When Pearson-- a competent house guard Heero trusted
--came to relieve him from his four-hour vigil outside the Prime
Minister's bedroom that night, Heero made his way downstairs to the kitchen
on silent feet.
He had a hunch he would find his old friend-in-arms
poking around for something to eat. Duo always got the munchies around
the middle of the night. He would wake up out of a dead sleep, stomach
grumbling, and rummage himself up a "snack" before stumbling back to
bed again. Heero, who could go seventy-two hours without sleep and very
little food if he had to, hardly noticed the late hour as he glanced
inside the empty dining room, then went through the swinging doors that
led to the kitchen in back.
Duo was seated at the small table the cooks ate at,
dirty boots propped up on the table as he leaned back precariously on
his stool, munching contentedly at an over-sized sandwich. It looked as
if he had stuffed it full of every lunchmeat, cheese, vegetable, and
condiment he'd been able to find. Heero shook his head in silence. The
other boy's appetite would never fail to amaze him.
"Hey, Heero, wussup?" Duo offered a lop-sided grin,
mouth full of bread and lunchmeat. "My shift yet?"
"Pearson's," Heero corrected, pulling up a stool and
seating himself across from his friend. "You're up after him." He
leaned his chin on a palm and arched a brow pointedly. "I thought you ate
"Yup!" came the cheerful if muffled reply.
"You're a bottomless pit," Heero intoned.
Duo just grinned again and took another large bite.
"Soooo..." he flicked a glance upwards, towards the Minister's bedroom
upstairs. "You're really serious about this whole marriage thing, huh?
Wow. Gotta admit, you were never exactly 'Most Likely to Get Hitched'
in my book."
Heero stared back at his friend in silence for a
moment, wondering at the flat note to the other man's voice. After a
moment he nodded once. "It's what she wants," he admitted.
Duo arched a brow at his old friend. "Well, most
chicks do want that, eventually," he pointed out. "They have the whole
'grow up, marry prince charming, live happily ever after' story
bludgeoned into their heads from infancy. But what about you, Heero?"
"What about me?"
"Do you want this?" Duo was gazing at him
steadily, and though there was a faint smile on his lips, his eyes were
solemn, sandwich forgotten. "You do remember the whole 'til death do us
part' bit of the vows, yes? You do this, it's permanent."
And to Duo, Heero realized, it was. He may laugh at
death, and seem flippant about talk of heaven and hell, but in the end,
he wore that cross-- or the priest outfit of the past --for a reason.
There were some things the church had drilled into him too deeply to be
removed or tarnished, even if he would never acknowledge it out loud.
The Catholic church taught that marriage was absolute, with no way of
turning back unless a priest consented. Divorce was rarely if ever an
option. Heero, while he did not share his friend's beliefs, had not
even fancied the idea of separation, and said as much.
"You wanna know why?" Duo demanded, looking oddly
amused and cynical at the same time. He went on before Heero could
reply. "Because to you, marriage is just another duty; walking down that
altar is just another mission. You'll do it because it makes her happy,
and because it's the next logical step. Not because you really want
to, or believe in what it stands for."
Heero's eyes narrowed. He felt angry without really
understanding why. "You don't know anything about Relena and me," he
said coolly. "You might," he added a little cruelly, "if you'd bothered
to come around more."
Duo's eyes flinched away from his, and he took a
defiant bite of his sandwich. "...Was busy," he muttered around the
bread. "Gimmie a break, man. I had stuff to do."
"You own the shop you work at, Duo," Heero snapped.
"Stop dodging around it and just admit you didn't want to see either of
us." Why was he even talking about this? Heero wondered in
bewilderment. What did it matter? Duo was his friend, sure, but there was no
reason for him to act so.... well, catty about it. He rose to his feet in
a silent signal that the conversation was ended.
Duo put his sandwich down carefully and fixed Heero
with a smile that made the other man's hand itch instinctively for a
weapon. It was Shinigami's smile, a cold smile of mocking darkness and
amused cruelty, and Heero had never seen that look turned his way
"I was busy," Duo repeated, quietly and
meaningfully. "And since it's never been a big secret that I think a certain
ex-Princess has a stick rammed up her ass the size of a redwood, I'll tell
you something else. I don't give a damn if this whole marriage deal
will make her happy, and I couldn't really care less that you two have
decided to do this. I only care about the 'why', Heero. Why are you
going through with this? Because you want to? Or because she told you to
and you're so used to obeying orders you didn't even stop to consider
Heero glared coldly at the other man, face as hard
as granite. He was afraid he would hurt Duo if he responded, so he
focused on the last question instead. "What is that supposed to mean--
'other possibilities'?" he demanded.
Duo only offered that disturbing smile again, then
abruptly let his feet drop to the floor with a bang and rose to his
feet. He stretched mightily, and suddenly he was once again Duo Maxwell:
cheerful, carefree, and laid-back. "Don't worry about it, 'Ro. Well,
I'm gonna go catch a quick catnap before my shift. You should get some
sleep too, man." He scooped up his sandwich and ambled out of the
kitchen, waving cheerily over his shoulder. "See ya in the morning!"
Heero watched him go in silence, emotions tangled
and mind blank with confusion and resentment.
The night passed without further incident, and
Relena continued to harp Heero about the silliness of it all the next
Until the top story came on.
Heero always watched the news with his breakfast to
keep up on current events. He and Relena preferred to take breakfast
in the den, where he could watch the news and they could sit more
comfortably. The enormous dining room table that could hold up to twenty
people made Heero feel uneasy.
Relena was right in the middle of begging him to
convince the lawn guards to stay out of her flowerbed, when he let forth a
bloodcurdling curse. Trowa, leaning against the doorframe and sipping
coffee, looked up as Heero snatched up the remote and turned the volume
up on the TV.
"..are calling him the Gorgenstern Butcher," the
newscaster was saying excitedly. And, to Heero's rising anger and shock,
went on to describe specific details about the case he had just looked
through the day prior, even going so far as to mention a morbid poem
left at the scene of one of the crimes. Heero slammed the remote onto
the coffee table with a harsh oath.
Trowa arched a brow. "Someone leaking information
from the inside?" he guessed.
"There were things about that case that were
supposed to be confidential," Heero growled, glaring at the screen. Then he
looked at Relena and fell silent.
She was staring at the screen with wide eyes, face a
little pale, tea forgotten. "Relena..."
Relena gave a start and turned huge eyes his way.
"Is that true?" she asked in a subdued voice. "That this man is...
mutilating his victims?"
Heero could only stare back, at a loss for
"Don't worry about it, Relena," Trowa spoke up. "He
isn't going to get anywhere near you."
"What's all the hubbub about?" Duo asked brightly,
wandering in with a donut in one hand and a mug of coffee in the other.
He took a look around at his subdued friends, then turned with arched
brow to the TV, listening in silence to the breathless newscaster.
Abruptly he gave a bark of laughter. "The
'Gorgenstern Butcher'?" he sniggered. "Couldn't they have come up with
something a little more original?" He took a sip of coffee, snorting into his
mug in dark amusement. Belatedly he caught Heero's warning glare out of
the corner of his eye. "Er..." he glanced quickly at Relena, noticing
for the first time how pale she looked. "Oh. Hey, chica, don't look
so down in the dumps," he scoffed. "You got the infamous Heero Yuy here
to protect you, don't ya?"
"Y-yes," Relena stammered, looking down at her lap
quickly as she attempted to compose herself. "I know none of you will
let anything happen to me." She looked up again and offered Heero a
Heero relaxed a little, then switched off the
"Hey, I was watching that," Duo protested.
"Tough. Finish your..." Heero hesitated, staring at
the sugar-coated donut his friend held, "..'breakfast' and go with
Barton. You said there were weaknesses in the perimeter. I want them
repaired before noon."
"Please," Relena prompted under her breath, a
scolding reminder that the other ex-pilots had come as a favor.
But neither boy looked offended, used to Heero's
brusque temperment. "Aye aye, cap'n," Duo drawled, saluting lazily with
his donut. "What'll you be doing?"
"Rewiring the security cameras," Heero grunted,
pushing his plate aside and rising to his feet. "I want a camera in every
"Heero," Relena protested, shooting an unconscious
glance towards their guests. "Surely not, um... every
"Every room," Heero said mulishly.
"Even the bathroom?" Relena protested pointedly.
"Our?" Duo echoed. A teasing smile was playing at
his lips, but his eyes weren't laughing at all. "Heero, you dog."
"Shut up, Duo," came the automatic response.
Relena blushed prettily and looked down at her
Even Trowa was arching a brow, the closest to
incredulous his expression would ever get. Heero scowled at the both of
them. "Perimeter," he snapped. "Now."
"We're going, we're going, sheeeesh," Duo
huffed in mock exasperation, braid whipping along behind him like a tail
as he spun and walked out. Trowa's gaze lingered on Heero a moment
more, then he, too, left.
The rest of the day was spent transforming the
Peacecraft Mansion into a fortress. By the time they were finished, Duo
admitted even he would have a hell of a time getting any farther than the
Heero stood in the front lawn later that afternoon,
arms crossed over his chest as he looked around approvingly. Duo came
up to stand beside him, tugging off working gloves and stuffing them
into his back pockets as he, too, looked around at the fence laced with
C-wire, the many guards, and the trip alarms set up everywhere. "I'd
say it was a little overboard," Duo said, wiping sweat from his brow, "if
it was anyone but you, Mister Thorough."
"Hn." Heero's eyes were slitted against the hot sun
as he followed the path of one of the trip-wires with his eyes. "The
ground guards will have to be briefed on where the wires are set up to
prevent false alarms."
"Way ahead of ya, buddy," Duo cut in, rummaging in
his front pocket for something. "Already filled 'em in and gave 'em
maps. They're good to go. See how they keep walking the same
Heero watched in silence for a few moments as a pair
of guards went walking by, then soon afterwards came back around the
circuit the exact same way. He nodded his approval. There was a click,
then Heero wrinkled his nose in surprise as he scented smoke. He
turned to stare at his friend in disbelief.
Duo glanced at him sideways, lifting a cigarette
from his lips and exhaling defiantly. "Don't start."
"You told me you quit," Heero said flatly.
Duo shrugged. "I did," he said airily, taking
another drag. "For about two weeks. I was so happy with myself, I decided
to celebrate with a cigarette. Hard habit to break. Anyway, don't
knock it til you try it. The flavored ones are the best. Expensive,
Heero wrinkled his nose in distaste. "It's bad for
"So is war, and being a thief, and hanging around
you when you're in a bad mood," Duo replied. "All bad for my health, yet
I just can't seem to help myself."
"Hello, boys." Relena came wandering over, latching
onto Heero's arm instantly and giving Duo a bewildered look. "I didn't
know you smoked, Duo."
Duo smirked at her. "Off and on," he admitted.
"Started after the war. It's a nice little pat on the back after work,
yanno?" He nodded towards the grounds. "I worked my ass off today, an' I
deserve it. So quit giving me shit, Yuy."
Heero grunted disapprovingly, but let it go.
"But there's so many things wrong with it," Relena
pointed out, smiling winningly at the dark-clad boy. "Duo, I thought
you were a real lady killer. Don't you know cigarettes make your mouth
taste bad? Girls won't want to kiss you if you taste like an
Duo laughed as if she'd said something funny, then
abruptly leaned in to grin fiendishly at Heero. "What do you think,
Heero?" he drawled. "Think I'll taste like an ashtray?"
Heero drew back slightly, frowning in annoyance.
"Stop goofing around, Duo," he growled. "Did you and Barton finish
"Yes, yes, yes," Duo sighed huffily, retreating from
Heero's personal space. "It's done, Heero. Tro even insisted on
making a little checklist 'cause he knows how anal you'll be about
double-checking our work. What about you? Locks an' cameras OK in the
Heero nodded. "There's some I want you to try
Duo offered a lop-sided grin. "Okey doke."
"Try out?" Relena repeated.
Duo reached back and pulled two slivers of metal
from where they'd been tucked hidden in his braid. He held them up for
her inspection. Relena looked incredulously from the bent paperclip and
the thin nail to Duo. "Are those what I think they are?" she
"If I can pick it in under thirty seconds, you'd
better get your happy ass a new lock," Duo advised. "Cuz most experts
need that much time or less."
"You sure have many handy talents," Relena said with
forced cheerfulness, though the sharp look she sent Heero screamed
disapproval. She and Duo had gotten off on the wrong foot first meeting.
He'd shot Heero, she'd tried to protect him. They'd held a certain
disdain for each other ever since, though Relena was better at hiding
Duo offered her a winning smile and changed the
subject. "Look, Heero, not that I have any problem with helpin' you out
here, but I'm surprised you didn't call Wufei. I mean, my specialty's
more burglary than defense, and yeah, Tro's got some nifty mercenary
talents, but I guess I never pegged him for bodyguard material."
"I haven't been able to get ahold of Chang," Heero
admitted, eyes tracking the movement of the guards. "Sally Po was the
last to see him, and that was six months ago. She says it isn't unusual
for him to disappear for months on end."
"No kidding," Duo snorted. "I gave up trying to
keep in touch with him years ago. Now there's just the obligatory
Christmas card once a year. Not that I get a reply, or even know whether or
not he gets it."
Heero nodded. "Quatre ran into him last year," he
said, surprising the braided man. "On a routine trip to Colony 562 to
check up on..." he shrugged. "Something to do with his corporation. I
didn't pay attention to that part; it was unimportant. He saw Wufei
for perhaps twenty minutes, but Wufei wasn't interested in conversation
or lunch. That's the last I've heard of him."
"Huh. Quatre never mentioned that," Duo said
thoughtfully, but if he was hurt, it didn't show. He exhaled a lungful of
smoke and dropped the butt into the grass, grinding it under his foot and
ignoring Relena's murmur of dismay. "Right, I'll go check on those
locks you got. Any in particular you're worried about?"
Heero nodded, moving away from Relena and leading
the way towards the house. "Yes. The one in the back door's been
replaced, but it still seems weak..."
Duo hung back for a moment, tuning the other boy out
as he turned to look back at Relena. She was motioning a gardener over
to retrieve the crushed cigarette. When she felt his eyes on her, she
looked up at him quickly, barely supressing the annoyed frown tugging
at her mouth.
Duo offered a slow, wicked smile and waggled his
fingers in mocking farewell. Without a backwards look, he hurried to
catch up to Heero, leaving the former Queen of the World feeling irritable
and strangely uneasy.
Heero sat bolt upright, breath freezing in his lungs
as he strove to hear above the sound of his own heart thudding with
His eyes shot towards the window. Relena had pulled
the drapes again; she disliked having the sunlight in her eyes first
thing in the morning waking her up. As a result, there was no way for
the moonlight to enter, leaving the room in total darkness.
It was close to midnight. He didn't need a clock to
know that. He sat perfectly still, staring in the direction of the
door and straining his eyes. Beside him, he could hear Relena's peaceful
breathing. Still asleep.
But something had woken Heero up out of a
dead sleep, and he wasn't about to blame it on a nightmare or a false
alarm. He still had some instincts from the war, after all, no
matter how Relena tried to beat the machine out of him.
There was someone else in the room.
Or had been, anyway. He could hear no strange
breathing, and it was impossible to see anything. He considered turning on
the bedside lamp, but dismissed the idea almost as soon as he had it.
No. If there was someone else in the room, he wanted them to think he
was unaware of them. He forced himself to lean back against the
headboard, letting his muscles relax and slowing his breathing. Carefully he
slid a hand under his pillow and wrapped his hand around the safety
blanket he refused to part with, even in these mostly peaceful times. The
gun felt heavy and dangerous and very welcome in his hand. It was like
shaking the hand of a long lost friend. He carried a gun with him when
he was on duty, but hadn't had any reason to actually draw the weapon
for a long time. Feeling the cool metal in his palm brought back a
familiar feeling of cold certainty. He was Heero Yuy, Perfect Soldier. If
there was someone else in the room and they were stupid enough to try
something, he would have no problem putting a bullet between their eyes,
darkness or no darkness.
He waited for whoever it was to come closer, to
sneeze, to sigh, to give any idication of life, but there was nothing. If
not for the way his skin crawled at the sensation of being watched, he
might have dismissed the whole thing. But no-- someone was there.
They might as well have been made of stone for all the noise or movement
they made, but they were there just the same.
Who? Heero thought in frustration. Who could-- or
would --come to his room? The only guests in the house were Trowa and
Duo, and none of the staff would be so disrespectful.
Several long agonizing minutes past, and a seed of
doubt began to worm its way into Heero's mind. There was absolutely no
indication that there was another person in the room. Perhaps he'd
just had a nightmbare or a flashback. He frowned, hesitating, then
abruptly reached out and yanked the chain on the bedside lamp.
Light flooded the room.
Heero stared around the empty room in disbelief.
Beside him, Relena's face scrunched up at the light and she rolled over,
burying her head in her pillow. Heero took one last suspicious look
around the room, then reluctantly switched the lamp off again. False
alarm, he told himself firmly, forcing himself to let go of his handgun.
He slid back under the covers, forcing himself to relax so he could
sleep once more.
Don't be stupid, Yuy, he told himself sternly. You
saw for yourself; there's no one here. He closed his eyes stubbornly,
but it was still another two hours before he was able to fall
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