"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
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
"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
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,
"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
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
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
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 "...one 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
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
"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
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
"That would be... nice, I think," she said, cheeks coloring
slightly, or maybe it was just the chill air. "I'm a little uncomfortable
"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."
[cont] [back to