Identities (cont)

* * * * *

As Haan walked up to the bar, Brian intercepted him.

"Haan, what's up?" he asked, voice low. "Tina said you dragged some guy in from the alley and then chased her out of the monitor room... and that's definitely a new look for you," he added, eyes narrowing.

"No it's not," Haan said, just as softly. "In fact, I've been wearing my hair like this all day. You saw me, if anyone asks."

"Oh, boy. What are you getting into now?"

"Me? Nothing. I'm getting somebody out of something."

"Do I want to know the details?"

"No." Haan's voice was calm, but his eyes glittered dangerously; Brian sighed.

"All right... not that it would really bother you if I asked you not to do whatever-it-is," he said a little sourly, beginning to turn away.

A hand on his arm stopped him. "It would bother me," Haan said softly. "But I'd still do it."

"Yeah, yeah," Brian said gruffly. "Go get your drink, or whatever you were going to do!"

Tina served Haan a beer and glared at him. "I thought you said you'd watch the monitors," she hissed.

"I said I'd take care of it, and I did. They're being watched."

----------

"Only because I can't walk out there and strangle you without getting you into really deep shit," Duo grumbled, quickly clicking his way through the menus on the computer. "This guy even writes his own software?! Jeez... okay, that's how I switch to a directional pickup..."

----------

About fifteen minutes later, Haan spotted movement at the front door.

About time, he thought, draining the last of his beer and setting the glass down. I thought they'd never get around to searching buildings!

Standing up, he moved to where he had a clear view of the OZ squad filing in the door -- and vice versa -- looked towards them, then turned away. As he started towards the back of the bar, he shot a quick glance back over his shoulder, making sure his long braid flicked out to one side.

Did they see it?

"Hey! You! You with the braid! HALT!"

Perfect.

Running feet pounded up behind Haan as he turned, deliberately slow. "What--"

He saw a split-second glimpse of a gun butt swinging towards his face, and then time seemed to freeze for a moment.

I can still dodge.

...Naah. It'll work better if I don't.

Time started again, and pain exploded along his jaw as the blow hit.

----------

"Shit!"

Duo jumped up from the chair and started pacing, one hand pressed to his forehead. "Oh, man. Oh, that's got to hurt..." He glanced towards the door, then shook his head. "No. Can't do that. Right now he's maybe got a broken jaw; if I go out there now, I'll just get us both shot.

"Oh man, I hate this," he muttered, glaring at the screen. "Haan is so dead when this is over! I'll kill him myself!"

----------

"FREEZE! All right Maxwell, one false move and I'll pull the trigger!" The muzzle of a gun jabbed Haan's temple as he shifted to get up, and he froze, lying flat and pressing his hands to the floor on either side of his head.

"What the hell is going on here?!"

"Sir, please stay back," a young OZ soldier requested, stepping in front of Brian as he moved forwards. He didn't quite point his weapon at Brian, but it was close; the bar owner stopped, but didn't back up.

"What do you think you're doing? You can't just burst in here and attack a friend of mine!"

"Do you know this person, sir?" The rifle swung a couple of degrees closer.

Careful, Brian, Haan thought, wincing as his hands were roughly cuffed behind his back. Don't get yourself arrested as a suspected accomplice!

"His name is Hazrat Haan, not... whatever you called him!" Brian snapped. "He's a trucker and a Jack-of-all-trades. He occasionally works here as a bouncer, and yes, I know him! I've known him for five years, and I can give you the names of several other people who've known him for as long or longer. You'd better have a damn good reason for treating him like this!"

"Sir," the soldier cuffing Haan said quietly, "Maxwell would've been on a colony until six months ago. If this man has been known on Earth for five years..."

"I realise that, Vance," the officer hissed, then cleared his throat. "He matches the description of an extremely dangerous criminal, sir, and we can't afford to take chances. Where's your vidphone?"

"Over here, behind the bar."

Quick hands started patting Haan down, and he raised his head slightly. "If you're looking for my I.D., I'm lying on it," he said; the hands stopped.

"Oh, shit. I don't think this guy is Maxwell," the soldier searching him whispered to another.

"What? Why not?"

"I haven't seen him, but I heard him when he attacked the Nagasaki base in his Gundam. The guy never shuts up--"

----------

"Ha! Do too," Duo sniffed, scowling at the screen. "Damn good directional mikes," he muttered, adjusting a control delicately.

----------

"--and he sounds nothing like this guy."

"Damn."

"You could have found that out without hitting me," Haan said mildly, suppressing a smirk.

"Shut up!"

Over at the vidphone, the lieutenant was getting irritated. "What do you mean, you can't give me a better description than that?!"

<<It's all we got from the informant,>> the soldier on screen said.

"Well, that's useless," he snapped. "Without better information, we can't be sure we've grabbed the right guy. How do we even know this anonymous informant saw the real Maxwell? It could be a mistake, or a false lead to distract us from something else!"

<<I realise that, sir, but the base commander thinks-->> The soldier stiffened, one hand going to his earbug. <<Please hold, sir, I'm transferring your call now!>>

"What? Where to--" The screen went black and the lieutenant swore under his breath, then snapped to attention as a cold female face appeared. "Ma'am -- Colonel Une!" he gasped, saluting.

<<Show me the prisoner.>>

"Yes, ma'am!"

----------

Duo sighed in relief. "Une, baby, lookin' good... I never thought I'd be glad to see the psycho bitch from hell!"

----------

As two soldiers hauled Haan to his feet and marched him forwards, another snatched his I.D. and hurried ahead. Quickly saluting Lady Une's image, he began to read.

"Ma'am, his I.D. says his name is Hazrat Haan, of no fixed address. Dual Pakistani and Chinese nationality, current visa, date of birth September third, AC 168--" He blinked in surprise, peering closely at the small card. "--twenty-seven years old?! He doesn't look -- er, excuse me!" He ducked out of the way and tried to fade into the wallpaper as Haan was pulled in front of the vidphone.

He and Une stared at each other.

Haan raised an eyebrow.

<<That is most definitely not Maxwell,>> she said abruptly. <<Let him go.>> And without another word, she disconnected.

Half a minute later, as a soldier was taking the cuffs off Haan and the lieutenant was (very reluctantly) gritting out an apology without actually using the word 'sorry', the soldier with the earphone jumped.

"Sir? We're being ordered back to base," he reported. "The whole search has been called off."

* * * * *

"..."

"It did work."

"..."

"I'm not even a little bit dead."

"That's not funny."

Haan rolled his eyes. "Stop sulking."

"I am not sulking," Duo said loftily, sticking his nose in the air.

"Yes, you are."

"No, I'm not."

"Oh, yes you are," Haan drawled, starting to grin.

"Oh, no I'm-- oh, shut up!"

"If you're not sulking, why won't you turn around?"

"I'm angry," Duo growled, eyes firmly fixed on the monitors but not really paying attention.

"Do you always get angry when people help you?"

"Usually they're not setting themselves up to get shot in my place! Without my agreement, I should point out," the braided pilot snapped.

"I felt like poking my nose in," Haan replied calmly, inspecting the end of his own temporary braid. "I did it of my own free will, and it worked, so I don't really see that you have any grounds for complaint."

"I don't want people to put themselves in danger for me!" Duo hissed, spinning around. "It's none of your business!"

"Oh really? Duo," the other boy said softly, saying his name for the first time, "you have no idea what my business is."

"...No. I don't. What is your business? 'Cannon Fodder 'R' Us'? Do you regularly risk your life for people you just met?"

"When I feel like it," Haan said, smiling slightly.

Duo snorted. "What, been feeling suicidal lately?"

The smile widened. "Now and then, yes."

Duo's eyes widened in response; then he snorted again, shaking his head in exasperation. "Great. Another Heero. You wouldn't happen to have a self-destruct button on you, would you?"

"I don't believe so, but if you give me a minute to look--" Haan started patting at his pockets, and Duo had to laugh.

"Well. Now what?" he asked.

"Now you take my motorbike and go... wherever," Haan said, handing him a key. "There's a helmet with an opaque visor; if you stuff your hair down the back of your jacket, you should be fine even if there are a few OZ soldiers still out."

"Uh... I can't take--"

Haan shrugged. "If you can, mail the key back here with a note saying where you left it. If not... find it a good home."

"...okay. I will," Duo said softly, then shook himself and grinned. "Thanks, man. I owe you a big one. Um... do me a favour, will ya? Get some new fake I.D.! I don't care how good the one you're using is, sooner or later you're gonna get sprung 'cause somebody won't believe you're twenty-seven. I mean, I sure don't believe it! Get something a bit more plausible, or I'll worry about you."

"You say that like it's a threat."

"Oh, it is! I'm a terrible worrier sometimes; I'll get ulcers, and it'll be all your fault! You don't want that on your conscience, right?"

"All right, all right," Haan said, chuckling softly. "I'll get a new one. Now get out of here! The bike's this way..."

----------

When Brian knocked tentatively on the door and peered in, Haan was sitting on the chair in front of the monitors, leaning back and swinging it slightly from side to side.

"How's the jaw?"

"Bruised."

"You're lucky it wasn't broken, you know."

"Mm."

"So... he got away all right, did he?" Brian asked casually, shutting the door behind him.

"...Who?"

"The guy they were chasing," the bar owner said pointedly. "Maxwell, or whatever his name was. The guy with the plait," he finished, flicking the braid hanging down behind Haan's chair.

Haan glanced back over his shoulder at him, a faint smile twitching at one corner of his mouth. "You don't see anyone else here, do you?"

"Good."

There was a pause.

"Twenty-seven, huh?"

Haan winced slightly, but didn't say anything.

"I believe it," Brian said abruptly. "You're older than you look, I know that for sure. You certainly don't act like a teenager... and you haven't changed a bit in five years."

"Mm," Haan grunted non-committally.

"Need anything for the jaw? Ice? Aspirin?"

"No."

"Well... if you're sure you're all right, I'll go head Tina off. She was hunting through the first aid kit to see if we have anything that's good on bruises."

"Thanks. ...Brian?"

"Yes?"

"I mean it," Haan said softly, still not turning around. "Thanks."

"Any time," Brian grinned.

As his footsteps trailed off down the corridor, Haan sighed and dropped his head back, going limp for a moment. Closing his eyes, he swallowed painfully and winced.

Ow. That hurts... I don't think I've talked that much in years. I guess it's infectious; Duo babbles on, and you just want to respond...

He's right. Haan dug the I.D. out of his pocket and stared at it, frowning. Time I got a new identity again. I've used this one too long... what, nine years? Ten? It was fine when I looked nineteen and the official records said seventeen, but nineteen to twenty seven is a bit of a stretch.

It was nice using my real name again...

I should have moved years ago. I've stayed in one life too long... let people get too close. Brian cares about me. Tina... she hasn't even known me for six months and she's starting to worry. And there's others...

I care about them.

Damn it.

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the end
to be continued...
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