Author: Bane's Desire
see chao. 1 for warnings, disclaimer

A Grudging Seduction: Chapter Fifteen
Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire

Duo gasped with shock as the frigid water steadily worked up his body and now covered his groin and stomach area. He was quickly becoming soaked through, his clothing feeling heavy and uncomfortable. But the chilling sensations brought him back to the fact that he and Heero were in danger and that he needed to act quickly. "Heero!" He called out frantically, shaking the other boy's shoulder. With his hands grasping the other boy, he managed to get his feet out from under himself and pushed through the rising water towards the dipping side of the boat, opposite from where he'd fallen. "Wake up, buddy. Dammit, wake up!" Feeling panicked, he grasped the other boy's shoulders and shook Heero's limp body with both hands, but his partner remained motionless and silent, his head flopping to the side.

The chilly water kept creeping up higher and higher and Duo knew that within a couple of moments the craft was going to be completely submerged. Grasping the other boy's unresponsive body more firmly to himself, he put Heero's back against his chest. Duo then began the struggle to get the both of them up onto the top edge of the boat's sinking side, placing them in the position preparatory to throwing them over the it when it became necessary. He hoped to keep the both of them out of the frigid water for as long as possible.

He swallowed hard with trepidation. He wasn't what anyone would call the best of swimmers. Hell, who was he kidding? He could barely manage what Howard had called a doggy paddle. But dammit, he could float, and he could do it well enough to keep his and Heero's head above water. That was going to be his focus until they were safely on shore once again.

The craft tilted sharply and tipped the edge of the boat Duo was sitting on lower into the water. Hoisting Heero over the edge, the braided teenager was able to gently slip the both of them over the side, gasping again with shock as the cold water enveloped the rest of his body and the sting of the salt water hit the open wound on his upper arm. Reacting immediately, he put his arm around the front of Heero's neck, clasping the shoulder of his jacket and setting his head against his shoulder. He then used both of his feet to push off the submerging side of the boat in an attempt to get both himself and Heero away from the downward pull of the sinking boat.

"Oh shit," he cried out just before his head went under the cold water with the weight of Heero pulling him down. He kicked his feet furiously and brought them both back up to the surface, gasping from the shock of having the cold water on his face and head.

"Come on, Heero," he pleaded in a shaky voice, beginning to feel more than a little panicked as he frantically turned his head around, looking for some kind of assistance. He saw the distant lights on the shoreline and docks that surrounded the bay and, with a sinking heart, realized that they seemed to be very far away. The cold water around him was pitch dark and deep bringing the term "watery grave" to his mind. He hoped that thought wasn't going to be a prediction of his and Heero's immediate future. He continued to kick furiously, trying to keep their faces above the water's surface. "Wake up, Heero," he gasped. "We're going to drown if I have to keep this up for very long."

As if on cue, Heero coughed and sputtered. A long, low moan came from him even as he began to struggle against the hold around his neck.

"Easy, man. It's me." Duo rushed to assure his teammate, even as his face dipped below the water's surface for a brief moment. He resurfaced, coughing and feeling panicked but then relieved in realizing that he never let go of his grip on the other boy.

"What happened?" Heero asked after his own bout of coughing from a mouthful of water that had gone down the wrong way.

"You crashed us into something," Duo replied, then spat out to the side the mouthful of salt water he'd just inhaled. "Can you swim, Heero? If not, we're in deep shit."

"Deep water, not shit," Heero said in a deadpan voice.

"Hell of a time to develop a sense of humor," Duo snorted, clearly unamused.

"Let me go. I can float on my own now," Heero ordered. Duo promptly and gratefully released him then began treading water on his own.

The water and the night's clouded sky were both dark enough to bring a new fear to the two water-treading teenagers. With so little light set against the blackness, they couldn't see each other but for a vague outline of black against black. "Don't get separated from me," Duo said, slightly panicked.

"Let's see if we can find the buoy, then we can get our bearings," Heero said, and Duo could hear the splashing of water coming from the direction of his partner's voice.

"Heero!" he called, fearful that he was being left behind.

"Here."

Moving as well as he could, Duo followed the sound of the Wing pilot's voice and using the vaguely recalled arm and leg motions he'd only used only a few times under Howard's tutelage. "Don't leave me," he called out, his voice sounding anxious even as his hands slapped desperately at the water's surface.

"Never," came back the soft reply. The American wasn't sure he really heard or if it was just his hopeful imagination. He kept moving awkwardly towards the direction of Heero's voice, coughing and sputtering as he went. His ungraceful arm movements splashed his face, causing him to swallow even more salt water. He was startled momentarily then relieved when his arm was grabbed and he was pulled forward by his sleeve.

"You're noisy," Heero hissed, his teeth chattering together. "Don't you know how to swim?"

"No, at least not very well," Duo replied. "L-2 doesn't have swimming pools." He suddenly found himself pulled up against a cold, wet and slimy piece of floating metal. "Oh man, that's gross," he protested at having touched it.

"Reach up," Heero ordered. "There's a handhold just above you."

Duo slapped his hand against the floating metal as he blindly searched for the security Heero said was there. He was still searching when the Wing pilot's hand found his and forcefully brought it up to the handhold that the two of them shared while their bodies rose up and out of the water and plunged down again with the buoy, moving with the natural swells of the ocean's water. Heero reached over and pulled the other pilot's body up against his own and they both shivered violently together from the cold.

Duo turned his head to view the lights that seemed much too far away, his teeth clashing loudly together from fear as well as the frigid cold. "We're going to die, aren't we, Heero? There's no way we can swim that far."

"We'll have to try or else die from exposure," Heero answered, practical as ever.

"Exposure or drowning, which is the worst way to die?"

"I don't think either is pleasant."

They both spent a few moments quietly contemplating their chances before Heero spoke up again. "Ready?"

Duo groaned. "Do we have to?" He could feel Heero's body, pressed next to his own, shaking just as violently as he was.

"I'm not one to s..s..sit and wait for d..d...death to come," Heero stuttered.

Duo suddenly remembered his mission. Heero had to live, to see the end of the war. With his encouragement he figured the other boy would try, and knowing the perfect soldier, he would succeed in reaching the far shore. Duo doubted his own chances and ability to accomplish the same feat. "Alright, H..H..Heero." Damn but he was cold. "But I want you k..k..eep going, even if I c..c..an't make it. Deal?"

"Duo," Heero whispered his name, a touch of anxiousness in his voice. Then suddenly his lips were on the American's and the two shared a long, desperate kiss, warming the both of them slightly despite the frigid temperatures of the water that surrounded them. When they separated, gasping for air, Heero put his forehead against the other boy's. "Promise me you'll try," he demanded softly.

"I'll try," Duo replied. "I don't want to die."

"Then kick off your shoes, pull off your jacket and follow me." With that order, Heero gave the trembling teen a quick embrace then bent for a moment to follow his own advice by removing his shoes and then his own jacket. Ready for some movement, he shoved off the edge of the buoy. Duo copied his movements a scant moment later, though less gracefully.

Time seemed to have no meaning in the dark void the American struggled through, but cold and exhaustion certainly did. The braided teen had no idea how long he'd been struggling to keep his head above water. He was only aware of his body moving with repeated arm and leg movements, propelled simply by his strength of will to survive and to not be left behind. He moved forward through the water, constantly aware of the slight sound Heero's body was making as he swum ahead of him. Other than that slight repetitive movement ahead, Duo was becoming oblivious to his other senses. He was numb from the cold and his limbs were heavy and tired. He wanted to call out to Heero for help and reassurance, but he couldn't, his teeth were chattering violently and it would take too much energy to exert himself for even that small task.

In his spent condition, the thought came to him that he'd never imagined himself dying like this, drowning in ocean water and not in the heat of battle. Hell, until he came to earth he couldn't imagine that the great expanse of water, the blue covering most of the Earth's surface that he'd seen from colony portals, was so cold and forbidding.

His head went under again and he began to sink, and he wondered if he should even fight the inevitable any longer. But fight he did; it was almost instinctive as his arms flailed and his legs found some last amount of strength to kick a littlemore. A hand suddenly clamped onto the top of his head, clamped onto his hair, and pulled him upwards to the surface. He sputtered and coughed as he came out, trying to expel the excess water he'd begun to swallow.

"Don't you dare give up, Duo," Heero called out to him in an urgent manner. "Float on your back and I'll pull you along."

The American found himself being flipped over and pulled onto his back as his lungs heaved for air. The collar of his shirt was then grabbed and Heero's body began the struggle to take the both of them to safety. After several minutes and hearing his partner's labored breathing, Duo knew he needed to do something before they both died. "Let me go, Heero," he gasped, straining to keep his mouth and nose above the water's surface. "We'll both drown if you keep this up. Just let go and save yourself."

Heero didn't bother to answer but saved his strength to carry out his self-appointed task of reaching the distant shore. They struggled some more and then, abruptly, Heero stopped and pulled Duo up next to him, still holding him by the collar and keeping his head above water.

"Wh..a.at?" Duo asked, teeth chattering loudly.

"Brace yourself," was the only warning Heero could make before it became apparent that something was happening below them. The water around them began to swell and glow as an unnatural green light appeared beneath the water's surface and rose slowly towards them. Suddenly their bodies met a solid surface and they were lifted up and out of the water. The two exhausted pilots found themselves sprawled on the dark surface of a submersible craft. Too cold and numb to react, Duo stared uncomprehending as a bright horizontal crack of light lit the darkness just above him and continued to grow until it was the size of a large window. A shadowed figure appeared in the middle of it and suddenly hands were laid roughly upon him and he was pulled none too gently towards the light.

He momentarily wondered if he had died, but being unceremoniously thrown to the cold floor inside the craft he now realized was a Cancer, dispelled that allusion quickly. Heero's wet and heavy body landing on him a moment later reaffirmed it. Duo was dimly aware that the both of them were quickly and efficiently secured, their numb and exhausted arms and legs were bound by hard plastic restraints while one of the two men piloting the craft held a gun on them.

Not having the strength to talk much less fight back, Duo closed his eyes and concentrated on trying to contain the violent trembling of his body. A blanket was put over him but any warmth it might have offered was thwarted by the cold floor he rested on, and that creeping chill quickly seeped into the wet material of his clothing. He could barely hear Heero breathing beside him as his mind and body shut down and he let himself fade away into unconsciousness.

Duo awoke when he felt himself being lifted and slung over someone's broad shoulder. Opening his eyes, he noted from his upside-down position that they were leaving the water craft that had captured them. Lying limp and appearing unresponsive, he tried to unobtrusively survey his surroundings to see if he could locate Heero as well as get his bearing as to where they were being taken. His efforts were only partially rewarded. He saw another outline of a man just in front of his captor with a body slung over his shoulder that had to be Heero. It was pretty clear that the Cancer had docked and were being transferred to the back of a troop transport truck. Several OZ soldiers stood around them as the two men carrying them walked up a loading ramp, their voices tense and low as they spoke of their fortuitous capture of what appeared to be two of the notorious and dangerous Gundam pilots. Duo closed his eyes and kept his body limp as he was set down on the truck's bed. A moment later he felt Heero being set down as well, close enough for their bodies, covered in wet clothing, to touch. Just knowing that Heero was near was enough to give him some comfort regarding their dire situation.

From the sounds around them, the American could tell that several of the soldiers sat on the benches on each side of the truck, and through his eyelashes he could see the back end of the vehicle as it was closed and secured. The engine was started a moment later and a slight jerk indicated that they were on the move. His body was cold, and he fought hard to control the shaking of it in order to keep the illusion that he was still unconscious. OZ soldiers rarely abused unconscious prisoners, and as he wanted to stay as fit as possible for when he and Heero made their escape, it was important to keep their wrath at bay for as long as possible. Other than low spoken comments that were passed between what he determined to be four men set to guard them, the journey of roughly a half hour passed without incident.

There was an unusual amount of commotion around the truck once it came to a full stop and the engine was shut off. Voices, excited and angry, could be heard as the back gate of the truck was released and let down. Still feigning unconsciousness, Duo remained limp as he was lifted up and slung over a shoulder once again and was carried out into the cold, early morning air.

"They're kids!" One amazed sounding voice stated.

"Are you sure they're Gundam pilots?" Another dubious man asked.

"Look at the hair on that kid. Is it a girl or a boy?"

"They're small," a forth voice declared.

"They're deadly," the man holding Duo said. "These two boys killed six people at the Messato factory." He then turned away from the gawkers and moved towards a building in the center of the base.

Still looking through slit eyes, Duo observed another soldier walking just before them and recognized Heero's shaggy-haired head which bounced lifelessly as the soldier carrying him walked with long strides. Worry clenched in his gut for his fellow pilot. He realized that Heero had risked his own life in trying to save him, and Duo set his mind to do whatever was necessary to see the Wing pilot escape to safety. There was no way in hell he was going to let OZ hurt the boy who stood as the principal hope for the colonies.

Not surprisingly, they were carried into a detention area and into a cell lined with metal bars. Duo felt himself being set down on a cot in a surprisingly gentle manner.

"They're soaking wet. We better strip them," the man closest to him said to his companion. Having ditched his shoes in the bay, Duo felt his sodden socks pulled off his feet and an involuntary shudder went through his body. The man then moved to his belt buckle and quickly unfastened it and went to work on the fly of his pants. In an efficient manner, the soldier pulled them off, Duo's boxers coming off with them.

Duo had every intention of keeping his consciousness from them, but the shock of being stripped caused him to react with an instinctive gasp and he curled his body into a fetal position in an effort to somehow protect himself.

"You awake?" The man above him asked.

Duo's body was now shaking with not only the cold, but with self-righteous anger. He turned to glare up at the buzz-cut soldier studying him with wary eyes. "What the hell are you doing, you pervert?" He shouted in a raspy voice. "Give me my damn clothes back."

The man's eyes narrowed and his mouth thinned. "You're in no position to issue demands, punk." The soldier then proceeded to take out a knife and began to cut off Duo's black shirt, despite the boy's loud protestations and name calling. Making quick work of it, the thin boy from L-2 soon lay naked and in a shivering ball on the bed, hating the idea that a stranger was looking down on his exposed body while he was completely at his mercy.

"Release his bindings and cover him up before he gets sick," the man across the room who was working at removing Heero's clothing called over his shoulder.

"What do you care?" Duo's handler snapped back. "He's colony scum, doomed to stand before a firing squad." Shortly after, Duo felt a metal tool slip under theplastic around his wrists and, with a snap, they were released. A moment later, a rough blanket was placed over his goose bump-covered skin, not diminishing the chill that had set in his bones.

"That's not our call," the other answered calmly. "They're prisoners of war and the higher ups will want to talk to them. They can't do that if they die from pneumonia."

Duo listened closely as the men made sounds of leaving, and as the door to their cell clanged shut, he could hear their parting comments. "Better call the base doctor," the man who carried Heero said as they exited the room. "Those two are suffering from hypothermia."

The room became silent and still as their voices faded into the distance. Then the overhead lights dimmed considerably, providing only minimal light against the dark. Still shaking, Duo managed to turn himself over, keeping in his protective ball as much as he possibly could, to look in the direction of Heero's cot. His partner was facing him and in a similar condition as himself, only his handler had tucked in the blanket that was covering his body. "Heero?" he whispered, his teeth rattling together.

The other boy's eyelids snapped open to reveal startling blue eyes, their intensity unmatched by any other Duo had ever seen before. "Are you alright?" Heero asked, his voice equally low.

Duo nodded and coughed. "Just freezing my ass off. If they think this puny blanket is going to warm me up, they need their heads examined."

"Come here."

The order startled the Deathscythe pilot just enough to almost stop his body from quaking. "W..w.what?"

Heero's eyes bore into him, demanding that he comply. Unable to resist, Duo struggled to gain his feet and keep his blanket pulled around his chilled, naked body. With small, shuffling steps, he crossed the space that separated them to stand by the other boy's bed, waiting for his next order. Heero opened the front of his blanket. "Climb in," he said, his voice brooking no dissent.

"Um..." The braided teen looked nervously around to make sure they were alone. "What if someone should come in?"

"We're just sharing warmth, Duo," Heero replied in a matter-of-fact tone. "Besides, I'll hear them before they see us. Hurry up, I'm getting cold again."

Moving quickly, Duo lay down on the bed in front of the other pilot, shifting his blanket so that his bare back rested against Heero's chilled chest. The Wing pilot's blanket came over to enfold the both of them so that their sparse warmth could be shared. He then grabbed hold of the loose edge of Duo's blanket and pulled it over them both. Even though Heero had looked fine, pressed close against him, Duo could feel his body shaking as badly as his own. Another deep cough rose from his chest, and it burned his throat and lungs. He figured it was due to all the salt water he'd swallowed and figured his upset stomach was another result of that unavoidable act.

"Take your braid out, it's wet."

Duo did as he was asked, pulling the long, wet rope of hair over his shoulder then settled himself back into Heero's warmth. They lay pressed together in silence, sharing the bit a warmth that was beginning to be produced between them and their two blankets.

"Any ideas on how to get out of here?" Duo asked, his voice barely audible.

"I'm working on it."

"If you get the chance to book it, do it. Don't wait for me."

"You too," Heero answered, his breath warm on Duo's ear.

The thought of the other pilot's naked body pressed up against his own began to heat up the American more than the sparse warmth coming off of Heero's equally chilled body. "Getting warm?" He asked his friend.

"I can think of a better way to warm up." The seductive quality to Heero's whispered answer did not go unnoticed.

"Not the time or place, Heero," Duo reminded him, fighting the urge to cough again.

Heero sighed and nodded his agreement. "Sleep, I'll keep watch."

"You're sure?"

"Sleep."

Duo closed his eyes, letting his exhaustion overtake his better judgement and he fell into a deep sleep.

+

At seven a.m. sharp, three soldiers brought in trays of food. They paused to survey the two boys sleeping in their separate beds, their bodies wrapped up in the gray, standard issue blankets, and marveled amongst themselves in quiet voices how such small framed and young boys could be the fearsome Gundam pilots. Two soldiers stood with their weapons trained on the unlikely looking terrorists as the third man shook their shoulders to wake them. He gruffly told the silent, glaring boys to eat the food they'd been given and that the base doctor would be by to see them shortly.

Duo's body was racked by a series of coughs while Heero visually inspected their food and gave it a taste test to see if anything had been added. Deciding the food was drug free, the two ate until their plates were clean, then silently resumed their positions on their respective beds, blankets wrapped tightly around their bodies as they waited.

They didn't have to wait long. A trim, middle-aged man wearing dark-rimmed eyeglasses and a white lab coat entered the detention facility and ordered the cell door open. With guns trained on both of them once again, the doctor put on his stethoscope, ready to begin his examination. Because Duo was unable to stifle another cough, he became the man's first patient. His arm, grazed by a bullet the night before, was cleaned and bandaged and he was given an antibiotic injection to ward off an infection and a tetanus shot. The doctor entered the information into his handheld medical device, noting evidence of a previous gun and knife wound to the boy's left thigh and recent healing of the skin on the right side of his body. He also noted the possible onset of bronchitis.

Heero, of course, checked out fine and was given a clean bill of health.

"Will you give us some clothing?" Heero asked the medical man.

"I'll see what I can do," the doctor replied, obviously distracted as he continued inputting data into this handheld P.C. Then without further word, he turned and left the cell. The two guards accompanying the man cautiously backed out behind him, not lowering their weapons until the barred cell door was shut and locked.

Duo waited until they left the area before he looked up to meet Heero's eyes as he slowly massaged the sore spot in his arm where he'd received the injections. The Wing pilot's eyes seemed to draw him in and, for a moment, he found himself lost within deep, fathomless blue. Heero's hand came out from the front fold of his blanket and with a crooked finger, motioned for his cellmate to come to him.

The braided boy didn't even think twice about following the silent but insistent order. Gathering his lone blanket around his naked body, he stood and slowly moved to stand in front of the other pilot. Heero patted the mattress next to him, signaling for Duo to sit. He did so, then looked questioningly at Wing's pilot.

When Heero spoke, he was careful to keep his voice at a whisper. "You broke your promise." The look on his face showed he was serious.

The cinnamon-colored eyebrows drew together in thought and confusion. "What promise?" He asked, confused.

"You promised not to die unnecessarily, yet you gave up last night and almost drowned."

Duo coughed violently in reply, completely caught off guard by Heero's charge. The other boy attempted to help him by patting him on the back, but the force by which the blows came seemed to aggravate his struggle for a breath. Duo finally turned and grabbed hold of Heero's wrist and stopped the action so that he could catch his breath. "Geeze, Heero. You're going to cause my heart to fly out of my chest by hitting me that hard. Take it easy, it's just a cough. I just swallowed too much salt water last night."

"Sorry."

Duo thought Heero almost looked embarrassed when he uttered his apology. Almost, but not quite. "I told you I wasn't a great swimmer, Heero. I tried, but I knew I wasn't going to make it. I was just too tired and didn't want to drag you down with me."

"I want your word," Heero demanded in a low voice. "I want you to promise me that you won't give up like that again."

"Dammit, Heero." Duo kept his exasperated voice low. "I'm only human, man. There's only so much I can physically do sometimes."

Heero's hand came out of his blanket and rose to tap the braided teen sharply in the middle of his forehead. "This is where I want you to not give up." He lowered his hand, but his eyes stayed fixed on the other boy's as he continued. "If your mind considers quitting, that you're too tired or you just can't take anymore, then your body will follow through with that thought. I want your word that in your mind you will never give up."

Duo's wide, puzzled eyes took in Heero's serious demeanor. "Why, Heero? Why do you care so much about whether I make it or not?"

The other boy paused, taking his time to answer the American's question. Duo wondered if he were debating within his mind over what to say. "Aside from the point that you are necessary to winning this war," Heero began, his voice low but firm, "would it be sufficient to say that I care enough to want you alive at the end of the conflict? I gave you my word to not self destruct, and I will do my best to live up to that. Shouldn't I expect the same from you in return?"

"Like I told you before," Duo began, "I don't have a death wish. I promise, I'll work on it, okay? But in order to do that, we've got to get out of here."

Heero nodded. "I was just waiting for you to be treated by the doctor. When do you want to leave?"

Duo blinked with surprise at the unexpected question, then a teasing smile grew on his face. "I'd say right now, but I'm a bit under dressed."

"Not a..."

Heero's reply was halted when the sound of the detention room door opened. Heero stole a look at his companion and said just under his breath, "Don't antagonize or bait them," he warned.

"Spoil sport," Duo grinned, then dropped the expression as his and Heero's attention turned to observe a man in uniform with three armed guards in tow stop in front of their cell door. The bars on his shirt pocket and shoulder epauletslabeled him as a commander. He was middle-aged with brown hair that was thinning on the top and graying at the temples. He had small, intense eyes, a large nose with a noticeable bump in the middle and a grim smile that made his lips almost disappear as he pursed them together in seeing the Gundam pilots for the first time.

"Even though I'd heard rumors that the Gundam pilots were young, you're a bit of a disappointment to look at," he stated, eying the two on the bed, looking small and young wrapped in their gray blankets. "Nothing more than children in appearance. But we've certainly learned that you're anything but normal teenagers, aren't you? My own kids would never have thought of killing the people you've murdered or destroying the property and lives that are attributed to you."

"Did your kids grow up orphaned by the Alliance and left homeless?" Duo asked, anger blazing in his eyes as he challenged the man. "Did they go hungry for days on end because of the government's blockade or eat other people's garbage in order to survive. Did they see everyone they knew die of a plague because of limited vaccinations, medicine that only went to supporters of the Alliance? Until you've lived as I have, you have no right to compare me with 'normal' children."

"Where are you from, boy? The man asked, looking directly at the braided teen.

"The colonies." That was all Duo was going to tell the man. He didn't want to bring any more retribution onto his hell-hole of a colony than they'd already experienced because of his actions.

"From your dialect I'd guess you're from the L-2 sector. What's your name?"

For a dramatic effect, Duo lowered his chin and glared at the man through his disheveled hair hanging over his face. In a low voice, he replied, "Shinigami."

The man did not look pleased. "I suppose it doesn't matter who you are or where you came from," he stated. "I've contacted my superiors and they are sending a specialized team to deal with you two and they should be here this evening. We've collected the stolen information from your clothing and that's enough evidence to have you tried and convicted as terrorists. Your killing sprees and lives are over." The smug look on the man's face clearly displayed his sense of pride at having his name attached to capturing the elusive and deadly gundam pilots.

Duo intended to snap a barbed retort back at the man or comment to the fact that the fat lady hadn't sung over their dead bodies yet, but Heero's sudden and firm grip on his arm through the blanket warned him to hold back. The action did not go unnoticed and brought the commander's attention to the dark haired teen.

"What about you?" he asked Heero. "Care to tell me your name and where you're from?"

The glare that came from Heero basically told the man the ridiculousness of his question. "Very well," he said. "No doubt you'll be saying a lot more to Lady Une's handpicked team. Until this evening then." The man turned to leave the room, easily dismissing them. It was then that the look exchanged between three gun-toting soldiers behind the commander was noted by the two. Slowly, the three turned to give their two captives a silent, telling glare, notifying them that this was not the end of it. Duo felt the hair rising on the back of his neck, a clear warning sign that the three would probably be back before long, and when they returned, it was not going to be pleasant.

As soon as the four left the room, Heero turned to his teammate. "Despite our lack of clothing, we need to be gone from here before that team arrives."

Duo nodded, his seriousness matching Heero's. Then he reached up into his braid, mentally wincing at the sorry state of his hair as his fingers worked through the woven strands. A slight smile lit his face as he pulled out several small, narrow tools. "Do you want to do the honors or should I?"

"Go ahead," Heero replied with a nod towards the cell's door.

Standing, Duo took the blanket from off his shoulders and wrapped it around his waist and secured it by tucking it in. He moved to the cell door and began to study the lock mechanism. It would be a lot easier if he had the control box in front of him, but he'd picked his way out of a lot of tough situations before, he supposed he could do it again.

After ten minutes of working, he broke out in a nervous sweat, and the chill in the room acting against it shot a violent shiver through his body, bringing his suppressed cough to the surface. "This is a high quality lock," he muttered, knowing Heero would pick up every word.

"Need help?"

"Give me five more minutes." Duo went back work. But the five minutes requested became a moot point when the door at the end of the short hallway opened and the sound of several booted feet approached. Duo scrambled back to his bunk, and waited to see what was about to happen. Neither teen was too surprised to see it was the three guards that had been there with the commander not fifteen minutes before. One of them carried in two trays of food, which he set on the floor behind them, then the three turned to face the prisoners with expressions of hate and vengeance on their faces.

One of the three reached out and punched in the code that unlocked the cell door. The metal snapping back of the locking mechanism echoed loudly in the nearly-empty detention room. The three soldiers looked similar to each other in their matching fatigues and angry scowls as they entered the cell together looking bold and aggressive. The two behind the apparent leader raised their guns, one trained on each of the pilots. With a disdainful look, the designated leader addressed the two teens. "Those were our friends you killed last night at the factory and we're here to do what they can't."

Duo chanced a quick look at Heero, seeing the Wing pilot's eyes focused on the man addressing them. Maybe if he could distract them, Heero could take them down and they could escape out the cell door that he noticed they'd neglected to close behind them. With that plan in mind, he returned his attention to not only the man taking the lead, but the one with the gun trained on him.

"We have rights, you know." He addressed the apparent leader. "I don't think your higher ups would appreciate you mishandling prisoners of war."

The man turned his angry eyes to the braided teen. "From the reports filed this morning, we picked you up half-dead. Who's going to say you didn't die of your wounds?"

"The doctor and the commander," Duo replied. "Will they really sit back and lie to the 'specialized team' that's coming, especially when they find out you ignored his orders? Your pencil-neck commander was practically gloating from the honor he thinks he'll get from handing us over."

"Even if we're court marshaled, it will be worth it to put an end to you colony scum," the man in the lead snapped in reply.

Duo stood, quickly securing his blanket a bit in place around his hips and cautiously backed away from the three men and towards the wall on the opposite side of the room from the cell door. He hoped to draw their attention to him, giving Heero, still sitting on his bed with a cagey look in his eyes, a chance to act. Putting his hands up in a defensive posture, he awaited for the attack to begin. He wasn't disappointed.

Seeing the challenge, the leader lunged towards the slender youth. Duo twisted and brought his fist up, catching the attacking man in the jaw just as a large hand grabbed for his body. The man stumbled at the blow, but quickly caught his feet and tried again. Duo was quick, despite his arms and legs feeling like rubber from their exertion the night before but with so little room to maneuver, he knew he was definitely at a disadvantage. His attempts to dodge and elude the man's fists lasted roughly thirty seconds before he was grabbed by his wounded arm and the close body contact fight began. He gave as good as he got for a while, his street smarts instinctively coming into play. His kicks and punches were delivered with as much power as he could muster, but the man he was fighting was in top physical condition. He felt his strength rapidly leaving him. He aimed the strongest blows he could manage to the man's trunk and face and Duo thought his efforts seemed to be having some affect on the other man. But dammit, the bastard remained on his feet and kept fighting back, returning each painful blow he received from the smaller teenager.

The heavy blanket was hampering Duo's movements and was getting in his way. Out of desperation, he made a split-second decision. Waiting only until his opponent made a move towards him once again, Duo flung the woolen gray fabric from off his hips and into his attacker's face, deciding his modesty needed to be sacrificed if he and Heero had a chance of escaping. As the soldier dealt with the unexpected material over his face, Duo jumped into position, setting himself directly in front of his attacker and forcefully brought his knee up, strategically hitting the man in the groin, causing him to pause in his attack with a loud gasp. He then turned slightly and bent over, presenting the opportunity for an upper-cut hit to his face. The moment his hand blurred into action, Duo saw from out of the corner of his eye that Heero was making his move. The Wing pilot catapulted with surprising force out of his own blanket and from off his bed and grabbed for the gun held in the tight grip of the man closest to him. The third man shouted with alarm at the confusion, his gun poised to shoot Heero, but he was unable to get clear shot as the struggle over the other soldier's weapon continued.

While Duo's hurting opponent turned to see what the commotion behind him was all about, the American jumped on his back, quickly wrapping his meter long braid around the man's thick neck and pulled on it for all he was worth. The man underneath him had the presence of mind to spin around, putting Duo's back into a vulnerable position. The butt of the third soldier's gun came down and hit the naked, braided youth on the back of his head. His arms and legs immediately went slack and he fell bonelessly from off his opponent to ungracefully hit the floor, barely registering the shouting of angry voices and the commotion within the cell as he faded into unconsciousness.

[ch. 14] [ch. 16] [back to Singles a - k]