Run and Hide + Part 3The work week started as it always did. Monday was dreary, not too busy, as were Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursdays are when it starts to get busy in the book business. Thursday morning passed quietly enough. I cleaned and stocked the shelves, checked on orders, all those kinds of things. The store sells new and used books and we do a booming business locating rare or odd books for our customers. Trowa came to fetch me for lunch as he almost always did on Thursdays. I saw Becky give him the same speculative look she always did. I had told her that he was an old friend of mine, but I think our weekly lunch date raised her suspicions. Well, that and me not panting after Suzie like the weekend clerk did.
"How's Quatre doing?" I asked as we ate our sandwiches. We were sitting in the corner of the deli away from the lunch rush at the counter. I gave Trowa's dessert a meaningful glance.
"Better. Of course he dived right back into work on Monday." Trowa shook his head as the busboy went past and refilled my drink.
"Of course. He's too responsible not to. Did you at least get him to start delegating some of this stuff?"
"Yes. He does have several very good assistants, plus Rashid and I also try and take some of the weight off. But there's still so much!" Trowa sounded frustrated. "I'm sure it's not as bad as it could be, but..." He paused.
"It just all seems pointless to you," I suggested.
"Yes. Well, not all the time, but Quatre's whole lifestyle is just so... foreign to me, I guess. Even after two years, I'm still adjusting." I put my sandwich down and looked him in the eye.
"You could leave." He was quiet for a long moment, thinking about it. Then he looked back up at me and shook his head.
"No. As crazy and pointless as it seems to me, I just can't..." I smiled.
"Then you need to find a way to deal with it. Have you talked to Quatre about this?"
"No. It will just make him feel guilty." I frowned.
"You really think he hasn't noticed?" Trowa looked thoughtful again, as I kept talking. "Hasn't he made sure that you visit Catherine occasionally? Doesn't he encourage these lunches with me?" There was a long pause.
"He's been giving me an outlet," Trowa smiled again. "I never even noticed."
"You're what keeps him sane, Trowa. I'm sure he wants to do the same for you. You gave up a lot to stay with him and he knows it." I took a big bite of my sandwich while Trowa thought about it. He shook his head and then gave me a mischievous grin.
"So, how are things in your household?"
"Same as usual," I grinned back for a moment before my depression welled back out of the pit it had dug in my head. "Trowa does my relationship- well, relationships ever seem as odd to you as they do to me?"
"How does it seem odd to you?"
"Well, it's not normal."
"Would you prefer normal? Would you trade Yuy and Chang for a nice little wife?" I grimaced and he laughed. "I'll take that as a no."
"It was a no."
"In all honesty Duo, no, it doesn't. The three of you mesh so well that it doesn't seem odd to me at all." His eyes narrowed. "Why? What's going on in that head of yours?" I sighed.
"Hell if I know. One minute everything's great, the next I'm sure that they'll finally realize that I don't fit in the picture anymore and toss me out." Trowa frowned.
"You don't fit in the picture?"
"Hell, Trowa, they're still soldiers. I'm not. They spend all day together defending the world and what do I do? I sell books." I took a sip of my soda. "I just feel- apart from them sometimes."
"Have you talked to them about it?"
"Kind of? In other words- no."
"C'mon Tro, you know it was inevitable, I mean three is an odd number- one of us was going to be left out, and better me than one of them."
"Why better you than one of them? Before this all started Fei had a family, you had the Sweepers, Heero had Dr. J. Out of all of you Heero is most..."
"No," I cut him off before he could finish. "Heero can't be alone again, Tro. You know what it was like getting him to come out of that whole 'perfect soldier' mode. And hell, Fei lost everyone! It nearly killed him to be alone the first time. They need each other."
"And they need you. If you're feeling this way Duo, you need to talk to them about it. I'm sure they aren't doing it on purpose-"
"I know they aren't. They just spend so much time together- they know each other so well- I just..."
"Feel left out?"
"I guess, but also- in the way." Trowa was silent for a long moment.
"You know it would hurt them to hear this, Duo."
"I know." I smiled for him. "I think it's something I have to get around on my own." I glanced down at my watch. "I'd better get back." Trowa's frown deepened, but he let the matter drop, for which I was grateful.
Trowa walked me back to the store, as he always did. We walked in and I paused. Something was wrong. There was no one at the counter and I could smell a hint of gunpowder in the air. Trowa and I looked at each other for a brief second.
"Get over here!" A voice from the back of the store rang out. "I can see the both of you!" Trowa's eyebrow went up in a question and I shook my head. Too little information. I blinked back at the door and he nodded. With the speed and agility of a trained acrobat Trowa was out the door in under a second. I blinked as a bullet passed over my head. The voice cursed and I put both arms behind my head as I walked slowly down the aisle to the back. Shinigami stirred to waking and laughed silently in my head. Damn I had hoped the bastard was dead after all this time.
There were three of them, I noted absently as I was forced down on the floor next to Becky, Charlie and Suzie. Suzie must've stopped by for her paycheck- what a hell of a time to pick, Shinigami giggled. I crossed my legs and looked up at our captors. I wasn't Duo anymore. Shinigami had come out to play.
"Well now, pretty boy," one of them sneered and I nearly laughed in his face. Like I had never heard that before. I wondered if he had learned the insult in Evil Villains 101. "Maybe you know where the cash is?" I couldn't help raising an eyebrow.
"In the cash registers?" I replied smartly.
"There was barely anything in there," the moron snarled back. For goodness sakes, we were a bookstore not a liquor store. How much was he expecting?
"The safe?" I tried again.
"We already did the deposit," Becky said, her voice shaky. She was flicking her eyes back and forth between the morons.
"Oh, well, then I guess that just leaves the bank," I couldn't help it. Number one moron smacked me with the butt of his pistol. I think he thought it would hurt, but I've been hit by experts. These guys were not experts. Of course, that didn't mean they weren't dangerous, and I had civilians to think about too. Shinigami doesn't hurt the innocent.
The wail of sirens rose around us and I could see the blinking of the lights through the front windows.
"How the hell did the police get here?" Moron number three spoke for the first time and I repressed the urge to yell 'DUH'.
"The other guy must've called," number one said softly. "Maybe we should just shoot them all and make a run for it."
"And get charged with a murder rap too?" Moron number two pointed out and I upgraded him in my head to idiot. Obviously not as stupid as the other two. He was also obviously the boss, as the other two didn't bother to argue with him. "Besides, we might need them to get us safely out of here."
"You don't need all of us," I spoke up quickly. "Why don't you send the ladies out as a good-faith gesture?" Moron number one made to hit me again, but Head idiot stopped him.
"You know about these kinds of things?" He asked sarcastically. I looked up and for a moment, let Shinigami peek out from behind the happy idiot mask.
"I was in the war," I said softly. "I know all kinds of things." Head idiot actually took a step back, once again proving that he was the smart one. I heard Suzie whimper softly and I let my expression smooth back out.
"YOU ARE SURROUNDED," a loud megaphone voice informed us. "PLEASE COME OUT WITH YOUR HANDS UP."
"All right you two," Head idiot looked at Becky and Suzie. "Go on out there and tell them that we want a car, gassed up and ready to go or we'll kill these other two." Becky and Suzie got shakily to their feet. I met Becky's eyes and nodded at her encouragingly. She managed a shaky smile for me. The two of them walked down the center aisle and out of the store. A few minutes later, the store's phone began to ring.
"That's probably the police," Head idiot said and again I resisted the urge to yell 'DUH'. He pointed at Charlie. "Go answer it." Charlie got to his feet and nearly fell over.
"Ankle," he muttered to me and I reached up to catch him. "Twisted it."
"I'll get it." I bounded to my feet and was by the phone before the robbers could even train their weapons on me. "Bernadelli's Books, this is Duo, how can I help you today?"
"You can tell me what the hell is going on in there," Sally Po said in my ear and I smothered a grin.
"We have three armed gunmen that want a car and an escape route," I told Sally. "Or they'll kill Charlie and me." My voice was level, but anyone who knew me like Sally did could hear the undertones well enough.
"Very," I answered.
"Let me talk to them." I held the phone out to head idiot.
"Agent Po wants to talk to you," I said. He stepped towards me and snatched the phone out of my hand. I went back to Charlie and nearly laughed. The morons were watching their boss, who was standing with his back to me. Dumb, dumb, dumb! "Can you walk, Charlie?' I muttered in his ear.
"Not well." I motioned to one of our big heavy metal bookcases that stood nearby.
"Get behind that and don't move." He slid out of sight as I watched the morons. Shinigami smiled ferally. A second later I was behind moron number one and he was out like a light. Moron number two went down just as easily. I took his gun and aimed carefully at Head idiot. Disable, I reminded myself, and in two shots, he was. I crossed the distance to him and knocked him the rest of the way out. Keeping all three in my sight, I picked up the phone. Sally was cursing.
"Sally?" I said into the receiver. "Get the hell in here. We're all clear."
[part 2] [part 4] [back to Merula's fic]