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 8
Swinging

The men turned out not to be such a bad lot. They were all career agents harvested from many organizations. I saw a few faces that I knew, but not well, and one I knew by reputation. Heero seemed to know them all.

This was making me uncomfortable. I was the cheerful guy, the one who made friends in a snap. Maybe I couldn't keep them once they figured out that I used to kill people wholesale and that the words 'Wish I still had my Gundam' and 'Don't sneak up on me or I might shoot you', weren't jokes, but until then, I was the man when it came to knowing everyone and everyone knowing me. To suddenly be the wallflower, and to see the man I used to think of as 'Mr. No Personality', step forward and start talking first, was more than just odd feeling, it was just 'wrong'.

"Captain Maxwell and I will be evaluating you on many levels," Heero was saying as he walked up and down the line of men dressed in exercise outfits. "You are all here because you have excelled in your areas of expertise. It is the job of Captain Maxwell and myself to see if you are capable of working well in a group situation and if you can be trained to have multiple capabilities. We need talented individuals for these positions. You must be able to fill a mission requirement immediately, no matter what that requirement entails. Captain Maxwell is an expert in weapons, computers, and detonators. I am an expert in infiltration. While those are our main areas of expertise, we are both also capable of working in many other areas."

He went on at length and the men shifted from foot to foot, bored. I watched them and jotted down notes on my clipboard. By the time Heero was through, I had pretty much divined everyone's personality. Looking down at what I had typed, I had made notes like; Rogers: jerk, lacks upper body strength. Lemon: brown-noser, faking interest, no balance. Simmons: shy, strong arms, runner's legs. Lupez: small, hyper, spit and polish; looks too gun ho. Krandall; looks good, potential. Skill was one thing, but a man's personality played a big part in how he reacted in a given situation.

"Jones," I said suddenly and the man looked at me questioningly. "You can go."

"Sir?" he asked and Heero looked puzzled.

"You know why," I said and the man looked guilty, as if he had been caught stealing.

"Yes, sir, sorry, sir," the man replied dejectedly. "See ya, Clover!" he said to another man in the line and that man looked disappointed.

Heero raised an eyebrow. I could tell that he was totally baffled. I grinned to myself, but kept myself straight faced as I said, "Sorry for the interruption, Captain Yuy."

Heero nodded. He wasn't going to question me in front of the men. I knew it would be coming, though, as soon as we dismissed them. "If you would like to speak to the men, now, Captain Maxwell?" Heero asked.

I kept it short and sweet. These kind of guys didn't give a rat's ass about speeches or orientation. They only cared about what kind of trainers we were going to be and what kind of action they were likely to see. They wanted to know if they could depend on and trust us. Heero and I were going to be their team leaders, and we were going to be the ones sending them into life or death situations. I could see them looking me over already, not listening to a word I was saying, and making dozens of assumptions about me, most of them dead wrong. Whether they were thinking I was a killer and a Gundam pilot, or a effeminate man with a braid, I knew that only action in a mission was going to change their minds about those assumptions now.

I ended my little speech about working together, and being a team that could operate no matter what part of it might be lost, and then Heero sent them all off to the obstacle course.

"They look so damned young," I chuckled.

Heero didn't laugh with me. I looked at him and saw that his _expression was very tense and unsure. I knew what it was about, but I made him ask me. "Why did you reject Jones? He's an excellent pilot."

"He's also Clover's lover," I replied, not looking up as I made more notes. "They thought that they could pull one over on us, but I saw them making moon eyes at each other. I don't know if it started before or after they were chosen for the team, but you know as well as I that you can't have couples working together."

Heero stared as he digested my explanation, and then he gave a short nod. "I would have made the same decision." He added with a tone of respect, "You are very observant." That kind of thing made a good soldier and a lack of it made a dead one. I knew Heero was just as observant, if not more so than I. He had just been too busy 'organizing' and talking to notice Jones and Clover.

I shrugged and smiled. "You were busy. I didn't have anything else to do but look at them."

"May I see your other observations?" Heero asked.

Well, damn, I was flattered. I handed over my clipboard. He read over my notes. I could tell that my style confused him and he frowned.

"They're just first impressions," I said defensively.

Heero handed me back my clipboard and said, as he walked towards the door that led to the obstacle course, "You should know by now, how wrong first impressions can be."

Okay, I'm scratching my head here. What had he meant by that line? Was he criticizing me for taking down first impressions, and pointing out that he had been wrong to do the same thing, or was he pointing out my several, spectacular screw ups and rubbing my nose in it? I hate cryptic remarks! If you're going to say something, just... well, say it! Heero's stiff back wasn't a dictionary to 'Heero speak' either and I can tell you that I wasn't in a good mood by the time that we reached the field and the men running through the course.

My headache was coming back full force. My confusion, the sun beating down, and the lack of a solid lunch, were beginning to beat on me, physically, like a sledgehammer. I wasn't about to ask Heero to remember that I wasn't far out of my hospital bed and that the doctor had given me express orders not to lift a finger until my next check up with him. Instead, I stood by Heero's side making notes, just like he was, and tried to ignore the concert of growing misery in every part of my body.

The men finished and gathered around us. It made me nervous. When you grow up on the streets, you learn to blend in and NOT be noticed. When you're a terrorist in a dirty war, you really grab onto anonymity with both hands and wrap it around you tight. Being the target of so many intent looks, usually meant that you were captured by the enemy and about to say hello to Mr Sadistic Interrogator, Mr. Bastard Warden of cell block A, and lastly, Mr. Executioner. I tried to keep my hackles lowered and managed a tight, but professional _expression.

Heero surprised me by saying, "Sloppy. I can see that you're used to working individually. Your time and your performance through the course was abysmal."

These were some of the best, or so they thought. There was angry looks and one man dared to retort, "It's a hundred degrees in the shade, Captain Yuy! The course is level four. It tests individual strength, not group performance. You can't even get two men through those obstacles at the same time. I'm sorry sir, but if you had wanted to test us on group cohesiveness, you should have told us to use course six."

Brave man, or very stupid, I thought. Heero didn't look angry though, he looked as if he had expected him to say that. Knowing Heero's extensive training, I was almost sure he had orchestrated the entire thing to get just that reaction. What I didn't know was, why.

"You should be able to maneuver the course together no matter what difficulties there are," Heero told him. "Your goal is to work together to get through it as quickly as possible. The walls are very high, the ladder with the repel ropes has large gaps, and the tubes are low. Working together, you could complete the course in much less time."

The man who had spoken eyed the course and then looked Heero up and down. Not brave... very stupid, I thought as he said, "I'd like to see you try that, sir."

I made a note of his name, Potter, and put a little cross next to it. I'll light a candle at mass for you, sonny boy, I thought with a silent snicker, after Heero makes hamburger out of you.

"Duo?" Heero turned to me and, caught off guard, I blinked stupidly.

"Yeah, Heero?" I asked and tried not to wince as I pulled myself back together. "Captain Yuy?" I amended. I could just hear Heero's frustrated sigh, but he didn't let the others hear it.

"Are you up to running the course?" Heero asked.

Heero was honestly asking if I was all right enough to do it. He fully expected me to tell the truth. I needed to say, 'No, way in hell can I run that course.' but... that dipshit, Potter, would eat that up and Heero would look bad.... hey, and so would I! I wasn't about to stand there and tell Heero, and everyone else, that I was a wimp and that I was going to let a headache stop me. "Sure thing, Captain Yuy," my mouth said without any prompting from my brain. It was good at that, real good. "Let's go." I made a mental note to put my doctor on speed dial as I moved to stand with Heero at the start of the course.

Heero gave me an intense look. "You realize that we have to do this perfectly?" he asked in a very low voice, "and that the respect that they give us will be based on how well we do?"

"Yeah, I do," I growled back, "So try and keep up with me."

Heero frowned, but then a small smile tugged at the corner of his lips. There was a sudden gleam in his eye and then he was off and running. I cursed him in surprise as I raced after him, but then I remembered my training and let him stay in front. I knew I was faster, but Heero was much stronger than I was. He needed to be point man for what we had to do.

There were some things in the course that we had to do single file, but a slow man never goes before a quick one. When we reached the tubes, Heero went first, his stronger upper arms making him faster at this, and I followed, choking on the sand he threw up, but determined to be right on his tail. I was right behind him when we emerged and he reached behind him and jerked me out as he lunged forward. Pulling me after him, I landed on my feet running right beside him.

We reached three successive walls. Again, Heero was first. He lunged for the top of the first wall as my hands clasped and slammed under one of his feet, using my weight to give momentum to his jump. Swinging up to the top, Heero reached back and grabbed my arm. I swung up, quick as a monkey, but I had barely reached the top when Heero jumped down on the far side, pulling me over with him. We landed together and sprinted for the next wall.

Adrenalin erased my headache from my notice along with all my aches and pains. My heart throbbed and pulsed in my ears, blood rushing madly as muscles flexed and strained. Time seemed to slow and the universe condensed itself down to Heero and I. I was suddenly acutely aware of his scent, of his flexing muscles, of his bright eyes, and of his wide battle grin. He was on an adrenalin rush too, flying high and loving the release that came with pushing a body to its limits. It was just like in the war, working together, trying not to die, but willing to die to complete our mission. There was the same sense of camaraderie, only this had a new level to it. This was somehow sexual. Running the course, depending on each other, sweating and riding the edge of endurance, hands clasping with hard grips, and bodies moving together, we were both striving towards a culmination, a climax at the end of the course. Yeah, I was damned hot for him, and yeah I was getting out all my pent up sexual frustrations then and there, but you know, I was loving every minute of it, so go ahead and call me a pervert, I don't care, I'm getting down and dirty on an obstacle course with Heero Yuy.

We reached the ladder and the repelling ropes. The end of the course was on the other side. Almost there, I told my body. Keep it together. Don't you freakin' embarrass us by passing out or having a heart attack now! Still, I was glad when Heero helped me over the first part of the climb by simply grabbing me by the waist and heaving me upward. Damn! He's strong! I needed that help though, I could feel my body starting to cut through the adrenalin and tell me what a very bad idea this had been.

I made it to the top and don't ask me how. I wasn't seeing too well by then and my headache was back a sickening throb of pain. My hands shook as I tried to fasten the straps. Suddenly, Heero was there, almost body to body with me, and fastening the straps for me. I felt the greatest sense of relief and comfort just then. Those confident hands were attached to the man I trusted most in the world, and every sense I owned knew that he wouldn't let me down, that he would get me to the end of that course with some dignity in tact.

"Ready?" he asked and I looked up and saw his concern, his anger at me for not having told him that I wasn't up to the course, and a grim determination that told me that he was going to drag my ass across the finish line one way or another.

"Ready," I replied. "Don't worry about me." I threw myself over the edge and began repelling down, letting long hours of training take over. Heero was a second behind me and I took a perverse pleasure in spending my last bit of strength beating him to the ground. When my feet touched ground though, though, I staggered and dropped to one knee. Heero was there for me again, unhooking me from my harness, putting an arm around me, and making me stand. He let go then and nodded towards the finish of the course.

"I can make it!" I growled, more at myself than at Heero, and then began a stumbling run.

I finished and experienced a surge of adrenalin and relief, that was so much like an orgasm, that I was trembling and feeling a powerful rush. I stood, panting like a bellows and trying to not pass out, as Heero faced our excited men and, well, basically rubbed their noses in it. If I hadn't felt as if my heart was about to jump out of my chest, I probably would have been there and helping him do it, too. Listening to his strong voice dressing the men down and explaining matter of factly what the meaning of team work was, I had this sudden urge to grab him from behind and press myself against his hot, dirt and sweat soaked back.

Heero dismissed the men and I waited until they were gone before I let myself sit abruptly down on the ground, head hanging and hands lax in my lap. Heero kneeled beside me and looked into my face. "I'm sorry," he said. "You seemed all right, or I would never have asked you to do the course. I think you should see the medic. You're very pale."

I blinked and my eyes cleared. I realized that he was gripping my arm. His eyes were the softest, warmest blue I had ever seen in my life. His face was flushed red from exertion and his bangs were damp with sweat. Kiss him, dammit! Every hormone in my body screamed it. God! How I wanted to taste those lips of his, take hold of him, and pull him down with me. I wanted the real thing, not some adrenalin rush facsimile of sex. Tell him? Yeah, right! Guess what, Mr. Body, we want more than just a roll on the ground from Heero. Mr. Brain wants respect and something called friendship. A small voice deep down piped up, 'love, too,' but I cringed. That was the dream again, the idiot who had fooled himself into thinking that there was a Heero out there who COULD love me. Wake up and smell the reality coffee, I told it, and be happy we at least got to rub bodies together on an obstacle course. It was certainly all we were going to get. We? Okay, I just gotta stop thinking in third person...

"I don't need the medic," I said stubbornly. "I just need a decent lunch and about a gallon of water to replace all the sweating I just did back there." I grinned at him, trying to be the clown and make him relax. "That was pretty fun, though, wasn't it Heero? Felt like old times..."

Heero wasn't fooled, but he understood about pride it seemed, because he didn't insist. Instead, he helped me to my feet and we limped back to the Preventer building. "It was like being on a mission together," he admitted as we entered the cool building and I sighed in relief. "You haven't lost your skill. If you had been feeling a hundred percent, I think we could have made even better time on the course."

"Definitely," I agreed. "We certainly showed those green boys a thing or two."

Heero nodded. He wasn't taking me to where the men were showering and putting on their uniforms, instead, he was taking me back to our office. I didn't argue. I felt as weak as a kitten and my head felt three sizes too big and full of molten lava.

"I'll finish the orientation," Heero said as he lowered me into my chair. "If you feel the need, take the rest of the day off. If you're here when I return, I'll drive you back to your home."

It felt weird sitting there in filthy, sweat soaked clothes in a neat, efficient office, and I should have felt a bit self conscious, but... all I could do was nod like an idiot. I stared at Heero, thinking, I don't care if I die in this chair, I'm going to be here when you come back. The thought of squandering this sudden camaraderie, this sudden closeness, yeah, even though it was just in a professional way, wasn't something to be contemplated. If I had to suffer for a little while longer to get more of it on a car ride home, I was more than willing.

"I'm good," I told Heero, trying to sound like I really was. "I'll type up a report on the orientation and send it over to Quatre while you're gone." That sounded good. The reality was, though, that I was probably going to collapse as soon as he was out of sight.

Heero stared down at me, for what seemed like forever and things moved behind his eyes that I couldn't even begin to name. One of his hands reached out and then thought better of it and lowered. "I'll be back soon and check on you."

He turned and left. I wanted to shout. I wanted to dance. I wanted to sing. How could something that felt so bad, feel so good too? Heero was going to check up on me. He damned well cared! Well, I had suspected that much when I'd been in the hospital, but it was nice to have it confirmed. Maybe it wasn't anything more than just one human worrying about another one, but get that kind of emotion out of Heero Yuy and the sky was the limit. I was breaking down that damned wall of his and I fully intended to crawl inside his defenses and curl up there, staking my claim to at least his respect and maybe, just maybe, honest to goodness friendship.

"Is everything all right, Captain Maxwell?" the secretary asked and I realized that I had been chuckling like a maniac. I stopped myself with an effort. The man was looking nervous and clutching an electronic file to his chest.

"I'm fine," I told him and waved him off. I think I was about to be the new subject at the water cooler entitled, 'My crazy, ex Gundam pilot, boss and what he was doing today.' Well, go ahead, I thought as he wisely left me alone again, I had more important things to worry about, like staying conscious long enough for Heero to drive me home. I picked up the phone and dialed down to the cafeteria.

"Food prep," a voice answered abruptly.

"Captain Maxwell here," I told him, "Double espresso, stack a sandwich with ham, cheese, and extra mayo, and throw something with a lot of sugar on the side. I want it delivered up to my office, pronto." The man started to argue that they didn't do that, but I cut him off, " Quatre Winner's orders!" He shut up immediately. Well, Quatre did give me authority to order people, why not extend it to ordering my lunch?

That mission accomplished, I stood up and forced my body to pace the floor. It called me every name in the book via pain Morse code. I didn't care. I'd pay for it later, but right then it seemed well worth it to keep that look of respect in Heero's eyes.

[part 7] [part 9] [back to kracken's fic]