Lies - Between Friends and Lovers
by Dyna Dee
The wheels of the fast and powerful shuttle eased down onto the tarmac, the slight bump signaling yet another perfect touchdown. Duo sighed wearily, forcing himself to keep his hands on the controls instead of rubbing his tired eyes. He was beat. The thirty-hour trip to space and back had been well worth the effort, but with only a few quick naps to sustain him he was wiped out and ready to sleep the equivalent of the hours he'd been awake.
Considering it was the middle of the night, he had to land in dark, relying solely on the shuttle's guidance system. The screen before him displayed the running beads of blue lights lining both sides of the landing strip that, thanks to Howard's engineering skills, only his ship's computer could detect.
Now safely on the ground, he turned off the cloaking device, and caught sight of a single green glowing stick directing the shuttle towards the dimly lit open doors of the windowless and unimpressive looking hanger. He steered the ship in that direction until stopping several hundred feet short of the hangers entrance, where he cut the engines just as a group of familiar dark-clothed men dashed out of the metal building and quickly hooked the wheels onto a taxiing vehicle. He continued with the shut down checklist while being towed inside the hanger, yawning most of the time and longing for his apartment and bed.
His thoughts wandered, his hands slowing as he wondered what Heero was doing in space. Was he still working on Relena's case, or joining Wufei? A sense of foreboding seeped in as he routinely checked the panels and flipped switches in proper sequence, working from habit. If Heero and Wufei were working together, there was definitely cause for worry. Knowing how thorough both men were, as well as doggedly tenacious, he and his friends just might find themselves in a world of shit if they weren't careful. Despite his concern, a crooked smile twitched at the corners of his lips at the thought of his former lover. If he wasn't mistaken, Heero was trying to make up with him, and it wasn't just for the sake of friendship. If that was indeed the case, he fully intended on giving the other man a run for his money.
The shuttle was now resting within the shelter of the deceptively dilapidated looking building, which just so happened to be outfitted with the most sophisticated security features money could buy. By the time the shuttle hatch was opened and Abdul stuck his bearded face through the open door of the cockpit, the shutdown had been completed.
"Everything good?" the Maguanac asked, his Middle Eastern accent lacing each word.
"Yeah, it's all good. Are you taking me home? I'm dead on my feet."
"Rashid has the helicopter out back, stocked with food, pillows and blankets."
"Damn but I love that guy. Think he'd marry me?"
"He's already married," Abdul chuckled. "And being that you're male, you're also out of contention for a second wife."
Duo bit his lip from almost blurting out, 'Tell that to Quatre and Trowa,' but he held his peace knowing the Maguanac's weren't comfortable with homosexuality, not even in jesting. As a group, they'd more or less accepted the partnership between the two men they devoutly worked. They were obsessively loyal to Master Quatre and respected Trowa as a former gundam pilot and the man who made their golden boy happy. However, they avoided any discussion about the subject as much as humanly possible.
"How's your brood?" Duo decided to change the subject to something more neutral.
With a dramatic roll of his eyes Abdul answered, "Growing and eating me out of house and home."
A jolt of guilt shot through him. "You should be home with your family tonight, not out here on this landing strip in the middle of nowhere."
"We are doing what we must," the older man stated firmly, his tone indicating that he didn't want to argue the point.
"Well," Duo yawned tiredly then finished, "with luck we'll soon see an end to this business."
"Do you really think so?"
"I hope so," was the best he could offer.
"Come on, let's get you home." Home was a three hour ride: two by helicopter and one by way of a sleek black motorcycle that took him into the city and to his apartment building.
The sun was rising over the busy city when he finally pulled into the parking garage. Despite his nap in the helicopter, he felt heavy limbed and light headed. With his only thought centered on making it to his bed, he moved as a sleepwalker to the building's elevator and somehow made it into his apartment. Taylor was there to greet him, dressed rather sloppily in pajamas that looked like they'd been thrown on in a rush. His keen sense of smell detected the lingering scent of expensive French perfume.
"Alone?" Duo asked in a low voice, suddenly alarmed by the possibility of the two of them being seen together.
"Relax, no one's here. I didn't forget your ETA," Taylor answered, bending down to help Duo take off his boots after he'd flopped down onto the sofa. It was a task he often performed for the other man when returned home, always exhausted after having been on the go since his departure.
"Any broken hearts I should know about?" Duo asked around a yawn. He submitted to Taylor's help while peeling off his jacket and tossing it to the coffee table, too tired to care about putting it away.
"Actually, Sheridan Halsey left about an hour ago. She had a very good time last night and wants to get together again soon," Taylor reported while helping Duo back to his feet and steadily aiming him towards the direction of his bedroom. Wearing a devilish grin just thinking about the evening spent with the Broadway actress, he followed behind the exhausted man, automatically picking up each article of clothing Duo discarded as he pulled them off his body while stumbling towards the master bedroom.
Duo stopped suddenly. Looking confused he asked, "Sheridan? What happened to Alana?"
"You told me not to get too attached."
Duo rubbed his aching head, he just wasn't up to lecturing his cohort again about sleeping around. "Too tired. We'll talk when I wake up, all right?" Duo mumbled as he entered his room and made a beeline for his unmade bed. Falling like a brick, face down, now wearing only his boxers, he pulled the top blanket around his body and buried his face into his pillow, settling in for a long and well deserved sleep. The cloying, sweet smell of a woman's perfume invaded his senses, but he was determined not to let it disturb him or his need to sleep. So before he let his exhaustion carry him into a long and much needed slumber, he made a mental note to take Taylor to task for using his bed for his trysts... again.
Satisfied that his boss was down and out for a good sleep, Taylor put Duo's black clothing into the hamper, cleaned up the bathroom and then locked the front door to the apartment. Turning, he proceeded to the back of the apartment once again, but this time to the storage closet, or rather, what looked like a storage closet. He opened the door and came face to face with the shelf-lined space with miscellaneous items set on them to cover the closet's real use. Reaching beneath the coat, strategically hanging on the wall to his right, he felt for the metal hook holding the garment up. Finding it, he wrapped his hand around the cool metal and pulled the hook a quarter turn to the right. A click softly sounded and the shelves that appeared permanently attached to the back of the closet popped forward. Grabbing the edge of the wood frame, Taylor pulled the movable wall forward and squeezed himself through the small opening. Once inside the tight space, he switched on the overhead light before reaching behind to re-shut the paneled section, putting the closet back to rights once more. A metal, spiral staircase led him down to his own apartment, conveniently situated directly below Duo's. He moved quickly down the stairs, knowing from experience there were sixteen steps between Duo's apartment and his own.
The hidden staircase joining their apartments had been Duo's idea, his solution to the problem of avoiding being seen by the other residents in the building. When venturing out of the building, while not on the job, he had to don a wig or a hat to cover his long, dyed hair and wear glasses to hide the shape of his eyes. Even after taking those precautions, he tried not to exposed his famous face to the outside world, especially when Duo was in town. So far his efforts, as well as Duo's, seemed to have paid off. No one had caught onto their game as of yet. Not even the management nor the other tenants of the large apartment building had discovered there were two identical looking men living amongst them, only one floor apart and carrying on a deception worthy of a plot for a movie. Hum.. maybe one day, he'd write a book about this unbelievable but oh-so-true adventure, with Duo's permission, of course.
After closing his own closet door, similar to the one upstairs, he lazily scratched his belly as he headed for his own bathroom. After a rather vigorous workout with Sheridan, he was sorely in need of a good, hot shower. Though he had enjoyed himself with the beautiful stage actress, the smell of her perfume was not to his personal taste and needed to be washed off his skin as soon as possible.
Emerging from the steaming room a half hour later, wearing only a thick terrycloth robe, he moved to the desk in his bedroom and took out a pad of yellow lined paper and began to write down from memory everything he could recall about the past thirty some odd hours he'd been on the job. He listed each person he'd interacted with, briefly stated what was said in each conversation, what people wore or did that might be noteworthy. When Duo woke up, refreshed and on top of his game once more, Taylor knew the routine; he'd be grilled, his memory picked apart until the other man felt content that he knew everything that had happened during his absence. The necessary chore took a little over an hour to complete, and by that time Taylor was ready for breakfast.
Duo awoke to the sound of his phone ringing. Rubbing at his sleep encrusted eyes, he looked at the clock on the bedside table and was unable to read the digital numbers. "Not long enough," he mumbled, knowing from the way he felt that he needed more sleep before he could function properly.
Regardless of his reluctance to rise, he sat up and swung both legs out from under the covers. His legs and feet felt like they were weighed down with gundanium, he thought while yawing widely and scratching the back of his head. All the while the vid phone persistently nagged for him to answer the incoming call.
"All right, already," he growled unhappily. Taking a deep breath, he pushed himself up and sluggishly made his way across the room towards the object of his ire. Once he'd reached his desk, he sat heavily down into his chair. Keeping the view screen off, he hit the connecting button, and with a voice that sounded like he'd been gargling rocks in his sleep he greeted his caller in a curt manner.
"Duo? Is that you?" Heero's voice questioned.
Shit! Quickly running his hands over his face and hair, Duo realized he was anything but presentable. "Yeah, it's me. Just waking up."
There was a pause. "Isn't it one in the afternoon your time?"
"Dunno, can't read the clock."
"Sounds like you had a wild night." There was a hint of disapproval in Heero's voice that caused Duo to wake up further and go on the defensive.
"I wouldn't say wild, but definitely a late one. Besides, what's it to you how I spend my nights?"
That snippy remark was followed by a long pause on Heero's side of the line. "I'm sorry," Heero said, only somewhat contrite but knowing that an apology was necessary when Duo went on the defensive. "You're right. It's none of my business. How are you, Duo?"
"Just peachy," he grouched in reply. This was not exactly the way he'd wanted this conversation to go. He had hoped Heero would make an overture towards mending the distance between them and become acquainted again. It was never going to happen if they began sniping at one another over the phone. Heero had already apologized, it was up to him now to get his head on straight and stop being so touchy about everything.
"Can you turn on the vid screen?"
"I just rolled out of bed, Heero," he moaned, feeling the rough whiskers on his face.
"Nothing I haven't seen before," the other man chuckled. "Besides, I use to like how you looked just after you woke up."
Duo blinked, surprised that Heero would say something so personal this early in their tentative friendship... relationship... whatever the hell this was. Dragging his fingers through his hair once more, Duo hit the button that turned on the screen and camera and watched as Heero's handsome face popped into view. Duo was pleased to see the other man's eyes widen slightly, causing a smile of his own to begin tugging at the corners of his mouth.
"I don't recall seeing you with a morning beard before."
Duo's hand went over his stubbled jaw. "Well, I was kind of a slow bloomer. Started sprouting more facial hair a couple of months after...." He stopped short, not wanting to bring up the day that had changed his life forever.
If Heero felt uncomfortable, he covered it up by saying, "It's a good look on you, but then I can't imagine what wouldn't be."
"Anything in yellow."
"I look terrible in yellow and beige. Washes out all my coloring, or so I've been told."
"I don't think I've ever seen you in anything that didn't suit you."
Duo blinked. Unless he was horribly mistaken, Heero Yuy was actually flirting with him. It looked like he wasn't the only one who had changed over the past couple of years. Plastering on a grin, he planted his elbows on his desk, set his face on his upraised hand and leaned towards the camera. "So, where are you?"
"On L4 currently, but I'm about to leave for L1 to continue my investigation."
It was then that Duo noticed that Heero was wearing his Preventer shirt. He was obviously going about official business. "Have you seen Quat and Trowa yet?"
"Just Quatre, at his office this morning. I'm hoping to visit them both after this case is solved."
Not wanting to contemplate the outcome or his own future if Heero should indeed solve the case of the marauders, Duo changed the subject. Leaning closer to the screen and using his most sultry voice he asked, "So is this a personal call or business?"
Heero sat absolutely still for a moment, as if he were frozen in place. He seemed to suddenly collect himself and answered, "Perhaps a bit of both."
Disappointed, Duo shifted to lean back in his chair and folded his arms over his bare chest. "Is this about Relena again?"
"No. You have a verifiable alibi."
Duo frowned. "Of which you thoroughly checked?"
Sighing, Heero shook his head. "I'm simply doing my job, Duo. You've got to understand that I personally don't believe you would harm Relena, but we have to look at anyone with a grudge against her, past and present."
"And you think I have a grudge against her?" Duo sounded as indignant as he felt.
"You didn't hesitate in the past to voice your displeasure whenever she showed up."
Duo was becoming more agitated as the conversation continued, especially now that the past, a particularly unpleasant part of it, was being brought up. This was actually an old argument he'd never thought to have again. "She was stalking you, Heero. How do you think that made me feel? If you'd had the balls to tell her you were with me back then, I'm sure she would have left you... or rather, left us alone."
"She was young, Duo, and infatuated with an ideal, not me."
"Don't give me that pile of shit," the braided man snapped. "You know as well as I do that she fell for you the first time she saw you. Despite your oh-so charming personality back then, she invited you to her birthday party and chased you around the globe and out to space. Damn, what is it about you, Heero, that makes people fall in love with you like that?"
"Like you did?"
Taken aback by Heero's quietly asked question, there was a long pause before Duo answered in a more subdued manner, "Yeah, like me."
"You're right," Heero conceded, hoping to calm the other. "I should have told her about us. I just didn't believe that my having sex with you should concern anyone but the two of us."
Unfortunately, Heero's statement, perhaps poorly worded, struck a sore spot in the braided man. Stung by the insinuation that all they'd had between them during the war was sex, Duo's ire jumped up a few notches. "Was that all I was to you? Just an easy lay?"
"What?" Heero gasped. "No, you know you were anything but that." The blue in Heero's eyes seemed to deepen as he stared at Duo through the vid screen, looking both stunned and hurt by his response. "You were my first everything, Duo. The first person I ever truly trusted to get close to me, the one I learned to call a friend. I experienced all the feelings and emotions with you that had been trained out of me." He took a deep, calming breath before he spoke again, with a voice that had softened considerably. "You were the first person I kissed, and the only person who showed me what it meant to love someone. Each night we spent together during the war made it all the more difficult for me to return to the mission. There were times when I wanted to cast off my responsibilities and training, to forget about the war and remain by your side."
The frosty expression on Duo's face dissolved with that confession, and so did the argument burning on his lips after hearing the words Heero had never fully expressed before. Given that Heero had been so open and honest with him, Duo felt he could do no less, well, to a point at least. "You weren't my first friend or my first kiss, Heero, but you were definitely my 'first' in so many other ways that counted and the one who has haunted my dreams for the past five years."
Heero's returning smile was so warm with sincerity, Duo was sure it could melt the polar ice caps, if not whatever hurt remained in his heart. "Really?" Heero asked. "You've thought about me all this time?"
Duo blushed. "Don't let that slip make your head swell, soldier boy."
That long-forgotten nickname brought back many memories of their time together during the war. Lost in thoughts of the past, the two men stared at each other's face on the screen before them for several long moments, smiling softly.
Finally collecting himself, Heero cleared his throat to change the subject once more. "I saw you on the entertainment news the other day, with that actress."
Duo blinked at the rapid shift of the conversation. It took a moment for him to figure out what Heero was talking about, then he combed his fingers through his hair, trying to recall what Taylor had said after he'd arrived home. He's gone out with Alana but he'd slept Sheridan. Which woman was Heero referring to? He tried to figure the answer to that question out. Maybe it would be better to sidestep around the subject of his social life altogether.
"Oh, yeah, it was a mad house."
"Are you seeing her?"
"Of course I am," Duo shrugged. "I'm her safe chaperone to events like that."
"And the actress I met when Wufei and I knocked at your door?"
Duo lifted his chin in a haughty manner while giving the other man a sly look. "I happen to be quite a ladies man, by reputation at least. What's the matter, Heero? Jealous?"
After thinking about it for a moment, the Japanese man managed to answer the question with a grin. "Perhaps."
The disagreeable conversation they'd engaged in only moments before was suddenly forgotten and Duo leaned forward once more, resting his chin in his hand. "Jealous, huh? That means that you care about me, at least a little bit, right?"
"Maybe more than a little," Heero replied, and couldn't help but feel some satisfaction at the shocked expression on the long-haired man's face.
"Damn, you really have changed," Duo said with wide eyes. "You're actually flirting with me, aren't you? You never used to do that. What happened?"
The smile faded from Heero's face as he replied in a more solemn tone, "I had some help."
Duo felt his own twinge of jealousy, wondering who had gotten beneath Heero's skin in order to get beyond his training. Hell, it had taken him almost two wars to get Heero to admit that he cared for him more than just a fuck buddy. "Who?" he demanded.
Heero ducked his head and in a quiet voice answered, "As I told you before, Une put me into therapy after she'd learned that I'd attacked you. She was justifiably hesitant to trust in my reactions to stressful situations when I could lash out and hurt the one person I cared for the most. I visited with the Preventer's psychiatrist twice a week for well over a year. He not only helped me to relax more, to not take life so seriously, but to break free of the effects of the Zero system that kept telling me that certain people were my enemy and coaxing me to destroy them before they could harm me."
"Like me?" Duo asked, putting together more of a picture of what had actually happened on that dreadful day that he could barely remember. "Did you really see me as your enemy, Heero?"
Raising his head to look into the camera, Heero nodded. "Before that last, fateful day, I don't think so, but I was always afraid that you'd see my flaws and realize I wasn't worth keeping around and then you'd leave me. But during that last fight, Zero definitely identified you as my enemy. Maybe, without being fully cognizant of what was going on, my fears were interpreted by the remnant of Zero, that you were my enemy. I'm sorry, Duo," he continued in an earnest voice. "I'll never be able to express how truly sorry I am for hurting you like I did."
A long stretch of silence passed before the braided man spoke again. "I remember my experience with Zero. Fortunately, it happened only once, but that was enough to make me never want to let that godforsaken system into my head again. Flying Wing Zero, you had to use it in every battle during the last part of the war. I remember all too well that white void, and let me tell you, it scared me shitless because I too saw things I didn't want to. I understand, Heero, and I already forgave you for the past. You don't need to apologize over and over for something that was only partially your fault."
Heero nodded, but he still felt too ashamed to look directly into Duo's face on the vid screen. Speaking quietly, he continued. "Wufei told me of the damage I'd inflicted on you and suffering you endured as a result of those injuries. If there's any way I can make reparations, I'd gladly do or pay anything."
"Anything?" A cinnamon colored eyebrow rose up in question while the blue-violet eyes beneath sparkled mischievously. Heero nodded in reply and Duo grinned. "Then you owe me dinner, anytime and anywhere I choose."
"Dinner?" Heero looked surprised. "Is that all you want from me?"
"Well, I wouldn't say that's the only thing I want, but it's what I'd like to start with."
"All right," Heero replied without any hesitation, wearing a slightly bemused grin.
Duo chuckled. "Well okay then," he grinned back, feeling no small amount of satisfaction.
The two men spent the next few moment contentedly gazing at each other's image on their screens, then Heero recalled the other reason for this call.
"There's something else I wanted to ask you."
"All right," Duo said, a lazy smile still playing on his lips.
"Have you spoken with Howard lately?"
All humor left the braided man's face. "Are you following up Wufei's call last week?"
"I'm just asking if you've heard from him."
"You know Howie and I had a bit of a falling out after the war, don't you?"
Heero's eyebrows drew together in thought. "What happened?"
Duo shrugged one shoulder. "He wasn't all that happy with the fact that I blew up Deathscythe. He's always been a bit overprotective of his work and Deathscythe was one piece of machinery he was particularly proud of, especially the stealth system. He just thought I should have asked him before blowing it up. We've emailed a couple of times over the years, but he's gone his way and I've gone mine."
"Do you have any reason to believe he might have reproduced the stealth device, possibly for humanitarian purposes?"
"Well," Duo drawled as he considered his response. "He always did like to lend a hand to the down trodden. But to tell you the truth, a project like that would take a lot of money. Technology of that high caliber doesn't come cheap. From what I've heard the Sweepers were busy just after the war with all the space junk the war provided, but business lately, especially scrap metal, has been slim. The Sweepers have been hit rather hard and I'm sure the Mars runs that I've heard Howard has been taking constitutes another way to keep his ship running and purchase the necessary supplies for his crew for the long-duration flights."
"Then I take it your answer is no, that you don't think he's involved?"
Duo paused a moment, weighing his answer. "It's only a guess, but I think Howard likes to stay on the better side of the law. The UEC has made the point that they won't tolerate anyone taking a different road than the one they lay out."
"Are you referring to L2?"
"Can you think of any better example?" A note of irritation and anger tinted Duo's question.
Heero studied the other man on the screen a moment. It was clear from the tone of Duo's voice that the subject of L2 was a touchy one. "I recall you saying once that you never wanted to set foot on L2 ever again, that you swore off the colony. You know how corrupt it was becoming. Do you think the UEC was wrong in its judgment of L2?"
"Damn right I think it was wrong."
"Ever hear the old adage that you don't throw out the entire barrel of apples just because of a few rotten ones? Well, L2 definitely had its share of power hungry miscreants, but there are also a lot of decent people who were just doing their best to stay alive. I was one of them, remember. I didn't turn out too bad, did I?"
"No, you didn't. You came out of that colony a hero."
Duo's eyes widened in surprise at Heero's words. The other man had always been reluctant to use the word hero in describing any of the gundam pilots or their role in the wars. "I did my best to represent them and the anger we collectively felt because of the way we were forced to live. Though I fought for the colonies, I guess I also wanted to have a bit of revenge while I was at it."
"Have you been back to L2, Duo?"
The braided man sighed and shook his head. "I've kept my word and haven't set foot on that colony, and I hope to God that I never have to."
Then the subject changed completely when Duo asked, "So, where are you?"
"I'm in a hotel on L4 and about to head out. I came here to meet Wufei, but he's still on an assignment with Trowa."
Duo chuckled. "He somehow managed to pry the clown away from Quatre? Will wonders never cease?"
"I think the two of them felt rather guilty about not helping with Relena's case when asked, and since Quatre has the legitimate excuse of having a business to run, Trowa was the one elected to make amends by volunteering."
"Three days tops is all those two will agree to being apart."
"Then I had better leave because Trowa should be back any moment."
Pulling his braid over his shoulder in order to hold onto it, Duo glanced down to study the weave ats he asked, "So where are you headed now?"
"I think L1 is the most likely place for buying materials that might put together something like a stealth system. You serviced and repaired it, Duo. Can you give me an idea of what materials I should look for?"
"Wish I could help," Duo said, looking sincere. "But I was sworn to secrecy. Howie and G were pretty firm on the fact that what they created was to remain their secret."
Knowing Duo didn't lie, Heero accepted his statement. "If you don't mind, I'll call you again when I have a chance. I'm not sure what I'm going to turn up or how long it will take, but I'd like to see you again, Duo."
The man on the vid screen smiled softly. "I'd like that. Guess I'll wait for your call then."
"If you need to get in touch with me, for any reason, you can reach me by my cell phone or email. I check both several times a day." He then rattled off his Preventer email address, knowing he'd be checking that site more often than on his personal one.
Duo yawned while writing the address on a piece of paper. "'Excuse me," he said, belatedly covering his mouth.
"Sorry for waking you. I'll let you go back to bed now."
"It's okay, this time." He gave Heero a smile to show him he was teasing.
It took a few moments before they were actually able to say goodbye. It was rather awkward leading up to it, but in the end it was Heero who reluctantly disconnected the line.
Closing his laptop, he secured it in its case then stood to check the room one more time to make sure he hadn't forgotten anything. Satisfied that he hadn't, he grabbed his suitcase and swiftly left the room. Though he knew he needed to focus on the objectives for this trip to L1, trying to track down Howard, he found it very difficult to turn his thoughts away from Duo and the future promise of having dinner with the handsome man.