Disclaimer: I'm an engineer, not an anime producer. Hence, I don't own 'em. I'm just playing nicely with them for a little bit.
Author's note: The story is set two and a half years after the end of Endless Waltz. Don't worry if Heero seems a little OOC - I'll explain as the fic progresses.
Warnings: None for this section.
Pairings: None so far, unless you count a brief mention of 5+S.
"Tears in the Rain"
Heero sighed as he placed his coffee on a coaster and sat down in his chair. He surveyed his desk briefly, noted the stack of paperwork, and turned to the occupant of the desk next to him. "So Chang," he began, tilting his head back and closing his eyes. "Are there any new cases today?"
Wufei smirked and suppressed a snicker. "Trying to get out of writing your report, Yuy?"
Heero flexed his fingers outward. He opened his eyes and absently stared at the picture frame on his desk. "How did you ever guess?"
"You were never such a slacker during the war. What ever happened to change you?"
Heero's eyes flicked from the picture to Wufei's face, shocked. Wufei's expression was carefully neutral, but the glint in his eyes betrayed his intention. Had Chang Wufei just teased him? He closed his eyes and shook his head, as if to clear the thought. It was too early on Monday morning for him to deal with this.
Absently, he picked up his coffee and took a sip. Too bitter. Needs another half teaspoon of sugar, and some creamer to offset the acidity, he analyzed. His eyes drifted back to the picture, to one face in particular. What ever happened to change you, indeed, he reflected.
Realizing that Wufei expected an answer, he composed his thoughts. "I don't know, Wufei," he replied, more serious than he had intended. "Somewhere in the course of the wars, I learned to live for myself." He snorted self-depreciatively. "I might even claim to have learned how to be human."
This time Wufei did not hold back his amusement. "I'll believe it when I see it, Yuy." The smile in his eyes offset the otherwise cruel sting of his words.
Heero shrugged, and turned his attention back to the picture, coffee forgotten. His gaze traveled over each face in the picture, as his mind ordered where each had gone in the two and a half years since the end of the Eve wars.
Duo had returned to L2, where his beloved scrap yard awaited him. He and Duo maintained infrequent contact, mostly consisting of dinner get-togethers when the other was in town. Although Duo lived with Hilde, Heero had yet to figure out their relationship, whether it was one more suited to siblings or lovers.
Trowa had returned to the circus immediately after the Mariemaia uprising. He and his sister Catherine still worked together in her knife throwing routine. At the end of the wars, Trowa had discovered that his place belonged with his family at the circus. Nevertheless, Heero did not doubt that, if another threat to world peace presented itself, he could count on Trowa's assistance.
Wufei he saw every day. Wufei had created a balance between his warring desires to fight and to protect in his role as a Preventer. His burgeoning relationship with Sally Po had helped to calm the fire in his blood. Her influence was most evident in his everyday interactions; his biting sarcasm had melted into a wry wit, and he had even taken to smiling on occasion.
Quatre. Heero's eyes again lingered on the blonde's face, as they did every time he looked at the picture. Quatre's expression was cheerful, his smile bright as always.
But his eyes... For the first time, Heero noticed that although the Quatre's mouth smiled, his eyes did not.
That picture had been taken two days before Quatre disappeared.
A trace on his bank accounts had yielded no clues. The possibility of foul play had been ruled out when an investigation of the Winner Enterprises' records found that Quatre had put all of the accounts into order immediately after the wars' end, and signed over complete control to his eldest sister, Maryam. From the time he left his office on the night before his disappearance, not a single sister, servant, Maganac, or business associate had a clue of his whereabouts.
Heero knew this personally for a fact, as he had interviewed all of them as part of his first assignment as a Preventer. After six months of following dead-end leads, he had been forced to abandon the case in favor of more typical Preventer fare. Yet, every once in a while, amidst the street wars, uprisings, and attempted assassinations, he found another lead to investigate. He always faithfully pursued all possibilities, even as they inevitably led to a series of dead-ends. Wherever Quatre was hiding, he did not want to be found.
Heero paused in his reverie to take another sip of his neglected coffee. It had cooled considerably, causing the bitter taste to linger in his mouth after he swallowed. This has to be the most disgusting coffee on Earth, he thought. Why do I drink this sludge?
A glance to his left confirmed that Wufei was already hard at work at his desk, paging through screen after screen of mission reports. Heero picked up his notebook from his desk and flipped to his previous mission's notes. It was time to work on his report.
Heero saved his report and glanced at his computer's clock. 12:43... only 17 minutes until the cafeteria closed. Wufei had left his desk about an hour ago, and had not yet returned. Normally he and Wufei ate lunch together in the cafeteria, but Heero supposed that Wufei might have his own reasons for eating without him. Truthfully, he had been so caught up in writing his report that he had failed to note the passage of time.
Heero leaned back in his seat and stretched before slowly standing. He pushed his chair into his desk and was heading towards the door when he spotted Wufei. "Hey Chang," he called down the hallway, "Standing me up on our lunch date?"
The irate glare emitting from Wufei's eyes gave Heero the satisfaction he had craved earlier that morning. "Yes, Yuy," Wufei began, a smirk twisting his mouth, "Colonel Une insisted."
Heero quirked an eyebrow at his friend. "What's this?"
"Come with me." Wufei grabbed his elbow and steered him in the direction of the conference rooms. He led Heero into the first empty one and indicated that he take a seat. Wufei placed a stack of papers on the table in front of him and shut the door before taking the seat directly opposite Yuy.
"Only if you're interested, Yuy." Wufei turned the papers around so that Heero could inspect the information on them. He took a deep breath, and continued. "There's been an industrial accident on L2."
Heero's eyes shot up from the paper to meet Wufei's measured gaze. "How many casualties?"
Wufei folded his hands together and pressed his thumbs to his forehead before continuing. "That's just the thing, Yuy. Everybody survived." He pulled his hands apart and purposefully removed the third page from the stack, placing it on top. Heero's eyes widened at the image of destruction. The entire second and third floors of the manufacturing building had collapsed into the main plant. The structural damage had also affected the attached office buildings, and destroyed at least half of the office space.
"How..." Heero found himself momentarily at a loss for words. "How could anyone survive this?"
Wufei pushed the papers towards Heero. "That," he began, "is what you are going to find out. Assuming you're interested, of course," he added quickly.
Heero scrutinized the stack of papers sitting in front of him. "Why all of this interest in an industrial accident? What do the Preventers have to do with this?"
Wufei frowned. "Une's not saying, but there's a suspicion that this disaster was no accident."
Heero sucked in his breath at the implication. "Wufei," he almost whispered, "you know that I don't kill anymore."
Wufei nodded and answered him softly. "That's why I'm offering you this mission, rather than ordering you."
Heero studied the picture again as he made his decision. "Mission accepted," he breathed.
Wufei caught his gaze a moment before gesturing at the papers. "I will forward you the mission details once I get back to my desk. Be prepared to be on a shuttle to L2 within the next two hours. Colonel Une will wish to speak with you before you leave." He rose from his chair and headed towards the door.
"Is that everything?" Heero asked as Wufei opened the door.
"No," Wufei's lips quirked. "Good luck." He walked out of the hallway and headed back in the direction of Une's office.
Heero idly flipped through the stack of papers as he left the room. There were multiple newsfeed printouts detailing the accident, some additional photos, a company profile, and the contact information of every company worker. He suspected that the stack of paper would triple in size before he left for L2.
He headed back to his desk to shutdown his computer before leaving. His previous mission's report would have to wait for another day.