After Image + Part 9 (cont)

"Danish?" Heero offered, holding out a plate.

Duo's eyes lit up. "Oooh, thanks! I love these but Quatre won't let me eat them."

"Why not?"

"Something about a sugar rush and hyperactivity, but I don't really know what he's talking about," the boy said, taking a large bite.

Heero resisted the urge to yank the pastry from Duo's hands and throw it as far away from the braided boy as possible.

"So when can we have sex?"

Heero choked on his own pastry. "Wh...what?"

Duo giggled. "I know you want to take things slow and get to know each other first. And I really admire that. Shows how much of a gentleman you are. But..." He licked his lips hungrily as he looked at Heero. "But simply watching you take a bite out of that danish has already made me half-hard again."

Heero was really glad he didn't have anything in his mouth that time. "Duo..." he warned, glaring at the young man.

"What? I'm nineteen. I'm supposed to be a horny teenager." He gave Heero a look that made the older man squirm. "So how long do we have to wait?"

"Uh, Duo - getting to know each other takes time."

"Well how many dates does it usually take for you to sleep with someone?" Duo asked, smiling innocently at him. "On average, I mean."

Heero blinked and turned red. He couldn't believe he was actually having this conversation. "I don't know. Seven maybe?"

"Seven? Heero, I'm shocked. I would have thought at least twelve."

"Well every situation is different, Duo. With us it may take longer..."

"Oh no! You said seven. Last night counts as one," Duo insisted, holding up one finger. "Six more to go! If we go out to lunch today, that'll leave five."

Heero snorted. "Why not throw in dinner as well and knock it down to four?" he asked sarcastically.

Duo shook his head. "No can do. It's Saturday. I have to help out at the orphanage tonight."

Heero cocked his head in contemplation. "You really enjoy it over there, don't you?"

Duo put down his danish and looked away. "Yes and no. I love the kids, but that place holds some unhappy memories for me. I was sent there after my parents died. Don't get me wrong - Father Maxwell is a wonderful man. He took me in and loved me, but it was still hard. I missed my parents, and yeah, while it was great having a lot of kids around to play with all the time, it was hard to watch them get adopted one by one, leaving me all alone."

"And you never were?" Heero murmured.

Duo shook his head. "Father Maxwell is my uncle and only living relative, not to mention my godfather. He and my father were brothers. He felt he owed it to my parents to look after me and not leave me in the care of strangers." He shrugged. "It's not like I wasn't happy. But seeing one friend after another leave with a new mom and dad... it hurt sometimes."

"I can imagine."

"Anyway, Father and Sister Helen loved me and I didn't always show them the same when I was a kid. So now I'm trying to make up for it now. Besides, I like working with the kids. They're so much fun, not to mention adorable and cute..."

"Like you," Heero interrupted, causing Duo to blush.

"Uh, yeah. Anyway, I've spent every Saturday night and Sunday morning helping out at the orphanage and the church. It's my way of showing Father and Sister Helen my thanks for taking care of and loving a brat like me."

Heero laughed. "I'm sure they don't consider you a brat. And it's a very admirable thing you are doing. But there's just one problem with it."

Duo frowned and stood up straighter. "What?"

"Just how I'm going to be able to handle not seeing you on Saturday nights," he replied, sighing melodramatically.

Duo blinked at him. "You mean... you don't mind?"

"Mind? Why should I mind? It's something you obviously enjoy doing. What right do I have to ask you to stop?"

Duo stared at him for a long moment then launched himself at Heero. "Thank you," he mumbled, burying his face in the older man's chest.

"What for?" Heero asked, wrapping his arms around the younger man.

"For understanding." He looked up to meet Heero's gaze. "No one I've ever gone out with has understood. My last boyfriend broke up with me because of it."

Heero snorted. "His loss then," he said, kissing the top of Duo's head. He continued holding the smaller man for a few moments before gently prying him loose and shoving a styrofoam cup of orange juice into his hand.

"Finish your breakfast, Duo."

Duo grinned. "So can we meet for lunch?"

"Don't you have to go to work today?"

"Nope. I called Quatre and he gave me the day off." He looked up at Heero. "What about you?"

"Looks like you're in luck. Today's my day off." He reached out and took Duo's hand. "And since I won't get to see you tonight, how about we spend the day together and get rid of one of those dates?"

Duo's eyes lit up as he squeezed Heero's hand. "I'd love to."

+

The following morning dawned gray and cloudy. Duo suppressed a yawn as he straightened up the hymnals and prayer books in the pews, cleaning up after Sunday mass. He hadn't gotten much sleep the night before - he'd been so keyed up after spending the whole day with Heero walking around the city that sleep had eluded him for most of the night. Just thinking about the dark-haired detective made his stomach flutter as though a thousand butterflies were trapped inside. Duo smiled softly to himself and kept working.

"Hiya, Duo!"

The braided boy looked up to see a small child sitting on her knees in the pew in front of him, grinning at him.

"Good morning, Cecily," he replied, smiling at the little girl. Cecily was only six years old and never failed to seek him out every Sunday after mass to say hello. Duo felt the girl had a secret fascination for his braid. "How are you this morning?"

"Fine. I'm just waiting for Momma and Daddy to finish talking to Father Maxwell," Cecily said, leaning over the back of the pew to watch him. "Whatcha doing?"

"Tidying up," Duo said, shoving another hymnal into the correct holder.

"Oh." The child watched him work for a moment before asking, "Hey Duo, what's a sidekick?"

"A sidekick? Well, I guess a sidekick is like a hero but not as strong. You know, like Batman and Robin. Batman is the main hero and Robin is his sidekick."

"Oh," the little girl said again, suddenly looking perplexed. "Well, do you have a hero?"

Duo had to smile at that. "I guess you could say that," he said, thinking of his own Heero'. He looked up at the girl again. "Why did you want to know?"

"Because Momma said you were a sidekick and I didn't know what she meant."

"She said I was a sidekick?" Duo asked, confused.

"Uh huh." Before Cecily could say anything else, a woman entered the church and called out her daughter's name.

"Cecily! Come here right now!" she said, looking warily at Duo.

"Okay!" Cecily hopped down off the pew and ran down the aisle to meet her mother. Duo stood up as well.

"Good morning, Mrs. Kirkpatrick," he said, waving at the woman.

"Good morning, Duo," she replied stiffly, giving him another hard look before grabbing her daughter by the hand and walking out of the church. Duo frowned. Usually Cecily's mother would stay and chat with him for a few minutes after mass. But today she had seemed almost cold towards him. Come to think of it, a lot of people had been giving him strange looks all morning.

"Duo."

Duo looked up to see Father Maxwell enter the church after saying his good-byes to the last of the congregation.

"Hello, Father. I'm almost done cleaning up," the long-haired young man said, moving to the next pew.

"Wait a minute, Duo. There's something I think you need to see." The aging priest held out a newspaper for him to take. Duo threw his uncle a questioning glance before taking the paper and unfolding it. What he saw on the front page caused him to gasp.

His own face stared at him under a headline that read POLICE SEEK PSYCHIC'S HELP IN TEARDROP CASE'.

"Psychic... not sidekick," he mumbled to himself as he quickly skimmed the article. He felt his stomach sink as the article mentioned him by name, the details of finding the Peacecraft girl's body, even where he worked at Quatre's clinic. The article also included a few details of his vision of Relena - details he'd told only to Heero. Suddenly he wanted to throw up.

"Duo," Father Maxwell said gently, placing a comforting hand on the boy's shoulder. "I know you don't like talking about your special talent but... are you helping the police?"

"I was," Duo replied bitterly. "I was helping that detective - you know, the one you spoke to when the police thought I had something to do with that poor girl's death. He promised I'd be involved as little as possible. But now..." He crumbled up the newspaper in his hands angrily. "Geez. No wonder people were looking at me funny this morning."

"But why would he go to the papers with the story?" the priest asked.

"I don't know." He handed the newspaper to the Father. "But I intend to find out."

+

Heero took the stairs two at a time, smiling to himself as he recalled the day before. He and Duo had walked around the town, enjoying one another's company, having fun, and laughing. Laughing - he couldn't remember the last time he had laughed so much. Duo was bringing out a side of him he didn't know he had. And he was enjoying every minute of it.

He reached the second floor and was surprised to see Trowa waiting for him outside the door to the homicide department with a grave expression on his face.

"Trowa? What's going on?"

"I take it then that you haven't seen this morning's paper," his partner said.

"No, I haven't."

Trowa handed him the newspaper he'd been holding. Heero looked down and saw Duo's picture on the page. "Shit."

Trowa snorted. "That's not the worst of it. Treize is looking for you."

"Double shit." He looked at his partner. "How the hell did this happen? You're the only one I told about the details of Duo's vision." He narrowed his eyes. "You didn't--?"

"Of course not," Trowa scoffed. "You know I would never compromise a case like that. Even though I still don't believe in that kid's hocus-pocus mumbo-jumbo-" Heero rolled his eyes. "-I still wouldn't do that."

"All right, all right. I believe you." He peered over Trowa's shoulder to look through the glass door. "I suppose I'd better go in and face the firing squad. Get it over quick."

Trowa placed a hand on Heero's shoulder. "It was nice knowing you."

"Very funny." Taking a deep breath, he pushed open the door and stepped inside.

Trowa had been right. Captain Khushrenada was waiting for him inside. From across the room, he could feel Wufei's eyes glaring angrily at him. He avoided looking at the Chinese detective and followed Treize into his office.

The ginger-haired captain didn't say a word. He simply sat down in his chair, tossed a the morning paper onto his desk, and looked at Heero expectantly.

"Look, sir, I don't know how..."

"Oh I can guess how the paper's got a hold of this story," Treize said calmly. "It's that damned leak in the department again. What I want to know is when did the department start consulting with psychics to help solve our cases?" He looked back at Duo's picture. "Especially psychics' that were once considered suspects."

Heero swallowed. Treize was speaking in a calm, rational manner. He hadn't screamed at him once. And quite frankly, that scared Heero to death.

"Sir, if you don't mind me saying so, we haven't had any concrete leads in the case. It's time to start grasping at straws. None of what the kid saw may pan out, but until this case is solved, I'm going to follow up on every lead that comes my way."

Heero could see a vein pulsing on Treize's forehead. "I can understand your dedication, Yuy. But do you have any idea how embarrassing it is for the department for people to know that we've been reduced to consulting with so-called psychics because we can't figure out this case using old fashioned detective work?" He pinched the bridge of his nose, taking deep breaths in order to keep his temper. "Do what you must, follow up on any leads you might have, but for God's sake keep a low profile on this. Now get out of here before I decide that this is a really, really bad idea."

Heero didn't have to be told twice. Treize's attitude was scary. Heero could always tell when the man was truly angry - the angrier he was, the quieter he got. He closed the door behind him and heaved a big sigh of relief.

"How'd it go?"

Heero looked up to see Trowa standing in front of him. "I think I have just stared into the face of death." Trowa snorted. "Well you aren't bleeding, so I'd say you got off light."

"Thanks, Trowa," Heero said dryly.

"No problem. And by the way, you have a visitor."

Heero jerked his head in the direction of his desk to see Duo standing there, looking very upset. Heero swore under his breath and hurried over.

"Duo," he said, reaching out to the obviously distressed boy.

Duo drew away. "You didn't ask me what's wrong. I guess that means you've already seen the paper."

"Duo, I..."

"How could you? You know how I feel about... about people knowing about my fucking so-called gift'," Duo said angrily, turning accusing eyes on him. "You promised me no one would know. You said you'd leave my name out of it."

"I did. I tried. I only told Trowa what you told me." Duo still didn't look convinced. "Duo, there's a leak in the department. The press has been able to report the smallest details of our cases for months now. I don't know how but somehow whoever it was got wind of your story." He reached out again only to have Duo avoid his touch once more.

"Please don't."

"Duo, are you mad at me?"

"Yes. No. I don't know." He shifted uncomfortably on his feet. "I guess... I know it's not your fault. But... you should have seen the looks people were giving me this morning. One of the children's mothers didn't even want me talking to her daughter. Everyone's acting like I'm some kind of freak."

Heero could see Duo was trembling. He wanted nothing more than to reach out and hold Duo, but knew the hurt young man would only draw away again.

"Duo, I'm so sorry."

"I know," the young psychic said, sniffling. "I'm just too upset right now to be sociable. I'm going to go home." He looked back up at Heero. "I'm not mad at you, but I just need to be alone for a while. I'll call you soon."

Heero sighed as he watched Duo walk away. Things were just going from bad to worse. No, today was definitely not going to be a good day. Duo hummed to himself as he walked down the street, grateful that there were not many people out in the middle of the surprisingly warm weekday afternoon. The article about him had been in the paper five days ago, but people were still giving him odd looks.

He hated it, hated feeling like everyone was watching him, observing him like some specimen under a microscope. Even the patients at Quatre's clinic had been looking at him either like some kind of lab experiment or as something to be feared. At the end of his first day of work after the article had been published, Duo's nerves had been so shot that Quatre had ordered him to take a week off to relax and let the whole matter settle down a bit. If it ever would settle down. His little secret was out now, and it would be difficult for people to forget. For the millionth time in his life, he wished he'd never been born with the ability to have these stupid vision. He never wanted them. All he'd ever wanted was to be normal.

Then again, had he been normal, he probably would have never met Heero.

Duo hugged himself at the thought of the older man. After he'd calmed himself down after the little confrontation with Heero at the police station, Duo had called and apologized to him. Thankfully, Heero had understood, and they were back in the blissful stage of the fledgling relationship. Sadly, Heero's job didn't leave him with a whole lot of free time, so he and Duo had only seen each other twice since the previous Sunday. But they had plans for tonight. Date number five. Two more to go.

Duo smiled to himself as he walked along, remembering the feel of Heero's mouth on his skin. He knew he was falling hard for the detective, and that scared him greatly. But he also knew he'd never felt like this about anyone ever before. Ready or not, he was falling in love with Heero Yuy.

<< FLASH >>

arms...

<< FLASH >>

Duo stopped in his tracks and looked around. An uneasy feeling settled in his stomach as warning bells went off inside his head. Something was wrong.

<< FLASH >>

knife...

<< FLASH >>

His breathing sped up as he looked up and down the deserted street. Something wasn't right. His instincts were screaming at him to run away, to find some people, to call Heero - anything but remain where he was. Looking over his shoulder one last time, he turned and walked quickly down the street. The neighborhood was quiet - almost too quiet. And it wasn't one of the nicer neighborhoods. When a car horn from the next street over shattered the silence, Duo jumped and looked around again. Then he chastised himself as the feeling of panic began to subside. Perhaps he was just jumping at shadows.

He laughed at himself for being silly and turned back around. He'd only taken two steps when he felt someone move behind him. Before he could turn, a pair of strong arms wrapped around him. One hand plastered itself over his mouth to keep him from screaming as he was dragged into a nearby alley. Duo struggled but whoever had a hold of him was too strong. Then he felt the cold sharpness of a knife against his throat. Immediately he froze, eyes open wide in terror.

He felt an unshaven cheek nuzzle the side of his face. Duo shifted his eyes but couldn't see who his captor was. Suddenly he felt a tongue slide up the outer edge of his ear. Duo closed his eyes and whimpered as a rasping voice whispered into his ear.

"Hello, pretty."

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