"There it goes again," a technician was saying from behind a bank of computer screens.
"I thought they worked that bug out?" Another tech said, leaning over his shoulder.
Duo came around to see the jumble of codes scrolling across the monitors. "Can I help?"
The two young men looked at him, one giving a rude snort of indifference and turning back to the screens.
"Getting the bugs out is my specialty," Duo said, persisting.
By now, Miss Noin was standing next to the station. She peered at the monitors. "What seems to be the problem?"
The seated tech looked up at her. "It's the second time this week the computer will not print the report. All the data is being stored, but the scientists like print-outs."
"I see..." Her eyes met Duo's. It was as though she was weighing the options: call another tech or let Duo have a go. Maybe she was feeling some guilt over their earlier conversation, because she gave him a nod and said, "Would you like to give it a try?"
The technicians looked between Noin and Duo, shock apparent on their faces. "Ma'am, only Project personnel are allowed---"
"Please don't remind me of protocol. Duo is highly trained in intellectual technology, and conveniently he's standing right here. I say we let him have a go at it."
Duo couldn't believe his ears. She was actually going to let him near one of the Project's computer systems? Was she nuts?
"Well, go on..." she said, nodding to Duo.
The technician got up from the chair, standing aside but giving Duo a death glare that said, you try anything suspicious and you're dead. As if.
Duo sat down, and the two techs filled him in on some of the basics of the program. He accessed the program file and saw that the system was hung-up, but not because it was overloaded, but rather because the data was looping, and making the computer believe it wasn't ready to print. He typed a code into the program. The techs leaned forward, reading over his shoulder and seeming ready to stop him.
"I'm just telling the program to print at the end of the data stream, instead of repeating it. Gotta break her of this bad habit." He chuckled, patting the monitor.
It felt good to be sitting behind a computer again. Before he hit enter, he looked up at the techs, and once he got nods all around he went ahead. The code continued to scroll, and Duo held up his hand, signaling everyone needed to be a little patient, and then it stopped. All eyes and ears turned to the printer as it warmed up and began to print.
There was a huge sigh of relief from the group, and one of the technicians even gripped Duo's shoulder, thanking him. "That's great. Can you write down the code you input, in case it happens again?"
"Sure," Duo said with a smile.
It was then that he noticed the old man from earlier, the one with the mop of gray hair and the large nose. He was standing next to the computer station and it seemed that he had been watching closely.
"Professor G," one of the techs said. "We've got that data printing for you now."
The old man nodded. "Thank you." He looked to Duo. "You're that boy Doctor Po brought in for Heero, aren't you?"
Duo cleared his throat and stood up. "Yep, that's me!" He'd had enough with being treated like a second class citizen around here.
"How is it you were able to fix this problem and my assistants were not?"
"I'm a natural. Computers communicate in numbers and I'm a whiz at math."
The man looked at him more closely, but his scrutiny seemed rooted in curiosity rather than foreboding like Doctor J's. "Are you a master of mathematics?"
Duo laughed. "Yeah, right. I could barely afford to get through vocational school, let alone dream of getting accepted and paying for an advanced degree."
"That could be corrected if you became an operative."
Duo's eyes widened. "You mean... like Heero?"
"No," came a strong, low voice. They all turned to see Heero approaching. His hair was still wet, but slicked back off his face, and he had a towel over his shoulders.
"There are many levels of operatives," Professor G, continued.
"I said, no." Heero stood on the other side of the monitors from Duo, his features stern and unhappy.
Professor G gave a small grin and leaned towards Duo. "Perhaps in another lifetime?"
"Yeah, maybe in outer space, man," Duo said, trying to lighten the mood.
"Ah, outer space..." G said. "Where future wars will be fought."
"Hey, then I could be your operative and save the Earth!" Duo smiled proudly.
"I'll be the one saving the Earth," Heero said.
Doctor J joined the group. "We don't need to imagine a future in which Heero saves the Earth, he's quite capable of it right now... if he remains focused."
"I've got the data from the test," Professor G said, holding up the print-out. "Thanks to Duo."
"You helped?" Heero asked, his eyes brightening.
"Don't sound so surprised," Duo said with a chuckle. "I could have this system purring like a kitten if you asked me nicely."
"There's nothing wrong with this system," Doctor J said. "And play time is over." He looked at Heero and Professor G. "I have another injection scheduled."
Professor G's brow furrowed. "Heero's performance doesn't indicate a need for that."
"Exactly why we should keep his levels as they are. Now come with me." J turned and walked away with G following close behind.
Heero hesitated, glancing at the two older men and then looking back at Duo. "I'll have a few hours off after this."
Duo smiled. "Good."
Heero nodded and ran off to catch up with the scientists.
The technicians seemed to have changed their minds about Duo and were now smiling from ear to ear. "Thanks," they said in unison.
"Glad to be of help."
He stepped away from the computer station and followed Miss Noin as she indicated they should move on.
"Thanks for trusting me back there," he said, walking next to her.
"It wasn't easy for Doctor Po to bring you into this," she said, stopping and turning to him. "You're right to be angry, but I hope you can begin to see that this Project is bigger than any one of us."
"Yes, even Heero, although right now he is the very heart of the Project."
They settled next to a glass wall that separated the pool area from what appeared to be a mini medical clinic. Heero was seated on an examination table at the far end of the room, surrounded by the two scientists and an assistant.
"They're giving him an injection?" Duo asked.
"Yes, it's a mystery cocktail that works in conjunction with the genetic engineering. Only Treize and the scientists know what's in it."
"That's what makes him super human?"
Noin nodded. "The combination of the two, yes. Crazy, huh?"
"Crazy enough to break a refrigerator."
"Definitely a side effect. The new refrigerator was installed while you were out of the apartment this morning. If you have time later, you should place an order for groceries."
Ordering groceries and waiting for Heero while he finished his examination with the scientists made Duo's situation more complicated. The longer his captivity went on and the more Heero shared with him, the more things were getting domestic and settled. It was almost like everyone was trying to win Duo over. Make this work despite the way it had begun.
Twenty minutes later, Heero was slipping on his jogging pants and seemed more than ready to head back to his quarters for a little nooky with Duo. In a surprising move, Heero put his arm around Duo's shoulders as they left the training salle.
Duo looked over at him and noticed a fine perspiration on Heero's brow. "You okay?"
Heero nodded. "Why do you ask?"
"You look like you're still hyped up."
"Yeah, I feel like I haven't calmed down from that workout."
"Some workout," Duo said with a snort. "That Doctor J must stay up nights dreaming up those tests."
Heero grinned. "You may be right."
In the outside corridor, Heero directed Duo toward the elevator.
"We're not taking the stairs?"
"I want to get you alone, remember?" Heero asked with a smirk.
"Oh." Duo studied Heero's face as they waited for the elevator. He wanted to be alone with Heero, too, but something felt off.
The lift arrived and the doors opened. Heero propelled Duo forward, all but pushing him inside. When the doors closed behind them, Heero input a security code before they were on their way. He stepped toward Duo with authority, and Duo moved back, bumping against the wall.
"You're cornered now," Heero said in a predatory tone.
Duo gulped. Was Heero playing or being serious?
Heero put his hands on either side of Duo's shoulders and leaned in, their faces only inches apart. "Maybe we should do it here."
"In the elevator? Won't we be at our floor any second?"
Heero grinned and then dove in for a kiss. The possessive, eager kiss warmed Duo instantly. He slipped his hands around Heero's waist, pulling him forward until their stomachs touched. Heero's kiss turned fierce, and Duo felt the nudge of Heero's cock on his thigh. The contact deepened and intensified with Heero grinding against Duo. His hands slid under Duo's t-shirt, running up his chest to his nipples. Duo yelped with the pleasure of that touch, but Heero immediately covered his mouth again.
The elevator dinged when they reached their floor and the door opened. Heero broke contact for an instant, pushing the hold button to freeze the elevator in place. He returned to Duo, nipping along his jaw and slipping his tongue into Duo's mouth. He grabbed Duo's hands and brought them to the concealed zipper on the front of his body suit. He took a half step back, allowing Duo to begin slowly unzipping the athletic wear. There was an uncharacteristic wildness in Heero's eyes, but Duo didn't let it stop him from dipping his hands inside the stretchable fabric, fitting snug between the micro fibers and Heero's hot skin. He thought about the way Heero had looked in motion in this black, clinging suit-the flow of muscle had rippled like a cat on the prowl. He wanted to strip Heero down and fuck him against the wall, fuck all that powerful heat.
His hand moved down, finding Heero's hardened shaft and wrapping his fingers around it. Heero moaned, leaning into him with another deep kiss. Heero's hands gripped him by the upper arms. Each time Duo stroked, Heero's grip tightened. Duo groaned into Heero's mouth, moving his hand up and down over the hard cock, and in turn eliciting a more bruising response from Heero to the point where he thought his blood circulation would be cut-off.
"Not so hard," Duo said, pulling out of the kiss.
Heero growled and thrusted forward-hard-causing Duo's head to knock against the metal wall of the elevator.
"Ow! What are you doing?" Duo protested. This was rough treatment. He let go of Heero's cock and pulled his hand out of the body suit.
Heero's eyes were intense, but he didn't speak as he shifted gears and fumbled with the zipper on Duo's jeans.
"Not here," Duo said, pushing at Heero's hands. Heero didn't seem to be registering any of Duo's protests, so he pushed on Heero's chest to get him to step back. "Let's go inside."
With apparent reluctance, Heero gave Duo some breathing room. They got off the elevator, Heero sending it on its way as they did. They walked down the quiet corridor to the apartment, Duo standing aside as Heero unlocked the door with the command, "Enter."
The door was barely shut behind them when Heero grabbed Duo by the wrist and whirled him around and into his arms. Duo was practically made breathless by the move and having his mouth covered in a hard kiss. Heero seemed to be in a hurry and it was so unlike what they had shared the night before that Duo was feeling reluctant to continue. He wasn't sure that Heero realized how tight he had been holding him in the elevator.
"Hang on," Duo managed to say, breaking out of the kiss.
"Why are you resisting me?" Heero's eyes looked ablaze and Duo stumbled back out of his embrace.
"You're not yourself. Maybe you should sit down," Duo said. He pulled out a chair from the dining room table to encourage him, but Heero merely shook his head.
"Since when are you afraid of a hard fuck?"
Duo's cheeks flushed. "I thought we were past that. What about last night?"
"Come here and I'll show you," Heero said.
Duo took another step back. He didn't like this Heero, but something was telling him this wasn't the real Heero. Something was wrong. "Sit down and I'll call Doctor Po."
Heero swept in, as he was so good at doing, taking Duo in his arms and laying heavy hands and a hungry kiss on him. Duo wanted to be caught up in Heero's intensity, but it didn't feel right. Heero's skin was hot and sweat streaked his temples.
"You're not well," Duo said, giving Heero a hard shove.
It was enough to break them apart, and to make Heero angry. He lunged forward, but somehow Duo managed to step aside and out of reach. He turned just in time to see Heero grab the crystal vase from the dining room table and throw it at the wall. Duo held up his arms as the vase crashed and shattered into hundreds of tiny shards. The pang and impact of the glass on his face and hands made Duo cringe.
He looked up to find Heero standing, but bent forward breathing hard. He rushed to Heero's side and guided him to a chair. Kneeling before Heero, he lifted his face to look into his eyes. "Are you okay?"
Heero's eyes were dilated and somewhat unfocused. "I've hurt you." His hand came up and touched Duo's cheek. When he withdrew his hand, Duo saw blood on Heero's fingers. "I'm sorry."
"No, it's all right. Just a small cut." Duo didn't know how much of a cut it was, but right now he didn't care. He had to contact Doctor Po. "Stay put."
He rushed to the security panel and dialed "339." The only access number he knew. Miss Noin answered almost immediately.
"Duo? I'm surprised to hear---"
"Never mind that. I need Doctor Po to come here right away. Something's wrong with Heero."
"What is it?"
"I'm not sure. He was... violent, but now he's calmed. His skin is hot to the touch."
"We're on our way. Keep him as calm as you can."
Duo swallowed hard and went back to kneel at Heero's side. Heero had his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands.
"I feel like I want out of my skin," he said.
"Doctor Po is on the way." Duo laid a hand on Heero's back, but even that gentle caress seemed to have Heero's skin crawling. How could he have gone from wanting to rip all of Duo's clothes off to being too sensitive to touch? "I'll get you some water."
His mind raced with the possibilities as he retrieved water from the new refrigerator. Could it be the drug? Heero was given an injection just before leaving the training facility. Was this a normal reaction? He handed Heero an open bottle of water and watched in horror as Heero's hand shook as he raised the bottle to his lips. God, where was the doctor?
It took only six minutes for the medical team to arrive, but for Duo it seemed three times as long. He stood back as Doctor Po examined Heero. Miss Noin had come, along with several medical technicians, portable equipment and a rolling stretcher.
Noin put her hand on Duo's shoulder. "When did this start?"
"As soon as we left the facility. I noticed he was sweating, but figured he hadn't cooled off from the workout."
"I need to get him to the med clinic. His pulse is racing," Doctor Po said as she got up. She nodded for her assistants to transfer Heero to the stretcher. "Lucrezia, you mentioned that Heero was given an injection by Doctor J. He doesn't usually have this kind of reaction."
"Professor G questioned the need for another dosing, since Heero's levels were good," Noin said.
"And J went ahead with it anyway?" Po asked.
"Is he going to be all right?" Duo asked, feeling helpless watching Heero be strapped to the stretcher and an oxygen mask placed over his nose and mouth.
"Yes," the doctor said. "But I can't stabilize him until I find out what J gave him. I don't want to risk..."
"What?" Duo blinked.
"We're dealing with steroids, and God knows what else. If I'm not careful I could send him into a coronary seizure."
"A heart attack?" Duo asked.
"That's right." She turned to her team. "Let's get moving. Call ahead to the clinic."
The assistants began to push Heero on the stretcher out of the apartment.
"Let me go with you," Duo said.
"You'll be in the way," Doctor Po said. "Lucrezia, I need you to get Doctor J to meet us at the clinic. I have some questions for him."
"I won't be in the way," Duo said, interrupting. "I need to know he's okay."
Doctor Po eyed Duo carefully. It was the first she had gotten a good look at him since coming into the room. "You're bleeding. Come along so we can get those cuts treated."
Duo breathed a sigh of relief. He followed Miss Noin into the corridor and kept pace as the team made double-time toward the elevator. Lucrezia was on her mobile phone most of the time, tracking down Doctor J and also notifying Treize Khushrenada of the serious turn of events. All the while, Duo chewed on his thumb nail as he stared at Heero's prostrate form. He wasn't unconscious, but he certainly wasn't very responsive either. It was frustrating that Doctor Po was reluctant to do anything until she could get more information, but it seemed the safest choice.
At the clinic, Duo and Heero were sent into different rooms. Duo sat down on an examination table and waited nearly twenty minutes before a nurse came in to see him.
"How's Heero?" he asked, anxiously.
"His condition is stable. Now let me have a look at those cuts."
It turned out that the cuts were minor and no stitches were necessary. The blood was cleaned from his face and anti-septic applied. When the nurse put a small bandage on his nose, Duo frowned, but figured he could remove it later.
The exam room had a large window next to the door probably for observation. It was through this window that Duo caught sight of a tall, handsome, auburn-haired man. He felt certain it was Treize Khushrenada, and his presence did not make Duo feel any calmer.
"Are you sure that Heero is all right?"
"Yes. His vitals are stabilizing," the nurse said.
"Do you know what was wrong?"
"A reaction to the steroid cocktail, no doubt."
"Can I see him?"
The nurse shrugged. "I'll ask, but for now you're to stay in here. Can I bring you a magazine?"
"I'm gonna be here that long, huh?"
The nurse smiled and then left. There was a distinct locking sound when the door closed behind her-so much for wandering out on his own to find Heero.