Author: Caroline
Rating: this part - NC-17
Disclaimers: don't own 'em. never will. 'nuff said.

Afterimage + Part 12

"What do you mean it's not over?" Duo glared at him from across the countertop, croissant dangling in one hand, momentarily forgotten.

"I already told you, Duo. The man who attacked you was the serial killer but he didn't murder Relena." Heero sighed and absently ran his fingers through his messy hair. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you this yesterday, but I didn't think you were in any condition to hear it."

Duo's shoulders slumped. He suddenly looked very tired. "You're right. I probably wasn't. But dammit! I thought... I thought this whole mess was over."

Heero walked around the island and opened his arms. Duo leaned into his embrace, burying his face into Heero's chest.

"I'm so sorry, Duo love," he murmured, stroking the boy's hair comfortingly. "We - that is, Trowa and I - we had our suspicions that that was the case, but we had no proof until now."

"And that's probably why I only saw Relena's death and not any of the others, huh?" Duo mumbled into the older man's chest.

"Yes." Heero gently pried his young lover away from him. "I hate to have to do this to you, but... I need to ask you about what you saw in your vision again." He felt Duo stiffen. "I'm so sorry to have to do this to you, but what you saw is our only lead at the moment."

For a long moment, Duo said nothing. Then, very slowly, he nodded. "All right. When do you want to do it?"

Heero felt a burst of pride in his chest at the courage his young lover was showing. "Finish your breakfast first. Then we can get started."

+

"This is getting us nowhere."

Heero glanced up from the untidy mound of papers on his desk to look across at Trowa. The green-eyed cop threw a pen onto his own equally untidy pile of papers in frustration, wincing as he overextended his injured shoulder. Heero frowned. Trowa should not have been back at work after only three days, but his partner had insisted, saying he could get more done just sitting at his desk than he could simply sitting around at home. Treize had reluctantly agreed, but only if Trowa worked no more than four hours a day. Trowa had ranted and raved about not being an invalid, but by the time he was finished with his tirade, he had been so exhausted he readily agreed.

"We've been through these papers with a fine-tooth comb, talked to everyone who ever knew the Peacecraft girl twice, sometimes three times, and have examined nearly every waking minute of that girl's life and we don't have one damn clue as to who was responsible for her death."

"No. That's not true," Heero answered. "We have several small pieces of the puzzle."

"Right. That kid's 'visions'." Trowa rolled his eyes. "Even if what he 'saw' was true, without the connecting pieces, we'll never be able to see the bigger picture. And we can't very well put out an APB for a guy with long fingers and a - what was it? - a barbed wire necklace?"

"Barbed wire necklace? Sounds positively masochistic," a smooth voice from behind Heero said. "Hope whoever wears something like that is up on their tetanus boosters."

Heero stiffened and turned to greet the newcomer. "Hello, Merquise. How's the head?"

Zechs reached up to place his hand on the back of his head. "Slight headaches, but nothing serious. Didn't even have a concussion." The taller man looked Trowa up and down. "I didn't think you'd be well enough to be back at work so soon, Barton."

"They couldn't keep me away," Trowa replied. He glanced at the clock. "At least not for another two hours."

"Hn," Heero grunted at his partner's little joke. He looked back at Zechs who was smiling like a cat who'd just caught the canary. He was glad the man wasn't seriously injured, but he still did not like him.

"How's Duo doing?" Zechs asked.

"Fine," came Heero's terse reply. He didn't feel like sharing anything about his little lover's condition with the blonde.

"That's good. I was worried about him." Zechs shifted his stance and looked across the room. "If you'll excuse me, gentlemen, I must speak to Wufei for a moment. Glad to see you up and around, Barton. Yuy."

Heero scowled at Zechs's back as he walked across the room. No, he definitely did not like that man. There was something about him he couldn't quite put his finger on. He shrugged it aside and turned back to Trowa, raising an eyebrow.

"So what do you suggest we do now, oh brilliant and wise one?"

"Glad to know you're accepting me as the brains of our operation, Heero." Trowa sighed as he began to shuffle through the papers on his desk. "I have absolutely no idea where to go from here. I have the girl's whole life right in front of my eyes and there's nothing here." He picked up a few pieces of paper. "I've got everything from credit card statements to phone records... I've even got her damn birth certificate and I..." His words trailed off as he looked at the little green piece of paper in his hand.

"What is it, Trowa?"

The green-eyed detective stood up, obviously ignoring the pain in his shoulder. "I think we need to go talk to Relena's grandfather again."

"What? Why?"

Trowa waved the paper under Heero's nose. "Did you know Relena had a sibling?"

"What?" Heero asked in shock.

"It was right under our noses. On her birth certificate. It lists one other living child having been born to Relena's mother before Relena's birth."

"That doesn't mean he or she could still be living."

"No. But it's a place to start. Let's go, lover-boy."

Heero felt his heart speed up as they left the precinct. It was a long shot, but finally, they were doing something.

+

"I still think you're making a big mistake."

Duo didn't pause in taping up a box of kitchen utensils to roll his eyes. He swore if Quatre said that one more time he was going to use the packing tape to tape his friend's mouth shut.

"I know you don't want to stay here anymore," Quatre continued, "but I don't think moving in with Heero Yuy is the wisest thing to do."

Duo sighed. "Look, Quatre, I know you just have my best interests at heart, but you're becoming repetitive."

"But I don't think you've thought things through enough!"

Duo's eyebrow twitched. He threw down the packing tape and whirled on his friend. "I don't care what you think!" he yelled. "I'm a big boy, Quatre and I can make my own decisions!"

"Yes, but..."

"No buts! You don't understand. I love Heero. He makes me happy. He makes me feel special. He understands me."

"I'm only trying to protect you, Duo," Quatre replied, his own face turning red in anger.

"No, you're not. Heero tries to protect me. You - you are smothering me!" Duo took a deep breath in an effort to calm down. "I know you love me, Quatre, but I'm not a child anymore. I'm moving in with Heero. It's my choice, not yours."

"Fine." Quatre's nostrils flared. "When he breaks your heart, I intend to be there to say I told you so!" And with that, the blonde doctor stormed out of Duo's apartment, slamming the door behind him.

Duo winced. He hadn't thought Quatre would be that upset with his decision. But Duo wasn't overly worried. Quatre still saw him as that scared little boy who'd just lost his parents. It was time his friend saw him for the adult he had become.

A knock on the door startled him out of his thoughts. Duo glanced at the clock, wondering who it could be. It was too early for Heero to be off work and it wasn't likely to be Quatre coming back. He rose off his knees and hurried over to the door. He was surprised to see Zechs Merquise standing on the other side.

"Zechs! Come in," the younger man insisted, stepping aside to allow the blonde detective into his apartment.

"I hope you don't mind me stopping by unannounced like this," Zechs said, turning to Duo as the teen shut the apartment door behind him. "I just wanted to see how you were doing."

"I'm fine. How about you? I'm so sorry you got hurt trying to protect me."

Zechs waved his hand in dismissal. "It was nothing. Just a little bump on the head." He looked around. "Moving out?"

Duo glanced around at his now stripped apartment. Boxes and personal items lay all over the floor. He was going to miss this place - his first apartment. In a small way, he felt like he was running away. He couldn't bear to go into his bedroom anymore. Heero had had to pack up his things in there for him. But as his lover kept reminding him, he wasn't running away, he was moving in with the man he loved. There was a difference. And Duo was willing to see it that way.

"Yeah. I... don't think I can stay here anymore," he replied.

"Do you have somewhere to go?"

Duo blushed furiously. "Yeah..."

"Ah," Zechs said knowingly. "Moving in with Yuy?"

Duo's eyes flew to the other man's face. "How did you..."

"How did I know? Ah, it's not really a secret anymore. Nearly everyone at the station knows."

Duo felt his face burn. "O...oh. Sorry."

"There's nothing to be sorry for. I can understand why you and Yuy wanted to keep things quiet." He sighed and struck a dramatic pose. "Although I hate it that he found you first."

Duo giggled. "Yeah, well if anything ever happens to change that, I'll be sure to call you first," he joked.

An awkward silence followed as Duo looked down at the ground, unable to meet Zechs's eyes. Thankfully the moment was broken by the shrill ring of the telephone from the next room. When Duo didn't move to answer it, Zechs asked, "Do you want me to get that for you?"

"Huh? Oh... no. Don't bother. It's just a telemarketer wanting me to buy insurance," Duo replied without thinking.

Zechs stared at him. "Fascinating. You really do 'see' things don't you."

Duo flushed scarlet. "Uh... yeah."

"Would you mind telling me about them?"

"There's not much to tell," Duo said slowly, not really wanting to go down this particular avenue of conversation. "I can't control them, I don't know what triggers them. It doesn't happen all the time. I knew who was on the phone, yet I didn't know it was you at the door."

"So... do you see clear pictures in your head?"

"No, it's more like impressions, vague feelings... I can't really explain it." He shifted uncomfortably on his feet. "I don't really like to talk about it. Anyway, I need to get back to packing... although my ride has apparently walked out on me." He made a face at the thought of Quatre.

"I've got my truck downstairs and the afternoon off. Want some help?"

Duo looked at him hopefully. He really didn't want to have to wait for Heero to get off work to help him move some of his stuff. "You wouldn't mind?"

"Of course not. Where shall I start?"

Duo smiled and showed him some boxes he could take down to his truck. His heart felt light. The sooner he got his things moved and settled in, the sooner he and Heero could begin their life together.

+

"So you've discovered the Peacecraft family secret," the old man said dispassionately to the two detectives sitting opposite him in the elaborate drawing room of the Peacecraft mansion. The wizened senator passed them a framed photograph. Trowa took it, looked briefly at the picture before passing it to Heero. The Japanese detective studied the image of two small children. Both had blonde hair and blue eyes, though the boy's hair appeared to be lighter. The girl, Relena obviously, looked to be about two or three years old. The boy looked about five years older.

"Milliardo Peacecraft the third," the old man continued. "He was supposed to follow in the family footsteps. Enter politics like his father and I. But the little bastard didn't want the life we'd laid out for him. He seemed to resent everything we did for him."

Trowa looked at the man incredulously. "Surely if he wanted to do something else..."

"Don't get me wrong, young man," the senator interrupted. "He had every right to want to do something else with his life if he chose. But he didn't want to. He seemed to think everything should be handed to him on a silver platter without having to work for it. He threw money away on nothing, always expecting more to be given to him when he ran out. When we cut off his funds, he took to selling drugs and engaging in other illegal activities. His parents began to fear he might start to influence Relena, so they sent him away to a boarding school. For a while we thought he might be settling down, but then a few months shy of graduation, he was expelled. He and another... boy had been caught... together." The old man's face twisted in disgust.

Heero chose to ignore it. "His father hauled him back here kicking and screaming. He enrolled Mill in a program design to cure young people of those disgusting and sinful habits. Mill ran away. When the police found him and brought him back his father said he would refrain from living his disgusting lifestyle or be disowned. Mill didn't say a word. He turned around and walked out the door. We haven't seen him since. No one is allowed to speak his name. He is dead to us."

Heero tried to hide his disdain for the old man as he passed the photograph back to the senator. Milliardo Peacecraft III was no golden boy, but his family seemed just as much to blame. "Would you happen to have a current address or even a current photograph?" he asked.

"No. I told you. He is dead to us. His father destroyed all the pictures except that one." He paused and looked out the window sadly. "We always suspected he kept in touch with Relena. Though he probably only wanted money from her." He stood up and walked slowly over to a desk. He opened a drawer and withdrew a piece of paper. "This was his last known address. It's several years old, but maybe it'll be of some use."

Heero took the paper and glanced at, eyes widening slightly as he noted the address was in Paris, France.

"Thank you, Senator. If you think of anything else, please call us," Trowa said as he and Heero stood to go.

"Do you really think he could be involved in Relena's death?" the elder Peacecraft asked.

"We don't know. All we want to do now is locate him and talk to him," Heero replied.

"If you do find him... tell him... tell him... No. Don't tell him anything. He is dead to me. I hope he burns in hell for his sins."

Heero and Trowa left the old man staring wistfully at the photograph. Trowa gave Heero a disgusted look as they left the house.

"This information sure would have been helpful back at the beginning of this case," he said dryly.

"Hn." Heero fingered the piece of paper in his hand. "It won't be easy, tracking this guy down."

"No. But it'll at least give us something to do. Tomorrow we'll interview Relena's friends again and see if they knew anything about this brother of hers. I've got a feeling about this one, Heero. I think we're finally on the right track."

Heero nodded in agreement. He felt the same way. His thoughts drifted back to the photograph. It was a shame that a beautiful child like that could grow into such a monster. Though granted, he wasn't all to blame. Still... there was something familiar about the picture. He just wished he could put his finger on what.

+

[cont]