Authors: TB and Marsh
Pairing: 6+2
Rating: R
Notes: Takes place five years after EW

Caveat + Part 6

Duo woke with a gasp and a start, staring wide-eyed around him. 'Duo,' Zechs said, calling a blank gaze his way.

Then Yuy stepped out of the corner. He barely moved-- so silent he didn't even disturb the air-- as he laid his hand on Duo's chest.

But Duo sighed deeply, his eyes sliding closed, his tense muscles relaxing. Calm.

'You're in hospital,' Yuy said. 'You're all right.'

'Hospital.' Duo sighed again, and pushed at the thick blanket covering him. He patted Yuy's hand. 'Am I supposed to remember anything?'

'What is the last thing you recall?' Zechs asked him. He moved in, and Yuy moved away-- back to his self-chosen post between the vitals monitor and the privacy curtain. Zechs rolled a stool to Duo's gurney. Duo rubbed his eyes, looking blearily at him.

'Work,' Duo said finally. 'I remember they're showing the yearly evil war montage. I just wanted out of there. Wait-- hospital?'

'I brought you in last night,' Zechs told him. 'It's about-- seven in the morning, I think.'

'Hospital.' Duo pushed himself up on his elbows, wiggling his toes beneath the blanket, popping a knee. He looked at Yuy. 'Why is this a recurring motif in our relationship?'

Zechs wouldn't have sworn to it in court, but it was at least possible Yuy's expression was a smile. 'You're all right,' Yuy said again.

'So what exactly happened?'

'We were out to dinner,' Zechs explained. 'You had a beer. You started acting-- strange. I brought you in and you tested positive for gamma-hydroxybutyric acid. GHB. A very high dose. It's not surprising if you're experiencing some amnesia.'

'Drug-related amnesia? Are you serious? Does this even happen in real life?' Duo examined the oximetre on his finger, and pulled it off. The rip of velcro on the blood pressure monitor made Zechs set his teeth.

'You shouldn't do that,' he said.

'Zechs, no offence, but I'm not staying here. I'm leaving, right now. Heero, are there forms?'

Zechs hadn't even seen the clipboard that Yuy produced from atop the supply cabinet. 'I filled them out. Sign where I dog-eared it.'

'You can't just sign out,' Zechs protested.

'I can, too. They don't have the right to keep me if I'm conscious and I agree I'm leaving AMA.' Duo flung his blanket aside and took the clipboard to his knee. His scrawling signature was a little unsteady, and his first step off the gurney was tentative, but he made it upright. Yuy thoughtfully tugged the hospice gown closed over Duo's bare behind. 'Either of you have a car?'

Zechs abandoned the idea of trying to talk them out of behaving like jailbreakers and just opted to cut them off. He threw back the curtain and went straight to the door. It didn't have a lock, but he stood square in front of it, arms folded over his chest. The room's other patient, a slumbering elderly woman, never stirred.

'Someone tell me what's the hurry,' Zechs said.

'Hostile territory,' Yuy said.

'Is that a joke?'

Duo was shrugging into Yuy's coat. 'Zechs,' he said. 'Please try to get this. We don't stay in government care. It ends badly for us. Okay? I'm well enough to move, I can finish recovering in my apartment where they can't arrest me at will. I know it sounds paranoid, but I'd rather be paranoid and safe than paranoid and stuck here.'

'I'm a Preventer. If there was any kind of arrest coming, I'd know about it. You're the victim, Duo.'

'You're my boyfriend at the moment, not a Preventer. You really think they'd tell you?' No shoes, but Yuy had thought of that, too, and he knelt at Duo's feet to double up his hospital-provided stockings. Duo leaned wearily on his shoulder. 'Zechs, I know it's crazy. I really do. But it's not the craziest thing that's ever happened. I just don't have good history with hospitals.'

Yuy gave Zechs a fierce look as he stood. 'Are you moving or not?'

'I'm going to have to report that you left,' Zechs said, suddenly realising that this was what helplessness felt like. 'This is part of your case.'

'You do what you have to do and I will answer any questions you have once I'm home.' Duo went where Yuy pushed him, bare legs gone to gooseflesh in the cold air, hands stuffed deep in his pockets. Yuy's thick eyebrows were a grim determined line over his unblinking eyes. 'Please,' Duo said simply.

There was clearly no fighting it. Zechs surrendered unhappily. 'At least let me drive. You can't go on the metro like that.'

'Thank you.' Duo freed a hand to squeeze Zechs' wrist. 'Really. Thank you. I'm sorry, I know it's crazy.'

'It's not crazy.' He brushed the edge of a tangle in Duo's hair. 'I'll bring the car around to the side lobby. It will be easier to get out if you stay by the lift and pretend you're not jumping bail.'

Duo grinned fleetingly. 'Thank you.'

'I mean it,' Zechs said, aiming that at Yuy, who was still scowling. 'You stay there until I come in to get you.'

'We will,' Duo said. 'Promise.'


**


'And you just took him home?' Sally repeated in disbelief. 'Zechs, the hell? That's not even in the realm of protocol!'

'It was his choice. I didn't have any legal reason to detain him. I'm not happy about it either, Sal.' Zechs scowled at the street three storeys below, now bustling along with civilian traffic well into mid-morning. 'They jammed me up. And they knew they were doing it.'

'At risk of nagging on this issue, I did tell you it was something to think about before getting involved with Maxwell.'

'Yes. You did.' He rolled his shoulders, trying to relieve the tension seizing his muscles. He told himself again that Duo hadn't been trying to get him in trouble; if anything, Yuy had seemed to be the one in charge, even if Duo had done the talking. The way Duo had only calmed when Yuy touched him. He didn't like it-- didn't like that he didn't like it, because jealousy was a stupid emotion in the best of circumstances-- but most of all he hadn't liked being politely kicked out the door as soon as he'd dropped Duo at his apartment. And Yuy had known it. Clearly that was one rivalry that wasn't gone the way of the war.

'I thought maybe they respected my authority,' he said grudgingly. 'Respected my good intentions toward them.'

'Zechs.' Sally sighed. 'Nobody comes in a neat package. Given past events, I can't honestly tell you that their reactions are unwarranted. They were arrested at that hospital before.'

He'd forgot that. To be put on trial. Still, though, it didn't excuse everything. 'That was a long time ago.'

'Not that long. Your tea is ready. Sit down.'

There were two steaming mugs at her conference table. Not her desk. Zechs sat across the corner from his Director, wrapping his fingers around hot ceramic and trying to wrestle his mood under control. It had been a trying night. Scary night. He hadn't slept. He made himself close his eyes, take ten deep breaths. Sip the tea.

Sally tapped her fingers on the reader under her fingers. 'I sent Mamba to the bar as soon as you called, but they'd already washed the glasses. We don't have grounds to turn the entire restaurant into a crime scene for forensics, but I doubt we'd get anything anyway. You did the only thing you could, getting him in for testing. The lab will analyse the GHB. No compound is entirely the same. If we ever find a stash to match it to, we can bring that to court.'

'If. There are far too many “if”s here. Like “if” we arrested Árni Olsen, and someone is still pursuing the same targets, then maybe we arrested the wrong person.'

'Or just not enough of the wrong persons.'

'Two perps?' He bobbed his teabag as he thought that through. 'We never did match that IP address to any computer Olsen had access to.'

'Maybe the kid was cannon fodder. Reckless, obviously. Maybe he was never supposed to approach Relena. He goes off-book, the grand scheme gets derailed. His partner has to carry on alone.'

'And escalates in retaliation. Stealing Yuy's mail, to show that he knows their secrets. Dosing Maxwell but not actually harming him-- scare them? Shake them up? They're not safe in their own neighbourhoods. L4... why L4?'

'To demonstrate that he can reach every part of their lives? Their friends?'

'We should move Relena,' he said. 'And get her double back out there.'

'Already done. And Orange and Spider are back with her. If you want to be--'

'I'm not objective,' he said flatly. 'And I'm not effective if it becomes widely known that I'm not just Zechs Merquise, but also Milliardo Peacecraft.'

'You know it won't be a secret forever. Even in Preventers. It's amazing more haven't compared intelligence and put it together.'

'Has anyone come to you with their guesses?'

'Neptune,' Sally said.

'Neptune.' That surprised him. 'She's never indicated--' A thought occurred, and he clenched both hands on his cup. 'I need to say something that's going to sound very ugly, but please listen to what I mean, not the way I'm saying it.'

Sally blinked. 'Okay.'

'I haven't reported it officially because it never seemed to reach that level, but there's been a certain amount of-- of-- sexual—'

'Yeah.' Sally sighed and sipped her tea. 'You didn't report it, but someone else did. I'm aware of that situation.'

'Who reported it?'

'I won't discuss that. Get to your point.'

He'd been momentarily distracted chasing that idea, that someone would report harassment on his behalf. 'My point being if she knows who I am and she's feeling-- spurned in some, any way, and she also has access to resources here--'

'You're right, that is an ugly thing to say.'

'But it might be true.'

'Now who's coming up with the “if”s? If Neptune had a grudge against you, and I don't think she does, then it would still be a big leap to painting targets on the backs of your sister and two Gundam Pilots. And your involvement in this scenario is pretty recent. We had the threats against Relena well before you got involved with Duo.'

It wasn't logical, but he couldn't rid himself of the idea. 'Off-record, then, I still want to look at her.'

'There is no off-record about digging into a fellow Preventer's past on what barely qualifies as suspicion, Zechs. That's a definitive no.' Sally pushed her mug away and stood. 'Mamba will be watching Duo's apartment for a while. Why don't you and Tropic go back to the restaurant and see if you can dig up anything with the staff. And we'll bring in Duo and Heero for interviews.'

'I can interview them at their apartments.' He stood as well. 'If they won't stay in a hospital for fear of being arrested, they're not going to come in to Preventers, either.'

'Can you be objective with them? If you can't be objective about your sister, I can't expect you to be with them, either.'

That was a hole he'd dug for himself. And it effectively squashed any future opportunities he would have had to maintain his principal standing as the agent in contact with Duo. 'Tropic can do the talking,' he said quietly. 'I'll observe only.'

Sally nodded once. 'All right. Report back this afternoon.'


**


'I can't,' Tropic said. He scraped a pile of folders into his briefcase, sloppily losing a notepad as he did so. 'I have to go.'

'Go where?' Zechs demanded, irritated and then regretting it. 'Emergency, I take it?'

'Personal. Can't be helped. I absolutely need to go.' Tropic locked his case and grabbed his coat off their rack. 'See if Cobra's available. Sorry. I really have to go.'

'Is there anything I can do?'

'No.' Tropic got one arm into his coat and grabbed his case in the free hand. 'I'll try to deal with this as quickly as I can, but don't expect me back until Monday.'

'I'll push back our trip to the Mid-East.'

'Right. Thanks.' Tropic muttered a curse under his breath; there was sweat on his temples, and tight lines around his mouth. Zechs stood aside so Tropic could push past him into the corridor. 'I'll let you know.'

'Good luck,' Zechs said, but it went unanswered. Tropic was already out the door.

'Where's he running off to?'

Neptune. 'Don't know,' Zechs replied. 'He didn't say. Nice dress.'

'You like?' She swirled the ruby-red satin at her knees. 'Glad someone gets to see it. My bastard date cancelled on me. Twice.'

Oddly, the news of her dating put him in a better mood. 'Men,' he said lightly.

Her laugh was startled and real. 'Tell me about it,' she said. 'He leaves me stranded at the opera, and then one of my cases busts open last night. These heels weren't made for all-nighters. And my spare uniform is at the cleaners, so I'm stuck in this thing all day now.'

'You should head home,' he said. He glanced at his watch. Duo had been alone for hours now; and the interviews would take time. 'I'm out the door right now, as soon as I find Cobra.'

'Cobra's home with the 'flu. You need someone with you?'

The offer seemed sincere. He couldn't quite shake that suspicion he'd had, that she might have reason to be continually intruding herself on the case. But twice did not mean continually, and when she'd come to him about Yuy's mail that had also been because all other agents had been occupied. Maybe it really was a leap to assume she had nefarious intent-- or at least nefarious intent beyond trying to share his company. 'If you don't mind,' he said finally. He looked dubiously at her feet. The strappy shoes she wore didn't seem particularly suited to cold weather. 'Maybe we can find you a pair of boots.'

'I'll be all right. Where are we headed?'

Zechs fetched his own coat and courteously held the door for Neptune. 'Duo Maxwell was attacked last night. He's fine, physically, but it fits the pattern of threats.'

Her expression was serious and level. He thought of Sally's advisement-- that Neptune had guessed who he was-- and wondered if it really cast her in a different light, or if he was only imagining it. But even if she had put herself in the way of accompanying him again, at the moment he was simply glad to be moving. If there was more to deal with later, he would deal with it.

'Fill me in,' Neptune said.


**


Duo answered the door looking rougher than Zechs had ever seen him. There were dark circles under his eyes, his skin was sallow, his hair sloppily caught in a crooked tail. He was wrapped in a bulky sweater from neck to fingertip, but the heat in the apartment behind him still slammed Zechs like a wall as soon as the door let it out.

'Go sit down,' Zechs said, and gave him a little shove back inside. He gestured for Neptune to follow, and swept the stairwell with one last look before shut the door. 'Agent Neptune,' he introduced her briefly. 'I thought you'd be lying down.'

'Weird dreams.' Duo flopped backward onto his couch and pulled a quilt over his legs. 'You're a sight for sore eyes. Literally sore. I feel like I've been beaten with hammers. Interesting story, that happened once, so when I say that I do know what I'm talking about.'

'You were supposed to hydrate.' Neptune was checking the rooms, and Zechs left her to it. He fetched a tumbler from the cabinet and filled it from the pitcher in the refrigerator. 'Do you want tea? Something decaffeinated?'

'I only have black.' Duo took the water at least, and suffered Zechs putting the back of his hand to forehead and cheek. Light fever, but not warm enough to be dangerous. Zechs left a quick caress behind as Neptune returned from casing the apartment. 'Any leads?' Duo asked them.

'Nothing we can discuss,' Neptune answered briskly. 'Agent Wind has filled me in on events last night. How you feeling, aside from sore? Memories coming back?'

'Not really. You can sit anywhere.' Duo drank half his glass in small sips while both Preventers took seats on the bar stools. 'I sort of recall the restaurant. But not really anything specific.'

'No faces? No sense of anything wrong, out of place?' Neptune crossed her long legs, her sheer dark stockings catching the lamplight. Duo gave her a long look, breaking into a slow grin. She smirked back at him. Zechs turned his suddenly stiff neck elsewhere.

'No,' Duo said belatedly. 'I can see why they send you. I almost want to answer yes, just to keep you talking.'

'We all use our God-given talents.' Neptune none-too-casually flipped her hair over her shoulder, fanning it with her hand so that it swung prettily. But then she laughed. 'And if I'm not mistaken, my God-given talents aren't of the least interest to someone with your tastes.'

'I can still appreciate fine art when I see it.' Duo rubbed his eyes. 'You're sassy. I like it. Zechs, bring her next time.'

'Back to the subject at hand,' Zechs reminded him gently. 'Anything you can give us will help. What about earlier in the day? On the metro to the bar? Do you remember anything strange?'

'It was a normal day. Heavy workload, and everyone was in a shitty mood, and the fucking telly. On the metro, I don't know. I don't think so. Past rush hour, I think I would notice anyone obviously following me. Any sense of this just being a crime of opportunity? Or maybe the drink was supposed to go to some hot chick-- Fuck.' Duo rubbed his face again. 'Fuck, I forgot to call my boss. Shit. I was supposed to be in early today--'

'I called,' Zechs said. 'I told her you were in hospital.'

Duo reluctantly accepted that. 'She didn't sack me?'

'No, she didn't.'

'But you told her that you're a Preventer? So she knows I'm in hospital and there's some kind of official thing going on. Like maybe an official bad thing.' Duo chewed his thumbnail. 'This is not good. I should call her.'

'If there's a problem, we could talk with her again,' Neptune offered. 'Assure her it's not anything you've done.'

'She's got a one-strike policy. She employs a lot of ex-cons. One strike and you're done. Fuck.' Duo set his water on the table with a heavy clunk. 'Fuck. I don't know. What did I do while I was drugged?'

Zechs delicately sidestepped that. 'If you feel up to it, maybe you could go in this afternoon. We can drive you.'

'That's true. That's a good idea.' Duo tucked himself deeper into his quilt, watching both of them with narrowed eyes. 'So you think this crap is all related? Heero and Relena and all of that? Did you check on that kid, Pargan's grandson?'

'He was at home with Pargan. At least that's what Pargan claims. But we do know he didn't cross the border anywhere, didn't fly out from the airport. It couldn't have been him.'

'So this was just a prank.'

'I don't think so.'

'How could it be anything else? Look, you eliminated your one guy. And you were with me the whole episode, and nothing happened, right? Except for whatever embarrassing thing I did that you won't tell me about. So everything is safe except for my dignity. And I'm done freaking out about the hospital thing, so. Did you check on other customers? Maybe someone else got dosed too.'

'We put out a medical alert to hospitals and clinics, but most of the time people don't realise they've ingested something,' Neptune said. 'They'll wake up in the morning with no idea anything ever happened. We got the names of everyone who paid credit last night, but that doesn't account for everyone physically there.'

'And you don't have the manpower to interview a couple hundred people anyway.'

'No,' Zechs said honestly. 'But we do think it's related. And I don't think this is the last thing that will happen, either. If we don't catch whoever's responsible.'

'This kind of minor crap goes on until the doer runs out of steam or finds another celebrity to spook. The first place Heero and I lived, we had bricks through the window, paint on the door. Someone tracked our landline and posted it online and we got all kinds of nasty calls. When we moved, it died down. This probably will, too.'

'It's good that you're not letting it scare you,' Neptune said diplomatically. 'But the reality is that we do need to catch this person. In case the minor crap becomes major crap.'

Duo let his head fall back. Neptune gave Zechs a shooing motion, indicating, he supposed, that he should push harder. But if Duo didn't remember anything unusual, there wasn't much more to say. 'Do you know if Yuy is at his apartment?' he asked eventually.

'Heero's always at his apartment,' Duo said. 'You going there next?'

'Yes. After we drop you off at work.'

'I don't know.'

That admission must have cost. Duo would have given Treize Khushrenada a run for the money in a race to make firm decisions. Duo was putting on a show, that was what that meant. Pretending to be fine when he wasn't. And maybe pretending not to be worried when he was. If he'd been harassed like this before, for who knew how long, his nerves would be strung to the limit. And his fists were clenched in the quilt like they might shake if he let go.

'Neptune can cover Yuy,' Zechs said. He nodded rigidly to Neptune's surprise. 'I'll stay here with you until you decide. We can get a cab if you decide you want to go in.'

'Really?' Duo looked up hopefully. 'That doesn't mess you up?'

'Not at all.'

'Thanks. Thanks, that helps. That helps a lot.'

'Are you sure about this?' Neptune asked in a low murmur.

'I might get more out of him in private.' He brought her by the elbow to standing, and turned her toward the door. The chill in the hall was abrupt after the warmth of Duo's apartment, and he shrugged his coat closed. 'Do you mind doing Yuy's interview alone?'

'I don't mind, no.' Neptune pursed her lips, arms folded, fingers tapping on her elbows. 'So we're just not going to talk about the weird signals in there?'

'What weird signals?'

She gave him exactly the same eyebrow-arched stare that Sally always did. 'Huh,' was all she said. 'I'll let you know how it goes with Yuy, I guess.'

'Be respectful with him.'

'Oh, yes sir, indeed I shall.' She rolled her eyes at him. 'See you back at the office.'

He latched Duo's door behind him as he went in again. He stood leaning on it, wondering if he'd just done the right thing. The entire point of bringing Neptune with him had been to let her do the questions while he observed-- but if he was honest with himself, the point had really been just to have an excuse to be back here with Duo. Who was watching him, quiet and intense, letting him stand there in silence in his own thoughts.

'It takes thirty seconds for the caffeine to leave the teabag,' Zechs said. 'I can make you that tea with the second steeping.'

'You're so funny.' A frown creased Duo's forehead. 'I don't get you even a little bit, sometimes.'

'Stay in today. I'll ring your supervisor. I'll clear it up with her.' He left the door, to fill the electric kettle, take a mug from the tree. 'Why don't you go back to bed.'

'Zechs. Really. What did I do when I was drugged?'

He concentrated on the pantry, nudging spices and boxed pasta aside in the search for tea. 'You were... somewhat amorous.'

'Oh.'

His neck was hot. He opened his coat back up. 'Nothing to be embarrassed of. We didn't-- do-- anything.'

'I know you wouldn't take advantage of me.' Duo coughed, more a sound of a throat clearing, a noise to fill the pause. 'Think I will lie down. You'll bring in the tea?'

'Of course.'

'Take off your coat.' He peeked, and saw Duo looking at him still. 'Stay a while,' Duo said, and left the couch for the bedroom.

When he followed Duo in a minute later with the steaming tea, he found the lights off, the blinds drawn over the window. 'Are you asleep?' he whispered, setting the tea on a coaster on the bedside table.

'In like ninety seconds?' Duo rolled toward him. 'I told you take your coat off. Put it on the chair there. And your shoes.'

He shucked his coat and tucked his loafers under the edge of the chair. 'All right.'

'Now walk approximately four feet back to the bed.'

He was smiling as he arrived in place. 'Now what?'

'Mount 'em, stud.'

'Duo.' He curled his fingers around Duo's duvet-covered toes. 'Are you sure?'

'Maybe not as sure as when I'm under the influence. But pretty sure, yeah.'

He allowed himself to sit on the edge of the bed. 'We don't have to.'

'What, ever? I'm pretty sure we're going to get dirty at some point. Near future, maybe. Or now.'

He bent to kiss Duo. Duo threaded a hand into his hair, stroking the back of his neck. Zechs rested on a elbow, Duo's ribcage rising and falling under his palm. Even if things hadn't gone sour the night before, it hadn't had this quality, this intimacy. This was better. Right.

'Now you kiss me again,' Duo said.

'You feel up to it?'

'Free day, dashing hero boyfriend who makes tea. Try to stop me.'

He was still smiling when Duo kissed him again. Duo kicked back the sheet for him. Yes. Much better than in the car. Duo's tee-shirt folded back, revealing hot skin, a flat taut belly that indented under his lips. He kissed his way up Duo's chest, guided by Duo's tugs at his hair to a silky nipple. He licked it until it hardened, enjoying the way Duo's breath caught. He left a swipe on Duo's jaw with the broadside of his tongue and kissed him deeply.

'God, you have an amazing body.' Duo was tentative at first, but he grew bolder as they shed their shirts. 'Your shoulders are like-- I want to bite them. And your butt, I'm kind of a butt guy anyway, but you have the most amazing--'

He sucked lightly at Duo's sternum. 'For me, it's your legs.' He stroked Duo from thigh to ankle, and tucked the leg up around his hip. 'You were right. This is cinematic.'

'What? Cinematic?'

'Uh-- never mind.' He kissed Duo silent. Duo obliged without any argument. And busied himself with the zip of Zechs' trousers. He went on his back when Duo nudged him over, and then it was Duo's turn to map out his chest with lips and mischevious nips of his teeth. Each touch seemed to go straight to his groin-- no accident, with Duo massaging him there. He tried to muster up a protest when Duo peeled away his trousers and undershorts, but if Duo was still suffering any indecision, it wasn't about the direction of their first time in bed. Duo made a fist around him, and Zechs dropped his head back to the pillow, suddenly nerveless. That was nothing to the moment Duo's tongue circled the tip of his cock. He made some kind of grunted encouragement-- he thought-- and Duo closed his mouth over--

The sharp knock at the door startled him out of his reverie. 'Were you expecting someone?'

'No, ignore it and they'll go away.' Duo made an attempt at swallowing him. Zechs clutched Duo's shoulder, biting back a groan.

Another knock. And then the sound of a key in the latch.

Duo dove off the bed. Zechs was a second behind him, in time to catch his shirt in his face. He hurriedly zipped his trousers and shoved his arms into his shirt. Duo grabbed something out of the bedside table, something Zechs was pretty sure was a gun Duo was in no wise authorised to have, and then Duo was out the door. Zechs ripped his own weapon out of his coat and followed him just a step later.

Heero Yuy stood at the door. Duo came to an abrupt halt, and he dropped his gun to his side. Zechs cautiously mimicked him.

'There's a Preventer watching your apartment,' Yuy said. 'What were you doing that you didn't answer the door?'

'Fucking,' Duo said. 'Why didn't you wait for me to answer, as any reasonable person does?'

Yuy actually looked offended by that. 'I waited between knocks. You didn't answer. It was reasonable to assume you were in danger or were ill and unable to respond for yourself. Or have him answer for you.'

Zechs flushed. Knowing his face was flaming, he tried to glare Yuy down, but that was a losing battle.

'Reasonable,' Duo repeated. 'Heero, hello, I'm in my own apartment. Pretty safe in here. That is so not why I let you keep that key. What's that?'

Yuy dropped the duffel he was holding. 'You were attacked last night. I'm moving back in.'

Duo was set aback by that. Zechs blinked.

'How recently did you check your window locks?'

Duo shook himself. 'Heero. Seriously. Whatever that crap last night was, it doesn't exactly rise to the level of--'

'I disagree. You were drugged. You could have been assaulted. Any reasonable person would construe that as an attack. We've spent years anticipating something like this. I'm not leaving you alone.'

That was the longest speech Zechs had ever heard out of Yuy. He looked expectantly at Duo, waiting for the witty riposte. But there was none. Duo stood chewing his lower lip, unusually troubled, his fingers twisting in the hem of his tee shirt.

'I'm moving back in,' Yuy said.

Duo inhaled deeply. 'Okay. If you think that's best.'

'Yes.'

Zechs locked the safety on his gun and tucked it into his pocket. 'Duo, a word?'

'I'm here now,' Yuy told him directly. 'You can go. Duo and I have work to do.'

'Duo,' he insisted. 'May I please have a word with you.'

Duo shoved his hands deep into his pockets. 'Maybe it would be best if, uh, you gave us some time. I'm sorry. About the timing-- the-- interruption part. Maybe we can, like, another time. Later.'

He couldn't think of a single thing to say to that. The sheer disbelief froze his tongue.

'I'm sorry,' Duo said. 'Jesus. Uh-- I'm just really sorry.'

Yuy opened the door and stood by it. Zechs set his jaw. He went back to the bedroom for his coat and shoes. Duo was shifting back and forth on bare feet when he returned. Zechs tried to kiss him, but Duo turned his head so that Zechs only got his cheek.

'I'll call you,' Zechs said grimly.

'Sorry.' Duo avoided his eyes. 'Yeah. Okay.'

Yuy shut the door after him. The slide and lock of the latch had a definite tone of finality.

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