Author: Kitty Chou
Category: Angst, deathfic, 'medieval shounen ai-ness', OOC, AU
Pairing: 1+2, eventual 2+1
Disclaimer: *clears throat* I do not in any way, shape, or form own Gundam Wing or its wonderful characters! I just pull them out to play and then clean them up and put them back when I'm done! I'm making no money and if you sue me you will receive no money because *shock* I have none.
Rating: R
Warnings: Angst, deathfic, 'medieval shounen ai-ness', OOC
Spoilers: None
Author's Notes: Okay, READ THIS, because otherwise, you might miss something potentially important.
- First off, this is Plot Bunny #3, "The Impossible Dream", from Dacia. She's so good! *huggles Dacia*
- Second, this isn't the happiest fic... which is why you may or may not need tissues. I dunno... I personally am a very non-teary person... so I suppose it all depends on you!
- Thirdly, Trowa's last name is Bloom because I needed the REAL Trowa Barton (oh shush, no singing), who I'm simply calling Barton.
- Fourthly... if that is a word, this is a big time jump story... so every time you see '+' , you've just jumped forward in time. It can be as little as a few seconds to hours and hours. I don't think it jumps days... but it does occasionally switch from morning to night.
- And finally, I made Sister Helen, Mother Helen, since she's running the church now. You should note that I have no idea what the hell I'm talking about when it comes to the Catholic Church (or any church for that matter). So that's why Mother Helen gets to run the confessional. I've intended no offense to any religious practitioners, but if I have caused any, I'm really very sorry. Okay? Got all that? Good, then read on!
Feedback: Please send feedback to love_nuriko@hotmail.com.

"To dream the impossible dream,
to fight the unbeatable foe,
to bear with unbearable sorrow,
to run where the brave dare not go.

To right the unrightable wrong,
to love, pure and chaste, from afar,
to try, when your arms are too weary,
to reach the unreachable star."

-"The Impossible Dream", Man of La Mancha

Tilting At Windmills

"Heero was a dreamer."

That was what they said of him when asked years later in hallways or round holiday fireplaces, stacks of paper and wine glasses in hand. The inquirer would laugh politely, as if it were an inside joke they'd shared, only to let the laughter die lamely as they realized it was said in all seriousness. Often, things fell silent from there as they became lost to thought and memory, nostalgic and perhaps confused, but never truly sad. After all, none of them had been touched so deeply by 'the dreamer' that they should feel heartbroken.

But such a simple statement left so very much unsaid. Heero was more than a dreamer. He was... a man. A man with a dream, yes, but it was much more than that. It was... a mission, a quest, and an impossible goal so overwhelming that it had, in the end, killed him. And while even now my wounds may still be too deep, I'd like to think I loved him for it.

+

"Hey, Chang! Where are my ribs?" Detective Trowa Bloom called above the din of Shenlong Barbeque and Grill, his allowing his visible eye to drift from the TV as a commercial interrupted Monday night football.

An irritable Chinese man with flyaway hair pulled into a tight black ponytail poked his head out of the hole between the kitchen and the bar, glaring fiercely at the detective. "Keep your eyes on the game, you redneck pig! Your food is done when it's done and not before!"

Trowa laughed, raising his bottle of Red Dragon in a mock toast to the cook, nudging the man beside him with the movement. "Ah, sorry, Heero," he apologized, clapping the man on the back.

"Enjoying yourself?" Heero replied, rhetorically.

"Of course! I arrested you, put Rediske in for life without bail, and got Wufei to yell at me!" the detective said, surging to his feet suddenly with the rest of the bar as L2 scored another goal. "And the Preventers are beating the piss out of L4!"

"You arrest me every Monday," Heero pointed out, leaning forward on an elbow. "Rediske never had a chance, Wufei always yells at you, and the Preventers beat the piss out of everyone. It's amazing they aren't just handed the trophy at the beginning of the season." He sat back as a pretty blonde waitress set down his bowl of rice and grilled vegetables, thanking her with a smile. "So, did you ask him out?"

Trowa choked on his beer, coughing into a fist as Heero whacked him on the back. "What... ?" he croaked out, clearing his throat to produce better sound. "What makes you say that?"

"You are acting very... odd, to say the least," Heero explained wryly, smirking as his friend flushed around the ears.

"No, I didn't ask him out," the detective stated, looking fixedly at the television.

"But?"

"But," he grinned stupidly, the flush spreading to his face. "I bribed Sally into giving me his number."

Heero laughed at his friend's mixed excitement and embarrassment. Trowa had been working up the nerve to ask out the cook for some time now, but hadn't confessed this to Heero until only recently. Being the good friend he was, Heero had promptly begun pushing Trowa into action. "After all," he'd reasoned to the young detective. "You miss one hundred percent of the shots you never take."

"Well, give him my regards," he said, stretching with a stifled yawn.

"You're heading out already? We aren't even at halftime," Trowa accused with a knowing look.

Heero shrugged, the shadow of a grin playing on his face. "A vigilante's job never ends."

Rolling his eyes, Trowa took another pull from his beer. "Why don't you just join the force, Heero?"

"And disrupt the Monday ritual? Never," he replied jokingly, grinning fully now. "Besides, what would I do with my cape?"

"Whatever," Trowa conceded, returning his attention to the game. "Have fun playing Batman. Don't do anything I wouldn't do, or I'll drag your ass down to the station. Again."

Heero laughed and clapped him on the shoulder, bidding goodnight to his waitress as he headed for the exit. Smoke billowed out into the night when he opened the door, cloaking him cloyingly in the empty blackness of the darkened colony. Looking up, he could just barely see seams of metal where stars should be. Closing his eyes, Heero stood for a moment and let his body relax from the stress born of having sat in lock-up all day.

Being what the law termed a 'vigilante' had its disadvantages. For one thing, it was technically illegal, which is why Trowa dragged him down to the station to be booked every Monday morning. The plus side of that affair was that the detective paid for dinner that night at Shenlong Barbeque and Grill, and they had really excellent rice bowls. Trowa would always ask Heero to quit working the streets as a civilian and join the L2 Police Department, but he always turned the detective down.

Heero belonged to the people, not the police. He fought every day to bring the world to some semblance of peace, though in starting with L2, he had his work cut out for him. The sheer impossibility of completing this 'mission' of sorts never even occurred to Heero. He lived by his emotions, and if his emotions told him to make the Earth and colonies a better place for humanity, he was going to do just that.

Shaking himself into better awareness, Heero turned towards the corner of Virginia and Third stalking into the shadows as he began his nightly rounds. He stopped in his tracks however, when he caught sight of what happened to be on the corner of Virginia and Third, for standing there, bathed in the yellow glow of the street lamp, was the most beautiful man he'd ever seen.

Heero didn't see the man's heavy make-up, which made his skin look bland and pasty, nor did he see the strained gauntness that depressed his cheeks and rested in heavy bags beneath his eyes. Instead, he saw the liquid glitter of eyes that sparkled in magnificent splendor, despite the hardships life had thrown their way. He saw the defiant tilt of a chin that dared the world to throw another punch, though she'd already thrown one too many.

He saw, in a word, love.

Moving as if dazed, he walked towards the man, his pace slow and cautious, as if the vision might disappear the moment he came too close. Catching his movement in the dark the man's head snapped towards Heero, their eyes locking even through the darkness. Heero was stunned by the amount of animosity and cold suspicion in that gaze, knowing he was thought a threat when the man stiffened defensively.

Wishing to remove all traces of misgiving from those eyes, Heero started forward again, keeping his pace steady and non-threatening, his hands in plain sight. The man watched him warily, prepared either to fight or fly off into the night. So concentrated were they on the other, they were both startled when a car pulled up beside the corner. Starting in confusion, the man blinked at the car before seeming to come back to himself.

Leaning lasciviously into the passenger window, he spoke briefly with the driver and Heero watched in no small shock as he accepted a credit disk, checked it with a scanner from his coat pocket, and slid into the car. The driver leaned over and the man smiled obligingly, though it was more of a grimace than anything. After a few moments, the car pulled away again, driving off into the night.

Heero stood staring after the car, his long overcoat swaying around him in the makeshift breeze of recycled colony air. His heart longed after the hard eyed man, aching sweetly and paying no heed to the scene that had just transpired. But a part of him wondered.

"A prostitute?"

+

"Forgive me, Mother, for I have sinned."

"Why do you return here, Duo?"

"I thought all were welcome into the house of God? Or does that not include those who sell themselves in His name?"

Mother Helen sighed deeply, her hands worrying the old rosary hanging from her waist. "How can you say that?"

"Can you honestly say that the church would still be here without the money I make?"

She fell silent, trying desperately to assure him that, yes, she would have kept the church from going under, but knew in her heart that whatever words she said now would be a lie. He gave a soft sound resembling laughter in some form, shaking his head derisively. Standing to leave, he lightly ran his fingers along the screen between them, the gesture fond, but sad.

"I didn't think so," he said softly, brushing aside the curtain to the confessional. "Until next time, Mother." She may have made a move to stop him leaving, but he knew in his heart that she would not go after him. The only time they spoke was in the confessional, as she would not so much as look at him anymore.

Walking to the collection box, he kneeled briefly, crossing himself before he rose, placing a portion of the night's earnings into the box. "Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum," he whispered, bowing slightly to the Icon as he made his way out of the church. He fished around in a coat pocket until he came up with his sunglasses, squinting against the false colony lighting until they were safely seated upon his nose.

He walked brusquely down the steps, waving briefly to the children playing cards on the sidewalk, amused by the thought of what would happen when Mother Helen caught them. A high whistle sounded from an ally and Duo turned sharply, scowling as he locked eyes with Barton, leader of the Meteors.

"Well if it isn't my little bird," the gang leader taunted, cocking his head. "Never figured you for a churchgoer. Or did you come to give the choirboys a rest?" Barton and his goons howled with laughter, grinning lecherously at Duo.

Ignoring them, Duo walked on, his posture stiff with suppressed anger. "Fuck off, Barton."

"That an invitation?" Barton grinned widely, he and his gang moving to circle him like wolves.

"Even I wouldn't sink that low," Duo growled, shoving his way around him. He hated Barton more than anything in the Earth and colonies combined. It was because of the Meteors and their idiotic gang wars that he was where he was now.

A drive by shooting on the White Fangs had led to the death of Father Maxwell, former head of Maxwell Church. Without him, they'd sunk quickly into debt and were faced with the threat of being evicted, the church destroyed to make a new multi-level parking lot. Unwilling to lose the only home he'd ever known, Duo went back to the streets, returning to a life of pick pocketing before ending up a prostitute. It was then that Sister Helen, now Mother of the church, stopped speaking to him.

Catching his arm roughly, Barton spun him around, jerking Duo back into the here and now. He grabbed Duo's chin in his other hand, bringing their faces together. "I'd watch what I said if I were you, pet. After all, it would be such a shame if anything should happen to your pretty little church." Duo's eyes flickered to the cathedral, where Mother Helen was scolding the gambling children, trying desperately not to look at him. "So how's about you join me for dinner tonight and we'll... talk about your manners."

It wasn't a request and Duo closed his eyes briefly, nodding his assent. Barton laughed in triumph and shoved him roughly backwards, laughing harder when he stumbled to regain his footing. He stood, eyes downcast, as Barton and his gang walked past him, reaching out to grope him and whisper obscenities as they did so. He ignored them, keeping perfectly still until they'd past, their laughter echoing down the alleyways.

When they'd gone, he looked up again, towards the church. Mother Helen was watching him and for a moment it seemed as though she moved forward, wanting to go to him. But, remembering herself, she stopped and turned away. Sighing, Duo did the same.

+

"And then Lucy, she told him that if he didn't pull himself together and get some professional help, she was going to take that damn mask and shove it up his- Oh, Heero! Hello!"

"Good morning, Hilde," Heero greeted the young waitress, seating himself at the counter. "The usual please."

"Of course! Hey Birdman!" she called, turning towards the window between the kitchen and the diner. "Plate of gold! Pronto!" Mille, the cook, stuck his arm out the window to flip her the bird, causing Hilde to laugh uproariously. "So, Heero, you old heartbreaker. How come you haven't taken sweet Lena out for a night on the town?"

"Hilde!" Lena protested from where she was busy bussing a table on the far side of the diner.

"Now, Hilde," Heero scolded, drawing deeply from the coffee she set before him. "You know I'm not good enough for Relena." He took another pull from his drink. "Besides, Milliardo will rip off my arms and beat me with them if I come within ten feet of her." Hilde laughed again and Lena blushed prettily, moving to take the order of a young couple in a nearby booth.

"Alright, then when are you going to take me out on the town, sugar daddy? That is, if you aren't too busy saving the world from purse snatchers." she teased, leaning forward to pout at him.

Heero rolled his eyes with a smile. Ever since Hilde had found out that he was, "so rich, it's disgusting", as she liked to put it, she'd insisted on calling him her sugar daddy. Hilde loved money almost as much as she loved gossip. He waved her off and then sat back, digging into his eggs and half-listening as Hilde began chatting up the local spinsters, who wore cigarette smoke like wreaths around their heads.

When he'd emptied his plate of breakfast, he turned in his chair to gaze out into the street, sipping greedily at his coffee. His eyes flickered over the people on the street observing them as though fascinated by their very presence. Something flickered out of the corner of his eye and he looked over to gaze in shock at the longest hair he'd ever seen.

It was probably three feet in length, russet brown, and plaited together in a tight braid so that it swung like a pendulum with the movement of its owner. Speaking of the owner... he trailed his eyes up the length of hair trying to catch a glimpse whomever the hair belonged to. Heero all but leaped out of his seat as he found that he very much recognized the man with long hair.

"Hilde!" he shouted out, startling the patrons of the diner. She looked up at him in surprise and he pointed at the man. "Do you know who that is?"

Hilde followed the direction of his finger, cocking her head curiously. When she saw whom he was pointing to, her face twisted in disgust. "Who, that tart? He never comes in here. And I wouldn't serve him if he did."

"You should be lucky to have him here," he scolded, frowning at the shocked waitress as he laid credits for his meal on the counter and hurried out of the diner.

+

"Hello," Heero called, slowing to an easier pace when he'd caught up to the longhaired man.

Duo glanced at him briefly before turning away again, picking up his pace a little. "Hi," he replied shortly, inviting no further response.

"My name is Heero. Heero Yuy." Heero kept pace with him, managing to look nonchalant as he did so.

"How nice for you," Duo answered in the same curt tone. Heero followed him for several more yards before Duo turned on him, irritation playing heavily on his features. "What?"

"Aren't you going to tell me your name?" Heero asked in amusement, a small smile on his lips.

He eyed Heero in suspicion before answering. "Duo."

"Duo," Heero repeated, nodding as though in thought.

Duo looked at him for a moment more before turning away. He hadn't gone more than a few feet before he stopped again and whirling around, eyes blazing. "Can I help you with something?" he demanded.

Shaking his head, Heero smiled. "I just want to talk to you, that's all."

"You want to... talk... " Duo repeated, his eyes narrowing in suspicion. Heero nodded, causing Duo to scowl deeply at him. "Look, buddy. I don't start work until eight. So do me a favor and just fuck off. I don't have time for sappy customers right now."

A furrow worked its way between Heero's brows as he frowned, partly in confusion and partly from the language. "I'm not a customer," he explained, or tried to, but Duo turned away again.

"Then we have nothing to 'talk' about do we?" Duo replied coldly, stalking away. This time, Heero did not follow, but after a moment he called after the longhaired man.

"I'll see you tonight, then!"

"Don't count on it!" Duo called back, not turning.

+

Ducking into an alleyway, Duo waited several minutes to make sure Heero Yuy wasn't following him. He sighed, partly in relief and partly in frustration when it became obvious that he wasn't. Heero wasn't the first to be enchanted by Duo, and he wouldn't be the last. He hated the idealist types, most of whom were fresh out of college, believing that Duo could give them something more than just sex. But in the end, they were just the same as every other client, taking what they wanted and leaving him with a handful of credits... and whatever else he'd stolen while they laid in post orgasmic slumber.

Starting out into the street again, he made his way through the crowded streets until he reached an area where the crowds thinned out to almost nothing. It wasn't necessarily a bad part of town, though it was inane to say one area was better than another in a piss hole like L2, but people didn't feel the need to hang around the Sweepers territory.

The Sweepers were a gang of street rats, prostitutes, and pickpockets, or as Howard, their leader, liked to call them, "gypsies, tramps, and thieves". Duo had been working for Howard as a Sweeper for six or seven years now, and while Mother Helen might condemn him for it, being a Sweeper was, for the most part, beneficial.

Jogging up the stairway of an aged apartment building, he came to a blood red door on the fifth floor. Knocking twice, he twisted the knob, calling out into the hazy dimness beyond.

"Howard! Hey, Howard! You in?"

A grumble came from somewhere off to the right. "Yeah? What is it?"

"Got last night's earnings for you." Duo slid inside, shutting the door behind him as he sought out the colorful old man hidden somewhere in the shadowed room. Howard had a thing about light before two PM, and even after that, he wore his sunglasses until the lighting shut down completely at eight.

"Really? How much?"

"Couple hundred," Duo shrugged, finding Howard sprawled across his bright yellow and blue print couch. "And some of that hotel shampoo you like. Couldn't swipe you any towels, though. The manager was watching me like a hawk."

Howard grinned at him, adjusting his sunglasses as he sat up to take the proffered disk and hair products. "Not bad, kid! Not bad at all!" He stood and swayed over to a painting of a baboon, swinging it aside and opening the safe to toss in the credit disk. When he turned back, his face had taken a more serious tone, and he looked Duo over critically. "I heard Barton's been giving you shit again."

Duo shrugged, looking away from the old man. "Nothing I can't handle, Howard."

"Hey, kid," Howard began, folding his arms over his brightly patterned chest. "We Sweepers look out for one another, yeah? You don't have to be afraid to ask for help."

Duo shifted, uncomfortable with Howard's protective nature. "Whatever. Look, I've gotta go, alright? See you tomorrow." Moving around Howard, he reached the door and was through in only a few seconds. Howard looked after him, a worried expression on his pointed face.

"Take care of yourself, kid," he whispered to the closed door.

+

That night, Heero waited in the shadows near the corner of Virginia and Third, not wanting to scare off Duo, should he see him waiting there. At first, there had been some part of him that felt guilty for sacrificing his vigil of the streets for his own pleasure, but all thoughts were erased when at last Duo arrived. Duo was nervous and tension all but radiated off his body so that Heero felt nearly overcome with the need to remove that tension, to make Duo feel safe and well. Moving quickly and silently, he came up behind the longhaired man.

"Duo," he said softly once he was close.

Duo twisted around, his eyes wild with something akin to fear. Once he saw Heero, though, he relaxed and glared darkly at him. "What the hell are you doing here?" he demanded angrily, furious at having been snuck up on.

"I said I'd see you tonight," Heero reminded him, nearly wincing as it came out sounding wrong.

"Yes, well, as nice as it is to have a stalker, I'm working now so if you'd just move right along and stalk some nice actress far away from here, I'd be much obliged," Duo said patronizingly, rolling his eyes. When Heero didn't move, he elaborated. "Did I use too many words? Fuck off, Heero."

"How much?" Heero said after a moments pause.

Duo looked taken aback. "What?"

"How much?" he asked again, and added in afterthought, "For the whole night?"

"You have got to be shitting me." Duo snorted and looked over Heero's attire, from the secondhand overcoat, to the ugly sweater he'd gotten one Christmas, to jeans that had seen better days, and ending with his ugly, yellow boots. "More than you could afford."

"How much?" Heero pressed.

Duo rolled his eyes and said the first ridiculous number that came to mind. "Five thousand."

Heero nodded and pulled out a credit disk and a scanner. "Done."

"Excuse me, what?" Duo said in disbelief, frowning deeply as Heero input his credits into the disk before holding it out in one gloved hand.

"Five thousand, right?" He motioned for Duo to take the disk.

Duo stared at Heero, half expecting him to turn into a pig and fly away. He looked down at the proffered disk before reaching out to take it. He pulled out his own scanner and slid the disk through, mouth falling open slightly when the screen read '5000.00' in neon green print. Suddenly, Barton didn't seem nearly so important anymore.

"Right! Well then, where shall we do this?"

+

Minimalist was a luxurious term compared to the bleak space that was Heero's apartment. There was a kitchen, a living room, and a bedroom with an adjoining half bath, all with white walls and beige trim. The couch was worn and ratty and the most God-awful shade of green imaginable. The small table in the kitchen had only two chairs and was made from a synthetic fiber, painted white to match the walls.

"Nice place," Duo commented mockingly, giving Heero a pointed look.

Heero shrugged, seemingly unembarrassed by his surroundings. "I don't need much," he said by way of explanation, toeing off his shoes by the door.

Rolling his eyes, Duo did the same, bending to undo the three clasps that held each scuffed boot in place. Handing Heero his ancient brown leather jacket, courtesy of an unsuspecting customer, he stretched slightly, ignoring the rising of his too small t-shirt over the top of his too long jeans. One didn't have a great selection of wardrobe when everything you owned was stolen or found.

Heero watched him, his face impassive but for the gleam of amazement in his eyes. Eyeing him suspiciously, Duo spoke, moving to stand in his personal space. "So, where do you want to do this?" he said in an inviting way he knew worked well on his clients.

Heero pointed at the kitchen and Duo looked at him in surprise. "I thought we might start with some fish and rice... I could round up a side of vegetables, if you like. I don't have much in the way of desert... but I could always call into a restaurant and-"

"Heero, what the hell are you talking about?" Duo asked, giving him a guarded look.

"Dinner," Heero said in surprise, as if it were obvious.

"Dinner?" Duo repeated, as if the word were a dirty thing to say. "Look, Heero. I know you paid a lot for this and everything, but I don't do the whole 'wine and dine' thing, okay? So can we just fuck and get it over with?"

Heero looked taken aback. "Duo, I would never think to impose myself upon you!" Duo stared at him in incomprehension, so Heero elaborated. "I didn't bring you here to sleep with you. I would never do that to you. You deserve better."

Duo threw his head back and laughed, but it was an ugly sound, mocking and self-deprecating. "Oh, please, Heero. You don't need to keep up that 'knight in shining armor' act. I know what you want." He moved into Heero's personal space again, pushing himself against the other man. "So why don't you just cut the crap and get to the chase, ne?"

Taking him by the shoulders, Heero pushed him back, shaking his head. "No, Duo."

Duo gave him a look that was somewhere between pissed and apprehensive. "Fine!" he exclaimed, throwing up his hands and shoving his way around Heero. He grabbed his coat and jammed his feet in his boots. "If you don't want to play, then I'll find someone who does."

"Wait!" Heero called, coming up behind Duo to place one palm flat against the door. "I paid for the whole night, didn't I? Can't you... can't you stay here for the night?"

"And do what?" Duo asked sarcastically, turning to push at Heero. "Dart your socks and iron your fucking shirts?"

"No," Heero replied gently, brushing back a lock of hair that had come loose from Duo's braid. "Just stay. Stay and talk... or don't, but just... stay."

Duo studied his face, surprised when Heero brushed back his hair. "Why?" he asked after a few moments, a nearly imperceptible tremble in his tone.

"Because I... " Heero trailed off, looking into Duo's brilliant eyes with wonder. How the world could be unkind to such an amazing creature was beyond him. Heero was, in that moment, determined to show Duo that he was loved, and he ran his hand lightly down the longhaired man's arm, grasping his hand before bringing it to his lips. "Because I want you to," he answered at last, and placed a chaste kiss in the center of Duo's palm.

Looking at him wide eyed, Duo stood frozen a moment before snatching back his palm, rubbing it on his jeans in embarrassment. "Fine," he agreed brusquely, not looking at Heero. "But I'm not eating your fucking food."

+

Heero fell asleep on the couch around two AM, after having tried unsuccessfully to talk to Duo for nearly six hours. Duo watched him as he slept, frowning in thought as he tried to figure out the enigma that was Heero Yuy. All night long he had just talked, about everything from the weather to the Preventers, looking at Duo in a way no one had before. As if he were something precious.

"What does he want from me?" he whispered silently to himself, moving away from the kitchen chair he'd been sitting upon. Stretching the kinks out of his body, he walked over to the coat rack, digging around in Heero's pockets until he found the man's credit scanner. Pulling an empty disk from the same pocket, he inserted it into the drive and waited to for the machine to boot up.

He was surprised to find that there was no pass code or identification required and shook his head at Heero's naivety. Opening Heero's credit account, he nearly dropped the damn thing when '69,995,000.00', flashed at him temptingly. He looked from the money sum to Heero and back again in amazement before something else caught his eye.

The account was labeled HeeroYuy04.

"Shit!" he exclaimed in surprise. It wasn't even his main account! He hit the download quickly, pressing a random number when asked how much he'd like to withdraw. Pocketing the disk, he replaced the scanner in Heero's overcoat before pausing, removing the device and placing it into his own ratty jacket. He donned the black duster, which was, although second, or more accurately third hand, still much better than his torn leather coat. He placed his own scanner inside the deep pocket; quickly doing up his boots as the threat of being caught made his ears and neck burn.

He turned, glancing briefly at Heero again before giving him a brief salute of gratitude and walking out the door. "Let's see if he comes after me now," he murmured in an almost smug tone, shutting the door behind him.

Had he looked back again, he might have seen Heero smile at him.

+

"Well you're very nearly floating this morning," Trowa commented dryly when Heero came to see him the next morning. "Nice jacket, by the way. Been to Goodwill again?"

Heero looked down at the worn leather jacket and smiled, petting one of the sleeves with a goofy grin on his face. "No," he answered happily. "This, you might call a gift."

Trowa rolled his eyes knowingly, leaning back in his chair. "So, then. What poor wretch did you save this time to bestow you with such a prize? You didn't call in last night, so it must not have been theft or attempted assault... "

Heero shook his head, his grin fading slightly in guilt. "No, I didn't patrol last night."

The detective's eyebrows shot up so fast it was a wonder they remained on his face. "You... didn't patrol? But... you always patrol! It's gotten to the point where you put in more hours than the whole of the Crimes department! What the hell happened that you would not-" Trowa broke off suddenly, giving Heero a sly look of comprehension. "Heero, you dog! Who's the lucky girl? Or boy, I should say," he added with a wink.

Flushing, Heero grinned broadly, rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly. "Now, Trowa. A gentleman never speaks crudely of his love."

"Uh-huh. What's his name, wise ass?"

Glowing, Heero replied. "Duo."

"Duo?" Trowa repeated, frowning in thought as the name stuck a chord of memory. "Duo what?"

"Just Duo."

The detective scratched at his neck reflexively as he tried to remember why the name was familiar to him. Then it clicked. "Duo?!" he exclaimed, drawing curious glances from the other detectives in the precinct. "Sweepers Duo?!"

"Sweepers?" Heero said in surprise. He scowled a little in consideration before nodding. "Yes, I suppose so."

"Heero... " Trowa began, fearing that his friend may have finally lost what little sanity he still possessed. "Do you mean to say that you're... dating... one of the most notorious prostitutes in all of L2?"

"No," Heero shook his head. "I'm not dating him. I'm in love with him and wish to spend the rest of my life telling him as much." Trowa stared at him incredulously and Heero shrugged. "There's a difference."

+

"Howard! You decent?" Duo called into the apartment, poking his head around Howard's red front door.

A grumbled reply came from within, followed by a rustle of clothing as Howard, hopefully, made himself presentable. "Yeah... " the old man said sleepily from his couch. "Come on in."

"I've got your cut." Duo waved the disk at him as he shut the door behind him.

Howard instantly became more alive. "Great! How much!"

Shrugging nonchalantly, Duo flipped the bit of plastic in his hands. "Not much," he replied, keeping his face neutral. "Ten thousand or so."

Throwing his head back, Howard laughed in loud bursts, his shoulders heaving. "That's a good one, kid!" he gasped, whipping tears from his eyes.

"If you say so, Howard," Duo said, shrugging again. "I guess you won't be wanting your cut after all." He turned to leave, filled with the urge to grin evilly. He settled for smirking darkly.

"Hey... wait a minute," the pimp wheezed, attempting to get himself back in control. "You serious?"

"No, I'm Duo, and I never lie." He tossed Howard the disk, who caught it, eyes narrowed in suspicion.

Warily, the old man pulled out a scanner from under the couch, sliding the disk through quickly. His eyes widened comically from behind his pointed sunglasses, his eyebrows and ears following suit until it looked as though his wrinkled face had been stretched back into youth. He opened and closed his mouth a few times like a fish out of water, trying to speak around the dryness of his throat.

"Well!" he managed, flicking his rather bright eyes between the scanner and Duo. "Well... I hope you don't take this the wrong way, kid, but will you marry me?"

Duo let out a harsh bark of laughter, stuffing his hands in the pockets of his new coat and rocking back on his heels slightly. "I take it you're pleased then," he stated smugly. "I'm afraid I wasn't able to steal anything else for you. I hope you're not too disappointed... ?"

"Oh, no," Howard assured him, his eyes firmly glued to the scanner now. "This will do fine!"

"Great," Duo said sarcastically, rolling his eyes. He turned to leave, throwing a wave over his shoulder. "I'll just be off then. See you tomorrow, Howard."

"What? Oh... yeah... sure... bye, kid," Howard mumbled distractedly. His head snapped up suddenly as something occurred to him and he leaped off the couch, racing to the door to call out after Duo. "Hey, kid! Keep up the good work!"

He was answered by another bark of laughter. "Yeah, sure Howard."

+

Detective Trowa Bloom drove cautiously through the Sweepers territory, keeping an eye out for not only his quarry, but for the car thieves who were notorious in these parts. They could practically dismantle the car around you and rebuild it around themselves in thirty seconds flat. It was really quite entertaining to see... were you not the one being robbed of your ride.

Trowa had left the precinct only moments after Heero; the former intent on seeking out Duo, while the latter was busy seeking his lawyer. Something about making a change in his will. Trowa hadn't really been listening by that point.

The swirl of a braid on a familiar black trench coat caught Trowa's eye as his target stepped out of an apartment building and onto the street. Rolling down the window, he pulled up beside the man, causing him to start slightly as he turned.

"Hey, copper," Duo said warily as he recognized Trowa, raising his hands defensively. "I've done nothing wrong, so why don't you just keep on moving?"

"Prostitution legal these days?" Trowa asked sarcastically, leaning over to push open the passenger door. "Get in."

"How about, no?" Duo replied just as derisively, rolling his eyes and walking off.

"All right, then you're under arrest." The detective shrugged, making as though to move out of the car.

Duo looked at him acidly, folding his arms tight across his chest. "On what grounds?"

"Besides prostitution? Oh... how about robbery, for one?"

Sneering, Duo got in the car.

+

[cont]