Disclaimer: For lawful reasons out of my control, I do not own Gundam Wing. Stupid laws being lawful and stuff.
Ok, I'm not doing Artist Alley again until July and school is ending, so I have some free time again. Which means I have time to write. So here's the next chapter.
Odd Man Out
Chapter 5: Have I Been Lied To
True to her words, Kitty wasn't there when Duo got back to the apartment they had rented while they were staying in this city. All trace of her gone. Duo sighed heavily as he closed the front door behind him and went to open the window in the living room to let in the cool night air.
The sounds of the city filtered in and a part of him expected her to walk in from the bedroom door and offer to cook dinner since he'd cooked last time. But she wasn't hiding in there, and her voice wasn't going to welcome him home ever again.
After the war, after basically being told that he wasn't wanted by anyone in the known universe and that he was a blight on society, Duo had wanted to just disappear and stay invisible. But Kitty had somehow come into his life. A fellow veteran, he hadn't been too surprised when she had recognized him as someone she would have a lot in common with. He had been surprised when she'd wanted to be friends, and even more surprised when he'd finally realized she was an important part of his life.
At first they had just kept each other afloat. Moved in together and kept the shadows of war from drowning them. Then they'd gotten jobs together and had leaned hard when war anxieties came knocking on peace time's door. Duo had gotten more than one black eye from trying to wake Kitty up from nightmares and Kitty had gotten thrown a couple of times when she'd tapped Duo on the shoulder when he hadn't known she was there. Through trial again and again they had leaned that peace time was much harder than they had thought it would be, haunted as they were. And then first Kitty got fired and then Duo lost his job, and no one would hire either of them. And when food was starting to get seriously low and rent was due, and the heat had been turned off and the electricity as well, Kitty had come home with some cash she had "found" somewhere.
That had been the start of it, just taking what they needed, just enough to get by. And always from people who could afford it. It was a bur in his saddle, but Duo couldn't find anyone to hire him, even with falsified records, no one was hiring when they already had factories and stores and warehouses full of soldiers. And what had started as just a means to get by quickly became a way of life. Duo got himself a computer and fell easily back into hacking. It all came back, and it was easy enough to catch up on what he had missed. Just a few challenges to himself, hacking back into high security sections, and Shinigami was back and as vicious as ever.
But after moving to a better apartment and allowing for a few luxuries, it became obvious that they weren't going to be able to stay in that city. The local authorities were becoming suspicious and starting to notice a steady flow of illegal traffic. Duo got them out of there before they were marked and moved them to another country where they started again, but being cautious this time.
As the months went by, Kitty and Duo became professional criminals, experts in their fields, Duo in hacking and Kitty in dealings. And as they got better, they found that moving before things got hairy suited them quite well. A pattern set in and with their friendship strong, Duo didn't mind their busy lifestyle, enjoyed it really. He had someone to depend on and even late at night he could convince himself that he didn't actually care that no one wanted to remember the Gundam that brought death so quickly. It was a time of expensive cars that were disposable, the best computers technology had to offer, and leaving behind a signature that throughly pissed off the authorities and watching their reactions through their own security systems.
A time that felt like it would never end, when problems didn't seem so big and every wrong turn was an adventure. It was hiding, a lot of hiding and denial.
Duo decided that he didn't feel like harsh electric lights and went to sit next to the window he'd opened. The whole apartment was lacking in furniture since they hadn't planned on staying long, so he just grabbed some pillows from the couch and flopped down on the floor, letting the cool air wash over him.
He was pretty sure that things had been growing, just... wrong, for a while now. Looking back with 20/20 vision it was obvious, how Kitty had gone from fun and adventuresome to greedy and demanding. Pushing him harder and harder to bring in bigger scams and larger pay offs. It had gone from a friendship, to a business, to a kind of one-sided subjugation.
It was no wonder she left at this point, it was actually quite strange that Duo hadn't shoved her out the door himself now that he was thinking about the last few months they'd been moving around. He wouldn't have ever put up with someone treating him this way just a couple of years ago. But, this feeling filling him, it was an easy to realize that he'd been afraid to lose her. To be on his own.
Duo sighed and rolled over on his side to stare at his empty rooms. Just his now. It felt like a huge sigh of relief at the same time it felt like a vice crushing his chest. The rooms were vast and hollow even though it was just a one bedroom apartment.
Heero Yuy. That made the difference. Duo felt his eyes growing heavy, but he didn't move to go to his bed and sleep there, he stayed there, letting his energy leave him. Heero was a new straw to grasp hold of. A new direction for him to travel. And he was going to have to wait, it was like asking him to go a whole year without touching a computer, how was he going to wait for Heero to show up? What if he never did?
Duo fell asleep on the floor in his living room, curled up and waiting.
The moment the words were past taking back, Heero remebered that he had promised Duo to tell no one. To keep it a secret until they talked more. But this was not something he could keep from the other pilots. They were a family now, all they had, and he could not lie to them, or keep this to himself. Lies and omissions were what had almost torn them apart right after the war. They had all been so concerned with their own problems, not appearing weak in front of the others, that they had almost let that be the end of it all. And Heero was sure that if that had happened, that none of them would have survived peace time.
Wu Fei had been pushing himself, always striving to the be the best, never letting anyone else help shoulder his responsibilities, that he'd almost lost his sanity. Trowa and Quatre had tried to give their relationship a go and had been hiding so much from each other that they'd only fought, Trowa constantly running away and Quatre burying himself in business.
And Heero, he'd been unable to sleep, losing control of his life and his job, so paranoid that he was on a constant hair trigger, nearly taking out his own partner.
And now he was dropping a bomb amongst their group that might tear it apart again. He was ready for reactions, as unexpected as his outburst had been, even to him, he'd been thinking over this all afternoon. And he was ready for Wu Fei's anger, for Trowa's cool scrutiny, but he was not ready for Quatre's blatant renouncement.
"No, Heero." Quatre spoke quickly, drawing all their attention to himself. "Heero, you were coned. Come in and sit down, we'll have dinner." He started to walk towards the dinning room and Heero had to reach forward quickly to stop him.
"Quatre" He hadn't meant to say his name that loudly, or grab him quite so hard, in fact he could feel the tension in the room jump and Trowa stiffen next to him, but he was able to turn Quatre to face him.
He was surprised to find a sad look on Quatre's face, pitying and exasperated. As if, of all people, he couldn't believe that Heero had been the one to fall for such a lie.
"Quatre, it's him. His name is Duo Maxwell, he piloted Deathsythe and..." Heero started to defend his statement and Quatre pulled his arm out of Heero's hands and held up his palm to stop his friend.
"And let me guess, he offered up facts and knowledge that only the real pilot could have known. He is smart and our age, quick and strong." Quatre shook his head and when Trowa came to stand next to him, he reached out for his lover's hand for support. It was like someone had slapped Heero in his face, of all his friends he had been counting on Quatre's endless patience and undying optimism. "Heero, after the war I actually took the time to look for Pilot 02. I interviewed as many people as I could. I spent thousands looking and investigating. Heero, the Pilot of Deathsythe is either dead or doesn't want to be found."
"He is right, or course." Wu Fei suddenly jumped in from Heero's left side, and with Trowa standing next to Quatre on his other side Heero suddenly felt flanked and trapped and out numbered. It was like he was standing before a firing squad and he had to get away. Heero started to take a step back, going for a retreat, anger and betrayal warring inside of him. "If he truly is Pilot 02, why has he not made himself known to us before now?"
Wu Fei's words were the last he could stand, it was a taunt, stinging bites that only inflamed his own doubts and fears. He had been wrong, he'd been duped and coned. Heero whipped around, he had to leave, he had to track down this man, this stranger, who had fooled him. His fists clenched at his sides, he hadn't been expecting a hand on his shoulder and almost turned around to punch Trowa in the jaw.
"Heero, stay. You need to eat." Trowa's voice was low and soothing, but the anger and disappointment in himself was still fresh on the surface, Heero turned around to give some scathing retort and was shocked to find Trowa smiling at him.
It was reassuring, his hand squeezing Heero's shoulder, his eyebrows going up. Implying... what?
"Come back, have dinner with us. Let's just forget all this for right now. We haven't seen you in quite a while and we're glad you called." Trowa believed. Heero felt it straight down to the soles of his feet. He had faith in Heero, knew that he wasn't taken in lightly by lies and false confessions, Trowa had to know that Heero would have been the most pessimistic our of all of them.
Heero felt his anger leaving him, slowly coming down out of his shoulders and neck, letting him breath easier again. He nodded and let Trowa walk behind him and steer him into the dinning room with his large hands on his shoulders, gently pushing and kneading at the same time. He ignored the heated whispers behind him between Wu Fei and Quatre and just sat down, staring at the spot on the table in front of him until food appeared there.
Throughout the dinner he sat there looking down, able to answer questions directed at him, mostly from Trowa, but he couldn't bring himself to follow the conversation or join in as he normally would. Instead he just let his memories of the day swirl around and around in his mind, going over all the details, remembering the smell of Duo when they'd been standing close. How the light of the sun reflected in his hair and lit up his violently violet eyes. How talking to him made Heero calm down and made his heart speed up at the same time.
He reached over to grab his water glass to take a sip and found Trowa watching him while Quatre was listening to Wu Fei complain about some woman in the office. Trowa wink at him and quietly said, "Maybe I'll stop by this week and take you out to lunch?"
Heero nodded slowly, Trowa wanted to talk, obviously without Quatre and Wu Fei listening in and scrutinizing. Heero felt the relief of having someone to talk to about all of this, someone who would listen before judging, someone who might have a little insight as to the feelings Duo Maxwell was stirring inside him.
So when dessert came Heero was feeling a little better and was able to join in the conversation a little more, actually paying attention now. He had a plan.
After thinking about it, Heero wanted to be sure. He'd talk to Duo, get to know him better. He'd share that with Trowa and not bring it up again to the others until he was sure. Yes, that was a better way to handle it, Wu Fei would never listen once he had made up his mind unless giving undeniable proof. And he wasn't sure what was wrong with Quatre, but the man was obviously closed down to the whole idea.
He'd decide, with Trowa's help, whither or now Duo Maxwell was telling the truth, if he really was who he proclaimed to be. And then he'd introduce Duo to Trowa first, a good plan. Trowa was always calm and cool headed, he'd handle it better than the other two. And when it finally came time to introduce Duo to Quatre and Wu Fei, if that time ever came, then it would be important to have Trowa on his side.
Heero and Wu Fei left after coffee, or tea in Heero's and Wu Fei's case, and Heero drove Wu Fei back to his car.
"Tomorrow we shall find him." Wu Fei suddenly said as he was unbuckling, getting ready to get out of Heero's car. "I'll not let this cad get away with this game of lies."
Heero couldn't answer, had to hold back what he wanted to yell at Wu Fei, how he knew, just knew, that Duo was telling the truth. That what Duo had told him was something no one else could have known, and that he wasn't going to help Wu Fei track him down and drag him back just to arrest him for something he hadn't done. That Wu Fei was lucky Duo had been there to help them stop Emerald Oblivion.
"I'm sure what he said was very convincing, you cannot beat yourself up about it Yuy. We'll catch him." Wu Fei was lucky he closed the door just then, because Heero hadn't been able to stop himself from turning around to answer then. But the sound of the door locking into place let him pull back his words from his tongue and swallow them again. He griped the steering wheel instead and waited to see that Wu Fei's car started before pulling out and heading back to his condo.
Driving there he did have a fleeting thought, of driving directly over to the address he'd memorized. Not to go in, just to make sure it existed, just to see if there was someone living there. To check and see if Duo had lied to him.
But he resisted, telling himself that he was going to trust, just in this little thing, and wait until his day off. When he would have a chance to really talk, no time limit, really get to know Duo Maxwell. Though his face did flame up as he pulled into his covered parking spot when he realized that this whole situation, waiting for his day off, getting to know Duo, anticipation making his blood quicken, was very akin to a date.
Heero sat there in his car until his heart rate returned to normal and he was no longer the color of the red sports car parked next to him. Then he grabbed the files he'd brought home from work and went up stairs to his condo.
He finished his work quickly, letting the news on his Vid Screen become background noise he was half paying attention to. Then undressed for bed, brushed his teeth and set his alarm clock for the morning.
But laying down in bed and finding sleep proved difficult. He was plagues for a while, sleepless and restless, by those eyes and that smile that had slammed down into his life today. Leaving behind a crater full of doubt and hope equally. It was all either lies or the biggest truth he'd missed through the whole war.
Heero sighed deeply, he knew what he wanted it to be, who he wanted Duo Maxwell to be, but only time was going to reveal which he was. War Hero or expert conman. Trickster or forgotten comrade. Escaped convict or Deathsythe, and right before his fell asleep Heero's brain offered up a worrisome idea, something he forgot in the morning light of the next day after troubling dreams. What if Duo Maxwell was both?