Another Version of Events
by Karan Seraph
Duo caught up with Heero outside of the restaurant. It was not really unexpected. Heero had only quick-walked, while Duo had started running once he was out the door. He shoved at Heero's left shoulder and that made Heero stop and look up at him.
"Give me that. Do you know how crazy that is? Walking through a public place with a gun out in the open like that?"
"Yes. I should not have this gun," Heero said slowly.
Duo shook his head, he did take the gun though. "It's not like that," Duo said quietly. "Heero. You should have been resting this hand."
Heero lifted his right hand. This time, he did not see the gun and he really noticed the brace on his wrist. "I left him alone."
"Yeah. Heero. You are good to Koi. You feed him, wash him, train him, play with him, clean up after him, you even let him sleep in your bed some days. That dog loves you. He'd follow you anywhere. I know you do love him too, but he is not the only life you have to consider. Just running off without thinking will not help anyone, even Koi, and it is just not you."
Heero looked past Duo. He could see Quick and Johnny nearby, arms carrying computers and liquor. He looked around the old narrow street. No one was staring or gasping as they had inside the restaurant. "I just..."
"Yeah. When stuff goes down like this, you can just go on instinct, training, and adrenaline too. I mean anyone could. I know."
"Aa." Duo knew.
Duo cocked his head and the others joined them. He offered the gun to Quick. "You know how to handle this?"
"Yes, but I have never shot anyone."
"How'd you get it?"
"It has been in my family."
"It seems well maintained, but it should probably be kept unloaded and in a display case. If you have single girl security issues, you could use a stun gun just as well. You could even carry it legally."
"You are supposed to turn me in?"
"Yeah, but I follow the law more in spirit than by letter. I'm kinda Christian that way."
Quick laughed. Duo helped her juggled the computers so she could return the gun to its holster inside her bag.
"So, tell me the plan as we walk," Duo told Heero.
"They might not even be there," Heero admitted.
"Yeah, but it is possible."
"We do not know much about them, or about the others."
"The others are quite professional. It was tough not getting hit more than once. My educated guess would be that there's more than one tap on that phone line."
"That would mean that they also know Lapin's name," Heero said, "If that is true."
"You aren't going to tell me what's going on," Johnny sighed.
"You're just the guide and porter," Duo laughed.
"Someone was killed. A hacker. You may have heard about it in the news. Now several parties are interested in finding anyone he may have communicated with or who communicated with those people. Some parties are willing to use lethal force," Quick said.
"And you all knew this hacker?"
"We all have some connection to his girlfriend who has skipped town," Duo explained. "I did warn you back there, if you follow you're a target by association."
"Maybe you will need some help. It is no good for people to stand by and expect there will always be someone else to look out for their best interests. That sort of attitude breeds dictatorship."
"How Rive Gauche," Duo said.
"If I were targeting me," Heero said, "I would not actually go ransack the flat again. I would just wait somewhere where I could view my approach to the building and then decide whether I should attack or wait until I left the building again."
"Do you know your approach?"
"Do you follow this?" Johnny whispered to Quick.
"And if you know and you see yourself?" Duo asked.
"I am on guard now. I would wait until I began to suspect I was not still targeting myself."
"So you think they will not actually be around?" Duo asked.
"Now that I take time to think it through, I suppose certain parties may be watching the building, but they will not attack again until they are more assured of success. You evaded one group and I evaded another. Neither of those will be sure they have what it takes to either get what they want from us, or silence us."
"And the third group probably doesn't know we're involved."
"I do not think so."
"OK, so we approach the way we left, carefully. Then we clean up?"
"At this rate, we will not get any sleep."
Duo sighed. "Think you're right about that. We'll just have to work extra hard to look chipper and sexy for the cameras tomorrow."
"Cameras?" Johnny asked.
Duo chuckled. "Yeah, Heero's arranged a big magazine interview for us tomorrow."
"Which is why we cannot just find a new place to stay. We already promised to meet their crew at Lapin's flat tomorrow."
"Tell 'em what kind of interview Heero," Duo urged.
Heero shrugged then glanced over his shoulder to the other two. "I decided to out myself as homosexual to the gay-men's-magazine-reading world."
There was silence for a moment, but for the sounds of traffic and music in the city.
"I certainly understood that the two of you were together, but may I ask why you decided on the interview?" Johnny asked. He added, "People usually advise me that it is best to keep the public guessing."
Heero looked to Duo, but Duo seemed content to let Heero answer. The interview had been his idea. "Just to be clear, Duo does not profess to be strictly homosexual; he just happens to be devoted to me right now."
"Man, that is such a casual way to say it." Duo tossed his head so that his braid slithered against his back.
"We are in love with each other," Heero corrected himself. "But to answer your question, I would have remained content to keep my personal life as private as possible if the media had not persisted in following me around like I were some actor, rock star or member of a royal family."
"You are a celebrity," Johnny said, "All different kinds of people can become celebrated. Then the public is interested in you and the media serves the public's demand."
"In any case, I would have ignored it, if they had not reported such inaccurate stories. After a while, I just decided that if I gave an interview and told them the truth that it might refute the other stories that were inaccurate enough to be hurtful. You know, they reported that I was proposing to Relena just before I planned to ask Duo to be committed."
Duo cackled. "I should be committed." It did make it sound like they were saying Duo needed to be institutionalized when he said it that way.
"You are engaged?" Quick whispered.
"Nope. I got a ring though." Duo spun around and walked backward so he could show Quick and Johnny the claddagh on his left hand. "I guess it's like a promise ring."
"A promise of what?" Quick asked.
"She's cute, Heero," Duo told him. "A promise to be monogamous," he said before he turned around and walked beside Heero again. "I would have done it without the ring, though."
"But it is not bad having a boyfriend who buys you gifts."
Duo laughed. "No. Not bad at all."
"There. We are close," Heero said. They were in view of the side of their building to which the fire escape was mounted. "Only one of us has to go. To open the door for the others."
"You don't have a key?" Johnny asked.
"We have keys, but we barred the door from the inside, as the flat was already broken into once today," Duo said quietly. "I'll go."
Heero knew this was the best decision. It should be either Duo or himself to take the risk. Duo's particular clothing and present state of health would make the climb easier for him. He was also the one more known for stealth. He also had a knife on him. "Then we will split up here. I will watch for you at the front door with the others. We will see you."
Duo gave a quick nod then took off. Within several seconds, even Heero could not see him.
"Black Shadow," Quick whispered, almost reverently. That had been Duo's alias when performing acts of cyber terrorism or general phreaking with military communications systems. Heero knew. No one knew how adept at accessing secured information Duo was because, when he pulled it off, no one even knew he had been there and he never boasted the ability. He'd scream about Death when in battle, but when he did not want to be found, no one would hear him, let alone see him. He could do all that and make a call from a pay phone in Japan to an off shore sat phone register as a call from Riyadh to San Francisco and charge it to Treize Khushrenada.
"You knew that one too," Heero noted quietly.
"He'd never tell how he found information or even claim that he had been the one to get it, but he used the name often enough to share information. I think he was like Lapin that way."
Heero led Quick and Johnny around the block, toward the front of the building. He avoided the pools of light from streetlamps and shops as much as possible, though he expected serious professionals would be equipped with night vision goggles. Heero tried to be quiet, but the other two were not practiced at being stealthy.
"Aa. He did not care about getting credit, he just wanted as many people to know what was happening and how to fight back as possible."
"It was a guess."
"On the identity."
"Oui. But the way he just disappeared..."
"Duo does not like to fight, even though he is good at it. If he can avoid fighting, he will run or hide without feeling any shame. He is very good at it now."
"Cary seemed impressed," Johnny said.
"They were targeting him because they thought he was me. Duo saved his life. Duo would not want him to know that."
They were on the sidewalk across the street from the building Lapin's flat was in. The way the building was laid out, some floors had two apartments on them, so none of the front windows showed Lapin's apartment. Heero stayed inside the doorway of a closed shop and watched the street. It was quite late now and though car traffic was fairly steady, there were not so many pedestrians as Heero had noticed in the day.
Of course, it was Paris and the Left bank and the people who lived in this area might often be out late. There were some people on the streets and sidewalks. There were bars, and cafes still open.
"How long should it take him?" Johnny whispered.
Heero frowned. "Not long," he said. They had walked slowly around the block of buildings while Duo had only needed to approach, climb and open a window. He could have made it to the door already, if he met no obstacles.
There was a ringing at Heero's side. His phone, inside his satchel was ringing.
Heero reached into the satchel and lifted his phone. He placed it on his head and answered the call.
"Ai shite imasu."
Heero closed his eyes. "A bomb." Somehow, he knew.
"One of them ran. Call Preventers."
"I love you," Heero said, but the line was dead. "Quick, give me the gun."
"Heero? Is there really a bomb?"
He watched the front of the building as he pressed a key on the pad at his ear to activate voice commands. "Dial Preventers emergency switchboard."
The gun came into his hand. Heero checked it over with his fingers as he kept his eyes on the building. He gave his badge number, the code for a bomb being detected and the region, city and street address all to the automated system.
"Captain Yuy. A team is being dispatched from the Paris South substation. Are you free to relay details to us?" An agent asked in vaguely British English.
"Lieutenant Maxwell is inside the residence. He reported the bomb to me over the phone. I believe that he is attempting to disarm the bomb, but I am no longer in contact with him. No data on the type of explosive or detonator. He indicated that one individual responsible for planting the bomb left the apartment. I am watching the front of the building, but I do not see anyone..."
"We have initiated use of emergency powers to call into all apartments in the residence. A bomb squad agent is on the line with Maxwell now. The residents have been issued a warning to evacuate..."
"I see people coming from the building."
"The residents have been told that there building is within a threat area and instructed to go the public phone on the corner to await Preventer agents or further instructions."
"Do you have a description of the suspect?" Heero scanned the people as they exited the building.
"Are you equipped to detain a prisoner? ETA for backup is now two minutes."
"I will detain. What kind of bomb is it?"
"Captain Yuy, your suspect is male, of large build, Caucasian, blond hair, seen wearing black jacket and pants."
He was not wearing a jacket, but the rest of the description matched. "It's on a timer? I see an individual that matches the description. Sans the black jacket. He is looking at his watch."
"It is late."
"Was he injured?"
"Did Duo... Did Maxwell find it necessary to engage in combat and injure his ribs?"
Silence, then, "Yes. I confirm your suspect may have an injury in the area of the ribcage."
"He is moving away from the group. I am going after him."
"Captain Yuy, use only force necessary to detain the suspect. You have backup on the way."
"Confirmed. I will detain." Heero was already moving across the street.
"I will remain on the line."
That was the last thing Heero heard from the switchboard. There was a slight whistle, then a loud crack and the headset fell to the street. Heero turned slightly to see the phone and the slight whistling sound came again. He felt the top of his ear burn then and he knew he'd been shot.
He put his left hand to his ear to slow the bleeding and ran, gun pointed down at the street before him. He knew the sniper was on one of the buildings on the same side of the street as Lapin's building, so they would loose sight of him if he reached the front of the building.
Of course, there could be a second sniper waiting for him to cross the street.
Heero saw the suspect moving more blatantly from the group. "Vous, lá! Je suis Preventer! Arrêtez!" Heero called, taking aim at the sidewalk at the man's feet. The people on the corner near him looked slightly panicked and moved toward the street.
The suspect moved and Heero fired at the place his feet had been. He chased him around the corner, hating that he was now associated with a law enforcement agency. There was so much procedure to follow. "I am a Preventer! Stop now or I will shoot!"
Of course, if he did shoot the man with this gun, it would mean some paperwork.
Heero tucked the gun in the back of his pants, let his satchel slip to the sidewalk, kicked off the geta, ignored the blood seeping into his ear and down his neck and put his effort into running faster.
They were running down the side street and Heero was sure Duo had kicked this guy hard in the chest from the way he moved. Heero was close. He thought if he could get a foot against the back of the leg he could bring his knees down to the pavement and then a chop to the neck or back should keep him down a while longer.
Then Heero heard the sound. It was vaguely familiar and also different. He did not understand why, until he saw the vehicle. It was a hovercar; Heero had heard mobile suits with hoverskirts running over sand or colonial streets, but never a hovercar over centuries of built up pavement.
He heard the humming and whooshing. He saw the darkly painted car glide over the street. He saw the barrel of a gun gleaming from the partly rolled-down tinted window. Ping. Ping. The man in front of Heero was stopped and swayed as the bullets hit him square in the chest. He was between Heero and the car then and Heero threw himself down behind the other body as the car swooped past.
He grabbed the gun from the back of his jeans and sat up as the car was headed away from him. He aimed, but did not fire. There were no tires to shoot out, and Heero knew from experience with mobile suits, that the air jets might deflect the bullet away from his target toward some other. He could not risk hitting the civilians on the corner.
They had seen the shooting, but as Heero had expected, there were no markings on the vehicle to identify it.
Heero tossed the weapon to his left hand and reached to feel for a pulse on the man's neck. He found none. He cursed mentally scanned the street around him for threats. He could feel the blood pooling under him and seeping through his jeans.
Heero stood, turned, stooped and rolled the body over. There was no way he or anyone else was going to revive this man. The bullets had shred his heart.
A large, blue armored van stopped at the corner and Preventer agents poured out. Several smaller vehicles passed by to stop farther down the street. An ambulance turned onto the side street where Heero stood and pulled up to the curb.
Within seconds, the civilians on the corner had pointed out Heero and the body to both Preventers and medical technicians. Heero was approached by one of each. Both were men and seemed older than Heero. He saw another medic pass him and go to the body.
"I turned him," Heero said. "I turned the body to determine if I could revive him. He fell face down. I did not shoot him. There was a car that came from that direction." Heero turned and pointed.
"Heero," the agent said.
"My ID is in my satchel there. I let it drop while in pursuit."
"Yes. I am Lieutenant Delorme. It is all right. We do want to hear your full report, but at the present, we want to know that we are doing all we can to prevent further loss of lives. Can you tell us where you are injured?"
"Just here," Heero said, raising his left hand to his ear without touching it. He realized he was still holding onto the gun. His fingers did not really seem to want to let go.
"Captain Yuy," Delorme said for the Medic to hear. "Heero, this is Robert, he is with Medical Section. He is going to look to your injuries, if you will go with him. I will come to hear your account soon."
The Medic called Robert put a heavy blanket over Heero's shoulders. "We are just going to the ambulance. You will be fine. I just need to look at that wound and clean it."
"That is my stuff," Heero said when they came to the satchel and geta on the sidewalk.
"I will get it," Robert said. He stepped in front of Heero and picked up the bag and shoes. "This way," he said then.
When they got to the ambulance Heero sat down on the floor, with his legs hanging through the open doors so he could see the intersection and the agents moving around. They were all older. Heero was used to the Preventers that worked at the Colonial headquarters and they happened to be closer to his age, many of them formerly pilots or those who had been persuaded to serve OZ during its political takeover of the Colonies, like Hilde, or the Barton Foundation, like Gibson had. Even Lady Une was only four years older than Heero. The Preventers rushing about and calling orders in French seemed to be in the later twenties, or even older.
Heero saw that Quick and Johnny were in the group of civilians now, but he could not make out what they were telling the agents, amid all the other voices.
Robert had gathered some supplies and climbed back down to the street to stand before Heero. He did not complain that Heero had not climbed inside the ambulance. Heero could feel him cleansing the wound. It stung; he ignored the pain. Maybe it was not just the ear but his scalp as well.
The medic touched Heero's face with a finger and it made him flinch. Heero saw Robert look at him strangely, as if he was not sure if he should be embarrassed or not because Heero had flinched away from him. He poured some antiseptic solution on a swab and touched it to Heero's face, cautiously. "Were you in a...?" Heero saw Robert look at the swab in his hand.
Heero could see the swab had skin-toned coloring on it. "I was covering a bruise. It is unrelated to this incident. My wrist too. Unrelated."
"The cover was already wearing." He pointed to Heero's cheek without touching him. "This is not all your blood. Was there contact between the wounds?"
Contact between wounds? "No. I only touched... that person with my right hand." There was blood on the brace.
"I can give you a new brace for that."
Heero could feel the dampness of that person's blood on the back of his thigh. He did not like it. He was accustomed to seeing his own blood, but not to seeing the blood of others, not so close... not touching it. Even when he had killed people and seen the blood splatter, he had usually been far enough away not to be hit. He had not touched the bodies except for a few times.
When Adin died.
In Luxembourg. That young soldier had died while Heero was holding him. Heero did not know that soldiers name. Maybe Treize would have known; they had all died for him that day.
Maybe someone would find out who that person on the sidewalk was.
Heero closed his eyes and tried not to see bodies.
"Can I just take a shower?" Heero asked. He wanted to smell his own soap and not blood. "Both ears seem to function." Heero tipped his head to the left. They functioned, but blood had seeped into his left ear. "I would have heard the explosion..."
"I know there was a bomb but they did not tell me what happened. I saw the bomb squad go to the building."
"Someone needs to tell me what happened to Duo and Koi."
"You were shot, is that right?"
"Yes. There was a sniper. Do they know? The car came from around the corner, so they must have taken care of their sniper, one way or another."
"Once? One shot?"
"One that hit me. The first took out my phone, which I was using to call the switchboard."
"I am going to put some liquid bandage over the wounds. There is skin torn from the scalp and from the top of the ear. If their aim had been better..."
"Their aim was perfect. I just happened to turn toward the right after they fired. I would have been dead."
Robert was applying the bandage. "It is possible a scar will form at the top of the ear, but your hairstyle will cover it. It is not a very large wound. Some parts of the body bleed more than others."
Heero heard baying. He leaned forward to look past Robert.
"Please stay still just another minute."
"Koi!" Heero called. Robert was pressing him back into the ambulance. "I know that is my dog. He makes that sound when he has a trail. He is looking for me. Do you see him?"
Robert turned his head. "There is a dog in the street. He is sniffing at the ground. I am almost done."
Heero caught a glimpse of Koi as Robert shifted position to finish securing the bandage. "Koi," He called more quietly, so that he did not yell in Robert's face.
The dog ran up to the ambulance and barked. He jumped and pawed Heero's legs.
"Koi. Koi... I cannot touch you. My hands are bloody."
Robert reached past Heero and pulled forward a container of disinfectant wipes. "You can wipe any other blood you find, apart from wounds, with these. Keep your head tilted this way. I want to wash your ear to be sure there is no damage."
"Ryokai," Heero said quietly. He pulled one of the wipes from the container. He set the gun in his lap and wiped his hands with the damp cloth. He removed the brace from his wrist and then continued cleaning the blood from his skin. It took several wipes for his hands to seem clean. He wanted to get out of all his clothes and wash the blood from his hair, but he knew Delorme had implied an order to stay with this medic until Heero was ordered otherwise.
Robert was still working to rinse out Heero's ear and Heero could not lean forward enough to touch Koi. He rubbed the back of the dog's neck with his socked foot instead; as he used his hands to clean and disassemble, the Walther Quick had lent him.
This was against procedure, but if Heero did not wipe it down, then Delorme or some other agent would ask for it and find Quick's prints on it as well. Heero would no longer have a choice in involving her.
He might not have a choice now. He did not know what Quick had told them herself or why she had crossed the street. He did not know what Duo was telling the agents. Where was Duo? What if he had been injured when he first made the call to Heero. What if he had been dying as he tried to disarm the bomb all by himself?
"I really need to know where Duo is. If he is dead, they should just tell me."
Robert turned and called to the nearby agents. "Oú est Lieutenant Delorme?"
"Ici!" a voice called.
Robert nodded. He looked back to Heero then. "The passage is clear. There are some minor scratches on the outside of the ear. Your headset phone was broken, did you say?"
"I will just put some antibiotic on the scrapes here. I can get you a brace for your wrist then. Can you get the fingers of your other hand around the smallest part of your wrist?"
Heero vaguely recalled a doctor asking him this before. He closed his fingers around his right wrist; his thumb overlapped his index finger somewhat. Heero supposed this might suggest the size the brace should be.
"Have you taken any drugs or medications today? Consumed alcohol?"
"Just some OTC painkillers this morning. Normal dosage. Also, one mixed drink several hours ago at a club."
"Do you have any drug allergies?"
"I will give you this shot," Robert said. He showed Heero the needle as he drew medication from an ampoule. "It is a combination of painkiller and antibiotics. There is no sedative in it but it is possible you will feel drowsy while it is working through your body."
"Arm?" Heero asked.
"Yes. That is fine."
Heero offered his left arm. He would ordinarily refuse anything that could make him less alert, especially when he was not in a secure location, but now he just did not care. He was half expecting to hear Duo was dead.
The shot was delivered and then Heero saw Delorme approach. "I sent for Maxwell."
"He is OK?" Heero asked.
"Yes. He was taken from the building. He has been in debriefing with other agents and has had a wound treated by one of our medics."
"His arm? Or another wound?" Heero asked anxiously.
"His left arm. He said it happened several hours ago. It was not serious, but he agreed the medics should make sure there was no infection."
Heero only nodded. He saw a figure hooded and cloaked in a blue blanket approach from behind Delorme. It was Duo. He smiled and let the blanket slip to his shoulders as he moved in toward Heero. "Hey. Are you really all right? Sniper shot, huh?"
"Yes. You knew?"
"There were about a dozen witnesses, most of them agreed on what happened." Duo laughed and Delorme did as well. Heero understood, he just did not feel compelled to laugh. It was human nature that recollection was fallible, especially if one was not trained to pay attention to detail and recall facts.
Heero did not know what to do. He wanted to touch Duo, but he was not sure if it was appropriate in front of all these agents. He was not sure if Preventers hugged each other. But then they were treating him more like a victim and Heero was starting to suspect Duo was responsible in some part. Thinking about that did not make him want to touch Duo.
"Can I take him inside yet? Or could you just give us about a minute alone?"
Delorme did not answer Duo immediately. "Why did you clean the gun?" he asked.
Heero looked at the components neatly laid out at his left side. "It was bloody. A weapon should be properly maintained, so I cleaned off the blood and dried the parts with the blanket." True, but somewhat against procedure considering it was unregistered, did not belong to Heero and had been used in pursuit of a suspect while claiming to represent Preventers.
"It is not yours."
"Where did you get it?"
"It's an heirloom piece belonging to an acquaintance of mine. I borrowed it."
"How many shots did you fire this evening, total?"
"Two. One is lodged in a mobile computer casing inside my satchel. It may possibly have traces of blood on it. I believe I grazed the arm of the one who was carrying the stolen computer on them. The other bullet hit the sidewalk near where this ambulance is now."
"Aubrey 'Putois' Raie was arrested tonight after a bouncer at Elysium gave local police an account of a disturbance there. Weapons on him and his associates matched the bullets fired into a door within the club. Aubrey did have a minor wound on his arm. He told us he wanted to sue you. He said you fired first and his associates backed up his story."
"Of course, but they are lying." Heero sighed softly. "But no one else was in the hall that I know of, and I am not aware of their being cameras there."
"We will talk with local police and see what we can do. He may back down if faced with additional charges. We have him only on some weapons charges and drug possession now. We will see if we can add at least receiving of stolen property."
"The log," Heero said. "Do you know about the computer log? He sent an e-mail and admitted to taking the computer and tapping the phone lines."
"I sent for someone from IT. We have the best IT Section agents in Europe here in Paris. They will be able to properly analyze your situation."
"We had to call them in, Heero. Aubrey's off the street for now, but you know he was small time. They might not even be responsible for killing Romeo."
"André Roman," Delorme said. "The weapons we recovered tonight did not match the slugs taken from the body. We will test what we can recover from this scene, and see if we can get our prisoner to talk."
"You managed to take one?" Heero asked.
"Yep!" Duo said. "Shinigami didn't take anyone tonight."
"Someone died," Heero said. He looked at his hands again. The blood on his pants was mostly dry, but he knew it was there. Blood matted his hair and made his neck feel sticky.
"You got what you need from him, right? Can we go inside?"
"Let me check on the sweep and the reporters," Delorme said.
"There are reporters?" Heero scanned the intersection before him, but could not see any cameras.
"They kept them on the corner the other side of the building, but some of their cameras can see the front entrance, hence the blankets. You know they are fire resistant and pretty much bulletproof? The inside layer is water proof as well."
"I did know." Heero smiled. "But I think they gave me one to keep warm, because I looked like I was in shock."
Robert was still there, but he was only putting away gear and putting the disposable implements or coverings into his medical waste container. He handed something wrapped in plastic to Heero. "I found one," he said.
It was a wrist brace, a black one. Heero opened the wrapping and unfolded the brace. "It has a Gundam on it."
"Kewl! You got Deathscythe!"
Heero fit the brace to his wrist. "I thought they made first aid supplies with pictures on them for children."
"You are small-boned," Robert said, "Some of the batches we get in your size have the pictures."
"I think it's kewl, Heero. It's not stupid or anything."
"You still carry a character lunch box, and it is your Gundam."
Duo laughed. "That reminds me I need to get some cute school supplies to go to back to school."
"It is Stanford, Duo, I think you just need computers and maybe some type of drafting input devices and software."
"No, no. Just because I am majoring in Mech Design doesn't mean I don't have to pass English or that a well-rounded education is without value. Anyway, I don't want to be a complete geek."
"Just a freak," Heero said. He smiled. He knew he was only teasing Duo now.
"C'mon, if you saw some animal with a giant head and big, round glittery eyes you would think it was so cute!"
Heero felt his body shake with laughter, but he hardly made a sound. He shook his head.
"Yeah. Like your Koi-chan? With big round brown eyes?"
"Heero-san," This was Duo's theoretical Koi voice, "Where's all da bitches at? Heero-san, Let's go chase rabbits!"
That reminded Heero of the business at hand. "I wonder if we could track her somehow," he said.
Delorme came back then. "I will walk you upstairs. The building is clean. There are still agents in the apartment you were staying in and we will have the building under surveillance during your stay."
"Great," Heero said.
Duo shook his head. "We appreciate the effort. We were not originally the targets, but I am afraid we are involved now and probably could use the help."
"We still do not have any direct evidence that the attacks tonight are related to the Roman homicide. The information we have does suggest Aubrey Raie was after information regarding Roman, but the other attacks do not follow the pattern of their cartel and could be motivated by vengeance for your past actions in the war, with Preventers, or with some other group you have become involved with."
Heero got what Delorme was implying: This was all motivated by organized crime and someone was out to kill Honorable Father Heero Yuy and destroy the Family's House of Lowe. "It is appropriate you consider that, but I suppose we will not know. Maybe these IT agents will be able to figure something out."
Delorme nodded sharply. Duo stood waiting and Heero slipped down from the ambulance, to stand on the street. He stepped into his geta and lifted his satchel. Duo put his blanket over his head and then Heero did the same.
They walked toward the building in which Lapin's flat was located. Hero saw Quick and Johnny among the residents being let out of the blue van. Johnny had taken his jacket off and was using it to carry things in a bundle. Quick nodded slightly when she saw them.
Heero could see the reporters behind a line of tape at the end of the block. He pulled the edges of the blanket more tightly around his face. Of course, they could easily capture photos of Koi walking at the hell of someone walking in geta with a blanket over their head and say it was him.
Heero stopped just short of the steps into the building, lowered the blanket as far as his shoulders and looked toward the cameras. He paused only that moment, but he saw the flashes go off. He turned then and walked inside.
"Why'd you do that?" Duo asked.
"They knew it was me. I thought it was better not to look like I was hiding. And this way, if they camp out here, no one's going to try to attack this building."
"Yeah, they definitely don't seem to be terrorists. Terrorists like some media coverage for their cause. We're dealing with spooks I guess."
"Or yakuza," Heero said drolly.
"Would they be 'yakuza' in Paris?" Duo asked as they climbed the stairs.
"Well, I think 'yakuza,' 'gangster' or 'mafia' in French would just be yakuza, gangster or mafia, but these days most big cities might have several organizations competing for or agreeing to share territory. You might have Triads, Costa Nostra and some other syndicate in the same city, for example."
They came to the second floor, to the entrance to Lapin's flat at the top of the stairs. The doors were even more broken now. "We have someone looking for replacement doors," Delorme said.
Heero was not entirely surprised. He had not worked with Preventers as often as Duo, but he understood that the organization had been quite well funded by the ESUN since the time of the Barton Foundations Coup. It seems someone had convinced the President that if the group had been given a larger chunk of the budget from the start, that there would not have been a coup. Preventers had an abundance of equipment and personnel these days and once they had 'sufficient threat' to initiate their emergency powers, they could pretty much take over anything they needed to.
The shuttle crash at X18999 had tarnished their image with the public slightly, but they made up for those unfortunate circumstances with operations such as the one tonight. A building had been evacuated before agents were even on the scene and no good guys had died. Mostly, when they did their job, no one even knew about it, because they simply prevented tragedy. Occasionally however, their presence was more visible and agents in blue rushed in to deal with terrorist threats or serial killers or inter-jurisdiction criminal activity.
They also had a reputation of being thorough as well as kind to victims. Hence the blankets and expensed architectural salvage.
Some days Heero felt privileged that he had one of the boys in blue for his boyfriend.
And then, sometimes, he was just so glad he was in reserves and not likely to be called. He found the bedroom full of agents, and several were taking pictures. Part of his mind said that this was likely where the bomb had been placed. The bomb had been removed and the building already swept by Special Agents of the Bomb Squad.
The room was still a mess, as it had been when Heero left it. His things were all over the floor. The agents were being quite thorough with recording of the crime scene.
"Duo. Make them stop." Heero looked to Delorme, who was still with them. "Lieutenant, do they have to record the contents of my luggage so carefully?" Heero dropped the blanket and began collecting his possessions from the floor. "Stop. Arrêtez. All this debris field is my things. You do not need to make a catalog to know the flat has been searched. All this happened before anyone knew I was staying here, so you only need establishing shots of the room and no close-ups of my luggage."
Duo laughed. "Heero, if you protest so much, they are going to think there is something in your luggage you wish to hide."
Heero glared. "Would you just be American and step in and defend my rights now?"
"I don't know, the French backed us up in the revolution and gave us that kewl statue. I might have to take their side."
"Asshole," Heero cursed. He got down on the floor, and pushed and pulled his belongings into a rough pile near his trunk. "I thought you were over this bullshit since that night the PDS was called out and I waited up to hear if you were alive. You think these agents don't appreciate that they may be leaving people behind people that care about them any day that they go to work? You think I am the only one who can see through defensive humor? They are not your buddies! I am!" Heero stood up. "And they know it too, because it is in our files. Delorme?" Heero stared down the lieutenant.
Delorme answered without looking directly at Heero. "I did not read your files, but the dispatcher did alert us that you had a strong emotional attachment and that all caution and compassion should be used in sharing information on the other's status and that you each may act recklessly if the other's life was threatened."
"Heero," Duo said softly.
Heero was not ready to be comforted. "Would you all just leave? Except for that agent watching the window for us. I appreciate the job she is doing and if she dies protecting my I hope someone will tell me her name so I can take flowers to her grave." They all looked stunned, but did not move. Some looked to Delorme for orders. "I am not asking for special treatment. Special treatment would be the Director sending an agent to babysit me or all of you walking about on eggshells instead of having the consideration to send one person to tell me my lover is still alive when I have been shot and covered in someone else's blood and lost communication after being told he is attempting to disarm a bomb all on his own!"
Heero felt Duo's hands on him. He closed his eyes and held onto Duo. He heard Duo's voice speaking quietly and seriously, "You are all Preventers and older than we are. You must understand needing to wash the blood off between missions. You must. He is asking that you just give him a little privacy. I'm asking you…and then we'll tell you anything you need to know."
Heero could hear Delorme giving orders in French. He knew the agents were leaving the room. "I will have those friends you mentioned brought up here and let them know that you are all right. Is there anything we can get for you? Anything you need?"
Heero lifted his head. "I want a new headset video phone here as soon as possible. I want some green tea. I want the latest copy of Homo Magazine. I will reimburse Preventers for those things. I want the shopping bags left in the other rooms brought in here. I want someone to make the rooms past that door to look presentable. I want only the reporter whose name I will give you to be let in tomorrow and his crew. I want someone to contact the locksmith and cancel, because we made arrangements with him on the tapped line and so he may have been compromised. I want Preventers to select a locksmith and if at all possible, make repairs to the doors and locks. You can put agents in or around the building as your station deems fit, but I want no agents in this room while I sleep, as I will have my own legally registered weapons on me and be liable to shoot whomever moves."
"I understand, Captain, except for the part about the reporter."
Heero nodded slightly. "I am in Paris to give an interview to a reporter from Homo Magazine, that is why I want a recent copy of it. It has been arranged some time ago and backing out or rescheduling now would look bad for everyone concerned. I am not opposed, however, to rearranging the truth or omitting facts in the interest of security, if you think it would be better I not mention tonight's events. I did not really plan to speak about that sort of thing, but with the reporters out there now, they may feel they need to ask about it."
"I will consult with my superiors on that matter."
"Thank you," Heero said, "I apologize for my outburst."
"No. It was an understandable reaction. You are affiliated with Preventers, but you were also the target of several attacks this evening and thus under a great deal of stress. I apologize if you felt…scrutinized. I intended only to be thorough and objective as possible."
"Thorough and objective I appreciate," Heero said. He nodded and watched Delorme leave.
"Heero, it was just defensive, like you said, I didn't mean…"
"I know. I am not mad anymore. I got that all out by shouting. I am happy you are OK."
"I'm glad you're alive! It was the same for me, but they kept me so busy retelling them everything that had happened that I really did not have time to dwell on what had happened to you. I guess I just thought that if you had been hurt they would have said something."
Heero hugged Duo more tightly. "I had to ask them, Duo, more than once, before they came and told me you were OK. There was a moment when I thought you could be dead. I thought maybe you had been injured before you even called or tried to disarm the bomb. You as much as said goodbye to me."
"It was just in case."
"You disconnected before I could say I loved you."
"I didn't want you to talk me out of what I was doing."
"I was not going to. I understood. I just wanted a chance to say that I loved you too. When I was talking to the switchboard, they would not tell me anything about you. I knew there must be instructions in my file then. They kept distracting me with the suspect, and then they just drove by and shot him. It was surreal, that hovercar. I am sure if I had not been behind that person, if they had a clear shot, they would have taken my out as well."
"Hovercar? Heero. How many hovercars could there be in Paris? Do you know how new and expensive those are?"
"Paris is quite affluent."
"They are very new and expensive. But…it can wait five minutes. We have a lot of work to do, but there is no sense in neglecting to take care of our bodies, right? You need to get cleaned up."
"Give me a kiss and I'll go check if there is any detergent while you find clean clothes. Maybe if we soak that stuff in cold water we can salvage the outfit."
"How bad does it look? I have not seen a mirror yet." Heero tried to look, but he could only see so far along his shoulder.
"Pretty bad. You'll be OK here while I go out there?"
"I have Koi and a lookout. I will be locating my gun as well as clothing."
"It's on the bed. Yours was closer, but I didn't fire it, just implied the threat."
Heero smiled at Duo then craned his neck to kiss him. Duo tasted like smoke, alcohol, and sugar.
When Duo left, Heero went for his gun first, then moved to his pile to locate clothing. He saw the woman watching the space beyond the windows. "Are you just watching or are you listening for something as well?"
"I have an open channel to my coordinator, but I am mostly watching for signs of trouble. Did you need something?"
"What is your name?"
"I know another Rachael. She lives in the Colonies and runs an apothecary with her husband and son."
"I do not give out personal information on the job."
"That seems wise, but if you had no family, you would just say so, so you must have people who care about you that you wish to protect."
"Duo is a Preventer agent, but I am only on reserves. When he has to go on a mission, I know how people who cared about me must have felt when I did dangerous things. It is hard to let people you care about do dangerous work, but I know I am very proud of Duo, so your people are probably proud of you."
She laughed, but did not look away from the window.
"Thank you for looking out for me."
"It is my duty. A soldier does not need to be thanked for doing something it is their duty to do."
"I just thought it was good manners, but in that case…good work, Soldier, carry on."
Duo came back into the room carrying a bottle of laundry detergent.
"Her name is Rachael. If they send another one, we should find out there name too, OK?"
"OK, but I think I am going to call Wufei and tell him this one."
"I am sure he will be glad to hear from us."