by Iniquity
Special Additional Warnings and other: UST! And once again I have to apologize for the massive amount of telephone calls… Yay, go confusion! *cough*
Disclaimer: still not mine.
Thanks to Ryan for the beta
Special Notes, just for you: Don't condemn Relena for what she's saying/doing in this part… at least not right away. The fic will explain her actions eventually…

Ringu + Part 4

Yawning, WuFei poured himself a cup of coffee and groaned when he saw that the mug was only half-full when the machine announced that it was empty.

"Quatre, you-" Annoyed, WuFei turned but couldn't see his partner in the chair the other had occupied for the past hour. Still not really awake, he continued mumbling to the empty room. "-didn't refill the coffee-machine. Again." Suddenly, he saw his partner entering the room, a stack of files in one arm, his free hand dragging a tall man with him. WuFei rubbed his eyes and squinted.

"Barton, is that you?"

"Yeah. Look whom I found outside!" Quatre smiled, tugged Trowa closer and pushed him toward WuFei, who immediately greeted him with a handshake.

"What are you doing up here? I thought they kept you locked up in the cellar for good."

"Funny, Chang. They do let us out for exercise sometimes. Today it's my turn." Trowa commented dryly, only his smirk betraying the seriousness of his tone.

WuFei stuck his tongue out and turned to Quatre. "You forgot to refill the coffee machine again! You were the one who wanted to start work at seven in the morning. My only demand was coffee." He held out his hand and let it shake. "Do you see that? Too much blood in my caffeine system!"

Trowa chuckled as Quatre pretended to inspect his partner's hand. "WuFei, you've been partnered with Duo for too long."

This statement made WuFei snatch his hand back as he turned to Trowa. "Barton, can't you reprogram him? Or uninstall Wife 3.0, I'm not sure I can handle him like this much longer."

Trowa chuckled, but one sharp look from Quatre made him stop immediately. "WuFei, I don't think it's Quatre who needs upgrading. Can I interest you in Patience 1.0? I think you're Quatre-compatible, but only with this feature."

WuFei smiled wryly and asked himself again why he agreed on discussions with those two. Two against one was always unfair, and he wished Duo were here to take up the verbal fight with the witty couple. WuFei knew that alone, he didn't stand a chance, even with his partner there, they would've lost any verbal sparring. WuFei smirked as he saw the two men share a typical 'couple look'. They had been together for two years already, which was one of the reasons why Quatre had been paired with Heero. The Preventers gave couples the opportunity to work separately, to keep the risk of interference between job and relationship as low as possible. He glared at them in mockery and pointed with his mug at the stack of files in Quatre's arms.

"Are those the newspaper articles from south Hakone?"

"Yeah, but since we don't have any idea what we're looking for it might be a bit difficult to pinpoint what time span we have to cover." Quatre sighed and dropped the files onto the table, dividing them up into the years the articles had come out.

"How far back did you go?" WuFei sipped at the cup and winced. The coffee had been on the bottom of the machine for too long and had become too bitter. He moved over to the desk and randomly opened a folder to see what was inside.

"Twenty years."

WuFei halted his movement for a second, thinking about the talk he'd had with Heero the day before. He looked up again and shrugged his shoulders uncomfortably.

"I honestly have no idea how far back we have to go. Heero didn't mention anything that could help. I guess he and Duo haven't come that far with their investigation."

Quatre impatiently shuffled through the files. His voice was angry when he voiced his question. "Why didn't you ask him? Maybe he could have-"

"He didn't respond any further, he seemed to be thinking about something and I didn't want to interrupt him." That was as far as WuFei would go for a near apology, so Quatre let it rest, although not fully convinced that Heero would have zoned out like this.

"So, basically you two try to... do what exactly?" Trowa didn't really know what these two were attempting to achieve by searching the newspapers. To him it seemed like a futile attempt to help, but he didn't believe it would lead to anything important.

"I already told you about the deaths. Well, we don't know if this hasn't happened before or if there were other strange happenings in this area, like unresolved killings or anything peculiar that might have a connection to the current case." Quatre patiently explained, not looking up from his work.

"That's pretty vague, I dare say."

Quatre turned sharply at what sounded like an accusation to him. "Got a better idea? Would you rather have us do nothing to help them? Would you rather see them d-"

"No Quatre. I'm sorry, that was uncalled for." Trowa quickly interjected in an attempt to calm his partner down. "If I can help you with anything like searching the network for information tell me, okay?" He made a step forward and placed a chaste kiss on his lover's lips. "I'll see you at lunch." Quatre nodded and after Trowa had turned a lazy smile crossed his lips despite his sudden outburst. WuFei noticed and quickly turned away at the intimate moment. Suddenly he felt a file poking him into the ribs and he took it wordlessly.

"What's that?" He raised a questioning eyebrow, almost wishing he hadn't asked when he saw Quatre's devilish grin.

"This is the year you're going to start with. You take the even years, I'll take the odd ones. We'll work ourselves back in the timeline. Hopefully we'll hear from Heero or Duo soon so they can give us some clues."

WuFei nodded and opened the file. When he saw what awaited him, he moaned. "If this whole thing is a hoax I'll be very angry."

"If it isn't you'll be glad to have helped, so shut up and work." WuFei sighed at the tone in Quatre's voice. He had never doubted that Quatre was an excellent Preventer, but his easygoing nature often deluded the people around him.

+

Heero had watched his partner nervously gnawing on his bottom lip for ten minutes until he decided to break the silence that had fallen between them.

"Want me to drive for the rest of the route?"

"What?" Duo jerked his head around, not having understood what Heero had asked, as he was deep in thought.

"I asked if you wanted me to drive."

"Please." He took a look into the rear mirror and drove the car to the side of the road. Pushing the gear shift into neutral, he stepped off the gas and pushed the door open. They switched positions, both men using the opportunity to stretch their tired limbs before sitting down again. Before Heero could continue the drive, Duo motioned him to stop.

"Can I use your mobile please? Mine is broken."

Heero searched his pockets, and when the cell phone was found, he handed it to Duo. Suddenly he remembered his futile try to reach his partner the day before. "So it wasn't just the static?"

"Excuse me? Why, did you want to reach me?" Duo glanced at his partner surprised, as he took the phone gratefully before looking down again to search the electronic memory for the number of his other partner.

"Yeah." Remembering what the call was about, Heero shrugged it off. "It wasn't about anything important." He checked the rear-view mirror and resumed the drive before Duo could think of asking what he had wanted to call him for.

"Good. I'm sorry, but the old tattered thing fell from the seat in the car and I had to announce it dead. The fifth in two years. Makes you wonder if they make them deliberately easy to break." Duo muttered. "Ah, here it is. Your cell is pretty state of the art. Where did you get it?"

"Spy & I."

"Really. They make cells too? I get all my computer software there." Duo muttered while figuring out how to use the speakerphone option.

"Yeah, the software is pretty good there. Did you know they sell bullet proof glass too?"

"They do? No, I didn't know that. I got mine through Lady Une when they exchanged the old windows in the meeting room for new ones after the shooting." Duo fell silent when the third ringing tone was broken by the nasal voice of his Chinese partner. He quickly pushed the speakerphone button, allowing them both to hear WuFei.

"'Fei!"

"Maxwell. What are you doing with Yuy's cell? This isn't your number."

"I know, mine's broken. Again." He smirked, knowing that WuFei was probably rolling his eyes now, silently wondering how one single person managed to destroy five durable cell phones within two years.

"Duo, I refrain from any comment. How's the investigation going? Commander Une let Quatre and me work with you-"

"No!" Duo yelped and directed a worried expression at Heero who too shook his head and spoke up. "Good Morning, Chang. The reason Maxwell doesn't want your direct help in this case is that he has found the video and already watched it."

"Morning, Yuy. I'm glad that you're that concerned, but neither Quatre nor I will sit by while you-" Suddenly, WuFei realized the seriousness of the statement. "Duo? You've found that video? What did- what happened?"

"Well, it's hard to describe. The most important thing is that it really said that I would have seven days left to live. We thought about the possibilities of somebody manipulating or tricking us, but we couldn't come to a conclusion. What do you mean 'Lady Une let you work with us?"

"We're currently checking the newspaper articles for anything strange that has happened in the South Hakone area around that hotel, but since we have no idea what to look for it's hard to find anything useful. I was hoping you would give us something to work with."

"We don't have all that much yet. Could you check the reason for a frequency hole in that area and if it would be possible to send something despite it?"

Heero nodded. He also had thought of that possibility. Suddenly, he remembered a thought that had crossed his mind when he had seen the main building of the resort for the first time.

"Could one of you check the background of the resort? The owner, when it has been built, and what had been on the land before that, who had sold the land in the first place, and why."

"Of course." WuFei seemed glad that Heero and Duo had some leads for them to check. "Duo, a certain Dr. Takashi called for you last night. He said that he had no luck reaching you. He told me what he found instead. Want me to brief you now?"

"Yes, please."

"I just have to find the file first. Give me a minute. I'm buried in folders here." They heard rustling as paper was shuffled around on a desk.

Suddenly, Duo's expression grew wide. "Shit!" he exclaimed. "WuFei! I completely forgot about Kage!"

"Kage is doing fine. When I had gathered that you wouldn't be home last night, I went over to your apartment and fed her. She's fine."

"Did you close the lid tight enough?"

"Of course, I wouldn't want a repetition of the last time." Heero watched the display with interest, not interrupting. He didn't know why he wasn't angry with his partner for wasting time talking about his pet. He did know that he wouldn't scold Duo. He heard WuFei chuckle on the other end of the line before the Chinese man interrupted himself and started briefing them on what the pathologist had found. It wasn't much, as both men quickly realized. In actuality, the doctor hadn't found anything to undermine their theories but had been able to give proof that led them to exclude their earlier guesses.

"So the kids really died from heart attacks and it's almost impossible that their deaths could be the fault of some virus." Duo repeated and summarized in short what WuFei had just told them.

Heero nodded. "It also means that we can say that technically it wasn't murder. Whatever it was that killed them left no trace. Still, there must be a reason behind all this."

"Whatever? Everything that has a reasoning behind malevolent actions is human. We can almost be one hundred percent sure that 'whatever' killed them was human." Duo didn't want to think of what exactly he meant, but he continued. "That means whoever killed them must be incredibly smart and-"

"-and he or she must be really angry to kill as cruelly as that."

WuFei listened with interest, as Heero and Duo completed each other's theories like they had done nothing else for ages.

"Looks like a perfect hunt for the two of you" he interrupted. "Listen, I have to go back to Quatre. Is there anything else you need to know?"

Duo shook his head and looked at his partner expectantly.

"No. We'll be home in about one hour. That'll be probably ten thirty or eleven. We need an Audio-Visual Research room in the media department by then. Those are the ones with all the equipment we'll need for video copy and analysis."

"Sure. I'll make sure you'll have one as soon as you get here. Lady Une will want you two reporting in, though she officially doesn't know that you've been in South Hakone. You never told her directly. Duo? Can I talk to you in private for a moment?"

Heero watched his partner rise his eyebrows in surprise and assumed that Duo didn't also know what this was about.

"Of course. Let me set the speaker back."

"Tell me when you're ready. See you later, Yuy."

"Of course, Yuy out."

After the two had said their goodbyes, Duo picked up the cell phone and held it to his ear. He gave WuFei notice that he was the only one to hear their conversation right now and listened closely. Heero watched as Duo's expression changed from surprised to some fish-like look. The other man didn't seem to like whatever WuFei revealed to him. He tried to listen in, but couldn't hear anything that WuFei said.

"She's what?" Duo wasn't entirely surprised that Relena Darlian had received another high position after she had 'voluntarily left' the homicide department, but he had hoped to never have to see her again. Now he learned that she had become the head of the media department. Most likely the doing of her brother, the second in command and chief of the computer laboratories. If he wasn't careful, he would likely run into her. There had been no other sign of her after the 'incident' two years ago, but neither Lady Une or WuFei had any ideas as to whether the woman still held a grudge against him or not.

"I see. Well, we'll just hope I won't run into her then, right? You'll call us if you find anything out, right? Yeah, the same goes for us. See you later."

He disconnected the call and placed the cellular on the dashboard in front of him.

"We don't have much, do we?"

"No. We have an hour left until we get back to the bureau. Why don't you spill what you've been thinking about for the past two hours?"

"I've been thinking about how beautiful the sun is shining and that it's a shame that we have to spend this day working." Duo grinned and pushed the play button on the CD player. Soon Alice In Chains blared from the speakers and he reclined in his seat, watching his partner's reaction. He stiffened slightly as he saw his partner's face twitch with annoyance and almost wished he hadn't said that. Nevertheless, it was his way to let everything play out, and Yuy had no right to criticize him.

Heero turned the volume down to almost nothing and looked at the street resolutely. His calm voice cut through the air as he briefly glanced at Duo coldly. "You think this is all a game?"

"No! Of course not! I just don't see what good it does to be thinking so hard all the time. Loosen up. It's not as if we'll solve the case in this one hour while we're sitting in this car. I can't think right now. Give me a break. If you're so hot for the case, why don't you tell me what you've been thinking about?"

Heero took a deep breath and tried to calm down, but he couldn't. He had to get this out of his system or it would stand between them for the rest of the case. He raised one hand from the steering wheel and let it slide through his hair, frustrated with his partner's attitude. "You're the psychology student! You tell me how one could kill by visual and audio suggestive messages or by hypnosis! That is if it is possible to hypnotize someone so that they die after seven days. Duo, I am not able to draw the same connections as you do!" His hand went back down on the steering wheel, an exasperated gesture of defeat. This was more than he had wanted to show, but now he had to go through with it. "My education was different from yours. I can tell you what explosive one used by merely smelling the smoke, but I have no idea how to hunt down a psychopath. Lady Une told me to trust you, but if you're not even seriously thinking about the case, what am I supposed to think?"

Duo was stunned at his partner's outburst and closed his eyes, already sorry for aggravating his partner like this, but he knew that it was good for Heero to have let that out. He knew that Heero wouldn't be able to solve the case alone. That's why he had tried to go ahead and do it alone, but he could slowly see Commander Une's reasoning in pairing them up. They completed each other better than Heero could do with Quatre or WuFei could with him. They were more alike than either of them would like to admit, but they knew it. That made it so hard to forgive and forget the other's mistakes, because each of them made exactly the same mistake. To forgive someone for one's own mistake was hard. Heero couldn't take Duo's carelessness because he himself didn't care much about life. On the other hand, Duo couldn't let Heero get into danger voluntarily, because if he did he would have had to admit that he was no better. They would have to work those little problems out, and this fight was the first step toward a better relationship. Heero admitted that he was not perfect, that he lacked some skills. Duo did too. Duo had the same problems when looking at Heero. He lacked Heero's skills, and that was something he hated about himself. With a sidelong glance at Heero, Duo wondered whether the other man could see it too.

"I'm sorry, Heero. I just don't believe it makes much difference whether we bounce around theories now or not. I've already said it once. I can't think right now. My brain is drained. I'm going to sleep for the rest of the trip. I didn't get all that much sleep in the last week. When I'm awake, I'll tell you everything I was thinking about, but not now. A tired soldier is a dead soldier because he makes mistakes. Surely you know that."

Duo didn't expect an answer . He laid back in the seat, his hands fumbling under the cushion until he found the handle to push the back of the seat into a more comfortable position. With a murmur, he leaned against the door and fell into a light sleep, neither fully asleep nor really awake. He didn't see Heero's jaws working as the other man took a good look at his slumped figure.

+

Under normal circumstances, Lady Une wouldn't believe that one could know who was outside just from the knock on the door, but working in this department she had soon learned that it was, indeed, possible.

"Come in, Yuy." She looked up briefly, making sure that it was indeed Heero Yuy and his partner who were entering her bureau. With a few trained phrases, she excused herself to the caller and put the phone down.

"Maxwell, Yuy, nice to see that you care to come in and report."

"Good morning, Commander."

Duo stared at his partner, expecting something other than a title as a welcome, but Heero looked at the desk and didn't made any attempt to speak up. "Commander. We do owe you an explanation for our sudden disappearance, but we had to follow some very important leads."

"Yes." Heero began slowly as if he wanted to say something else, but he didn't continue. Instead he looked at his partner who immediately took a step forward and sat down in one of the chairs in front of Lady Une's desk without invitation. Shrugging, Heero followed his partner's example and sat down in the unoccupied chair next to Duo's. He listened as Duo started bluntly with their report.

"Commander Une, we've found the video."

Lady Une slowly nodded her head, not sure if she really wanted to hear their conclusion, but she knew that she had no real chance. Director Khushrenada had already asked about the progress of the investigation. He had been more than a little miffed that she couldn't tell him much. Her agents obviously didn't report to her, and she would have to make sure that her agents knew their place. She had ignored his comments, like she always did. He couldn't replace her, because he knew that she was the figurehead of the Preventers in Tokyo and, moreover, because her homicide department had the highest crime clear-up rate in Japan.

Heero continued. "We believe that it was really the video that killed those four teenagers, possibly by hypnosis or other suggestive underlying messages." He spared a glance at his partner, who looked at him wide-eyed and begged silently to stick with his theory. Duo nodded slightly in agreement although he did not fully understand why Heero lied to their commander and interjected.

"Yes; although we'll have to analyze the video before we can be sure."

"We are going to attempt doing so after this briefing."

Lady Une nodded again and looked down at her notes.

"Chang told me you went to South Hakone. I'd appreciate it if you gave me details. Director Khushrenada already complained about your lack of discipline. I tried to explain to him, but you know how he gets. Try to give me more information. I can divide it into portions and feed it to him, but I need something to tell him."

"Of course, Commander."

When he saw Heero looking at him in expectation, Duo explained further what they had found out. "We went there because of the interviews we had with the late teenagers' parents. There had been a dead boy before, and all leads pointed to a certain holiday resort in South Hakone. That's why I decided to go there. Yuy followed me about half an hour later."

"I see. Well, type it up and give it to me as soon as possible. You're dismissed. I assume Chang has already organized whatever you need?"

Duo was already rising from his seat. "Yes, he has. We'll analyze the video and follow the leads. You'll hear another report by noon tomorrow, alright?"

"Fine. Khushrenada is not happy that I have four agents on one case. Be prepared for Chang and Winner to be ordered to another case. Good day."

After they had left Une's bureau, Heero immediately led the way to the elevator to go to the media lab on the last floor. As promised, WuFei had reserved a room, and the receptionist of the media lab immediately pointed them to the third Audio-Visual Research room. Suddenly, Heero remembered the documents they had asked their partners for. He also remembered that he hadn't taken a shower this morning. He sniffed at his clothing and decided that he wanted one as soon as possible.

"Duo, I'll talk to Chang and grab a quick shower downstairs while you prepare the video set. Maybe he or Quatre found out the name of the previous owner."

"Oh. Right. I completely forgot about that. Of course. See you in a few."

While Heero showered in the bathroom next to the Preventers' gym and met up with WuFei a few floors up, Duo made a copy of the video so that they wouldn't waste any time in their analysis. He wanted to go to the major tech room to investigate the bandwidth. If they knew what had recorded the video, their search would probably go on much faster.

After he had labeled the copy with one of the stickers on the desk, Duo placed it on the desk and put his wristwatch next to it so Heero would remember to look at the time when he watched the tape in case he was back earlier. Duo left the room and closed it, making sure the red light on the magnetic lock was on. He didn't want anyone else to endanger themselves. With the original tape in his hand, he searched for the tech lab, which had to be on the same floor. That didn't say much, considering how large the floors of the building were. He was just about to give up and return to the receptionist's desk to ask for directions, when he rounded a corner and found what he had been looking for. Duo slid the keycard through the slit on the lock and punched in his code when he heard a sneering voice behind him.

"Mr. Maxwell, what a pleasure to meet you again."

Recognizing the voice instantly, Duo turned and glared at the woman who was standing a few feet away.

"Ms. Darlian, I'd love be able to say the same about the pleasure of your presence." He punched in the last number with force and waited for the light to change to green. When it flashed on, he excused himself politely.

"I am sorry, Ms. Darlian, but I have some work to do, I'm sure you don't mind." Quickly, before she could respond, he turned and entered the room, slamming the door behind him. Shutting Relena out of his mind, he concentrated on what he came to the tech lab for, namely finding out what instrument the video had been recorded with. He shoved the tape into the machine and let the video play. Strangely, the display didn't show what he had expected. He tapped the plate in a futile attempt to get it working correctly, but nothing happened to reassure him. The video 'wasn't' recorded. It just 'existed'. Rubbing his temple, Duo tried to wrap his mind around the idea that he had seen an animated thermography. He shuddered. This was not possible. The idea of somebody being able to make an animated thermography was as outlandish as the idea of beaming or interstellar travel. The video showed no sign that it had been recorded by something similar to a video camera. He tried a few of the buttons that should have corrected any mistake in the machine, but none brought any other result.

Sighing, he took the video out of the recorder and moved to the door. He turned back to make sure that the power supply for the machines was cut off and turned the lights out. Another lead leading to nothing. Looking around carefully, Duo made sure that Relena wasn't around. He really didn't want to run into her again. The woman had been ready to drag him in front of a judge or at least kill his career. He didn't even know why she hated him with such fierceness that she would fall back on such low resources. He walked down the corridor back to their room, tapping his fingers on the videocassette. He would stay longer to search the Internet for the newest information on parapsychology and psychokinetics. If the video was a mental one, he could eventually ask one of his professors if they had heard something. His mentor, whom he had worked with for his diploma had a vast archive of paranormal cases from all over Japan, and he knew a lot of the phenomena involved, he would know how to find what they needed for their investigation.

When he came back to their assigned room he found Heero sitting in one of the chairs, busily comparing notes on a notepad with the files. His hair was still wet from the shower and he had a new set of clothes on. Obviously he, too, kept spare clothing in his locker. Upon hearing the lock click, Heero turned and looked at Duo questioningly.

"I was in another lab to find out what had recorded the video." Duo had wanted to ask Heero to guess, but considering the strained relationship between them he didn't want to take any chances. "You were right. At least that's what I could find out."

"I was right? With what exactly?"

"The video wasn't recorded in any way! For example, a video camera makes a picture and it gets put on film. This video doesn't have any tracks."

"But, that's like-"

Again, Duo interrupted him, even more excited now that he could relate his theory to somebody else. "-like being born without fingerprints! The video was made in a telepathic way. I want to talk to one of my old professors who specialized in this field of study. He might give me some names or people who have that ability."

Watching Duo explain with such élan made Heero smirk. "When do you want to call him?"

"He's not at the university today, but I'm sure he'll be there tomorrow. I'll call him tonight and make an appointment." Duo stepped behind Heero to see what his partner had been working on and leaned on the back of the computer chair. Heero turned again and leaned back, so that Duo could see the files better. It didn't help much because Duo couldn't see the letters. He quickly fished the glasses out of his black bag on the floor, noticing how good Heero smelled as he bent down.

"That's the name of the previous owner. The files weren't public and it took WuFei quite some negotiation to get them. The previous owner was a man named Richard Morgan. An American wedded to a Japanese woman named Mei. They bred thoroughbreds on the land, which wasn't as big as the resort is now. It was mostly surrounded by nature." Heero paused for a moment and got another sheet of information which was half empty. "Strange thing is, they didn't live there for long. There is no Morgan family around in South Hakone anymore. They left after selling the land." Heero saw his partner bend over some more to grab a sheet. He grabbed it and shoved it closer into Duo's reach.

"Glasses?" Heero smirked, admiring the view. Duo grabbed the sheet with a growl and answered briefly.

"Yeah." He turned his head, his nose inches away from Heero's. When he saw the smirk, he narrowed his eyes and growled daringly. "What?"

Heero knew when it was better to deny any sort of amusement and his eyes widened momentarily. "Nothing! It's just -" Quickly deciding that it was best not to irritate his partner, he gave Duo his most dazzling smile and continued. "Looks cute."

Duo snarled mockingly and moved away, barely hiding his grin. Instead, he looked at the sheet of paper, regarding its contents. "So the new owner of the resort couldn't help much. Strange, but we'll leave that for now and analyze the video. You haven't watched it yet, have you?"

"No. But I will do so now."

"Okay. I'm leaving so you can watch it alone. The first impression is important, I think. Maybe we can go and grab some lunch after you've watched it. I'd like to hear your views, and I could use something to eat."

"Of course."

Duo smiled and walked toward the door. "Lights on or off?"

"Off is fine."

Heero watched his partner leave the room, then turned and pressed the play button. He didn't see the red light on another machine go on. Instead, he stared at the screen, reliving the feelings Duo had felt the night before. A strange joining of scenes, seemingly in no order at all. Some were scary, some disgusting, and some plain unrealistic and abstract, some even evoking feelings.

+

Duo wanted to wait outside the room until Heero finished watching the video, but after a few minutes the waiting made him uneasy, and he left his spot for a bathroom break. He was about to reenter the room, the door already slightly ajar as he heard Relena's voice behind him.

"Mr. Maxwell, your lover called out for you on the intercomm system. He probably wants to meet you in the janitor's closet on the third floor for a 'meeting'."

"My what?" Duo didn't understand what the woman was hinting at. He was in no relationship at the moment. Obviously Ms. Darlian couldn't get her head around the fact that his sexuality had burst her hateful plan two years ago.

"Your fuck buddy. Mr. Chang."

Duo clenched his fists. He would not let this woman denunciate his friend. By doing so, she had definitely overstepped her line, not only by calling him a fag to his face, but by involving WuFei. He remembered WuFei's lessons on polite negotiation and convinced himself that it was better to not aggravate the woman any further.

"As I may inform you, Ms. Darlian, Chang WuFei is happily married and I can assure you that I do not, nor do I wish to, have a sexual relationship with him." He tried to remain calm, even though it took all of his inner strength. "I don't know why you should assume so, but you are wrong. Whatever your problem with me is, I don't want you to draw my friends or partners into your little game. We both know that you lied."

"I know, although considering your past, it wouldn't surprise me if you'd just jump Mr. Chang without asking for his consent. That's what made it so easy for me to press charges."

+

The video had just stopped when he heard Duo's voice outside, the door already half open. Someone had to be holding him back. When Duo didn't enter, Heero stood up and inched closer to the door. An angrily raised voice made him stop. Duo seemed to be barely holding back his anger. He'd heard the same tone of voice from Chang a few times before, and obviously the Chinese man had taught his partner some of his skills. Now he recognized the other voice. Relena Darlian, one of his former partners and obviously now working in the media department. Heero decided to wait. After all, Relena and her dispute with Duo two years ago had caused him to break up the friendship he had with two of his colleagues. He wanted to know what was going on between these two ever since.

Now, he heard Duo angrily ask "What's that supposed to mean, Ms. Darlian. 'Considering my past'? You don't know enough about my past or my person to assume whatever you are so cleverly trying to hint at."

"Oh, I do know whom you've let fuck you to join the Preventers. I do know what a slut you are and I'll be damn sure to let your partners know so that they know what trash they're working with. I failed once, but I won't twice."

"You're fucking insane, Darlian."

Heero couldn't believe what he'd just heard, and anger flushed his face. He knew that Duo wouldn't need to sleep his way into the Preventers. He was one of their best agents, and probably the best profiler in the department. He just started to take the door out of Duo's hands and open it when said man entered, his lips in a thin, hard line. When he saw Heero's face, he made an instant turn and left the room again. He all but ran down the corridor to the staircase and let the door crash shut behind him. Heero growled, only guessing that his expression had made Duo uncertain. He left the room, determined to set his partner straight about his personal value. He didn't know what exactly had set this off, but suddenly Relena's motives seemed a little bit clearer to him. The phone rang once, but Heero decided that this matter deserved his attention more than the phone call. Too late he realized whom the caller would have been.

Heero almost snarled at her when he left the room to run after his partner. Relena actually seemed subdued by his anger and didn't comment. As soon as Heero had left the corridor through the door to the staircase, Relena moved toward the research room, catching the door before it shut, curious as to what the two agents had been doing inside.



Heero opened the door and was immediately hit by a gush of fresh air rushing through the staircase. He didn't have to decide which way to go as the only door left above him shut and the draft ceased. He made his way up the stairs and opened the door to the rooftop. Heero didn't know why he was following his upset partner to calm him down. He just knew that he had to. He had to apologize for believing Relena rather than another respectable agent and for not even listening to Duo's side of the story. He had been angry, but he still didn't know why. Angry at Duo? Angry that Duo had been attracted to Relena rather than him? Noticing how insane he sounded, Heero shook his head. He didn't even like Duo very much. Or did he? Before he could answer his own question, he reached the end of the stairs and opened the heavy door to the rooftop.

Noticing the wind that was sweeping over the roof, he rubbed his upper arms to warm himself up. He searched the roof until his eyes lay on the figure of his partner who stood near the edge on the broad platform that surrounded the roof. His arms were stretched out, slightly wavering in his stand as another squall of wind hit him. Carefully making noise on the gravel so that he would not startle Duo, Heero made his way toward the figure. Before he could call out Duo's name, the other man turned his head and smiled at him.

"It's like flying."

Heero looked at his partner for a second, making sure he wasn't about to do something stupid, then he stepped next to him and mimicked the posture. They stood in silence for a minute before Heero opened his eyes again and looked over to the other man's face and nodded slowly.

"Like flying." He felt the air rustle his bangs and wondered what the wind would do to Duo's long hair. Staring at the other man's braid, he saw it fly too, despite the weight it must have had. He stepped back and down from the stand, noticing Duo doing the same. Duo didn't look at Heero, but at the horizon when he answered the silent question between them.

"She lied two years ago, I didn't touch her."

"I know that now. I -" Heero paused and waited for Duo to look at him. "I apologize, I had no reason not to trust you."

"I never held any grudge against you, Heero. I always thought you'd rather believe her because she was so damn convincing. In fact, I was rather surprised that Lady Une or WuFei didn't." Duo looked at the horizon again and smiled a sad and wistful smile. "I don't even know why she did it."

Suddenly, it dawned on Heero. He knew why Relena had lied, or at least he thought he knew. The woman had always wanted him, and obviously she thought Duo was a rival. His theory didn't explain why Relena had thought he had any interest in her since he had never given her any sort of sign, and it didn't explain why she hated Duo so much either. He had never shown any interest in Duo either had he? Sure, before the incident, he had liked hanging out with him and their partners during lunch hour and he had to admit that he had always thought fondly about the other agent, but he had never given the man any signs either. If he had, would Duo have stalked him like Relena did? Would Duo have followed him around, trying to get him to go out with him? Heero doubted it. He looked over at his partner and watched the sad look on the handsome face. He couldn't tell Duo all this. "Nor do I." The lie almost hurt him physically, and Heero couldn't bring himself to look at his partner but instead followed Duo's gaze toward the horizon. "Don't let this worry you now. You have backup, which she doesn't."

Duo sighed and turned fully toward his partner. He didn't want to tell his partner that Relena actually did have backup. She had powerful backup in the form of Zechs Merquise, her brother who would do everything to aid his sister, who would do everything to get him out of the Preventers. Pushing his private life aside, Duo cocked his head to the side and smiled. "You're right. Let's concentrate on the case and forget about her. You've watched the video?"

"Yes, I did." Duo's sudden change in topic made Heero forget what he had wanted to say, the reason why he had followed his partner to the roof. He had wanted to make one thing clear to Duo; that he was worth the position he had within the Preventers' organization and that Relena didn't know what she said when she had told him that he had to fuck somebody to get his current rank.

Duo resisted the urge to ask Heero what he thought about the video, instead he asked "Want to talk about it over lunch?"

"Sure. Cafeteria, or-"

"Let's go to the Italian Diner around the corner, I don't feel much like Preventer food today."

Heero agreed and let Duo lead the way back to their assigned research room to make sure it was locked and that nobody would need it for the rest of the day. They left their files and the video tapes on the desk and made their way to the elevator.

"It's strange."

Duo was startled when Heero started talking so suddenly but immediately knew that he was talking about the video. He waited for his partner to tell him more about what he felt, but nothing came so he pressed the button for the first floor and watched the doors close before he agreed.

"Yeah."

+

Back in her bureau, Relena closed the shutters and locked her door. Whatever Maxwell and Yuy had been doing in the room, she wanted to know what it was. Luckily, Heero hadn't seen the empty video cassette in the recorder, or he would have labeled the tape. She pushed the cassette into the recorder and switched the TV on. The blue screen changed into static and Relena watched with a slight shiver as a white ring appeared on the screen.

+

The diner wasn't very crowded even though it was already lunch time. Heero entered the restaurant first and immediately went to one of the booths in the back of the room, ignoring the waiter who desperately tried to get his attention and place them closer to the other tables which would have made his job easier. Duo had to smile at his partner's antics, but he understood the reasoning behind them. Quietly he followed the two and when the waiter turned to fetch the menus, Duo winked at the man whom he already knew. He ate at the diner quite often. The waiter immediately recognized him and bowed his head slightly.

Heero looked at their silent conversation and was determined to ask Duo how frequent his visits to the small diner were when his cell phone rang.

"Yuy? I called at the media department earlier, but I don't think Ms. Darlian passed the message on. I found out what you wanted to know."

"Good news?" Heero motioned Duo to come closer and made room for his partner to take the seat on the bench beside him.

"Depends on what you think is good." WuFei said on the other end, just as Duo managed to listen in. If WuFei said that, it usually meant bad news or at least disappointment.

"What did you find out?"

"Well, the frequency hole is quite easily explained. The antennas don't reach the hotel and obviously parabolas would have been too expensive. The whole South Hakone area is in that frequency hole. Even though hacking a TV station would be no problem, one could not use it to send something to one of the televisions at the resort."

Duo sighed and reclined in the seat, watching Heero's shoulders slump. None of them said anything. They both knew what it meant. Heero thanked WuFei briefly and disconnected the call.

"At least now we know what to exclude." He stated firmly, also leaning back, letting their bodies touch. He felt Duo's shoulders shake slightly and turned to look at his partner worriedly, only to see the other man chuckle, looking back at him.

"At least something positive, eh?"

Heero nodded, not fully understanding what was so funny about his comment until he saw the irony. A smile curved his lips and he added. "I just hope we'll find something to confirm one of our theories, too."

Duo's exuberant chuckling vanished and his expression grew serious, not fully able to hide the sarcastic smile. "That's not funny, Yuy. You have a wicked sense of black humor."

"What humor?" Heero threw a bad pun right back, but their banter was interrupted by the waiter who chose that moment to bring the menus. The man waited until they had chosen their drinks and left them to choose the food. Heero couldn't help the small grin as Duo patted the outside of his jacket to determine the residence of his glasses.

"Want me to read it out to you?"

"Funny, Heero. So funny." Duo sighed as he realized he'd left the glasses in the bureau. He would have ordered Lasagna anyway, so there was no real need for him to look the dish up. It unnerved him that Heero had this advantage.

"Hey, don't get grumpy with me just because I happen to see better than you. Come to think of it, how do you shoot?"

"I have no problems with shooting, thank you very much. Don't try me, Yuy, or you might end up with a black eye." Duo narrowed his eyes, his voice serious.

"I'd much rather try you at the shooting range. I want to know if my partners can shoot the broad side of a barn if they can't even read menus."

"You think I'm a bad shot? You think I'd be at the Preventers if I couldn't shoot a fly off a wall? You think I fucked my wa-"

"Don't!" Heero intercepted and laid a calming hand on his partner's arm "Don't say that, because we both know it's not true. I saw your file, I know your abilities, and I never doubted that I could implicitly trust your shooting skills." Heero's attitude changed within the second and he continued in a smooth voice. "I didn't mean to anger you. I just want to measure my gun with yours if you know what I mean." Heero winked and Duo was appalled to see the other man bat his eyelashes. He opened his mouth to throw some bad innuendo back at Heero but he found that he couldn't. Instead he opted for another retort.

"You want a match? What are you doing tomorrow night?"

"Tomorrow night it is." Heero paused and looked at his partner questioningly. "Do you want me to read it out loud now or not?"

"I'll eat lasagna. Thanks anyway."

"But there are so many other-"

"Shut up, Yuy... while you're still on my good side."

Heero smirked and waited for the waiter to come into view so he could get the man's attention. As fun as their conversation was, he wanted to get over lunch and go back to analyzing the video. They had a deadline, after all. Heero winced at the choice of words in his thoughts, but composed himself and didn't show any of it. He finally caught the waiter's eyes and the man immediately came toward their table.

The waiter looked at the young men expectantly, immediately realizing that the man with the long braid had obviously forgotten his glasses again. He made a sign for one lasagna and waited for the other man to tell him his order. He noted the dish and pretended to listen to the longhaired man's order which he had already noted. He grinned, proud of himself for knowing his customers so well.

"So?" Duo watched the retreating back of the waiter before looking at his partner. "What do you think of the video?"

"It's strange, that's for sure. I have to admit that I didn't pick up the phone."

"Why not?"

"You were upset and running. I wanted to follow you rather than wait for the phone call."

Duo just stayed silent and motioned his partner to continue with his observation with a raise of his eyebrow. Heero had to smile at the slight motion and was astonished that he could understand the other man that easily without words.

"The first picture is the bloody water, I didn't really know what to do with that one. I mean it's scary, but it's pretty much abstract. It's gurgling and whatnot. I don't think that could be real. If we assume that the video was produced in someone's head, that person either liked blood a lot or he has seen so much of it that he's scared of it. He or she."

"Right, although the first picture you see is the ring. I agree with your theory on the bloody water. The next scene is the woman combing her hair, what did you think of that one?"

"Something was wrong there. I can't point it to something right now, but I hope we'll find that out later when we watch the tape again. It had something to do with the mirror, I think."

Duo nodded. "Did you see the fly?"

"Yes. I almost wanted to touch the screen to see if it was real."

Duo agreed with him, absentmindedly looking into the shop. What did that mean? A fly? A fly so real it looked like it was ready to leave the screen in a maritime scene. It was utterly abstract, but it had to mean something. Duo held his head in his hands, propping himself up, trying to find a connection until he felt Heero nudging his ribs, announcing that their meal had arrived. Breathing out heavily, he leaned back and grabbed the cutlery while the waiter placed the lasagna and the fettuccini in front of them.

"Buon appetito!" Duo smiled and dug into his lasagna, trying hard not to think of the scene with the monkey. He shuddered slightly and watched Heero doing the same. They looked at each other in the same instant. Heero, whose memories were even more fresh than those of his partner, shrugged his shoulders and picked up a few more noodles.

+

"Chang, please get Winner and come to my office, please." The voice of Director Khushrenada carried through the office without effort.

"Of course. We'll be there in a minute." WuFei straightened and went over to the smoking room where he was sure he would find Winner talking to his partner, who spent all of his breaks there. He opened the room with the balcony and immediately saw the two men standing close together, sharing a cigarette. Quatre stood with his back to the room, holding a cup of coffee in one hand, the other entwined with his fiancée's hand who leaned against the handle of the balcony.

WuFei came closer, fighting his way through the clouds of smoke and the talking people in the room. The balcony was small, and currently the two lovers were the only ones outside. When he was within earshot, he spoke up.

"Quatre, Khushrenada wants to see us."

Trowa had to smile and took the cigarette from his partner's lips. When Trowa had announced that WuFei had entered the smoking room, they had bet on the Chinese man's reason to come into the room. Quatre had been right. Obviously Khushrenada deemed it fit to break up his agents' lunch hour for presenting them a new case. Nobody in the whole organization knew what motivated the man to rob his agents of their lunch breaks, and nobody cared anymore. They just went back to their break afterwards, pretending nothing had happened.

Quatre turned scowling. "Did he say anything?"

"No. You know him. I think he wants us on another case. Remember that Lady Une already mentioned that he didn't like four Preventers working on one little case."

"Little? It's a case that could kill two of his elite force. The stupid bastard hasn't realized that yet."

"Maybe he called us in for something entirely different. Are you coming?" WuFei turned to walk back into the room when he heard Quatre chuckle.

"WuFei, how can you ask such a thing! You're married and in the presence of my lover, you rascal!"

WuFei rolled his eyes and turned back to face the two chortling men. "Trowa, would you mind sharing him? I'm sure I can work something out with my wife."

"Time sharing?" Trowa raised an interested eyebrow, which earned him an elbow into his ribs from his fiancée.

"Of course. Why not? Quatre, aren't you interested in getting to know me better?"

"Trowa, I'm afraid the opportunity is too enticing. You don't mind me going with WuFei, do you? I promise we'll make it fast."

Trowa grinned, trying to get his facial expression back under control. "Take your time, love. I want you to come again later." WuFei chuckled and watched recognition wash over Quatre's face.

Quatre pecked his lover on the cheek and winked, grinning. He turned to follow his colleague. Before he was out of hearing range, he smacked WuFei on the shoulder and huffed mockingly. "You and your dirty mind, WuFei. What did you think he meant?"

They left a quietly laughing Trowa behind and crossed the large floor toward Khushrenada's bureau.

+

When they finished their lunch, Heero and Duo had compared their ideas of how to proceed with the analysis of the video and were ready to execute their plan. They quickly paid and rushed out of the restaurant, not wanting to lose time or ideas that they had gotten during their talk.

They reached their destination within a few minutes, since the Preventers building was only around the block and the elevators were empty. They stepped out on the top floor, returning to their bureau for the day. The videos and files all lay on the desk, and nobody had been in the room. They had locked the door, but since almost all Preventers with a certain rank had access to the research rooms, that didn't mean much. They were glad that their wish had been respected and their room hadn't been assigned to anyone else.

Heero locked the door behind him while Duo pushed the tape into the recorder.

"Ready?"

Instead of answering, Heero took the remote and flicked the TV on, waiting for the video recorder to recognize the cue. Soon, the white ring appeared and the game started anew.

When the image with the woman combing her hair appeared, Heero pressed pause and motioned for Duo to take the slow motion wheel. The other man let the tape play, picture after picture, stopping when the camera swerved from the woman in the right mirror to the girl in the left mirror.

"Do you see that?" Heero pointed at the still screen. "No camera. There should be one because the camera points directly at the mirror."

Duo nodded, writing the clues down. "The first riddle. We know what's wrong, but we don't know how it was done."

"Move forward. I want to see the next one. The one with the man in the window."

"Did you see anything wrong with that scene?"

"No, but I want to see the house. We need clues about the locations where those scenes where 'shot'. Maybe the house has a special architecture we would find only in certain places."

"Good idea." Duo took the wheel again and let the video play forward, capturing the building in a still picture. "Do you recognize something?"

Heero shook his head. "No, but I'm no architect. Do we have someone from the Preventers who knows such things?"

"I doubt it, but we can ask Quatre later. He knows almost everybody in the building."

"He just loves to gossip with the ladies in the smoking room." Heero smiled and batted Duo's hand away from the scrolling wheel. He moved the scenes forward until the maritime scene appeared. They both looked at the fly, fascinated. Duo brought his hand up and yielded to the temptation to touch the fly. Nothing happened, and they both released breath they didn't know they had been holding. Reluctantly, Heero moved the scene forward, jumping over the scene with the monkey and the horse, going more slowly when the scene with the people crawling in the mud appeared.

"Shame."

"What?" Heero looked at his partner, wondering how Duo could pinpoint the feeling so easily.

"Don't you feel it too? When you watch that scene, all those people - stop!" Duo exclaimed and took the wheel into his hand, rolling it back until he could see the people crawling through the mud in slow motion. He slowly pushed the wheel, going forward picture by picture. Suddenly, the scene jumped for a moment, and a strange raster picture appeared showing apparently hundreds of faces looking at the viewer, laughing. Heero shuddered. He knew what his partner meant. The faces seemed to laugh at the viewer. He felt shame, but didn't know why.

"What the hell is that?" Heero drew his eyebrows together. It wasn't natural that a video, a picture, could make one feel emotions so strongly. It certainly wasn't a common experience for him, and he hated it. He could control his feelings nearly constantly, but this forced him to feel something he didn't want.

He took the wheel from Duo's hands and quickly played forward.

"Heero! We can't just leave that scene out because we're not comfortable with it, what if this is a major clue?" Duo tried to bat Heero's hand away from the wheel, but the other wouldn't budge.

"Duo, this is insane!"

"That's why we're working on it. Let me see that scene again!"

"Great! If you're so hot for it, why don't you analyze it al-" Heero halted himself. This was exactly what Duo had wanted in the first place, but he had told the other man that he wouldn't let him do it alone. What was he doing? "I'm sorry, Duo. I didn't mean to react like that, it's just that this abstract thinking makes me so damn uncomfortable."

"It's okay. I understand. I won't mind if you leave now. I can do it alone. It's no problem."

"No. I'm sorry. Let's go back and watch those faces again."

"Are you sure?"

"Of course. Please." Heero moved his hand away from the wheel, but suddenly halted and went back. "What's that?"

He moved the scene the tape currently showed slowly forward, recognizing a shutting movement.

"Are there more of those?"

"I don't know. Did you recognize them?" Heero moved slowly forward and found another shutting movement. "What could it mean?"

Duo shrugged his shoulders and noted the clue down onto his notepaper. This case was definitely becoming more interesting by the minute.

+

A few hours later they had watched the video multiple times, but hadn't found out much more. Every minute of the video was now tightly written down on the notepaper and they went over the observations when Duo suddenly yawned and asked his partner what time it was.

"Six thirty." Heero looked at his wristwatch, remembering that Duo's still lay on the table somewhere. He reached out and grabbed a few folders from a slanting pile and found the watch underneath. He gave it to his partner who checked it out of habit.

"We won't find out much more tonight. Let's head for home. I'm tired."

"Sure. Let's put the files back into your bureau and go home."

Duo grabbed the two video tapes and his black bag and moved to the door, waiting for Heero to take the rest of the files outside so that he could lock the door.

While Heero waited outside, Duo flicked the lights off and let the door fall into place, waiting until the red light blinked on. "I will try to call my old professor tonight at his home. Maybe we can meet him tomorrow at the university. I hope he can cram us into his schedule."

They took the elevator downstairs to the crime department, surprised that the floor was almost empty. "Are you sure it's only six thirty?" Duo frowned and went over to his bureau, keying in his personal password before being able to open the door. He flicked the lights on and let the bag fall on the floor next to a file drawer.

Heero just nodded and looked around in the room, which he hadn't set foot in for a long time. The room was small, but it was filled with bookshelves which were crammed full of psychology books and files on profiling cases. On the wall behind the desk were children's pictures, obviously drawn for the profiling unit since a lot of them had the insignia of the CPU on them. Heero knew that Duo often worked on kidnapping cases which involved children. He let the stack of files fall on the desk so that Duo could lock them away in a safe drawer and walked closer to the wall of pictures, looking at them closely. They often involved red stains and black men, scary pictures which children had drawn to get rid of the pictures in their minds. One of them made Heero frown and he wanted to ask Duo what it meant. It showed a figure in a circle, obviously under the ground. He felt Duo's breath on his neck and slightly turned, only to see the other man's eyes closing to keep his emotions back.

"The Mayer-Nagoya case. Three years ago, two girls disappeared from their school and no one knew where they had vanished. We got a clue two days later when someone found the shoe of one of them in the parking lot. We were sure they had been either kidnapped for ransom or-" he took in a shuddering breath "- something else. The families got a call each another two days later, assuring the parents that there was no reason to be sad, the kids were in good hands now, that they wouldn't have to suffer for very long.

"I got the information and went out hunting. I did the profile, and we found out who had done it. How isn't important. Three days later, we found them too late. Cathy Mayer was already dead. Her friend Hitomi Nagoya was alive, barely. Their captor had buried them both in a casket six feet underground, an air tank breathing into the casket so that they wouldn't suffocate. She wouldn't talk to anyone, but she drew this picture for the trial. She's now ten years old."

With a sharp movement, Duo turned to the desk and took the stack of files, locking it away in the bottom drawer of his desk. Heero was still looking at the picture. Had he really thought Duo was a shallow character? He turned and stared at the bowed back of his partner. When Duo straightened again, he looked at Heero with a hollow smile.

"Let's get you home. It's partially my fault that your car is at that resort in south Hakone and until you get it back, I'll give you rides. Where do you live anyway?"

Heero slowly gave him his address and moved toward the door. He definitely had to rectify some of his assumptions about his partner.

"I know where that is. No problem. When do you want me to pick you up tomorrow morning?" Duo locked his bureau and then followed Heero toward the elevator.

"Seven thirty. If we want to meet your professor at the university, we'll have to leave at least two hours early."

"You're right."

The elevator halted on the parking floor below the ground level and they went to the car, noting again how empty everything was. The car wasn't far away from the elevator and soon they sat inside, on their way out of the building.

When Duo stopped the car at the curb in front of the building where Heero lived, Heero thanked him without words. They didn't need them as they had already agreed on the new driving arrangement. He got out of the car and closed the door. Before he turned to leave, he bowed down and looked in by the open window.

"Tomorrow at seven thirty."

"Seven thirty. Goodnight, and don't let the bedbugs bite." Duo winked and let the window close automatically. He left the curb with screaming tires, tired and impatient to get a hot shower and his bed.

+

Geek-Notes: I realize that Lady Une's rank (Tokusa second grade = count) resembles 'Colonel' and not 'Commander', considering the fact that she, in the original GW was one of Khushrenada's Special Mobile Suit Corps and not in Veinte's Marina... (see? I really looked it up in my EW manga ^^;; *cough*) but I like calling her 'Commander'... 'Colonel Une'? "Cologne Une? You smell wonderful today!" ... >.<


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