Author: Kracken
Disclaimer:I don't own them and I don't make any money off of this.
Warnings:Male/Male sex, graphic, violence, language,

Princes and Soldiers, II + Part 9
Move Out

"Are you just going to stare at me all night?" Duo wondered as he leaned back on his hands and gazed up at the night sky.

Noin grunted. "I don't see how I can sleep when you aren't standing watch."

Duo gave her a sidelong look. "You know, and I know, there's not a damned thing out here to watch for. I'm awake though, and," he held up the gun that was in his lap, "I'm ready for trouble... from big bad lizards and those nasty chipmunks..."

Noin glanced over to where Heero was asleep in a sleeping bag outside of the tent. She had a tiny frown for that, puzzled and curious. "He trusts you. He didn't sleep at all while we were on that mission together."

Duo looked over at Heero as well and his mouth quirked in a grin. "Heero never sleeps deep. If he hears a sound out of place, he'll be up and aiming his gun before you could blink twice. Me talking... well, he's used to that."

Noin turned her eyes back to Duo and they were appraising. Duo snorted.

"Why don't you just ask?" Duo wondered.

Noin scowled. "Ask what?"

"How Mill puts up with me, why he suddenly lost his mind and fell for me," Duo clarified as he looked back up at the stars. He was frowning... "Well, I don't know, actually. Doesn't seem like we'd get along at all, does it?"

"Your personal life is not my concern, Maxwell," Noin retorted. "How well you operate is."

"You two have got to talk," Duo told her. "Mill treated you bad, led you to believe that there was something between you other than friendship to keep your loyalty. I don't think I'd swallow that too well either... in fact... I'd be damned embarrassed, Lu,"

"Don't call me that!" Noin snapped.

Duo was silent for a moment and then he said, "Okay, Noin, sorry. I just... You're hurting, he's hurting, I'm getting smashed inbetween... and you hate my guts because he loves me. If you're ever going to hook up with Heero, we're all going to have to get over this and make friends."

"Are you insane?" Noin retorted.

Duo's expression twisted bitterly. "Who can blame me if I am?"

Noin regarded him and then moved to sit next to him, almost contrite. "I forget, sometimes..."

"What crappy lives we all led?" Duo finished for her. She nodded and he sighed, tossing a rock away from him. "We didn't even get a break after the war, Noin. Heero and me.... I think we're always going to need each other... We finish each other off... give each other the heart to go through with the rest of our lives..."

"Zechs doesn't do that?" Noin wondered sharply. "I don't think I understand."

Duo tossed another rock and it struck the first unerringly. "I love Zechs more than anything, but we're too different to really get into each other's heads. Sometimes, that's more important, having someone who understands you completely, than loving someone more than breath... When... When I start thinking about all that shit that happened to us... I can't really go to Mill and... and have him talk me through it. He was Trieze's right hand man and he's led a privileged life from day one, respected, admired, worshiped... I'm just L2 street trash that got a kick up the ladder and tossed into a Gundam. He looks at war as honorable and admirable... I just see blood, dead bodies, and a life spent surviving from one minute to the next... sometimes, not even caring about getting to that next minute. You know that's what made us good pilots, don't you? That we all didn't care enough about living our crappy lives that we were willing to die to carry out our orders. It takes a certain amount of 'fucked up' to do that, Noin, when you're fifteen. So, me and Heero click when it comes to knowing what goes on in each other's heads. Mill..." Duo smiled softly. "He's got my heart. Heero grounds me, but Mill makes me fly."

Noin started to leave, unable to face that naked look of love on Duo's face. Duo reached out and caught at her arm. "Noin, Mill played a dirty trick on you, and you have every right to want to kick his ass for it, but he's gay. He can't be with you as much as you want him to be, and being angry, and going through your life letting that eat you up, is just... stupid. You've got so much going for you. " He nodded at Heero.

Noin's voice was like ice. "Do I? Isn't Heero Yuy 'yours' too? Didn't you just spell out how inseparable you two are?"

"As friends," Duo replied as he let her go and clasped his knees. "Heero isn't gay and... even if he were... that was never what we needed from each other. We never clicked that way." He shrugged. "I know most people probably don't see the difference, but there is one and it's in here." Duo touched the center of his chest. "You know what I'm talking about because you feel it too. I know you do by the way you look at that sullen lug over there in that sleeping bag. You don't give Mill looks like that, Noin."

Noin moved away to her own sleeping bag. "You talk to much Agent Maxwell," she grated. "You are on watch, so watch."

"Yes, ma'am," Duo chuckled.

"And... you're wrong, Maxwell," she shot back as she crawled into her sleeping bag. "About everything. Don't presume to 'get into my head', again, is that understood?"

Duo snickered. "Noin, the Queen of Denial," he whispered under his breath.

"I heard that, Maxwell!" Noin snarled.

+

"There they are, all sitting pretty," Duo smirked as he lowered his binoculars. "They won't know what hit them."

"Let's hope not," Noin growled as she rechecked their supply of explosives once again. "Remember-"

"Take out the equipment, but don't destroy the evidence," Duo finished, rolling his eyes, "and as little casualties as possible. We got it, we got it!"

Noin scowled, but she turned to Heero and calmly said, "I'm going to capture their leader alive and deliver him to HQ. I have the main objective of this operation. Computer information, and the destruction of weapons is important, but you will forget your part of the mission to support mine if the need arises."

"Roger that," Heero replied as he checked his pistol, sliding it in and out of its holster to make certain that it would draw smoothly when he needed it.

"Move out," Noin ordered.

It was then that things suddenly changed. Duo and Heero turned to each other and high fived even as they bent and shouldered their gear. It was like watching a machine come to life, Noin thought, a well oiled machine with only two parts. As one, Duo and Heero began walking, low and undercover. Their hands flicked in signals and they seemed to take cues just from body language as they moved towards the squat installation built into the side of a hill. Noin followed, feeling very much out of place; like a third wheel.

Noin scowled and was determined to keep command as she ordered the men in a low tone to stay with her and to not forget that she was part of the team. She couldn't shake the sense, though, that she was throwing boulders into a stream, stopping a flow that was better left alone. Fleetingly, she wondered how Milliardo coped with them and why it didn't matter in his relationship with Duo. Looking at the young men now, Noin would have thought that they were a couple, a perfect couple, one that belonged together. She couldn't imagine Milliardo coming between them and being able to compete.

Heero kept watch while Duo dismantled observation stations, feeding them loops of blank countryside, and, as they moved closer, it was Heero who crept forward and took out three 'lookouts' posted on the perimeter.

"This is it," Duo grinned as he kneeled by a very large box set into a rock for camouflage. "The main controller for the other lookout drones." He stripped off the cover, disarming alarms, and entered virus information with a speed and confidence that made the hairs on Noin's neck stand up. Her estimation of Duo Maxwell's intelligence went up ten fold. She had never seen someone work so fast on an unfamiliar, alarm rigged, bank of instruments, not even Heero. At last, Duo looked up at them. "Done. They're deaf and blind in there and the doors are all keyed with their passwords. We can enter at will."

"They'll notice very quickly," Noin warned unnecessarily. Heero nodded and Duo shrugged. "Carry out the rest of the plan gentleman."

They went far ahead of her, taking point. She didn't like the fact that there didn't seem to be guards at the entrance that they had chosen, but then she rounded a tumble of rocks and found them. One was garroted and the other had his neck cleanly broken. They looked very young, those dead men, and Noin felt herself go sick and furious. She was ready to blast her companions with a reprimand, but then she saw the detonators rigged on the belts of the dead soldiers and she went cold. Fanatics, she thought, willing to die and take as many as they could with them to keep the installation safe. Heero and Duo hadn't had any other choice, except to kill them.

The doorway was narrow and the hall beyond was long and smelling like chemicals; a supply access. Heero and Duo were already far down the corridor and looking for a panel that would allow them to tap into the computer system. Duo was the brains and Heero the brawn, though Heero's mental capacities weren't lightweight, either. They simply made a better team in that mode. Once they downloaded the information from the computers and uploaded the virus, then they would call in the troops to mop up the place. Their mission was difficult, but Noin's was more so. She had to secure one of the leaders and do it blind. She could roughly guess where the officer quarters might lie, in a more secure part of the place, but her only map was going to be intuition unless Duo could glean from the information the position of those officers.

"Hey, boss girl," Duo's voice came over her com unit in a soft whisper after five minutes.

Noin grabbed the thing at her ear and hissed, "Trouble?"

"Nope, just got your information," Duo replied with a chuckle.

Noin was stunned at the speed of it and then she recovered. "Position?"

"Section B, room 126," Duo replied. "A Kurt Lorim, commander in chief of this outfit. He's listed as in 'downtime' and not to be disturbed. Imagine that shit, a commander with a do not disturb sign. Not very correct is it, boss girl?"

"Stop calling me that!" Noin snarled and then, calming herself with an effort, "No, it's not very correct and he's going to find that it will be his downfall."

"You're scary when you're ready to discipline someone," Duo laughed and then he said more seriously, "Uh-oh, bad guys... we dropped the main virus and it should be screwing up systems momentarily. Me and Heero are scrambling for cover. Later boss girl."

"Don't-!" Noin snarled but the com was dead. She slapped it away from her mouth and gripped her gun tighter. She had to concentrate on her job and forget them for the moment, even though her heart was clenching at the thought of Heero being confronted by enemy soldiers.

+

"Holding our own," Duo reported cheerily. "Heero! Where's your manners! Leave some for Noin to shoot!"

Adrenaline rushing through her system, Noin couldn't help grinning at Duo's dark humor. She kept it out of her voice, though, as she barked, "Fall back, I have our target!"

"Long way to go to bag a date for Friday night, Noin," Duo snickered and then there was a close, loud shot that rang through the com unit. It was so loud in Noin's ear that she jerked involuntarily and staggered a bit under the unconscious man that she had in a fireman's carry.

"Report!" Noin barked.

"Man down," was Heero's faint reply as more gunshots rang out, muffled by distance. Since he was speaking, it had to be Duo.

"Status!" Noin shouted.

There wasn't a reply. Noin felt her heart hammering in her chest. She gripped her target tighter and managed to almost jog down the corridors of the building.

The building was blind and communications was not working due to the implanted virus. It saved all of their lives. Support didn't come to reinforce the bad guys and, when she rounded a corner, she found Heero's gun nosing at her from where he crouched by Duo. Duo was sprawled on his back at the center of several bullet riddled corpses.

"He better be alive, Yuy!" Noin snarled. "Or I'm going to catch hell!"

"He's alive," Heero replied as he kept his gun ready but no longer leveled on her. "Bullet hole through his ribcage. Bullet hold in his left arm. I administered a med agent to slow blood loss and tissue deterioration. He'll be incoherent and out of action for the remainder of the mission."

Duo looked white, his hair, almost out of its braid, looking like wisps of cinnamon fire about his face. His amethyst eyes, partly open, rolled towards Noin. "Hey, Heero," he said with slurred speech, "Looks like boss girl got her man."

"Maxwell, shut up," Noin retorted. She nodded at Heero. "Make the call to backup and secure this idiot for bug out."

Heero nodded tightly and Noin suddenly saw his eyes. Unlike his stone like, emotionless face, they were filled with almost panicked anguish. "Keep it together, Yuy!" Noin warned.

"Yeah, buddy," Duo said with a grin. "Don't worry.... I'll be ... fine..." He was pressing at his blood covered clothes and looking in intense pain. He gasped out, "Don't worry, Noin, I won't let Mill kill you. I left a note... I'm resp- resposi-responsible for my own shit, Lover, no blamin'- blaming, Boss girl." And then Duo was out cold, going limp. He suddenly looked very fragile and innocent; like an overgrown child.

Heero lifted him up carefully, but Noin could see his arms shaking with emotional reaction. She knew they had to get out of there and quickly. "This way," she ordered and Heero followed her towards an exit. It was the wrong decision, to opt for speed instead of security. Noin knew it as soon as the gunfire started.

Heero put Duo down and she saw first hand his 'mission first' mode. It astounded her, knowing how much he was frightened for Duo. Everything in his demeanor, as he fired back at the men in front of them, told her that he was ready to sacrifice everything. When he barked, "Go, I'll hold them!" It confirmed that impression.

Logic told Noin that help would soon be arriving. Logic told her that he might be able to hold them. Logic told her that she was supposed to get her man to headquarters and how important that was to many lives. Logic had nothing to do with her decision to put her captive down and begin laying down fire herself. She ignored Heero's shout of consternation. "Fall back!" she shouted. "We need to find cover!"

She felt a bullet slice through the skin of one shoulder and one came so close to her head that she could hear it passing by her ear. They made it back behind a turn of the corridor with their burdens though and it seemed a miracle. Noin was finding it hard to believe that they hadn't been filled full of holes as Heero dropped a clip from his gun and slapped in another to continue firing.

"I'm getting my men out!" Noin snarled as Heero opened his mouth to protest her actions. "Follow your orders!"

"Yes, ma'am," Heero replied, but his jaw set hard. "They'll charge soon. Orders?"

"Keep falling back until we find a defensible room," Noin replied as she reloaded her own clip.

"That wasn't the mission," Heero pointed out.

"Now it is," Noin retorted and then waspishly. "Odds of making it out with the target were too small, Heero. We have more of a chance sticking together."

They managed to find an electrical room with a reinforced door. Noin grinned. "They won't want to chance shooting in here. The whole place could go up in smoke. Besides," she checked her watch. "They should have bigger things to worry about any time."

Heero jammed the door and then crouched by Duo. Noin dumped her unconscious man and then explored their hiding place. It was small, ten by ten, but she could almost feel the charge on her skin it was so jammed full of electrical components.

Heero was working with his med kit, injecting Duo with something and packing the wounds with a foam material from a can. Duo, if possible, looked even paler. His breathing didn't sound good either. She watched Heero work over him feverishly, that anxiety in his eyes again.

"Status?" Noin asked.

"Stable... barely," Heero replied.

"What happened?" Noin asked as she checked her com unit. She sighed. As she suspected, the electrical equipment was interfering. Another bad decision. She was almost ready to court martial herself.

"I was attempting to pull off an access panel when we were attacked," Heero replied tensely. "Duo pushed me aside and took the bullets."

Noin was amazed. She had pegged Duo as shallow and self centered, that he had saved Heero... She looked down at Duo's pale face and couldn't help feeling a wave of gratitude and respect.

"I need to know what's going on," Noin said, bringing herself back to the mission. "You stay here with them and I'll check on our 'friends' out there."

Heero nodded and then said, "Your decisions were sound. Splitting up would have been chancing too much since we were already discovered. I shouldn't have questioned you."

Noin glared, but it was more at herself than Heero. "I was questioning your ability to be objective and to do what this mission required. I should have been questioning myself. I'm the one that fell short. Nothing I've decided had to do with strategy."

"I remember," Heero said as he made Duo more comfortable, "Commander Milliardo telling me how you hated your men to die and how you thought that it was unnecessary."

"I was young and ... naive," Noin grated, flushing. "But, I still don't like my men dying." One man inparticular, she thought, but she would never tell him that. She could hardly admit it to herself.

"I should be the one to go," Heero said suddenly and straightened. He checked the clip in his gun. "I'm expendable. So is Duo. You must secure the prisoner."

Noin snorted. "You're much stronger than I am, Yuy. You have a much better chance of carrying the target out of here."

"Your rank and experience make your survival more important-" Heero began, but a weak voice cut him off.

"Will you two just shut up and kiss!" Duo murmured irritably. His eyes were open slits, his face filled with pain and annoyance. "I've never seen such stubborn, pig headed.. You can both sit the fuck down. Nobody's dying today." He looked around them blearily. "Good idea, boss lady. Sit tight... that's all you have to do... until Mill comes for us..."

"You sound certain that he will, " Noin growled back.

Duo smiled wanly as he slipped back into unconsciousness. "I am."

[part 8] [part 10] [back to Kracken's fic]