Author: The Manwell
see chap. 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimers

Shinigami Sleeps + Chapter 2
Questions

"Hello, Quatre. I apologize if my call is coming at a bad time."

The young man on the vid screen grins. "Trowa! It's great to hear from you! No, this isn't a bad time at all! How are you?"

"Fine," he replies. "And you?"

"Great." He sighs happily. "I'm really glad you called. I should have been keeping in touch with you..."

"You're very busy," Trowa acknowledges.

Quatre doesn't deny it. "Are you still with the circus?"

Trowa nods.

"How is Cathy?"

"She's doing well."

"That's good to hear."

Trowa takes a breath. "Have you heard from the others?"

Quatre nods. "Yes, let's see... Wufei is with the Preventers now, working with Sally Po. Duo's running a salvage yard with a friend of his in the L2 area. But I haven't heard from Heero." He looks hopefully at Trowa.

Trowa shakes his head. "I haven't heard from him, either. But I'm sure he's around."

Quatre agrees. "So, um, why the call, Trowa? I mean, not that I didn't want to hear from you, because I do, it's just... you know..."

Trowa nods. "We said we'd stay in touch and it's been over a year. I suppose I was just curious."

Quatre smiles. "Do you have my email address?"

"Yes."

"If you know the circus's schedule, could you send it to me? Maybe our paths will cross again in the future..."

"It would be nice to see you again."

"I've missed you, Trowa."

"It's been awhile." He pauses. "I'll send you our schedule."

"Thanks." Quatre's brow furrows as Trowa hesitates. "What is it?"

"I... was wondering. When exactly did you last hear from Wufei and Duo?"

+

"Chang Wufei speaking."

"Wufei, it's Trowa. Am I calling at a bad time?"

Wufei looks up from the mound of paperwork on his desk and at the vid screen. "Ah, hello. It's been a long time. How have you been, Barton?"

"Fine. Yourself?"

Wufei's lips pull into a slight smirk. "I can distantly recall a time when I had nothing to do."

"They just want to keep you from starting any trouble," Trowa replies.

Wufei chuckles. "I think you might be correct in that."

"I don't mean to take up too much of your time, so I'll get to the point."

Wufei nods, appreciating the gesture.

"Have you heard from the others?"

"Quatre and I spoke on New Year's."

"No one else?"

Wufei shakes his head. "Is something wrong?"

Pause. "No. I was just wondering." Again, Trowa hesitates.

"About what, Barton?"

The other man considers his words. "I heard Duo was in the L2 area, running a salvage yard with a friend. Do you know anything about that?"

Wufei shakes his head. "No. Who told you that?"

"Quatre. Apparently, they spoke about six months ago."

Eyes narrowed in speculation, Wufei inquires, "Do you think something's happened to him?"

"I'm not sure. Do you remember the girl who brought Duo information on Libra? Right before the last battle?"

"Yes."

"Her name is Hilde Schbeiker. The salvage yard was owned by her family until a few months ago."

Wufei arcs a brow in silent question.

"It's been sold." Pause. "Wufei, may I ask you for a favor?"

"Of course."

"With the Preventer resources at your disposal, I was hoping you could locate her."

Wufei frowns. "Are you looking for Maxwell or this woman?"

Trowa tells him, "I'm looking for Duo. I'm hoping Hilde will know where he is."

"I could save you the trouble and simply find Maxwell."

One corner of Trowa's mouth lifts into something that could be an almost-smile. "After two years, Wufei, you should know that nothing is 'simple' when it involves Duo Maxwell."

+

Trowa disconnects the call and stares down at the scrap of paper he'd jotted the number on. It had taken Wufei less than a day to locate Hilde Schbeiker. And although he hadn't said anything, Trowa suspects he's also looking for Duo. It's not that Trowa doubts Wufei's abilities or the Preventer resources. It's that Duo is excellent at anonymity. And while Trowa appreciates Wufei's efforts, he doubts they will reveal Duo's location. Where normal people leave paper trails in their wake, Duo leaves friends. Trowa suspects that if he locates Duo, it will be by word-of-mouth rather than electronic records.

He considers the series of numbers on the notebook page and takes a moment to wonder at his own actions. If he allows himself to think about it, what he's doing is ridiculous. He's trying to find an old acquaintance because of a dream he had about him. Trowa wonders why he's letting his subconscious's wanderings concern him. He's had worse dreams before and dealt with them. But this one... Perhaps it's because the dream had been so unusual.

Trowa shakes his head and checks the clock, calculating the time difference, then dials the number. After a few seconds, it connects.

"Hello?"

"Hello. Is this Hilde Schbeiker?"

"Yes."

"My name is Trowa. I knew Duo in the war—"

"Yes, of course. He spoke of you often."

Trowa's brows arc as he considers the friendly girl on the screen. He did? "Have you heard from him?"

"Not since the business went under. What's up?"

Trowa shrugs. "Nothing urgent. I've just lost touch with him. Any idea where I might reach him?"

She hums thoughtfully. "He told me he was thinking about meeting up with an old friend... Howard, I think his name was."

"The Sweepers?" Trowa guesses.

"That's it!" she says.

"Thank you, Hilde. I'll try there."

"If you find him, will you tell him 'hello' for me?"

"Certainly." Pause. "When was the last time you heard from him?"

"Right before we walked away from the yard. God, that must have been... last December. I tried to get him to stick around for Christmas but he was all geared up for his trip to Earth to see Howard."

Trowa nods. "If he happens to call you, would you mind—"

"No worries, Trowa. I'll let him know you were looking for him."

"Thank you."

Shortly thereafter, Trowa closes the communication and dials the number for Information.

+

"Yo! Howard!"

The older man mutters as he pulls himself out of the engine. "What is it?"

The mechanic hovering in the office doorway shouts back, "Some guy on the vid looking for Duo!"

Howard sighs. "That kid is more trouble than he's worth," he grumbles with a frown. Still, his heart isn't in the words. Sure, Duo's got problems, but who doesn't? The older man shakes his head and snatches a rag from the tool box nearby. He calls out, "I'll be right in!"

Scrubbing the dirt and grease from his hands, Howard makes his way across the mechanic bay. When he enters the office, the fellow mechanic grabs some manuals and heads out the door, leaving Howard to deal with the caller in private. He closes the door, blocking out the clatter from the room beyond and slides into the chair behind the vid.

"This is Howard. How can I help you?"

"Hello. This is Trowa. Do you remember me from—"

"Peace Million! Sure, Trowa. How's it going?"

"All right. You?"

"Okay, I suppose. You looking for Duo?"

"Yeah."

"Anything the matter?"

"No. Not really. I just haven't heard from him in awhile."

"Hm. Well, you're a little late, Trowa."

"How late?"

Howard replies, "Two weeks, give or take a day."

"Did he say where he was heading?"

"Not specifically. Just that he was going to visit an old friend." Howard shifts in his chair, wondering how much more he should say.

"What else?" Trowa is quick to ask.

"Well... It's just that he hadn't been sleeping well. Nightmares. Woke up a couple of guys in the rooms on either side of his. Looked like crap before he took off." Howard sighs. "I tried to convince him to stay, see somebody about it. But he said there was only one guy who'd understand."

"And he didn't mention a name."

"No, but I've got a guess or two."

"Go ahead."

"Well, I'd have to say that'd be Heero Yuy." At Trowa's mildly curious expression, Howard continues, "He was the only one Duo ever brought back here during the war." He shakes his head. "Then the kid used the parts from Deathscythe to get his own Gundam up and running overnight." Howard chuckles. "Oddly enough, Duo wasn't all that upset about it. Maybe it's just an old man's intuition, but I'd say Duo's gone to find Heero."

"I see. Do you know where Duo might have gone to look for him?"

"Nope. Sorry, Trowa."

Trowa nods. "Thank you, Howard."

"Hey, no problem. And if you find Duo, would you let him know that he's still got a job waiting for him here?"

"Of course."

The vid screen goes blank and Howard leans back in the grimy chair. He doesn't want to admit it, but he's worried. He'd never seen Duo look the way he had on the morning of his departure. And he wonders what, in this day and age of peace, could rattle the guy so much. Nothing—not battles, enemy capture, or space travel—had ever gotten to the God of Death.

Howard sighs and pushes himself to his feet. He has business waiting for him in the hangar. But as he opens the door, he glances at the dark vid screen. "Good luck, kid," he says before closing the door behind him on his way out.

+

"Are you sure?"

Trowa nods, placing a second pair of jeans in the small duffle bag.

Cathy runs a hand through her hair, looking worried. "Will you—"

"I'll keep in touch, Cathy."

She sighs, expression wry. "Am I that obvious?"

Trowa snorts.

She shakes her head at him. "Can you at least tell me why you're doing this?"

Folding two pairs of socks into the bag, he declines to comment.

Cathy continues, "I mean, can't Quatre hire someone? Isn't Wufei working for the Preventers now? Couldn't they—"

"Catherine."

She watches as Trowa turns toward her and gently brushes a lock of her hair back over her shoulder.

"I'm coming back."

She swallows. "I... I know."

He nods. "Good."

Cathy's gaze follows him as he turns back to his packing. "Can you... do you know how long you'll be gone?"

His gaze, briefly, meets hers. "As long as it takes."

She sighs heavily. "I was hoping you wouldn't say that."

"Then why not hope I find him soon?"

"Oh, trust me, I will."

Trowa frowns at her. "What's wrong, Cathy? During the war I would take off and you were fine with it."

With a shrug, she tells him, "I guess I've just gotten used to you hanging around. It seems like an... unnecessary risk."

He supposes he can understand that. It's more logical than his own reasoning. He's very aware that this quest had started with a dream. But having heard Howard's words and seen the concern on the man's face, Trowa can't ignore the possibility that something may, indeed, be wrong.

+

Trowa pauses in the gym doorway, watching the game. His search for Duo has led him here. A Boys and Girls' Center, one of the few in the L1 area. The basketball court is crowded with boys, five in jerseys and five in plain, white T-shirts, battling for the lead. Trowa would not have been surprised to see Duo playing ball or, considering the age of the players, coaching. But it is not Duo Trowa sees with a whistle around his neck.

It's Heero.

Quietly, Trowa sinks into the nearest bleacher seat. He has little doubt that Heero knows he's there. He glances briefly at the former pilot, taking in the still-messy dark hair, narrowed eyes, and crossed arms. It had surprised him a little to discover Heero's volunteer work with this colony's youth center. Not that he hadn't been surprised to find Heero's place of employment to be a small Mom-and-Pop computer repair shop. In truth, he hadn't really known what he'd been expecting.

The sound of the whistle rips through the gym, bringing the boys on the court to a halt. Breathing hard, they gather around their coach for a few words. And only a few. Trowa listens to the familiar growl as Heero comments on the play. Each boy is assigned something to work on for next time before Heero dismisses them from practice.

The kids pound from the gym toward the snack bar in the cafeteria, leaving their uninvited observer and coach alone.

"Trowa."

Trowa nods. "Heero."

"What brings you here?" Heero asks, taking a seat beside Trowa.

"Duo."

Heero arcs a brow. "You missed him."

Trowa ignores the double meaning in those words. "How long ago?"

"Six days."

Trowa sighs.

Heero checks his watch. "You eat lunch yet?"

"No."

"Let's go, then. I know a place."


"How'd you end up coaching at the youth center?"

Heero glances up from his plate. "That would be—indirectly—Duo's fault."

Trowa's eyebrows rise along with his curiosity.

"Something he said during the war," Heero replies.

"You've got me really wondering now."

Heero smirks. "He was joking around, being annoying. I had work to do. Told him to shut the hell up."

Trowa takes a bite of his sandwich and glances up, urging Heero to continue the story.

"He came back at me. Said I was such an anti-social tight ass because I didn't think anyone could possibly understand what my life was like."

"And?"

Heero almost smiles. Voice expressionless, he says, "He was right. But then he said I couldn't understand what anyone else's life was like, either." Heero's eyes sparkle at the memory. "Duo got right in my face. 'You think you're the only one that hasn't got a past worth remembering? You gonna continue that fine tradition with the present, too?'"

Trowa reaches for his napkin. "Harsh."

"But true." Heero shrugs. "Got me thinking."

Trowa nods. "He's had that effect on Quatre as well."

"But not you."

He looks up at Heero. "I never really had the... opportunity to..."

"Be Maxwell-psychoanalyzed?" Heero supplies dryly.

Trowa's lips twitch. "I was going to say 'have my ass chewed.'"

Heero snorts. "Well, it's not too late. I suppose that's why you're looking for him?"

"Something like that."

"Hn." Heero takes a long sip of water.

"So, how'd Duo react to your time spent with the ankle biters?"

Heero chokes back a laugh. "They're junior high school students. Hardly ankle biters."

"And?"

With a short glare, Heero says, "He didn't have anything to say."

Trowa's eyebrows arc yet again.

"Duo had a lot on his mind."

He doesn't ask what had been on Duo's mind, but Trowa does ask, "He still have a lot on his mind?"

"I would assume so."

Trowa's eyes narrow. "You didn't think to try to help him out when he came by?"

Heero looks up. "I've been where Duo is. He's the only one who can deal with it."

Sighing, Trowa leans back in his chair. "Any idea where he might be dealing?"

"Maybe."

Trowa drums his fingertips against the table. "Are you going to tell me?"

Heero reaches for the remains of his sandwich. He smirks. "Sure."

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