Disclaimer:Don't own them and don't make any money off of them.
Warnings:Male/male sex, violence, graphic, language
and Soldiers series + Part 9
The Heart of the Matter
"After the mission,"
Milliardo said to himself as he watched the men... his men, go over their
gear. They were knee deep in supplies and weapons in a large hanger, the
mood tense, everyone speaking only to correct or reply to a question.
They all wore dark military clothes, the Preventer badge a medal of honor
on every sleeve. Duo was standing on a pack, pretending he could fly for
a moment as he flapped his arms and jumped off to go to his next project.
The men laughed at the antic and Milliardo felt the tension ease a hair.
After the mission, I will talk to him about my interest in him, Milliardo
thought. Now, they couldn't be distracted, couldn't fraternize, couldn't
think of anything but the hard work ahead. Duo had to belong completely
to the men.
"Tuck in your hair," Heero said shortly as he passed behind
Duo and gave his braid a meaningful yank. Duo grimaced, nodded, and snaked
the over three foot length down into the back of his jacket. He reached
up under the hem and seemed to secure it somehow. Tucking the end into
Duo and Heero were wearing climbing gear and they had very light packs
compared to the other men. They would be going in first, taking a mountain
route to infiltrate the target. Milliardo had mountain experience, but,
as the commander of the group, his position would be with operations,
coordinating the team. Even if he had been able, he wouldn't have been
on the mountain with them. It didn't keep Milliardo from wishing that
he could have gone, that he could be there to taste the adrenaline rush
they would soon be experiencing as they faced the dangerous heights.
"Ready sir," a man said at Milliardo's elbow.
"Load up," Milliardo replied as he watched Duo bob in and out
of the crowd of men with Heero walking patiently at his elbow.
Don't be distracted, Milliardo reminded himself sharply, as the call went
out and the men boarded the transport plane with their gear. That little
figure of Duo, seeming so slight and out of place among the brawnier,
older men, was deceptive, Milliardo knew. The young man was far more capable
of coming out of the operation alive then his most veteran officer. It
was the other men, Milliardo told himself, that he should be worrying
Milliardo entered the communications vehicle and took up his command chair
at the center of a bank of machines and monitors. They had special channels,
secure against eavesdroppers, and voice and video feeds would be beamed
to him as the operation progressed.
"Sir?" the pilot called back.
"Proceed!" Milliardo ordered and braced himself as his transport
hurtled off of the tarmac and into the air on a stream of jets. Milliardo
felt still healing bones and wounds groan at him, but he ignored them,
his hands moving over the controls even before the transport leveled out
and took off towards the East.
It was a long ride. Milliardo checked all of his feeds during that time,
checking Duo's last and hearing his familiar voice pipe through the earphone,
"Two cards, Stanley, and I'll see you five."
"Just keep your damn hands where I can see them, L2 card shark!"
Stanley's voice growled back.
"It's all skill, Stanley my man, all skill," Duo soothed.
"Base!" the pilot called and Milliardo found himself switching
Duo's voice off with a quick flick of fingers as if he had been caught
with his hands in a cookie jar. Milliardo growled at himself and then
replied to the pilot, "Land and deploy."
The transport shuddered and engines whined and protested as the vehicle
was set down hard and fast. Milliardo didn't move from his position, just
turned on outside monitors to watch his men pour out of their transport
and begin rolling out supplies. Duo and Heero were already shouldering
their packs, a light picking them out starkly in the darkness, as they
headed at once into the forest. Duo's hands gesticulated as he grinned
and said something to Heero.
Milliardo watched that place where they had disappeared for longer than
a minute, before he pulled himself away and began giving orders through
his comlink. They were far from the target, getting his men in place there
before sunrise, without detection, was a priority. Not being ready when
his two Gundam pilots gave their signal of their mission accomplished,
Chatter was cut down to a minimum as the men deployed. Zechs watched the
monitors, checked the blips on his map that told him positions, and ran
through the plan over and over again in his head. They were about to stir
up a deadly hornet's nest and he wanted as few men stung as possible.
Intelligence had told him that, thought the factory was trying to make
a new fighting m.s., they hadn't yet reached the implementation stage.
A great deal hinged on that intelligence. If it proved to be wrong, and
his men were confronted by suits, a well planned operation could quickly
turn into a bloodbath.
What was so terrible about peace that these renegades couldn't accept
it? Milliardo wondered. He had spent his life in the military. Maybe he
had his answer there. He couldn't stop wanting to go into battle. He couldn't
bring himself to sit quietly at home and pursue peaceful hobbies. The
only real difference between himself and the men he was about to arrest,
was that he used his need for action in the service of those who did want
to sit quietly and have peaceful jobs. The men he was after wanted control,
power, and even chaos to further their need to fight.
An aide placed a hot cup of tea near Milliardo's hand. He muttered a curt
`thank you'. The tea grew cold long before he took the time to drink it.
The rim was still touching his lips, and he was taking a slow sip, when
the rain started pounding on the shell of the transport. Milliardo swallowed
hard and put the cup aside, almost letting it fall to the floor as he
began trying to contact Heero and Duo as quickly as possible.
"Damn, Heero, what else?!" Duo's voice sounded over the pound
Milliardo gained a visual, but he couldn't see much. A light flashed crazily,
rain poured against the visual, and the scene jolted and jumped oddly.
"Maxwell!" Milliardo demanded. "Report!"
"Sir!" Duo exclaimed and then to Heero, "It's the commander!"
Milliardo's eyes flicked to Heero's visual. The scene was only slightly
more stable. In the uncertain light, he caught several glimpses of Duo's
distant upturned face being inundated by rain.
"Sir, we made good time," Heero's steady voice informed Milliardo.
"The climb wasn't difficult. The rain is hampering us now, though,
and our time table will have to be moved back."
"Scrub the operation!" Milliardo barked. "I want you down
off of that rock at once. It's madness to make that kind of climb in a
"Should you tell him or should I?" Duo's voice panted.
"Sir," Heero's voice said, "Duo slipped and I am attempting
to pull him to safety. I am finding it difficult to gain enough purchase
on the rock for leverage. The rain is making the rocks slick and our visibility
is nominal. I rate my chances of success at sixty percent. Less, if I
attempt to climb back down to a lower position."
Milliardo felt his heart clench. He looked anxiously from Duo's monitor
to Heero's. The twisting and turning visuals made sense now. Duo was swinging
at the end of his line and Heero was trying to find a way to hold on while
keeping Duo from falling to his death.
"I am deleting your part of the mission and I am sending troops forward
into position for attack," Milliardo said. It felt as if someone
else were speaking through him, but the military side of him, the commander
with lives depending on his quick decisions, didn't think it was strange
that he took care of the mission first.
Heero paused, not liking the taste of failure. "Agreed," he
said at last and sounded angry. "Permission to join with the forces
if the rescue attempt is successful?"
If. Milliardo gripped the edge of the console, fighting with rising alarm.
"Yes," he replied tightly, "You have my permission."
"You just made Heero a lot less pissed at me," Duo panted cheerfully.
"Now, partner, if you don't mind trying to pull me up again?"
It didn't make sense. Milliardo's mind clicked and he asked. "Are
you injured, Maxwell?"
"Yeah," Duo replied reluctantly. "Dislocated my arm and
banged my knee damned good. Climbing is out. I can't get a grip on the
rock or pull myself up. Stupid rain. It was a breeze until then. We could
have been at the target and knocking back beers over their trashed computer
system by the time you guys showed up."
Milliardo didn't admit that he had formed several contingency plans in
case Heero and Duo didn't make the target. Climbing was chancy at the
best of times and Milliardo knew that well. Duo and Heero would have made
infiltration quicker and cleaner, but Milliardo had been too experienced
to count on it.
Milliardo coordinated his troops, gave orders, and only then allowed himself
to return to the life and death struggle on his monitors. "Progress?"
"None," Duo panted and then to Heero. "I think you're going
to have to cut me loose."
"You know that I won't do that," Heero replied.
"This whole dying together plan sucks, Heero!" Duo shouted.
"Don't be stupid! Cut me loose and get your ass up this damned rock!"
"The rope is secured," Heero told him. "We won't fall."
"Then just leave me! The commander can have someone pick me up later!"
"Unacceptable," Heero replied. "There are too many chances
for something to go wrong."
"You are not sitting here and waiting for the storm to either pick
us off this rock or freeze us to death, and you are not going to make
both of us die while you try and pull me up, Heero Yuy," Duo's voice
shouted over the rain. "I'm cutting myself loose!"
"God dammit, you will not!" Milliardo shouted with the full
force of his lungs, his heart jumping to his throat as he stood and slammed
hands against the console in panic and helplessness.
Duo snorted. "Like you can stop me, sir? I think I have to disobey
this one order."
"You will not!" Milliardo shouted again and everyone in the
transport stared, frozen at the uncharacteristic passion and panic in
their commander's voice. "You will remain secure where you are and,
as soon as the storm clears, I will send a rescue team to your position!"
"No can do!" Duo retorted. "That could take hours... days.
Like Heero said, things can happen. I can't take that chance!"
"You will take that chance!" Milliardo thundered and his hands
slammed against the console again.
Duo wondered angrily, "Why are you ordering two men to die instead
of one? Why should I listen to you?"
"Because...," Milliardo faltered and then he said more strongly,
"Because I have something to tell you."
There was silence and then Duo's confused voice asked, "What?"
"I have something to tell you. It's... It's important. You need to
hear it." Milliardo swallowed uncomfortably, but he knew he was on
the right track. He knew his men. He thought that he knew Duo Maxwell.
The man's curiosity would, hopefully, be strong enough to-
"You can't just tell me now?" Duo wondered and it was hard to
tell whether he was being sarcastic or amused. "Is it worth risking
Heero's life over?"
Heero said, "Whether I live or die is not your decision, Duo, and
it doesn't hinge on whether you decide to wait and hear what the commander
has to tell you. If you try and cut yourself loose, I will attempt to
save you by any means necessary."
The hiss of the rain and the twirling visuals were all that Milliardo
was left with for three agonizing minutes, and then Duo said, "Shit!
You guys are a pair! Okay! I'll dangle here until we both either fall
off this damned mountain or Zechs comes and picks our asses up!"
There was another pause and then Milliardo barely caught Duo's last remark,
"If we do make it out of here alive, I'm going to knock his and Heero's
damned heads together!"
"Noted," Milliardo retorted and then forced himself to ignore
Duo's sputter of surprise as he returned to coordinating his troops and
the all important mission.
The placement of men was complicated. At first, Milliardo's eyes and ears
kept switching between agent movements and the two men in peril, but then
his military training took over and he became engrossed in the mission.
He had to. Men counted on him and he had to give them his full attention
no matter what the pain in the vicinity of his heart was telling him about
one man. When he finally gave the order to move in after hours of long
preparations, and enemy gunfire began to erupt, Milliardo became completely
engaged in the effort to win the battle and keep his men alive.
"Pinned down, corridor nine, section c!" A man shouted over
the comlink. Milliardo saw a corridor full of troops in the visual. The
men were crouched behind bullet proof shields as they tried to withstand
the hail of gunfire aimed at them from further down the corridor.
Milliardo noted the position of his other men and opened his mouth to
send backup, but just then there was a familiar voice shouting. Milliardo's
head whipped back around to look at the visual just in time to see the
braid of Duo Maxwell flipping jauntily in the screen as the man dived
over the shields, rolled, came up awkwardly on a bad leg, and then began
firing a blast rifle in frantic bursts straight at the enemy troops at
"Whoooohoooo! Take that bad guys!" Duo shouted and he grinned
as a return hail of bullets whizzed past every point of his body as he
dived and rolled sideways along the floor. As he rolled, Heero Yuy came
diving over the barrier as well, his own blast rifle firing into the men
ahead of him. Distracted by Duo, and what they thought was a patent suicide
attempt, the enemy troops weren't ready for Heero's attack. Milliardo
watched in fascination as the young man moved with the fearless speed
and grace of a panther as he leapt over Duo and kept on firing.
The other agents shook off their surprise and surged forward, blast shields
tossed aside as they began firing as well. The enemy, overwhelmed, surrendered,
ran, or died under a hail of bullets. Milliardo blinked, came back to
himself, and then began shouting orders as he took control of the situation
"Regroup in section E," Milliardo ordered. "Join with Marus's
team and clean out corridor eight. No more damned rebel tactics either,
do I make myself clear? I want this operation by the book!"
"Yes, sir," the team leader replied dutifully, but said aside
to Heero with a relieved laugh. "Glad you could make the party, Yuy!"
"Can't let you guys have all the fun!" Duo retorted as he stiffly
stood up with Heero's help.
"Hey, Maxwell! You're injured!" another man said suddenly. "Stay
back with the medics and we'll finish mop up."
"If I can limp, I can finish the operation," Duo chuckled. "I
bet you crap out after a paper cut, Jack!"
"Keep laughing, Maxwell, but let's see if you can keep up with my
"I'll keep up with your ass, don't worry, but I didn't know you swung
that way, Jack!"
"Shut up, Maxwell! "
The team leader snapped, "We have our orders! Both of you shut up
and let's move out!"
"Ready when you are," Duo replied.
"Ready," Heero echoed.
There were murmurs as other men voiced their readiness as well. Milliardo
watched the visual move down the corridor to the next section and then
he forced his attention back to the other units. How Duo and Heero had
managed to get off of the mountain and into the target site was a complete
mystery to Milliardo. That they had done it and were still ready to fight
was astounding. During the war, he had underestimated the Gundam pilots
time and time again. It seemed that he still hadn't learned not to do
The enemy forces were quickly overwhelmed. Heero and Duo reached their
operations core and shut down all of their systems, effectively making
them blind and unable to coordinate against the attack on their installation.
Milliardo stayed in his seat until the last resistance was put down and
then he was rising stiffly and giving orders to his lieutenants. Once
he was sure that everything was being taken care of, only then did he
allowed himself to order the operations transport to the target site.
Milliardo paced as the ship was enroute, his eyes and ears trained on
one monitor and one comlink now. The visual wasn't moving. Milliardo could
periodically see Heero's face and the faces of a few men, but, for the
most part, Duo Maxwell was in an empty room and obviously sitting down.
He was also uncharacteristically silent.
Milliardo was out of the transport as soon as it set down, the heat of
the engine blasting him and throwing his pale hair all about him as he
drew his gun and cautiously entered the building with a few of his men
as guards. It was still a potentially dangerous situation. I was possible
to run into troops hiding from the main force.
Men scrambled to greet him and give him reports. Milliardo listened and
rattled off orders as his long legs took him swiftly through the corridors,
his men trying to keep pace. When he reached the operations core, he was
met by the nervous guns of Heero and the other men in the room. He noticed
at once that Heero was soaking wet in a torn jacket and that his face
looked worn, bruised, and haggard. Milliardo quickly looked past him and
saw Duo seated in a large command chair. The man was slumped over the
console, fast asleep, his braid wet and trailing the floor, the end resting
in a small puddle of it's own making.
"How is he?" Milliardo demanded as he moved to stand by the
chair. Heero turned almost protectively, but then he seemed to make a
conscious effort to relax and he holstered his gun and leaned wearily
against another console.
"He needs rest," Heero replied . "I put his arm back in
the socket, but it will be out of commission for at least a week. His
leg is bruised, but not fractured."
Milliardo looked down at the pale, exhausted, and bruised face of Duo.
The man's messy brown bangs were plastered to his skin and his clothes
were soaked through. There was a bullet hole through the collar of his
coat. Milliardo reached out and fingered it, a chill spearing through
him as he realized how close that shot had come to Duo's jugular.
"I want a full report," Milliardo said, dazed. "Get him
to the medics."
"Yes, sir," Heero replied and then said, "I suppose that
Duo will have to wait to hear what you have to say to him."
Milliardo looked at the dark, intense man sharply, thinking he was going
to find a harsh judgment in his _expression, perhaps contempt that Milliardo
had allowed his personal feelings for Duo to inter into a mission and
a potentially deadly situation. Instead, he saw simple curiosity and an
"It can wait," Milliardo replied and motioned to several of
his men. "See that he gets to the medics," he ordered them,
but Heero stepped forward, shouldered them out of the way, and simply
picked Duo up into his arms as if he were a child.
As Heero headed for the doorway with his unconscious burden, he glanced
aside at Milliardo and said, "Don't wait too long to tell him, sir.
He is not a patient person."
[part 10] [back to