Lies - Between Friends and Lovers
Part 9 - Heero
by Dyna Dee
Five days had passed since he'd returned from New York and Heero was just about to pull out his hair from sheer frustration. He and his team had failed to unearth any significant leads on Relena's kidnaping, that is if she had been kidnaped. The only thing they could be certain of was that she'd left her home on her own, alone and in disguise. It seemed highly unlikely that in a moment of spontaneity she'd left Sanq of her own accord. It would be completely out of character for her to be that inconsiderate or to cause anyone, especially her family and friends, to worry needlessly about her welfare. With the lack of leads or evidence regarding her sudden disappearance, it did indeed appear as if she'd simply dropped off the face of the planet.
A ridiculously large group of journalists and crews from the major news agencies had set up camp outside the front entrance of the Preventers' building shortly after the first rumors of Relena's mysterious disappearance had begun to surface. Their vans, equipped with satellite dishes and editing equipment, lined the streets and surrounded the city block, disrupting businesses while at the same time boosting their incomes with their persistent presence. The eager and tenacious reporters shouted out questions about Relena and the investigation to each and every Preventer entering or leaving the building. They were beyond annoying.
Irritated by the gauntlet of reporters he'd been forced to pass through on his way into the office, Heero forced himself to unclench his teeth as he doggedly made his way to Wufei's office, having been informed a half hour earlier that the other agent was being sent back into space. Two consecutive raids on cargo laden space freighters had occurred within the past two days, carried out with the same M.O. from previous attacks. Unfortunately, he wouldn't be accompanying his fellow agent into space. While Relena's disappearance continued to make headline news and the pressure for answers mounted from both government leaders and the public, his continued presence on Earth, as the lead investigator, was more important than ever - or so Director Une had informed him.
Turning into Wufei's office, Heero stopped short, floored at seeing none other than Trowa Barton sitting on the edge of the Chinese man's desk, dressed casually in jeans and a brown v-neck sweater with a white T-shirt peeking out from the neckline. "What's going on?" he asked, still slightly stunned and bewildered by the unexpected presence of the auburn haired man. He recalled the conversation Director Une had with Quatre and Trowa right after Relena's disappearance, with both men stating they were not available to lend their expertise to finding the important young woman. So what was Trowa doing here?
The auburn-haired man gave him a nod in greeting at his entrance while Wufei, sitting at his desk, duly explained his presence. "After learning from Une that you were going to be earth side for awhile, I called Barton to see if he could lend me a hand with the Marauder case. With her permission, of course. It was fortunate that he was with Quatre in London at the time of my call, conducting business."
Heero frowned as he addressed Trowa. "I thought you were too busy to help."
"Quatre and I have a vested interest in finding out who these marauders are," Trowa explained in his usual calm manner. "They've boarded more than a few freighter shuttles leaving Winner resource satellites en route to L4. The freighter boarded yesterday is owned by the Winner Corporation."
"So catching the marauders is your motivation for assisting us now, and Relena's disappearance is not a priority?" Heero asked, one eyebrow rising in question.
A small apologetic smile came to the other man's lips. "It's not that we don't care what happens to her, but let's just say I don't like operating this far from home. While working with Wufei in space to solve this case, I can lend him my expertise, mine and Quatre's support, and still be home in time for dinner."
"You've got to be kidding me?" Heero asked, clearly disbelieving the other man's reasoning.
A look of pity flashed in Trowa's eyes before it disappeared completely. "It's all about priorities, Heero. My life with Quatre, making our relationship work, is my top priority. Of course there are a lot of other things that are important to me, but he takes precedence over everything else." Then with a hint of a smile he added, "And it just so happens that he likes me home for dinner at night." There was a sparkle in the man's green eyes that told Heero that Trowa didn't have any objections to his lover's request for his nightly presence. In fact, being wanted and needed appeared to make the taller man happy and content. Heero found himself grudgingly envious of the relationship his two former friends maintained.
In the back of his mind a stray thought formed. If he'd made Duo a priority, respecting his decision about not joining Preventers, he might have been living a happier, more fulfilling life than the one he had now.
Moving to sit in the vacant chair in front of Wufei's desk, he looked to the man seated on the other side. "So what's the plan?"
Wufei leaned forward as he spoke. "I've just received word regarding the discovery of large stash of goods, purportedly similar to the items stolen by the raiders. They were found on a new, nearly completed resource satellite near L3. An building inspector dropped by unexpectedly to insure the outer seals of the structure were being welded properly and he found the unmarked crates. Upon examination, it was discovered that they were filled with food and clothing. We'll interview the men working on that satellite to determine if they might have some connection to the marauders."
Heero nodded, silently wishing he could be going into space with the other two. Even though finding Relena was a priority, having so little to go on was making the case impossible to solve.
"From there," Wufei continued, "we'll try to track down the Sweepers. There's only a handful of people on the Earth or the colonies who know anything about stealth technology. Since Duo's every move is captured in pictures by the press and we have his alibi for the night of her disappearance, I think it would be more worthwhile to find Howard and question him about any information he might have regarding the marauder's stealth ship."
"That sounds like a logical course to take," Heero said looking thoughtful. However, at the mention of the American's name, images flashed into his mind of the lusciously lean man with his tousled hair and the damned bronze silk bedclothes clinging to his body. Hiding his sudden physical reaction caused by that particular mental image, Heero coughed into his hand, crossed his left leg over his right, and broke eye contact with the other two men.
Wufei continued, obviously not sensing Heero's discomfort. "We'll follow any leads we get from our interview with Howard and go from there."
Heero nodded. "Be sure to submit a report to me daily so that I'll be up to speed when I join you, after Relena's been found."
"You think she will be?" Trowa asked, his tone neutral. "Wufei told me that a ransom demand hasn't been received nor has any claim of responsibility for her disappearance been made."
"There's no indication that she's been killed," Heero snapped back, irritated by Trowa's outward calm. He'd had to deal everyday with buoying up Milliardo, Noin and many government officials, encouraging them not to think the worst. Though with each passing day it was becoming more difficult not to give into their fears that they might never learn what had happened to her.
The auburn haired man said nothing further but his green eyes remained fixed on Heero, making him feel strangely uncomfortable. Heero looked to Wufei, then back to Trowa. "You two won't have any trouble working with each other, right?"
Both men looked surprised by the question. "No," they answered simultaneously.
"Are you assuming there's trouble between us?" Trowa asked, wearing a puzzled expression.
Heero felt somewhat embarrassed. "No. I suppose I presumed that because you haven't worked together for a couple of years it might be difficult to pick up where we left off as comrades in war."
Wufei stood from his chair, closed the folder resting on top of his desk and picked it up. "Trowa, Quatre and I have remained in contact. Perhaps not as often as we should have, but we don't feel like strangers either," he said. "I've got to return this file to Une. I'll be back in a couple of minutes." Without another word he left the room and the two other men by themselves.
With Wufei's exit, Heero immediately felt the large gulf, caused by time and circumstance, separate himself from the other man in the room. He recalled the past, during the first war, how he and Trowa used to be able to enjoy the silence together, to understand each other perfectly without many words being spoken. After pushing the self-destruct button on Wing, Trowa had picked up his broken body and carried him back to the circus. Once he'd awakened, he learned the Heavyarms pilot had been caring for him, nursing him back to health. It took some time before he felt well enough to carry on much of a conversation with the other gundam pilot, but Trowa hadn't required anything of him. During that long stretch of time where he lay in bed, unable to move, Trowa had sat by his side, equally and comfortably quiet. The two of them came to appreciate each other's presence more than any conversation they might have had, which would undoubtedly have been about the war.
Heero couldn't help but wonder where that feeling of being comfortable in each other's presence had gone. Of course he knew their friendship had been tarnished after he'd hurt Duo, but he hadn't thought he'd lose nor miss his former comrades as much as he had.
"Are you happy, Heero?"
Trowa's sudden and unexpected question startled him from his thoughts. "What?"
"Are you happy?"
Happiness was a subjective term, wasn't it? Was he happy? He didn't feel he was unhappy, but he also knew there were areas in his life that felt unfulfilled. "I'm not unhappy," he replied.
"Dating or involved with anyone?"
Heero frowned, not comfortable talking about his personal life, or rather the lack of one. "Not that it's anyone's business, but no, not recently." He wasn't about to tell the other man that his so-called love life sucked, to coin one of Duo's phrases. He could count on one hand how many people he'd gone out with during the last couple of years, and the majority of those dates had taken place because he'd been asked out. Sadly, he'd always found the other person lacking when he ultimately compared them with his first lover, and evidently he'd been somewhat less than a great date because the invitations were rarely extended a second time and never a third.
"I understand you went to New York and questioned Duo regarding Relena's disappearance."
"Yes." He knew his short answers were probably frustrating to the other man, but he was asking some personal questions after all, so he didn't harbor much guilt at being short on words.
There were a few awkward moments of silence before Trowa spoke again. "It's good that he's forgiven you."
He studied Trowa's face, seeing no anger or resentment there, just acceptance.
"Are you and Quatre still angry with me?"
Trowa shrugged. "We were naturally upset that you hurt Duo and that he'd had to undergo several surgeries to repair the damage you caused, but he stated over and over that he was as much at fault as you were, that he'd verbally struck back at you with words that hit below the belt. Quatre and I decided to respect Duo's wishes that we not blame you entirely for what happened."
"So for these five years I've wrongly believed that you'd cut me out of your lives?"
"During the first year, as Duo recovered from the reconstructive surgeries, the anger we felt towards you for his injuries was still there, but it faded in time. When you never made any attempt to contact us or Duo, Quatre and I could only conclude that was the way you wanted things to end."
Heero felt as if he'd been sucker punched. For five years he'd thought the three of them hated him, blamed him entirely for the breakup. And who was to blame? He was honest enough with himself to admit, after recalling bits and pieces of that day, he had only himself to blame. Sure, the Preventer's head shrink had put the blame for his berserker attack as a residual side effect from the Zero System. But he should have known something was dreadfully wrong. After all, he'd had several lapses of control just after the first war, but he thought, after a couple of months had passed, that he'd overcome the effects of the Zero System by sheer will alone. Having flown Wing again during the Barton uprising had evidently triggered something within him, causing him to blow the whole situation with Duo out of proportion. With Zero removing his natural restraints, he'd viciously struck out at his lover, the source of his frustration and anger at that moment. Still, it was no excuse. During the days and months following that horrendous day, he'd been wracked with guilt, and had dedicated himself to working closely with his psychiatrist to overcome the guilt, nightmares and control any impulse to lash out, as he had with Duo. Never again would he allow himself to lose control like he had that day. A great feeling of loss filled him after learning that if he'd bent some of his pride he could have had Duo's forgiveness earlier and two friends back in his life.
"I'm sorry," he said, refocusing on the other man. "I thought you and Quatre were Duo's staunch allies and that you didn't want to hear from me ever again. At least that was what I understood from the message Wufei gave me."
"We were angry at first, and rightly so. Duo was in bad shape, Heero, and you have Quatre to thank that you're walking and breathing today. After reaching the hotel room and seeing what you'd done to him, I was beyond furious and determined to hunt you down to take revenge for him, especially since Duo was in no shape to do it himself. Quatre convinced me that Duo's welfare was more important than seeking revenge."
Heero was at a loss for what else he could say about the day he'd like to forget. He wanted to explain his actions, but wasn't sure if Trowa would believe him regarding the effects of Zero. Unfortunately, that day kept coming back to him, heaping even more guilt and regret upon his shoulders.
He was spared any further comment when Wufei came back into the room and announced that he was ready to go. He threw a small object towards Trowa and the auburn-haired man caught it easily. Heero watched as the taller man flipped the leather cover opened and with a wry smile Trowa announced, "I suppose this means I am officially a Preventer." He turned the object in his hand, showing Heero the familiar Preventer badge."
"On a temporary, 'as needed' basis," Wufei corrected as he took a couple of objects out of his desk drawer, shoved them into his pant's pocket, then grabbed his jacket off the stand behind his desk. 'That's it," he announced, then looking at his new partner said, "I'm ready to go if you are, Trowa."
Standing, Heero shook hands with the departing agents, wishing them good luck. Wufei had given both he and Trowa a questioning look, but neither man felt inclined to inform him of what had transpired between them moments before.
"We'll keep in touch," the Chinese man said. With a curt nod of their heads, the three parted ways, and Heero watched them go, feeling a surprising sense of loss at their departure.
Following them out the door, Heero turned in the opposite direction, his destination being the Director's office. He'd been asked to report in with her each time he entered the builidng. As he walked, he found himself feeling troubled about the conversation he'd had with Trowa. There was something about Trowa and Quatre's sudden decision to help them that bothered him. The two, non-Preventers had not been consulted about the marauders during the meeting where they had been asked to help find Relena, so there hadn't been a choice between the two cases at that time. But Trowa's unexpected appearance and his reasons for stepping up now to help to discover the identities of space bandits just seemed... odd.
He shook his head. Maybe the niggling doubt about his former comrades' intentions came from his being a Preventer for the past five years, searching for and fighting the bad guys. He'd developed the habit of being suspicious of just about everyone and their motives. Knowing that about himself, he tucked away his doubts about Trowa and what his intentions for helping might be. If there was an ulterior motive for his volunteering to help Wufei on the marauder case, Heero could only hope that Trowa was acting to protect Quatre's name and his family's investments rather than for anything illicit.
Reaching Une's door at last, he took a deep breath to prepare himself for the meeting, dreading to report that nothing new had been discovered in Relena's case. He sensed that this was the beginning of yet another long day.