Disclaimer: I don't own them and I don't make any money off of them.
Warnings :Male/Male sex, Graphic, Violence, Language.
and Soldiers series + Part 7
Conversations With Death
Milliardo had progressed to
a cane. Leaving the wheelchair behind had been utter relief. His pride
had taken a fall while he had been forced to sit and be pushed around
by Duo and who ever else could spare the time. When he had progressed
to wheeling himself, it had been awkward because of his still aching arm
and shoulder. He had forced himself to do it though, just as he was forcing
himself to use the cane and ignore the sharp pains that told him that
he was doing things too soon.
It was good to walk out into the sunlight of a courtyard though, to take
a deep breath, to feel the sunlight on his face, and to know that he had
managed to get there on his own. It was a thrill of accomplishment that
Milliardo allowed himself to bask in, a small salve to his weeks of humiliation.
There was a repetitive, low, creaking noise. Milliardo blinked and looked
around, his pale hair fluttering in a light breeze. His ice blue eyes
looked this way and that, searching out the courtyard with a soldier's
tense nervousness. In a far corner, almost obscured by bushes and small
trees, Milliardo could see a small children's play set. It was for the
day care, he remembered, the one Sally had set up for the Preventer women
as soon as she had taken command. Milliardo hadn't approved. Children
and armed agents, going on, and preparing for, dangerous missions, didn't
mix in his mind.
Curious, Milliardo limped heavily down the walkway that wound from the
courtyard, across a small strip of green grass, and to a set of swings
and a elaborate jungle gym. A door led to the day care and Milliardo could
see children through a window listening intently while they were read
to by an adult. None of those children were on the play ground, though.
The person on the swing, making the small creaking noise as he swung back
and forth gently, was Duo Maxwell.
Duo was short enough to manage it. His feet cleared the ground and his
braid flew behind him as he swung. His _expression was relaxed, and it
was obvious that he was enjoying himself. Milliardo wasn't fool enough
to think that his approach had gone unnoticed. Duo confirmed it by saying,
"Nice day, isn't it, sir? Is there something you needed?" Duo
looked sideways at Milliardo and he didn't stop swinging. "My cell
phone didn't ring, if you tried to call me."
"Maxwell..." Milliardo began, not sure what he was going to
say, but knowing that he felt strong disapproval.
Duo sighed and smiled. "I know, looks kind of crazy, doesn't it?
I didn't get to do things like this when I was young though. When I come
out here to eat my lunch, I feel like I just have to swing. It's nice,
simple, and relaxing, too."
"It's ridiculous and childish!" Milliardo growled.
Duo shrugged. "I guess... doesn't matter though. Haven't you ever
done something ridiculous and childish just because it made you feel good?
Sometimes, you just gotta forget what other people think."
That struck too close to home, too close to the humiliation Milliardo
had felt, imagining that everyone was judging him as weak. "I read
your file. You were a street child on L2."
Duo nodded, sobering. "All I had time to do back then was to figure
out where my next meal was and how to not get killed."
"You were taken into an orphanage though," Milliardo pointed
Duo's face went very pale and his jaw tightened. His eyes suddenly had
such an intense `elsewhere' look that Milliardo felt a chill creep down
his spine. "I don't wanna talk about that," Duo growled. His
hands worked on the chains supporting the swing, something gnawing at
him deep inside, and then he abruptly changed moods and smiled. "You're
bringing me down, sir. I came out here to relax. Your second in command
had us running mission drills all morning."
Milliardo was frozen, not saying anything for a long minute. Duo had switched
tracks like the flicking of a light switch. Milliardo had seen that type
of behavior before, in men who were suffering from shell shock, post war
syndrome; traumatized men who were covering up intense mental pain and
Duo cocked his head at the seat beside him. "Why don't you sit down?
There isn't anywhere else and you look shaky."
Milliardo was tall. He knew he would look ridiculous sitting on a child's
swing, but Duo was right, he was shaky. He had over extended himself.
He glanced at the window and the children sitting there. They had their
backs turned. They wouldn't see him looking foolish. Was it worth it,
doing such a simple thing, if he could continue to talk to Duo and perhaps
pry some answers out of him?
Duo raised a cinnamon eyebrow. He was such a handsome man and his smile
could charm a man eating tiger, Milliardo thought, and then clamped down
hard on those stray thoughts. As he sat down on the empty swing, Milliardo
felt some satisfaction, albeit small, when Duo looked very surprised.
Milliardo balanced awkwardly, his cane tangling. Duo automatically reached
out and steadied the swing with a hand on one of the chain supports.
"I want to talk to you," Milliardo explained roughly, "and
I don't want to fall down while I'm doing it." It was an admission
of weakness that he hadn't wanted to make, but it was for a purpose and
Milliardo was willing to make that sacrifice.
He was taken aback, though, when Duo said, standing up, his one hand still
on the chain, "If you feel shaky enough to do something like this,
sir, then I need to help you back to your office. We can talk there. Come
on, you can lean on me." He reached out his free hand to help Milliardo
up. After a second's hesitation, Milliardo took it.
Once again, Duo was showing a side of his joker, easy going, irreverent
personality that Milliardo was finding hard to believe in. Once again,
Duo was choosing not to embarrass or take advantage of Milliardo when
he was at his weakest. Milliardo held that hand, but didn't make any attempt
to get up. He stared into Duo's eyes and suddenly felt as if he were drowning
and that he was perfectly willing to do so.
Duo's hand was soft, but there were callouses on his fingertips. It was
warm, almost comforting the way it curled around Milliardo's hand. Milliardo
looked down at their two clasped hands and he suddenly felt his throat
"Tell the truth," Duo whispered.
Milliardo clenched in every muscle. He was used to being in complete control
of himself, this burning uncertainty, this confusion, as if he were some
shy girl, was almost more than he could stand. "It's... It's not
right," Milliardo managed to reply in a small voice. "You know
"I guess not," Duo said as he let loose of Milliardo's hand
and settled on the swing next to him once more. "I'm younger than
you. I'm not in the same class. I'm your subordinate in just about everything..."
He paused and then added, "In everything, but skill, that is."
Milliardo bristled and his jaw worked as he turned his head and glared
at Duo. "Do you think so, Agent Maxwell? That has yet to be proven
to my satisfaction. Your past-"
Duo looked pained and he stared off into the distance. "See? Already
you're throwing my past in my face. It's not going to work."
"What are you talking about?" Milliardo demanded hotly.
Duo blinked and then said, "You've been combing through my past.
What do you expect to find? I was left on the streets of L2. I was a thief.
I joined the sweepers. I did salvage work. I trained to be a Gundam pilot
and I STOLE my Gundam. I killed people, your people, during the war. I
killed men after the war. I was sent to a detention center for it. I joined
the Preventers. I'm making a serious attempt to do my best to help people
and to keep the law. That's me, that's Duo Maxwell. That's any number
of reasons to treat me like a third rail and I really won't blame you
for it." Duo looked at Milliardo steadily. "Just be honest.
Tell the truth. Can't I have that in exchange for you dredging up the
ugly past? Stop pretending that you're doing it because of that mission."
Milliardo's face went hard. "What other reason would there be?"
Duo frowned impatiently, "I'm not stupid, ya know, and I didn't live
this long by not keeping my eyes open."
Milliardo felt his gut go into a knot. "It isn't right," he
repeated, almost under his breath.
Duo's hand reached out. He took hold of the chain supporting Milliardo's
swing and he carefully pulled the man closer to him. Milliardo felt an
unreasoning fright at that intense look on Duo's face. It was a ridiculous
reaction. Duo wasn't a danger to him... or maybe he was, Milliardo thought
in a panic as the smell of some light aftershave and sandalwood came to
his nose. It was coming from Duo and it immediately excited Milliardo
despite his confusion and trepidation.
"Sometimes, you have to do it anyway and not care what other people
think," Duo said, his breath warm and sweet against the skin of Milliardo's
cheek. "Sometimes, the rule book needs to get thrown out the window."
Milliardo's military training bristled at that and protested inside of
him, but his heart jumped at the possibility, at the idea that perhaps
he could shrug off the chains of rules and duty and... "You won't
get very far in the Preventers if you don't follow the rules," Milliardo
replied in a clipped tone.
"Some things are worth giving up for the right reasons," was
Duo's reply and Milliardo felt the flick of a tongue against his earlobe.
Milliardo jerked away, shocked, and felt the world gel into a pandemonium
of opposing reactions. His body came alive with need, and a flash of heat
that made him tremble, and his mind clambered as it tried to sort out
what had just happened and form an appropriate response. Unfortunately,
his mind reminded him of the fact that Duo had a nipple ring and tattoos
and that he had claimed to be with someone before he had come to rescue
Milliardo after his fall. Duo's bold move, and those reminders, equaled
something nasty in Milliardo's mind and he responded with words that sounded
prime, prudish, and condescending in his own ears, "Maybe that kind
of behavior usually gets you want you want, Maxwell, but it doesn't get
you anywhere with me." His heart and body cursed him.
That could have meant so many things on so many levels. However Duo took
it, it was clear that he was angry. His face flushed and his lips went
into a tight, thin line. He let go of Milliardo's swing, stood up, and
reached a hand for Milliardo, saying coldly, "If you would like to
return to you office, sir?"
Milliardo felt like a hypocrite. They were both men with the need of men.
Milliardo wasn't a virgin. He had experienced a number of casual, sexual
encounters without the slightest qualm afterwards. He couldn't hide from
the fact that he found Duo very sexually attractive, either, and that
his mind had already imagined a number of enticing scenarios involving
removing all of their clothes. It was normal. Natural. Not something that
could be consciously controlled. Why suggest that Duo was wrong for expressing
his sexuality, too, and his interest? Was it because of his upbringing?
Did his advances equal crude and mercenary because he had come from the
dregs of the streets on L2?
Duo said in the long silence, like a stone dropping into a quiet pond,
"I don't lie."
Milliardo blinked at him, not understanding for a moment, and then realization
dawned. He had accused Duo of playing a game, of trying to seduce him,
of maybe even trying to get Milliardo's favor in the old fashioned way.
All of it amounted to lying and Duo did not lie.
Maybe Duo didn't lie, Milliardo thought bitterly, but he, Milliardo certainly
did. To deny his attraction for Duo, to try to find something about the
man bad enough to drown out that attraction, he had searched through the
man's records relentlessly, causing pain and humiliation to Duo. Milliardo
had capped that by accusing Duo of being an opportunist as well.
"I should be put on report," Milliardo muttered, suddenly hating
himself for the weakness he saw within him; a weakness that had caused
him to do so many unprofessional things and to abuse a subordinate.
Duo didn't argue against that, instead he said, "Men made the rule
book, sir, and men make a lot of mistakes. Sometimes, following your emotions
is a lot more accurate than rule number three thousand ten, section nine,
Milliardo stared and then he asked softly, "What rule is that?"
Duo's face suddenly eased and he chuckled, "I'm glad that you don't
Milliardo shocked himself when he cracked a smile. He hid it behind one
hand, until he could school his face to sternness again, and then he levered
himself off of the swing with Duo's help. With one little joke, Duo had
erased the entire terrible mood of the moment. Milliardo felt tension
ease, even though the problem of his gross insubordination and his attraction
to Duo was still prominent. That was a gift, Milliardo realized, to take
a volatile situation and to calm both parties with a few well chosen words.
Duo's joking nature was also a trait that the rule books claimed was completely
undesirable. `Men made the rule book' Milliardo thought to himself, echoing
Duo's words, and men weren't infallible, yet... He struggled.
"You don't really need me any more sir," Duo said as he released
Milliardo's arm. "I think it would be best if I asked Sally Po to
return me to normal duties." As Milliardo tried to switch gears to
think about that, Duo added, "If you need me again, you can just
let me know."
They were able to say so many things to each other without saying anything
at all. Milliardo hated it. He longed to say what was on his mind, what
he was feeling, and why he was fighting so hard against acknowledging
his attraction. Duo would understand, he felt, and not judge him like
he, Milliardo, was judging himself. The words remained locked behind his
lips though, sealed by his need not to look weak, to be `the commander',
to appear in control, and his own reluctance to break the rules that he
was already beginning to question.
"I think your request would be premature," Milliardo replied
at last and Duo looked at him quizzically. "I do still require your
Duo arched a cinnamon eyebrow that expressed both rebellion and amusement.
"You do, sir?"
"Is that disagreeable with you, Agent Maxwell?" Milliardo wondered
and couldn't keep the prickly sharpness from his tone.
Duo studied him minutely for a moment and then smiled as he put a supporting
hand under Milliardo's elbow. "No, not at all."
Milliardo looked down at the top of the young man's head thoughtfully
as he limped back to his office. It would have been easy to dismiss Duo
as too young for interest of any kind, just because he was so much slighter
and shorter than Milliardo, but Milliardo knew that there wasn't much
of a difference between their ages and that it would have been a serious
mistake to consider Duo a child. Duo was a man in every way and older
than his years. Deep down, Milliardo admitted that Duo often made him
feel less experienced. Milliardo had born his share of tragedies, and
a man didn't come out of a war and a rebellion alive by being a fool or
naive, but there was a great deal of inner knowledge that Duo seemed to
posses, a treasure trove of intuition that always left Milliardo floundering
to catch up with his leaps of understanding. When it wasn't infuriating
him or making him feel embarrassed or inadequate, Milliardo could appreciate
Could he dare it? Milliardo looked at the possibility honestly. Duo had
not just hinted at his interest, but had given Milliardo permission to
express his own. Milliardo ran with that scenario, trying to imagine the
two of them being other than commander and Preventer agent and all that
would entail. It wasn't hard to imagine sex. Milliardo felt himself flush
uncomfortably hot as he pictured his hands running over that wiry body.
No, that wasn't a problem. Imaging a relationship afterwards was more
difficult. He tried to think of what it would be like to wake up next
to that handsome face every morning, eat breakfast with that joking bundle
of energy , separate and go to their work, meet at the end of the day
and enjoy the evening after dinner. Those images wouldn't come to him
and Milliardo knew why. Duo, for all that he professed that there was
nothing else to know about him, still seemed a mystery to Milliardo. He
didn't KNOW the man except for what he had gleaned on the surface and
there was still the problem of ...
"Duo," Heero said simply as he came from a side corridor. The
dark, intense young man looked as if had been working hard. His hair was
more mussed than usual and a sheen of sweat was on his skin. "Did
you eat?" It didn't sound so much like an invitation as a man checking
up on an irresponsible child.
Duo replied with a chuckle, "Yes, I did, Agent Mother Hen."
"Good," Heero replied, unruffled by the mocking nickname . His
eyes flicked appraisingly to Milliardo. Milliardo expected a challenge
in those dark blue eyes, instead, he found pleasure. "Sir,"
Heero said with a small nod.
"Agent Yuy," Milliardo acknowledged. This was another aspect
of Duo he would have to resolve as well, Milliardo thought. Duo had said
that there wasn't Duo Maxwell without Heero Yuy and Milliardo still wasn't
sure what that meant.
Duo brightened as if he had sensed Heero's silent approval and was glad.
"You clean up and I'll meet you in C-4, Heero," he said. "We
still have those climbing maps to go over."
"Twenty minutes," Heero agreed as he looked at his wrist watch.
"Mark," he said, noting the time.
Duo snorted. "I have to help the commander back to his office and
then I'll join you.... around about twenty minutes, not exactly twenty
minutes, bone head!"
Heero frowned and then smiled. "All right," he said, and was
clearly making an effort to discard his need to be precise about the time.
As Duo proceeded to help Milliardo back to his office, Milliardo, forgetting
his personal problems for the moment, couldn't help asking, "Climbing
Duo blinked and then shrugged. "There are some high peeks near our
target. Heero and I thought we might get in more stealthily if we went
up them and over to the installation. We have detailed climbing maps to
"Who authorized that?" Milliardo demanded, suddenly furious.
He turned to Duo, almost tripping on his lame leg. Duo gripped his arm
hard and his other arm came around Milliardo's waist to steady him.
"It hasn't been approved yet," Duo replied. "It's still
just a proposal."
Milliardo found his feet again, but Duo didn't let go of him. They stood
like that, Duo looking up at Milliardo in concern and holding him in a
tight embrace. "You will make your proposal to me with all the supporting
documentation!" Milliardo growled in Duo's face. "I may be injured,
but I am still in command of this operation!"
"Yes, sir," Duo replied dutifully.
The joker was gone and Duo looked very serious. Milliardo was caught within
those amethyst eyes of Duo's once again. They stood like that for a long
moment, silent, Milliardo struggling to make his mind work past a sudden,
violent need to take hold of Duo's chin and kiss those tender looking
lips deeply. Duo sensed it, maybe, and there was a spark of excitement
and recognition in his face.
Milliardo wrenched himself away with a tremendous, mental effort. He almost
stumbled again as he left Duo's embrace, but he recovered quickly and
straightened, one hand on Duo's shoulder and the other balancing his off
side with his cane. "I have work to do," he managed to say thickly.
"Get me to my office and then go make up that proposal."
Duo's face went closed and he nodded. He helped Milliardo into his office
and helped him to sit down. As he was turning to leave, he stopped suddenly
and said without turning, "This isn't the war, you know, we're allowed
to be human again."
Milliardo felt the sting of that as Duo walked away from him and closed
the door softly behind him.
[part 8] [back to Kracken's