AUTHORS: Mel & Christy (and their muses)
WARNINGS: Language? Violence! 'They Might Be Giants' songs! Collateral Damage!
PAIRINGS: 1x2, 3x4, 5x?
DISCLAIMER: They still aren't ours. We tried theft, but the security systems were too good. Wufei was slightly injured during the making of this fic, and Duo got a concussion, but they got better. (And Trowa just brushed his bangs back into order.) No money is being made from this fic, and if there was we'd just spend it on more tapes, so that's OK.

Demon of Justice + Chapter 14
Taxing Times

"She was called Nataku?" Uthmar asked, looking at the picture of Meiran with a puzzled frown.

Karthan nodded. "I don't know why, but that's what I got when I saw the drawing. This is like... like remembering things, only they're not there until I remember them, and then it's as if I knew them all along," he said, rubbing at his forehead. "I keep thinking that I should get a headache, but it never turns up."

"Let's hope it stays that way," Uthmar muttered, carefully turning over a few more pages. "You said you can feel what Wufei feels about things?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then I have a very important question for you." The Champion closed the book of pictures and leaned forward slightly, hands clasped on the table in front of him. "How does he feel about us?"

"I don't know, yet," Karthan replied. "He only dreamt about his home and the people there."

"But you were linked to him during the fight!" Uthmar protested. "He must have been thinking about things here then!"

"Yes, but the link was different then!" Karthan blinked, thinking about what he'd just said, and nodded. "It was different," he said slowly. "I didn't feel as if I was inside his thoughts; it was like we were talking to each other, and I only got a couple of flashes of emotion. Maybe because he was awake, and it was at least partly under his control?"

"'Partly'?"

Karthan half-grinned. "He did not intend to pull me in with him. That was one of the times I felt emotion; he was definitely startled when I turned up. And while he was fixing Nataku, I think he was working at least half by guess. He told me, 'I've never done this before, but I seem to know what to do'."

"But he must have done it before," Naiya protested. "If that's how he mends Nataku's wounds--"

"He used to have some other way of doing that," Karthan insisted firmly. "He must have, because he didn't have a link to Nataku when he was in his own world. I got that much from the dream, at least. He was a little faster than most people, a little stronger, and more skilled. That's all. His strength, the link, and the ability to hit people who are out of arm's reach are all new."

"You're saying he wasn't much more than a human, then," Cord said quietly. "Is that it?"

"I'm saying he was human."

Nobody could think of anything to say in reply to that.

* * * * *

"So essentially, you're telling me that you can't find anything definite?"

"No, miss," the quiet man said, standing with his hands clasped loosely in front of him. He looked like a minor clerk or shop assistant, perhaps working in a bank or a men's store... not like a private investigator, which he was. "Matters are naturally complicated by the war. Most of the persons I've found who seem to recognise the name or description are OZ personnel. Ex-OZ now, I suppose." He smiled thinly. "Frankly, you're more likely to be able to access their records than I or my associates."

"I'm not particularly interested in what he may or may not have done during the war," Relena informed him. Heero surely knows most of it already, she thought. The only thing that might drive him and Duo apart would be finding out that Duo was an OZ agent, and I know perfectly well that he wasn't!

If necessary, evidence could be manufactured...

"I want to find out his history before the war," she said quickly, pushing the unwelcome thought away. "What was he doing? Who was he associating with? Was he in trouble with the authorities?"

The man raised an eyebrow and smiled again. "He's from L2, miss, and not rich, you said? Then he was almost certainly in trouble, whether he deserved it or not."

"Find out what sort of trouble, then."

"Certainly, miss," he said calmly. "I'll need to go to L2, but I'll keep in touch. Do you have a photograph? So far I've been questioning people whose memories are relatively fresh, but if I'm to dig deeper into the past a picture is better than a description."

"Of course," she nodded, rising and going to the door. "Wait here a moment, please."

Upstairs, in her bedroom, she unearthed a handful of photographs from underneath the false bottom in her jewelry case. They were all of Heero, taken at different times when he had been off guard; she didn't think he knew any of them existed... There was one of him and Duo together, in casual clothes, leaning back against a railing. It wasn't actually a good picture of Heero -- she'd only kept it because she had so few -- but it was a very good picture of Duo.

She held it up for a moment, looking at them; then she picked up a pair of scissors and cut them apart.

Heero and me.

* * * * *

"Doctor Modi said you weren't to put any weight on that leg, so you have to stay in bed," Heero informed Duo as he carried him upstairs. "I'll bring the TV upstairs for you. If you need anything else, tell us and we'll get it. You're definitely not allowed to go up and down the stairs, so I'll bring your meals up, too."

"Do I at least get to go to the bathroom, or have you stolen a bedpan from the hospital?" Duo inquired through clenched teeth, fuming. He's planning my life again, damn it!

"I'll carry you there," Heero said flatly, toeing the door to Wufei's room open and sidling through, careful not to bang Duo's feet against the doorjamb. Belatedly, the tone of the question got through to him and he looked down at Duo's face. The braided boy was staring straight ahead, face almost blank... but his mouth was pressed firmly shut and the muscles along his jaw were tense.

"... Please, Duo?" Heero added weakly. "I'm worried about you. Please don't do anything that might make your leg worse. I'm... I'm sorry if it came out sounding like an order. I'm no good at asking nicely, especially when it's something important. You've already been hurt because I was an idiot, I really don't want to risk anything else happening to you..."

"Put me down."

Flushing slightly, Heero got Duo settled in the bed and stepped back.

"Damn right you're no good at asking nicely," Duo said acidly, glaring at an innocent spot on the wall. "After all, that takes practice."

Heero winced. "Uh... do you want anything? I'll get it--"

"I want my knee to be fine," Duo snapped. "I want to not have to go the hospital. I want Wufei back safe and sound. Can you get me those things?"

"... No," Heero whispered.

"Then I don't want anything. Leave me alone," Duo muttered, turning away and pulling the blankets up.

---------------

Trowa spoke up from behind Heero as he quietly closed the door. "He's just indulging in a shit fit. Considering what's been happening, one thing on top of another, it's understandable. Give him an hour or so and he'll be sorry."

"I don't want him to be sorry," Heero said softly, not turning around.

"It won't last," Trowa replied, a faint smile colouring his voice. "And it's better than having him try to snap your head off. Why don't you get out for a break? Go shopping, or something. We're running low on a few supplies."

Heero shrugged, one hand waving as to dismiss the idea; but he walked downstairs and went into the kitchen. Listening, Trowa heard cupboards open and shut, and a few minutes later the old van they'd been using for supply runs started up and pulled away.

--------------

Duo lay in bed, seething. Frustration and anger were clashing with guilt, grief and regret, and the confusion was just making him madder. Serves him right. He's been a bastard to me often enough. It's about time he got some of his own back! Trying to run my life, ordering me around like I can't be trusted to do the right thing--

He did say he was sorry.

Like it means anything to him! It's probably just another way of getting what he wants. A new technique, 'Nice Heero'.

I still shouldn't have said that to him.

Well, he shouldn't have said the things he said to me. Payback.

... but payback isn't always fair.

The door opened quietly and Duo stiffened. "I said, leave me alone!" he snarled, voice tight.

"Looks like you've got your own back for the way he was talking to you last week," Trowa said calmly. "He looked worse than you did when he came out of the room."

There wasn't anything in his tone or wording to indicate that he didn't approve, but Duo still felt as if he'd been reproached. "Well, it's fair enough, isn't it?" he snapped, lunging upright and glaring. "Even when he says he's trying to be nice, all he does is order me around. It's his fault I've gotta have surgery anyway, where does he get off telling me to look after myself? He ignores me and treats me like dirt all this time, then all of the sudden when I've given up he's suddenly in love with me so I've got to start hoping again. And he has the nerve to look like a kicked puppy when I-- when--"

Duo abruptly burst into tears.

"I didn't mean to hurt him that badly," he sobbed, tears running down his face. "I was mad, but I didn't mean-- and he is trying-- and I'm not even sure how I feel myself. I can't get it all straight in my head! I wish Wufei was here. I want him back! I could always talk to him, even if he couldn't give me advice, it helped me sort things out. I can't talk to Quatre about this, he's part of the problem. And that's another thing!" he wailed, scrubbing ineffectually at his face with the back of his hand. "I'm starting to feel like the prize in a tug-of-war, here! Quatre and Heero are glaring at each other like-- like-- like a couple of jealous boyfriends! You're in it too," he sniffed, waving one hand at Trowa, "but at least you don't seem to be going over the top..."

"It wouldn't help, would it?" Trowa said quietly, sitting on the edge of the bed. He felt Duo tense as he put an arm around his shoulders, and carefully didn't put any pressure into the embrace. "I'm not going to push anything. I don't think it would be fair. You've got to have a chance to make up your own mind. I wouldn't exactly object if you decided you wanted us instead of Heero," he added dryly, gently pulling Duo against him as he felt the braided teen relax, "but I don't want you to choose in a hurry and regret it later."

"I do still love Heero," Duo sighed, leaning against Trowa's shoulder, "but I'm pissed off at him too, and I'm not sure which is more important. I've got him if I want him... but I had to lose Wufei to get him, and that hurts! I didn't warn him in time. I yelled, but he didn't have time to dodge or-- or anything..." His voice dropped until Trowa almost couldn't hear him. "Maybe it's my fault he's gone."

"That's a really stupid thing to say," Trowa said acidly, tightening his grip and shaking Duo slightly. "If it's anyone's fault, it's OZ's for playing around with a dimensional cannon. You can't be responsible for everything and everyone!"

"It's a very Catholic attitude," Duo said with a shaky laugh. "Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa..."

"Is it a Muslim attitude, too? You once said you thought Quatre would eventually blame himself for the lack of air in outer space, after all... and last night he muttered something about 'maybe it would have missed Wing if I hadn't said anything about it'. Then there's the fact that I was going to go after that thing, but Wufei went in my place. Do you think I haven't thought about that?"

"It wasn't your fault!" Duo protested automatically, then hesitated.

"You see?" Trowa said gently. "If you won't blame us, you can't blame yourself."

"Sure I can," Duo said without much conviction. "It's another very Catholic attitude."

"You've got a lot of things to be upset about," Trowa pointed out, fighting not to grin, "and a lot of confusing stuff to work out. It's only natural that you're going to get... snappish. But you might want to cut Heero a little more slack, just in case you decide to keep him."

Duo managed a noise somewhere between a hiccup and a chuckle, then sighed. "I should apologise, I guess."

"He's probably going to apologise, too. I sent him shopping--"

"And he went?"

"Yes. For some reason he thought you didn't want to see his face just then, and I suppose he figured that there wasn't much else to hang around for. Do you realise he hasn't done any work on Wing for days?"

"Really?"

"Really. Anyway, he went, and I doubt he'll be back for a couple of hours. Maybe you could have a nap in the meantime?"

Duo's hand tightened on a fold of Trowa's shirt, almost involuntarily. "You gonna stay?" he asked, very quietly. "I don't want to be alone, now."

"I'll stay," Trowa reassured him, shifting to lie on top of the covers next to him.

* * * * *

[cont]