Welcome to my Live Journal page! Unlike my other stuff, this is much more random with writing, graphics, and personal stuff. This awesome layout was taken from Butterfly Box, but the header was created by me.
My days of being her are done
Because the hard-hearted adamant has won--
What is borne of this surprise?
A bitch who is not afraid to fight.
Pick with me if you will, foolhardy you are
I may lose but you'll regret you chose to spar.
"Hell hath no fury like an armed woman scorned and prepared to battle."
- The Chameleon
The air in the castle was thick, so heavy that when anyone entered from the tempest growing outside, it clung to the skin, leaving a phantom wax-like coating behind. Firelight affected by the wind gusts from the outside flickered on the walls, distorting the shadows of the Lady in Black and her forbidding cape. Underlings watched warily as she marched past, sensing her wrath as it emanated off her taut body. No one asked any questions; if the stormy weeping from the Lady in White and the ominous clouds swooping in from the west were any indication, something indeed was amiss. And the Lady in Black was not going to hesitate to correct it permanently.
The Lady in White was a rather passionate young woman; she felt the same as she breathed--quick, deeply, and often. Due to her headstrong, tempestuous nature, she rarely acted on the advice of her opposite; it was limiting, she believed, and who wanted to be limited by Logic? She wanted to live, and in living, she wanted to experience everything, good and bad.
Needless to say, the Lady in Black ardently disapproved.
The Lady in Black was passionate in her own way; however, compared to her counterpart, she didn't consider herself as fragile, as easily deterred. She had been fighting to protect the Lady in White all of their lives since she was so precious to the balance of their lives, and at times the battle over the degree of that protection between the two of them seemed more taxing than the dangers that lurked amid them. The dangers that threatened to sully her innocence and generous nature. The Lady in Black, intellectually, understood that one should exist with such attributes, but the Lady in White squandered them on those who didn't deserve such attention. And again, she had gotten hurt in doing so. But this would be the last time,
the Lady in Black vowed. Her eyes narrowed as the words flashed in her brain, and anyone within seeing distance immediately jumped out of her way.
Finally she reached the quarters of the Lady in White. Predictably, the vast, plush space was outfitted in variations of white. The inundation of the lack of color nearly rendered the Lady in Black physically ill. She fought back the discomfort and searched the room for her quarry.
She found the Lady in White sitting on a padded chaise lounge
in all of her tearful, ethereal glory. She wore a dress so white it was startling, almost wearisome, to the naked eye. A fitted bodice with short puff sleeves made her appear younger than her years, juvenile to her antithesis. Layers of silk and tulle fanned out around her, and her streaked light brown hair was artfully arranged in curls. A bouquet of white roses sat in her lap and she handled them gingerly as one of three attendants in white offered her a handkerchief to stem her tears. The remaining woman, clad in a hunter green dress, noticed the entrance of the Lady in Black and slipped silently away from her charge.
Faye pressed her lips together as she neared the Lady in Black. Misery swam in her gray-green eyes.
"She has been like this for seven days," Faye informed her in a low tone. "I have done all I can do short of finding that lowlife and cutting out his eyes."
If this had been a less grave situation, the Lady in Black would have smirked. Faye, in her outward appearance, was affectionate and maternal. However, on the inside, she possessed the heart of a warrior and would not hesitate to bear arms, which made her compatible with and respected by both the Ladies of Black and White.
"I have another pair of organs in mind," the Lady in Black said sourly as her foil sniffled loudly. Faye grunted her approval.
"I hope he is nowhere to be found," Faye said. "Have you heard any word on his whereabouts?"
The Lady in Black shook her head. "I have officers scouring the lands but so far, no one has discovered him. It is possible he is in his own territory by now and will not return here. If he were a smart man, he would not even think it."
At that moment, the Lady in White noticed the new occupant in the room. The tears abated fractionally and she leapt up toward Faye and the Lady in Black. The anticipation in her eyes was so profound, they were nearly screaming. Him, here? Please?
"Good evening, O Dark One," the Lady in White greeted her foil."Have you any news for me?"
The Lady in Black merely stared at her. "There is a storm coming. And it is all your doing so perhaps you should desist with your foolish emotions."
"My emotions are not foolish!" the Lady in White burst out furiously. The Lady in Black narrowed her eyes. "And if they run rampant, it is only because you have confined me like a criminal." She crossed her arms over her chest. "I demand to be freed to go find him."
"You cannot see him again," the Lady in Black told her flatly. "I forbid
The Lady in White looked defiantly at her opposite. "You have no right to tell me how I should live!"
In a show of anger, the Lady in Black unsheathed her sword, the quick action halting the breaths of Faye and the other maidens in the room. Before the Lady in White could swallow, the sword was at her graceful throat.
"As long as I am responsible for your protection, as long as you have the power to affect those around you, I have more than just the right to tell
you how you should live. I have the power to control
"I am not a puppet," the Lady in White said ardently. "You cannot bend me to your will. I will exist on my own terms, whether you like it or not."
"If you could act rationally, then I suppose you could," the Lady in Black shot back. "However, since you insist on letting that mistake back into your confidence--"
The Lady in White moved sharply at the word mistake
, forgetting that there was a weapon at her throat. Crimson dripped down her neck, down her chest, and stained the front of her dazzlingly white dress. One of the attendants gasped at the piquant contrast.
"Stand down before you kill her," Faye murmured.
The sword hovered in place a moment more before the Lady in Black lowered and sheathed it. Faye retrieved a clean handkerchief and had the bleeding Lady in White press it to her wound. She peered at the Lady in Black resentfully.
"He will not come back here," the Lady in Black said. "You may believe that he still has some loyalty to you, but it is nonexistent. You need to accept that truth so things can return to normal."
The Second of the Lady in Black, Captain Lockehart, strode in at that moment, diverting the attention of the Lady in Black. Despite his impeccable appearance in military regalia similar to that of the Lady in Black, he seemed troubled. He paused beside her before bowing to the occupants.
"My apologies for the interruption," Lockehart began, "but I believe the matter is urgent enough to warrant an intrusion."
The Lady in Black stiffened as sneaky suspicion wove its frigid, tingling fingers up her spine. The Lady in White too went still, but hope oozed from her every pore. Anxious, Faye took one step away from the Lady in White toward Lockehart, the question in her eyes that everyone else was thinking.
"What is the trouble, Captain?" the Lady in Black asked.
The room held its breath as Lockehart paused to take in the faces around him, their rapt interest. He seemed reluctant to reveal the reason for his being there. As that Truth dawned on the Lady in Black, she felt sickness and fury grapple for precedence in the pit of her stomach.
"Lockehart?" the Lady in Black pressed.Pause.
He raised his caramel-hued eyes to hers. Her breath quickened.
"Magellan is here," Lockehart revealed.Magellan is here.
The words sent sickness sprawling away in utter defeat, and fury exploded within her, leaving her insides searing. The unfettered optimism that slowly transformed the face of the Lady in White was utterly heartbreaking. Faye closed her eyes against the onslaught of the warring emotions. Something unintelligible flickered in Lockehart's eyes but he said no more.
The Lady in White jumped up from her haunches, alabaster skirts bouncing. "Magellan! Oh dear Magellan...I must speak to him! I must see
him, you understand. Perhaps if I can reason--"
The abrupt end of the sentence was punctuated by the sound of her fragile, slight body colliding with the wooden floor. It was a rather unpleasant sound. Faye couldn't help but wince.
As The Lady in White whimpered at the pain, her inverse stood over her, face contorted with anger. A hard gust whipped the drapes so hard it nearly ripped them from their rod. Lightning crackled far off in the distance, strong enough to raise small hairs, even from that proximity.
"Do you not understand what you have done
?" The sentence ended in a rough, low growl. "The abhorrent creature that stands on my hallowed ground threatens the very balance that keeps us alive. He has broken you when you have to be whole. Do you not remember
what the first time was like? The storm that nearly killed us all
"It will be different this time," the Lady in White insisted passionately. "I can handle him." She climbed to her feet, slowly this time. It was almost like prey trying not to upset a predator. "He would not be here if he did not want to settle things. Please allow for me to converse with him. I will not lose control like the previous time."
The two young women, one Bright, one Dark, stared at one another. One clung to an innocent, foolhardy hope. The other sought for the eradication of something that did not belong. The power of that gaze and the opposing sentiments hummed in the air for what seemed an eternity.
"Lock her in the Tower," the Lady in Black ordered tonelessly.
Lockehart gave a signal to soldiers hovering outside the entrance. As the darkly clad men came toward her, the Lady in White took a step backward in an attempt to evade them, shaking her head hysterically. She whimpered the word no
, and as they became more forceful in her containment, that tiny word grew in volume until it filled the room with its shrillness and sorrow.
Her three attendants wept as she struggled against captivity. Faye's lips trembled, but no tears came forth. Even though the officers had managed to drag the Lady in White from the room, the ghost of her grief lingered in the still air.
"I want to go with you," Faye said simply, pale eyes glowing with fury. "I want to cause him harm."
Before the Lady in Black could, Lockehart shook his head and placed a hand on Faye's shoulder. "My dear friend, you will be better in use here where you can console our Bright One. She needs to hear a voice of reason that she trusts, and quite frankly, she loathes the very air that sustains our lives. That is perilous at this critical juncture."
As Faye considered his statement, the Lady in Black added, "Perhaps you should sedate her. I believe that will prevent her from escaping."
Believing that the matter was done, the Lady in Black started to turn away when Faye remarked, "I believe she needs some sort of closure. Perhaps a moment in his presence might mend her."
"And so she does deserve an appropriate ending to this madness," the Lady in Black concurred. "But it will be at my hand. I will not be dissuaded in this matter."
Seeing that she could not persuade her Dark Comrade, Faye uttered nothing more. Cape swirling, the Lady in Black whirled and headed away and down, her quick footfalls a fierce drumbeat to the cacophony of the sobbing of the Lady in White heading in the opposite direction, away and up. Metal clanged against metal as the Lady in White was incarcerated against her will. Her pleas were faint but piercing. But the Lady in Black would not buckle against them. This was for her own good.
This time the battle for the preservation of the Lady in White would wage between the usurper Magellan...and the Lady in Black.
And she didn't plan to lose. TBC
[At the Yvaine, the dead of night. Standing in hushed, candlelit solemnity, some members of the household are waiting outside of King Julian’s quarters. Two members of Julian’s Royal Council, Treize Khushrenada and Tristan Owens, are standing aside and talking quietly.]
TREIZE How long does he have before he departs this world, Your Grace?
TRISTAN (Solemnly) He will probably pass very shortly, I overheard. The injuries he had sustained in the fall from his horse were far too severe. Not to mention, the King is no more a young man.
TREIZE His reign has been long and filled with peace. But, dare I say it, could this be a sign from the heavens above that it could be time for a new ruler? No man can walk the Earth for eternity. We knew that the time would come for him, just as it did for his father before him and his father’s father.
(There is silence for a moment, then Treize speaks again.)
TREIZE There have been questions about succession…
TRISTAN (Outraged) I do not think we should discuss this. This subject is unbefitting of the moment. The King’s bed is still warm, and his heart still beats. We should not count him out yet.
TREIZE Perhaps the Gods have, Your Grace. So then it does not matter overmuch what we mortals think. We should be prepared in any event. (Looks across the room.) Have the necessary arrangements been made?
TRISTAN (Head lowered) He has indicated what he wants, Treize. Because he is the sovereign of this land, we shall abide by his wishes.
TREIZE And if the will of the people demands otherwise?
(Tristan raises his head slowly, frowning.)
TRISTAN What do you mean?
TREIZE During no time in our history has there been a female ruler. What makes you think they will accept one now?
TRISTAN She is the heir! There should be no question of acceptance. She is the next in line. She is the one who naturally should assume the throne to the Sanc Kingdom.
TREIZE I never said it was not the natural choice. I just think that it is not the best.
TRISTAN She has been bred in the arts and sciences all of her life. She is quite intelligent and possesses more poise than women twice her age. Do you still believe she is not capable of ruling Sanc?
TREIZE I do not fully believe she possesses the heart of a King. She has been mostly kept inside these very walls with little interaction with the general populace on her own. I fear when it comes to the sticking point her judgment will falter to the detriment of the Kingdom.
TRISTAN Then we will be by her side to council her on such decisions and steer her in the right direction. I know I will be.
(Treize says nothing to Tristan’s comment but looks off in the direction of where the person in question is standing. Julian’s daughter, sixteen-year-old Relena, is standing amid her governess Isadora and her butler Pagan.)
PAGAN Would you like me to turn down your bed, Your Highness?
RELENA I would rather stay right here, Pagan, but thank you for your offer.
PAGAN You have yet to rest since His Majesty was brought back here. It is getting quite late in the night and you have been awake since the birds were singing the sunrise’s herald. This is quite unnatural for Your Highness.
RELENA (Wearily) If the doctor does not come out again until the larks sing, then I shall hear their song once more.
ISADORA Stubborn young lady you are, Princess! Your father would quite dislike you awake this way, and still in full dress. At least get into your bedgown.
RELENA Oh Dora! If only you could hear yourself fussing about me like a mother hen.
ISADORA I hear myself quite clearly, young lady, and if you’d open up your ears, you’d hear the sense in it. This is insanity! Look at you! I can see the paleness in your cheeks, the shadows under your eyes, and you would chide me as if I am the one half my age.
RELENA Father would be very appreciative
ISADORA (Patting Relena’s shoulder) We will know something soon, miss. Do not worry overmuch. Your father is a strong man. He will come out of this as vigorous as ever.
(Eyes shining with unshed tears, Relena turns to her and nods slowly.)
RELENA Yes, Dora, I shall think so. Father was never one to buckle under any sort of ailment, physical or otherwise. (Raises her head bravely.) So they say that he was getting on in years! It does not matter. Soon he will come walking through those doors and reassure everyone himself.
ISADORA (Mustering up a smile) That is the spirit, my sweet. With you singing his praises, he will be sure to…
(Isadora trails off as a grave-looking man emerges from King Julian’s bedroom. Everyone goes still and quiet until the man speaks.)
DOCTOR I am sorry. (Lowers his head, overcome with grief.)
(There is a long silence. Eyes wide, Relena breaks away from a weeping Isadora and goes up to the doctor.)
RELENA Are you sure? There is no mistake—?
DOCTOR I did all I could, Your Highness. His injuries were critical and his body could not sustain itself in its condition.
(Relena shakes her head vigorously and pushes past the doctor. He tries to grab Relena’s arms but she runs into her father’s room.)
ISADORA Relena—wait! Don’t go in there!
(Relena doesn’t listen. She rushes into her father’s room and pauses in front of his deathbed. The bishop does not pause in his benediction over the body. She gazes with immense disbelief at his prone form before throwing herself upon the bed.)
ISADORA (Standing in the doorway) Oh, my child… (Goes to Relena as she sobs.) He is in a better place now.
RELENA (Voice muffled) No he’s not. This place is much better…
ISADORA He was suffering, my child. This place was hardly better. (Strokes Relena’s hair as the men enter the room.) Cry to your heart’s content. No one will dare to disturb you. (Turns head slightly, speaking pointedly.) You are the sovereign now.
(The men share looks. The bishop finishes his benediction. After a moment, Tristan walks up to him as he slips the amethyst and pearl ring from the King’s motionless hand. The bishop drops it into Tristan’s palm. He nods. Tristan turns to Isadora but she shakes her head.)
ISADORA (Softly) Give her a little time. Just a little more time.
(Tristan nods and steps back. The sound of Relena’s sobs fills the room. Tristan motions the bishop out and leaves as well, closing the door behind him. He walks down the hall and past Treize as a young man comes running up to Treize.)
YOUNG MAN Your Grace, what is there to be done now?
TREIZE Sound the bells in the church. Send the messenger with the news. The whole kingdom shall know of the passing of the King.
(The young man leaves to do his task. Treize lingers alone for a moment before joining everyone else.)
For the ones who insipired this and have no clue (yet)
Thank you for merely existing
Near the end
The bitter cold made all of the wounds numb and the fresh, pure snow mingled with the blood running down her face. Her long, heavy breaths came out like puffs of steam from a train and she ignored the fact that it hurt to merely breathe. Instead of dwelling on the various injuries she now sported and the throbbing each one induced, her consciousness was centered on the man standing before her, on the fact that her hand itched for her weapon, which was buried in the snow.
Oh yeah…and then there was the gun that was aimed at her head. That was a very bitter pill to swallow, too.
Actually, the gun hadn’t done a damn thing to her so she couldn’t be too angry with it; it was the tall, dark-haired asshole with his finger on its trigger that made her a bit irked. Hey—guns don’t kill people, fuckhead—people with guns kill people!
I should have known better than to put my trust in anyone, she mused angrily. But there was no use in trying to wallow in hindsight now. She didn’t have much time left—she could feel it—and there was little point in kicking herself, especially since everything she had done, every choice she had made since the moment they had met led to this moment. She was as much an agent in her own downfall as he was. Maybe there was a nice circle of Hell for a woman like her. It would certainly be warmer than this shit.
“Any last words?” he asked, voice slightly husky. It made her think of more peaceful times, of warmer times. She banished that right of her head. It would only make her want to kick his ass more than she already did. If such was possible.
She fought the urge to tremble against the cold and clung to the last vestiges of insolence she possessed. “You’re mistaken if you think I’m going to beg.”
A side of his mouth twitched. A sliver of mirth. “Just like you to be a smart ass to the end. I knew you wouldn’t beg, darlin’. You never did in bed.”
She nearly snorted with derision at the private reference. “Classy of you to bring that up right now when you’ve got a fucking gun pointed at my head.”
“If you had been smarter you would have seen this coming.”
It was her turn to smile, a little. “Oh…my dear…you have no idea…”
She could tell that threw him off-balance, just a bit. The guy who could see through everyone, see through everything, had been thrown by that comment. Uh huh—what was that, fool? It gave her a grim pleasure. All she had in this dismal predicament in which she had gotten herself.
“There is no way in hell,” he said aloud as if he was starting to realize something. The truth perhaps. “No way in fucking hell.”
“You’re a tool, I’m a tool, we’re all tools,” she told him. “It makes for some very convenient disposal when we turn on each other, according to some.”
“Who do you mean?” She silently stared at him. He flicked the firearm at her menacingly and raised his voice. “Dammit, Nee, who? Tell me!”
Her dark gaze remained even. “Why don’t you shoot me and find out?”
He struggled several moments with this as snow fell lightly around them. The numbness became its own pain, and heat and adrenaline fled her half-prone form. She could see the moment when he decided to pull the trigger before it happened.
A part of her, the romantic and nonsensical part of her, imagined at that last instant his face, light eyes intensified by desire, looming over her. A memory.
Close your eyes. Hold on tight, darlin’.
She welcomed the black when it came.
What was it about an undone top button that made her bat crazy?
Jennifer didn’t consider herself an amorous girl; she had fantasies like the next young woman, even though that Joey McIntyre from New Kids on the Block was cute (who didn’t, honestly?), but she wasn’t the type to imagine having hot monkey sex with a member of a boy band. She wasn’t the type who had hot flashes just by looking at a…ahem…good-looking specimen of the male species.
But then again, Trowa Barton wasn’t your typical male specimen.
“Yoo-hoo! Jennifer, come toward the light…”
Jennifer blinked, and found Danie’s hand waving in front of her face. She, Danie, and Crys were currently in Quatre’s large rose garden having a nice outdoor picnic. Trowa, Duo, and Heero were helping Quatre plant some rosebushes. (Wufei was off in some undisclosed location where the “stupid women” were nowhere to be found.) Quatre usually hired someone to do the work unless he wanted to do it himself. Since he had a bit of free time, and some pent-up exertion he wanted to get rid of, he enlisted the help of his friends with the task.
Heero and Duo were both in wifebeaters while Quatre and Trowa were both in labor-weight button-down shirts with the sleeves pushed all the way up. Danie and Jennifer had to grudgingly admit that the boys had nice physiques; the most astonishing revelations for the cousins were Heero’s biceps and Duo’s washboard abs. Crys was used to it by now and quite biased due to her love for Quatre. She also didn’t want to think of her brother in “that way.”
“Are you okay?” Crys asked. “That’s the second time today that you’ve spaced out on us.”
Jennifer shrugged her foggy-headedness away and smiled at her friend. “I’m fine, really.”
Danie slipped off her glasses and held the end of one of the arms between her teeth for a moment. With the flowers around her and the sunshine lighting her skin, she looked every bit the cover girl she used to be. That was something that Neither Jennifer nor Crys would tell her though; she was sensitive about her print model past for reasons Crys could not understand.
“I think she looks hot to me,” Danie remarked, causing Jennifer to flush. She gestured in the direction of the boys. “And there’s your reason why.”
Crys’s eyebrows arched. Her eyes went to the boys, then Jennifer, and back again as a smirk twirked up one side of her mouth. “Ah yes. I see it now.”
Jennifer turned to her with her cornflower blue eyes wide and a fear that sort of looked cute on her, like a Hello Kitty tee shirt. “What are you talking about?”
Crys shook her head in amusement. “Jennifer, you’re as transparent as freshly cleaned glass. We all know. You don’t have to deny it.”
Danie shared a glance with Crys as Jennifer squirmed. She sighed gustily and eyed the guys again. “Jen, you can’t just sit here and expect him to come over. You’ve got to go get what you want.” With that, she climbed to her feet and pulled her hair back into a ponytail. Crys and Jennifer could only watch as she strode purposefully in barefeet over to the guys in her cutoff denim shorts and screen tee that told everyone, You’ve Never Seen a Pretty Girl Act This Tough.
“She doesn’t plan to—”Crys broke off as she watched Danie walk up to Quatre and offer a hand. Blinking, he accepted. Danie nudged Trowa and thumbed in Crys and Jennifer’s direction. “Oh yeah. It’s Danie. Of course she does.”
Jennifer’s eyes went huge. What? Now?! She fought the urge to whip out her compact and tried to act nonchalant as Trowa came toward them.
She and Trowa had not really spoken before. He was the strong and silent type and talked to hardly anyone other than his friends. Still, there was something about him that allured her. It wasn’t just his looks, although…if you wanted to be completely honest, he was the most handsome guy she had ever seen. However, she prided herself on seeing past one’s physical appearance, so she was committed to get more out of him than you just stepped on my foot.
Thump. Thump-thump. Gulp. Jennifer forced her gaze upon Trowa’s emerald green eyes and not downward, where the part in his shirt hinted at his well-muscled chest. She forced a smile at him, trying to dispel the nervous fluttering of her heart.
He merely blinked, a touch of bemusement lending a slight furrow to his brow. “Are you all right?” he asked. “You look a little flushed.”
Jennifer emitted what could be none other than a head laugh that had Crys cocking an eyebrow in her direction. “Oh I’m just fine. Never better. Hey—would you like some water?” Jennifer paused and removed a bottle of water from the cooler nearby. It’s really hot and…”
Trowa accepted the bottle. “Thank you,” he said. She couldn’t help but watch as he twisted the cap off of the bottle and lifted it. She expected to watch him drink. Instead, he poured it over his dark head, and the liquid washed down his tall, sculpted body.
Thumpa-thumpa-thumpa… Jennifer’s face went slack as if someone had removed her skull. The water had made Trowa’s white shirt all but transparent, clinging to his smooth skin like an added layer. Jennifer could see the outline of his chest and abs, which were so mouthwatering that saliva pooled in her mouth in response. Some buried part of her wanted to bite him to see how he would taste…
She gave herself a swift mental kick and tried to firm her features. Jennifer Cynthia Dunne—listen to yourself! He’s not a piece of meat you can just goggle at. Not to mention you can’t go around biting people like some errant cannibal. So, with that, she pulled herself together and decided she was going to try and have a normal conversation with Trowa. After all, gawking at him all dripping…ahem… gawking at him would not only be rude but also against her principles.
However, she nearly lost all her self-control whenhe cast aside his shirt and she found he hadn’t buttoned his jeans either. Because her self-control was already fragile, her thoughts went immediately south. Holy Mother of little baby Jesus…
Having watched the whole scene awash in subtext, Crys nudged Jennifer as her blue eyes went glassy again. Jennifer jumped a foot in the air and mumbled something about having to call her mother.
Crys groaned and sweatdropped as Jennifer flitted away. “Not again…” She glared at him with exasperation. “Trowa…”
Danie and the guys came drifting over at that moment, looking baffled at Jennifer’s quick retreat to the house. Trowa dripped and drank water in silence.
“What happened to Jennifer?” Quatre wanted to know.
Crys raised a meaningful eyebrow in the direction of wet, shirtless Trowa. Quatre sweatdropped, Danie had to purse her lips together to keep from smiling, and, as usual, Heero looked like he didn’t give a shit.
“Trowa, you’re going kill someone doing that shit one of these days, you know that?” Duo remarked.
Trowa drank water and stared straight ahead, saying nothing.
All the wishing (all the wishing)
All the praying (all the praying)
You can wait until bedtime
Hoping on stars in the sky
You can watch superheroes
Dreaming you can fly
But it's a better bet
That without an ounce of sweat
It’s nothing you're gonna get
You gotta work to get it done
You gotta work to get it done
And then the best will be won
All the wishing (all the wishing)
all the praying (all the praying)
All the wishing (all)
Won't get you what you desire
They can make it look easy for you
From a minimalist point of view
Put a while of hard times
In a tidy little montage
A maid turned into a princess
Can have the world thrown at her feet
You gotta work (gotta work, gotta work) to get it done
May seem like added misery
But the best will be won
The pie had been trouble from the very start, he remembered as he watched his sister interact with her active, clever friends. Even the ingredients had been cursed; it had taken him days to find the right apples to suit his specifications, and the last straw had almost come when a massive storm had knocked out power all over the city the evening he’d chosen to do a trial run. The generator he had bought during the war had sputtered to life, giving enough juice to cook his experimental pie. His roommate had devoured half during that same evening, leaving the other half for his sister’s scrutiny. It had held up. She’d loved it.
Thus leading to this very moment when he watched the women speculating his second pie.
He could only shake his head in disbelief. It was a pie. It wasn’t Leonardo daVinci’s Mona Lisa or Michelangelo’s David. It wasn’t the wheel, or the printing press, or the airplane. Hell, it wasn’t even that annoying little vacuum thing that moved around on the floor on its own (what was that stupid thing called again?). It was a bleeding pastry in a pan with some fruit in it. Hardly anything to get excited over.
“Are they gonna get a piece or what?” asked Duo Maxwell as he eyed the females beside his friend and roommate. “They’re over there staring at it like it’s gonna jump up and do the Lambada.”
Heero Yuy said nothing. He didn’t have an answer for the question, so why waste words in a non-answer? The other members of the intimate dinner party initiated by his little sister—his comrades, minus Quatre Winner, the master of the house—found themselves clustered around him. The room had suddenly become divided like they were at some adolescent school dance—girls on one side, boys on the other. Most of the noise in the room came from the female side, which was no surprise. They tended to make more noise than they did anyway, with their chattering and laughter.
“I’m telling you the truth,” Crystilline Yuy, better known as Crys, insisted as she received dubious looks from her friends. “My brother made that pie with his own two hands.”
Jessica Thomas, a tall young woman with curly auburn hair, guffawed at the statement. “Come on. Really, Crys? From what I heard about your brother, he probably wouldn’t know which side of the whisk is the right one.”
“Heero is capable of more than glaring at people and pissing them off,” Crys told her friends. “I’m telling you, he made the pie with his own two hands.”
Beside Crys, blonde and blue-eyed Jennifer Dunne shrugged. She looked hungrily at the pie—she hadn’t eaten much that day—and sighed as its aroma filled the room with a familiar warmth that reminded her of home. “How much do we know about him, Jess? We can’t jump to conclusions just because of second- or even third-hand information.”
“I’m just saying,” Jessica said. “I don’t believe he made it, and I won’t until I see him do it with my own two eyes.” She glanced down at her watch. “And what are we waiting for again?”
As if on cue, Quatre Winner walked into the dining room at that moment, his gentle presence drawing comfort and ease into the room. It continually became easy for the newcomers—Crys’s friends—to see how he was at the helm of the Winner Corporation at such a young age. Everyone turned to him instinctively, waiting for him to speak.
“That was Miss Danie on the telephone,” Quatre announced. “She is going to be a little bit late, so she assured me that we could start dinner without her.” He gestured to the beautifully made table as servants came in with dinner. “Make yourselves at home, everyone.”
After the meal was set on the table, the nine took their seats at the far end closest to the entrance. Quatre was rightfully at the head with Crys to his left and Heero to his right. The table was made to comfortably seat fifty; however, since there were only ten of them (counting the tardy Daniella Thomas), they only needed a small portion of the grand space. Beside Heero were Duo, then the silent Trowa Barton, and finally the sullen Wufei Chang. Sitting beside Crys were Gretchen Thomas, Jessica’s pigtailed little sister, then Jennifer, and finally Jessica herself.
As food was being passed around, Gretchen started off the dinner dialogue by looking at Heero and asking conversationally, “So, Heero—how did you learn how to cook?”
Duo barely resisted choking on his food and swallowed the roast beef quickly. Heero did not know Gretchen very well nor had he any conversation with her until this moment because he had deemed the Thomas sisters and their cousin Jennifer a bad influence on his twin sister. As the youngest in the room, Gretchen was a little less intimidated by Heero than everyone else, her youth giving her a sort of innocent oblivion.
Quatre admired her for the act. The other guys thought she was crazy.
“It was mostly trial and error,” Heero finally responded after a deep silence.
“Yeah, probably more error than trial,” Crys teased, earning a glare from her brother. She wasn’t afraid of him—really—but unlike Gretchen, she knew full well what and who he was. “I remember that time you made me hot chocolate with the baking chocolate. Or the time you accidentally put cinnamon in the chili.”
Duo made a face. “Please don’t remind me about that. I tasted that for weeks.”
“But after that, Heero became a very awesome cook,” Crys revealed to her friends. “He makes a mean manicotti that you would positively die after tasting.”
Jessica chuckled. “Okay, now you’re telling jokes. I’m going to choke with laughter imagining Heero Yuy in an apron brandishing a spatula and stuffing pasta.”
“Kiss the cook,” Jennifer supplied. “His apron’s definitely gotta say Kiss the cook.”
“Who the hell would kiss him?” Jessica asked her cousin. “Julia Child?”
“After tasting his manicotti, probably,” Crys replied, making the other girls laugh. Duo pursed his lips together to conceal his smile as Heero eyed him and speared a baby carrot with his fork. Trowa and Wufei said nothing at this point and kept eating.
“Do you cook, Miss Jessica?” Quatre inquired, wanting to get the subject off of Heero before someone got hurt.
“Do I?” Jessica slanted him a smug look. “I tell you, Quatre, you haven’t lived till you’ve tasted my crab cakes. Simply divine. I’ll have to make them and bring them next time.”
Duo gave her a wide-eyed stare. “Jessica? You cook? You? I’m shocked. I thought you’d have someone to do it for you, some lowly Hobbit-looking dude from the Lord of the Rings.”
“Just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean I need to know how to cook,” Jessica told him. “But yes, Duo, I do know how to cook. I studied a little culinary arts in college as a diversion and found I liked it. There is something very methodical about cooking. You have to have a strategy, the proper utensils—”
“You’re a woman,” Wufei commented, interrupting her. “Of course you need to know how to cook.”
It was the girls’ turn to be afraid that one of their own was about to deliver violence upon one of the members of the other side. Jessica leveled a deep-aqua-eyed glare upon the younger Chinese man. Duo squirmed slightly in his seat. “So you think cooking is for women? I hope not, because that would make Heero a woman.”
Jennifer let out a snort and immediately covered her mouth. Gretchen nudged her while Crys glared at Wufei.
“You better not answer that,” Crys snapped. “You don’t want to see me lose my temper.”
“You have a weak woman temper, Yuy,” Wufei told her.
Crys rose to her feet and glared down at Wufei, Prussian blue eyes flashing. It became quite apparent once again that she and Heero were related. “You’re about to see me pissed off, Wufei, and I assure you there’s nothing weak or woman about my temper.”
“Don’t mess with my sister, Chang,” Heero warned from his end of the table before Wufei could respond. It was then that Wufei went quiet and concentrated on his meal. Quatre placed a hand on Crys’s forearm, a gentle, firm gesture that did not go unnoticed by everyone else at the table. Crys battled back her anger and sat back down in her chair.
Crys sucked in a breath and said, “Maybe we should talk about something else.”
Quatre nodded. “I agree, Crys.” He looked to Gretchen who was nibbling on a snap pea. “Crys tells me that you dance very well, Miss Gretchen.”
“Huh?” It took a second for the remark and the fact that he was talking to her to sink in. Being the youngest at the table also made her the most susceptible to Quatre’s kind-hearted manner, so she had a little bit of a crush on him—one she wouldn’t dare act upon. Especially after seeing Crys almost laying the smackdown on Wufei. “Oh!” She laughed nervously. “Yes, Jessica taught me to dance when we were all little.”
“All? You mean that there are more of you?” This came from Duo.
“Well,” Jessica began, “there’s me, then there’s Claudia-Michelle, the twins, and Gretchen over there. When you have that many sisters, you have to keep them occupied somehow. So I taught them how to dance ballet. It stuck with Gretchen while the other three went off and did their own thing.”
“So what is it that Danie does anyway?” Crys wanted to know. “She’s pretty secretive about what she does for a living.”
“She’s a first-level admin at Arashi Corp,” Jennifer explained. “She ends up coming home late and going off to strange places at the drop of a hat.” She frowned at a roll. “I don’t like it.”
“It’s better than the alternative,” Jessica reminded her cousin cryptically. She looked to Trowa. “Could you pass the potatoes, please?”
After that they talked of more entertaining subjects, ranging from the fluffiness of animated movies to the gravity of politics. As Jessica was having an energetic but good-natured debate with Quatre about total pacifism after the dinner dishes had been cleared away and they were seated in the den, A Maganac entered the room with a dark-haired young woman in black slacks and blouse following behind. Everyone paused, attention diverted as the tall Arabic man said, “Master Quatre, Miss Daniella has arrived.”
“Thank you very much, Aiseem,” Quatre told him with genuine gratitude as he rose to his feet. Aiseem disappeared, revealing the woman that had been standing behind him. Quatre walked up and greeted her. “Good evening, Miss Danie. I take it work ran a little late tonight?”
“There were some complications,” affirmed a tired but sociable Danie Thomas. “I apologize for my lateness, Quatre.”
“It is quite all right. Have a seat, please?”
“I will, thank you.” She walked around the room, leaving her freesia scent in her wake. Crys patted the empty space beside her and Danie lowered herself to it. “So what did I miss?” She chuckled then. “Well, other than dinner of course.”
“You’re just in time for dessert,” Crys announced. “We’re about to have warm apple pie and vanilla ice cream.”
“Ooh—sounds like I did come just in…” Danie paused then, taking in her relatives’ faces. They suddenly appeared uneasy about dessert, and, since Danie had missed dinner, she didn’t know why. “Um, what’s the matter with you guys?”
“They’re afraid of the pie,” Duo answered instead.
Danie let out a snorting giggle. “No, seriously, Duo. What’s going on? My sisters wouldn’t be afraid of a silly pie unless it was mincemeat—or Marilyn Manson made it.” Silence. Danie’s brows furrowed as she mused over this. “Wait. Marilyn Manson made us a pie?”
Jessica shook her head. She would’ve said something about having a blonde moment but Jennifer would have kicked her ass. “Dee—don’t think too hard right now. You’ll burst a blood vessel.”
“Whatever, Jessica.” Danie turned to Crys. “So who made this pie that’s got my sisters all worried? It wasn’t Wufei was it?”
Wufei opened his mouth, but Crys silenced him with a glare. “Heero made it, actually.”
Pause. Danie burst out into hysterical laughter.
This time Heero spoke. “Is it really so astonishing that I could bake a mere pie?”
Danie answered after her laughter trailed off. “Truthfully, it is, a little.” She looked at everyone else for commiseration. “I mean, don’t you all agree?” Jessica, Jennifer, and Gretchen chimed in with similar sentiments. Wufei shrugged.
“We are all capable of amazing things others wouldn’t believe,” Quatre said. “Heero just so happens to be good at cooking.” Quatre paused as Aiseem entered the room with the dessert cart. “Thank you for setting this up, Aiseem.” Aiseem nodded, disappearing again. Quatre rose and portioned the pie and ice cream out for his guests and Crys passed them along. After everyone had gotten a portion, he turned around and watched.
Crys and Duo, who had tasted the first apple pie, watched everyone else, but they watched them right back, waiting for someone to take the first bite.
“Well?” Quatre prompted. “Everyone, don’t hesitate to dig in. I’m sure it tastes fine.”
“If no one eats this, Heero will kill us all,” Duo reminded everyone, earning an indignation glare from Heero. The others, save him and Crys, scrambled for their plates and tried to force themselves to eat. And Heero himself wasn’t going to touch it until he got the others’ opinions.
“Eat some, Jessica!” Danie said in a loud whisper.
“I’ll eat some when you eat some!” Jessica shot back. “Unless you’re too chicken to do it.”
With a toss of her hair, Danie quickly shoved the forkful of the pie into her mouth as if she’d been double-dog dared to eat cow manure. She chewed for a few moments before her face changed. Her eyes filled with astonishment, and as she swallowed, she seemed to be processing this in her tired, overworked brain. Then an expression of incredulity graced her features.
“Um, so, how is it, Danie?” Jennifer prodded.
“Are you okay?” Gretchen asked.
“Are you experiencing any kind of food poisoning symptoms?” Jessica inquired. Gretchen nudged her pointedly.
Danie did nothing for a long moment before she stood and strode to the dessert cart, fork in hand like as if she were arming herself for some sort of war. With her back to the others, she stuck her fork into the un-portioned pie and came away with a big chunk. The flavors of the baked apples, sugar, and spices melded on her tongue and sent a shiver of enjoyment. As she chewed, she emitted a low, passionate moan that was a bit…awkward to hear, to say in the least.
“Holy shit,” Duo breathed. “She’s having an orgasm like that chick from that movie.”
“Yuy—what the hell did you put in that damned pie?” Wufei demanded in a stage whisper.
“If she starts singing ‘Genie in a Bottle’ I’m calling Poison Control,” Jessica muttered.
Danie let out another moan as she took another bite. Gretchen and Jennifer both blushed red and looked away.
“Quatre—do something!” Crys hissed in a stage whisper.
Shaking himself out of bafflement, Quatre loudly cleared his throat. Danie whirled around, and everyone looked at her in wonder. Even Trowa and Wufei had their mouths open wide.
“What?” Danie gazed at their bemused faces, fork poised a few inches away from her unpainted mouth and a crumb resting on its left side. She looked down at her crumby shirtfront and quickly discarded the fork. “Oh. Oops,” she said sheepishly. “Sorry.” She cleared her throat and wiped her mouth. “Um…yeah…nice pie, Heero. You’ll have to make it again…sometime.”
Eight pairs of eyes slid in Heero’s direction, watching him for his reaction.
“Thank you,” he said simply. The pie had been worth some of the trouble, after all…
Feeling chastised, Jennifer, Gretchen, and Jessica started on their pie and didn’t doubt Heero’s cooking skills ever again. Thankfully, they didn’t reach… Well, never mind.
Fifteen minutes after the mysterious call to Heero ended, the five members of the Wild Wing Agency and their wily secretary gathered in the conference room for an impromptu emergency meeting—called by none other than the secretary herself.
Nicole spared no ounce of amusement for this gathering; she had control and she meant to keep it. She was dead serious about trying to figure out what was going on, not because she was nosy (as Duo would surmise) but she had become suspicious of such things since her acquaintance with the boys had begun. And they just indulged her on it—well, honestly, Quatre did and insisted that the rest of them should do the same. Besides, what harm would it do?
“I really do not feel like listening to her blather,” Wufei remarked as they waited for Nicole and Heero to appear. “It’s enough she has the privilege of knowing what we do and the people we work for, but to have her ordering us around—?”
“Usually I would agree with you, Wufei, but I understand where she’s coming from,” Duo admitted. The sugared donut and coffee had gone a long way to erase the previous night’s fatigue. “And you know Heero, he wouldn’t say anything about it even if you threatened him with the Teletubbies movie.”
Quatre winced, remembering his daughter’s Teletubbies
phase. He hadn’t been able to stop singing the show’s theme song at strange, idle moments for weeks. Nicole had eventually gotten sick of it, short of throwing her pen cup at him, and had made him listen to the Isley Brothers’ Greatest Hits
album to release him from the ill effects of Teletubbism. (She’d later joked that the twins had been conceived to “Between the Sheets,” a fact that Quatre never confirmed or denied. Only Duo had found this funny.)
Quatre held up a hand. “Duo—let’s not mention that show ever again. It still gives me nightmares.”
“I think what Duo means to say,” Trowa began after Quatre’s moment of discomfort was fading, “is that it might be the harbinger to a problem, and we are better off prepared for it than oblivious.”
“But couldn’t we handle this without the woman and her obnoxious mouth?” Wufei inquired his comrades.
“I’d like to see you call me that to my face—Wufei
Everyone shifted to find Nicole standing in the doorway, her five-foot-three-inch frame draped in a stance of talking-badness. She raised an eyebrow when Wufei didn’t say anything. Eyes smoldering, she rounded the table as Heero walked in behind her with a digital recorder looking more troubled than usual. Duo snuck a surreptitious glance at Wufei, wondering how long he had to live before Nicole lost her temper.
The two shot daggers at each other with glares before Nicole spoke again. “You know, Wufei, I would roast your chicken-fried-rice-eating ass such a comment, but since we don’t have the time, I’m gonna get right to the point.” She turned to Heero. “Play that funky music, white boy.”
When Heero just blinked at her, Duo leaned in and whispered, “I think she means play the conversation, Heero.”
“I know that, Duo. I’m just trying to figure out why the hell she would say something so foolish.”
“Shut up, Wufei,” Quatre and Trowa said in unison when Nicole’s face went stormy. Wufei grunted and said nothing. Heero pushed the play button on the digital recorder and played the short exchange for them. When it was over, Duo, Wufei, Trowa, and Quatre sported identical looks of confusion. Nicole and Heero were grim.
“Heero was unable to complete the trace since the call was so short,” Nicole began, “but I was able to pick up and place some of the background sounds when Heero played it for me a couple of times.
“Now, before I reveal my theory on where the call was made, I think we need to speculate on who and why.” Nicole held up a hand when Quatre began to speak. “The caller wanted Heero specifically and made references to ‘truth,’ ‘vengeance,’ and something ‘suppressed.’”
“Can’t forget the ‘thing you—Heero—loves most,’” Duo supplied.
Worry came into Quatre’s eyes. “Oh no…you don’t think this person could be talking about Crys, do you?” It was no surprise that he thought of his wife first, for Heero probably would have found immense fault with him if he hadn’t.
Tapping his chin, Duo considered this. “It’s a possibility. Unless there’s someone else that Heero loves more.”
“We can’t completely rule out the fact that it could be his wife this mysterious person is referring to,” Trowa pointed out. “Though Heero might argue that he doesn’t love Danie more than does his twin sister, this person may not be taking Crys into account.”
“So we have two candidates,” Nicole commented. “But why?”
The room went quiet, and everyone flicked glances in Heero’s direction.
“Nicole, I think you’d better skip that portion,” Duo suggested, feeling Heero’s growing fury. “We can talk about that when we know more. So what about the location?”
“Spanish Gracia,” Nicole responded.
Wufei’s eyebrows arched at her confident answer. “And you’re certain of this.”
“Unlike you, I’ve lived here most of my life,” Nicole explained. She slid a file in Heero and Duo’s direction. “There’s the approximate area of that particular pay phone and the businesses in it. Since I know Quatre’s got a meeting in fifteen minutes and Trowa and Wufei have active jobs at the moment, I figured you two had time to spare.”
“You assumed correctly,” Heero told her, rising and taking the file. Duo, sensing his friend’s intensity, pushed his chair back and rose as well. It seemed there was going to be nothing else to reveal from Heero Yuy now that he was on a mission of sorts.
“Hey! Heero?” Heero paused at the door but didn’t turn around. If he had, he would have seen the uncharacteristic worry in Nicole’s deep brown eyes. “Don’t do nothing stupid.”
“I can’t make any promises,” Heero admitted, making Nicole curse under her breath. With that, he and Duo strode out.
* * *
Duo ended up driving south because he won the coin toss on the elevator ride down. Heero had wanted to see the coin he had used, but Duo had been too fast for him for once and had pocketed the suspect coin. With a mission in mind, Duo and Heero climbed into Duo’s modified Eclipse and zoomed out into the flowing traffic.
“I still think you had a two-sided coin,” Heero muttered, arms crossed over his chest.
“I guess you’ll never know for sure, will you?” There was a wicked gleam in Duo’s eyes, and he knew that Heero wouldn’t dare harm him as long as he was in the driver’s seat. “Tell me where we’re going exactly. Nicole said it was in the SG district, but you’ve got the file.” Wordlessly, Heero leaned to enter the address into Duo’s navigational system. When the female voice—a sister to the one in the elevator at work—read out the directions to Duo, he calmly obeyed them. If Heero had been more observant of his friend, he would have noticed that Duo was not his usual talkative self. However, he had more pressing matters on his mind.
They drove out of the city and into the more colorful, ethnic part of town. Where Downtown Gracia was refined and professional in its businesslike nature, Spanish Gracia was diverse and domestic. It was a place you could come to unwind, listen to good music, enjoy good food, and interact with people who weren’t worried about double Windsors and the Wall Street Journal.
Duo and Heero parked in front of a panadería that boasted cinnamon rolls the size of a linebacker’s meaty fist in bright, vibrant Spanish. The scent of baking bread wafted toward them, but they steeled themselves against temptation. Of course it was decidedly harder for Duo; for Heero the effort required would have been the same for flicking off a pesky fly. They took a glance around, searching for the pay phone that Nicole had said would be nearby.
“There it is,” Duo said, nudging Heero as he pointed across the street. A dusty, dilapidated pay phone stood wearily in front of a peluquería, currently in use by a dark-haired young woman who was having a passionate conversation with a stubborn lover. Silently, Heero crossed the street and Duo followed. Duo could tell that Heero was anxious about learning who the mysterious caller was, and this poor girl whose life was probably as complicated as an episode of I Love Lucy was going to get caught in the crosshairs of Heero Yuy’s wrath.
“Be nice, Heero,” Duo hissed as the woman let out a stream of curses in Spanish. He gestured toward the hair salon. “Maybe we can go inside and see if anyone saw anything. It may not get us anywhere, but it’s worth a shot.”
Not able to refute that logic, Heero followed Duo into the hair salon. Heero and Duo had braced themselves for the sudden influx of women, for they would be legion in a hair salon, but they had not been ready for the giggling, speculative looks, and whispered comments. They were fascinating specimens of a male sort, a species that was rare in these parts where soap operas, magazines, nail polish, and talk about Victoria Secret reigned supreme. Heero was quite out of his milieu here, but Duo took the opportunity and played it to his advantage.
“Hola, damas bellas,” Duo greeted them smoothly. “¿Es posible que puedan a ayudarnos? Tenemos un problema pequeño.”
The suave salutation seemed to stop them short for a brief moment. The humming pause was broken by the one standing at the other end of the room behind a chair threw her head back and laughed loudly. As the other tittered with laughter, they surmised that she was owner of this establishment and held all of the power in the room. If they were to find out anything useful, it would be from her.
“Looks like we have a couple of live ones here, chicas,” remarked the woman. She stared at Duo and Heero, hand fisted on her hip. “¿Cómo podemos ayudarle?” She pointed at Duo with a comb. “You need a haircut, cariño. Ven y siéntate en mi silla.”
Duo strode farther into the depths of the Temple of Woman, fully intending on interrogating them until they gave him something of substance—disarming them with charm first, obviously. Heero watched but came closer, wondering how this was going to turn out. At that moment, the client that had been sitting in the chair rose to her feet and let Duo have it. Heero caught a glimpse of her profile as she gathered her purse and a tight ball formed in his stomach.
That face was eerily familiar.
“My hair is just fine, I think,” Duo told the woman. “But I still need your help.”
“Hah! You need my help with hair like that.” The hairdresser examined Duo’s long brown mane, then smirked at the previous occupant of the chair. “You know, cara, it would do my heart good to see you with a muchacho like this one. You need some more amor in your life, no?”
The woman looked up at her hairdresser’s frank statement about her lack of a sex life, eyes filled with puzzlement. When her green-eyed gaze rested upon Heero, and Duo standing beside him, something inside of him unclenched—for a moment. It wasn’t Danie, but it was just as untimely. Moira-Selene Thomas was Danie’s fraternal twin sister, older than her by a mere two minutes. From what she lacked in height (Danie was six feet even; Moira-Selene was a shorter five-eight), she made up in prudence and insight. She was just as clever as Heero himself but lacked the hard edge that war had left on him, instead exuding a placidity that balanced her twin’s fiery spirit.
“Heero,” said Moira-Selene with a small frown. “What brings you to this side of town?”
Before Heero could speak, Duo chimed in charmingly. Heero understood that he was trying to diffuse the situation, but it was still a bit exasperating to watch him flirt with his wife’s twin. “We were in the neighborhood for business and were thinking about lunch. Know of any good places?”
Moira-Selene raised an eyebrow. She didn’t have but an ounce of Danie’s bluntness, so she answered in a polite tone, “Since I do not know you well, Mr. Maxwell, I am not quite sure what would satisfy your palette. I am inadequate to recommend any restaurants.”
Behind her, the hairdresser chuckled. “Mo, cara, you’ve gotta stop talking like you’re having a showdown with Casanova or something.” She turned to Duo and Heero as she tugged on Moira-Selene’s hair and had her squirming like an embarrassed teen. “I recommend mi primo’s diner across the street. And take mi corazón with you, por favor. She needs to put more meat on her bones and stop bothering me about mi colesterol.”
“Pero, Olivia—” Moira-Selene began in consternation.
“Háblame no más,” the woman named Olivia said. “Go eat, and have a good time. I can cut your hair later.”
Moira-Selene spluttered about her hair as Olivia pushed her out of the building. Duo and Heero followed, and they noticed that the pay phone was conveniently unused at the moment. The pair exchanged a look behind Moira-Selene’s back before she whirled around to face them.
“All right,” Moira-Selene started, “something is going on here, isn’t it?”
Duo grinned at her impishly. “Moira dear, there’s always something going on. It’s up to you to find out what it is.” He crossed his arms over his chest, fully intending to turn the tables upon her. “And why were you here, might I ask? Since we’re being so candid with one another.”
As Moira-Selene crossed her arms over her own chest, Heero inched out of her line of sight. He was thankful for Duo’s baiting of Moira-Selene but didn’t ponder on it very long. He went to the pay phone and scrutinized it carefully for any clues of the unknown caller’s identity. Unfortunately, he couldn’t lift any fingerprints; there were probably hundreds of thousands there by now.
“I was here checking on Olivia,” Moira-Selene explained coolly. “She is a patient and an old family friend. Her son and I had a relationship for a long while—”
“Oh!” Duo exclaimed. “So you do like men. There’s hope for me yet.”
Moira-Selene’s emerald gaze went frigid. “And the last layer of Dante’s hell is a water park.”
As Moira-Selene and Duo parried, Heero found one lone hair that had fallen on the dusty ground. He carefully picked it up and encased it inside of a piece of paper. It was a dark hair strand that was a little on the fine side, and its density and length suggested a woman...or a man with long hair with blessed texture.
He felt Moira-Selene’s eyes on his back and slowly turned, deftly stuffing the folded paper in his pocket before Moira-Selene could see it. He stared at her a moment, scrutinizing her raven mane. It was cropped to shoulder length and therefore too short to have yielded the hair that he had just found. So that counted her out of his list of suspects.
Duo glanced at his wristwatch. “Well, it’s definitely time for lunch.” He patted Moira-Selene on the shoulder. “Let’s get you fed, huh?”
Moira-Selene looked at him incredulously. “Mr. Maxwell, I do not wish to accompany you to lunch. I have pressing matters to which I have to attend.”
Heero looked unwilling as well; however, he had different reasons, and he had a feeling Duo would try to explain away his misgivings. He wanted to proceed with the investigation as quickly as possible, and even though she was considered family, Heero didn’t feel the need to spend time with her. Duo, on the other hand, did. Heero figured he had a small crush on her due in part to the fact that she was so mean toward him.
"Nonsense," Duo said. "Come on. Heero wouldn't mind."
"I would mind, actually," Heero shot back. "We have work to do."
Moira-Selene tilted her head. "And what sort of business landed you in Spanish Gracia? I didn't think your expertise was needed in a place like this."
Duo flicked a glance in Heero's direction before he spoke. Heero could scalp me for this, he thought. He stared into Moira-Selene's inquisitive eyes and made a decision. Oh what the hell... "Well, actually, it's a bit of personal business." Duo mustered up some exasperation to make his next statement believable. "Someone has been calling and hanging up from this pay phone, and we'd decided we'd check it out. We just did a server restore on Cabrera so it wasn't much of a drive down here."
"Oh," Moira-Selene murmured, nodding. Heero gave Duo a look that bordered on approval. "So how did you end up at Liv's?"
He nodded toward the hair salon. "I thought maybe one of you ladies had seen someone. We got a call today about forty-five minutes ago."
"Did you see anyone on the phone around that time?" Heero inquired, breaking his silence. He figured that Moira-Selene wouldn't mind answering a question if he imposed it instead of Duo.
"Hmm..." Moira-Selene paused thoughtfully. "I had just gotten here around that time.There wasn't..." Then her eyes alighted with rememberance. "Wait a minute. I do remember someone on the phone right then. I wasn't paying very good attention to the person, but I assumed it was a male. The person was tall, with very dark hair, probably as dark as mine. I can't remember what he was wearing...except for a ring on his right hand. It was adorned with onyx and opal stones. I remembered it because I thought it was a little odd."
"Onyx and opal," Duo echoed. "Interesting..."
Filing all of this away for future use, Heero nodded. "Thank you for your help, Moira-Selene." He stepped away and intended for that to be the end of it when he heard Duo say, "So I suppose we owe you. Lunch is on me." When Moira-Selene began to protest, Duo persisted. "I insist. It's the least we can do. Besides, if I know Heero, he's gonna miss lunch, and he gets crabby when he misses a meal."
"Duo," Heero snapped.
"I do not believe--" Moira-Selene attempted, sensing Heero's annoyance and wanting to be far out of its path.
"Don't be scared. Besides, what's the worst that could happen?"
Danie waited until she was on the private plane and the plane was in the air before she plugged the flash drive into her laptop.
Save for the pilot, Danie was all alone. She would not have any assistance on this venture except for the flash drive that Arashi had bestowed upon her. Grimly she clicked on the removable drive icon that appeared in her “Computer” folder.
On the flash drive were a series of five documents named only by numbers. Danie selected the first document and was greeted by the sight of a young dark-haired, blue-eyed man along with his dossier. His name was Dr. Cameron Prescott, and he was only slightly older than she was. He had lived in Manhattan during the year of the Incident and had remained there ever since. His father Steven Prescott had been a wealthy doctor who had met an untimely end just three months shy of Danie’s seventeenth birthday. His only son had distanced himself from the wealth that had brought his father’s downfall and currently was at the head of a team of doctors at an inner city clinic. Danie found that interesting—at least enough to want to talk to him.
Would the sins of the father spread to the son? Danie asked herself. I suppose we will see, shall we?
Danie mused, checking out the other documents and formulating a plan. She knew she couldn't take all of the players out at the same time—that would require more resources than she had—but the job had to be done expediently before they could catch on. For a moment, she considered asking for help. But who would she ask? Who could she ask?
Her cell phone buzzed right at that moment like a herald from Mercury. You have 1 new text message, her phone informed her along with the garish loop of an envelope opening and closing. She opened the message and could only shake her head in mild amusement.
Having lunch with Heero & his friend, it read. Ran into them at Liv’s. Do you think he’d mind it terribly if I stuffed a tortilla down Duo Maxwell’s throat?
Moira-Selene, Danie thought. Her sister hadn’t liked Duo Maxwell from the moment they’d laid eyes on each other at Quatre and Crys’s wedding, and she simultaneously could and couldn’t understand why. Duo Maxwell--on the surface anyhow--was an upbeat, laid-back young man whose transient lifestyle was beyond homebody Moira-Selene's comprehension. Yet, Duo had a more serious side and his intelligence quotient was higher than his outward demeanor made it out to be. Moira-Selene hadn't taken the time to figure that out. It was Danie's opinion that she should.
Like you should take out the time to talk to Heero? her conscience bleated. It sounded eerily like her big sister Jessica, which didn't make it any better. She ignored the inner voice and replied back to her sister's text.
Be nice, Mo. She paused as the obvious question popped in her head. And how the hell did YOU find them at Liv's? Can't see Heero getting his hair done in Spanish Gracia. Liv'd put blonde streaks on him & and he'd kill her. Duo on the other hand...
Moira-Selene answered, They claimed to be in the area because of a strange phone call. Muy interesante, indeed. And Duo would have gotten his hair done by Liv if I hadn't seen Heero.
She sent the message as another was coming in. This one was from Heero. A little shocked, Danie blinked in surprise and read it.
Hello, Danie. Are you in New York yet? it asked.
A little smile quirked the sides of Danie's mouth. Despite the wall that had formed between them, he had still taken out the time to be worried about her, to send a text message. With the tingle of warmness came a gush of guilt. She clamped down on it and replied, Hello, Heero. No, I'm still in the air. I hope things are well where you are. And if Mo starts speaking in short, tight sentences, duck for dear life.
How did you know I was with your sister? came the response.
She asked me if you would mind if she maimed Duo. I told her to be nice. I'll call you when I get out of the meeting, darling. Love you.
Love you, too, Heero texted back. Be careful.
Be careful. Danie put her phone away and rested her hands, fingers spread apart, on the little table in front of her. She fought the wave of nausea and unease. Firming herself, she tried to remember that this was not the time for weakness. She had been waiting ten years for redemption, and she was damned well going to get it.
Daniella Thomas was an angry assassin, and before the speedy private jet landed in New York State, she had her own Death List Five. Uma Thurman she was not, but it was a place at where she could start.
“It is my honest opinion that this will do nothing but help the relationship between you two,” Isabelle remarked after Heero finished his narrative. “Don’t think of therapy as a sign that things have failed—think of it more as scheduled maintenance. Every now and again, we need to reveal our feelings in a structured environment.” She eyed the both before speaking again. “Do you keep any secrets from one another?”
Heero didn’t blink. Isabelle figured he could probably lie about the sky being blue without batting an eyelash. Danie just mustered up a slightly abashed look as if Isabelle’s question was preposterous.
“Secrets? No, we don’t have any secrets from each other.”
Heero slid another look in Danie’s direction, and she seemed to feel it. “I beg to differ.”
“Well, we all have secrets we keep from one another,” Danie amended. “Doesn’t everyone? But I don’t think that’s the problem.”
“Hmm,” Isabelle murmured. Really? she thought incredulously. With that remark, she made another “Bullshit” note. She glanced at the clock on the wall behind Danie and Heero and closed her leather binder. It was time to bring their session to a close. “I suppose that’s something to begin next week’s session with.”
* * *
Both Heero and Danie would not readily admit it, but their lives had become vastly different from five—or six—years ago when they had gotten caught up in the moment of meeting one another. Now, even as they both dressed for work, there were no affectionate pats or amorous glances at the other in various states of dress, just stiff conversation as a thin sheen over lack of affection.
Danie stood at one basin in front of the large mirror in the luxurious bathroom, her robe loosely belted in the front. At the other sink, Heero, on the other hand, was very nearly dressed in dark slacks and a white tank that showed off his highly toned arms. Heero flossed his teeth neatly as Danie gargled noisily.
A little bothered, Heero slid his deep blue eyes in her direction long enough for her to meet his gaze in the mirror. The sloppy gurgling stopped. Danie shrugged and spit it into the sink.
“Kristana’s birthday party is tonight,” Heero said as Danie screwed the cap more tightly on the mouthwash. “Crys said that she would love it if we were both there.” Danie set down the mouthwash with a soft bang, and the cap rattled a bit. Heero frowned as Danie turned away and slipped out of her robe, revealing the black lace underneath. Heero glared at her back, screwing the cap tighter on the bottle and swooping up her robe in two swift movements.
“I’ll see what I can do,” Danie called from the closet. “I have to be in New York at noon and hopefully that won’t take too long. We’ve got a meeting with some possible shareholders that just makes my eyes cross to think about.”
“Crys won’t forgive you if you miss this.”
Danie stuck her head out of the closet for a moment with her right eyebrow cocked. “Yeah, I know.” She disappeared back into the closet. “If I don’t know your sister by now, Heero, then I must be dumber than I look.”
Heero dropped Danie’s silken robe on its designated hook and stepped into the closet himself. Danie was now clad in a gray plaid pencil skirt and a black bra, and she was internally debating over blazers to wear. There had been a time where he would have come up behind her and kissed her on the neck, but now he just went to his portion of the closet for a dress shirt, his back to her.
“Did you get the present?”
Danie paused over a royal purple blazer, frowning. “I thought it was your
turn to get the present.”
Heero quickly shifted back over his memories of the past year…and figured out that Danie was right. It was his turn to buy Kristana’s present. Letting out a breath through his nostrils, Heero picked out a pewter shirt to wear for the day. He didn’t even glance at the label; the designer was meaningless to him. Danie, on the other hand, seemed to covet labels and the prestige that came with wearing them. He supposed that she was entitled being the executive assistant to one of the richest men in the world to her expensive style.
“I’ll get it,” Heero promised, thinking of the right person to ask. “Don’t worry.”
Danie finally selected a red blazer with black buttons to wear for the day. She slipped it on and bent over to select Ferragamo pumps in the same hue. She slipped into them and strode out while buttoning her blazer. She fixed her hair with the jeweled clip that Heero had given her for their second anniversary. Heero noticed the choice but thought nothing else of it. It could have just was well been a paper clip for all of the sentiment that Heero felt at the moment.
“Good. I should be done with that stupid meeting in time.” She turned to him, and the Daniella Thomas who could wheedle the Devil out of his very soul—if he had one—revealed herself. “Meet you here at seven and we’ll drive there together?”
“On the dot,” Heero said as he decided not to wear a tie today.
“Splendid.” She walked over and gave Heero a perfunctory kiss on the cheek. “See ya.”
“Bye, Danie.” Heero couldn’t help watching her as she strode away in her graceful model’s lope. A warmness settled deep inside of him, but it was so sequestered that it was promptly extinguished like a small flame in a cold, windy room.
A few minutes later, he turned out all of the lights and left the house.
* * *
Heero arrived at the thirty-three story high-rise that housed the home offices of the Winner Corporation a mere fifteen minutes after leaving his house with Danie on the outskirts of town. He passed by the front desk on the first floor without stopping or greeting anyone; by now the sight of Heero Yuy strolling into work was a rather mundane sight, and he liked to keep it that way.
He boarded the elevator going upward along with four others. He didn’t press a button for there was no number for the floor he was stopping upon. As far as the others knew, he was just getting off on some unknown floor. But they were too afraid of losing their jobs to ask. There had been those in the past who had inquired about the secret 33rd floor, and word had gotten back to Mr. Winner himself. It always did. There were rumors about what had happened to the unlucky gentleman, but so far there had been no evidence to support the claims.
So, in that, what Heero Yuy did for a living was truthfully known by six other people. If there were more, Heero didn’t know about them. But it was his honest opinion that no one else knew—because the other six would be summarily dispatched, and they liked their lives too much.
When he was alone in the elevator, Heero waited until the doors came together, then pulled out a special key that opened up a concealed panel. The buttons for the regular floors disappeared, sliding away to reveal a palm print scanner. “Please verify your voice print for identification,”
said the melodious automated female voice.
Heero placed his right hand on the scanner and spoke his name clearly and succinctly. After a moment, the voice told him, “Voice print verified. Good morning, Heero. Stand by for retinal and body scan.”
Heero did so without complaint or any discomfort. He understood that this was merely part of securing the rest of the world from knowing the things he did. It kept them safe. The innocent people needed to be safe, and the corrupt people didn’t need any access to their secret little world. It was enough that they existed in the first place. He, Duo, and their friends Quatre Winner, Trowa Barton, and Wufei Chang made up the Wild Wing Agency (the name was Nicole’s idea, put into effect a month after she was hired), and their sole existence relied on those who still terrorized the world with malicious acts. Heero had sworn he would never kill again, and so far, he hadn’t—that is, until the last job they had taken on.
Heero was cleared within two minutes. The controls whirled as it brought him to the top floor, and when the elevator stopped, Heero found himself in a long white hallway where he endured another scan to ensure that he wasn’t carrying any unauthorized weapons and positively identify him was one of the boys, as Nicole would tease.
As the secretary in this clandestine venture, twenty-three-year-old Nicole Smith was the sixth person entrusted with the knowledge of their agency and for that she had her employers’ immense respect. Heero would never admit this, however. She was way too annoying, and he was sure it would swell her head. He didn’t want to be responsible for that.
As usual, Nicole was fashionably dressed and impeccably coiffed, her long, dark hair (no weave, she’d tell you if you were bold enough to ask) pulled back from her face to reveal diamonds and oval-shaped tanzanites twinkling at her ears (a birthday gift from Quatre Winner, who was obviously too nice for his own good). She was in the middle of a call when Heero strode up, her expression indicating that she was dealing with yet another irritating customer.
“Yes, Mrs. Casey, I’ll give you a call… No, I’m sorry, you cannot talk to Mr. Maxwell. He is unavailable.” Nicole went silent at that moment, but her face changed into an expression Heero could only shake his head at. It was her Excuse me? look. When she spoke again, she went from mild-mannered, steely polite receptionist to street-talking, head-twisting black chick. “Look, do you want
me to come up to your house and bust a cap off in your ass lift? I’ve got your address so don’t play with me. I said you can’t talk to him. That means you can’t.” Pause.
“Okay, then say goodbye then. Damn.” With a roll of her brown eyes and an abundance of attitude, she jabbed a button with a French-manicured finger and ended the call. Shaking her head in dismay, she expelled a breath and noticed Heero coming near.
She greeted him grudgingly, but Heero didn’t take it personally. “Morning, Heero.”
“Good morning, Nicole. Any calls?”
Nicole gestured toward his box as she pulled out a couple of requests she had to screen. “You got a couple of calls about the Mallone job. Just a check-back I guess, but I honestly wouldn’t even bother calling back.” She eyed him meaningfully for a moment. “But I know you will anyway, even if it isn’t important.”
Heero retrieved the papers in his box and didn’t say anything to that. The Mallone job had taken up too much of his time and energy, and even Nicole had noticed the toll it had taken on him. The investigation into the apparent rape of a teenage girl had brought back some horrid memories of the rape of someone close to him. Nicole with her nosy self just plain stayed away from Heero for a week after the investigation was done and the then-unconvicted perpetrator was dispatched. She didn’t want for Quatre to have to explain to her mama about how there had been an “accident” because of Heero Yuy’s itchy trigger finger.
“Nicole? I need a favor from you.”
Nicole looked up from her writing and stared at him knowingly. “You want me to buy Kristana’s birthday present, don’t you?”
Heero blinked at her, surprised she would remember. “How did you…?”
Nicole snorted out a laugh. It took a lot to surprise him. “Heero, I’m not slow. Quatre’s been talking about the birthday party for like the past six months. You’d have to be blind, deaf, and dumb or something to miss it. And I know for a fact that Danie bought the present last year. Remember?”
Truthfully last year’s birthday party was a pink-bombed, sugar-coated, twinkle-lighted blur. He could barely remember what happened last year except for the towering cake fashioned in the shape of a castle and Crys nearly impaling Duo to keep him away from it. But some form of that happened every year so that was easy to forget.
As if on cue, Duo Maxwell sauntered out of his office with a sugared donut in one hand and a mug of coffee in the other. Heero could sense Nicole’s irritation without even looking at her. It was like radiation from the sun—which also meant he could only be in its path for a short time before it began to affect him.
“You better not get sugar on my desktop,” Nicole snapped. “I just cleaned up from the time you decided you were gonna have éclairs for breakfast and lunch. Now your stupid ass wanna come up in here with some more shit? I ain’t got Alice written on my forehead, so if you end up throwing that shit up you better get a mop.”
“And good morning to you, too, Nicole,” Duo said, not sounding in the least bit hurt.
“I’m just telling you. Don’t start nothing, won’t be nothing.”
“I didn’t come out here to listen to you complain, Nicole,” Duo explained, his tone as jovial as ever. He turned to his friend and greeted him. “Morning, Heero. How are things in Yuy Land?”
“However you think, Duo,” Heero responded vaguely.
Duo took a messy bite of donut and nearly gave Nicole a coronary. “You know, if I had your wife, Heero, I’d be walking around looking much happier than you do now. You look like someone just wiped your hard drive and torched your backup disks.”
Nicole fisted her hand on her hip and cocked her right eyebrow at Duo. “Duo,” she began in what they called her Mama tone where one word became a warning.
“What? Damn—I can’t talk to my best friend?”
“Not when it looks like he’s gonna stuff that donut down your throat. Oh,” Nicole added, jabbing a ballpoint in Duo’s direction, “and another thing. If Mrs. Casey calls up here again asking for you again, I’m gonna hang you on that coat hook over there by your boxer shorts. Read me?” The phone rang at that moment, diverting Nicole’s attention. Duo walked away, muttering under his breath, and disappeared into the bathroom. Heero, on the other hand, decided it was time to lock himself away in the confines of his office away from questions and prying eyes.
“I know something’s wrong. You can’t hide it from me.”
Heero looked up warily at the sight of Duo leaning on the doorframe with his arms crossed over his chest. “Duo, you should stay out of it.”
“See—here’s the thing: I can’t.” Duo stood upright and walked up to Heero’s desk. “You and I have been friends for far too long for me to ignore the fact that you’re unhappy. I know you’re not the type to walk around singing ‘Zippity-Do-Da’ when things are especially awesome, but you seem like you’re dreading something, and I think Danie is that something.” After a thoughtful pause, Duo asked, “She’s not cheating on you is she?”
“No, she is not,” Heero responded tightly. Though, he couldn’t be too sure. She had been away from home as much as he had been these days, and something about the nature of her work—whatever it was that Takeshi Arashi subjected her to—had caused her to become withdrawn and overly secretive. From his vantage point, something—or someone—was hurting her and she wasn’t sharing it with him.
“She’d better not be cheating on you, though,” Duo was saying, “because Crys would tear her into a million Danie pieces, and then Quatre would have put back together so he could make her suffer for putting more stress on Crys.”
“My sister doesn’t need to worry about my marriage, and neither do you,” Heero told him. “Danie and I are working through our problems.”
!” Duo said triumphantly and pointed at him, making Heero wince at his words. “So you admit it—you are having problems! It’s a shame, too, because she seemed so happy to marry you—and you were finally getting laid regular.”
Heero’s eyes darkened. “Duo—” At that moment, Heero’s phone beeped, signaling a page from one of the other phones in the office. The light for location 06 lit up. Nicole’s desk. “Yes, Nicole?”
When she spoke she sounded slightly befuddled. “Um, Heero? There’s someone on line one who is very insistent on speaking to you. The person wouldn’t tell me why or who they were.”
Thoughts of Danie and Duo’s prodding forgotten, Heero put his hand on the receiver. “I’ll take care of it. Thank you, Nicole.” Pushing the button to take line one, Heero said abruptly, “This is Heero Yuy.” “Mr. Yuy, I have a message for you.”
Heero shared a look with Duo. Duo mouthed for him to put the call on speakerphone, but Heero gave a quick shake of his head and pushed another button to record and trace the call. “A message? About what?” “The truth will set you free,”
said the mysterious voice which sounded neither male nor female. It was Heero’s guess that it was being digitally altered.
“What truth? Who will it set free?” Heero pressed, mind racing to place the voice or the circumstance of which he or she spoke. “Vengeance will open the door to the suppressed, and conjecture will breed misapprehension, but the truth will set you free. Mark my words, Heero Yuy. Or you will lose the thing that you love most.”
With that, the call ended, leaving Heero in pensive shock. He woodenly placed the receiver in his cradle then placed his hands flat on the desktop. He stared off into space, trying to decipher the message’s meaning. Vengeance? What is suppressed? And what is “the thing I love most”?
“What was that all about?” Duo inquired.
Heero looked at the silent phone, still brooding. It suddenly felt like a ghost came up and brushed him on the ear, but whose ghost? “I don’t know. But soon I will.”
* * *
Some miles away, the aforementioned Mrs. Heero Yuy opened the file folder detailing her next assignment and found it empty.
Confused, she lifted her head and stared at the broad-shouldered, long-haired Japanese man looking at the Gracia skyline out from behind the treated window. He was not dressed for the corporate world, blatantly clad in a black Henley and gray slacks. It was one of his many quirks, one of the many things that made him the only person she could trust in this mystifying menagerie of events that her led her to this point. And that was the only reason why she didn’t bean him in the back of his head with the file.
“I assume there’s some explanation as to why this stupid thing is empty,” Danie remarked, her voice echoing through the empty conference room they occupied.
Kaneshi Tsukimori turned from the window and walked toward her. His handsome face was drawn into a mask of anxiety, and when he took a seat across from Danie, she could feel the waves of tension emanating off of him. Needless to say, such visible emotional turmoil coming from the normally cool Kane Tsukimori was quite disconcerting.
“It was Arashi-sama’s idea for me to give you the empty file,” Kane explained. “He felt like it would be symbolic.”
Danie found herself looking down at the file again as her brain tried to work out the logic behind Takeshi Arashi’s little gesture. She had known the man for nearly half her life, and she credited him for shaping her into the woman she was today. When she had found herself wallowing in despondence over ten years ago, he had given her the opportunity to seek revenge and to build the person she wanted to be—but the chance did not come without a cumbersome price; Danie had to work for him and do his bidding. Danie had to become an assassin.
She had killed dozens of people over the years. In their defense, in the defense of Arashi’s secret stash of handsomely paid cold-blooded killers, they had never delivered death upon anyone who didn’t deserve to die…except once. Danie thought about that particular instance, and even now, ten years later, she didn’t understand any of it—the why, the who, or the how. The ‘how’ troubled her most, but she wasn’t about to admit that.
Especially now that it seemed that her time had come.
“He sure gets a hell of a kick out of pulling our legs,” Danie remarked, examining the empty folder again before meeting his gaze. “So why didn’t he give me this himself? It would have made more sense to me.”
“You know Arashi-sama rarely does anything that makes sense to you and me. But he entrusted this task to me for certain reasons.” That I can’t tell you at the moment,
Kane finished to himself. He knew if Danie knew what he knew, she would probably kill him.
A frission of suspicion went up Danie’s spine and had her leaning away from him. “Kane…what are you saying?”
“What I’m saying is…” He trailed off and picked up the folder. Much to Danie’s surprise, he flung it across the room. There was fervor in his eyes that alarmed Danie. “Fuck all of this ceremony and symbolic shit. You know everything and everyone you need to know, you can do everything you need to know how to do. I want you to go out and achieve your vengeance against the bastards that took what was yours, Danie.”
“I’m really ready?” Danie asked him. “Do you really think I’m ready? I mean, I thought after the incident in Tripoli—”
“You were a little overzealous in Tripoli but you got the job done,” Kane broke in.
Danie sheepishly ticked off another one. “And then there was accidental explosion in Moscow—”
“It destroyed a Russian databank presumed to have Miyori’s picture from a security camera,” Kane reminded her, referring to Takeshi’s only son. “We didn’t need that getting out.”
“But what about the flood I caused in that nightclub in Miami—?”
“Don’t push it, Danie,” Kane interrupted, running out of excuses.
Danie exhaled. “Sorry. I just…” She shook her head wordlessly. She couldn’t quite describe what she felt at that instant; she was grimly satisfied that she was going to do something she had been waiting to do for ten years, but she also felt a nagging fear that she couldn’t explain away. Her sixth sense told her that as soon as she ventured into the mire, all hell was going to break loose—and then some.
“If you don’t do this now, then when would you?” He frowned and considered her for a few beats before asking, “You’re not worried about Heero, are you?”
Her qualms mounted tenfold at the thought of her husband. He knew nothing of what she did, of her perilous occupation and the blood that stained her hands. She knew of his past—what he chose to tell her, that is—and she feared he would disapprove. He had fought in war, had killed as well—but like this, with a layer of gloss and indulgence?
Danie swallowed the lump in her throat and spoke softly. “I haven’t told him fully about what happened ten years ago, Kane. I know at some point he’s going to find out everything, including what I really do for Takeshi Arashi.”
“You’re afraid he’d leave you because of it.”
Danie was not staggered that he figured that one out. She was transparent when it came to Heero—except to Heero himself. “Well, wouldn’t you?”
“What I’d do if I were in Yuy’s shoes isn’t the point,” Kane reminded her. “What is the point, Danie, is that he’s the man you love, even though you’ve been shitty at showing it lately.” Indignation took over Danie’s features and Kane had to stifle a grin. She was much more effective—and beautiful—when she was angry. “Maybe it’s time you broke down your walls.”
“I don’t want him mixed up in this,” Danie said firmly. “This is my situation, and it will be mine to rectify.”
“So what happened to What’s yours is mine and what’s mine is yours?” Kane wanted to know.
“I don’t think that applies to skeletons in the closet. I’m sure Heero hasn’t told me every little detail about his life. In fact, I know for certain.”
“I do think it applies to skeletons in the closet. Haven’t you ever believed in quid pro quo? Maybe Heero hasn’t told you everything because he knows you’re holding back from him, too.” Danie pursed her lips, a sign that she was getting tired of this topic of discussion. “Just think about it on your way to New York.”
Danie blinked at the change in topics. “I still have to go to New York?”
“Oh yeah…” Kane fished in his pocket and pulled out a black flash drive. “Arashi wanted to give you a head start.” He dropped the rectangle in her hand as her eyes went huge. “Don’t sweat it, kid—he gave us all one. Just don’t waste it.”
“I won’t,” Danie promised, and rose.