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 5
Joined at the Hip

"I'm in the building," Duo said simply into his cell phone, shut it, and then shoved it back into a pocket before putting hands to the back of Milliardo's wheelchair and pushing. "They have robotic chairs you know. This model is prehistoric."

Milliardo frowned. "They make muscles weak by inactivity. I'm attempting to regain my health."

"By having me push you around?"

"It isn't necessary for you to do so," Milliardo retorted.

"I thought that I was helping." Duo maneuvered them through the doors of Preventer Headquarters and then paused in the wide, marble floored foyer as they were suddenly surrounded by Preventer agents and employees rushing all around them. "If you want to do it yourself, sir, I'll step back."

Milliardo heard amusement in Duo's voice. Milliardo's arm was hurting. He knew that pushing the wheelchair was going to be impossible for him and it seemed that Duo knew it as well. Milliardo had insisted on the manual wheel chair, thinking of the future when pushing and straining his arm muscles would be good therapy.

"It's too crowded," Milliardo said stiffly. "Continue to push for now."

"Yes, sir," Duo replied and Milliardo imagined a smirk, even though he didn't look to confirm it. The very idea that Duo was laughing at him caused Milliardo to seethe. He hated looking weak, hated even worse looking weak in front of someone like Duo Maxwell, who he felt would joke or talk about his weakness to others.

When attacked, attack in return, Milliardo thought as he asked, "The person that you called when we arrived. It was Yuy?"

"Yes," Duo replied and a slight edge to his tone informed Milliardo that the young man suspected where Milliardo was going to go with his questioning. He reminded himself that Duo was a genius. The foolish joker act was just that, a cover over a very laser sharp mind.

"I can't help but think that your dependence on one another is a distinct liability," Milliardo commented.

There was a long silence as Duo pushed the chair into an elevator, pushed a button for a floor, and then replied, "It hasn't so far. I know you've already checked our records."

"I know the dry facts of your missions," Milliardo said, "but I don't know anything about the why of it. I might have more confidence if I understood the psychology of your dependence."

He looked up at Duo and saw the young man's pensive _expression, his brooding purple eyes under his brown bangs. Duo grinned suddenly, but it was fierce and not humorous at all. "I guess you could just call us shell shocked and crazy," Duo said. "How many ways do you want me to explain something I don't understand myself? We're a package. We come together no matter what. Take it or leave it."

Milliardo opened his mouth for a very pointed question, seeing his opening, but Duo forestalled him.

"Sir, I told you before, when you were half hanging off of that climbing rock," Duo said. "My personal life is only your business if you make yourself a part of it."

Milliardo clenched his jaw, ground his teeth together, and then snarled, "My interest is in the Preventers and how you operate in your position within it! If you think that I have any personal attraction to you, you are mistaken, sir! Our dealings together are strictly professional and shall remain that way."

The elevator opened and it was then that Milliardo realized that Duo had been leaning on the door closed button. "Well, that's clear enough, sir," Duo replied smoothly. "Thanks for not beating around the bush."

Duo wheeled Milliardo out of the elevator and into his office. After removing the padded chair behind Milliardo's desk, he wheeled Milliardo into position there.

"Duo?" Heero was suddenly standing in the door way, "We have to report to section C."

Duo frowned. "I'm supposed to watch our commander here."

"Sally's orders," Heero insisted.

"Sir?" Duo asking Milliardo for permission.

Milliardo made an impatient motion with one hand as he picked up a pencil and slid reports towards himself. "I have work to catch up on and I have a secretary. I'll page you when I need to go some where."

"Uh, okay," Duo responded, but he seemed unsure.

"GO!" Milliardo barked.

Duo started, "Okay, okay!" he replied and walked towards Heero. As he came close to the other young man, he slid an arm around Heero's waist to pull Heero after him. "Let's go, Heero, but let's stop and get a danish on the way. I'm starved!"

Such an intimate gesture made without thought. Milliardo's world had narrowed down to that slender arm with its wiry strength sliding around the rock hard torso of a man obviously used to such gestures. As the door closed behind them, Milliardo was suddenly aware of a sharp pain in his hand. He looked down and saw that he had snapped his pencil in half and was clutching it so hard that his knuckles were white.

That small loss of control, and feeling such anger and impotence, had made it that much harder for Milliardo to call for Duo's assistance later in the day. If Duo had returned with Heero, and Milliardo had been forced to admit his weakness and embarrassing need for help in front of the one man who had been his ultimate rival during the war, Milliardo was sure he would have denied his body until he caused himself harm. As it was, Duo arrived alone, and Milliardo only had to suffer through the embarrassment of having Duo wheel him to the restroom.

"I don't need your help!" Milliardo snarled when they had reached the door and Duo began to attempt to help him inside. "Stand here and wait for me to come out."

Duo made a skeptical face. "There isn't anything to get upset about, ya know, sir? I pee, you pee, everyone has to pee... I'm telling you, you're going to have trouble. It's a long hallway and then two doors."

Milliardo's jaw worked. "I am not incapacitated, Agent Maxwell, and I am your commanding officer. You will not question my orders!"

Duo raised cinnamon eyebrows, opened his mouth to argue, and then closed it and shrugged. He leaned against a wall and began to whistle a lively tune.

Milliardo glared and then accepted that Duo was going to do as he was told. Keeping one hand on the wall, he limped heavily into the restroom hallway.

The hallway seemed to stretch forever. Milliardo was ashamed that he had to stop three times and let the waves of pain roll over him before he was able to steel his will and walk again. When he reached the door at the end, he touched it as if he had reached a precious goal, nodded to himself for a job well done, and then opened it.

It was difficult. Milliardo couldn't let himself get off balance and using his weight to swing the door was out of the question. Finally, he used his body as a wedge and slid through. That left another stretch of hallway, about four paces, and another door. Milliardo cursed the man who had designed it that way.

Milliardo managed that door in the same manner as the first, but he was panting now and getting dizzy. His body was protesting by sending him lightning jolts of pain. He wasn't sure that he could stand it much longer, but calling for Duo was now not an option.

The urinal was a welcome relief, both as a wall to lean against and a cessation of the pain in his bladder. He had almost waited too long, knowing that this simple act was going to be a trial.

Finished and clothing back in place, Milliardo turned and then fell face first onto the tile, his bad leg letting him know that it wasn't putting up with his pride and foolishness any longer. There was only one thing that Milliardo could do then and his face turned as red as fire as he did it. Milliardo Peacecraft, Prince of the Sanq Kingdom, crawled across the restroom floor to the door.

Getting it open was a problem. Milliardo levered himself up and tried to get his fingers in the handle. His hand was shaking, but he leaned back in his sitting position and used his weight to open it. On the other side of that door was Duo Maxwell, who was looking at Milliardo with a mixture of curiosity and concern.

Milliardo expected a lecture, a laugh, or a joke at his expense. Instead, Duo leaned down, put a hand under his arm, and helped into his waiting wheelchair propped halfway through the second door.

"Ready to go back to your office, sir?" Duo asked in a respectful tone.

"Yes, Agent Maxwell," Milliardo replied, his mind in turmoil as he reevaluated his opinion of Duo. "If you please?"

The rest of the day was uneventful. Milliardo suspected Sally Po of cutting back on his work load. By early afternoon, Milliardo had cleared his desk of all work and was left to contemplate, with embarrassment, his earlier foolishness. Why had it been so hard to accept Maxwell's help? He wondered. The man would have helped him into the restroom and left him to accomplish his task there by himself. Milliardo had never considered his pride so great that he couldn't bend enough to accept some help. Where Duo was concerned though, Milliardo's pride was working over time. There was something about the young man... Milliardo couldn't allow himself to look weak in front of him or... or what? A small voice said, `unworthy' but Milliardo squelched that.

Milliardo felt suddenly tired. The pain was a constant presence and his injuries were not happy about him sitting in a chair for so long, however well padded that leather chair was. As boredom took it's toll, he found his eye lids drooping. He made one last effort to find some work to do, but succumbed to exhaustion in spite of it, unknowingly falling asleep with a stack of file folders as his pillow.

"Stop getting jealous." Duo's whispered voice roused Milliardo. How long he had been asleep, he wasn't sure, but his stiffened and aching body was protesting strenuously however long it had been.

"I'm not jealous," Heero's voice replied. "I think that it would be wisest to allow him to continue sleeping, rather than wake him. The man obviously has over extended himself. If you wake him, it is almost certain that he will continue to work and make his health worse."

"He's going to get all kinked up like that," Duo protested. He chuckled. "Kinky Zechs. I made a funny."

"I don't think that he would appreciate your humor," Heero replied disapprovingly, but then, "It is funny though."

Duo made a mock gasp. "I didn't even have to explain it this time. You're improving your funny bone, Yuy."

"Hn, well, the humor in it is obvious," Heero said.

"Ah!" Duo admonished. "What have I told you about analyzing humor? Funny should never be analyzed."

Heero chuckled. It seemed an odd sound coming from a young man who always appeared darkly sullen to Milliardo, but it didn't last long and Heero soon became serious again. "The new team leader doesn't have the commander's experience. We will have to work out contingent plans in case he makes wrong decisions during our assignment."

Duo sighed, "Over time, you mean." Milliardo heard Duo make a sound as if he were stretching and cracking his back. "Lifting and pushing around this big guy is exercise enough. I don't look forward to piling on after hour mission simulations."

"You like him," Heero whispered.

"If you're talking about the commander, what's it matter?" Duo huffed. "He's out of my league and he doesn't like me."

"Don't be stupid," Heero growled.

There was a stretch of silence and then Milliardo heard them walking towards the door.

"Are you okay with that?" Duo asked at last.

"Yes," Heero replied, but added grimly, "Unless he decides we can't be together."

Duo snorted. "If he did, it wouldn't happen, Blue Eyes. Friends for life. You promised and I promised."

"As long as you remember it... Shorty," Heero replied.

"Shorty?" Duo snorted again. "Keep trying."

"Hairy?"

"No."

"Pug face?"

"I do NOT have a pug face!"

"Says you!"

"Heero... You're getting good at this."

"Good?"

"Yeah," Duo laughed. "Good. Keep working on it."

The door closed softly and Milliardo sat up. He had some new insight into Heero and Duo and he wasn't sorry for his small subterfuge.

"Friends," Milliardo whispered. "Close friends. Inseparable friends... not lovers?" There was a flair of hope deep within him, but he refused to acknowledge it. What was it to him? Duo had been right. He, Milliardo was out of the young man's class and he outranked him by a large degree. Not that he had been at all planning to... Milliardo shook his head sharply. There were still so many unanswered questions about those two and he hated mysteries. There was also the mention of his replacement not doing his job. Milliardo determined to look into that immediately. Two tasks, each of equal importance.

"Jennifer?" Milliardo called as he hit the intercom on his desk.

"Sir?" his secretary replied.

"Get me all the information on Heero Yuy and Duo Maxwell that you can find and set up a meeting with Sally Po."

"But... sir," the woman said uncertainly.

"Yes?" Milliardo snapped impatiently.

"I thought that you would be going home early," the secretary replied. "Your health..."

"That is not your concern," Milliardo cut her off. "Follow my orders."

"Yes, sir!" the secretary replied with a nervous squeak.

Milliardo sat back in his chair. It didn't matter how much he was incapacitated. He couldn't leave important work to incompetents or loose cannons. He needed to take over the mission again and he needed to know, once and for all, if the team of Heero and Duo was fit for it.

[part 4] [part 6] [back to Kracken's fic]