by: Caroline
I was starting to feel sorry for poor Wufei... he's only doing his job...

After Image + Part 5

Wufei looked at Heero, ignoring the smirk on the other man's face. "You're sure about this?"

"Yes," the Japanese detective answered.

"And the priest and the nun? They backed up his story and would be willing to testify in court about the kid's whereabouts if needed?"

Heero held up some papers. "I have their statements here. There's no better character witness than respected members of the clergy," he said, openly grinning.

"Damn. I felt sure he had something to do with it," Wufei grumbled, taking the papers and thumbing through them.

Heero looked horrified. "Don't tell me you wanted that kid to be guilty?"

Wufei sighed and rubbed his eyes, suddenly looking very tired. "I just want this case to be over, Heero. I wake up every day feeling guilty. I start every morning wondering if there's been another victim in the night - wondering if another young man or woman is dead because I haven't been smart enough to catch this bastard. I say the names of every victim before I go to bed at night, praying for their forgiveness. I'm tired, Heero. I just want this nightmare to be over."

"Wufei," Heero murmured, laying a hand on his colleague's shoulder. "Are you getting enough sleep at night?"

The Chinese detective smiled ruefully. "I don't think I've slept since this began." He stepped away from Heero to pick a file off his desk. "I've already cleared this with the Captain. I'd like you and Barton to take a look at the Peacecraft murder again. Something about that case isn't adding up. Maybe a fresh pair of eyes will help."

Heero looked down at the file, somewhat amazed that Wufei was asking for help. "We'd be glad to. What with all the media attention on this 'Teardrop Killer', seems like all the other sickos in this city are laying low. We don't have anything pressing at the moment."

"I appreciate you help."

Heero nodded. "Now, about Duo Maxwell. May I go down and release him?"

Wufei hesitated. "I don't know. I still think that kid knows more than he's telling."

"But his alibi checks out. He couldn't have committed those murders. And you don't have a shred of physical evidence to prove he was involved in any way. You have no reason to hold him."

"Very well," the dark-eyed detective said reluctantly. "But tell him not to leave town. I want him around in case I have more questions for him."

Heero smiled. "Thanks, Chang. You won't regret it."

"I'd better not."

+

The clanking of the cell door being slid open jolted Duo from his uneasy sleep. He'd lain awake on the uncomfortable cot until the first rays of dawn began peeking through the tiny window near the ceiling of his cell. He'd finally drifted off into a restless slumber just after full dawn, dreaming of Heero's cobalt blue eyes. Those eyes were the first thing he saw when he looked up to see who was opening the door.

"Heero! I mean... Detective Yuy," he cried, jumping up, trying to straighten his wrinkled clothing. He looked up at the officer, hope gleaming in his eyes. "Did you get what you needed?"

"Yes. You're free to go," Heero said, feeling warm at the sound of Duo saying his name. All other thoughts were then shoved from his mind as he suddenly found himself with an armful of braided energy.

"Thank you! I knew I could trust you."

Heero swallowed as he looked down at the boy in his arms, wanting to hold him back but knowing it wouldn't be appropriate.

"Uh, you're welcome, Duo. Is there anyone I can call to come pick you up?"

Duo stepped regretfully away from the dark-haired detective's embrace. He shook his head. "Both Quatre and Iria will be on duty at the clinic this morning. And neither Father Maxwell nor Sister Helen have a car."

"What about your other friends or your parents?"

Duo shifted uncomfortably. "Don't have any," he mumbled, looking away.

Heero stared at him for a long while, wondering how anyone as beautiful and charismatic as Duo Maxwell could go through life without friends. And no parents? He could see the boy didn't want to talk about it so let it go.

"Well, can I drop you off somewhere?"

Duo looked back at him, surprised. "You... wouldn't mind?"

"Well as long as you don't want to drive all the way to Los Angeles, I don't mind," he replied, smiling.

"Can you drop me off at Quatre's clinic?"

"I can."

Duo's face lit up. "Then let's go. I want to get as far away from this place," he said, waving his hand at the now empty cell, "as I can. I need a shower, but first I need to show Quatre I'm okay."

"If that's what you want. My car's out back. Shall we go?"

"You bet!"

Duo bounded along beside the detective, watching him out of the corner of his eye. He didn't quite know what to make of the man. He was definitely attracted to the detective, and he was sure Heero was sending hints of his own. But what if he was wrong? What if he asked Heero out only to have the man laugh in his face? Or worse, recoil from him in disgust? Duo sighed. Dating was confusing, and more often than not, heartbreaking. No, better to admire the man from afar than to risk hurting what seemed to be a newfound friendship.

Heero opened the car door for him. Duo smiled in thanks and slipped inside. When the door shut behind him, he was almost immediately overwhelmed by Heero's scent. The unique blend of sandalwood and musk permeated the air in the vehicle. Duo closed his eyes and shivered.

Neither one talked much during the ride. Both kept casting longing glances at the other while the other was not looking. Duo turned to look out the window, wishing the ride to Quatre's clinic was longer, wishing he had the courage to say something.

They pulled into a parking space on the street in front of the clinic a few minutes later. Duo jumped out of the car and into the building, hollering for Quatre. The blonde doctor poked his head out of one of the examining rooms, eyes widening in surprise at seeing Duo there.

"Duo! Thank Allah! I was so worried. What happened? I wanted to wait for you after they'd finished taking my statement but they made me go home. Are you okay?" the little blonde gushed, catching Duo in his arms and squeezing tightly.

"I'm okay Quat. They thought I was the murderer and locked me in jail."

"What? Why didn't you call me? I could have sent my lawyer down to help you."

"They didn't exactly let me make any phone calls," Duo replied, trying to squirm out of his friend's embrace.

"They wouldn't let you contact a lawyer?" Quatre's eyes narrowed dangerously.

"He was never formally charged. It was not necessary," Heero said as he came in the door behind Duo.

"Quatre, this is Detective Yuy. He got me out of the big house," Duo said, grinning.

Heero rolled his eyes. "I merely checked out your alibis, Duo."

"Yeah, but they wanted to hold me until the full twenty-four hours didn't they? You convinced them to let me go early."

"Duo!" A tall blonde woman raced around the corner and swooped down on the short young man. Duo squeaked as she wrapped her arms around him and swung him around."I was so worried! Quatre told me about having to leave you at the precinct and then when you didn't answer your phone last night we were so worried!"

"Iria!" came Duo's muffled voice against the woman's shoulder. "I'm fine... can't... breathe."

Iria stepped back, giving him one last squeeze. She looked him up and down before remarking, "No offense Duo but you look like hell."

"I spent all night in prison." Heero rolled his eyes again. "I need a shower and a change of clothes and a snack and a nap and not necessarily in that order."

"Can I drive you home, Duo?" Heero asked. He didn't want the young man walking home in his semi-exhausted condition.

Duo grinned. "I am home. I live in one of the apartments upstairs. But thank you, Detective Yuy. For everything."

"In that case, may I ask a favor of you?"

"What is it?"

"Will you meet me later? To talk about your visions. I'm really curious about them. Maybe there's something that will help us solve this case."

Duo felt his heart leap into his throat. He started to accept when Quatre grabbed his arm and dragged him away.

"Excuse us just a minute, please," the blonde doctor called out to Heero.

"Quatre? What are you doing?" Duo asked.

"Look Duo. I don't think it's a good idea for you to get involved in this thing further. You found the body for them. You've done your job, and look where it got you. They thought you were the one responsible for all those murders. I just don't think you should involve yourself anymore."

"I appreciate your concern, Quatre, but I am an adult now. I can make my own decisions. And I want to help Heero... Detective Yuy as much as I can."

Quatre's eyes widened. "You like him," he accused the braided teen.

Duo blushed. "Yeah, I do. So what? I do want to help him." He grabbed his friend's hand. "Look, I promise I'll be careful. But I want to... no, I feel like I have to do this."

Quatre hesitated before reluctantly nodding. "All right. But if they start interrogating you again, refuse to answer any questions until you get a lawyer. Then call me. I'll be there before you can blink."

Duo gave his friend an unexpected hug. "Thanks Quat. And I promise."

He walked back to Heero. "Sorry about that. My friends are just a tad... overprotective. Where do you want to meet?"

"Why don't I buy you dinner while we talk? It's the least I can do for your... 'unfortunate incarceration.'"

Duo giggled, trying hard not to sound like a love-struck schoolgirl. "Uh, sure. That'd be great. Where?"

Heero drew out a card from his pocket. On the back he wrote down the name and address of a local bar and grill he and the other cops liked to frequent. "Meet me here, around seven?"

Duo looked at the name of the restaurant. "I know where this is. And seven is fine."

"Great. Oh, and my home phone number is on the other side... in case you need anything. Don't hesitate to call. Dr. Winner, it was nice to meet you." He looked at Duo and gave the boy a small smile. "I'll see you at seven."

Duo clutched the card to his chest as he watched Heero leave. As the handsome detective pulled away, he collapsed dramatically into a nearby chair. "Oooh, I think I'm in love!"

Quatre sighed dramatically. "He just wants to talk about the case, Duo. He also wants to talk about your visions. Are you okay with that?"

Duo paused. He'd never liked talking about his gift before. But he hadn't hesitated when Heero had asked him. He shrugged. "I don't mind. There's not much to tell anyway." He glanced at the clock on the wall. "Holy crap! I only have eight hours to get ready for dinner!"

He bounded out of the chair, heading for the stairs at the back of the clinic that lead to his apartment. Quatre rolled his eyes as he watched the braided teen rush up the stairs two at a time. Duo would never change, and quite frankly, he didn't want him too. He was too sweet and innocent, and he never wanted the boy to lose that.

'I only hope you know what you're getting yourself into, Duo,' he thought before returning to his patients.

[part 4] [part 6] [back to Caroline's fic]