Tangled In the Web
by Dyna Dee
Duo was halfway to his house when he suddenly stopped and looked around, realizing with a shock that he'd walked out of Frank's house without any hesitation, doubt or a second thought. His breath caught in his throat at the realization that maybe there was a silver lining to this unfortunate incident after all. With all that was going on with their home and Heero's health, he'd forgotten all about his fear of being out front on his own as he set about to do those things that Heero would normally have taken care of. It wasn't all that long ago that it took every ounce of determination and strength within him to turn the door knob and step out onto the porch alone, and here he'd done it without thinking. With a smile that reflected his returning confidence, he continued on to thier house, eager to finish cleaning up there so he could return and tell Heero of the progress he'd made that day.
By four that afternoon, Duo was waving a final farewell and extending his thanks to the Peacecrafts' hired help. He'd offered to pay them for their services but they all insisted that their employer was already compensating them.
He locked the front door of their clean and nearly bare home and returned to Frank's only to be disappointed in finding that Heero was still asleep.
Frank greeted him with a message that Quatre, Wufei and Mrs. Lunderson had called during his absence. The first two were checking in with them and Mrs. L. asked that he call back.
Going to the phone in the kitchen, he phoned Mrs. L. Although he was relieved to hear from her that she was doing well, he was surprised and worried when she told him that she'd decided to stay home and that her son and granddaughter had returned to theirs. They visited over the phone for a quarter of an hour before Duo closed the conversation by promising to stop by the next morning to see if he could help out in any way. Though Mrs. L told him he didn't need to, he was determined to see if she was doing alright on her own. After the call ended, he turned around from hanging up the phone and was startled to find Frank standing right behind him.
"Heero's waking up," the man announced, his face inscrutable.
Duo's heart was racing from the start he'd experienced at the man's close proximity. "Ah... thanks," he mumbled, offering Frank a weak smile. The both of them froze in place for a moment before Frank moved a few feet to the back door where Sinjin had been whining. Duo quickly moved past the older man and made his way to the living room.
"Hey, sleepyhead," the braided man greeted his lover with a grin as he knelt next to the sofa and ran his finger through Heero's messy hair.
"What's going on?" Heero asked in a subdued voice, and Duo guessed he was still under the effects of the pain pill.
"Got the house all cleaned up," he replied as Sinjin jumped up onto the couch and quickly settled down on his favorite spot on Heero's lap. Heero gave an indignant huff at the dog's position on his crotch, causing Duo to chuckle. "What can I say? He takes after my own heart." A slight grin formed on his lover's mouth.
Duo then began to tell Heero of the day's activities and the final result. He spoke of Milliardo's workers and the neighbors who'd come over to offer their assistance.
Heero's eyes widened slightly with surprise as his lover spoke with animation and excitement. Even to his dulled senses, he could see a change in the other man and realized he was glimpsing the person Duo used to be. His lover's blue-violet eyes were sparkling with excitement, something that he hadn't seen in a long time.
"And, Heero," Duo continued, lowering his voice so that Frank, still in the kitchen, couldn't overhear what he was about to say. "I walked out the front door, twice, without thinking about it. I met the neighbors, talked and worked with them." He leaned in closer, his smile broadening. "You were right, they're all really nice. They were really upset at what had happened to us and they're going to start a neighborhood watch. I don't think they realize exactly what two former terrorists can bring to such a group." His humor and obvious excitement about the day showed in Duo's eyes and face. He watched as Duo did a quick check to make sure they were alone before he swooped down and captured his surprised lover's lips, giving him a quick but thorough kiss.
"Duo," Heero whispered his lover's name with awe after they separated. He raised his good hand to cup the cheek, rounded by the smile on the braided man's face.
Duo lowered his head once more, but this time his lips went to Heero's ear where he whispered, "I can't wait for us to be home and in our own bed again. I miss you."
Frankly, Heero was at a loss for words. The transformation in his lover within one day was astonishing. He reached up and pulled Duo close, giving him a warm embrace. "I love you," he whispered, and those words seemed to be the only appropriate thing to say at the moment.
"Love you, too." Duo replied, then ran his tongue along the outside edge of his lover's ear, and suddenly, Heero was feeling a whole lot better.
Heero managed to remain awake for the rest of the evening and Duo began to feel optimistic about his recovery as some of his lover's color returned while they spent a pleasant evening with their host. The braided man called Milliardo, thanking him for the help he'd sent over that day and gave him a brief report of all that was accomplished. He then spoke to him about arranging for a new security system and the head of the Preventers, sounding a bit surprised by their lengthy conversation, promised to make calls the next morning and set up an installation as soon as possible. All in all, Duo thought he'd had a very good day.
They slept once more out of necessity in separate bedrooms, going through the same nightly routine of tucking Heero into bed and Frank coming into Duo's room with a cup of hot cocoa and to chat for a short while before they both retired for the night.
The next morning Duo announced that he would be taking Sinjin with him and walking to Mrs. L.'s house for a morning visit. Frank offered to drive him but Duo stubbornly insisted on walking, feeling suddenly like he could take on the world now that his confidence was finally beginning to return. He wanted to test his new ability to walk out of the door without experiencing his usual paralyzing fear and talking to the neighbors without being paranoid. Frank tried to talk him out of it, citing their recent troubles, and though Heero was still groggy with sleep when he woke him up, he urged Duo to accept the ride. He reluctantly agreed, mostly to pacify Heero, but he steadfastly insisted that he would walk home. Sneaking a quick goodbye kiss with his lover while Frank pulled the car out of the driveway, Duo grabbed up his dog and his leash then walked out the front door, an excited shiver going up his spine that he did it once again without quaking with fear.
Directing Frank to Mrs. L's home, Duo kept a sharp eye out for anything suspicious and to make sure they weren't followed. Once Frank pulled the car up to the curb, Duo jumped out and bent down to address the older man.
"Thanks, Frank. I'll give you guys a call when I start back. Don't let Heero worry, okay?"
"I'll be happy to pick you up. In fact, it would probably be much safer if I did. We don't know who caused Heero's accident or wrecked the house and we don't know if they won't try something again. You need to be careful, if not for your own sake then for the peace of mind of those who care about you."
Duo sighed, knowing Frank was right. "I'll think about it, alright? In the mean time, I'll be fine here with Mrs. L. See ya later, Frank." And with that said, he closed the car door and waved goodbye to the worried looking elderly man as he slowly drove away.
Turning, Duo let his eyes roam over the facade of the house that would always have a special place in his heart, for it was this simple home that had been a place of sanctuary for him. It was here that Trowa had brought him, right out of the penal colony, in order to heal him, and it was here that he'd been reunited with his friends and lover. This place felt like home as much as the one he and Heero now shared together. He always felt a sense of safety and comfort from just being here with Mrs. L, whose loving presence always reassured him.
He walked up the sidewalk, noting to himself that the lawn looked like it could use a mowing, something he could do before he left, then climbed the stairs to the porch and approached the door with Sinjin tucked under his arm and knocked three times on the wood surface. It was opened almost immediately by the smiling elderly woman who ushered the both of them inside with a warm welcome.
"How are you?" he asked, his eyes surveying the elderly woman's slightly bent form and taking note of the cast on her right arm that was cradled in a sling.
She waved off his concern. "I'm fine, Duo. You mustn't worry. I'm a little stiff and ache here and there but with the pain pills the doctor gave me, I'm getting along just fine," she insisted. Duo felt a sense of relief to hear she was doing well and to see her in such good spirits. Funny, he thought, she seemed to be doing a lot better than Heero, despite her fractured right wrist and bruised shoulder. Again, he worried that maybe something else was going on with his lover and decided if he wasn't better by the next morning, he'd take him back to the hospital himself.
The elderly woman and young man visited happily with each other for the entire morning, enjoying tea and Mrs. L's poppy seed cake while Duo relayed to her all that had happened the day before, of the clean-up of their house after the break in, his helpful neighbors, his personal revelations and improvements, and then his concerns about Heero's condition. Mrs. L. listened intently and then offered her home to the two recovering young men who held a special place in her heart. In all truthfulness, Duo wanted to accept. Mrs. L. and her home represented so much more than just a place to stay. The added incentive was that he and Heero could sleep together at night in the bed they'd stayed in when they boarded with the elderly woman.
"I know it wouldn't be for very long," Mrs. Lunderson continued, "but it would please me to no end to have you and Heero come and stay with me for a while. I've missed you and the house has been too quiet since everyone moved out."
The sincerity in the woman's eyes spoke to Duo's heart. "I'll talk to Heero as soon as I get back to Frank's," he told her and Mrs. L looked pleased at the prospect of having their company again.
Duo found the lawn mower in the shed located in the side yard, and mowed the front and back lawns for his friend. Afterwards, they shared lunch together and it was almost two in the afternoon before Duo called Frank's to leave a message for Heero that he was starting back. He clipped the leash onto Sinjin's collar and the two of them began the walk back to the older man's home.
It wasn't until he was half way there that some of his old fears began to resurface and he began to feel anxious as feelings of paranoia clouded his mind and he wondered whether or not he was being watched or followed. He tried not to be obvious as he checked out his surroundings for any suspicious activity. Not seeing anything or anyone that poised a threat, he walked a bit faster before finally giving into the urgency he felt and broke into a run. Sinjin happily followed alongside his master, looking for all the world like he was having the time of his life with his tongue hanging out of his mouth and tail wagging as they ran all the rest of the way to Frank's home.
Pausing at the foot of the front porch steps, Duo leaned over his knees to catch his breath. He figured it wouldn't look very good if he were to walk into the house flustered from a near panic attack. Once his breathing was under control, he wiped the sweat off his brow, tossed his braid back over his shoulder and started up the stairs.
Heero was once again stretched out on the sofa, and to Duo's delight, he was awake, barely. "Hey!" He greeted his lover, unhooking Sinjin's leash and letting the dog go free as he made his way to his lover's side. "Where's Frank?"
"He ran to the store."
"And left you alone?"
"I'm not a child, Duo," Heero sighed, then a faint smile tugged at the corner of his lips. "And for the moment we're all alone."
Duo didn't miss the beguiling look in his lover's eyes nor that teasing smile and that was all the invite he needed. He knelt next to the soft and leaned over to take his lover's lips with his own, savoring the rejuvenating feeling he always experienced when they kissed. The kiss was slow, languid and unhurried. They both knew it wasn't going to lead to much else, but they wanted to enjoy what little intimacy they could in the few moments that they had alone together.
"When can we go home?" Heero asked a bit breathless after Duo released his lips and lifted his head so they could both catch their breath.
"As soon as I can get a bed bought. But I didn't want to pick one out without your input."
"Milliardo called this morning about the security system," Heero informed him while tenderly stroking the smooth face only inches from his own. "He says they can't come out until end of next week at the earliest. "
Duo groaned and buried his face into Heero's neck. "It feels like forever since we made love," he complained, then nipped at the skin on Heero's neck when his lover had the audacity to laugh.
"I promise to make it up to you."
"As soon as you get the security system in and buy us a bed."
Duo pulled back to look his lover in the eyes. "I bet if I called Quatre he'd get us a security system installed by tomorrow, and a bed too."
Heero frowned and shook his head. "I thought we were going to try to solve our problems ourselves this time without involving them."
"Well, Milliardo's helping us isn't he?"
"He's available and on Earth. Let's not get the others involved, alright?"
Duo sighed. "Okay, but I'm going to be extremely desperate by the time the week is out or completely out of the mood," he warned.
"I'll make sure you're in the mood."
Duo returned Heero's wicked grin. "Cocky, aren't ya?"
Heero laughed, and the sound of it was music to Duo's ears. "You could say that, but I think it's just confidence in my abilities."
Duo leaned down for another kiss, and brushed his lips against his lover's as he said, "I happen to really like your abilities."
"Likewise," Heero replied, then kissed his lover in earnest, his good arm looping around the other's slender back and pushing him closer to deepen the kiss.
Sinjin's bark a few moments later alerted them that Frank was pulling up into the driveway. "Damn," Duo swore at the interruption.
"Why don't you go shopping tomorrow and pick us out a bed and mattress. Remember, I like super firm, pillowed."
"I remember," Duo smiled and pulled out of his lover's hold so that Frank wouldn't be surprised by their display of affection when he entered his home. "What do you think of Cherry or maple for the head and footboards?"
"I kind of like a metal bed."
"I like wood."
Heero studied his lover's face for a moment before capitulating. "Get whatever you want, just don't forget the bedding and pillows."
Frank entered the house then and Duo rushed to help him carry the groceries in from the car. It was during their dinner that evening, as they sat in the living room around the coffee table, that Duo mentioned Mrs. L.'s invitation for them to stay with her.
"Do you think that would be wise, considering the break in?" Frank asked, looking none too happy about the invite.
"We've been here a couple of days and nothing's happened," Duo answered. "I think it might be all right and Mrs. L. is really anxious for us to stay with her."
"I'm feeling better," Heero said. "I think it would be safe enough to stay with her a couple of days."
Frank looked directly at Heero. "Why don't we wait until morning to see how you feel then, Heero? You can't be too careful with a head injury like yours."
Heero shrugged, not truly believing he was going to have a turn for the worse. "We'll decide in the morning then."
They played board games that evening and this time Heero joined in, appearing more alert than he'd been since his release from the hospital. Duo felt both relieved and encouraged that his lover was finally on the mend. Before retiring for the night, they placed calls to their friends in space, reassuring them that Heero was doing better and that they might be staying at Mrs. Lunderson's home for a few days while they made arrangements to return to their home, hopefully within a week's time.
While Heero got ready for bed in the bathroom, Duo changed out of his clothes and pulled down the blankets as Sinjin ran around his feet. "Calm down, boy, it's time for bed," he told the little dog, then reached down and scratched the happy animal behind his ears. Hearing the bathroom door open, he left his room to help Heero into bed as Sinjin ran down the stairs after hearing Frank call him in order to put him out for the last time that night.
Alone again, Duo lay on Heero's bed and covered his lover's neck and face with kisses, his hands wandered over the familiar plains of the other man's strong body. As his hands moved lower, Heero batted them away.
"Knock it off," he chuckled. "I won't be able to sleep if you keep that up."
"Sleep is overrated," Duo replied with a grin. "And besides, you've slept enough in the last week to last a month. When we get home, no sleeping, only playing."
"Whatever you want," Heero said in a deep sexy voice, then turned his head to capture his lover's lips for their final kiss of the day.
Sinjin came bounding into the room and called an end to their make-out session. Duo rose quickly from the bed just as Frank entered with two cups of hot liquid. "I made tea for Heero and cocoa for you, Duo," the elderly man said with a pleasant smile. Heero sat up and took the cup and saucer from him as did Duo, and they both sipped at their drinks as Frank spoke of Sinjin's antics in the backyard.
When the hot drinks were finished, Frank took the cups and ushered Duo to his room when Heero yawned and his eyes drooped. After saying goodnight, Duo dutifully followed their benefactor out of the room, shutting out the light as he went. "I think he's doing much better, don't you?"
"Yes, he's much improved," Frank agreed as he paused to allow Duo to step around him and enter his room.
Suddenly Duo felt tired and had no desire to talk any longer to the other man. "Well, goodnight, Frank. I'll see you in the morning."
"Are you sure you want to go and stay at Mrs. L's house?" he asked. "You're much closer to your home here and I can assure you that your being here is no burden."
Duo smiled at the elderly man and put a hand on his shoulder. "You're a great guy, Frank. But I think Mrs. L. could use the company and I can help her around the house now that Heero's feeling better."
There was a deflated look in the older man's eyes, but Duo decided to ignore it. He couldn't let his sympathies for the man's loneliness make his decisions for him. He needed to be able to sleep with his lover at night, just to be close to him if nothing else, and he couldn't do that here in Frank's house, in separate bedroom and twin beds.
"Goodnight, Frank," he said, then turned into his room and the moment after Sinjin leapt through the door, he closed it behind him, leaving Frank in the hall holding the two empty mugs.
Duo slept later than usual the next morning and felt somewhat sluggish as he rose out of the bed and made his way to the bathroom. After a shower and a shave, he did his customary check on Heero and found his lover fast asleep. Going downstairs he was surprised to not see his host. He called out for the older man, but there was no answer. Going to the back door, he opened it, expecting Sinjin to come jumping through it, but once again he was disappointed.
"Sinjin! Come here boy!" He called out louder, but was again answered with silence and stillness. He shut the back door and wondered if Frank had maybe taken the dog for a morning walk. If he did, Duo made a mental note to thank him. With all that had been going on, he'd not given the dog as much attention as he should have.
Rummaging through the cupboards for something to eat, he wrinkled his nose at finding only high fiber cereal. Heero might be able to eat it, but there was no way in hell it was going into his mouth without a fight. He saw that a pot of coffee had already been made so he searched through the cupboards until he found some bread and toasted four pieces, then buttered and put jam on each slice and called it breakfast.
He'd cleaned the kitchen after himself and was about to return upstairs to wake Heero when the front door opened and entered with a grave expression on his face. "Frank, what's the matter?" Duo asked, going to the man's side in seeing there was something wrong.
"I'm sorry, Duo, but Sinjin dug under the fence and got out of the backyard. I've been out trying to find him. I drove all over the place looking, but I haven't seen him."
Duo stood and just looked at the man, feeling somewhat shocked at the unexpected news. He'd never had a pet before so he wasn't sure how you went about finding one. "What do we do?" he asked.
"I'll call the animal regulation department and see if anyone's reported finding a stray dog. Is Heero up?"
Frowning, Duo shook his head. "He wasn't, but I'll go see if he is now." Then as Frank moved into the kitchen, Duo walked up the stairs and went directly to the back bedroom. He didn't speak of it to Frank, but he remembered the incident with the dead cat at their doorstep and all that had happened after that dreadful day. He chewed at his thumb nail with worry as he wondered if maybe the person who had caused all their problems lately had his dog. Without hesitating, he opened the bedroom door and moved to his lover's bed and gently shook his shoulder. "Heero, wake up."
There was a tone of urgency to Duo's voice that helped bring the sleeping man to consciousness, and after hearing it, Heero immediately blinked his eyes open and struggled to focus on his lover's face looming above him. "What's the matter?" he asked, his voice deep and groggy.
"Sinjin's gone. Frank said he dug out under the fence this morning and he can't find him."
Heero worked his way up to his elbows, his expression was one of concern. "I'm sorry, Duo. I'm sure we'll find him."
"I hope so. I'm afraid he'll get hit by a car, or worse. He's only been out on the streets with a leash to keep him in tow."
Now sitting up, Heero pulled his lover into his arms, knowing how attached Duo had become to the dog and that this had to be difficult for him. "I'll get up and we'll both go out and look for him."
Duo pulled back and shook his head. "Yeah right. You're still hobbling around with that bum ankle. You're not up to that. Maybe I should call Milliardo."
"A missing dog is hardly Preventer business, Duo. I think we have to handle this on our own."
The slump of his lover's slender shoulder told Heero just how distressed he was. "Come on. I'll get up and we'll see what can be done."
After getting dressed, eating a rushed breakfast and taking their medication, Frank drove the two young men around the surrounding neighborhoods. Two hours later they returned home, discouraged. No one they'd stopped and talked to had seen Sinjin. Frank worriedly said that it was as if the little dog been swallowed up by something unknown. The grim idea sent a feeling of dread into the men's hearts as each remembered the dead cat that had been left on their door step not long ago.
The house was quiet as they sat and waited for some news from the local animal agency. They shared a quiet lunch together, discussing what they should do next. Finally, Duo could sit no more and jumped to his feet. "I think maybe we should go to Mrs. L.'s house," he announced. "Sinjin might have gone back there after our walk yesterday."
"I think Heero may be too tired from this morning's excursion," Frank said with a nod to the dark haired man. Duo looked at his lover and could see that Heero was struggling to stay awake.
"Then maybe I should go alone," Duo said, feeling the need to be doing something other than sitting and waiting for the phone to ring.
"No," Heero said, forcing himself to stay awake despite the sudden sleepiness that came upon him. "We'll have Frank drive us over."
And so the three men climbed into the car once more and Frank drove them to the familiar home that had been their home for over a year. Duo helped Heero out of the car when he insisted he say hello to Mrs. L. and to see for himself that she was recovering from the accident. Frank waited in the car, parked directly in front of the house.
Duo rang the doorbell, and after a few minutes of standing on the porch with no answer, he knocked loudly, thinking maybe she didn't hear him. Several more minutes passed and he shared a worried look with Heero.
"Try the door," Heero said, as he struggled to stand on his own. He couldn't imagine what in the hell was wrong with him. He'd been feeling so much better and now he was finding it hard to stay on his feet and keep his eyes open. With heavy-lidded eyes, he watched as Duo put his hand on the doorknob and gave it a turn. Surprisingly, it gave way, and Heero dimly thought he'd have to speak to Mrs. L. about her own security.
Duo entered the house cautiously, calling out her name, then a uttered a strangled, horrified gasp. "Oh, God!" Heero forced himself to concentrate as Duo left his side and ran forward to kneel at the foot of the stairs.
"No... no, no, no." Duo cried out in anguish. Heero moved forward to see what was wrong, and when it became all too clear, he felt the same torment that Duo had voiced. There on the floor, her shoulder and head on the floor and the rest of her body angled up the stairs, lay the elderly woman they had come to love, her face lacked all color other than the dried trickle of blood that had come from her nose. Heero noted the odd angle of her head and realized their adopted grandmother was dead. He fell to his knees beside Duo and wrapped his arms around his lover's shaking shoulders and together they began to mourn the loss of the woman who had shown them so much love and compassion.
When Frank came in after waiting in the car for their return, it was to see the two former gundam pilots embracing each other and openly weeping over the elderly woman's dead body. He moved up to them and checked the pulse, knowing before he touched the cold skin that the woman was dead. "I'll call the police," he said quietly and then went to find the phone.
Five minutes later the local police arrived, and ten minutes after that, Milliardo Peacecraft. Duo and Heero sat on the sofa together, holding onto each other for support and comfort. When the recognizable and commanding blond entered the home, the police inspection was well underway and after a few comments to the officer in charge, Milliardo went straight to the two former gundam pilots to assess their condition. Crouching down in front of them, he noted the tear tracks on Duo's face as he held Heero who appeared to be sleeping on his shoulder.
"Duo." A flicker of awareness came into the braided man's dazed eyes and he turned his head to look at him.
"Could you call the guys, tell them what's happened?" the braided man asked in a choked whisper.
"Of course," Milliardo answered. "What can I do to help you?"
"Could you locate her family and call them? I think I need to take Heero back to Frank's. He was doing better, but this seems to have set him back."
"I'll take them home," Frank said, stepping forward.
Milliardo stood and shook the man's hand. "I appreciate your caring for them. Please see to it that they rest and I'll be in touch within a couple of hours."
Between the two of them they managed to get the younger men out of the house and into the elderly man's car. Duo still seemed to be in a daze as he held Heero's sleeping body against his own in the back seat of the older man's car. After the door was shut, Milliardo once again turned to the older man. "If they need anything, please call me and I'll see to it."
"Don't worry about them, Mr. Peacecraft. I'll take very good care of them and see that no harm befalls them. They're safe with me," Frank stated solemnly with a look of determination in his eyes.
"Lock your doors and don't open it for anyone other than myself or their close friends," the frowning head of the Preventers cautioned. "I don't know if this was an accident or not. After all that's gone on this week, it smacks of foul play and not just a slip on the stairs."
"Duo's dog went missing this morning so we came here to see if Sinjin had come here, that's how we happened to find the unfortunate woman's body."
The tall blond rubbed at his forehead as if a headache was coming on. "That's the last thing they need. Duo's fragile enough and I don't know what losing Mrs. Lunderson and his dog is going to do to him. I know he was growing very attached to the animal so I think it's imperative that we do all we can to find him. I'll get in touch with animal regulation and see if they've picked him up."
"We've already done that," Frank answered. "We've had a very busy morning."
"Thank you again, Dr. McAdams. This is not an easy time for them and your assistance is appreciated. I'll call their friends and I'm sure they'll be here by tomorrow afternoon and will no doubt take charge of them upon their return."
"They're comfortable at my home," Frank said. "Surely they'll be content to stay."
Milliardo shook his head. "You don't understand what those two and their close friends mean to each other. They're each other's family and would risk anything to keep each other safe and happy. You can rest assure that they'll be well taken care of and comforted by their friends upon their return."
There was a moment when the older man seemed to be considering his words, then he nodded his head. "I'll speak to you soon," he said as a final farewell, then turned and went around the car and got into the driver's seat, started the car and drove away with the two former gundam pilots sitting docilely in the back seat.
It was mid afternoon by the time Duo and Frank brought Heero into the older man's house and lay him on the sofa. The retired doctor sat nearby and watched as Duo sat at the Asian man's side, holding his hand for several moments. Then the young man's head turned to his host. "I think we should go," he said quietly. "Anyone who would kill a defenseless old woman to get to me could easily burn your house down or murder you in your sleep, Frank. You would be much safer if Heero and I left."
"Where would you go?" Frank's manner appeared to be calm and reserved.
"I don't know. Anyone we stay with will be put in danger."
"What would your friends say if they came here to collect you and you were gone? Won't they be angry at me for letting you go?"
Duo considered the question for a moment then answered. "I could leave them a note telling them we'll make contact with them after we're found a safe place."
"Alright," Frank agreed, looking serious. "Why don't you write the note and I'll start some supper. I think you should at least stay here until Heero wakes up and then you can both slip out once it's dark."
Duo nodded, his face looking tired and worn from his grieving over Mrs. L. "Don't bother with any food, Frank. I'm not hungry."
"How about something to drink. I have some soda."
Duo sighed and nodded again. He was thirsty.
Frank stood and went to his desk in the corner and brought back a piece of paper and a pen, then went to the kitchen to get the promised drink.
Duo slowly composed the note to his friends, finding it hard to think or write legibly as grief and guilt roiled through his mind. He was certain that it was his fault that Mrs. Lunderson was dead. She didn't deserve that kind of death, he said to himself. As tears refused to be held back any longer, he wrote to his friends about his decision for he and Heero to leave, but promised they'd be in touch in three or four days. He explained that they didn't want to endanger anyone else and that he needed some space to deal with his grief. When he finished with the signing of his name, he folded the sheet of paper in half and put the name of their three friends on the outside. He hoped they would understand and wouldn't be angry with him for taking matters into his own hands.
He left the pen and paper on the table and turned his attention back to Heero. Leaning over, he put his head on his lover's shoulder, seeking comfort from him as the cloud of grief overwhelmed him once again. The image of Mrs. L., her eyes sparkling with affection and humor as they'd visited with each other just the day before was a stark contrast to how she looked sprawled out on the bottom of the stairs. The unfairness of it all burned in his heart and tears streamed down his cheeks. "Oh God, Heero. Why? Why did they have to hurt her?" Some part of him screamed that he should run, leave Heero behind to recover while he lured their tormentor away. The Duo of old could have done it without much thought, but he knew more than ever that he wasn't that brave any more. The mere thought of leaving Heero behind shook him to the core of his being. Without any doubt, he knew he could never leave Heero, not for any reason, not even to protect his lover from the danger they were in now.
He had little doubt that it was one of other convicts that had come looking for him, probably having figured out he was the one to maim them in retribution for their attacks on him. He cursed himself for not having been up front with Heero; he should have told him of what he'd done in prison and that he was always looking over his shoulder for some vengeful former inmate to come after him. He decided then and there that he would confess, as soon as they were safe. He just had to wait until it was dark out to take his lover and find some place to hole up, maybe an old safehouse from during the war. And when Heero felt better, he'd confess everything to him and they'd figure out what to do. He could count on his lover to have a clearer head than he did at the moment. He was just too emotionally distraught and frightened to trust his own judgement.
The sound of Frank clearing his throat, alerting him that he was approaching, brought him off Heero's chest and he quickly wiped the wetness from his cheeks. The older man carried in a tray with two tall, clear glasses of ice and soda. One of the drinks was a cola, Duo's favorite, and the other clear, obviously Frank's. He took the offered glass, raised it to his lips and drank the carbonated, caffeinated drink, enjoying the taste and coolness as it went down his throat. Half the contents of the glass was gone by the time he paused to sip at it, noting that Frank had sat on the chair nearby and was sipping his own drink. The room remained silent except for the sound of Heero's breathing and an occasional sniffle from himself.
In the ensuing quiet, Duo wondered if Milliardo had managed to contact the others. He expected a phone call from them at any moment and at the moment he desperately needed them, their comfort, reassurance and security they always gave him.
"Where will you go?" Frank asked, his voice soft, almost a whisper.
Duo looked up from his empty glass, absently swirling the melting cubes of ice around in the bottom of it. "I'm not sure, but I don't think I should tell you, just to protect you and ourselves."
"Do you know who is doing this?"
Duo studied the wizened face, the honest concern was evident in the man's eyes. "I think it's someone from the penal colony. I... I did some things that I'm not proud of, and if they figured out that I did it, some of them would gladly hunt me down and hurt if not kill me."
Frank's eyes marginally widened. "What did you do?" he asked.
Duo put his empty glass down on the table and turned to gaze at Heero's placid face. He stroked his lover's hand as he answered the question. "I sought vengeance on those who hurt me."
Duo looked up to see that the other man had more questions he wanted to ask, but Frank wisely held off as if sensing he wouldn't appreciate him probing any further into that dark time in his life. As he looked at the older man, his vision suddenly blurred and his body began to sway with a sudden weariness. A wave of nausea rolled through him and he closed his eyes to stave it off. In the distance, he heard the phone ring and he forced his eyes open only to see Frank stand.
"If it's the guys, I want to talk to them," he said with some difficulty, his thoughts and words having a hard time making it past his lips.
"Just lie down and rest. I'll take care of everything," Frank said, his voice growing faint as Duo did as he was told, and lay the upper part of his body down onto Heero's chest, his eyelids and body suddenly too weary to hold up.
"Damn," he whispered, his voice slurred as an unnatural sleepiness overcame and consumed him.