Ringu + Part 3 (cont)

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Heero managed to stay near unconsciousness until 5 am when suddenly, he woke from a strange muffled noise outside. Instantly awake, he grabbed his gun from the night table and sat up straight. He spared a quick glance to the other bed, only to discover that it was empty. Duo was a morning person. Heero groaned quietly and rolled his eyes as he stood up. He had expected everything, but certainly not to find the other man awake at five in the morning. Slowly, he put his socks on and slipped into his shoes. They would return to Tokyo before noon and analyze the video this afternoon. Maybe tonight they would have some interesting leads. Heero just hoped they would find at least something useful on the tape. Something to keep his partner and himself alive; a partner that was doing martial arts moves in the living room, kicking the living hell out of the door frame, as Heero observed a minute later.

"Duo?"

"Oh! Morning, Heero!" Duo threw one last controlled hook at the frame, then walked into the kitchen. "Some coffee?" He asked just a few seconds later, already opening the cupboard to take a mug out.

"Yeah, thanks. You have sugar somewhere?" Heero hated black coffee. It was an insult to his taste buds, and he was not going to cough and sputter in Duo's presence if it could be avoided.

"No, but I have some chocolate if you want to dissolve it in there."

He watched as Heero's faced twitched and offered an explanation. "It tastes really good. Trust me?" Heero thought about what he had told his partner earlier and nodded reluctantly. He watched as Duo poured out the almost black liquid and unpacked the chocolate bar on the counter while his mug was prepared.

"How much?"

"Just one or two chunks. Otherwise it gets too sweet and sticky. For your first time I recommend one piece, just so you can see if you like the taste or not." Duo winked and Heero caught a glimpse of a saucy smile in the other man's face. He didn't really want to know if this had been about more than just coffee or not. He'd never really understood innuendos. Quickly, he concentrated on the task at hand, operating with the piece of chocolate.

"Okay." Hesitating, Heero broke a piece of the bar and dropped it into the hot mug. After he'd taken the offered spoon, he stirred and watched the chocolate color the coffee a slightly lighter brown. He took one last glance at Duo who had already taken a sip and did the same. It tasted surprisingly good and it must have shown in the look he gave Duo after approving of the coffee because, the other man smiled and nodded.

To break the uncomfortable silence that had settled over them, Heero voiced his gratitude openly. "That's good coffee. Thanks."

"You're welcome." Duo emptied the mug in one long swallow and placed it on the table. "Ready to rumble? We should go back as soon as possible. I saw some interesting things on the video I'd really like to analyze."

Heero searched the other man for signs of nervousness, but couldn't find any. Duo was as calm as ever, and he was grateful for that. He just hoped that Duo's composition would hold until the last day. At the thought he shuddered. He wouldn't want to lose this man. Why, he didn't know, but he didn't want to have to miss that smile, that lively figure.

He watched, enticed, as Duo balled his office clothing into the bag he had obviously brought the spare clothing in and closed the bag with one quick movement.

"All done. Did you want to shower first?"

"No, I'll do that at the bureau. After I've watched the video." Heero pointed the fact out as if it were obvious to Duo that he would do so as soon as they were back. Duo just grimaced and nodded.

"Yeah, I thought so."

"We can work on it better if we make a copy, you know?" Heero suggested, trying to take Duo's mind further away from the initial statement. That he would watch it was clear. Now the only thing Duo could object to was 'when', and Heero wouldn't give him the chance to argue about that.

Duo took the video and placed it into his bag after putting it into a safe cover he had brought with him, a fact that had Heero's mind turning. Duo had already guessed that there was a video and he had wanted to watch it first? Heero hadn't thought of that. Maybe that had been the reason why Duo had stressed himself with the interviews so much. Why had he taken the chance to discover and watch the video first? Had Duo wanted to spare him? Heero looked skeptically toward his partner who was already leaving the cabin. They locked eyes, and in Duo's eyes Heero could see one thing very clearly. Determination. Determination not to put him in harm's way.

"Duo, give me the video." He demanded firmly.

"No."

"Duo, there is no way you are going to do that alone! I won't have-"

"What is your problem? You should be happy about the fact that you don't have to watch the fucking video, Yuy! Stop acting like a four-year-old and get in your car. I'll meet you later." Those words said, Duo all but ran out of the lodge to his car. Heero was quicker. By now he was sure that Duo had never intended to show him the video or the copy, but go somewhere else where he could analyze it and try to solve the case on his own without endangering anyone else.

"Duo, wait!" Heero ran after the other man, who now outright ran toward the black Jeep. They arrived at the door at the same time, and Heero beat Duo to opening it. As they both sat inside, Heero came face to face with the gleaming eyes of one Duo Maxwell.

"No, Yuy. You won't go with me. I won't let you-" Heero saw that Duo interrupted himself, not able to continue without betraying himself. He reacted quickly, using the other man's opening.

"What, Maxwell? You won't let me watch the video? You won't let me die? You won't let me make my own decision to help my partner?" He watched Duo's horrified expression and knew that he was right. He watched Duo bite his bottom lip and continued.

"This is my decision Maxwell. My life and my case. You can't always save the people around you from pain and suffering. Sometimes you have to let them chose their own way."

Seeing the color drain from Duo's face, he knew he'd hit a nerve. He saw that Duo hurt, but couldn't do anything about it. At least, not much.

"I'm sorry, Duo, but I won't let you run and hide. You are not alone in this one. Not this time." Heero watched as Duo sank back into the seat. He watched the other man's internal struggle, content that he had made his point clear. He was surprised to hear Duo speak.

"Okay." A slight pause, in which Duo seemed to think about the conversation they had that morning, then he asked. "How did you know? Where did I slip?"

"That's just how your brain works." Heero winked as he quoted his partner's earlier statement. "WuFei warned me about your altruistic thinking."

"Really?" Duo seemed to think about that, and finally added with a smile. "He talks too much."

"I'm glad he told me."

Duo nodded vaguely and started the car. Heero smiled again, checking through the window to see that his car was properly locked. Satisfied, he tilted his head back and let Duo drive. He would have fallen asleep, if not for his restless mind.

"Duo, what's on the video?"

"Hm. You'd have to see for yourself. There are weird scenes. For example, a chair hanging in the air, upside down, turning like a twister."

"So it's computer animated?"

"No. That's the strange thing. It looks like it's a really old video, though I realize that today you can make any video look old with your standard digital camera at home. Still, there's something 'old' about it, I can't explain it any better." Duo moved his hands, undermining his point.

"Yeah. I'll see for myself. Maybe I can point a finger on why exactly you feel that way." Heero fell silent but suddenly, he exclaimed." Damn!" Duo swerved to the right in shock.

"What? Did you forget something?"

"Actually, yes. I forgot to tell you what Matô said." Heero smacked his forehead with the palm of his hand and continued. "Their son recorded the video."

"What?" Duo called out. "No way! That's not possible, Heero."

That firm statement piqued Heero's curiosity. "Why not?"

"Because there is only static at the resort. They don't get any channels because there's a frequency hole in the little valley the hotel is in. That's why they have the video recorders in the first place." Duo paused a moment. "A little boy like Itsumi Matô wouldn't know that, right? He would just assume that his favorite show was on the same channel as it was back home."

"Of course! He wants to record the show he sees on the same channel every week in Tokyo, but it records this weird video instead because the channels change with the region." Heero finished Duo's thought.

"Right. Now we have three problems." Duo counted them with his fingers off the steering wheel. "How did the video show on that channel, who made the video, and how?"

"One possibility would be that someone hacked the signal."

Duo thought about it for a moment before he responded. "Seems like pretty much the only possibility to me."

"No. There is at least one other: What if the video recorded itself?"

Duo snorted. "What if Snow White did it?" Heero waited for Duo to think about it for a moment, but the other man didn't bite. Heero didn't like the sound of Duo's voice, then he remembered what he had observed at the beginning of their investigation. Duo never gave up in an instant, so, why did he do it now? He decided to press further.

"No, Duo. Don't discard it as impossible right away. You never do that. Think about it for a moment. What if something other than a video camera recorded it?" Heero knew that if he gave Duo enough to think about it, the other man would eventually come up with a completely reasonable explanation, however unlikely, impossible, and supernatural the solution might be. That was one of the things WuFei had told him years ago in the beginning of the Chinese man's partnership with Duo. That's how they sometimes were able to solve their cases. He remembered that Duo was a psychology student, despite his extremely young age, and that he had a lot of knowledge in the supernatural field. Heero doubted that he had ever been able to use it for a Preventers' case before, but now would be a good time to start using this hidden knowledge.

"The video recorded itself. Okay. Let's see what possibilities we have." Heero watched with interest as Duo zoomed out for a minute and let the car drive on autopilot only.

"A psychokinetic would be able to put pictures on photo paper by just imagining them. There is no known case of someone doing a whole movie just by thinking of it, you know what I mean? It'd be a revolution in thermography!" Duo looked at Heero excitedly. The idea now seemed reasonable to him, and Heero once again admired the spark of life that seemed to light Duo's face up when he was happy or excited.

"Do you think it's possible?"

"After studying that stuff for a few years and working for the Preventers homicide department for almost four years, you learn one thing, Heero: Everything is possible. Absolutely everything. I don't say that it's a reasonable explanation for what's in the video, but you might be right about that possibility. The video sure looks like it's mental. The more I think about it, the more some of the scenes make more sense. If we analyze the video, I'm sure we'll find some details. I don't want to say that's the only possible way to do that video, but it sure is something we should think about. Although-" Duo paused and grinned at Heero who raised an eyebrow in question.

"-what about aliens? What if aliens made the video to kill earth's population so they can open up a new fast food restaurant chain?"

Heero snorted. "I like the previous one better. Besides, if the video kills, then the possibility of the video coming from the mind of a seriously deranged person is even more likely."

"Heero, my man, that's exactly the direction I don't want to go right now."

"Why?"

"If we admit that the video kills, and that it's really made by a mentally sick individual, then the next questions you have to ask are why the person made this video and what did the individual want to achieve by doing so?"

Heero was stunned. Of course those would be the next questions, as well as how could they could survive. What would they have to do, what magical modus operandi would they have to follow to get rid of the curse? Obviously Duo thought the same, because Heero realized that suddenly the other man had become very quiet.

"Maybe we won't solve the riddle at all, Heero. Do you really want to-" Duo trailed off into silence and concentrated on the curvy road, glad that he couldn't turn and look at his partner's face. Of course, with those less than happy visions, Heero would take the previously said words back. Nobody with his mind intact and sane would consciously want to risk his life for that dubious cause.

"Duo, stop it." Heero had watched Duo's changing expression and felt the need to assure him. "I don't regret what I said and this won't change my plans. I am going to watch this video, and we'll do whatever we can to prevent the curse."

"You are crazy, Yuy."

"I never stated otherwise."

Duo nodded slowly, not sure what to think of that. They would find out what had killed those kids. Together. Hopefully before his or Heero's deadline.

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