Authors: TB and Marsh
see part 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer

Code of Silence + 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 footprint analysis.

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 himself."

"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 softly.

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 said.

"Sure."

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 lately."

"Stop it."

"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. Brevity."

"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."

"Okay."

"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 ten."

"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 the limits."

"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 was well-spent.

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.

Damn it.

"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 you're protecting?"

"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 it Yuy?"

"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 do this."

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 it.

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 you."

"Okay, fine. That's cool. We'll call you from the road then for updates."

"Fuck, Trowa," he blurted, caught flat-footed. "Wait."

"Yes?"

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 do, then."

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?" he demanded.

"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 --

"Nine."

" -- 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 pressed them.

"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 into focus.

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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