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

A Grudging Seduction: Chapter Seventeen
Kiss and Tell

The braided teenager spent the next two days in bed, resting his body and giving it the time it needed to begin healing from his ordeal at the hands of OZ. Heero or one of the others were by his side for the majority of the time, so he was never bored or lonely. It became a routine for Heero to bring his meals to him as well as the pain medication Quatre had been able to get a hold of from a local doctor. The words he and Heero had exchanged as well as the kiss he'd initiated seemed to have been put aside, not coming up in their conversation. Duo wondered if Heero was still upset with him about his wanting to remain discrete about their relationship for a while longer. If Heero was unhappy with him, he seemed to have shelved that emotion away, for at night he would come into the bedroom, undress and climb under the luxurious covers and sheets to cuddle up and fall asleep against him. Duo was beginning to look forward to that time of day more and more.

Three days after his rescue, he felt well enough to leave the princely room he and Heero shared to venture out in an effort to become acquainted with the rest of the house. It was well past mid-morning when he'd emerged, freshly showered and a little uncertain about how Heero would view his refusal to stay in bed any longer. His legs, though slightly stiff and sore, felt better and less rubbery. Thankfully, Heero had been right. After several days of resting, the tingling sensation was finally gone.

Dressed in the jogging suit Quatre had left in the room for him, he gripped the ornately-carved wooden bannister as he stepped down the curved staircase to the marble-tiled foyer below. If he thought the chandelier in his room was something to pause and stare at, the one hanging from the two-storey high ceiling over the entry hall left him gawking, his mouth literally hanging open. He was seeing for himself and for the first time visual evidence of the kind of wealth his fellow pilot had known all his life. As his eyes took in every aspect of the mansion, Duo decided that the rest of the house was as proportionally large as his bedroom and equally opulent.

He came to the tiled floor and made his way towards the arched door opposite the front entry, noting that the new tennis shoes Heero had brought him were almost soundless on the marble tiling. Entering what looked to be a formal dinning room, he could hear the faint murmuring of several people talking beyond the next doorway. He followed the sound of those familiar voices in order to track down his friends. His sudden entry into the enormous kitchen seemed to catch the other pilots off guard as all three turned to face him as he entered and stared at him with varying expressions on their faces. Heero looked at him with worry Quatre with delight and Trowa seemed mildly surprised.

"Any chance for a late breakfast?" he asked, trying to walk as normal as possible towards the nearest chair, ignoring the stiffness of his body.

"What would you like?" Quatre asked, his smile in place. "Eggs? Pancakes? I think I might have white bread here for French toast."

Duo's grin grew in appreciation for the offered menu. "I haven't had French toast in ages. How about a half dozen slices with some butter and powdered sugar?"

"Okay," Quatre rose from his chair, smiling genuinely at the chance to do something for his friend. "Just give me a few minutes and they're yours."

"You're well enough to be out of bed?" Trowa kept his attention on the braided teen to judge the truth of his answer by the boy's body language.

"Yeah, I feel loads better," Duo replied, a slight grin in place. "So, what's up with you guys? Any missions?"

"We've got a few days off," Quatre said over his shoulder as he stood at the counter where he was breaking eggs into a bowl. "Trowa and Heero have a mission in two days and I'm just waiting for instructions."

"You've been fairly unlucky lately, Duo," Trowa observed, changing the subject. "Why is it that every time I see you lately you're listed as temporarily disabled."

The braided teen shrugged. "String of bad luck," he answered, then grinned. "Think I need to toss out my old lucky rabbit's foot and get a new one."

"Be sure to do that before your next mission," Trowa said with a slight smile on his face, his attention then turned to Quatre who was vigorously whisking the eggs in the bowl, his posterior wiggling just slightly, captivating the Heavyarms pilot.

Seeing he'd lost Trowa's attention, Duo turned his head to wink at Heero who had also been watching Trowa. Heero returned his gaze with a curious look in his eyes as the American said, "Don't worry, I've already got a new lucky charm." His quiet reply, a lopsided smile and a knowing wink let Heero know he was his new lucky charm he'd spoke of. The deep blue eyes receiving the wink warmed and the corners of Heero's mouth twitched upward.

Quatre's whisking ended and the process of dipping bread into the egg mixture was carried out before he carefully placed the first battered piece in an oiled frying pan. The resulting sizzling sounds brought a homey feel to the large kitchen. Trowa returned his focus back to the other two sharing the table with him. A questioning eyebrow went up as he observed the silent exchange between the Japanese and American boys. Clearing his throat, he was amused to see the two pilots look at him with twin expressions of embarrassment at having been caught. Yet any comment he was about to make was stymied by Heero's glare, telling him to refrain from questions or teasing them about the small incident. It was Duo's face, however, flushed with embarrassment kept his curiosity working overtime.

"Do you think Trowa suspects something?" Duo asked under his breath as he and Heero stepped outside the back door of the beautiful home and into its manicured gardens shortly after he'd finished eating.

"I believe that the color that rose in your face when he startled us was a good indicator to him that something has passed between us."

Duo stopped to lean on the rod-iron patio chair, his hands gripping the back of it tightly. "I don't know how to handle this Heero," he said, his head ducked to avoid the other boy's eyes. "How do you feel about him knowing?"

"From what I observed in there, I hardly think we have anything to fear as far as those two are concerned," Heero replied. "I am correct in my belief that there is something going on there, aren't I?"

Duo nodded, hesitantly. "I wasn't supposed to say anything. They were kind of afraid of yours and Wufei's reactions, even when I told them I didn't think you'd object."

"How did you find out?" Heero asked, then noted the flush of color on Duo's cheeks again.

"I... um.. accidentally kinda caught them fooling around on the couch in the last safehouse we shared." Heero started chuckling, but Duo ignored it. "Damn, Heero, it was really embarrassing. They made me promise not to say anything because if Quatre is right, any word of their relationship getting back to his family would be disastrous. Evidently they're not going to be too pleased with the little brother and only male of the family being gay. He said there might be repercussions."

Heero sobered, then nodded, letting the other boy know he understood the necessity of the other two pilots keeping their relationship a secret. He then sighed, getting back to Duo's previous question. "As far as how I feel about them knowing about us, I think that as long as we function as a team, I don't care what any of them think. But," he paused, seeming thoughtful, "maybe their relationship can aid our own. Perhaps we should ask them about it so that they might guide us."

"Hell no!" Duo gasped, his head snapping up and his eyes looking at Heero with shock. "I'm not asking them how to go about... this." He gestured wildly with his hands indicating the two of them. "If we can't figure it out, then it proves we're pretty pathetic, not to mention incompetent. How do you think they figured it out? I'm sure they didn't go around asking another gay couple."

"Maybe not," Heero replied thoughtfully. "But it could be to our benefit to consult Quatre and Trowa and glean what we can from their knowledge. They seem to be enjoying a successful relationship that could serve as an example for us to follow. I know the mechanics of the sexual act, but forming and maintaining a lasting relationship is an unknown factor for me, and that alone could prove detrimental to the procedure."

"Shit, Heero." Duo gaped at the other boy. "Do you have to make it sound so... technical? Sexual act? Who the hell talks like that? I feel like some kind of freaking lab experiment."

Heero's eyebrows drew together. "I suppose in some respects that what we are attempting is an experiment," he said thoughtfully. "But it is one in which I hope to have only positive results."

Duo continued to look at the darker haired teen like he was out of his mind. But when the Wing pilot reached for his arm and pulled him forward, Duo dutifully followed. He found himself being led down a stone garden path lined on both sides with shrubs and a myriad of plants, most of them boasting blooms of red, white and pink. Neither teen said a word as they walked together and enjoyed the serenity of the sights and aromatic aroma that surrounded them.

The large estate that encircled the elegant house was impressive, at least Duo thought so especially as they stopped in front of a white gazebo located at the far end of the grounds from the stately home. The ten-foot tall sides of the small structure were covered by honeysuckle vines and violet wisteria blossoms that gently adorned the ceiling by draping themselves through the open latticework roof and lending an air of enchantment to it.

"I never imagined a place like this before," Duo said with awe, his eyes wide with wonder at the sight and fragrant smell of the blossoms that surrounded him. "Can you even wonder what it must have been like to grow up knowing that there were such beautiful things?"

His eyes came back to his companion as Heero's hand gently touched his face, and he looked to see a tender smile soften the lines of the Japanese boy's usually stoic countenance.

"You're very attractive, Duo," Heero told the boy standing close to him, his voice as soft as the look in his eyes.

"You're not so bad yourself," Duo blushed in reply. Then as Heero moved even closer, his intent more than evident, the braided teen closed his eyes and tilted his head, accepting the anticipated kiss.

What started out as a gentle show of affection, slowly grew into something much more needy and passionate. Soon the two young pilots were clinging to each other, mouths hungry for more as they struggled for breath while continuing their duel of lips and tongues.

Duo moaned into Heero's mouth as he felt the other boy's hands move under his jacket and beneath his tee-shirt to caress the skin on his back. Damn but it felt good. He copied Heero's actions by pulling out the hem of the green tank top Heero favored and sent both of his hands up the strong, muscled back.

They continued on a while longer, kissing and touching and enjoying each other, and just when Duo thought they were about finished, he felt fingers toying with the elastic waistband at the back of the borrowed jogging suit. Suddenly, two calloused hands slipped past it and quickly moved south, palms gliding over his backside to grab the cheeks of his bottom and after cupping the fulness there, they gently squeezed. Duo gasped as the simple act caused a thrilling rush of pleasure to course through his body and settle in his groin, causing him to instinctively rock his hardening member against the front of the boy holding him so invitingly close.

The long, wet kiss ended as the two clung to each other, their bodies vibrating with need. "I like these pants," Heero said, sounding almost breathless as his hands moved quickly to push the elastic waistband down around Duo's slender hips to his thighs.

The braided teen's body stiffened even as he desperately clung to Heero's shoulders for support. "Someone might see us," he nervously protested.

"No they won't," Heero replied with confidence. "Quatre and Trowa went into the city to buy us some clothes. We're the only ones here at the moment."

"Oh," was all Duo could manage as Heero stepped back slightly and put his deft fingers to work, efficiently removing his partner's jacket and t-shirt. The deep blue eyes then gazed with appreciation at the still darkly-bruised but trim body of the boy in front of him. Duo's blush deepened, feeling vulnerable at being as exposed as he was, with only his sweat pants still remaining, and those were half way down his thighs.

Quicker than he could have wished for the contact, Heero was there again, his hands and lips seeming to touch everywhere at once. When those tempting lips sought out his neck, Duo threw his head back, giving Heero full advantage of his slender column and let himself enjoy the nipping, licking and kissing of the bare skin he'd presented to the darker haired teen.

It seemed like a dream to the braided boy that he was caught up and thoroughly enjoying every sensation Heero was wringing from his body. He ignored the voice of caution in his head telling him they were going too quickly as his need for Heero grew steadily as those lips began to move again, and this time they slowly made their way down his chest, nibbling and sucking on his nipples and pinching them just enough to increase his desire for more of his touch. The kisses trailed southward towards his navel, and Duo cried out softly as Heero kissed the flat of his belly and took hold of his aching need a bit lower and began to work mind-spinning wonders with his hand. He was vaguely aware that Heero settled on his knees in front of him before Duo felt himself fully engulfed by a phenomenal warmth and swallowed down his cry in response to the sensation. Never before in his life had anything felt so sinfully wonderful.

Later on, well after they were finished and returned to the house, he would recall that particular moment with humor. He believed his thoughts during that intimate act were somewhat... unusual. As he stood in the middle of the garden gazebo, experiencing Heero's excellent oral ministrations, Duo fleetingly wondered what in the hell he was supposed to do with his hands. He tried keeping them at his side but the urge to grab hold of Heero's hair and guide his motions became too strong. He resisted that urge and settled for wrapping his arms around his middle, but that also felt off, making him feel like he was somehow emotionally cutting himself off from Heero. With his frustration mounting along with peaking pleasure, he reached both hands up to his scalp and slid his fingers into his hair on each side of his head, then fisted the brown mass near the roots and held on for dear life as Heero made his body vibrate with need and cause his senses implode while his passion exploded in a way no one else had ever done before.

His climax came with a long moan of pleasure that was filtered through his gritted teeth. His knees give out from under him as he gasped for breath to fill his lungs. Heero caught him as he buckled and held him in a firm hold against his chest. Duo felt himself being guided to sit on the other boy's lap as they settled down together to sit on the white-painted, wooden floor. After a moment of collecting himself, Duo looked up into Heero's face to see his eyes were still filled with passion.

"That was..." Duo began, then paused when he found he couldn't find the words to describe how he felt. He thought it odd that when it came to his emotions, he had a hard time expressing himself. In the long run, he didn't need to say anything for Heero's lips descended on his own once again, giving him a taste of his body's essence in the other boy's warm mouth. He realized a moment later that the bump on Heero's lap indicated there was an obvious need there that needed be taken care of.

With their lips still happily joined, and in his strange, almost undressed state, Duo reached down to knead the apparent hardness through the black shorts the other pilot wore. Heero moaned into his mouth this time, bringing a smile to the Deathscythe pilot's lips as he experienced a sense of power and excitement from the reaction he'd caused the Heero to feel. He broke off the kiss and brought his lips to Heero's ear. "Tell me what to do, Heero," he whispered in a low voice. "Let me take care of this for you." And so for the next ten minutes the typically independent and stubborn boy from L-2 implicitly followed the Wing pilot's explicit directions until the name Duo was shouted loudly with a passion-filled if not slightly strangled cry, scaring the nearby birds out of their nests.

+

Duo came to the conclusion that there was a funny aftereffect from having intimate relations with someone; he suddenly found himself experiencing an overwhelming need to be with Heero as often as he could and to get as physically close to him as he could manage. After that memorable time in the garden where they had entered in a more physical aspect of their blossoming relationship, it became a sort of game between the two to duck into closets or the nearest unoccupied room and share a toe-curling kiss and/or to grope each other as much as possible while maintaining the outward facade to the other pilots of just being good friends. The idea that they were fooling around under the noses of the other pilots, increasing the potential for being discovered, only served to fuel the excitement and passion that was steadily growing between them, adding to their mutual enjoyment.

Wufei arrived at the safehouse the evening after the gazebo incident. As usual, he stood off from the rest of them, content with his books even while his intelligent eyes seem to study the four of them as they interacted during the shared evening meal. It was unspoken yet felt by all that being together, even for a brief time, was a welcomed diversion.

When Duo woke the following morning, he had been prepared but nevertheless disappointed in finding Heero gone. The pillow next to his own was cold to the touch from the other boy's pre-dawn departure for his mission. Pulling that pillow up against his chest and burying his face in it, the American could still smell Heero's scent on the fabric. Breathing the comforting scent in through his nose, he slowly fell back to sleep with his thoughts on the dark haired, blue eyed boy.

When he woke again, he didn't feel any great need or find a good reason to exit the room that morning. When he did finally descend the grand staircase, it was just a few minutes from being twelve noon. He was casually dressed in black jeans and a gray t-shirt, his braid leaving a moist spot on the otherwise spotless shirt as it lay slightly damp over his shoulder. He went directly to the kitchen and found Quatre and Wufei working together as they prepared lunch.

"Morning, guys," he greeted them cheerfully with a smile and nod of his head, grateful that the pills Heero had been feeding him seemed to help with the aches that lingered after his beating.

Wufei turned and raised an eyebrow as he watched the other teen enter the room with a bounce in his step. "You mean good afternoon," the Chinese teen corrected, glancing with a look of slight disapproval at the kitchen clock placed above the sink.

Duo shrugged, dismissing any negativity from his fellow pilot. He just felt too good today to let anything bother him. His body was healing, he'd had several days of showers and food, and his long-term mission was apparently succeeding. He couldn't help but smile to himself thinking of Heero's words spoken softly into his ear as they fell asleep with their arms and legs entwined. "I'll keep my promise," he'd said in his deep voice. "And you keep yours." If they hadn't already satisfied each other with an extensive make-out session topped off with handjobs that evening, those words could have started something more.

"Can anyone be more obvious?" Wufei's voice, spoken in a teasing tone with a nudge to Quatre's ribs brought Duo out of his daydream of the night before like a bucket of cold water to a sound sleeper. He felt his face heating up.

"What do you mean? What am I so obvious about?" He challenged the other Chinese boy nervously.

Dark eyes turned back to him, and a sly smile graced the bronzed face. "Come off it, Maxwell, your face-splitting smile gives you away."

Duo looked anxiously from the Chinese pilot to Quatre standing next to him and saw the blond regarding him with an uneasy smile and a hint of apology in his eyes before he nodded his head. "It is obvious, Duo. You're practically walking on air. Not that it's a bad thing," he rushed to say, wanting to reassure the braided boy.

Duo felt... well, flabbergasted. But before he said or did anything to dig himself in deeper, he needed to know if they were talking about the same thing he was thinking.

"What's obvious?" he asked again, this time directing his question to the blond.

Quatre blushed. "That you and.... Heero..." He stopped short of saying anything more, but Duo got the gist of it.

"Are friends?" he added hopefully to Quatre's unfinished sentence.

"Well I should hope so," Wufei snorted while rolling his eyes

"Duo," Quatre stepped forward to stand in front of the embarrassed American. "It's obvious that you feel strongly about Heero and that you're... involved, but it's not clear to me how he feels about you. I'm... concerned that you're going to be hurt."

That was just about the last thing Duo had expected to hear from the other pilots after they figured out what was going on between himself and Heero. Damn, he swore to himself. He'd wanted to keep that bit of information limited to the two of them for a while yet, at least until he was more comfortable with the idea. Well if wishes were raindrops he'd be building an ark. It seemed to him that his wants and desires were somehow always out of his reach, like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, never obtainable. "Thanks for your concern, Quat, but I'm a big boy. I know how to take care of myself," he replied, keeping as much of his embarrassment and feelings of resentment out of his reply.

A dubious blond eyebrow rose in response to the declaration. Quatre moved to say something more, but Wufei interjected. "Yuy is a complex person, as we all are," he began, his demeanor serious. "Just make sure that neither of you are trifling with the other's affections and that you both understand what each of you expect from the relationship."

"Since when did you two take up the occupation as advisers for love-sick fools?" Duo snapped, not used to having people butting into his life, especially his love life.

"It's a wise man who follows sound advice," Wufei said, frowning unhappily at seeing his concern for his fellow pilots being scorned.

"Did I ask for it?" Duo knew that he was being difficult and he certainly sounded belligerent, but he wasn't used to having his personal life discussed so openly.

"Duo, please." Quatre gave the braided boy a pleading look for patience. "I know you're embarrassed about this, but we only want to help."

The American's face flushed further. Quatre was reading him with his 'space heart'. With mounting anger, Duo said, "Don't do that thing you do, Quatre. It's damned invasive."

"I'm just trying to understand your strong reaction to our concern."

"Did I put in my two cents after I found you and Trowa messing around? Did you come to me for advice, my opinion, or invite me to openly discuss your love life and personal feelings for him in front of someone else?

The room went still and Quatre's complexion turned a deathly pale color. Duo knew instantly that he'd made a huge mistake. His wide, horrified eyes shot to Wufei, who was in turn staring at the blond, an inscrutable expression on his usually placid face.

"Quatre," Duo turned back to the equally stunned blond and reached out to touch his friend's shoulder. "I'm so sorry. Honest, I didn't mean to."

The boy's blue/green eyes shifted nervously from Wufei to Duo and back again but he said nothing.

Duo knew it was probably up to him to smooth things out between the other two pilots. It was hard to tell what Wufei was thinking as his face was completely void of any expression. He nervously cleared his throat before speaking. "Um, Wufei? You don't have a problem with Quatre and Trowa being together, do you?" He managed to ask his question rather casually and with a look of hope in his eyes.

Slowly, the Asian teen's eyes moved from the blond to focus on the other boy's face. "As long as they perform to the best of their abilities, who am I to say what they do with their free time?" Wufei replied, looking as cool as a cucumber, Duo thought. But Wufei clearly wasn't done speaking. "The same goes for you and Yuy. If you both perform to your usual standards, then there will be no complaint from me. I must admit surprise, however," he continued, "that out of five of us, four are gay. It seems I'm the exception."

"I'm not gay," Duo blurted out before he could stop himself. He mentally groaned and physically slapped himself on the forehead.

"What do you mean?" Quatre asked, and Duo thought the blond looked as confused as he felt.

The American thought furiously, needing to come up with a reason for his outburst. "Forget I said that," he snapped, obviously flustered.

Both of the other boys frowned with varying degrees of disapproval; Wufei's expression the more fierce. Their silence and penetrating glares spoke volumes to the braided teen. It was clear they didn't know what to think about his impulsive statement, but they were both too polite to pry. He could hear the silent accusations. If you aren't gay, what are you doing in a relationship with another male? Hell, sometimes he didn't even know the answer to that, other than the fact that it began with mission orders. Why he'd let it go as far as he had, or why he enjoyed Heero's company, his kisses, or his touch as much as he did, he didn't know. He hated to admit, even to himself, that the Wing pilot's dark, sultry looks and his brooding appearance and personality were suddenly a turn on to him. How could he say he wasn't gay when a whispered innuendo or a brush of Heero's hand against his skin got him aroused as quickly as a Playboy centerfold had in the past?

Running both hands through the fringe of loose hair above his forehead, Duo let out an exasperated snort in seeing the other two weren't budging from their positions and were nerve-wrackingly patient in waiting for an explanation. "Listen," he began with a shake of his head. "This is new to me, alright? I'm still getting used to the idea of... liking someone who isn't a girl, you know, in a physical way."

Quatre, seeing Duo's discomfort at his admission, moved to offer some measure of comfort to the other boy. "It is a confusing time, Duo. I know because I suffered through it myself after I met Trowa. Oh, I knew I wasn't attracted to girls my age, but I thought that was just because I'd observed the many flaws and characteristics of women, having so many sisters surrounding me as I grew up. I thought I was just ambivalent in my sexual feelings towards them because I was inundated by so many dominant females in my life. But the first time Trowa and I played a musical duet together, I knew why I wasn't interested in women sexually. I spent a lot of time mentally beating myself up over it, knowing my family would be vehemently opposed to my newly discovered sexual orientation. That's why it's important for me to keep this quiet. The consequences of such information being brought to their attention before I'm ready for it could be dire for not only me, but for the rest of us."

Wufei listened earnestly to the blond's admission, his fine, dark eyebrows drew together as his frown deepened. "What could your family do to you?" he asked.

"The traditions of my family and people go back thousands of years," Quatre turned to face Wufei as he answered, his blue eyes brooding. "Families have been known to execute their children for sexual aberrations. Tying them up and drowning them in the backyard pool, stoning them or just slitting their throats are some of the more traditional forms of execution for what they deem inappropriate behavior. By some form of luck should I escape that end, I would, as I told Duo in the past, most likely forfeit my inheritance as well as any Winner money or property now at my disposal. The loss of either during the war could mean we pilots are left without safehouses, food and medical aid, fuel or repairs for our gundams as well as transportation."

"Your family loves you but would harm or ostracize you in such a manner?" Wufei asked, disapproval already apparent on his darkening face.

"I can't be certain, but I don't want to take the risk." Quatre's normally happy countenance was dampened by a brief flash of deeply felt sorrow. "Being a pacifist family, I don't believe they'd kill me, but I might possibly be shunned, an anathema to them. At the moment, it's more than I am willing to bear. Trowa understands all of this and agrees with me that for the time being, we need to hide our feeling for each other from outsiders. If the both of us happen to live through this war, we'll deal with my family and the consequences then."

Wufei surprised the other two by putting his hand on the blond boy's shoulder. "I think I can speak for Heero and Duo when I tell you that you will always have our respect, no matter what your family may say. You have earned it from where we stand, and that will not change easily."

Quatre's eyes seemed to shimmer with emotion in reaction to Wufei's bold statement. Those liquid orbs then turned to Duo, who nodded his head in agreement. "Thank you," he said, trying hurriedly to compose himself. "That means so much to Trowa and me."

Duo's eyes shifted from Wufei to Quatre's faces. "Oh man, I feel a group hug coming on," he moaned dramatically, causing the blond to laugh and Wufei to snort. Lunging forward, he grabbed both surprised boys around their necks and brought their three heads together, their arms coming up to rest on each other's shoulders. "You guys are the best, you know that, right?"

"I agree," Wufei said, standing a bit stiff at the unusual close proximity to the other two.

Quatre's eyes continued to shimmer, accompanied by a shaky smile of gratitude.

+

Not ten minutes passed from when Wufei and Quatre left on a dual mission three days later, Duo was climbing up into Deathscythe. The mighty black gundam had been brought by Quatre to their current location from its previous hiding place. His war buddy was now neatly tucked inside a storage building, adjacent to the borrowed home yet hidden from the main house by the tall trees surrounding it.

He settled himself into the chair that fit his body perfectly and decided that it felt good to be in the pilot's seat again. The braided boy took a moment to relish the feeling of being somewhere in which he truly belonged. If only he could have spent the war inside this cockpit, he thought with a sigh, he would never have had to kill by hand, go to schools with alibis that were becoming harder and harder to remember, or see the faces of bereaving family members of Alliance or OZ soldiers who had the misfortune to meet up with him. Then again, if he had fought that way, sheltered within the cockpit of Deathscythe, he might never have met the other pilots face to face, and after interacting with them during the past week, he knew that their presence in his life helped him survive the rigors and horrors of war.

Without further thought on the subject, he automatically powered up the systems and turned on the communications board and quickly typed a short message to G. He was only slightly surprised to see the old man's face pop up on his display screen a few moments later.

"Duo, my boy. How are you healing?"

"I'm fine, old man. What trouble are you getting me into this time?" he asked with an amused smile on his face.

"Report first," the older man ordered, his beady eyes glittering.

Duo sighed. "Fine. I'm recovering quickly, most of the aches and bruises are fading. My long term mission, I'm happy to say, is going well, though he's been gone for about five days now."

G looked pleased but not completely satisfied. "Good," he replied. "Tell me how much progress you've made."

One cinnamon colored eyebrow rose. "You've got to be kidding me?"

"I need a full report to discuss with J. You know how serious this mission is, Duo. We've told you its success is imperative."

"Yeah, yeah," the teenager replied, unimpressed. "You're just a dirty old coot who wants to know all the down and dirty. Well, you know you're not getting it from me. Just inform Dr. J that Heero has promised me that he will not self destruct."

"How did you get him to promise that? You know the mission means everything to him."

"I promised him the same thing in return. If he doesn't self destruct, then I won't either. It seems Mr. Gadget's guess was right, that Heero was interested in me."

The man with the weird haircut nodded, ignoring Duo's nickname for his colleague, his face an expression lacking either approval or disapproval. "So you have gotten him to... attach his feelings to you? He desires you to live?"

Duo nervously scratched at the back of his head. "That's the impression he's given me."

"Are you sexually involved?" It was obvious G was trying to be tactful.

Duo's eyes narrowed dangerously. "That's none of your business," he snarled.

"Duo, this is part of your mission. The details are important. If something should happen to you we need to know what progress you've made and how you went about it."

"Why?"

"So that another might be sent in to accomplish what you could not if indeed you are killed."

For some reason that simple statement made the braided teen very angry. But no matter what G said, he wasn't about to be goaded into spilling his guts about his intimate relationship with Heero. Screw the mission. "It's personal, man." he protested, tight-lipped.

The older man on the communication screen frowned but remained stubbornly silent, waiting for his answer. He knew better than anyone else that silence and Duo Maxwell never did sit well together for long periods of time. He was one of those individuals who usually filled up the silence if it extended too long. He knew his boy very well and bided his time.

"Dammit, you creep." The boy seethed in a mixture of anger and embarrassment. "Alright, we're up close and personal and that's all I'm going to say about it. Are you happy?"

The man smiled almost deviously. "Yes, I am happy. Keep up the good work."

"Now do you have something for me to blow up?"

The man's face sobered and he became serious, a look Duo had come to know as his work face. "Pilots 01 and 03 are being reassigned to their respective colonies for the time being. O4 and 05 will be sent to space as soon as their current mission is completed."

"They're back in space?" Duo asked worriedly. "What about me? You're not going to leave me dirt side, are you?"

G shook his head. "It seems that OZ has a space fortress named Libra which poses a very real threat to the existence of the colonies. The fire power of its beam cannon is powerful enough that if it was precisely aimed and fired for a prolonged time, it could effectively knock the Earth off its axis, not to mention what it could do to a man-made colony. Your orders are to make your way back to space as soon as possible. Hide yourself amongst the people of any colony of your choice and await further contact. Unfortunately, Deathscythe's original hanger was discovered, so if you choose to return to L-2, that location is no longer an option. It will be up to you five to take this fortress out of action together, disabling it permanently if not destroying it completely."

"Piece of cake with the five of us going at it," Duo said confidently.

"Don't get ahead of yourself, boy. This fortress is huge, its capacity for carrying mobile suits is staggering as is its firepower. This will be no cake walk, I can assure you."

"Alright," the boy nodded, his face a picture of deep thought as his mind raced ahead. "I'll figure out a way to launch off this rock and join the others."

The man on the screen nodded, appearing content with the situation, then suddenly his face softened. "Duo," he spoke quietly and with affection for the boy currently located thousands of miles away. "I'm being pursued and estimate I have only hours, maybe two days at the most, until I'm captured. I've run out of options, which means you might not hear from me again."

Worry came back into the teenager's face. "Hide in the vents or the sewers. You can get out of there if you want, G. You're as wily and clever as any street rat I've ever met."

"I'll take that as a compliment," the older man chuckled. "But street rats usually are nimble and quick. I'm riddled with arthritis and joints that don't bend enough to take advantage of the more clever ways to escape."

"G." Duo's voice had a quality of pleading to it. "You get out of there, you hear me? You're..." the boy hesitated putting a name to the attachment he'd felt for the man who was often a thorn in his side. Still, he had been kind to the traumatized kid that Howard found on his sweeper ship. His training had been strict, but he hadn't been cruel or torturous. He sensed the man liked him and honestly cared about his well being. It wasn't so difficult to realize that the feelings were mutual. He let his sentence go unfinished, not able to put into words what he felt for his mentor.

The older man nodded with understanding and gave the braided, teen so far away, a thin-lipped smile. "I know boy, I feel the same way about you. Stay sharp, be well, and carry out the mission regarding 01. He'll watch your back when I can't."

Duo swallowed down the lump forming in his throat. He didn't want to say goodbye to someone he cared for ever again. "You get out of there, understand? If you don't, I'll have to delay my missions in order to come and rescue you."

G's eyes narrowed. "You stick to the orders I gave you. O1 is your top priority and taking out Libra stands right next to it. You got that? My job in this war is complete. I created Deathscythe and its pilot, and so my legacy lies with you, boy. Your actions will write my history as to whether my efforts and labor were worth something or a colossal waste of time. Make me a good name, Duo. Make me proud."

"Yes, sir." Duo replied quietly, taking each of his mentor's words to heart.

Without further word, G smiled fondly at him then switched off his end of the communication, leaving Duo feeling very much alone. Duo let himself dwell on the conversation for a good five minutes before he turned to his on-board computer and began the search for some form of transport that would launch him into space.

[ch. 16] [ch. 18] [back to Singles a - k]