Zechs



Heero and Zechs
Our Featured Pairing
July-December 2004!


Heero



The Bodyguard by Ederyn

The Bodyguard
Pairings: 1+6
Warnings: Lots of references to the official manga, Battlefield of Pacifists, and the Odds & Evens DVD clips, but it's not necessary to see those first
Summary: Heero becomes a bodyguard after Zechs receives a death threat.



__________________



"Milliard, I don't understand why you have to be so stubborn about this! We're only here because we care about you!"

My dear Relena.  She had a tendency to get too emotional about threats to the safety of those she loved, but surely Heero wouldn't take this seriously. Zechs looked over his sister's shoulder at the gundam pilot, expecting him to be on his side in this. But there was no change on the impassive soldier's face. Heero leaned against the wall, staring intently at Zechs while Relena ranted.

"The moment I found out about this death threat I told Heero, and he agrees with me that you need protection. You and my mother are the only family I have left, Milliard. Please don't..." The words faded and her eyes welled, and Zechs felt like a heel. She'd be destroyed if anything happened to me.  Someone had once told him how much she'd cried on MO-II after the explosion of Epyon. Alone, when she could have sought out Heero.

"Very well, Relena. I'm sorry I didn't consider your feelings. But it seemed to me..."

She looked up at him. "What seemed to you...?"

"Well, that you didn't particularly care for me when you asked me to go to Mars to work on a project I wasn't skilled for—a project which in any case would inevitably lead to another war..."

"Oh, Milliard! Am I never going to hear the end of that?! It was a huge mistake! I admit it! I was inexperienced, easily persuaded by career politicians who sounded righteous! I was a fool, okay? I voted for the project and awarded huge government contracts to their pet corporations to terraform a new colony, ultimately putting more people in competition for limited resources! I should have taken the less popular route and voted to stabilize population, making continued colonization unnecessary and lessening the motivation for conflict. But I didn't. I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I'm a thousand times sorry!!"

Even Heero had to snicker at that outburst. She had been very new at her job then, and politics is a very dirty profession.  "All right, Relena. I promise I'll never mention it again. I just think it's a little silly to take these death threats too seriously. Let's face it, I'll always have enemies. But I can't live my life in a little box because of what some psychopath out there might do. I'd rather be dead than live in a cage."

"I just want you to have a bodyguard. Is that such a hardship? As I recall, you always had an entourage during the war. What's different now?"

"If you're so worried, then have Heero move in with me—I won't hire a stranger to be my bodyguard."

"Fine."

"Fine."



__________________


Zechs, I'm going to kill you.

The two men had only been living together for two days, and already Heero was thinking of quitting the assignment. For two days, Zechs had been sulking. Fuck that. He's been rude, edgy and angry.  In fact, it was almost as if the two of them had switched places. If he didn't know better, he'd think Zechs was mad at him for something. What the hell could he be angry at me about? I should be the one who's angry.  He decided to kill some time in the library. The night before, he'd come downstairs when he couldn't sleep and was impressed with both the number of books and the volumes themselves. Apparently, he and Zechs at least had the same taste in books.

They also had the same ideas about how to kill time. Zechs was in the library, adjusting a lamp near the sofa.  This house is as big as a fucking palace and it still isn't big enough for both of us.  Heero thought of leaving, then decided against it. Fuck him.  He grabbed a book on a shelf he'd perused the night before and threw himself onto the other sofa.

Zechs glared at him, then buried his nose in his book. Inwardly, Heero laughed. He's just like me. He'd rather go, but that would look like weakness, so he'll sit here pretending to read until I decide to leave. We'll just see who breaks first.

About five minutes later, Heero did.

If Zechs was pretending to read, he was doing a damn good job of it, but Heero couldn't concentrate with unspoken anger hanging in the room like a marsh fog. "Zechs, why the hell did you ask me to be your bodyguard if you can't stand the sight of me?"

Zechs thumped his book closed and raised his head. "I prefer you to a stranger. That doesn't mean I like you or approve of you as a human being after the way you treat my sister."

Heero did a double take. "What are you talking about, Zechs? Every time she asks me to do something, no matter how stupid, I'm there. Like now. What could you possibly have to complain about?"

A white eyebrow arched over a glare that Heero envied. At my best, I can't glare like that.  "Let me put it to you, Heero Yuy, in words that even a gundam pilot can understand. My sister is a princess. She deserves to be treated like one. Who the hell do you think you are—a fucking commoner!—using her to boost your ego?! I remember when you said, "Life is cheap, especially mine," and I'm really sorry you feel that way. But goddamn you, don't use my sister to boost your sagging self-esteem. Maybe it makes you feel important when a princess follows you around like a puppy. But my sister deserves to be treated with respect, not like a dog, and if you encourage her to stalk you any longer I swear to God I'm gonna break your fucking pathetic neck!"

Heero nearly had to pry his jaw from the floor.



__________________


"I'm sorry, Zechs. I never..." Oh, shit.

Zechs had risen from the sofa during his tirade, and now that he'd said his piece, he resumed his seat. "I'm sorry, too, Heero. I shouldn't have lost my temper like that. I guess I've been carrying that around for awhile now, and I needed to get it off my chest. I should have told you a long time ago when it first started to bug me."

"Why did you tell me at all instead of Relena?"

"Heh. How exactly do you tell your sister she's behaving like a pathetic manga character?"

Heero had no answer, and no desire to remain in the library any longer. If the air felt like a marsh fog earlier, it now felt like the fallout of a nuclear blast, and he just wanted to get the hell out of there. But a blast of a different kind interrupted his thoughts as the window of the library shattered, and his instincts snapped into action. "Get down!" He pushed Zechs to the floor and followed him, rolling out of the way as the wall collapsed behind them. The room filled with choking black smoke, and the two men covered their mouths with their shirts while they crawled out of the library and then pulled the heavy doors closed.

Shit shit shit. There were a lot of good books in there.

"Goddammit, Heero," Zechs whispered, "Whoever's after me knows where I live!"

"You stay here," Heero whispered back as he whipped out his gun and released the safety, "I'm gonna search the premises."

"Heero, I'm not a damn housewife! I can protect myself! I was a soldier before you were!"

That's debatable.  "Look, Zechs. The last thing I'm gonna do is give this bastard a clear shot at you. I'm telling you for the last time—stay here." And with that, Heero slipped into the hallway and disappeared.

Fine.  Zechs sat on the floor exactly where he was and waited for Heero to return. If he wants me to stay here, I'll stay right here.  Unfortunately, the waiting was the hardest part. Isn't that a song?  The waiting, in fact, was interminable, and Zechs had plenty of time to imagine Heero meeting a grisly end at the hands of a psychotic assassin. Worse than that, it would be a death meant for him, and a death that many would say he deserved. How could he have let Heero pursue this maniac alone? He imagined a madman squeezing the life out of the fine gilt soul known as Heero Yuy, and his blood boiled.

Then there was Relena. She loved Heero; how could she deal with his death, especially since her own brother would be responsible? She'd never say that it was his fault, but somewhere in the back of her mind she'd always be thinking it. She'd never forgive him. "Oh, goddamn motherfucking whores—"

"Uh, Zechs? Are you all right?"

Zechs snapped his head around to find Heero staring at him, an eyebrow raised in question. "Oh, I'm fine...just fine." He exhaled. "So did you find anything?"

"I found something. I'm just not sure what it means yet. Apparently, the assailant set the bomb to detonate after he was long gone. But he left something behind..." Heero's hand opened to reveal a pair of glasses with round lenses.

"So now all we have to do is find the owner of these."



__________________


Strange, I think I've seen these glasses before, but the man who owned them should be dead now.  Heero pondered the glasses in his hand while Zechs talked to an investigator on the vidphone. Within minutes the estate was crawling with forensic specialists and government officials. As Zechs was a member of the royal family, any attack on him was also considered an attack on Cinq, and it was being treated as such. I guess after what happened to his parents, they take assassination seriously here.  Heero answered all their annoying questions and gave them his statement, then tried his best to just keep out of their way. The best place for doing so turned out to be the main kitchen on the first floor. There were several kitchens in the house, and if the police were using one, it was the smaller one at the very end of the hallway, near the library.

He poured a cup of coffee and tried to think. What was the name of that group? Perfect Peace, or something like that? For that matter, what was the name of the guy with the glasses? Something that sounded like 'Quinze,' only not. Hn. Gaintz. That was it. Victor Gaintz.  It had been so long ago, he'd considered it a closed book. "Funny how we keep coming back to books," he mumbled to his coffee.

"What about books?" Zechs asked as he entered the kitchen and headed for the coffee maker.

"Hn. I was just thinking, you had a lot of nice books in there. It's too bad it had to happen in the library."

Zechs nodded, and a few strands of white gold hair fell forward into his face. Heero found himself wanting to touch them, but before the desire could reach his fingers, Zechs tucked the misbehaving locks behind his ear. Heero tried to concentrate on the assassin, but all he could think right now was how much he'd miss Zechs if he were to die. It was like Epyon exploding all over again.

Epyon.  He hadn't wanted to think of Epyon ever again. He remembered Zechs stepping forward to die, and he remembered shouting at Zechs to stop. Why? He hadn't wanted to die. He knew the Libra had to be destroyed, but he hesitated. He remembered the physical pain of self-destructing, and he didn't want to do that again. But nothing less than the explosion of one of them would've had any impact. It was Zechs or him. And for some reason, he didn't want it to be Zechs. On MO-II he'd sat alone by the window, staring out at space...at the last place he'd seen Zechs alive. Relena was somewhere on board, crying alone. Why didn't he seek her out? They'd finally had something in common. Regret.

"Heero, are you all right?"

"Hn?" Heero shook away his thoughts.

"You seem far away."

"I'm sorry." He looked up at Zechs, and thought of Odin Lowe. Why was he always reminded of what Odin had said? 'Do as your heart tells you. That's the right path.'  Yeah, the right path. But a path paved with broken glass.  "Zechs, there's something I need to tell you. Something that might compromise my ability to serve as your bodyguard."

There was a long pause. Zechs searched his face for clues but as always, Heero's impassive mask was firmly in place.

"Zechs..."

"Hm?"

"Zechs...I think I love you."



__________________


There may as well have been another explosion. Zechs felt shell shocked, and it was several minutes before he could speak. "What about my sister?"

"What about her?"

"Do you love her?"

"Do you love Noin?"

Zechs lowered his head until the long bangs hid his face, and sighed. "No, I don't love Noin."

"Why not?"

"Because I can't love a woman who's obsequious and submissive. A woman who's not complete without me, like a parasitic leech looking for a host organism to latch onto. A woman who can't live without me, who follows me around like a pup—oh...no." Heero nodded, and Zechs sighed again as the unpleasant truth hit him like a punch in the gut.

"I'm sorry, Zechs. Your sister will always be a good friend and someone I care about, but I can never love her. You were wrong earlier. I never encouraged her to follow me any more than you encouraged Noin. I just didn't put a stop to it. I'd thought that during the war Relena had grown up and wouldn't follow me around any more. But after the war, during the Vulkanus incident, she was right back to stalking me, even to the extent of dropping everything at ESUN and pursuing me to Dorothy's estate just because Duo told her I was there. He's always tried to pair us up together, but like you I just can't love a woman I don't respect, and I can't respect a woman who needs me that desperately."

"What do you mean by Vulkanus incident?" Zechs was thankful for something to change the subject.

"Dorothy was contacted by a man named Captain Broden who was looking for Vulkanus, an automated Mobile Doll factory built by Tubarov. A man named Victor Gaintz was also searching for it, and nearly started another war over it—ironically, a war in the name of peace."

"Gaintz? That name's familiar..."

"It should be. Victor Gaintz was an executive officer of White Fang who left when he found out that Quinze had asked you to lead them instead of him. He seemed to hate you intensely. Kinda strange, since he too was a violent peace activist who dressed funny. I've never seen anyone do such a terrible Milliard Peacecraft impersonation before in my life."

"What the hell's that supposed to mean?"

"You must admit, Zechs, that apart from the White Fang outfit and the OZ uniform, your wardrobe stinks."

"What?!"

Heh heh. That got him.  "Vulkanus exploded," Heero continued smoothly, "and Gaintz along with it, but I wonder now if maybe some of his supporters survived."

"If they did, why would they want to kill me? I didn't even know about this until now. Dorothy never mentioned it to me."

"I'm not surprised. This was long before Mariemaia. Everyone thought you were dead at the time. Apparently, you and Dorothy were right—unless we address the motivation for war, we'll never have an end to it. Destroying the gundams was foolish."

"I'm surprised to hear you say that."

"I'm man enough to admit when I'm wrong."

"So what would his supporters want from me?"

"That I don't know. But a couple of them did seem to worship him, almost like a god. They followed him when he left White Fang and considered you an enemy. I wouldn't be surprised if killing you in his memory was their sole objective."

"Great."



__________________


Heero slept fitfully that night, plagued by dreams of Gaintz and Broden and the lapdog, Klementz, who'd turned traitor on Broden in the name of perfect peace. Every 15 minutes he seemed to wake up, then fall asleep again and back into the dream cycle, the next dream worse than the one before. He resigned himself to remaining awake when he heard Zechs shouting in the next room. Gun in hand, he sprinted to Zechs' side, only to find him safe in his bed. Hn. Looks like I'm not the only one having trouble sleeping.

Heero stood in the dark by the side of the bed watching Zechs for several minutes. When he saw the sleeping man's eyelids twitching in REM mode, he decided to cave in to an impulse and slowly lifted the blankets to have a peek. Hn. He does sleep naked. 

The moon filtered in through the latticed windows, and in the moonlight Zechs looked even more celestial than he normally did. His hair shone like silver, and Heero couldn't resist the urge to touch it now. It was even softer than he'd imagined. How could someone as ordinary as Noin flatter herself to think she could ever have this? 

In a moment, though, he asked himself the same thing. What was it Zechs had said? Who the hell do you think you are—a fucking commoner!—using a princess to boost your ego?!  Maybe the world thought of Heero Yuy as the savior of the earth, but to Zechs he was just a scrawny teenager who happened to be a war veteran. Nothing special. Heero had confessed to loving him, something incredibly difficult for him to admit, yet Zechs had said nothing in response. Shit shit shit. I must be the biggest idiot on the planet. 

A sound outside disturbed his thoughts and he crept to the window. Police officers were patrolling the grounds and not keeping particularly quiet about it. Hn. They won't find anything.  The perpetrator had long since vanished, and Heero knew he wouldn't be back. Not here. He's too smart for that.  The bomb had been planted for a single purpose—he wanted them to find the glasses. Apparently, the assassin had the resources for something bigger if he could infiltrate the estate and plant a bomb undetected. Obviously, he had something else planned.

The question was when and where would he make his next move?



__________________


"Good morning."

Heero looked up from his newspaper as Zechs entered the room. "Hn. Riding clothes, Zechs?"

"Well, you seemed to find my wardrobe offensive. I decided to dig out some of the clothes I haven't worn in awhile." Heero studied Zechs' outfit. Brown cotton jodhpurs hugging slim, well-formed legs; knee-high riding boots; and a white long-sleeved shirt, the top two buttons open and the sleeves carelessly rolled up over the elbows. The effect was incredibly sexy, and Heero mentally kicked himself. I should have left well enough alone. 

A police inspector entered the room and gestured for Heero to follow him. No matter how many questions he answered, there always seemed to be more. What the hell do they think I'm hiding?  Taking a gulp of coffee, he rose angrily from his seat and followed the inspector into the library for one more round of 'Omae o Korosu.' 

When he'd left the room, Zechs grabbed the paper to see whether the bombing incident had made the front page. He wasn't disappointed. There in glorious technicolor were the remains of the library as it had appeared at first light that morning, and even a glimpse of Heero talking to an investigator at the edge of the photo. The papers couldn't resist the sidebar about the Prince's former enemy now serving as his bodyguard.

Zechs studied the picture. As always, Heero looked pissed. But there was concern there, too, if one bothered to examine the face with any determination. Zechs...I think I love you.  Had he actually spoken those words? How could anyone love him? Especially Heero, his former enemy. The words must have been difficult to say. Heero was not the most demonstrative person, and displays of affection were clearly not part of his vocabulary.

But what about Relena? She had loved Heero for years. She'd be destroyed to find that the man she loved was in love with her brother. No. This would kill her, and I won't be the one to break her heart.  But wouldn't that doom her to a life of loneliness? She was very much like Noin—obsessed with one man and accepting no other. Perhaps if he told her that Heero wanted a relationship with him, she'd finally close the book on him and move on to someone else...someone better for her.

Heero, after all, wasn't the marrying kind, even if he were in love with a woman. He was progressive, not a slave to the conventions of the past, while Relena was very old school. Career to her was simply something to pass the time until the man she loved married her and gave her a new purpose. Marriage would be her career from then on; it was how Mrs. Darlian had raised her. Zechs made a mental note to slap Mrs. Darlian the next time he saw her.

"Omae o Korosu!"

Now where have I heard that before?  "Heero, are you all right?"

Heero stormed into the room and grabbed the paper out of Zechs' hands, then plopped into his seat and buried his head in his coffee. "I'm fine."

"Of course. What did they want this time?"

"Collective vivisection, if they're not careful. This endless questioning is starting to annoy me. I wish the damn assassin would just make a move so we could catch him and be done with this." Zechs snickered a little, and Heero glared at him. The glare melted, though, with Zechs' next words.

"I've been thinking about what you said earlier," he began hesitantly. Heero sat oddly still. "About...loving me. The thing is, I think...I love you, too."

It seemed like days went by before Heero said anything. "That's good."

"No, it's not. You see, I love Relena too. I won't hurt her. She's the only family I have left. I won't break her heart."

"Hn. I see. But what about your happiness?"

Zechs laughed bitterly. "I'm afraid that happiness and I have parted company permanently. It was a relationship that simply wasn't meant to be."

"Zechs..."

"In the long run, you're better off, Heero. Everyone I've ever loved, I have lost."

"You haven't lost your sister."

"Haven't I? My sister was two years old and talked incessantly. She had a smile as big as the sun. This one never smiles. She's a stalker. My sister would be a beautiful, spoiled princess, and all the boys would stalk her."

"Zechs..."

"I'm sorry, Heero." He stood and left the room, and the conversation ended. Well, what the hell did you expect? You're a fucking commoner.



__________________


A few days later, a familiar yellow car pulled around the fountain in front of the house and Dorothy leaped out of her yellow tank, practically bounding up to the front door. "Where the hell do you think you're going?" Heero quizzed Zechs as he brushed past him towards the door.

"Heero, I gave you my itinerary the very first day you moved in here. I'm going to the Cinq National Budgetary Council meeting. No big deal. I go every week. Every Monday at 7 pm like clockwork."

"It's not on your itinerary."

"Isn't it?" He grabbed the offending document out of Heero's hand. "Hm. Well, I meant to put it on there. I guess I forgot because it's the one place I feel safe. The meeting's always held after hours, there's plenty of security around and the building's always empty except for us. If I don't show up, it'll look as if I'm letting this terrorist affect the performance of my duties."

"What about the people at the meeting? Do you think they'll feel safe with you there after the story in the paper?"

Zechs lowered his head and rubbed his eyes. "What would you have me do, Heero? Spend the rest of my life in this house? I have responsibilities and obligations."

"Fine. Let me grab my coat and I'll make sure you survive your obligations." He grabbed his coat, and with a cursory reply to Dorothy's greeting he pushed Zechs into the back seat of the limo.

"Damn."

"What now, Zechs?"

"I forgot an umbrella. It's supposed to rain tonight. Hard. You shouldn't have rushed me out the door. Why are you in such a hurry to get there?"

"The best way to avoid targeting is to keep moving. I promise it's not going to rain tonight, Zechs."

As expected, when Dorothy turned the next corner it began to pour, and the drenching cloudburst wouldn't let up until close to midnight. Zechs glared at Heero. Hn. He's really perfecting those glares.

Fortunately, Dorothy managed to snag a parking space close to the door, and they only had to endure a few seconds of the cloudburst. "One of the advantages of an after hours meeting," she quipped as she tucked the keys into her purse.

Apart from a man getting off the elevator as they got on, the building was empty. Zechs glanced at the man's umbrella as he passed and glared at Heero again. The gundam pilot glared back and then shrugged. I'm a bodyguard, not a weatherman.

The meeting was held on the top floor, which meant they not only had to ride some 120 stories, but also had to get off the elevator and onto another one. They said nothing during the trip, and when the lift finally came to a stop they mechanically got off and headed across the hall to the next.

The building was so quiet, the pounding of the rain the only noise, and they seemed to be the only people in the universe. The scene, in fact, was serenely hypnotizing, and as they crossed the hall it barely registered when the man with the umbrella from downstairs barreled out of the next elevator and crashed into Zechs on his way out, begging apologies for his clumsiness. But as the man rushed down the hallway, Zechs fell to his knees choking, and was barely able to cough out the words, "...Stuck me with a needle. Go after..." before passing out. Heero and Dorothy looked at each other only a moment before Dorothy grabbed Zechs, and Heero whipped out his gun and raced down the hall after the assailant.

The assassin, unfortunately, had a good head start and disappeared into another elevator. But not before conspicuously dropping a piece of paper behind him. Heero examined the paper and put his gun away. In flowery script the note read, "The antidote is in the black car. Bring him."



__________________


"He seems to be in shock, and he's having trouble breathing," Dorothy reported while grabbing the phone out of her purse.

"Dorothy, call the Justice Department and tell the Chancellor what's happened."

"Where are you going?"

"Where else? I'm taking Zechs downstairs to the black car. We have no idea what he's been injected with. His best bet is in that car." Heero hoisted Zechs over one shoulder in fireman fashion and started down the hallway.

"Surely you don't trust the assassin to save him?"

"If he wanted Zechs dead, he'd be dead now. Obviously, he wants us for hostages. Go. Call the Chancellor. I'll try to find a way to contact you from wherever we end up."

Dorothy shook her head but dialed the number as Heero carried Zechs to the nearest elevator.

Immediately in front of the building, a black limo with only one occupant, the driver, sat idling its motor. As Heero exited the building, the driver got out of the car and opened the rear door for him, then got back into the car. Heero noted that it was not the man from the elevator. So there's more than one of them.  As Heero slid into the seat next to Zechs' unconscious form, he pulled out his gun and pointed it at the back of the driver's head.

"Heh heh. Put that away. You might hurt someone."

"Where's the damn antidote?"

"You'll get it when we get there. He's got at least a half hour before he's beyond saving. Heh heh. You just better hope we don't run into traffic."

Thanks to the rain, traffic was light that night. Within fifteen minutes, they pulled into the harbor. The harbor in Cinq was a little different than anywhere else, Heero noted. Nothing but yachts, schooners and cabin cruisers as far as the eye could see. Further down the boats got even bigger—ocean liners and cruise ships. But at this end, they were the toys of the very rich. At least we'll go first class, not like fucking commoners. Zechs will appreciate that. 

As the car came to a stop in front of a particularly pretentious vessel, two men came forward and opened the rear door. One of them was the man from the elevator. The other, Heero had never seen before. He gestured for Heero to take Zechs, and while Heero carried the limp body onto the cruiser, the man from the elevator patted him down for weapons. So much for my gun. 

They led him to an expensively furnished cabin with a double bed. Heero lay Zechs on the bed, then stepped back in surprise when Lt. Klementz entered the room. "Klementz. You're supposed to be dead."

Klementz smirked at Heero for a moment before leaning over Zechs for a closer look. "So is he." He raised a hypodermic needle to his sight as if checking for proper dosage, then stabbed Zechs in the arm with it. "You're lucky. In another fifteen or twenty minutes he would have been dead."

"In another fifteen or twenty minutes, you'll be dead, Klementz."

"Heh heh. Gundam pilots. You always talk like cartoon characters."

"Cut the crap, Klementz. Where is he?"

"Where is who?"

"Gaintz. Victor Gaintz. Those were his glasses we found outside the library. You must be working for him. Where is he?"

"I am working for him. He died a martyr on Vulkanus. I nearly died too. Funny the twists of fate. His glasses were all I could save. The ones I left for you were actually a duplicate pair. The ones he was wearing at the moment of his death I've had encased in an airtight display box. They're sitting in my living room in Dresden as we speak. I look at them every night, and remember Mr. Gaintz' dream of perfect peace. He," Klementz said, gesturing toward Zechs, "is thought a great hero after drilling a hole through the earth, while Mr. Gaintz is remembered as a criminal. Well, no more. We will finally have justice."

"Just what the hell's that supposed to mean?"

"You'll find out. In the meantime, make yourself at home. Your friend should be conscious in about ten minutes. Then we'll have a little talk about crime and punishment."

Hn. Blowing up didn't change him a bit. He's still an ass.



__________________


"Zechs, wake up. We're running out of time." Heero shook Zechs' shoulders forcefully, but the drug hadn't worn off yet and it didn't look like it would anytime soon. May as well do something useful.  Somehow, he needed to contact Dorothy, and the vidphone on the nightstand gave him an idea. The phone had been disconnected, but he wouldn't need it so much as the components inside. Some quick unscrewing—gotcha!—and he had all he needed to construct a primitive homing beacon. He wouldn't be able to talk to Dorothy, but her phone would beep continuously in a regular pattern. Hopefully, she'd recognize it as a means of contact and go to the Cinq police, who'd be able to trace the source.

"Heero..."

Heero looked up from his work only momentarily. Zechs was finally coming around. "How do you feel, Zechs?"

"Like I'm in a cheesy Humphrey Bogart movie," he answered groggily. "The one where he's on a boat with a bunch of criminals and has to kill them off one by one before they kill him. What's that one called?"

"Hn. Key Largo."

"Yeah. Doesn't he get hit on the head in that one? I feel like that."

"He gets hit on the head in all of them."

"So where are we?"

"We're on a cabin cruiser on the Atlantic about 10 kilometers from land. Our speed keeps increasing and decreasing, probably to avoid shoals in the area. We're doing about 70 kph right now. Pretty good speed for a cruiser this size, and pretty damn reckless for this hour of the night in a downpour." He programmed the homing beacon and tossed it under the bed just as Klementz entered the room, pistol in hand. Wordlessly, Klementz gestured for them to get moving and shoved them upstairs to the boat deck.

"I'm glad you're awake, Colonel Zechs. There are a few details we need to discuss concerning your trial."

"Trial? What the hell are you talking about, Klementz?" Heero demanded.

"Your upcoming court-martial," Klementz replied, waving his gun at Zechs. "You should have to answer for your crimes against humanity during the Eve Wars. It's simply a matter of justice."

Someday we'll have to lock this idiot in a room with Wu Fei for one hour. That would be justice.  "Klementz, I don't know whether you were paying attention at the end of the war, but the World Nation decided to grant amnesty to all factions in the interest of peace. There were no innocents involved in the conflict. There never are in war. Victor Gaintz is vilified because he initiated conflict in a time of peace."

"Which reminds me, you're a liability, Mr. Yuy. I'm afraid you're going to have to leave us now. My business is with the Prince of Cinq." He gestured to one of his henchmen, who grabbed Heero from behind and clubbed him in the head with the butt of his pistol. Zechs kicked the henchman in the groin, knocking the gun out of his hand and across the deck. Klementz aimed his at Heero's temple and Zechs retreated. "Any more of that, and I blow his brains out. Put handcuffs on His Royal Pain in the Ass," he ordered the henchman, "A criminal should be properly restrained at all times. Tie the other one up and throw him overboard."

"Wait," Zechs pleaded, "I'll cooperate. Just leave Heero alone and I'll go along with whatever you want."

"You have no choice, Your Highness." He gestured to the henchman to proceed, and Heero was tossed overboard like so much chum. "I wouldn't want to be accused of murdering a gundam pilot. But if the sharks in these waters just happen to stumble upon him, well, that's not really my fault, is it."

"You goddamn bastard!"

"Your Highness...tsk tsk tsk. Such a potty mouth." He turned to his henchman. "Take him below and keep a guard on him at all times. I have to place a call to his sister."

I swear on Treize's grave you'll die screaming for this.



__________________


I've lost everyone. Everyone I've ever loved has met with a bad end. Heero deserved better than that, damn it.

Zechs was thrown back into the cabin he'd woken up in. Well, no one said I had to stay.  There were two portholes and no guards in the cabin, a bad combination for keeping a captive. Thank God good help is hard to find.

First things first, though. The henchman had cuffed him with his arms behind him. Before he could do anything, he needed them forward. Sitting on the bed, he worked his arms to the front by rolling on his back and drawing his legs through the circle of his arms. Well, that's one problem easily solved.  He then considered which window would strategically be the best to slip out of, when something rolled out from under the bed. Looks like a makeshift homing device.  Heero.

Zechs studied it a few minutes before deciding it could serve a better purpose. A little rewiring and he'd created a feedback loop which would eventually overload it. With the amount of current flowing through the wire there was only one possible outcome. They should get a big bang out of that. Too bad I won't be here to see it.

He tucked the device under a pillow and then struggled through one of the portholes, trying to keep his splash to a minimum. The noise of the engines and the pitch black night worked in his favor, and he was safe for the moment.

There were lighted buoys marking the channel directly behind the boat. He swam for them as best he could with his hands still cuffed, only one thought on his mind.

Now to find Heero. 



__________________


Damn, I hate waking up in shark infested waters with a headache.

When Heero had been clubbed in the head he'd nearly passed out, but he'd still had the presence of mind to make his body seem as large as possible when being tied up. It paid off now. He exhaled and made his body as compact as he could, and the ropes loosened enough to wriggle out of. One problem down. Thirty to go. 

The cabin cruiser was nowhere in sight, though nothing was in the pitch dark except the lighted buoys lining the channel, and Heero couldn't help wondering what the hell was happening to Zechs right now. If they lay a finger on him, I'll break bones they never knew they had and tie up their remains with their own arteries.

First things first, though. His first priority was getting back to the cabin cruiser. At least it's stopped raining.  He looked around to get his bearings, and noticed a white light growing on the horizon. Something was coming at him at incredible speed. Oh, shit.  At that velocity it could only be a speedboat of some sort, and he'd be run over if he couldn't make himself visible in some way. He considered his options, but all he had were his clothes and the rope. No light, and nothing with which to make a light. His only hope was to reach one of the lighted buoys. Damn good thing I'm a strong swimmer.  He finally made it to one of the buoys, but it was impossible to climb up on. Still, unless the boaters were suicidal they wouldn't run him down now. Somehow he had to get their attention. As he watched it, the vessel slowed down, though it still moved and still didn't seem to notice him. Of course. The shoals.

The speedboat started moving again, but not for long. About 50 meters away from Heero it ran aground at high speed and had to stop while the motor was examined. Heero swam obliquely toward it and discovered a shoal of his own about twenty meters away. He stood up and shouted to the boat, but it started moving again, and Heero ran out of options. He coiled the rope as neatly as he could in the time he had left and quickly made a lasso. As the vessel passed, he snared the motor and was dragged behind the boat as if on water-skis as it increased speed. I'd like to see Bogart do this.  A familiar voice filtered back to him as he water-skied on his backside behind the boat, and the vessel came to a stop.

"Well, Mr. Yuy, do you want to come aboard or would you prefer to ride on your ass?"

"Dorothy, I didn't know you knew a word like ass."

"It's funny, but I tend to use it a lot around gundam pilots."

Heero's glare was lost on her in the dark, so he climbed aboard the boat without any more banter. "I see you found the police. This is a marine patrol boat?"

"Yes. This is Police Captain Regnar. Captain Regnar, this is Heero Yuy. We got your signal and traced it to a cabin cruiser that's about four kilometers ahead of us right now. These shoals are slowing us down, but the cruiser seems to be having the same trouble following the channel. How is Mr. Milliard?"

"When I was tossed overboard, he was all right. They seem to want him to stand trial for war crimes. I don't think Zechs is going to go along with the gag, though. And if he tries to fight them, I don't know how anxious they'll be to keep him alive. We'd better hurry."



__________________


"Heero, do you see what I see?"

"If you mean a white-haired baka clinging to a buoy in the middle of the ocean, Dorothy, then yes."

Captain Regnar steered the patrol boat towards Zechs' buoy, and helped the Prince into the boat before giving him a report. "Your Highness, the cruiser is about four or five kilometers ahead of us, but it's difficult to see at this distance in the dark, and the homing beacon is sending irregular signals now."

"Captain, I have the feeling we'll have no trouble seeing it very soon." Zechs turned to find Dorothy staring at him with relief, and Heero staring with his usual angry glare, indicating relief.

"Mr. Milliard, we're so glad to have you back!"

"Thanks, Dorothy. And Heero, I'm so glad to have you back. I thought—" His remark was interrupted by the explosion of the cabin cruiser directly ahead of them. A flaming piece of gunwale nearly struck the speedboat, and Regnar had to turn the craft in a circle to avoid it.

"Zechs, I guess you weren't kidding about making it easier to see."

"Heh. No, I wasn't, Heero. We'd better go see if there are any survivors. Klementz has a nasty habit of living through explosions."

Moments later, they skimmed through the wreckage but found only corpses. Klementz was very much dead this time, and so were his henchmen. Regnar radioed for more patrol boats to handle the cleanup while he returned the crown prince to the harbor.

During the ride home in Dorothy's car the three said nothing. After so many days of unbearable tension, the case was wrapped up so quickly in a few hours that it was impossible to accept that things were back to normal. But what is there to say when one has survived such an ordeal? There are no words equal to the experience, so each sat absorbed in his own thoughts. Dorothy felt relieved that no one she loved was hurt, and looked forward to a hot bath. Heero felt a sense of dejection that Zechs no longer needed a bodyguard. I guess I start looking for a new job tomorrow.

And Zechs pondered the emotional Rubik's cube of how to bring Heero into his life without hurting his sister. Can't be done. Any way I do it, she'll be hurt.  The question, then, was did he love Heero enough to hurt his sister?

A half hour later he was no closer to an answer. He glanced over at Heero, who was rubbing his eyes and yawning. It was nearly 2 am. Something in the gundam pilot's demeanor solved the equation for him. Fuck it. Life's too short and uncertain to pass up opportunities for happiness when they miraculously present themselves.

"Heero, when we get home, I need to talk to you about something important."



__________________


Hn. So this is where it ends.

Heero shrugged off his soggy coat and headed for the library. Police tape still sealed the area; he ripped it down. No need for this now.  The mission was a success, the bad guys were waxed and the good guys were home safe and sound. He still felt like crap. What I need is a drink. 

The library boasted an impressive dry bar. Heero mixed something strong—he wasn't quite sure what it was by the time he was through with it, but it burned his gut on the way down so it was perfect. The problem with you, Yuy, is that you've forgotten how to be alone.  He'd spent most of his life alone in one way or another. Even with Odin he'd always felt alone, and Odin had been a constant companion. When you're alone, no one can hurt you like this.  He just needed to get back to the shell of aloofness he lived in during the war. Alone, no one knows your weaknesses, your fears, your pain.

But everyone had worked so hard to bring him out of that state. Why? Relena and Duo especially wouldn't leave him be after the war. Afraid that he'd slip into...what? Were they afraid he'd become someone who enjoyed killing for killing's sake? Afraid he'd become a monster who gutted small children and little old ladies? Were they afraid of him? He was no monster.

He was a frightened little boy.

He was simply a frightened little boy who'd forgotten how to protect himself from other people, and he needed to remember that now.

Zechs walked in and shattered his thoughts. "Hmm. There you are. Why come in here, of all places?"

Heero shrugged. Because this was the one place where you needed me.

Zechs parked himself on the sofa directly across from Heero. "Heero, I need to talk about something that's been on my mind lately." He nervously rubbed the indentations on his wrists where the handcuffs used to be. "I've been doing a lot of thinking about you and about what you said, and...well, this incident taught me something..."

Heero set his drink on the coffee table in front of the sofa and leaned closer to Zechs. What have you learned, Zechs? Tell me. Please.

"When my parents died, I thought from then on I should never love anyone else because the best way to protect yourself from sorrow was to never feel anything for anyone. But Treize's death showed me that no matter how hard you try to push people away, they sneak in anyway. I deeply regret never having told him how much I love him. He was a good man and deserved better from me." Zechs sighed, then stood and paced back and forth behind the couch. "Now I find that you've done the same. You've crept into my heart somehow, Heero, and I don't want to wake up one morning regretting never having shown you how much I care. I'm so tired of trying to protect myself from pain and blocking out any chance for happiness because of it." He sat down again, and hunted deeply in Prussian blue eyes for some flicker of understanding. Impassive as always. Well, what did you expect? There'll be no joy in this life for me, ever. An eternity of penance. No relief, and no forgiveness. Ever.

Heero downed the rest of his drink. I'm tired too, Zechs. I'm tired of being alone.  He rose from the sofa and sat down again on the other one, beside Zechs. Tired of feeling angry, feeling weak, feeling common.  He fingered a wayward strand of Zechs' hair, almost reverently. Steel blue eyes searched his face in wonder, but there was no rejection there, and Heero decided he'd wasted enough time. I'm tired, too, of never getting what I want.

Without any preamble he took possession of Zechs' mouth and tried to sear himself into Zechs' mind.

  I'm tired of you thinking about Treize.

Predatory hands roamed Zechs' body as Heero removed his clothes.

  Tired of competing with legends.

Zechs beat him to it, though, and Heero found it difficult to keep up with the Lightning Count.

  Quick...clever...fingers...

Feverish stroking, caressing, licking and teasing consumed him, and Heero had honestly not known intoxication until the heavenly bliss of Zechs' skin touching his.

  I'm so tired of holding back.

The smell of the ocean still clung to their bodies, and Heero knew he'd never again be able to smell the sea without remembering the most amazing night of his entire life.

  And damn tired of thinking.

The night he got everything he'd ever wanted.

The End



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