Authors: TB and Marsh
Pairing: 6+2
Rating: R
Notes: Takes place five years after EW

Caveat + Part 5

Dating did have one major advantage over mere friendship.

He'd had occasional liaisons with other men-- and one educationally awkward experience with Noin at the tender age of sixteen-- but they'd largely been unromantic. Sex at Victoria Academy was a student tradition, and it was the tradition of the adult officers in charge to try to stop it by such effective means as curfews and gender separation. Zechs had done what all teenagers did, which amounted to anything that could be accomplished with one eye over the shoulder and boots still securely tied at the ankle.

Duo called it 'making out'. It could be accomplished on almost any surface-- against a wall, on the couch, sitting on the stairs outside their apartments, once at a table at a street café. Zechs had never spent so much time doing nothing but kissing. He had to buy a new tube of lip balm. It was fantastic.

It did wonders for his mood, as well. He smiled at work. When he handed in Duo's background check, Sally was so surprised at him that he actually grinned at her. He helped Tropic move his desk up from the fourth to sixth floor of their building, and caught himself whistling as he carted boxes. He joined the cycle class in the gym, emerging exhausted but determined to make a better showing the next time he went biking with Duo. He had more energy and he slept better. Even Neptune's flirting didn't bother him now.

There were no further reports of mischief on the mines of L4. Duo and Yuy had a new system-- so he was informed-- which was so far invulnerable. Relena went about her business per usual. The boy who'd been stalking her received a plea bargain for six years at a half-way house programme which would allow him to attend courses at a local school, while supervised. His new caseload involved the disappearance of illegal immigrants on the Syrian border, work that kept he and Tropic out of Brussels as often as in it, but that was all right. Homecoming had its advantages, too.


**


'No, moron, you're supposed to guess which hand.'

'Left?'

'Loser.' Duo displayed an open palm. 'Too bad, because the prize was really excellent.'

'I can't have it anyway?'

'I love when you try to bat your eyelashes at me. You're the worst flirt ever.' But it got him a lingering kiss. 'You want your prize?'

'Please.' Zechs relaxed on his elbows on the bar. Duo had his phone in the dock belting out cheerful Christmas music, and there was a box of decorations spread open over the coffee table. The apartment smelled even better than usual; Duo didn't cook much meat, but the pheasant that had gone into the oven on his arrival was an impressive beast, glazed with Madeira and redcurrant and awaiting the reduction of cranberry, chestnut, and orange that was simmering on the stove. Practise, Duo had said.

A small box landed on the counter before him. 'It's not a ring or anything,' Duo said. 'So don't freak out. Also I don't want anything back, I just thought, you know, spur of the moment. We're not really at this stage yet, but.'

'Duo.' Surprise was the primary emotion he felt, mixed-- mixing rapidly-- with a cautious reluctance. They really weren't at a stage where this sort of thing could be considered normal. Their official tally of dates could still be counted on one hand. And despite the kissing, they'd never even gone to what Duo delicately referred to as 'second base'.

'Chill, it's not that big a deal. Open it.'

He prised the lid from the base and nudged aside an edge of crinkled tissue. 'A thumb drive?'

'Work-out track. It's the one I use when I'm biking alone. I figure what with you travelling so much, you could use a pick-me-up sometimes. It works on most gym readers, in your car. You can jack it into a phone, too, and use earbuds.'

'That's thoughtful. Thank you.'

'Well don't flip out over it or anything.'

He had to laugh. He snagged Duo by the collar and pressed his lips to Duo's jaw. 'Thank you.'

'Better.' Duo returned a peck to his nose, and went back to his attempt to carve carrot roses. 'So what's your week look like?'

'Desk-bound for at least the next four days. We won't know if we have to go back out until we know, I gather. You?'

'Work. Christmas is a good season for us. Everyone and their mother starts to worry about wear and tear when it gets cold out. Probably clock some overtime next two weeks, maybe even through the New Year.' He peeled back his sleeve to show Zechs a deep red-edged cut stitched five times with black suture. 'Got that last Tuesday. Had to get a tetanus jab. You should've seen the suit I was working on. Rust-bucket doesn't even begin to describe it. I hate those old junkers. There hasn't been a B-Art4 that's worked right in a hundred years and they want me to turn it around in three days? Whatever.'

'I guess that answers whether you'll have time on Saturday.'

'Maybe.' Duo paused with his knife stroking gently at the inside of his thumb. 'Are you asking me out?'

'Well... I was going to try.'

Duo grinned fleetingly. 'I'll find time. I actually already took the day off, because I have a thing where I volunteer. The annual award luncheon. But after that cleans up I can take a few extra hours.'

'I really only had the morning free,' he said apologetically. 'I owe a report by Saturday afternoon.'

'Damn.' Duo surveyed his last carving and flipped it into the trash with a grimace. 'You can come to the luncheon. I'm doing set-up and hair-net, but then I'm done. There's always extra food, I could at least feed you.'

It wasn't incredibly appealing, but he did want to see Duo while he was in town. 'If it won't disrupt anything to have me there.'

'You can be my plus-one. I always try inviting Heero but he won't come, he hates it.'

'You've haven't talked much about him lately.'

'We fight a lot this time of year.' Duo went silent for a while, turning away to stir his reduction. Zechs decided to wait him out, give him time. 'The thing you've got to understand about me and Heero,' Duo said finally. 'We always just clicked. But it's like that happened completely in absentia from our actual personalities. It just fucking kills me that he's stuck in that apartment. I offered to put in a word with him at the shop. I'm not going to lie and say it was easy for them to accept me there, but it happened. It could benefit him, get him interacting again. He was so messed up after the Barton Rebellion, though, and then instead of fixing anything he just fell into bed with Relena, and that was never going to be an answer. So I say come out with me. We can do shit that he likes, it doesn't have to be all my stuff. But the most I can get out of him is a walk around the block, and it doesn't get him out of his own head.'

Zechs pocketed his thumb drive and concentrated on flattening the tissue from the box. 'What do you mean, out of his own head?'

'I can deal with being stuck here, but he can't. He hates it here. And he would completely take off, if it weren't for me. He stays for me, so sometimes when it's getting to him, he hates me. Ergo. And it pisses me the fuck off. He can go if he wants to. I'll deal with that too.'

Zechs wasn't sure what to make of that. He'd skirted around the question of just how deep the relationship between Duo and Yuy was, but that seemed to hint at possibilities beyond just friendship. Still, he didn't feel like-- if they weren't at a stage where gifts could be easily explained and dates still mostly involved the 'getting to know you' conversations, it wasn't really his place to demand anything. 'I'm sorry,' he settled on saying.

'Yeah, well.' Duo turned back with the spoon. Zechs obediently tasted the reduction. Duo licked the spoon clean after he'd had his test. 'So we're good for Saturday. I'll write the address down for you. Come around ten, half after. You'll get out of set-up and we can stand in the back after everything's served up. Then maybe we can pick up a movie or something.'

'All right.' He smoothed the edges of the tissue and folded it very carefully in half. 'Duo...'

'Yeah?'

'I want-- think-- was just making sure--'

'This stutter thing you do when you're getting personal is so cute I could scream.'

His neck heated. He rubbed it away. 'I just want to be sure we're on the same page. About us. That this is-- exclusive.'

'You mean you want to be sure I'm not slipping the salami to other hot guys while you're gone?'

'That's not precisely how I meant it.'

'I'm not.' Duo toyed with the spoon, twirling it in his agile fingers. 'Are you?'

His neck was hot again. 'I'm not.'

'Then it looks like we're on the same page, doesn't it?'

'So it seems.'

'That's good, then.' Duo turned off the stove's burners. 'The pheasant has about ten more minutes. Cooks fast once it gets in there. So it'll be you, me, Heero, Relena, and whoever Relena's French boyfriend is. I'm predicting super-awkward, so the better the food is, the more we'll have to talk about.'

'Maybe I should rethink my RSVP.'

'Har-har. Maybe you'll get lucky and come down with the 'flu.'

'I'll consider it.'

'Hey,' Duo said. 'Full disclosure. The thing on Saturday at the Jewish Centre--'

Zechs twisted to look at the Christmas decorations. 'I didn't realise you were Jewish.'

'What? Oh. No, I'm not. They let us use the space on Mondays and Saturdays.'

'Us?'

'Us. Small Arms. It's a NGO for child soldiers who were granted asylum in Belgium. We do DDR-- disarming, demobilisation, re-integration. Support.'

He looked sharply at Duo. 'Child soldiers?'

'Yeah.' Duo wasn't quite meeting his eyes. 'I got involved four years ago. My lawyer, the one who represented me at my trial? He's a member. President, now. He got me into it.'

'To volunteer?'

'Not at first. To, um, benefit from their services.'

He couldn't have articulated why he was shocked. He was, though. Duo wasn't looking at him at all now, pretending to be absorbed in shredding leaves from a rosemary stem.

'There's five thousand kids involved in combat every day,' Duo said. 'There were twenty-one hundred at Libra that we know about. And a lot of them got captured and put in jail and put on trial like I did, no matter how old they were when they fought. We don't have a lot of rights. Most laws say if you're fifteen you're old enough to be voluntary, regardless of when you got pulled in, what they did to you to make you fight. The ones who get asylum are rare. The ones who get put on trial aren't as rare. A lot of these kids came out of POW camps, or juvie detention, or even just immigration holds.'

All he could think was that he could understand why Yuy didn't attend. He wasn't sure he would have agreed if he'd known beforehand. He had a new view on that image of Heero Yuy, twenty-one year old shut-in. Duo seemed younger too, suddenly. Yet they were as old as he had been when he'd been promoted to Lieutenant. Zechs himself was the age at which Treize had become commander of a globe-spanning military. OZ had fielded whole battalions of Academy students as the war intensified. White Fang, as well. He'd been aware of it. He hadn't thought twice about it.

'Why would you?' Duo answered, and Zechs realised he'd muttered the last aloud. 'I didn't, either. Til Pieter wanted to present the defence for me. I didn't let him at first. Said I knew very well, thank you, what I was doing. Took me a long time to come around on the idea. It was Heero who really made me think. What they did to him. I think he'd really like Small Arms, if he would just give it a chance. You know, the war went on for so long-- not just the active outbreak of combat, but mobilisation, resistance all over. Almost a whole century of some kind of armed fighting. That's why they needed us, the kids. That's why fifty percent of the planet is under the age of thirty. We've been killing people off for a hundred years. These kids, they're really amazing people. It's really amazing to watch them.'

'But you're all right,' Zechs said, a protest against what he wasn't sure. His muscles felt stiff. He felt-- accused. It was an effort to keep his own eyes straight ahead, on the stove timer counting down.

'I had a really bad temper. Have. Nightmares. I've never been to school. I'll probably spend the rest of my life in mediocre jobs because I'll be unhireable. I'm going to wonder for the rest of my life if I really chose my Gundam or if they just let me think I did. If there'd be more people alive in the world today if I'd been old enough to make sound judgments. And I'm a success story.' He saw Duo shrug from the corner of his eyes. 'So you can see why I don't care what you did or who you fought for. Honestly, it's almost a relief you are who you are. I don't know if I'd know how to talk to someone who was normal.'

'I don't think my situation is equivalent.'

'It's not. But that doesn't matter. To me, at least. If it matters to you, I guess now would be a good time to say so. Or if you need to think about it. Or, like, rescind your RSVP, like you said.'

'No.'

'No what? No you don't want to come? No you don't want to be exclusive?'

'No, I don't need to think about it. And no, it doesn't not matter-- it does matter. Everything you tell me about yourself matters, if we are going to be anything to each other.'

A tentative smile touched Duo's face. 'Really?'

'Now who's not on the same page?'

That earned him a rather serious kiss. Then another. The third came with an arm sliding around his neck, hips nudging between his knees on the stool. He settled his arms around Duo's waist, taking comfort, he supposed, in the fact that this part of their new relationship was unharmed by surprises. He framed the muscles in Duo's back with his palms, applied himself to the warm slide of Duo's tongue against his. 'You smell good,' he murmured.

'So do you.' Duo rested against him, cheek on his shoulder, relaxed in his hold. 'This part is so great. I love this part.'

'Which part is that?'

'The part where it's all new and forgivable and it's exciting just to taste each other.'

He took a deep breath. 'There are other parts that are exciting, too.'

'Tell me more about that.' Duo played with the top button of Zechs' shirt. 'Feel free to be detailed.'

'Parts lying down. Together.'

'Uh-huh.' Duo licked his throat, leaving a rash of gooseflesh behind. 'Bed parts, you mean.'

'Not sex parts,' he corrected quietly. 'But maybe... a step up from this.'

'I might be persuadable.'

He got no further than untucking Duo's shirt before he oven timer reached its end and buzzed noisily. Duo's sigh puffed the hair by his ear. He chuckled, and dropped his hands back to Duo's hips.

'That's a bummer,' Duo said. 'But no way in hell am I re-heating my test-dinner.' He left a final nip on Zechs' lower lip and stepped back. 'Resume after eating?'

Zechs scraped his hair back and let it fall. 'Of course,' he said neutrally. 'Starving.'

'Liar. Horny liar.' Duo flashed his taut stomach, then danced back when Zechs grabbed for him. He trailed laughter all the way back into the kitchen.


**


'I think we should take a closer look at the human trafficking angle,' Tropic said. 'What were the names of those two sisters--'

'The ones from Baghdad?'

'Right. We've been assuming this is related to the systemic violence, people just getting out of town and getting rid of saleable daughters while they do it. What if it's really the actual flesh-peddling that's driving the crime? Is Interpol watching any rings in the area?'

'There's a few, but their movements are pretty well known. If this is a dozen small-timers, we'll have a hard effort at cracking it.'

'Let's at least look at the possibility.'

'Right. We--' His phone vibrated against his belt. 'Just a moment.' He checked the number, and rose from his desk with a nod to his partner. He stepped away from their shared cubicle and walked to the hall as he answered the call. 'Zechs.'

'Uhhh,' was the response. 'Is it fucking over yet?'

'Is what over, Duo?'

'This day. This year. I've been hip-deep in hell since six. I want a stiff drink and maybe a little pickle-tickle. You in?'

Sometimes he was absolutely sure Duo liked to shock him. His face went red. He pushed off from the wall he was leaning on and hurried for the shelter of the restroom. 'Now?'

'I have to clean up. I could meet you in your end of town in an hour?'

It was late enough. He'd had a long day himself, and he and Tropic were going to have to leave Brussels again, endangering Duo's Christmas dinner date. 'I can do that. There's a wine bar about three blocks from here. Trattoria Green.'

'They serve anything stronger than wine?'

'Yes,' he said patiently, knowing that was more of a gripe than a real demand. Duo rarely drank more than one serving-- he claimed it made him sleepy. 'And food. We could have a late supper.'

'Deal. Trattoria Green. I'll be there.'

'Deal,' he echoed.

'You're headed out?'

He jumped, and accidentally beeped his phone as he turned. Tropic had sneaked up on him and stood only a few feet away, scowling.

'Meeting a friend,' he said.

'We were working,' Tropic returned.

'It's late. We can pick it up in the morning.' He stowed his phone back in his pocket. 'You're welcome to join us.' Though that would kibosh Duo's tickling plans.

Fortunately, his courtesy flew right past his partner. 'I thought you were more serious about our duty,' Tropic said disapprovingly. 'You should be more careful. This is how people get a reputation for frivolity.'

That stung. 'I believe I work as hard as any agent here,' he replied coolly. 'We've more than worked a full day. Frankly, I don't think we're getting anywhere by straining ourselves until we're exhausted. The Director herself--'

'Hiding behind the apron strings?'

He restrained himself to a frosty stare. 'Make it an official complaint or quit bitching, Tropic.'

For a moment, the clenched jaw and curled fists Tropic wore convinced him that something was going to snap. Then, so abruptly he doubted he'd even seen the anger, Tropic dropped the pose, smiled easily at him.

'Sorry,' Tropic said ruefully. 'Tired. Taking it out on innocent bystanders. Clearly you've got the right idea-- a little R-and-R before we head out again.'

Zechs forced his own lips up. 'Sleep it off.'

'Will do. Enjoy your night.'

He tried to shake it off, but his confrontation with Tropic stayed with him as he walked the streets to the bar. Had he been distracted by personal matters? He hadn't thought so-- but it was in character. He'd spent most of his life occupied with one personal disaster after another-- vengeance for his murdered parents, the inevitable-seeming match of strength against Heero Yuy, even his exile those years on Mars. Duo satisfied so many things for him, his curiosity, his restlessness in a city he couldn't call home, his desire, apparently not so very latent desire, to have back a little of that inclusivity he'd had during the war, a belonging to a group of select, high talented individuals who had piloted Gundams. Gundam Pilot, that most rarefied of titles, and the meaning it conveyed; a state of being unparalleled. Of course he still wanted that. Being personally pre-occupied had in some part to do with being convinced of his own specialness. He'd been born a prince, a noble. Treize had fed that sense in him, too, flattered his skills, flattered his rebelliousness. The Lightning Count had been able to break any rule he wanted, until Romafeller had begun to chase him out of OZ. Then he had been able to be Milliardo Peacecraft again, leader of White Fang, invincible warrior, wielder of invincible weapons. He'd been chafing at Preventers, lately. Was his relationship with Duo just a symptom of a disease?

He'd worked himself into a thoroughly agitated state by the time Duo showed up at the bar. He'd secured them a table against the wall, a little two-seater on stools, but Duo saw him immediately and came charging through the crowd, slipping between couples so smoothly they didn't even notice until he was past them. Zechs tried to unstiffen his spine, but he still choked on the kiss Duo tried to give him.

Duo pulled back, gazing at him with suspicion. 'You're pissy,' he said.

'No. Not at you.' He managed to take Duo's hand without ruining it. Duo settled on his stool, mouth screwed to the side as he chewed the inside of his cheek. 'Are you hungry? I ordered a steak salad.'

'Yeah, I could eat, but mostly I really want a beer.' Duo tapped his fingers on their table. 'Something go bad at work? You didn't mention during our call, but I kind of commandeered that thing.'

'What is it you always say about Yuy? Locked in my own head.'

'I hear that.' Duo dropped his chin to his hand. 'It's seasonal. We should do something to buck the trend. Want to go ice-skating tomorrow? There's a park with a rink.'

Time for that news. 'I'm headed back out tomorrow evening,' he said.

'Fuck. Seriously, fuck that. I hate your fucking job almost as much as I hate mine.' Duo sat up straight. 'You will be back for Christmas, right?'

'I'm going to try.'

'Fuck.' Duo pulled a menu under his elbow and bent his head over it. Zechs let him stew, sipping his own glass of chardonnay. Sometimes Duo's temper welcomed coddling, and sometimes he had to talk himself out of it. He did make sure the steward saw them, though. Getting that beer on the table would help.

'Okay,' Duo said finally. 'Sorry. Sorry. I'm over it. It's just been a really shitty day. They were playing all this news footage, retrospective on the war and the Rebellion. The television is on in the garage. It's really hard to hide when you're working on a group repair.'

'I'm sorry, too. I know how that feels.'

'Guess you do.' Duo squeezed his hand. 'We're both sorry. Let's just wipe the slate clean, start over.'

'Would you rather go home? If you're worried about being recognised today--'

'It is what it is. I don't let it chase me out of the public. I just let it almost ruin my week.' Duo's teeth showed in a grin. 'We'll have our drink, our dinner. And then if we do go home, we can maybe try that bed part thing.'

Duo got his beer, a local lager, and Zechs got his salad. Duo kept up a steady flow of innocuous conversation, a gift Zechs envied. It did shift the mood, though. Soon Zechs was smiling at Duo's jokes, and Duo played with his fingers, tickled his palm, even kissed his knuckles. It mollified his worries about Duo being just a distraction, too. There was a maturity in their relationship that he liked, but at the root of it, Duo just made him feel good.

'Man,' Duo said. He rolled his head on his shoulders. 'That's a good beer. My toes are tingling.'

'Would you like another?'

'Maybe. Hell, why not. But I'm going to duck in the loo. Order it for me?'

'Of course.' He searched the room for their steward again as Duo slipped off his stool and disappeared. He waggled Duo's glass rather than wait for the man to cross to their table. He glanced at his phone for the time. It was well after ten, and they both had long days ahead of them. Maybe he should suggest they go home separately after all.

'Back.' Duo stumbled trying to climb back onto his stool. 'Whoops.'

Zechs grabbed him by the belt and held him steady until he was seated. 'Should I cancel that second beer?'

'I do feel a little loose. Did it have higher alkla-- alcohol content?' Duo covered his mouth. 'Whoops again. I might be a sloppy drunk.'

That decided him. 'Let's walk for a while outside. The air should help.' He couldn't find their steward this time, so he went to the bar to pay for their meal. He left a generous tip to cover the undrunk order. When he returned, Duo was humming along with the music, eyes lazily low. Zechs paused to admire the view, and spontaneously kissed him.

'Well now,' Duo said. A sly smile curved his mouth. 'That was awfully nice.'

'So are you.' He held out his hand. 'Shall we off?'

'Off we shall indeed.' Duo made it off his stool in one piece, but immediately cozied up to Zechs. Zechs put a careful arm around him. 'You're tall, whoa.'

'Uh, yes.' He guided Duo across the floor. It was mostly young people in the bar now, students who had no-where to be in the early morning. He buttoned Duo's coat at the door-- Duo made it an exercise in acrobatics by sneaking in kisses like missile strikes, including one to his ear that triggered an automatic shiver. He pushed them out into the cold winter air with some relief for the heat on his face.

'So about that bed stuff,' Duo announced. 'I've got some ideas. Very cinematic ideas.'

'Cinematic?'

'You're doing that thing again where you just repeat me.' Duo laughed at that as if it were a great joke. 'You've got all these tics, man. It's so funny.' He captured Zechs' hand and pulled it back over his shoulder. 'So yeah, this bed idea. I think it's super. I think we'd be super in bed together.' He laughed again, a little giggle that left him breathless.

He turned them up the path he'd come. He could use the company car to drive Duo home. This late, traffic wouldn't be an issue. 'You like taking it slow, Duo.'

'I know and you've been totally great about it, I really appreciate that. It's not like I want either of us to be walking around with epic blue balls, you know? It's just nerves. My nerves. Working myself up to it. But I totally want to do it now.'

'What precipitated that change of heart?'

'Well fucking look at you! You're hot, man. You're the hottest guy I've ever done it with. Will do it with, future tense, I guess. What's plu-perfect tense?'

He was relieved when the Preventers parking garage came in view as they rounded a corner. 'I'm not sure.'

'You are so. You're educated. I love it. Love love love.'

'Duo.'

'Love you say my name all the time now. But loved it when you kept calling me “Maxwell” all the time too. Maxwell. Maxwell.' Duo dropped his voice in what Zechs supposed was an imitation of him. 'Maxwell this, Maxwell that.'

He directed Duo toward the stairs that would take them to the second level parking. 'How are you feeling?'

'Super. Zechs, Zechs, let's make out in the stairwell.'

He grabbed Duo's hands and faced him forward again. 'We're almost at the car.'

'Car's better. Good call.'

He pressed his thumb to the identity lock on the first company vehicle they encountered, and it popped open for him. He moved to open the passenger door, but Duo was ahead of him, and crawled into the backseat. Zechs stooped to make sure the belt of his coat made it inside, and Duo captured him by the collar. He ducked in, tucking himself sideways inside the cab. He just got the door shut before Duo pulled him down, wrapping a long leg around him, and locked lips with him.

'Duo,' he tried. 'Duo, you're inebriated.'

'Hot,' Duo muttered against his neck. 'For you. So hot.' He fumbled with Zechs' coat, wrenching it open. He made good progress on Zechs' shirt while Zechs tried to determine whether or not this situation fell under an uncomfortably hazy definition of consent. That effort derailed a bit when Duo opened his belt and cupped him at the groin. 'There it is. Gimme.'

'Duo.' He pressed their mouths together. Duo met him hungrily. Duo's fingers knew their job, stroking him through his cotton undershorts. He lost a knee off the edge of the seat, and Duo hugged him closer, finding skin everywhere. He had to forcibly detach himself. 'Duo, stop. You'll regret this later.'

'I'm open for business and you're seriously turning me down?'

'You're not open for business, you're--' As soon as the thought occurred to him he reached up for the overhead light. 'Let me look at your eyes.'

'We're so past the point of romantic staring.'

'Stop that.' He knocked Duo's hand away from his nipple. 'Your eyes are dilated. You're flushed and warm. You had a twelve ounce beer.'

'And?' Duo squeezed the back of his thigh. 'And what.'

'I've seen you drink. You've never reacted like this. This is beyond lowered impulses. Duo, I think you're drugged.'

'Wha—' Duo giggled again, but it trailed off uncertainly, a little of the colour leaving his face. 'What?'

He sat upright and pulled Duo with him. 'How are you feeling? Did the beer taste strange?'

'I don't know, maybe a little salty. It was local, I thought it was-- you really think...'

'It didn't arrive in a bottle. Anyone could have had access to it.' Damn, he was thinking, imagining how very easy it would have been. The disappearing server. 'Yuy's mail. The sabotage on L4. There is someone after all of you.'

The last of the laughter in Duo's face was gone. He was pale except for two bright spots high in his cheeks. 'I want to go home,' he said.

'No.' He leaned over Duo and pushed open his door. 'Get in front. I'm taking you to hospital.'

'No, Zechs, I don't--'

'We need proof. Club drugs don't stay in the system for long. Come on, I'm behind you.'

As well. He was in time to hold Duo's hair back when he vomited. Duo was weak afterward, now patently disorientated. He wiped Duo's chin and belted him into the front passenger seat, closed him in. As he ran for the driver's side, he was dialling for emergency aid.

'Preventers Agent Wind,' he identified himself. 'I'm on my way to UCL-Saint-Luc with a man who's been drugged, possibly overdosing, rohypnol or maybe GHB, with alcohol. I'm fifteen minutes away. I need priority care waiting.'

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