Lies - Between Friends and Lovers
by Dyna Dee
Heero Yuy was not a man given to spontaneity; he liked to follow a schedule. Wake up at a certain time each morning and eat his meals at seven fifteen a.m., noon and seven p.m. But now that Duo was back in his life and constantly on his mind he decided to prove his intentions towards the man by acting on his feelings, not over thinking or analyzing their next meeting. Though he had originally planned to conclude his business at Preventer headquarters in Sanq before flying to New York. to spend Sunday with Duo, he found himself unable to wait that long. Deviating from his original plan, he flew to New York first, arriving late Friday afternoon. He decided to surprise Duo by showing up at the Premiere his lover had mentioned he would be attending that evening. Duo had shown some sensitivity by informing him ahead of time that he would be in the company of another lovely actress. She was acquaintance only, Duo assured him. He often took various models to social events in order to keep up the facade of being a lady's man, which he said was so important to the companies that used him in their advertising. He would have to be careful not to unintentionally expose his lover's true sexual orientation, especially with a horde of photographers present. He just wanted Duo to see him in the crowd, letting him know by his appearance that he loved him enough to put him first.
Of course his deviation from his original plans meant he'd have to catch a plane for Europe the next afternoon, so he would have to make the most of the time he had with his lover and create a few more memories. He could only hope that nothing would stand in the way of he and Duo meeting up after the movie at his lover's apartment. He worried for a moment about whether or not he was being presumptuous, thinking Duo would change his plans for the evening after he saw him in the crowd. Heero shook his head. Duo had assured him that he was anxious for them to meet again, and he believed him. Duo never lied.
New York was enjoying a mild evening, if not a bit chilly and Heero was grateful for the lack of rain as he hadn't brought a raincoat or umbrella with him. He arrived at the theater half an hour before the movie was slated to start, and it was easy to see the festivities were well under way. Wearing a dark blue sports jacket, white button-down shirt and slightly faded blue jeans, he fit right in the crowd of spectators. He surveyed the hoard of photographers and entertainment news crews that were lined up on either side of a wide red carpet, a gauntlet of sorts for the invited guests, beginning from where they exited their cars at the curbside and continuing all the way to the theater's entrance. Heero scanned the selected group of movie attendees for his lover. No more than five minutes passed before yet another long white limousine pulled up to the curb and the explosion of light coming from the paparazzi cameras lit the night once more as they anticipated yet another celebrity. The uniformed chauffeur quickly moved around the car to the passenger door and opened it. To Heero's delight, Duo popped out, wearing his tinted glasses and dressed in black slacks and matching sport jacket with a white pleated front shirt beneath, which was open at the collar. He wore his hair loosely braided tonight, and his smile was bright and dazzling. Heero's heart into high gear, knowing that the handsome man being photographed and adored by the crowd belonged to him.
Duo turned and bent to offer his hand to the person still inside the car. Again the cameras flashed as a very pretty brunet stepped out onto the red carpet. She was tall and thin, though slightly curvy in all the right places, and looking very glamorous in her modest yet elegant sleeveless, pale purple sheath. A simple strand of glittering diamonds circled her slender neck, a prudent display of her success in the movie business. From behind the assembled group of reporters and photographers, Heero tried to visualize how others in the crowd might view the two newcomers. They were a strikingly handsome couple who, by their smiles and the radiant glow of happiness surrounding them, appeared to have the world at their feet, if even for just that moment. Funny, but thinking of them in that light hadn't lead him to feel one ounce of jealousy. No doubt he owed the lack of that negative emotion to his lover. Duo had been wise to forewarn him about his "date" tonight, for which he stated quite sincerely he had no feeling for other than mild friendship.
Heero watched as the smiling couple waved to the adoring crowd. Duo's eyes seemed to constantly move, scanning the crowd of people who had come out of their way to catch a glimpse of a celebrity or two. The famous model smiled pleasantly or gave a simple nod of his head to those who called out his name. For one moment, Duo's gaze turned his way and then stopped as he spotted him. Heero raised a hand to acknowledge the contact, but to his disappointment the other man's gaze immediately turned away. Heero's hand slowly lowered to his side, his brows pinched together. Though he was certain they'd made eye contact, if only for a moment, he had detected no sign of recognition in Duo's eyes. Could it be his lover hadn't recognized him? Heero really didn't believe for a minute that such a thing was possible. He'd always followed his instincts, and right now they were shouting at him that there was something very wrong here.
Keeping pace with the beautiful couple as they made their way down the red carpet, Heero pressed cautiously through the crowd towards the building's entrance, unable to take his eyes from the braided man. And with each moment that passed his initial sense of wrongness grew. He was only four feet away from his lover when Duo and Shannon Smythe approached the front doors of the theater. The need to understand what was going on had Heero suddenly calling out his lover's name. He held his breath as Duo's head turned his way, and once again their eyes met. Heero closely observed closely the other man's eyes behind the pale gray tinted glasses, at first looking curious and then suddenly widening. It didn't take a genius to read the long haired man's lips as he muttered, "Oh shit."
Speaking briefly to his female companion, the braided man left her side with apparent reluctance and moved in his direction, ignoring the small group of reporters and photographers who had not yet turned their attention to the black limousine pulling up to the front of the theater. As the model came to a stop approximately two feet away from where he stood, Heero was already studying every inch of the other man's face.
"What are you doing here?" the braided model asked with a tilt of his head and a nervous smile. Heero noted the twitch of those lips and the apprehension in the blue-violet eyes behind the glass lenses. The tone of Duo's voice was off, just slightly. A pitch higher than usual, though the L2 accent was clear. That difference could easily be written off as a normal reaction for someone having been taken by surprise, but then Heero noted something else, something highly suspicious. There was a slight rim around the corona of Duo's eyes. Why was the other man wearing contacts? All these oddities combined to bring the Preventer to one startling conclusion.
Reacting without thinking, Heero's arm shot out and he clasped the model's upper arm and forcefully led the stiffly-moving man into the theater. When security guards moved to intercept them, the braided man waved them off and allowed Heero to guide him inside to the more unpopulated side of the room. Tossing him against the wall, Heero pinned his captive in place by placing his hands on either side of his head. He then leaned forward until their faces were only inches apart.
With wide, frightened eyes the model tried to focus on the angry face in front of him as he asked in a shaky voice, "What's wrong, Heero?"
"I want to know what's going on here?"
The trapped man swallowed nervously. "I'm attending this movie premiere with Shannon Smythe, just like I told you."
"I want the truth and I want it now!" Heero ground out between clenched teeth, trying to keep his voice down.
The eyes behind the tinted glasses shifted, taking in their surroundings. "Listen, we can't talk here. Let me tell Shannon that something's come up and we can go to the men's room and talk this out."
Heero considered the suggestion for a moment while maintaining his stance, wondering if he could trust the other man not to run off. Though the braided man looked composed, there was definitely a look of fear in his eyes. "I'll give you one minute to make your excuses. Tell her you're sorry, but you need to leave."
The braided man frowned. "That's so not cool, leaving a girl in the middle of a date. Couldn't we met at my place after the show? I'm sure I can get away then."
Heero grabbed the other man's arm and held on tight enough to make him wince. "No, that won't work at all. I want to know what's going on now. I don't want to hurt you, but I will if my questions aren't answered."
Looking all the more frightened by that threat, the model gave a quick nod of his head. "All right. Just give me a minute to make my excuses."
"I don't have to warn you not to try running or calling for help, do I?"
Shifting his eyes around Heero's head, as if looking to see if either option was feasible, the brunet's shoulders slumped in defeat, realizing that any move on his part to escape the situation would be scandalous, especially with a press and paparazzi in such close proximity. "No, I know better than to pull something like that."
Removing the arm that had been blocking the other man's escape, Heero gave him a nod that suggested he could go. He watched as the braided man made a hasty retreat to the starlet who was now surrounded by several large looking men, hired muscle from the looks of it. By the worried look on the actresses face, it was clear she'd witnessed their little discussion.
True to his word, the handsome model left the actress after speaking with her for a few short moments. He then walked back towards him, wearing with an expression that plainly stated he wished he were going anywhere other than to the frowning man's side. Heero watched him come, eager to get to the bottom of this puzzle.
Taylor swallowed nervously. How the hell had this happened? He couldn't believe his bad luck, having Duo's lover show up out of the blue like this. He recalled his boss saying Heero might show up on Sunday. So what the hell was he doing in New York on Friday night?
It wasn't his fault that he hadn't recognized Heero at first, though he did recall seeing a good looking guy of Asian decent in the crowd. He just didn't put that smiling face together with the picture Duo had shown him of the sober looking teenage gundam pilot. He'd almost had a heart attack when he'd turned around after hearing his name called and found himself faced with an unhappy Heero Yuy, not four feet away from where he stood. Shit, how was he going to get out of this without revealing Duo's secrets? He had to stall, somehow.
He could do it, he told himself. He'd faced danger before, as had anyone who lived on the streets, but looking into Heero Yuy's piercing blue eyes while the man attempted to delve into his brain for answers had him shaking in his designer shoes. Even though he was shaken, he had to admit Heero was as attractive as Duo described. If he were attracted to males, which thank God he wasn't, he could almost understand the attraction, physically at least. From their conversations, it was clear Duo carried a torch for this guy, but he couldn't help but wonder if the man he so closely resembled was a first-rate masochist, because it was pretty damn obvious that this Heero guy was an intelligent and dangerous man. Oh yeah, and a jerk.
Walking as confidently as possible, trying to keep up the act of being Duo Maxwell as much as possible, Taylor led Heero toward the men's room. He didn't so much as glance at the former gundam pilot as they went, but he could feel those steely blue eyes boring through his back. He wondered if there was even a remote chance of bluffing his way out of this predicament. Maybe he could get away and call to Duo, ask for his advice. No, that was impossible. Duo was on his way to L2, or maybe on his way back; he wasn't sure. Besides, he'd already been given instruction on what to do with regards to Heero. Of course, that advice had been to avoid the Preventer at all costs. A little late for that now, wasn't it? Maybe he could slip out of a window in the men's room, but he honestly couldn't remember from other events he'd attended in the past if there was one.
His arm was suddenly grabbed in a vice-like grip when they were a few feet short of the bathroom door. He looked over at Heero, frowning himself at being manhandled, to see what was going on, but the other man wasn't looking at him; he was busy scanning the surrounding area. "I think we should take this to the apartment."
While that might be appealing to Heero, being alone in Duo's apartment with the other man was the last thing Taylor wanted. There was safety in numbers, and he doubted the Preventer would try to hurt him too much in a public setting. Thinking that maybe he could bluff his way out of this, Taylor was prepared to try and reason with his boss's lover. "Listen, Heero," he began in his most Duo-ish voice. "I don't know what's gotten into you." From the stern expression on Heero's face it was clear he wasn't in the mood to listen, a fact that was reinforced when the other man moved forward and roughly pulled him through the bathroom door.
After determining they were alone, the Preventer pushed him up against the wall and, shockingly, kissed him. Taylor blinked. What the hell? So appalled by the experience and by the tongue pressing between his lips, that for a moment he stood frozen in place, unable to move or think clearly. It was a combination of pure instinct and revulsion that finally took over and enabled him to push the Preventer away. Stunned and staring with disbelief at the other man, Taylor felt sick after seeing the smug smile appear on Heero's face. Wiping his lips with the back of his hand, he knew without a doubt that he had blown it. There would be no more pretending he was Duo.
Heero looked triumphant as he said, "You can spend hundreds and thousands of credits on changing your appearance, but you can't change how you taste...or kiss. You're definitely not Duo. Now let's get out of here." Taylor nodded, realizing he really had no choice other than running out the door screaming for help and making a big scene. From what little he knew of Heero Yuy, he was positive he didn't stand even the slightest chance of escaping. "We'll have to leave the back way and grab a taxi," Heero added, thinking out loud. "There's a lot of press out front and my being seen with you after ditching your date will make a hell of a story if we're seen leaving. I'd rather not deal with the press tonight. Let's go." Heero grabbed hold of his upper arm once again and propelled him out of the bathroom and headed towards the exit sign at the back of the building.
Faster than it seemed humanly possible, Heero had him out the back door, in a cab and on their way to the apartment. Casting a glance aside at the Japanese man, Taylor was surprised to see Heero was staring at him. The man's unblinking gaze was unnerving and made him squirm in his seat. He expected to be questioned or accused, but not a word was spoken by either of them during their ride through the city. When they finally reached the front of the apartment building, Heero quickly paid the driver then took Taylor's arm again and muscled him out of the back seat and through the front door of the building. The security guard/doorman gave them a questioning look, but Taylor waved, signaling that everything was okay and the two of them continued forward to the elevator.
The silence between them stretched until they entered Duo's apartment and the door was firmly shut behind them. "So what gives?" he asked as Heero roughly turned him so they were face to face and only inches apart.
"Where is he?"
Those eyes were again threatening to bore a hole through his forehead. "He?"
"Duo. Where is he and who the hell are you?"
Jerking his arm out of the other's grasp, Taylor began to remove his jacket as he walked towards the living room. He tossed the garment over the back of the sofa before he sat down. Calm down, he told himself, willing his hands not to shake. This was the beginning of a disaster and Duo was going to kill him. That is if Heero Yuy didn't beat him to it.
Heero followed him, but instead of sitting down he came to a stop in front of him. With arms folding over his chest, he gave the seated man a critical once over before saying, "I'll admit your resemblance to Duo is nearly perfect, but I spent last weekend re-memorizing everything about him: the pitch of his voice, every line on his face, every detail of when he laughs or frowns. Not only are your eyes not quite as large as Duo's, but you're wearing contacts and the braid is half an inch shorter and slightly thinner than his. I don't know who you are or what game you're playing, but you had better tell me where Duo is or I might have to use some rather painful methods of persuasion to get the truth out of you."
Despite trying to appear unaffected by the situation and maintaining a cool and calm expression, Taylor almost choked when he tried to swallow, and he could feel a trickle of sweat roll down his back. What should he say? Would the other man believe anything he might tell him when he'd basically been caught in an elaborate lie? Duo was going to be flaming pissed. He wondered if Heero was bluffing, trying to get information out of him.
Moving in a manner he thought Duo would, he shifted slightly so that he could straighten out his legs, avoiding the man in front of him while resting his heels on the coffee table. Trying to affect a weary sigh, he said, "I have no idea what you're talking about, Heero. I always wear contacts to events like this in order to protect my eyes from the flash of cameras. And it just so happens that I got my hair trimmed for the occasion."
He guessed Heero wasn't buying it when two hands grabbed hold of his shirt front and jerked him to his feet. Finding himself nose to nose with Heero was, needless to say, a daunting experience. Heero shifted slightly and then his braid was unexpectedly pulled, jerking his head back so that he had to look up his perfect nose to the angry man. "I'm not the kind of person you want to make angry. It would be in your best interest to tell me who you are and why you're pretending to be Duo."
Fear at the other man's threat almost had Taylor on the verge of swallowing his tongue. Maybe that's what cause him to irrationally strike back at the angry man in the only way he could. "What, are you going to do, tough guy, beat me to a pulp, just like you did before?"
The hand on his braid was suddenly gone, and it looked as if Heero's face had lost some of its color. Taylor found himself pushed back onto the sofa, and before he could move, Heero had him trapped once more. With narrow eyes and a threatening tone the former gundam pilot hissed, "Like I said, I don't want to hurt you. But if you've harmed Duo in any way, there won't be anyone to stop me from making you disappear."
The game was up, Taylor thought. This man was not going to second guess himself, and his concern for Duo might cause him to do something stupid, like killing him.
Letting go of the act, Taylor's shoulders slumped in defeat. "Duo said you were good. He warned me that if we came face to face you'd probably know right off I wasn't him."
"Duo knows about you?"
Taylor found the shock on Heero's face at least a partial reward for what he'd been though for the last half hour. "This," he made a sweep of his hand to include his face and body, "was Duo's idea." Then with a curious look he asked, "So, what gave me away?"
The tenseness in the other man eased somewhat, just enough that he could sit on the sofa next to him, though his gaze never wavered from his captive. "You're good, I'll give you that, but other than what I said a minute ago your walk is slightly different, as is the tone of your voice. Duo's voice is just a fraction lower. You do have the L2 accent down, though. Like I said, last weekend gave me plenty of opportunities to memorize every aspect of Duo. After a few moments of watching you, especially when you looked right through me after seeing me in the crowd in front of the theater, I knew you were an impersonator. My kissing you was valid proof of that belief. You're straight, aren't you? That's something else you can't fake. I just don't know whether you're doing this to help Duo or to hurt him. If it's the latter, then you are a dead man."
"I'm helping him." It was almost embarrassing how fast he blurted that out.
Heero paused a moment, probably to judge whether or not to believe him. Taylor breathed a sigh of relief when his captor nodded his head and asked, "So where is he?"
Now wasn't that the million dollar question? But what was he to say without making things worse? Heero might have guessed he was not Duo, but that didn't mean he knew their secrets. "I'm not sure. I'm just a stand-in for when he doesn't want to go to one of these things. There's only so many of these premieres and other idiotic social appearances he can stand. I do know he'll be back sometime tomorrow. If you want to stop by then, you can ask him yourself."
The Japanese man frowned and looked anything but pleased by his answer. After a moment his eyes narrowed slightly, but this time with determination blazing him the blue depths. "Fine, we'll wait for his return. Together."
Taylor Mann, known as T-Man on the streets of L2 and by his gang, had somehow managed to survive the Alliance's occupation, the plague, near starvation and several cases of hypothermia. He'd attributed his survival to having planted himself near the shipping docks of L2. Handouts from docking Sweeper ships, freighters and stevedores who worked the docks had truly helped to save his scrawny ass. He learned to read and write, thanks to those men and women who hung around that area. That little bit of education had eventually helped him get a welding job, which led to him living in an apartment and having money in the bank.
When Hilde first took him to meet Duo, they both recognized a resemblance and wondered if they'd found a long lost relative, a brother perhaps. Duo insisted on getting a DNA test, which reported that they were not brothers, but that there was a good likelihood they were distant cousins. That news was good enough to cement the budding friendship that was growing between them, even before the surgeries began to make Taylor look like the mirror image of Duo Maxwell.
At first he'd been hired to replace Duo at social events the former Gundam pilot wasn't interested in attending. Despite his outgoing manner, Duo liked his privacy and preferred to be in the company of a few good friends rather than living the life of a celebrity and having people fawn over him and constantly taking pictures.
Then the sanctions against L2 were imposed and everything changed. When it became clear after a couple of months that the embargo was going to be long-term, Duo decided to do something about it and began making calls to his close friends. That's when he'd first been introduced to Howard, a man Duo held in the highest esteem. Howard came to visit him in New York, and after introductions had been made, the man wearing the two-tone beige Hawaiian shirt told Duo he'd been toying with the stealth system, had actually rebuilt it from memory and improved on it. Duo seemed very excited about that piece of news and quickly arranged for the three of them to meet together with Quatre Winner and his lover Trowa. Of course he'd heard of the Winner family, everyone in space knew of them, but he'd never thought he'd ever meet him in person.
After Quatre failed to convince the UEC that punishing an entire colony for the lawless few was unethical and immoral, he and Duo began to initiate a plan of their own, one that would bring aid to the helpless people on L2. In order for their operation to be a success, they would have to remain unidentifiable, which was made easier by the use a fast ship equipped with Howard's stealth system. The plan was to acquire everyday goods from freighters heading towards the colonies, loaded with supplies, for which they intended to pay for on the spot. Their goal wasn't to steal or hurt anyone, but to save a colony. A year from when the sanctions were on L2 were announced, the first shipment of goods, taken from a freighter shuttle on its way to L4, was delivered.
Taylor took Duo's place at a celebrity party while the former gundam pilot flew the stealth shuttle on its first mission of mercy, which is what Howard called their raids. To this day he recalled Duo's expression after he returned to his apartment from that first trip to L2. His face had been stony and his violet eyes blazed with anger from having heard Howard's eyewitness report about the conditions of his former colony. Howard had learned that the humanitarian shipments being sent to L2 by the UEC government were wholly inadequate to feed the people residing on that colony. The engineer reported that an untold number of people had already died from starvation, illness and violence. Groups and individuals fought for scraps of food, blankets, and a warm place to sleep. With pain in his eyes, Howard told them of the lethargy and helpless that blanketed the colony, of the thin and hungry people he'd encountered there. And though he was upset, angry and disturbed about what was happening on L2, Duo became excited that he and his friends were going to do something and make a difference in the lives of the forgotten.
Many changes were made on L2 within the first month of their operation. The remaining thugs and serious human rights violators had been disposed of by the very people they'd preyed on, with a little help from Howard's crew. Also, food distribution centers had been set up and a system to feed the colonists according to their needs had been instituted. Duo, though Howard, organized a group of men named the Guardians. They were called to be the colony's protectors, especially for the more innocent citizens. They became the watch dog group in charge of seeing that everyone had a roof over their heads and for settling squabbles that happened in their assigned areas. In a short amount of time reports came back to Duo indicating L2, despite its deplorable conditions, was thriving as well as it could, with the help of the marauders.
Three months later the second stealth shuttle was ready to join their cause. Duo's ship was stored in a hanger only a few hours flight from New York, while Trowa's remained in space, hidden in abandoned resource satellites owned by his lover . The two former gundam pilots took traded off raiding the colony-bound freighters, doubling the amount of supplies going to L2 and providing alibis in case suspicion about their involvement with the marauders came their way.
And now, after years of going undetected, and himself perfecting the act of being Duo Maxwell, he'd been caught and the future of so many hang in the balance. Feeling the ever watchful eyes of the dark hair Preventer on him, Taylor nervously bit his lip, hoping once more that he wouldn't say anything that might be detrimental to his and Duo's freedom.
If Friday night with Heero hadn't been bad enough, Saturday, for Taylor, was pure torture. He'd somehow managed to avoid answering Heero's pointed questions about stealth ships and how often Duo left town. He simply told Heero that he'd better take things up with his employer on his return, that he didn't appreciate being put in the middle of whatever lover's quarrel they were going to have the minute Duo walked in through the front door.
As the day progressed in an agonizingly slow manner toward evening, Heero positioned himself in the living room, in one of the side chairs he'd turned to face the front door. The look on the Preventer's face told him that Heero was willing to wait until doomsday or beyond for his lover to return home.
Although he hadn't been mistreated by Heero, he couldn't wait to get the hell out of there. Those blue eyes, peering out from underneath dark, unruly hair, scared the shit out of him. There was anger in those eyes as well as judgment. Who the hell was this guy to judge him anyway? Heero Yuy knew nothing, and the longer he remained in that state of ignorance that safer everyone involved in Duo's business would be. Duo was the most clever person he knew. He would definitely think of something that would get them out of this mess, he thought with confidence. Yet as hour after hour ticked by, he began to wonder if his friend would be able to come up with a convincing alibi when confronted by the man he was currently sleeping with. If only he could warn Duo ahead of time that he was about to walk into a very sticky situation.
"Knock it off." He jumped slightly, not knowing what Heero was talking about. Those piercing eyes narrowed as Heero's gaze lowered to the arms of the leather sofa, where his fingers were. Without realizing it, he had been drumming his fingertips along the edge of the armrest.
"Well excuse me." He rolled his eyes. "Is my breathing bothering you, too?"
"Yes, now that you mention it."
Taylor shook his head. What the hell did Duo see in this guy?