Usual disclaimers apply.

R for language. Consider language underlined -- there's quite a bit of it this time around.
Angst, post-EW, newtypeness, 1X2X1.
And please, in most humble supplication, let us know what you think, even if it's to fling a tomato! We are insecure and needy authors to whom feedback is as ambrosia to the gods.

Twelve-word summary: The pilots discover the side effects of being Gundam pilots without Gundams.

Long Odds
8. Data Interpretation
by Saro and Merellia

Duo pulled his still damp hair over his shoulder in a half-hearted effort to ease the weight of the wet braid on his neck.  He didn't even have the energy the get properly frustrated with it, though he wasn't looking forward to how clammy his braid would get once he got outside. Aching with fatigue, he sat down in front of his computer and, after one bounce, dialed the number he had to contact G. The line started ringing.

"Are you making a call now?" Heero asked as he appeared from his bedroom.  He sounded as tired as Duo felt, and there were dark smudges under his eyes.  "We have to leave for work in less than fifteen minutes."

"That'll be plenty of time," Duo returned evenly, light-footing around any conflict.  He didn't have another fight in him this morning. "This'll only take a sec."

Heero gave a neutral huff as he struggled with his tie.  Duo rubbed the bridge of his nose, looking away.  He doubted Heero would appreciate the help if he straightened it for him. How his housemate had arranged all those convoluted neck cloths and cravats that neo-Revolutionary fashion had made him wear, yet couldn't manage a simple tie was a mystery for the ages.

The phone kept ringing. Come on, come on, come on, Duo chanted mentally.  If that old coot's moved again without giving me a new number, I'll kick his wrinkled old ass -- the other side of the channel opened with a click, and G's ugly face blinked into life on the screen.

"Duo," the old scientist greeted him, then said, "You look like something I found growing in a petri dish I left out by accident."  Always the soul of tact.

"Thanks," Duo said, his hand once again massaging between his eyes where last night's headache was threatening to come back.  As if this call wasn't hard enough to make....   "I always love being reminded when I look like shit.  Listen man, I'm sorta in a rush here, I got work in less than an hour, so can we maybe skip the 'harass Duo' part of the call? It would save me some time."

"Go ahead," G told him. "I can harass you whenever I want. It's not like you don't give me ample opportunity."

A snort from behind his shoulder told Duo that Heero had caught that comment.  Stellar.  The day was already getting off to a shitty start.  "Yeah, yeah.  Later. You remember all those shots I got before coming dirtside?"

"You may think I'm ancient," G chuckled.  "But I'm not senile.  What about them?"

Duo forced his mouth not to tighten, kept himself from licking his lips or fidgeting.  Instead he smiled shortly.  "I think maybe some of 'em aren't doing any good any more."

"Really?"  The old man leveled a sharp look over his nose. "What makes you think that?"

"I thought spending half the night trying to hack up something vital might be a hint," he said acerbically, laying both hands flat on the counter top.  "I'm a bright kid, y'know."

Lips twitching up into a half-smile, G nodded.  "I wouldn't have let you take my Gundam if that weren't the case."  Then he frowned.  "Is this the first time you've gotten sick?"

"Yeah--"Duo began, but Heero cut him off.  "No."

Duo shot the other pilot a look.  Heero had come up behind him and gotten closer than he should have been able to without his knowing. This living together deal was making him slow.  Heero's profile was nearly expressionless as he repeated, "No," then sent Duo a sideways look.  "The other day, after you got out of the simulator."

"That wasn't the same," he retorted quickly, a short flash of irritation sparking in the words, but it faded almost as quickly as he identified the emotion.  He was too tired for another argument.

"Well," G said, interrupting Heero before he could make any sort of response.  Whatever he'd been about to say, the likelihood of it improving Duo's mood had been slim anyway.  The not-quite-headache riding behind his eyes throbbed once as he considered the probabilities.  G continued.  "Two episodes, you say? Maybe you had better come visit me and we'll have a look at you."

"If it's just a vaccination, I can get it here.  No reason to fly to L2 for a flu shot."

"You're the one who called me," G told him, "Do you want my advice or not? I'm not going to speculate on old data."

Duo met the professor's beady stare for a long moment before he relented, throwing his hands in the air. "Fine.  I'll talk to Une today.  What the hell?  Not like I have anything better to do with my fucking time than go visit you."

"It is time to go," Heero reminded him suddenly.

"Alright, alright," Duo muttered in reply.  Mustering himself, he said to G, "I'll call to let you know when to expect me," and moved one hand to the keyboard to disconnect the call.

"I'll have the red carpet out," G said before Duo could do so.  "Hail the conquering hero and all that."

"The hell?" Duo blinked at the black screen, trying to think past the ache behind his eyes.  "Was that aimed at you?" he asked, swiveling his chair around to face his roommate.

Heero's tie looked lopsided, his brows narrowed above is nose in pinched irritation.  "I don't know.  It doesn't matter.  We're going to be late."

Duo levered himself from his chair, stifling a moan.  "Damn it. I can't get to L2 and back before Monday.  Une and Durstang are going to be pissed.  Except," he continued, brightening a little at the thought, "if I tell Durstang the alternative is puking my guts over his shoes. He might not mind then."  He shoved the chair beneath the desk and glanced back behind him to see how Heero had appreciated the comment, but the doorway was empty.

It's gonna be a long day.


Heero stepped out of the elevator into the sterile, beige and grey office space and followed Duo as he paced up to Martje's desk.  The other smiled as he stepped up, the expression slipping seamlessly over his pale features, hiding the fatigue that had marked his posture all morning.

"Hey, Martje," he said in the same voice which Heero had heard get him through customs time and again during the war.  "Is Une busy?  I need to chat with her a bit."

The woman looked up from the form she was working on, eyeing the pair through wireless glasses. "She's talking with Officer Po at the moment," she said, fingers stilling on the keyboard.  "I could call back and see if she has a minute?"

"That would be great." Duo leaned back, shoving his hands the pockets of his jacket.  With a glance at Heero, he said pointedly, "Y'know, you don't have to tag along."

"I think I will anyway," the Wing pilot said, shrugging.

"Suit yourself.  No skin off my nose."

He pushed away any curiosity at that statement.  It was almost assuredly another L2 turn of phrase, and he was fairly sure he understood the gist of this one.

"You can go right in," Martje said suddenly, closing a vid window on her computer.

"Thanks," he told her with a wider, warmer grin, and started back to Une's office, Heero a step behind. A moment later, they were at the door. Then Duo was through it, walking in on a conversation between the Director and Sally with an insincere "Sorry to interrupt."

Une cocked an eyebrow at their entrance, and Heero closed the door behind them leaning against it rather than take a seat next to Duo, who had collapsed in a seemingly haphazard position that put his both hands within easy reach of places he used to hide weapons.  Heero controlled the urge to study his companion more closely.

"Gentlemen," Une said, her eyes flicking from one to the other before settling on the seated pilot. Drumming her fingers once on the top of her desk, she continued.  "To what do I owe the pleasure?"

"Something's come up," Duo told her.  "I need to visit G, and he's on L2.  Which means, I won't be here on Monday for my mission with Durstang."

The Director's brow went up another notch.  The corner of her mouth twitched, but Heero couldn't tell if it was amusement or annoyance.  "Really?  Are you requesting leave, or asking me to give him your regrets, agent?"

"Both, if it's possible."

"Denied," the woman responded firmly.  "Unless you can explain to me why I should let you go when your first assignment begins the day after tomorrow?  I realize this is a new experience for you, Maxwell, but you answer to me now."

Duo chuckled.  "I know that.  The thing is, G thinks some of the vaccinations I got before dropping to Earth might not be cutting it anymore. So he wants me to hightail my ass back up to visit him so he can be sure."

Heero frowned, but didn't correct him.  Sally looked interested now, leaning forward, her thumbs playing with her belt loops. "Who is this G?" Sally asked shrewdly.  "And what makes him think that?"

"One of the Gundam creators," Une supplied.  "We had them all in custody for a time.  He was one of the more vociferous ones, as I recall."

Duo stared at Sally blankly a moment before saying, "He was the one who sent me to Earth."

Sally's jaw tightened. "And that leads to him giving you medical advice how?"

"He's done it before. The vaccinations, like I said. Hell, he's a doctor."  He made an expansive gesture with his hand, then it fell again, close enough for an easy draw from an ankle holster, if he were wearing one.  Heero followed the movement with his eyes, wondering if it was a habit, or if the other pilot really was armed.

Sally frowned.  "He was responsible for your medical treatment?"

"Yes, that'd make sense when that's why I called him, wouldn't it?"

"And why him, and not Sally if you're feeling ill? Or a local hospital?"  Une said, tilting her chin curiously.

"Well, hell," Duo snapped tartly, "who knows what kind of shit he shot me up with? If it's his problem, he can fix it."

Sally jumped on that, her eyes taking on the light of someone who's just discovered a winning gambit.  "So you think that might explain the anomalies in your medical records?"

There was a cold pause. Duo tapped the heel of his boot idly; Heero didn't know what he'd kept there. When he finally spoke, his tone was carefully neutral. "What anomalies?"

The Wing pilot was surprised when Sally missed the edge in Duo's voice.  She answered his question reasonably, ticking off points as she went. "Both you and Heero showed abnormal brain activity." One, forefinger.  "Both of you showed almost no stress in the soft tissue scans, but I know for a fact that both of you took a great deal of abuse.  You yourself said as much." Two, middle finger. "Duo's reflexes are, frankly, impossible.  Nerves don't relay that fast."  Three, ring finger. "Heero was in a coma for more than a month, without any sign of brain damage." Four, little finger, and her eyes cut curiously toward Heero.  "And both of you show signs of substance withdrawals, but no sign of addictive agents."  Five, thumb, eyes back to Duo.  "At first I attributed it to your being newtypes, but when I compared the results to Zechs' and Wufei's medical records, it didn't match."

The moment that followed was like the instant between knowing you were shot, and feeling it. Calmly, Heero assessed the damage. He already knew his vitals weren't standard; now they knew as well.  He had found out the night before that Duo was a newtype, and knew more or less what his ability entailed; now they knew that too.  How they would respond to that knowledge was what would matter, and presumably they'd had the information for a while.  They implied similar knowledge about Wufei and Zechs, though, and it hadn't seemed detrimental to them.

Substance withdrawals.... The slow, hissing intake of breath was the only prelude to Duo's sudden outburst, pre-empting Heero's evaluation of the circumstances.  "That rat-bastard!  He knew. He knew this morning, and he didn't tell me.  He -- fuck -- he knew before that. He fucking knew when I told him I was moving in with Heero.  He asked... That old fuckin' stain.  When I get my hands on him, he's gonna wish I just killed him."

Heero watched as Duo shot to his feet with enough force to upend the chair he'd sat in.  He stalked away from Une's desk, muttering under his breath now, and cracking the knuckles of his right hand one at a time with his left, then reversed.  Jerking his head sharply to one side, his neck popped as well.

His shoulders tensed, his jaw tightened visibly.  It was like watching a gun being cocked, the trigger pulling back more and more tightly.

"Mister Maxwell," Une broke in, her voice ringing with every bit of authority she'd ever had.  "I would thank you not to put a hole in my wall."

Duo hadn't been a soldier. His training hadn't taught him to respect that tone when he heard it.  For a moment it looked like he'd punch the wall in front of him just out of spite.  Heero moved closer, ready to intercede if his housemate pulled back.  But the tension drained out of Duo's stance instead, and he looked every bit as tired as he had that morning, after he'd spent the night huddled over the toilet.

"So you did know then... " he said softly.  Heero could almost believe it was too quiet for the two women to hear.

"That you were newtypes?" They shared a glance before Sally explained.  "Yes, we knew that. Howard told Zechs that only a newtype was capable of piloting a Gundam.  Everything we've learned about the Gundams since then has been consistent with that.  Not just anyone can pilot them."

Duo snorted, the corner of his mouth curling up in a mocking smile, and his eyes slid closed.  "I see."

Sally's voice was edged with displeasure when she asked in the silence that followed, "So your assumption is that this G is responsible for these anomalies?"

Heero looked away from Duo, frowning.  "I'd like more details on that: the withdrawals. From our exam results?"

"Fucking results," Duo spat, with a renewal of his anger, like the last spatter of an exhausted bomb. "Fucking exams, and fuck all doctors."

"I'd like to know too, Duo, if someone was experimenting with illicit -- "  Sally began sharply.

"He was sending a terrorist to Earth.  You expect the guy to balk over medical ethics?"  Duo said.

"Both of our exams?" Heero pressed.

Duo straightened, fixing Heero with a bitter glance.  "What, do you hope you've been left out, buddy?  I damn well bet that G wasn't operating alone."

"Yes, both," Sally said tightly.  "It's evident in the soft-tissue exams; quantifiable aberrations in neurophysiology similar to those in people experiencing withdrawal from substance abuse are apparent in both of your scans.  If you've been experiencing any headaches, anxiety, nausea, irritation -- those are all the more common outward symptoms. In more advanced cases, fever and blackouts.  Hallucinations, possibly. It's hard to say for certain if we don't know what you're going through withdrawals from."

"Thank you Miss Medical Encyclopedia for telling me everything I could ever already know about a fucking come-down," Duo snarled, shuddering visibly.  His hands twisted into white-knuckled fists.

For a second, Heero wished he were in Wing's cockpit again.  Things had been clearer there; he'd had a job to do, and he did it.  The weight of metal around him would have been reassuring just then, and the vibration of the engine through the seat, the controls comfortable under his hands.

Une cleared her throat, and all attention returned to her.  "In light of this, I think I am forced to approve your request for leave.  I assume you'll be wanting time off too, Heero?"

Heero looked up, rather shocked to be addressed.  The memory of the day before loomed over him, from the near-panic attack in the office, to his raw temper.  There was really no need to consider; he nodded his agreement.

Shaking with a harsh, silent laughter, Duo turned a cynical glare on him.  "That was it, yesterday."  He said, and shook his head.  "That was it.  I can't fuckin' believe you, Yuy."

Heero didn't meet Duo's accusing stare.  Instead, he kept his focus on Une.  "Thank you," he said.  "When are we expected back?"

"Take as long as you need," she told him, resigned.  "I can't very well have either of you in the field until we have this sorted out."  With a wave of her hand, they were dismissed.


Possibilities throbbed behind Duo's eyes, splitting and writhing, and attempting to branch into innumerable paths, each one dwindling into the infinite.  They were practically begging for his attention.  The migraine he'd get looking at them and his own bad mood were enough to hold them away.

Gritting his teeth, Duo considered taking the stairs just so he didn't have to wait for the elevator. He wanted to move, damn it.  Vaguely, he was aware of Heero stopping beside him.  And vaguely, he was aware that the other would probably say something.  He didn't encourage it, hoping the likelihood would fade, but he didn't check the odds.

Mentally, he scrambled through a dozen languages for words virulent enough to vent some of the anger that was bubbling up in him.

Words weren't doing it. He wanted to fucking hit something. He wanted to blow shit up, to create some mayhem.  He wanted bedlam.

He would settle for G's head on a stick.

The elevator doors slid open with a hiss, and Duo stepped inside.  Heero followed him, silent.  Placid in the face of finding out that they were, what? Junkies?  Fucking addicts.  Anger warmed him, and adrenaline buzzed in his system, not quite chasing out the tired ache in his muscles.  Oh, I'm glad Heero can face this with a cool head, because I'm sure as hell not gonna!

"Duo?" Heero ventured. Impassive.

"Shut the hell up," he growled.  Then, smiling, he said, "No offence, man, but you ain't my favorite person in the whole fucking world just now."

"What the fuck did I do?" his housemate returned, sharp and cold.

"Not a damn thing, Yuy," he said, letting himself grin.  Somewhere in his head, someone was laughing, and he was pretty sure it was him.  "Not a goddamn thing."  He could feel Heero's glare blazing at him, and he just didn't care.  It wasn't enough.

Withdrawals, he thought, and couldn't quite contain a bitter chuckle.  The laughter tasted like bile and ash.  His memory supplied images of hunched, skinny bums shaking in alleys, willing to do anything for the next fix.  He could see them, scratching at spiders that weren't there while flies landed on their faces.  He knew to stay away from them.  There was no telling what people like that would do.

Oh, Christ. His throat threatened to close up, his eyes burned, and he smiled.  He was going to kill G.  And those other mad scientists while he was at it.  No reason to play favorites.  If that's what I have to look forward to, I am going to kill them.

The door slid open, and he stepped out, marching through the lobby without seeing it, past the security check without looking at the guard.  He didn't stop until he was outside, on the sidewalk.  The air was cool, fresh.  He took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

It didn't do any good.

Turning, he started to walk away.

"Where are you going?"  Heero's voice was unwelcome.

"Where do you think?" Duo spat back.  "I'm not going to buy a motherfucking gift-basket."

"The subway station is the other way."

Way to state the obvious.  "Yeah, I know that.  But the bus stop to the spaceport is this way."

"You're not going straight to L2," Heero stated.  There was no question in it.

"Why the hell not?  Can you think of something higher on my priority list?"  the Deathscythe pilot riposted.

Heero's eyes fixed on Duo's, a murky, indeterminate blue-grey in the winter light.  Duo could feel what he was about to say building, possibilities shifting to make room for it, as much as he pushed that sense to the back of his mind.  "You said you would call G to tell him when to expect us.  And we should pack, if we're going to see J afterward.  I've done the traveling with only the clothes on my back thing before, and I don't see any reason to do it again if it can be avoided."

"I think G's lost the right to courtesies like phone calls," Duo said.  Heero wasn't getting angry; he wasn't scared.  He wasn't responding at all.  It grated slowly on Duo's nerves.

Heero shrugged. "Then don't call him. It still makes more sense to go home first."

Damn it, I don't want to make sense.  I want to shove a thermal scythe straight up that old man's ass!

"Do you really want to spend the whole trip in your Preventers uniform?" Heero asked reasonably.  "We book a flight from the apartment.  We'll still be gone before midnight."

"How can you be so fucking calm about this?" Duo hissed, finally. "You heard what Sally said, didn't you?"

"I'm not calm," Heero corrected, his unresponsive tone saying it was a lie.  "I just want to know what's going on before I decide how to react."

Once again Duo looked for words, any words that might release some of the tension winding him tighter and tighter.  Finally he settled on a long, broken, "Fuck."  It took a little of the violence with it; not enough of the anger.  "Fine.  Have it your way.  We'll go home first."

Heero nodded once, and led the way back to their apartment.

on to part 9

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