Gosh I love that phrase. You could get away with murder.
They took a cab down to a café on Queensway, and went in. Heero found a table for two and sat; Duo went to talk to the guy behind the counter. A moment later he joined Heero, grinning, and gave him a little nod. They both stood, moving out of sight of the front windows to a quiet corner, and waited.
A few seconds later a couple, a man and a woman, came in and nonchalantly scanned the room quickly. Heero and Duo, being served two cups of tea by a waiter, didn’t look up.
“Why, madam, sir, it’s your lucky day!” a cheerful voice boomed, and the agents at the door jumped a little as waiters suddenly swarmed around them. “You’re the fiftieth couple today and so you get a free meal, on the house!”
They tried to object, but the entire restaurant turned to look at them and their protests were drowned by the fawning of the waiters and the clapping and cheering of the customers. They had no choice but to let themselves be led to a table and seated. A whole swarm of waiters surrounded them, neatly cutting off their view of Heero and Duo, who immediately got up and slipped out to the back.
A man met them there and showed them to the bathrooms, giving them some clothes, and they changed quickly. Two teenage boys exited an alleyway a minute later, casually strolling off. A few quick twists and turns, Duo in the lead – he knew this area, where Heero didn’t – and when they were sure they had lost their shadows they hailed another cab. Duo gave the driver the address.
Now that they were safe, the tension between them resurfaced; an awkward silence fell. They didn’t say anything until they alighted before a row of terrace houses, and Duo went up to the front door of number twenty-eight and knocked.
The door was flung open and a girl wearing an oversized T-shirt over a pair of old jean overalls stood there glaring at Duo. “You!” she exclaimed, jabbing a finger at him. “Didn’t call me! Last night!”
Duo grinned sheepishly. “A lot has happened since then, okay, Hilde? Let us in.”
“Us?” Hilde said suspiciously, peering behind Duo, as Heero said at the same time in incredulity, “Hilde?”
“Him?” Hilde yelped, upon seeing Heero.
“The nymph?” Heero said in disbelief, mentally comparing the Hilde from last night and the Hilde now.
Duo waved his arms. “Whoa, stop right there! Hilde, darling, let us in, okay? I’m in deep shit.”
“We’re in deep shit,” murmured Heero as he passed Duo, going into the house. “Don’t forget the we.”
He didn’t have to look to sense the smile gracing Duo’s face at his words.
Hilde flopped down in a large armchair in the middle of the living room. “Okay. Tell me.”
Duo sighed and sat on the sofa, patting the seat next to him. Heero sat. “Okay… where do I start?”
“From the end?” Hilde suggested. “From the beginning, you idiot, of course!”
“Okay, okay. I was almost snipered this morning.”
“Then I dressed up as an old grandmother, evaded the CIA, and got here.”
“Oh, and I met the bartender from last night, only he recognized me.”
Heero rolled his eyes and refrained from comment as Hilde stood and calmly crossed over to where Duo sat. Then Heero stared, open-mouthed, as Hilde grabbed a pillow and proceeded to bludgeon Duo to death with an energy that scared him. “You idiot you think this is funny you almost got yourself killed and I was worried all night and you still come and make jokes to my face –”
Duo yelped and latched onto Heero. “Save me!”
Hilde paused in her ministrations and raised her eyebrow at Heero, who solemnly nodded to her, pried Duo off him, and sat him on the sofa. He stood.
“All yours,” he told the girl.
She grinned and held the pillow over Duo’s head; the braided boy made a face at Heero. “I thought you loved me!” he said accusingly, holding his hands protectively over his head.
“I still do, but she might jump me if I go against her.”
“Hmph.” Duo looked unconvinced, and the smirk on Heero’s face probably didn’t help his case any.
“Tell me again, Duo,” Hilde said sweetly.
“Okay, okay…” Duo recounted the story, leaving nothing out, and Heero was pleased to hear his own deductions about the CIA’s possible intentions from Duo’s own mouth. He and Hilde reclaimed their seats as Duo spoke, and when he finished a silence fell.
“Oh, Duo…” Hilde sighed finally. “You’ve really got yourself into a mess this time, Maxwell.”
Duo Maxwell… Dee Maxwell.
Quatre, saying: I did mention he’s a master of disguises, right?
His fists clenched unconsciously, nails digging into his palms, and his eyes were unseeing as the reality finally hit him.
He was supposed to assassinate Duo.
His two guns weighed heavy in their concealed sheaths. It would be so easy – two guns, two targets. He could draw them out effortlessly, quickly; they’d been modified for that, to be smooth against hands and clothes, to have a short and dry trigger. He’d done it so many times – just draw, and shoot, and he’d save his company, boost its reputation, bring in the largest sum of money they’d ever seen. Quatre, all his friends, they would be pleased, and proud, and his own reputation would rocket sky-high at having succeeded so quickly on such a difficult job…
He realized that he was trembling, and that somehow he’d been drawn into Duo’s embrace, his head on Duo’s shoulder, and the American was stroking his back with soothing hands, whispering nonsensical words into his ear – it’s okay, it’ll be alright, I’m not letting anything happen to you, to us, it’s okay…
It would be so easy.
He wouldn’t be betraying Quatre, the only one who had believed in him, trusted him, taken him in and helped him. He wouldn’t be betraying his friends in the company, the precious few he had, and so close they were almost brothers. He wouldn’t be betraying his own promise to himself, the self-set rules that were ingrained in him – once he said he would do something, he followed it to the end, and finished it.
Duo, who was comforting him. Duo, who he had made love to, who had whispered Love you and who had trusted him implicitly. Duo, who had gotten them out safely, and asked no questions.
He struggled out of Duo’s embrace, and stumbled out of the room. Anywhere, somewhere private – he ran up the stairs, and went into the first room he opened the door to. He shut and locked the door behind him and went over to sit on the bed, but his legs gave out under him and he ended up on the floor, his back leaning against the mattress.
He had to kill Duo.
Duo, who he… loved, or something damned close to it.
Heero put his head in his hands and started laughing. He was aware that it was slightly hysterical, but it was allowed in the circumstances, he supposed. Oh, the irony, the sheer stupidity of it all.
He remembered Quatre saying Don’t worry, I bet you’ll find Maxwell in no time at all! “Winner,” he murmured, “You have no idea.”
The door opened; he looked up. Duo was standing there, looking unsure. “Hey,” he said softly. “I, uh, have a key. To my room.”
“Oh.” Heero finally looked around and realized that it did look like a room Duo would live in. “Nice room.”
“Thanks.” Duo shut the door quietly behind him and locked it, and then looked at Heero. “May I sit?”
“It’s your room.” Heero lifted one shoulder in a slight shrug.
Duo sat next to him, on the floor. “So, uh… I suppose you hate me now.”
Heero blinked and turned his head to look at Duo. “Sorry?”
The braided boy shifted uncomfortably. “I dragged you into this whole mess… someone tried to kill me, and I got you implicated. You can’t go back to your apartment…”
“I have more.”
Heero suppressed a sigh. “I don’t hate you.”
Duo smiled a little. “That’s good. You, uh, asked me a question. Why was someone trying to kill me, and I said I didn’t know… I kind of lied. And I’m Duo Maxwell – I run, I hide, but I never lie, and so I’m going to tell you everything. Not really because I lied, but because I want to. I want you to know everything about me, and, and…” he trailed off. “Sorry. Babbling.”
Heero waited mutely.
“I used to be a researcher in a small university lab, unknown and unrecognized. Then I made a discovery, a breakthrough, on something really big… and the big labs got wind of it. Everyone wanted me to work for them after that, so I aimed high and waited for someone to accept my terms – a five figure pay, sort of thing. And I asked for anonymity. I didn’t want anyone to know what I really looked like, because my research… it could be used for bad, for good, either way. It was dangerous.
“A few accepted my terms, but BioT – the famous one, the real one – made the best offer, upping the salary and giving me more than I expected, so I signed up with them. But recently I discovered some corruption… I dug deeper. What I found scared me. They obviously weren’t going to use my research in a good way… and then I made an even bigger discovery. Something that could help thousands or – or massacre them.”
Duo drew in a shuddering breath. “I couldn’t let them get hold of that. I packed up, cleaned out everything, destroyed all I could and then I ran. They want what I know, but I left no paper or electronic trace of my work, and all that’s left is in my head.”
They think he kept records, Heero thought dully. They want the research and Duo dead. I’ll have to pry it out of him before I kill him.
“So… that’s all, really.” Duo attempted a smile. “Dirty laundry out to air. I… I won’t ask about you, Heero. I don’t need to know. All I need is – I just want to know if you’re staying. I won’t blame you if you – if you don’t.”
Heero heard the catch in Duo’s voice, and stared blankly at his hands. Hands that had killed so many… hands that were going to kill Duo.
Either he betrayed the only family he’d ever known and himself, or he betrayed Duo… and himself, again. Lose-lose. He hated situations like these.
“Heero?” Duo’s voice was pleading, with a hint of desperation. “If you want – you can ask me anything you want to. If it’d help.”
“How did you know so much about the way to drop safely, and the disguises?” Heero heard his voice ask. It sounded dead, even to his ears.
Duo winced a little, then said softly, “I… I was a street rat. In the slums. I had to steal and hide and disguise myself, and run from people who wanted to kill me, hurt me… I had to kill, and hurt others. To live. And then I joined a gang, and learned more about weapons and it just snowballed when the gang expanded and became more of a syndicate. I had no other choice! It was either that, or sell myself, my body… I’m sorry. I know it’s disgusting, I know it’s wrong…” He trailed off when he saw Heero slowly shaking his head. “Heero?”
“You did what you had to do. I don’t mind.”
Duo blinked. “…Oh. That’s good.” He looked down, and said quietly, more to himself than to Heero, “You have no idea how glad I am to hear that.”
Heero wanted to hug him, to hold him close, to chase away the demons that had put the pain in that normally light voice. He wanted to help Quatre. He wanted Duo. He wanted fame and recognition. He wanted love, and friendship. He wanted… he wanted…
What did he want?
There was a knock on the door. Hilde’s voice filtered through the wood, slightly hesitant. “Um, Duo? Heero? I’m sorry for interrupting, but, well, with so many people on your trail, it’s best if you get out of the country as soon as possible, and to do that… I know Duo’s done it before, but I think we have to sit Heero down and explain some things.”
Duo cleared his throat. “Just a moment!” he called to Hilde, and then turned to face Heero, eyes downcast. “Do you… do you want to leave? If anything happens I’ll pretend you were just some innocent bystander… I won’t tell them who you are, even on pain of death.” He swallowed hard, and continued shakily, “I’ll provide everything you need to get back to your life, though you probably already have measures in place for this sort of thing, but all you have to do is ask and I’ll give it, if I can. What you choose is up to you, but… you have to decide now. I’m sorry.”
He climbed to his feet, and stood looking down on Heero’s bowed head. “I’ll come back in five minutes to ask what you’ve decided… I know you have some sort of past, too, but I swear I won’t ask until you tell me, if you ever do. I don’t need to know anything else but that you’re, well, you, because I… I think I might just love you, if it means anything now.”
He’d only taken one step when he was halted by Heero’s hand grabbing onto his jeans. He hesitated, unsure. “Heero?”
“…Repeat that last sentence again.”
Duo felt something treacherously close to hope filling him at that low, quiet voice. He didn’t dare turn around to see the Japanese boy’s reaction as he said, “Heero… I think I love you. Does that… mean anything?”
Heero let out a shaky laugh. “You wouldn’t believe what it means, Duo Maxwell.” There was movement behind him, and then Duo felt Heero sigh against his neck, his forehead coming to rest gently on his shoulder. “Promise… you won’t ask?”
A wide smile spread across Duo’s face, and he let it. “Never,” he said firmly. “Never, never, never… if that’s what it takes to keep you with me. I know I’m being selfish, but I just…”
“It’s not you being selfish,” Heero interrupted. “It’s me, and we both know it.”
Duo hesitated, then said, “I thought it was going to be ‘us’ from now on?”
He felt Heero laugh a little. “Then we’re both being selfish, but we both don’t mind, do we?”
Turning around, he smiled up at Heero. “No. We don’t.”
And seeing the answering smile, shaky but no less real, Duo thought it might just work out after all. He leaned in close –
“Hey, have you two died in there?”
– and sighed when Hilde’s voice came again. “We’re coming! Geez, keep your hair on.”
Heero smirked a little and gave Duo a gentle push. “Time to go meet your fate.”
“What happened to the ‘we’?” Duo demanded over his shoulder as he opened the door.
“When it comes to Hilde, you’re on your own.”
I'm doomed, Duo thought contentedly as he was half-pushed, half-pulled through the doorway. But when he felt Heero's hand catch hold of his, he had to smile. Though... that might not be such a bad thing.