by RazorQueen
Warnings: AU, yaoi, lemon, NC-17.
Pairing: 6x2 (with mention of 13x5)\
Notes: In this alternate reality, OZ has won, Zechs never defected, and the Libra is still an OZ battleship.

The Claim + Chapter 1

"H-heero?"

Duo saw the pilot's shoulders stiffen slightly, but Heero didn't turn. Then impenetrable doors slammed shut, leaving the young man alone in the dimly-lit cell.

Darkness closed in on him. The cramped cell stank of metal and fear. He shivered; OZ had never found it necessary to provide its prisoners with anything more than minimal warmth, and the floors and walls acted as magnets for the iciness of space. This had to be what hell was like. Dark and cold. And lonely.

He was the last. The other pilots, imprisoned on the Libra after their final defeat, had been ransomed. Heero had just been taken, and Wufei had never been brought to their cell at all. Quatre's sisters had paid for his freedom, and he'd bargained for Trowa's parole as soon as he'd been released.

Duo sighed. Trowa had never doubted that Quatre would come through for him. Must be nice, he mused, to have that kind of trust in someone. He stared at the closed door, his eyes and nose burning with tears he refused to shed.

Trust. What a load of crap.

Duo huddled on the floor of the empty cell, his hands jammed under his jacket for a little warmth. This whole scene felt way too familiar. One more time, he got left behind. Everyone else had been wanted. Except him.

What was it about him, anyway? It wasn't like he was a dirty little kid anymore. It had to be something inside him that made people keep their distance, something the smiles and jokes just couldn't hide. He'd tried really hard this time, too. Tried to make people like him, tried to be a good pilot, a good friend.

None of it had mattered.

He closed his eyes against the memory of Heero's stiff shoulders outlined against the bright corridor as he walked away without a backward glance.

Fuck Heero. And Trowa and Quatre and Wufei. And Professor G and Howard and Father Maxwell and Sister Helen and Solo and Mama and Papa...

"Fuck all of you!"

Duo slammed his fist into the unyielding metal wall. Pain splintered through his arm as his knuckles split, and the tears he'd squelched finally welled up in his eyes and spilled. Angry, he rubbed at them with his bleeding hand, ignoring the sting of salt in his open wounds. What the hell was he crying for? Crying never solved anything. He sniffed, wiping his nose on his sleeve, swearing in a tremulous, fractured whisper.

Footsteps rang against the metal floors of the corridor outside his cell. He sat up, alert, forgetting his throbbing hand. The sounds stopped and he tensed. Now what? The door slid open and he blinked into the glaring light.

Four guards surrounded him before he had time to move. Two of them hauled him roughly to his feet and shoved him toward the door.

Duo's stomach tightened. What did OZ do with prisoners no one wanted? He didn't really feel like finding out. He just hoped it was quick and mostly painless.

He struggled half-heartedly against the guards who held his arms, more out of habit than anything else. It really wasn't much of a struggle, not against four full-grown, heavy-muscled men. With minimal effort, they twisted his wrists behind his neck and slapped a pair of cuffs on him. Another shove, and they marched him down the corridor and out of the cellblock.

Duo tried to ignore the heavy, cold weight of fear in his belly. A thin stream of sweat trickled under his collar, but he kept his head high, even though he had to clench his jaws to stop his teeth from chattering. He didn't find it as easy to walk calmly toward his death as he'd imagined.

The guards stopped him in front of another door while one of them punched in a security code. Duo's knees threatened to fold under him, but the soldiers grabbed his elbows and half-carried him through the door. Inside the room, a tall blond man in an OZ Specials uniform stood behind a desk. He nodded, and the guards deposited Duo in a chair, then withdrew.

Duo's eyes widened. Zechs Merquise? The second-in-command of all OZ? He bit his lip, trying not to whimper as the implication sank in. They weren't going to kill him right away. They were going to question him first. But why? The war was over. What did they think he knew?

Duo lifted his chin, glaring at the handsome officer in a show of defiance.

Zechs sat down at his desk. He watched Duo closely, his blue eyes sharp with intelligence. He cleared his throat once and then again, but didn't speak. Long, elegant fingers groped across the cluttered surface of the desk, seized on a pen, and toyed with it.

With a small glow of satisfaction, Duo realized the Lightning Count was nervous. The young pilot smirked.

Zechs' hand stilled. "Duo Maxwell."

"Yep, you got me all right." He shrugged. "For all the good it'll do you."

The man sighed. "I know this must be difficult for you, but I'd hoped..."

Duo snorted. "You're not gonna give me the 'this is worse for me than it is for you' speech, are you? 'Cuz if you are, don't bother. I'm not buying."

Zechs' forehead creased with a frown. "No, of course not. I don't find the situation unpleasant at all, though I'm sure..."

Not unpleasant? Duo's stomach lurched and he closed his eyes. Christ, not another sicko. He'd never heard that Zechs enjoyed torturing prisoners, but then, who would spread a story like that?

"Duo? Are you ill?"

"Yeah. This whole charade is making me sick. Stop being so goddamn nicey-nice, and just get on with it."

"Get on with it?"

"How'd OZ win if you're all this dense? Go ahead. Ask me whatever--not like I'm going to tell you shit, but if it makes you happy, go for it." Duo squared his shoulders and hoped he looked a lot braver than he felt.

"Ask you...ah. I see." Zechs stood and moved away from his desk. He paused in front of Duo, looking down at him for a long minute before taking the boy's chin in his hand. "Duo, I'm not planning on questioning you."

"No?" Duo swallowed as the long fingers stroked his cheek. So it was going to be that. He ought to have guessed. He flinched, and Zechs released him.

"No. I'm sorry, I see you don't understand." Zechs briefly touched Duo's tousled hair before speaking. Then he leaned back against the desk, watching. "I've claimed you. You belong to me now."

+

Zechs sighed at Duo's expression of wide-eyed horror. He knew this was a bad idea. How he let Treize talk him into it...no, he couldn't blame Treize for this. In the end, Wufei had convinced him. And he had to admit, if only to himself, that he'd rather wanted to be convinced.

Only a few hours ago, he'd stared at the two lovers in disbelief when they told him about their plan.

"You want me to do what?"

Treize leaned back in his chair and smiled. He'd smiled a great deal more often lately, ever since he'd ransomed the Chinese pilot, who lounged on the floor, leaning against the general's gleaming black boots.

"Milliard, be reasonable. You want him, and..."

"What makes you think I want him?" Zechs stood stiffly in front of these two, wishing they didn't know him quite so well.

Wufei snorted delicately. "Perhaps the fact that you get hard every time you look at him."

Treize spared an injured glance for his lover. "I won't ask why you would notice that." He turned back to Zechs, who would have squirmed under that ice-blue stare if squirming hadn't been beneath his dignity. "He's far too skilled a pilot to let him get away from us." He fondled the black head at his knee. "Like my dragon here, he's a valuable resource."

Wufei took his turn at looking wounded. "A resource?"

Treize ignored him. "I wouldn't want him to fall into just anyone's hands."

Zechs scowled. He didn't want to think about the young rogue in anyone else's hands at all, and what was more, he felt certain Treize knew that. Feeling petulant, he said, "Why can't you just keep him prisoner?"

Wufei's almond-shaped eyes widened. "How can you say that? Can you even imagine what caging someone like Duo would do to him?"

Zechs felt abashed, as though he ought to apologize for his suggestion. He looked away from the former pilot. "It would kill him."

"Worse. It might not kill him."

Zechs fell silent, trying to imagine the Gundam pilot, so full of boundless energy, locked away forever. Wufei was right. The life would fade from him, leaving only a withered husk, a shadow of the vital boy that captivated him.

Treize stood. "I have to go. Milliard, please reconsider. Dragon, see if you can talk some sense into his stubborn head." With a quick kiss for Wufei, the General left.

The kiss bothered Zechs. Only a little. But enough to remind him that once, he'd have received Treize's attention. He missed it. Not Treize himself so much; they'd outgrown each other even before Wufei had set his sights on the OZ commander. But he longed for the warmth, the easiness the two shared.

Zechs poured himself a drink from one of the crystal decanters on Treize's credenza. "Is he trying to talk me into this because he feels guilty?"

Clear black eyes met his own. "He does feel guilty. He doesn't like it that you're alone." Wufei raised one elegant eyebrow. "I don't like it either."

"Thank you." Zechs smiled. He'd tried very hard to dislike the Chinese pilot when he'd discovered that Treize and Wufei were lovers, but it had been impossible. Some things, no matter how wrong they seemed on the surface, were simply right, and one had to accept them. "But I don't know what I would do with him. Dolce Christ, Wufei, I've seen him fight. He's half wild."

"More than half," Wufei acknowledged, his voice rueful. Then the black eyes sparkled wickedly. "Although I don't doubt you'd enjoy taming him. For that matter, I don't doubt he'd enjoy being tamed by you."

Zechs rolled his eyes and swallowed his drink. The alcohol went down his throat with a smooth burn. "I hardly need a...a bed slave. It isn't as though I have a problem finding willing partners, you know, and I can't imagine that convincing an unwilling one would be terribly rewarding."

"Oh, you might be surprised about that. But that isn't the only reason." Wufei's voice grew serious. "Zechs, you aren't the only one interested in Duo. Leaving him as a prisoner isn't an option. If you don't take him, there are others who will, and it's becoming difficult for Treize to put them off. If you don't make a decision now--and I mean now, today--he'll go to someone else."

Something about Wufei's intensity chilled Zechs. "Who wants him?"

The black gaze didn't waver. "Duke Dermail. Colonel Tuberov. Among others--but trust me when I tell you those are his best possibilities." For a moment, a flame burned deep in Wufei's eyes, and he could almost hear the Chinese pilot scream, "Injustice!"

Zechs said nothing, but his stomach flipped as though he were a cadet in his first zero-g practice. Dermail or Tuberov? Or worse?

When Zechs didn't reply, Wufei glowered. "Zechs, he is my friend. I do not wish to see him given over to appease a debauched old man's lust. That would be worse, even, than caging him. How can you consider allowing such a thing when you have the power to prevent it?"

A brief vision flashed unbidden into his mind of the enchanting little pilot in the arms of those horrible old men. In his imagination, he saw those remarkable violet eyes, wide and pleading, as they pawed and prodded the boy without mercy. He grimaced. What was he to do?

"Very well. I can't let that happen, can I?"

"It's the honorable course of action." Wufei bowed respectfully. "I commend your wisdom, Colonel."

Facing his new chattel, Zechs didn't feel so wise. Il Mio Dio, was the thought of belonging to him so dreadful? The boy looked as though he might cry. Cry again, he amended--the marks of tears were plainly visible on his face where they'd tracked through dirt and blood. He doubted that tears came easily to Duo Maxwell, and he wondered what had made the pilot weep.

"If you promise not to try to run away, I'll remove the cuffs."

"Where am I gonna go if I cut out of here?" Duo's shoulders sagged, his bravado deserting him. "I won't run."

"A sensible decision." Zechs stepped behind him and unlocked the cuffs. As he did, he noticed the boy's bloody hand. "Buono Signore! What did you do?"

He took the injured hand in his own, examining the torn knuckles. "What did you hit? The wall?"

Duo nodded, though he refused to meet Zechs' eyes.

"I see. In my experience, Duo, the wall always wins."

The boy looked up at him, finally, and Zechs could see him trying to picture the ice-cool Colonel Zechs angry enough to punch a wall. Duo shook his head, as though the mental picture didn't register.

"Come with me. I'll look after your hand, and we'll get you settled."

The haunted look returned to the violet eyes.

Zechs felt a brief flash of pity for the pilot, who seemed terribly alone and abandoned. When he spoke to Duo, he suprised himself with the unaccustomed note of gentleness in his voice."You've hurt yourself far worse than anyone here will hurt you. Don't be afraid."

"I'm not afraid."

"No? Forgive me." Zechs refrained from smiling and held out his hand. After a moment when it seemed he might refuse, Duo finally laid his cold, white fingers on the Colonel's palm. Zechs wrapped them in his own firm grasp, startled at how small the boy's hand seemed in his. "Come along."

A tremor shuddered through Duo's slight form, and he felt an unexpected urge to hold the young pilot, to calm him as one might steady a high-strung colt. At this moment, however, his touch would undoubtedly be less than reassuring. Still, he felt he should offer some kind of encouragement. He gave the cold hand a slight squeeze as he spoke.

"It's not so bad. I promise."

"Yeah?" Duo held himself as far away from Zechs as he could. "I know how much OZ promises are worth."

Zechs sighed yet again. He was going to kill Treize and Wufei. By slow, excruciating torture.

[ch. 2] [back to RazorQueens' fic]