"There is no uncle," he'd said.
Heero had sat in front of me, and told me that everything I'd believed for the last few weeks had been nonsense.
Things had been falling into place very gradually for me. Heero's arrogance; his air of authority. He was well used to command. And that attitude came from a confidence that was deep and secure; not just knowing he was damned attractive - not just knowing he was in charge of a downtown club.
I remembered Shad's laughter when I asked him who was Mr Y. And it was obvious now, why he'd wanted me warned off. Presumably the boss could find casual affairs wherever he liked - but nothing that looked like it was becoming a fixture. He'd not want anyone close to the boss - to his boss. He was planning on isolating Heero - on manipulating him as he wanted.
Until he decided to take out the boss as well.
I remembered Heero's own cautious interest in my past - what I might already know about Shad and the organisation. His cousin's organisation. His organisation.
I'd been wrong all the way along, hadn't I? Carried away with my childish, amateur detective work; my pursuit of the mysterious Mr Y. My misplaced concern that Heero was only half aware of what was going on - that he might need protection from his cousin's shady world, nudging its ugly way into his life.
And why had I been so wrong? It was because I'd been lied to; I'd been misled. I'd not been trusted with the truth.
Heero Yuy wasn't just a pampered relative. A favourite nephew, given the gift of a nightclub to run - to keep him occupied. Not just a rich playboy; a gorgeous man who found lovers wherever he wanted, whenever he wanted.
He was rich, true. And pampered. And damn gorgeous... It was probably true about the lovers, too. But he was also a man who needed minders. Who was followed when he went round town. Whose background and whereabouts were hidden in the shadows, so that no-one really knew what he did, or where he went. Who probably gave orders to hundreds of people - employees, advisors and slaves.
He ran the whole damn show.
It was the early hours of the morning, I guessed. I'd left my watch in the bathroom. There was only a little natural light through the curtains; no swell of sound from the street outside the block. I felt as disorientated as if we were on another planet.
I sidled my body back to the other couch; I put my glass down on to the side table. Very slowly. It still rattled a little as it settled.
"So now I know. Unless that's another lie..."
"No," he said. "It's the truth. I tried to keep you out of it, even when I knew you knew so much already. I wanted to handle everything, but to keep you separate. It didn't work."
"No, I guess it fucking didn't -!"
He began to speak - his voice faltered. Then the confident persona that I knew so well recovered, and he continued, more calmly. "It's nothing to do with you, Duo - my business. There was no reason you should be involved - that you should need to know details. You said yourself - you don't want to be sucked back into that life."
"Nah, no reason at all -!" I stood suddenly, as if to leave. Yet I stood there, paralysed. Stunned. Angry. What the fuck had I been to him all this time?
Heero flinched. He musta been able to see my fury - I personally felt it like a sharp, hot, blue light around me. It was in my eyes; it was in the tension of my muscles. "It was for your own safety, Duo. Not because I wanted to lie to you. Besides, I didn't know who you were when we met - I wasn't sure, even later on. You may have been from Kai; you may have been - worse. There have been threats to me in the past; there are always potential enemies. Commercial and otherwise...
"I didn't know, Duo - I didn't know all this would happen to us..."
His voice was as deep and rich as always; it was just the words that were so astonishing.
"Did you think I wouldn't find out? What sorta moron did you take me for?"
"None, Duo. You must believe me."
Why? I almost shouted. Why should I believe you now? You were happy enough to feed me lies before -
Heero was watching the expressions on my face; he scowled a little, like he knew what I was thinking. "All right, perhaps I can't ask you for that, yet - but try to believe that I want to tell you the truth. That I want to talk to you! It matters a lot that you listen to me - that you believe me. Eventually." He lifted a hand slowly, as if I were some kinda skittish animal he didn't want to frighten off. "Sit down again!"
He musta heard the sharp tone of his voice; musta known that it was the wrong approach. Boy, was it wrong! I saw the flash of horror in his eyes - very fleeting, but it hit deep. He bit at his lip and tried again.
"Please don't go, Duo!"
I didn't want to stare at him - I didn't want to lose my righteous anger into the dark, vibrant depths of his eyes. What I wanted, was to see my face reflected in them, as I did when we were held close. I wanted to see that hint of nervousness, the softening of the arrogance that had been gradually disclosed to me over the last few weeks. I wanted that truth, at least...
I sank down on the couch again. My legs felt weak. My mouth was dry. I glared back.
Heero moistened his lips - guess his were dry, too. "Thank you. At first, I lied for my own protection - as I lie to everyone, Duo. No-one must know who I am, until I know their true position. And then I lied for your protection. Because then I knew you had met Shad before - that he wanted you out of the way. And I wanted to guard you until I knew how to handle him -"
"You treated me like a fool -!" I spat out.
"No - never that!" he sounded angry, now; distressed. It did, indeed, sound genuine. "I know you're no fool. And I never wanted to hurt you, Duo. Never! From the moment I saw you, you took me unawares. I - I never thought you would be so attractive. I've never spent any time with anyone, you see - never built anything beyond a night's company. I never wanted that - I never needed that. But you..." His face twisted in real pain. "I know that I should have realised the danger much earlier. And as a result, I put you in real danger; from Shad. From his lunatic child assassin."
"Crap!" I hissed.
"I would have told you about it all. Soon."
More crap! I shook my head, angrily trying to scatter the shock from my sight and mind.
"Duo - listen -"
"No! None of that counts a piece of shit against the fact that -"
"What?" He was frustrated - angry himself. He leant forward towards me, his face grim.
"You lied to me!"
He sighed, then. And he gave up the attempted justifications. "Yes. Yes I did. Plenty. Happy, now?"
Funnily enough, I admired him more for that than for continuing to argue.
"Was everything a lie?"
"No. Not everything - of course not! But perhaps now you can see a reason why I lied. What would you have done in my place, Duo? I knew how you would be towards me, if you'd known earlier who I was - what I represented. I can see that so clearly, now, in your face."
We glared at each other.
"But I won't be labouring that point, obviously," he finished, his voice sharp and deep. Like Baz's knife. "I see that you've made up your mind, already; you know what you think about it. I don't expect you to be influenced by me. By what you now know of me." He was a proud man, Heero - I knew that. But so was I, in my own quaint, unique way.
I let my gaze fall.
Some more time passed.
Why the hell was I still there? In his lounge, on his couch? Feeling him staring at me? Wishing...
I should've called the cops by now. Or I should've left. Or I should've hit him again, and this time I'd make sure I did a proper job.
Heero Yuy was some kinda mysterious mafia boss, and he'd fucked me so many, sweet times, and yet he'd never actually mentioned it. Hideous, frightening lack of pillow talk...
I couldn't tell which had more power over me - my anger, my nagging, feckless curiosity, or my heartache...
"How much of it is true, Heero?"
He started. He'd been gazing at me, but I'd kept my eyes turned away. I was aware of his hand gripping the couch cushion. The tension in his body.
"What do you mean?"
"The business. Your business. I can't guess at how much you control, Heero - how much of the city. How many Controllers you have out there; how many Shads, and Pecks, and probably even more Bazs. How dirty your hands are, even at second hand. How many kids have died on your drugs - how many protection rackets there are, how many frauds, how many brothels -"
"Christ, Duo, haven't you listened to a single damn word? It's not like that here -! "
"It is to me," I hissed, and he fell silent. "It was to me, down in the worst gutters of your cousin's sordid little empire. Years on the receiving end - years of shadowy guys in charge, fucking us all up, in so many more ways than just selling our bodies." Losing my friends - losing myself. "That's something you need to believe about me, OK? How do you think I feel - finding that you're from the same family? From the same mould?"
There was a silence, as I struggled with myself, and he appeared to give me the time to do that. Then he spoke.
"I don't know how to answer that, Duo - I've never known those feelings. That life." His wary look seemed to be saying - that's your problem, Duo; those are your issues... And he was damn right they were.
"But what I said was the truth - that the business here is not the same as Kai's. I'm the same family; but not the same mould. Those are not my behaviours; my objectives. Your anger is - it's - Duo, please, so much of it is unfounded! Let me explain it to you." He took a deep breath, as if he were going to try a new, radical approach. As, indeed, it might have been - for him.
"Give me a chance, Duo."
I was still silent. Guess he took that as agreeing. Guess I did, too...
He reached for my glass with a request in his eyes - I nodded him on. He took a long drink of the water. I tried to ignore the soft whisper of fabric from his sweats as he moved from the couch; the breeze of warm flesh that followed him as he put the glass back down on the table beside me. He made no other move to come nearer me, and sat back in his place on the opposite couch.
"I was always expected to succeed my uncle, Duo, but he was a difficult man to follow. He kept so much to himself; and he had a festering jealousy of Kai's apparent success. I was rather intolerant of him, and the types of business he encouraged, even when I was younger; we didn't always get on. I tried to be involved with more, but it was usually only as a spectator; and he had no interest in my suggestions. I suppose that he had doubts about my succession, because in the end, I was - genuinely - only trusted with the club. I had the good apartment, and the high salary, of course - and always the respect that was accorded to the family. I've grown accustomed to that all my life. There will be - a certain arrogance in that. Perhaps I can see that more clearly now. I was also complacent, I suppose - and I've always got what I wanted. But I had little more than that to occupy my time...
"He died suddenly. My uncle. Nothing sinister; just a cruel, fast-growing little cancer that finished him off within the month. It was, of course, unexpected, and many of the existing management didn't support me. But I didn't give them time to find anyone else - I knew enough of the organisation to step in and take over. And gradually they found that I ran the businesses well. I've pulled some of them round from uncle's mis-management; I'm proud of that. And there is so much more that I had planned..."
He stared at me. For those few seconds, there was a light in his eyes that was nothing to do with me, or the shocking night we'd had. It was an excited light; a passionate one. I suspected that he was bloody good at his job. If he was given the chance to be.
Did that make things better or worse, in my view?
"I don't need the illegal business to succeed, Duo! I have talents, and I've learned to use them. I admit I've discovered that I'm not an easy man to work for - I have no patience for stupidity or laziness. I sack people; I strip assets from unprofitable subsidiaries. Changes have had to be made quickly and firmly - it's been only a matter of months that I've been in sole charge; I've had little time to make some decisions. I've had to watch my back every step of the way - and that's far beyond the protective presence of a couple of minders. So I don't suffer fools gladly. And yes, I like a good, rich life. Does that make me irredeemable?"
"But you and Kai -"
"He and my uncle went very different ways," said Heero, tersely. "Dammit Duo, I know a damn sight more about Kai's business and the opportunities there than you can ever imagine! We've been in occasional contact for the last few years, despite the rift between him and Uncle. Yes, you and I had very different experiences of him and his world - but credit me with the same intelligence you ask for yourself! Let's not be naÔve about this, shall we? We all know what goes on. My uncle was easily led; the legal niceties were never going to distract him from promises of quick, fast, generous profits ñ"
"Which you benefited from -" I hissed.
He obviously couldn't help himself - he slammed a hand down on to the couch beside him, the angry palm slapping loudly against the taut leather covering.
"I'll say again - what would you have done in my place? That was my role - that was my family! I inherited the whole damn lot, and I've had mere months to be up and running. I haven't even seen some of the companies that are out there, even now...
"But it's not the way I intended things to continue!" His voice rose, almost passionately. "I don't want that trouble - I don't particularly want to be involved in that. So maybe I'm not like your Wufei - I don't seek to devote my life to looking after others. But neither do I want to spend my life ruining them!"
I watched how passionate he looked - how his strong shoulders shook with the fervour of trying to explain himself. How his throat clenched after each few words. I knew how I felt about him. And he was trying to persuade me - to explain to me that he wasn't the scum I'd assumed he was.
I watched the performance from outside of myself, thinking that I oughtta be cynical; I wanted to nurse my anger at the position he'd put me in. My head wondered how much of this was true, and how much was wishful thinking.
While my heart followed every word. Hoping...
"I was talking to Kai about closing some of the businesses here, Duo - the less reputable ones. I know he wasn't interested in cleaning up his own organisation - it served him too well for that. But he might have been interested in helping me out of a few - let's say - awkward situations. He cared enough for family to do that. And I would have made sure he was - compensated adequately."
"But the killings? There've been more, you know - across state."
We were thinking the same thoughts - I could see the sudden, vivid shock mirrored in his eyes. The cold, still air around the dead boy in the next room - the fictional call from Heero's cousin, that would never come. Another relative gone - probably murdered. The sudden escalation of violence across state. Shad...
"I was never involved in any of that, Duo! That was Shad - it always was. And just him. Christ, I wish I'd realised earlier his strength, and the ruthlessness of such a singleminded ambition! Revenge against Kai; taking out the opposition - I don't know what the hell his motive was. I was only just finding out the extent of his work. Kai - Kai would have spoken of it tonight, I'm sure. I was just trying to find a way to get Shad out of the organisation that wouldn't lead to worse trouble - more bloodshed."
He saw the cynicism twist across my face. "Yes, I know now, that was never going to be possible. You obviously know that side of the business so much better than I -!"
He was still angry, too - his words hurt me.
But - sighed a small voice inside me - not as much as other things had done, in the past. And I was a big boy now, wasn't I? There was a soft-seeping thread of understanding springing up within me. Growing like a shoot out of a seed - one of those you grow on a school windowsill in a jar, y'know? All green and new. I resurrected a long-buried memory - all three of us had grown one of those seeds, when we were kids in school. Mine had shrivelled and cracked. Trow's had grown steadily and modestly until we planted it outside. Q's had lain dormant for the longest time, then burst up six inches overnight and sprouted a flower or whatever - he'd been the talk of the class for days. I tried to get him to admit he'd dosed it with something, but he never 'fessed up...
I was rambling in my mind. I missed the guys. I wished I had their help now.
Heero was trying to catch my eye - trying to gauge my mood. "I won't discuss how I have a gun - why I have a gun. But you'll have to believe me that it's for my own protection - not for any assassinations, or murders. Dammit, Duo, I've never wanted anything like that!"
"And Peck? Shad?"
"Peck arrived just as an employee. Then Shad arrived in his wake - thrown out by Kai. Everything I told you about him was true - his plans for our organisation; my dismissal of him. You know everything else, now. He'd thought that uncle's organisation would be a better chance for him. When he found out that uncle was dead, and that I was in charge...well, he thought I was just a boy; that I'd either be keen to follow his lead, or -"
"- or that you'd be easy to intimidate."
Heero inclined his head, in agreement. I looked at him there - sitting ramrod straight on the couch, eyes concentrated on me. Talking about his astonishing world. A wealth of amazing family history, and warring relatives, and the inheritance of crime, commerce and cruel violence - all there, in his eyes. And on his shoulders.
Shad would have expected Heero to be drawn into whatever he, Shad had wanted.
Heero would have expected to be able to control Shad. To dismiss him when he disagreed with his methods.
I wondered which one of them had been the true fool.
"You aren't easy to intimidate, Heero..."
"No," he replied, softly.
"In fact, I can't see you being scared of anything..." I sighed.
His next words shocked me. "I'm scared of you, Duo."
"Of the look in your face now," he almost whispered. There was a ragged edge to his voice. His eyes had genuinely widened - it did, indeed, look like fear.
"Of your - withdrawal from me."
I hauled myself up from the soft luxury of the couch and went silently to fetch more water. I had to pass in front of him, to get to the kitchen. His hand clenched even tighter; his body tensed. He was holding back from reaching out for me.
I knew that Heero wanted to touch me; I suspected that he wanted to use his desire to influence me. He might have used it deliberately; it may just have been instinctive. How would he know otherwise? That had always been his way in the past. He himself had said that he couldn't change overnight.
And - for once, in this mad night - I agreed with him on that. Because I'd felt the same arrogance about myself - for so long now, that it'd become more me than my fucking braid. 'I am as I am', I boasted, to anyone who'd listen; there was no room for discussion. Not with the baggage there was around me, dragging of my arms to the floor like a fucking gorilla. Jeez - I was almost proud of it, I think.
But things change, don't they? Whether we want 'em to or not. Like - we've all got baggage. From the day we're born - from each minute as it limps on, and the Lumps of Life bounce off us like tiny meteors - well, we all gather baggage, don't we?
How far do you let it drag back your progress into the future?
And now, Heero sat as if he were welded to the seat, and there was more 'n one stick up his ass. The morning light was creeping across the lounge; it dappled gently on the couch cushion beside him.
But I kept to my own side of the room. I stood in front of the other couch, drinking more of the cool water, and trying to make sense of it all.
"You've kept me at bay as well, Duo." He spoke quietly, and I was startled.
"You didn't like telling me about your past, either. Anything about you. From the time we met - I think that you saw me as just another john."
"No -!" I protested. "Christ, I don't do that any more -!"
"Not as a job, maybe," he agreed. "But your attitude is still in those times. As if that's the only way you can be with me. Don't you think we can be together, just as ourselves? For ourselves?"
I stared at him, stunned. Was he right? Had I seen him as the one in control, whereas I'd been just as guilty of calling the shots? Hours ago, I was bandying words like love around, to describe the draw I felt towards him; the fascination; the hollowness of not being with him. But what had I let him know about that? Why was I hiding it? To protect myself - or because I was sure that it wasn't for me?
Oh fuck...I didn't do introspection. It was too close; too painful.
Damn! Damn him!
He was watching me drink. It was that way he had - his eyes dark and steady, and devouring my movements like I was his oasis in an enormous desert. I remembered the feeling of his hands on my hips - the sweet smell of his body in bed. The soft threads of his hair in my hand; the taste of his mouth as he opened it to take in my tongue.
I knew he was thinking similar thoughts. He stood up, slowly. His body uncurled like a cat's; supple - elegant. Totally desirable.
"You look so good..." he whispered. "May I touch you?"
I just stared. This was the man who'd taken me on his every whim since the day he met me. Using such gentle words; to appeal to me like that. Showing an unusual respect for me...
As if I deserved it.
Why was he treating me like this? What was happening to us?
"We can be so good together, Duo. Be with me. I want things to be good for us..."
He stepped forward, and I stepped back. It was instinctive; and it shocked Heero.
"Yeah," I gasped. "Like - I'd thought the same myself. But then there was all this confession, and your secret life - and the killing of stupid, pathetic Baz -"
"So you're not going to accept it?" he growled.
"The fact that I lied - the facts of my life. You won't accept it. You won't come past it."
"No," I said, quite clearly, though I wasn't sure my mouth was listening to my body. To my hammering heart. To my twitching cock. He was close; we wanted each other, no doubt about it; and he was vulnerable to me. It was a heady combination. "It ain't that easy, Heero..."
He searched the look in my face - guess he found something from deeper than I thought I went. His eyes went suddenly dull - like a wisp of cloud passed over the evening sun.
"No. I suppose not."
I bit my lip, trying to say what I didn't understand myself. "You live that life, Heero. You are that man. You belong there..."
"Yes, it's my world, Duo. What can I say?"
"I don't want it to be mine."
"No..." he murmured. "You said. More than once. What do you want me to do about it?"
"I dunno," I replied. "I wish..."
"What do you wish?" He'd moved a step nearer me, again. I reckoned I could feel the heat off his body. The chill horror of the night in the bedroom had passed into a warmer morning. It was welcome cheer, whatever the circumstances.
"I dunno," I grumbled again. Seems my vocabulary had deserted me, along with my wits. I wanted him to touch me, now. Didn't know how to say yes. Didn't know whether to say no.
Heero sighed. "I see."
"No," I sighed. I just seemed weary now - the anger was dissipating. The mess remained. The pain was throbbing. "I don't think you do. I'm just trying to say that this isn't exactly what I want, Heero."
He raised a thin eyebrow. "What do you want, Duo?"
I hadn't expected Heero to ask the question. Who ever gave a fuck what I wanted? Your friends, my tired brain sternly reminded me. Past and present. Grow up, Duo Maxwell! You can't be a self-appointed victim for ever. Things change...
"I want to know," said Heero. "Would you want to go back to the time before you met me?"
Christ, what a thought...!
"Yes, I would," I said, brutally honest. "I was starting out all over again - a new life, good friends. Job was OK - nothing special, but legal. I'd escaped that miserable time. I was gonna make something good of it all."
Heero's face was pale. His hand clutched at the fabric of his sweats. I thought I could see the sweat drops on his forehead. I knew how they'd taste... a salty-sweet appetiser...
He said again, "I see..."
I threw my head back in frustration. "But - shit - I can't ever do that, Heero! Not now! Meeting you has turned the whole fucking show up on its ass. I'm different, now - you've changed me! I can't remember a time that anyone disturbed me so much; that I was ever so absorbed in someone. That I was ever so alive!"
"Not even... Wufei?" he asked, softly. Like the words hurt him to say; like they were something sharp in his mouth.
I felt the swell inside me; the need to talk. The need to tell him how I felt. The overwhelming feeling that it was now or never! Caution got hurled to the winds - I could be as honest as he professed to be, couldn't I?
"That was my old life, Heero. He was my old life - my old friend. I'll never forget him - but I came here to move on, didn't I?" I felt Heero tense, only a foot or so away now. "But it was a sham, I think - my new life. It was never gonna work like that, not long term. D'you remember - you once said that I lived for the sex? That ain't exactly the case, either - but it was honest. You've made me realise I was just hiding it all inside. Just hiding the way I am - the true nature of me; the passion in me. I thought it was the only way to make my new start; to mould the new me. To keep it all buttoned up; ignore it all. After all, those were the feelings that always got me into trouble; the passions that could be manipulated, and twisted, and sold...
"But it was damn awkward! And then I met you, and it all just burst out - so wild, that I thought I'd lost control. It felt fucking good, but I didn't welcome all of it, and I've been fighting against it, even as I leapt right on in with both feet. But although I feel like shit right now, I know that I feel more comfortable in my skin than I have for a long time. I've let you drag it all out of me - all the things I thought I wanted buried. Perhaps it's just that I should have controlled 'em a different way."
"That's - good, then -?" he said, tentatively. Christ, I was a constant surprise to him, I knew...but that was what made us good together, perhaps. Could make us good together. I agreed with him, there. Painful though it was to face.
"Yes - and no," I sighed. "Because now I want more, y'know? Or else, I did, before all this happened. Not just more fucking and crawling about in corners, though that's been so damn exciting I have trouble walking straight at times, just thinking about it all -
"But more of you."
He looked wary again; the deep whirlpool of his eyes caught me and held me, and churned up every sense beyond sense. I think I was gabbling. The words spilled themselves out of me.
"I wanna sit and hold you and talk to you. Play cards with you - make meals together. I wanna watch a movie with you. I wanna take you back to meet the guys, and maybe go out for a drink together - just sometimes, cos Q's social expectations can be a little overwhelming for long periods of time...!"
I ran my eyes over his body - the smooth, softly heaving chest. The muscles, clenched along his upper arms. The tasty little hollows between his neck and his collarbone. The juicy, lush little pads of his earlobes...
"I want more of your body, Heero, but I wanna do it without condoms. The fantastic, impulsive sex! I wanna be around you long enough so that we can check each other out, and know enough about each other to be clear. Then we can give everything - truly spontaneously."
I smiled, a little nervously. "And I guess I wanna be seme - just once in a while! With you. I can't describe how much that thought nags at me at night.
"I want... I want...all sortsa things..." All sortsa things that I'd never realised. That I'd never allowed myself to think about.
He let out a small gasp that brought my attention back to him. He was swaying very slightly. He was staring hard, like he seemed to have been doing for aeons, and his expression was pure astonishment. I was flushed, and breathing heavily with the rush of words, and when he put out a hand to steady both of us, I let it rest on my shoulder.
For a soft, silent moment, we leant into each other. Nothing more than a hand on a shoulder; the warmth of a palm on my knotted muscles. A fingertip's gentleness, ghosting across the taut skin of my neck.
"But that's not gonna happen for us, is it?" I whispered. "Not the way things are. Not after last night."
"Let me touch you, Duo..." he breathed. That's what it was like; he was a breath, seeping into my pores. They opened for him. I opened for him. My hands came up from my sides, and they slid underneath his arms, and I let him gather me in to him. His torso was warm under my touch; my chin rested gently against his chest.
He held me there and we breathed together.
I'd told him, hadn't I? Not in so many words, but...I'd be eternally grateful for that.
"I want you, Duo."
I know, I know, my body nodded to him...
"No," he murmured in my ear, as if I'd said it aloud. "Not just the sex..."
That's all I know! the sorry part of me wanted to cry. That's what I'm good at - what I understand. If we move beyond that - what fucking success do I have with relationships?
"The sex has distracted us, hasn't it? But it's a disturbance beyond that..."
"Is that how you see me?" I laughed, lightly. Trying for that insouciant air, that I normally do so well. "I'm disturbing as well?"
He laughed out loud, and I was shocked with how harsh it sounded. His chest shook against mine - his hands tightened on me, in case I drew away. "I have no control here, Duo! But I've always been used to being in control; I've always been the one people deferred to. It's what I do - it's what I am!
"I'm adrift, Duo! I have been for as long as I've known you. The ropes slipped their knots that very first time, though I'd never have admitted it. That first time, when the danger was no longer entirely mine ... I couldn't put it into words - I don't do that. That's what I kept saying to myself. But I was consumed with the need I had, to have you again. To hold you - to fuck you - just to see you again. I saw you with your friends, and not with me - I saw you laugh, and walk away, and argue with me, and touch me where I didn't ask ñ"
I couldn't recognise the Heero I knew. Or - let's face it - thought I knew. Strange, intimate words were tumbling out of him, and into my ear and my neck, but the breath was warm, so it must be real, mustn't it? The hands on my waist were the ones that had lifted me on and off the kitchen table. The lips that blossomed at my cheek were the ones that had kissed me, and teased at my nipples under the sheets in the dark...
It was Heero - and it wasn't. And my whole body welcomed it.
The low voice thrilled as always - but it was less than entirely steady. "You've taught me many things, Duo. Whether you meant to or not - and whether I was willing to learn or not. I'm learning to be angry - to be desperate. To be unsure...To question myself. To open my mouth to talk, not just to demand..." He sighed. "It's my turn to say what I want, yes? I want you." His lips whispered over my forehead, and I felt my face turning up to him. "I want your body - I want to be inside you. Every night. I want your hair loose and spread over my skin. I want your hands teasing at my thighs; I want your generous mouth over my cock, drinking me."
He was almost kissing me; almost. There was a millimetre of hot, charged breath between our mouths. I wanted him so badly that my heart had stopped and was tapping its watch, waiting for connection.
"When I eat, I want you. When I walk, I want you. When I smile, when I dress, when I wash - I want you. When I breathe..."
"Shit..." I gasped. "When you learn to talk, you talk, y'know?"
He ignored me. Or rather - he kissed me. Just with his lips; firm, moist, plump lips, that pressed his need into mine, and breathed his desire through my body.
I kissed back - I took it further. I pressed my tongue to the sides of his mouth; I lapped at him until he opened his lips, and I slid in. Who was in control now? No-fucking-one, I sighed to myself. He tasted of tension and anger and sweet, sweet lust, but underneath it all he tasted of Heero. Pure man. Pure proud, arrogant, newly-lyrical man.
"What does it mean, Duo?" he murmured. His tongue responded; he thrust into my mouth, and his fingers tightened fiercely on my arms. I felt the stirring hardness in his groin, through the soft cloth of the sweats. Christ, those were the days, eh? "Tell me what you really think of all this..."
I drew back, licking at the delicious taste of his saliva that lingered on my tongue. I trailed a hand on his chest - I couldn't resist the touch of that warm flesh any more. He shivered.
"It's the best thing I've ever had, Heero."
"And maybe the worst as well..."
He looked startled. "Isn't that what we've been saying? It needn't be. We can just do what we want -"
I smiled a little. "I can't do impulse any more, Heero. Look where it's got me!"
"You - did -"
"Yeah." I sounded rueful. "Damn, it was great! But now I'm fucked, in all senses of the word. It'll take me months to get over it again." It was, 'praps, an attempt at a joke. 'Praps I meant it.
He was tension personified again - I felt his body straighten, and his hands lift off me. "Why do you need to?"
He didn't understand, of course. "What do you think, Heero? Don't you see where we are this morning? There's a dead boy in the next room, and a psychotic maniac out there, looking to destroy both you and your livelihood. You're a man with a life and a persona I never knew existed - and I'm just fucking worn out with turning it all over in my head, and finding I'm not what I thought, either. You think we can just roll back into bed, and things are gonna trip along the same way as ever?"
"What do you want, then?" he asked again. With more than a note of frustration. "Do you want me to abandon it all? Do you want to take it all to the cops and bring it all down around me, and see me -"
"What?" My voice was gentle, and it asked him to finish his thought. His face screwed up with confusion.
"I won't ask that," I said. I put my fingers to his face, and traced the worry line across his forehead. His hair brushed my skin - his breath huffed against my wrist.
His face changed, then. He seemed to draw himself up, and the cool mask slipped efficiently back over his features. He was, again, the Heero Yuy I had met that first time - the man who had nodded to me, oh so slightly, and lifted a glass in invitation. The man who owned the place. Who owned a lot of things. But not me.
And he knew it.
"You said you wanted to get out of this life, Duo. Perhaps I do, too."
I gaped. But he wasn't looking for my agreement, or even my sympathy. He was just stating his case.
"I want the chance to be different. Now I've met you. Isn't that what you wanted for yourself?"
"I - " I blathered. "I - yes, I guess so. "
"I want out, Duo."
God, it sounded so simple, the words oozing from his mouth! Heero was a man who'd rarely been refused anything in his life. A man whose confidence and personal charisma might well make anything happen.
"Heero - I said I won't ask that. And do you think it'd be that easy? How would you do it? To become Mr Ordinary, like me...Would you drop it all? Bankrupt yourself? Sell your businesses? Let Shad take over? I don't see that happening, somehow... and there's still the little matter of Kai's death, and our own little contribution in the bedroom. There are too many things coming out in the open now - way beyond just us."
"Yeah. Shad. He mustn't be left free, Heero. The killing's got to stop - there's got to be some end to this."
"Yes, I know. And you, Duo?"
"You said it - there's more to this than just us, isn't there? This whole night - the crazed child... the reminders of your own previous life..."
"Yeah," I sighed. "There's a hell of a lot more to this than just us."
"You won't ask me to change... not even when I want to be with you..."
I hushed him, with my fingers on his lips. Damn, they were rich pastures...
"I want to be with you as well. But I got things to do - to sort out."
He stared at me. There was the ripple of something on the heavy flesh of his mouth; my fingers stroked it away.
"So what will you do, Heero?"
He swallowed - I felt the soft vibration in his throat. "I think that's up to you, now, isn't it?"
To me? But I knew what he meant.
"Ahh, Duo...Come here..." It was his pleading voice again, and I just knew I wasn't gonna be refusing that...He was moving back towards me. I was leaning towards him. He held out a hand, and I raised mine to match it.
"What do you want?" he whispered, yet again.
"What are you offering?" I murmured. I let a smile slide across my face.
He smiled as well, then, and shrugged. "According to you, I have nothing to offer you, Duo."
Ahh... "No, that's not true," I replied. My fingers spread slightly, and reached for his; five fingertips touched five others, and pressed gently together. It was an electric feeling - the current ran swiftly and shockingly through my veins. Our fingers slid slowly down, and interlocked. His palm was slightly sweaty.
"You have so much to offer - and so much that I want. That I need," I whispered.
"But I can't take you up on it."
I went back into the bedroom, and stared at the mess.
At the boy lying bleeding on the floor. I stared at the wound for a long time, and knew that the flow had stopped, and the glistening had started to coagulate into a dark, maroon stain.
It reminded me of Wufei.
I knew now that it wasn't my fault that Wufei died. He was still dead, of course - and the pain still wrenched at me. But some of the terrible guilt had eased. I'd been part of the world that had killed him - but it hadn't been my hand that had harmed him. It hadn't been my order that had sent Baz to kill him; it hadn't been my negligence that had led him to that spot, that night.
His words were still clear to me; his cool wisdom - his unassuming friendship. His desire to help others; and not in some insincere, sanctimonious way.
His steady belief that I could be better.
And I knew so clearly now, what my way should be.
I came back into the lounge, and Heero was still standing. But he looked steady on his feet now. Actually, he looked damn gorgeous, as ever. He'd slipped a thin tee-shirt on, of some satin fabric; dark blue. He looked respectably dressed, and yet I could see the movement of muscles under the cloth - the hint of erect nipples, that made him look erotically half-naked. He'd run a hand through his hair, and the dark locks curled back over his ears. He displayed a casual elegance that I'd never seen anyone else do so well.
I knew who he was, now. I knew some of what he'd done. I knew less of lots of other things. I knew I'd told him how I felt about him - and he'd returned the compliment. I didn't think he was gonna lie to me so much any more.
Part of me didn't mind either way. I had my truth. And, anyway - what did it matter now?
I drew a deep breath, but I wasn't afraid. Just needed to bring things back under control. "I must call the cops now, Heero."
A flash in those eyes. He'd obviously been thinking things through as well, while I was out of the room. "Yes. I know that."
"I have things I gotta tell 'em..."
He inclined his head, in that way he had. The curls behind his ears slipped out to caress his face. His eyes were hooded.
"And if I tell 'em about Kai - and Shad, and Baz...which I will...well, there's no way, Heero, that it won't come back on you. We both know that, don't we? Even if the murders can be pinned to poor, stupid Baz. Even if they catch Shad - especially if they catch Shad. I can't see him going down without dragging everyone else with him. Even me, perhaps..."
Damn man, I thought. Now is not the time to return to monosyllabic conversation...
"Is that what you want, Duo?"
This was so fucking difficult... "I want to tell them. I want to get myself clear, at last. But - I don't want you as part of it." Was that selfish of me? Was that even possible?
"So, Heero - like I said - what'll you do?"
He pursed his lips. I leaned, involuntarily, towards them. He looked like he'd been making decisions as well.
"Give me a couple of hours. Just two. Before you call. To allow me to arrange things."
"The gun?" I asked.
He shook his head. "It's not registered anywhere."
The answering smile was slight, but it was there. "It's not in my name. It wouldn't be traced back to me."
I laughed lightly. "You're a non-person, aren't you, Heero?"
He was silent. The chill spread slowly across my body.
"You're gonna run, aren't you? You're gonna go away, so they won't find you -"
His eyes met mine, and the dark chasms were hiding both fear and decision. "There are too many things that would drag me into it, Duo. If you open even one of those avenues with the police, it will rebound on me and mine. I would resist it - I would make a case for my own personal innocence, and I'd win it, perhaps. But I can't afford to be gathered up in it all now. Shad is still loose, and can do too much damage - and the businesses here are too vulnerable. With Kai's death, there'll be confusion and lost direction; someone of the family needs to hang on to what we can. But we're all vulnerable - and dangerously so. This family has enemies inside and outside the law. I need to work on salvaging what I can - but not from here. I would take my turn as the scapegoat."
"Your work here - your life -"
He shrugged, very lightly. Though I knew he wasn't really careless of it all. "It must be left for a while. There's no other choice. There are some people I can trust - I'll make what arrangements I can."
"Will there be anything left to come back to -?"
His eyes flashed. "I don't want to tell you anything about that, Duo. Do you understand?"
Yeah, I did. He didn't want me to know anything that might incriminate me. Or 'praps he just meant that there wasn't gonna be anything left for him to return to. Or 'praps he wasn't gonna return...
"They'll come after you -"
"The police?" He shook his head slightly. "I don't think so. Or not for long. There's not enough I can give them, to make it worth the resources. They want Kai, and his organisation - and they want the murderers. They'll have that. You'll make sure of that. And if they do come after me - well, I won't be easy to find."
"If they can't find you, Heero - neither will I. Will I?"
He stared at me. "No, you won't."
"Come with me, Duo."
He stepped forward, and although I tensed, I let him take hold of me again.
"Come with me."
I mean - people describe some of the defining moments of their life as the hardest thing they've ever faced, don't they? The most painful decision they've ever made; the most heart-wrenching choice they've ever taken.
I mean - it's just shit, really, isn't it? To be in that position...
And I was.
His hands, tight on me. His knee, brushing mine. The whole smell of him; the remembered taste.
"I must stay here."
It seemed very easy now, to explain. To put into words; the way that I was gonna be now.
"It's my promise, Heero, y'see. My promise to myself and to Wufei." A promise bound by a wound.
"I'm gonna accept the past. And then lose it! I'm moving on - but properly this time. I'll accept the great friends that I have - treasure 'em. Let them help me with all those issues - all my baggage. Accept -" I met his eyes. "Accept relationships, if they come along.
"I wanted to live up to what he wanted - what Wufei thought I was capable of. What I deserved. But I've been taking the line of least resistance for years - constantly pitching below standard; doing only enough to get by. So as not to be noticed.
"My past was always with me - that's where I thought I belonged. I couldn't see anyone could ever forget it. I couldn't seem to forget it myself.
"So that's how I'm gonna be now!" My voice was jarringly bright in the silent room. "I'm gonna make my own choices, and ask myself exactly what I want - and I'll live it properly. Set the slate clean. Build up some respect for the guy I'm waking up with each morning. Start again with some more realistic goals. And they'll be mine; and they'll be honest.
"And my choice is to stay here. To do what needs to be done to stop this mess before it gets worse. You know that, though, don't you?"
He stood like a statue. Only the hitch of his breath, and the pulse in his throat showed me that he was listening.
"it's - it's partly to do with you, Heero, y'know? Meeting you - finding you. And that's what makes it so bad. So fucking bad...
"I want this new me, Heero." My voice had raised. "But I don't - Heero, I don't wanna do this for what it does to us."
When he spoke, the sound rippled round me like I was in some kinda deprivation tank; I could barely make out coherent words. I hadn't realised how tightly I was holding on to my senses.
"I won't lie to you anymore, Duo."
"Sure, I know..."
He was trying to tell me something again, with his eyes; I could only see misery, and it was depressing me beyond anything else. Shit, I thought I might cry or something - that'd be a great start to a better me, eh?
"So - maybe I'll stay here with you."
"No!" I almost shouted, which startled us both. What would they do to him? Where would he end up then? "I don't want that for you -!"
Our eyes musta looked the same anguish; the same realisation. It just wasn't an option.
"No, of course not..." he whispered.
"Good." I sounded shaky, even on the single word.
"But - I would; do you know that -?"
"Yeah. I know..."
It was a coupla minutes later. The talking was sort of drying up. There wasn't much more to be said, was there? Well - nothing that would make anything any more cheerful.
Heero appeared back in the lounge - he'd been to the bedroom to pack a few things.
"You OK with this, Duo?"
"With letting you get away?" I laughed, like it was a great big, daring joke. "Yeah - I'm OK with it. There'll be enough from me to keep 'em occupied without the aiding and abetting as well...I mean, it's not like I'm Mr K himself, is it?"
We stared at each other. We'd cleared up a lot of stuff between us, hadn't we? I didn't blame him for anything done in his cousin's name; he didn't despise me for coming to him from out the gutter. We just had all this baggage...
Yeah, I thought; it was heavy, and it was complex, but if we didn't move on, it was gonna bury us both.
This was the best way to come clean. To start afresh.
"I - don't want to get away, Duo. From you..."
"Yeah... I know."
He dropped the bag and came over to me. I thought I should probably run - really fast, and in the opposite direction, but I didn't. I didn't want to. He took hold of me, shifting his body against me, and I felt his hand brush against my cheek.
"I must call them, Heero."
"Sure." His voice was like silk; it was like a hot shower on a cold day; it was pure, unadulterated pleasure. "Just give me a little time, OK?"
He kissed me again, then. He reached an arm around my back, and tugged harder at my waist, and I folded into him like melted chocolate. We were warm, and the taste of him was poignantly sweet. His mouth was firm and demanding, and I was happy to surrender to it. I wrapped my arms round his neck, and traced the pattern of his hair at the nape; remembering it within my fingerprints. His hand slid up and down my hair, wrapping strands around the fingers, and tugging almost playfully, directing my mouth against his whenever it tried to shift away elsewhere. Our tongues were very fierce - very hungry.
I touched the soft silky top, and slid my hand up underneath. He felt rich and exotic, and the flesh wrinkled gently under my touch. My fingers travelled round to his back, and then down to his waist. I caressed gently along the waistband - he'd changed into casual pants, and they hugged him around his hips. I felt him draw in his breath; felt him press his body closer to mine, so that I had to wriggle to rest my swelling cock against the side of his, rather than full on.
"No?" he murmured. His hips moved so slightly that only I would have realised what they were asking. I moved back, adjusting myself to the side again.
He smiled. "Sure..."
He did his own investigation; his own memory game. He ran his lips down my neck until I thought I had no more blood left in my body except the amount that was engorged in my groin area. He traced the profile of my face; he ran hands down my sides and hips, and would have run them round to ass and my inner thighs if I hadn't stopped him. A man can only stand so much sensory ecstasy -
"I won't see you again, Duo. Touch you."
"Argue with me..." I whispered. Lame fucking joke.
"No," he agreed. "That neither."
He pulled away from me abruptly - we were both suffering from flushed faces, and painfully aroused cocks. He slung the bag over his shoulder, and we both made our way to the door to leave. I wouldn't call the police from here. I didn't know what Heero was gonna do in the way of 'arrangements', but we both needed to leave this place far behind.
At the door, he paused. He turned to me and placed a single finger on my mouth. He ran it gently from one side to the other. When it lingered there a little longer, I slipped my tongue out to moisten my lips, and I kissed the tip of it.
And then he left, striding up the corridor to take the lift, and to go fuck knows where.
I can't tell you where I went for those two hours, because I can't remember. I think I probably gave Heero much longer. But as the sun was getting stronger, and the morning was turning out its joggers and early rising workaholics, I found myself walking in the park. I paused by a public phone kiosk. Must be time, I thought.
Time to turn into Mr Honest Citizen.
I called my apartment first, and I can't describe the relief when it was Trow who answered. I mean, I'm mad about that blond guy as well, but Trow... he's something else, isn't he?
"You OK, Duo?" He never asked where - who - what -
"No," I said, quickly. "But I'm not hurt. Trow -"
"Will you call that friend in Vice - set up a meeting for me?"
I heard his sharp breath. Then he let it out again. I just knew that he knew - or at the least, he empathised. "Sure. Soon as you like. If that's what you want."
"Yeah, it is. And T -"
I tried not to sound too pathetic. "Will ya come and pick me up?"
I told him where I was, and he was there in minutes. The guy would see me now, he said. If I was up to it. He looked at my bleak eyes and my white face, and his expression said that, personally, he didn't think I was. But I had him drive me down to the station.
Bless him, he waited until I was done, sat quietly in an outside office. Called his work, and squared it with them to take time off. Then he watched me through the window, as I talked. As I shifted awkwardly on my chair - raised my voice a coupla times. And when he thought they'd had enough of me, and he knew they weren't gonna hold me, he walked straight into the office where I was and collected me.
And took me home.
I had no regrets about the whole thing, y'know.
Just a huge, fucking pain in my chest where I used to have something that pumped blood round my body.
I'd told the police lotsa things, of course. Well, almost. I gave 'em names, and information about Kai's organisation, and plenty of detail on Shad. I saw guys through the partitions at headquarters, scrambling into jackets, and loading guns, and barking down telephones. It was most amusing to see 'em leaping into action like that, on my say so.
I didn't tell 'em anything about the previous night at Heero's apartment. Somehow I didn't think it would add much. Well - that was my expert opinion. When they probed into Kai's world, and Shad's murky little cesspit, there'd be plenty to lead back to Heero - if they wanted to follow that up as well. Let 'em work a bit for that.
They found Baz's body within the hour - it was rolled in mud and refuse, and wedged down behind the dumpsters at the back of the local hamburger joint. No evidence left of where he might have actually died. Caused all sortsa Health and Safety issues for a month or more. That made me smile a bit - just a bit. After the rats had been round him, there was still enough left to give good DNA samples 'n all; last I heard, he was being fitted up against four murders across state, including Wufei's and Kai's, and they were still counting.
The greater shock came when they found Shad. Two days later. He was staked out in one of the kids' playgrounds. Literally staked - with ropes around his wrists and ankles, tied to the equipment. There'd been an anonymous tip-off to the police, so's no little kid would go bounding in there the next day and be the first to find him. I thought that very considerate.
He'd been gagged and suffocated, and then stabbed - many, many times. By many different hands, it seemed. Adult hands - and little, kids' hands. Lots of cuts - deep, shallow; hard; weak. Musta taken place over hours, in all. Lots of kids had motive for that. I wondered if they'd all travelled from Kai's city - or whether they'd sent their welcome proxies to do the job. That musta taken some serious 'arrangement', I thought.
That nice girl Anna at the police library told me that the force piled into Kai's empire like it was a day out at the beach - full of enthusiasm and zeal and packed lunches. Trowa's contact told him that there was no particular evidence that led back to this city, though they'd be investigating the family connection; especially since Shad had been found here. Had been operating here. I wished 'em luck with that. Not.
The Yuy empire seemed to fold back into itself, without fuss. There were no stories of major commercial crashes; no high-profile arrests. A coupla businesses that had never been secure, nor entirely honest, had closed down; Club Underground was under new management. The stories about Mr Y had fizzled to nothing more than street fiction.
Like I said; I told the police lotsa things.
I told T and Q everything else.
Sudden impulses seemed a long way away. A very long way away.