Ringu + Part 5 (cont)

Heero smirked as he saw Yoshino nod stiffly. Obviously he wasn't happy that he was Gilmore's personal slave. Heero doubted that the professor even needed an assistant. When Yoshino had left, he looked at Gilmore skeptically.

"Assistant?" He tried to make small talk; there was no need to wait for Duo in silence.

"Yes, and he's all mine.", Gilmore grinned evilly and put his pinky finger to the corner of his mouth, mimicking the Dr Evil pose. Heero couldn't help but laugh out loud as he imagined Gilmore in that space uniform.

"What are you two laughing about?" Heero looked up to see Duo eye his former mentor curiously. Apparently the evil twinkle in Gilmore's eyes made him reconsider and he rephrased his question. "Whom are you laughing about? I sincerely hope it's not me."

Heero stood up politely and took the tray out of Duo's hands. Then he tilted his head. "Has Gilmore ever made you get his food?"

"He should've tried." Duo took one set of chopsticks and dramatically broke the ends apart. "I wouldn't have done it."

Gilmore grinned. "Oh, you did. Whenever I was bedridden, sick with the flu."

Then the old man looked back at the 'food chain' and thrummed his fingers on the table. "Duo, it's impolite to start eating before everyone on the table has something. I thought I taught you all the rules."

"I would wait, but I don't see the point in it. By the time you have your tofu rolls, I'll be starving and the food will be cold."

"I didn't say anything!" Gilmore held his hands up but was rewarded by a tray being placed in front of him. He looked to the left and saw Yoshino walk around the table to sit next to Heero. While Duo was eating, Tsuzuki looked at him curiously.

"Are you Dr. Maxwell?"

Heero looked up. That he wanted to see. Gilmore put the chopsticks down too, and turned to Duo as if prompting him to answer with 'no'.

Duo nodded and held his hand out for a formal handshake, but Yoshino grabbed his hand with both hands and shook his vigorously.

"I'm glad to meet you, I've heard so much about you and I've read all your articles."

Heero raised an eyebrow at Gilmore who just winked back.

"Thanks, I guess."

"I want to become a profiler too and catch the bad guys."

Heero didn't think that Duo's _expression could get that dark in such a short moment. He winced as he heard Duo's cold voice answer.

"Good luck, then."

~*~

Another one? Another one of those gung-ho students who thought that profiling was an easy way to catch murderers, serial killers, kidnappers? He felt his shoulder sag as he heard his own flat answer. Was this what he was like, only a few years before? He wanted to stand up and grab Yoshino by his collar, and yell at him for making it sound like some sort of hobby. He'd seen death creeping up on the victims because he had been too slow to find the right connection in the nick of time. He looked at Tsuzuki and sincerely hoped that that man would choose something different as career. Happy, outgoing, smiling. He wouldn't keep that smile on his face for long when he waded in bodies, trying to find a murderer who literally left no trace. He wouldn't keep that smile on his face and not think of the taunting cackle of a caught murderer who was laughing in his face.

Duo looked at Yoshino and imagined him on the couch of a psychotherapist, or 'supervisor' as the business world called them. Would he spend half of his paycheck on his insurance, just to be able to pay the therapy lessons? He imagined Yoshino in his flat, with his girlfriend, not able to talk to her because she wouldn't understand the nightmares. Did he have a wife? Would she try to understand or would she just pack and walk out one day because she couldn't cope with his guilt anymore? Would he be there for himself? Would he drink himself into oblivion every night, or would he start sniffing drugs to escape the reality?

Duo hadn't. Hadn't started doing drugs, hadn't become an alcoholic. He knew that there was no way out of his daydreams. He had long since accepted that he would always see the Nagoya girl in his neighbor's daughter. He would always wonder what she would do now, what grade she would be in. Slowly, but surely, Shizuko Yamamura crawled into the picture. What had been done to her that she was out to kill even after her death? What was so horrible that she wanted her victims to see? Themselves? Their grotesquely deformed faces. Masks of their former selves. Would Shizuko end up to be like all the others? Would he see her, years from now, wondering why? Or would he die in five days, never even getting the chance to find some little piece of heaven on earth?

"Duo, everything okay?" Heero looked at him with an unsure _expression on his face. Had he guessed what was wrong?

"Of course. Don't mind me, I was just thinking about something." He looked at Yoshino and smiled a reassuring smile. He had no idea if Yoshino had said anything, or if he had said anything to the other man. Gilmore seemed to sense his discomfort and interjected.

"When do you two want to leave?"

Still thinking about where to start with the search for that woman, he let Heero answer.

"I don't know. Soon, if possible. We found a woman in the files that matches our profile. Do you know a Shizuko Yamamura?"

"No. Never heard of her. She's your suspect?"

This time, Duo answered. He didn't want a curious psychology student on their backs, and Yoshino seemed like he was one of those who wanted their name to be seen everywhere.

"Not really, I just wanted to know if you've heard of her. If you excuse us, professor, we have to get going. We need to conduct some interviews."

~*~

Again, Heero wondered why Duo had lied so blatantly, but jumped in to assist his partner. There would be an explanation later. He stood up and shook hands with Gilmore and his assistant, then he turned to Duo and motioned him to leave first. Duo politely bowed before Gilmore and waved at Yoshino.

"Visit again some time, will you?" Gilmore stood up and moved around the table, apparently not wanting his 'son' to leave without a hug. "And think about that offer I made you, okay?"

"Of course."

Gilmore wrapped his arms around Duo and whispered "Be careful.". This was a different case. This visit could be the last one. This hug could be their goodbye.

They left the canteen and as soon as they had passed a few corners, Heero raised a questioning eyebrow which Duo immediately caught.

"Yoshino was too nosey. I didn't want to risk him sniffing around."

Heero agreed and opened one of the doors to the outside. "You didn't like Yoshino, did you?"

"No. He doesn't realize that profiling is not a game you play from nine to five. I doubt he even knows what responsibility he takes on in deciding to do it seriously. I don't like his attitude, that's all. He's probably a real blast to have as a friend. I just wouldn't be one of them."

They continued their walk in silence, each of them lost in their own thoughts. At the car, Duo automatically got in at the driver's side and started the car. Heero was surprised that Duo wanted to drive, but didn't say anything. Maybe Duo just liked to drive. He settled back and looked at his watch. It was barely two PM. Calculating the drive back they could think themselves lucky if they got the reports done before their shift was over. Heero yawned and leant back. His eyes dropped closed and he was aware that he was about to fall asleep when he did.

Two hours later, he woke up, feeling someone shake his shoulders and whisper something.

"Heero, wake up. We're back."

Heero blinked dazedly. Had he actually slept all the way through Duo's cursing about Tokyo traffic? He straightened and rubbed his eyes.

"Sorry."

"That's okay. Let's go upstairs, we have stuff to do."

Heero spent a few more moments to wake up properly, then he unbuckled and opened the door. Duo was already walking toward the lift when the elevator doors opened and Heero could see Zechs walk out. Duo immediately went out of his way to not have to pass Zechs. Heero jumped down from the seat silently and watched the two men interact curiously.

~*~

Duo saw Zechs the moment he came out of the elevator and stepped aside. Zechs, however, went to the right and smiled saucily as he saw Duo approach. He placed a hand on the other agent's shoulder and leant in, his blond hair brushing against Duo's face and body.

"Hello, Maxwell."

Duo tilted his head away, feeling Zechs' breath in his neck was not something on top of his wishlist. He hated Merquise, not only because the man wanted him in his bed and had never bothered to ask him what he thought about that. The rumor that he had slept with Zechs to get high up in the organization had most likely been planted by the tall man himself. Duo had just never thought that Relena would act with such malice and he suspected that Zechs was behind Relena's malevolence. Relena loved her brother and would believe him, whatever he said.

Duo knew that the only reason he was mad at Relena was that she had believed Zechs. It had never been her fault. He didn't know if Zechs had intended that. That level of obsession, that accusation, that extreme behavior, but he had intended something. That something which cost Duo some of his reputation and a great deal of himself. He had been completely lost those two years ago, and if it hadn't been for WuFei and Lady Une's interest in his situation, he would have lost his job.

Khushrenada had been convinced that Relena hadn't lied about the incident, until he saw her confession, the stuttered words coming out of her mouth. With one blink she had been transferred and nobody in the department spoke of her again. The fact that she worked in the media department now and not at a radar station in Alaska was Zechs' doing, that Duo was sure of. Without the mighty hand of her brother, she wouldn't have been allowed to stay at the Tokyo Headquarters.

Duo looked at Zechs and growled. "Leave me alone, Merquise." He took a step back and pushed his hands up, in case Zechs followed his movements.

Zechs just stared, and then he grinned and wrapped his arms around Duo. "You don't want a scene, do you? There are cameras, everywhere. You wouldn't want to hit the chief of the IT department, do you? You don't want to hit the brother of the woman who accused you of rape. It would look awfully like revenge." He shook his head grinning.

Duo let his hand roam up Zechs' upper body and let it rest on the base of his neck. He knew enough pressure points there to render people unconscious in seconds. He also knew the pressure points for pain. He put thumb and index finger at two points on Zechs' shoulder and applied the right amount of pressure.

Zechs cringed under the sudden assault and backed off. "Son of a fucking whore." The tall man held his shoulder, his muscles screaming in pain. "You'll regret that."

"No, I won't. I would never regret giving you pain." Duo spat and proceeded walking to the elevator. Had Heero seen him? He turned abruptly and saw Zechs walking away, and Heero coming from the left.

"Hey, what took so long?"

~*~

"What's up with Merquise? He's walking funny."

If Duo wanted to pretend that what he had just witnessed was nothing, he would play along. No point in aggravating his partner. "I don't know. Have you heard anything?"

"No. Maybe he tried to come down on some agent and got hurt. That's sexual harassment, it could be charged."

Heero tried implying that Duo had a witness in case he needed one, but Duo only shook his head in resignation.

"No, no more accusations of that sort. I'm sure the agent knows how to keep Zechs away from him."

They waited for the elevator carriage which had gone up again in the meantime, both pretending not to know exactly what they were talking about. Duo was the first to break the silence.

"We have to call the mental institution where Amy is treated. If we want to have that appointment tomorrow, we'll have to make sure it's okay with her doctor first. Those people don't like surprise visits."

The elevator doors parted and they got in. At this time of the day, hardly anybody went down to the parking deck. Heero pressed the button for the homicide department under Khushrenada.

"I told WuFei to call ahead, let's stop by his desk and ask him."

"Oh, okay. I hope it's not too early, I want to get some more sleep tonight."

"Tough night?"

"You wouldn't guess how many times you have to watch a scene in slow motion until you're sure that you counted the blinks right. Yes, you could say tough and long night. I think I kept Kage awake all night."

"Your dog?"

"My chameleon."

"You don't keep a chameleon in your apartment."

"Well, I do."

"A chameleon."

"Yes."

"You're kidding."

"One foot long, eats crickets, loves to play hide."

"Yuck."

Duo smirked. "She's pretty though, you'd like her. The silent killer. I give her a little bit more character than she actually has, I have to admit that much." He waited until the elevator doors parted. "I even have her picture in my wallet, if you want to see her?"

"Please."

Duo smiled and took his leather wallet out while walking toward WuFei's desk. Heero saw a flash of the photo Duo had shown him earlier and credit cards before Duo's thin fingers dragged one photo out and gave it to his partner. Heero smirked as he looked at the picture Duo gave him. It did indeed show a baby chameleon sitting on Duo's shoulder. The photo was older; the chameleon was only a couple of inches long.

Duo waved at WuFei who was looking at them expectantly and walked toward him, grinning wide.

"Hey, WuFei, my man!"

"Maxwell, when will you stop calling me yours? You know I'm a kept man." He teased back, then he paused for a moment, frowning. "Is that my shirt?"

"As soon as you find a better reply to it and yes, it's your shirt. I'll get you a new one tomorrow." Duo took a picture frame from WuFei's desk and looked at it before placing it back on the same spot where it had stood before. It showed WuFei with his wife. "What's up with you anyway? No calls, no flowers, no chocolate. I'm almost afraid you don't care about me anymore."

Duo took the photo back from Heero and stuck it into his wallet; his eyes didn't leave WuFei when he tucked it away. He smirked and winked saucily. A flustered Chang WuFei looked at Heero for help, but Heero did nothing but watch as Duo grabbed WuFei's chin softly, tilting his partner's head toward himself.

"Did you call the mental institution, honeymuffin?"

Heero chuckled but didn't keep Duo from his show. He saw Quatre stare across the room and waved before turning his attention back to WuFei who, taking a step back to escape Duo, bumped into his desk.

"Yes, Maxwell, I called, but they want to talk to the person who's going to do the interview. They want to know what you're going to ask."

Duo stopped purring and flirting and took a step back as well. "Chang-babe, all I wanted was one lousy call, a little help! Is that too much to ask?" He theatrically tilted his head back and held his hand up. Heero immediately took the clue and gave Duo a tissue from a box on WuFei's desk. Duo overdramatically blew his nose and looked at Chang from under his lashes.

WuFei grunted. "Maxwell, I really wanted to avoid this scene, but I've found another."

Duo's eyebrows shot up in surprise. "Who is it?"

"My physiotherapist. His name is Francesco, he has wonderful hands and probably as much muscle mass as you weigh."

Suddenly, Quatre's lithe voice surprised them all by adding, "Now, that can't be all that much then." He appeared at WuFei's side and politely shook hands with Duo and Heero. "Any good news?"

"Yes, we have a suspect. Now we only need to confirm her death, examine where she lived, find out where she's buried and what she wants and why she made the video. Most importantly, we have to find out what the hell her relationship is to the woman in the video."

Heero winced as his explanation didn't sound very enthusiastic at all. Duo's facial _expression was nearly unreadable. He looked crushed. Quatre looked skeptical and voiced his doubt.

"That's good news for you? You really have to be desperate then." Heero looked at him, stating clearly that that was exactly the case. They had to be desperate, they had to call that 'good news' because anything less could mean their death. Quatre seemed to understand because he averted his eyes.

"I apologize. I'm sure you're doing your best to find the killer."

Duo smiled, but it was obvious that it wasn't completely honest. WuFei nodded and gave Duo a card with the telephone number of the medical center.

"Will you call Amy Miller's doctor? You can use the phone on Quatre's desk if you want a little privacy."

Duo took the number and went over to Quatre's desk, leaving the small group of people behind. As soon as he was out of hearing range, WuFei looked questioningly at Heero.

"How is he really? He seems... drained."

Heero shrugged his shoulders. "He's tired because he had a long night. I don't think there's anything else."

"Nothing else? The pressure you're under is immense, I want you to take care of him. He's not always as stable and sure of himself as he seems to be."

"I know." Heero paused for a moment, thinking about how to explain. "We've talked a bit." He looked at Quatre and saw a quiet smile on his partner's lips. WuFei just nodded and turned back to his files he was working on.

Quatre looked back and searched for Duo who was still talking on the phone. "Heero, if he's only tired, then that's fine, but I don't think that's it. Lack of sleep usually makes him think, and then you know there's something else. Take care of him anyway?"

"Of course; he's my partner."

Quatre smiled and changed the topic when Duo came back. "Khushrenada gave WuFei and I a new case. A drug dealer was murdered, not very exciting. We already have a couple of leads and some promising suspects. Along with the usual eye witnesses of course."

Duo waited until Quatre had finished and then interjected. "Heero, we have a date with Amy Miller tomorrow morning at eleven, they don't want us to talk to her earlier, it would put too much strain on her morning routine. They're a bunch of liars." He smashed his fist against the desk plate and sighed. "They put a lot of pressure on me. I can't ask this, mustn't ask that. I have to think about the line of questioning later." He brushed one hand over his face before turning to Heero. "Let's do the reports, and then go home. I'm tired."

Quatre looked at WuFei, a worried _expression on his face. He looked at Heero pointedly and spoke up. "WuFei and I have to get going anyway. Our case isn't waiting."

Heero nodded, understanding the subtle hint. "Let's do the reports then. Duo, are you coming?"

"Hm? Where to?"

"To your bureau. It's nice and quiet in there."

"You're just jealous."

Heero indicated a goodbye to their colleagues before gently laying his hand on Duo's shoulder. He led Duo toward the door and waited for him to wave his goodbye for the night.

Duo's bureau was comfortable with the large desk and the small couch in one corner. It was crammed, but Heero wasn't surprised, he'd seen it before. Duo had not even reached his own chair, when Heero already flopped into the guests chair and moved aside the calendar and the pen holder in his way. Then he unpacked and got his writing pad out. Lady Une never demanded her agents to type their reports. She was so glad that she got the reports she wanted in time that she didn't ask for more than the necessary. Heero refrained from any comment as he saw Duo reaching for his glasses. He thought they looked damn sexy on the other man, but he would never go and admit that aloud. He sighed and looked down. The reports would take more than two hours of their time, but they had to be written; they needed the notes and proof of their work. If they didn't survive, someone else would have to start the research. Heero saw that Duo was already writing, shoving his glasses up his nose in an automatic gesture. Heero cleared his throat to keep himself from smiling and bent over his work. They worked silently, the rustling of paper the only disturbance.

+

"Duo?" Heero looked at his partner curiously. They had been writing on their reports for two hours but Duo had been silent for a few minutes now. Slowly, Heero leaned over the desk and looked at Duo's slack face. The black glasses were halfway down his nose and his lashes lay softly against his cheeks. Heero suddenly remembered the information Duo had given him that morning; he had obviously worked late last night. Silently, he stood up and moved behind the other man.

He pried the pen out of Duo's fingers and put it aside. Then he stood behind his partner and pulled Duo's upper body back by crossing his arms across the other's chest. When he heard Duo murmur he waited for a moment, not wanting to wake his partner. He softly pulled the glasses from Duo's nose and placed them on the table. The frame left a red imprint on the bridge of his nose. Having moved Duo's body away from the table, he knelt and wrapped his arms around the other man's knees and shoulders.

"Here we go," he whispered and lifted his partner up in his arms. Surprised that his partner wasn't as heavy as he had imagined, he carried the sleeping man to the couch in the corner. That Duo didn't wake up was just a sign of how tired he was.

As soon as Duo was on the couch, he twisted and curdled up in an almost fetal position. Smiling, Heero pulled a blanket over him and crouched down low. Surprised at his partner's youthful looks, he studied Duo closer. A small scar grazed his forehead, half covered by a lock of hair. Heero subconsciously whisked the irate strand away before abruptly standing back up. Shaking his head, he went back to the desk. He had, after all, work to do and since the other obviously wasn't up to it, he wanted to finish them alone.

A while later, a low grumble disrupted the silence Heero was working in.

"Heero, what-?" Duo turned, pushing the blanket off his shoulders. "Oh God, I'm sorry." Heero watched as Duo struggled awake and sat up, still groggy from sleep.

"It's okay, you wouldn't have gotten much done anyway in the state you were in." Heero cocked his head and deemed his partner awake. "I finished our reports; if you're ready we could go home. I don't think either of us is much up to the shooting match we had planned."

Duo rubbed his eyes and swung his legs off the couch. "You've finished all reports?"

"Yes."

"Then I'll treat you to coffee and sweets." He stood up and went over to the desk to pick up his bag.

"Not tonight. Coffee always keeps me awake way too long." Heero thought about it for a moment. "If we have to be at the institution at eleven, we could meet at eight thirty and eat breakfast on the way."

Duo grabbed a few things and put the glasses into their case before replying. "I'll pick you up, then we don't have to go to the office."

Heero shuffled the reports together and put them loosely in a binder. "We have to drop them off in Lady Une's office before we go."

They shouldered their bags and left the bureau for the night. The blanket lay discarded on the couch; nobody had bothered to pick it up and fold it. Duo didn't like the idea of some stranger rummaging around his office, one of the reasons why he never let the cleaning staff clean it at night. He locked the door, waiting for the red light before he turned and followed Heero to Lady Une's office.

~*~

There they were coming again. Mitsuko sat behind her desk and smiled at the two men entering. The longhaired man in one of Agent Chang's sexy shirts, the shorthaired one with a bunch of files under his arm. She groaned as she saw the reports. Yuy's scary writing style and his sharp handwriting were sure to give her grey hair some time soon.

Maxwell was stopping at her desk and smiled politely, if a bit unsure of himself. She waited until handsome and muscled man had disappeared in the bureau before she turned to him.

"Hi, Agent Maxwell."

He seemed more nervous now that she was talking to him.

"Is everything okay?"

"Mitsuko, about that date..." She raised an eyebrow as he trailed off, uncomfortable. Date, what date? She voiced her surprise.

"What date?"

"The date Agent Yuy promised you." His gaze seemed to fall on the picture frame on her desk because he frowned.

"Yuy didn't promise me a date. He offered to buy me lunch for a week for the trouble I'll have to go through. I have a boyfriend."

She stared at him. What had Yuy told him? She watched his _expression change into a mischievous smile and backed away."

"Mitsuko, could you do me a favor?"

She nodded cautiously and gave the man standing opposite of her a questioning look.

"If I brought you some terrible flower perfume, could you spray the car's upholstery with it before returning it to Heero?"

"With delight." She smirked. She had always liked the agent with the long hair. Ever since he appeared in the doorway the first day, she had imagined him in Calvin Klein ads. Preferably with the dark haired other agent who was now in Une's office. She loved her boyfriend, but a little fantasy at the workplace had never hurt anybody.

Just then, the door opened and Heero came back out. Duo grabbed the opportunity and smiled at Mitsuko openly.

"Mitsuko, that would be great. Your brother would really want to-?"

The secretary immediately caught on the lead. "Yes, of course. He'll love you madly." Heero paled, something in that picture was not right. Had they talked about the date? He looked at Mitsuko closely, but she only smiled at him honestly. Duo equally, looked sincere.

Mitsuko couldn't help but smile her most innocent, honest smile. In her imagination, Heero would be jealous. He would confront Duo and... She looked down at the screen of her computer, but only saw boring mission status data. Life was just not a gay porn.

"Duo, are you coming?"

"Of course. Mitsuko, tell your brother I said 'hi', will you?"

Mitsuko winked and watched the two men leave the office. As soon as the door was closed, she let out a sigh. They would look good together in a Calvin Klein ad. Before she could delve deeper into her fantasy, Lady Une beeped her and she had to go in.

~*~

"What was that all about?" Heero questioned, pointing back at the bureau.

"Oh, I think there was a misunderstanding. I explained the thing about the date to Mitsuko and she said that she wasn't interested, but her brother would be." Heero looked up, surprised by that change in events.



"Anyway, was Une pleased with the reports?"

Heero snorted. "Of course. She was glad she even got them, almost wanted to make a positive note in your file. You seem to never get them in on time."

"WuFei usually makes sure I don't bring them too late. I heard Quatre talk. You're really lax about reports too and they usually sound like Rambo trying to write short stories. I won't go into imitating the example he gave."

"Thank you." Heero tried to look sincere, but the smirk wasn't helping much. They went to the elevator and waited in silence for the carriage to arrive. When the doors parted, Heero entered and turned.

"Does Mitsuko even have a brother?"

Duo stepped in and pressed the button for the parking garage. "Of course, he's half Chinese and his name is Hung Long."

Heero raised his eyebrows. "Must be a real treasure then."

"I sincerely hope so."

+

The parking garage was pleasantly cool and they made their way to Duo's car which was now closer to the elevator since their trip to the university. They didn't rush to the car, both being tired from the long day. The laser remote opened the doors for them before they even reached it.

The drive to Heero's home was quiet with no music playing; Duo didn't even have to curse the traffic. Heero watched Duo lead the car elegantly through the streets of Tokyo and thought about what Quatre had told him earlier. He hadn't seen any other odd behavior, Duo was just tired and probably needed a good night's rest. He wasn't aware of the car coming to a stop in front of his apartment building and Duo had to remind him with a subtle cough.

"You're welcome to sleep in my super-comfortable car, you know that, don't you?"

Heero snorted and opened the door before unbuckling.

"Your car isn't comfy. It's... just big." He thought about that for a moment before adding, "You know what they say about men with big cars."

"The same what they say about men with large feet?" Duo waggled his eyebrows playfully, and tried to look hopeful, waiting for Heero's answer.

Heero opted to say something biting, but when he saw Duo's twisted face, he theatrically answered, "Why yes, how did you know?" He stuck out his tongue and hopped down onto ground level. "Your car just has big tires. Otherwise it wouldn't be more than a Micra."

Duo's eyes widened. "Take that back!"

~*~

Heero just waved and slammed the door shut. Duo stared at his partner's retreating back. He had not just exchanged innuendos with Heero. He had not just joked with Yuy the Serious. Smiling, he pulled out of the parking lot.

They were definitely on the road of becoming friends. Somehow, he didn't want to leave Tokyo anymore. Not before he had the opportunity to get to know Heero better. He wouldn't let that chance slip away again. He steered the car toward his home and parked it in the lot reserved for his car.

His home wasn't nearly as comfortable as his bureau. It was in an anonymous apartment building, the only person he knew was the housekeeper, Sanako. The woman insisted he use her first name, even though she was twenty years his elder. She was always outside, tending to her flower garden. They had a ritual together and he would hate losing her. Another reason to stay in Tokyo. Shaking his head, Duo realized that the reasons to stay were building up the more he thought about moving.

She straightened her back and waved at him as he jumped out of his car. He jogged up to her and greeted her with a kiss. She was the most unusual woman he had ever met. She was a widow and yet, she was full of energy. He envied her for her happiness and soaked up as much as he could whenever they talked.

"How have you been today, Sanako-san?" He loosened their embrace and sat down on the stairs to the building. The sun was still up and he didn't really want to see his own four blank walls yet. He would wait until sunset.

"As always, my back hurts, my parrot was mocking me and the flowers complain about the lack of water. But everything's right with the world, isn't it?"

"Of course." He tilted his head and grinned. He didn't know if it worked with her, he just hoped it would.

"You shouldn't smile when you don't mean it, Duo. Something is bothering you?"

He lost the grin and resorted to smiling, this time far less intense, but it was honest. "How do you always know when something is bothering me?"

"I just know. You remind me of my son, that's all. He used to hide his problems too."

Duo didn't ask. He had never asked her about her husband, and she appreciated it. She had never asked about his family either.

"I just had a bad day at work, nothing serious."

"Something bad happened?"

Duo had never told her about his job, but she somehow had guessed. Or just read the newspaper. Whenever he came home, crushed, and would not leave his apartment for days, she would come upstairs with some cooked dinner and would talk him out of his guilt. He wasn't at fault, it wasn't him slaughtering prostitutes and ripping their hearts out. It wasn't him raping and killing underage boys. Their deaths weren't his fault.

It never worked. She would try and talk to him, knowing that sometimes, he didn't listen at all, that sometimes he would drink himself into oblivion. He hadn't become an alcoholic, he hadn't become a drug addict. He simply coped. Coped by sometimes sloshing himself. One night without decayed faces staring at him, asking why he hadn't saved them. Just one night of dreamless sleep.

Sanako knew that sometimes it was best to leave him alone.

"No, nothing bad. Just no progress. I'm okay." He propped his face up on his hands and stared at her work. "You know that I appreciate everything you've done for me in the past years, don't you?"

It was an unexpected 'thank you', Sanako didn't know how to react. She just straightened again and went over to the steps where he sat. She sat down next to him and wrapped an arm around him, drawing him closer to her.

"I know, Duo." She sensed that this wasn't at all the casual gesture for him. He had never said that before. It sounded like a goodbye.

"Duo? You're not okay at all, what happened?"

He couldn't tell her that he would probably die in five days. He couldn't tell her that she was the closest thing to a mother he ever had. He couldn't tell her that the daily talk at night was like an anchor to him.

"Really, it's nothing." He drew away and looked at her skeptically, trying to distract her from that serious topic. "You wouldn't mind me bringing a friend home, do you?"

Sanako smacked him across the back of his head. "Not if you introduce him properly." She smirked. "Are you in love?"

"No, I just found somebody who might become a really good friend."

"What does he do for a living?" Duo gaped for a moment. He had no idea how she had guessed about his sexuality, but maybe it was obvious. Maybe she just had a feeling.

"He catches bad guys."

"Another Preventer?"

"Yes." Then Duo smirked and waggled his eyebrows. "He has handcuffs and lots of muscles."

"Chang?"

"Sanako!" Duo shook his head, as if devastated by her dirty mind. "I hate to disappoint you, but my partner is married and they're very happy together."

"Sorry. What's his name then?" She was curious, but considering the fact that she had nothing to do all day, it was predictable. Duo smirked.

"I wouldn't tell you, you'd just embarrass me if you met him one day."

"I thought you were going to introduce him."

"I might. If you behave yourself."

Sanako snorted and stood back up. "I still have some tulips to plant. I'd ask you to help me but I don't want you ruining Chang's shirt."

Again, Duo wondered if she was a secret agent. She was very attentive and soaked up information like a sponge.

"I'll have to be careful then. Or undress."

"As much as I would appreciate the view, I think it's getting rather cold. The sun is setting too." She wrinkled her nose and took her basket. "The tulips can wait till tomorrow."

"You want to get rid of me, don't you, Sanako-san?"

"Never. I just don't want to miss my daily dose of soap opera."

Duo rolled his eyes and pouted dramatically. "So, now your soap opera is more important than me?"

"It has always been and it will always be. You know, you're welcome to join me. Jenna will tell Rob about-"

Before she could explain the plot line more, Duo interrupted her with a surrendering hand gesture.

"Sitting between you and your cat on that terrible flower sofa or my nice and cozy bed - hard choice." Duo yawned and realized that it hadn't been the first time he had done so in the last few minutes. "It was a long day, sorry Sanako-san."

"That's okay, honey. Goodnight and sleep well."

"I always do, when dreaming of you." He waved a goodbye and opened the door. He heard a silent "Prince Charming." bidding him goodbye and ascended the stairs. His apartment wasn't at all nice and cozy. He had put extra effort into decorating his bedroom, but that was the only room he had put time and money in.

He had painted the walls orange, ignoring the warnings in his lease that he would have to pay for the paint job that would have to be done when he was moving out. If having a warm and cozy-looking bedroom for three years meant losing the cost of the rent for one month, then so be it.

Duo unlocked the door and switched the security system off. He didn't bother calling out a greeting to Kage; the chameleon had already looked at him with its small, black eyes. He pushed his black shoes off with his feet and let the bag drop to the floor. Smiling at his pet, he went over to the terrarium and opened the lid. The chameleon immediately turned its head toward the opening and tilted its head. Knowing that food was awaiting it, it softly stuck its tongue out, as if licking its lips.

"One moment, honey."

He grabbed the box of crickets and opened it. He didn't like how the crickets were chirping for their life. They reminded him of victims, begging their pursuer not to hurt them, not to kill them. He took one out and looked it in the eye. Then he dropped it into the terrarium. Two more followed, then he closed the lid again. He left before Kage ate the first one. He didn't really need to see that. However, his thoughts wandered to the video tape, remembering the maggots crawling in the mud and the disgusting scene of the monkey coughing something indefinable up. He shuddered and went toward the bedroom, unbuttoning his shirt on the way. These were not thoughts he needed before going to bed.

He threw the shirt onto the dressing chair and made a mental note to buy a new one. If he had had a secretary he could have sent her to the boutique in her lunch break and not worry about it. He looked at the brand name and swallowed. He would have to look more carefully the next time he borrowed one of WuFei's shirts. He couldn't afford to buy a new Daniel Hechter shirt whenever he scrounged one. He absently wondered if WuFei's sense of fashion had become elegant when he had married or if it had always been that exquisite.

He shook his head and stripped down to his boxers. Yawning, he took a fresh pair of sweat pants and went to the bathroom where he turned the water in the shower on. It would take a while to get warm and he used the time to brush his teeth. Frowning as he saw his image in the mirror, he brushed harder. He had to eat more.

By the time the water was hot enough for his taste, he had spit the toothpaste into the sink and stripped off the silken boxers. He tested the water again before stepping into the shower stall and closing the door. He let the hot water caress his body and slowly unraveled his hair. He lost himself in washing his hair, finally able to forget all that had bothered him that day. He didn't think about the case, didn't think about Heero, didn't think about moving to America. He forgot the troubles of trying to find the killer, forgot the fight with Relena and Zechs. After he had thoroughly soaped himself, he just let himself being soaked by the hot water. Minutes passed, he didn't care how much water he used up, he just wanted all those troubles washed off. It was another ritual.

When Duo felt the water growing a few degrees colder, he shut it off and squished the water out of his hair. He stepped out of the stall and wrapped one of the black towels around himself, the other he used to dry the long tresses. When he had dried his skin, he pulled the sweat pants up and went back to his refuge - the large bed in the bedroom, with its freshly changed sheets, just waiting for someone to fall into. Duo threw the wet towel to the floor and grabbed another fresh one to place on the pillow. Then he let himself sink into the cushions and draped his hair onto the towel. Nothing would keep him from thoroughly enjoying this night's rest. Before he sank into his own personal dreamland, he casually wondered what Heero's bedroom looked like; a thought never to be thought through.

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End Part 5, to be continued

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Footnotes:

Nengraphy/nensha/psychic photography/thoughtography: those are all expressions for impressing mental images on photographic plates; modern Japanese experimenters use the relatively new term 'nengraphy' which is why I'm using this one. 'Nensha' just sounds a little bit more 'creepy' and 'mysterious'... (hey, I don't have sound effects, I have to work with something here! :p )

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Dr. Tomokichi Fukurai: famous Japanese professor who gave nengraphy its name and experimented with it.

For more information on his person and the Fukurai Institute of Psychology: http://www1.odn.ne.jp/fukurai-psycho/text/english.htm

Dr. Joseph Murphy: not the "Murphy's Law" Murphy

For more information on Dr. Murphy and his books visit http://website.lineone.net/~cornerstone/murphy.htm

Poltergeist originally a German word which is stuck together from the words 'poltern' - which means 'to make a lot of noise/ a racket' - and 'Geist' - which means 'ghost'; even though poltergeists usually don't cause serious physical injury, they can do so by breaking objects or setting fire...

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