Afterimage + Part 12 (cont)

+

Heero switched off the water and stepped out of the shower. He loathed to wash the smell of Duo from his skin, but he had to be clean and presentable before going into work. Treize would never let him in the office otherwise, and Trowa would never let him live it down. He quickly toweled himself off and completed his necessary morning hygiene routines before pulling on a pair of pants. He glanced at the little bathroom clock and swore. He didn't have time to dry his hair. He was already going to be late enough as it was.

He hadn't meant to initiate anything this morning, especially after the late night they'd had. But Duo had looked so damned irresistible in the early morning light he couldn't help himself. And now he was going to be late. Not that he minded terribly. Duo was far more important than his job - which just went to show Heero how much his little lover had changed him. A few weeks ago, his job had been everything to him. But now... now Heero didn't care about being late or about showing up with wet hair. If he had the option, he'd have stayed in bed with Duo all day. But he couldn't. They were getting closer to finding Relena's murderer. He could feel it. He had to see it through, if only to assuage his own feelings of guilt for the young woman's death.

He grabbed his shirt off the vanity and exited the bathroom. A quick glance at the bed told him Duo hadn't risen yet. He smiled to himself at the sight of his young lover hiding under the sheets, that glorious mane of hair spread out over the pillows behind him. Work be damned. He was going to kiss his lover goodbye before he left. The lump under the covers stirred as he approached the bed. Heero sat down on the edge and pulled the sheets down low enough to see Duo's face.

"Mmmm, Heero, come back to bed," Duo purred sultrily, holding out a hand to him.

Heero took it, then leaned down to give Duo a very thorough kiss. "I can't," he murmured against his lover's lips as the kiss ended. "I have to go to work."

"But today's my day off. Skip work today," Duo pleaded. "I'm sure I can find something to entice you to stay... a little pre-breakfast nookie perhaps?"

Heero smirked. "I think we already did that," he replied, allowing Duo to draw him down onto the bed.

Duo blushed. "Well... there's always post-breakfast nookie," he said, placing a kiss on Heero's collarbone. "And midmorning nookie... and just-before-lunch nookie... and just-after-lunch nookie... followed by early afternoon nookie... which if done nice and slow can lead right into mid-afternoon nookie..." He punctuated his words with wet kisses along Heero's bare chest, toying with a rosy nipple when he came to it. Heero groaned, his own hands wandering invisible trails against Duo's skin. He was tempted... dear God, he was so very tempted. With a whimper of protest, he gently pushed Duo away and sat up. Duo stuck out his bottom lip, pouting at the loss. Heero leaned down, snagging it between his teeth, giving his little lover one last kiss. The kiss lasted longer than he planned. It took every ounce of willpower to pull himself away from Duo.

"Gomen, koi. I'm sorry," he translated when Duo gave him a confused look for dropping into his native language. "I have to go. I... we may have found something significant about Relena's murder."

Duo's eyes widened. He sat up on the bed, fully awake and alert. "What did you find?"

Heero told him about Relena's older brother and about how they were trying to track him down. "Our last known address for him was in Paris, France. Trowa is going to call Interpol and the American Embassy in Paris today to see if we can find him, though the address appears to be a few years old. It's a long shot, but somehow I have this feeling..."

He trailed off as he watched Duo. The young man's eyes had gone completely blank, as though he were somehow looking through him rather than at him. Heero shuddered.

"Thirty-second," the long-haired teen murmured, still trance-like.

Heero blinked. He'd never seen Duo actually having a vision before. He really did appear to be looking at some far off image Heero couldn't see. Cautiously he approached the bed. "Duo? What is it? What do you see?"

"You'll find him at the thirty-second," Duo said in that far-away voice.

"Thirty-second? Thirty-second what? Street?"

"No... station."

A thought dawned on him. "You mean the thirty-second precinct? On the other side of the city?"

"Yes. I... what?" Light returned to Duo's eyes as he looked around in confusion. "Heero?"

Heero didn't say anything, almost too stunned to move.

"I had a vision didn't I?" Duo asked, shoulders slumped forward.

"Duo, I need you to tell me exactly what you saw," Heero said, finally finding his voice.

Duo swallowed, brow furrowed in concentration. "I... no, I can't really describe it in words. It was more of a feeling than an image."

"But you said I'd find him at the thirty-second precinct. Do they have records on him? A location? Is he a prisoner there?"

Duo looked up at him, eyes haunted with fear. "No. I... I saw a badge. I think... I think he works there. I think he's a cop."

+

Heero frowned at the phone as if the smooth, beige object could give him answers if he stared at it long enough. This case was getting more and more complicated, convoluted, and just plain frustrating. He had to see it through... but he swore to himself after Relena's murderer had been caught and brought to justice, he was going to take a long vacation. With Duo. Preferably some place warm and near the ocean. He idly wondered if he could talk Duo into wearing a thong...

"Lord, what has that poor phone done to you now, Yuy?" Trowa's voice broke through his daydream. Heero shifted uncomfortably in his chair to watch as his partner sat down opposite him.

"Hn. How did the phone call with the French authorities go?"

As neither Trowa nor Heero spoke a word of French, Treize had insisted on contacting the local authorities in Paris himself, as he spoke the language fluently.

"Fucking Frenchies!" Trowa swore, looking pained. "Get this, Milliardo Peacecraft lived in Paris until about two years ago. The local cops remember him as a small time hood, dealing in drugs and other smuggled goods. Got himself arrested a couple of times but all the charges were inexplicably dropped."

"He probably bribed his way out of them."

"Most likely. Anyway, one of the locals there remembered he had his name legally changed right before he left Paris. But they wouldn't give out his new name. And diplomatic red tape bullshit being what it is, it'll take at least three weeks to get the courts to release that information to us."

"Damn." He resumed glaring at the phone.

"I don't know about you Heero, but I hate the idea of sitting on my ass for three weeks. The killer could be long gone by then, if he isn't already gone by now." He gave his partner a skeptical look. "Did you have any luck with your... lead?"

Heero sighed, his shoulders slumped in defeat. He'd told Trowa about Duo's vision, and although he knew his partner still didn't quite believe in his lover, he at least was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

"Yes and no. The desk sergeant on duty said that no one by that name had ever worked there, but that the name did sound familiar. He's going to check into old case files and ask around. Maybe we'll get a break yet."

"I hope so, Heero. God, I hope so."

+

Duo looked around and heaved a satisfied sigh at a job well done. The apartment looked a lot less messier than it had been for the past few days. He still had a lot of boxes to unpack, but everything that could be put away without consulting Heero about where to put it had been done. What was left had been stacked up neatly against one wall. And aside from a chair or two, he'd left the remainder of his furniture at his old place to be used by whoever rented it after him. He wasn't attached to any of it. Everything he really cared about was in this apartment. His and Heero's apartment. His toes tingled at the thought.

His stomach rumbled, reminding him he'd skipped lunch to continue unpacking. It was just after three in the afternoon, and Heero wouldn't be home until close to five. They had plans to go out later that night for dinner, but he didn't know if he could wait that long. He thought about the leftover pizza in the fridge and decide one slice couldn't hurt.

After indulging his hunger, he pottered around the kitchen, cleaning up his crumbs and throwing the remaining pizza and paper plate he'd used in the trash. Leftover pizza was only good for so long, and this particular pie had apparently reached it's shelf-age limit. It had been tough and chewy but fortunately still edible. It had taken the edge of his hunger pains long enough until dinner anyway. He straightened up the apartment as best he could. He wanted Heero to see how well he'd been fitting himself into the older man's life. And he didn't want his lover to come home to a messy apartment.

He glanced around. Not a bad job if he did say so himself. A gleam of metal from one of the kitchen counters caught his eye. It was the scissors Zechs had used the previous day to cut the cans of soda free. That seemed to be the only thing out of place. He hurried over and grabbed them, intent on returning them to their proper place. He reached Heero's desk, smiling in pleasure at the little picture he saw there. They'd had their photo taken together in one of those little photo booths in the mall on one of their earlier dates. Heero had had his framed and proudly displayed it on his desk for all to see. Duo couldn't wait to make more picture memories. He wondered if Heero would mind dedicating a whole wall to photographs of themselves. It was something to discuss at least...

So lost in his decorating daydreams, he forgot about not pulling the drawer too hard. The wooden drawer flew out of the desk and crashed onto the floor. Duo cursed and jumped back, barely avoiding getting his toes crushed. Papers and other objects flew across the floor. Duo leapt at them, stopping them before they could slide too far away. He sighed. Just when the thought he had the place cleaned up. He hoped the papers hadn't been in any particular order. They were scattered now.

He lifted the drawer itself. It had flipped over in the fall, so he righted it and began shoving papers back into it. He was reaching for the largest pile when something cold and sharp sliced through his finger. He yelped, sticking the injured appendage in his mouth to quell the bleeding. With his other hand, he reached down and drew out a black-handled knife from underneath Heero's personal papers.

<< FLASH >>

fear...

pain...

blood...

<< FLASH >>

Duo cried out and dropped the knife. His heart was pounding, skin damp with cold sweat. He gasped for air, trying not to be sick all over the floor. Taking a few deep breaths, he slowly turned his gaze back to the knife.

He'd seen it before. It haunted his dreams. It was an exact match for the one he'd seen slicing Relena's throat. He'd relieved the girl's death when he'd touched it. He had no doubt it was the same knife. It even had what looked to be a speck of dried blood on the handle.

"Oh God," Duo breathed, unable to move. He sat down heavily, dislodging some of the papers in the process. The edge of a photograph peeked out. With a trembling hand he reached down and drew it out.

Relena's face stared back at him, disfigured by a black marker, and a tear drop drawn under her left eye.

Duo scrambled up off the floor. He couldn't think. The vision of Relena being murdered replayed itself over and over in his mind. Why would Heero have something like that in his desk? Unless he... No! That wasn't possible. Heero would never do something like that. But... the evidence was right in front of his face. It had been hidden in Heero's desk. Why??

He couldn't think. The walls were closing in on him. He knew he was beginning to panic. He had to get out of there, had to go somewhere where he could think. But where? Quatre? No, the doctor was still mad at him. He swallowed, the very air of the apartment feeling too constricted. He had to call someone.

He bolted for the closet, throwing open the door and grabbing a small wooden box from off the top shelf. He rummaged frantically inside for a moment before finding what he was looking for, a phone number written on a cocktail napkin. He dropped the box and ran for the phone.

He had to re-dial the number three times, his hands were shaking so badly. Finally the phone on the other end began to ring.

"Please be home, please be home," he chanted under his breath as he waited for the line to pick up.

"Hello?"

"Oh God, you're home," he half-sobbed into the receiver.

"Who... Duo? Is everything all right?"

"No. No, everything's not all right," he stammered as he slid to the floor, knees giving out on him.

"What is it? What's wrong?"

"Please... I need to talk to someone. I... Zechs, I need to see you."

+

"Duo? I'm home," Heero called through the darkened apartment as he closed the door behind him, slipping off his jacket. He hung it on the hook beside the door, then turned to peer around the loft. "Duo?" He flipped on a light and frowned. Duo hadn't said anything about going out today. He hadn't called and from the looks of things he hadn't left a note. They had plans to go out later. Maybe Duo was just running an errand or picking something up for their evening together. Still... he didn't like not knowing where his little lover was.

He flipped on another light and looked around. Duo had done an amazing job at settling in, especially only having a few days to work with. His things were mixed evenly with Heero's in such a way that it seemed like Duo had always been there. He'd never thought of his apartment as being bare or lonely before... but he realized now that before Duo, it had been. Just like his life.

His eyes swept the room again. This time, he noticed the mess on the floor next to his desk. He hurried over, noticing that his top drawer had come out and all the contents had been scattered on the floor. The glittering of light off metal drew his eyes. He knelt down to take a closer look.

"What the hell?"

He gingerly picked up the knife between thumb and forefinger, and held it up to the light. He could see the small speck of dried blood on the handle. He carefully set it on top of the desk and stared at it. It's existence in his apartment baffled him.

A sharp ring broke him out of his thoughts. He dug into his pocket and pulled out his cell phone.

"Yuy."

"Detective Yuy? This is Sergeant Dyson at Thirty-second. We spoke earlier about Milliardo Peacecraft?"

"Yes. Did you find anything?"

"Yeah, as a matter of fact I did. The night duty desk clerk remembered finding a watch with that name engraved on the back a couple of years ago. The person who claimed it was a rookie cop. Told her that he'd changed his name for privacy reasons several years ago."

Heero's blood turned cold. A cop... dear God, Duo had been right. He glanced down at the floor and saw what appeared to be an upside down photograph. He bent down and picked it up, eyes widening in horror and surprise at what he saw when he turned it over.

"Can you give me this cop's name and tell me if he still works over there?" he asked, feeling numb.

"Actually, I think you know him. He transferred to your precinct about a year ago. Name is Zechs Merquise."

"Zechs..."

"Yeah. I remembered him as soon as the night duty clerk mentioned him. Never liked him much. Shifty eyes. Slimy attitude."

"Aa."

"Well I'm just about to get off work. If you need anything else, just call."

"Thanks," Heero murmured, before hanging up the phone. He was stunned. Absolutely stunned. He walked over to the kitchen counter in a daze. It didn't make any sense... and yet, it did. He now knew why the picture of seven-year old Milliardo looked familiar. He could see Zechs's face staring back at him. He marveled that he hadn't picked up the similarities sooner.

The knife and that horrible picture disturbed him. The knife looked to be the same kind described in Duo's vision and in the coroner's report. And the picture... that teardrop drawn in the exact place it had been carved into Relena's skin... How the hell did they get into his apartment?

"Zechs..."

Several things fell into place. Zechs had always been interested in the Teardrop case. He'd heard the man discussing it with Wufei several times over the past few months. And Zechs had been in his apartment the other day with Duo.

Duo...

Had he found the knife and the photograph? He must have since the drawer had been pulled out. But where could he be?

His gaze drifted to a wadded up napkin on the counter. He picked it up and smoothed it out. Zechs's address and phone number were written on it. Heero stopped breathing. Surely Duo hadn't... he didn't think Heero had anything to do with Relena's murder... did he? And he'd gone running to Zechs??

"Shit!" He grabbed his phone and dialed Trowa's number.

"Barton residence," the sweet voice of Mariemeia answered on the other end.

"Marie, it's Heero. I need to speak to Trowa. It's an emergency."

"O...okay. Just a moment."

Heero held his breath and closed his eyes. 'Duo, please be okay. I need you.'

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