I stood totally still. The blade was close against my skin; when I tried to swallow my fear, I felt it peel into me, and the trickle of warm blood run down my throat.
The boy stared up at me. I’d always been a good foot taller than him.
“Baz…” I whispered. I didn’t think I could get anything stronger out of my mouth at the moment. "Baz, don’t do this.”
“Rat?” The boy’s squeaky voice was familiar in one way. In another way, it was new; it was a strange, reedy twist of its natural state. Fucking drugs, I bet, I thought. That bastard’s hopped the boy up to the eyeballs.
“Is that you, Duo?”
His wide eyes shone in the dim light. The pupils looked way too large. There was sweat on his lip, but his hand was steady. I didn’t know whether that was good or bad luck for me. He had a grubby face, and wore dark clothes – no belt, no laces. Guess the poor shit was barely trusted out on his own. His hair had been dark blond when I knew him, but I couldn’t really see it in this light; it stuck up on one side, like he’d slept awkwardly on it. There were some new, though healed scars on his arm, and I knew where they came from. The whole wrist was crookedly misshapen; I remembered how I’d broken his arm when he killed Wufei. I wished – for the millionth time in my life – that I’d broken a lot more of him.
“Yeah, Baz. It’s me. Look – can you take this fucking knife away, Baz? It’s too sharp for shaving –“
He didn’t move. And now I saw he had another blade, in his other hand. It was shorter – but serrated, like a hunting knife. He held it out to the side, and I knew that he had Heero covered with it, should he be rash enough to make a move. The boy may have been a hophead, and barely able to piss without help, but his control of weapons was impressively robust.
“Can’t do that, Duo.” He peered again at me; looked stupidly surprised to see me. “Didn’t know it’d be you. He just said there’d be the Japanese guy, and maybe a hooker.”
I winced. Not as if I hadn’t been called it before.
“That’s me, Baz. I’m his hooker. We’re just having a friendly little fuck here, and then I’m off home, OK? You wanna come along with me, have some takeout, get a beer -?”
I knew it wasn’t working; Baz had always operated on another planet to the rest of us. And although I’d not seen him for months, things had definitely not improved. He didn’t look a guy to be distracted, not even by his old mate and pimp.
“I didn’t mean it, Rat. Duo. Y’know.”
“What?” I could see Heero stir slightly in the bed, and I flashed eyes at him over the blade handle, demanding that he stay put. His eyes stared back, hooded and unreadable. I don’t know why I’d ever imagined he might take a blind bit of notice of me.
“That night. I didn’t mean t’ hurt you.”
I really didn’t want to think about that night again. Not now. Not when I was likely to get my own throat cut – it was obviously a favourite move of Baz’s.
“Sure,” I sighed. “Sure, I understand.”
I didn’t know whether to be pleased about Baz’s need to gabble on to me. On the one hand, it may give me time to think up some escape strategy. On the other hand, it might just put off the evil hour. I was afraid that I’d disgrace myself – that I’d cry in the face of death, or piss myself.
I remembered when he cut me last time. It had been so fast, so unexpected – I’d no memory of any fear. Just a coldness; a slight numbness as the cut sliced into my flesh. This was rather different.
“He told me to,” Baz went on. The blade stayed put, but it had loosened a little from my throat, so that I could speak more normally. His mouth was trembling a little; there was a saliva trail from the side of it. “The Chinese guy had t’ go, y’see. He was gonna go t’ the cops – he was gonna have me put away. That’s what he told me.”
“Who told you, Baz? Is this Shad you’re talking about? Shad said that Wufei had to go?” I tried so hard not to choke on my friend’s name. He’d be real pleased wouldn’t he, if I went the same way as he did. Real fucking pleased that I’d learned so well from the experience…
Baz shuddered. But his hand on the knife never wavered. “He told me if I did it, things’d be OK. He’s gonna be in charge, Duo. He’s gonna sort ‘s all out, with everything we need. But the other guys want t’ stop him. They want it all for themselves.”
“That’s not true, Baz. It’s not a good thing for Shad to be in charge. And why aren’t you working for Mr K anymore? What does Mr K say about all this?”
“Christ, I never seen him! Not him! He’s too fucking grand for me, ain’t he?” whined Baz. “Shad talks for me, that’s what he says. And Shad says that Mr K is weak, and he deserved t’ be taken out. It’s gonna be Mr Y and Shad in charge now.”
I heard Heero’s indrawn breath behind Baz, and I cursed the fact that he’d drawn attention to himself. Even though we were both shocked to hear Baz mention Kai - that apparently Baz had already been to see him. We both knew what that meant.
I doubted Kai was still alive. I had no doubt that Heero was Baz’s target now. It wasn’t Mr Y who’d be in charge, or Mr K, or any of that family. It was Shad’s own plan – Shad’s own ambitions being acted out here. He’d be taking all the family out, one by one, until there was only him left. And if I happened to be around as well – well, might as well take me out, too, eh? He’d let me go at the club – but only because he’d suspected where I’d run. Who I’d be with tonight.
And he already had that base covered.
“Baz, just give me the knife.”
The kid gazed up at me – for the first time, I saw his dully dilated eyes waver. I used to order him around a lot – he used to quite like it. Baz always liked to know where he stood. Who was in charge. And I was always the one with the fast mouth, wasn’t I?… I moved my weight on to the balls of my feet – I might have to dodge suddenly, and my reflexes weren’t what they used to be…
“Nah, Duo,” he said, slowly. I could virtually see the rusty cogs of his mind grinding round. “I can’t do that.” I placed my palms flat against the wall – I knew I could launch out and catch him at the knees and bring him down – “Shad says –“
“So we’ll go and talk to Shad.” I murmured softly – I didn’t want to startle him. I just needed another inch or so, to wriggle out under the blade - “I’ll go and talk to him. Explain it all –“
Then his head snapped up, like it was on elastic. A sharp elastic. As he lifted his arm with a gasp of frustration, my precious inch of potential escape was lost. The knife narrowed the gap between us both.
“Baz – wait –“
The blade shook a little under my throat, and I froze. So – luckily – did he. He slid it along my jaw line, and up to my cheek. It felt cold and merciless on my skin. He chewed aimlessly at his chapped lips.
“Don’t be so fucking stupid, Rat!” he hissed. His voice had deepened; he was no longer whining – he sounded years older. And now he was sly. “You don’t tell me what t’ do anymore, do ya? He does. And I do what I’m told, and so I’ll be OK. That’s what you should do as well! Then I wouldn’t have t’ be here, takin’ you both out, would I?”
He missed the logic of this, but I wasn’t gonna argue with him.
Perhaps I’d given Heero ideas; perhaps I’d given him the opportunity. Whatever the way it was, he moved then – at the corner of my vision, I saw a blur of dark skin against the white sheets, and I tried desperately not to let the recognition show in my face. A smooth, but fast movement, his hand darting to the drawer of the bedside table –
And suddenly there was a gun in his hand.
I didn’t have time to be astonished or grateful, or anything. Because although Heero was fast, Baz was faster. Baz had slipped the blade across and away from my cheek, and was beside Heero before I could gasp a warning. Before I even felt the cold metal leaving my warm skin; before I registered the long, thin slice on my face that was already starting to ooze a drop of warm blood.
And even Heero was astounded by Baz’s speed – he had the gun up and aimed, but the serrated knife flew from Baz’s hand as he moved across the room, and it sliced perfectly across Heero’s wrist. Heero shouted in shock and pain, and the gun fell to the floor. I saw the red welt on his flesh, and more blood starting to flow – then Baz was kneeling on the bed beside him and had the longer knife at his throat.
“Stupid Japanese bastard!” he hissed. “Butt naked y’are, and wavin’ guns like you know what to do with ‘em. Thinkin’ I’m a stupid little kid -! I’m gonna slice off bits of you and take ‘em back for Shad t’ see, ‘cos he always thinks I do a real good job…”
“Leave him alone –“ I bit back the shout, but I was too late. Baz’s eyes whirled round to include me in his murderous sight.
“Don’t be stupid as well as ‘im, Duo! I can throw again from here. Or I can slice his throat ‘n get t’ you before you get t’ the front door. I’ve done it before. Mr K was real fast, but not ‘s fast ‘s me.”
I saw Heero’s eyes close briefly, then open again.
Baz leant a skinny little leg out and kicked the fallen gun over to the window. It was out of everyone’s reach now. “I fuckin’ hate guns, y’know? I like a knife. It’s clean ‘n quiet, and you can get real close…”
I stared at Heero with a look of desperation, and some kinda apology for our failure – his gaze flickered to me, then back down to Baz. He didn’t dare move his head. He’d be cut like me, wouldn’t he?
Baz seemed to be enjoying the teasing. Little shit! He stared at Heero curiously, their faces only inches away from each other. He looked down at my lover’s lap, barely covered by the sheet, and then snapped his watchful gaze back up. “Is he good, then, our Duo? Is he a good fuck? How much did y’pay for him?”
I saw Heero’s face tighten and settle into a cold mask. I wondered how he was gonna cope with this. His voice held none of the fear I could hear in mine. “He’s very good. One of the best I’ve had. Worth every dollar.”
“You like a game, don’t you, child?”
“Don’t call me a child!” warned Baz, angrily. But Heero had his attention, nonetheless.
“Do you want to play some more? Before you kill us?”
“Why don’t you take a look yourself?” said Heero, softly.
Baz tipped his head to the side. “’Bout what? What d’ya mean?”
“Have a bit of fun before you kill us both. Watch Duo at work. Watch me fuck him. I told you he was good. Would you like that?”
There was a very long, very awkward silence. I’d sold Baz on the streets only a few times – he was too erratic ever to have made a good whore. He’d been with men – and he had an unhealthy devotion to Shad. But I didn’t know if that was what turned him on. This was a strange strategy of Heero’s, and I didn’t think I was reassured by it. Not reassured at all.
“You’re a fuckin’ pervert,” said Baz, conversationally. He flexed the knife a little at Heero’s throat. “You some kinda guy likes snuff ‘n all?”
“Maybe,” replied Heero. His voice was low, and soft, and almost seductive. “He’s lovely, isn’t he? Got a great body…you can see that, can’t you? And that hair…”
Was it only me who saw the flicker in Baz’s eyes? He’d loved my braid – used to be always touching my hair, ‘til I’d get annoyed and push him aside…
“You can sit right next to us,” murmured Heero. Still in that soft, lulling tone. “You can keep the knife pointing at me. Just give me a little more time alive; one last fuck, eh?”
Baz stared at him like he was genuinely disgusted. But there was a sick little flame of interest there as well. “Guess if he takes it up the ass for money, he deserves everything he gets, eh?”
“Guess so,” said Heero. Very, very softly.
And Baz seemed to relax; very slightly, but enough for the knife to slide a little away from Heero’s throat. “It might be fun, ‘n all. Come on then, Rat. ‘Praps it’s my turn t’ sell you, eh?”
“Wha -?” I hadn’t really thought there was anything in this…
“Nothin’ personal, Duo. Just like to see what you get up to y’self. See if it’s as much fucking fun as what I used t’ take! Eh?”
He was a little flushed – his eyes blazed. I was suddenly afraid that we’d pushed him further along the wrong path. Fumbling down at my hips, I slid my pants down my legs. Stepped out of them so I was naked again.
Baz sniggered again. “Doesn’t look too hopeful does it, Mr Japanese John? He looks pretty tiny…”
“So would you, Baz, if you were waiting for some lunatic to cut your throat!” I snapped back. Jeez – it wasn’t exactly conducive to an erection! I got a warning glare from Heero, but luckily it had all gone over Baz’s head.
“More of y’ smart words, Rat. I don’t know ‘em so well. Just get on ‘n fuck, and let’s see if it’s fun for me or not.”
I crawled across the bed, trying to catch Heero’s gaze. I felt pretty damn vulnerable. I assumed he had some kinda plan. Though if it involved us actually having sex, he was gonna be outta luck. Like Baz so succinctly put it, I was totally shrivelled. And any other orifice was tightly clenched as well. Fear does that to a man, y’know.
Baz settled on the bed, beside us, his grip on the long knife as good as ever; his eyes wary. He was animal-bright, in that he sat near enough to cut either of us if we moved on him, yet far enough that we couldn’t grab at him unawares. I mean – I’m sure between us we could’ve taken him. But not without someone getting cut. And I’d seen the deadly accuracy of Baz’s blade – seen how quickly and devastatingly cruel it could be.
“’S that my cut, Duo? On y’ side? Fuck, it’s a real big one!” He stared with almost professional pride at the red welt on my torso. “You moved too fast for me, y’know – I couldn’t get a proper angle on you. Then I realised you weren’t the mark, so I guess that was lucky for you, wasn’t it?”
Lucky? The anger throbbed through both me and the wound. I carried that wound in memory of Wufei – of how he died. To remind me of a promise I made myself; that I was gonna make something of myself. For him. It no longer had anything to do with the boy who made it.
“I ain’t interested in your technique, Baz –“
“’Praps you should be, Rat!” he snapped. He twisted the knife swiftly and skilfully in his grip; it fell back into its place before I even realised it had moved. He had perfect, total control of it. “You talk shit -! I don’t wanna hear you talkin’ anymore, OK?”
He stared up at Heero, now. “So how’s you gonna do it, Mr John? Like a whore? Like a dog?”
This time I was definitely the only one to see the shiver that ran through Heero’s frame. He pushed the sheet back carefully and slowly, and knelt up on the bed himself. “On your hands and knees, Duo.”
I did what I was told. My mind was whirling. I was turned so that I faced Baz, and had to look at his wild, blinking, putrid little eyes. At the glint of the blade in his hand, resting somewhere between his legs and my neck. If I weren’t so petrified, I’d have thrown up in his lap. I tried to see the gun, but it was still way out of my reach. I cursed Heero’s minimalist taste in furniture, for there was nothing else to hand that I could use as a weapon.
I felt Heero’s hand on my buttocks; he stroked me – it was like he soothed me. Was this gonna be the last time he touched me like this?
Baz’s head peered up at mine as I knelt before Heero. “You want me t’ kill you first, or him, Duo? I mean, are you gonna come as well, or is it just for ‘im? I’ll wait for ‘im, shall I?”
“Yeah,” I hissed. And then to myself; Whatever, you little shit…
It was all a bit shocking for me. To find that Heero was as aroused as ever – despite a wavering blade held inches from his face, and the threat of imminent death. I mean, I knew I was meant to be the one with the sexually sordid past, but even I drew the line at that…
His cock rubbed up between my ass cheeks, hot and soft, though he was making no attempt to insert it. I was damn pleased about that, to be honest. I didn’t fancy being dry-fucked just before I was murdered. Seems he didn’t have that in mind, anyway. He moaned quietly, as if he was pushing into me; then gave a few thrusts of his hips, as if he was moving inside me. It was an act, it seemed…
“Is he good, then?” came Baz’s reedy little voice. “Is he tight? Can’t see how he can be tight, after being on the street for s’long…”
“He’s tight,” whispered Heero. “Very tight… Can’t you see? Just look at how his ass moves… see how his hair flows out over us both…”
He leant down over my back, and murmured in my ear. “Bend forward more. Spread your hair.”
“It’s great, isn’t it, his hair?” gabbled Baz. He had a hand in his lap now, so obviously this was a turn-on for him. “Guys used t’ like it – said they got two for the price o’ one – boy ‘n girl!”
I felt Heero grip at my hips; he was trying to tell me something, I was sure. Just wished I could translate it through the fear that was shaking my legs underneath him. He continued his pantomime, and I thrust back towards him, twisting an expression on to my face as if I was being well and truly fucked.
“Your hair…” Heero’s voice was a mere breath at my cheek, but I thought that I understood now.
I lifted one arm and draped my hair forward. When it’s loose, it reaches way down past my waist, and it was still wild from the shower incident. It was at its most unruly. It flowed across my shoulders, hanging down over our arms. The pretend fucking made my body rock gently back and forth, and the curtain of hair swished softly along with us.
“Look at it,” purred Heero. “You want to touch it while I fuck him? Just look…”
Baz gazed, just that little bit entranced. Just that little bit distracted.
The movement was fast again, but it didn’t come from Baz. One of Heero’s slim fingers pressed sharply into my skin, and I took it as my signal. I swung my hair like one of those damn shampoo ads, and Baz twitched his head to the side to avoid the ends in his eyes. The wide, sweeping fall of hair obscured Heero’s hand for a vital moment.
Baz snarled, and snapped his head back, with some instinctive suspicion awakening. He’d forgotten his entertainment; he lifted the blade and pointed it straight at my neck. He was less than half a metre away from me, and I was a kneeling target. Hair or no hair, he couldn’t miss.
I was frozen there; stark naked, with Heero on my back, and a drug-crazed psycho about to bury his knife to the hilt in my throat. I could already feel the slice across my nerve endings; feel the promise of mortal pain. And then, as I stared in horror at Baz, there was a breath of air beside my ear, and a sharp noise that I hadn’t heard for so many months that I’d almost forgotten what it meant. Baz sat there, arm raised, and a small, black hole appeared in the middle of his forehead. He looked nothing more than startled.
And then he fell backwards on to the bed into a spreading pool of blood and brains.
I fell sideways, in shock, I think. My ear was ringing from the report of the gun so close. Used to hear them a lot on the street… used to hide a lot, too.
Heero knelt up on the bed, gun in hand. He stared down at Baz’s body. There were still small drops of blood oozing from the knife cut on his wrist, but he didn’t seem to notice it. His face was as calm as if he were looking at a pile of clothes, rather than a dead assassin.
“Don’t call me stupid, child,” he said. His voice was still quiet, but now it was cold. Very cold.
“A stupid man would never have had another gun, would he?”
It was an hour later. I’d stopped shaking, and pulled my pants back on. I was tired of feeling vulnerable in my birthday suit, however uninhibited I may be at other times.
Heero and I dragged Baz’s body off the bed, and left him on the floor, the ruined sheet underneath him like an open shroud. It didn’t make much difference where he was, I guess, but it seemed obscene to leave him there, bleeding over the bed. Though I didn’t expect Heero to be sending those sheets to the laundry after tonight.
Heero had dressed back in his sweats; I’d bound up his wrist, and washed the shallow cuts in my cheek and neck. I twisted my hair up into a makeshift ponytail with an elastic band, then the two of us sat on the couch in the lounge. We’d been silent for at least half of the hour.
I fetched a large vodka, and he watched me gulp a quarter of it down in one go. Guess I’ll give up the drink again tomorrow. When he held out his hand, I passed it to him, and he took a long draught from the glass. Then he handed it back for me to drink. It seemed to me it was one of the most intimate things we’d ever done together.
“He was high on something or other,” I blurted, suddenly. The memory of Baz’s wide, dilated eyes was still burned on to my own. I saw him every time I blinked.
Heero nodded, thoughtfully. He didn’t turn to face me, but he spoke to me. “Why did you tell me to keep out of the way? When you heard him break in?”
“What were you gonna do, Duo?”
I shrugged. Fucked if I knew. I was no action hero, really. “I just wanted – to stop him getting to you, I guess. This was so obviously a set up, to get you alone at home – vulnerable. So I knew if there was someone coming in, they were here for you. You’re part of the family. They’d try to get at your uncle through you.”
“You thought you’d take them on by yourself – take on that maniac child, yourself. To keep him from me…”
“I – well –“
“You wanted to protect me,” he said, slowly. It sounded like he couldn’t understand the concept. Not sure I could myself, at the moment.
“I wanted to talk him out of it – I thought I could!” Thankfully, Heero didn’t tell me I was stupid, though I would’ve told myself. You don’t negotiate with a lunatic like Baz.
“He was too far gone. I know the look.” The coolness was back in Heero’s voice.
“He recognised me –“ I protested, but feebly.
“He wanted to kill you, Duo. Don’t be a fool.”
“A fool, a pimp and a whore…” I murmured. I wouldn’t meet Heero’s eyes, either. Baz had said enough about my former life for Heero to know I’d done far more than supervise a bunch of kids. Just added to the disillusion, really.
“I told you it doesn’t matter,” he said, quietly. “Who you were in the past. It shouldn’t matter –should it?”
I couldn’t think that he’d ever asked my opinion on much of anything, except whether I wanted to fuck or not. And that was usually rhetorical. I answered with my own, indirect question.
“You handle a gun well, Heero.”
“I said I would protect you. You just chose to ignore me.”
I smiled to myself, rather sadly. I didn’t ask him if he’d ever killed anyone before, because I knew I didn’t want to hear the answer. It had been a good strategy of his, to trick Baz; to save us both. But the sudden violence of the boy’s death had shocked me. His face had looked almost normal as he lay on the sheet; as normal as a psycho could look. And behind his spiky-haired head there was a seeping pool of dark blood. From the wound…
The wound…my thoughts stilled. I grew very cold, and it was nothing to do with the air conditioning.
Wufei… what would you think of all this, man?
“Who was Wufei?” Heero’s voice sounded sharply into the silence. It was slightly shocking, when the name had already been in my mind as well.
“A guy I knew. A friend. A counsellor – he was helping the kids.” Helping me… “Baz killed him – months ago. Just before I came back to live here. He was – he was a really good man. I – thought it was a random mugging, but now I know different.” It was all part of Shad’s master plan… the lump in my throat was the size of a rock.
Heero shifted beside me; just to get more comfortable I think. When he spoke again, his voice was almost too low to hear the words clearly. “Was he your lover?”
I gave a small laugh. “No. He wasn’t that way inclined, I think.” Though I would’ve tried to incline whatever way he wanted, when it came to it…
“Was he like me?”
This was just so not like Heero, that I laughed out loud. “You’re not jealous, Heero – I won’t believe it!”
“Would you have stayed with him? If he’d not been killed?” Heero was persisting with these weird questions. I was too tired to argue.
“I guess so.”
“So – like I said. Was he like me?”
“What are you saying, Heero?” Was he asking me to stay with him? Be with him, like I’d wanted to be with Wufei? I would have treasured Wufei’s friendship all my life; I would have stayed as close to him as I was allowed. I would have followed his principles until they were my own.
What were Heero’s principles, compared to that?
“I’ve been in that world, Heero,” I said, slowly. I was still a little in shock, I think, and so I was treading very carefully along this thin, cracking ice that was our conversation. We had just killed a boy, hadn’t we? In self-defence, maybe; but we’d both contributed to his death. Heero had fired the shot, but I’d been just as keen to see him dead, when I saw the blade in line with my throat.
“I’ve been there. Kai’s world. Shad’s world. Baz’s world. A world that appears to be yours as well. I got out, y’know? And I don’t want to be sucked back in.”
He turned fully to stare at me. There were dark circles under his eyes that I’d not noticed before.
“You needn’t be.”
“We need to call the police, Heero. Get this sorted out.”
I sighed. He was reluctant – so was I. There’d be questions. Suspicion. And then more questions.
Or maybe there was more to this than just a healthy dislike of authority.
I don’t know how much longer had passed. I wondered if anyone in the block had heard the shot – ‘praps the cops were already on their way. I wasn’t gonna be freaked out by the fact that there was a dead body in the next room, but I needed to get some things clear, and then ‘praps I could struggle on with my life.
I got up and found my shirt, and then fetched myself some water from the kitchen. The vodka time had passed. I wriggled the shirt over my head – I’d lost a button during our groping last night, and it gaped open a little at the neck. When I came back into the lounge, Heero still sat in the same position on the couch. His head was dipped slightly, so that I couldn’t see his face.
“You’re a dangerous man, Heero,” I said.
“What?” He turned to me, amazed. “What do you mean? I wouldn’t hurt you, Duo – I would never have shot you –“
“I’m not talking about the gun,” I replied. “Though there ain’t many guys I know who have two guns in their bedside cabinet, I must admit. But it’s more than that. It’s the way you act; the way you instinctively expect attention. And obedience.”
“Now, Duo –“
“Look at the way you fight,” I rushed on. “I’m fast, Heero, but you had a hold of me on the street that time, before I had a real chance to react. That was your immediate reaction to a physical attack. It was damn good – and I guess it was from experience. And even tonight - you were cool with Baz; you didn’t lose your head. You expect to deal with these things, it seems.
“And your talk about Shad – about plans to deal with him. Would those plans have involved a gun, as well? Don’t mistake my bleeding heart – I’d be as happy as the next guy to see Shad dead! But that doesn’t make it right, does it? It just perpetuates the whole fucking mess…”
“I don’t know what you’re going on about, Duo –“
“Yes,” I sighed. “And there’s another example, eh?”
He shook his head slightly, confused. He looked annoyed. His eyes had dropped away from me again. Was he trying to avoid my anger? Or did he have expressions of his own that he wanted to hide?
“Another example of you lying to me! It’s been going on all the time, hasn’t it? No wonder I haven’t had the chance to work out what’s going on. I’ve only had half the story. You – your uncle - your cousin…”
I saw him wince.
“Yeah, Kai…You know he may be dead? Baz was mad, but he was also pretty thorough…”
“So don’t you think you oughtta contact your uncle?”
“Because he’ll be a target, too. For Shad, or some other Baz-clone that’ll be waiting in the wings.”
“No he won’t…”
And then I slammed a hand on to Heero’s shoulder, and forced him to look up at me.
“Why not, Heero?”
The look on his face was awesome; it was soft and hard and bitter, all at the same time. It tried to speak to me; it reached right through me to something far beyond. It was a look of angry challenge, and also a look of defeat.
I knew I was way out of my depth.
It was only half a surprise.
“Why not, Heero?” I repeated. I was gonna make him speak to me, if it was the last thing I did. I wished I hadn’t chosen that particular phrase.
His voice was cool again, but it sounded weary.
“Because there is no uncle, Duo.”
“I have no uncle. He died over six months ago. And now my cousin’s gone as well –“
“No uncle?” I echoed. “So who -?”
“- is Mr Y?” Heero completed it for me. “I am, Duo. I am Mr Y.”
“This is my world, Duo. My business. My family. I am Mr Y.”