Lies - Between Friends and Lovers
by Dyna Dee
Striding through the public terminal, Heero checked his watch and reset it to L4 time. It was exactly half past seven a.m. He'd made good time getting to L2 but hadn't slept well -- he never did on public shuttles. The terminal was busy with the shuffle of a large number of people coming and going from the colony. That wasn't what bothered him. It was the close contact, the constant jostling and evading that came with the territory that set his nerves on edge. He was never one to let others get too close to him, to touch him in a casual or familiar manner. There remained only a small number of people he felt comfortable enough with to allow them to breach his defenses, his comfort zone, and he was on his way to see two of them at that very moment.
Adjusting the strap of his laptop carrier on his shoulder, he grabbed his suitcase from the luggage turnstile and exited the building as quickly as he could, eager to be free of the jostling crowd. Standing at the curbside, he hailed a taxi cab and once one had been secured, he gave the driver the address to the Winner Family Corporate building.
The drive was relatively short but took longer than expected, given the heavy morning rush hour traffic. Despite the natural hustle and bustle of the business center of the colony, the drivers on the well-maintained thoroughfare seemed unusually law abiding and polite. Heero thought the small vehicles and mini trucks that ran on energy cells, limited to no more than 35 mph, might be the reason for the calm pace, so unlike other cities he'd lived and worked in.
Having arrived at his destination at eight fifteen, he paid the rather steep cab fair without complaint, knowing that everything on L4 was pricey. The driver retrieved his suitcase from the back trunk and set it on the curb before returning to his cab, brusquely wishing Heero a good day.
Looking up, he took a moment to study the tall white building that Quatre's family had owned and operated their business from since first pioneering the space colony in the year AC 15. The building was in immaculate condition, despite the passage of time; and why not? With no direct sunlight, wind or rain to wear away at the structure, all but a few of the original structures on the colony remained intact and fully functional.
He entered the spacious lobby and found it busy but, thankfully, not overly crowded. The security desk sat at the far end of the lobby stood between him and the elevator doors that would take him to the top floor where he knew Quatre's office was located. Without pausing he approached the desk and the four men wearing white shirts, blue blazers and various colored neckties. Though they appeared to be casually talking amongst themselves, Heero was aware that each of them had taken note of his approach then shifted their gazes to other parts of the lobby.
Stepping up to the desk, he announced himself. "Heero Yuy to see Quatre Winner."
"Is Mr. Winner expecting you?" the man seated behind the desk asked, glancing at the computer screen in front of him before turning his attention back to Heero. "I don't see your name on the appointment calendar."
"We're friends. I'm afraid my visit is somewhat of a surprise as well as a personal one."
"I'm sorry, but you'll need to make an appointment."
Heero had been afraid of this. He had hoped to greet his former comrade as a friend before getting down to any official business. If Winner security remained stubborn, he would have to resort to pulling out his Preventer ID and state he was on official business. "Look, if you'll just contact my friend's secretary, she can tell him I'm down here. I assure you, he'll want to see me."
The men standing around the man seated at the desk gave him a look of disbelief. "I'll email Miss Mustafah with your request if you'd care to wait a few minutes."
"Thank you." He tried very hard not to look calm and patient, reminding himself that these men were not trying to irritate him, they were only doing their job.
Two minutes later the man in the chair looked up, a slight hint of surprise on his face. "Mr. Winner would like you to come up immediately. He's located on the twenty-first floor. Tell Mr. Ashshad, our security person at the elevator, that you're to be taken to Mr. Winner's office."
"Mr. Ashshad," Heero repeated with a nod, then promptly moved around the desk and proceeded to the elevator. Reaching it, he pushed the up button and waited. He stood facing the polished metal doors, seeing in its reflection the curious eyes of the security men on his back. He looked up to see the countdown of numbers, ignoring the men behind him as much as possible. He was relieved when at last the elevator opened to admit him as well as three other people who were going "up".
Subtle, Middle Eastern sounding music was softly playing in the elevator's speakers. It was different from any version of elevator music he'd ever heard before but he found it not at all unpleasant. The music continued as the elevator stopped at the tenth floor, and then again at the eighteenth, letting off the other passengers. Heero found his toe tapping to the lively beat of the music a moment before the double doors opened. He was immediately greeted by a dark skinned man who looked like one of the Maguanacs Quatre had worked with during the first war. The tall and large man with brown eyes and dark hair gave him a questioning look, effectively blocking his exit from the elevator by merely standing in front of the open door.
"Are you Mr. Ashshad?" Heero asked.
"I am." The man's voice was deep and menacing.
"I'm here to see Quatre Winner."
The man took a long moment to scrutinize him from head to toe. "I'll need to search you. Are you carrying any concealed weapons?"
"I'm a Preventer. I've got my gun in a shoulder holster and I carry a knife in my boot," he replied honestly. "My ID is in the left inside pocket of my jacket." Holding up his hands, he stood perfectly still and rigid while the man reached inside his black leather jacket and searched the indicated pocket. Upon finding the wallet, he opened it to reveal his Preventer badge. After inspecting the badge, the large man then turned his attention back to Heero, studying him just as closely.
"Former gundam pilot?" Ashshad asked, a thick black eyebrow rising.
"Very well. Come with me."
With the security guard only half a step in front of him, Heero dutifully followed while taking in the surroundings, which mainly consisted of multiple linking hallways, countless doors and several aquariums built within the walls and containing colorful fish swimming in pristine-clear water. At last they approached an open doorway, and as they turned into it, Heero could see it was an outer office with a woman of Middle Eastern descent sitting behind a very clutter-free desk. She was slender, Heero noted, and when she looked up from her work at their entrance, he could see she had impressively large, dark eyes framed with black eyelashes. The smile that greeted them was tempered, yet brilliantly white against the backdrop of a dark complexion.
"Mr Yuy?" she asked, to which Heero nodded his head. "Mr. Winner is waiting for you." She pointed to the closed door on her left.
"Thank you." Without further ado, Heero left both Winner employees behind as he proceeded to the door, swallowing down the sudden feeling of anxiety that came with seeing Quatre again.
His anxiety, however, melted away the moment he entered the executive office and located the blond man. Quatre was all smiles as he turned and moved away from the window he had been peering out of and crossed the room to warmly embrace his former comrade in arms.
"Heero. This is a welcome surprise."
"I'm sorry I didn't give any advance notice of my arrival, but I decided at the last minute to come to space and join Wufei and Trowa on their case. Have you heard from them?"
"No," the blond shook his head. "But I hope to soon."
Heero took a brief moment to note the changes the last five years had brought to the Winner heir. Quatre's blond hair was cut short and styled to fit the business environment that encompassed his life. His once boyish face had thinned and elongated, giving him the look of man in his early twenties. His large blue eyes no longer dominated his facial features, though they still shined and openly displayed a variety of emotions. He was a handsome man, Heero thought, and had an aura of confidence that came with successfully shouldering responsibility.
"Have I changed that much?" Quatre asked with a teasing grin, flashing perfectly straight and gleaming white teeth.
"Yes, and no." Heero replied with a smile. "I was just remembering how you looked during the war and noting the changes."
"Well, I suppose we've all changed. You're no exception, Heero." The blond head tilted slightly as Quatre studied his guest thoughtfully for a moment. "Although you still radiate strength and confidence and you're driven, aren't you?" The grin came back with a mischievous glint in the blue eyes. "Then again, other than physically, maybe you haven't changed all that much. Those were the very traits I admired in you during the war and tried to emulate."
Heero sighed, not wanting to spend precious time dwelling on the past. Yet his purpose for coming to L4 had not only been to join his fellow Preventers, but to convince Quatre that he had changed. To do that, he would pretty much talk about anything the other man wanted to in order to mend broken fences. In order to have a chance of even approaching Duo, as a friend or lover, he sensed he would have to win his best friend's approval first.
Quatre motioned to the chairs in front of his impressive desk. "Come. Let's sit. Or are you hungry? We could go out and have breakfast or I could have something sent up here, and frankly, it's much easier to eat in here than to have a group of large bodyguards lurking over us while we eat."
"You require constant security?" Heero asked, becoming concerned.
"There have been attempts in the past to abduct me, either for ransom or revenge. Rashid isn't taking any more chances and has his men taking turns guarding me during the workday. At night I'm on my own, though I've got more than adequate security at home." The blond grinned at the last part and his eyes sparkled with myrth.
"Yes, Trowa is more than sufficient in the role of bodyguard, not to mention the fact that you're capable of protecting yourself."
Quatre chuckled. "Yes, but two former gundam pilots are better than one. Now, about breakfast?"
"Order in," Heero decided. It would be much easier to speak with Quatre about personal matters in private rather than in a restaurant.
"Pancakes." It had been years since Heero had that particular breakfast item, one of Duo's favorites, if he remembered right. The memory of sitting in a dingy hotel room with Duo, the two of them sharing a large breakfast of pancakes, came back to him. Duo had made a show of licking the warm and sticky golden syrup off his finger tips, which led to something other than eating breakfast and triggered the beginnings of yet another warm memory.
While being caught up in thoughts of the past, Quatre had gone to the intercom at his desk and was in the process of requesting his secretary order a generous breakfast for two to be sent up. When he finished, he looked back to his guest and gave him a satisfied grin, showing his pearly teeth again. "Twenty minutes tops," he said, obviously referring to the food's delivery. "Pippo, the manager, knows me well, and with the restaurant being just down the block, delivery is very prompt."
Moving to the chair Quatre had pointed him to, Heero sat down after set his luggage on the floor. The blond moved the chair opposite him instead of the one behind his desk, lending a more intimate air to their meeting rather than being stiff and formal, as he'd feared. The blond's eyes met his own and Heero sensed he had the other man's complete attention.
"How are you, Heero? I understand you've spoken to Duo?"
"Yes," he replied. The guilt that lingered over his inexcusable actions years early made it impossible for him to return the blond man's gaze for more than a moment. "I've apologized for my past actions, for hurting him. It's something I should have done years ago."
"And he accepted your apology." There was no question in Quatre's voice, but a statement of what he already knew to be true. It was obvious Duo and Quatre had talked the situation over.
"That's what he said."
"Do you believe him?"
Surprised by the question, Heero overcame his feelings of guilt and lifted his eyes to see if he could tell by Quatre's expression what he was getting at. "I've never known Duo to lie before. Do you think he would say he's forgiven me if he really hasn't?"
With a slight shrug of one shoulder the blond answered, "It's not for me to say one way or the other, Heero."
The astute man sitting across from him had, without much effort, begun to make him question his belief in Duo's sincerity. "I don't understand what you're trying to accomplish with your line of questioning. Are you purposely leading me to believe that Duo hasn't forgiven me?"
With a grin and a dismissive flip of his hand, Quatre answered, "No. Not at all. If Duo said he accepted your apology, then I only wished to know if you truly believed him. After all, you caused him a great amount of pain, Heero. Something like that is pretty hard to get beyond."
"You're right," the Preventer conceded. "I don't know why or how he can forgive me, but I'm grateful that he has."
Quatre leaned forward with his hand pressed against the front of his shirt, just over his heart. "Your feelings for Duo remain so strong," he said with a knowing look in his eyes. "Do you still love him, Heero?"
The dark haired man frowned. "Quit reading me, Winner. It's making me uncomfortable."
"I'm sorry," the blond said as he leaned back into his chair. "But your emotions peaked for a moment and I couldn't help but sense them." With a look of curiosity he added, "Even after all the time that has passed, you're still in love with him, aren't you?"
Heero looked away from his former comrade and his discerning gaze, uncomfortable speaking about the feelings he'd kept so close to his heart for five long years. "I've tried to move on," he said in a tight voice as he struggled internally to clamp down on his emotions in order to maintain some dignity. "After the... incident I threw myself into therapy and work. After a time I even tried several times, unsuccessfully, I might add, to establish a relationship with men I'd met over the years. No one has come close to filling the void caused by Duo's absence in my life. I'm not enough of a fool to believe that he'll want me back as a lover, but I can't help feeling the way I do. Ever since I spoke to him at his apartment in New York, I've found myself thinking about him before I go to sleep at night and during those first quiet moments in the morning before I begin the day."
"Heero." There was a gentle quality to Quatre's voice and compassion on his face as he spoke his name. "I'm not at liberty to speak freely about what Duo feels regarding this situation. He is my dear friend and I would do everything in my power to help him find the happiness he rightly deserves. With that in mind, I want you to know that your feelings for Duo are not entirely unrequited."
The dark head shot up and Heero's eyes sought out the blond's. "Duo still cares for me?"
Quatre answered with a nod. "He's also tried to move on but hasn't had a successful relationship yet." Then the business executive's face turned serious, his eyes narrowed. "Despite what I've just said, I'd advise you to think carefully before you do anything, Heero. Make sure of what you want and what you're prepared to offer him before you reenter Duo's life. He is his own man now, successful and not dependent on anyone else for his happiness. He's healthy in every respect and has found purpose in his life once more. If you decide to pursue him, as a friend or a lover, I want you to heed my warning." The bright blue eyes boring into his own told Heero that Quatre's warning was deadly serious. He didn't dare look away from the other's gaze as the blond continued. "If you ever hurt Duo again, either physically or in any other manner, you will regret it. Trowa and I care deeply for Duo and we watch his back. He knows he can count on us to be there for him no matter what the circumstance, and that's why I'm giving you fair warning, so you'll know what you're up against should things get ugly again."
The long moment that followed Quatre's warning stretched out in silence as the two men contemplated each other. Heero was trying to absorb everything the blond man had said. Though he was excited at the prospect of Duo feeling something for him other than hate or fear, he couldn't help but think that the issued warning to not hurt Duo was justly deserved and obviously heartfelt. Knowing Quatre and Trowa could be ruthless when they set out to accomplish something, he'd be a fool to not take the warning seriously.
Combing his fingers through his thick, coarse hair, Heero considered further Quatre's statement. What did he want from Duo, and what did he have to offer him? Without thinking further, he had his answer: He wanted Duo to love him again and to become a significant part of his life. He craved for Duo to touch him with the tenderness he'd remembered sharing with the teenage boy he'd fallen in love with. He wanted to hold Duo, to make love to him, but aside from what he wanted, what did he have to offer the famous model? His heart, along with his body, life and soul. He'd give Duo everything if only the other man could find it in his heart to love him again.
Suddenly, Heero felt hopeful and rejuvenated. Quatre, with his warnings and questions had, strangely enough, given him focus; something he had lacked concerning this otherwise confounding problem. He now understood better what he wanted and that he was willing to do whatever he had to in order to win Duo back. A smile of gratitude formed as he looked at the blond.
"I appreciate you speaking frankly, Quatre, but unlike five years ago, I have control of myself now and have no intention of hurting Duo, especially physically. And if I ever hurt his feelings, it won't be intentionally."
Quatre maintained a mantle of seriousness as he replied, "Did you have any prior intentions of hurting him on that day you nearly beat him to death?"
Inwardly, Heero cringed, recalling in an instant the memory of Duo's bloody and damaged face as he lay unconscious on the floor of their apartment. Looking away in shame, his hands clenched in fists, he answered in a low voice. "No. I was angry but I never wanted to hurt him like that. It was the lingering effects of the Zero system. Our fighting had escalated and Duo was yelling and in my face. The only thing I can recall of what happened next was a white void and a hauntingly familiar voice in my head telling me that my enemy was before me. I lashed out, but wasn't truly cognizant of what I was doing until it was over and Duo was on the floor, bloody and unconscious."
Heero's emotions, suppressed for so long, came rushing to the surface. In a choked voice he continued. "It took me several moments to recall where I was and that something had happened. Only then did I feel the ache in my hands. I looked down at them and saw that they were covered with blood and I realized that it wasn't mine, but Duo's." His breath hitched as he struggled to reign in his emotions as he envisioned once again the result of his actions against his lover. Covering his face with his hands he continued, haltingly. "I thought I'd killed him. He lay so still on the floor, his face covered in blood and beaten beyond recognition. I... I don't remember much else, but I panicked, afraid of having another episode, and ran out of there, moving as fast as I could in order to get away from my worst nightmare."
He was grateful when Quatre said nothing more for a time, allowing him to collect himself. When he felt more in control, he continued once again. "Une heard about the incident and refused to let me become a full-fledged member of the Preventers until I'd undergone a full psychological examination. For over a year I met with the same psychologist who had treated Zechs Marquis. He'd already learned about the influence of the Zero system while treating Zechs, and with that knowledge he helped me build up a mental barrier against Zero's influence until it finally lessened." Deep blue eyes met Quatre's unwavering gaze. "I'm no longer under Zero's influence. It's gone, and so is any threat to Duo, no matter how much he gets under my skin."
The blond head nodded thoughtfully. "Then I have your word that you'll never physically harm Duo ever again, no matter what he says or does?"
"Never again. I give you my word of honor."
Quatre sat back into his chair, obviously pondering something. Then slowly the serious expression relaxed and he said with only a slight smile, "Thank you for telling me your side of the story, Heero. I understand better now what happened that day and, as Duo's friend, I forgive you for hurting him. If you can work your way back into his good graces, I won't raise any objections."
Heero felt as if the weight of the world had suddenly been lifted from off his shoulders. He'd no idea that Quatre's forgiveness and acceptance of his feeling for Duo would mean so much to him until it the words had been spoken. "Thank you, Quatre. That means a lot to me."
"Now comes the hard part," the blond man said, leaning forward again. "Convincing Duo to give you another chance, whether it be friendship or something else."
Heero could only nod in response, knowing he had his work cut out for him. Why should Duo take his word that he'd never hurt him again? He would have to prove himself to his former lover somehow, and between his work taking him all over Earth and the space colonies, as well as Duo's busy schedule, convincing the other man to let him into his life again might take some doing.
"Now that we've completed that bit of business, is there another reason for your visit?" the blond asked.
Heero turned his attention back to the other man. "Are things square between us, Quatre?"
The other man gave him a reassuring smile. "Yes, I believe we're good."
"I'm glad," he said, finally relaxing. "Your absence, as well as Trowa's, has been deeply felt."
"I was very angry with you for a long time," Quatre admitted. "But after Duo got his life together I was sorry we were estranged."
A knock on the door announced that their breakfast had arrived, and while they ate their meal they caught each other up on their lives during the past five years. After the meal had been consumed and cleared away, Heero looked at the renowned executive and prepared to broach a completely different topic than those they'd discussed previously.
"In answer to your earlier question, I do have another motive for this visit. Have you heard anything, rumors or suggestions, about the marauders who have been attacking space freighters and taking their goods?"
"Just what I've read in the papers and reports from my own company officers. Shuttles en route to L4 from the planet as well as our resource satellites, as you probably already know, have been boarded more than a couple of times. And then there are a few things Wufei mentioned."
"Then you know that they use a cloaking device, which allows them to move undetected until they are upon their target."
"Yes, I'd gathered that from our freighter captain's report."
"It's similar or maybe even the same system Duo's gundam was equipped with."
"Or a copycat version," the blond interjected. "You know how impossible it is to keep new technology from being copied. Once one person conceives how such a complicated device works - which isn't hard considering the many articles and books written about it since Deathyscythe's appearance in the war, then it's only a matter of time before some brilliant engineer figures it out for himself."
Getting straight to the point, Heero asked, "Do you think Howard is involved?"
Quatre tilted his head to the side and looked puzzled. "With designing Deathscythe's cloaking device? Absolutely."
"No. I meant with the marauders. He was one of the builders of Deathscythe, following G's design. He could have easily duplicated his work and sold it to the space thieves."
"Howard is an important man within the Sweepers organization. Why would he do such a thing?" Heero noted a slight tone of defensiveness in Quatre's voice.
"It seems to me that Howard often sympathized with the underdogs. I don't know what else you would call L2 if not the underdogs of the space colonies."
The blond man sighed. "You've lost me, Heero. What does L2 have to do with Howard?"
"The contraband the marauders have taken has not shown up on the black market, nor anywhere else that we've been able to track. Wufei came up with the theory that the pirates might be stealing the food and essentials from the freighters and delivering them to L2."
"And why would Howard do that? As far as I know he's not from L2?"
"No, but Duo is. Howard more or less discovered Duo when he stowed away on his ship, and G agreed to train him for his gundam."
"So because he and Duo were once part of a team, you believe that makes him loyal to L2? I think that's a bit of a stretch for a motive, don't you?"
Quatre had a point, Heero conceded, if only to himself. "I don't know what motivates Howard. He is a brilliant mobile suit engineer, and pioneered Tallgeese, the first mobile suit for battle. How did he get from there to building gundams with the mad five and designing stealth capabilities I can't say. The man's an enigma."
"Have you considered the idea that someone from his former team might be involved with the marauders and not Howard? There are a lot of sweepers in space and it takes many men to build something as complex as a gundam, not to mention a cloaking device."
"That's certainly a possibility," Heero conceded. "But I can't rule Howard out until I've had an opportunity to speak with him."
"Have you spoken to Duo about this? Even though they haven't seen each other in quite some time, you know how close the two of them were."
"No, I haven't talked to him directly about this, but Wufei has. Duo indicated that he would send a message to Howard to contact us."
Shaking his head the blond said, "I can't believe Howard would go against the UEC. I think you're looking in the wrong direction."
"Perhaps, but the marauders have been successfully carrying out their raids for two years now. With no leads directing us to who they are or what their motive is, other than profit, we're ready to look into any possibility, even those that seem farfetched. Unfortunately, the Sweepers are a tightknit group with equally tight lips. Other than the Maguanacs, I can't think of a more unified organization." Heero looked the business man straight in the eyes as another thought occurred to him, "Please tell me the Maguanacs aren't involved, Quatre."
"I can assure you that the Maguanacs are definitely not space pirates."
Not having Quatre's gift for reading other's emotions, Heero could only rely on the steadfast gaze of the blond to tell him that the other man was telling the truth.
When a buzz from the intercom sounded, Quatre excused himself and moved to the other side of his desk to answer it. "Your sister Jahailia has arrived for her ten o'clock appointment."
"I hadn't realized it was that late already," Quatre told his secretary. "Tell her I'll be available in a few moments."
Turning to his guest, Quatre wore an expression of apology. "I'm sorry, Heero, but I'm afraid I've got a very busy schedule for the rest of the day. Are you staying over? I'd love to have your company since Trowa is away."
"Thank you," Heero said, rising to his feet and picking up his luggage, ready to take his leave. "But I've already made arrangements. As long as I'm working on this case I'd better limit my socializing, plus I don't want to disturb your home with my constant coming and going."
"I'm sure you wouldn't, but I won't insist you stay with us... this time. When you have a few days off come and visit us, as a friend."
Heero reached out his hand, offering it to the blond. It occurred to him only then that with all the other changes in the other man, Quatre had grown taller. He'd been slow to grow in his youth, as they all had been, but he'd evidently hit a growth spurt after the wars. He was now equal to Heero's height of five feet ten inches. Shorter than Trowa and Duo, but taller than Wufei who was two inches shorter than himself. "I appreciate you taking the time to talk with me, Quatre. It feels good to have some of the unpleasantness of the past put behind us."
"I'm glad you came, Heero. Let me know if there's anything I can do to help you while you're on L4."
The two men parted with a brief embrace before Heero left and made his way to the hotel he'd booked while in flight. Though it wasn't L4's ritziest establishment, it was clean and in a respectable business district within the city and close to the shuttle port.
Less than an hour later, Heero was stripped down to his boxer briefs with a 'Do not disturb' sign on the outside of his hotel room's door. With his gun secured under his pillow, he climbed between the sheets, intending to catch up on some much needed sleep before he began the next step of his investigation.