Heero stood outside his bedroom door and took a deep breath. He was angry, excited and confused, but at least now his quarters were blessedly silent. Maybe he had sucked the life's breath out of Duo with that kiss? He certainly had taken what he could to subdue Duo long enough to remove the wrist cuffs. He looked down at them now, mangled from prying them open with his own hands. To think he had that much power in his bare hands. Duo was right to be afraid.
It was a risk letting Duo out of the cuffs, but an acceptable one. He couldn't get out of the room without Heero's voice recognition or inputting a code. Hopefully he would take the suggestion to use the shower. There was nothing to harm him in there and it might relax him to the point where they could talk reasonably with each other.
Heero had seen the fear in Duo's eyes and the exhaustion and pain in the slump of his shoulders. This was more than either of them had bargained for. Heero was good at thinking on his feet, but he had never dealt with anyone's feelings before. He hadn't realized that a bed partner would be so much trouble. He had only been thinking about the sex-and lots of it with Duo-but not any other social interactions.
The situation was intolerable, and Heero's lingering anger put him in motion. With the cuffs in hand he left his quarters to seek out Sally Po. The doctor had a lot of explaining to do.
Lucrezia Noin was watering a hydrangea plant when he entered her office.
"Heero!" she said, looking a bit stunned. "Is Sally expecting you... so soon?"
His eyes narrowed. "Is the doctor in?"
"Yes, but she's preparing a...."
Heero didn't wait for the rest of that sentence. He strode across the room and threw the doctor's connecting office door open. His grand entrance got her attention. Her head snapped up from her work on the computer.
"I'm surprised to see you," she said.
He walked to her desk and dropped the wrist cuffs in a clatter. "You said he would be willing."
"Well, yes, that was the ideal scenario---"
"He's not willing." His tone was ice cold. His patience, the little he had, gone.
"Yes, that's why we had to use the restraints."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"You were gone... Treize wanted us to proceed. It was the only way and I figured since you're both attracted to ea---"
"You figured wrong, doctor."
She rose from her chair and came around the desk to stand next to him. "Heero, I'm sorry, but that's the way it has to be. You're too important and we had to move forward."
He stared at her, reading her physical state. Her eyes were unblinking and wide, and her stance confident. She had never deliberately lied to him before, and he believed that she wasn't now.
"I can speak with him if you like. Explain the situation."
"You should've done that at the start," he said.
"It didn't work out that way. If there's really a problem then our only option is to terminate the liaison."
The word "terminate" stuck in his mind. It had never been discussed with him, but it was the logical conclusion. Duo would have to die. The Project's confidentiality was foremost in everyone's minds. Even if Duo were sedated and dropped on a city street half way around the world, his experience could come back to haunt them. That is, if anyone believed him.
It shouldn't bother Heero, but it did. He knew almost nothing about Duo, but he had come to enjoy watching him. The way he moved, the way he interacted with others and was so easy to smile and to laugh. And then there was the way he tasted and felt in Heero's arms. The memory of those brief touches stirred Heero to want more. Maybe there was a way to salvage this situation yet, and to stave off Duo's termination.
"I'm very sorry, Heero. His readings were positive about you, but it became clear that he would never agree to this willingly. If I hadn't proceeded as planned he would've been terminated at the end of the testing. He already knew too much---"
Heero held up his hand to quiet her. "How much time do I have?"
She tilted her head. "You mean... to seduce him?"
"Treize is big on results, but I've been known to put him off for days."
She leaned back on the desk, folding her arms over her chest. "I'll expect a full report."
"You keep the General occupied and I'll see what I can do."
He turned to leave, and grinned as she said, "Good luck." He was going to need it.
~ ~ ~
He entered his bedroom with more caution than was necessary. He wasn't concerned about Duo jumping him, he could handle anything he threw at him, but he was concerned about upsetting Duo further. He closed the door behind him and scanned the room. Duo was wearing his bathrobe and sitting in the chair near the window, his legs pulled up to his chin. He raised his head and blinked at him.
"You're back," Duo said.
"Yes." Heero walked slowly toward him.
Duo got up from the chair, and wrapped the robe more tightly about him.
"I said I wouldn't hurt you," Heero said.
"Then let me go."
"I can't do that."
"Why not? No one's gonna believe me."
"Not even the police?" Heero liked throwing that tidbit back at him.
Duo's hair was still damp from the shower, but neatly pulled back into a braid. He smelled earthy like a warm summer day. He must've used one of the scented soaps in the cabinet. Heero preferred the unscented ones for stealth purposes, but on Duo the earthiness was good.
"What if I promise never to talk about this to anyone?" Duo's eyes were pleading, and even though he smelled amazing and looked enticing in that robe, the way he was clutching it about his neck told Heero not to come any closer.
"There's something you should know," Heero said, pausing some ten feet away. "You no longer exist. Bremen Enterprises will have eliminated any trace of you working here by now."
Duo's breath caught. "What kind of head games are you playing?"
"You're working for the Project now. You can never leave, but you'll be treated well---"
"You call this good treatment? It's a prison!"
"You'll be given more freedom in time."
"Who are you to decide what freedoms I should have?"
Duo was right to be angry, but it only increased Heero's frustration.
"I want out of here... now!" Duo plowed past Heero, shoving him aside and heading straight for the door.
Heero watched as Duo pulled on the knob, shaking it, and finally pounding his fist against the door when it wouldn't open.
"God, damn it!" he said, turning to face Heero. "What kind of place is this?"
"It's your new home."
"Home?" Duo's eyes blazed. "You drug me and bring me here against my will and then tell me I can never leave and expect me to call this home? You fuckin' bastard!" He lunged toward Heero and swung his fists in a ridiculous attempt to strike down a man who was a trained assassin.
Heero deflected the blows, and grabbed Duo by the arms, tossing him onto the bed. The speed of his counterattack no doubt surprised Duo who then tried to get off the bed, but Heero was on him in an instant. He straddled Duo's thighs and pinned Duo's wrists above his head with one hand.
"Listen to me," Heero said, his voice low and impatient. "The only way you're going to stay alive is to stay here. Everything you've seen is top secret and you've seen too much." Duo tried bucking him off, but Heero clamped his thighs around him tighter. "What part of this don't you understand? You were brought here to service me and if you don't you're dead."
Duo's eyes widened and his mouth opened in shock.
"Yeah, you heard right." He stared at Duo for a long moment. For once, the young man didn't seem to have anything to say. "You're part of the Project now and you can either cooperate---"
"Or die," Duo said and swallowed hard. He stopped struggling and turned his face away. "Just do it then. Get it over with." Duo's voice was resigned and barely more than a whisper.
Their proximity already had Heero hard. It was tempting to lean in and take what he wanted, but he couldn't. "I had hoped you would be willing." Heero released Duo's wrists and sat back.
Duo looked up at him through long bangs. "How could I be?"
"I don't know." Heero moved off to stand next to the bed. The robe had parted exposing Duo's thighs. Just a little more or just a tug on the terry-cloth belt and Duo would have been splayed out naked before him. "I'll get you something to eat."
He turned to leave and heard the creak of the bed and soft pull of the robe as Duo set himself to rights. There were no more words between them.
~ ~ ~
Duo looked to the door as it closed behind Heero. He sat up, pulling the robe and his arms around him. He had begun to shake and it wasn't from being cold... at least not stone cold yet.
He had no reason to doubt what Heero had said. The guy had looked him straight in the eye and not blinked. There was plenty of evidence for Duo to understand that this was no game. His life was moot. He either sucked dick or he would be pushing up daisies. Funny thing was he liked it when Heero touched him. Sally Po had been right about his attraction to Heero, but that hadn't given them the right to make him a prisoner.
He still didn't know what the Project was or how he figured into it. All he knew was that it was confidential and Heero was at the center of it. If no one was supposed to know the guy existed then why the hell was he prancing around the corporate campus?
Within a half an hour, Heero returned with a tray of food. He came into the room as he had the last time, slowly. Duo felt sorry for him in a way. What had Heero gotten himself into that he couldn't have normal relationships with people?
Heero set the tray on the bed, and began to leave.
"Stay," Duo said.
Heero's steps froze, and he turned to look at him.
"I'd rather not be alone."
Heero nodded and sat down in the chair by the window.
Duo pulled the tray over to find a grilled ham and cheese sandwich, fries, bowl of fresh fruit, and a glass of iced tea. "This looks good," he said, and grabbed a fry. He was starved, but didn't want to admit it. He hadn't eaten since breakfast the previous day.
He glanced up as Heero settled deeper in the chair, crossing his legs and leaning back. Duo took a big bite of the sandwich, his mouth watering at the warm savory taste. Maybe he could pretend this situation wasn't all that bad if it bought him some time to find a way out.
"You want some?" he asked, holding out half the sandwich.
"Have you eaten?"
Heero shook his head.
"Then have some."
With some reluctance, Heero accepted the offering. He kept his eyes on Duo as he bit in and chewed.
"Now I won't feel guilty eating in front of you," Duo said.
"You seem... better."
"I'm always better when I eat." Duo took another bite and grinned. He was still scared as hell, but Heero was damn nice to look at. "So... can I get my clothes washed?"
Heero stared at him, seeming to ponder Duo's change in mood. "No one thought about clothes... I guess we didn't expect you'd need them."
Duo's face paled. "Oh."
"I can have them washed or get you new ones," Heero added quickly.
Duo relaxed. Clothes would make him feel more himself, even more than having food in his stomach. He wouldn't feel so vulnerable then. "A new set of duds would be great."
Heero swallowed the last of his sandwich and stood up. "You're all right with this now?"
"Hell, no!" Duo shouted. "But what am I supposed to do? I'm tired and I've got no choice, do I?"
The expression on Heero's face was dark, and Duo was unsure what to say or do. He braced himself, expecting to be pounced again, but instead, Heero left the room. The door locked behind him.
~ ~ ~
Heero spent the remainder of the day in a mission debriefing, and physical training. Several people commented on his agitated state, and he had to consciously calm himself to alleviate their concern before it got noticed by one of the scientists or Treize. He had no doubt that Doctor Po could divert any intense questioning about their "liaison program" for several days, but that was all. After that, if his anxiety levels had not dropped then Duo would be seen as unnecessary and terminated. As an assassin, Heero knew that innocents sometimes died as collateral damage in an operation. He did not want Duo to be his collateral damage.
The Project had an extensive library and research center of public materials which gave Heero full access to data around the world. He was better informed on global politics, and socio-economic conditions than 99% of the world's population. The more he knew, the better his chance of success in a mission. Nothing was left to chance which made the liaison program all the more extraordinary.
Heero spent several hours staring at a computer monitor reading about accepted methods of "breaking the ice" in Western cultures. He learned about party games, socializing over drinks, walks in the park, and going on dates. Dating was out of the question, but had circumstances been different he might have enjoyed dating Duo.
The research concluded with Duo's employee record. Every trace of Duo had been purged from the system, but Doctor Po had preserved a file of his four-months of employment at Bremen Enterprises. In addition to the tests each employee had to pass to be hired, the company compiled extensive information on every aspect of employees' lives-timecard data, meal and beverage purchases, bathroom breaks, performance appraisals, and seemingly random information gathered from conversations with managers and co-workers. From this, Heero was able to determine Duo's likes and dislikes, and to confirm that beyond a few co-workers there was no one to care that he'd gone missing. The more he read, the more Heero realized that although Duo seemed gregarious, he was ultimately alone... just like Heero.
Leaning back to stretch his arms, Heero saw Doctor Po approaching. "Did I miss an appointment?"
"No," she said, coming to stand next to him. "You didn't cover your tracks. The system alerted me that you accessed Duo's file. You want to talk?"
"There's nothing to report."
"But it's been eight hours."
"You said I had a few days."
"I know what I said, but I'm worried."
Heero's brow knitted. "Has someone been asking questions?"
"No, but nothing is going as planned. I'm concerned for your well being, but if this young man is too much trouble---"
"You're right this isn't as planned, but I'll make it work."
Sally sat at the edge of the table and sighed. "Heero, I'm afraid I've let you down. Maybe the scientists are right and I'm trying to undermine the Project."
Heero saw the concern on her face. "They fear your creativity," he said. It was apparent to him now how she struggled against the scientists' egos.
"I doubt they'd agree, but I appreciate that. Only sometimes I wish I'd go for the easier solution rather than the most creative one." She smiled at him, and relaxed some. "Heero, you mind if I give you some advice?"
"I'm out of my element, doctor. I'll take all the advice I can get."
"The readings from your workout today verify that the calming exercises and extra repetitions in your routine are having no effect. It's critical that you implement the liaison program."
"You mean, have sex with Duo."
"Yes, and lots of it. Remember, Duo is attracted to you. Touch him, kiss him... talk to him. You'll overcome his fears as he learns to accept you and the situation."
~ ~ ~
It was early evening when Heero returned to his quarters. Sally had followed her pep talk by suggesting that he and Duo talk over dinner, and share information about themselves. Heero had liked the simplicity of the plan. He had his personal chef make Duo's favorite, a pepperoni and mushroom pizza, and Lucrezia Noin had run out to buy a six-pack of beer.
When he came into his bedroom, he found Duo asleep under the covers. His first inclination was to drop everything and dive in, but he had to hold back. He was dealing with a frightened animal. If he wanted Duo to play along, then Heero had to find another way. He set their dinner down on a side table, and slung the duffel bag off his shoulder. Despite wanting Duo naked, he thought it best to give him clothes.
After closing the door behind him, Heero stepped to the bed and leaned down. Duo's breath was even like he had fallen asleep from exhaustion-an emotional, stress-based exhaustion. Heero had his own stress he was coping with, and none too well, and so he moved to Duo's lips for a kiss. There was so much more he wanted to do and to touch, but a kiss would warm his insides. His lips pressed against Duo's and the young man moaned and stretched awake. Heero pulled back, but remained mere inches from Duo's face.
"Oh," Duo said, his eyes coming wide open.
"I brought dinner."
Duo swallowed and nodded. "You've been gone a long time."
Heero's hands were on either side of Duo's hips, and the urge was impossibly strong to scoop Duo into his arms and explore every inch of him. He knew Duo was naked beneath the covers, his long braid hung heavy over the soft curve of his bare shoulder.
"Are you okay?" Duo asked, wriggling further under the covers.
No, I'm not, Heero thought. But in this moment he would do nothing to rectify that. He stood up straight. "I thought we could have dinner together."
Duo sat up, the covers pooling at his waist. "Yeah?"
Heero reached for the six-pack of bottled beer and set it on the bed.
Duo laughed. "Oh, you wanna get me drunk so you can jump my bones without me putting up a fight."
"If it'll make it easier for you, yes."
Duo turned his face away, his hands curling into fists. "The only thing that's gonna make this easier is for you to let me go."
"You wouldn't last five minutes."
"You gonna kill me?" Duo asked, staring at him.
"It wouldn't be me."
"Don't like getting your hands dirty, huh?"
Heero had killed enough people to be counted on two sets of hands. He could face any enemy, take out any target without remorse or hesitation, and now he was letting one of Bremen Enterprise's entry level employees get the best of him. The urge to put his fist through another wall was brewing inside him.
"I thought we could get to know each other better," Heero said.
"Ha! Just to ease your conscience... if you have one."
Duo's belligerence was understandable, but remarkably unnerving. Heero wasn't sure why the young man's words cut him, but they did, and Sally's advice seemed poorly given. What had happened to the Project's well-oiled machine in which everything revolved around Heero and the outcome of his missions? Practicing dating rituals on a kidnapping victim was ludicrous. What had he been thinking? Maybe he should get back to basics and think more like an assassin and less like a horny 19-year old.
"There are clothes in the bag," Heero said, nodding to the duffel on the floor. "I suggest you put them on before you make your escape."
Duo blinked. "What?"
Heero walked to the door, opening it. "I'll turn off the perimeter security. No alarm will sound, and I won't report you missing."
Even with these allowances he knew that Duo couldn't get far. But that was the point. Duo needed a show of strength. In this room with just the two of them, Duo couldn't possibly understand the magnitude of the situation. Sally had complicated things by not orienting Duo to his role, and her latest advice also wasn't cutting it. Heero had to do what seemed right in the moment. Just like on his missions.
"You're letting me go? Just like that?"
"You're more trouble than I need. If you can escape, I can live with that."
Duo turned so that his bare legs hung over the side of the bed. "What about all the 'you don't exist' anymore crap?"
"You don't. You've been erased from every database in the country. But I'm sure you'll manage somehow."
Duo's brow furrowed, no doubt unsure how to proceed, but Heero had a feeling that Duo's independent nature wouldn't let him pass on this opportunity for freedom. Heero wasn't quite sure what to expect either, but he felt in his gut that he needed to shake things up. Letting Duo go would do that, and might create some level of trust between them, that is if Duo lived long enough to come to that conclusion.
"Not that it means anything, but will you give me your word you won't try to stop me?"
"You have my word." Heero turned to the speaker beside the door and said, "Disable security footprint level four."
"What does that mean?"
Heero looked over his shoulder at Duo. "It means you're free to go... at least to the outside of the building."
"But I don't even know where I am."
"It's all I can do." And with that, Heero walked out of the room. He retreated into the shadows of his quarters to give Duo the space he needed to make his break.