Afterwards + Part 3I got to Quatre's current residence in a little under two hours. The front gate was surrounded by reporters. I pulled my jeep off to a side road and left Val with the car.
"Guard," I told her shortly and headed towards the estate. I was tempted to try and sneak in, but I didn't want to risk getting shot by the well-meaning Preventers guarding the place. No doubt my old friends had been training the guards and I would have a tough time getting by them. Not worth the risk.
I went to the smaller back gate that the pilots had used once or twice and buzzed the house.
"Yes?" Abdul's voice answered me.
"It's Yuy." He was at the gate a moment later, ushering me in. We walked by numerous people in Preventers uniforms patrolling the estate. I got a few curious glances, but most of them were focused on their work. They had been trained well.
Abdul took me in to a small room near the kitchen where they were keeping Quatre. I remember it from the war as our planning room. It was windowless and practically airless. Quatre was sitting in an uncomfortable looking chair, listening to Une with a tired expression. He looked up at me and jumped from his chair.
"Heero!" He greeted me like the savior of the world and I wondered how long he'd been in this room. Quatre hated being confined in one place.
"Quatre," I replied, returning his hug. "Are you ready to go?"
"More than ready." He grinned at me.
"How safe is your place, Yuy?" Une asked me sharply. I nodded over to the corner where a Preventers agent was bent over a table with a bunch of familiar equipment on it.
"Well, despite having the phone number, have you found it yet?" Une gave me a small smile.
"No. You've hidden very well."
"Thank you." I smiled back at her. "It's safe enough. No one can approach it without being seen and I have several alarm systems. He'll be as safe as I can make him."
"That sounds good to me," Quatre piped up, tiredly.
"Chang said that you would allow one of our agents to go along?" Une continued, ignoring Quatre.
"Yes, that's fine." She turned to the guy in the corner.
"Go get Agent Maxwell." Oh gods no! I almost protested, but stopped myself. How could I explain that Duo was NOT the best person to send? He was of course. It was hard to sneak by our stealth infiltrator. But why not Fei? Or even Dorothy? She could just intimidate the assassin to death. Trowa walked in the door as the Preventer dashed out. He stepped aside easily and headed towards his lover.
"I packed you a bag," he said and handed it to Quatre. Then he looked at me, eyes questioning. I stepped closer.
"I'll keep a close eye on him Trowa, I swear it." I murmured softly to him, trying to be reassuring.
"I trust you, Heero." He gave me a brief smile and turned to give Quatre a quick embrace. I looked away just in time to see Duo saunter through the door. The sight of him in person was almost enough to make my heart stop in my chest- prepared or not. I quickly pulled up my 'perfect soldier' mindset. Focus on the mission. It wasn't easy.
He wasn't in his uniform anymore, but his traditional black. Just the way I always remembered him. He tugged the brim of his cap and grinned at Une.
"All ready, Maxwell?"
"More than." He looked at me. "Heero. It's good to see you- in person."
"Likewise, Duo." I replied shortly. I found I couldn't meet his gaze, so I looked at Quatre. "Cover your hair as well, that blond is a bit distinctive." I told him. Quatre nodded and pulled a cap out of his bag.
"Don't forget- report in often, Maxwell," Une reminded Duo as I turned to leave the room, Quatre in tow.
"Yes ma'am." Duo followed us out.
We walked silently out of the house, and out through the back gate as unobtrusively as we could. I led them to my jeep and Quatre nearly jumped when he went to open the door and Val growled through the window at him.
"Val- down." I commanded and she sat down on the seat, panting happily.
Quatre, their duffels and Val went into the back seat. Duo took shotgun next to me. We drove silently, not really relaxing until we were on the highway with no visible sign of anyone following us. Val had curled up on top of the duffels, her head in Quatre's lap. He was the first one to break the silence.
"Trowa was right, you are a lovely dog," he said patting her gently as she wagged her tail.
"Don't flatter her too much, Quatre," I warned him. "She tends to get too full of herself." He laughed.
"I'll try not to," he assured me. "What's her name?"
"Valkyrie," I answered and Val's ears went up at the sound of her name.
"Norse?" Quatre asked. "Why?"
"Several reasons." I answered vaguely.
"What's a Valkyrie?" Duo asked.
"They were goddesses of battle," Quatre explained and I added:
"Their job was to collect the fallen heroes off the battlefield."
"Like the grim reaper?" Duo raised an eyebrow.
"Yes. But only the best got to go with them. The ones who had fought the hardest got to go to Valhalla."
"Heaven?" Duo smiled faintly.
"No. It was a waiting area. The warriors the Valkyries collected were not allowed to rest. They had to keep themselves ready to fight at the battle at the end of the world." I heard Quatre make a small noise of dismay and Duo was frowning. Time to get off this subject. I lightened my tone deliberately. "One of the reasons Val got her name because the Valkyries were supposed to sing as they collected the souls."
"You can't tell me that she sings?" Quatre played along.
"She tries," I answered with a grin. The two of them accepted the change in mood. Quatre leaned back in his seat and Duo changed the subject.
"So, where are we headed, Heero?" Duo asked me with one of his familiar grins. "Or is it a secret?"
"No," I rolled my eyes at him. "I'm sure Wufei's already told you. We're going to my house." I glanced back at Quatre in the rearview mirror. "It's a bit smaller than you're used to."
"I don't care," Quatre told me, with a tired smile. "As long as I'm not locked in a tiny room somewhere- I'll be happy."
"Why don't you sleep, Quatre?" Duo suggested. "It will be awhile until we get there, right?" He looked at me and I nodded. Quatre didn't think twice. He put his head down on the duffels and fell asleep nearly instantly, one arm around Val.
"So, Heero," Duo leaned back in his seat, arms behind his head, "what kind of defenses do you have at this place of yours?" I was relieved that we were focusing on the job. "Other than that killer animal back there?"
"Don't underestimate Val," I warned him.
"I'm not. I saw how she was guarding the car. Does she guard the house too?"
"Anyone comes close and she knows," I answered. "But, she's not the only line of defense." I detailed some of the other things that I had set up at my house that Duo needed to know about. We seemed to have fallen back into our wartime partnership and I was glad.
"And you have to work?"
"Yes. I could call in..."
"Nah. Fei was right- we don't want to eat your time like that. Where do you work?"
"About 20 minutes from home- I can telecommute easily enough- I usually do every other day of the week, but on Monday I need to be in for project briefings."
"So we'll only be without you for tomorrow." Duo nodded. "Not bad, Heero. What kind of job is it?"
"Designing computer games."
"No kidding?" I gave him a small smile. "Are you good at it?"
"Yes. Apparently my battle ones are very realistic." That made Duo laugh. I asked a question of my own: "So, why are you with the Preventers? Special assignment?"
"Nope. Joined up about a year or so ago. Wufei needed a new partner."
"What happened to his old one?"
"He married her." I blinked.
"Yep. Sally made him an honest man." I smiled.
"Wufei was that before. So, married couples can't be partners?"
"Nope. Sally became Noin's partner, since Noin married Zechs."
"So why didn't Wufei and Zechs...?"
"They tried. They damn near killed each other." Duo laughed. "They still growl at each other in the hallways. Zechs got one of his old friends from Oz and Wufei got me." He laughed again. "Not that Wufei hasn't tried to kill me, but I'm faster than Zechs was."
"And more easygoing," I pointed out. "Which is what Sally is too. Wufei needs someone like that to balance him out." I wondered what Hilde thought of Duo's career in the Preventers, but I didn't ask.
"Yep," Duo yawned. "So, that's how I ended up at the Preventers. Say Heero, how much longer?"
"About an hour," I said glancing at the clock. "You can sleep too, if you like."
"Thanks. I was up all night looking round the estate." Duo yawned again and leaned back in his seat, tugging his cap over his eyes. He was out like a light a few moments later.
It was so- I don't know what- to have him near me again. I had forgotten how much the sight of him eased my soul, while my heart seemed to ache at the same time. I was relieved that he seemed to simply want to forget that our last conversation ever happened. That was fine with me. I just wished I could forget my love for him as easily.
I pulled directly into the garage when we got back, closing the door behind the car quickly. No one had been following us, and my nearest neighbors were over a half-mile away, but I didn't want to risk it. Duo stirred once the car noise stopped, but Quatre only groaned and covered his eyes.
"C'mon, sleepyhead," Duo said to the lump in the back seat. "I'm sure you'll be more comfortable inside."
"I'm comfortable here," Quatre yawned back. "Between the duffels and the dog, this is great."
"Makes me wonder what his normal sleeping arrangements are like," Duo said to me with a grin.
"Trowa probably lets his lions sleep on the bed or something," I replied as I opened my door and flipped the seat forward. I whistled and Val jumped out, neatly dislodging Quatre from his comfortable position.
"No fair," Quatre complained.
I led them inside the house after checking my alarm system and letting Val go first. She acted normally, so I figured it was all clear. Duo helped me scout the perimeter and then went to call Une.
Quatre went and stood under the kitchen skylight and tilted his head backwards to look at the stars. My house doesn't have a lot of windows, even if it is right on the ocean. That's why it was cheap when I bought it. Windows make me a bit nervous, so I didn't mind, and the two skylights were easy enough to protect. Electric current and broken glass are great things.
The previous owner had painted the inside walls of the house a soothing blue-green, ocean color and had made curtains to match. My furniture was mostly white or grey so as not to clash with the paint. I had some ocean prints that I had found at one of the tourist traps hanging up on the walls. It wasn't a showplace, but I liked it. I wondered what the others thought about it. Duo was studying one of the prints as I started my nightly lockup routine.
"You have a nice house," Duo told me after a few minutes of looking around. "Very ocean-y." I returned his grin.
"It's great, Heero," Quatre looked around my tiny living space as I finished my nightly round. "Not what I expected, but very nice."
"Thanks." I gave him a smile as I pulled extra blankets out from under the bed. "I think the bed should fit two comfortably, and the sofa's a futon too..."
"Really great!" Quatre sat down on the futon and pulled off his shoes. "I'll take the sofa." Leaving Duo and me the bed? No way!
"Quatre, you're my guests. You two can have the bed." Quatre shook his head at me sleepily.
"I'm good right here, Heero." He laid his head down and fell right asleep again.
"He's been up for about 48 hours straight," Duo came to stand beside me as I looked at the out-cold blond. "I'm not surprised he just passed out like that." He picked up one of the blankets and draped it over Quatre.
"Maybe we should move him to the bed," I suggested. "The futon isn't the most comfortable place to sleep."
"I don't think he cares," Duo chuckled. "He'll be all right." He sat down on the foot of my bed and grinned at me. He leaned backwards and looked up through the skylight that was over the bed. "Wow. What a view!" The sight of him sprawled out on my bed was too much. I turned my back on him and went to the closet to change into my sweats for bed.
When I came back he had also gotten changed for bed and had moved up to sit on the pillows. His head was still tilted back as he gazed up at the stars. I couldn't speak for a moment. He turned finally, and looked at me.
"So which side do I get to sleep on?"
"Whatever side you want," I picked up the extra pillow and blanket. "I'm going to sleep by the door." His hand shot out and grabbed my wrist.
"Why? There's plenty of space here. You don't need to make yourself uncomfortable."
"I don't want to make you uncomfortable," I answered truthfully, hoping he'd let go.
"You don't make me uncomfortable Heero. I trust you." His violet eyes met mine easily. "We've shared before after all and the only thing I had to worry about was you stealing the covers." He smiled then and I gave in.
"All right." I put the pillow and blanket back down and picked up my gun. I climbed into bed next to him and slid the gun under the pillow in easy reach.
He slid under the covers next to me, and I turned on my side, back to him. "Good night Duo."
"Good night Heero," he replied softly. There was a long silence and I was nearly dozing off, when he spoke again: "Heero?"
"After this is over are you going to run off and hide again?" I thought for a moment.
"I don't think so," I replied, with a faint smile.
"Good," I could hear the smile in his voice, "because I've really missed my best friend."
"I've missed mine too." He was quiet for a moment. Then:
"You told me that you'd write to me." His voice wasn't accusing, merely stating a fact.
"I wasn't sure you'd want to hear from me after all." I replied, my heart beating a bit faster.
"Heero, you're still my best friend. No matter what. And I'm yours. Okay?" There was no mistaking the sincerity in his voice and I closed my eyes in relief.
"Okay," I agreed and he was quiet again. I fell asleep not long after that, listening to his breathing in the dark.
[part 2] [part 4] [back to Merula's fic]