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.
My sincere apologies to everyone who has been waiting for an update to
this fic, and my thanks to anyone who remembers it!
+ Chapter Four
Duo woke up with the worst
headache of his life.
Staring through narrowed eyes at the miserably white ceiling of this miserably
white and sunny room, he idly compared this headache to others in his
life the results of concussions, hangovers, and various viruses. This
one, he decided, took the goddamned cake.
Trying to sit up, he felt the room lurch around him and grabbed handfuls
of the bedcovers steady himself. He gritted his teeth against pain and
nausea until the crisis passed, closing his eyes tightly against the blindingly
"You're dehydrated," a man said, and an arm was slipped around his shoulder,
steadying him. "Steady."
He didn't really know Heero anymore, if he'd ever known him. There had
been a time, though, when he'd had to trust Heero with everything. Heero
hadn't failed him then, and he was willing to take a chance on him now.
Not that there was much choice. Duo relaxed and leaned against him.
"We've got an IV running, but there's not much solution. See if you can
keep some of this down," Heero said gently. A water bottle with a straw
appeared in front of Duo, and he tried sipping at it. The water was cool
and felt good in his dry mouth, so he drank slowly, knowing better than
to gulp it.
He stopped when he felt the first faint hint of nausea. "Thanks," he said
Yeah, that was vintage Heero, but it was okay, too. It was a pleasantly
familiar question, but a fair one, too.
Duo shifted around, peering at his bandages and noting how stiff and sore
he was. His right side and shoulder were likely to be a problem: he could
move them both, but there was a lot of damage to the meat. That arm was
relatively uninjured, though he had a scattering of small burns down to
his elbow. Considering how sore his right hip and ass were, he assumed
he'd caught a fair bit of hell down there too.
He related all this to Heero as clinically as possible, then summed it
all up in a soldierly fashion as "Estimated readiness: 60%"
Heero frowned and nodded once, sharply. "Understood. However, you need
to know that we have limited medical supplies."
"One comprehensive emergency kit and one basic first aid kit. If we can
keep your injuries free of infection, we should be able to treat you adequately.
However, we only have four days' worth of antibiotics if we give you the
proper dose. Without infection, the supply of painkillers should be sufficient
for the next week."
"Great," Duo said, slowly leaning back against the pillows Heero placed
behind his back. His head still hurt, and now that he was fully aware
of himself, everything else seemed to hurt too. "What's the situation?"
Heero sat down opposite the bed and scrubbed his hands over his face.
He looked almost more tired than Duo felt. It was odd how Duo could see
the exhaustion there. He remembered the stoic, implacable teenager he'd
been teamed up with, the one who'd verged on the inhuman more often than
not, and was somehow relieved to see this man in his place. He didn't
think he could take that soldier just now.
"The plane suffered damage to the landing gear when we came down," Heero
said. "I'm uncertain about the possibility of repair until we can inventory
this house. Zechs doesn't know what is in storage here, but there may
be something useful. There's enough fuel left to get us to... wherever
we want to go." "Yeah, that's the problem, isn't it?"
The memory was bitter and Duo grimaced. "Unsuitable for citizenship."
"A clear danger to the continued stability of the Earth Sphere." "Unlikely
to ever be assimilated by decent society."
It was just another bunch of fuckers in suits, telling him that he wasn't
good enough, and that nothing he'd done had meant anything. He'd worked
so goddamned hard since the wars to establish himself, to make something
that was all his. He'd gone by their standards gone to college and started
his own business. He employed almost 20 people. He paid his taxes. What
the hell did they want from him?
His attention suddenly shifted back to Heero. If he was the disreputable
one, Heero was the freak. "Incapable of reintegration into society." "Engineered
for an obsolete purpose." "Psychologically dubious."
Like he was some sort of product, a tool that they were throwing down
and kicking away.
He'd been fifteen years old. Christ, they both had been fifteen, with
a trail of bloodshed stretching back behind them further than either one
"Don't let it get to you," Heero said. Duo blinked, his train of thought
broken. "It's already done. Now we go forward."
"Yeah..." Duo said with a sigh. He smiled a little, trying to shift gears.
Heero was right. They couldn't change what had happened. Now they had
to deal with the results of that massive clusterfuck at Relena's. Speaking
of whom...kinda... "How's Prince Charming doing with all this?"
Heero smiled thinly. "He's taking a nap."
"A nap..." Duo repeated dubiously, blinking.
Duo waited for the rest of the joke, or for the other shoe to drop, but
Heero just kept looking at him steadily until Duo couldn't take it any
more. "What the fuck is his problem?"
"He's hung over. I don't think he'd give a shit whether we killed him
in his sleep or not," Heero said, his smile fading. "There is something
wrong with him, though. I just don't have enough data to guess what it
is. I'm still not sure why he's here, but I don't think there's an immediate
"Shit, Heero, how many times did he try to kill you during the war?"
"How many times did you shoot me?"
Duo shut his eyes and leaned back, tired. "Okay," he sighed, "so if you
trust me, we might as well trust him."
"Do you trust me?"
The question was quiet, but not tentative, and Duo opened his eyes again,
frowning. He met Heero's gaze steadily, struck by the intensity of his
look. "Yeah, I guess so. Is there a reason I shouldn't?"
"We don't know each other very well."
"This isn't the first time we've been on the wrong side of the law together,
though. I've got your back, man, if you've got mine," Duo said, hoping
that he could count on Heero. The man was right: they didn't know each
other very well. That had also been true back then, though, and it had
all worked out, hadn't it? Kinda?
"I've got you," Heero said, and Duo smiled brightly, even as his eyes
drifted shut again.
"Great. Now, about those painkillers..."
Heero smirked and pulled a tray out from under the bed. It was ornate
and engraved with the crest of the Royal House of Peacecraft, but right
now it was stacked with bandages and meds. He cracked the seal of an analgesic
patch and carefully placed it just below the elbow of Duo's good arm.
He watched as the tension began draining from the man's body as the pain
ebbed. He remembered Duo well enough to know that he must have been in
a lot of pain to have asked for the drugs.
He waited, watching over him, until Duo was asleep again.
It was the least he could do, after all.
He remembered the moment when he'd actually realized how badly Duo was
bleeding. The man had sat beside him with those injuries for how long,
without saying a word? When he'd focused enough on the present to realize
Duo was hurt, the amount of blood had sickened him. He was one of the
last damned people on the planet who would be nauseated by the sight of
blood, but the sheer gaudy volume of it had made him want to vomit.
It had been a florid accusation, a symbol as well as a result of his incompetence.
He stood beside Duo's bed for a long time, thinking about how close he
had come to losing the only friend he had left, and wondering if he could
even call him that.
Zechs yawned hugely, spat out the mouthful of water this earned him, and
finished rinsing his hair out. He had been surprised at how quickly the
water had warmed up, considering how long it'd been since anyone had used
it. The water had stunk, at first, of the chemicals that kept the pipes
clean, but it hadn't taken him long to run that out. He'd woken up warm
and sweaty from his nap, with the sour stench of alcohol clinging to him,
and nearly run for the shower. It felt like heaven.
He watched the last suds circle down the drain and flipped his hair back,
enjoying the clean, light feeling of it. He'd brought his own toiletries,
of course. A man with hair down to his waist didn't generally forget shampoo
and conditioner, even if he didn't remember packing them. Vanity demanded
certain concessions, and compulsive hair care was one of them.
Treize had given him a ration of shit about it over the years. What kind
of professional soldier had that much hair? How could he be that vain
and still have time to pilot? Considering that the man teasing him had
his cologne custom made and never forgot to bring it along, even on
campaigns Zechs hadn't been too devastated by Treize's verbal jabs.
Besides, Zechs had been no vainer than any other officer in OZ. His pride
had withered lately, but habit still kept him upright and well- groomed,
if nothing else. He would make an aesthetically pleasing corpse, if the
As long as he was careful with the knife, of course.
His impatience with such thoughts and his morose indulgence in them killed
his enjoyment of the shower, and he stepped out, grabbing a couple of
towels to dry off with.
The towels had been a pleasant surprise. Vacuumed sealed in plastic bags,
they had come out fluffy, with the clean scent of fresh laundry. He'd
been under the impression that the house had been completely abandoned,
but he supposed he should have known better.
A royal residence, however rustic, was not a simple vacation house to
be stripped bare at the end of each season. His father's visits to the
villa had apparently been sporadic and spur of the moment, so preparations
had been made to welcome him whenever necessary. Zechs had found a closet
full of linens, carefully stored to await the next visit. The image came
to him of family servants packing each towel and each sheet away.
It made him uneasy, and he nearly dropped his towels on the floor before
folding them neatly over the rack. No one would be along to pick them
up, but he'd been trained to be polite to those who served him. By accident,
or fate, he'd grown up to be something of the man he was supposed to have
been, in manners at least.
He'd been born into a world where servants were unremarkable. After that,
his impeccable dress and fine manners had been part of his duties as one
of Treize Kushrenada's officers. Treize had been all steel under his lace,
and so had his officers been.
He owed his aristocratic veneer to the man who'd taught him the arts of
war. His blood might have given him the title, but Treize had shaped him.
The man or woman who had neatly packed away that towel for the use of
whichever Peacecraft might want it, had had no idea that in a few years
the royals would be dead or scattered, hidden under false names and bearing
the burden of vengeance.
It was a small miracle that Relena hadn't been old enough to remember.
If they'd been closer in age, would she have taken his path? He'd spent
years hating himself for his failure to live up to his family legacy.
Yet how many Peacecrafts had seen their parents slaughtered? He had been
a child. Pacifism had meant nothing to him.
Treize had been there for him when no one else had. The Kushrenada legacy
had nothing to do with peace. For Treize, Zechs' lust for revenge had
been absolutely reasonable, even obligatory.
Treize had always brought out the worst in him.
Zechs shook his head, trying to kill this train of thought too. It was
useless to brood about these things. That fact rarely stopped him, but
there were other things to be thinking about now, weren't there?
Like the Gundam pilots across the hall.
Fate had a sick sense of humor.
He was not a stupid man, or a dishonest one. Harboring Heero Yuy and Duo
Maxwell had a lot to do with the fact that he was borderline suicidal.
He'd gone AWOL from his job, his delicately negotiated position, to come
out here and see whether he still wanted to live. Those two were the most
dangerous men he knew of, peacetime or not, at the controls of a mobile
suit or not, and their situation was harsh. Some small and gleeful part
of him thought this was an excellent opportunity for his morbid depression
to either put up or shut up. It was time to live or die.
He brushed his damp hair and thought, unaccountably, of the way Maxwell's
hands had moved, playing with the end of his braid. It was an odd thought,
and he wasn't happy with it.
Even wounded and exhausted, Maxwell was handsome, and Zechs was neither
blind to it nor bothered by it. He had always been attracted to beauty
and strength, regardless of gender, and it was no surprise that he'd noticed
that Duo had both.
What disturbed him was how protective he suddenly felt.
He wasn't sure if he himself cared enough to live. How could he manage
to feel anything at all about whether Duo Maxwell lived or died? And why?
He snorted and brushed the bangs out of his face, peering at his haggard
face in the mirror. Vain or not, he looked like hell, with dark patches
under his eyes and bloodshot eyes. He looked, in fact, like a man who
was no longer comfortable inside his own head.
Or one who still had a hangover.
"You're an idiot," he informed his reflection.
Maybe he'd been alone too long. Maybe that was it. Now that Noin was gone,
there was no one close enough to tell him whether he'd lost his mind or
Such a pity.
Duo was asleep, and Heero was in the front room, sitting on the floor
in front of his laptop, which he'd set up on a small table. To one side
and somewhat behind him, Zechs sat on the small couch they'd found and
dragged into the living room.
Neither man looked particularly comfortable.
Their meeting in the hallway had been awkward, and their sporadic attempt
at conversation had been nearly painful. Both had been brooding about
intensely private matters, and it was hard to focus on someone else, especially
someone you'd had such a complicated past with.
Heero's suggestion that he hook into the net and see if he could find
some news of what was happening out in the world. There must be something
out there by now; at the very least, the shots fired at Relena's estate
must have drawn attention.
Zechs fully expected to find a press release claiming that the two Gundam
pilots were terrorists and enemies of the state, at the very least. He
wasn't sure how long it would take for his own absence to be officially
reported, but he thought he might have a few days left.
He stared blankly at the various sites Heero was scouring for news, vaguely
gaining respect for the man's ability to ferret out information. He waited,
taking tiny sips from a bottle of water and willing his headache to go
And there was nothing.
There was simply not a single word on the news nets about the incident
at Relena's residence, the theft of the plane, or the search that must
still be on for them. Heero tapped into every private and secure net he
could find a way into, searching for some sign of the hunt that must be
going on even now.
It was bizarre.
Heero nearly growled as his last search came up empty. He didn't fail
at this stuff. It was his thing, the talent he hadn't rejected, and it
didn't let him down. It looked like there was simply nothing out there,
but he couldn't accept that.
"What about the Guardians of Gaia?" Zechs suggested, leaning back.
Heero snorted. "The nutcases?"
"Relena calls them my fan club," Zechs said. "Paranoia's their art form.
If there's a whisper of anything out there, they should have picked up
on it and blamed me for it by now."
Heero smirked slightly and began looking for the Guardians' private message
boards. He'd heard of them, but they weren't exactly a trusted news source.
A very loose group of people in all walks of life, the Guardians considered
themselves the last defense against the conspiracy they were certain still
threatened the earth. A lot of them were ex-military and government types,
and, from what Heero had heard, some of them still were.
It didn't take him long. They'd put in some serious effort to keep their
boards private, but they'd wanted their members to access them. That made
the boards vulnerable to someone with bad intentions and elite skills,
both of which Heero possessed.
The pages were ugly but functional, and once he'd gotten access, Heero
skimmed through the message headers. It was a busy place, and he had no
trouble guessing what the Guardians' main obsession was. Or rather, who.
Heero smiled grimly as he looked through a few threads. "These people
seriously don't like you."
"I've noticed," Zechs said.
"Or... your mother," Heero added after another minute or so. The theory
that Zechs was illegitimate was apparently quite popular. Among the popular
candidates for his "true" father were Dermail, Quinze, and through some
logic Heero couldn't grasp, Treize Kushrenada. "Wouldn't Treize have been...?"
"Five years old. Yes."
"Okay..." He kept looking.
It was fascinating, in a way. Zechs had been right about the rampaging
paranoia. The Guardians seemed to comb the news and their own sources
every day, looking for the smallest hints of the coup they were so sure
was coming. Preventers' job postings, police activity, changes in Relena's
travel schedule, and thousand of other bits of minutiae were reported,
analyzed, and debated over.
There were hundred of images, most of them of Zechs. They all seemed to
be taken from news footage, though, which meant his Preventers security
detail must be worth something. Every image had some sinister and often
bewildering meaning attached to it.
"What is this about?" he asked, pointing at an image. In it, Zechs was
apparently about to enter the back seat of an official car, and the camera
had caught him looking across the roof straight into the lens. His hair
had fanned out in the breeze and fairly glowed in the bright sunlight,
and his eyes were extraordinarily intense. It was a striking photo, all
the more so for not being posed.
The caption read Merquise, would-be King of the World, on his way to a
meeting with the Cabal.
"I'm supposed to be conspiring with a number of bankers and secret arms
dealers. They're funding my super secret plot to conquer the world."
"Oh," Heero said lightly. "And are you plotting to conquer the world?"
The next image was a timeline comparison of Zechs' off-world travel and
the fluctuations of the world currency markets.
"Of course. What else would I do with my time?" Zechs said. His tone was
light, but his smile was thin. His long fingers worried at his water bottle,
twisting the cap back and forth, but Zechs didn't seem to notice. When
Heero glanced at him, their eyes met for a moment as they assessed each
other, and then Zechs looked away.
Their fragile, faintly uncomfortable truce stayed intact. There was no
need to mention the past when the future was so uncertain and the present
was so... weird.
Heero turned back to the computer and finished paging through the recent
messages. There was nothing useful there, either, though he could see
an advantage to keeping an eye on the site. Despite the fixation on Zechs'
evil plans, there was also a lot of information to be had. The Guardians
had a good, if highly unorganized, intelligence network in place, and
Heero wouldn't be surprised if the first hints of the situation turned
up on their message boards.
"No luck," he said finally, sitting back. "I'll check back later, though.
Nice fan club you've got there."
"Don't get cocky," Zechs said. "They don't like you very much either."
Zechs stood up and stretched, the muscles of his lanky body standing out
as he eased the tension out of them. He yawned and shook his hair back
before going to the window to look out at the sea.
"For any reason in particular or just the whole Gundam thing?" Heero asked
absently, shutting down his equipment and putting it away. He wasn't really
interested. He'd gotten hate mail in his mail at Preventers nearly every
day he'd been there.
"You're my secret lover," Zechs said. He turned to look at Heero, a faint
smirk lightening his features.
Heero blinked, taken aback both by Zechs' answer and by how he looked
just then. In the sunlight, with his hair shading his face, he looked
very much like the photograph they just seen, the one that had called
him "King of the World". It was a strange moment, and even stranger for
him to be taking notice of anyone's looks, much less this man's appearance.
He stumbled a little over his next words.
"Your l-lover?" He felt his face flush a little, realizing that he sounded
Zechs snorted lightly but turned back to the window before answering.
"You didn't kill me, so obviously you must have been in love with me.
You quit Preventers abruptly, so obviously you're running my sinister
network of spies now."
"That doesn't make any sense at all."
"Does any of it?" Zechs asked, but he'd already turned back to the window.
There was definitely nothing else to add to that line of discussion, and
so Heero concentrated on finishing his clean-up. Still feeling a little
awkward, he looked around for something else to focus on. He and Zechs
had dragged furniture into the front room, but it was mostly barren still.
He could see through the open door into the kitchen, and that sparked
He was appalled that he hadn't really thought about it before.
"What do we have in way of provisions?" he asked over his shoulder, as
he went to investigate. There was nothing set out on the counters, and
a quick investigation revealed empty cabinets and drawers.
Zechs came in and leaned against the counter. "Enough to supply me for
a couple of days. Unless there's a secret stock of food around somewhere,
I'll have to hike out to the caretakers' house and ask for some. That's
about an hour away. Other than that, the closest source would be somewhere
in Turain, or one of the other little towns east of here."
"Are the caretakers reliable?"
"They're an elderly couple who firmly believe I'm the rightful king of
Sanc," Zechs said mildly, as if that said everything Heero might need
to know about them. "However, it's probably better if they don't know
I have guests."
"Alright, then... so we think the water supply is safe, right?" Heero
said, moving on.
"Either a well or an underground tank, I'm guessing, and the pipes were
treated before they were sealed, so it should be good. After the first
couple of minutes, the water seemed fine to me."
"Just food, then. There's a survival kit on the plane with basic rations.
We've probably got a week's worth total, if we're careful." Heero said
finally. "Do you think we can get more medical supplies from the caretakers?
That's our most critical need right now."
"Possibly," Zechs said. "They live quite a distance from the nearest town,
so they should have something on hand. However, if I go down there to
ask, they'll obviously know I have someone injured up here. Do you want
that knowledge out even that far right now?"
"Not unless we run out of other options."
"We might have already done that, you know. This is my first trip here,
and I wasn't expecting anyone, much less people in such high demand. You
might be better off patching him up and taking him out of here," Zechs
"You want us to leave?" Heero asked, and Zechs watched the way Heero's
weight shifted as he took up a subtle defensive stance. Was that on Duo's
behalf, or his own? Zechs wondered if the man even knew he had done it.
Some habits were hard to break.
"No," Zechs said. "I offered you whatever sanctuary I can provide. But
this might not be your best answer."
There were certain thoughts that had to follow from this, certain things
that both men knew had to be taken into consideration. Some level of trust
was forming between them, and there would have to be more; Heero needed
to decide if it was worth the effort. If it was not, then Heero had to
decide if he could take another life in this fiasco, even to cover their
He couldn't do it, damnit. He couldn't *decide*. He felt himself going
numb, and knew it was some part of his mind trying to ease the stress
by diverting his attention from what had to be done. It was the same old
thing, the thing that had nearly let Duo die from neglect. He wanted to
withdraw, but Zechs was standing right there, and he had a remarkably
Duo-like look in his eyes, all nonchalance underlain with hopefulness.
Zechs didn't really want them to go, Heero realized, and suddenly the
numbness began to recede somewhat.
He really didn't want to be alone. Maybe it was better to have an ally,
someone else to help him with Duo, with everything. Maybe that was alright,
"It's better than we could have hoped for," Heero said slowly, trying
to pick his way through a minefield of words. "If you're willing to have
us stay. Whether or not your psycho friends online have picked up on it
yet, there's people out there looking for us, making up lies, rallying
the troops against the freaks. I'd like to get a feel for their movements
before I make any plans."
Zechs smiled at him, and Heero blinked, a little dazzled by the wattage.
"We're agreed, then," the older man said briskly. "Now let us decide our
next course of action: do I go visit my elderly friends or not?"
Heero swallowed and tried to focus. "What about the other rooms?" he asked
abruptly, remembering his survey of the house earlier.
"The floor plan doesn't match up to the outside of the house. There has
to be a concealed space, at least 10 or 20 square feet. There's also the
Zechs was surprised, and Heero had to remind himself that, for all his
skills, the prince hadn't graduated from the Odin Lowe School of Survivalist
Techniques and Advanced Terrorism.
"The garage is empty. I haven't seen anything suspicious inside... not
that I would recognize it," Zechs said a bit sheepishly. He didn't add
that yesterday he couldn't have cared less about such a secret even if
he'd tripped over it. Funny how 24 hours, a hangover, and what was still
probably an epic case of bad luck could do to a man's attitude.
"Let's go see what we can find, then. Maybe we won't have to bother your
friends at all," Heero said. He was still uncomfortable about the spacey
moment he'd had before, and it was good to have something specific and
useful to do. "I'll show you what to look for. We should get a move on
before Duo wakes up and eats half our food supply."
"Big eater?" Zechs asked, following Heero out into the living room and
watching as the younger man began scrutinizing the walls.
"Easily bored. There's not a lot else for him to do right now."
"Ah... He's going to be a bad patient, isn't he?"
Heero ran his fingers over the edge of a strip of wainscoting. "You have
Zechs didn't find the low laughter that accompanied that statement very
reassuring at all.
[chap. 3] [chap. 5] [back
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