3-19-2002

Title: The Killing Tide 2/?
Author: Dalton (AngelDalton6@aol.com)
Archive: Kikotei's
Rating: R
Category: AU only because this takes place 10 years after Endless Waltz.
Warnings: Swearing, angst, violence and death. (Sorry about that last warning, but the fic demanded sacrifices.)
Disclaimer: Gundam Wing is the property of Sunrise, the Sotsu Agency, and Bandai. No infringement is intended upon their rights. Special thanks to Nicole and Lilias for picking the bugs out! If any bugs remain, it's all my fault. (3/19/2)
---------

Hilde stood in the middle of the living room; the futon couch had been shoved against the side wall, and she lightly dribbled a small basketball where the sofa once stood. She stared intensely at the dirty, round smudge marks on the eggshell walls as if she were trying to read a Rorschach test. If she squinted really hard, she could almost make out the form of a butterfly, instead of the splotch of dried blood that it wanted to resemble. A few more deliberate bounces to the hardwood floor and then the ball kissed the wall, adding another brown stamp for her to study.

The door opened just then, bringing fresh air and a fresher being into the small apartment. "Heya, Hilde!" Kicking the door shut behind him, Duo tossed a pair of shades onto the dinette bar and absently grabbed an apple from a basket in the middle. An eyebrow rose at the condition of the wall. "I think you missed a spot. Left hand corner...."

The apple shot out of his hand as it was replaced by the mini-basketball thrown by a humorless Hilde. Duo's reflexes were quick enough to catch the sudden toss, but not quick enough to regain the lost apple. It sadly rolled underneath one of the barstools.

"Aw, Hilde...and I haven't even had lunch yet. What time of the afternoon is it? Two?"

"4:30." Hilde retrieved the once bitten apple out from under the stool. "What took you so long? I expected you back hours ago. Do you know how crazy I've been going?"

Duo shot the ball squarely through the bedroom door into the next room, where it met something with a crash. He ignored it. "Yeah, I can see you're resorting to my stress-relief tactics. Maybe next time we can paint the walls black? Can't see the smudges then. And you know I like black."

Hilde slumped at the sink where she had been rinsing off Duo's apple, and Duo got the idea that his light-hearted tactics weren't going to work with her this time.

"Duo, you're stalling."

Duo brushed his long bangs back with one hand and sighed, his shoulders drooping slightly. "Ok, ok. I can't lie to you..... Hilde, it wasn't good."

She turned around and set the newly cleaned apple in front of him on the bar. "Sally?"

He didn't pick the fruit up. He wasn't hungry despite not having eaten since getting back in town earlier that morning. "She's ok. I think. At least, she doesn't seem to know where she is or why she's there. I don't even know if she knows her name. Noin kept calling to her, but she didn't respond."

"Noin was there, too?"

"I picked her up on my way. I figured the Preventers were gonna send somebody once they found out Sally was involved in a multiple homicide, and I'd rather it be a friend who saw her -- not some stuffy "ladder-climber" or idiot "peon" who couldn't give a rat's ass. Besides, Noin is a good friend of hers and Une wasn't available."

Hilde watched Duo's right hand wave absently in the air, punctuating certain words with a brush or a slice. His eyes remained thoughtfully glued to the bar counter, though, and Hilde felt a twang of remorse for propelling him back into the chaos of Preventer business. Duo hadn't actively been a part of the Preventers for a few years, enjoying the freedom of living a life apart from its controlling atmosphere and the memories of the war that created it. With this recent event and Hilde's plea for assistance in an area outside her jurisdiction, Duo willingly stepped back into the role of active duty. The free and easy life of a trucker would have to be put on hold for a bit; to Duo, friends came before anything else, and to Hilde, this longhaired, roguish man was the best friend she ever had.

Duo blinked as Hilde's smaller fingers settled over his restless ones. "I knew I picked the right person for this. Thank you, Duo." He sent her a broad grin for the compliment, and she felt more at ease under its warm beam. "Was Noin able to do anything for her? Provide her bail? Give a reason…an alibi for her presence at the restaurant?"

"No," Duo swung a leg over the barstool and took a seat. "No bail. No alibi. Sally's in deep with this one. She was found with the victims' blood all over her...at least they cleaned her up a bit...but, sheesh, that mess is bad enough considering she won't, or can't, even explain why she was there. ~I~ can give you something of a reason, but unless she snaps out of this mute shock she's in and backs me up, no one's gonna believe me."

"What?" Hilde leaned in excitedly. "You can offer an alibi for Sally? That's great! That's all she needs, really! Then we can get her out of there, get her some better help...."

Duo stopped her excited raving with a shake of his head. "I don't want to burst your bubble, sister, but I said I could give a reason, not an alibi. See, that Chinese restaurant where she was found is the one where Sally and Wufei used to get together for lunch every now and then. I know. I joined them a couple of times when I was schlepping cargo for the Preventers, and Sally would invite me along - her treat. Now, why she was there at the wee hours of the morning in the middle of a friggin' massacre, God only knows. I sure as Hell don't. All I know is Sally wouldn't go berserk and kill a bunch of people without a reason. I don't even know if she'd do it with one."

"Maybe she really, really wanted an early morning order of chow mien." Hilde's unusual comment caused Duo's eyes to widen. She noticed it and pushed away from the bar to lean up against the sink. "I'm sorry Duo. I really ~am~ going crazy over this. None of it makes sense. We know Sally, know how much she has helped people, and know she is too strong to crack up. This isn't her. It just doesn't feel right. It doesn't look right, either. Well, here--look at this," Hilde reached for her purse on the bar and removed a folded envelope from its recesses.

"Pictures? You got pictures?" Duo plucked the envelope out of her fingers and began to shuffle through the snapshots.

Hilde moved around the bar to look at the photos over his shoulder. "I took them with one of those disposable cameras you can get at the drug store. I had to bribe the clerk to develop them right away. Showing my badge and saying it was important police evidence didn't seem to get me anywhere."

"Hoo boy, this is a messy one." A low whistle escaped Duo's pursed lips. The scene in the photo rippled slightly, betraying the tremor that passed through him as he stared. "You can't even tell.... I mean, there's nothing much left to tell who's who. It kinda reminds me...reminds me of...Ah, forget it." Shaking the memory from his head, Duo flipped the photo over and moved on to the next. "It's funny how things can pop up and trip you back in time. Though this isn't like what I saw then. This whole thing I'm looking at is...well, it's.... Hey!" He held up a new photo. "Who the heck is this?"

Hilde moaned and took the picture from him. "My current partner, Hicks. Lovely fellow. I'll tell you all about him when I feel I can handle the telling."

"That good, huh?" Duo's customary grin was back in place, full force. "By the way, nice pig. Think it's a suspect?"

Hilde bopped him on the head with the picture.

"No, no...." he laughed, grabbing the photo from her. "I meant the ceramic pig, not the other one."

"Duo!"

"Oh, that's right, you're a "pig" now, too. Sorry, ...ow!" He quickly pulled his braid out of her hand with a look of hurt that was spoiled by the grin in his eyes.

"Watchit, or I'll have you up on harassing an officer of the law."

"Harassing, huh?" His eyebrows did a seductive little dance. "Lady, you won't think it's harassment when I'm through with you."

"Duo, shame!" Hilde nearly pushed the flirt off his stool. "We're supposed to be helping a friend here."

Duo sighed and straightened himself back on the barstool. "I'm sorry," but the mischief was still a twinkle in his eye, "Can I help it if I just got off a run and haven't seen a person in days? Weeks? Years?"

"Oh, hush. You've only been gone a month; and if it makes you feel better, Quatre called to see if you'd like to go with him to check out Trowa's new act, and Heero's been by at least three times this week to see if you'd come back yet." Duo's yip of glee was cut off. "But Heero told me he'd be out of town till the...fifth, sixth? You beat him in by a day. Guess that means there'll be no poker fun for you and Wufei tonight."

Duo's joy dissipated into a dear little pout. "Tonight, if you hear me whimpering in my sleep, will you come cuddle with me?"

"Oh, good grief."

"I'll take that as a yes! Now, back to work." He diligently bent back over the remaining pictures as Hilde shook her head at him.

The phone rang and Hilde reached behind Duo for the receiver. "Hello?.....What? But our shift doesn't come for another six hours!.....Yes, I know I'm new but that doesn't.... Are we in that much trouble?.... Okay, you're right. I'll be right there." She hung up with a frown.

"Don't tell me - that was Squick...."

"Hicks." she corrected his deliberate mistake. "He highly suggested we do some major butt-kissing to make up for this morning. That means extra hours doing unwanted jobs. There's some animal problem that no one else is free enough to take care of, so...."

"So, wiggle your butt into your official duds and I'll drive you to the station." Duo pushed her toward the bedroom and began to gather the photos. "We'll take these so we can talk more about Sally on the way."

Hilde smiled and began to unbutton her blouse on the way to the bedroom. "You know, you're the best roommate I've ever had."

"Even though I'm hardly ever here?" he called after her.

"Especially because of that!" she teased back, and broke into laughter at the sound of the thud she knew was his forehead hitting the bar top.