by: Kracken
Disclaimer:I don't own them and I don't make any money off of this.
Warning: Male/male sex, graphic, violence, language

Princes and Soldiers series + Part 13
Dancing

What was the next step? Milliardo wondered as he finished up for the day, packed his laptop and papers into his briefcase, and said goodbye to his secretary. The kiss that he had shared with Duo was still on his mind, the feel of Duo's firm, warm lips beneath his and the taste of the young man when he had searched Duo's mouth with his tongue. Duo's bright eyes and obvious enthusiasm had asked for more, had asked for Milliardo to take the next step. Milliardo had appreciated that. He needed to be the one to make the decision, to decide how to, or if, to proceed.

Milliardo's mouth quirked ruefully. There wasn't any `if' anymore, he knew. There was only the `how'' and that was difficult enough. He wasn't just anyone. Duo, for that matter, wasn't just anyone either. They had reputations and duties and, Milliardo thought, he had a position that called for him to be beyond reproach. He was in command. He had to have the respect and the unconditional trust of the people under him. If he was going to try and have a relationship with an ex Gundam pilot subordinate, he had to be discrete about it.

Milliardo had forgotten himself in the parking garage, but no one had witnessed his lapse. Milliardo didn't intend for that to happen again. There had to be ground rules, number one being that their relationship did not exist once they entered Preventer Headquarters. He was certain that Duo was enough of a professional to understand.

Milliardo recalled his other, brief love affairs, only he wasn't willing to use the word `love' any longer when describing them even to himself. There had been a close friendship in one case, and simple desire in the others. Those affairs had been covert trysts in out of the way lodges and hotel rooms, none the wiser and no commitments made on either side. It was almost as if they had been ashamed, Milliardo thought, especially during the war. There had always been a feeling of guilt associated with self indulgence, a sense that it was wrong when one was commanding men into battle to maybe die. Besides, he thought, commanders were supposed to be completely dedicated, or at least seem so.

That he was intending to pursue a young man wasn't the taboo that it had been in the past, but there were some that still looked down on it and thought of it as something that was below decency, something one didn't bring up in polite society. Milliardo would have liked to say that he didn't care about people who thought like that, but he had his sister, Relena, to think about. What he did reflected on her. Her government was still new and tenuous. Her good name was of utmost importance. Scandal of any kind, even if it was in the minds of small minded men, had to be avoided. Milliardo tried to imagine Duo being discrete and suddenly had an alarming blank where that image should have formed. Milliardo found his steps turning quickly from the hall leading to the parking garage to the section where the agent's did their work instead. A picture was forming and it was a highly disturbing one, Milliardo thought, one of an over excited Duo talking about his experience in the garage to anyone who would listen. It was imperative, Milliardo thought anxiously, that he talk to Duo to stop that scenario from becoming a reality.

Milliardo found the main office empty except for one a harried individual; an older man in the uniform of a division captain. Hunkered over paperwork, and chewing viciously on the end of a computer stylus, the man glared at a computer screen.

"What the hell do you want?!" the man exploded without looking up, only knowing that someone had dared disturb him.

Milliardo frowned, but he was used to the rough personalities of field agents. He waited silently until the man looked up in annoyance. When he saw who was standing by his desk, the Captain's stylus dropped out of his mouth and he stood up quickly. "Sorry, sir!" he said quickly.

Milliardo cut off any more apologies by asking abruptly, "I'm here to speak with Agent Duo Maxwell. Please page him to this office. There are parts of a report that I need to discuss with him."

The man blinked, probably wondering why his commander had decided to bring his request to his office instead of Milliardo's own. His answer wasn't much to Milliardo's liking. "He's left for the day, sir, along with his partner, Heero Yuy."

Milliardo scowled. "Why?"

The captain was suddenly on the defensive and it was plain that he was finding it hard to think of an appropriate response. Finally, he gave up trying to find a reasonable sounding explanation and said, "Duo Maxwell saw action today, sir. He had to take Heero Yuy home. The man becomes highly stressed when Duo Maxwell sees action of any kind without his presence. It usually only takes a day of down time to calm him down and have him ready for duty again, sir."

The commander in Milliardo bristled and thought, `unacceptable liability'. Two men who couldn't work apart from each other, and who completely depended on one another for their emotional stability, shouldn't have been allowed to be agents. If they had been any other men, if they hadn't had the training that set them head and shoulders above all other agents, Milliardo would have given them both their walking papers.

"Thank you," Milliardo replied and walked out of the stunned and confused captain's office. The man had expected a reprimand, Milliardo was sure, and was finding it hard to believe that Milliardo was accepting his explanation. Milliardo wasn't accepting it though. He was enough of a professional to know that the captain didn't have any of the answers to his numerous questions. The people who did have those answers were Duo and Heero.

As Milliardo walked towards the front of the building, he called on his cell phone for his driver. Meeting the man and the vehicle outside, Milliardo slipped into the back seat. Safe from prying eyes and ears, he took out his cell phone once more and then began to make another call, one to Duo Maxwell.

Duo answered the phone, sounding tired.

"Milliardo here," Milliardo said curtly. "I was informed that Heero Yuy left for the day. I fail to understand the reasoning behind his action. As his commanding officer-"

"Did you speak with the Captain?" Duo asked and sounded irritable.

"Yes, I did," Milliardo replied and felt irritation himself. "His explanation was less than satisfactory. I wish to speak to Yuy directly."

"I'm sorry, sir, but Heero can't come to the phone." Duo sounded cold now, and professional. "Heero needs to have a day of down time. It was cleared by the Captain."

"As your commander, I need to know all of the strengths and weaknesses of those under my command," Milliardo persisted. " If Yuy is experiencing mental difficulties pertaining to your seeing action of any kind I-," Milliardo stopped, knowing that he was speaking to the wrong person. "I demand to speak to agent Yuy at once."

There was a long pause and then Duo replied, "I understand your concern, but Heero can't talk to you right now. I'll tell him that you want to meet with him tomorrow."

Milliardo seethed. "Perhaps you did not understand that I was giving you an order."

Duo exploded so suddenly that Milliardo started and almost dropped the phone. "Heero is drugged, okay?! It's the only thing that would calm him down. He thought that he had failed me again. He thought that he should have been there to protect me. Can't you understand that? The last time it happened, I was tortured! I almost died! He saw what they left of me! He was with me the whole time while I recovered. Don't you get what a guilt trip he carries around inside of him? Give him a damn day to get his head back on straight and I promise he will be all right in the morning!"

"Duo," Milliardo began, contrite, but Duo thought that he was going to argue further. The vid on Milliardo's cell phone lit up. He saw a very small picture of Duo sitting up in a bed. His face looked very angry. His eyes looked sunken with weariness and his hair was dishelveled. The scene shifted and Milliardo realized that he was looking at a Heero Yuy asleep in Duo's lap, the man's arms locked around Duo's waist.

"He goddam needs me," Duo said, "and I'm going to be here for him. You are not disturbing him. Get over it or get rid of us both. I do not need your military crap right now." The vid went dead and so did the connection.

"Duo!" Milliardo snarled and threw the phone angrily against the back of the front seat. The driver started and rolled down the smoky partition.

"Sir?" The driver inquired nervously.

"Nothing!," Milliardo snapped back and the driver wisely rolled the partition back up.

Milliardo's feeling were tied up in knots and he hated it. This was why there was a no fraternization rule, he thought angrily. How could he be a commander and have a potential relationship with a subordinate? Lives were in his hands. Heero Yuy was having some sort of break down and his condition was being treated as little more than a passing illness that would be nonexistent given time. Milliardo knew that he couldn't accept that and he certainly couldn't accept Duo and Heero's insubordination, no matter what he was feeling for Duo. Heero had to face him and give him answers and Milliardo was now determined that Heero would also have to go through a Preventer psych evaluation. If Duo and Heero were both opposed to that decision then Milliardo was not going to have any choice but to dismiss them both.

Milliardo felt a violent ache in the center of his chest. He rubbed at it and bowed his head, his long, soft hair framing his pained _expression. God! He did not want to lose Duo. That feeling that had overcome him when they had kissed.. it had been so powerful. It had felt like finding a missing piece of himself, and, now that he had found it, he didn't know if he could live without it again.

"He knows what you are like, now," Milliardo whispered bitterly to himself. "He knows that you'll choose to be a commander before you'll be a lover. That's when the others left me. He won't be any different. I have to accept that It's over." He pictured Heero, curled up in Duo's lap, arms wrapped around him possessively. Duo had chosen to, Milliardo thought, his bitterness growing. Duo had promised that no one was Milliardo's rival, yet the evidence contradicting that had been right there for Milliardo to see. Duo had chosen Heero over him. Perhaps they weren't lovers in the sexual sense, but it was clear that their friendship was more important than a career or a possible lover.

The phone rang. Milliardo reluctantly picked it up from the floor of the car, composing himself as he did so. He expected it to be business and was shocked when the vid came on and Duo's face was looking at him guiltily.

"I'm sorry," Duo said softly. "It's... It's just been a very long day and calming Heero down took hours. He wouldn't let go of me or let me out of his sight. I understand your position. I know I don't have the luxury of calling all the shots in this job, not with so many people depending on me... on Heero. I know... I know it looks bad to you. I know you'll probably want Heero's head examined... Just... just go easy on him, okay? It took a long time for me to get him where he is. He was pretty messed up after the war. Without me..." Duo cleared his throat and wiped at his face. "I'm all he has, Mil. I'm what keeps him together. I don't mind that. You have to understand that. It's not a burden to me because... I guess I feel that strongly about our friendship."

Duo coughed and Milliardo saw him reach past the vid lens and pick a glass of water up from a hidden table. He sipped at the water and then put the glass back on the table. "I guess we both aren't models of stability," he continued, "but we've always been given missions where that's not a liability. I think, if you want us both to remain with the Preventers, that you have to accept that we won't be suited to every mission. I know that's hard for you. I know you think that an agent should be a tool that you can place in any situation. We're specialized tools though. You wouldn't use a commando transport to question a witness and you can't use Heero and me to lick stamps for envelopes. We are the best at what we do, but outside of that... Don't put guard dogs in with babies, that's all I'm saying... Does any of that make any sense, Mil? I hope it does because... that kiss in the garage... that meant a lot to me. I don't want to stop now, what's happening between us. I know your career is part of what you are. I know you can't separate the two. Because I know that, I also know what will happen to US if I have to go against you and your orders. Please don't make me have to, Mil. Find a way that I can do what you want, but still take care of Heero."

Milliardo was very quiet, his mind swirling, the commander Milliardo trying to find common ground with the man Milliardo. Duo's purple eyes gazed at him, too obviously begging him to understand. Could he allow himself to do what Duo wanted? Milliardo thought of consequences, thought angrily of Sally Po and the commander before him who had allowed Heero and Duo to run roughshod over rules and regulations, thereby dumping the problem into Milliardo's lap at the worst possible time.

Milliardo admitted very carefully, "I want to do that... I want to give you what you want. I ... I don't have enough information though. You have to give me time." Milliardo swallowed hard. "That kiss meant a great deal to me too. I... I don't want... I don't want this coming between us."

Duo nodded pensively, his face showing some hope, but showing some reserve as well. He winced suddenly and made a small sound of pain.

"What's wrong?" Milliardo demanded sharply.

Duo chuckled, but it was strained. "Heero can still bend steel in his bare hands. He's just holding on a bit too tight."

Without thought, Milliardo blurted out, "Should I come there to help? I'm not far away."

Duo stared in surprise and then a slow smile brightened his face. "No, that's all right, Mil. He won't really hurt me. Thanks though..." Milliardo wasn't convinced. "You are sure?"

"Yes," Duo assured him. "I've been through this a few times. Heero just needs to know that I'm where he can protect me. Once he gets his head around that I'm not hurt and that you... well, that you DID protect me from the bad guys, he'll be okay."

"But...," Milliardo felt embarrassment. He was sounding like a fool, he thought. He knew Duo's skill and strength. If anyone could handle Heero it would be Duo Maxwell. "All right, "Milliardo replied, but then added reluctantly, "I will expect to see Heero in the morning, Duo. That is an order."

"Understood," Duo replied with a nod and then gave the lens an intense look. "I really want this to work, Mil. I hope..." he seemed embarrassed as well suddenly and a bit uncertain as he finished, "I hope we can figure this out because I don't want to stop seeing you."

The pain in Milliardo's chest turned into something else that was even more painful, but markedly different. This was a swelling, as if he were about to burst with some great emotion, and it all had to do with Duo's last sentence. Milliardo had a foolish urge to touch the vid screen, as if it were really Duo's face there and, even though he knew it was completely foolish, he found his fingers doing just that. Duo blinked, probably seeing odd, dark, unidentified blots, but he seemed to know what they were. When Milliardo removed his fingers, he saw Duo looking as if he were overwhelmed.

"I have to do my job," Milliardo told Duo. "I have a duty to do the right thing, but... if there is a way to reconcile all of this, I will do my best to find it, Duo. I DO want to find it."

Duo blinked a few times rapidly and then said huskily, "That's all I expect and that `s all I'll ask for. I wouldn't ask you to compromise yourself because of... because of what's going on between us. I wouldn't ask you to accept Heero and me the way we are if I thought that we weren't fit for our jobs."

"I believe that," Milliardo replied and did.

"Good," Duo said and his smile was soft now. "Duo Maxwell doesn't lie," he told Milliardo. "Remember that Mil. No matter what happens, or what anyone says, believe what I'm telling you."

Duo's eyes were so intense that Milliardo found himself not doubting Duo at all, though the more jaded and experienced side of him scoffed. "I do believe you," Milliardo said and then added, "In the morning then, Duo, I will expect to see you and Heero."

"We'll be there," Duo promised.

The phone went dark and Milliardo found himself gently caressing it in his hands as if it were Duo he was holding and not a cold piece of technology. "I do believe you," he whispered and it was more than Duo's ascertain that he didn't lie that he believed in.

[part 12] [part 14] [back to Kracken's fic]