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Chapter Eight: By Myself
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Fangs of the Wolf

Chapter Eight

By Myself

Disclaimer: Gundam Wing is not mine. Duh.

Duo estimated that about five minutes had passed since Wufei's exit that a man he didn't know entered his room.

He knew the man was J's immediately.

“Hello, Duo Maxwell.”

The man was disgustingly cheerful, just like the damn doctor. Brown hair, almost black, cropped into a buzz-cut. Military? He definitely had the appearance of it; the hard, steady posture, the cruel tilt to his chin. His eyes were dead, even when he smiled. He looked dangerous. The hair on Duo's arms and neck stood at attention.

“It seems we're at a disadvantage,” he said smoothly, falling easily into the Jester's mask. “You know my name, but I don't know yours.”

“And that is how it will remain,” the man told him. Duo carefully kept his face irritated, keeping the smugness out of it. Bullshit, of course, Duo knew what the man looked like. Soon he'd have all the information he needed. There was no information he couldn't get.

“What do you want?” Duo demanded, dropping the kind act.

The mystery guest, however, kept right on smiling. With that straight nose, those dead eyes, that thin chin... his face would look perfect on a dartboard.

“Just giving you a friendly reminder,” the man said easily.

Friendly my ass. “Message delivered. Now get out.”

“Now, now. There's no need to rush. I heard you aren't going to tell them you're Shinigami.”

Shit. They had the room wired. “That's right. I can help from the shadows.”

“Not very well.”

“Well enough,” Duo snapped. “I can't very well help them if they lock me up, now can I?”

The man frowned then. “Hm. Keep yourself handy, Duo Maxwell. You won't be the one I punish if you don't.”

Duo refused to show the fear that shimmered through him. Heero was nothing to him. They hardly knew one another. “You know your way out.”

“Remember, Duo Maxwell.” The smile had returned. “I don't like to baby-sit.”

“Then don't,” Duo advised. He carefully kept his fist from clenching.

“I won't.” The man gave him a Boy Scout salute. “See you later.”

Sooner than you may think. Duo merely inclined his head.

Once the man left, Duo allowed himself to tense and grimace. What was he going to do? He was boxed in from all sides. Granted, the police would get off his back, but by how much? He'd be watched like a hawk, constantly under the disapproving eye of one Heero Yuy. As for J's men, they were already watching his every move. Then there were the other enemy, the actual enemy, who was going around butchering people. Three major enemies, three major concerns.

How long before he was caught?

But he wouldn't let that happen. Once he got his computer back, he would be able to look up the identity of his little mystery stalker. Heero Yuy would back off a bit, and if he was careful he would be able to avoid any more suspicion. Then he would take down this mystery group and disappear. It was time he moved on, anyway. And as Wufei had said, he could easily disappear.

So he would lose his friend. He only had one. And in his lies... a friendship formed by lies couldn't be called a true friendship. And Lord knew he was used to being alone.

One step at a time. He needed out of here, and he needed his computer. The latter being more important.

He laid back and closed his eyes and waited.


Step one was accomplished within the next few hours. Heero and Wufei returned, Wufei looking relieved and Heero looking frustrated as hell. Duo watched them both with careful eyes.

“Why didn't you tell us you're a graphic designer?” Heero demanded.

Duo didn't allow himself to smirk. “It's just a hobby, and it's not that good. And exactly how many mechanics go around drawing on a computer?” He let himself blush.

“Duo-” Wufei started, but Heero cut him off.

“This isn't the sort of thing you should hide, Duo Maxwell,” Heero snapped. “You are under investigation.”

“Well how the hell was I supposed to know that you all wanted to point the finger at me?” he fumed. “It's my own private business. My computer had nothing to do with that mural, so how was I supposed to know you'd take it? Or that you'd immediately assume that I'm some sort of... of on-line vigilante?”

“Once I mentioned our suspicions, you should have informed us.”

Duo scowled. “It's none of your business. I told you that.” The blush hadn't faded yet. It truly was embarrassing, admitting that his skills on the computer applied to more than just hacking. Who made computer characters for fun? Let alone making them move and even giving them specific personalities.

“Duo, when you're under investigation-”

This time Duo was the one to cut Wufei off, and by rounding on him. “So am I supposed to just let you run all over me? Cower to you? I know my own innocence. And if you cops want to think me guilty, what the fuck can I do about it? Who the hell's going to believe a lil' old street rat, anyway?”

He inhaled sharply. He hadn't meant to say that.

Wufei's eyes widened. “Maxwell-”

“Excuse me, officers, but I'll have to ask you to leave now.” The doctor poked his head in. Duo gave him a grateful look. “You're disturbing my patient, and I'm afraid he needs his rest.”

Heero's fists clenched. He stood straight for a time, his shoulders shaking in frustration. But then he calmed and turned to the doctor. “Understood. Please do not release him without our permission.”

“The hell-” Duo snapped.


“I'm sorry, officers, but I've been informed that your investigation has been dropped. Because of that, I do not need your permission to release my patient. But if he continues at this rate, he'll be released tomorrow, most likely in the afternoon.”

Music to Duo's ears.

“Now, gentlemen, I believe it's time for you to leave.” The doctor held the door open.

Wufei readily left, but Heero turned back to give Duo one last glare. He wasn't convinced, Duo realized. Not in the slightest. “You won't go far.”

“I have a job,” Duo snapped, tossing his head. “I won't leave, but I certainly won't stay because of you.”

Wufei turned to Heero. “Yuy, we should go.” There was a quick bout of silent communication before Heero and Wufei finally left.

The doctor watched them leave, then turned to Duo. “Try to get some rest. I'll have a nurse come check on you a bit later.”

“Thanks, doc.” Duo sent the bubbly man a smile and laid back, closing his eyes once more. He had hardly been faking before that outburst, and without realizing it, he had completely lost control and shouted out something he'd never meant to say. Shit.

All in all, he may have just made a huge mistake.

On the other hand, nothing showed innocence like honest anger. Maybe he'd spared himself by doing that.

Still, it had showed them something he hadn't wanted them to see. It created a vulnerability, one he was certain Heero Yuy would use against him. But he would deal with that in time. Right now he had other concerns.


Heero was silent as he drove them back to the precinct. Wufei looked to him. “We need to talk.”

“He's guilty.”

Wufei sighed. “Maybe. Maybe not, Heero.”

“No. He's definitely guilty.”

Unfortunately, Heero had never been wrong before. “Heero-”

“You defended him.”

“Dammit, Heero, we have no proof. And...” He hesitated. “I know this is a sore subject with you, but Duo is a good man.”

“Didn't you hear him?” Heero spat. “He said cops like it was a curse word. He hates us.”

“And you hate him,” Wufei retorted. “Don't you understand? It's blatantly obvious that he's dealt with cops like you before.”

Heero took his eyes off the road and glared at Wufei. “What the hell do you mean, 'cops like me'?”

“Heero, listen to yourself! You have lost control of your emotions. What is your problem?”

Heero's knuckles were white on the wheel. “He...” Heero blew out a breath, obviously trying to get himself once more under control. “He bothers me,” Heero admitted. “Something about him bothers me.”

“In other words, you find yourself interested in him.”

“No,” Heero argued vehemently. “Absolutely not. He could be Shinigami!”

“Heero, let's say he is Shinigami. What about it?”

Heero gaped at him. “Are you serious? I thought you hated him as much as I do.”

“Eyes on the road, Yuy,” Wufei reminded him. Heero glared through the windshield. “I don't hate him, necessarily. Just his style. I would rather he worked with the law instead of parallel to it. But I do not believe he is an enemy. He has helped us, after all.”

Heero gritted his teeth. Obviously, thinking such a thing didn't make him like the man any more. “So you don't have a problem with Shinigami.”

“Oh, I have a problem, all right,” Wufei said grimly. “He's working like a vigilante. If he wanted to be evil, he could hide himself completely and only help the perpetrators. But he doesn't. He shows himself for what he is, and the fear of being caught by him has stopped a lot of gangs. But he's still hiding in the shadows with the rest of the filth. It will inevitably rub off.” Then Wufei sighed. “But he isn't a perp himself. And Duo is certainly not someone who belongs behind bars. No matter what he thinks about cops. On the other hand,” Wufei said with a smirk, “it may make it difficult for you to persuade him to go out on a date with you.”

“Wufei,” Heero hissed.

“You could try to get to know the man,” Wufei said softly. “You may be surprised just what kind of individual he is.”

“He's a criminal.”

“He's my friend.”

Heero knew that said a lot. Wufei's friendship was a rare and valuable thing. Wufei would die for his friends, but because of such a strong loyalty, he expected a lot from those he chose to protect. The fact that Duo Maxwell met those requirements meant that Duo had to be a good individual. Heero knew that. He also knew, without doubt, that Duo Maxwell was Shinigami.

And no matter how he felt about the man, he would never allow himself to be associated with a criminal. He would never be associated with anyone like those who took away Odin Lowe.

“I understand that, Wufei,” Heero murmured, “But I'm not-”

“I know. You are afraid.”

Heero hissed.

“Isn't it true? You are afraid, just as I was. Afraid to admit that the strict rules you created were maybe too strict. I created mine after my master was killed, apparently by the chief's men. I believe you made yours around a similar experience.”

Heero said nothing.

“Of course,” Wufei murmured. “But can you honestly say that Maxwell is evil?”

Heero's mind flashed back to that time two nights ago, pausing on the feel of Duo quivering in his arms. The warmth of his skin, the scent, the texture of his hair... he didn't want to think about it, yet the memory kept randomly merging itself with his mind, showing it to him over and over again. He couldn't forget how Duo had launched himself into Heero's arms, clutching him close. In his fear, Duo had turned to him. The warmth that never failed to spread through him at that was unwelcome.

“Evil or not,” Heero began, but it seemed Wufei wanted to make up for his inability to speak earlier.

“What are the chances that Shinigami is assisting criminals?”

Heero didn't want to hear logic. Wufei sounded like a damn lawyer. “It isn't like you to defend a criminal.”

“That's just it, Yuy – I don't think he's a criminal.”

Heero blew out a breath. Wufei was going to be stubborn on this, same as he. But for once, they weren't on the same side. He felt ganged up on – Quatre had called Shinigami into this mess, and Barton had quickly taken his side. Now Wufei was contemplating Shinigami's innocence.

He wouldn't let himself be swayed. Shinigami was a criminal, a vigilante trying to make himself be seen as an on-line version of Batman. He wouldn't be Commissioner Gordon.

But did that make him another Harvey Bullock?

Okay, he grimaced, he was making comic book references. That was bad. “All right, we'll drop this subject for now.”

Wufei hummed in agreement.

“Let's go over what we know. G.O.S.H. and J have all been eliminated, for reasons still unknown.”

“Yes, and by what we assume to be an organization, again unknown.”

Heero sighed. “And they acted as copycats to the original murders executed by J and the other four.”

“Yes, the ones that manipulated us into this job.”

Heero frowned. “I don't see it that way.”

“Oh certainly I am proud to be where I am now, but I do understand that the main factor for my joining the force was because of my master's death. I had sworn to carry on his teachings.”

Heero didn't want to say it, but Odin Lowe's disappearance had made him finally decide that no one would live as alone as he had. “Hn.”

“But why would the five be killed? They must have a secret.”

“Yes. The same secret that had them-” Heero forced the word out “-manipulate us?”

“Most likely,” Wufei murmured. “Why else perform a copycat murder?”

“Yes. This other organization must want us to know the truth.”

“To leave the destiny the five had made for us. It's plausible. I am certainly not inclined to pity them.”

This time it was Heero who hummed in agreement. More than Shinigami, he wanted to hurt those who had taken Lowe from him. But there was nothing he could do. They were dead, and their murderers were loose. First and foremost, he was a cop. He would get justice for the five men who didn't deserve it. “Yes. But why? And which side is good?”

“We need more information.”

Heero snarled. “We'll get it. Maybe there's a clue in J's name.”

“Another number?” Wufei asked, his voice sounding as if he was asking himself and not Heero.

Heero didn't bother to answer, because he wasn't completely certain himself. “We'll see.”


Duo waited until night shift had finished checking on him before he grabbed his clothes from the nearby table and slipped silently out the hospital window.

It took him all of ten minutes to find someone walking around with their cell phone hanging out of their purse and snatch it. He didn't have time to waste; his little stalker buddy had paid him another visit. He had to do something now.

He sent a quick text message to Heero Yuy and broke the cell phone into pieces, dumping each separate piece in different trash cans. They would be picked up in the morning, thank God, eliminating the chance of the police finding them and fingerprinting. Then he raced back to the hospital as quickly as possible. He hadn't been missed.

His head pounding, he changed back, placing his clothes exactly where they'd been before. He laid down in his bed, wincing at the pain, and slept.


Wufei was the one to grab Heero's cell phone and check the message. “Yuy, we got a message from Shinigami.”

“What?” The wheel jerked under Heero's hands. “What does it say?”


Heero hissed. It immediately clicked – what the message must mean. “Rome Edgar Fellur. Of course. That bastard.”

“Who? Chief Fellur or Shinigami?”

“Both.” Heero wasn't happy. Just when Wufei and he had finished their meal and gotten back on topic, that bastard had to show them up once again. “Is there any trace of the call?”

“Actually, yes. I have the phone number right here.”

“What?” Heero turned his head to stare at the cell phone. A phone number? But how? Why? Shinigami could cover his tracks like no one Heero had ever seen before. So why did his phone clearly show a number from this district? “Duo.” Duo would never be able to use his computer. He would go out and use the first phone he snatched.

“Yes,” Wufei said quietly. “It would make sense. But you're missing something else.”

“And what would that be?” Heero asked.

“Think about it, Yuy. Why would he do this?”

Heero had to concede that Wufei had a point. Heero and Wufei would have gotten it eventually, and if not, Duo could have just waited until tomorrow afternoon or the day after to send the message anonymously. He cursed.

“Whoever Shinigami is,” Wufei said quietly, “he's being hunted.”

Heero hated the constriction that tightened his chest. If he was right and Duo was Shinigami, then Duo was in danger. For once, he prayed he was wrong. “So Shinigami's being watched by someone. For what purpose? Does this someone want to take him out?” He couldn't think about whether Duo was in danger right now. If he did, he would turn his car around right now and...


Heero's fingers were aching for the tight clench he had around the wheel. “If it's not Duo, there's no way we can help him. If it is Duo...” God please don't let it be Duo. “If it is Duo, then we'll have to watch out for him.”


There was a lot more in that response than just a simple agreement. It was spoken so heatedly, so assuredly, Heero knew Wufei was just as determined to keep Duo safe as himself. But Wufei had chosen Duo to be his friend. It was normal for Wufei to worry about his friends. But for himself...

The protectiveness had surged that night when Duo had fought his tears in Heero's arms. He had never wanted spunky little Duo to tremble like that ever again. He'd felt a desire to kill, to drag the answers out of Duo and hunt whoever had scared him until he'd shot the man wherever he stood. It was uncharacteristic, and he didn't like it. It meant a loss of control, and that was never good.

“Well, we'll get information on Romefeller bright and early tomorrow morning,” Wufei said, sounding regretful. “We need to get our rest. The investigation is inevitably going to become more and more dangerous.”

Heero had to agree. “We're entering an underground war,” Heero murmured.

“Yes. And we have to choose the right side. It won't stay underground forever.”

Heero's face was grim. “No. It won't.”


Sorry this is going so slowly, but it needs to be gotten out. I swear, it'll pick up soon. Though I have no idea how. ^.~

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Every story unless otherwise claimed is Kayura's, and is copyrighted 2006 under her name.