ChApTeR 4
'BlOoDy MaRy'

When Heero burst into Relena's office, Trowa was already pulling her away from her desk. Heero looked around quickly, gun aimed at the ceiling, but there didn't appear to be any immediate threat. He sent an angry glare Trowa's way. He'd left the boy to guard the office; how could he have allowed something to happen?

Relena was shaking slightly, eyes large and face pale as she clung to Trowa. Trowa sent a quick glance over her head towards Heero, tugging her towards the door. "Desk drawer," he said shortly.

Heero strode quickly over to the desk, stepping around it and gazing down at the open desk drawer where Relena kept the blank paper and ink.

Duo appeared in the doorway a moment later, peering in at them warily, finger close to the trigger of his own firearm. He noted Relena, safe in Trowa's grasp, and relaxed a fraction. "Everything all right?"

Heero wordlessly reached into the drawer and lifted the bloodied mess for his friend to see. Relena buried her face in Trowa's shoulder with a little moan.

Duo blinked, staring blankly at the severed cat head hanging limp in Heero's grasp, blood and gore dripping slowly to the desk's surface. "...Oh. Um...."

"Mary," Relena sobbed. "How awful..."

"Mary?" Duo repeated.

"The housecat," Heero explained, glaring into the empty sockets of the tiny head. He bared his teeth angrily. "How did this get past you?" he demanded.

Trowa shook his head once. "She just found it in there," he explained. "Someone must have put it there last night or earlier this morning."

"Who would do such a thing?" Relena whimpered.

Duo arched a brow. "Where's the rest?"

"Duo!" Relena gasped in horror.

Just then Wufei hurried in, hand hovering near the hilt of the sword in his belt. He followed Relena's dismayed gaze to the pathetic little animal head and wrinkled his nose in distaste. "What the...?"

Heero stared at his old partner. "Where were you?"

Wufei blinked. "What?"

"A minute or two ago you said you were going to relieve Trowa. Why are you just now getting here?"

"Hey, hey," Duo interrupted, catching the underlying anger in his friend's voice.

Wufei straightened, shoulders stiff as he glared back at Heero in challenge. "I had to use the bathroom, Yuy," he snapped. "I'd provide evidence, but it's in the sewer by now. What is this? Are you suggesting someth--"

"He's not suggesting anything," Trowa cut him off, flicking a sharp look Heero's way. "Right?"

Heero stared at them both for a moment, then shook his head once in frustrated denial. "Never mind."

Wufei muttered something under his breath, offering a withering look when Duo attempted to pat him on the shoulder comfortingly. Duo tucked his hand back in his pocket and rolled his eyes.

Heero quickly checked the remaining drawers. Stuffed in the corner of the last drawer was a wadded-up scrap of paper, the corner dotted with blood. He set the head carefully on a sheet of paper and retrieved the clue, opening it carefully. He read it quickly, then shot a quick look towards Duo.

Duo holstered his gun and came over to check, while Trowa prudently led Relena out into the hall. Duo accepted the note and read aloud:

He blinked, then frowned. "Um.."

"Charming," Wufei drawled, lip curled in disgust.

"I have an idea where the rest of the body will be," Heero said grimly, scowling at the paper. "Start doing a search of all the doors in the house. I'll get Relena to the bedroom until it's found."

Duo nodded, placing the paper beside the grisly head before leaving silently. Wufei sent Heero one last cool look and followed.

Heero snatched a kleenex from the box on the corner of the desk and wiped his hands off in quick, angry gestures. Blood was pounding in his ears with mixed alarm and fury. Trowa was right; the head had to have been left there before Relena had come into her office. But she had been working in it yesterday, and there had been no surprises awaiting discovery. For someone to have snuck it in made the horrible truth only that much more obvious. Unless it was an accomplice or some sick bastard just trying to scare the Prime Minister...
The killer was already on the grounds.

But how?? He wracked his brain for an answer as he led a sniffling Relena quickly back to their bedroom. They'd been over the security over and over. Even Duo Maxwell himself hadn't been able to infiltrate on their last test runs. Was the killer really so skilled? Well, he had to be, to have gotten to his other victims. But still...

After checking both the bedroom door and the bathroom one, he set Relena firmly on the bed and told her not to move until he came for her. Locking his distraught fiance inside, he hurried off to meet up with the others, checking all of the upstairs doors as he went.

By the time he reached the ground floor, the body had already been discovered.

"Wufei found it," Duo said as he beckoned his friend from the living room. Wufei was standing by one of the closets where the maids kept their supplies. At Heero's entrance he opened the door with a grim look, indicating the corpse nailed to the inside of the door with a slight nod of his head.

"Jeeeez Louise," Duo sighed, running a hand through his hair distractedly as he stared at the small headless body.

Trowa entered the room, frowning. "Well, the message is clear enough," he stated. "If that's Relena's cat, it would obviously cause a fuss. Not to mention it's small enough to get the job done privately, and the body stashed without anyone noticing. Anyone could have snuck the head into the office, covering it up with something."

"Who has access to her office?" Wufei demanded.

"Besides herself, I do, and the maids," Heero said, glaring at the pathetic blood- spattered remains. "But only she has the key to the desk drawers."

"It could have been picked," Trowa pointed out.

"We ran through the security over and over," Wufei growled. "How could anyone have gotten in??"

"Anyone skilled enough coulda snuck in before the security was beefed up," Duo interjected. "Like I did the day I got here."

Heero frowned.

"Unless," Wufei murmured, eyes narrowing, "they were already here. Heero, how much do you trust those guards?"

Heero hesitated. Until today, he'd felt fairly trusting of them. Their personalities and background checks made them suitable bodyguards. But now...

"The only ones I trust with Relena's life without question are in this room," he admitted quietly. Some of the defensive tension eased out of Wufei's frame. "But there are almost a hundred guards on-site. There's no way to tell which of them could have done this."

Wufei fingered a bit of the matted black fur. "I don't suppose fingerprints could be gotten from something like this?"

"I doubt it," Duo admitted, wrinkling his nose. "Shit, it's already starting to stink. Personally, I think it'd be best to burn it."

Heero frowned again, but nodded slightly.

Duo burst into sudden laughter, startling them all. "Sorry," he mumbled, stifling it quickly. "It just occurred to me... 'bloody mary'. Kind of funny..." He coughed when the others glared at him in furious silence. "Or not."


Relena was sniffly and jumpy for the rest of the day. Heero had her appointments for that afternoon cancelled and stuck to her like glue as much as possible. The others began a thorough investigation, trying to determine how someone had gotten the cat head into Relena's office in the first place. They questioned everybody in their own way, then reported to Heero. Each of them seemed to have their own unique way of questioning, earning varied responses.

Wufei was straight-forward and aggressive, as he was with everything else. He frightened some of the staff, and offended the rest of them. Duo, the natural people person, worked the macabre occurence into casual conversations and checked reactions. Trowa went the reverse route; he questioned everyone about everyone else, hoping to get some clue. Had anyone seen anything strange? Where had so-and-so been at such-and-such a time? He went on the assumption that people were more willing to sell out each other than admit to any wrong they themselves might have done.

But in the end, the only "leads" they had were guesses and assumptions. No one could say with one hundred percent certainty that they had been anywhere near Relena's office, much less seen anyone else there. The only thing that indicated anyone had been aware of anything at all was a maid's off-hand remark about trying to find the cat the evening prior to feed it its dinner.

"She couldn't find the cat," Duo said with a shrug. "She looked around the house, and called outside for it, but couldn't find it. So it musta been dead by then. That was around eight last night."

Heero frowned. "Relena was still up. All of us were."

Duo, being the last to report, was having a mini pow-wow with Heero on Relena's balcony where they could keep an eye on her. She was currently pacing her room, mouth compressed tightly. Heero watched her out of the corner of his eye, anticipating the miniature explosion he knew would eventually occur. She'd been unwilling to step foot in her office all day, so all of her work had been moved to the small desk in her room. She'd stopped working on it half an hour ago, and had been pacing or staring out of the window ever since.

"I guess that means the cat was killed first, and moved into the office later," Duo mused, following Heero's slanted gaze. "What's up with her holy highness?"

Heero flicked him an impatient look at the name. "Cabin fever," he grunted. "She doesn't like being cooped up all day."

As if on cue, Relena gave a strangled yell of frustration, hands thrown up in the air. "I can't take this anymore!"

Heero stepped into the room. Duo followed, a small grin teasing at his lips that he made little effort to hide.

"Heero, I'm going to go insane," Relena said earnestly, clasping his shoulders and staring up at him. "I can't stay in this house all day every day until this lunatic is caught. There are guards all over the grounds! Can't I at least take tea in the garden? Or just walk around for a bit? I could take my work out to the gazebo in the back..."

Heero's face was unsympathetic, which, Duo noted, probably didn't improve Relena's mood any. "There are guards everywhere, and yet Wufei managed to get past all of them and enter your room, and someone killed your cat and somehow got it into your office and into a locked drawer."

Relena stared at him for a moment. "Meetings," she blurted.


"I have important meetings I have to be at," Relena insisted. "I can't just cancel everything. Everything I had today was unimportant and could be rescheduled, but I have things coming up that I cannot miss. I'm supposed to talk with the delegates from the colonies, and with that group of senators--"


"I can't just hide here and wait for this madman to be caught," Relena said firmly. She took a deep breath and adopted a tender, wounded look, her hands brushing against Heero's jaw softly. "Please, Heero," she murmured. "I know you're just trying to protect me. But there are things I have to do. I can't let some homicidal lunatic ruin everything I've ever worked for."

Duo made a slight gagging gesture behind Heero's back, but Relena might as well have been pleading with a brick wall. "You're not stepping foot out of this house until I'm satisfied that the property is secure," Heero said shortly. "And you are certainly not doing any long-distance traveling until the murderer is safely behind bars."

Relena spun away, arms thrown in the air. "You're impossible!"

"You're the one being unreasonable, Prime Minister," Duo noted, his small grin ruining the seriousness of his words. "It's your life on the line here, in case you'd forgotten. Just let Heero do his job."

Heero winced inwardly. Before he could catch Duo's eye and signal a warning, Relena had already turned and was staring at Duo.

"His JOB?" she repeated.

"He was the chief of security last time I checked," Duo said with a one-shouldered shrug. "Your security. It's kind of unfair for you to try using personal emotions to get him to do what you want when you hired him to keep your best interests and your safety in mind."

Heero started to nod in agreement, but got a good look at Relena's incredulous expression and aborted the movement. He looked quickly from her to Duo in confusion. Duo was right; it was his job to protect her. Yet Duo's mouth was pulled in a polite but vaguely mocking smile, and Relena was looking at him as if he'd just said something completely out of bounds.

"...I love Heero," Relena said at last, voice low.

"Yes, well--"

"And he loves me."

Duo's smile melted away. He stared back at Relena, face carefully expressionless. "I certainly hope so," he said after a moment. "Otherwise this whole marriage thing would be..." he glanced at Heero suddenly and stopped. "Anyway!" He clapped his hands, grinning again as if nothing had happened. "Heero, I'll leave you to talk some sense into miss Prime Minister here. I'm going to go check in with Wufei." He was gone with a wave and the twitch of a braid before Heero could demand an explanation for whatever underlying words had been in that simple conversation. He turned to Relena, but she was quickly regaining her composure.

"What was that all ab--"

"Nothing," Relena said quickly. "Nothing, Heero. Really. Duo and I just..." she frowned. "We don't see eye to eye."

"You never have." Heero frowned back. "I'd hoped whatever infantile and inexplicable grudges you two held would be gone by now. Besides, you said it yourself; Duo doesn't have to be here. He's trying to help."

"In his own twisted way," Relena muttered.


"Nothing." Relena sighed, twisting a lock of hair in her fingers fretfully, eyes drifting towards the door. "I'm sorry, Heero. I know he's one of your closest friends... or was, anyway. But Duo and I come from completely different worlds, and our personalities simply don't..." She wiggled her fingers together. "Mesh."

Heero was not known for his PR skills, but he did recognize animosity when he saw it. And he wasn't stupid-- or blind, for that matter. Relena and Duo's words seemed civil enough, but no matter how polite or simple their conversations, something underneath was always... off. It threw Heero completely. He could understand a bubbling dislike and irritation if two people were snapping at each other, but to stand there and chat about simple things like duty, politics, and marriage, and then smile through their teeth...

It was beyond Heero. And somehow Relena seemed to take offense to the things Duo said, even when Heero thought they were perfectly harmless words. And Duo always grinned as if she'd taken some kind of bait. But he hadn't said anything cruel.

He thought about the last time they had all gathered together. Trowa had brought Catherine along, which had surprised Heero. He'd been under the impression that she disliked all of Trowa's friends. Her polite greeting had confused him. The words and the smile had been sociable enough, but he'd felt as if she was seething behind her polite mask. Was this like that? Was this normal? Did people often say perfectly ordinary things and mean the complete opposite?

Heero rubbed at his temple to forestall a headache, pushing the topic firmly from his mind. He had always been forthright, and had been surrounded by brutally honest people for the most part. Wufei and Duo tended not to pull their punches, and if Quatre had something unpleasant to say, he simply chose not to say anything. The fact that Relena and Duo still seemed to dislike each other bothered Heero, and so did the knowledge that they were somehow having little hidden arguments right in front of him without him even noticing. It was highly possible that his future wife and his best friend couldn't stand each other, and that bothered him.

And why hadn't he realized this before?

"Whatever your problems are, you and Duo need to work them out," Heero said firmly. "I don't know why you refuse to...'mesh', but this is the worst possible time for you two to be so distrustful of each other. Like it or not, your life is in his hands."

"My life is in your hands," Relena corrected.

"Yes," Heero agreed. "But until the suspect is apprehended, you're going to have to rely on them as well. You might want to try getting along with them."

Relena opened her mouth as if to protest, then seemed to think better of it. She smiled fondly at him instead. "They're your friends, Heero," she said. "If you trust them, then I will."

Heero nodded, satisfied, and turned to return to the balcony where he could keep an eye on the grounds below.

Behind him, he heard Relena muttering to herself. "I'll trust him with my life, but not with you."

Heero paused, confused by the words, then decided to pretend he hadn't heard. He was tired of arguing about this. He drummed his fingers against the hilt of his gun as he stepped out onto the balcony and swept the lawn with his impatient stare.

The sooner this murderer was found, the better. Then life could go on as normal. Relena would be safe, he could relax, Trowa could return to his sister...

And Duo could disappear again, a voice in the back of his subconscious added sourly.

Heero ignored the stray thought and applied his full concentration to the protection of the woman in the other room. He didn't move from his self-appointed post until Trowa came looking for them both with news that dinner was ready.


Duo was absent from dinner.

Wufei claimed that the other boy was restless (and possibly full from one of his enormous "snacks") and doing a patrol of the grounds before dark. But Heero, with his newfound suspicions, wondered if Duo was simply trying to avoid another confrontation with Relena in front of the others.

When it came to knowledge of subterfuge, Heero viewed Trowa as the expert. He pulled the older pilot aside briefly, and after a hushed conversation, Trowa disappeared into the kitchens. Dinner was late that night, but at least Heero could be comforted by the knowledge that they wouldn't succumb to poisoned food. Someone on the grounds could not be trusted. That someone was invisible; none of the others' interrogations had turned up any clues as to the identity of whomever had slain Relena's cat. It could have been a sick practical joke, but Heero was taking no chances. Trowa's slight nod as he returned to the table on the heels of the servers took a knot of tension out of Heero's back.

Relena had pulled herself together enough to once again be the cordial hostess. She began asking polite questions about Trowa's and Wufei's lives. Trowa offered short, monosyllibic answers, while Wufei either ignored the questions completely or grunted in response.

"And Quatre?" Relena reached for a slice of french bread and dipped it in her soup. "I haven't seen him in awhile. I hope he's doing well. He was always very kind to me."

Heero glanced up when Wufei said nothing. The boy was eating steadily and not even looking at Relena. "Weren't you the last one to see him?" Heero demanded. "He mentioned seeing you last year briefly."

Wufei's jaws paused in their chewing for just an instant.

Trowa's gaze flicked towards Heero, then towards Wufei, his mouth tugging into a slight frown.

Wufei swallowed his bite of pork and reached for his drink, barely favoring Heero with a bored look. "We ran into each other," he finally admitted in a bored tone. "I didn't stick around."

"So was he doing all right? Did he seem happy?" Relena pressed, dabbling at her soup with her bread again. She was watching her food and didn't notice the sudden tension coming from the other side of the table. Trowa was staring openly at Wufei now, spoon frozen halfway between his mouth and his soup bowl. Wufei was pointedly not looking his way. Heero glanced from one to the other, wondering at the subtle mood change in the room.

Wufei shrugged one shoulder noncommittally, setting his cup down again after a long draught. "His father's business is doing well, if his clothes were anything to go off of. He wanted to talk over lunch.." there was the barest hesitation there, where his eyes started to shift towards Trowa, then twitched away again. "But I left shortly afterwards."

Trowa's lips were tightly compressed as he stared at the other boy. Abruptly he looked up at caught Heero frowning quizically at him. He turned his attention on his soup and resumed eating, saying nothing.

Relena nodded at Wufei's glib answer and moved the conversation on towards other things. Heero shrugged off his curiosity after a moment. Whatever. It was none of his business. Perhaps there had been a fight. It was hard to imagine Quatre fighting with anyone, though.

He could always bring it up with Duo later. Duo was better at analyzing emotions and decoding unspoken conversations. He kept half his attention on Relena's chattering and the rest on his mental overview of the security of the house.

Duo came waltzing in just as they were finishing dinner, claiming to be starved and beat, and anyway, why were all of them stuffing their faces instead of helping him check the grounds one more time before dark? Heero tuned out the familiar bitching, put his empty cup aside, and led Relena upstairs for bed.

Duo kept talking, but his gaze followed them out of the room, his eyes narrowed with dissatisfaction.

Author's Notes: I realized I'd run into a few corners plot-wise, so this sat stewing in a corner while I worked on HB and MM >_<;;; But I'm hoping updates won't take THIS long anymore ^.^;;; *prostrates self*

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