author: iniq
category: horror, AU, fusion
pairings: 3x4x3, 5x?, 1+2+1 (get together)
rated: R (for sexual content and violence)
warnings: OC, yaoi, death (the fic is /not/ labeled a deathfic because none of the pilots die)
date started: 02-18-2003
date finished: -
disclaimer: Ringu is not my story. The original storyline was developed by Koji Suzuki who wrote the book "Ringu" in 1990. Later, this book was adapted by Takahashi Hiroshi, slightly altered and put on screen in Japan in 1991. The movie "The Ring", which was aired in the USA in fall 2001, is also a cast off of that book, though again with a slightly different plot. The idea for this fanfic is not mine. I merely mixed plot elements of the book with plot elements of the two movie versions and altered the storyline where inconvenient. I also do not own Shin Kidousenki Gundam Wing and its characters, which are copyrighted to Sunrise, Bandai, Sotsu Agency, and associated parties.

I don't own the bands I mention in this fic, I am merely advertising. I make no money with this fic.

+

special warnings for Part 5: sad attempts at humor, Female Yaoi-Fangirl Original Character (and 'No', that doesn't mean she's self-insertion or Mary-Sue, if you can't handle a little humorous stab at the fandom, don't read this)

I also spell the color 'grey', not 'gray'... take it.

Most of this fic is Heero POV, but " ~*~ " indicates a change in POV

Ringu + Part 5

The night had been too long, Duo realized stifling yet another yawn. He had stayed up very late to look at the video some more, and he was tired now, as well as being a little late due to a traffic jam on his way in. The black messenger bag at his side poked against his hip when someone brushed past him and he glared in annoyance. With his right hand, Duo tugged the handle up his shoulder. With his left, he took a sip of the coffee he had gotten filled at the vending machine in the parking garage. He rubbed at his eyes and left the elevator cabin as they parted on his floor. Duo's eyes widened as he looked at his watch, and he hurried toward his bureau at a much quicker pace. As expected, Heero already stood in front of the door, waiting for him.

"I'm sorry. I slept in and then traffic decided to act up too." He mumbled another apology and waited for the other man to verbally rip his head off. His partner, however, seemed to have other ideas because he saw a grin wash over Heero's face.

"What?" Duo drew his eyebrows together in annoyance. He usually was a morning person, but not today. He watched Heero point a finger at his shirt and he followed the line to his chest. A blue-green toothpaste stain decorated his gray shirt. Duo sighed and let his fingernail scrape over the stain which was already hardened.

"Thanks for telling me. Now I know why Sanako grinned that wickedly at me this morning when I left our building."

He grabbed a key card out of his pocket and, after he had unlocked the door, opened it while stepping aside gracefully to let Heero enter first. He watched as Heero took a seat in the guests' chair and immediately went after him, taking a seat in his computer chair behind the desk.

"Any news?"

Heero looked up and watched his partner place the cup and the bag on the desk. He hadn't found out anything when he had watched the video again the night before, but this was just what he had expected. He lacked the technical and electronic equipment at home to really look at the individual scenes.

"No. Nothing."

He expected Duo to immediately jump in and tell him about something he had discovered, but the other man just opened a drawer and took out a clean white shirt, obviously collecting his thoughts before speaking up.

"I found something." Duo stated, after he had taken the shirt out of the drawer and had locked it again. He quickly opened the bag he had brought with him this morning and searched for something. Heero looked at him expectantly, waiting for whatever Duo had prepared. "Here. Take a look at that." Duo shoved a sheet of paper across the desk and waited for Heero to make a grab for it before he unbuttoned his shirt.

"What's that?" At that point Heero made a mistake. He looked up to meet his partner's eyes for the question and was captured by the other man's looks as he opened his shirt and let it drop over the back of the chair. Duo didn't notice and leaned over the desk, bare-chested, to point at the lines and figures on the sheet. Heero tried to concentrate and bit on his lip, taking his eyes off the muscled chest in front of him.

"That, Heero, is a listing of the scenes and as you can see, those curtains we saw flashing across the scenes are only in the ones that are marked 'real' - for example, the one with the woman combing her hair. In the scenes that were abstract, like the scene with the chair tumbling upside down, a short scene that we almost missed, there are none of those shutting movements." He straightened again and looked Heero directly in the eye. He blinked once, slowly, and let Heero think for a minute while he donned the white shirt.

"It's almost like 'blinks'." Heero didn't hide his confusion, and he openly looked to Duo to help him out. This couldn't be the solution. It was too weird; but Duo had hinted at it.

"Exactly." Duo smiled and buttoned the shirt up. "Eye shutting movements. And considering the fact that a female blinks 15 times a minute and the average male blinks 20 times, we can safely assume that the person who did this video was a woman."

"But not the woman in the mirror, because-" Heero looked down on the sheet but was disappointed by what he saw. "Why are there no blinking movements in the scene in which the woman jumps off of the cliff? If the blinks are in the scene with the woman combing her hair, and the woman smiles at the 'camera-person', we could assume that the person who made the video is not the woman combing her hair, but-" He stopped and thought for a moment before continuing. "what about the woman jumping off the cliff?"

"That one had me too. I don't know. That's one of the things I want to ask Professor Gilmore today. The woman jumps off the cliff, but the person who 'sees' that scene doesn't really 'see' it. Do you know what I mean?"

"You're trying to say that the woman who made the movie saw the woman jump off the cliff in her mind, but couldn't see it because she wasn't there?"

"Precognitive. Right. Well, actually either precognitive or cognitive. Maybe she didn't see the woman jump off the cliff before the woman did it, but as she did it."

"This case gets more confusing every minute. I understand, but it sounds like something from a fantasy tale."

Duo agreed with a sigh. "We'll probably be even more confused after Professor Gilmore tells us what he thinks. He can be rather exasperating in a way."

"Like you?" Heero asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Yes, but there is one difference. I am maddening people consciously. He doesn't know he's frustrating people. The man is just too intelligent for us lowly minions." Duo winked and grabbed his keys after shoving the paper back into the messenger bag. "Ready to go?"

Heero looked at his partner's attire and realized that the shirt Duo wore was almost two sizes too large and he hadn't tugged it into his pants.

"You're really going to wear that shirt?" He felt the urge to smooth the shoulders of the shirt, but held his hand back. This was something he felt comfortable doing with Quatre or another close friend, but not Maxwell. Why, he didn't know.

"Sure, I know it's too large, but I don't have any clean ones here. This is WuFei's."

"He knows?"

"Let's just say it has happened before." Duo smirked and went toward the door. "Come on, the appointment is at ten, and I don't want to be late."

Heero followed silently, wondering again why he hadn't said anything. He used to hate the other man. He had fought with him on the mat in the gym on a regular basis. He had been angry that Lady Une had put them on the same case. What exactly had changed his mind? Heero pondered the situation, going back in the case to find a point where he had started to almost 'like' the other man, but he couldn't pinpoint it to one moment. He knew one thing very clearly, and he wasn't about to deny it. He liked Duo as a partner. He didn't know enough about the other man to like him as a friend, but that could be changed. He sighed and looked up, only to see Duo in front of him in the elevator cabin, his back turned.

His eyes trailed down the braid he had despised so much and wondered why he didn't anymore. Annoyed at himself, Heero shook his head and continued the ride with his eyes on the floor. Only when the elevator doors parted in the parking lot underground did he look up, directly into the concerned eyes of his partner.

"Everything okay?"

Heero raised his head another notch and nodded. "Yeah, I just had to think about something."

Duo nodded and didn't ask further. Heero followed his partner to the back of the large lot where the black car had been placed due to Duo's lack of punctuality. He subconsciously searched for cars he knew as Duo suddenly inclined his head and asked over his shoulder.

"Have you already found some poor assistant to get your car from south Hakone?"

"You wouldn't believe it, but Lady Une spoke with the flight department and they'll take her assistant with them. They'll train for a point blank landing near the resort next weekend and Mitsuko will be the lucky one to fight her way through the undergrowth to the parking lot and drive my car back."

"What will you have to do to make up for that strenuous task?"

"I had to promise her to ask you to go out with her." Heero said it most casually, and as Duo turned he watched his partner's face intently for a reaction. As expected, Duo's eyes widened and he stopped.

"You promised what? "

Heero walked a few steps farther and pretended to be surprised by his partner's reaction.

"You said it yourself. It was technically your fault that I had to leave my car in South Hakone, and I thought you liked Mitsuko."

"Heero, I'm gay. I like Mitsuko, but she just has too much chest!"

"Duo, you're being irrational. Mitsuko is as flat as a surfboard." Heero smirked. He wouldn't tell his partner that this revelation made him almost glad, because it destabilized Relena's accusation and it somehow made him happy to hear that the other man wasn't interested in women. In some way, this calmed him.

"Still too much!"

"Is that a pout?"

"No." Duo stated vehemently and Heero watched as the other man consciously tugged back his bottom lip to where it naturally belonged before he resumed walking.

Heero smiled, deciding not to tell his partner that Mitsuko had originally asked him to buy her a beer after work the next time he decided to hang out with the other agents of the department. Knowing that the probability of him hanging out with the others was slim, they had finally agreed on him buying her lunch for a week.

He silently followed his partner, who had brushed past him and bit back the low chuckle threatening to leave his mouth. As soon as Duo had unlocked the doors, Heero got in and searched through the CDs. He didn't look up when Duo buckled up and started the car but picked a CD case and held it up so Duo could take a look at the cover.

"You like Terranova?" Duo seemed surprised, and Heero shrugged. He had never heard of them before.

"I don't know them. Are they any good?"

"Yep. Just shove it into the CD player and I'll pick the song."

Seconds later, electronic bass filled the car and a woman's voice pushed out short, loud breaths. Her voice soon filled the car, but Heero had a bit of difficulty understanding the lyrics.

"Mongril?"

Duo nodded and turned up the volume. He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel and flashed the man at the booth a smile before he drove out of the garage into the sunlight, only to be immediately halted by the heavy morning traffic which caused both passengers to be thrown into the seatbelts.

"I hate this damn traffic!" Duo cursed as the car to his right swerved into his lane and he had to slam on the brakes abruptly.

"Why do you work here if you don't like it?"

"Whoa! I never said I didn't like the work. I'd sacrifice a lot to be able to work here. Even my sanity in this car hell."

"You like working in Tokyo?"

"Yes, although I won't stay here for much longer. The Preventers in America want me, and both departments already agreed on the contract. Nothing's keeping me here anyway."

"A transfer? Does WuFei know about that already?"

"Of course, he does. You'll get an exchange agent transferred into the team, and for the profiling, Lady Une has already asked around in the Psychology department. You won't even know I'm gone." Duo smiled and to Heero's surprised it seemed like a genuine one. Trying to talk over the noise coming out of the speakers was hard, so Heero turned the volume down, again almost muting the CD.

"A new agent and a new profiler? Why couldn't they get one for both?" Heero didn't want to let Duo know that he would, in fact, really miss him. At least he thought so. He looked at his partner and decided that the thought of losing a newly gained 'friend' would make him indeed a little sad.

"Well, most agents who are profilers are just that, profilers. Psychology students with a diploma, good degrees, and they get special training for mindhunting. Not many have the field experience to get the clearance for active fieldwork. In the Tokyo Headquarters, I'm the only one. In the homicide department that is, because they got a new one in the Children Protection Unit. That's why I no longer work there." Duo fell silent and Heero wondered if Duo really wanted to leave the department. He voiced his question.

Duo just shrugged and explained his reasoning in a small voice. "I'm uncomfortable."

Heero waited for more, but Duo didn't continue. Instead, he appeared to be fully concentrating on the road. Heero raised an eyebrow. No, he wouldn't let the other man escape like that. He sighed and wondered silently if he was the reason for Duo feeling uncomfortable. After all, they'd had this vicious circle of fighting and hate going on for about two years already. Surely Duo wouldn't decide that it was too much, not out of the blue. Heero tried to remember any recent cases that could have triggered it off, but none came to mind. He cursed himself for never listening to the gossip in the break room.

"Uncomfortable? Why?"

"Have you ever been in America? Europe?"

"No."

"Then you wouldn't know what it's like to have people constantly tell you to go back where you came from. You can't even tell them that 'here' is where you came from. Heero, I look gaijin and a lot of people make sure that I know it." Heero wanted to say something, and Duo obviously sensed it because he continued coldly, "Don't pretend you're any different."

Heero's shoulders slumped, and he reclined in his seat. He was surprised as Duo flicked a battered and partially torn photo into his lap. Heero took it, carefully only touching it at the edges to avoid more smudges, looked at it, and immediately flinched. Why had he never thought of that? Why had he automatically assumed that Duo was nothing more than a gaijin, with his brash behavior, his jokes, and his attire? Ashamed, Heero realized that he had never even considered the other option. He stared at the two people on the picture some more and wanted to throw it away, discard it as fake evidence, hate it for the truth, but it was as clear as glass.

"Do you understand now?" The voice was barely more than a whisper.

Heero slowly nodded and gave the photograph back.

"She's beautiful."

"That she was."

Heero bowed his head at the implication, but didn't comment on it. He knew that sometimes it was best to let the dead rest.

+

The two agents arrived at the University of Tokyo at a quarter to ten, they had enough time to get to the classroom where Professor Gilmore was holding a lecture. Both men were already nervous about the meeting, because this talk would either undermine all their theories or add to their already formed suspicions.

Heero followed his partner's lead and waited in front of an auditorium until Duo finally opened the door. He let Heero enter before he walked in himself and closed the door behind him.

"-and that is what Murphy wanted to tell us all along. Please take your scriptum, open it to page 65, and look at the diagram-"

Heero immediately toned the voice out and looked around the auditorium, which was filled with students who were intently listening to their professor. Curious as to what the professor was like, he looked down to the desk in front of the blackboard and saw a small man with a strange hairstyle in his early sixties sitting on the desk, casually licking a Popsicle. Heero blinked.

"That man is Professor Gilmore?"

Duo smiled, not looking at him, but at the man in the front of the lecture hall. "Yeah. That's him."

He stepped down to the front of the hall, waiting for the lecture to end. A lot of students looked at them, curious as to what they were doing in their lecture. Gilmore smirked and saluted mockingly before continuing to relate his theories on Dr. Murphy to his students. A few minutes later, he ended the lecture and let his students leave the class. He immediately turned his attention to the two men waiting for him.

He stepped closer and embraced his former student. "Duo! So good to see you again."

"I'm glad you found the time to talk to us, Professor. May I introduce you to my partner, Agent Heero Yuy?"

Professor Gilmore greeted Heero with a formal handshake and bowed. "Nice to meet you, Yuy-san."

"A pleasure." Heero bowed and stepped a step back, motioning Duo to take over the conversation.

"Professor, as I told you on the phone last night, my partner and I are working on a very unusual case and we would like to hear your opinion as well as your advice."

"You've been taking rhetoric lessons?"

"Yes, I have. Being polite isn't so hard anymore." Heero looked at his partner and saw a wry smile on Duo's face. Apparently this was a sore spot for him. "Can we talk in your bureau or in the archive? I haven't told my partner why I've decided to drag him here to talk to you. Maybe your 'collection' will show him what exactly he's getting himself into."

"Of course. If you will please follow me?"

Professor Gilmore led the way, Duo and Heero following closely at his heels. Heero was slightly confused. Of course Duo had told him what this was all about. The professor was an ace in his field of study, and he had a vast amount of information. He followed the two men, surprised at how similar in behavior they seemed. They didn't act just like teacher and student. He was sure they had a closer relationship - more like father and son. Gilmore was American, and if his assumptions were right, Duo's parents had been dead for a while. It was highly possible that the man had taken Duo's education into his own hands. Heero decided to listen to their interaction more closely. He wanted to get to know his partner better and if possible, become friends again. Maybe he could even give Duo a reason to stay in Tokyo.

Suddenly, the professor stopped in front of a door and unlocked it with an old-fashioned key. When the door was open, he stepped inside and flicked on the lights, waiting for the two agents to follow him. Duo motioned for Heero to go in first and he did.

Before him extended a vast amount of shelves, filled to the rim with files and folders.

"What is that?"

"Those are almost all reported cases of parapsychology in Japan since 1950. Collected by professor Gilmore and before him, Dr. Himatari. This is where we will hopefully find our murderer."

Professor Gilmore looked at Duo in surprise. Heero didn't know what exactly Duo had told the professor, but apparently it hadn't been all that much, judging by the old man's slightly shocked _expression.

"Duo, would you please tell me what's going on here? You didn't really tell me much last night, you know. Please, have a seat and tell me. I'm getting curious."

"Of course."

"You see, we received a new case about a video tape that supposedly killed four teenagers and, a short time before that, a little boy. We found out that the little boy had recorded the tape, but due to a frequency hole in that particular area he should have only recorded static. Instead the video tape showed a few short and very weird scenes. The theory is the following: When you're finished watching the tape, the telephone rings and a voice tells you that you have seven days to live. After seven days you really die. We have both watched the video and we both got a phone call. Even though Heero didn't pick the phone up, it rang."

Duo paused and Heero nodded in agreement. These were the facts. Gilmore didn't react at all but saved the information to comment on later. Visibly pleased that the case had captured the old man's attention, Duo continued.

"Now, we assume the video is made with nengraphy powers. I know that it sounds impossible, because we're no longer talking Tomokichi Fukurai here, but about a much more advanced phenomenon which includes some kind of subconscious suggestion to make those people die after seven days."

"Duo, I will ask one question." Professor Gilmore looked at his former scholar intently and voiced the only question for validation he seemed to need. "Do you believe in the theory?"

"Yes. Yes, I do."

"Good. We can start working on a solution. Assuming you still have that wicked sense of honor, you won't let me watch this video, but I'd like to know a few details. Those kids did die after seven days?"

"Yes, as did the little boy."

"When did you two watch it?"

"I watched the video two days ago. Heero did yesterday."

"Good, that gives us some time. I will have to think about that 'subconscious suggestion' part a little more."

"Didn't you talk about Joseph Murphy in your class today? Did he even say anything on that topic? Malevolent suggestion, or hypnosis? Anything?"

"No, Murphy wasn't really a great philosopher, he just talked about auto suggestion. How to save your sick kid by unconsciously getting your arm hacked off."

Heero blinked. Now he knew why Duo had said that Gilmore was more intelligent than his followers. He remembered what his teacher had once said. 'You know a truly intelligent and educated person by the way they talk about the great classics.' Gilmore obviously could summarize Murphy's whole philosophy in one sentence. Heero liked him already.

Professor Gilmore paused for a minute. "You said you don't know what exactly killed those teenagers and you don't know how to avert the curse." Both young men nodded. "And you still watched the tape." Again, the agents bobbed their heads in agreement, slowly realizing what the professor was hitting at. "You two are more stupid than I would've expected from two elite agents of the Preventer Force. Did you even think at all about the consequences?"

Duo shook his head while Heero glanced at Gilmore with a sigh.

"Obviously not. I suggest you tell me the details about the scenes on the video itself, and I'll help you find out what time span we're talking about so we can start looking for the ominous person."

Heero took that as his clue to explain the scenes. "Well, we know it's a woman because of something Duo has found out. There are eye-shutting movements in the scenes that seem to be really 'seen' with her eyes. On the video, there are two kinds of scenes. First, we have real scenes, for example a woman brushing her hair. It looks as if she's looking at some kind of camera, the camera being the woman who made the video. On the other hand, there are abstract scenes, like a gigantic bug crawling out from under a white table in a completely vast, white room."

"So, the video shows a woman brushing her hair. What does her clothing look like? Any evidence as to when the scenes were seen by that person?"

Duo's eyebrows shot up and he threw his hand in the air in a defeated gesture. "Why didn't we think of that?"

"You're not old enough to remember some of the more embarrassing times in the fashion world. Wait, you were born before the eighties. I take that back." Gilmore commented dryly and stood up. He walked back to a bookshelf and searched for something. Shortly later, he came back to the desk, a book in his hands. He put it on the table and opened it, pointing at a gallery of thumbnails.

"Take a look at these pictures and tell me what the dress looks like. If we know when the video was made or originally seen, we can start to look for a file in the archive."

Heero looked up while Duo already flipped through the pages. "We don't know if the woman wore a modern dress. What if she wore an old-fashioned one, even for her time?"

"It's just one possibility. We will have to start somewhere, and this is a good start, whether we find the woman by looking at her dress or not. Do you have a girlfriend, Heero? Women always want modern clothing. At least most of them do."

Heero sighed, beaten by the professor's logic. No, he didn't have a girlfriend. He wouldn't even want one, but that was something he surely wouldn't tell Gilmore. Shaking his head, he turned to Duo and looked at the pictures while Gilmore searched for a book on furniture. Searching for a picture of a table was probably a worthless idea because furniture didn't change as dramatically as clothing, but it was worth a shot. With a shudder he remembered the seventies and revoked his thoughts about exceptional-looking furniture.

He raised his voice. "Do you guys think it was before the seventies?"

Duo looked up and nodded in agreement. "Almost definitely. I'd guess the fifties or sixties."

"Sixties." Heero guessed and pointed at a picture. "That's it, just like that one."

"1969. Looks like we have a match." Duo agreed. "Now we know that the woman in the video lived in 1969, but what if the person doing the video saw the scene when she was a five year-old and did the video in her seventies?"

"Did you see any references as to why she did the video at all? You have to consider one thing, I bet you haven't thought about. You were fixated on the person doing the video while she was alive. Have you ever taken into consideration that it might be an angry ghost?"

"Please. No poltergeist." Duo closed his eyes and propped his head up on his hands. Heero watched his reaction and sighed. Again, something he didn't understand. Poltergeists were mischievous spirits, that he knew, but how could a ghost make a manifestation on film? He doubted that theory and voiced it.

"Don't poltergeists usually torment the living with manifestations of themselves? Like ghostly appearances and chain rattling? I don't know if a ghost can actually produce pictures on film, much less produce a whole video. They're mischievous spirits, but who knows if they're that powerful."

Heero looked at Professor Gilmore expectantly who waited for Duo to confirm or deny his suspicion, but his partner didn't say anything.

"Yuy-san, I'm not sure if we can exclude the theory that easily; it is a possibility. I'd very much appreciate it if you told me more about the scenes as they could explain the age of the woman we're talking about. One, if the person was five years old in 1969, we might be able to find her somewhere, but it's unlikely since she made the video. If she's still alive, she wouldn't have to; she could just kill with her own hands. The actions are way too drastic for someone still alive. I suspect she's dead and wants to be put at rest. That's what she's trying to tell you."

The professor's theory seemed reasonable, which didn't make Heero happy at all. The existence of a poltergeist defied his own logic. He saw Duo wince, apparently he didn't like the theory of a poltergeist either, why, Heero didn't know. He wasn't sure he wanted to know.

Duo agreed. "I think you're right, Professor. She has to be dead. A living person with that much malice would kill consciously."

Heero blinked, now confused. "That means we're trying to catch a ghost?"

"No. We're trying to save our asses before seven days are over. This isn't about catching a murderer anymore. It's about finding out how to escape the curse, if we want to live."

Heero's eyes widened at his partner's statement. Subdued he asked, "How?"

"First, we have to find the woman. Find out who she is and what she could possibly want. Then, we hope we can find the magical spell to remove her curse. Most ghosts and poltergeists just want to be put to rest, we have to believe that this one is no exception."

"I hope you're right."

"Aren't I always?"

Heero knew better than to answer that question and just shrugged. Professor Gilmore smiled at him and winked. Obviously, his choice of not answering was a good one.

Duo rubbed his temple pensively, obviously thinking about the woman and how to find out more about her, when suddenly, the professor cleared his throat and looked at his watch.

"I have another class now, but if you two want to look at the files some more, I'll leave the door open."

"Yes, please. Are you going to drop by again later? We could go for lunch or something."

Heero looked at his watch and calculated the time that lesson would take. He wondered if an hour was enough time to go through those files. Professor Gilmore nodded eagerly.

"Of course, I'm curious to hear more about this case. Let's meet at the canteen, I don't want to come back all the way up when my lecture is down on the ground floor."

"Sure. When is your lecture over, twelve thirty?"

The professor looked at his watch again and nodded. "Canteen, twelve thirty it is."

Duo smirked and Heero rolled his eyes. Professors and their students. Weird and weirder.

When they were alone, Heero turned to Duo. "Do you really think it's that easy? Search for a few pictures and that's it?"

"No, I doubt it's that easy. If we're lucky, she's one of the patients in those files. She might as well be not among them. When have you ever solved a case in two days? Heero, today is our second day of research, you mustn't concentrate on the fact that it has to be solved in seven days. Tomorrow we'll talk to Midii's friend, the one who found her body. Maybe she knows any details that will help us. We will find that woman."

Heero nodded, feeling uncomfortable because his partner had obviously so much more control over himself than he did. His face must have shown some of that discomfort because Duo patted him on the shoulder and spoke softly.

"I just have more experience in those cases, Heero. Otherwise I would react in the same way. We'll talk about the other possibilities at lunch. Are you going to help me search the files now?"

Heero nodded and looked at the picture of the woman's dress again. "Let's start with 1960 and work our way up to 1975, then we should have it covered."

"Right. I'll take the odd years, starting with 1960. I just hope the woman who did the video can be found in the same time period as the woman in the video."

Heero turned toward the rows and waited for Duo to direct him toward one of them. Duo motioned him to follow him and went to the back of the room where the older files were stacked.

"You'll be surprised when you see some of those cases, but there's proof for every one of them."

+

They worked silently, only the shuffling of paper announcing that they were really doing something. Suddenly, Heero let out a gasp and went over to where Duo was flipping through files. Duo immediately turned his attention to his partner and let the file he was looking through sink back into the box.

"Could that be her?" He showed the file to Duo. "Shizuko Yamamura. Female, prognosis: psychic photography, married to a Japanese."

"Could be her. We'll definitely check her background. We have to know if she's still alive and where she lived if she's dead. There has to be a connection to south Hakone."

"Of course."

Duo looked at the file and frowned. "Her file doesn't mention that she can do nengraphy. That's strange."

Duo flipped through the pages as if searching for something definite and Heero couldn't help but wonder again why he was asked to take part in that chase when it was so obvious that only Duo knew what to do. He raised a questioning eyebrow, but Duo didn't look up.

"Could it be that she wasn't able to do it until something set it off? That something happened to make her take that leap?"

Duo nodded, apparently he had thought of that too. "Could be. The mind often does the most surreal things."

"What do you suggest we do?"

"Before we do anything about that file, I want to check the rest of them. If we discover that she wasn't the only one and that we're hunting the wrong woman, we're screwed. Tomorrow we'll interview Midii's friend and ask her if she knows anything. Then we'll take the tape to the big media lab and print out pictures of the scenes that might help us in our search."

Duo placed his index finger on the file. "Until we've found a second person matching her description, this is our last trump. If she isn't the one we're looking for, we're seriously screwed."

Heero nodded gravely. This file was their last hope? Thousands of 'what if'-questions flooded his mind. What if it wasn't her? What if they couldn't find the woman? What if they didn't... He looked at Duo who was still reading through the file, frowning. He didn't want to watch Duo die. He didn't want to die. He didn't want to not solve a case. He caught Duo's stare and only half listened to the other man speaking.

"Let's search the rest of the files. That's 1973 right? Only two years left. We should easily manage that before twelve thirty."

Heero nodded and took the file out of Duo's hands. "You're right." He went back to the desk, breathing in and out with deep, even breaths. He had to calm down. He was supposed to be level headed, unbreakable, confident. The one who never quit. He put the file on the desk and looked over at Duo who was already searching through the next files. Five days left. Only five days.

He smacked the file down onto the desk and stomped back to the file drawer he had left. They would find that ghost. Easily. And within their deadline. Confidence was the key. He wondered how often Duo had already had to solved cases such as these. Living on the edge, his finger always on the trigger, finding a killer before he killed somebody else. Of course he himself had worked on a lot of cases like this one, but he had never thought of the guilt that came with not finding a killer in time. He broke into computer systems and went undercover to burst smuggling rings, drug cartels or prostitution rings. He jumped into his car when the unit yelled that they had the suspect confirmed. He ran after the killers and shot them when they were about to escape. He was behind the sniper rifle when hostages were in danger.

Had he ever sat night after night behind a desk staring at severed limbs to find a pattern? Had he ever spent days behind the computer dragging up old files, trying to match one copycat killer with serial killers from the past? Had he ever listened to a serial killer on the phone, trying to get only one more hour for the victims? Had he ever opened a little box buried six feet under just to find that he had been too slow? Too slow to get them out alive? Had he ever come to a crime scene, knowing that the victim had been tortured to death in the most painful way possible because he hadn't been able to find the murderer in time?

Heero looked over to Duo and wondered how the other coped with the guilt. Lady Une had assured him that Duo was the best and he believed her. He wasn't angry at the other man anymore. Never again would he let other people's prejudices become his own. He wanted to make it up to Duo. He had treated him like a rapist for almost three years; it was time to end this. Seeing his partner sigh heavily, raking his hands through his hair, Heero decided that he didn't want Duo to leave. He remembered WuFei's words that he couldn't hurt him physically, but rather mentally and emotionally, and it made more sense than ever. He had spent three years pushing the other man away; it was time to draw him closer.

They had been 'friends' before, and the chemistry between them was still there. WuFei hadn't let go of Duo and that had obviously been the right decision. He had believed Relena and it had been a mistake. Maybe his mistake could be forgiven. He sincerely hoped so. He had apologized and Duo seemed to have forgiven him a long time ago. The only one to forgive was himself. Could he start anew?

While he searched the files of the last two years, he thought about it and he decided that yes, he could. He didn't want to die without letting Duo know that he valued him deeply as a person, and not just as partner. Duo's voice brought him back to the task at hand and he pulled the last two files out.

"Are you done? I didn't find another one matching her description. There aren't many people with psychic photography in their file. I'm glad we found at least one."

"I'm almost done. Two files." He paused and flipped through them. "No. Shizuko Yamamura is the only one. I can hardly believe it."

"We'll see if that's good or bad." Duo looked at his watch and nodded contentedly. "We're on time. Let's go to the canteen, I can't wait to eat those rice balls again."

"So tasty?"



"Yes!" Duo grinned and dragged Heero toward the table where they had their things stored. He packed the file and the books into his bag before speaking again. "At least I hope they still have this stuff. Who knows?"

Then Duo waved him out and switched the lights off. He walked ahead slowly, listening to Duo locking the door. When he heard Duo rattle the handle for reassurance, he stopped and turned, waiting for his partner.

"Do you think Gilmore knows the woman?"

"He might, but I wouldn't bet on it. He doesn't like nensha all that much, he's more interested in Hauntings."

Heero snorted, clearly stating that he didn't believe in that sort of psychic thing. He stared at the walls which were covered in posters announcing and advertising scientists students contests. Science was all he had ever known. He had been brought up, without ever hearing stories, fairies or tales about magic and princesses. Now he was after a ghost which was intent on killing people by means of a video tape. Unsure, he glanced back at Duo.

"Do you really believe in all that psychic stuff?"

Duo looked at Heero and judging by the look in his eyes he guessed that this question wasn't for him to answer. He knew nothing about Heero's past, or his childhood. When he looked at Heero through the psychologist's glasses, he could find quite a few pointers as to what Heero's past must have looked like. He tried not to. He wanted to get to know Heero and that included getting to know him through him.

He had gotten to know Heero Yuy three years earlier through WuFei but they had never been close. Mostly because he had never felt at home in the department before his friendship with WuFei had strengthened. That was before he had gotten to know Trowa and Quatre, realizing that it wasn't wrong to have an official relationship with another man. And it was before he had gotten to know Lady Une closer, realizing that she wasn't half as scary as people made her out to be. He had been transferred to the department when their only profiler had been killed in duty. By the time he had made some friends, the debacle with Relena and her accusation had already started and he had lost Heero before ever really getting to know him.

Was this case a second chance? Would he die before getting to know Heero better?

"I don't know. Do you?"

This case, those five days, the time until his death were his only chance. He looked at Heero and waited for an answer.

"I don't know." Heero shrugged and turned. "Come on, I'm hungry."

Duo nodded wearily, and followed his partner to the staircase. It was obvious that Heero didn't want to believe. He probably didn't even really believe in parapsychology. Maybe he was just afraid that it might be true. Maybe all he wanted was to solve the case and be rid of the psychologist who had dragged him into it all. Maybe he had enough of psychology, maybe he had enough of psychologists- Duo shuddered. What was he thinking? What did he want from Heero? What did he wish for? He looked at Heero's back while they were descending the stairs and his shoulders sagged. Yes, Heero was an attractive man, but that didn't mean he loved Heero. He liked him but there was a big difference between love and friendship. So, what did he want from the other man, that he wanted Heero so much to accept him?

Friendship.

'More', whispered something in the back of his head, but he ignored the voice.

+

Heero stood at the entrance to the canteen and waited for his partner who walked along the corridor as if in trance.

"Duo?"

"Hm?" Duo raised his head and saw that Heero had stopped in front of the canteen while he was still a few feet behind. He apologized for his absence of mind and quickly stepped up to Heero.

"Ready?" He smirked at Heero and opened the door to the canteen for him.

The canteen was full. Students of all age groups were gathered around the tables and the buffet. Kitchen staff were handing out food and others were trying to clean up the mess the students were leaving behind. There were hardly any free seats but Heero's trained eyes spotted a table immediately while Duo was eyeing the buffet.

"Why don't you get us a seat while I try and find something edible? What do you want?"

Heero looked at the buffet briefly, but then shrugged his shoulders. "If they have those rice balls I'd like to try those. If they don't, whatever you have is fine."

Heero didn't wait for Duo to confirm his order, but immediately went to the tables in the back where he had spotted free seats. He sat down and took a good look around. He could see Duo chatting with students at the line. He couldn't help but smile at the other man's antics. They were partners, yet so different. He was watching the figure in the line when suddenly, the chair opposite him was taken. He was startled that he hadn't seen Gilmore approach.

"Yuy, this is my assistant, Yoshino. He just came along to meet Duo. He won't be long."

Heero gave Gilmore's assistant the once over and dismissed him as lab rat. As suspected, he was more Gilmore's secretary than his assistant.

"Yoshino, why don't you go and fetch us some food, I see that Duo isn't even here yet."

[cont]