by: Caroline

After Image + Part 7

Duo sipped his club soda, his mind racing a mile a minute. He couldn't believe his luck. The gorgeous detective sitting beside him, the one that made his heart flutter like a giddy schoolgirl, had just admitted he liked guys as well.

'Ohmygodohmygodohmygod! I can't believe this is happening. He's so cute and I think he likes me and I know I like him. This can't be happening. I must be dreaming...'

"Earth to Duo." Heero's voice broke through his rambling train of thought. Duo blushed prettily.

"Sorry. So... this is a pretty neat place."

Heero shrugged. "I suppose. It's more Trowa's kind of place than mine. Still, the atmosphere isn't too oppressive and the food is pretty good. You hungry?"

"Starving," Duo replied, though he wasn't entirely sure if he meant for food. "What would you, um, recommend?"

"Just about anything." Heero gestured for a waitress. A tall redhead sauntered over and took their order, Duo deciding on the chicken fingers. Heero placed his order and told the woman they'd be at one of the nearby tables rather than at the bar. The waitress left, and Heero stood up.

"Let's move to a table, shall we?"

"All right."

Heero led them to a small round table in a darkened corner. He pulled out one of the chairs and gestured for Duo to sit.

"Thank you," the braided teen said, smiling shyly. He waited for Heero to sit before continuing. "And thank you for asking me out - I mean, here, tonight. It's a really nice place. But I realize that you didn't ask me here for, ah, personal reasons. What did you want to talk about?"

"I wanted to ask you about your visions."

Duo squirmed in his seat. "I... I've never been... comfortable talking about them."

"I understand." Heero reached across the table and took a hold of one of Duo's hands. "We have a murderer running free on the streets. So far, you're the only one to have seen anything at all, even if it was only in your mind. The others think I'm crazy for believing you, but I do. After all, you did find Relena's body. Perhaps there's something else you saw in your visions that can help us catch this guy."

Duo swallowed hard as he stared at their joined hands, barely hearing what Heero was saying. "Uh, well, I don't know if I can help," he said, looking up to make eye contact with the detective, "but I'll try."

"That's all I can ask," Heero replied, withdrawing his hand. Duo sighed with the loss. "How do they work, your visions? Is it like watching a movie in your mind?"

"No, not quite. I'm not sure if I can explain it. It's not like watching a movie, it's more like - afterimages in my mind. Disjointed pictures. Sometimes there's sound, sometimes a smell, sometimes just a feeling. It's never really been strong and usually I don't even know I'm having them. People ask me afterwards how I knew something and I usually just give them a blank look. I can't really explain how I know these things... I just do."

Their food arrived before Heero could reply. Duo sniffed appreciatively and took a bite. Heero had been right - the food here was excellent.

"How long have you had these visions?" Heero asked between bites.

Duo took a long sip of his freshly refilled club soda before answering. "All my life, or nearly so. I was five when I had my first one. Or at least, the first one I was aware of having."

"What happened?"

Duo put his fork down and shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "I was at my babysitter's," he began hesitantly, not quite believing that he was actually going to tell Heero this story. "My parents had gone out to a party or to dinner. I don't remember exactly what. It was getting late. I was tired, but I wanted to stay up and wait for them to pick me up. The babysitter had taught me a new joke and I wanted to tell it to Daddy." He looked down, his plate blurring as his eyes grew misty.

"What happened?" Heero asked again gently.

"I had fallen asleep on the couch. Th...there was a knock at the door. I awoke instantly, and in that moment, before the babysitter opened the door, I knew. I knew my parents were dead. They'd been hit by a drunk driver on their way to pick me up. I knew all that before she opened the door to let the police officers and my hysterical aunt inside."

"I'm sorry."

"Why? You didn't kill them. It wasn't your fault that they died. It wasn't your fault that my aunt decided she didn't want to keep me and sent me to an orphanage to live. It wasn't your fault that I'd spend the rest of my life wondering if I had just managed to stay awake, maybe I'd have had the vision sooner and could've had the babysitter call the restaurant and tell them not to leave. It wasn't your fault, so don't feel sorry for me." He wiped the moisture from his eyes forcefully. He looked up to see Heero staring at him with a concerned look on his face. "I apologize. It's just... I've never told that story to anyone, not even Quatre."

"Then I feel honored that you would trust me with it," the dark-haired detective said.

Duo gave him a small half-smile. "I don't know why, but I feel that I can trust you, Heero." He sniffed, then shrugged his shoulders and looked away. "Anyway, that was the first one I remember having. It was also the strongest one I'd ever had... until the other day."

Heero speared a French fry with his fork and nibbled on it. "Do you have any idea why you had such a strong vision about Rel - Miss Peacecraft?"

Duo shook his head. "No. Not at all. I wish I did. Then maybe I could help you more."

"Well, what sets your visions off? Do you have to touch something?" Heero asked. "If it's touch, we have some of Relena's effects..."

"No," Duo interrupted. "I doubt that would work. It seems to be completely random. Sometimes I'll touch something, sometimes it's a word or phrase, sometimes it's a smell... and I can't control it either. I've tried to induce the visions before, but I've never been able to. Sorry."

Duo could tell Heero was becoming frustrated. The man desperately wanted to catch this killer, and Duo desperately wanted to help him. He just wished he knew how to do that.

"Do you think you could tell me exactly what you saw when you had your vision about Relena?"

Duo frowned. "That's the second time you've called that girl by her first name. Did you know her?"

This time it was Heero's turn to look away.

"I didn't know her very well, but yes, I knew her. I met her at one of those police charity functions. Her grandfather always made a large contribution, so she would come with him. For some strange, inexplicable reason, she took a liking to me. Even after I told her that I wasn't interested in her, or any woman for that matter, she persisted. I think she thought if she pursued me long enough, I'd give in and turn straight. When she disappeared, I thought someone new had captured her attention and she'd run off with him. She'd done that before - disappear for days on end with men she'd met. And quite frankly, I was glad she was gone. Her infatuation with me was becoming annoying." He swirled the straw around in his drink, watching the ice clink together. "But I never wished her dead."

"And now you're feeling guilty about it," Duo replied, feeling a sudden kinship with the cobalt-eyed man sitting across from him. "You're asking yourself if there's anything you could have done differently, if you hadn't been so annoyed with her - maybe you could have found her and she'd still be alive."

Haunted eyes looked up at him. "We each carry a burden of guilt, you and I. You with your parents, me with Relena. And you can understand why I want to help catch this guy... why I've asked you here tonight."

Duo nodded. "And I want to help. Just tell me what you want me to do and I'll do it."

"Thank you, Duo," Heero replied sincerely. He pushed his now empty plate away and leaned back in his chair. "What I'd like for you to do is try and tell me exactly what you saw in your vision. Don't leave anything out. The smallest detail may be important."

"I...I'll try," Duo said, closing his eyes. He tried to block out the cacophony of sounds around him, concentrating on Relena's face and his desire to help Heero. He took three deep, cleansing breaths... and opened his mind.

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His forehead creased as he attempted to latch on to the memory of the vision.

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A loud burst of laughter from the other side of the room broke his concentration. He opened his eyes and looked apologetically at Heero.

"I'm sorry. I can't concentrate here. I need some place quieter."

"Some place quieter, hm?" The detective stared at him for a moment before pushing back his chair and standing up. "Let's go."

Duo scrambled up as well. "Go? Go where?"

"You said you needed some place quieter," he answered, pulling some money out of his pocket and throwing it down on the table. "My place is around the corner. It should be quiet enough for you there."

Duo's eyes opened wide, but he followed Heero out of the bar without a word. He felt giddy, like a thousand butterflies were fluttering around in his stomach. He couldn't believe Heero had just asked him to his place. Granted, it was so Duo could have some peace and quiet to remember his visions, but still... he'd get to see where Heero lived. And that thought made him warm all over. The autumn night was cooler than usual. Duo wrapped his arms around his body for warmth, wishing he'd thought to bring a jacket with him. It wasn't the temperature that was biting, it was the wind. The chilly breeze whipped down the street, playing with Duo's hair and causing the young man to shiver.

"Cold?" the man beside him asked.

Duo shrugged. "A little. I'll be all right."

Heero looked at him for a moment before shrugging out of his jacket. He wrapped the coat around Duo's shoulders, pulling it snug.

"Heero, you don't have to..."

"Don't worry about it. You're shivering. I don't really feel the cold. Besides, my place is just down the street."

"Well, if you're sure," Duo murmured, snuggling back into Heero's jacket. The garment smelled like the dark-haired detective. Duo smiled softly to himself, rubbing his cheek along the material.

True to his word, Heero's building wasn't very far away. The detective held the door for him, then ushered him into the lift. He reached up to pull the door down, locking it into place, then pushed the number for the top floor.

The two stood in silence as they went up. Duo watched Heero out of the corner of his eye and blushed. He shifted restlessly on his feet, suddenly feeling very self-conscious and nervous. He had no idea what to say.

The lift came to a halt with a sudden jolt. Duo reached out and grabbed Heero's arm reflexively in order to steady himself. He raised his head to see Heero looking down at him with mirth in his cobalt blue eyes. Duo snatched his hand away.

"S...sorry," he mumbled, face burning.

"It's okay. I should have warned you. This lift can take some getting used to."

Heero slid the door to the lift upwards and motioned for Duo to step out into a little vestibule-type area. There was only one door opposite the lift. Duo turned to Heero, one eyebrow raised.

"Are you the only one on the top floor?" he asked.

Heero nodded. "It's not as big as it might look from the outside. It's a loft apartment. It's really just one big open space."

"Heh, sounds homey."

Heero unlocked his door and walked into his apartment. Duo followed, shimmying out of Heero's jacket and handing it to the older man. Heero was right, the room was very open. To his left was the kitchen. Straight ahead was the living area. The apartment was sparsely furnished, leaving plenty room to move around in. In the far-left section was an area cornered off by Japanese screens. Presumably that was the bedroom. Duo blushed again as his mind wondered what kind of bed Heero had. Near the screens was a door that Duo assumed led to the bathroom.

Heero walked over to the refrigerator and opened it. "Are you thirsty?"

Duo bounced over to peer over the man's shoulder. "What have you got?"

"Hm, water, grape soda..."

Duo snaked by him and grabbed a bottle of beer off the top shelf. Before Heero could stop him, he twisted off the cap and took a long swig.

Heero watched him for a moment with a disapproving glare before he shrugged and grabbed one for himself.

Duo stared at him incredulously. "You're not going to give me a lecture on under aged drinking?"

Heero shook his head and took a drink of his own. "I figure if you're going to recall a murder, you may need one. Besides, I'll walk you home later to make sure nothing happens."

Duo felt giddy. "I guess we should get started then. I just hope there's something you can use to help you catch this 'Teardrop Killer.'" He made a face. "What a lame name. Who came up with that one?"

Heero shrugged. "The media, who else?"

Duo snorted. "Figures the press would come up with something that stupid. So, uh, where do you want to do this?"

Heero gestured to his right. They moved to the living area where the detective told Duo to make himself comfortable on the couch. Duo plopped down, setting his beer on one of the end tables before stretching out on the sofa.

"Okay Duo, tell me what you saw," Heero said from his position on the other chair.

Duo closed his eyes and tried to call up the memory of his vision. He blanked his mind and pictured Relena's face again. He allowed himself to drift a moment before the first image came.

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Duo sat up, gasping. His body was trembling violently. He wasn't aware of the tears streaming down his face until he tasted them on his lips. The memory had been so intense he hadn't been prepared for it. He rocked back and forth, trying to push it from his mind.

Heero had moved from the chair to sit next to him on the couch. He gently pulled Duo into his arms and rubbed his back. Duo clutched at Heero's shirt, sniffling.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," the young man babbled, hiding his face from Heero's. He hadn't expected to break down like this. He hadn't expected the memories to be so vivid. He was ashamed and he was getting Heero's shirt all gooey.

"It's okay, Duo. I'm here." He eased Duo back down onto the couch. He tenderly brushed the boy's chestnut bangs out of his face. "Don't try so hard. Take a deep breath. Clear your mind. Try to think of one image at a time, but don't force it. And remember, you're safe here. I won't let anything hurt you."

Duo looked up and felt his breath catch in his throat. Heero's face was inches from his own. He could smell the sticky sweet scent of the beer on Heero's breath. If he raised his head only a couple of inches, their lips would touch. The violet-eyed boy suppressed a groan and licked his lips nervously. He could see Heero's eyes widen as he watched his tongue dart out to moisten his lips. Smirking a little, Duo closed his eyes and let Heero's voice put him in an almost trance-like state. He didn't want to relive Relena's murder, but to help Heero catch a killer, he'd do it.

[part 6] [part 8] [back to Caroline's fic]