Authors: TB and Marsh
see Prologue for warnings, notes,
of Conduct +
"You're kind of crazy, but
I can take a little crazy. I mean, you met Ruth. Duo's a great guy, and
I don't want to make trouble for you two, but listen, if things don't
"You've got to be fucking kidding."
"Yes," Addison said, deadpan.
The only thing scarier than Addison joking was Addison not joking. Trowa
laughed involuntarily. "Hey, it was a shot."
Addison grinned at him. "Lucky Duo. Still stalking him?"
"What do you think?"
"I'll take that as a yes. Buy you a drink?"
"A drink." Trowa checked his watch. He had an hour or so before Duo was
home, but he'd planned on spending that time shopping for a replacement
Desert Eagle. The slide on his old one was loose. But Addison was a scotch
kind of lawyer, and a twenty-year old single malt would be good insulation
against a conscience. He expected Duo not to pick a fight, not on the
night before a job, but sex would be good, and he was more likely to get
it if he didn't come in smelling like hick and black powder solvent. "Sure,"
He was wrong about the scotch. Addison stood leaning on the bar like an
Armani ad, magnificent suit draping just so over the hips, the snap-down
collar artfully open at the throat. Trowa propped his sneaker on the brass
foot rail and waited for the bartender to finish showing off. She laid
two fat glasses on their sides on the bar and dripped bourbon in a red-tinted
puddle. A roll of each glass caught the light like topaz.
"So will you work for the firm?" Addison asked him.
"I'm considering it." Not really. Maybe a little. Only in that it would
keep him at home. He didn't have that pull to disappear into the ether
anymore. He knew the job was always going to come between them. It already
always had, even if Duo hadn't known it. So he'd quit, because Duo wanted
it. Maybe they'd travel. Fuck in exotic locales. That was what people
did when they wore themselves out on meaning and purpose before they hit
thirty, wasn't it?
Probably he was getting old.
Addison saluted him with the bourbon. "You should. Consider it. You'd
be completely independent, languishing on the payroll until we need you.
We rarely have more than fifteen cases. Half of those ever go to trial.
Most of the investigating work you'd do would be preparatory, finding
dirt, the mistress, the sex tape, that kind of thing. Child's play to
a secret agent."
Trowa sipped. It burned a little on his lips. "So what's the catch?"
"It lacks the prestige of the Preventers. And the challenge."
"As far as most of the world knows, I'm an upscale mercenary. I'm not
looking for prestige." Too much vanilla in the afterwash. Trowa let the
glass rest on the bar. The fat guy on his right lit a cigar. "How's the
money?" he asked.
"You'd start at a hundred. Commission on each case, plus a yearly bonus.
With expenses, you're looking at double the salary figure."
The cigar smelled better than the bourbon.
"I wanted you to hear the numbers before you bought a house. You'd be
able to afford considerably better than what Duo was describing."
"It's what he wants. What he can afford. You follow?" Duo was nobody's
"I do, yes." Addison propped his chin on his fist. "Duo's a good guy,
you know? I think maybe the first really good guy I've known since college."
"He's also off-limits." Trowa bared his teeth in a smile. "Unless you
want to end up an entry in my log."
Addison held up both hands, pretending fear. "You do creepy-scary a little
too well, my friend."
"Relax. I trust you, Addison."
"Oh, I'm sure."
"I'll think about it." His voice came out flatter than he meant, but the
decision had been that fast, just clicking somewhere in the back of his
mind. It was an attractive offer. Aside from the fact that Addison was
disturbingly earnest-- he'd almost liked him better when he'd thought
he was just a smarmy bastard. He'd rather Kiplis. Maybe he could ask for
her. She reminded him of Une. Without the ability to ruin his life. Well,
not quite as much or as readily as Une, anyway.
"Take whatever time you need," Addison said. "Meanwhile, allow me to wine
and dine you for a little. That is also a perk of the job. And by you,
of course," he added hastily, "I mean the both of you."
Trowa shot the last of his drink, daring any of the fancy-dress morons
there to so much as eyeball him. The glass vibrated against his fist as
he slapped it down. "I gotta tell you, Marc, I like you just fine, but
I'm not sure the wining and dining part appeals. I'm not that social,
and Duo's kind of a homebody. Nice booze, though."
Addison was unimpressed. That was the problem with people who saw you
at your worst. They never forgot about it, and they constantly felt superior
because of it. "Oh, come off it," he retorted. "I'm guessing people like
you don't have many friends, but people like Duo do. Except maybe not
so much since the murder trial of the century? He called me, remember."
Unfortunately excellent point.
Addison was far less dramatic finishing his glass and setting it down,
but the little clink as it touched the bar was as final as a gunshot.
"Let him have some friends."
"What do you want from him?" Trowa said. "No bullshit, Marc."
"I don't want to sleep with him, if that's what you mean." Addison's mouth
went up in a little smile. He turned his back to the bar and gazed out
at the patrons. "I meant what I said. He's a good guy. I spend about as
much time with scumbags and worms as you do, but it's my job to defend
them, to think like them, to excuse them for their lies and their greed.
There's something kind of liberating about being around someone who's
exactly the opposite of all that."
Duo had a longing for sophistication and civilisation, and nightlife and
book clubs and cotillions. Addison had all that and said it didn't mean
anything without whatever he thought Duo was-- truth, maybe. Human decency.
"So what," Trowa said. "You think if you hang out with him, you might
feel a little clean again?"
Addison looked back at him. "Don't you?"
"Yeah." And for a second, he felt more than a little predatory about it.
Addison nodded. "Yeah."
Trowa wet his thumb to pick at peanut flakes on the bar. No matter how
ritzy the joint, they always had peanuts. Universal reality.
"Not a steakhouse next time," he said. "Duo's a vegetarian."
"He's-- Jesus." Addison laughed. "Yeah. Okay."
"You really do need an investigator."
"Apparently. Ruth'll flip her shit. She's the one who suggested Morton's."
He managed a fairly natural expression. "Let her think she got it right."
"So you're headed out again, huh? Off to save the world."
"Yeah. My flight's tonight, actually."
"Just enough time to get the cape dry-cleaned."
"If you think I'm a hero type, you're not reading the signs right."
"I think you probably have your moments."
"You just go on thinking that, Markie." Trowa reached for his wallet,
then changed his mind. Addison could pay, even if he only wanted Trowa's
help as a favour for Duo. "Time to be going. I'll call you."
Duo cried when Trowa woke up him after midnight to say good-bye. It embarrassed
them both, for probably the same reasons. Duo wiped his nose and breathed
through his mouth, but it was too late to hide it.
It also made him nervous. Duo wasn't usually so emotional. They hadn't
even been drunk when they'd gone to bed. Well, not much.
"Shit," Duo said. "Don't look at me. You'll be late for your flight."
"Baby, don't." Trowa hovered at the edge of their bed, not sure if he
should sit. "It's just a couple weeks."
It took Duo almost a full minute to get gruff enough to speak again. "I'll
drive you to the airport?"
"You should stay here," Trowa said. "It's cold out. I like thinking of
you in bed."
Duo exhaled something not quite a laugh. He reached up, and his palm slid,
fingers cool, along Trowa's neck.
Trowa turned his head to kiss Duo's wrist. "Is it important to you?" he
asked, a concession he wouldn't have made a year ago, a question he rarely
asked himself about Duo's whims. And that was a strange thing to suddenly
do, because he realised he already knew the answer, for once.
Duo shook his head. "Be careful."
"Always." He stood. His duffle was on the floor by the bureau, right where
Duo had left it when he'd packed for Trowa. The strap settled over his
shoulder and held sturdily. "You worry too much."
"Just tell me I'm being stupid and get on the road."
"You're being stupid, baby." He bent down. Duo's mouth was warm, at least,
when he pressed it briefly with his own lips. "I'll be back soon."
Duo nodded again. "See you then."
"Yeah." He kissed Duo a final time, quickly. Duo rolled to his stomach
and pushed Trowa's pillow out of his way. Trowa hesitated, an activity
that didn't bode well for the near future. He drew a deep breath of his
own. It was just as well they weren't usually this asinine. He had enough
to not think about on the job, these days.
He didn't look back as he walked out. But he couldn't stop himself from
being extra gentle closing the bedroom door.
Everything lacked a sense of urgency now.
"Heero?" Noin reclaimed his eyes. "You say you fired at the first man
because you saw he was armed. Did you see he was armed, or did you just
assume from the situation?"
Spiralling slowly. Like a jumper with a chute. Floating, literally, with
the breeze. Lacking all sense of gravity. He knew the landing was out
there, but it was hard to pay attention.
"I assumed." Heero dropped his pencil to his desk. "Based on several observed
factors, including the shape of the holster at his left hip, the obvious
bullet wounds in the victims, the shatter-point of the window, and the
way he reached for his hip without hesitation. If he hadn't been armed,
his movements would have been far less directed and assured."
"But you didn't see the gun." She made a note.
Hard to care.
She closed her portfolio. "It's getting late. Let's finish another day."
"How much longer will you be here?"
Her sigh made the dark fall of hair by her lips puff outward briefly.
It swung gently, inky and dark, with the movement of her head. Heero watched
it, already forgetting to be interested in her answer.
"There's still Stenson and Wrede to get to. Then we're moving to Narcotics.
Cuartero and Alvarez, Ricky Pearce, Lei Fang and Jennifer Ming."
Part of the job, wasn't it? The brass made a habit of hanging their own
traitors. The merest hint of suspicion had put dozens of agents under--
since Une had been given the purview, once the unchecked corruption of
the early years had been exposed. Heero had never cared much. He didn't
expect to be appreciated for doing his job. Noin did her job. It was unpleasant
and it made her disliked, but Heero understood that. It wasn't a bad thing,
if you couldn't have other things, to have purpose, to have a cause. Noin
believed in her own righteousness. It was obviously enough to drive her
on when the temperature in HQ dropped every time she arrived.
She picked up the empty nameplate from the desk facing Heero's. She said,
"I thought you'd have a partner by now."
"So far I've managed to elude one."
"How's Duo? They finally stopped talking about him in the news."
"He hates his new job." He shrugged.
"What's he doing now?"
"He's a cop. Cold Case Unit. It's a waste."
"The police do good work." Then she smiled. "You're right. It's a waste.
Other than that, how is he?"
He didn't know. He'd thought of calling. But he knew the reason for the
extended silence. Duo was wise about people, Duo was wise in particular
to Trowa, and it would in all probability be years before Trowa materially
trusted Duo again, trusted Duo to stay put in the locked box Trowa wanted
to keep him in. Heero couldn't be a friend and a problem at the same time.
He'd suffered it, the estrangement, at first. Thought of Duo every moment
he couldn't physically occupy himself. Had worried. Until the anxiety
settled to a functional level, until he could question himself with some
vestige of objectivity just what he was doing. He'd known Duo for half
his life, the good half of his life, and believed sincerely that Duo was
certainly a part of why he considered it good. Was it love? It hurt enough
to be love. It had hurt, the act of losing him, taking place as it had
right at the act of finally getting him. But when he thought of Duo, the
things he thought of changed the further he got from Duo himself, where
the details blurred. Where he didn't know if he loved Duo or if he was
just-- addicted to Duo's electricity. When he was younger it had been
Relena. He was so used to ignoring his own-- needs, that the fulfilment
was a shock, painful but--
He woke up dreaming. He never dreamed. He didn't know what it meant.
"Well," Noin said. "If you don't want a partner, maybe you'll consider
coming over to Troop 90X."
"Internal Affairs?" Heero flipped his tie to lie straight. "You're kidding."
"You may feel that we did you wrong these past months, but you have to
admit that the need for oversight is pretty desperate. Imagine if you'd
had someone you could trust to go to from the beginning."
"When particularly do you mean?" He didn't wait for her answer. "I don't
dispute there can be issues or abuses. I dispute that you're the one attacking
our intentions when outsiders were doing it just fine."
She stood, pulling her portfolio with her. "If you think I have even an
iota of regret about it, you're dead wrong, Heero. People cross the line
all the time. It's not enough to care about people's politics. We have
to care about their moral compass, or Preventers don't serve anyone."
"It's not for me," he said flatly.
Her expression said she thought he was being unfair. He knew. But she'd
got up on her high horse and it was setting him off, stirring the disgruntled
temper that had been rumbling sub-audio in him all week. Month. He was
personalising it, and he didn't care, because he wanted Duo back, damn
it, and it wasn't going to happen.
Her face was frozen. "I'll let you know when I'll have time for you again.
Be prepared to discuss the cases where Wufei was senior partner." She
looked away, her jaw tight. "You still live with your foot in your mouth.
And you still don't know it."
He tried all afternoon to shake off the discussion with Noin. He felt
like everyone was watching him out of the corner of their eyes, glancing
quickly away whenever he turned toward them. Everyone knew IAB had come
down on Wufei, and were still going through his cases even though he'd
quit three months ago. It had led to a general house cleaning, they were
calling it, and they were looking at anyone who'd had any kind of complaint
ever. Heero knew they were blaming him, him and Wufei and mostly Duo,
though so far no-one had said it to his face.
So he had no idea whether to be relieved or frustrated when Duo left him
a text message asking for a shopping date.
It had only been five years since they'd done one. Maybe longer than that--they'd
had different schedules after Duo moved to Narcotics, and old habits had
just faded. Frustrated, definitely.
Relieved. Definitely. But it just took a minute of sorting, a minute not
to be hurt about how long he'd had to wait or angry about the way it ignored
something they would, someday, really genuinely have to talk about-- it
took a minute not to feel a little desperate surge of entirely inappropriate
They met at their old Natural Foods, the converted warehouse by the highway
staffed by hippies in hemp and tie-dye. Heero got there first, in time
enough to stop at the café in the front and buy drinks for them
both, just like he always had. He met Duo with a pomegranate-acai smoothie
"Hi, babe," Duo greeted him, and hugged him one-armed. "Is that for me?
"It was the geekiest thing on the menu," Heero said.
"Har har." Duo sucked noisily through the straw. "God. It's been such
a long damn day."
He'd walked right into that. It hadn't had to be normal, there was no
decree from on high. He'd left it to Duo to choose. Why be surprised by
the choice? He didn't think Duo knew what he was doing.
He took the basket Duo handed him. "What happened?"
"I completely forgot my coat in the car at the car park, and I left my
wallet on the trolley to my building and had to go back for it, so of
course Marquez, who thinks he's deputy captain or something, he's all
over my ass about being late, and I'm not ready to just piss off at him
yet because I'm still kind of new, and--" Not a word about the mottled
bruise on his cheek, which would likely have been more pertinent, or at
least interesting. Heero tuned it out. They went past the potato stand
to the squash.
"And then," Duo went on, "Trowa's out of town again, so I slept like crap.
I think I actually miss the snoring."
"You should come back to Preventers," Heero said.
Duo went nose-down in his smoothie, and didn't answer.
"I know. I just thought it was worth saying." No, that was a lie.
Duo dropped a yellow gourd into Heero's basket. "They hung me out to dry,
Heero. I'm not going to go back there."
"Don't take a partner if you don't want to."
Grapefruit next. More into Heero's basket than Duo's, some obscure kind
of apology. "You doing okay?" Duo asked then.
Heero shrugged. He didn't like the flavour of his iced coffee.
"Oh, you don't get to do that with me, buddy."
He intercepted the tangelo routed toward his basket. "Yeah. I'm good.
It's been the same, only quieter."
"Yeah. I bet."
"A lot of the guys--" Duo looked at him, waiting. Heero licked his lips.
"Well, you left a hole."
Duo exhaled hard. He put down the fruit, and took Heero's hand.
With sheer effort of will, Heero didn't close his fingers around Duo's.
He said, "Probably shouldn't do that."
Hard to read Duo's face. Hard expression, really, the preface to something
Heero knew he wouldn't like and Duo was going to say anyway. But Duo let
go. Heero spasmed his hand closed and put it in his pocket.
"So we're never going to touch each other ever again?" Duo asked bluntly.
"We're going to be those people?"
"People who can't be friends."
Maybe. In all honesty. Duo was pretty much the start and end of Heero's
human contact these days. And he'd just spent three months incommunicado
because he was trying to make it work with a boyfriend Heero didn't want
him to have.
"Sorry." He wet his lips with the coffee. "I was never good at these things."
"Yeah, but you're not a robot, so upgrade, son." Duo smiled at him. "Come
on. I want to see if they have any dairy specials."
Heero didn't recognise any of the staff. No, that was the same guy at
the deli, tattoos all up his bare fleshy arms. And he nodded at Duo, which
suggested Duo still came here for his groceries. For five years. Five
years and three months, three months since he'd come a few molecules to
fucking Heero on the kitchen linoleum.
"Wufei said I always counted on you too much." Duo looked up from the
cheeses. "Not that you couldn't deal with it," Heero said, "but that I
"I think we've established that Wufei doesn't know fuck-all."
"No, he was right about this."
"No he wasn't. You don't count on me except as friends do, which is absolutely
fine, and I'm absolutely fine with it."
"I did. That's how I made my mistake with you."
That was worth a few minutes of silence. Duo took his time choosing mozzarella,
and then stayed eyes-down dragging out a selection of hummus. Then, he
threw his head back with an explosive sigh. "I never said it then, though
I should have. I'm sorry I let it get that far."
Maybe not every one of their conversations should be so life-or-death.
Heero didn't know why it always seemed to happen like that. Maybe one
day they'd run out of significant things to say to each other. Maybe it
would be this day. What was there to say after this, except that neither
of them ever made the same mistake twice?
Except about where to have a private conversation. Which was no more the
supermarket than it had been the kitchen sink in Trowa's apartment. "You're
just like Chang." He binned the coffee, and took Duo's basket from him
instead. "Do you have any idea how frustrating it is to try to apologise
and have it thrown back in your face?"
Duo's eyebrows went up under his fringe. "I accept," he answered evenly.
"Now let me apologise for flirting with you for a decade because you were
my back-up guy."
"Yeah." A woman went by pushing a crate of eggplant. Heero watched her
pass. "That did kind of confuse the issue."
"I wouldn't have to come down on you if you didn't disappear for four
days in the middle of the case!" Marquez retorted.
"In the beginning of the case," Duo corrected coolly. He rolled the football
under his foot, then punted it toward Jorge. "And I didn't disappear.
I used my sick days."
"All at once?"
"It's funny how that works out sometimes." The other men had noticed their
tension, and play was slowing as they stopped to watch. Duo scowled, and
then tried to clear his expression. Even if the squad seemed determined
not to like him, and Marquez was the worst of that, he was only going
to confirm their suspicions if he acted suspicious.
So he forced a smile. "Rosa ducked out early. We have a spot on the B
team. You bring your trainers?"
As a distraction, it worked--for a second. Disconcertion became a belligerent
frown. "Play your little game with the janitors," Marquez said flatly.
"Don't be late inside."
"Jesus," Ignacio muttered. He knocked Duo in the shoulder as they watched
Marquez stalk off stiffly for the doors. "What crawled up his ass and
"I don't know," Duo answered. "But I'm not crawling in after it." He signaled
for the football. "Are we playing or what?"
"Nah, Flaco, he's right. We're gonna be late if we don't shower now. Man,
everything okay in there?"
"It's cool. Just the new-guy shit, you know."
"You been here long enough to be the old guy."
"They don't know me like you do," Duo shot back facetiously. Rosa kicked
him the football, and Duo nudged it toward his duffle by their trash-can
goal post. "I said it's all cool."
Ignacio was unconvinced. Duo kept his face turned away, like Trowa always
did, making like he was busy with his duffle. He stripped his jersey and
mopped himself off with his gym towel.
"Work on that switch-up," Ignacio said finally. "I won't always be around
to cover your skinny ass." His chubby face split into a wide grin. "See
He showered and changed into his suit before heading for the break room.
He'd worn a uniform while he was in Homicide, but once he'd moved to Narcotics
everything had been plainclothes and undercover, anyway. There'd been
a period where Duo had barely owned anything without gang symbols. And
Trowa might not care about his own clothes, but new things turned up in
Duo's closet that he knew he hadn't put there. He probably wasn't going
to get much use out of the bondage-themed leather necktie, but he liked
He was always low, when Trowa left on a thing. He didn't like thinking
about it at work--work was work and home was home, and that division had
kept him sane, or saner than Wufei, apparently. But he missed Trowa already,
had a little ache going in his pit. If Trowa was late getting back Duo
was going to start tossing his stuff in the trash, that was what. See
how Trowa liked it when he couldn't find his running shoes or his remote
Not that Duo would do that. Not now, when things were actually going well,
for once. It felt almost like it had when they'd first got together. Doing
things together, feeling the same things together. Maybe it was stupid
to live with the fear constantly hanging over him that Trowa would wake
up one day completely reverted. Shying away from the slightest sign of--maybe
it was stupid but it was what he felt. Evolve, damn it, he'd used to say.
Shout, as if volume would drive the message home. Grow up.
Going off into the wild blue yonder having fucking hallucinations. He
was going to be a wreck until Trowa got back. A moron of a wreck.
Shazza and Nadia were the only two in the break room when he emerged.
Shazza greeted him with some actual enthusiasm. She seemed to have decided
he wasn't as bad as advertised. Nadia was cooler, though she did go out
of her way to mention there was a fresh kettle for tea.
"How's the face?" Shazza asked. "That bruise looks better."
"Not even tender." He filled a mug and chose a tea bag. "Hey, I wanted
to ask you how the interviews went."
"Rico didn't brief you?"
"What, you mean actually speak civilly to Duo?" Shazza answered scornfully.
Nadia frowned, at which of them Duo didn't know. "Most of the interviews
were bust," she told him. "We couldn't find half the original suspects,
or the club owner. Or the club, for that matter."
"New name, new style, new management," Shazza clarified. "There was a
pretty thorough renovation, and back alleys are a forensics nightmare
even when it hasn't been ten years."
"What about the free clinic?"
"The doctor who examined the vic moved to L1 four years ago. The nurses
don't remember the kid."
That had been a good lead. He was disappointed. "Maybe they'd remember
"I think we should try at least." Nadia pulled a small paper pad from
her coat pocket and flipped it to her case notes. "And we should try the
club again, now that you're back. You really should have been here from
"And he would have been, if Marquez didn't have his head so far up his
ass." Shazza ignored Nadia's scowl. "Come off it. He's just being a territorial
jerk. You should have been assigned the club at least," she added to Duo.
"Since you were the one who found the vic there before. Now we'll just
have to do everything over again. And he'll find some way to make it look
like anyone's fault but his. You should watch your back."
"Rico wouldn't lie." Nadia stood. "There's no point getting stroppy. Let's
just get our coats and get started, all right? Let's the three of us at
least try, so we can cover all the bases."
"Sure." Duo found a plastic lid for his tea and capped it. "Let me check
my voice mail. I'll be right there."
His hotel was on Ladova Street, a run-down little rent-house populated
entirely by students. They were drunk and loud the night Trowa arrived,
but Trowa generally found that made things easier. He was barely noticed,
and once he stuffed a towel under the edge of the door, the noise didn't
For the next three days he lived like the tourist he'd told Customs he
was. He ate kosher goulash in the Jewish quarter, parek v rohliku in the
pubs where the booths were painted in rich lacquers and the wan sunlight
barely penetrated the thick glass windows. He took plenty of opportunity
to say the one Czech phrase he'd memorised on the plane-- pivo prosim--
beer, please. He rented a Harley just for the hell of it and spent hours
on the roads, lost in the hustle of intense European traffic, dodging
the aggressive trams and the oblivious crowds who crammed the yellow grid
junctions. They had intense faces, the people of Prague, angular bodies.
Even when they smiled and laughed there was still something hardened about
them. He liked it.
Early morning of the fourth day, he walked to the Church of Saints Cyril
and Methodius on Resslova Street. There were already sight-seers there,
standing on the pavement to take snapshots of the tall cream-coloured
walls and red terra cotta rooves. They charged him thirty-five Czech koruna
for entance to the crypt museum. He had a camera, to fit in, and because
Duo sometimes liked pictures of the places Trowa travelled to, but he
left the brochure on the first bench he passed. There were multi-lingual
plaques on the wall, relief portraits carved of people who had died in
foolish causes ages before Trowa had been born. He knew the history of
the church and the assassination of the Nazi Reinhard Heydrich-- he'd
been bored on a long flight with nothing to read but a city guide-- how
the assassins had fled to the church to make their last stand and died
to a man. The death hadn't stopped there; the Nazis had executed anyone
even remotely connected to the church, the bishop, the wife of the dean,
even three choiristers. All for a few men who thought patriotism was the
same thing as recklessness.
It wasn't too different from Duo's church, really. There were memorials
there, too. He didn't think Duo had ever been to see them. Trowa had,
the year they were broken up. He'd needed to be in the place where Duo
was-- forged. Hadn't walked away knowing anything he hadn't already, before.
Which had maybe been important. He wished he'd figured it out then, when
it might have meant something to Duo to hear about it. That quote from
somewhere-- "All for a few men who bled patriotism." Or, if you really
wanted to be cynical, shat it out like it really didn't have meaning--
"Stop frowning," the man behind him said. "Tourists don't frown."
Trowa didn't turn. The man behind him shifted to Trowa's side, close enough
for them to talk but not close enough that the casual observer would remember
them doing it. "They do when they drink the water," Trowa muttered.
Balding man, round spectacles, a cigarette poking out from the muddy blond
moustache. No-one would remember him at all-- he was completely invisible
without even trying. Trowa admired it distantly.
The man dropped his cigarette to the stone floor and smooshed it with
a boot heel. He told Trowa, "I prefer a clean division of labour. You
shoot, I extract."
"That's fine." Trowa slipped his hands into his pockets, only then realising
he was cold. "When and where?"
"Two days. Praha hlavní nádra?í, the service from
Trowa tilted his head back as a cloud passed over the little crypt window,
leeching the already dim light. When he looked again, the man was gone.
No-one liked a squishy good-bye, anyway.
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