Zechs Met Duo + Chapter Two
The Mechanics of Mechanics
The first thing Duo noticed
was that his mouth was dead dry and wide open. Dammit. After the last
time Oz had broken his nose, drinking any amount of alcohol would set
off truly world class snoring. He must have sounded like a Harley winding
up all night. Hopefully nobody heard.
And dammit! He was on the couch in his suite, still dressed; hadn't made
it to the bedroom again. He wasn't used to having this many rooms to himself.
He was more used to the front door of his quarters being within collapsing
distance of a bed. Weird sort of downside to being a houseguest in a palace.
He sat up slowly to take stock. His head felt surprisingly good. Old AC
58 was a forgiving vintage. Great. A shower, some clean clothes and he'd
be ready to... dammit! The memory of his shrinking violet routine with
Zechs the night before played back for him in mortifying detail. Zechs
must think he was an idiot. He sighed, cradling his head in his hands.
Three dammits in one morning.
Just get moving, Maxwell. Shower, then run away and hide, okay? He headed
for the big marble bathroom, taking his hair apart on the way. Standing
at a mirror, finger combing out the last of the braid he snarled at his
reflection. Idiot. Yes.
Why couldn't he get over these useless, backwards notions about sex and
Men were supposed to be all about the quick and easy sex, right? That
was part of the beauty of being gay; pleasure and love separated into
different bins for handy reference and everyone on the same page about
it, right? He couldn't get his personal life right at all, apparently.
First, he didn't get the guys-and-gals thing; then he didn't get the guys-and-guys-and-guys-and-guys
thing... What else was lurking around out there just waiting for him to
He grimaced at himself one last time and clambered into the big multi-nozzled
As he washed his hair with some great smelling green goop he found, Duo
thought about the first time someone had put a hand on his ass at a club.
A friend had explained things patiently after the gawkers had been dispersed.
Apparently, the club was there for that very reason; to make finding someone's
hand on your ass more likely. He'd stayed out of clubs after that. He
just couldn't fathom the idea of sex with a stranger.
And, no matter how great the evening had been, Zechs remained the very
worst kind of stranger -- the kind whose name you actually knew. It was
a little scary, how close he'd come to just forgetting who he was and
what he was doing.
Merquise was special, for sure.
Charming, funny, and smart all gift-wrapped with sharp good looks, winter
blue eyes and all that fine platinum hair. Hair that rippled like a burnished
silver curtain in the firelight. Duo recalled the feel of it on his fingertips;
and the feel of firm, warm lips on his own and the brief catch of strong
fingers on his arms... oh, probably best not to think too much about all
He twisted the water a couple degrees cooler and rinsed his hair.
It wasn't just that he barely knew Zechs. It was that he wouldn't ever
know him; they were six days away from being on different planets. Hell
of a hurdle to making friends.
He stepped out of the shower and toweled vigorously. Well, enough mooning.
Nothing had happened and nothing would. In a few days, he was off to pursue
his fortune and that would be that. One evening and a little wine wasn't
worth getting so pushed out of shape over. He was going to go down to
breakfast and be a good guest and enjoy the company of his friends and
forget all about AC 58 and the way Zechs' eyes danced when he smiled that
crooked smile. Forget all about it. Yup.
Zechs heard the polite rapping at his door again. Go away, he thought.
Please, go away. I am not ready to be awake. Rapping, rapping, rapping.
Okay. Now he recognized that increasingly demanding little pattern.
"Come in, Relena."
She peered around the door at him, smiling.
"Are you decent?"
He sat up against the padded headboard of his bed and scrubbed at his
face with both hands. Peered back at his sister's too chipper face.
"So I've been told. It's very early, isn't it? What can I do for you?"
Relena perched on the foot of the bed and arranged the long skirts of
her robes around her legs.
"Well, for one thing, you can tell me if it was you that absconded with
the Mereilles 58... there's a steward dancing from foot to foot in the
breakfast room....And second, you can tell me that you remember your promise
to help entertain our guests this week..." She folded her small hands
in her lap and waited cheerfully.
"Yes. I took the AC 58. Two bottles. Drank 'em both. And that's why it's
a bit early for company..." His memories of the evening gained colour
and definition and he smiled. Duo Maxwell! Duo Maxwell; his future consort
and present challenge. Friendly face, raucous laugh, sad eyes. And soft,
sweet lips. His smile deepened.
"What are you smiling about? Two bottles of the rarest vintage in the
solar system and you drank them by yourself?"
"I didn't say that. And before you ask, I was doing my duty with your
guests as well as plundering the cellars. Duo Maxwell and I drank the
wine and enjoyed it greatly. I think he had a good time, anyway. The AC
58's the reason he missed your presentations, by the way...." He yawned
hugely and stretched. "Sorry."
His sister's smile became softer and more calculating.
"Oh? I wondered what happened to him." She found a pattern on her robe
suddenly fascinating, smoothing one finger over it again and again. "Do
you have plans with him today by any chance?"
Zechs narrowed his eyes. "Not as such. Why?"
"Well, I was thinking of taking Heero to see the memorial today. I was
hoping that perhaps we could go by ourselves... Quatre and Trowa have
already decided to visit the beach and that just leaves Duo..." She looked
up finally, pleading. "Oh, please! Couldn't you find something interesting
for the two of you just for a few hours? I'd be so grateful! There's always
so many people around. This will be one of my only chances to talk to
Heero in private. Please? Pretty please?"
Zechs scowled and looked completely put out. "Alright. As a favour. But
I don't want to hear any more about the AC 58 and I get out of the reception
next Sunday. Deal?"
She bounced up to hug him. "Yes, yes! Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Best big brother ever!" There was a flurry of robes and scuttling slipper
heels and then she was gone, leaving the faint scent of carnations in
He grinned. He was officially assigned to host Duo and making Relena happy
into the bargain. This day was shaping up.
In the breakfast room of the private family apartments, the first round
of hot coffee was just being poured from the presses when Duo arrived.
Heero sat at one end of the table looking quietly amused, watching as
Relena shoveled ever more scrambled eggs onto his plate. Quatre and Trowa
were laughing over a dish of butter pats molded into the shape of yellow
ducks. Duo took a deep breath. Wow! It smelled great!
"Hey guys! Did you save some for me?" He grinned good morning to everyone
and took a seat at the wooden table across from Quatre. Relena left off
heaping food to smile at Duo and point to the biggest of the serving dishes.
"Be sure to try the eggs and mushrooms, Duo! They're yummy..."
What a difference from the formality of the night before! The nicked-up
but warmly polished table looked like it had seen many such meals over
many years. Place settings of sturdy earthenware plates and mugs, checked
napkins and battered silverware looked simple and inviting. There were
cheerful pottery bowls and platters filled with hearty Sanq dishes scattered
here and there, still steaming and filling the air with the rich scent
of pot herbs. Caddys for jams and mustards and extra spoons crowded in
amongst thick-sided pitchers of chilled juice and milk. Toast in heaps
was next to kippers next to marmalade next to sausage next to potatoes
with onions and peppers. Sunshine cut across the happily cluttered table
top through tall chintz draped windows, opened a bit to catch the fresh
smell of spring green from the gardens beyond.
Zechs paused in the doorway to sample the temper of the familiar room;
laughter, happy murmurs, fresh-washed faces looking their ages for once;
everyone in blue jeans and comfy sweaters. Duo was sitting in a pool of
high morning sunlight, long legs threaded through his chair rungs, doing
something with a butter pat that was making Quatre giggle and choke on
his juice. Trowa was sniffing at a pimento he'd speared; Heero was eating
steadily, watching Relena talk and wave her arms excitedly. He was nodding
at all the right junctures and looking oddly serene.
Zechs smiled and tucked the picture they made away into his heart. As
he nodded hello quietly all around and took a seat next to Duo, he thanked
whatever providence had sorted out such a simple, perfect moment for them
in their grandly imperfect world.
The ride out to the "special surprise" usually felt a lot longer. The
country miles between the palace and the launch site were deliberately
empty of much to look at beyond the odd curious cow and old privet hedgerows.
Having Duo in the passenger seat was making it a lot shorter. Maybe too
short. Zechs was beginning to feel an unaccustomed uncertainty about his
plans to court Duo. Every moment he had with the pilot felt so measured.
Their conversation on the drive consisted in large part of Duo explaining
how the salvage company he was starting up with Hilde and some of Howard's
crew was going to work. He was obviously excited about his prospects and
had thought everything through very carefully. It sounded like a great
idea; there was enough junk out there to clean up, god knew. But, in all
the light conversation, Zechs heard nowhere that someone who wanted more
from Duo than his simplest friendship might fit in. Someone like himself.
Duo was busy building himself an airtight world of work, distant comradeship
and more work.
All through breakfast, Duo had been perfectly sociable, absolutely good
company and very chipper. When Zechs had invited him out to see "something
special" at the Mars project launch site that 'only a mechanic would love',
Duo's eyes had lit up. Zechs knew without asking that Gundam pilots were
easily as much mechanical engineers as pilots. The giant dreadnoughts
were next door to indestructible but they needed almost continual mechanical
grooming and tweaking to keep them in optimal trim for combat. Zechs recalled
a time when the promise of a certain brand of gyro stabilizer would have
made him actually drool.
As they'd been walking out together to Zechs' car, Duo had looked sideways
at him for a moment and finally said something about the night before.
"Uh, thanks again for sharing the AC 58... I wanted to be sure to let
you know I had a great time. I didn't run off like an idiot because of
anything you did... I'm sort of old fashioned about some things and ...
Well, I don't like casual relationships... well, I mean, friendship can
be casual, but," Duo's voice had trailed off.
Zechs had stopped in the middle of the parking lot to make Duo meet his
"You don't have to explain anything. I had a great time, too. I realize
you're leaving on Saturday and you have plans and you don't want to get
involved with anyone you can't spend proper time getting to know. Did
I get it right?" He smiled at Duo's surprise.
"Yeah, you did. Exactly. Thanks! I can always find words for everything
but the stuff I really want to say, ya know?" Duo looked relieved.
"Come on. Let's go see the mechanical marvel!"
And now, two hours later, they were pulling up to a security checkpoint
in what looked like the middle of a farmer's pasture. After Zechs leaned
out and spoke with the guard, they drove beneath the raised crossbucks
onto the base.
"So, when are you going to tell me what this marvel is? I'm dyin' here!"
Duo sat cross legged on the seat, his shoes kicked off. Zechs began to
see a pattern.
"It's right over the next swale, as a matter of fact. Let's see if you
can guess what it is before I tell you..."
"If I guess, what do I win?"
"A t-shirt. All my money is tied up in this. I'm effectively poor for
Duo shot him a considering look and then watched through the windscreen
as they rose above the plain. In the middle distance, something that looked
much like a small town began to take shape. Large square blocks of some
dark material attached to other large square blocks and all linked together
on top of giant ... what? rollers? On top, various things that looked
like chimney stacks and vents; sprinkled among the vents, obvious solar
panels. Big solar panels! And lots of antennas. Duo was riveted.
As they grew closer, he saw the small silver quonsets set alongside the
'town' and tiny figures of people coming and going. Equally tiny cars
were now visible on beaten tracks surrounding the encampment.
Duo swung his head back around to Zechs. "Holy crap! It's not close at
all! That thing's still five miles off, isn't it? Oh man! Zechs, is that
a terraformer?" He all but squeaked in excitement.
Zechs laughed. "Yes, it is. Great guess! You get the t-shirt."
Zechs was more than pleased at Duo's reaction. He knew the mechanic in
his guest had to be running riot with wanting to get closer. He sped the
car up a bit. As they approached, the operational features of the behemoth
became visible: huge biting and crushing appendages; hoppers as big as
city blocks to hold raw materials; conveyors and processors and vents
and cookers and gas release stopcocks. It was a Rube Goldberg device on
a planetary scale.
Every time Zechs saw it, it took his breath away all over again. But for
the first time, he felt a purely pleasurable shot of proprietary pride
in showing it to someone. He wanted very much for it to impress the hell
out of Duo. So far, so good. Yes, indeed, the day was shaping up nicely.
Zechs found himself storing up more snapshots all through the day.
Duo piling his braid up under a hardhat; Duo grilling the American Dirt
Guy about microbe control; Duo charming the French Mirror Guy with his
stick-figure drawings of the orbital melting mirrors; Duo quietly leaning
over to add the missing symbol to a white board formula when no one was
looking; Duo asking with a carefully neutral expression who had the contract
for hauling in ammonia from the outer system; Duo laughing at the crew's
artwork on the inside of Jaws I; Duo eating an egg salad sandwich; Duo
wiping sweat from his forehead and leaving an artful smudge of dust behind;
Duo arguing happily with Dutch Payload Gal about the best launch strategy
for big mechanicals in unstable gravity wells; Duo limned by sunlight
on a high catwalk above the camp; Duo smiling at Zechs like he'd given
him the damned Hope Diamond.
It was better than good. It was the best day Zechs could remember.
Gathering again in the family apartments that night it was obvious that
everyone had enjoyed the day. Zechs busied himself lighting the fire that
was already laid in the grate. When it was snapping steadily, he leaned
against the mantle and listened in on the general chat.
Heero and Relena shared the big couch and seemed happy enough, if rather
subdued. A visit to the somber new Sanq war memorial was hardly a lighthearted
outing. But, Zechs judged his sister well pleased. Obviously having Heero
to herself had gone as well as she'd hoped. She was being the gracious
hostess this evening, prying words from Trowa by pitting him against the
ever-silent Yuy. It was fun to witness a real politician at work.
Duo was barefoot and crosslegged, of course, on the soft old carpet that
highlighted the fireside conversation pit. He was looking at sea shells
with Quatre and smiling, of course.
Anyone would have to smile at Quatre and Trowa; wherever they went, whatever
they were doing, they obviously made a private universe that contained
just the two of them. Quatre appeared to realize this at odd moments and
it was amusing to watch him snap out of his Trowa-induced reveries and
try to join conversations and participate. You could almost hear him berating
himself for his bad manners. Trowa just smiled the same dreamy smile as
always and watched his lover contentedly. This particular evening, Quatre
was spreading sea shells around on a coffee table in front of the loveseat
the pair had claimed and making Duo ooh and ahh over them. Trowa leaned
back and fed shells to the slender blond one at a time from a big bag
while he fed equally singular words to Relena.
At one point, Trowa quietly put his empty hand where Quatre was expecting
to be given a shell. Quatre found himself holding Trowa's hand for a second.
He blushed, made a small slapping motion and reached for the next shell
himself. Zechs caught Duo shooting the happy couple such a nakedly envious
glance at the small display of affection that he wondered if he'd imagined
it. It heartened him more than it ought to have. He laughed at his own
hunter's instincts -- looking for cracks in the shell, hoping for weaknesses
he could exploit. All for the greater good, of course.
After further chatter and a light supper, the party separated once more.
Zechs found himself walking along the long picture gallery above the gardens
with Duo. The fountains had been cleaned and reactivated for the season
that very day. They leaned against the decorative railing watching the
leaping water from behind glass.
"Thank you for today! I never thought I'd get to see one of those factories
up close like that." Duo turned to Zechs and smiled. In the muted gallery
light, Duo's eyes were grey and shadowed. Zechs noticed he had grasped
the tail of his braid at some point in his nervous habit. Why are you
nervous, Maxwell, hm? Worried about something that would happen or something
that would not happen?
Zechs moved a little closer. He didn't want to loom over the shorter man
but now and then, a commanding physical presence could be as effective
as standing on someone's foot to hold them still for a minute. Duo was
surrounded by an 'I'm-gonna-run-away-any-second-now' aura that was growing
thicker and thicker and Zechs wasn't ready for the day to end just yet.
He reached over and gently disengaged Duo's braid from the hands that
were all but wringing it. He tossed it behind the pilot's shoulder and
grinned at him.
"I know you hate doing that. I watched you catch yourself a dozen times
tonight. It's a real tell, isn't it?"
"A tell for what?"
"Oh, that you're nervous or a little anxious. Why are you anxious, Mr.
"You're the one saying I'm nervous; you tell me, Your Highness."
Zechs' smile softened. "May I ask you a favour? Something small but important
Duo regarded him steadily. "You can ask."
"Can we forget for just one minute? All I want right now is one moment
when we're not here in Sanq, you're not getting ready to go to the ends
of the earth, I'm not getting ready to go to the other ends... you're
not the fearless Gundam pilot and I'm not the half-cracked Prince... Can
we be right here, right now?" As he spoke, Zechs lay one hand ever so
lightly on Duo's arm. He felt very much like he was taming something wild.
One wrong move and...
"That doesn't seem like a lot to ask. We can try. But, how will you know
if we succeed?"
"Easy. Because if we're right here, right now -- plain old you and plain
old me, we get to do this..." Zechs dipped his head and captured Duo's
He felt one small startle and then Duo simply gave in and returned the
kiss. They managed to complete the circle of the embrace somehow -- their
arms found each other and sorted out the mechanics all on their own. Zechs
forgot to be clever and Duo forgot to be afraid. For one moment or many
they stood immersed in one another; neither could have said how long.
Closing the infinitely wide and infinitely small gap between souls always
happens outside of time. When they emerged from the kiss, two damaged
hearts beat a little more soundly.
Zechs showered small kisses on Duo's face, his neck and forehead. "Please,
don't send me away; don't run away. Ok?"
Duo pulled back and touched Zechs face with a gentle if calloused hand.
"This is nuts. You know that, right?"
Zechs nodded, eyes dancing. "Yes. Nuts. Completely."
Duo nodded back. He'd sort out all the details later, when his head was
working right again. His instincts were screaming at him right now that
this was too good, too perfect to ignore or throw away. Screw the rules.
"Ok. No running, no hiding." He pulled Zechs back to him.
Behind them, the fountains of Sanq splashed and sparkled in the path of
the rising spring moon.
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