"Poisonous Pulses"

Written By: Asymphototropic


Disclaimer: I don't own Gundam wing.

Author: Asymphototropic (attracted toward the light, but never quite arrives there)

Email: asymphototropic@aol.com

Rating: NC17

Warnings: sex toys, bondage, language

Summary: Duo Maxwell encounters a ghost seme; pairings 1x2, 13x2xDeathscythe, 6x2

 

Poisonous Pulses

Poison is red.

Not green, like they say in the fantasy stories. No, it is red, pulsating glistening evil, like flow from a severed artery, gushing away your life.

So thought Duo Maxwell as he struggled in the vicious talons of a dragon. Actually, it wasn’t a real dragon. In fact, it wasn’t even an animal at all. Instead it was a raspberry bush. A huge raspberry bush, rather old, with tough venerable sturdy canes bearing myriad brutal thorns. But it was a shrubbery nonetheless. Merely a large piece of vegetable matter that held the young man in its tenacious grasp.

“This can’t be happening to me,” he told himself. “It’s just too humiliating.” He imagined explaining his injuries to the doctors at L2 Preventers Med. The record of treatment would eventually make its way back to Dr Sally Po, director of Preventers Med Central. And Sally might tell her boyfriend Wufei Chang. Surely she wouldn’t reveal the medical details; that would be unethical, wouldn’t it? But perhaps just the fact that the indomitable Duo Maxwell had been overwhelmed, subjugated, captured by a shrubbery. If word got out about this, Maxwell would be a laughing stock amongst the Preventers agents. Of course Maxwell’s partner, Agent Heero Yuy likely would find out before any of them. Terminal humiliation, that’s what this event represented.

The whole thing had started with a case of lust and an abrupt need for cash. An Indian, a basket case, beckoning to the young man seductively. An antique motorcycle, only slightly beyond the status of shrapnel. Duo had come across the crate of eviscerated motor parts and rusted frame in a junkyard, and had promptly tumbled head over heels in lust. His imagination supplied the image of the powerful machine, reassembled, roaring to life between his legs. He desperately wanted to rebuild the damned thing. So he had spent an obscene amount of cash, just to acquire the trashed vehicle. And that had left him with no credits remaining in his bank account for the repair project itself.

So he had sought extra work on his break days. It was harvest time on L2. The sudden steaming heat of artificial summer on the space colony caused the green house fruit to ripen preternaturally quickly. Orchard owners were vying with each other to grab temporary field workers to pick fruit before the crops rotted and dropped. In the competitive market, wages went skyrocketing. The pay was damned good, irresistible.

All very well. Duo liked picking raspberries. Surrounded by the other field workers, lithe, muscular young men, and the pretty, pretty girls. They dressed in long sleeves to protect against thorns, but their nether regions were scantily clad in the shortest of shorts, long legs gleaming sweat against the searing green house heat. There was the feel of the sticky waxy coat from the fruit adhering to their fingertips. The syrupy fragrance of the ripening berries heavy in the air. The beauty of the vermilion orbs against velvet green leaves. The mildly challenging interest of choosing which fruit to pluck, which to leave for tomorrow’s harvest. It was a pleasant occupation, and, as has been said, the pay was great.

They were picking wineberries, the parent plants having originated in Japan on ancient Earth. The very thought reminded Duo of his partner Heero Yuy, a young man of Japanese descent. Also the wineberries’ color seemed evocative of that young man’s lips, seductively parted, slightly sneering. More than slightly sneering in Duo’s lurid imagination, since Maxwell had tumbled headlong into trouble.

The raspberries were brilliant ruby red. The spiders that lived on the berries and snatched unwary Drosophila from the sugar-laden air were well camouflaged, the same fruity vermilion. And the large predator scorpions that survived in the green house by eating the spiders were also glistening blood red. Duo had glimpsed a flash of ruddy brilliance shielded beneath a large leaf, reached for it, contacted a creepy crawly carapace, and had a millisecond to panic before the searing pain in his hand registered misery in his mind. The reflex jerk away from the heat was his next mistake, as his shirtsleeve tangled hopelessly in the thorn-encrusted canes. His struggle to extract his arm caused his heart’s blood to pump faster, speeding the toxin to his muscles. Biceps contracted in horrible spasms, causing flailing contact, further entrapment. An agony in his chest came with a fit of vertigo, and he collapsed forward. His other arm, part of his torso, and then the amber length of his long braided hair became stuck upon the cruel spikes of the raspberry canes.

Duo’s wordless cries rapidly attracted a crowd of field workers. “Hold still, man you’re only making it worse,” a young male voice advised him.

“Can’t,” Maxwell gasped, “scorpion stung me.” This information caused the onlookers to take several rapid, anxious steps away from him. “Great, thanks for the assistance, guys,” Duo thought silently.

“Hang on,” the first voice instructed after a pause, “I called the office for help.”

As if he had any choice in the matter, Duo reflected grimly. What else could he do but hang on? He lost track of anything other than painful spasms and his burning extremity, until he felt someone’s hand moving across his back. His contorted posture allowed him an inverted view limited to four legs and booted feet. It looked to him as if a couple of security guards had fielded the rescue call.

“Hey, kid, you still with us in there?” one of the guards demanded in a pointlessly loud voice. Duo rejected several scathing retorts as counter-productive, and settled for “please get me outta here.”

“Okay with you if we cut your shirt? Then you should be able to slide out of there with less, um, pain,” the rent-a-cop coaxed. Maxwell hoped they weren’t off-duty police, moonlighting. Insult added to injury if these were people he would be likely to see again in the future, in the course of his day job.

“Yeah, ‘sokay,” Duo replied. “Cut anything but the hair.”

It sounded like a sharp blade slicing outwards along the fabric at his back. Maxwell experienced some regret. He wasn’t in the least avaricious, but clothing was expensive on L2, and he was terminally short of cash. Which was how he had gotten into this mess, after all.

“You’re set. Now ease back,” the gruff, authoritarian voice instructed. The cop’s firm grip undressed him while guiding his moves, and Duo felt his arms pull free, scraping against shredding thorns the entire distance.

Several female and a few male voices made distressed noises. “Just superficial lacerations, nothing too bad,” a different voice declared soothingly. Must be bleeding, Duo concluded. At this point, he reclassified his second rescuer as a medic.

“Step back, folks, this isn’t helping,” the cop-voice snarled annoyance. “Now what about your hair, buddy?”

“Don’t cut it,” Duo sounded panicked, even to his own ears. “It just takes getting rid of the hair tie at the end, the braid will unravel and I can pull out easy,” he pleaded.

Maxwell felt a flashlight beam burn across his field of vision. “Sorry buddy. I can’t even see the end of it, much less reach it,” the cop stated. He sounded really apologetic. It occurred to Duo that the man was scared of being stung. He didn’t want to reach into the vegetation, and was abashed at his cowardice.

“See if I can reach it,” Duo replied. His braid was almost longer than his arm. But in its twisted position, surely he would be able to snag the trailing end. He started by groping at the back of his head, and palpated the thick plait of hair along its winding course. Fortunately it flowed to the side of his unstung hand, and when his fingers arrived at the braid’s culmination, he was able to feel the elastic band there. He yanked the tie away and called out, “give me a boost, wouldya?” He felt the cop’s massive grip on his torso supporting him back and out, the dragon shrubbery grudgingly yielding its grip on his tangled hair, and at last he was extricated. The crowd applauded and cheered enthusiastically.

“Set him down,” came the medic’s instruction.

“Break it up, the excitement’s over, folks,” the guard said. “Just go back to what you were doing before.”

For some reason, Duo’s hearing was working better than his vision. “Let’s get him to the first aid station,” the sentence seemed to wash in to him on a roaring wave.

“Can you make a call for me?” Duo asked the grayness surrounding him. “ ‘Sa local pager. Just a script message.”

“Sure kid, what’s the number?”

Duo muttered the numeric series.

“Got it, what’s the message?”

“01- Need extraction, Po-ish (that’s capital p-o-dash-i-s-h). Then type in the call-back phone number for this place. Sign it 02.”

“Message sent,” the cop told him. “They’re gonna know what that gibberish means?”

“Uh huh,” Duo said as he passed out.


HeeroYuy scowled at his pager, his sculpted features contorted. This was Maxwell’s day off, yet his partner still had managed to get himself into trouble. Duo was either sick or injured, since “Po-ish” referred to their mutual friend, physician Sally Po. It wasn’t an emergency, at least not according to Maxwell’s admittedly warped judgment. Otherwise, Duo would have added “911”, and the phone number that followed would have been for a hospital trauma center rather than a greenhouse. “Forbidden Fruit, Orchard Enterprises.” What was Maxwell doing at a greenhouse?

All of that was bad enough. Worse was the fact that Yuy was busy at a Preventers’ stakeout. He couldn’t in conscience leave work if this wasn’t an emergency. Not even for Duo Maxwell, Heero’s best friend and long-term comrade at arms. Yuy phoned Wufei Chang.

“Where are you?” Yuy asked.

“Shuttleport. Heading back to Earth in an hour,” Agent Chang’s voice informed him.

“Damn,” Yuy muttered.

“Trouble?”

“Nothing you can help with.”

“Let me guess. Something to do with Maxwell?”

“Hn.”

“Good luck then,” Chang signed off with a tight chuckle.

Yuy next phoned L2 Preventers headquarters and requested relief. The dispatcher informed him tersely it would not be immediately forthcoming. The young agent gritted his teeth and resigned himself to a tense, indeterminate wait.


Duo Maxwell tried to pull his hand away from the flaming wreckage. However, it seemed that his charred flesh must have stuck to the metallic surface of his burning gundam, and he continued to roast. He groaned and writhed.

“Hey. Boy. Wake up.”

Maxwell opened one eye. “Zechs?” he stuttered. Long platinum blonde hair framed a face possessing princely features. What was Zechs Merquise, former royalty of the Sanq kingdom, doing here? Merquise was now a Preventers commander, true, but as far as Duo could recollect, the man had never, ever descended so far as to visit the slums of L2.

“Thank you,” came the non sequitur.

“Huh?”

“For calling me ‘Zechs’. Recognition is the highest compliment you can pay a KO, you know.”

KO. Short for “knock-off”. The guy meant he was a celebrity impersonator. That he was impersonating Zechs Merquise. The similarity was striking. And the OZ uniform was accurate. Duo was impressed. Although this guy’s manners didn’t even approach the genuine Sanq prince’s regal poise.

“He knows that. He’s a knock-off himself.” Duo looked up at Treize Khushrenada. Or rather, at a Treize KO. The impersonator looked frighteningly similar to the deceased general. Before he was deceased, that is. So this guy thought that Duo Maxwell was a Duo Maxwell impersonator?

“Hey, that’s right. You’re a Duo Maxwell look-alike, aren’t you? Though you must not get much business around here,” Almost-Zechs said.

“Yeah,” Nearly-Treize agreed. “L2-ers don’t like people messing with anything to do with Duo Maxwell. That pilot is from L2, you know? And so he’s a bit of a legend around here. Almost revered, you might say. Nope, kid, you better go peddle your wares elsewheres. You’ll go broke trying to impersonate Duo Maxwell on L2.”

You’ll go broke being Duo Maxwell on L2, also, he told himself. Broke just seemed to be his native state. With a sigh, Duo Maxwell decided to dodge the issue of being or not being Duo Maxwell. “Whatcha, erm, why’re doin’ Florence Nightingale?” His tongue slurred the words thickly, as his eyes settled shut.

“Wake up. Hey kid, wake up,” Nearly-Treize’s voice cut through the fog. “The answer is that we’ve only got one medic for all the boss’ businesses. So the doc had to go off to one of the other buildings. Somebody got a hand caught in some farm equipment or some such. So he left us in charge of you. We can’t let you sleep.”

“Cm’not?” Duo propped one blurry eyelid open.

“Your breathing is depressed,” Almost-Zechs informed him.

“Tell a joke, cheer it up?” Duo muttered, grinning.

The others didn’t seem to get this attempt at humor. “They probably think I’m delirious. Possibly I am,” he reflected at the weirdness of being medically tended by OZ officers from Modern Earth Sphere History 101. He caught sight of the glittering pendant suspended on a cable around Almost-Zechs’ neck.

“You like that?” A-Z asked. “It represents the gundam Deathscythe Hell. Cool, isn’t it? Real gundanium. Worth a small fortune. The eyes and landing lights are real jewels too.”

“Cool,” Duo nodded as his eyes closed on the image of the intricate miniature mech.

“Come on, boy. Wake up,” Nearly-Treize clamored, slapping him lightly on the cheek.

“It’s a sex toy,” A-Z stated loudly, drawing the model from around his neck and fingering it affectionately.

Both of Duo’s eyes opened wide.

The Zechs impersonator worked some switch, and the mech’s tiny scythe sprang upward and glowed with green light. “This cable hooks into a nifty computer modulator. And the scythe’s handle gets shoved into your slit. And then the little guy’s tool makes you feel all kinds of wicked things all up and down your cock and balls, until you are sporting wood just mega. And then…”

Nearly-Treize’s voice interrupted this explication angrily. “Jeez, man, don’t tell him all that pervie stuff, he’s just a kid.”

“Well it woke him up, better than what you were saying, didn’t it? And besides, I bet he’s ‘old-enough’. Just because he’s a fly-weight with a baby face, doesn’t mean he’s a kid. How about it, buddy? You’re of the age of consent, right?”

This question constituted Duo Maxwell’s worst pet peeve. He hated when people asked how old he was or what his birthday was. As far as he could recall, he had never met anyone during his badly neglected childhood who knew the answer to those questions. And it irked the hell out of him that such seemingly trivial data were considered important vital statistics to the entire rest of the known universe.

He shirked the question by shrugging. “Orchard work, OZ uniforms, erm, why?” He was having difficulty putting his words in orderly sentences. He wondered how he came to be so drunk with no recollection of attending a party.

“Oh, that’s the boss’ fancy, you know?” N-T explained. “Nights, he goes to this rich-guys’ private club where the members re-fight battles from the war on fancy computer tables with miniature troops and model mechs. And he’s really into the OZ officers, cause they’re the snob toffs. And him being a poor L2 slob who worked up to being rich in the orchard business, he’s just into the OZ aristocracy, right? So he keeps us around, because he can afford to. And we stick around, cause the pay is great.”

The pay is great. Seem to have heard that one before, Duo reflected. Maybe it’s contagious.

“Yeah, that, plus the boss gets his rocks off watching us do each other,” Almost-Zechs stated with an evil grin. This guy’s manners were definitely not as regal as the real Zechs Merquise’s.

“Jeez,” Nearly-Treize complained again, blushing. He appeared more inhibited than his buddy. Duo imagined that Zechs was the seme in this couple, and Treize the uke. Although that wouldn’t be historically accurate, probably. The boss was into history, wasn’t he? Details, details.

Duo Maxwell tumbled into a burning pool of oil from his wrecked gundam, and floated face down in it. Thereafter, Zechs and Treize failed to capture his further attention.


Heero Yuy cursed. Softly, inwardly, so that no one else knew of his seething anger. Outside he maintained his cold façade. But deep inside himself, he cursed. Relief for the stakeout had not arrived early. In fact, the agents finally had shown up at the site half an hour late. There had been a power outage at the vehicles battery at headquarters. So relief had had to take public transport to get to the stakeout site. Emergency vehicles were reserved for true emergencies, even for the Preventers.

At long last, Yuy was off duty and free to pick up Maxwell. He absconded with the Preventers scooter he had driven from headquarters to the stakeout vicinity. At least the local battery had been functional, so the scooter was fully powered. All but electrical/solar vehicles were outlawed on L2, since the atmospheric scrubbers malfunctioned enough without adding burnt fuel pollution to their agony. Ordinarily Yuy would never even have contemplated retaining a Preventers vehicle after hours. But he was worried about Maxwell’s status. He would deal with the rigors of his conscience later. He drove the scooter past the posted limit the whole distance, the speed generating an artificial breeze, the delightful cool bringing on a sudden fit of nostalgia for old Earth, where the wind was a glorious force of nature.

At Forbidden Fruit’s gate he inquired after the greenhouse location, then hurried to park the scooter. He didn’t bother looking for a battery receptacle, hoping he wouldn’t be gone long enough to lose significant power.

There was a reception desk at the front of the greenhouse. A secretary seated there appeared extremely scantily clad. Yuy didn’t blame her. This place steamed like the Amazon rain forest. “I’m looking for Duo Maxwell,” he told her.

The woman blinked and chuckled like she thought asking for ‘Duo Maxwell’ was an awfully good joke, approximately equivalent to his declaring he was ‘waiting for Godot’ or ‘seeking Nirvana’. “Oh, the KO who bit the bush? Poor kid. He’s at the aid station, first turn on your left down that hall.”

Yuy attempted to interpret, then gave up on the more obscure portion of her comment, as he hurried in the indicated direction. The aid station was easy to find, although dimly lit when he entered. A burly young man looked up from some paperwork.

“Duo Maxwell?” Yuy asked again.

The medic nodded his head toward the corner of the room. “On the gurney.”

“What is wrong with him?”

“Scorpion sting. Androctonus colonensis, L2’s very own poisonous nemesis. Stings happen occasionally amongst the berry-pickers. I’m used to treating them, don’t worry. He’s already been through the antitoxin protocol. I gave him some muscle relaxants, which seemed to slow his breathing significantly. He got an ordinary adult dose, its part of the treatment plan. But he’s awfully skinny, so maybe it was too much for him. Anyhow his breathing’s improved this last half hour, not to worry. Of course, some of that may be due to the antitoxin kicking in. He passed out when he was first stung, collapsed right into the raspberry canes. Took us awhile to get him out, and he’s got a bunch of thorn scrapes on him. Makes him look like he’s been in a fight with a werewolf. But the point is, he got toxin circulating a while before we could pull him free and get him back here for the antitoxin. So he’s probably gonna be achy and feverish for a day or two. And nauseous.”

Yuy nodded silently.

“Now, my boss’ lawyers want me to tell you to take him to his doctor. So consider that I told you that, okay? But frankly, they’re probably going to know less about it than I do. Not being arrogant here. Its just I deal with it in this business so I’m used to it, is all. Up to you. I’ve printed out some follow-up advice from the antitoxin protocol for you. Basically, if the fever gets too high, or if you can’t wake him up, or his breathing gets difficult, or there’s anything that looks like convulsions, take him to the hospital. His hand where he was stung is red and swollen. If it goes gray or black or green or puss-making or if the swelling gets a whole lot worse or the pain suddenly gets worse or if it goes numb, you need to get him to the hospital. That’s about it.”

Yuy nodded acknowledgment. “Thank you for your advice.”

“Sure thing. Oh, also, you need to sign for him. And we’ve just been calling him ‘Duo’, so you need to write his real, full name on the line there. It’s for the lawyers, you know?”

Heero Yuy scowled at the document. Duo Maxwell didn’t know his real name. The instruction was impossible to follow. After a moment’s contemplation, the young man shrugged, and filled in the blanks. Patient’s name, Duo Maxwell. Signing for patient, Heero Yuy. He set the paperwork upon the desk and followed the medic over to the gurney.

Glistening heliotrope eyes studied him. “Is it you for real?” Maxwell mumbled.

“Yes, of course,” Yuy replied, puzzled.

“Erm, sorry. Having some reality issues lately.”

“Where’s your shirt?”

Duo looked down at his bare chest, decorated with multiple weeping scrapes stained with antiseptic. “Dunno. Damn. Quite a party. Got drunk, lost my shirt, can’t remember how. Hope it was good,” he muttered as his eyes drifted shut.

“We had to cut it off him to get him loose from the raspberry thorns,” the medic explained.

“Let’s go,” Yuy pulled Maxwell off the gurney and into a wobbly stand. With Heero’s shoulder and arm for support, Duo managed to stumble along at his side as they departed.

The medic stared at the completed paperwork on his desk. Heero Yuy and Duo Maxwell. For real? He contemplated the extraordinary beauty of his patient’s hair, the surreal color of the young man’s eyes, his stoicism in the face of pain. Damn, the boss would throw a fit! Two of the war-famous gundam pilots simultaneously under his very roof, and the boss had missed seeing them entirely.


Duo Maxwell sat backwards on the scooter, looking down at his wrists. “Drunk, shirtless, and handcuffed! This party just gets weirder…” his head drooped forward.

Yuy sat on the seat, facing his partner. He pulled Duo’s manacled arms around Heero’s neck, and then the young man’s buttocks onto his lap. “You are not under arrest. You have the right to say anything you damn well please. I’m the only thing that can and will be held against you. And it wont be in a court of law,” Yuy laughed at the intricacy of the joke. He had a complicated sense of humor that Duo usually appreciated. “Wrap your legs around my waist.” He bound his partner’s sandaled feet together with a short bungy cord. “If you fall off, you’re taking me down with you. So don’t.” Duo’s braid was sloppy but functional, Heero assessed. Someone had fastened an ordinary rubber band at the end, rather than the usual hair tie, so likely it wouldn’t come unfastened during the drive. Yuy revved the scooter to life.

Maxwell’s hug tightened, his cheek settled on his partner’s shoulder.

Duo’s face felt hectically hot against Heero’s neck. Yuy hit the accelerator as hard as the small electrical engine would take it, and zipped down the roadway, then contemplated momentarily. “Your place or mine? Mine. I know what supplies I have, know which pharmacies are open late, know the location of the nearest emergency room. My place it is,” he concluded to himself. “What the hell were you doing, picking raspberries? Strange. Why did that medic look so accusing when he said how thin you are? Like I’m personally responsible for feeding you? Damn. A scorpion sting, of all things! Double damn. I’m going to have to call us both in for sick roll tomorrow. Personnel will be pissed. Short on staff already. And how the hell will I get the scooter back to HQ? Screw it. Screw them for not sending relief sooner, while we’re at it.”


Duo Maxwell opened his eyes to find himself in a vaguely vast, cavernous hall with General Treize Khushrenada and Lieutenant Zechs Merquise. The two men appeared exactly as he remembered them from the war, both clad in the luxuriously appointed uniforms of the elite OZ officers.

Khushrenada was tall, with broad shoulders and narrow hips, athletically muscled. He had golden hair, and clean-cut handsome features showing a bitingly satirical expression. His one quirk, the wild dovetail eyebrows added interest to what otherwise would be merely perfection.

Merquise seemed bent upon competition at every level. His long, electrically pale hair swept about his slightly pouting features. He had a body and face suited to the statuary of a Greek god. He was a soldier and he was a prince. He acted like he was thoroughly versed in his inheritance. And in expression, gesture and stance, he bore this consciousness like a crown and scepter. They utterly defined his regal bearing.

Duo thought the two men were sexy as hell. The reflection that they were all part of his private delirium merely added spice to the dish.

“You are dead,” Zechs growled angrily at the General.

Treize gestured languidly with a white-gloved hand. “What is your point?”

“What are we doing here together? How did we get here? What is this?” the Prince demanded.

“I got bored with being dead. I require entertainment. You owe me. Voila! You are here.”

“In what manner do I owe you?”

“My dear Milliardo. I sent you away when the Romefellers threatened us. I sacrificed my own feelings, and eventually my life, so that you would be safe.”

“Safe? You sent me away with the Epyon system overruling my judgment, my willpower, my self-determination. As a result, I nearly destroyed planet Earth. My psyche is permanently damaged. And I am a pariah amongst mankind. Do you really expect thanks?”

“The ‘alive’ should grateful be? No, no. I do not expect gratitude. Merely entertainment,” Treize shrugged his eloquent shoulders.

“And even if somehow you feel justification in commanding me, what about him?” Zechs gestured toward Duo.

Treize eyed the young man appreciatively. “Duo Maxwell has a certain, shall we say ‘affinity’ for the dead. Don’t you boy? And his mentor, Shinigami listens. Yes, the chief angel of death listens to the mutterings of mankind. The voices of the living as they approach death have great significance.”

“Approach death? Maxwell? Are you sick, injured?” Zechs eyed the youngster with some alarm.

“I’ve felt better,” Duo nodded affirmation. “I sorta got into difficulties, you might say.”

“And in his agony he thought of us. Very flattering, don’t you agree?” Treize chuckled wryly.

“Us? But why? I barely know him. And you never even met him,” Merquise pointed out the facts.

“It matters not. We are drawn together, gathered here, for whatever reason. Seize the day, say I. Or night as the case may be. I find myself in your company, an unusual circumstance. Let us take advantage of the situation,” Treize smiled at his subordinate. “And if you don’t enjoy being here, let me just state: the sooner you comply with my wishes, the sooner you may depart. So humor me, my dear Milliardo.”

“What, exactly, is it that you expect of us?” Zechs demanded suspiciously.

“Play together, while I watch.”

“What?”

“Proceed. You are bound to enjoy it. Go ahead, you know you want to,” Treize urged with a salacious smile.

“That is outrageous. I absolutely refuse,” Zechs sputtered.

“Why do you resist? Your oh so handsome corporum is located far away, on old Earth. Maxwell is lying miserably upon his fevered bed somewhere on L2. I am long since dead, my lyophilized bits spreading into space. None of this is real. You can do as you like without fear of retribution.”

Zechs turned away in a fury, and paced, grinding his booted heels into the nonexistent floor with his agitated steps. “What a ridiculous situation! Surely the dead cannot command the living.”

“Its not as if I ask for something unpleasant. Look at the lad. Isn’t he lovely?”

“Well, so what if he is? I am engaged to be married to Miss Lucrezia Noin. I have no intention of dishonoring that attachment. And what about Maxwell? I’m sure he has a girlfriend on L2. Or a dozen, maybe. Doesn’t he have anything to say about this?”

“No, not really. It was his fault in the first place, his dwelling upon our sexual propensities, which invoked us into this realm. So it is his responsibility to act in order to disperse us.”

Zechs eyed Duo, who replied, “don’t ask me, sir. I haven’t a clue how this works. If General Khushrenada says we’ve gotta have at it, maybe he’s right.”

“You see, there speaks the voice of reason. I’m the ether-expert, and the ranking officer here. So you will take my orders, and all will be well. You can start by undressing him, Lieutenant. Go on now. Commence. Have at, as Duo says.”

Merquise glared at Khushrenada’s manifestation. Then he removed his white gloves, tucked them into his belt and turned reluctantly toward Maxwell.

To Duo’s perceptions, his own body appeared to be clad in an old T-shirt and gym shorts, both too large for him. Zechs reached for the boy’s shirt and drew it off, mussing the already tousled amber hair in the process. Somewhat apologetically, the Prince smoothed Duo’s bangs.

“Very good, continue,” the General urged his underling.

Merquise reached trembling hands toward the shorts.

“See there. The evidence of your interest is readily apparent,” Treize chuckled wry amusement.

Zechs crouched to lower the garment to the floor. Duo leaned upon his shoulder for balance, and stepped out of the clothing. He hadn’t anything on underneath.

“Bring him here for inspection,” Treize commanded. Zechs grasped the boy’s shoulder and drew him forward.

“Delicious. About face for the posterior view. Ah, excellent. Once again to the front. He’s so compliant. It must be your commanding presence, Lieutenant. You outrank him at his current employment, the Preventers force, eh?”

Zechs snarled.

“Ah yes, just so. Caress him, what are you waiting for? Lord, Milliardo, just look at the perfection of his ivory skin. How can you bear to stand near him without touching him? That’s it, stroke him gently. See how he quivers. So responsive. Now to address his features individually. Tongue his ear, and render his adorable little lobe dewy. I heard that slurp, Milliardo. You are salivating excessively. Does he taste good, eh? He looks like vanilla ice cream drizzled with cherry syrup. Or maybe peach. Perhaps both, hmmm? And now, lave his nipples. He likes that, doesn’t he? Just see him squirm. Zechs is good with his tongue, isn’t he? I recall very well, even though it has been years.”

“Hey, General,” Duo groaned. “You know the definition of a ‘conversation piece’? Sex while talking.”

“Damn,” Treize chuckled. “What a brat it is! Pause a moment, Milliardo. I have a wicked notion.”

The General gestured, and a vermilion velvet armchair of grand antique design appeared before them.

“An elegant shade, is it not, Duo? It is the color of ripe raspberries and of Heero Yuy’s lips. It is the color of nasty toxic L2 scorpions, of arterial blood surging from a wound. It is the color of poison. It is exactly the color of death, your death, isn’t it boy?”

Zechs growled, “stop taunting him. Why are you being so cruel, Treize? You weren’t cruel when I knew you before.”

“Wasn’t I? Perhaps not, but I don’t remember. Death is cruel, my lover. And so, by close affiliation, am I grown cruel also. Now sit at your ease, my old friend, there in the chair. I must attend to scolding the boy. Ahem, Duo Maxwell. How often did I hear you taunting the OZ pilots, as you conquered them in battle? It was quite frequent, was it not? Almost invariable as I recall. Yes, most certainly. That was very arrogant of you. Arrogance is a serious character flaw, boy. You must be punished to teach you a lesson against future arrogance, to bring you down a notch. Ah ha, I have it. The Lieutenant there will spank you.”

“I will not,” Zechs declared coldly.

“You have a choice, Lieutenant. Either you spank him with your hand. Or if you refuse, I will flog him with my riding crop. Your choice, my dear.” Treize flicked the whip, forcing the wind to whistle over the leather in Maxwell’s direction. Duo took a hasty step away from the General.

“I believe the Lieutenant’s silence represents acquiescence. Bend over his knee, Duo, there’s a good little fellow. Zechs, twenty strokes, and I want to hear the reverberations, understand? Oh magnificent. Do it again. Mortification of the flesh is good for the spirit. His flesh and my spirit, in the current instance.”


“Lie down, Maxwell,” Heero instructed, pushing him back into bed.

Duo curled tightly, clutching his belly. “I’m gonna hurl,” he rasped.

“There is a convenient plastic waste receptacle at bedside for your hurling enjoyment. However, you have ‘dry heaves’. There is minimal content in your alimentary tract. Do you want to drink some generic pediatric electrolyte solution?”

“ ‘Zat your idea of ‘babying’ someone?” Maxwell grinned.

“I find colorless fluids less obnoxious when in the throes of ‘hurling’. However, I could purchase some virulent green sports drink, if you would prefer to be more artistic with your expulsions.”

“Oh, ouch. Don’t make me laugh, Yuy. It hurts my guts.”

“I’m sorry. I will strive to be less entertaining.” Heero helped his partner sip from a glass.

They were interrupted by a phone call. Preventers Dispatch. Yuy refused to allow his calm expression to change for the view screen. Mentally he shook his head.

“Agent Yuy,” the Dispatch Supervisor’s voice scolded in an annoying whine. “Just because Agent Maxwell may be ill is not an excuse for you to miss work.”

“As I have stated, I am caring for Agent Maxwell.”

“Medical leave can only be requested for personal illness or care giving for an immediate member of your family.”

“Officially, Maxwell and I are ‘immediate family members’ for purposes of sick roll. The correct paperwork has been filed. You may confirm that by placing a formal inquiry with personnel records.”

This statement was greeted with a static-filled pause. “Agent Yuy, I have a memo here from the director of the motor pool, stating that you may have misappropriated an official vehicle, that said vehicle was retained after you had clocked out. Misuse of official vehicles is punishable by fines and suspension from duty without pay. You need to return the official vehicle to headquarters immediately, and submit an explanation of the incident to all supervisors. Punitive action will be compounded if you continue to retain the official vehicle beyond receipt of this notice.”

“I reported the location of the vehicle immediately upon arrival here, and requested a pickup of the vehicle. The fact that the vehicle has not been retrieved is not my problem. I used the vehicle after my duty hours specifically to render assistance in a medical emergency. Such use is acceptable within Preventers regulations.”

“Agent Yuy, are you aware of the fact that currently we have a serious shortage of vehicles, amounting to a crisis?”

“Yes. I am also aware that this is entirely attributable to a failure by Preventers’ support staff to repair the vehicle power outlet at headquarters. That Agent Maxwell and I, on our own initiative, and at our personal expense, analyzed the malfunction during our time off and indicated specifically, in a written memo, which parts required replacement. The neglect of those repairs has resulted in the current crisis. Once again, this is not my problem.”

“Agent Yuy, your lack of cooperation shows poor support of the team effort.”

“Clearly the team effort is nonexistent, and does not deserve my support, when simple repairs are not performed by staff in a timely manner. And you could have had the vehicle returned 4.73 hours ago, simply by identifying an agent whose domicile is in this sector and instructing them to bring the vehicle in to headquarters when they report for work. By this maneuver you would have retrieved the vehicle and saved the cost of said agent’s usual public transport.”

“Your suggestions in management matters are neither requested nor desired.”

“On the contrary. According to Commander Une’s urgent memorandum on the 13th of last month, ‘field agent input is requested at every level of support and management’, and I quote. Or are you presuming to countermand directives from Preventers Central Command?”

“Ahem, proceeding to the next matter, I have so far been unable to contact Agent Maxwell at his designated abode. I presume he is currently with you, since your claim to sick roll is caring for Agent Maxwell.”

“Your presumption is correct.”

“Well? I need to speak with Agent Maxwell.”

“He is indisposed and cannot come to the phone. I am willing to take a message.”

“According to regulations, sick leave cannot be granted on days immediately following vacation leave days, without documentation of illness, signed by a Preventers-authorized physician. We are not in receipt of physician documentation of Agent Maxwell’s illness. Therefore sick leave must be refused for Agent Maxwell. He needs to report to work as scheduled.”

“Agent Maxwell is physically incapable of reporting to work. And he is too sick to get up and go in to the doctor’s office. If you plan the duty roster based upon either his or my presence, you will be disappointed, because we are not coming to work. I do assure you, Agent Maxwell is totally incapacitated. He cannot stand long enough to even take a piss and is most assuredly not coming in to work.”

“Really, Agent Yuy, your language is inappropriate. Regulations state that…”

Heero hung up on her. “Insufferable harpy!”

Duo groaned with poorly suppressed laughter, clutching at his aching sides. “Damn, Yuy, I can’t believe you told her that.”

“Why not? It’s true.”

Chuckling helplessly, Duo curled up tightly again. “Cannot stand long enough to take a piss. Such eloquence. Damn, I could listen to you for hours.”

“At the rate we’re going, you may have to.”

Waves of darkness and flames roiled over his body. Duo Maxwell writhed. Vertigo pounded his brain. His muscles felt tortured as if a giant’s fist clenched around him. Burning nausea clawed at his belly. With an effort, the young man arose and stared down at his contorted body where it lay. Then he simply departed from the pain.

“You got bored with the miserable effort of living and abandoned it. I must say that shows excellent judgment on your part,” the General told him.

Duo looked up into Treize’ handsome face. “Nobody bothered to tell me whether or not the decision was permanent,” Maxwell complained.

“Shhh. Hush boy. You are here with me now. Let us use the time together luxuriously, deliciously.”

“What did you have in mind?”

“No, its what you had in mind,” Treize explained, holding the glittering toy dangling over Duo’s head.

“Now how in hell did you get a hold of that?”

“I confiscated it, of course,” Khushrenada declared. “Those imposters had no right to it. It is Deathscythe, after all, a sacred military trust. Now, I require a test pilot for this gundam. You’ll do perfectly, and are hereby volunteered for the mission.”

“Isn’t the cable supposed to plug into a computer modulator?” Maxwell reminded him.

“Well, I thought we could enlist the aid of an old ally for that.” The General gestured overhead toward a monumental form that suddenly appeared from the dark lofty shadows.

Maxwell stared in disbelief at the awesome mobile suit. His voice trembled. “Scythe? But how? He’s dead. Self-destructed. I killed him myself,” the boy gulped upon extreme emotion.

“As I explained before, you have an affinity for the dead,” the General’s chuckle was appropriately sardonic.

The towering mech’s eyes glowed in silent recognition of the young pilot crouched beneath.

The General continued. “As I recall, the instructions ran as follows: ‘the scythe’s handle gets shoved into your slit. And then the little guy’s tool makes you feel all kinds of wicked things all up and down your cock and balls, until you are sporting wood just mega.’ Or something to that effect. Crudely stated but specific.”

Treize drew the young man’s naked body into a shuddering stand, then knelt and reached firmly between Duo’s legs. “Suiting action to words, as the novels say. Let us see, insert tool handle ‘A’ into slit ‘B’…” The General laughed harshly.

Maxwell stared at the miniature mech, now glowing avidly, gnawing upon his possessed genitals. A cable trailed away from the toy, away and upward toward the elegant mechanical monster, connected in an umbilical cord communication with Deathscythe Hell. The cable shown virulent green, pulsing with some viscous fluid, whether light, or power or lascivious information, the boy could not tell.

The first wave of sensation struck him, knocking him to the floor. He shivered violently and hastily reached toward the device. His struggling hands were instantly trapped in the General’s powerful grip. “Is it pleasure or pain? Heaven or hell?” Treize demanded.

“Too much, overload, can’t tell,” Maxwell gasped.

The young man’s hands were rapidly bound at the small of his back with the General’s uniform belt. “Well, at the very least, it isn’t boring,” Treize stated. He held his riding crop under the pulsating green line. The leathern whip siphoned the weirdly glowing fluid until it dripped with it.

“Your buttocks are soft, slender, childish, muscular, masculine, solid. Utterly contradictory, like the rest of you. I could study them for hours.” The General caressed the cleft with his fingertips, also weirdly glowing green. “How would you like attention fore and aft? The scythe handle and the whip handle?”

Maxwell looked up and, with the last shreds of his mind, silently addressed the huge gundam. “Feedback, Scythe, old buddy. It’s too much. You’re overloading my circuits.” Almost instantly the tsunami wave of sensory stimulation diminished. “Oh, ah, yes. That’s better. Mmm, that’s good. I’ve missed you too, old buddy. That’s good, that’s so good.” The boy’s hips surged upward into the illusory tight place the giant mech supplied to his sensations. Suddenly, Maxwell felt his buttocks being spread, the invasion of the firm leather rod that the General wielded.

Scythe apparently sensed the added stimulation of the whip handle, and coordinated his input with that of Treize’ weapon. Surging strokes increased from inside and outside the boy. Duo could not stay still. He trembled and squirmed, not knowing whether to withdraw forward or retreat back from the intensely erotic assault waged on all fronts.

“I’m surprised at your silence. But I shouldn’t be, should I?”

“Street rat…vulnerable…silence…means survival,” Duo gasped.

“And you are very vulnerable just now, aren’t you?” the General whispered as he lowered his mouth to partake of Duo’s panting lips.


Yuy studied the slight form of his partner, lying upon his bed. Maxwell’s fever rose steadily. Heero stripped the young man of his sweat soaked clothes. Duo lay naked and uncovered, writhing in the grips of a vicious delirium. Was his breathing becoming difficult? Yuy leaned closer to listen, and Maxwell suddenly grabbed him. Before Heero could so much as blink, his partner had laid upon him a passionate lip lock. Yuy felt the invasion of a hot mouth, the tongue probing his own, a sensation akin to an electric jolt that rocked him to his core. After a few moments of succumbing to a state that was intensely pleasurable, the young man broke away from his partner’s grasp. “Easy, Maxwell,” he told him, chuckling, shaking his head, and wondering what individual Duo thought he was kissing in his nightmare state. Yuy strode to the bathroom, retrieved a basin of tepid water and a washcloth, and began purposefully rinsing the sick man’s skin. Duo shivered under the dampness.

Heero stared at Maxwell’s erection. It had been evident for at least an hour now. Surely nothing normal should be that persistent, he told himself. But Duo’s kisses suggested that this might be part of his delirium. It looked damned painful to Yuy’s perception. With sudden determination, he reached to grasp the swollen member and rubbed it experimentally. The delirious man thrust into his grip.

“You like that? It’s better than poisonous hallucinations. Anything would be, I suppose.” Heero increased the speed, the roughness of his movements. Soon he found himself experiencing considerable personal heat. “All right, pretty boy, you’re giving me a bad case of subordinate soldier at full attention. And wouldn’t you just be laughing out loud now to see me squirm, too?”

“Maxwell?” he demanded loudly. Nothing. “Well, we’re in this together, now, partner,” he decided, lowering his own sweat pants down his muscular thighs. “You’re lucky I’m ambidextrous.” Simultaneously grasping his own and Duo’s erections, he vigorously fisted both.


Duo found himself in the General’s arms, while the officer lounged in the vermilion velvet armchair. Treize grasped him by the shoulders, allowing the boy’s squirming nether regions to dangle. The officer tongued the tender skin that pulsed at the young man’s throat, then aimed his thorough attention to the rosy nipples each in turn. Maxwell struggled in an effort to better support his weight.

“If you jar the whip handle, it will further penetrate you,” Treize wryly commented. “Lie on your side so you don’t get into difficulties. I am inclined to devour you totally.”

“You said this isn’t real,” Maxwell moaned.

The General stood over him. “Does it feel real?”

The boy nodded.

“Then it would seem to be up to you,” Treize laughed at his pun while unfastening his uniform trousers for a visual display. “I am going to take you now. Bid a fond farewell to the riding crop.”

Maxwell felt the transit of rough leather. The vacancy was immediately filled with something larger and hotter by far. “Sit upon my lap, boy. Bide and ride. Mmm, your flesh is delicious. How is Deathscythe Hell, as lovers go?” The General fingered the toy mech between Duo’s legs.

“Enthusiastic. Reads m’mind.” The waxing and waning interest in the boy’s groin was instantly followed by softer and rougher stimuli, alternately emanating from the giant gundam’s artificial intellect, pulsing along the cable. The assault was relentless. Something akin to a St Bernard attempting to become a lap dog, Duo reflected madly.

“It is forcing you into some interesting muscular exertions.” The General breathed heavily and jounced the slim body in his lap. Maxwell felt the rough wool of the uniform rasping against his nude flesh, while the intruders threatened to sunder him in halves.


Heero stared at the sleep-frowsy image of Wufei Chang on his view screen. “Is Dr Po present?” Yuy asked as somberly as he could muster, while still internally grinning. Chang must have been mere minutes returned to dirt side, and already in Sally’s bed, he reflected.

The image wavered as the information transgressed space, bouncing from one shuttle or satellite’s transmitter to the next, stabbing out from the colony and over the vast distance toward old planet Earth.

Wufei caught his friend’s serious tone, and refrained from griping about the ungodly hour of the disturbance. “Hold one minute,” he answered formally.

Sally’s hair flowed golden around her robe-clad shoulders. Yuy heard his own voice softening apologetically. “Sorry to disturb you. We could really use some medical advice here.”

“Who is the patient?”

“Maxwell. He was stung on the hand by a scorpion. L2’s extremely toxic variety, to be specific. He went through the antitoxin protocol about 36 hours ago. I’m sending a copy of the post-protocol advice I’ve been following.”

“How’s he doing?” Sally asked, meanwhile frowning at her computer, at the document Yuy had mailed.

“He was very nauseous and overall in pain with severe muscular spasms a few hours ago. Then his fever went up, around 103.7 Fahrenheit. And he’s been delirious. I gave him ibuprofen and acetaminophen alternately, following the medic’s protocol there. And then got him into a cool bath. So it’s down a couple of degrees now, and he’s quieter.”

“This advice all looks good,” Sally turned again to her view screen.

“I wanted assurance that keeping him with me, rather than a run to the hospital, was okay. You know how the L2 facilities are. Interminable waiting, massively crowded conditions, patients on stretchers in the hallways, staff stressed to the max. And getting him there would mean trying to req an emergency vehicle. Very iffy at best. ”

“Heero, would you pan the camera and let me have a look at him?” Sally asked. “And meanwhile send me his latest vitals. Is his skin damp or dry? Give me a close up of his hand.”

Yuy had gotten used to the sight of Duo’s naked body lying uncovered on his bed, and sent the image without pausing to reflect. Dr Po didn’t bat an eyelash as she returned to her view screen, but Chang in the background appeared rather bug eyed. Heero stifled a chuckle.

“I’d say it’s reasonable to stay put unless things change dramatically for the worse. Continue doing what you have been. Follow the precautions outlined in the protocol. Duo is undoubtedly better off under your care than waiting forever in your local emergency room.”

“Thanks, it’s a relief to hear you say so. But that’s only half of our problem. The other half is that Preventers Agents Yuy and Maxwell are both currently AWOL. Duo got refused sick leave. He’s supposed to report in for duty.” Heero proceeded to describe his ongoing problems with personnel.

Sally Po cursed vehemently and extensively in an interesting variety of languages. After several cleansing breaths, she then recommenced the conversation. “I can certainly help you with that problem, Agent Yuy. Having taken a history and examined the patient, I will now send documentation of illness to L2 Preventers Med. So you’re both officially off the hook. Give me your nearest pharmacy info, and I’ll send in some prescriptions for Duo. Let’s get some drugs into him that his weird metabolism wont instantly grab, throttle and generally pervert.”

“Dr Po, you are an angel,” Yuy told her fervently.

Sally blushed at Heero’s uncharacteristic emotional display. “Don’t hesitate to call me if you need to,” she stated firmly.

“Thank you. Good night,” which sounded silly while looking out at L2’s artificial dawn over the metallic horizon. But Yuy said it anyway.

Once he felt alone again in the room, he stared at his unconscious partner. The doctor had refrained from commenting upon Duo’s apparently permanently pulsing purple priapism. Heero would have asked about it, except that Chang’s presence had rendered Yuy reticent. It was stupid, he told himself. Po was a physician and Wufei, a friend. Stupid, he reiterated. Should have asked her. Yuy wondered if Maxwell was aware of that aspect of his condition.


The General surged repeatedly inside of Maxwell’s body. Simultaneously, Deathscythe pulsed through the cable that bound Duo’s member into a continuum of erotic stimuli. The boy writhed against the wet strokes of Treize’ smoldering tongue, the abrasion of his sharp white teeth, the rough touches of his powerful hands.

Abruptly the boy climaxed like a volcanic eruption. A white-hot phosphorescence shot out of him, along the cable and into the gundam towering above them. Next the General shouted as he came forcefully, deep within Duo’s body. Then overhead, Deathscythe Hell rumbled massively, a Richter scale earthquake.

“Either Scythe is jacking off, or that mech is laughing at me,” Maxwell told himself before he fainted.


“At last,” Yuy shook his head, feeling vicarious relief as his unconscious partner ejaculated extensively over his hectically feverish abdomen. Heero cleaned the mess away with the wet washcloth, and drew up a fresh bed sheet to cover Duo’s belly.

As Yuy turned toward the laundry hamper with a handful of soiled linen, a hoarse whisper arose. “Hasn’t this just been a major living experience?”

“You’re awake,” Heero told his partner.

“Damn, I was afraid of that,” Duo retorted. “Then I really do feel this gawd-awful.”

“I contacted Sally Po.” Heero informed him. “Across the cold expanse of space, the dear dedicated doctor declared your writhing lithe body likely alive. Try saying that rapidly ten times.”

Duo snorted, then groaned. “Yuy. What did I say about making me laugh?”

“That I was terribly clever at it, and you appreciated the effort.”

“Hell, you’d think I’d remember saying something like that. Water? Please?” Maxwell begged.

“Electrolyte solution,” Heero countered.

“It’s grue-gusting.”

“If you drink this down, I’ll bring back the soda pop brand of your choice when I go to the pharmacy.”

“Now there’s an offer. Yuy?”

“Maxwell?”

“Sorry to be such a pain in the ass.”


Yuy used the Preventers’ scooter for the errand, since no one had come to retrieve the vehicle yet. Getting the prescriptions filled took Heero much longer than he liked. Most of the time lapse was attributable to the druggist’s attempts to authenticate Sally Po’s off-colony physician’s license number. Then the harassed-looking fellow had to call around to several suppliers, trying to find anyone who actually had the medications available. By the time Yuy was on the return trip, he was quite worried about leaving his ailing partner so long alone.


“Man alive!” Duo exclaimed, rubbing his posterior ruefully.

“What a strangely inappropriate expletive to use on a ghost,” the General chuckled, smoothing the perfect creases of his refastened military trousers.

“You play rough.”

“Do come again sometime. Sorry, I like my puns frequent and awful,” Treize smiled.

“Whatever happened to Zechs Merquise?”

“I dismissed him. He was insufficiently enthusiastic about following orders.”

“You sent him away?”

“Probably you sent him away, more likely. In my opinion, you’re a medium.”

“Most people would say I’m a small,” Duo retorted.

“Brat!”

“You’re the one who asked for awful puns. I wonder if there are any Preventers’ codes against having wet dreams that include your commanding officer. If so, I’m in more hot water than I was before. Which was considerable last time I looked.” Maxwell declared in mournful tones.

“I wonder if he ever gave a damn about me. He certainly did not appear glad to see me,” the General sat upon the vermilion armchair shaking his head dismally.

“Can I get my shorts back? Or whose ever’s they are, Yuy’s I guess.”

“As I explained before, you’re a medium. Here in the ether, you can wear anything your imagination conjures for you. Provided your intellect accepts the decision.”

“Really? Cool. I can dress up like, hmmm, say, Julius Caesar? Naw, too sissy. Henry the Eighth? Way too fat. If I leave it up to the ether, who’ll I be?” With his eyes tightly shut, Duo concentrated on clothing. Then he opened them.

“Damnation. It figures, I’d end up back in Yuy’s pants. Whew, now there’s a hot thought, in his pants, har, get it?” He considered the borrowed attire with some disappointment.

“I had actually deceived myself that Milliardo would be glad to see me.”

“Milliardo, that’s Merquise’s real given name, huh?”

“Yes. He appeared angry, furious. I thought he understood why I sent him away during the war. It was to save his life, save him from the Romefeller machine, save him from the collapse of OZ. I suppose it all backfired, somehow. And now he hates me.”

“Well, the best laid plans, you know? Sorry, now that I got started punning, I can’t seem to stop myself. But really, General. The first time you see him after a long absence, you set him up in a Menage Atchoo.”

“A trois.”

“Bless you. You gotta know, he wouldn’t be thrilled about fraternizing with the troops. Brat-ernizing as the case might be. He takes this Preventers thing really seriously. Keeping the peace. He’s trying to make up for the mess he made during the war. All of us are, come to think of it. Paying for past mistakes. Preventing future conflagrations, as they say. So him tossing me for a roll in the hay would not suit him at all. Being my commanding officer like he is, dontcha see? Probably had nothing to do with being happy to see you.”

“Ah, Duo you are so soothing,” Treize smoothed the boy’s sweat-tangled hair. “Do you think he is truly in love with Lucrezia?”

“Noin? Sure. She’s really pretty and smart and spirited. And very nice. A real lady, that one. They make a great couple. You should be pleased he found someone. Since he can’t be with you, I mean.”

“Harumph. I suppose so. Duo, will you visit me again sometime?”

“Depends.”

“Upon what?”

“Do I hafta get stung by a scorpion to enter the ether? I mean, maybe there’s a back door that doesn’t require near-death experiences to get in? I’m pretty damn good at breaking and entering, if I do say so myself.”

“Staring at crystal balls? Tarot cards? I couldn’t say. You are the one with the affinity for death, after all.”

“Well, I’ll give it a go. I mean, it would be rich if I could just duck out of staff meetings and come here for a quicky while they’re all just nattering on and on at work. Or when the commute on public transport gets really crowded and nasty.”

“That is something upon which to reflect, certainly,” the General assented.

“Could you watch out for Scythe for me? He probably gets lonely when I’m not around.”

“I should be delighted.”

“Then we’ve got a deal, don’t we?”


When Yuy returned to his apartment, he was pleased to find Maxwell sleeping peacefully, his fever down again. Heero decided to wait on the meds until his partner awoke.

In the meantime, he opened his laptop and hacked into Preventers’ personnel files. It was a ridiculously simple enterprise. Finding the phone number on a young staff member whose photo he recognized, he exited the files, carefully smearing his electronic signature with covert static.

When he phoned, his co-worker appeared astonished, and then excited with the call.

“You live in my same sector.” Heero told him his address. “I’ve got an official scooter here, out front in power outlet 347-Beta. The vehicle needs returning to headquarters. Do you think you could pick it up on your way in to work? The time you take out of your way to get here will probably be more than made up by not waiting for the PT system.”

“Sure it will, Agent Yuy. No problem at all. Glad to do it.”

Yuy tried not to roll his eyes as the kid burbled enthusiastically. Actually, the guy was probably older than Heero. But with fewer kicks in the head during childhood.

“Thanks. See you at work, whenever I get back from leave,” Yuy said and hastily signed off from the call.

He had hardly an opportunity to back away before the vid phone jangled at him. Connecting revealed a surprise.

“Commander Merquise,” Yuy instantly went into mission mode, his voice and demeanor reflecting this attitude.

“Agent Yuy. I am sorry to disturb you at home. Can you spare a few minutes to talk?” Zechs’ princely manners modulated Yuy’s soldierly response only slightly.

“Its no inconvenience.”

“Good. I’ll shoot straight to the point. United Earth Sphere Assembly is compiling a report on ‘L2 Problems and Progress’. Commander Une wants a strong statement concerning Preventers’ presence on the colony. I am to be first author on our status report. There will be a lot of useless rhetoric from the politicians. In contrast, I want our contribution to be practical and pertinent. I do not think I can compose such a document without visiting L2.”

“I would agree, sir,” Yuy nodded emphatically.

“Yes. Well, that having been said. As one of the more notorious of the former OZ officers, is my arrival there likely to induce angry rioting in the streets? I’m asking you because I want a straight answer.”

Yuy offered a slight smile. “There will be considerable public interest. But the most likely attitude will be curiosity. Press releases emphasizing a positive outlook will be helpful. In my opinion, the local citizenry most resent being ignored and being manipulated. They like having their opinion requested. Your visit, if represented as a fact finding mission, likely would be viewed in a mildly positive light.” Yuy refrained from adding that the L2 populace had a strange passion for the old Earth aristocracy, and likely would fawn upon the former Prince to an embarrassing degree.

“Excellent. I wouldn’t want to arrive, only to find complaints of my disturbing the peace.” Zechs smiled whimsically. “Would you mind serving as local liaison?”

Yuy was surprised. This would be an interesting change of pace for him. “I would be pleased, sir.”

Now for the other shoe, dropping. Yuy had felt the existing undercurrent since Merquise’s first sentence.

“You are partnered with Agent Maxwell?”

“Yes, sir.” Why was the Commander’s face suddenly suffused with a red flush?

“This is difficult to explain…”

Yuy stared at the second-highest ranking officer of the entire Preventers organization. What was Merquise trying to say that pertained to Duo? What could it be that rendered the regally assured young man so embarrassed?

Zechs cleared his throat. “I’m not particularly superstitious. But I had a nightmare recently. In it, someone said that Maxwell was ‘approaching death.’ I found that alarming, in the extreme. Is he all right?”

“Actually, Maxwell is on sick leave. He is recovering from the severely toxic effects of a scorpion sting.”

“Damn!”

“Sir?”

“Sorry. I find this rather unsettling, to have had such an accurate message in the form of a dream. Not the sort of thing a practical person expects, is it? I suppose it is merely coincidence. Still…”

Yuy couldn’t think of anything to say.

“How is he doing? What is being done for him?” Merquise asked.

“He seems better this afternoon. He received antitoxin immediately after the accident. Dr Sally Po has reviewed the treatment and is prescribing for him.”

“Oh, he’s there with you?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well. That’s good, then.”

The ensuing pause seemed particularly uneasy.

“Please let me know if there is anything I can do. Supplies to L2 are difficult, I know. If there is anything lacking toward Duo’s treatment or comfort, you should inform me. If I am coming there anyway, I could certainly act as courier. I’ll contact Po as soon as I ring off.”

“Thank you. We seem to be managing,” Yuy answered as soon as he could wedge words into an opening.

“Well. That’s good, then. I’ll keep you posted with respect to my arrival. Do let me know if there is anything I can do for you. Or for Duo.”

‘Maxwell’ had transitioned damned suddenly to ‘Duo’ in the Prince’s vocabulary, Yuy reflected with annoyance.

The call ground to a halt finally. Then Heero Yuy stood pondering his status as an orbiting satellite in the sphere of Duo Maxwell. Years prior, during the first war, Yuy had become addicted to his partner’s company. Duo was a live spark, a heavenly body glowing brightly in Heero’s universe. Yuy desired to maintain the status quo.

Duo dated the young women from work. And whenever the bolder Preventers agents and staff gathered sufficient nerve to ask Yuy out, he dated among the same group of women as Maxwell.

The occasional young men who were attracted to Duo were a different matter. Their advances upon Maxwell were warded off by Yuy’s harsh looks and fierce presence at his partner’s side.

Heero felt certain Duo was aware of all this jostling. Was aware that the teasing innuendoes and physical contact between the two young men represented mutual desire, held at arm’s length. It was silently acknowledged that the partners could step over this self-erected barrier anytime they wished.

But lately, Heero felt incursions from outsiders more frequently occurring. Maxwell had started looking somewhat more mature now. The young men who desired him felt less like cradle-robbers in their advances. That medic at the greenhouse, for instance. Yuy resented the implication that Duo was too thin because Heero didn’t feed him well enough. Whether or not the accusation had actually existed, or was present only in Yuy’s perception didn’t much matter to him.

Heero felt the need to stake a more decided claim on what was his. He drew near to his bed and stared at the recumbent form there. He placed his hand on the downy skin of Duo’s cheek. Two days’ lack of shaving was barely noticeable. Maxwell’s eyes fluttered open and gradually focused.

“Hey, what’s up?” Duo grinned.

“Down. Your fever is what’s down. Do you want your soda now?”

“Sounds good.”

“Sip it, slowly. Maybe it will stay inside a while longer this time.”

“Yeah. Phew, need to shower. Yeccch.”

“Bath,” Yuy countered.

“Jeesh. Yuy, you know, you can go back to work now. I’m better. Not gonna bite the big bullet in the sky this time. False alarm.”

“Not yet. Too soon. Your fever has been down before, and then gone back up.”

“Well, aren’t you just the harbinger of certain joy?”

“Make an attempt to keep that soda down. And then we’ll try for solid food. When you can stand up long enough to piss, I’ll start thinking about work.”

Duo’s eyes opened wide. “I gotta pass the piss test? Damn. Didn’t realize the requirements were so stringent. ‘Zat someplace in the Preventers’ code? ‘Agents must be able to pass the passes-piss-standing test.’ They demand that from the girls, too? And hey, who gets to administer the exam? Where do I apply for that job?”

Yuy took the glass away from him before he could gulp any more. “Zechs Merquise phoned.”

“Here? To the Infamous Agent Yuy’s Domicile? No shit. What did His Serenity want?”

“He’s coming to the colony on an official visit. I’m to be his local liaison” Yuy outlined the phone conversation.

“ Hey, great. That’s good, really. You tell him what’s what here. Maybe the Prince can get some action for L2 happening dirt side. Its great.” Maxwell seemed delighted.

“You’d be more appropriate to serve as liaison. You know what this place needs better than anyone.”

“Naw. I’m not rational enough when it comes to the poor old colony. Too emotional. You’re exactly right for the job.”

Yuy reflected. He wanted L2 to prosper because it was Duo’s home. He felt his investment in the colony was exactly as emotional as Maxwell’s.

“Merquise said he dreamed about you. Had a nightmare in which you were in danger. Asked about your health. So I told him about the scorpion. He sounded very concerned.”

Maxwell stared at Yuy. “Zechs had a dream about me?” he muttered. Abruptly, the young man withdrew, seeming to look inward, at some view only he could see.

“Drink some more of that,” Yuy broke in on his thoughts and changed the subject, handing him the glass of soda.

“Make up your mind.” Duo sipped while Heero studied his own concerns.

“Maxwell?”

“Yuy?”

“Are you in debt to the loan sharks?”

“Hell no! What off-Earth do you think I am, stupid or something?”

Yuy stared significantly at Maxwell’s puffy, inflamed hand, set gingerly to rest upon his abdomen.

Duo sighed. “Look, plucking raspberries, basket in hand, is not high on my list of decidedly dangerous deeds of daring-do. I just got unlucky.”

“What were you doing, working a second job? Any second job? Tell me you aren’t short on cash.”

“I’m short on cash. But not in debt. And certainly not into the loan sharks. Nuh uh, no way.”

“I’m listening.”

“Alright, all tight. I bought a motorcycle, okay? An antique. Old. Very, very old. Ancient. And in pieces. Little pieces. Very, very little pieces. It was expensive. I wanna rebuild it. Gotta have cash to rebuild it. Of which I’m fresh out. That’s it, end of story. No biggy. Really.”

Yuy’s eyes got round. “An old bike? What make?”

“American. An Indian. For sure, for real. Can’t make out what model or year yet.”

Yuy whistled. “Where’s she housed?”

“My place. Double locked on all the windows and doors, of course. Spread out all over the floors. Can’t take a step without nearly treading on some portion of the poor girl,” Duo chuckled. “You wanna go see her?” he sat up eagerly.

Yuy shoved his partner back into the pillows. “Later. After you pass the piss test.” He strode to the bathroom, to start the water running.

When he returned, Duo was still awake, staring somewhat dreamily at the ceiling.

“Maxwell?”

“Yuy?”

“I’ve got plenty of credits in my bank account.”

“Hmmm.”

“You think we can make her run on electrical/solar?”

“I already started on some sketches. Hiding the conversion is the hard part. Without distorting her lines too much. I’d like the petroleum engine to work too. In case she makes it back to visit Earth sometime. We could run her fast, so fast…”

“You’ve already sunk a bundle into the project. We could get going right away, with my cash for the rebuilding. That is, if you want to go halves on this,” Yuy told him.

“Sounds good,” Duo’s eyes were drifting shut again. Heero would have to wake him before the water in the tub got too chilly.

Yuy leaned over his partner and kissed him full upon his lips.

Maxwell’s eyes slammed open. He looked up at lips the color of ripe raspberries and toxic L2 scorpions. Then he grinned. “What was that for?”

“Just that I’m glad you didn’t ‘bite the big bullet in the sky this time’.”

“Yeah, me too. Got a partner whose back I’ve got to watch. Or backside as the case might be.”

Duo Maxwell winked suggestively.

Heero Yuy grinned back at him. “Sounds good.”


~ * ~


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