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

Princes and Soldiers series + Part 4
Take Your Medicine

"Dislocated shoulder, torn ligaments, major bruising, and concussion. The rest is pretty minor for the kind of fall that you took," Sally Po said as she read off the electronic chart by Milliardo's hospital bed. "I've already given your field assignment to another group. You can rest easy about that."

Milliardo frowned, "I am not HAPPY about that! This was a ridiculous accident! It shouldn't have happened! I should be having a report filed on me for incompetence."

"Which is why you will have to attend a few psych evaluations," Sally replied calmly. "Don't give me that story that you were climbing with Duo. I know that you were climbing by yourself. That's suicidal."

"I am an experienced climber," Milliardo bit back, but then settled deeper into his blankets, stifling a moan of pain. "It was against regulations for me to climb alone, though." He eyed her sourly. "Did you question Maxwell? He told me that he doesn't lie. That's not a good trait to cultivate in work like ours."

"Duo wouldn't have let you fall," Sally replied stiffly. When Milliardo looked skeptical, she added, "He's very diligent in taking care of the people closest to him and the operatives who work with him. He would have made sure to use ropes. He would have made sure that you were secure. My report said that you were free climbing." She smiled slightly. "Duo may not lie, but he doesn't always tell the truth either. He's a master of evasion."

Milliardo fiddled with his hair, suddenly uncomfortable. Someone had braided it and tied it off to keep it out of the way of the doctors and nurses. Milliardo suspected that someone was used to making his own braids. The memory of his rescue was blurred and uncertain. He remembered Duo hovering over him and words spoken. Milliardo wasn't sure that he could vouch for the accuracy of what he remembered being said. It didn't seem possible, Duo inviting him to join his `game' and compete with Yuy. It had to have been a product of his concussion.

"Whatever punishment or censure that you care to deliver, I will accept," Milliardo declared despondently. "I was most definitely in the wrong."

"Well..." Sally looked at him thoughtfully. "I think you've been punished enough. It will take you awhile to heal. You very nearly fractured one leg and some ribs, so it will be painful for you to move around. Go to the psych evaluations, so the doctors can figure out why you pulled a stunt like that, and take a leave of absence."

"No!" Milliardo objected strongly. "I will go to the psychiatrist, but I refuse to let my work suffer because of my stupidity."

Sally blinked and then she shook her head skeptically. "I don't think that you will be able to get around on your own."

"I'll manage," Milliardo snapped.

Sally looked him up and down, sizing up his condition and angry that he was arguing with her orders. "I'm reconsidering filing a report."

"I insist that you do file it," Milliardo replied sullenly, feeling embarrassed and vulnerable.

"Milliardo Peacecraft!" Sally shouted and the man jumped, startled. "I am your commanding officer and you take orders from me, mister! Is that understood?"

Milliardo glared and then he relented, shoulders slumping. "Yes, sir," he replied dejectedly.

"I am assigning you an aide to assist you in carrying out your duties," Sally told him as Milliardo's blue eyes widened in confusion. "I will pick who I think is most suitable and you, sir, will not argue. Is THAT clear?"

"Yes, sir," Milliardo replied in a small voice and then, relieved, "Thank you. I wish to redeem my good name and your confidence in me as quickly as possible."

"Understood," Sally said and then softened. "Don't over do it, Zechs, okay?"

Milliardo winced at the old Oz name he had carried when he had worn a disguise during the war. He hated hearing it. It brought back too many memories, good and bad. "Yes, sir," he replied simply and Sally nodded and began to leave. Milliardo called after her, "Do you have someone in mind already to be my aide?"

"Yes, I do," Sally replied, not slowing her steps, or turning so that Milliardo could see her smile. She threw over her shoulder as she walked out of the room, "It's Duo Maxwell."

+

Milliardo fully expected Duo to show up with Heero in tow. When he came alone, ringing the bell of Milliardo's well appointed apartment, Milliardo hated the traitor feeling of relief. It was a feeling completely at odds with the knowledge that being saddled with Duo as his nursemaid was not going to be easy or desirable.

Aching and scraped raw in many places, it hadn't been easy to roll the wheelchair to the front door. Duo had waited patiently though, expecting that, being injured, it would take Milliardo some time. The struggle to get the door open, and not tangle with the chair, had been an embarrassment.

"Heya, Zechs!" Duo greeted with a grin and a twinkle in his amethyst eyes as he leaned down and helped Milliardo push back from the door again. "Ready for Duo's taxi service?"

Milliardo swatted Duo's long braid aside as it dangled in his face and then jerked the wheels of the wheelchair back on his own so that Duo stumbled off balance. When the young man straightened, undaunted, Milliardo growled, "You are late!"

"Traffic," Duo apologized. "I also didn't expect your place to be outside the city. I thought a guy like you would live right on Preventer base."

Duo eyed the wheelchair. "I didn't think that you were that bad."

"What's that supposed to mean, Agent Maxwell?" Milliardo snarled back, feeling heat flush his face. He hated being weak, hated anyone seeing him like that.

Duo blinked and then looked sympathetic. "Doesn't mean anything, sir. I have to readjust things that's all. I suppose I should have known that you wouldn't be walking away from a fall like that one."

Milliardo took a tight rein on his temper. Letting his temper get out of control was not a good way to begin. He tried again, taking the tone of commander; assured and in control. "My briefcase is over on that table. Get it and then we'll go."

"Yes, sir," Duo replied obediently and Milliardo watched him walk jauntily over to the table. His hand closed on the handle of the briefcase, and he began to turn back, but then he paused and looked around, blinking at the rich, leather furnishings, the oriental carpets, and the expensive details of a princes's home. "Nice!" Duo said appreciatively. "Decorate yourself?"

Milliardo scowled. "I don't see how that is of any of your concern."

Duo shrugged, "Guess not. You just didn't look the type to bother with matching furniture and wall paper."

"Are you insinuating something?" Milliardo snapped, feeling an old anger come to the fore. He had never made his sexuality a secret and he was used to certain insults. The ones who dug under his skin the most were the ones that questioned his masculinity. He hadn't expected something like that from someone who shared the same sexuality.

Duo looked perplexed and then he understood. His smile was sympathetic as he explained, "You're very military oriented, sir, and you travel a lot. I expected just the basic home in the city near Headquarters. I figured that you would keep all the plush stuff for your palace in Sanq Kingdom."

That was another bitter point shoved under Milliardo's skin. He bit out, "It's NOT my palace. It's Relena's. I abdicated in her favor."

Duo nodded thoughtfully. "I remember something like that. Didn't seem right, putting all of that power into the hands of a girl."

"She's more than a girl," Milliardo shot back and then stopped himself. Why was he arguing and explaining to someone who was only there to fetch him coffee and push his wheelchair? "You are not here for a guided tour, Maxwell. Do your job."

It was Duo's turn to look annoyed, a startling, but fleeting expression seeping through the sudden cracks in his happy go lucky persona. Milliardo sharply reminded himself that he was facing, not just a young man, but a Gundam pilot trained to kill wholesale. Duo had slaughtered scores of his troops, destroyed his most secure installations, and infiltrated systems Milliardo had thought unhackable. Unseen on his person, he was certain Duo was carrying a battery of weapons, weapons that he knew how to use proficiently and would use without hesitation if the situation called for it. Duo's annoyed _expression left as quickly as it had appeared, though, and Duo easily regained his grin.

"My job is to get the bad guys, Zechs," Duo said as he put the briefcase in Milliardo's lap, opened the door, and then moved behind the wheelchair in order to push it. "I don't make a very good nurse."

Milliardo felt the injustice himself. Sally was making a mistake, he felt, in using Duo for such a purpose, and he had to wonder at her motivation for doing it. It didn't seem logical for her to take a skilled agent out of the field for something so mundane. Punishment wasn't a good enough of an excuse.

"Sally has me on call, by the way, so you may end up with someone else from day to day, depending on whether I'm needed for a mission, or not," Duo told Milliardo, laying to rest Milliardo's disquiet as if he had read Milliardo's mind.

Duo wheeled him towards his waiting car. The driver, caught looking impatiently at his watch, hurried to open the door of the car and help Milliardo move onto the seat. It was awkward and it was embarrassing, especially when Duo added with a grunt of strain, "I'll make sure my replacement has some strong biceps!"

"This will only last few days at the most," Milliardo replied stiffly as Duo slid into the seat beside him and the driver closed the door. "Then you will be back to your proper duties."

Duo snorted, amused. "You're a strong man, sir, but take it from someone who's been there enough times, these things take time to heal . You won't be in any marathons soon."

"I do have some experience as well," Milliardo grumbled as he dug into his briefcase and pulled out papers to look over. He didn't remember that Duo's file was in the case until some papers from it slipped out. Duo snatched at them as they fell towards the floor of the car and then he began handing them back. He paused as he noticed his own photo.

Duo fingered the photo and his face did an odd, undescribable thing. His face turned dark red and his lips tightened into an almost feral grin. Milliardo couldn't tell what emotion that expression was portraying, but he could see that it was a very strong one. It was manic, frightening even, and Milliardo felt his blood chill. Milliardo felt the need to defend himself as if he were being threatened.

"Sally Po gave me your file, along with Yuy's, to see if you were qualified for my assignment," Milliardo said, trying to make his voice matter of fact. His embarrassment was deepening and he hated it. He was always in control. That he had failed to return the file to Sally showed him how off balance he was, how badly Duo had affected him. "I forgot that I had it in my briefcase. I'll have you return it to personnel today."

Duo's jaw worked. He shoved the photo into the briefcase along with the papers. "Guess that particular stigma is on my permanent record. I never thought about it, I guess," Duo said and Milliardo understood that he was talking about his detention.

Milliardo thought about his own past, about some of the things that he had done. At the time, he had been insane, so sure that what he had been doing had been the right thing. He kept those memories locked tight, refusing to acknowledge the terrible things that he had almost done during the war. Next to his crimes, Duo's detention seemed an insignificant thing.

"We all have our dark pasts," Milliardo found himself saying and then he found something outside of the window to stare at, unable to meet Duo's gaze.

"Wonder why no one blames you?" Duo replied bitterly and Milliardo inwardly cringed. They did, he thought as he sank into a deep depression, but it was his title, his reputation, and his bloodline that kept people from demanding that he pay for his attempted crime against the people of Earth.

"Good thing Heero stopped you," Duo added angrily. "He almost died, you know?"

"I know," Milliardo replied bleakly, but then said coldly, trying to lock it all back into it's mental box, "Let's not have this conversation. I have Preventer business to think about."

Duo said nothing, but Milliardo could feel his searing anger like fire on his skin. If Duo had even remotely felt anything for him, Milliardo thought, he had just crushed it under his heel, yet, at that moment, the pain of the uncertain feelings in Milliardo's heart didn't equal the intense pain of his guilt.

Milliardo did try to think of Preventer business, but the drive was a long one and the war kept trying to bleed through the cracks in his determination not to think about it. At last, he turned to the one distraction in the car, Duo.

"I thought that you never went anywhere without Yuy."

There was a silence that stretched. Milliardo continued to stare out of the window, making it seem that the thought had been just a random off shoot of something more important that he was thinking about.

Duo spoke at last, sounding unsure of what Milliardo wanted to know. "It's true that we're close, but we aren't joined at the hip," he replied. "I suppose, if this was more than just a pick up the boss trip, Heero wouldn't feel comfortable letting me go alone. We're a team. We watch each other's backs. He's my partner. We know each other's moves. All of them."

That last sentence could have meant many things. Milliardo closed his mind to the most obvious and continued doggedly, "How can you operate effectively when you have that kind of dependence on one another? I don't understand why Sally allows it to continue."

"She gets us both or none at all," Duo replied matter of factly. "If you're wondering if we can do a mission separate, we can and have. We just don't like it." He paused and then said carefully, "We aren't a liability. We both know the mission comes first. We made that decision when we signed on. We've been put to the test. We passed." There was the sound of cloth rustling. "Look."

Milliardo turned his head and saw that Duo had lifted up his shirt. That close to him, Zechs could see many scars crisscrossing his slim, wiry torso. Milliardo found himself swallowing hard as he caught sight of a pink nipple and realized that there was a thin, silver loop through it that twinkled with a tiny amethyst.

"There," Duo pointed to a scar up under his arm. It was the thickest one. "I took that on a mission and almost bled to death, but Heero left me where I fell and didn't come back for me until he had completed his infiltration mission. A lot of lives had been depending on us. We didn't let them down."

Duo let his Preventer shirt fall back and he tucked it back into his pants as Milliardo said, "I see." It was all that he could manage to say without his voice breaking. The image of that pink, erect nipple, with it's delicate ring, was burned on his eyes. His blood was flaming through his veins and he could feel it burning his face. He turned back to the window and hunched away from Duo, hating himself, his body especially, for wanting what his mind disliked intensely.

"People say-" Milliardo began, but Duo cut him off.

"People say a lot of things, sir, but my personal life is my business," Duo said stiffly. "Heero is my best friend, he's my partner, and together we do our job and we do it well. That's all you should ask."

"You are correct," Milliardo replied, just as stiff and then couldn't think of anything to follow up with. He shifted uncomfortably, wishing that the ride was over with and not relishing the fact that there would be more of them if he continued to be so incapacitated.

"Look," Duo said as if feeling the need to relent some. "A lot of people don't get me and Heero. Sometimes, I don't know what we got either, but I do know that when we first met we just `connected' instantly. We're like two parts that don't work unless they are together. When we work together, we get through life like we're supposed to, but when we are alone, we screw up. On a mission together, we don't even need to talk most times. We gel completely, ya know what I mean? We're a force to be reckoned with."

"I need to verify that," Milliardo heard himself say and he sounded harsh and judgmental in his own ears.

"I can understand that," Duo replied. Milliardo looked at him in surprise and Duo chuckled and grinned. "We are an odd couple. I'd be thinking just like you, if I was in your shoes, that two weirdo, war babies like me and Heero couldn't possibly do anything together. We'll show you, though. You'll understand, then."

Milliardo didn't understand at all and didn't really want to. Duo had said that he and Heero had a special relationship, end of story. Milliardo swore at his thoughts, reminding himself that fraternizing with subordinates was against regulations, especially if all that he had in mind was relieving tension, boredom, and sexual frustration. He needed to get his questionable libido under control and to get well as quickly as possible so that he could extricate himself from a possibly messy situation. When Duo was out of sight at last, mission completed, then Milliardo was sure that he would forget all about the young man.

"Penny for your thoughts?" Duo quipped and then laughed as Milliardo stiffened. "Maybe not, huh? You need to learn to relax, sir."

"Maxwell?" Milliardo said sternly.

"Sir?" Duo replied with raised, amused, eyebrows.

"Do you know what insubordination is?"

"Yes."

"One more word and I will put you on report."

There was silence.

"Well?" Milliardo demanded.

Still silence.

He glared at Duo. The man stared back with an innocent expression. Milliardo repeated his own words to himself, and then felt a flush of temper as he realized that Duo was doing exactly as he had ordered. Milliardo growled. "Good!"

Duo barely suppressed a laugh.

[part 3] [part 5] [back to Kracken's fic]