Lies - Between Friends and Lovers
by Dyna Dee
Because of poor weather conditions along the entire East Coast, the plane carrying the two Preventers was diverted to Cleveland, Ohio. Neighboring airports, large and small, bordering the Atlantic remained closed to all flights until later in the afternoon when a break in the storm front was expected as it moved northward. Consequently, the two travel weary agents arrived in New York City later that evening, well behind schedule. After going through customs they decided to check into to their hotel and call it a day. With the next day being Sunday, Heero decided they'd attempt dropping by the residence of their former comrade in the morning, hopefully catching Duo off guard by their sudden and unexpected appearance. Wufei's frown indicated he wasn't in complete agreement with his partner on this plan, but he kept any reservations he had to himself. Heero was designated the agent in charge, after all.
Nine thirty the next morning found the two men smartly dressed in their uniforms and standing in front of a posh, high-rise building located across the street from Central Park. They presented themselves along with official identification to the doorman while Heero stated their reason for presence. The uniformed man carefully studied their badges before promptly calling Mr. Maxwell's suite. The building's official greeter/security man continued his scrutiny of the two Preventers while waiting for his call to be answered. Just as he was about to hang up, thinking Mr. Maxwell wasn't available, a groggy voice answered.
"Mr. Maxwell? This is Jacobson at the front door. There are two uniformed Preventer agents in the lobby requesting admittance to the building with the intention of speaking to you."
The man nodded his head as he listened to the other man's reply. "Two Asians, early twenties. Yes, they presented me with proper identification," he replied, obviously answering the queries of the man on the other end of the line. "Very well. I'll send them up in ten." The door man then hung up the phone and turned his full attention to the Preventers. "Mr. Maxwell asked that you delay coming up for ten minutes. If you'll have a seat." He pointed them to the seating area to the left of the lobby.
"On what floor is Mr. Maxwell's apartment?" Heero asked.
"Fourteenth. Room 1409."
"We'll take the stairs."
Wufei gave Heero a glare of disapproval. He wasn't in the mood to walk up fourteen levels, but he was ignored by his partner who turned without further ado and walked towards the door marked stairwell. Sighing with resignation, he followed, vowing to get even with the other man for this unnecessary climb.
They sprinted up the first three flights of stairs then slowed their pace, climbing two steps at a time. By the ninth floor they were down to taking single steps and feeling a bit too warm for comfort. The stairwell wasn't air conditioned like the rest of the building and the growing humidity of the summer day, promising to be overcast and warm, was causing their Preventer shirts to stick to their skin.
Finally standing in front of room 1409, Wufei watched Heero wipe the moisture away from his forehead with the sleeve of his shirt. He copied the man actions, feeling out of sorts at being in a less than immaculate state as they approached their former comrade.
Heero's knuckles rapped a brisk three times on the door before pausing then to wait for an answer. After a few moments he repeated the action again, his knock a bit more forceful. The silence in the long elegant corridor grew as the wait continued. Just as he raised his hand to knock a third time, the door flew open to reveal a very irritated looking Duo Maxwell. With violet eyes blazing and his long braided hair mussed from sleep, the American stood in the open doorway hastily securing the belt of a bronze satin robe he wore over matching boxers. The only thought in Heero's mind at that moment was that Duo Maxwell was absolutely breathtaking.
"Shit!" the man at the door swore, his eyes narrowing as they focused on his former lover. "What the hell?" He seemed to gather his wits about him before snarling, "I said ten minutes."
"We're here on Preventer business," Heero managed to say. He hoped his outward appearance presented the picture of him being cool and calm despite his inner turmoil.
Duo's narrowed eyes shifted from one agent to the other, then surprisingly, he snorted and shook his head. "If your pushy boss sent you to try and get me to help out on that hushed-up case she called about last week, you wasted your time coming here. I'm still not interested in anything to do with the Preventers and I'm just as resolved now as I was five years ago, if not more so."
Heero was about to reply when his partner cut him off. "We aren't here to ask you to join Preventers," Wufei said calmly, acting the part of a composed, efficient agent.
Duo shifted his attention to the Chinese man and Heero wondered if he was deliberately avoiding looking at him. A sound coming from behind the braided man caught the attention of all three men. "Give me a sec." Duo abruptly closed the door only to open it again a moment later to reveal a beautiful young woman who kept her face down and her body slightly turned away from the two Preventers. She was dressed in an elegant evening gown and was having a difficult time keeping it in place, the problem no doubt due to the fact that the long zipper in the back was half-way undone. From his position just outside the door, Heero had to take a step back in order for her to slide past him. He also noted that her shoulder length, black-glossy hair was loose, mussed and hanging around her shoulders, giving the appearance that she'd just woken from a restless night. He didn't want to dwell on the implication of intimacy that came from her leaving Duo's apartment at that time in the morning, dressed as she was. It was none of his business, he firmly told himself.
"Wait, darlin'," Duo said, stopping the seemingly shy woman before she could cross over his threshold. The woman dutifully stopped while Duo stepped up behind her and carefully zipped up the rest of her dress. She turned with gratitude on her lips and was waylaid from saying anything when Duo leaned over to give her a quick kiss on the corner of her mouth. "See ya around." He grinned and gave her a suggestive wink.
"Call me, Duo," the beautiful woman said in parting, sounding flustered as she rushed past Heero and Wufei, giving them only the merest glimpse of her profile before running barefoot down the hallway, her black high-heels clutched in her hand.
Duo watched until she disappeared into the elevator then heaved a sigh and stood back, opening the door further. "Well, come in if you really have to." He then turned and walked away without a second glance, leaving the door open behind him. Heero followed, stepping through the doorway before his partner and giving the impressively stunning apartment an appraising glance while Wufei followed and secured the front door.
"I see your manners haven't improved," Heero called out to the man in front of him, sounding gruff without intending to. He wondered why he was feeling so out of sorts and peevish with Duo when that had not been his intention. He was nervous, he decided, and that unusual feeling was causing him to behave in an unreasonable manner. Yet even as he sought to remedy his mood, he found himself unable to tear his gaze away from the sight of Duo's backside. The man's thick brown braid, held loosely together by a string of brown leather, came to a gentle point end several inches below his waist and swayed seductively against the bronze satin material as the tall and slender man walked into a formal sitting area. Heero found both the swaying braid and rhythmic movement of Duo's tantalizing backside mesmerizing.
The model turned his head just then and caught sight of where he'd been looking. Rolling his eyes he answered Heero's statement snidely, "Your manners aren't much better, pal." Glancing at the other Preventer over Heero's shoulder, he called out casually, "How ya doin', Wu?"
"I'm good, Duo. How have you been?"
Duo turned to look at the Chinese man, put his hands on his hips and grinned. "As a matter of fact I'm on top of the world."
Heero made a derisive sound while Wufei smiled in return. "I'm glad to hear it," he replied honestly. Though the Chinese man and Duo had never been very close during the wars, that didn't mean he hadn't liked the American. Heero could only wonder if Wufei had missed the braided man's friendship over the last couple of years as well.
With a flick of his hand, Duo motioned them into his spacious living room, furnished in a modern style with a white and black color scheme. It was an impressive room, superbly decorated with colorful yet tasteful, eye-catching objects on shelves and table tops as well as pillows. Heero particularly liked the artfully arranged orchids placed at various points around the room. The apartment had obviously been designed by a professional. Adding to the interior design was the large bank of windows that made up an entire wall. From the direction they faced, Heero realized they would give a spectacular view of Central Park, located across the street. Yet the undeniable focal point of the room rested over the white marble fireplace at the far end of the room. A large black and white photo, simply framed in silver, captured the image of the naked backside of a man's body. The trim and pale body was a tantalizing contrast to the black background, with the subject's arms slightly raised from the man's sides, his fingers splayed, displaying nicely sculptured biceps and shoulders. The long and thick braid cascading down the back of the subject obviously had a two-fold purpose: to give away the subject's identity and to hide beneath it the crevice between the slender globes of Duo's bottom.
"Self portrait," Duo said from behind the two Preventers.
"It's striking," Wufei replied, gazing up at the photograph, his expression thoughtful. "I like the play of shadows, the suggestion of dark and light. The white is not glaring nor the black oppressive. A nice balance."
"Thanks. I felt kind of funny displaying something so personal in my living room, but I have it from the best authority that it's appropriate for my bachelor pad."
Casting a glance at his partner, Heero could see that the Chinese man was equally impressed by the decor. As Duo turned towards one of the chairs in the room, Wufei looked his way, and for a moment the two Preventers silently expressed with a look their curiosity about the cost of living in such a place and speculation on just how much money Duo must be making in his line of work.
"Bet ya never thought I'd live in a joint like this, did ya Heero?" The slightly smug tone could hardly be missed.
Heero gave a disinterested shrug of one shoulder. He wasn't about to get into a tit-for-tat conversation with Duo while working on a case. So instead of getting into a war of insults that would no doubt would result with supercilious comments of his own, he got straight to the point. "I assume you've heard about Relena's disappearance?"
"Of course", Duo said sitting in a side chair and motioning for the two to take a seat on the sofa. "Everyone's talkin' about it. I assume that's why Une summoned me last week."
"Did you have anything to do with it?"
The large, blue-violet eyes widened, then blinked at Heero for a moment, showing his utter surprise at the question. "Now why the hell would you think that?"
"You had some animosity towards her during the war."
"Yeah, so what? She thought of me as garbage from L2 and that you couldn't possibly be interested in someone so beneath you. Can you really blame me for not takin' a shine to her?" Duo didn't wait for an answer to his question. With a dismissive wave of his hand he continued. "But it's been years since then and I've tried very hard to forget about her. Besides, I felt way more animosity towards you after the wars and I didn't do anything about that either, did I?"
At that point the long-haired man combed his fingers through the fringe of his hair, temporarily pulling it away from his forehead as he huffed. It was then, while his face was fully exposed, that Heero realized that there was something different about Duo. Of course, over the matter of five years his face had made the natural change from a teenager to a man, but something else was different. And then it hit him. Duo's nose wasn't the same. His face had once sported a pert and slightly turned up nose, and if he remembered right, there was just the slightest kink in it from when he'd been injured during the war, but none of that was visible any longer. Duo's patrician nose now fit perfectly on his handsome face, accentuating his good looks in a very flattering manner. It was as perfect as a nose could be, straight and trim but no longer turned up.
Heero was shaken from his observations by Duo's exclamation, "Damn, I can't believe you actually think I'd have anything to do with Relena, much less her disappearance. Are you sure she just didn't skip out when things got rough?" Then looking directly at Heero with a suggestive tilt of his eyebrows he added, "You didn't have a fight with her, did you, Heero? Smacked her around when she didn't do things your way?"
Heero knew that comment for the stabbing barb it was meant to be, that Duo was not being subtle in referring to their breakup. Putting aside the residual pain he felt from the reminder of his past actions, he refocused his thoughts, determined not to become sidetracked and got back to the reason for the visit.
"Where were you last Tuesday night, or rather, early Wednesday morning, New York time?"
"Hum... let me think," Duo paused and looked thoughtful for a moment, then slowly crossed his right leg over his left in a very provocative manner, displaying almost all of the long and lean leg when the silk boxers slid up the pale thigh. Heero remembered that Duo had very attractive legs as a teenager; age and maturity, it seemed, hadn't changed anything in that department. He also noticed his well-kempt, obviously manicured feet and, damn, where was the hair on his legs? Had he shaved them? Maybe it was a requirement for modeling underwear. No, he couldn't afford to have his mind travel down that road, at least not in the middle of an interview. "Oh yes," Duo interrupted his thoughts, his eyes meeting Heero's in an unfriendly gaze. "Until about eleven, Tuesday night, I was at the opening of a new restaurant downtown, a little Italian place with a fantastic chef. Then my date and I spent some quality time together before I took her home. I came in the front door around one a.m."
"Can you prove it? Is there anyone who can verify you're telling the truth?""
One skeptical, cinnamon-colored eyebrow rose. Clearly offended, the brunet asked, "Do I have to?"
"Fine," Duo scowled. "Go down to Mazio's somewhere near Park and East 48th and ask for the owner, Marcus Mattuzio. He greeted me and my date that night, Alana Stevens, a friend of Shelly's. I can give you her number as well and she'll back me up."
"Shelly? Shelly Cheval? That's who passed us in the doorway, wasn't it?" Heero turned to look at Wufei as his partner asked the question, watching as the other man's sloe eyes widened with surprise, or was it excitement, after realizing who the oddly familiar young woman was who'd just left the apartment moments before. Heero hadn't recognized her either, with her hair hiding most of her face, but everyone on the planet and the colonies knew of the wildly popular actress. He recalled having heard the normally reserved Chinese man speaking of his appreciation of the actress's talents in more than one occasion after a movie she'd been featured in was released.
"Yup, that was her." Duo grinned, then gave Wufei a knowing wink. "Nice girl. Alana is pretty cool, too."
Heero cleared his throat, catching both men's attention. Duo smirked and Wufei blushed. "Do you have the phone number and address of that eating establishment?" He needed to get the conversation back to the reason for being there once again. It seemed Duo's talent of being a distraction had only grown stronger over the years.
"No, I don't happen to have that number on hand" Duo's long fingers moved slowly over the surface of the arms of his chair, caressing it in a way that could only be called sensual. "But you can call information."
"Do you have a phone we could use?"
Duo shrugged and gave the Japanese man a lazy grin, his eyes twinkling with deviltry. "'Fraid I took the receiver off its base and I can't seem to find it. Guess you'll just have to call from somewhere else." The left side of Duo's robe slid slowly off of his shoulder with the shrug that preceded his answer, exposing a tan, flawlessly sculptured shoulder. Heero's heart quickened, and he silently damned the man for not pulling the sensual, poor excuse for a robe back in place. He was sure Duo was behaving in such a provocative manner on purpose, probably to provoke him. The braided menace proved yet another of his talents remained, that being eliciting some sort of reaction from him.
Standing abruptly, Heero felt flushed with heat and the sudden, urgent need to get out of there. Giving a knowing glance to Wufei, his partner rose from the sofa to stand next to him. Clearing his throat, he said in a brusque manner, "Thank you for your time. We'll be in touch if your alibi doesn't check out."
Duo's eyes never left his former lover, though they did narrowed in anger. He uncrossed and lowered his leg and slowly rose from the chair, a stormy expression clouding his face. Jerking the robe back into its proper place, he asked, "So that's it, huh? We haven't seen each other in five years and that's all you have to say to me?"
Heero's gaze shifted from the violet eyes sparking with anger to glance at Wufei. He'd had every intention that morning of speaking to Duo, to apologize, but he felt uncomfortable having an audience in attendance when he said what was needed.
Wufei, it appeared, knew when to disappear. "I'll wait down in the lobby." The pointed looked he aimed at Heero in return told him he'd better do the right thing and apologize. Turning to the braided, half-dressed man, who was glaring for all he was worth at Heero, Wufei held out his hand. "It was good seeing you again, Duo. Perhaps we could try better to stay in touch."
Duo blinked as he turned to look at the Chinese agent, and his gaze dropped to the extended hand. The anger that had been evident a moment before faded and a more natural smile blossomed on the handsome face as he clasped the offered bronze hand in his own. Looking into dark eyes he said with a pleased, toothy grin. "I'd really like that, Wu. You've got my number, right?"
"I do. Quatre gave it to me."
Their hands separated and the two men parted pleasantly, each giving their word that they would be in touch soon. Wufei then turned and let himself out of the apartment, allowing the two men remaining to either beat the crap out of each other or to find some kind of closure. He'd give them twenty minutes, he decided, before returning to Duo's apartment to drag Heero's sorry ass out of there if he didn't show up. The tension in the room had almost been palpable, but whether it was caused by anger or something else, only time would tell. Until then, he'd wait in lobby and pray he wouldn't be calling an ambulance before the twenty minutes were up.