The Italianate stucco mansion was protected by a sophisticated security system and topography. The perimeter of the estate was fenced, monitored, and patrolled, and naturally secured on one side by jagged cliffs with a one thousand-foot drop into the ocean. The best way in was to get invited, and that's what the Project had done. A special invitation had been arranged for Heero to talk business with Albert Franz, the man responsible for kidnapping one of the world's top scientists. Of course, Franz wasn't aware that Heero was here for one reason only-to rescue the scientist.
After two days under cover as Hiroshi Takada, a Japanese-American with ties to both Japan's yakuza and America's mafia, Heero was ready to make his move. By subtle observation and night time explorations he had determined the location of the captive. He was already five days into the mission, having spent a day traveling, two days preparing for infiltration, and two days on site. Now that he was inside, he wanted to get out as quickly as possible, but it had taken longer than expected to get command of his target. All the surveillance data in the world didn't matter until he saw things for himself.
Tonight, Albert Franz, an international arms dealer and all-around bad guy, was having an intimate cocktail party for 50 of his closest friends and business associates. The party would make the perfect distraction to hide the escape, but Heero still had to work out how to reach the scientist who was sequestered in an area of the mansion that was off-limits.
Dressed in a black Armani tuxedo, shoes, and pearl cufflinks, Heero joined the others who had gathered in the sprawling main room. He accepted a glass of champagne from a server and stood near the open patio doors, enjoying the cool breeze off the ocean as he listened to the guests' conversations. It was a veritable who's who of international mischief and mayhem, and he detested each and every one of them. But for one more evening he would continue to play along.
A woman dripping in diamonds and draped in a seafoam silk gown and heels slid up next to him. She touched her glass to his making the crystal ping. She sipped her champagne, looking at him seductively over the rim of the glass, a long golden curl of hair falling over one eye.
"You're not like the others," she said, inching so close that he could feel the warmth of her body.
His gaze was steady on her, feigning interest. "It doesn't pay to be one of the crowd."
He was trained in etiquette, local customs and languages, but had little experience using them. Until this mission, he had never gone this deeply under cover.
She took another sip of her drink and ran her tongue along the edge of the glass. "What's your name?"
"Japanese... very nice. I'm Kendall. My friends call me Kennie."
"Pleased to meet you, Kennie," he said, taking her hand and kissing it lightly.
The woman arched towards him, one of her breasts brushing against his arm. "Enchanté," she said in French. "It'd be lovely to get to know you better. I'm staying in the Cyprus wing."
Heero's eyes narrowed. That was the same wing where the scientist was being held. "I didn't know anyone was staying in that part of the mansion."
"That's where I always stay when I visit Albert."
"Will he mind you having a visitor?"
She ran her finger along his lapel. "Don't be silly. He's my brother."
He swallowed. He'd never had this much personal contact with a woman before. Hell, he'd never had it with a man before Duo, but he had to take this opportunity. Kennie was his ticket to getting into that wing without suspicion.
"We wouldn't be missed if we left during the fireworks," he said.
"We could be making our own fireworks by then." She leaned towards him for a kiss, but at the last second he turned his head slightly, causing the kiss to land on his cheek. She gave him an odd look, and then chuckled. "You're not gay, are you?"
"No." He found it easy to lie; easier than accepting her kiss.
"Good," she said with a sigh. "For a second there... Well, never mind that. We'll have our rendezvous very soon."
When she walked away swishing her hips in an exaggerated show of sexuality, it took every ounce of him to stare at her ass like he wanted it. He knew that he was being watched, had been the entire time he was here, and now to have his host's sister come onto him put him more under the microscope. But it could be beneficial, since her interest in him added credibility to his cover. Not that his cover was suspect, but this group trusted no one.
Her eyes had devoured him, leaving him unsure with how to proceed. He had a mission to complete, but he was not willing or capable of betraying what he had built with Duo. Maybe it was wrong to think of that now. He had been warned against the temptation of thinking of his lover, but he had never found himself in a situation where he very much needed an anchor. And Duo was his anchor. He turned his Prussian blue eyes to the ocean and his thoughts to Duo thousands of miles away. He let his mind conjure an image of his lithe, sensual lover sprawled naked on the bed, hair unbound. For just a moment he let himself imagine, and then sent those thoughts aloft on the ocean breeze.
The evening passed slowly with boasting, bawdy conversations, hors d'oeuvres and lots of alcohol. At last, the entertainment was announced and guests were ushered onto the lawn to watch the fireworks. Kennie smiled at him seductively as she slipped toward the Cyprus wing. When he stepped in that direction his host caught his arm.
"I see you've decided on your own entertainment this evening."
Heero nodded. "An invitation I can't refuse."
Albert Franz laughed loudly, as all men with too much power tend to do. "Be careful. She's got claws."
The man signaled to a guard, making the way clear for Heero to access the secured wing. By all accounts, none of the guests knew of the missing scientist's presence in the mansion, so it was easy for Heero to pretend he was only meeting the lady. He hoped she would go on ahead, but instead she lingered at the entrance to the wing. When he reached her side, she slipped her hand into his.
"It's been a dreadful evening waiting for this moment."
"And now it's here. Shall we?" Heero nodded for them to proceed and they walked down the hall to her suite of rooms.
Her heels clicked on the marble floor. The wide corridor was empty and lighted by ornate crystal wall sconces. The mansion's design had been inspired by the Italian palace of Princess Pauline, a sister of Napoleon I-one more indication of the German-born Albert Franz's visions of grandeur.
From his previous night's surveillance, Heero knew which room held the scientist. It turned out to be across the hall from the woman's. He glanced back down the hall to see if the guards were watching. No one was there. It seemed with all the guests outside and their bosses' sister with her own entertainment, they assumed they could step away from their post. Now to find a way out of her clutches so that he could complete the mission and return to Headquarters.
The door to her room was unlocked, and Kennie opened it and stepped inside, pulling Heero with her. He took-in the large main room, its ornate furniture and floor to ceiling windows with heavy draperies.
She pushed the door closed behind him, slithering up to him and wrapping her arms around him. "Why so shy?" she asked with her lips pressed to his ear. "I bet there's a tiger inside you waiting to be released."
Her tongue flicked out, licking around his ear. He shivered. Every cell in his body wanted to push her away, but that was not an option just yet. He had to stay planted to this spot. Maybe if he imagined Duo in his arms....
Just then, the first of the fireworks boomed outside.
Kennie smiled. "Maybe our timing's not so bad."
The fireworks were the distraction he needed to rescue the scientist. The clock was ticking. "How long will they last?"
"Albert is fond of over doing things... there'll be 20-30 minutes of that racket." Kennie stepped back, taking Heero's hand. "Oh, damn."
"What is it?"
"I forgot the champagne. I really wanted this to be perfect."
Heero's eyes widened. "Then let me get it."
She shook her head and pouted. "Darling that's so sweet, but I'll just make a call..."
He put a finger to her lips. He knew how to play this now. "I want this to be perfect, too. Let me go, and you can get comfortable."
Her pout turned into a wicked grin. "You really are a tiger. All right, but don't be long." She slinked toward the bedroom, slipping one of the spaghetti straps off her shoulder. "I'm horny and want you bad."
"Hearing that, I'll move even faster," he said with a smirk. Her ego would lead her to believe that he wanted to return to her side as quickly as possible.
He spun on his heel and exited her lair, taking in a deep breath as he closed the door behind him. In the corridor he scanned for guards, but there were none. He crossed the hall to the scientist's room. The door was equipped with a special locking system, but Heero's observations had led him to believe that the code would be associated with Napoleon. This type of system generally used a four-digit code and allowed several attempts. Drawing on his knowledge of European history he entered the year of Napoleon's death: 1821. The system beeped, but did not disengage. There could be any number of options. Perhaps Franz had selected the date of a major battle, but which one: Austerlitz, Marengo, certainly not Waterloo?
No, he thought as an idea came to mind. He typed in 1801-the date of Napoleon's coronation as Emperor of France. The system beeped twice and the lock disengaged. Heero grinned, but made sure not to get caught up in this small victory.
Stepping into the room, Heero recognized the scientist immediately, even hunched over a desk scribbling notes on a pad of paper. The man looked up, his eyes wide with uncertainty.
"Who are you?" he asked in a gravelly voice.
"Your ticket out of here," Heero said.
"I'm here to rescue you, doctor."
The man smiled. "In that case, call me Howard."
The scientist was dressed in a wild Hawaiian print shirt, sending Heero's mind skittering back to Duo and a flashback of them on the couch in his living room. He quickly squelched the image.
"We don't have time to waste. Come with me."
When he indicated they were leaving by way of the door, the scientist hesitated. "You sure you know what you're doing?"
"There's no time to argue. Keep moving."
Heero put a hand on the man's elbow to propel him along. He checked the hall before they went further. It was clear, but the hair on the back of his neck prickled. Time was not on their side. They darted into the corridor and ran to the far end of the wing. There was a balcony door that led onto the grounds. Heero knew the layout of the mansion perfectly. They could exit here, cross the lawn to a path that led to a service gate and escape. If everything went as planned, he would only have to take out one guard.
At the patio doors, Heero heard a sound behind them and turned. It was Kennie. She was standing in the corridor wearing a revealing short, white silk robe.
"I knew you were gay!" she shouted at him, waving a fist.
"Damn it," he said, pushing the scientist through the open doorway. It would only be a matter of seconds before the guards would be hot on their trail.
They dropped onto the lawn with the fireworks lighting the sky above them. Fearing they would be shot, Heero made sure they ran bent over to minimize their presence on the horizon. He flicked a glance back at the mansion just as several suit-clad guards appeared at the patio door. They would never make it to the garden path before the guards saw them and took aim.
"In here," Heero said, taking a detour into a greenhouse.
Inside were rows of tables with plants germinating in pots. The smell of black dirt filled his nostrils. This temporary cover would give the scientist a chance to catch his breath, and keep them out of sight.
"Who sent you?" Howard asked.
"Never mind that. We need to take the path through the garden to the north end of the grounds. From there I can get you to my jet and out of here."
"Sounds like you've thought of everything."
"It doesn't pay to leave much to chance."
They heard voices outside, and crouched down.
"Get ready to run," Heero said in a whisper.
The scientist was a brilliant mechanical engineer, but despite his thin stature Heero couldn't be sure how well he'd fair at this cat and mouse. If he had to, Heero would carry him out of here.
As they squatted on the cement floor of the greenhouse, Heero noticed crates stored beneath the tables. In the diffused light of the fireworks through the green glass he could make out the words: Explosives.
He rubbed his hand across the stenciled word. "They're keeping munitions in here?"
"Looks like old Albert's got enough firepower to defend this island."
Heero nodded toward the back of the greenhouse where they could exit through another door. Just as they started, a guard opened the main door and stepped inside. He swept the rows of plants with the beam of his flashlight. Howard poked his head up before Heero could stop him. The beam of white light found him almost immediately.
"They're here!" the guard shouted.
Heero growled, and grabbed the scientist's arm as they scrambled to the door. Then Heero heard shots. The idiot was shooting at them!
"Shit," Heero said, reaching for the door and shoving Howard through it first.
Boom! The world shook around him as glass, metal and wood exploded and ripped through the air. Heero was thrown from the greenhouse. The guard's shot had hit one of the munition crates.
He landed on the grass with a hard thump, twenty feet from where he had been just the second before. Flames shot up while fireworks continued to burst in a myriad of colors in the sky. For a moment Heero wasn't sure if he was alive or dead, and then he felt a sharp pang in his side. If this was death, it hurt like hell.
The explosion would delay and confuse the guards only briefly, giving him mere seconds to assess his condition. He wiggled his toes and flexed his hands. Good, he wasn't paralyzed. Clutching his side, he sat up and saw blood on his hands. He pushed the tuxedo jacket aside to reveal a dark stain on his white shirt, and a tear in the fabric. He opened the hole in the shirt to find a shard of glass imbedded in his side.
There was no choice, the glass had to be removed or it would impede movement. He wrapped his right hand in the Armani jacket, gripped the shard, and pulled. "Ungh," he groaned with clenched teeth, tossing the glass aside. Now he needed to stop the bleeding or he would be no use.
He scanned the lawn for his charge. Howard was already making his way toward him on hands and knees.
"You all right, kid?"
Howard looked at Heero's side and shook his head. "We better get that treated."
"There's a med kit on my plane."
By now, Heero had balled his jacket and pressed it to the wound. The scientist helped him to his feet and they were under way with Heero's left arm slung over the scientist's shoulder.
Before they could reach the plane, they had to deal with the guard at the north gate. The estate was crawling with security, but there was still only one man at this post. Once again, Franz's team had miscalculated.
"I don't like it," Howard said. "Shouldn't there be more of them?"
"They won't have expected us to come this way." The path they had taken crossed some naturally rocky terrain. "Wait here."
"But you're injured."
There was no time to argue. Heero had been trained to channel pain into strength. He left Howard concealed behind bushes, and retrieved the knife strapped to his calf. It was simple enough to stab the guard and then signal the all clear. They hotwired the guard's motorbike and were on their way, quickly putting miles between them and the estate.
On the jet, Heero powered up the engines before turning to his medical needs. Howard had retrieved the medical kit.
"I can stitch the wound," he said.
"No, I'll do it," Heero said, holding out his hand for the kit.
"Nope. I've done this before and it'll be better if someone else does it."
Heero hesitated, but only for a second. They needed to be on their way. He got up from the pilot's seat and followed Howard into the plane's cabin. It was a small jet, designed to carry several passengers and fly faster than any privately owned jet in the skies. He stripped out of the white shirt and let Howard sew him up. The pain was minor compared to pulling the glass from his side. Donning a sweat jacket with a zip front, he settled into the cockpit to fly them to safety.
It was nearly dawn the next morning when they landed at the Project's airstrip. In flight, Heero instructed Howard to remain in the cabin where he could not hear the radio communications with HQ. Even though the scientist could see out the cabin windows, without a destination in mind, it would be nearly impossible for him to guess where they were headed.
The mission would be noted in the annals as a success-with an asterisk. The asterisk would refer to the operative's injury. It had been his most difficult mission to date, but despite everything he was pleased with the outcome.
Normally, the mission team was not at the runway to greet him, but he had radioed ahead for assistance with "the package." A black van pulled up to the jet as he powered down. He left on the low level interior lighting, and winced as he got up from the pilot's seat. It had been hours since he moved and the pain nearly doubled him over. He suspected there were still glass fragments deep in his skin.
"How's the wound?" Howard asked as Heero stepped into the cabin.
"Yeah? Must be adrenaline keeping you going. Never seen anything like it. I appreciate it though... you putting yourself at risk for me."
"It's what I do."
"Maybe... but I'm grateful all the same."
Heero nodded and reached for the bar on the jet's door. "Don't be concerned if you're blindfolded until we reach the base. This is merely a way station until you can be returned to your home."
With the door opened and the stairs lowered to the ground, two members of the ground team came aboard.
"This is Doctor Howard Jones," Heero said. "My mission is complete."
Heero went down the stairs to the van, getting into the front passenger seat. In moments, they were underway with the doctor seated behind him, blindfolded. Part of the team remained behind to tend to the plane. The van headed via a tunnel to Project headquarters.
By the time they arrived, Heero had determined that he would bypass the physical exam and debriefing and head directly to his quarters. It was against procedure, and Dorothy reminded him of that, but he didn't care. It was easy enough to conceal the wound. It had been six days since he had last seen Duo. He would not delay their reunion any longer.
~ ~ ~
The bed dipped to one side, waking Duo from a fitful sleep. He had been restless since Heero left days ago. Now he opened his eyes to see his lover's silhouette in the twilight, one knee on the bed and his body leaning toward him.
"Yes." Heero's voice was low and soft.
"You must be tired." Duo folded back the covers for Heero to join him. It surprised him when Heero got into bed with his clothes on. "Damn, you are tired."
"I need you," Heero said, wrapping his arms around him.
Their lips met, Duo's mouth opening to his lover, wanting to drink him in. These days apart had been the worst yet. It felt so good having Heero in his arms again.
"Why don't you get naked?" Duo asked. He was wearing only briefs and he hooked a leg over one of Heero's, rubbing it and feeling the soft cotton trousers.
They kissed again, and Heero's hand settled on Duo's face. It trembled slightly, sending a nervous skitter through Duo. He ran his hand through Heero's hair, calming him, knowing he must still be wound tight from the mission.
"I'm glad you're back," he said.
Now the odd scents that clung to Heero's clothes and hair registered in Duo's nostrils. Like a mix of fire, earth and sweat, and something else... His heart beat faster. "Are you okay, Heero?"
"Now I am," he said, nuzzling Duo's neck and rolling on top of him.
Heero was hard and already pressing against him with small thrusts. All right, they'd fuck first and talk later. Duo could handle that. He let his legs fall open, nestling Heero between his thighs. They kissed again and again, deep and desperate and filled with moans.
Duo's hands kneaded Heero's ass. He had a fantastic body, all hard muscle and tightly coiled, and Duo wanted it naked against him. He tugged at the trouser's waistband, managing to get his hands around the front to unzip it and reach inside to the prize. Heero groaned as Duo took his cock in hand, stroking him.
"You are hungry," Duo said.
His touches were matched by Heero's hand dipping inside his briefs, cupping and fondling him into a writhing mass. When one of Heero's fingers pressed against his opening, Duo had had enough foreplay.
"That's it," he said, releasing Heero's cock. "I gotta have you naked and fucking me!"
He pushed Heero onto his back, straddling one thigh. He slid the black trousers off, then the briefs and socks, leaving the jacket. Heero's cock jutted erect and incredibly hard, and Duo clenched his ass wanting it bad. He reached for the lube in a bedside table drawer, and decided to give Heero a bit of a show. Even in the pre-dawn light their eyes were adjusted enough to see each other well. Duo slathered his right middle finger and got up on his knees. Turning slightly to give Heero a better view, he reached behind, slowing inserting the finger up his ass.
"God, Duo..." Heero said with a moan.
"Wait... there's more." Duo grinned. He took hold of his cock and simultaneously slid his finger in and out of his ass while stroking himself.
"Fuck." Heero grabbed Duo's ass and pulled him forward, coaxing him to where he was straddled across Heero's chest. He pushed Duo's hand away from his cock and took it to his lips, licking and then sucking Duo into his mouth.
Duo arched and moaned loudly. "Oh, god, Heero!" It was too much. The pleasure soared and exploded from him, Heero swallowing every bit of it. Duo went on all fours over his lover, his cock still half hard as it slipped from Heero's mouth. He panted as he looked down at Heero. "Man, I've missed that mouth."
Heero chuckled. "And I've missed the taste of you."
Duo bent low to take Heero's lips in a sweet, sated kiss. "Mmm... a taste sure sounds good." He slithered down Heero's body, stopping suddenly when Heero tensed. "What is it?"
Heero shook his head. "Go on," he said, smiling.
A bit more gently, Duo made his way to settle between Heero's legs. He thought perhaps Heero was sore from his mission. He nuzzled Heero's cock, licking the balls and making his way to the tip of the hardened shaft. He had missed Heero, and had plenty of time to think about what he wanted to do to and for him when he returned. His hands grasped Heero's strong thighs, massaging them as he sucked the hard cock. He liked to moan as he sucked Heero, sending vibrations through him while his tongue and lips caressed him. Heero's head was tossed back on the pillow and his hands in Duo's hair as he moaned with pleasure. They would get to the fucking soon, but for now Duo wanted to return a favor.
He turned his head to lick along one side of the cock and give himself a chance to breathe, and that's when he noticed the dark stain. He blinked in wonderment, thinking it was dirt or grime from the mission on Heero's sweat jacket. Curious, he reached up to touch the stain.
Heero grabbed his wrist and their eyes met. Was he trying to halt Duo's exploration?
"What is this?"
"Blood," Heero said, staring down at him.
"Someone else's blood, I hope."
A chill raced through him when Heero didn't respond. He pulled his arm back, and Heero let go of his wrist. An unfamiliar fear gripped him as Heero allowed him to lift the hem of the jacket and push it away to reveal the source of the stain.
"Shit!" Duo's shock could not be contained. There was a gash four inches long, and it looked as though their amorous exertions had torn open the crude stitches. "What the fuck happened? And why are you here and not in the clinic?"
"If I went to the clinic it'd been hours before I could see you."
Duo shook his head. "What kind of logic is that? Heero, you're injured!" He reached to the bedside table for the phone, but Heero knocked him back on his ass on the bed. His eyes narrowed on his lover. "That ain't right. I was just gonna call Doctor Po."
"I don't need Po right now. I need you, Duo."
"Mabye the blood loss has done something to your brain, but you gotta be kidding. You're a mess."
Heero unzipped the sweat jacket exposing the wound fully. "I'll get treatment after we're done making love."
"That's fucked up." Duo moved to get off the bed, but Heero grabbed him by the arms.
"Don't make a big deal of this, Duo."
"It is a big deal! You've got a hole in your side!" His mind was spinning and his chest tight. God, Heero was injured and too fucked up to get the medical care he needed. "Tell me how this happened."
Heero closed his eyes and sighed, leaning back and acting as though that information was unimportant. But Duo waited. He settled between Heero's thighs again, caressing them gently, his eyes barely able to look away from the blood caked wound.
"It was a rescue," Heero said, opening his eyes.
"My first rescue operation. An infiltrate, grab the package and escape scenario."
"Looks like something went wrong."
"I got the scientist out, but one of the idiot guards discharged a firearm in a greenhouse full of explosives."
Duo's eyes were glued to Heero's face as he spoke. He knew they were growing wider with each word. Shit, maybe he didn't want to know the details. Maybe he didn't want to know how close Heero had gotten to never coming back.
"I was thrown clear in the explosion, and would've been fine except for catching some glass here." He pointed to his side like he was in a court of law and the wound was Exhibit A.
"You stupid bastard." Duo was pissed. This whole thing was screwed up. "If it means that much to you to get back here before getting medical care, then why don't we just bust out of here?"
Heero shook his head, and Duo knew he was about to hear the standard you know the Project is too important reply. But he decided not to let him. He leaned towards Heero putting his hand over his mouth.
"Hear me out. We need to get out of here together, if either of us is gonna stay alive. You gotta know living this way is driving me crazy. And now to see you like this... It's fucked up, and you're fucked up if you think we can make love when you're injured."
Duo took his hand away and leaned back on his heels.
"You're unhappy," Heero said.
Duo sighed, his shoulders slumping. "Nothing like pointing out the obvious."
"Duo..." Heero caressed his leg. "I can't leave."
"Won't leave." Duo turned his face away. It was just too hard to look at Heero and see firsthand the danger he encountered every time he left on a mission. "I can't do this," Duo said in a whisper.
Heero pulled himself up into sitting position, making a small hiss as he did. Duo forced himself to look to make sure he was okay. Heero's brow was tight and he held his hand over the injury.
"Please let me call Doctor Po," Duo said.
Duo sighed in relief and reached for the phone.