Lies - Between Friends and Lovers
by Dyna Dee
Heero returned to his office with Wufei's newly emailed report in hand. Closing the door behind him, he crossed the room to sit behind his desk, then spent the next fifteen minutes reading the report. The frown on his face deepened as his comrade's observations of L2 were detailed. Wufei, Trowa and two other Preventers had gone to L2 in search of the marauders following the hunch that the beleaguered colony might be the beneficiary of the raids on freighter shuttles and their stolen goods. It was clear from Wufei's opening statement that he and Trowa had found the people of L2 unable or unwilling to assist them in their investigation. The report also described in detail the atrocious conditions in which he found the colony, of the lack of supplies and emaciated appearance of the inhabitants, suffering the effects of starvation. Wufei also noted that those who had once perpetrated the violence and near anarchy on the colony, the supposed reasons for the embargo, were no longer a concern.
Included in his observations, Wufei spoke of order being established on the colony, overseen by a group of volunteers called The Guardians. Food, what little they had, was being distributed in an orderly manner to all citizens on the colony.
Heero's eyes widened as he read about Wufei's meeting with Hilde Schweibecker, and his belief glance at food packaging that were not marked as coming from the UEC, proof that the marauders were supplying additional and much needed food to the colonists. In his final paragraphs the Chinese agent condemned the UEC government for their lack of humanity, calling for an investigation into the reasons behind the embargo and why L2's citizens were being starved to death with the insufficient amount of food, water and supplies being sent to L1. And last but not least, Wufei demanded an end to the embargo as well as an urgent plea for aid to be sent to the remaining survivors. The pictures he'd sent with his report stood as proof of his words, and to Heero they were as shocking as they were heartbreaking.
Having finished reading the report, the Japanese man set it down on his desk and leaned back in his chair. Closing his eyes, he couldn't help picturing in his mind the conditions of the colony Duo had miraculously survived, as detailed by Wufei. His former lover rarely spoke of his past, though Heero suspected he knew more than most about Duo's unpleasant childhood on the streets. As a child, Duo avoided the constant dangers on the streets of L2 by being a member of a gang of street-savvy children. The loss of most of his gang to a plague, including their leader Solo, the boy Duo revered as his best friend, had been devastating to him. Several times in the past Duo had voiced his opinion that the deadly viral disease, which had killed not only his gang but also a great many of the poor and homeless, had not happened naturally. It was his belief that it had actually been an attack on L2 by the Alliance with the intention of cleansing the streets of a large, undesirable element of that colony, the poor and needy.
Though it was apparent that it brought him pain to speak of it, Duo also told him of another dark time in his life, when a desperate rebel group had murdered the priest and nun who had taken him off the streets when he was bereft of his gang and had educated and loved him. Those two events, more than anything else that had happened to him, had embittered the braided man's memories of his home colony. Duo had vowed at the end of the wars to never again set foot on his former colony. After reading Wufei's report, Heero could only feel relief that the only person he'd ever loved had apparently kept his promise, and by doing so it had kept him from sharing the fate of his former fellow citizens.
Wufei‘s hunch that someone was breaking through the blockade and delivering food to the starving colony had gotten the Preventer past the blockade and into L2, but his fellow agent had crossed the line by stating that whoever these marauders were they should be commended for their actions instead of being sought out for breaking the law. After reading his account of L2, Heero was of a mind to agree, but he was almost certain that a similar opinion would not be shared by their superiors.
Contemplating the report for another fifteen minutes, Heero made up his mind as to his next step. It was clear the investigation into Relena's disappearance was at a dead end. No one had come forward with any legitimate information regarding her disappearance or fate. With nothing to go on, he and his team were doing nothing at this point other than waiting for a break in the case. His energies would be better utilized on the other case he'd been given. The time had come for him to return to space and join Wufei in his investigation of the marauders. A sudden surge of excitement filled him at the thought. Space. Home. Though earth was beautiful and the place he had chosen to live, there was just something about the colonies that felt... familiar, comfortable.
Having made that decision, his mind turned to the marauders. He hit the space bar of his computer to activate it and began a search for Duo Maxwell. The investigator he'd become couldn't help but link the supposed humanitarian aid to the people of L2 to his former lover. Duo had put his life on the line countless times for his colony, fighting so that no one else would have to suffer as he had. It only made sense that if L2 did indeed have a real life Robin Hood, Duo Maxwell would definitely fit the bill.
He logged onto an entertainment site, featuring the celebrities and events in New York City. The added search within the site brought up the most recent photographs of Duo with a very attractive young woman on his arm, a different one from the woman coming out of his apartment. The headlines stated that the picture had been taken during their attendance at the opening of a movie in New York. Both were dressed handsomely for the evening with Duo in a black suit and the woman in a knee-length, soft green floral, gossamer dress with a neckline plunging well below her breasts. Heero had to wonder if she used double stick tape to keep the flimsy material in place. The celebrity darlings freely gave the photographers just what they desired, toothy smiles and perfect poses, no doubt giving the rag magazines and gossip programs something to gnaw on for a couple of days.
The picture made Heero's stomach turn sour, but he refused to admit that it was jealousy making him feel that way. He pulled his eyes away from the photograph, moving on to the brief article beneath it. From those few words he learned that the picture was taken the night before, which meant that Duo was still in New York, not in space. Heero's jealousy eased somewhat, replaced by a feeling of relief. Duo's very public appearances continued to keep him off the suspect list.
He was tempted to call the American, to somehow bridge the distance between them. But his uncertainty about how he would be received made him pause. Thinking over his options, he opened his private email and typed up what he hoped was a friendly overture to the other man. After greeting his former lover and asking about his welfare, he told Duo he was heading into space, probably stopping by Quatre and Trowa's residence, hoping for a chance to mend their somewhat strained relationship. He also mentioned that he'd seen his picture on the internet and that he looked very handsome in his black suit, hoping to convey to Duo his continued interest. He ended his message by stating that he hoped to hear from Duo soon, and that he would try contacting him again after reaching L4.
Shutting down his laptop, Heero hoped he hadn't come across as too anxious in his email. Yes, he wanted Duo back in his life, and in his bed if that was possible, but he didn't want to scare him off. He had to go about winning Duo back slowly, honestly and in proving to the other man that he would never, ever hurt him again. If Duo decided that a relationship between them was impossible, then he'd accept his decision and move on, eventually.
Closing the lid to his laptop and putting it in its case, Heero tried to put all thoughts of Duo to the back of his mind. He was going to have to face Director Une in a few moments and convince her to let him go into space and leave the investigation of Relena's disappearance in Milliardo and Noin's hands. That his boss was going to be unhappy with him was an understatement, but he'd never failed yet in convincing her to let him have his way when logic was on his side.
Taylor Mann sat in the darkened movie theater surrounded by the beautiful, the rich and influential. He marveled, and not for the first nor last time, at his good fortune. He was living a life far beyond the dreams of any L2 citizen, snatched from a life full of struggle and drudgery by mere coincidence, a fluke of nature, or was it? He was always quick to remind himself that, like everything else in his life, his present circumstances hadn't come easy. There had been pain and suffering, all of which he'd endured when presented with the golden, dangling carrot, namely: a life away from L2, a shit load of money, and the chance to make a difference.
His position was a precarious one. A slip, a wrong move, any deviation from the role he was playing could bring dire consequences, not just to him, but to his benefactor, his friend. He would do everything in his power to keep that from happening. He'd come a long way in the last couple of years, from being a nobody amongst a colony of nobodies to hobnobbing with the planet's most rich and famous people, some of whom he'd had the pleasure of taking to his bed. The memory of those delectable, though usually emotionally fragile women, brought a smile to his face. His benefactor didn't mind him seeking out the more carnal pleasures his current position presented, as long as he was discrete, took the proper precautions, and didn't willfully hurt those he slept with. There had been an added stipulation in the agreement he'd made, and it only made sense given the circumstances: he was not to commit himself to any one person, nor make any business decision, large or small. Stalling and making excuses had been a big part of his role, along with deception and a sort of slight of hand.
He had no regrets at giving up his own identity and taking on another. The life he'd known before meeting his benefactor was, upon reflection, no life at all. Since the movie he was watching was more or less a mediocre love story, he had the opportunity to think back on the moment his life had changed dramatically and for the better.
A stranger, a woman with a cap pulled low over her forehead, had sought him out in the bar he frequented whenever he had money for a beer. She didn't introduce herself at first, but asked him if he would be interested in a new life, leaving L2 and doing something important. He'd asked the stranger what he had to do, wary of someone offering something for nothing. His wariness came naturally, a result of living on the street and having seen others disappear when tempted by a too-good-to-be-true line.
He agreed to follow the mysterious woman to the shuttle port, to an unobtrusive looking shuttle docked at the port. Once inside the main cabin, the woman removed the billed cap covering her head and face and introduced herself simply as Hilde. She then turned and introduced him the a young man entering the cabin. He knew at first sight who he was dealing with. He'd often been told that he somewhat resembled the well-known, former L2 citizen, but he didn't put much stock in those comments until that moment when he came fact to face with Duo Maxwell. After being sworn to secrecy, an unbelievable plan had been laid out before him, along with a promised pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. With nothing much to lose, he readily agreed and made a deal with the man.
Whisked away from his less than spectacular existence, he soon found himself on another colony, where he underwent numerous surgeries to alter his appearance, had his long, usually unkempt hair dyed and styled, and was fitted for contacts to change the color of his eyes. He took elocution lessons to help him to mimic his benefactor's speech and voice, and spent countless hours watching videos of the man in order to move and respond as he did. The process was painstaking, but within four months he'd learned to almost flawlessly mimic the former gundam pilot turned fashion model.
At the end of that period of transformation, he stood before a group of three men - one of which was his now look-alike benefactor and the other two were masked to protect their identities. He was asked to interact, in his new role, with several people he'd become acquainted with during his stay, while the three stood to the back of the room and observed him. After a half hour of joking around he received a nod of approval and his life began anew.
He stifled a yawn as the movie droned on. His job had its ups and downs, and this movie certainly fit into the last category. Then as a head come to rest on his shoulder, he decided that maybe the evening wouldn't be a total loss after all. That thought was sobered by the constant reminder that should his deception ever be discovered, it would have dire circumstances to both himself and his benefactor, now his friend. But he wasn't going to worry about that now. He knew his role inside and out and played it well, having fooled men, women and cameras of all types. There was no doubt about it, Taylor Mann, former street urchin from L2, was living on top of the world and having the time of his life.