Authors: TB and Marsh
see part 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer
+ Part Two
Wufei hadn't said anything
in almost an hour. Heero had finished his report about their aborted bust
and subsequent arrest of a fellow officer found at the scene and was adding
his notes about the interrogation. But he found it hard to concentrate.
He kept thinking about Duo being arraigned, the way he'd looked, standing
slump-shouldered before the judge while his nervous court-appointed representative
had stuttered on the 'not-guilty' plea. At least they'd been able to do
it at night -- at least they'd offered bail, not remand. The prosecutor
hadn't been any happier to be there than the defense; they'd want to bury
another bad-cop story as fast as they could shovel the dirt.
And Duo in his socks the whole time because his shoes had been taken for
His coffee was stone cold and thick, but he drank the last swallow anyway
to chase a lingering headache. Wufei looked up when he tossed the paper
cup to their shared waste bin, and it clattered against the rim.
"You don't believe him," Heero said abruptly.
Wufei rubbed his mouth, then dropped his hand to his desk. "Not all of
it, no. Do you?"
"It's not like him."
"How well do you know Maxwell? Really?" Wufei took off his glasses and
rubbed the red indentations they'd left on the bridge of his nose. "You
don't spend significant time with him. You haven't worked with him in
any profound way since the war, and even then it was very sporadic."
"I could say the same about half the force," Heero argued. "If we're even
looking for a cop."
"Who says we're looking for a cop?" Wufei paused, gazing down the avenue
left by their computers between their facing desks, carefully adjusting
the lay of his calendar until it was parallel with the edge. "If Maxwell
is telling the truth, this could be a simple gang slaying over drugs or
money. Unless he said something to you privately?"
Heero didn't have to look at his report. He was too tired for it to make
much sense, anyway. "He -- maybe he hinted?" He stared down at the pictures
from the crime scene. The body, twisted where it had fallen, face ripped
open with a single bullet. Blood sprayed liberally over the wall, but
at a curiously low level, perhaps half a tall man's height; CSI thought
Vasquez had been forced to kneel. An execution. Duo's gun had still had
a full clip, but it was easy enough for a smart man to hide the emptied
one. Maybe on that missing second body. "I don't know," he said. "If he
knew, he would have told us."
"That's a crock of shit. He's hiding things. He's protecting someone.
You said it yourself." Wufei adjusted his calendar again, though it was
already perfect, turning his lamp on it to be sure. "Maybe he's protecting
"When has he ever protected himself?" Heero pressed. "He's not exactly
known for self-preservation."
"Would you even have noticed?" Wufei didn't really intend for him to answer,
though. He quieted, leant back in his chair. It creaked softly. His head
turned slowly, his eyes roving the office floor over the empty desks of
their fellow officers, now home in bed, or passed out in the crib in the
back. There were only two others still in the building with them, and
they sat drooped over their own desks metres away, absorbed in their work.
"You think a cop did this," Wufei said.
Heero held up the top picture, the one he'd been looking at. "Look at
his room. Nothing touched except the body. All the violence contained
in one place. Gangs are messier, destructive. Or if it was the mafia,
they'd be -- this was an efficient kill."
Wufei took the photo from him, but he barely glanced at it before laying
it on the desk before him. "Do you have a theory?" he asked.
"I want to see the forensics first." Then he was shaking his head. "I
think it would be a mistake to focus solely on Duo."
"I agree with that at least."
"I want to canvas the building for witnesses."
Wufei stared at him for a long, cold moment. "This building?" he clarified
Heero looked up, suddenly dry-mouthed at what he had implied. "No," he
said, and it came out on an odd croak. He cleared his throat. "The building
where we found Vasquez."
Wufei glanced down at his watch, then stood, lifting his jacket from the
back of his chair and grabbing his glasses. "Want to go for a ride?"
Duo tossed the box he'd been given holding his wallet, coat, and belt
to the floor beside the door. Trowa hung up his coat, and then Duo's beside
it, and flicked on the living room lights. He caught Duo's arm when Duo
would have gone past him, and touched the swelling bruise on his left
cheek. "Who did this?" he demanded softly.
Duo's eyes flickered over him. "Another question I'm not going answer."
"So what can you do, Duo?" He released the other man in a little disgust.
"Are you going to run?"
"I don't know yet." Duo dropped onto Trowa's couch, and his head fell
back to rest on the cushions. "I don't... I don't exactly have a plan."
Trowa shoved his car keys deep into his pocket. "You don't trust me at
all," he guessed.
"I do. More than I'd trust my own mother, if I knew who the fuck she was."
His voice was thin about the edges. Trowa felt a little prick of worry
and pity. "This is going all to pot and I don't know what to do yet."
It was now eight in the morning. Trowa had at least had a few hours of
sleep the night before, but he was tired; Duo was trying to make it into
Space on fumes and nothing else. "You need to sleep," Trowa said. "And
eat something. Come on and I'll feed you."
Duo came back to his feet as if it took the rest of his strength, and
he trudged into the kitchen with his head down and his feet shuffling
on the carpet. Trowa revised his evaluation further downward when Duo
let himself be pointed to a chair and taken care of. Trowa opened a bottle
of beer and poured most of it into a glass he thought was clean. He finished
the last few swallows himself out of the bottle as he set the glass before
Duo. "What are you hungry for?" he asked, just as he remembered that all
he had was half a leftover pizza and some American cheese.
"I don't know if I should get drunk right now."
"I'm not feeding you coffee." Grilled cheese. He pinched a spot of mould
from the crust of his bread and buttered the slices while he heated a
pan. "Drink the beer. It will help you sleep," he added. The cheese melted
quickly, he only burnt the bread a little. He pried the sandwich out of
the pan with his fingers and dropped it onto a plate, and set it before
Duo. Then he took it back, and jimmied the halves apart. He used the last
of his mayonnaise to slather the melted cheese, stuck the bread back together.
Duo grinned a little in that way he had. He drained half the beer in big
swallows, took the plate when Trowa pushed it back at him. "Thanks," he
Duo lifted the greasy sandwich to pick at it. He ate off the corners first.
"Tro... 'm so sorry. For getting you into this. And for -- not calling
"I can be fucking sorry."
"It's dumb. I'd have said 'no' if I didn't want to help you. Eat your
food, before you pass out, moron."
Duo managed half the sandwich, and drank the rest of the beer. Trowa watched
him throughout it, feeling stupid himself for not looking away and half
sure that Duo would vanish if he did. The worry of that kept growing the
longer he looked at Duo sagging over his plate. He found himself abruptly
declaring, "I'm glad you called me."
Duo licked his fingers. "Yeah? Mess-Up Maxwell?"
The forward momentum of his doubts de-railed with that unexpected joke.
It took him a moment to recover. "No-one but you ever used that name."
The other man laughed almost silently at that. "It had everything. Alliteration.
"It's bullshit. Come on." He wrapped one arm about Duo and pulled him
physically from his chair. Duo still fit against him -- he smelled like
jail cells and alcohol, but he sighed when Trowa touched him.
"You'll get a call. You know you will."
"I'm unlisted," he said. He all but carried Duo into his bedroom, and
there he stripped him slowly, as he would have a tired child, down to
his boxers and black trouser socks. "Get in bed," he ordered, nudging
the pile of Duo's clothes in the direction of the hamper. When he pushed,
Duo went down. Trowa considered him, then added, "If you're going to talk
to me, I'll stay."
Duo's expression never changed; but then, he'd known Trowa for a long
time. They didn't have to constantly evaluate each other any more. "Within
limits," he said.
"We'll see about those," he countered. He switched on the bedside lamp.
It was very dim, not even bright enough to read a book in bed. He nudged
off his loafers, then shed his shirt and jeans. He crawled onto his bed,
pulling Duo up after him until they were both comfortably stretched out.
He settled on his side so he could face Duo, propping up his chin on his
hand and trying to remember if Duo had always had that freckle right there
beside his upper lip. "Okay," he said. "So, talk."
"I got a call from a contact about some shit going down in the neighbourhood.
Lotta cars. Shots fired."
"I went down there. I got the super to let me into the building. He said
there'd been shouting, then a crowd left. Bangers. Bad bones. I went upstairs."
Duo recounted it drily, almost with disinterest. He must have used the
morning to practice. "Door was open. Dead guy on the floor."
"And that's when the mounties arrived?"
"Yeah. More or less. Maybe... maybe five minutes. Definitely less than
"It's thin, Duo," Trowa felt compelled to say. "Very thin."
"You don't need to tell me. The truth usually is."
"So that's half the story," he guessed. "What's the rest?"
Duo propped himself against the headboard. The bruise was livid now. Trowa
wondered if they should document it. Duo muttered, "We're getting toward
"Go to the edge," he suggested. "And we'll see how hard I have to push
to get the rest."
"No, man. Just -- don't, okay."
This part was familiar. He and Duo were fundamentally opposed on issues
of honesty; Duo was stupid for it, the way Duo could sometimes be, a little
too ready to be simple when the issue was too damn complicated for simple.
It didn't automatically make Duo wrong but it never failed to make things
harder, and Trowa definitely did not agree that a life of trudging uphill
Duo read his silence. He said, "If I've got reasonable doubt, I don't
need to be innocent."
"But you are," he pointed out. Not asked.
And Duo not-answered with that screaming vulnerability he sometimes had,
usually right on the heels of the stupid. He reached for Trowa's hand
-- or put his out, anyway, and waited for Trowa to take it. He did. He
traced the creases across the palm, then drew random circles.
"You're aware this means I just have to figure it out myself, right?"
He looked up in time to see Duo sigh and glance away.
"Don't suppose I could ask you not to think too hard."
"You can ask." So could he, though. He squeezed Duo's hand, the only warning
he was going to give. "Which one of us was it?" Yeah, and Duo looked back
at him -- did he think that look fooled anyone? Especially Trowa. But
maybe he didn't. So they sat looking at each other, long enough for Trowa
to be sure he'd conveyed what he wanted to -- that he was never going
to believe Duo would take the fall unless it was one of a very limited
pool of people who were all in a position to be sure that when Duo fell,
he never got up again.
"This isn't the first time, is it?"
"You find it satisfying to talk at me knowing I'm not gonna answer you?"
Duo demanded seriously.
"I keep hoping you'll trust me at least this far."
"I can't, Trowa." He sat up and freed his hand. "Legally and morally I
can't. If either of us had to testify it could be perjury -- if you had
to -- "
"I'm not you. That's what you're saying? I wouldn't trade you for whoever
"I don't fucking know," Duo snarled at him. "I didn't have this all planned
out in case I ever walked in on a murder!"
"Several murders." He said it fast, watching for any kind of slip. But
Duo didn't verify with so much as an in-drawn breath. Oh, yes. Trowa knew
this mood intimately. Duo was stubborn, and the more tired he got, the
more the stubborn grew. Duo rolled onto his back and dropped his arm over
his eyes. "I'm gonna get fucked on this," he said.
Seriously, Trowa told him, "Not if you open your mouth. Who, Duo? Was
"No. Don't ask me."
"Fuck you, I'm asking. Who are you protecting? Chang?"
"Don't ask me," Duo repeated forcefully. "I don't know what to do yet
but I got to be sure it's right."
"I can help you, but only if you tell me what you're chasing."
"I'm just -- " The frustration in Duo's voice was strangling. He pressed
harder with his forearm, but not before Trowa saw the moisture he was
hiding. Guilt nudged him. He relented, reaching to touch this time with
tenderness. He gently brushed back Duo's frazzled fringe, then stroked
Duo's bare arm, until Duo let him draw it away. His eyes were almost dry,
the lashes just a little damp.
"Sorry," Trowa apologised in a murmur. "Sleep now, all right. We'll talk
in the morning."
"You gonna stay? Even though I didn't talk." He slurred a bit, and grimaced
when he heard it.
"All right. C'mere." He pulled Duo onto his shoulder, and wrapped an arm
about him, kicking at the blanket until he snagged it and managed to draw
it up over their bodies. He used every trick he'd ever learnt for calming
Duo down -- holding, but not trapping, petting without disturbing. He
sifted his fingers through Duo's hair, following the strands back to the
base of the braid, listening to the slight rasp of his fingernails against
Duo's scalp. And soon enough, Duo -- not relaxed, but un-stiffened. His
breathing evened out, and the press of his cheek against Trowa's shoulder
became just a little heavier as he let go. When he settled his hand against
Duo's back, he could feel Duo's heartbeat, steady and slow.
If it seemed bad now, it was only going to get worse. The media would
be looking at the new dockets in a few hours, and the story would be everywhere
by evening. And then some journalist would dig a little deeper and find
Duo's war record -- nothing the government claimed was 'purged' ever really
disappeared, and Trowa knew that as well as anyone could. And that didn't
even touch the deeper problem. Duo didn't take the fall for random nobodies.
It was someone he knew, knew well. Which meant it was probably someone
Trowa knew, too. There weren't many possibilities, and all of them left
him feeling... uh. Frustrated. Vaguely ill.
And Duo would need him. Again. To -- be. To do. And Duo wouldn't settle
for Trowa just standing still enough to be leant on.
"Did you notice any disturbances last night, ma'am?" Wufei asked, his
face blank as he clasped his hands behind him. The lady in question, eighty
if she was a day and towering over the slender Chinese man, glowered back
as she answered in a strident Afrikaans accent.
"No, I tell you again," she spat. "No noise all night, until you kerels
come knockin' down peoples' doors."
"Did you know the man who was murdered here last night? Rene Vasquez?"
She huffed as she straightened her lacy shawl over her shoulders and planted
herself in her rocker. "He a bad ag. Always gesuip -- drunk. He bring
dem girls in here, they party all night. Mess everywhere." She sniffed
at him as she caressed her crucifix, turning her glare to Heero. "Ek se.
When you gonna leave this place alone?"
Heero was spared having to answer when his mobile rang. He excused himself
with a mutter and turned his back on the woman and his partner, leaving
her apartment and stepping into the corridor to answer. He didn't recognise
the number, but he accepted the call anyway, pressing it to his ear. "Yuy."
"You arrested him. You booked him. You hit him. All when you know he didn't
It was Trowa's voice. Wufei came out behind him, and Heero gestured to
his phone. Wufei nodded, closing the woman's door and leaning against
Cautiously keeping his tone even and casual, Heero said, "This is probably
not a call you should be making."
"Maybe, but I'm doing it." Trowa was unreservedly biting. "We need to
talk. When, if not now?"
Who is it? Wufei mouthed.
Heero held up three fingers, watching Wufei make the connection. To Trowa,
he replied, "I can't discuss any of the details of our investigation with
"Okay, fine. That's cool. We'll call you from the road then for updates."
"Fuck, Trowa," he blurted, caught flat-footed. "Wait."
Heero hesitated. Wufei was glaring at him, but Heero knew Trowa was perfectly
capable of disappearing. And if he took Duo with him, Duo was as good
as guilty in the eyes of the law, and he'd blow his own defense wide open.
"Did he say anything to you?" he asked finally. "Does he have any proof?"
"I'm afraid I can't discuss this case with you," Trowa snapped. Heero
heard the smirk, and ground his teeth together. "You think I want to arrest
my friend?" he demanded.
"Maybe you do, Yuy. If you're the killer."
What the hell had Duo been saying? Or was Trowa just being Trowa, poking
raw wounds just to get a reaction? "No," he said flatly.
"I want to talk," the other man repeated. "Are you going to talk to me?"
"Yeah. Yes. You want to meet somewhere?"
"That's the idea, yeah. There's a diner in my part of town. Joe's. Can
you get there by ten?"
Heero glanced down at his watch. If they ignored the speed limits, maybe.
"Yeah. Don't leave if I'm not there spot on time."
He didn't get an answer. Trowa hung up. With a muttered curse, so did
Heero, and he clipped the phone back to his belt.
Wufei eyed him. "Well?"
"I gather Duo called him." He saw Wufei's expression, and said defensively,
"Why are you so determined to think badly of him?"
"I'm not determined to think anything," Wufei retorted. "I'm just trying
to figure out what he's hiding. Aren't you?"
"It's pretty damn obvious that what he's hiding is a who."
"Or he's making it look like it." Wufei ripped the elastic out of his
hair, scratched his head hard, then pulled the ponytail back together.
"He's one of us," he said, quietly, patiently. A little sadly, though
Heero didn't understand why. "Or he was. I suppose that's worth something.
But you can't let it blind you to the facts. I won't argue that the men
he's killed didn't deserve it, but let's be clear, it's still murder."
He smoothed down a lank lock of hair over his ear, gazing down the hallway,
inscrutable. Just when Heero would have spoken, Wufei said abruptly, "I
can help you make this go away if you want, but we have to agree and it
has to be final."
That surprised him. Then it made him angry. He pushed a finger into Wufei's
chest, leaning in to keep his voice quiet. "He didn't do it, Wufei. He
looked me in the eye and said he didn't. I believe him."
Dark brown eyes turned to him. "Is that your decision then?"
"Don't be so fucking cavalier. We have the opportunity to exonerate him.
That's our job."
"Fine." Wufei brushed Heero's finger away with a negligent flick of his
wrist, but he didn't look away and he didn't blink. "That's what we'll
Heero turned on his heel and headed for the stairs, aware of Wufei coming
after him. By the time they were out in the street again, he felt steady
enough to say what needed to be said, if he planned on keeping Wufei as
a partner and a friend. He dug their car keys from his pocket, and as
he pressed them into Wufei's palm, hoping it looked like an apology. Maybe
not. Wufei took them and crossed to the driver's side to let them in.
Heero sat, pulling the door closed and jerking on the safety belt.
"You're meeting with Barton?" Wufei overcranked the ignition, and his
face acquired some colour when the engine groaned. He pulled away from
the curb without signaling.
"Yeah. You coming?"
"I'd like to." He eyed Heero sidelong for a moment before speeding up
for a ramp onto the highway. "Am I invited?"
"You're my partner," Heero said.
They got there ahead of him, because Trowa let them sweat a little bit,
watching from his car in the bowling lane parking lot across the street
for a half hour. When he finally strolled in, they were sitting in a booth
with a clear view of the door, in plainclothes as if they didn't radiate
"officer of the law." Trowa let the door bang and the bell clank, just
to watch their heads swerve toward him in tandem. He hung his jacket on
the peg at their booth, and slid onto Heero's side, forcing him to move
further up the sticky pleather bench. He met Wufei's scowling eyes, and
made his opening sally.
"All three of us know it wasn't Duo and that the charge isn't going to
hold up for long." Then he smiled, first at Wufei, then at Heero beside
him. "So which one of you was it?"
Wufei's eyes went narrow. "I can appreciate your anger, but what makes
you think it was one of us?"
Trowa faked a casual shrug as he reached across Heero to take a plastic
menu from behind the napkin dispenser. "Duo doesn't open a vein for just
anyone," he answered. He flipped through the pages. "Can't really be Heero,
though. He's had the heat for Duo since the war. It'd be out of character
to let Duo fry for him."
He felt Heero shift next to him. And he didn't miss the look that went
across the greasy table to Wufei, but Wufei had more aplomb. He only leant
back in the booth with a small, wearied exhale. "So, it's me, then," he
said drily. "Obviously."
Heero shifted again. "This is ridiculous, and it doesn't help anyone."
"Probably not," Trowa said. "How's the club sandwich here, you think?"
"It was serious enough that we booked him, Trowa. It's not going to go
away just because none of us think he did it."
"No, but with some solid police work, if what Barton says is true, and
it's as apparent to the world as it is to him that Duo is innocent, it's
fixable," Wufei rebutted, touching a finger to the tines of the fork sticking
out of his napkin-wrapped silverware set. He didn't look away quite fast
enough when Trowa raised his head, and their eyes caught again.
"You know," Trowa told him, "I really couldn't care less which one of
you did it. I just want Duo off the hook."
Heero broke his concentration with a low interjection. "I didn't know
you and he were back together."
There was an insinuation there, and it stung a bit. "We're not," he said
shortly. He dropped his eyes back to the menu. He could feel Heero staring
at his face, and Heero shifted his legs again -- what the hell was that
about? -- and their shoes brushed under the table. It took an effort not
to jerk back, but he didn't.
"What's with the avenging boyfriend routine, then?"
"Is that what I'm doing? I thought I was helping a couple of buddies bail
out an old friend."
"You're right. Duo doesn't 'open a vein' for just anyone." Heero paused.
"He'd do it for you. And you'd let him."
He did look up at that. Then he spread his hands in elaborately false
surprise. "Fuck; maybe it was me, then."
Wufei slammed his water glass onto the table. "What is your problem?"
"I don't have one," Trowa snapped back. "Do you?" He didn't wait for an
answer, but shoved the menu aside and folded his arms on the table, turned
enough to see both the other men. "I didn't know anything about anything
until Duo called, and he's not telling me a thing," he said. "So what
do you know?"
Heero and Wufei did that thing that partners and couples did, the thing
that Trowa and Duo had never quite managed to get down pat, where they
glanced at each other and somehow telepathically exchanged an entire conversation's
worth of information without a word. Wufei nodded at the end of it. "Tell
him everything," he murmured. And just like that, Heero gave in, which
left Trowa scowling to himself, but he took the folder Heero put on the
table and had it open before he registered that it was far too thick to
be about one dead gangster, even a mean one.
"These are the ones that matched MO," Heero explained curtly.
He paged through photographs of crime scenes, arrest records, interview
notes, stuff that went back eighteen months or so. A priest who'd killed
a kid he'd molested; the priest's car, burnt to a crisp with the dead
man in it. A restauranteur on the take with a radical group of religious
terrorists, slitting his wrists messily all over a grimy kitchen floor.
"How many?" he asked, impressed until he realised --
" -- you're going after him on all of them."
Wufei answered, stirring the ice in the bottom of his glass with the plastic
straw. "No, we're not going after him. We're trying to assure that when
the DA does, we can prove it's too flimsy to get a conviction."
He looked between them. Both were wearing their cop faces again, almost
as bad as their poker faces. He could read everything. "And is it?" he
"I don't know," Heero said.
And, "We believe that it is," Wufei said, over top of that. They looked
at each other, but the telepathy seemed to be a little broken this time.
Trowa licked his teeth, deciding how best to proceed. "Quatre's offered
his legal team," he said at last. "They know how to punch holes in even
the most iron-clad case. I think you should fax what you have to Quat."
"We can't until they subpoena it," Heero interrupted.
He rolled his eyes. "Fuck sake, do it on the quiet if you have to."
"It needs to get done the right way. And I'm pretty sure the reason you're
asking for this, and not him, is because he'd never even think to do it
'on the quiet.'"
"No, he's not going to ask for fucking anything because he'd rather take
the hit than incriminate anyone," Trowa retorted angrily. "That's what
he said to me when he called. He needed a way out that wouldn't screw
anyone else over." He knocked Heero deliberately with his elbow as he
jammed the menu back in its spot behind the napkins. "I'll call Quatre
and tell him to have his team put through the papers." Except he and Heero
reached for the case files at the same time, and Heero closed it on his
fingers. Trowa stared grimly.
He covered it with a small, derisive sound. "You think I can't find at
least as much information as is in that file within half a day on my own?"
Heero stood, forcing Trowa out of the booth. He didn't make it easy, though,
and Heero had to step out of his way while he put on his coat and belted
the file inside. Heero caught his eyes smack on, and said, "If you can,
then I suggest you do."
Wufei muttered as he slid off his bench, grabbing his own coat off the
hook. "Stubborn fools," he muttered. "When you're finished with the pissing
match, maybe we can accomplish something."
He let them go, not bothering to look as the bell clanged with their exit.
He flagged a waitress, and reached for the menu again, this time actually
meaning to read it; but though he stared at the words, they didn't resolve
He was pretty well sure that Heero wasn't guilty. And damn certain that
Heero wouldn't ever get around to suspecting his partner.
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