Lies - Between Friends and Lovers
by Dyna Dee
"The stars turned out in droves this weekend for the premiere of the much anticipated movie, Summer's End, and Entertainment This Week was there to capture all the excitement." The perky, long-haired blonde woman on the television delivered that bit of celebrity news with a grin that threatened to split her face in half. "The bittersweet romance between star-crossed lovers, played by Shelly Cheval and Dirk Bennett, has been praised by the critics as this year's most romantic movie. Interest in the film has also been spurred by the sudden announcement earlier this week about the break up between Shelly and her boyfriend of two years, actor Sean McNab. Rumors have been circulating that super model Duo Maxwell might have had something to do with the breakup. Those rumors were spurred, no doubt, by sightings of Miss Cheval exiting the popular model's apartment building early one morning early last week. However, their separate arrival at the movie's premiere, with actress Alana Stevens being escorted by the handsome model and former gundam pilot has everyone wondering whether or not the rumors of their involvement are true."
While the entertainment commentator continued, Heero watched with a deep frown on his face as a replay of the event, held several nights before in New York City, showed a white limousine pulling up to the curbside and a myriad of flashes began as the chauffeur opened the back door. Duo stepped out, wearing a black suit over a white shirt, a red tie and blue tinted glasses. He waved to the crowd then quickly turned, his long braid swinging around his body as he bent his head and extended his hand to the person in the car. A tall and slender, pale skinned and stunning redheaded woman, dressed in a fairly modest yet slinky evening gown of shining silver, exited the car. With a dazzling grin to the crowd, the actress slipped her hand under Duo's arm and the two pressed forward. Duo kept his head down, speaking to his date as the young actress continued to smile and wave at the crowd as they passed by the cheering crowd and loud, demanding reporters. Despite not being able to get a good look at Duo's face, Heero thought the two people on the television screen looked perfect together, and once more the feeling of having let something very important slip by washed over him.
Maybe he should have called Duo after returning from New York.
Leaning back against his sofa, he closed his eyes, hoping to clear all thoughts of such regrets. Instead of re-centering himself, images of his former lover flashed through his mind. Duo was probably going to be forever etched in his memory wearing that same silky brown robe and boxer-style shorts he'd worn when they'd come face to face in New York after a five year estrangement. In his mind's eye, his former lover's long hair was loose and tumbling over both shoulders and past his slender waist. The vision he conjured up of Duo's trim and hairless chest peeking out of the robe made him want to reach out and stroke the tantalizing skin. His thoughts then turned to Duo's long and lean legs, bringing back memories of those limbs wrapped tightly around him, urging him on as they copulated in dorm rooms, janitor closets, safe houses and in their cabin on Peacemillion. And in his mind he erased the frown and look of disapproval that had been fixed on the model's handsome face during their interview in New York, replacing them with an expression of awe and adoration that the teenage pilot of Deathscythe always wore after their lovemaking. He'd give anything to see that look on Duo's face again.
With a long, frustrated sigh he slipped out of the daydream and was left with a strong yearning for all that he'd lost. Even though Duo had indicated he had forgiven him, Heero doubted the other man would ever let him back into his life, especially as his lover.
The ringing of his phone derailed his thoughts about Duo and he had only a moment to curse himself for indulging in idle daydreaming and wasting time when he had two cases to solve. He moved swiftly from the sofa to his phone, sitting on the table near the front door. He checked the caller ID, then quickly pressed the talk button and put the phone to his ear. "What is it Chang?"
"There's been another attack by the marauders on a freighter going to L1 this time."
"About ten hours ago. Trowa and I took a Preventer shuttle from L4 to catch up with the ship and its crew. I'm almost finished with my report, including their statements, and will transmit that data to you shortly."
"That makes three boardings in less than four days. It seems they've upped the frequency of the attacks. Anything new with this latest one?"
"Nothing. It's the same M.O. as the others. The raiders were masked, wore black and carried stun guns. No one was hurt as they took the cargo which, once again, they paid for." There was a long pause before Wufei continued. "Narrowing down the reasons for why the obviously well-funded operation pays for the food and clothing they steal from freighters destined for colonies, there's only one viable conclusion: it has to do with L2's embargo."
Heero replied, "It makes sense, but who is behind it?"
"Someone with a great deal of money and connections. I think the lead we need to follow is the stealth technology that the ship obviously has possession of. The cloaking device is effective in surprising the freighters before they have the chance to run."
"And you believe Howard is in on this?"
Another pause. Both men were well aware and uncomfortable with what it might mean if Howard was involved and who else the finger of blame might turn to. "It only makes sense that it's him or a member of the crew that worked on Deathscythe."
"Duo's not involved."
"How do you know?"
"I just saw him on T.V., caught on camera at the premiere of a new movie in New York on Friday. He was with a different actress from the one at his apartment the day we interviewed him."
"That's good." There was a tone of relief in Wufei's voice. "I can't help but think of him any time L2 comes into a conversation. I'm surprised he didn't say anything about the embargo when we spoke with him."
"He's obviously changed."
"But that much?" Wufei sounded skeptical. "Duo certainly doesn't owe that colony any allegiance, but his life is inextricably linked to L2, if only in the past. I wouldn't blame him if he turned his back forever on the rotting piece of space junk, but he knows what it's like to live there. He had enough compassion for those living there to offer his life up to Operation Meteor in order to win them their freedom from the Alliance. I can't believe those feelings of empathy have disappeared completely under the flashing of cameras and a large bank account."
"Money and fame can change a man," Heero commented, not wanting to believe it was true in Duo's case, but the way his former lover lived in comparison to his past lent some truth to that statement.
"Material things never seemed important to Maxwell."
"That's because he never had anything. I think his apartment and current lifestyle speaks loudly of his change in attitude."
After a thoughtful pause, Wufei said, "If a change in his core beliefs means that he's not involved in this, then I'm glad. I would hate having to arrest a friend and send him to prison."
Heero couldn't think of anything more distressing than sending one of his fellow comrades to prison. If suspicions turned to hard facts, proving Howard or, even more unlikely, Duo was involved with the marauders, he would be duty bound to make an arrest, regardless of how much he wouldn't want to.
"So where are you now?" he asked, getting back to the reason for the call.
"On our way back to L4. I'll be accompanying Trowa to his and Quatre's residence for something to eat and, hopefully, a good night's sleep. While I'm there I'll check around to see if I can locate Howard. Trowa is going to follow up on the discovery of several crates that have been stashed on two different resource satellites. Initial reports state that they look suspiciously like they might belong to the marauders."
"Anything new about Relena?"
"No. We're pretty much at a dead end until we get some word from the kidnapers."
"So do you now believe that's what happened to her? That she was kidnaped?"
"I can't believe she'd hurt her family by not telling them that she was safe."
"No. She seemed like a responsible and caring person."
"She possesses both of those attributes," Heero said with a frown, not caring for the past tense Wufei used in referring to Relena.
After a pause, Wufei changed the subject. "I think an official visit to L2 might be in order."
"No one is allowed clearance to pass the blockade and enter the colony."
"I'll go through Une. If the marauders are hijacking freighters and L2 is where they drop off the stolen goods, then there's bound to be some evidence. Someone there would know who is behind it."
"If indeed that's the case, do you really think you'll find anyone willing to cooperate, knowing that if you make an arrest their supplemental source of food would be cut off?"
"I'll find an incentive for their cooperation, perhaps a lift off the colony."
"If you succeed in getting Une's permission, I'd think twice about showing up on L2 in uniform."
Wufei's grin could be heard in his voice as he replied, "I'll think about it."
There had been some joking within the ranks of the Preventers who knew both Heero and Wufei as two of the first inductees into that organization. Because of their long hours and dedication to their jobs, they were rarely seen out of uniform. One comment that Heero had overheard was that he and Wufei wore their uniforms to the cleaners and had them clean and press their pants, shirts and ties without removing them. The jokes were harmless, and neither he nor Wufei took offense. Still, Heero could hardly recall seeing his sometime partner out of uniform.
"What are your plans for the foreseeable future?" Wufei asked.
"I'm not certain. I had planned on joining you in space but I'm not sure Une or Milliardo will actually allow me to leave the planet as long as Relena is missing."
"I'll keep in touch then and let you know where I am in case you get the release."
"I'll check back with you in a day or two."
After a pause, Heero added, "Give my regards to Quatre and Trowa."
"I will." The phone went dead and Heero slowly placed the receiver back in its place, then sat back and spent several more moments contemplating all that had been said.