by: Caroline

After Image + Part 8

Heero looked down at Duo's face, holding the boy's hand, and watching as his eyes moved rapidly beneath closed eyelids. He stroked the back of Duo's hand with his thumb in an effort to relax the long-haired teenager. He spoke to him in a low voice, trying to guide his memories to focus on Relena's murder.

"Okay, Duo. Remember, you're safe here," he murmured, almost hypnotically. "What's the first thing you see?"

"Relena... she's in a car..." Duo said, eyes still closed. "She's talking to someone..."

"Can you see who?"

Duo shook his head and squeezed his eyes tighter. "She's not afraid. I think... I think she knows him."

Heero blinked. He hadn't thought of the possibility that the victims might have known their killer. But they'd done background checks and interviews with friends and family. Not a single connection between the victims had been made other than all having similar looks.

"Try to look very carefully, Duo. Can you see who is driving the car Relena's in?"

Duo's brow scrunched together in concentration. "It's a man... with long..."

"Hair?" Heero supplied.

"Fingers," Duo answered. "I can't see his face. I'm sorry."

Heero sighed. "That's okay, Duo. Tell me what happens next."

Duo's head twitched. "The car doesn't feel like it's moving. I think it's pulled over somewhere."

'The rest stop,' Heero thought, remembering what Duo had said in his statement after finding Relena's body.

"She's mad now. I think they're arguing about something. I..." The long-haired boy gasped suddenly, his face turning pale.

"Duo? Duo, what's happening?"

"No... I can't. I don't wanna see..." He began thrashing on the sofa.

Heero gripped his shoulders. "Duo, please. Remember, you're here with me. I won't let anything happen to you."

Duo frowned but his body stilled.

"What do you see?" Heero urged.

"The sun glinting off something... a knife... she's screaming. I can hear her screaming!" Tears began to leak out from the corners of his eyes. "He's got a hold of her hair... the sun's glinting off the knife... then there's blood... oh God, there's blood everywhere... and she's not screaming anymore..."

By this time, Duo's body was trembling violently. Heero gathered the shaking figure into his arms, rocking him back and forth as a mother would her child after waking from a nightmare. For a long, long moment, they remained that way, Heero comforting Duo as best he could. He let the boy cry himself out, knowing that this catharsis must have been a long time in coming. Having a gift like Duo's must be a heavy burden to bear.

Duo hiccuped, wiping his eyes on his sleeve. Heero looked down and gave him a small smile. "Feeling better?"

Duo nodded mutely, then made a grab for his beer, drinking most of it in one swallow. Heero frowned at him.

"S...sorry," the braided boy stammered, looking away. "I just... don't want to feel her pain anymore."

Heero's gaze softened. "I understand." He leaned over to grab some tissues out of a box on the end table. Handing them to Duo he asked, "Are you sure you didn't see the killer's face?"

Duo nodded. "All I could see clearly were his hands." He closed his eyes again.

"Were there any distinguishing marks or tattoos?" Heero asked hopefully. Surely... surely Duo had seen something that could give them a lead.

Duo frowned, eyes still closed. "No... wait. There was something... a necklace maybe? I can't see it clearly."

"Could you see the design?"

The young man sighed and shook his head. "It's not clear. It's... it's like... barbed wire? But not quite." He opened his eyes and looked at Heero apologetically. "I'm just getting a vague impression. I only caught a glimpse of it under his shirt when he... when he..." Violet eyes began to shimmer with tears once more. In desperation, he drained the rest of his drink, determined to make himself numb so he wouldn't have to feel anymore. Heero didn't blame him. Leaving the boy sniffling on the couch, he walked to the kitchen to grab a couple more bottles.

He had a feeling they'd need them. Duo lay on his back, giggling madly at the ceiling as if it was the funniest thing in the world. And at that moment, it was. He reached one hand up, stretching as though to touch the ceiling, frowning in disappointed when he found he couldn't. He tilted his head and wondered what it would be like if gravity suddenly reversed itself and everyone had to walk around on the ceiling. Curious, he twisted his body to hang his head upside down off the couch. He felt the blood rushing to his head and giggled some more.

The muffled sound of a toilet flushing followed by running water came through the closed door of the bathroom. A moment later, Heero opened the door and shuffled out into the main room. He was halfway across the loft when he noticed Duo dangling upside down, giggling like an idiot.

"Duo, what are you doing?"

"Trying to imagine what the world would be like if we lived upside down," the inebriated teen replied, suddenly looking quite serious.

"And what would it be like?" the detective asked, smiling slightly.

"It'd be pretty cool. Although watching TV would be a bitch and where would I set my beer?" Duo reached out to grab at one of the empty bottles sitting on the floor near his face. In the process, he lost his balance and fell on his head, sending glass bottles rolling in every direction.

Heero's eyes grew wide in alarm as he hurried over to the boy. He stumbled to his knees just as Duo flopped over on his back, laughing again. "Sh...sorry, Heero," he slurred, still grinning. "I'll clean them up." Gingerly he pulled himself to a sitting position.

"Hn. You're drunk," Heero said, watching as Duo tried to set the bottles on their ends with careful, over exaggerated movements.

Duo looked taken aback. "'m not."

"Prove it," Heero challenged, getting unsteadily to his feet. "Stand up."

The braided teen sat back on his heels, looking up at Heero like a scolded child. Using the couch as leverage, he pushed himself to his feet. Still holding on to the arm of the couch, Duo looked back up at Heero, smiling triumphantly.

"Let go of the couch," Heero said, smirking.

Duo frowned and stuck his tongue out at the dark-haired cop. Then, brow furrowed in concentration, he let go and stood up straight. He managed to keep his balance for all of three seconds before pitching forward. Heero reacted instinctively, lunging forward to catch the boy. Duo felt strong arms wrap around him - and giggled.

"See? You're drunk," Heero said again.

Duo looked up into Heero's flushed face and glassy eyes. "Well so are you."

Heero blinked. "True. But not as much as you. Are you feeling all right?"

Duo nodded and looked around in a daze, head spinning. "Actually, I gotta pee."

Heero snorted. Slipping an arm under Duo's, he helped the boy walk across the loft. Fortunately, they reached the bathroom without incident. Heero reached in and flipped on the light. Duo winced at the sudden brightness, but stepped forward nonetheless.

"Need any help in there?" Heero asked as he let go of Duo.

The young man turned, keeping one hand on the wall for balance. "I think I can handle it on my own," he replied, grinning mischievously. "I've been potty trained for seventeen years. But if I need any help, I'll let you know." He winked, shutting the door in Heero's face.

Blinking at the glaring light, Duo quickly made his way to the toilet and relieved himself, swearing never to drink again as he did so. He normally didn't imbibe in the stuff, having only a drink or two every now and again, usually under Quatre's strict supervision. He didn't know what had possessed him to grab a beer out of Heero's fridge in the first place. Perhaps he'd wanted to act 'grown-up' so Heero would quit looking at him like a kid. But after reliving the visions of Relena's murder, he'd wanted to drown out the memories and go numb so he wouldn't have to feel her pain. So he'd drunk some more. He couldn't even remember how many he'd had. But he knew it had been more than enough to make a fool out of himself in front of Heero.

He moved to wash his hands in the sink, grimacing as he caught sight of his reflection in the mirror above. His eyes were bloodshot and puffy. His face was flushed and his hair was coming out of its braid.

'What a lovely image I make,' he thought sarcastically, drying his hands on a nearby towel. He stared at his reflection some more. Haunted eyes looked back at him. Unbidden, the image of Relena's face superimposed itself over his in the mirror. Once more he could feel the girl's pain as the knife cut her skin. Looking down at his hands, for a moment Duo thought they were covered in blood. His breathing quickened as he started to hyperventilate. He pushed back away from the sink with a sharp cry, burying his face in his hands and trying to block out the memories of the vision. But it wasn't working. The alcohol was beginning to wear off. He was starting to feel again.

A knock on the door startled him. "Duo? Are you all right?"

He stared at the door, picturing the man standing on the other side. Heero. Heero could help him. Heero had made him feel safe before. He could help him feel safe again. Pushing himself away from the wall, he closed his hand over the knob and opened the door.

+

Heero blinked as the bathroom door shut in his face. His body was tingling where Duo had been leaning against him. Sagging against the wall next to the bathroom door, he took a deep breath and ran nervous fingers through his hair. He hadn't realized he was shaking until he took some of his weight off his legs. Glancing back at the closed door, he groaned. No use denying it. He hadn't wanted to let Duo go.

When Duo had broken down in his arms, his heart had gone out to the violet-eyed youth. To be blessed - or cursed - with a gift like Duo's... Heero wasn't sure if he could have handled it. Heero feared he would have been driven out of his mind long before now with all those random images running through his head.

A muffled cry from behind the door snapped him out of his thoughts. Concerned, he knocked on the door, hoping Duo was okay.

"Duo? Are you all right?"

The bathroom door opened a moment later, revealing a frightened looking Duo. The boy's skin was terribly pale, and glassy violet eyes peeked out from under the messy mop of hair framing his face. It was the eyes that disturbed Heero. He could see Duo's helplessness and fear in those orbs. Heero wished he could make it all go away.

"Duo?" he asked again, beginning to worry over the haunted desperation he saw in those eyes. Duo said nothing. He simply stepped out of the bathroom and into Heero's arms. The detective was startled for a moment - but only for a moment. As soon as he realized what Duo needed, he wrapped his arms around the boy's trembling form, holding him close. Heero could feel Duo's warm breath through his cotton shirt. From the raggedness of the braided teen's breathing, he knew Duo was trying hard not to start crying again.

"It's okay, Duo. You can let it out," he whispered, rubbing Duo's back in comforting motions.

Duo shook his head. "I... I haven't felt this helpless in a long time," he mumbled into Heero's chest.

"Helpless? Duo, there was nothing you could have done..."

"No!" he cried out, jerking away from Heero. "There may have been nothing I could do to stop it, but I could help bring her killer to justice. Only I can't!"

Heero frowned, trying to make sense of Duo's words. "What do you mean? Did you have another vision in the bathroom?"

"Yes. No. Dammit! I'm not making any sense!" He reached around to clutch at his braid. "I saw... I saw her die. I saw her killer. But I can't see his face! No matter how hard I try, I can't see it. I can relive her death over and over, but I can't help you catch the guy who did it. And... and it hurts. I don't want to feel her pain anymore!"

With a strangled sob, he turned and began walking toward the kitchen. Before he could get very far, Heero reached out and grabbed his arm. His heart was aching for the young man. He wanted nothing more than to wrap him in a protective embrace and keep him safe from the pain of his memories. If only he knew how!

"Duo? Where are you going?"

"To get another drink."

"No. I think you've had enough for one night."

Duo tugged at his arm. "Please. Just one more. I need it. I'm tired of feeling. I'm tired of the pain. I'd rather be numb. I'd rather not feel anything. I - mmph!"

Heero cut off Duo's tirade the only way he could think of at the moment - with his mouth. He didn't know who was more surprised at his action, Duo or himself. All he'd wanted to do was to comfort the young man - give him something to feel other than pain. But as soon as their lips met, Heero wondered if he was kissing the boy because Duo needed it, or for his own selfish reasons. Immediately he regretted his actions. Duo was hurting, and he had no right to take advantage of him like this. Reluctantly - very reluctantly - he pulled away. Staring down into Duo's surprised gaze, he braced himself for his reaction.

The braided boy stared up at him in silence, slowly bringing his hand up to touch his lips. Heero followed the movement, swallowing hard as his gaze once more focused on Duo's lips. One brief taste and he was already craving more. Groaning silently in frustration, he forced his eyes back up to meet Duo's.

"G...gomen ne," he mumbled, so flustered he reverted back to his native Japanese.

"Huh?"

Heero blinked. "I'm sorry," he said, this time in English. "I... had no right to do that."

Duo only continued to hold his gaze, staring at him in wonder. Heero dropped his eyes and started to turn away, only to be stopped in his tracks as the slim figure of Duo Maxwell launched himself into his arms, attacking his lips even more furiously than before. Heero was caught off guard for only a moment before throwing all good intentions out the window. He wrapped his arms around Duo's body, crushing the boy to him. Like Duo, he was tired of everything - tired of his job, tired of the murders, tired of blaming himself for Relena. He had been slowly dying inside for a long time. But now... with Duo in his arms kissing him back with equal intensity, he felt truly alive for the first time in a long, long while. Or was that the alcohol talking? Whatever it was, he didn't care. All he cared about at that moment was the squirming bundle of warmth in his arms.

For their second kiss, their lips met with an almost bruising force. Duo's hands snaked up to bury themselves in Heero's hair as the detective coaxed Duo's mouth open with his tongue. Duo complied, opening himself for Heero to taste. Heero gently slid his tongue inside, moaning softly at his first taste of the young man in his arms. Their tongues moved together slowly at first, each getting used to the taste and feel of the other. But as the moment progressed and the kiss became wilder and more urgent, Heero could feel himself losing control. It had been too long since he'd enjoyed the company of another warm body next to his. And now, with this beautiful creature in his arms and under the influence of all that alcohol, Heero could feel his control slipping.

Duo groaned sensuously, pressing his lithe body closer to Heero's. The dark-haired man let go of the last of his inhibitions and pushed Duo almost violently up against the wall. He slid one knee between Duo's legs and pressed upward, lifting the boy so that his toes were barely touching the floor. Duo gasped into Heero's mouth, pulling his head back in order to look into Heero's eyes. Both young men were breathing heavily. Under Heero's intense gaze, Duo unconsciously snaked his tongue out to lick his lips. Heero followed the movement with his eyes. Duo caught the hungry look and swallowed nervously, breath catching in his throat. Heero smirked and rolled his hips before claiming Duo's mouth once again.

How long they stood there, creating that delicious friction, Heero did not know. He slid his hands down the braided boy's sides and, after a moment's hesitation, pulled Duo's shirt out of his pants. Both young men jumped as Heero's fingers slipped underneath, sliding over the silky smooth skin found there. Duo wrapped his arms tighter around Heero's neck and managed to push them away from the wall. Without losing contact with each other's mouths, the two somehow managed to make their way to Heero's bed behind the shoji screens. Together they tumbled onto the bed, hands moving feverishly over as much bare skin as they could find.

Finally, after several minutes of rolling around, touching, kissing, and making a rumpled mess out of the once pristine sheets, Heero rolled Duo onto his back. He levered himself up on one arm to look down at the braided youth. Duo's eyes were half closed, blinking lazily at him. Reverently, Heero used his free hand to cup Duo's cheek.

"God, you're beautiful," he whispered, causing the teen to blush.

"So are you," Duo replied before reaching up to bring Heero's mouth back down to his own.

As their tongues resumed their fight for dominance, Heero's hand reached between their bodies to push Duo's shirt up. Breaking the kiss, he moved down over Duo's body to taste the sweet flesh above the boy's navel. Duo gasped loudly, his stomach fluttering in response. Heero dipped his tongue into the indention briefly before moving lower...

Duo cried out, arching his back as Heero nuzzled his arousal through the thick material of his black jeans. He tugged on Heero's hair, urging the older man back up so he could claim his lips again. Heero lowered himself fully onto Duo's body, rolling his hips and moaning as hardness slid over hardness. He buried his face in Duo's neck, becoming intoxicated with the boy's scent. He was drunk on Duo... drunk...

That thought crashed over him like a cold wave. What was he doing? They were both drunk, both trying to drive away their pain by whatever means possible. If they didn't stop now, sure they'd forget their pain for a little while. But in the morning, after the sun had wiped away the shadows of night, the pain would still be there - and they would have to deal with the ramifications of what they had done. Heero didn't want to do that, didn't want Duo to regret anything they did. Duo was as intoxicated as he, perhaps even more so. If they were going to make love, he wanted them both to do it with a clear mind. He respected Duo too much to do otherwise. And he... liked him too much to want to fall into bed drunk. With one last kiss, he pulled his body off Duo and sat up.

Duo sat up as well, looking confused and a little hurt. "H... Heero?"

"I... I'm sorry, Duo," Heero murmured, turning his back on the boy. "I... I think we need to stop before... things get out of control."

Duo moved to drape himself over Heero's shoulders. "But what if I want to lose control?" he whispered huskily into Heero's ear.

Heero shivered. "No," he said firmly, moving Duo off him and turning to face him again. Seeing the hurt look in the boy's eyes, Heero brushed one hand against his cheek. "It's not that I don't want to, Duo. Believe me, stopping just now took every ounce of strength I possess. I just... think we should take things slowly. We barely know each other. And we're both not in our right minds at the moment. We shouldn't do this... at least, not right now."

Duo looked at him, the hurt look receding a bit. "I know, but... I want you," he pouted, reaching out again.

Heero closed his eyes, willing himself to resist Duo's charms. He grabbed Duo's hand and turned it over, bringing it up to his mouth to kiss the inside of his wrist. "I want you, too... more than you know. But let's take one thing at a time. Get to know each other better." He moved closer.

Duo blushed. "Are you... saying you want to start... dating?"

Heero swallowed. Time to take a leap of faith. "Yes. If you want to... I would be honored if we could... start seeing each other. Outside of the police station that is."

Duo grinned. "I'd love to, Heero. And I thought you'd never ask." He leaned up and brushed a sweet, tender, and altogether too short kiss on Heero's lips. Drawing back, he stifled a yawn. "I suppose I should get home then. I have to work tomorrow."

Heero shook his head. "No. Neither of us are in any shape to try and get you home tonight. You can sleep here."

Duo smiled cheekily. "With you?"

Heero groaned. "No. I think... I think it would be best if I slept on the couch tonight."

The braided teen pouted for a moment, then nodded. "I understand. But, it should be me who sleeps on the couch. I don't want to kick you out of your bed." He made a move to get up, but Heero caught his arm.

"Please. I insist. I've slept on the couch a few times. I'll be all right." Moving the covers down, he handed Duo an oversized t-shirt from off the nearby dresser. "You can sleep in that... if you want."

He averted his eyes as Duo stripped off his clothes and slipped the shirt on over his head. No need to tempt fate by peeking. When Duo was dressed again, Heero lay him down on the bed and drew up the covers. Duo snuggled down onto the pillows, already half-asleep.

"G'night, Heero," the teen murmured sleepily, closing his eyes.

"Good night, Duo," Heero whispered, watching as the boy drifted off to sleep. He sat on the edge of the bed for a long while, watching him sleep. Finally, he leaned over and kissed Duo gently on the forehead. He stood up, and with one last, lingering glance at the slumbering beauty in his bed, he turned and shuffled dejectedly to the couch.

It was going to be a long night.

[part 7] [part 9] [back to Caroline's fic]