By Xero Sky
Warnings: NC17 For the whole story. Expect lemon, lime, blood, violence, sarcasm, and profanity.
Pairings: (6 x 2) x 1
AN: Post EW. Possible OOC, but not intentional.

Disclaimer: All copyrights remain with their original holders. No profit of any kind is intended from this work of fan fiction.

Sanctuary + Chapter Three

There were few things Zechs disliked as much as cold water in the face first thing in the morning. Whatever machismo or moral benefit it was supposed to impart was lost on him.

Treize had been a great advocate of a cold shower and strong coffee to get the blood flowing. Except during occasional stays at Treize's estates, Zechs had never embraced that particular form of lunacy. As a guest, he'd had little choice: the showers there had produced no hot water before noon.

He'd avoided those visits whenever he could. There was nothing quite like trying to towel dry your freezing cold hair while shivering uncontrollably as your balls tried to crawl back inside your body. Being confronted with an almost… bouncy… Treize at breakfast afterwards had been taxing on Zechs' sanity.

At the present time, though, lacking sufficient caffeine and not quite having lost the will to live, Zechs pulled his hair back and shoved his face under the kitchen faucet. Unspeakably cold water poured over his face and trickled down his neck for as long as he could stand it.

There was no towel, of course. Without alternatives, he dried his face on the tail of his shirt and raked the wet tendrils of hair out of his face as best he could.

He didn't feel completely better, but the lightheadedness and the nausea had backed off somewhat. He was happy with whatever he could get at the moment. He needed his wits about him.

It was time to track down his former rival and see what he had to say.

He held no ill will against Yuy for the past. After all, they had been soldiers. And if it hadn't been for him, Milliardo Peacecraft would have gotten his way, wouldn't he? All his sick little dreams come true. The court said he was psychotic at the time, as a result of the Zero system, but Zechs knew it was an excuse, a handy reason to let Relena's brother off the hook.

He didn't understand everything himself, nor did he have complete memories of the whole incident with the Libra, but he knew well enough that Heero Yuy had stood in for his conscience and his better judgment. Yuy had stopped him, and that was good. If anything, Zechs was sorry for putting him through it all.

The current situation made all his internal alarms go off, though. Something he didn't understand was at work. He didn't really want Duo listening when he talked to Yuy. Just in case. He didn't really think Duo had lied to him, but his native caution had finally kicked in. He'd like to hear their stories separately.

As he opened the doors to the deck, he paused for a second, smiling. It was interesting that he was thinking of Maxwell as "Duo" and of the other pilot as "Yuy". Even wounded and half-asleep, the famous Maxwell charm had apparently worked on him. Who would have guessed?

Those two were an interesting pair of men, and not ones he would have thought had much in common when they weren't fighting. But then, according to Duo, they hadn't seen each other for quite awhile before yesterday.

Zechs' handsome face suddenly twisted into a snarl.

If the story was true, and he thought it probably was, the way these two had been treated went beyond dishonorable. It was filthy, the act of cowards. He knew well enough that his name and his connections had saved him from the same sort of thing, and that knowledge brought him shame.

But his own problem could wait until another time. Right now he had two men trained in the art of destruction at his house, men who had been shot at recently. Whether his sister's life, not to mention those of two Council Members, had been endangered or not, something had put these two on the run. And they had come to him, finding him here in his hideaway as easily as if he'd announced his location to the press.

Don't think he knew you were here…

Duo's words came back to him. Yuy had known where to go, so how could he not have known that Zechs was here?

Well, there was only one way to find out.

He heard footsteps and went to meet the man.

+

It was a sturdy house, well built, and well situated. A pleasure to stay in, no doubt. The approach from the beach was wide open, of course, but that kind of visibility worked both ways. The house might be easy to pick out, but no one was going to be approaching down the beach or from the sea without being seen. The other side of the building was more favorable for security purposes; even after all this time, it was obvious that the driveway and front of the house had been designed to give the occupants an unobstructed field of fire.

Fresh tire tracks led down to an underground garage. Under the flaking paint of the door, he spotted the dull sheen of metal. Given the security considerations that must have gone into this house's construction, he suspected that the garage door could take a missile strike. That might be useful, down the road.

Heero noted all of these things almost absently, letting the soldier part of his brain file the information away. Some other part of his head thought the house was pleasing. It was shaded, secluded, and far away from the noise of human life. If he hadn't been a fugitive, he might conceivably have enjoyed spending some time here.

A fugitive. Again.

He smiled bleakly. Except for his very early childhood, the past few years had been the only time in his life that he hadn't been on the run from something. Lowe's various enemies, the Alliance, OZ, and now the UESA… it was all the same. Same enemy, different name, different day.

He tried to clear his head of those thoughts as he continued his visual inspection of the house. At one point in his circle around it, he frowned, noting that his memory of the inside of the house didn't match up with what he was seeing. There must be a safe room somewhere inside, then. Not unexpected.

It was a pity that Zechs had been here. He would rather not have involved him. If Duo hadn't been wounded, they wouldn't have come here at all. There weren't many places that they could have gone to start with, but by the time he'd realized how badly Duo was bleeding, his options had narrowed considerably.

That lapse in attention disturbed him greatly. How could he not have seen it? Duo was wearing black of course, like Duo usually did, and that had hidden a lot of the blood. He should have seen it in the way the other man was moving, though. He should have smelled it on him, or seen Duo's growing faintness sooner.

He wasn't making good decisions anymore.

He hadn't even reacted to defuse the tension at Relena's "party". He'd just watched, frozen, seeing it all unfold until the physical reality of Duo's blood had hit him. And then the soldier had woken up and done what had to be done. He'd pulled Relena and Duo out of there, gotten Relena to safety, and taken off with Duo. It had been just like the old days, and his body and soul had known exactly what to do.

It was only later, when the routine of piloting the plane had taken over, that he'd started slipping again, falling into that distant place within his own head. From there, he hadn't seen how much pain Duo was in.

Heero understood what was happening to him. He was trained to monitor himself, to treat his mind and body like the machinery he'd fought with. It wasn't as if his malfunction was even very rare these days, with so many veterans around. There was a lot of information available on depression, dissociative disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Some of it applied to him.

He could have asked for help. Until today, he'd had a pension and full medical coverage from the Sanc kingdom for life. There were doctors, therapists, who specialized in those kinds of disorders.

It had taken him very little time to realize that few doctors were ready to deal with him, however. There was such greed in their eyes when they realized they had the Heero Yuy in their office. They had all wanted to be the one that "cured" him. Maybe they'd get their names in the press, or in the medical journals. Most of them were dealing with a lot of ex-soldiers these days, so how much more difficult could he be?

He'd gone in willing to be honest. They couldn't hurt him. After all, he knew exactly what conditioning was like, and he had no fear that anyone could do something like that to him again. The days of getting his head screwed with for the cause were over.

In the end, though, even the ones that had really wanted to help him didn't seem to know how. They had all wanted to go deeper into his past than he could go. Yes, he'd been a child terrorist. Yes, he'd been psychologically conditioned at times. Yes, he'd been biologically and physiologically tampered with. He also knew that conditioning didn't last forever. Why did they have to try to go back so far to help him now? It was useless.

What name were you born with?

I don't know.

Where were you born?

I don't know.

Tell me the earliest memory you can recall right now.

Field stripping a rifle. It was snowing and I kept dropping the parts because my fingers were so cold.

Where were you when this happened?

I don't know.

And the sessions usually ended after a few like that. He could not be hypnotized, and, whether he intended to or not, he treated drug therapy sessions like interrogations and said nothing. After awhile, they didn't know what to say to him any more, and he'd stopped going. One doctor after another.

All of that had happened after he'd left the Preventers. A brief fling with the psychs, perhaps a year, and then nothing. Self-analysis hadn't helped. He'd had no real contact with the other pilots, so he had no idea if they were going through the same thing or not.

The other pilots had lives to go back to, or to reconstruct. Chang and Winner had been something before they ever heard of Operation Meteor. Barton might or might not be Catherine Bloom's long-lost brother, but she was willing to give him a home and a trade either way.

Duo had landed on his feet, of course. He'd taken advantage of the situation and gotten the kind of education a street kid would never have had a shot at. He was Doctor Maxwell now, and that had to be worth something. In Heero's world, the doctors had always been the ones who made things possible.

Heero had the same skills he'd always had. Finding somewhere within the limits of peacetime to use them was the trick. He'd assumed that Preventers would naturally be the place for him, but that had turned out badly. He was supposed to be a bad-assed, cold-blooded assassin, and Preventers was happy to have him be just that, as long as they could aim him at their targets.

There had been an incident. He'd resigned without notice, turning in his gear and walking away the same day.

After that, there'd been... opportunities put in his way. Nothing quite illegal. Nothing quite legal, either. He'd found he was comfortable working in the gray areas. It was familiar. Peacetime didn't make any special demands on him, or open doors for him. He was the same Heero, doing the same things. There weren't any explosions now, and no call for self-destruction, but there weren't any causes anymore, either.

Everything had changed but him.

He was still just who he was.

Alone.

And better off that way.

Yet here he was, responsible for Duo. He didn't have to be: he could just walk away, right now. Alone, he could be a ghost. They wouldn't catch him if they spent the rest of their lives looking for him. But there was Duo...

Duo had something. Duo had made the world accept him, and carved out a life for himself. He didn't deserve to have it all taken away like this.

Heero didn't even own anything worth going back for. Everything of remote value to him was in the battered backpack he was carrying. He'd brought it with him to the brunch because his business data was never going to be safer anywhere else than with him. He hadn't even given it a thought. Now that it was all he had left, it still didn't rate much attention.

He understood this kind of life. He wasn't sure if Duo did anymore. Lists of tactical considerations unreeled in his head, for keeping a comrade of proven value with him, and for abandoning the wounded man as a liability. None of it really mattered. He'd already made his decision. He would do what he had to in order to get both of them out of this situation. He chose to be responsible. It was almost like repaying a debt.

Absently, he touched his cheek where Duo's blood had sprayed him. It was long gone, of course, but the moment when it had struck was vivid in his memory. Everything had shifted, gone from a stream of incoming data to a flood of sensation and memory and... and... need. It was like flipping a switch over. Sudden fear had gotten him moving. Something like outrage had taken him the rest of the way. He was not going to see Duo wounded again, and it hadn't mattered why he suddenly cared.

He'd saved Relena by reflex. It was what he'd always done, so he did it on the way out. At least that had gone the way it usually did.

He'd failed Duo, though, hadn't he?

Heero shook his head slightly, trying to bring himself back. He had to go deal with Zechs now.

To his dismay, he realized that he was already standing at the steps up to the deck. His hand was on the rail, but he was simply standing there, staring at the weather-stained wood. His stomach sank as he looked up, knowing already that Zechs was standing there, watching him.

+

He told Zechs the truth. There wasn't much point in doing otherwise. If Zechs tried to turn them in, Heero would prevent it. Somehow.

It was unfortunate that he was the one having to talk to Zechs. He needed his cooperation, if only for Duo's sake. He didn't want to kill the man. Zechs was someone from his old life, and someone he could count on to hold to his word. Or at least he had been.

Duo could talk anyone into anything. He should have been the one standing there, leaning against the rail and listening to the ocean as he waited for Zechs' decision.

They had gone over everything Heero knew, which wasn't much, and reviewed the situation as it stood now. Zechs had been relieved to find that Yuy's account of the brunch from hell tallied with Duo's. It took away a level of complexity he didn't particularly want to deal with.

Heero was waiting as Zechs thought over what he'd said. The man did not look well, though his gaze was still sharp and his questions had been intelligent. The wind had teased apart his unbound braid, and pale strands of it shaded his face now. Heero was having a little problem keeping his focus as he watched that white blonde hair move gently across tanned skin. The contrast pulled at his attention.

"How did you know I was here?" Zechs asked, grateful for the cool breeze in his face. There was a slight delay before Heero answered, and Zechs filed that away. There was something unsettled about the man, something just slightly off-balance. He didn't think it was simply the events of the day. This was Heero Yuy, after all.

"I didn't. I wouldn't be your guest if I'd had a choice," Heero said. "Duo was wounded and I… I didn't realize the extent of his injuries. There wasn't much choice after that. This seemed secure enough, given the circumstances."

Zechs noted the hesitation and the faint flush that accompanied his mention of Duo. "So, considering that I just found out about this place myself, how did you know where it was?"

"I found your hidden bank accounts, Your Serene Highness. Four of them. One of them had an interesting history: two big deposits, one 20 years ago and one recently. Monthly payments had been made regularly for all that time. It didn't take much to find out where they were going, and once I did, I cracked satellite surveillance long enough to show me the house."

Heero's tone was plain and non-committal. The use of Zechs' title had been only to emphasize the age of the accounts and how well-hidden they'd been.

"And why were you digging through my accounts?" No outrage there, just cool and collected. For one thing, if Yuy had only found four of them, Zechs was still well ahead in this particular game.

"Private commission."

"Someone hired you to see if I was on more than one payroll," Zechs said. It wasn't a great leap of deduction. Considering the number of people who wanted him dead, the number of those who didn't trust him must be exponentially larger. Except when he was drunk and maudlin, it didn't particularly bother him.

Heero said nothing. Zechs hadn't really expected him to. It appeared that the rumors about Yuy freelancing were true. He didn't hold it against him, particularly. A man had to eat, after all.

From the very little Zechs had heard over the last couple of years, he guessed Yuy wasn't having a very easy time adjusting to life after war. There had been also been rumors about his sudden departure from Preventers, but nothing concrete. After a war of such magnitude, one flaky Gundam pilot wasn't quite enough to keep the public attention for long. What a pity.

"So what do you want from me?" Zechs asked, finally stating the question.

Heero knew what he had to say, even if he didn't like it. Duo's condition was his fault. The entire thing was his fault, maybe; if he'd been on top of things, he would've known what was going to happen at Relena's little gathering. He should've seen it coming.

"I would like to stay here for at least 24 hours. I need some time... to see how far this has all gone. I need to see if there's still an option to go off-world or not," he said.

"What about Duo?"

"He will recover."

"That's not what I meant," Zechs said.

Heero hesitated a moment before going ahead. "I don't... know him very well. I don't know what he wants to do now. He needs time to heal."

So, Zechs thought, they are together only by accident and for convenience, as they said. Interesting.

A small voice in the back of his head asked why he was happy about that particular fact. It was small enough to ignore for now.

"Does anyone else know about the house?" he asked. It seemed like a more important question at the moment than who Yuy's client had been, and he doubted he'd get that name out of the young man anyway.

"Not that I'm aware of," Heero said. "I hadn't concluded my investigation, so no report was made."

"Where's your data?"

Heero jerked a thumb at the ratty backpack, and Zechs smiled. Of course the man wouldn't leave it behind, even when he thought he was just spending the morning at an informal brunch.

Zechs scrubbed his face with his hands, wondering idly why everything in his life had to be so damned dramatic. He hadn't had a breakdown: he'd gone insane and tried to destroy the planet. He hadn't had a bad relationship: he'd had Treize. Now, he didn't have guests: he had wounded, unstable fugitives drop in on him while he was considering suicide. Really, was that fair?

The choices ahead of them went unspoken, but they both understood. Zechs could allow them to stay, or not. Heero could use violence to get his way, or not. Soldiers both, they faced up to it.

Harboring these two was going to get both himself and Relena in trouble, if anyone ever found out about it. It could be the excuse needed to pry Relena out of office and probably land Zechs back in prison. Yet if he turned them away, assuming Yuy would even abide by that, he wouldn't be able to live with himself later.

"You can stay for a while," he said, before he was aware he'd actually made the decision. "Duo needs care, but I think you and I have enough training to cover it, if you have the supplies. I'm not exactly the best host you could have found, but there's room here, and time to figure this out."

Heero nodded sharply, just once, as if he'd received important data. A few moments passed before he blinked and looked up to meet Zechs' bloodshot yet blue eyes. "Thank you."

Zechs nodded in return, noticing the slightly glazed look on the other man's face, as if he was suddenly distracted by something important. Stress, he thought, or just fatigue. It had been a hell of a day for both Yuy and Duo.

And he wasn't doing too hot himself, really. The morning was turning into yet another astonishingly beautiful day, and the whole thing was making him badly want to throw up. His head had begun throbbing again, in time with the surf. He had a growing suspicion that he wasn't going to be lucid all that much longer.

"Duo's trying to sleep," he said, waving vaguely in the right direction. "There's more than enough of everything here, except food and contact with the rest of the world. Pick a room and haul some furniture out of storage for yourself."

"Hn. What are you going to do?"

Caution, or suspicion, had been carefully excised from Heero's tone before he asked that question.

It made Zechs laugh for some reason.

"Well, fuck, Yuy. I have two fugitives in my house and a hangover that's bad enough to be some form of karmic retribution. What do you think I'm gonna do?"

Dark blue eyes measured him, but Heero hesitated. There was any number of useful things to do. The first thing would be to care for Duo, and after that it would be a good idea to inventory their assets and then try to establish a link to the news nets. But what would Zechs do, given the parameters he had just stated?

"Okay, strike that," Zechs said after a few moments, taking pity on him. "What would a normal person do?"

He realized after he said it that Yuy probably had no idea what normal people did at any time, much less in situations like this. He was about to take back the whole question when the man surprised him.

"Take a nap?" Heero ventured, unaware of how uncertain he sounded. It seemed like a somewhat reasonable idea. Zechs was certainly still a capable soldier, and seemed confident in his skills. Perhaps the idea of having the two of them there didn't worry him.

Zechs grinned, utterly charmed by that moment of insecurity in the so-called Perfect Soldier. He had no idea why, and he didn't care, but it amused him greatly.

Truth be told, though, that flash of teeth didn't turn out to be the most pleasant expression. It matched his next words quite well. "Exactly. Wake me up and I'll kill you both. Are we clear?"

"Clear," Heero said, blinking at him for a second before the shadow of a smirk crossed his lips.

"Good," Zechs said, walking towards the door. "Make yourselves at home. Just do it quietly."

With that he was gone, leaving Heero to stand there blinking uncertainly. Why exactly was Zechs letting them stay? Taking a nap now wasn't actually a logical decision, was it? Why exactly was Zechs here in the first place? A dozen unasked questions cascaded through his mind.

At the moment, though, the object of his confusion was already inside, and their conversation was apparently over.

Unaware of Zechs' night of absinthe -fueled dreams and suicidal thoughts, Heero hefted his backpack and the supplies and followed him inside. This wasn't a perfect arrangement, but at least he didn't have to kill Zechs now. He hadn't wanted to, but he couldn't let Duo be taken into custody. Not after failing him so badly already.

Given the situation, he supposed he'd done alright just now. They had shelter, at least. Zechs might be an occasional psycho, but at the moment, Heero didn't think they had much room for complaints.

And Heero was fresh out of other options.

[chap. 2] [chap. 4] [back to Singles l - z]