `bend'. Maxwell never breaks them."

"He has to pass my inspection," Milliardo warned. "I won't put up with `pranks' or insubordination of any kind. I'll reject the entire mission if I don't think my men are fit to carry it out."

"That's a given," Sally replied with a sharp nod, but then she smiled at the proper, at attention, Milliardo Peacecraft in his perfectly pressed uniform coat of blue, gold, and silver. "You'll find, though, that both Yuy and Maxwell are absolutely perfect for the mission. I wouldn't have chosen them if they weren't."

"That will be my judgment call," Milliardo snapped and then, more carefully, eyes on the two files, "Those two... they stayed together after the war. They have the same address on their files. What is their relationship to one another?"

Sally pursed her lips, "I suppose I don't really know. They are like oil and water, those two, but they are ALWAYS together. They call each other partner, not friend. Maybe it's just a case of `old habits die hard', but if you're asking if they're lovers, I couldn't tell you. I know why you're asking. You don't want two agents who have a relationship maybe sacrificing the mission for each other, right?" When Milliardo gave a tight nod, Sally shrugged. "I think you'll have to ask them, or someone else who knows them. I will tell you that they have proven, again and again, to my satisfaction, that they WILL complete their orders despite whatever relationship they have. They don't let it effect them."

Milliardo eased. One worry out of the way. He couldn't imagine someone in love Not sacrificing for their loved one. Sally's words helped him to conclude that Yuy and Maxwell were just partners. It was one less trouble, but the thick file that was Duo Maxwell's didn't bode well. He rubbed between his eyes, a stress headache beginning. "Where can I find them?"

Sally glanced at the clock on her wall, "Hard to tell, but it is lunch hour. They do like to work out in the gym at this time when they aren't on assignments. I can have them sent to where ever you would like to speak to them."

Milliardo picked up the two files again and tucked them under his arm. "I'll take care of that. They are my concern now."

Sally smiled in relief. "Good. I'm glad that you'll at least give them a chance."

"One chance," Milliardo told her icily. "That's all they would have gotten during the war."

"On the Oz side, maybe," Sally muttered as she watched Milliardo leave.

Milliardo strode down the halls, eyes looking angrily at his own inner thoughts as his long legs took him towards the gym. Men and women stepped quickly aside, not only wary of the `Lightning Count' by reputation, but also because he was a striking figure amid the Preventer personnel. His flashing coat, and rippling pale hair, made him a bolt of light in a sea of drab olive and khaki uniforms.

Milliardo had been in the military for as long as he could remember. He had not spent long in the lower ranks, his star rising quickly with Triez's tutelage. He was used to being in command and used to making most of the decisions. Now that he had been placed in a special ops position, he chafed constantly under the orders of people who had never even been in the war and who knew everything about tactics, but nothing about the dynamics of the men and women who were supposed to implement their plans. His rank, his experience, and the fact that even with Relena in control of the Sank Kingdom, he was still a prince of a well respected family, allowed him to argue and call most of the shots where his superiors were concerned. This mission, though, was unusual, so too was Sally Po's instance on ignoring Milliardo's express wishes and saddling him with two live cannons once known as Gundam Pilots.

The clanking and whir of exercise machines and weights alerted Milliardo that he was closing in on his targets. Gripping the two files hard in unconscious irritation, he stepped into the very large, open room of the gym. Men and women were sweating and straining in every direction. Milliardo scowled impatiently. He motioned to an attendant and the man nervously approached, wiping his chalked hands on a rag.

"Maxwell and Yuy," Milliardo asked, "Where are they?"

"Over there, sir," the man said, his voice almost cracking with his nerves. He cleared his throat in embarrassment as he motioned to a far corner of the room, a corner not occupied by anyone except two young men standing close together and talking.

Milliardo only nodded in acknowledgement and strode through the exercising throng, not caring as people stopped to stare and wonder what the usually standoffish Prince was doing among them.

Milliardo stopped a few yards from his goal and simply watched the two men for a few moments, knowing that he would have more success in evaluating their personalities when they were unaware of him. He noted the familiar, serious face of Heero Yuy, head bent as he listened to what the other man was saying. He had grown, shoulders wide and rounded, but body still long and lanky with well developed muscles. His hair was still a dark, rough-cut, and it hung in his pale face as his blue, intense eyes glared at the man next to him. Milliardo was startled, thinking that Yuy was still wearing his green tank top and black spandex shorts from the war, but then Milliardo saw that it was a one piece, skin tight, body suit that was black with an olive green v design at the top.

Duo Maxwell was a startling contrast to his `partner'. There were several photos of him in his file, but they were static and old, not a proper depiction of the live version in front of Milliardo. This man was constantly in motion, hands moving, body turning this way and that, face a study in a hundred different expression, most of them lively smiles, grins, and open mouthed laughs. His eyes were large, like a child's, and they were sparkling and crinkling at the corners as he grinned. They were also the most unusual shade of amethyst Milliardo had ever seen. Dressed in an overlarge, white shirt that hung off of one bare shoulder, the slogan, `Life's a bitch and then my Gundam steps on you.' emblazoned in red across the front, and a pair of black shorts that almost looked like boxers, Maxwell still looked fifteen. He was much shorter than Yuy and all wiry arms and legs. His hair was a deep chestnut and a thick braid swung with his motions in a very long tail down his back. Milliardo remembered an old story about an irreverent boy who refused to grow up. Peter Pan was the name, he recalled. Maxwell embodied that character.

"Heero, I told you, it doesn't matter that mice don't talk, it's what the mouse is saying that's funny!"

"It's not that, " Heero said as if he were contemplating what Maxwell was saying with the same seriousness he would have given to atomic theory. "I can accept that the mouse IS speaking, and that the dog can have a dog for a pet, but..."

"But?" Duo prompted.

"It's just not funny," Yuy told him with a wince.

Duo gaped and then he giggled. Milliardo blinked. For a moment, Duo looked like some mischievous elf with his large cheeks and wide grin, and then he was putting on a hurt expression that was patently exaggerated for effect. "Are you saying that my joke isn't funny, Yuy?"

"No, " Heero replied calmly as he turned to adjust an exercise machine, "I'm saying Randell's joke isn't funny. He's the one who first told it early this morning."

"Hm," Duo replied, stifling another laugh and trying to continue his `hurt' act.

"Tell your own jokes, Duo," Heero advised him.

Duo raised eyebrows, startled, "Are you saying MINE are funnier?"

Heero paused as if considering and then he replied, "They are less annoying."

Milliardo chose that moment to walk up and announce his presence. "Gentleman."

It was interesting, Milliardo noticed, that the diminutive Maxwell stepped almost protectively in front of Yuy and then blinked and grinned at Milliardo as he easily recognized the Lightning Count, his superior. "Sir," he said cheerily.

Yuy came almost to attention, looking grim and respectful. "Sir," he echoed. "Do you need assistance?"

Milliardo paused and looked them both over slowly. It was a test that he often used to gauge how nervous a man was. Heero stared back steadily, unaffected, simply waiting for an order, but Duo fidgeted and grinned wider.

"Forget what you were going to say, sir?" Duo wondered impishly. "Happens all the time to me."

Milliardo scowled, choosing to ignore the remark. "I want you at Medina barracks at six a.m. tomorrow morning," he ordered sharply.

Duo blinked. "Both of us?" he wondered.

Milliardo narrowed his ice blue eyes. "Would there be a problem if I was speaking only to you?"

Duo made a face, one that was perplexed and curious at the same time. He scratched his head with one hand and then said, "Well, no, sir, but usually we are paired together for assignments. That's why I'm asking. If you don't want us together, then which one of us do you want? It wouldn't do for just me to show up if you just wanted, Heero, or for Heero to show up, if you just wanted me, or for us to get really confused and have no one show up-"

"Both of you!" Milliardo snapped, cutting Duo off irritably.

Duo smiled. "Okay, we'll be there, sir, bright and early."

"We will be there on time," Heero promised, "What will be our objective? Is there a list of preparations and equipment?"

"Yeah, some info would be good," Duo agreed. "Will we need black stretch suits and repelling equipment for night ops or bunny slippers and jammies for a sleep over?"

"It will be morning," Heero reminded Duo, deadpan, and Milliardo couldn't tell if Heero was joining in Duo's insubordinate behavior or completely serious.

"Oh, yeah! That's right!" Duo chuckled. "Silly me."

Milliardo stared, thinking that silence on his part would warn Duo that he wasn't amused and that he was about to be in trouble. Duo didn't take the hint. He continued to smile, though Milliardo could see some very small signs of nervousness.

"You won't need anything but training suits," Milliardo replied. "We have several weeks until the operation. I want to know all of your strengths and weaknesses before that time." He gave Duo a hard look. "I will be judging whether you are fit for the operation. I have been given complete authority in that area."

"Wow!" Duo exclaimed cheerfully. "Go you! Sally usually isn't that kind of an accommodating commander. She must like you."

"She respects me and my opinion," Milliardo corrected Duo harshly and then decided that Duo wasn't going to respond to anything except bluntness. "According to your file, Maxwell, you are a bit of a prankster; a clown, to be exact. I won't tolerate that. This will be your only warning. If you use any of the tone, and lack of respect, that I have seen here in the last few minutes, I will not only dismiss you from the operation, but I will put a mark in your file and suggest that you be dismissed."

Duo's eyes went wide as if he were shocked, but there was a twinkle of laughter in his eyes as well, as if he doubted the ability of Milliardo to carry out that threat. That caused Milliardo to seethe inwardly, but he kept it under control. There would be time enough to discipline Maxwell, he thought as he said, "I will see the two of you tomorrow morning. Be prepared for hard training."

Milliardo turned on his heel, the interview over, and began walking back through the gym.

Duo's voice floated after him, "Do I get breakfast?"

Milliardo paused almost misstep, stiffened angrily, and then decided that he didn't trust himself to answer with restraint. He continued walking.

"Guess not," Duo sighed. "We'll have to grab a bite in the morning, Heero. What should we have?"

"Something high in protein," Heero replied.

"Eggs and bacon?" Duo wondered hopefully.

"Hn." Whatever that meant, Duo seemed to take it as an affirmative from Heero. As Milliardo reached the exit door of the gym, he heard Duo babbling on excitedly about eggs and bacon.

I will not have someone like that on my team, Milliardo thought angrily. Duo was as good as gone. He would allow Duo a first day with his own handpicked men, for appearance sake, and then he would inform Sally Po that he was definitely unsuitable. Satisfied with that decision, Milliardo looked back. Heero was speaking to Duo in a low tone, but Duo, surprisingly, was watching Milliardo leave. When he caught the man's eye, Duo waved cheerily. With a growl of irritation, Milliardo's grip tightened hard on the two files still tucked under his arm and he stalked away.

Once back in his office, Milliardo sat down heavily behind his wide desk and slapped Duo's file down in front of him. He opened it and scanned, once again, the reams of complaints about his mischief. Underneath, were his mission reports, all done in a very slangy, unrefined language and written in a sloppy handwriting style that was almost illegible. Flowers, a swarm of bees,Gundams, various caricatures of people, some sort of parts diagram, a note to meet someone at a dance club, and various stains from food and coffee, littered the margins.

Heero's file was a sharp contrast. it was slim and neat, no complaints, no marks against him, and his mission reports were typed and read with a painful exactitude. There was a bland photo of the almost sullen looking Preventer agent. Milliardo stared at it, recalling their battles and their rivalry during the war. He had learned to respect Heero the hard way.

Duo's photo was strange. He wasn't smiling. He looked lost and worried, as if someone had taken the photo of him unawares. He seemed to be looking off to the right at someone. Looking at the photo, Milliardo found himself intrigued. It was almost like a mystery and he felt compelled to solve it. Who was this man? He didn't seem to bear any relation to the young man Milliardo had just met in the gym. This person... Milliardo touched the photo with a long finger and traced the outline of the face. The eyes... they looked haunted; purple wells with a tightness around them. Milliardo looked closer, trying to see everything possible in the small photo.

The photo was too small, too vague, too full of answers to a single question, answers that Milliardo didn't know were true or false. The question was simple, why was he, Milliardo Peacecraft, attracted to that particular image of Duo Maxwell? He didn't want to admit how many times, since receiving the file, he had taken out that photo and looked at it. He had read through the pages in the file many times and had tried to reconcile that photo with the profile of a irreverent prankster. The two hadn't matched. Seeing Duo in person, finding out that the file was far more accurate than the photo, had caused something inside of Milliardo to feel more than simple disappointment. That too, he didn't want to admit.

Milliardo put the photo back and purposeful closed the file. He put Heero's file on top and pressed it down, as if that could stop his odd compulsion to look at the photo. It didn't.

"What the hell, Milliardo," he said out loud to himself, "he's just unusual in every way and you've been bored and alone with your thoughts too much lately."

Milliardo stood up and left his office again, leaving the files behind and hating how it took an effort of will to leave that photo, the mystery, and those thoughts behind to concentrate on the task at hand, a task that could costs men's lives if he allowed himself to be distracted now by a pair of purple eyes.

[part 2] [back to kracken's fic]