Deliveryman + Part 5Losing my mind or not, I still had to pay the bills. So, for the next couple of days, even while part of my mind was running around in little circles, I did my job. Packages got delivered. Go me. Then I had to make another run to L2.
I wasn't too thrilled about going back to L2. I never am, mind you. But this time after that slavery ring bust, I was more leery than ever. I told myself firmly that I was only going there to drop off packages- that's it. I was not going to get involved in something that would end up with me owing anyone anything. No way, no how. Just a package run- and my visit to the orphanage. That was it.
Fate must've been laughing her head off at me. Hadn't I learned anything?
As I was on my way to L2, I checked my mail and noticed that Trowa and the circus were on that colony. Trowa'd be mad if he found out I didn't stop in to say hi, so I added one more errand to the list in my head. No big deal right? I mean, Trowa worked at a circus- what could possibly go wrong there?
I should've stayed home.
I managed to get my packages dropped off in record time. I stopped by to see Sister Mary and the kids, but didn't stop to chat this time. Didn't want to know what was going on. Yes, I know I was behaving like an ostrich. It's a good philosophy though- if I don't see it, I don't have to fix it.
Unless the problem just falls out of the sky and nails me.
Trowa was getting ready for the evening performance when I stopped by. Luckily Cathy has forgiven me for dragging Trowa back into the war all that time ago. She wasn't happy with Quatre or me for a long time afterwards, but at least now she doesn't try and skewer us. Well, not often anyways.
Trowa was already in his clown costume chatting with his lions when I found him. Yes, chatting. When Trowa talks to his lions you get the creepiest idea that they not only understand him, but are answering back.
"Hey Duo!" He smiled and raised a hand at me when I entered the small holding area. "It's good to see you."
"You too, Trowa," I replied, carefully sitting down a distance away from his kitties. "How are things?"
"Great," Trowa smiled back at me. "I'm glad you're here- this is one of the last shows I'll be doing for awhile."
"Quatre?" I asked with a smirk. Trowa didn't even blush.
"Yes. You aren't surprised?"
"Nope. I figured you two would eventually get tired of this whole back and forth thing. And Quatre's kind of tied up with his work."
"True. He said you did a job for him a few days ago?"
"Yep. Just a little package pickup."
"Did you and Heero make up?" I flushed, I couldn't help it. Trowa glanced up from the lion beside him.
"Uh, yeah." Trowa tilted his head to the side.
"So, how's Cathy taking your leaving?" I asked, eager to change the subject. Trowa's eyebrows went up, but he just went along with me.
"Pretty well. She only threw a..." He paused. I was puzzled for a moment, but then I heard it too. The sound of flesh hitting flesh- and not in a good way. Trowa and I both moved quickly to the wall of the tent.
"Are you going to be reasonable?" A voice growled on the other side.
"I can't do what you're asking..." that was the manager of the circus.
"You will- unless you want to start having a few accidents around here. Your circus has a good safety record so far- be a pity to lose it now. The box will be here tomorrow morning- right before you leave. All you have to do is make sure it gets to L4. Put it in with the lions." There was a harsh laugh. "No one will want to check that cage too closely."
"But..." The manager tried again.
"No. You will- or your performers will be in trouble."
Trowa had heard enough. He dragged me to the doorway of the tent and out. We found the manager standing around the side, his eyes focused on the retreating figures of three men. I followed his gaze and felt myself freeze in surprise. What the hell was that guy doing here?
"Manager, what's going on?" Trowa was demanding. I pulled my eyes away from the man I thought was dead and looked at the shaken manager.
"Those men want the circus to smuggle a package for them."
"We can't do that!"
"If we don't- they'll cause some accidents to happen."
"We can't cave to such cowardly demands!"
"Trowa- remember what happened to the Circus Carnivale?" My friend turned slightly pale.
"You aren't saying- that net failure?"
"They were responsible. Carnivale's manager tried to turn them in and... well, you know what happened."
"I don't," I interjected into the conversation.
"Sure you do, Duo, it was all over the news. The trapeze artists whose big finale was to all land in the net and then bounce back out?"
"And the net broke," I finished. I had heard it. A whole family of circus performers dies like that- it made the news all over. "Shit. What are you going to do?"
"We'll have to transport it." Trowa said flatly.
"But, Duo, you'll have to help us."
"WHAT?!" I repeated.
"Duo, I can't do anything to jeopardize the circus. But if the package gets caught accidentally somehow- then they can't blame us, right?" Oh crap. What happened to my nice easy package run?
"Right." I sighed deeply. "I'm on it." I took off after the men at a jog.
It wasn't too hard to catch up to them, they weren't trying to be sneaky. It was an easy thing to tail them, and more than once I blessed the fact that I knew L2 as well as I did. I was still puzzled over the reappearance of Jones. As far as I knew, that guy had died ages ago on Peacemillion. He had been one of Howard's techs- helped repair the gundams-hell, helped build mine!
Howard had said that Jones was dead- what the hell was going on?
They entered a long wooden building that I remembered very clearly. During the war I had stood there and listened to the members of White Fang try to persuade me to join their cause. I had told them to come up with a better plan and in the meantime I was going to keep fighting on my own. You would've thought they'd at least change their hideout! Idiots. Their security hadn't improved either. It was a cinch to sneak closer and get a look.
I watched them back a truck into the place and load a box into it. That would be the delivery that they expected Trowa's circus to smuggle for them, hmm? I wondered what was in the box and tried to think of a few ways to find out.
To my utter surprise, after the truck was loaded, they moved it into a small garage and left. Huh? What about a guard? Someone to keep an eye on this stuff? They had been overconfident before- hadn't they learned anything? I snuck closer, amazed by the lack of security. I managed to get up on the truck and I took a look in that box.
It contained some very familiar looking parts. Gundam parts- specifically the kind used to build a stealth shield for a gundam- like Deathscythe's.
I smacked a tracer on the bottom of the truck and got my ass the hell out of there. I needed to find a payphone. There was only one person I knew of who could build a gundam like Deathscythe- and even though everyone thought he was dead, I unfortunately knew better. No one stays dead like they're supposed to.
After I closed myself into the phone booth I called my silent partner in the delivery business. He answered on the second ring:
"Duo? It's not time for you to check in."
"Can it G. Something important came up."
"Does it have to do with your long-term objectives?"
"No," I told him tersely and explained what I had found on the truck. "You better not be building Deathscythe again, old man!"
"Are you threatening me Duo?"
"Yes." I snapped.
"Brave of you. No, I am not building a gundam. But I wonder who is."
"Have you heard of White Dog?" I told him all that Heero had told me and all that I had figured out. "And one of Howard's techs is with them- Jones. Howard said he was dead."
"Interesting. You need to gain their trust- without compromising 03's circus."
"I have an idea on how to do that."
"Try to get them to trust you, my boy. I know you're an expert at that." G. laughed and I snarled. "Don't be modest. The other pilots don't suspect a thing, now do they?"
"No," I responded miserably.
"Good boy. Outline of your plan?" I explained my idea and got his approval. "Excellent. All that working with 01 has really improved your planning skills. Report to me when you finish." I hung up without answering. Damn it. Trowa was my next phone call.
"It's me," I told him when he answered the phone. "I have a plan. You are scheduled to leave at a certain time, right?"
"Yes," he told me.
"Good. When is it?" After he gave me the information, I told him that I'd call him later.
"Duo? What are you going to do?"
"Better that you don't know."
"Are you going to call Heero? You promised." Shit- did everyone know about that freaking oath?
"Can you call him for me?"
"Duo..." I could hear the reproach.
"Trowa, I'm doing this fucking thing to help you. The least you could do for me is call Heero. I have a lot of stuff to do to get ready."
"Fine." I heard Trowa sigh. "But you know he's going to kick your ass for this."
"Yeah, yeah," I hung up.
The next day I was waiting. I sat in the delivery truck in an alley and kept an eye on my scanner. This was going to be a fast one.
They were cutting it close as it was. Perfect. Just as my little transmitter started to beep, I threw the truck into gear.
I managed to hit the truck side on with mine, crunching the sucker nearly double. My truck was fine, but then, as I had borrowed it from a Sweeper friend of mine who believed in heavy-duty frames, I wasn't surprised.
"GOD DAMMIT!" I yelled jumping out of the driver's side door. "Where the hell did you guys come from? I didn't even see you! There is a posted limit, you know!"
The driver of the truck was behind the wheel, looking a little dazed. It wasn't Jones, thank goodness. I leaned in next to him and shut the engine off. Traffic was starting to pile up behind us. I could see the flashing lights of the L2 traffic force making their way to us. Such prompt timing- especially when you call them in advance.
"Are you okay?" I asked the driver with concern. You don't look too good man."
"I'm okay. The others- in the back..."
"There were people in the back?" I left the driver and went to the back. The door was bent off of it's hinges. Hey, when I cause an accident- I cause an accident. "Anyone back there?"
I heard a faint groan. I hopped up in the back and found two men lying next to the crate. Neither one of them was Jones either. My luck was holding today.
"You guys okay?" The crate had shifted a bit, pinning one guy to the wall from waist down. I almost pitied him- gundanium is heavy. The man pinned by the crate seemed to be unconscious, but the other one was cursing a blue streak. I checked him over quickly- he only had a slight bump. "I'm sorry about your buddy there- I hope he'll be all right. The cops are almost to us- they'll call for some med help for you."
That just made the guy curse more.
The cops were very helpful. I gave them my insurance information, and surprise- so did the driver of the other truck. They claimed they were carrying stereo components and the cops didn't look. Morons. Of course, I didn't want them to look either, but I had prepared for that contingency. We moved the trucks to the side of the road- mine went easily enough, but the other one was totaled.
The driver was walking up and down cursing. I approached him, my most disarming grin in place.
"I'm really sorry about this man. My truck's in one piece- do you need me to deliver that stuff for you?"
"No- we're late!" He caught himself. "Uh, the transport will have already left."
"I have a transport," I replied and stuck my hand out. "Duo Maxwell, of Maxwell's delivery service at your service." I laughed integratingly and hated myself for it. "I'd be more than happy to help you out."
"Duo Maxwell?" The driver gave me an odd look.
"The gundam pilot?"
"Yep. Not anymore of course."
"You run a delivery service?" He sounded like he already knew the answer.
"Yep. Not much call for mobile suit pilots anymore, you know. I've been running it for a while now. Got full clearance in and out of the colonies." I knew he wouldn't be able to resist that bait. I was risking my license with this if anyone official found out- but then again the Preventers would bail me out. They'd better anyways.
"Uh, yeah. I guess if you could help us out, that'd be great." Hooked!
It was as easy as that. My truck got loaded with their crate, his two buddies went to the hospital, and the driver- who said his name was Jess Butler- was helping me load it onto my ship.
I relaxed into my role of the good-natured fool as we set the course.
"I really appreciate this Duo." Jess told me.
"Ah, it's no big deal. Only an hour run out and then an easy flight back to Earth. You're on the way. 'Sides I'm the one that hit your truck."
"Still, it's kind of you." Jess gave me a grin of his own and my internal hackles rose a bit. "I didn't expect a gundam pilot to be running a delivery service."
"Why not? It's an excuse to be piloting."
"You miss it?" Hell, no.
"Ah, there was nothing like it."
"I'm kind of surprised you didn't join the Preventers- isn't that where most of the other pilots ended up- at least part time?"
"Yeah, I guess. Two of us joined full time, the other two do work on an as-needed basis."
"No. I don't... that is, I'm not comfortable with that kind of authority." He gave me a measuring look and continued to probe me for details of how I felt about the situation with the colonies. I told him what I thought he wanted to hear.
It was an easy matter to drop the stuff off at the colony. I was expecting something funny to happen, but Jess merely asked me for my business card. I gave it to him without a flinch and got my ass the hell out of there. I didn't relax until I was out of firing range and I was sure no one was following me. Old habits die hard.
On my way back, I called G. again and updated him on my progress. I gave him the description of the other men who came to pick up the package and a better description of what I had seen inside.
"Excellent Duo. If they call you again..."
"I know. Play along."
"Exactly. I'm sure Lady Une will want you to as well, but I don't want you telling the Preventers what happened."
"Heero's gonna ask."
"I know. He's developed some interesting protective tendencies towards you. J is fascinated. Tell him about the truck- just that you delayed it. Don't tell him the rest."
"And how am I going to do that?"
"You'll figure out a way, Shinigami." He hung up on me. Crap. Hope I could think of a way to avoid Heero until I came up with a good story.
Heero was waiting for me at my house. Inside, I might add. So much for extra time.
"What are you doing here?" I asked him as I tossed my hat onto the counter. "I didn't think Preventers were allowed to break and enter."
"Duo- what the hell happened? Trowa said you just told him you'd take care of it. What did you do?"
"I took care of it, okay? They don't even suspect that the circus had anything to do with it." At least I hoped they didn't. Trowa kept a pretty low profile at the circus- he even went by a different name. No, it had to be okay. Why would they threaten a circus with a former gundam pilot as a member? That would be stupid. Still...
Heero was in front of me, hands on my shoulders. Oops, I must've missed something.
"Duo! Damnit! Tell me what happened!"
"I stalled them, okay? So that they wouldn't make it in time. That's it."
"I crashed into their truck."
"Did the cops come?" Damn it, I could've strangled G.! How was I supposed to stop Heero from getting the whole story out of me? He wasn't going to be happy with some lame explanation.
"Of course they did."
"Did they see the crate?"
"Heero, these are the L2 cops. Of course not." He opened his mouth again and I stopped his questions the best way I knew how.
I kissed him.
I hate myself for this. G. was right. There was one way to distract Heero, and I knew how to do it. It didn't help that I wanted to do it, or that Heero did too. He responded well enough- for a minute.
"Duo! Quit trying to distract me!" Shit. Sometimes I think J did too good of a job on Heero. "Tell me what happened!"
"Heero- I can't. Don't make me lie to you." Came out of my mouth before I could stop it. Heero pushed me away, frustrated, and began to pace. I sat down on the sofa, miserable.
He stopped in front of me a moment later. "Duo, why can't you tell me?"
"I just can't."
"Don't you trust me?"
"Of course I do!" He frowned a bit.
"Is it can't tell me, or won't tell me?"
"Can't." I answered honestly enough.
"Who said you couldn't?"
"I can't tell you that either." He began to pace again. Then he returned to his place in front of me and knelt down.
"Duo- who has that kind of power over you? It can't be White Dog."
"What will happen if you disobey?"
"Pilots." I closed my mouth firmly. G. might be mad about this, but I knew Heero and Heero knew me. He knew that I would do anything to keep my friends alive, and I knew he didn't want me to die. He leaned forward and put his hands on my legs.
"Did you tell me everything you were allowed to?"
"Yes. I stopped the truck. The circus shouldn't be blamed."
"I understand Duo." He was giving me a searching look. "Tell me more, when you can?"
"Of course, Heero." He kissed me gently.
"I'll call Trowa for you. He was worried." He got to his feet then and looked down at me. "You know, there are only a few people who can frighten a gundam pilot."
"Other than ourselves?" I gave him a grin.
"You're a good friend, Duo." His hand brushed my bangs. "I'll call you later." And he was gone. I stretched out full length on the sofa and hoped that I had not just doomed us all.
[part 4] [part 6] [back to Merula's fic]