Drizzly, shivery thin mists of rain that drenched and froze what they touched.
They touched Heero, sitting alone on a bench in the deserted park.
Miserable. Summed it up.
Heero missed the colony. Earth was a good place, an unpredictable place, a natural place, but it was still alien to his colony-bred sensibilities. Even though he had lived on earth for nearly ten years... every time he went into space he almost wept. Not homecoming, nothing so ephemeral as that; but familiar, solid, something he knew about.
Heero wanted to go home.
He stared about the park. Not a soul. Empty, empty, empty. He was grateful for the lack of human contact: the innate joy of life, he suspected, would only have made him more miserable.
He looked at his watch: lunch was almost over. Time to get back. His skin, paled by the cold, showed up the yellowy bruise under where his watch rested on his wrist. He rubbed it automatically, feeling nothing now, nut remembering...
Abruptly he stubbed out the cigarette. He didn't smoke them; just sat and watched them burn, right down to the filter tip. It just felt comforting to be able to make this little pretence at ordinariness, to do something everyone else did – yet know it wasn't real. A little secret from the world. He lit another as he walked back to work, watched it burn away; looked while crossing the road, looked back to notice the extra millimetres of ash. Watched it burn, ineffective; out of his control. Stubbed the end out on the wall of the police station, and went inside.
The first message on his monitor was from the duty sergeant downstairs. It didn't sound too urgent, so after checking the rest of the messages he decided to check it out, rather than take up one of the more important things he could be doing. Might be more amusing.
Making his way swiftly back downstairs he quickly made it to the duty sergeant's desk.
"Ah, sir, yes, Nick and Ben arrested some guy in connection with those drugs offences you were looking into. Cell 9."
Heero nodded his thanks to the sergeant and followed him to the cells. He kept his ears open to the sounds of the station: no yelling from behind the cell doors, thankfully; the quiet hum of the strip light; a voice, answering an unheard question.
Heero listened. The voice... it belonged to a leader. Heero knew in an instant. This person was the focal point of any group he was with. Heero couldn't make out all the words, as he progressed along the corridor of cells, but the easy, deliberate speech pattern stuck in a loop in his hearing. The speaker was clearly so self-assured that he believed whatever he was saying: the concept of being wrong, being untruthful, was an abstract, from another sphere.
Or that was the impression he gave.
The door to cell 9 swung open, and Heero retrieved his prisoner. The young man looked sullen, refused to meet Heero's eye, instead staring fixedly into the middle distance. He reminded Heero, as so many of these young boys did, of himself. He would like to think that he wouldn't have been so foolish as to get caught... except he knew it was a lie. Of course, back then, it was harder to escape notice: paranoid soldiers and strength of numbers made it all too easy to be discovered, as Heero found out on more than one occasion. And he would have thought nothing of using some pretty desperate methods of escaping; but then, times were pretty grim.
When he saw prisoners waiting for questioning in these little cells, he couldn't help the flashes of relief that would wash over him, that these men and women, the majority of them still young, would never have to experience what he had. He was glad they were there, arrested for shoplifting, or possession of drugs, or causing a disturbance; glad for the stability of a society that paid attention to these petty crimes and had the time and resources to at least try to deal with them. Made his own struggles, his own capture, his own fighting... meaningful. Once, he had seen someone he recognised, sitting resigned on the wooden bench in cell 3; they'd once fought as allies, sharing a common enemy and a common age.
"Heero Yuy!" the young man had exclaimed. Heero had said nothing, but led the man towards the interview rooms. As Heero started the discs recording, the young man took the opportunity to make his indictment of a system that allowed "...mass killers to arrest their former colleagues for forgery and counterfeiting."
"So, you admit the charges then?"
His prisoner looked stunned. He leaned over the desk, his voice a harsh whisper: "It's not important though, is it? When you think of what... YOU did..."
Heero didn't reply. `What I had to do.'
"I was only doing what I had to... just like back then..."
Heero didn't reply. `But that was for a reason. A cause.'
"I didn't have a choice!"
Heero didn't reply. `You should have given yourself the choice.'
"But..." the man looked defeated already by Heero's silence. "It's not important..."
Heero didn't reply. `We fought to make it important. If you didn't want this, you shouldn't have fought to protect it. This... is what we wanted.'
Heero looked up. "Interview terminated at one thirty-three pm."
His colleague escorted the prisoner back to the cell, and Heero followed silently. It made him bitter, how he'd nearly dies for peace – others *had * died – but people abused it. They couldn't get used to stability; they were so used to being too busy worrying about the war to commit crime – and if crimes were committed, they were seldom noticed or investigated in the confusion.
Heero knew people were idiots.
Through all his thoughts that stranger's voice had still stood out, Heero realised, as he noticed it had stopped, like the sudden quiet in the restaurant when the music you hadn't even realised was playing is switched off. He was back by the sergeant's desk now, and couldn't help look for the owner of the commanding voice.
The man, he was probably Heero's age, leant back on the desk, looking absently towards the ceiling. Totally at ease; not noticing his surroundings; thinking. Heero turned, looked at the young man's face. Some people, Heero always thought, looked like they were the leading players in life. They were seldom thought of as conventionally beautiful; some, in fact, were ugly. Others... were stunning. All looked like they... stood out. Important people. Heero thought, quite honestly and objectively that he himself was one of that sort of people.
This young man was also one of them. Hair in a long plait; slim; just a little shorter than Heero. Dressed casually all in black, but he looked smart: a figure that would look fine in any clothing. Heero gazed neutrally at the young man's profile.
As if feeling Heero's eyes, the man turned, his own gaze picking Heero out immediately, although others too were looking, waiting for the young man's next pronouncement.
But he looked straight at Heero: one star to another. He smiled. Heero felt like the young man knew him. He didn't move, and didn't look away.
The duty sergeant saw the look. "This is Duo Maxwell, sir. He has some... information for us. I'll explain it to you after you've finished this interview." Reminding Heero of the prisoner he had come to question.
Heero nodded, not moving his gaze. Sizing up the stranger who walked towards him, extending a hand.
"So, you're the detective inspector round here?"
Heero took the hand, shook it, nodded. "Heero Yuy. I'll review the information as soon as I can." He meant it. He felt it would be important, from a person with such... meaning?
"Thank you very much for taking the time." Finally he let Heero's hand drop. Still looked into his face: measuring him as Heero had done – are you like me?
Heero watched the young man's eyes. They were a rich blue, brighter than his own; they hid a sparkle, a mischief... they were the sort of eyes that belonged to a person who would make a joke about your sexual prowess or your bank balance, and wink at you.
Heero hadn't seen eyes like those for a long time.
"Pleased to meet you, Inspector Yuy." Yes. Yes you are.