Lies - Between Friends and Lovers
by Dyna Dee
Heero and Wufei spent the next couple of days reviewing the data acquired from incoming calls to the Preventer hotline, specifically dedicated to gathering any information about Relena's disappearance. After weeding through the calls, they made a list of the names and numbers of those individuals considered to be the most promising. From that list Noin and Milliardo began the task of setting up interviews with those individuals who they believed to be legitimate eyewitnesses.
A taxi driver reported picking up a young woman in dark clothing, something similar to what Relena had worn the night of her disappearance, according to the security cameras. The driver stated that he took the young woman to the city center where she paid cash and bid him good evening. Another possible sighting came from a waiter from one of the city's many cafés, who called the hotline to say he'd witnessed a young woman with a blond ponytail passing by as he served his customers. He recalled thinking that she resembled Ms. Peacecraft, yet at the time he'd believed it was merely someone who bore a strong resemblance to she was dressed in clothing he'd never seen the princess wear in pictures or on television.
Those two reports were the more credible of all the calls they'd received, and so the four diligent Preventers turned their focus to any calls that came from around the downtown area where those two sightings had taken place. Other than a few wildly exaggerated accounts by people who were obviously looking for their five minutes of fame, there were no other clues to what happened to the young woman who reportedly passed the café, or the one who left the taxi cab. With no additional information forthcoming, nor clues or ransom demands, it seemed as if Relena had simply dropped off the face of the planet.
After analyzing all the gathered data, which was small despite the mountain of paper work they'd accumulated, they came to the point of having to decide on what direction the investigation should go. Frustrated, Heero turned to his partner. "I think perhaps we should go back to Une's suggestion of speaking with Duo, as well as any employees terminated from the Peacecraft mansion in the past year and those individuals or groups who were vocally opposed to her political views."
Wufei's eyes narrowed. "I agree with following up on those you mentioned, with the exception of Maxwell. Duo has moved on with his life and she's a part of his past. Even if he retained some resentment towards her, why would he jeopardize a very successful career to get back at her? It just doesn't seem like anything the boy we used to know would do."
"He detested her for well over a year. And if you recall, Duo held onto his grudges a long time."
"He was young, hotheaded and impetuous back then, just like we were. He's a grown man now and no longer in competition with her for your affections."
"There never was any competition, as far as I was concerned, and I never gave him any reason to doubt me. His jealousy was something of his own making."
Wufei shook his head. "Whether you believed his resentment was justified or not, you can't deny that Relena single-mindedly pursued you, and she became Duo's competition because she could offer you everything he couldn't: wealth, social status, material possessions, a home and family."
Drawing his hand through his thick head of hair, Heero sighed. He never felt comfortable talking about the past, especially when it concerned his failed relationship with Duo. "I never said I wanted any of those things, Wufei. I just wanted peace, an end to the fighting and war... and Duo."
The Chinese man regarded the other Preventer a moment before asking, "Do you really believe Duo would kidnap her because of past feelings?"
"It doesn't matter what I personally think," Heero replied somberly. "We have to rule out all possibilities, great and small."
Regardless of Wufei's objections, the two men were on a flight to New York that evening, with Duo Maxwell's address printed on a piece of paper and secured in Heero's shirt pocket.
The problem with long plane rides, Heero thought, is that unless he wanted to watch a movie suitable for family viewing, there was much too much time for thinking, and for his part, thinking about the past. Considering the person they were going out of their way to interview, he couldn't help his thoughts from centering on Duo and wondering about the type of reception he might receive from his former lover. Granted, he didn't expect an open-arm greeting. No, he'd hurt Duo too much to expect that, and if the other man took a swing at him, he wouldn't be surprised.
Closing his eyes, he conjured up an image of Duo in his mind. His memory supplied a picture of the younger and much smaller American, as he'd been at the beginning of the wars when they'd first met. Then came the image of a handsome, taller and more filled out seventeen-year-old pilot at the end of yet another war. In his mind's eye he could see the trim body dressed in fitted black jeans, a red T-shirt and wearing a favorite black jacket with his incredibly long, brown braid hanging over his shoulder. He imagined the wry grin and mischievous eyes that had, more often than not, been a light in his darkness, the flame of warmth to a bone-weary soldier.
He'd been attracted to the American from the start, not so much physically, but because the spunky, tenacious teenager had as much courage as he did bluster. Because of the seriousness of his mission, as assigned by Dr. J, he'd fought the unusual pull towards the boy from L2 and was successful at keeping his distance, emotionally at least, until he saw Duo on the newscast, being dragged from his captured gundam by their enemies. Even though he knew he shouldn't, that it had little to nothing to do with his own plans, he couldn't talk himself out of a rescue attempt. He'd been successful in entering the enemy's base and locating Maxwell, but it was difficult to maintain his emotional detachment after finding him injured and prepared to be taken out of the war, permanently, in order to avoid becoming a tool for OZ.
The damn stubborn boy proved that he didn't know when to follow orders either. He'd left Duo with orders to remain behind and recuperate while he went to the moon. He was both surprised and upset when the braided boy stumbled into the same OZ cell that housed Wufei and himself, beaten to a bloody pulp by one of the scientists imprisoned there.
Again he had felt compelled to do something for the injured teenager, but not until Wufei had fallen asleep. With his wrists cuffed together there was little he could do, but he did manage to check the unconscious boy for injuries, and when Duo began to shiver from either shock or from being cold, Heero had settled himself down behind him and pressed his body against his back while slipping his arms over the braided head to cradle the American in a more comfortable manner. He keenly recalled the smell of blood and sweat on the boy, but along with those scents was the unique musky smell that belonged to Duo alone. He breathed in that heady aroma and his eyes closed from the pleasure that washed over him as a result of that action. It was then that Heero knew he was in trouble. Developing feelings for Duo Maxwell was not something he had planned for nor was it something he was prepared to deal with.
Despite knowing he shouldn't, he remained a solid, warm presence for the injured teen until Wufei began to stir. As he moved away, he promised himself that he'd stay away from the long-haired boy until the proper time came for him to act on his emotions, if either of them survived the war.
They were separated once more when Duo and Wufei escaped their captors and he and Quatre eventually fled back to Earth. For him it was both a relief and a worry to be away from the tantalizing teenager once again. He could finally concentrate on his mission, do what needed to be done. But at the back of his mind he remained concerned about Duo's welfare, his whereabouts and if he'd ever see him again.
The five of them came back together on Peacemillion and day after day they faced numberless enemies and yet, somehow, they survived. From his own observations, the American pilot seemed equally interested in him, though his actions weren't overt. He'd finally been spurred into acting on his emotions after observing Duo worrying over the girl Hilde after she'd been injured fleeing White Fang mobile dolls in an attempt to escape from Libra. A surge of jealousy, unlike anything he'd ever known before, overwhelmed him, along with the realization that he could lose the American to someone else if he didn't acknowledge his feelings to the other pilot. He wanted nothing more than to comfort Duo, to give him a reason to believe that life didn't always take away those people and things that meant something to him. If he were honest with himself, he wanted to be the reason Duo fought to live through the never-ending battles that were slowly wearing them down.
That night, after Duo had emerged from the shower in his cabin, irresistible with a towel draped around his slender hips and his long, towel-dried hair pulled over one shoulder, Heero walked with deliberate strides up to the other boy and pressed him back against the door he'd just come through. The long-haired teen, taken completely by surprise by the unexpected move, simply stared with wide eyes at him, mutely watching as he leaned forward, bringing their faces only inches apart before he paused to say, "Stop me if you don't want this."
His heart, he recalled, felt as if it was about to burst out of his chest, the pounding of it reverberated in his ears as he waited for Duo's response. In retrospect, he realized that his first move on Duo had been another of his all-or-nothing objectives, fueled primarily by his desperation for the boy who stood nearly naked in front of him. For once Duo didn't give him a verbal response. He simply tilted his head to the side and closed his eyes, positioning himself to accept the coming kiss, and that had been the beginning of what Heero had naively believed would be the most satisfying and only relationship of his life.
The memory of their first night together and the things they'd done awakened his body, causing a response from his lower regions that wasn't welcome. Considering where he was, Heero quickly shifted his thoughts, skipping past all the other memorable moments he'd shared with the braided American, though most of those memories had been good. With regret, he recalled that not everything in their relationship had been perfect for they did have their rough moments.
It was their break up that Heero regretted the most.
He'd been too idealistic, too driven and had the mind set that the newly formed United Earth and Colony government couldn't pull itself together without their help. Without being fully cognizant of the fact, he had also been experiencing residual aftereffects of the Zero System as well as post traumatic stress after piloting his gundam during the Barton attempted coup.
Having been invited to a private meeting in Luxemburg along with his fellow gundam pilots, Lady Une, and Sally Poe proceeded to list all the reasons why the former gundam pilots should join the Preventer organization, the newly-formed agency intent on keeping the tentative peace and to deter other powerful men like Deikum Barton from trying to take over. He'd accepted the invitation the moment Wufei stated that he'd already signed on and hoped they would also.
After his acceptance, he turned his attention to the other silent three. Trowa was looking at Quatre, obviously awaiting his decision. They'd just become a couple, and Heero had no doubt that Trowa would follow the petite but capable blond in whatever decision he made. Duo, he recalled, sat with his head bowed, his gaze focused on his hands which were fisted in his lap.
No thank you, Quatre had said, and explained that he had his family's interests to take care of, a business to stabilize and thousands of workers and their families depending on the Winner Corporation's success. Trowa turned to Une and simply said no.
All eyes turned to Duo at that point, who was still contemplating his hands. He wondered why his lover was hesitating when he saw this as a perfect opportunity for them. The pay was good and they'd have many benefits attached to their employment, but on top of that, they would be working together again, fighting for peace just like they had during the war. He'd wanted to reach out and touch the other teen, but he wasn't comfortable displaying his affection for his lover in public, preferring to keep his and Duo's relationship a private matter. And so he sat and waited, as did the other five people in the room, until Wufei got impatient and called Duo's name. The braided head slowly rose, and by the dull look in his eyes Heero knew he wasn't going to like his answer. No, thanks, Duo had said quietly, his eyes nervously shifting to Heero to gauge his reaction.
He'd asked his lover why, only to hear Duo state that he didn't want to fight any more, that fighting in two wars was more than anyone could or should ask of them. He explained to the American that it wasn't a war they fighting but that they'd be working to ensure that the peace they'd sacrificed so much for remained intact. The others in the room remained silent and the tension grew heavy while they waited for the braided teen's response. He clearly recalled Duo slowly lifting his head and with eyes pleading for understanding he simply replied, "Let someone else do it."
Their relationship lasted only three weeks after that day. From the moment they returned to their new apartment he'd questioned, cajoled and badgered Duo in an effort to change his mind and to convince him that it would be good working together again for a just cause. Duo had remained stubbornly adamant about his decision... and so had he. Once he realized they were at an impasse, he'd resorted to giving Duo an ultimatum, despite knowing that his lover could be as stubborn as a mule when he felt he was right, and that he never liked being backed into a corner. The boy from the slums of L2 reacted as any former scrapper would, he came out fighting, verbally at first, and flaming pissed. From that point forward all discussions about the Preventer position as well as their relationship were shot to hell. Even five years later he couldn't justify his reaction to Duo's anger, in fact, he was horrified by what he'd done. He might never recall those final moments in their apartment, but they resulted in his destroying his chance for happiness.
Though his memory of the physical altercation was distorted and vague, his last sight of Duo on the rueful day was seared into his mind's eye by his shame. Once he emerged from his berserker-like trance, he found himself gazing down upon the braided teen, lying unconscious on the floor, his once handsome face was battered, bruising and bloody. He had blinked several times, not comprehending what he was seeing until the throbbing of his left and right hands commanded his attention. Looking down, he was horrified further to see they were also bloody and bruising.
Of all the memories he had of their time together, it was the memory of Duo, almost unrecognizable and sprawled out, unnaturally still on the floor, that was the most predominant, and it had haunted him almost daily for the past five years.
His psychiatrist had speculated that he'd gone into shock at that point, unable to deal with the evidence of damage he'd inflicted on his lover. The good doctor had blamed this "shock" for why his mind had blocked everything out for a time. Yet after returning to a sense of his surroundings for a second time that dreadful day, he'd found himself miles from their apartment, sweat soaked and his lungs ready to collapse from having run so far and so quickly. By the time he made his way back to the apartment, Duo was gone.
During the hours and days that followed that nightmarish day, Heero exhausted himself in trying to discover what had happened to his injured and missing lover. His feelings of remorse and regret were at times overwhelming, and he was worried as hell about Duo's well being. After two weeks of unsuccessful searching, checking hotels, hospitals and passenger lists for any hint of what had happened to his injured lover, Wufei caught onto what he was doing one morning after he'd finished yet another round with the Preventers' psychiatrist. Standing in their shared office, the Chinese youth, disfavor plainly etched on his face, stiffly informed him that Duo had been packed up by Quatre and Trowa and that they were seeing to his physical and emotional welfare. He also informed Heero that their former comrades had every intention of taking Duo back to L4 with them when he was well enough to travel. A warning was also delivered that any attempt to make contact with any of their three former comrades would be most unwelcome.
Heero knew from his painful memory of Duo's battered body on the floor that he'd injured his lover. Badly. But he hadn't been ready to deal with the reality of what he'd done until Wufei gave him no choice but to accept the blame when he listed Duo's multiple injuries. Bowing his head in shame, he'd buried his face in his hands, unable to face Wufei or himself. He was a monster. Une had been right to keep him off the active duty roster and on desk duty until he was cleared by the shrink she'd required him to visit since learning of his attack on Duo. It was clear that his lover was through with him. He wasn't sure why he hadn't expected it. Duo had his pride. Not only that, but Heero knew he was completely to blame for the entire incident. Yet it was Wufei's personal warning, as well as those he'd relayed from Quatre and Trowa to stay away that had hit him the hardest. Accepting that Duo and two of his former comrades had cut all ties with him was difficult, to say the least, yet he couldn't blame them. And even though it was his own lapse of control and burst of anger that had ruined everything, his longing for Duo's companionship, the need for his friendship and love remained, and he was left to wonder how things had spiraled out of control so quickly.
He'd had plenty of time over the last couple of years to come to the conclusion that he'd probably made the biggest mistake of his life in not going after Duo, disregarding the warning to beg for his lover's forgiveness. But each time he'd gotten to the point of picking up the phone, packing a bag and checking shuttle schedules, the voice of reason whispered that it was too late, that it would be best to let sleeping dogs lie. The memory of those angry and then pained, blue-violet eyes as they began to argue on that regretful day reinforced his belief that Duo had been too deeply hurt by his words and actions to ever forgive him.
Taking a deep breath, Heero pushed away those remorse-filled thoughts of the past as well as the what-might-have-beens. He rubbed at his tired eyes with the heels of both hands. Damn, he hated these long flights that gave him too much time to reflect on the past. Closing his eyes once more, determined to catch at least an hour of sleep, the image of Duo sprang to his mind unbidden. The image was not the bruised and battered teenager he'd left on their apartment floor, but the picture of a very handsome man that he'd seen on several popular magazine covers. Yes, like his current partner, he'd purchased the magazines featuring the former Deathscythe pilot also, but he wasn't about to tell that to Wufei. Having matured from a very good-looking teenager into a man, Duo had become more strikingly handsome, beautiful even, but in a completely masculine way, of course. He was still appealingly slender, and looked like perfection personified in whatever set of clothing he was modeling. He didn't know the specifics of how his former lover had come to be a successful, high-income male model, but he knew that Quatre had a hand in it. Maybe he'd work up the nerve to ask Duo when he saw him.
Bringing a hand to his head, he wondered what he was going to say to his former lover. After all, they'd parted horribly. It was completely possible that the other man might not even want to see much less talk to him. He really didn't have a choice though, because there was no getting around seeing Duo and getting a statement from him as part of the investigation into Relena's disappearance.
But if he were honest with himself, he wanted to see Duo again, to hear his voice. He knew the model wasn't a serious suspect in Relena's kidnaping. He only brought up his former lover's grudge against her after Duo failed to show up at the meeting with Une. It was, more or less, his way of opening the door to seeing the long-haired man again. It had been a door that had been painfully nailed shut for much too long. With a shaky sigh, he reminded himself not to get his hopes up. Duo had moved on with his life and, in a way, so had he. Despite his desire to see Duo, it was imperative that he maintain an appearance of professionalism. He was an officer of the Preventers, after all, being sent to New York on official business.
"Got a headache?" Wufei's question shook Heero from his thoughts.
"No. I'm just trying to formulate what I'm going to say to Duo. It's been five years since we've seen or even spoken to each other." Heero paused, hesitating to say anything further. After that day in the office, years ago, when his partner had warned him away, he and Wufei had never spoken in great detail about what happened between himself and Duo. He had little doubt that the other man had been informed about what had occurred on that fateful day, his accusing glare spoke louder than his words ever did on the few occasions when Duo, Quatre or Trowa's names had come up in conversation.
Wufei's eyes darkened a fraction before he said, "I should think you would apologize."
Heero would normally dismiss any such suggestion. After all, he rarely found himself in a situation where an apology was necessary. He very seldom chose a course of action without first fully studying his options, carefully selecting a choice of action, and then taking the necessary steps to achieve the desired result. But this time Wufei was right. He still felt ashamed by the past, knowing that he had seriously wronged Duo and that it truly was up to him to apologize and, hopefully, such an action would help to ease his conscience.
"I hardly think Duo would accept a simple apology."
"If it's sincere, I'm sure he'll consider it."
Heero's piercing gaze was turned on his current partner. Making sure to keep his voice down so that their conversation as private as one could manage on an airline, he said, "Everything is always black and white to you, isn't it, Wufei? Well it's not always so clear cut. There are a lot of gray areas in our lives that aren't always so easily categorized and fixed."
Wufei thoughtfully studied Heero for a moment, hesitating before speaking up, revealing something he'd held back for five years. "I was never told exactly what happened to cause the altercation, so I was left to put two and two together. But I also never told you what took place after you fled the apartment and left Duo behind," he added with some reluctance. "I was contacted by Quatre and Trowa that afternoon. Trowa told me that Duo had called and, in a voice barely understandable, he asked for their assistance. Quatre, even at that distance, had sensed a great deal of pain coming from Duo. They were on L4 when the call came and it was going to take them at least twelve hours to make the journey back to Earth, so they asked if I would go and check up on him, see if he was alright and assist him if necessary. Evidently, Duo hadn't told them during that call what had happened, only stating that he needed their help. They gave me directions to the shabby hotel he'd holed up in and urged me to go there immediately and report back on his condition. After being persuaded that it was my duty as his friend, I reluctantly agreed. My hesitance was founded on not wanting to be caught up in negotiating some lover's spat."
Wufei paused a moment and frowned before continuing to recall that very unpleasant day. "Duo didn't answer the door when I knocked, so I picked the lock. I'm not going to tell you anything specific, just that Duo was in bad shape. He was... " He stopped abruptly, reconsidering what he was about to reveal. "Well, it doesn't matter now, other than you know that he was badly injured when I found him and he hadn't improved much by the time Trowa and Quatre arrived later the next day.
"Duo didn't talk to me during the long hours I tended to his needs. I believed at the time, considering his injuries, that perhaps he couldn't speak. But after only five minutes of being closeted with Winner he managed to communicate to him what had happened. Quatre and Trowa didn't have to talk too long to convince Duo to go back to L4 with them, promising him the time, space and resources needed to put his life back together. Even though I was ignorant of all the details, other than you had been the one who'd beat him unconscious, I agreed with their plan and told Duo that going to L4 would be the wisest move, considering his condition."
Wufei ended his short confession, having watched the myriad of emotions sweep across Heero's normally unreadable face. He must have seen that his partner was anything but pleased by his revealing comments of those past dark days because Wufei quickly attempted to ease the tension that had grown between them during the last few moments. "You were obviously both hurt by what happened between you, Heero. It's only right that you should express your regret to Duo, regardless of whether or not he accepts your apology. This has weighed heavily on your mind all this time, hasn't it? Perhaps you should take this opportunity to deal with it, put it in the past and move on."
Heero knew Wufei was right, and given the chance he should... no, would apologize to Duo. He just hoped he'd be able to get a single word out before Duo leveled him out on the floor.