by: Sunhawk

Confrontations (cont)

"I guess I just hoped that if you thought there was no chance of finding her," he ventured carefully, after a moment. "That... that you would give it up and the whole damn thing would just go away."

"Damn it, Heero," I whispered, frowning at the wall where he couldn't see it anyway. "You knew it was important to me..."

"Too important," he said, his voice sounding odd, as though he might not have meant to say that. "It just seemed like you were obsessing about it. It didn't seem... healthy."

"You know," I told him, and managed to make it sound simply conversational. "I hate that. When you try to decide what's best for me without even consulting me."

"I know," he sighed. "I try not to, but for so long... I had to. It's a hard habit to break." I raised my head to look up at him and he truly did look pained. He stroked a finger over my cheek. "For so long, you just couldn't, and everything fell to me. Then for awhile, you just didn't... want to... you just seemed to need me to take care of things." A look of pure tenderness came into his eyes and he smiled softly. "And God help me, but I love taking care of you."

I snorted and put my head back down, thinking about that. "You make it damn hard to stay mad at you," I complained.

"I don't want you mad at me anymore," he whispered. "It... hurts too much. I'll do whatever it takes. You want to kick my ass down the stairs? I'll throw myself down the stairs if it'll make you stop hating me."

"I don't hate you," I chided. "I never hated you. It's just hard to get past the fact that you... don't trust me." He wanted to deny it, but he couldn't, and was quiet for a minute.

"It's not that I don't..." he began, but I lifted my head to look at him and he faltered. "I was just worried... I... I..."

I raised an eyebrow and tried a smile, but it wouldn't come clear. "When did we lose the ability to talk plainly with each other?" I asked softly.

His _expression seemed to become more... intense and he met my gaze unflinchingly. "When you started hiding so much from me," he whispered gently and all I could do was blink at him.

I put my head back down and just listened to his heart. After a while I said, "I'm sorry," and couldn't have told you what, exactly, for.

"I'm sorry too," he replied and there was that same feeling that he might not be entirely sure what he was sorry about.

I just wanted it to go away for a little while, and he let me have that. We lay together, there on the couch, for hours. We didn't talk anymore, just held on and I felt the tension melting away. I didn't let myself think about the Williams'. I didn't let myself wonder about the journal, about the messages in it, about my decision to 'edit' it. I didn't really let myself think at all. Just listened to the solid, reassuring sound of Heero's heartbeat and marveled that this feeling had survived everything we'd put it through.

He let me curl there on his chest, occasionally brushing kisses against my hair, his fingers caressing my face, until I damn near fell asleep.

"Hey, handsome," he murmured then. "If we're going to sleep... let's go to bed."

I yawned an apology and levered off him. "Sorry... I don't know why I can't keep my eyes open all of a sudden."

"It's been a rough couple of days," he soothed. "I'm pretty tired too... I didn't sleep much last night either."

So we went to bed and slept as well as could be expected. I didn't even notice until I woke up, that he'd left the lights on all night.

It took me a while the next morning to find the damn fork. And cleaning up the cold fish and chips was just gross; what smells good for supper... isn't all that appealing at six a.m.

Things were a little better that morning. A little easier. Enough so that I was able to give Mrs. Hitchcock a cheeky little grin and a hearty 'good morning' when we passed her on the stairs. She blushed and clutched her paper to her chest, muttering something and looking away while we went past. I wondered later if she had blushed at me or if Heero had glared at her behind my back.

"We should invite her over for tea or something," I told Heero when we got outside, and I thought for a second he had swallowed his tongue he choked so hard.

"What the hell for?" he exclaimed when he could.

I snickered at him. "She's obviously bored and lonely. Maybe if we let her in the apartment so that she could see that we really don't own any kinky bondage equipment or anything, she'd get tired of complaining about us."

He couldn't quite seem to decide what to say to that, looking at me as though trying to figure out whether I was kidding or not. I decided not to let him know either way.

I made sure he drove again and vowed that I would get my car cleaned out that night come hell or high water. Sooner or later it was going to become an issue and I really didn't want Heero seeing one of those stupid notebooks I'd used for camouflage with all the random notes scribbled in them. I'd have a lot of explaining to do if he did. I wondered sometimes at how my mind worked; what had possessed me to scrawl all that crap down? It would have been just as easy to write in the Gettysburg Address or a grocery list. Sometimes I was sorry I'd given up the therapy sessions with Dr. Webster. At least I'd had someone I could talk to about certain things, who I'd known beyond a shadow of a doubt wouldn't go blabbing everything I said to Heero.

"You eat some lunch today," Heero admonished when he pulled up to let me out as he usually did.

"Yes, dear," I teased and made him smile.

"Damn, I wish this week was over," he sighed, giving me a frustrated look. "I need some time with you."

Down on the seat, where no one could really see, I took his hand and carefully gave it a squeeze. "Couple more days," I soothed.

"I'll see you tonight," he smiled, squeezing back.

"I'll be here," I replied, falling back on routine and got another couple seconds of his rubbing his thumb gently across the back of my hand.

The desire to kiss me goodbye was in his eyes and I finally had to quirk him a little grin. "Heero... the windows are starting to steam up."

He snorted, but finally let me have my hand back. "Love you," he murmured, just as I got out of the car.

I turned and leaned down to look at him. "It's going to be all right," I told him firmly. "I love you too."

I shut the door and he finally pulled away. I could feel eyes on me as I walked across the garage to clock in, and wondered how long before the rumors, whatever the hell they were, got boring and people moved on to speculating about something else.

I got my morning's assignments from a still subdued Griff and had to sigh.

"Boss-man, what's up with the kiddie jobs?" I had to ask.

He frowned and looked a little uncomfortable. "I don't want you straining yourself until that burn's healed up."

"Griff," I said, turning to face him dead on and planting my hands on my hips. "I scorched my back, I didn't break it. Give me something a little more interesting than another twenty oil changes before I die of boredom."

He couldn't contain a little bark of laughter. "Somehow, kid, I can't see you ever having a problem with boredom."

But he did relent and let me do some bodywork on a car that had gotten nailed during a high-speed chase. It was something that I actually needed my brain for, and helped immensely in making the day go faster.

I worked through lunch without noticing and when I came up for air that afternoon, and I realized what time it was, all I could do was hope that Heero wouldn't ask.

I finished with the fender I was working on and wished, not for the first time, that the garage was equipped to do the paint jobs. I would have liked dabbling in that, but there just wasn't the space for it, and once the repairs were done the cars were sent elsewhere. I took the work order to Griff's office and he grinned up at me when I walked in.

"You got a knack for that, Maxwell," he said. "Good job." Then his eyes raked me up and down in an uncomfortably appraising way. "You doin' ok? You're standin' funny."

I felt myself blushing and wished I could find a way to control that. "Stings a little when I get sweaty," I mumbled, trying to find where my posture was off and straighten it out.

He snorted. "Knowing you, that means it's damn well on fire." He nodded his head toward the corner of his office. "There's still some new shirts in the bundle. Go rinse off and change."

I flashed him a grateful grin and dug through the pile until I found one my size, then took myself off to the restroom to do just that. It took a bit of work with a handful of wet paper towels, and I was starting to feel like a contortionist by the time I was done, but I eventually got the stinging sweat rinsed away. The fresh, dry shirt was like a Godsend.

I tossed the dirty shirt into the hamper as I came out of the restroom and started across the bay to my next assignment. It didn't take two steps before I felt something odd in the air and glanced around. If there was anybody in the garage that wasn't looking my way, I couldn't see them. What the hell now?

I reached my toolbox and picked up my second work order, pretending to look it over while I actually glanced around the room. I finally saw Giles, the guy who was working closest to where I was; break off what he was doing to walk toward me.

"Hey... uh, Duo?" he said when he got closer.

"What's up?" I smiled at him and couldn't help noticing he looked pretty uncomfortable.

He stopped on the other side of my toolbox and kind of ducked his head, scratching at the back of his neck. "Your... buddy's partner was down looking for you," he muttered and I'd be willing to bet money that Giles would have paid for that no-blushing trick too.

"Wufei?" I asked, frowning in puzzlement.

"Yeah," he confirmed, fiddling with the torque wrench in his hand.

I waited for a second but he didn't seem to want to elaborate. "Did he leave a message?" I prompted.

Something oddly... defensive flickered across his face. A look that was almost angry. "He didn't want to hang around and wait," he said, his eyes finally flicking up to look at me and that look had gone a little... self-satisfied. "Said he'd try to catch up with you later."

"Oh, ok," I murmured, confused as hell. Giles gave me a sharp nod and walked away. Well wasn't that just weird as all hell. I wondered if I should go use the phone and call up to Wufei's office to see what he wanted, but then decided against it. It was more than likely more crap about that damn journal and I didn't much want to do that here in the middle of the garage with a bunch of guys staring at us. There wasn't that much time left until the end of the day anyway; if Wufei wanted to talk to me, he could damn well wait until I was off the clock. So I dug through my little pile of work orders, found one I thought I could get done in a couple of hours, and went back to work. It took a little bit before I didn't feel the weight of eyes on me any more.

I had pretty much managed to shut out all the crap, with my head under the hood of a car changing out a bad starter. I had almost completely forgotten about Wufei, had managed to forget the weird conversation with Giles. Was just in that zone where the rest of the world kind of melts away... until the totally alien sound of a woman's heels on the concrete floor brought me back to the here and now. I straightened and turned, idle curiosity bringing me back into focus. The last thing on Earth I expected to see was Anna Camden Williams walking into Griff's office.

Time did that thing where it slows down for you, just so you can enjoy the show and catch all the nuances. The first thing I noticed was that it must be darn near quitting time, because about half the rest of the guys were already gone. Those who were left were standing around staring at the strange woman in the prim little suit just like I was. Of course... she was only strange to them, not to me. The next thing I noticed was Heero coming across the bay toward me, and his face wore this odd little frown. I alternated looking at him with watching Anna speak with Griff. Her back was to me, so I couldn't read her lips, but I could see Griff. He looked... guarded, and his eyes kept flicking my way. I saw him shake her hand. I saw him nod.

"Duo," Heero greeted as he came up next to me. "Did Wufei talk to you?"

I tore my eyes away from the sight of Griff saying " of my mechanics..." and turned toward my partner. "No, I was in the restroom and missed him."

The little frown he was wearing deepened and he moved a little closer to me than was normal for him, out in public. "Listen... I need to talk to you," he told me softly, very aware of how sounds could travel in the wide-open bay. "Wufei got a message from the Williams' and we think they might be coming here to contact you. I want you out of..."

I laughed. I couldn't help it. The very picture of Heero moving in to sweep me off and 'protect' me from little Anna Williams was just too much. "You're a little late," I told him and inclined my head in the direction of Griff's office. "That is Mrs. Williams. I'm not sure yet what she's doing here, but I'm pretty sure she's not packing heat." I swear to God, he moved to step between us. "Heero... get a grip. What in the hell is wrong?"

He halted his movement, but his eyes were locked on the woman now and he didn't even look at me while he spoke. "We don't know just what she's doing here," he clipped out, and I felt like I was getting a mission report. "We don't know if she's operating alone. I want you out of the field until I can evaluate..."

I snorted, and watched as Gruff led Anna out of his office. "Evaluate?" I scoffed. "Operating alone? Heero... I love you dearly, but get your head out of your ass."

He looked at me blankly for a moment, seeming surprised by my attitude. "Duo-love," he said very quietly. "These people might be harboring some..."

I cut him off with a glare. "I don't know what in the hell you think I did to them, but we parted on good terms. I haven't spoken to her yet, but I'm sure she's not here to scratch my damn eyes out."

With that, I swept past him, snagging a rag to wipe my hands on as I made my way across the garage to meet Anna half way. Griff escorted her until he managed to make eye contact with me and I gave him a nod. He nodded in return and let her finish the walk on her own. Behind me, I heard a frustrated little growl and the sound of Heero hurrying to catch up to me.

"Mrs. Williams," I called to her. "What in the world are you doing here?"

She gave me a small, nervous little smile, but I could see her eyes having trouble staying focused on me. "Stop glaring, Heero," I hissed under my breath and got a surprised little grunt for my trouble.

"Mr. Maxwell!" she greeted me with a little bit of relief in her voice. "I'm so glad I found you, I wasn't sure I was going to manage it in this big building!"

We came abreast of each other then and I offered her my hand. She took it, clinging tightly for a moment and I found myself wondering that Emery Williams had let her come all this way by herself.

I could feel Heero's presence at my side and could see that his looming stance was making Anna very uncomfortable. "Mrs. Williams, this is Heero Yuy," I said politely, turning to gesture in his direction. "He's one of the Preventors agents. Heero... Anna Williams."

He was gracious enough to take her hand when she offered it and I was almost surprised. "You've come a very long way, Mrs. Williams," he ventured, and I don't think she picked up on the wary tone to his voice.

She smiled in her cordial way, taking her hand back much quicker than she had when she had shaken mine. "We come to the city quite often," she reassured. "My daughter lives here."

"So you thought you'd make a social call on the Preventors garage while you were in town?" I teased her before Heero had a chance to start some kind of cross-examination.

She blushed lightly and looked uncomfortable again. "Actually, I was hoping to have a chance to speak with you," she said softly and her eyes were trying hard not to stray in Heero's direction. "You left so suddenly the other day..."

She was too polite to come right out and say that she wanted to talk to me alone, but it was in her tone, it was in her body language.

"Of course," I smiled at her. "My shift just ended, let me get my coat." I turned toward Heero, giving him a bright smile that should very nicely have told him not to mess with me and said, "I think we'll walk down to the coffee shop, Heero. I'll catch a cab home... see you later."

He was not happy; I could see the tension in his stance, could see the message in his penetrating gaze. I ignored them both and touched Anna on the arm, taking her with me to the coat rack. Didn't figure leaving her there to talk to Heero while I clocked out was a great idea. She seemed grateful.

She stood quietly while I slipped into my coat and then we made our way out of the garage. I could feel Heero's eyes on us the entire way. I was a little surprised that he didn't insist on patting her down before he let us go. Sometimes his soldier boy mind-set makes me insane.

"So," I ventured, once we were out on the sidewalk. "You're really here to visit Leia?"

She glanced up at me and I realized that revealing I knew her daughter's name might have said more than I'd intended. But she just smiled gently. "Well... I think you just answered the first question I had."

I ducked my head and felt myself flushing. "Did I read the journal?" I voiced the question for her and sighed. "Most of it. Not... not the last part. We stopped once we got to the... personal stuff."

"We?" she prodded gently, and it occurred to me that this Anna Williams was not quite so off balance as the one I'd met the other day.

"Agent Chang and I," I replied, looking down at her upturned face. I saw only curiosity there. "I... had a little trouble reading it by myself."

She gave me a funny little grin. "Me too."

We arrived in front of the diner and through the front window we could see that the place was rather busy right here at the dinner hour. She hesitated. "We... could just walk, if you'd rather," I suggested carefully.

"That would be... nice, I think," she said, cheeks coloring slightly, or maybe it was just the chill air. "I'm a little uncomfortable around... crowds."

"Me too," I grinned and she laughed lightly. I offered my arm and we continued on down the street. I held my tongue and waited to see if she would get around to voicing some of what she'd come here for.

"I feel a little stupid," she said at length. "Coming all this way. It seemed like such a reasonable idea when I left the house, and now I find myself not knowing what to say or where to start."

I laughed. "Sounds exactly how I felt when I jumped in my car and drove half way across the country to bring you that book."

We shared a knowing look and the admission seemed to ease her mind a little.

"Well," she said, looking out in front of us and not really at me. "I'm glad you did. That journal... James' journal... Well; I just wanted to say, thank you."

I couldn't help grinning at her. "That's a hell of a drive just to say, thanks," I teased and she laughed, glancing up at me.

"Yes it was," she agreed amiably and was quiet for a minute before letting out an exasperated sigh. "I wish I knew where to start!"

"How about at the beginning?" I suggested gently.

She glanced up at me again and seemed to reach a sudden resolve. "Why did you lie to us when you first came to the house?"

"Ouch!" I grumbled, wincing theatrically. "Straight to the tough one!" I considered that and thought about the phrasing before I ventured, "I guess I just realized what a... razor sharp gift that journal was. To be honest... when I walked through your door, I hadn't made up my mind whether to give it to you or not."

She jerked her head up to look at me and I had to give her a tiny little shrug. "Mr. Maxwell..." she began and I had to sigh.

"Would you mind calling me Duo," I grinned down at her. "I feel really silly when you call me Mr."

She smiled warmly. "Only if you call me Anna."

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