Lies - Between Friends and Lovers
by Dyna Dee
Lowering his hand from the ornate gold and pearl inlaid doorbell, Heero waited impatiently within the glow of the entry light, willing the front door to the stately home to open. He was tired and irritated. His flight to L4 had been delayed in Sanq because of bad weather, so here he was, seven hours after the time he'd said he would arrive. Dressed casually in his jeans and white button down shirt, he strove to appear calm and collected, though his mind was less than its orderly self. He tried to shrug off his less than pleasant mood and focus his thoughts on the task at hand, questioning Quatre and Trowa. But his mind kept slipping back to Duo. Their brief time together in the other man's apartment seemed like a dream to him now, but the memory of his lips on Duo's, of his hands roaming that trim and fit body remained. The scent and taste of his lover was seared into his memory and recalling them now left him wanting more. No, not just more, he amended. He wanted all that Duo had to offer, heart, body and forever. He frowned, not able to recall the object of his desire voicing any similar sentiment. Duo obviously enjoyed their time together. He easily recalled the erotic sounds the other man made as he brought him to the heights of passion. But now that he was thinking about it, Duo hadn't said anything that would suggest he had feelings deeper than sexual attraction for him.
Thoughts of Duo scattered the moment the front door opened to reveal Trowa on the other side. "Welcome back," the taller man said in greeting and stepping aside to allow him entrance to his and Quatre's home.
"Thank you," Heero said, stepping inside and shaking Trowa's extended hand. "Is Quatre home?"
"Of course." Trowa shut and locked the front door before motioning Heero to follow him. "Just as you requested. Though we were expecting you several hours ago."
"Weather delays," he explained. He was led to the study, a masculine room where the walls were lined with impressive wood book cases filled with hardbound books that gave the room the pleasing smell of leather, wood and paper. Light from two standing lamps streamed down onto the desk at the far end of the room. Behind it sat Quatre, his eyes fixed on the screen of his laptop. The blond head shifted and blue eyes looked up. Quatre closed his laptop, stood and walked around the desk to warmly greet him, his hand outstretched. "It's good to see you again, Heero. Come, have a seat. Would you like something to eat or drink? We saved you a plate from dinner earlier, thinking you might be hungry when you arrived."
"Perhaps after we've talked," he replied. Heero suddenly realized that he was quite hungry, but he didn't want to be distracted from his reason for being there, especially when his mind was filled with so many unanswered questions and concerns. He probably wouldn't be able to eat anyway, with his stomach feeling like it was tied in a tight knot.
He took one of the two wing-backed chairs while Trowa sat on the front edge of the desk. Quatre took the other chair. Heero thought Trowa's position projected both a relaxing pose as well as a defensive one. He wondered to what lengths the auburn haired man would go to protect his lover, if indeed they were in danger of being arrested for space piracy.
"How was your flight?" the blond asked with a genial smile.
Heero allowed himself a weary sigh. "I'm glad to be off the shuttle. To tell you the truth, I could have docked the spacecraft better with my eyes closed than the pilot did with three crew members."
Quatre nodded his understanding. "That's why we use my private shuttle when we have to fly to Earth. It's difficult giving your life over to someone who might prove to be less competent behind the controls." Then, as if sensing his inner turmoil, the blond's head tilted to the side and his sympathetic smile wilted to a frown. "What's wrong, Heero? You seem troubled."
"As if you didn't know," he answered, more peevishly than he'd intended.
Trowa exchanged a curious look with his lover before turning back to him to say, "Really, Heero. We don't know what you're talking about. It might help if we knew if this was a personal or professional visit."
"Professional. No, personal. Gah." Frustrated, Heero combed his fingers through his unruly hair with one hand while the other gripped the arm of the leather chair. He needed to get his act together and quit thinking about Duo or his personal feelings about the two men he was about to accuse of wrong doing.
After two deep breaths he felt calm enough to proceed and turned his attention back to his friends, who were now looking at him with expressions of worry. Lowering his hand, he shook his head and sighed. "Sorry. I'm a bit... off balance at the moment."
"All right," Quatre said calmly. Then clearly taking charge when he added, "Ask your Preventer questions and then we'll talk off the record."
Heero nodded, then took a deep breath before addressing his friends. All the suspicions and questions that had filled his head on the long shuttle flight now stuck in his throat. How could he accuse them of being the marauders, or at the very least, supporting that group? They were his friends. Yes, he'd been estranged from them for several years, but the bond that had linked the five gundam pilots together during two wars was still there. He knew the others would come to his aid if he found himself in need, so how could he do anything less for them? His conscience waged a brief battle over what was the correct path for him to follow. When no clear solution was reached, he let out the breath he'd been holding and stated, "No, I want to begin off the record." Two pairs of eyes regarded him soberly, waiting for him to start. "Why haven't you launched your own search for Wufei?"
To their credit, neither man gave away their reaction to his sudden question. Quatre answered him as smoothly as he would a question about the time of day. "We decided his disappearance was Preventer business. If we intervened or got in the way, we might hamper the investigation."
Heero first studied Quatre's face and then Trowa's, finding two blank walls revealing nothing at all.
"Pardon me?" Quatre asked.
"I can't see either of you sitting idly by if any one of us was in trouble. Do you know what's happened to Wufei?"
Quatre shifted, just slightly, then Trowa replied with a question of his own. "Why do you think we would have any information about his whereabout?"
"Because your knowing what happened to him is the only reason I can come up with for you not getting on one of your shuttles and scouring space for him."
Quatre answered that charge. "Tell me, Heero. Is there any person or organization who might profit by Wufei's disappearance?"
"There are plenty who would "profit" by his disappearance," he scoffed. "He's been instrumental in arresting many criminals, on the planet as well as on the colonies. At the moment, however, there is one particular group that would greatly profit from his disappearance. He was investigating the marauders, as you well know, following hunches and leads, and it's my belief he's been captured and possibly silenced by them."
"Heero," Quatre leaned forward to put a hand on his arm, "Wufei is one of the most capable people I know. I might not have run off in my shuttle to scour space for him, but I have put out feelers. I've heard nothing yet, but if he is in trouble, I have no doubt he can successfully extricate himself from the situation. Of course Trowa and I are concerned that he's missing, but I haven't lost my faith in his abilities. For all we know he could have gone undercover and just hasn't been able to make contact yet."
"This whole situation doesn't sit right with me," Heero said, frowning. He had no proof that his friends were involved with the marauders, and if they were, he wasn't sure he wanted to know. Still, his logical mind and training urged for him to keep pressing his friends for information. Under pressure, most men gave up some information. "My intuition tells me that Duo might be involved with the marauders. He argues passionately on the side of his former colony even though he hates the place, and I can only assume you know about his double." He paused to see a nod from both men. "Why didn't you tell me about him earlier? You know it only makes him more suspect."
Quatre leaned back in his chair and looked at him curiously. "And why is that, Heero? Taylor came into Duo's life before the sanctions on L2 were put in place. Taylor strongly resembled Duo, and with a little cosmetic surgery he solved the P.R. problems our friend was experiencing. The arrangement has proved to be beneficial to both of them. Duo has someone to go to the events he dislikes and Taylor was given a way off L2 and a better quality of life."
"It's highly suspicious that Duo has someone in his employ who can act as a perfect alibi for any illegal activities he might be committing."
Trowa frowned. "You suspect Duo has nothing better to do with his time than sneak away from his very successful life and penthouse to break the law? To what purpose, Heero? He makes a lot of money and lives quite comfortably. Why would he jeopardize his security?"
Heero raked his fingers through his hair. "For the same reason I suspect you and Quatre might be involved. Money was never very important to Duo, and he's even told me he models for the easy money to support several charities. He's got a big heart and a lingering case of survivor's guilt. Lending a helping hand to those in need isn't anything new for him. Duo told me, during the war, that the reason he fought was to save someone else from having to. I can't help but wonder if his empathy hasn't extended to the entire L2 colony."
"Yes, Duo is magnanimous when it comes to those who have nothing," Quatre agreed. "But we also know he doesn't lie. He said he would never set foot on L2 again, and I know for a fact that he hasn't."
Tilting his head back against the chair and momentarily closing his eyes, feeling weary and conflicted, Heero let out yet another frustrated sigh. "I just don't know what to think," he admitted. "With Wufei missing, Duo having a double and no information leading to the marauders, Relena or Wufei, I feel like I'm running in circles. I don't want to suspect any of you, but there are too many questioning variables to simply dismiss the fact that the three of you could be tangled up in this... mess."
"Why us?" Quatre persisted. "Everyone in space knows about L2's suffering, and I'm not the only wealthy individual in space who cares about what happens out here. Do you truly believe I'm the only person of means who wants to see L2 saved?" Quatre leaned forward, his face as serious as Heero had ever seen. "Just like in the war, what happens to one colony can happen to another. The colonies are uniquely different from each others, but they're still the same regardless of their economic success. All colonists have been, at one time or another, at the mercy of Earth, subjected to its politics and economics. No one has openly rushed to L2's aid for fear of having similar sanctions levied against their own colony in retaliation. Who would want to risk systematic starvation by openly opposing the UEC?"
Heero continued to observe his friends while Quatre spoke. Both men appeared calm, and yet he sensed an underlying wariness in them as well as a hint of displeasure caused by his assumptions. Together they presented a resolute, united front. But were they hiding something from him, or was he simply being overly suspicious of everyone, looking for motive and suspect at every turn? "The marauders have a stealth ship," he stated, "and there are only a couple of people I know of who have the technical knowledge and ability to build such a system: Howard, Duo and a couple of Sweepers that crewed with Howard before the war. Though Howard and Duo are anything but poor, they don't have the monetary resources to build a ship and stealth system. You are the one person both Duo and Howard know who has the financial means to sponsor the building of both."
Quatre's face was as serious as he'd ever seen as he began to lay out his defense. "As I said before, I'm hardly the only person on the colonies who's wealthy, Heero. Nor am I the only person of means who wants to help our sister colony. While it's true that Sandrock was paid for solely by my trust fund, as was the Zero system, do you know who funded the building of Wing? What about the other gundams? Surely Deikum Barton didn't pay for all of them on his own, there had to be others. And who's to say these "others" aren't conducting the raids to help L2 and thumbing their noses at the UEC at the same time? Tell me straight, Heero, what hard evidence do you have that suggest Trowa, Duo and I are the marauders? You can line up all your suspicions in a neat little row, but it doesn't mean you've got the truth. Wasn't Duo with you when the marauders attacked a freighter? I can vouch for Trowa and give you evidence that I was here on L4 when the attacks occurred. If you're willing to accuse and possibly arrest us on your suspicions alone, you're not only going to have a hard time prosecuting us, but you're also going to risk losing us as your friends."
All the conjecturing that had pointed to his friends and lover being involved as marauders seemed less substantial than when he'd walked through the door. It had all made sense when he'd thought it out on the shuttle. Duo's association with Howard plus their sympathy for those on L2 and the ability to achieve what he suspected the marauders of doing had him believing his friends were indeed culpable.
While still trying to reason things out in his mind, Quatre continued. "Your logic doesn't make sense to me, Heero. If I decided to break the law in order to help L2, why wouldn't I do it on my own? Why would I steal from freighters instead of just purchasing whatever I needed and shipping it there?"
"To lead Preventers in a different direction, I suspect, and thereby drawing suspicion away from you and Trowa," Heero answered, though his tone was noticeably less aggressive than it had earlier. "As to who financed my gundam, I knew it wasn't J. He had at least one benefactor that he answered to, although I was never told who that person was." And the truth was that he'd never questioned his orders when he was under J's care. Whatever secrets his mentor and his colleagues had, they took with them when to their graves. "I know you well enough to believe that if Duo wanted to do something about the situation on L2, he would turn to you, knowing you've got an equally sympathetic heart."
"Quatre might have been willing to help, had we been asked," Trowa added. "But we don't have the knowledge to build a stealth ship. And as he stated before, there was a large crew of men who worked with Howard when he developed the system. Anyone of them could be responsible for duplicating it for their own use."
With a disbelieving huff Heero asked, "Do you honestly expect me to believe that not having the knowledge of a stealth system would be an obstacle if you decided to build one? How do I know you didn't hire one of Howard's former crew to build the system and ship?"
"Just don't narrow your list of suspects too soon, Heero," Quatre said, ignoring the Preventer's previous question. "If you focus your attention on us, you might let the real perpetrators slip by."
"Are you telling me you're innocent?"
Trowa was quick to answer, "We are innocent of causing harm to anyone. We follow our consciences, just as we did during the war."
Heero rubbed his forehead, where an ache began to form behind his eyes. "I'm not going to get a straight answer out of either of you, am I?" The blond and brunet refrained from answering, only offering an apologetic smile to their weary friend.
"All right. Still on the record," the Preventer stated, knowing he had to ask his friends outright about what they knew. "Are you in any way involved in the raids taking place here in space?"
"No." Quatre's facial expression remained neutral.
"Do you know where Wufei is?"
"Is Duo involved?"
"Are you telling me the truth?"
"Truth is subjective, don't you think?" This time it was Trowa who answered, wearing an inscrutable grin.
"Off the record." Heero gave the two a look of disapproval and thinking this was the absolutely worst session of questioning suspects he'd ever conducted. "If you are involved and lying to me, as I suspect you are, I hope you've covered your tracks well because I sure as hell don't want to haul your asses into court. Don't make me do it!" he warned. "And if I find out that you've involved Duo in this, you better find a deep dark hole to climb into and bury yourselves. The thought of losing him again is unbearable."
A looked passed between the two partners, communicating some message that was beyond Heero's ability to read. The blond then turned his attention back to him. "Your lack of trust in us is disturbing, Heero. But I'll look past it, assuming it's become second nature to you as a Preventer. And speaking of Duo," he continued with a steady gaze. "How are things between the two of you? He's told me you've kissed and made up."
Realizing Quatre had changed the subject because his questions were close to stepping over the line of no return regarding their friendship, he answered the question. "Our relationship is... progressing nicely, despite my shock in learning about Taylor," Heero answered and then cleared his throat. The change of topic, though a bit too personal, was welcomed after he'd more or less threatened them.
In contrast to Quatre's smile, Trowa was now frowning. In his quiet and deceptively soft tone of voice he said, "As I've indicated before, Heero, you've got a second chance to recapture what you once had with him, Heero," the tall and slender young man stated, his green eyes boring into his own. "But if you ever hurt him, emotionally or physically, you're as good as dead. I won't let anyone dissuade me from retaliating should he come to any harm."
Knowing Trowa didn't make threats lightly, Heero acknowledged the seriousness of his warning by simply replying, "Understood, but I've already received a similar warning from Quatre." An awkward moment passed, and he sensed the other two were waiting for him to say something or dictate where the conversation would go next. He decided that talking about Duo was probably not wise, seeing how protective the two men were of his lover.
His cell phone chimed. He detached if from the clip on his belt, flipped it open and saw that Director Une was calling. "Excuse me," he said, rising from his chair and hastily exiting the room.
He returned five minutes later, a frown on his face. "Something wrong, Heero?" Quatre asked as he stood next to Trowa, still perched on the edge of the desk. The blond placed his hand on his lover's shoulder and waited for the Preventer to answer.
"There was another freighter boarded by the marauders less than an hour ago." His eyes shifted from the brunet to the blond and back again as he added, "The fact that you're here clears the both of you from being involved since you can't be in two places at once." Heero carefully watched for their reaction, thinking he'd see a look of relief passing between the two men. But they simply nodded their heads, almost comically in unison, and waited for him to continue. "I have one last question to ask." Having retained their attention, he continued. Addressing Quatre he asked, "Can you sense Wufei? Can you tell if he's all right or even alive?"
Closing his eyes, the blond man, known for his ability to sense others, became very still. His pale eyebrows pinched together as he concentrated on sensing the Chinese man. After several moments, he opened his blue eyes once more and looked to Heero as he replied, "I can't feel much, probably because he's too far away, but I know without a doubt that he's alive. I didn't sense any alarm or distress, so I can only conclude that he's well."
"Can you tell where he is or if he's in trouble?"
Quatre shook his head. "No. I'm sorry. He must be pretty far away."
Some of the tension in Heero's shoulders eased slightly. "At least we know he's alive. Thank you."
"Have you finished asking your questions?" Trowa inquired. "We could have that meal warmed up for you now."
"I'd appreciate that."
Quatre offered a gentle smile. "You look tired, Heero. Unless you have to interview the crew of the ship that was overtaken, I have the guest room ready, if you'd like to stay the night."
He took a moment to debate whether or not his staying would compromise his investigation. In the end, he was too tired to contemplate going to the effort of getting a hotel room. "Thank you, I'd like to stay. Une is having the Preventers on L3 interview them, since they've docked there."
Trowa walked calmly from the room, most likely going to heat the offered meal. Looking at his watch, he calculated the time difference from Earth. "Do you mind if I make a quick call before I eat?"
"Of course not," the blond smiled. "Feel free to use the vid phone in your room, if you want some privacy. Come, I'll take you."
"No, I'll take him up," Trowa said as he re-entered the room. With a brief look to Quatre he said, "Finish your work so we can enjoy the evening together."
"I'm almost done," Quatre answered, resuming his seat behind the desk while his lover led Heero from the room. But just as they reached the door, the blond called out one parting request. "Say hello to Duo for me."
Walking shoulder to shoulder down the hallway towards the stairs, Trowa said with a trace of concern in his voice, "Quatre always brings work home from the office. I wish he would relax a bit more and enjoy what little time we have together."
"Does he ever take a vacation?"
They began to climb the wide staircase when Trowa answered. "I make him take at least one week every year. We used to get away more often, but his family's business is demanding of both his time and talents. We haven't been away for almost two years now, and that was a trip to the Caiman Islands where Duo was on a photo shoot." A wistful tone accompanied the tall brunet's words as he added, "It was wonderful. We spent that week at the beach and pool, and our nights with Duo, having dinner and visiting nightclubs."
Now that Duo had been brought up in the conversation, Heero felt a bit more at ease about discussing the American. "Duo doesn't talk much about his life. He tells me he has lived a rather tame existence for the past couple of years, but that's certainly contrary to what I've read in the gossip columns."
Trowa's laughter surprised him. "You know better than to believe those rag magazines. Sure, Duo, and Taylor posing as Duo, has gone out with a lot of notable people, but he's only been discreetly involved with a couple of men, and those were fleeting, born out of loneliness rather than any deeper feelings. I think we both know that Duo's heart was never free to give away." Trowa visibly sobered as they entered. "What about you, Heero? Did you have any meaningful relationships after Duo left?"
It didn't take more than a single breath for him to think about his answer. "No. I never felt for anyone the way I felt for Duo, or still feel about him."
Trowa clasped him on the shoulder. "Then I can only wish you and Duo the best. Don't blow it, Heero, because this is probably your last chance with him."
Heero nodded, having already come to that conclusion himself. No matter what happens, whatever Duo has or hasn't done, I won't mess this up, he vowed to himself as Trowa left him alone in the room to make his call.