Disclaimer: The Gundam boys are only mine to play with in my head!

Pairing: 1x2
Rating: NC-17
Genre: AU, hurt/comfort, angst
Warning: Borderline non-con (don't let that scare you away!)
Please note: This is not a WIP, but it will be posted in installments as time permits. I've spent a year writing this and it's now complete. Yay! I will post a couple of chapters each week. Thanks for your patience!

Summary: Heero Yuy is a genetically altered weapon in a top secret project. When his behavior becomes erratic, his handlers propose an unorthodox solution. Is the cure more than they bargained for?

The Variable
Part 15
by Artemis

Duo opened his eyes to find himself curled next to Heero. Their arms were wrapped around each other in a comfortable and possessive embrace. He didn't want to move, didn't want to fully wake and break the spell of this moment. It was surreal. How had they gotten to this point?

Heero had told Duo that he needed him. Not once, but twice. His eyes had not lied. He had made sure that Duo understood. It sent a shiver through Duo remembering. It was what he had wanted, but now he wasn't sure what it meant or how he should act. They were not equals. They could never be that.

He slid his hand across Heero's stomach, admiring the washboard abs. Heero had been spectacular in the pool yesterday, dragging that 200-pound dummy through lap after lap of waves, and barely winded by the experience. Duo could see that Heero hadn't reached this level of physical fitness the easy way. They were messing with his DNA and injecting him with drugs that stimulated muscle and bone growth and minimized his pain receptors, but Heero's achievements were ultimately because of dedication and rigorous training.

Somehow, even with the ability to bend steel in his bare hands, Heero had a gentle side. He handled Duo firmly, but gently and knew when to be a little rough. The Bronco Billy wild sex they had just shared had been the best of both worlds. They certainly had brilliant chemistry together. It was the best fuck Duo ever had.

The caress of fingers on Heero's stomach woke him. He stretched and groaned and then propped himself up on his elbows. Duo looked at the clock. They had slept for over an hour and they both needed to shower again.

"I suppose there's no point in getting a towel," Heero said.

Duo sat up slowly, putting his hand to his head. It felt like his entire body had shattered when he had climaxed and was just now coming back together. "I'm gonna need soap and water to fix this."

Heero grabbed a lock of Duo's tangled hair. "This will take work."

"Yeah, maybe I should enlist your help."

Heero's eyes brightened. "I wouldn't mind."

Duo blinked. No one had ever taken this kind of an interest in his hair before, but he wouldn't mention it. Things were still gelling in his brain.

He slid off the bed, his legs less wobbly than he expected, but before he stepped away to the bathroom, Heero grabbed him by the hand and pulled him down into a deep kiss. Duo didn't completely cover Heero with his body, but he experienced the kiss fully, enjoying the new passion they had ignited in each other.

"Wow," Duo said as he pulled back. "I don't know what they did to you at that clinic, but your kisses are sure hotter."

"They didn't do anything," Heero said, tugging Duo into another kiss.

Heero's intensity frightened Duo a little, but only because he wasn't certain how to respond to it. He knew how he wanted to respond-all out-but the very real barriers around him were a big stumbling block to that kind of intimacy.

At last, Heero let him go so he could shower. With the lack of contact came a bit more clarity. Physically he had stopped resisting Heero, but emotionally he still struggled. Was it possible to fall in love with your captor? As he shampooed, he imagined his favorite scenario that he and Heero had met and started spending time together the normal way. With weekend dates and the occasional lunch shared on campus their relationship would have progressed at an easy pace. And Duo was sure it would have progressed. He had been immediately attracted to Mr. Kaplan... Heero. Immediately in a connection sort of way and not just a lustful compatibility. The air had sizzled when they looked at each other.

He believed in lust at first sight, but had never sincerely believed that love at first sight was possible. Girl friends in high school and college had talked about love a lot, even forcing him to watch romantic movies with them. As if "An Affair to Remember" was the quintessential proof that a perfect love was waiting for everyone. He hadn't let on at the time, but Duo started liking the idea of love and the prospect of a certain special someone waiting out there... somewhere. Just his luck that his special someone was the guy who had kidnapped him for sex, certainly not the ideal way to begin a relationship, but considering Heero's unusual lifestyle maybe it actually made sense.

Since going slow had never been an option in this situation, Duo worried that his relationship with Heero would peak, sizzle and burn-out within a few more days or weeks. Ultimately, he would be tossed aside having served his purpose, no matter what Heero said about assurances.

"No singing in there this time?" Heero asked.

Duo's breath caught. Heero had come into the bathroom and shocked him out of his spiraling thoughts. "Nope."

God, how he wanted to believe that they could be a real couple, but he was afraid. Right now, the only answer was to tread carefully, trying to protect his heart as best he could.

"Be done in a sec," he said, rinsing the last of the shampoo from his hair.

He reached his hand out of the shower for a towel, but there was none on the rack.

"Here," Heero said, handing him a large, white towel.

"Thanks." Duo stepped from the shower patting his skin dry and then wrapping the towel around his waist. Heero was staring at him in that intense way of his. "Yeah?"

"Just enjoying the view."

Well, two could play at that game. Duo gave Heero's naked body a long, once over. "The view's good from this angle, too."

Heero smiled, and for a second Duo thought he might say something more, but he stepped into the shower instead. Duo wasn't sure if he should be disappointed or relieved. When the water turned on, he grabbed a brush and began the somewhat tedious process of de-tangling his hair. By the time Heero was finished and toweling off, Duo was blowing his hair dry.

"Why do you keep your hair so long?" Heero asked.

Duo straightened up and turned the hair dryer off. "Does it bother you?"

"No, I like it."

Duo raised his eyebrows and grinned. "That's nice to hear."

"It's unusual for a man."

"Do you think it's feminine?"

Heero shook his head. "Not on you. But it does look like it's a lot of work. There must be a reason you keep it that long."

Duo studied Heero a moment. Was this another indication of their growing closeness that Heero was asking such personal questions? He walked toward the bedroom, flicking a glance over his shoulder to check if Heero followed. "It started as a way to rebel against the foster care system I was caught in, but now I think it sets me apart from others."

Heero smiled. "That's not the only thing that sets you apart."

He should give Heero feedback for saying all the right things. He wondered if Heero had taken a potion that made him more intuitive. Instead, he moved to the armoire that had been brought in for his clothes, and opened the door.

"What's the plan for the day?" Duo asked as he looked at his clothes choices.

"We're staying in. I've got two days off without training and I want to spend it with you."

"So... no clothes?" Duo asked, half joking.

Heero gave a wicked grin. "Works for me."

Duo smirked and grabbed a black t-shirt and faded blue jeans. "I'm not cooking in the buff."


"Yeah, remember those pancakes I promised you? They taste just as good for lunch as they do for breakfast. Get dressed and meet me in the kitchen."

"Yes, sir!" Heero said, giving a smart, military salute.

Duo smiled, feeling more at ease. Maybe he should just go with the flow and not over think what was or wasn't happening between them.

In the kitchen moments later, Duo had all the ingredients lined up on the counter, and had Heero breaking eggs into a bowl. The first egg, Heero smashed a bit too hard against the side of the bowl. Duo eyed the egg shells in the yoke and asked Heero to begin again, more gently.

"Now, take this fork and beat the eggs... not into a lather, but just until they're blended," Duo said handing over the utensil.

He watched out of the corner of his eye as Heero picked up the brown ceramic bowl and held it against his hip and whipped the eggs into a smooth, yellow mass. He was a natural.

"With a kitchen like this, I'd think you'd know more about cooking," Duo said.

"I made stir fry once, but it's not very fun cooking for one."

Duo frowned. Sometimes it was all too easy to forget how isolated Heero truly was, and then he'd stumble across that fact and feel bad. "Well, we're making enough pancakes for a small army, so I hope you're hungry!"

Heero looked over at him as if surprised by Duo's response and grinned. "Sounds good."

With the griddle heated and batter made, Duo dipped the ladle into the mix and poured it out. The thick batter sizzled as it hit the pan and spread out into a perfect moon shape.

"The first one's just a tester," Duo said, lifting the edge of the pancake with a spatula to check how far along it was. "Gotta get the heat just right or they'll burn."

Heero leaned against the counter next to the stove, watching Duo. At first it made Duo nervous having his cooking scrutinized, but he quickly decided he liked Heero standing there. It was that flash of normalcy again that sent a pang to his stomach.

He flipped the pancake and it rose, thickening as it cooked.

"Looks tasty," Heero said.

"Glad you think so, because you're gonna be my official taster." Duo smiled and removed the pancake from the heat and onto a plate. "Here you go!"

Heero picked up the cake and rolled it like a crepe before taking a bite. "Mmm," he said, nodding. "It's good. What's your secret?"

Duo tilted his head. "Like you weren't standing here the whole time I was making the batter."

"I think these are the best pancakes I've ever had."

Duo put a hand on his hip, feeling sassy and proud. "Well, if you must know, my secret ingredient is sugar."

Heero took another bite and closed his eyes as though processing that new information. He nodded again and opened his eyes, smiling. "Really good."

Duo swallowed hard at that reaction and turned his attention back to the stove. There was way too much heat in this kitchen, and it wasn't just coming from the gas fired stove.

More batter was poured onto the griddle, and soon the pancakes were piling up. To keep them warm until they could sit down to eat, they set the oven to "warm" and placed the pancakes on a tray on an oven rack. Duo tried to get Heero to flip a pancake, but he shook his head. The gleam in Heero's eyes seemed to indicate that he liked the way things were: Duo doing the cooking, and Heero the watching.

Soon the last pancake was made and they sat down at the table with a foot high stack, warm syrup and butter. Duo had brewed coffee, but Heero opted for milk, saying that he didn't need any more stimulants in his life.

Seated at the kitchen table with the sun angling through the skylight in the ceiling, it felt like any couple sitting down to a meal. As Duo prepared his own plate, he watched Heero's methodical layering of pancakes and butter which was finally topped off by a river of syrup that ran down the stack and nearly over the edge of his plate.

Heero had dressed for comfort, choosing a pale blue long-sleeved cotton shirt which he left unbuttoned over a pair of fitted khaki trousers. He looked crisp, but casual and most definitely delectable. Duo couldn't stop staring at him from across the table. Sometimes it was easy to imagine they were together, and not in a forced way, but by choice.

"You said you've been doing this since you were eight?" Duo asked.

Heero looked up from his meal. "Yes."

"Has it always been like this?"

"What do you mean?"

Duo shrugged. "Living this way? On your own?"

"Oh." Heero set down his fork as if preparing to give a long answer. "People looked after me when I was young, but my quarters weren't as spacious as this until a few years ago. Doctor Po thought it would be good for me to have more privacy... and luxury, I suppose."

"Have you ever thought about what you want?"

"Only recently," Heero said with a hint of a smile that quickly faded. "I believe that what happened yesterday was a reaction to me wanting things."

Duo blinked. "The injection?"

"Treize told me that the double dosing had been a mistake, but I think he was just trying to keep the incident from escalating into something more. Maybe it was a mistake, but somehow I doubt that."

"Then... you think someone was trying to hurt you?"

"More like trying to make a point, but it's nothing you need to worry about."

Duo wasn't sure if that meant the dosing error wasn't a big deal, or Duo should stop being nosey. "You're feeling okay now?"

"Couldn't you tell?" Heero asked, nodding back towards the bedroom.

Warmth rushed to Duo's cheeks and he ducked his head, hoping to hide the blush.

"You were worried about me, weren't you?"

Duo nodded, looking up. "Yeah."

Heero reached his hand across the table and took Duo's, squeezing it. "You're really something."

The blush spread to Duo's ears. For a guy who didn't need to flatter to get sex, Heero sure was doing a lot of both. Embarrassed, Duo pulled his hand away and laughed. "Better finish those pancakes before they get cold."

After a lot more eating, and a little less talking the plates were cleared and all the dishes rinsed and put in the dishwasher. Duo expected to be hauled back to the bedroom for another boisterous romp, but instead, Heero asked him if he'd like to watch a movie.

"You got something in mind?" Duo asked as they walked toward the large, flat screen TV.

"I liked your Mr. Kaplan movie, but no spies tonight. I'm on vacation."

Duo laughed and plopped onto the couch with Heero. "How about some classic science fiction?"

"Mad scientists? I think I've had enough of them, too."

"No, the good kind of mad scientist," Duo said with a smirk. "I've got just the thing."

And in his mind, "just the thing" meant something that would be a little scary and a good excuse to cuddle. Since Duo had requested that he be able to access movies on demand, he knew his choice would be available. He pressed the remote, made his selection from the menu and leaned back.

"Godzilla?" Heero asked.

"You've seen it?"

"No, but isn't it... Japanese?"

"Yeah. Is that okay?"

There was a moment's hesitation as the movie's music began and the opening credits rolled.

"I'm Japanese," Heero finally said.

Duo stared at him. He had noticed Heero's Asian facial characteristics, but had no idea of his roots until now. "That's cool. This movie's famous and totally lives up to your honorable heritage."

Heero blinked at him, and for a second Duo wondered if Heero thought he was teasing, but he'd meant it. He'd long been a fan of Japanese cinema and admired the culture, and now knowing that Heero was Japanese added a new dimension to the little he knew about the other young man.

Duo wanted to ask Heero if had been born in Japan, and if so, how he had gotten here. This was a long ways from the Land of the Rising Sun. But he remembered that Heero had told him that his parents had died, and bringing up that time in his life would be insensitive. Maybe someday Heero would choose to share more about himself, and if he did, Duo would be ready to listen.

They quieted and settled into the couch as the movie's storyline began. Duo had forgotten to mention that this film was in black and white, but Heero never mentioned the lack of color. For Duo, black and white films often exhibited an artistic perspective that later Technicolor pictures lacked.

Even without a bowl of popcorn, they found ways to share the experience. Duo snuggled into Heero at the monster's first appearance on the island. He wasn't scared, exactly, but the anticipation and fright of the actors was so convincing that Duo liked to get caught up in the moment and feel a little creeped out. The amazing thing about the movie was that Duo always felt sorry for the monster at the end. Even though this Godzilla was a baddie, unlike later Godzilla films in which he battled other monsters in the defense of Tokyo.

Heero's hand squeezed his shoulder when the movie ended. Duo had been neatly tucked under Heero's arm, cozy and warm and feeling an odd sense of being protected. It felt good.

"So....?" Duo asked.

"It was good."

"Yeah? I really think it's got a lot going for it. What could be better than a huge radioactive monster coming out of the sea to destroy cities?"

Heero gave him a strange look, but seemed to know that he was joking and smiled. "I was more interested in the moral quandary the scientist had about the weapon he possessed."

So, Heero really had been paying attention. "That's one of the things I love about Japanese films, they're big on consequences."

"And sacrifice. The scientist killed himself to save the world and so that his fiancée could be with the man she truly loved."

Now it was Duo's turn to give Heero a strange look. "You a romantic at heart?"

Heero chuckled. "If I am, I've only recently discovered it."

He leaned in and kissed Duo. It had been far too long since they'd done this, only hours, but far too long. Heero's tongue slipped inside Duo's mouth and it made him radiate with warmth. Things quickly escalated and in minutes they were stripped bare and fucking on the sofa. Heero took his time, truly fucking like a man on vacation, pumping in and out of Duo with long, slow thrusts.

It hadn't escaped Duo's conscious how willing he had become to spread his legs for Heero, or bend over, or take him for a ride. But no matter why they had brought him here and thrown him into this mess, Duo could not deny that he wanted Heero. He enjoyed his company and his sly sense of humor, his smile and the way it made Duo's heart beat faster, his touch and the way it warmed Duo's skin, and the way his hair always looked like it needed to be combed. Was it too much to ask that this work out for them? That Duo be given back his freedom, his life and still have Heero to share it with?

For the moment, there was only the need to feel Heero deep inside him. He moved on Duo, kissing him with the intensity and gentleness of a lover. Heero had been right when he said, "Something's changed." Something had changed, big time, and they were reaping the benefits now, even if those benefits were wrapped in chains.

~ ~ ~

They spent the afternoon having sex and watching movies. It was an indulgent, lazy day unlike any Heero had spent before. Though he was regularly given time-off he spent most of those days reading. It was his favorite pastime, even if it served a purpose by adding to the vast knowledge he held of the world. On occasion, Heero ventured out to museums and historic sites, but his mind never stopped cataloging all he learned into something he could use later. If he wasn't on a mission, then he was preparing for one, even on his "days off."

Then, Duo had happened. Heero had returned from his mission like a conquering war hero to find his beautiful prize waiting. But that prize had been merely to sate his sexual needs and to relieve tension. Heero had not anticipated the change in himself that followed. Sex was still the priority, but he no longer thought about it in terms of his anxiety levels. He simply wanted Duo, and it seemed that he could not get enough.

What they did in between each round of sex had become just as important. They had moved beyond the routine of sex, sleep and eat. They had become lovers and with that Heero had found something that he had never expected. The connection they had made the other night transcended the parameters of the Project and the liaison program. They had come together as lovers and it had changed everything for the better. For the first time in his life, Heero was spending his day off relaxing and not thinking about some aspect of a mission, and it was because of Duo.

It was late evening, and Heero asked Duo to change into athletic clothes. He did the same and they met up in the living room. Duo wore gray sweat pants, a white t-shirt, a gray zipped hooded sweatshirt, and white tennis shoes, while Heero was dressed similarly in navy blue.

"Usually when you want to make me sweat we take our clothes off."

Heero grinned. "I thought you would appreciate stretching your legs in a different way."

Now it was Duo's turn to grin and chuckle. "Okay... You gonna tell me or do I have to guess?"

"How about if I show you?"

Heero led the way out of the apartment. As they proceeded down the hall and into the elevator, he could see Duo trying to puzzle this out. Duo probably thought they were headed to the training salle again, but Heero wanted more privacy. So, instead he escorted Duo out of the building and onto the corporate campus.

Duo's eyes grew wide as they walked down the waterfall corridor and then outside.

"You sure about this?"

Heero nodded. "You should probably put your hood up."

It was after dark, and there were relatively few people working late at Bremen Enterprises, but Heero didn't want to risk Duo being recognized.

As they walked across the campus, Duo began to lag behind, and then just stopped. Heero turned to him. "You don't have to worry. No one's going to bother us."

Duo looked around. "Why'd you bring me out here?"

"It's the only way to access the employee fitness center."

"That's where we're going?"

"I thought you might like to play some basketball."

Duo was staring at him, shaking his head. "You could've told me. I don't like being out here."

They were standing in the middle of the large open plaza surrounded by white buildings and fountains. It was the place where Heero had seen Duo many times before they had officially met. It was also the place where the security detail had restrained Duo.

"It never occurred to me that this might make you uncomfortable." Heero nodded for them to return to the corporate tower, but Duo remained planted to that spot. "Don't you want to go back?"

"Not just yet." Duo gave him a grin that said everything was okay. "It'd be fun to shoot some hoops with you."


Duo nodded, and then reached his hand out to take Heero's. "Come on. I know the way."

When they arrived at the fitness center, Heero entered an access code that told security that a V.I.P. was using the facility. The guards would respectfully keep their distance.

The center was comprised of fitness equipment, classrooms for aerobics and yoga, a swimming pool, and racket ball and basketball courts. Heero was surprised to learn that Duo had not used these facilities in his four months at Bremen, stating that he just hadn't gotten around to it yet. Once again, Heero was stepping on that line between Duo's previous life and this one, and he kicked himself for thinking this was a good idea. But when Duo grabbed a couple of basketballs out of the equipment room and tossed one at Heero everything seemed fine. He watched Duo walk out onto the court, dribbling a ball, taking quick aim, and throwing it toward the basket. It bounced off the rim.

"Damn. Let's play half court," Duo said.

Heero smiled as he stepped onto the court and tossed another ball to Duo. "You worried that I'll beat you?"

Duo laughed. "Famous last words!" Without warning, Duo darted around him, dribbling the ball with finesse as he charged to the other end of the court and made a basket. Now he was grinning from ear-to-ear.

Moments like this made Heero feel like he was seeing the real Duo, the person he had been before the Project had taken away his freedom. When he had been brought to Heero and faced with the facts of his new circumstances, Duo's eyes had turned from bright and inquiring to fearful, angry and confused. It had affected Heero deeply. In recent days, Heero saw a return of that sparkle to Duo's eyes and found himself searching for ways to keep it there and make it even brighter.

They spent the better part of an hour chasing each other around the court and taking shots at the basket. Heero had expected the game to be lopsided. Clearly, his training and superior strength should have made this an easy win, but Duo astounded him with his agility. His remarkable aim kept the game alive, but inevitably, Heero scored the winning basket. They had decided to play to 50 points. The final score: 50 to 38.

Duo was bent over, the fatigue finally showing on him. "You owe me an ice cream."

"But I won."

"The winner always buys." Duo walked over to Heero and smiled, holding out his hand. "Good game."

Heero took Duo's hand in a firm shake and smiled. "Good game." He pulled Duo to him for a kiss, but Duo pushed him back.

"No you don't. That kind of move belongs in the locker room, not out on the court."

Heero laughed. "Then let's head to the showers."

"All right, but I'm not turning my back on you." Duo waggled his eyebrows and then smacked Heero's ass with the open palm of his hand.

The slight sting of the slap warmed Heero, stirring his sexual desires. He was surprised at his body's reaction, but wasn't about to over think it. He headed to the showers with Duo close on his heels. They were naked and under the spray of hot water in less than two minutes. Standing under the same shower head, the goal wasn't to wash, but to get wet and lathered. They rubbed soap over each other's bodies, squeezing and caressing the other's hard male angles and plains.

True to his word, Duo never turned his back on Heero. He let Heero lift him so he could wrap his legs around Heero's waist as their bodies joined. Duo leaned back on the cold tiles as Heero held him, bicep and calf muscles flexing as he pounded Duo against the wall. It was incredible and fast. Neither able to maintain control and make it last.

on to part 16

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