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 6
Speaking in Tongues

"You're name is..." Milliardo asked.

"Carl Randall, sir."

"And... you were the arresting officer?"

"Yes, sir." The big man fingered one arm and looked angry. He was dressed in civilian clothes and he wasn't part of the police force any longer.

"There was backup?"

"Yeah, but they didn't come in time," the man growled bitterly.

Milliardo sat back in his chair, fingers steepled and ice blue eyes almost hidden by his pale bangs. His computer was booted up with pertinent information and his desk was stacked with disks and files. He had a notepad as well, scribbled with brief notations. It had taken only a day to get interviews lined up. It seemed that there wasn't a shortage of men willing to tell their story about Gundam Pilot Duo Maxwell. That didn't bode well.

"I would like a detailed account, if you please," Milliardo ordered as he motioned for the man to sit in a chair in front of his wide desk.

"Is he in trouble?" the man asked with relish as he sat down. "If you need someone to testify against him, I'm your man."

"It's nothing like that," Milliardo replied. "All Preventer agents are required to have a thorough back ground check. It seems that many things were omitted because of this man's age at the time and his reputation. I am rectifying that error in judgment."

The man scowled. "Let me tell you, sir, he's not the kind of guy that you want watching over citizens! He's a freakin' maniac and a killer through and through! If I had it to do all over again, I would have fired a bullet and put him down like a rabid animal." He cradled his arm against him. "At least then I would still have my real arm and not  this prosthetic."

Milliardo sat up, ignoring his aching body and asked quickly, "He damaged your arm?"

The man nodded, jaw going tight. "He sliced it open with a knife. He cut through nerves and tendons and then it became infected! They had to cut it off!"

Milliardo's jaw went tight as well. "A detailed account, please, " he ordered again grimly.

The man scratched his head, eyes going hard as he remembered that day. "I got the call that there was a big fight; that some little kid was getting the crap beat out of him and I'd better hurry if I wanted to avoid calling for a body bag. I didn't know it was soldiers until I showed up on the scene..." He paused, brows coming down as he rubbed at his `arm' again. "It was a mess. That kid had creamed almost all of them and he was after the ones trying to get away. I got to him just as he was about to snap one guy's neck. I held my gun on him and told him to freeze. He was covered in blood..." The man swallowed and he went pale. "The kid's eyes were dead, flat, like a shark's right before.. but he was grinning too..... He let go of the guy and turned to me. The guy didn't have the sense to run. He tried to punch the kid down, but the kid brought out a knife and sliced him wide open. When... When I tried to stop him, he cut at me too. Backup came then, but, it was too fucking late!"

The man cradled his arm bitterly. Milliardo realized that his own hands were clenched very tight. He relaxed them with an effort and asked, "Were you there when Maxwell was questioned?"

The man shook his head. "They dragged me away while other officers brought him down. I was already unconscious."

Milliardo scribbled quick notes. "Thank you, Mr. Randall. I'm sorry that you lost your job because of that incident."

"Wasn't that," the man grumbled, but refused to elaborate. Milliardo made a note of that too.

"Jennifer," Milliardo called and the secretary came into the office. "See Mr. Randall out and compensate him for his time. I would like to see Mr. Rene Lane next."

"Rene?" Randall said with a grunt. "That's good that you're asking him about this. He'll give you an ear full too. Are you talking to just him, or some of the other officers as well?"

Milliardo replied, impatient to proceed, "It's correct to have several witnesses to an incident interviewed and then to compare their statements."

"Yeah, I guess you're right." The man scowled. "Watch out though. Some of the men felt sorry for that kid and took his side. Damned freakin' idiots! If they were here, I'd spit on them!"

"Thank you. Mr. Randall," Milliardo replied calmly and coolly. "I'll keep that in mind."

"Yes, sir," Randall said respectfully and then left with the secretary.

Milliardo rubbed at his forehead and then reached for his pain pills and a carafe of water. The man was bias, obviously, he thought, but what if the things he had described were true? If Duo had attacked arresting officers, that was far more serious than defending himself against attackers.

Milliardo brought his attention back from his dark thoughts as Rene Lane entered his office. Milliardo motioned him to sit down. The man looked wary. Tall and thin, he had a hatchet type face and small, anxious eyes. He looked as if he had done something very wrong and that he suspected that he had been found out.

"Everything is all right, Mr. Lane," Milliardo assured him smoothly. "I'm investigating the back ground of one of our agents. I've been told that you were one of the arresting officers for  Duo Maxwell."

The man nodded, more of a twitch than a real gesture. Milliardo's reassurance wasn't calming him down. "He was crazy. We did what we had to." The man said that in a low, vicious tone.

"I wish to have a detailed account from when you arrived on the scene,'" Milliardo told him as he scribble a few notes.

"What are you writing?" the man barked suspiciously. "If this is about me and Jim Travers using clubs on that little, Gundam pilot shit-!"

Milliardo felt a chill, but he didn't allow his emotions to show on his face or in his voice as he considered strategies. He assured the man, "I called you here to listen to your side of the story. No one is being judged or prosecuted."

"That's good!" Lane snarled, "We were in our rights! After all he did during the war and what I saw left of those officers... "

"You can begin your account," Milliardo told him simply, anxious to cut off the start of a list of grievances rather than the factual account he had wanted.

The man fidgeted and then said more calmly, "Well, me and my fellow officers arrived on scene and saw several men down, including another officer. We rushed the suspect and separated him from his victim. He refused to follow our orders. We treated him as a deadly weapon and incapacitated him by all means necessary."

"How did he appear?" Milliardo asked. "Was he angry, afraid...?"

The man blinked and was quiet for a moment as he looked at a bad memory. "I could tell that he wanted a pound of flesh. He was vengeful, sir."

"What happened after you took him into custody?"

"We wanted to...," The man rethought what he had been about to say and said instead, "We were going to take him to headquarters, but the medics arrived and took him to the hospital. I heard he was canned in Muraka after that. If you ask me, they should have never let him out."

Milliardo ask a few more questions and then let the man go. His notes were filling a page. He turned to a fresh sheet and asked his secretary to let in the next man.

The man who entered was dressed in a medic uniform. He was big and blonde and seemed overwhelmed to be in the presence of such a famous man. He was tongue tied and it took Milliardo a few moments of small talk before the man could answer any questions.

"You treated Duo Maxwell after picking him up from the arresting officers?" Milliardo asked.

The man swallowed and looked green.  "Yeah, what was left of him. His injuries were extensive."

"Do you still remember what those injuries were?" Milliardo asked. "I realize that It was some time ago-"

"I don't think I'll ever forget a sight like that, sir," the man replied softly.

"Explain."

The man swallowed again and he looked down at his clenched hands in his lap. "Well, the officers didn't want to let him go. They had kicked and clubbed him, were still doing it when we arrived. The other medics fanned out to care for the other injured... and the dead... and me and my partner were on our own." He looked up and his eyes were full of pain and disgust. "He was just a kid, sir. Just a skinny little kid. If he had killed some of those bastards getting loose, I say they deserved it. They..." he paused and then he made motions with his hands as if replaying his own discovery of the damage. His fingers moved as if wiping at blood. "They carved up his back. It said something, I'm not sure what. Big letters all the way across. Burns, cuts, contusions, open wounds, broken bones. They tortured him, pure and simple."

Milliardo asked in a tight voice, not really wanting to know the answer. "Rape?"

"I checked on him later and read his medical report," the man admitted. "I just wanted to make sure he had made it through. It didn't list that, sir, but it listed about everything else. You can say they weren't such sick bastards, but... the rest...." The man rubbed at his face with his hands and then sat back in his chair with a heavy sigh. "Between those bastards that hurt him and the arresting officers, I'm not sure how he lived through it... or how he fought back hard enough to kill a few."

"I want a detailed list of his injuries," Milliardo replied. As the man rattled off a list of nightmarish proportions, Milliardo wondered at the accuracy of his recollection. Milliardo had seen Duo bare to the waist and had seen his back as well. His skin had seemed smooth, with only enough scarring to account for the rough life he had led as a street child and a Gundam pilot. The things this man was detailing...

"How were they able to send him to the detention center if his injuries were that severe?" Milliardo finally asked.

The man scowled. "I wondered that myself. That's a rough place even with maximum security. Putting someone in there who can't defend himself... course, he probably spent the whole time in the med lab healing.

"I will have to inquire," Milliardo replied, "about his conditions there."

"He's a war hero, but people were afraid of him then," the medic told Milliardo. "Some had a grudge too. I think the court took all of that into consideration when they let him out again. Those men he murdered... it was self defense, plain and simple."

"That is what I've been able to discover so far," Milliardo replied. "He was exonerated and released. Most of the records of that incident were sealed, though. I only have personal accounts to fall back on."

The man stood, sensing the interview was over. He scratched his head and said, "Did you talk to Mr. Maxwell about all of this?"

Milliardo was patient with the man's naivete. "When investigating a case, it's wise to get the facts from eye witnesses. The subject of the case is most likely to tell a  false account if he is facing censure or prosecution."

"But...," the man flushed and then said, "I heard that he doesn't lie."

Milliardo blinked. "It seems that you know a great deal about Duo Maxwell."

The man looked uncomfortable. "After I knew who he was, and I was following his progress, I got curious. I read up on him."

Milliardo replied as he shuffled his papers, "Then you know that he was a terrorist who murdered many, many people. I wouldn't attached altruistic traits to such a man."

The man scowled. He seemed to fight with something unpleasant and then it burst forth, "That's strange coming from a man who almost destroyed the Earth! If you're talking about blaming him, or cutting him out of a job because of what he did in the war, then, I can't figure why you are where you are... sir."

Milliardo gripped the edge of his desk hard and his gut went into a knot, his mind reeling. Always, when he least expected it, he was reminded of the horrific thing he had tried to do. "I was damaged by a mind enhancing machine, sir. The court judged that I was clinically insane at the time."

"The court cleared you both," the medic ground out. "A lot of people wouldn't agree with them, I'm sure, but there you are. You get to go on as if nothing happened. Maybe this kid should get the same treatment? If you're looking for a smoking gun from me to keep him out of a job, or get him in trouble, you aren't getting it from me. I saw what I saw. They tortured him, pure and simple, and he fought back and saved himself. Afterword, our good police force beat the crap out of him and attempted to do more before I rescued him. Again, he defended himself. When I had him in the transport vehicle on the way to the hospital, he woke up. He didn't lay a finger on me while I worked on him. In fact, he grinned and said, `Sorry `bout the mess. Your cleaning lady is going to want a raise.' What the fuck, right? He's dying while I'm trying to hook him up to machines to save his life and he cracks a joke about the blood he got all over my vehicle."

The man looked distant as he remembered the episode. He came back to himself and went pale, suddenly realizing that he had said strong words to a powerful man. What was it about Maxwell, Milliardo wondered, that caused men to give him their loyalty so quickly? He recalled the field test and how his men had given Duo the lead position and followed him gladly. Knowing his own reaction to the man, Milliardo knew the feelings they had experienced. Maxwell was a strong personality, but his easy going, joking mannerism were tempered by an underlying confidence and strength that cued people in that he knew exactly what he was doing. It was that, Milliardo thought, that had bothered him the most, that such insubordination was combined with such skill and that it worked when every book said that it shouldn't; that such men should be corrected or expelled from operations.

"Sir?" the man prompted and he sounded uncertain.

Milliardo came back to himself. "There's nothing wrong with speaking plainly. I will take everything you've said under consideration. Thank you for your time."

"Uh, yes, sir, you're welcome sir." The medic didn't wait for the secretary. He let himself out with the anxiousness of a man escaping a tiger's den.

Milliardo looked over his notes, entered some into his computer, and then sat back in his chair and sighed. Of all the people he had interviewed, the medic had seemed the most honest and the least likely to falsify his account for his own reasons.

Milliardo dug into his pocket and took out Duo's picture. He felt a wave of disgust at himself for having made a copy of the original. Why? Why did he keep looking at it? Those lost eyes, that tight mouth, that look to the side as if he was begging for something... help? Knowing what he did now, Milliardo could now see the reason why Duo's skin had seemed so pale and his face distorted oddly. Someone had touched up the photo to hide the extent of his injuries. The why was obvious. They had put a severely injured man into detention, out of fear for his abilities and uncertain state of mind, Milliardo was certain, but it didn't excuse the fact that it had been criminal to do so.

"Sir?" Duo Maxwell leaned into the office, one hand balancing him on the door knob. Milliardo turned the photo face down hastily.

"What is it?" Milliardo asked and couldn't help looking at Duo, trying to see scars, some outward mark that he had suffered the injuries that the medic had claimed. There was nothing though, just smooth skin and a bright _expression that seemed unclouded by such a terrible past.

"I wondered if you needed me for anything," Duo replied. "You haven't called in awhile."

Milliardo covered the photo with his hand. It was strangely warm against his palm. "Yes, I do need you," Milliardo replied, and felt something deep inside echo that sentence and give it an even more personal meaning. He stifled it and growled, "I have a meeting to go to, but I need to eat first. Take me to the commissary."

"All right!" Duo grinned. "I haven't eaten either. I didn't want to take off and eat in case you needed me and Heero was too busy to drop something off."

Milliardo blinked and felt a chill. "You've been waiting for me to call?"

Duo laughed. "Yeah, right out there." He pointed outside the office. "I didn't have anything scheduled today, so I decided to wait on your beck and call. Interesting guests you had today."

Milliardo saw the glint in Duo's amethyst eyes, letting him know that the man wasn't amused at all. Milliardo tried to regroup, too many questions firing in his brain. He started with the most obvious. "Did they see you?"

"No," Duo replied. "I was in the secretary's room, sitting in a chair and watching the soap operas on the vid screen she keeps back there for her breaks. Did you know Frances didn't really have Kile's baby? It was his evil twins!" He scowled and then said, "The secretary came in to get something and told me she didn't like any of those visitors you had scheduled. Being the good agent that I am, and having nothing better to do, I did back ground checks on all of them using the room's video recognition program." He shrugged and looked bitter and puzzled. "Seems I know all of those guys, even though I don't remember any of them."

"I needed to know about that incident with the Oz soldiers," Milliardo replied defensively. The photo under his hand burned. "It is my opinion that an error in judgment was made by not investigating that incident thoroughly when you joined the Preventers."

"I was under age," Duo told him. He had stepped into the room as they talked and now he was facing Milliardo across his wide desk. "That incident was sealed. I gave Sally permission to look into it so that I would have a clean file when I joined. I'm kind of pissed that she included any of that stuff. That's not what she promised me."

Milliardo found his shield and he took it. "Sally gave me permission to investigate your files to judge your fitness as a Preventer. I had serious doubts." His shield turned into a sword and he suddenly had a weapon to put between himself and the inappropriate feelings he was having for a subordinate. "I still have doubts, Agent Maxwell."

"That is was self defense?" Duo wondered and he grinned. His eyes gave that grin a demonic quality. His eyes were a window straight to his true feelings if anyone cared to look, Milliardo thought with a chill. At that moment, Duo was seething and ... hurt. There was pain there, a pain that made Milliardo's sword of words dissolve into nothingness. He ached for that hurt and felt wrong for having cut the man and caused it. "The court sided with me," Duo continued, "The court even prosecuted some of the people in that incident on my behalf."

Milliardo hadn't known that. He hadn't been able to get that much of the court filings. "I needed as many facts as I could gather to prove that you weren't at fault in that incident."

"Proof?" Duo suddenly stepped forward. "Listening to those guys won't give you that kind of proof. Do you want to see the proof that I showed the court, the proof that convinced them to let me out of that hell hole detention center?"

Milliardo looked at Duo's smiling face, the pained, angry eyes, and nodded cautiously, suddenly unable to speak. When Duo came closer, Milliardo briefly felt in danger, but then Duo was turning his back and pulling his shirt up to his shoulders.

"You have to feel with your fingers," Duo explained. "I had surgery done to cover up the worst of the scars, especially that one. It's good to have rich friends."

Quatre Winner he meant, Milliardo thought distantly as he cautiously reached out and touched Duo's smooth seeming skin. It was like an electric shock, touching the man. Milliardo felt himself tremble and go hot from the top of his head down to his toes. He felt sixteen years old suddenly and fumbling through his first time, trying not to embarrass himself; trying to figure out what was right to do. It was an uncomfortable feeling, but Milliardo couldn't stop feeling it... until his fingers encountered a roughness that his eyes could barely see. Then his insides turned cold and he felt a wave of nausea as he traced the roughness that ran all the way across Duo' upper shoulder down to his tail bone. The letters must have been cut deep, must have looked horrific when they were fresh, and must have scarred terribly and remained permanently for anyone to see. They spelled out `Oz's Bitch'.

When Milliardo lifted his fingers from Duo's skin, as if he had been burned, Duo dropped his shirt and stepped away as he tucked it back into his pants. "Can't get any better proof than that," he said, and added, as if he had been forced to say it many times. "I wasn't by the way. They didn't do THAT at least." Duo paused for a long moment and then turned, one cinnamon eyebrow arched. "Do you get it now? You should. People hate us. People want to hurt us. They're always waiting for a chance, waiting for you to drop your guard. I was stupid that day. I was moping around, hating how Heero wasn't with me and feeling like half a person, and not paying attention. They jumped me, dragged me off, and decided that a slow, painful death was the order of the day for Duo Maxwell. They got their's, sir, and I'm not sorry about it. I don't know if I blame you for looking into it, but I really don't like it. You push me much more and I'll take Heero and find a nice swat team somewhere who isn't so particular about my pedigree."

Milliardo had a great deal to say, all of it profuse, unprofessional apologies. He could feel that deep, emotional, needy part of him uncoiling and wanting.... he knew what it wanted. He controlled it with an iron will and he said, almost coldly, "I think that I have all the information that I need. Once I compile it, I'm certain that everything will be to my satisfaction." He bent just a little, letting a small part of his true feelings out of the box to add, "I'm sorry if my investigation has caused you any discomfort."

Duo blinked. "Discomfort?" He grunted sourly, ran a hand through his unruly bangs, and then shoved both hands into his pockets, rocking slightly from heel to toe. "You need to broaden your vocabulary, sir, `discomfort' really doesn't describe it." He cocked his head and gave Milliardo an appraising look. "Well, if you are done causing me `discomfort' for the day, should I go ahead and take you to the commissary?"

Milliardo felt the tension and it made all of his soldier's instincts prickle and warn him. "I can have my secretary bring something here..." he began, but Duo was already taking hold of the back of his wheel chair and pulling him away from his desk.

Duo's voice was cheerful again as he said, "It's my job, sir. Let me do it."

Milliardo heard another meaning in his words, a plea, maybe. "All right," he said against his better judgment. "Do your job, but I will be observing you closely."

"That's YOUR job, isn't it?" Duo chuckled and it sounded genuine. Milliardo didn't hear any anger in his voice. It was as if Duo had mentally erased the past few minutes. He seemed happy and ready to please as he wheeled Milliardo to the commissary.

As Duo joked and called out to the people he knew in the hallways, Milliardo began to wonder at the man's sanity. It didn't seem possible to forget such a troubling episode so quickly and thoroughly. It opened up an entirely new line of questioning in Milliardo's mind, one that had nothing to do with Duo's competence or his innocence in a long ago murder case, but everything to do with his mental fitness.

"I can hear wheels turning," Duo suddenly said in Milliardo's ear.

Milliardo started and looked up at him. Duo was smiling almost gently.

"Sorry I confuse you so much," Duo said in all earnestness, "When you have me completely figured out, I'd like to see your report, k?"

Milliardo suddenly laughed. It was a half strangled eruption, that he quickly stifled, mortified. Duo patted his shoulder as they entered the commissary, as if in sympathy for Milliardo's corrupted control.

[part 5] [part 7] [back to Kracken's fic]