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

Tin Soldiers series + Part 6
Crash

I woke up with lips that felt like a cracked, dried out, watering hole, in the middle of summer, in Africa, at high noon, and a headache that was like nothing I ever want to experience again. I groaned and moved. Big mistake. The rest of my body told me that it was hurting too and my head gave me a wicked jab of pain to show that it did NOT appreciate the movement.

"Painkiller?" a stranger's voice asked.

I jerked and the noise I made, as the pain jacked up another notch, sounded pathetic and childish. Still, my soldier's training wasn't about to let me ignore that presence so close to me and demanded action no matter what the cost to me in pain. I opened my eyes as I reached for a weapon I didn't have.

A hand closed on mine and it was very strong. "It's all right. You are in a hospital. It's safe."

Heero's voice. I was confused. I blinked furiously until I could focus. My eyes focused on a man holding an injector next to a plastic line. I followed that line to my wrist. It was taped there and attached to a needle that was already allowing some fluids to drip into my veins. "What?" My voice was as dry as my lips.

The man made a decision. He decided that I wasn't really awake and he injected my line. After a few heartbeats, the pain lowered to an almost nonexistent level. I let out a long breath of relief and almost closed my eyes to sleep some more, but my mind had other ideas. It was still worrying about the fact that I had heard Heero's voice and that we didn't know where the hell we were. Okay... so I'm talking like I'm two people now. You can see that I'm not all there yet. You get slammed into the hood of a car, head first, and see how well you do.

"Do you remember the accident?" Heero's voice again.

I nodded, once, with as little movement of my head as possible.

Heero was suddenly leaning into my line of sight and frowning. His blue eyes were studying me intently, trying to gauge how alert I was. Not too much time had passed, I guessed, since he was still wearing his black business suit... well, unless he had a closet full of them at home and that's all he wore. During the war, he had worn a few things; jeans, stolen uniforms, school clothes, but he had liked spandex pants and tank tops to the point of... well, when you've seen him stand in the snow in an outfit like that, you have to think that he REALLY loved wearing them. So, it wasn't too weird to think that he might like black business suits like that too.... only it is weird to be thinking about it at all... I think the drugs are messing with my head. I think I need to stop worrying about Heero's clothes and start wondering why he was in the hospital with me to begin with. I mean, he could have just dropped me off at emergency and gone about his merry way.

"I'm not..." I tried to ask Heero something, but it was almost impossible to talk.

My bed went vertical a few notches with the smooth whir of a motor and the strange man put a straw to my lips. I sipped ice water thankfully even though my stomach was threatening to throw it up all over my benefactor. When the straw was removed, I coughed a little and then tried to talk again.

"Status?" That was a good word. It asked every question that I wanted to know without any effort on my part.

Heero didn't spare me. That word was a 'soldier mode' trip wire big time. His face went flat of emotion as he brought his exacting memory on line and rattled off smoothly, "Concussion, disorientation, unconsciousness, bruised forehead, severely bruised midriff with some bleeding, minor scrapes and bruises, none requiring medical attention. Twenty percent muscle damage in left leg, ten percent damage in right wrist. Recovery time estimate; two weeks. Recommendations; suspension of duties for three days and then reduced activity until recovery time is completed."

The man blinked and grunted, "Does he always talk like that, son?"

I guess he was asking me. Hell if I knew! He didn't wait for my answer.

The man gathered up some things and said, "Call button near your right hand." He left the room then and didn't question Heero staying behind with me. I wondered if anyone had checked my file and found that Heero wasn't listed there as someone who even had a right to visit me.

The drugs wanted to drag me down into oblivion again, but I stubbornly resisted and turned my eyes to Heero. His clothes had bloodstains on them, a rip near the sleeve, and so many wrinkles it looked like a new fashion of some sort. He hadn't changed then, which meant that he had been by my side for... how long? Hours? He looked exhausted, his eyes bruised looking and his mouth tight.

"Why?" I asked, at a complete loss.

"Why?" Heero echoed.

Okay, so we were about to continue our strange new mode of conversation from before, using only one word sentences, so I made an effort to use more than one when I clarified, "Why'dya stay?" Well, not brilliant, but better.

Heero's face came alive again with emotion, but he was turning away before I could get a good look. "You should rest some more," he said.

"Not... not until you-" I started to demand, but he half turned and glared at me and I shut up. He wasn't ready to tell me what he had eating him. I snarled unhappily, "Go the hell home then and let me sleep! I don't need you staring at me and I can see that you need some down time too."

"I had to make sure," Heero said, almost stepping on my words, maybe anxious to calm me down. "I couldn't leave you here without knowing..."

We stared at each other and I tried with every last drugged brain cell of mine to figure that man out. Nothing came to me. He hated me. He didn't hate me. He was a bastard. He wasn't a bastard. He didn't care. He cared. He was looking at me intensely and I couldn't for the life of me understand what that look meant either. He seemed to want something from me. It was like... I struggled with the concept, trying to fit it to Heero. Yeah, it was like I had lied to him. Have you ever seen the face of a kid when he finds out that there isn't any Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, or the Space Boogie Monster? It's not pretty. They look like you betrayed them. They try to understand why you lied to them about something so important to them, but it's hard. Hey, everyone would love to think that magical bunnies and men in red suits really do give presents and candy once a year. It hurts when you find out that they don't and you feel, well, stupid for having believed it. Heero was looking like that right then and I couldn't understand why. I didn't remember squashing any of his comforting beliefs and I know I haven't lied to him.

"You don't have anyone," Heero clarified at last. "You needed someone to be here to see that things were done correctly until you regained consciousness.."

"Ah," I said. That made sense, or it would have coming from someone else other than Heero. "Thanks. I appreciate your doing that for me." Okay, so I tried being nice and stopped analyzing, since it wasn't getting me anywhere anyway. I owed him one. I had done something stupid and gotten us in a wreck and he had taken care of me. Whatever else he'd done, that made up for it.

"Heero," I said, and paused, trying to find a good way to say it and not finding any. Finally, I just plowed on, hoping that, if he thought that what I was about to say was strange, stupid, or just plain impossible, he would give me a pass considering all the drugs pumping through my system. "Heero," I started again and he was waiting patiently for me to finish. "Can we just forget everything that has happened up until now? I mean, can we start out fresh, like we just met and like we don't have a past of any sort? I get the feeling that I've done something that you didn't like, but... well, you don't want to talk about it and I don't have a clue, so...." I held out my hand. It was shaky, scraped raw in several places, bandaged, and strapped with supports and tape. "Hi, My name's Duo Maxwell. I was a Preventer agent, but now I'm assigned as your partner. I hope we can have a good, working relationship."

Heero stared at me and I was so sure that he was going to just leave, but then, as if he were moving against a really strong reluctance, he grunted and took my hand. It was firm and his hand shake was strong. "Heero Yuy, special operations. I was impressed by your service record. I look forward to seeing you in action."

"When I'm fit for duty," I said, feeling a wave of relief, "I'd like to run some mission scenarios with you so that I can get to know your style of operation."

"Acceptable," Heero said with a business like nod. It was another relief to see that he was actually accepting my offer. He was acting as if we had just met and he was treating me like an equal. As bad as I felt physically, body throbbing despite the drugs and throat still sore and dry, mentally I was on cloud nine. I might never know what he had been mad about to begin with, but, if we could keep it up, it might not matter. I crushed under my heel, the part of my brain that wondered if we were also going to start believing in the Easter Bunny. ----------------------

Aside from some blinding headaches, and a feeling that every muscle in my body had been stressed to the limit, I was good to go when they released me from the hospital. No, Heero wasn't there to drive me. I told him to stop hovering over me and get the hell back to work... well, okay, so he left and it was his idea, but I was in full agreement. Though we had patched things up, or at least papered over the mess between us, we still weren't comfortable talking to each other. Those long silences, and watching Heero pace around the room like a caged beast, convinced me, that being stuck in a hospital alone was preferable to the stress Heero and I were making between us.

I took a cab back to the bungalow and found it comfortable and very much like 'home' when I tossed my house keys onto the dresser and surveyed the mess I had left behind. My tower of soda cans, my piles of unwashed clothes leading to the bathroom, and an empty pizza box, marked my territory. When I checked the vid for messages, I found two, and that summed up just where I was in my life. One was from my boss, Quatre, telling me to take it easy and to report in when I felt fully recovered, and the other was from Heero, telling me that he knew I had been released from the hospital and to check in at eight in the morning at the office. Nothing else. One friendly, solicitous Quatre. One, 'I know you're fine, so get your ass to work'. No one else. No family and no one wondering where I'd been.

"You're pathetic Duo," I said to myself and made that sinking feeling of 'loser' even worse. Hey, I was talking to myself because there wasn't anyone else to tell my troubles to. How sad is that?

I popped some pills the doc had given me, grabbed a soda from the refrigerator, and downed it in a couple of gulps. That hit the spot. I grabbed a second and opened up the shutter on the window. Leaning on the windowsill, I looked out at the sun drenched beach and sipped on my soda while a balmy breeze blew over me.

"So, you're the new neighbor."

Shit! I almost dropped my soda, and reached for the gun I wasn't wearing, as this suntanned octogenarian, in a flower shirt and surfer pants, poked his head into view from behind a palm frond. He was already holding out a hand to shake mine, a denture filled grin on his face.

"Kind of young to be retiring, aren't you?"

I blinked at him, gathered my panicked thoughts back into some sort of coherency, and then said, "Not retired. I have a job in town."

"That sucks," the man replied, frowning. "That cuts into your being lazy in the sun time."

"Uh, yeah." Jeez! Brilliant! I kicked myself mentally and told my soldier instincts to calm the hell down as I filled in that bit of eloquence with an actual sentence. "Name's Duo Maxwell. I work in security." I shook his hand.

The man's smile returned. "No shit?" he said with a chuckle. "You don't look like the kind of guy who wears dark suits, has a sonic pickup in one ear, and tails important people."

No, that was Heero, I thought, and found a laugh too. I liked this guy. I could tell he was exactly what he appeared on the surface, a good natured lay about. He was looking me over and his _expression was curious. I remember my cut head, the bandage over it, and my bruises then. I must have looked like I'd been in a fight. I touched the bandage and said ruefully. "Car accident."

"Double sucks," The man whistled in sympathy. "My name's Mike Romers, by the way. Everyone calls me 'Romie' though. You can too. I know where all the good parties are and where the best surfing is." He winked broadly. "You need any ladies, you just call. I have some hot looking friends who like it casual, if you know what I mean?"

I quirked an eyebrow at him and replied, "Well, the partying sounds good, and I always wanted to try out surfing, but you can keep the ladies, Romie, if you know what I mean?"

No, I didn't care who knew and I especially wanted this old guy to know before he got too far into, 'You're my best chum now.' mode.

Romie blinked and then he laughed and rubbed the back of his neck. "I get you. Well, I have a few friends that go that way too, but I wouldn't let him near someone your age. You're on your own in that department."

"I like to be on my own when it comes to that anyway," I replied and smiled, really liking this guy. Yeah, he was old, but he had a look in his eye that told me that he could be as wild as any twenty year old and that he knew where all the fun was. It's not like I had other options, other people scrambling to be my friend just then. Why not be friends with Romie?

"I live in bungalow 10, just down that path and around the corner," Romie told me, a thick finger tracing the way in the air. "If I'm not there, I'm on the beach. Walk enough and you'll run into me."

"Okay, see ya around then, Romie," I said.

I started to back up and close the blind, but Romie was looking past me. He grinned. "Your soda can tower is taller than mine. I think we're going to get along just fine, Maxwell."

"Yeah," I grinned back. "Me too."

After I closed the blind, I laughed quietly at myself. I had a friend and it wasn't Heero, or someone my age. Instead, it was a wrinkled, sunburnt man, almost three times my age. "Well," I said to my four walls. "It's a start and that's more than I had this morning." -------------------------------- Well, I did go to work, still sporting a fantastic headache that beat an ice pick, repeatedly stabbed into my head, hands down. Popping aspirin, slurping soda, and almost spilling my satchel and the papers some person had slapped into my arms, I made my way to my office. Who that person had been, or what I'd been given, I didn't have a clue. She seemed to know me, to be irritated by me, and to be glad to offload her burden onto me.

Arriving at my desk, I dumped my load there. Some of the files slid across the empty surface and landed on the floor with a loud slap. I grunted and sat heavily in my leather chair, taking a long drink of soda and considering how much pain it would cause me to lean over and retrieve them. It surprised me when Heero bent and picked them up for me.

God, he smelled good! I couldn't help taking a sniff. His cologne, whatever it was, made every hormone in my body stand at attention and salute. When he looked at me curiously with his blue eyes, I realized that he had heard me take that deep breath. I smiled, a wide, shit eating grin. I couldn't help it. I suddenly found the whole situation just too funny. Here I was, acting like I was in my teens again and stammering over my first crush, only... well, Heero had been my first crush. It made me think of my 'experience' in the realm of dating and getting laid. In under a second, my love life paraded before my eyes. It wasn't bad. Sure, nobody had stayed around for long, but I think it wasn't that bad even considering that. Dealing with Heero, because of that experience, should have been a hell of a lot easier.

"Thanks." I pointed to my head. "Head's still aching. I really did NOT want to bend over."

"Hn," Heero grunted in reply, put the folders on the pile on my desk, took a second to shuffle them into a neater pile, and then went back to his own desk. He sat down and returned to his work, staring at something on his computer. An orange- brownish drink and a protein bar were at his elbow. I was betting that the drink was something nutritious as well.

What was I expecting? I dunno, maybe something along the lines of 'A headache? How bad? Maybe you should see the doctor again?' or maybe even a 'Sorry to hear that, Duo, make sure you take it easy today.' I would even have settled for a-

"Have you taken something for the pain?"

Hm, what? Heero had spoken, not looking at me, but definitely directing some wordage my way. I blinked, "Yeah, some aspirin," I replied. "The doc gave me stronger stuff, but I don't want to use that at work."

Heero nodded as if I had already left his thoughts and he wasn't really listening to my reply. I mentally shrugged and started unloading my stuff into the drawers of my new desk. When he spoke again, I paused in the act of booting up my computer, pencil stuck between my teeth. He was typing something, but he was frowning too. "This training schedule is rigorous. I suggest that you concentrate only on orientation the first few days. That way you can recover more fully."

Well, duh! I thought acidly, but kept my temper in check, forcing myself to reply neutrally, "Yeah, good idea, thanks." I went back to making my area disorganized and homey, but I kept glancing covertly at Heero. He was definitely making an effort and I wondered how hard it was for him. When he didn't speak again, I flipped through the paperwork that woman had dumped into my arms. It contained duty rosters, copies of key points that Quatre had made during his orientation speech, and a multitude of interoffice chatter that had almost nothing to do with me.

"You know," I said, kind of too myself and not really expecting Heero to answer, "There shouldn't BE any paperwork. I mean, we have nifty computers for all of this."

"Hm?" Heero looked up, a crease between his eyes.

"Paperwork," I repeated. "There shouldn't be any. It should all be electronic."

He grunted and went back to work. I didn't know if he was agreeing or disagreeing with me. I pretended to work as well, but there really wasn't much for me to do. My work was in the training area where my men were going to be. I should have been ditching my satchel, downing the rest of my soda, and making my way there... but, Heero should have too, and I was wondering, with the uneasiness of a guy like me, who was unused to a job like this, whether I was missing something that I was supposed to be doing. I decided that I needed to make sure that I wasn't going to embarrass myself by trying to leave and being wrong about it. I needed to see what Heero was doing.

You don't sneak up on a soldier like Heero. That would have been bad, very bad. Stealth wasn't going to enter into this. instead, I had to have an actual reason for going over there. Idea number one; 'You smell so much like peaches and cream, that I wanna lick your skin.' Yeah, in your dreams, Maxwell! 'Can I have a bite of your nutrition bar, I forgot to eat breakfast?' Nope, too stupid. "I just wanted to see if your screen had as many pixels as mine.' Yeah, right! You geek!. Wait, I think I have it! Yeah, perfect!

Proud of myself, I sauntered over to Heero. Heero turned in his chair and looked back at me as I came up behind him. I could see his screen clearly. It had been halved, one half the bios of the agents to be trained, the other half, a chart he was meticulously filling out, documenting their strengths, weakness, and suggested training methods. Oh, yeah, that made sense. I should have been doing that myself.

"Do you have a pen I can borrow, Heero?" Told ya. Smooth.

Heero glanced over at my desk with a lifted, dark, eyebrow. I followed his gaze and saw three pens strewn among the paperwork there. Okay, so I hadn't thought it through enough.

"Don't work," I amended lamely and felt my face go red.

I don't know what he thought, but he didn't say any of it. He just handed me a pen and I scooted back to my desk with my tail between my legs. Sitting down again, I didn't even dare look at him.

I needed to know how to access the files Heero was looking at. I needed to catch up and do it quickly. My embarrassment was making me too scatterbrained though. I fiddled with the things on my desk, pretending to look for something while my brain gyrated and tried to think what to do. I didn't have a clue how to go about getting to the file I needed short of hacking the system.

Somewhere inbetween the, 'What am I going to do so I don't look even more stupid?', and the beginning of, 'I don't need this. I should go back to being a field agent!', I happened to shuffle some papers and caught sight of a memo telling me the file name for my men's bios. Saved! I typed it in and the screen came up.

"You may ask me anything."

I jumped, feeling a few years stripped off my life. Heart pounding, I turned in my seat and saw Heero standing at my shoulder, looking at the screen thoughtfully.

"This is new for you. I understand," Heero continued. "You shouldn't feel inadequate for not having the correct information. If we are going to work together, we need to share information freely."

"Okay," I managed and we stared at each other for a moment that seemed... well, like it was forever. I thought about the peaches and cream line again very seriously.

Heero looked like he was struggling... struggling to say something. Heero wasn't a babbler though, not like me. I saw his lips go into a thin line as he thought better of expressing whatever he was thinking. He nodded and began turning away.

I felt that I was losing a moment, a moment I might not get back again. He wanted to talk, I could tell.

"You have doubts about me, don't you?" I asked bluntly.

Heero stopped in mid motion and then turned back to me, looking uncomfortable and kind of pained.

"Tell me what's wrong and I can either work on it or tell you why you got me wrong," I insisted. "You want to share info, let's start with personal info."

"When Quatre contacted me, I looked into your situation with the Preventers," Heero admitted. "I talked with your fellow agents, men and women who had worked with you. I was told that your style of operation was unique, but that you were a dedicated and successful agent. That's how I remembered you during the war and I was reassured that the same still held true. When I questioned people about your personal life though, I was less than satisfied. Since I believe that your personal lifestyle will eventually effect your success as an agent, I grew concerned when I learned of your social interaction with numerous, questionable, individuals and your frequenting of bars and night clubs."

My entire _expression was one of, 'Huh?' I was speechless. Heero looked even more uncomfortable. My mind worked through his words, trying to think of what could possibly have made anyone say that I had a wild, promiscuous social life.... Oh, Shit! Suddenly I knew exactly who would have cheerily supplied information like that. Who would Heero ask, but my last partner, about what I was like? Or, I corrected myself angrily, what he thought I was like?

My headache suddenly grew by leaps and bounds until it felt as if my head was filled with molten, pulsing lava. I rubbed at my face and then sat back in my chair, regarding Heero. I told you at the beginning that I thought my 'indiscretion' with Gerald Filmore was going to come back and bite me in the ass? Well, not only had it bitten it, but it had taken my ass right off! Sure, I could tell Heero that I wasn't a party animal and my list of sexually conquests could fit on a sugar packet, but I couldn't tell him the one thing that I wished with everything in me that I could. I couldn't tell him that I hadn't let my partner hump me. Yep, Duo Maxwell had done what anyone with sense, professionalism, and good taste wouldn't have. I had groped my partner in my patrol car, taken him back to my place, and let him do me, not once, but three times. No defense. Nope, none at all. I had done it willingly, more than willingly, whole heartedly.

Heero was waiting. He even looked as if he were hoping for a denial of some sort. All that I could manage was a disheartened, "Damn."

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