Author: Sheron
Author Notes: I was so nervous yesterday when posting, that I completely forgot to thank Llyxius who betaed this story. If there's anything right with the grammar here it's because of her. She's a Goddess! :)

My Heart Will Never Vary + Part 2

Two hours later, he called Lady Une at home as the working day was over. She picked up the phone dressed in a pink robe, reminding him of Relena and her upcoming visit to the city. He made a mental note to look into security of that event.

Lady Une looked surprised and worried to see him on her phone screen -- that was actually a fairly common reaction when people saw him.

"Heero, is something the matter?"

"Lady Une," He nodded respectfully to her, "I'm here to request that Duo be partnered with me from now on. His latest mission has not been a success and I propose that this move will be benefiting to both of us."

Lady Une tried and failed to follow his logic the first time around.

"Duo's mission is a failure? What--Ah, I recall Morrison giving him that banker who disappeared..." She referred to the case, "What happened?"

"The banker is dead." Heero told her flatly, "You will see the details on the news."

Lady Une's countenance grew saddened, then grave.

"Are you concerned about Duo? He is a strong young man."

"He is an 18-year-old boy who fought in a war since he was 15. He doubts that there were any right causes in the war and the blood he's spilled is not getting washed away."

"Heero-"

He cut her off, "He lost many people even before the war, as can be evidenced from the history of L2 colony he comes from." He was working up steam, "His psyche is fragile and assigning him a kidnapping case was a mistake."

Hands white from squeezing the tabletop too hard, he waited for Lady Une's reply. "Heero," she sighed sadly, bowing her head for a second.

"I am not placing blame."

Lady Une looked up, sighing again and appearing to consider his offer.

"Are you sure you want to work together? Will the two of you be able to maintain objectivity?"

Heero looked her.

"Right." She smiled humourlessly, "Forgot who I was talking to for a second." He waited for her reply.

"Heero, if Duo doesn't mind I have no objection."

"Thank you. Good night, Lady." Heero reached out to switch the phone off.

"Heero." Lady Une stopped him, "I am glad you asked for this. I am still hoping you will resign someday. Maybe Duo will help this along. He doesn't work full time, after all." She smiled kindly, allowing him to see the meaning behind her words. Heero understood.

He nodded and switched the phone off; moving on to hacking the security system of the hotel Relena would be staying at. For about an hour he attempted to work, before finally giving up after another mistyped command. His mind wasn't on the work.

+

Heero watched the snowflake drift down from behind the glass of the window. It wasn't the most productive thing to do (e.g. he could shovel the snow outside) but the snowflake was beautiful as it drifted down until it was obscured by the window's frame. Heero tried to understand why he considered the snowflake beautiful.

Duo said so, and Quatre, and--

No.

There had to be a better reason than that. He would have to find the beauty on his own.

Boredom was one of the key reasons he worked for the Preventers. Someday, like Lady Une had recommended, he would stop working full-time for them and maybe resign. For now, the job was dangerous enough to lend some excitement to his life and, at the same time, was nowhere near as life threatening as piloting a Gundam had been. More and more now, he was being given missions where no lives were endangered. He rather liked it that way, knowing that the Preventers were full of competent staff that could handle the more dangerous situations. The war -- it was over. Sighing, Heero turned away from the window and glanced around his empty apartment. It was still as clean as it had been half an hour ago, when he'd last checked.

He thought some more. His laundry was done. Trying to be creative he went over some of the more unusual housework, but, alas, the car didn't need fixing, there was food in the refrigerator and the plant on the window has been watered. Probably too much. He made for the other side of the room and bent over the small rose, observing. The ground was soft and a little on the wet side. The leaves were not infested with the horrible little bugs like a week ago (it has taken him this long to get rid of the pests), and the rose itself was in full bloom. It was orange.

Duo had said it was the color of dawn, and Wufei had snorted at the braided idiot and said it was orange. Heero had to agree. It was a paler shade of orange than you see, for example, on the police tape usually present on any crime scene, but orange nonetheless. And it didn't need watering.

Heero sighed as his eyes traveled unwittingly up. He saw another thousand tiny snowflakes falling to their end and averted his gaze. They were cold, wet, and probably contained too much sulfuric acid to be healthy. And the damned things weren't very beautiful.

Duo had said snowflakes were nature's way of showing off and when Heero had looked at him then, he'd been stricken by the raw emotion in the other boy's eyes and he'd thought -- for one brief moment -- that the way snow landed on the tip of Duo's nose was the most beautiful sight he had ever witnessed.

It was pretty obvious from then on... Which is why he got the plant. He'd heard about the process when he'd been researching an infirmary for people suffering from alcoholic addiction -- an assignment from Preventer's Headquarters, obviously, not a personal goal. An old woman sat behind the desk in the small dusty office and stared at him with welcoming gray eyes.

He'd asked questions like, "How many people do you receive per month?" and "How many relapse?" and also "What do people who undergo treatment do afterwards?"

The first two questions she'd answered with numbers that were not particularly encouraging (he drew a conclusion that the drunk men who'd started shooting the ceiling a few days ago on one of the public city councilors' meeting were no exception to the rule), but the third question captured Heero's attention. She'd told him, "They try to be as normal as possible. Look for a new relationship or try to rebuild the old ones. That kind of thing."

"What if they're not ready?" Heero had asked, "Wouldn't their problems reflect on their life and attitude to others?"

"Sure they would. And not all go out and find somebody, right away. You've got to wait a bit, adjust to normal life." Then she smiled kindly at his serious face and continued, "Life's easier when you have someone to share it with." Heero had nodded, although he couldn't really remember why. The woman's whole manner had simply demanded it, then.

"But how do they know how long is long enough? How do they know when they are ready?" Heero hadn't really expected her advice to sound so...practical. It just seemed to go against her generally dreamy appearance.

"First you get a plant," she had said, "and you keep it for a year. If it doesn't die, then you buy a pet and look after it for another year. Then, if it's alive, you can think about dating." Llaughing and winking, she added, "I wish all young people would do that before jumping into relationships." Then she nonchalantly returned to her papers.

And so, when weeks later, on one snowy December afternoon, Heero had stared at Duo -- laughing and blinking the snow out of his eyes -- and felt his heart constrict in the sudden desire to skip straight to dating, he thought about the old woman. And the next day he went out and bought the rose.

That had been four months ago, and Heero felt more than ready to skip to the pet stage.

Drawn out of his contemplations by a slight beeping in the other room, he sighed, recognizing the sound. Two minutes later he was downloading the instructions and smiling a small, private smile.

Sometimes he could easily believe Lady Une had an internal sensor for when he was ready to start climbing the walls from boredom. She'd also heeded his emotional appeal, and specified in her e-mail that Duo would be working with him this time. It was probably going to be a test, but he'd never had a problem working with Duo before and it would be a breeze to return to that state of mind. He cracked his knuckles, stretching and went to find his gun.

Finding his gun turned out to be a harder task than he'd anticipated.

Actually, he recognized early in the game that it must have been Duo's 'creative skills' that led to the sudden disappearance of the weapon, but he gave up only 10 minutes later, and only because he was afraid that he'd have to fly his car to the meeting if he didn't get going soon. So he stopped looking and dialed the familiar number.

"Hi, this is Duo, leave a mes-"

Heero hang up. He growled at the closest available wall for a second, and then dialed again. "Hi, this is Duo, leave a message, I might call you back."

Preparing to leave a message, Heero was surprised to find the voice mail had something else to say.

"Heero, the gun is with the munchies. Beep."

Heero's silent glare was recorded on the video screen. He hung up without a word, thinking that Duo might have a little fun trying to figure out when he was going to meet his timely end. Let him wonder, the little bastard!

Next, he went to the kitchen and started looking through all the drawers. He found the gun in a box for flour, with a smiley face drawn on a post-it note. When Duo had the time to do this in the five minutes he was at Heero's place was an interesting question.

He tucked the gun in a sheath under his arm, inside the jacket of his Preventer's uniform. Automatically he was hurrying, but nothing prepared him for the number he saw on the clock in the living room as he ran past it. He stared at it in confusion. He was never late... There was a first time for everything.

+

When the secretaries moved out of his way, they were following an ingrained instinct of survival. It couldn't have been his face -- he tried to keep his expression neutral. But Heero walked, no he stalked...no he shot in to Lady's office in a way that closely resembled a bullet penetrating flesh.

The first thing he got when he walked in was a thorough look over. Not seeing any life- threatening wounds on him, Lady Une lifted an elegant eyebrow.

"I apologize for my lateness. There is no excuse." He answered her questioning silence.

"It's all right, we haven't started yet." Lady Une nodded.

Quatre smiled at him, quite comfortable sitting in a chair by the wall. Today he was present because he'd been discussing Preventer's funding with one of the accountants and once he learned that both Duo and Heero were going to be in the building decided to wait up for them. Lady Une offered him to stay in her office once she saw him standing alone in the hallway.

"Yeah, we were watching you car fly in," Duo added from his place.

Heero's head turned only marginally, but the look he had fixed Duo with must have been impressive, because the other boy let some of the nervousness show in his eyes. When Duo tugged at his tight collar in another expression of nervousness, Heero wished he had a mirror.

"Err...Why don't you go on with the meeting. I'll talk to you afterwards." Quatre was smoothening the tension in the air, his eyes darting between Heero and Duo.

Lady Une's eyes were laughing. Lately, Heero has been finding that she was a hopeless romantic at heart. She smelled it everywhere, and took great amusement in showing that she knew. God, it pissed him off! Of all the people he might have wanted to figure out his romantic interests, Lady Une was close to last. And the real kicker was that no one else had figured it out but her. Sometimes Heero couldn't believe his luck, really.

"No, Quatre, stay if you don't mind." Some of the amusement melted off her face as she returned to business, "Your insight might help." Quatre shot her a quizzical gaze but sat back down on his chair.

Quatre's presence meant that the mission they would be doing somehow involved politics. The young head of the Winner Corporation was often involved in one or another political intrigues, much like Relena. The last time Heero had ended up hand-cuffing a political spy who was out of a job after Romaffeller fell, and was looking for a new employer in the high circles of government.

Trowa had also done that mission with him. That was before he'd decided to give more of his effort to the circus where Catherine worked. Now that the group had gone off on a tour, the only time Heero heard from the other boy was when Quatre remembered to forward short cryptic messages to Duo who subsequently forwarded them to Heero and Wufei. They all wanted to keep in touch, at least on the most minimalist level. Of course, Heero thought wryly, he wanted to be 'in touch' with Duo a lot more than any other pilot.

He sat down on his chair, and Lady Une briefed them on their plans for tomorrow.

+

After the briefing they all rose silently from their chairs. Lady Une let them go with a brief nod.

"Oh, and Heero," It seemed that their boss had one last thing to say, "your latest secretary has resigned. Again."

"Good. She was incompetent." Heero honestly thought that would be the end of that conversation. But the people he worked with had other ideas -- they were a strange bunch.

"Heero, she wasn't all that bad. She came with great credentials." Lady Une protested mildly.

Quatre put in an agreeable, "She was nice."

"She brought me coffee every day. Cream, sugar, just how I like it!" Duo mourned his loss from the seat he still lazed in, even though they were about to leave. "And the cookies alone..." he mumbled under her breath, blushing when he realized he'd been heard.

How he got Heero's secretary to bring him coffee was a question for another day, Heero decided. This was, after all, not the first time. Every single one of Heero's secretaries, who'd hated him after the first time they worked together, had loved Duo on sight, as did Quatre's female body- guard who sometimes followed him around and looked tough for the press, as well as Trowa's secretary before he left and even Wufei's when the Chinese boy was around. Even Lady Une's secretary brought Duo coffee -- and he was a man.

Again, Heero brought up his main point -- sometimes people missed it the first time around. "She was incompetent."

Duo was still defending the girl's skills. He only worked in the Preventers on a contract, not full- time like Heero and Wufei. Arguing that he would not be tied down by a job, he still took as many assignments as Heero, often the same ones, but would not commit. Duo didn't get a secretary so he hogged Heero's.

"Come on, that wasn't that big a deal, just nervousness."

"She spilled your coffee all over my desk, short-circuiting my laptop and causing me to loose 3 days worth of work." Delivered in the same tone as someone would say 'She blew up a colony'.

"Jesus, Heero she was just a young kid, and you came on to her with 'mission parameters'. How could you not expect her to be a little nervous?"

Heero cocked his head curiously to the side; it seemed Duo had been quite enamored with the (now lost) 'coffee deal'.

"Duo, she was your age. If you had made that mistake, I'd have shot you."

The exasperated look on Duo's face, the wry smile on Quatre's -- Heero didn't need any additional data to know that he'd won the argument.

"Alright." Lady Une stood up and placed both of her hands on the table, leaning forward slightly. "I'll let you file your own reports for now, although I still think it's a waste of your time -- time that we pay a lot more for than we do for the secretaries."

Heero had a perfect counter argument to this: "It takes me 5.4 to 6.2 minutes on average to type up a lengthy report, you can deduct the money from my paycheck." He didn't add that she could take the whole paycheck -- he wasn't working for the money. Ozzies had paid for his future with their accounts -- they just didn't know how much so, and never would.

"5.4?" Duo all but groaned from his chair, "Are you sure you don't want to give a more accurate approximation? 5.4 minutes and 3 seconds? No? 5 seconds?"

Heero didn't bother with a comment. He was used to Duo's little digs. If he had accurate information, why not use it, instead of saying 'a couple', which was misleading? Lady Une seemed to see some of his determination on his face, so she finally gave in. She'd been trying to saddle him with a secretary ever since he'd started working for the Preventers, claiming that his time was too valuable to waste on typing up reports. Finally this battle was at an end, and Heero had emerged victorious. He liked typing up his reports. He'd done it for so long that it gave him a feeling of completion.

"Fine, type your own damned reports. See if I care." She shook her head in exasperation, but it was obvious she was amused. Since there was no hostility in her amusement, the 'why' was not important to Heero.

Duo had come up from behind, laying his hand on the cuff of Heero's left sleeve as though about to tug at it, but paused at the comment and rolled his eyes, until they came to rest on a far wall, a little distant from the memory. "You would not believe how many times I've used those exact words."

"With same success rate, I gather?" Lady Une looked up at the braided boy in curiosity.

"Success?" Duo turned to her with a positively devilish gleam in his eyes. "Heero knows that I always get what I want." He smiled wider, obviously baiting everybody -- and succeeding if a couple of raised eyebrows were any indication. "Always." He added for good measure, looking straight into Heero's eyes.

If Heero hadn't been completely ostracized from any kind of normal life when he was growing up, if he had been remotely interested in romance novels (which could explain that sort of thing), if he wasn't completely smitten by just staring into Duo's eyes he might have understood that Duo was flirting with him. As it was -- and because he was so used to such behavior from his frivolous friend -- he let it slide completely unnoticed, gathering himself before the heat from realization that he was staring could hit his cheeks.

"It's been known." He allowed, at wits end on how to respond. Briefly, he wondered why Duo was blushing at his answer. He hadn't wanted to lie and the truth was that Duo did manage to get people to do things all the time; Heero had just never noticed it about himself. Sure he put all of his work aside, he actually listened to Duo when he would have ignored everyone else, he spent time with Duo when the other boy said he wanted it -- but it had always been because Heero had wanted it as well. Now he was beginning to consider that maybe in Duo's eyes his 'submission', seen alongside so many other conquests (secretaries of the Preventers notwithstanding -- they never had a chance), was ranked about the same as a skillful manipulation. Had Duo never though Heero wanted to do all those thing? The thought left him numb. He remembered all the special moments they hadn't shared, when he'd thought they had.

Duo laughed, like he hadn't a care in the world, slapping the side of Heero's arm a little, all with a friendliness that was beginning to get irritating. Then he turned away and started talking to Quatre, completely changing the topic, his face returning to its normal color. His fingers let the cuff of Heero's shirt slip away.

Heero watched the other people in the room in a kind of disconnected way. All those...all... It was always manipulation games to Duo?

The sensation Heero felt at the thought was akin to cold, numbing water sliding down his back.

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