Title : The Killing Tide11/?
Author : Dalton (AngelDalton6@aol.com)
Rating : R
Category : AU only in the fact that this takes place 10 years after Endless Waltz
Warnings : Swearing, angst, violence and death.
Disclaimer : Gundam Wing is the property of Sunrise, the Sotsu Agency, and Bandai. No infringement is intended upon their rights. (4/5/2)

Heero sat on a stool at the bar beneath the front windows of a small diner, a half-cup of lukewarm coffee sat just to the left of his elbow waiting to be refreshed. His eyes roamed over the pedestrians outside, searching for one man. He tapped his clasped hands lightly against his nose as he continued to stare over the steepled knuckles. He was positive Duo would come here--Howard had mentioned a Monday morning run--but the standing question was When? Heero's eyes shifted to the side when he heard the familiar sound of liquid filling his cup.

"Waiting for a flight?" The brunette waitress smiled pleasantly at him, making idle chitchat while topping off his drink. She wasn't the same lady who had quietly served him for the last five hours. There must have been a shift change, which meant the morning rush was about to begin.

"Picking someone up." Heero mumbled behind the boulder of his hands.

"Ah, that explains it." The waitress, whose smiley-faced nametag read "Katelyn," pushed a new container of cream on the counter in front of him. "The shuttles tend to have longer delays this time of year. But you might wanna move to O'Riley's pub. It's closer to the public transport area. That's the Truckers' Market you're looking at there. Not many shuttle passengers make it down this far. You might miss your friend."

The light in Heero's watchful gaze flared in recognition as a figure strolled toward the entrance to the Market outside. Heero shifted, bringing his hunched torso up straight, and then paused as the man on the other side of the glass returned his curious stare.

"Um, I...uh, sir, your change?" Katelyn stuttered in surprise as Heero spun off of the barstool and slapped a random number of credit notes next to the untouched cup of coffee.

Heero stopped just outside the diner entrance, the doors beeping to a close behind him. The Preventer he had spied through the window was making his way toward the diner, having changed his intended direction after catching sight of Heero. The man was probably a few years older than Heero, early thirties perhaps, but he hid his age well. His sandy blonde hair was full and neatly groomed around a face that still held a boyish charm. He had all the classic looks of a guy a girl could take home to meet the parents, but he moved with a magnetic sensuality that promised more to the girl than camaraderie with her father.

Heero quickly assessed the man as he approached, but also got the impression that he had met this person before. Heero wasn't the type to get to know or even pay attention to the newer Preventers, but this fellow sparked an elusive recognition. It wasn't until the man had introduced himself that Heero finally realized where he had seen him.

"Mr. Yuy." A perfect smile beamed from a moderately tanned face. "I had hoped to find you here. I'm sorry, you seem not to remember me. That's not very surprising; it was a long time ago. William Noventa." He offered his hand in greeting, but Heero only stared back in return.

At the onset of the war of 195, Heero had made a strategical mistake, causing the loss of many peace-minded delegates. William Noventa's grandfather, Marshall Noventa, had been a main force behind the move toward peace between the Earth and the colonies. He had been on the ill-fated shuttle that became a target of the misguided gundam pilot Zero One: Heero Yuy.

Accepting the burden of his devastating mistake, Heero had visited each member of the Noventa family to deliver an unusual apology. Each relative had turned down his offer of deserved retribution, but William was the only one who didn't give Heero an answer. Billy, as he was known then, had only smiled his angelic smile and disappeared between the folds of the dark shrouds that hung in traditional mourning throughout the Noventa estate. The lack of response had bothered Heero more than the refusals, but the demanding war and missions eventually buried the memory.

After all the time and changes that had happened since their initial meeting, Heero's reaction was directly indirect: "A Preventer."

William seemed to be amused by the flat comment, and suavely brought his ignored hand up to tap the front of his uniform. "An unusual adornment for a Noventa, I agree, but I was never one to live up to family expectations."

"What are you doing here?"

The man's grin never left his face; in fact, it grew wider at Heero's question. "Always straight to the point, Mr. Yuy? I'm here, like you, to see Mr. Maxwell."

Heero shook his head and started for the Market. "You've been misinformed. I've told Une I'm taking care of this and I don't want assistance."

Undaunted, Noventa followed the quick young man, keeping a respectful distance behind his left shoulder. "It's far from my intentions to encumber your progress, but it's also not within my plans to leave a task unfinished. Besides, it would be better to visit Mr. Maxwell's shuttle before the police arrive, which I suspect won't be much longer now."

That last comment put the brakes on Heero's rapid pace as he lurched to a stop before his unwanted tag-a-long. "What makes you--"

"Miss Schbeiker didn't show up for her expected meeting with Director Une, which got our notice." William casually stuck his hands in his jacket pockets. "She didn't respond to repeated phone calls from her work partner, either, which prompted him to visit Miss Schbeiker's home. He found her apartment unlocked and in a state of violent upheaval. With the unexplained absence of Miss Schbeiker and the report of Mr. Maxwell's aggressive behavior, the police immediately issued a search warrant for..."

"Aggressive behavior?" Heero spat the words out in disgusted disbelief. Heero had never known Duo to be aggressively violent unless provoked by an unhealthy advance of mobile suits. "Where did they get that kind of information?"

"Apparently, Mr. Maxwell threatened a county employee--a crime photographer." Noventa noted Heero's darkening scowl and posed the next line with marked interest. "It seems you aren't too concerned for Miss Schbeiker."

Heero's hand curled into a fist, but his intended reaction was interrupted by a cry from the crowd.

"Hey, Heero! Yuy! Ho!" Howard fought to be heard over the operative bustle within the station as he maneuvered through the busy area to the two men. "He's here! Duo's..." The Hawaiian-shirted man jumped back as a forklift backed up in front of him. "Hey, hey! I'm walking here!" Twisting around the back of the loader, Howard flashed a tired grin at Heero, who had met him halfway. "Don't know when he got here, but he's here. A few of the guys saw him come in through the South Street entrance. Gaaah, I don't know how I missed him--the kid's gotta stop wearin' black...Hey, wait! Heero! Six bays to your right!" Howard called out as the anxious young man sprinted off.

The other Preventer ran at Heero's side as Howard brought up the rear. Heero thought he recognized a uniformed officer up ahead at one of the many bays.

"They're already here."

William's comment only confirmed Heero's assumption, and he hoped he could reach Duo before the officers began their harassment. Duo wasn't going to appreciate their unexpected call, nor the damaging news about his gun being found in Trowa's trailer. Heero had wanted to protect him from that, if not get an answer to the troubling fact for himself.

Fate seemed to have frowned upon the two friends, as a sudden barrage of gunfire erupted from the targeted bay, followed by several shouts of alarm and a return of fire from the gathered group of policemen.

Heero heard, rather than felt, the enraged cry of surprise that tore from his throat as the gunfire echoed through the port, and he sprinted forward in a desperate dash to halt the unexpected attack. Grabbing onto the side of the bay's entrance, Heero propelled himself through the opening only to slip in a swatch of blood. His left foot slid out from under him and his hands slammed into the floor behind him, leaving one leg trapped and bent beneath his sprawled form. It was an awkward position, but it provided an unblemished view of the open transport straight ahead. Sprawled about the back end of the transport was a handful of uniformed officers--most were dead, but one clung to his wounded arm in the safe shelter of a docking pylon. The man groaned as he tried to rise, and an answering moan echoed inside the transport. Heero slipped and lurched to his feet as he saw a boot amid the bullet-cratered barrels. He jumped into the back, almost falling again in a deepening pool of blood around the unmoving foot. Clinging to a sturdy crate to keep steady, Heero stepped gingerly around its edge and over the outstretched leg of his best friend. Duo lay partly on his side as if he had fallen while trying to turn, his shoulders flat against the floor. The end of his braid bobbed in the rancid-smelling blood that pooled around him and beneath the grotesque, swinging death above.

For the first time in his blemished life, Heero felt an uncomfortable rise of bile within his throat as he stared in shock at the scene. He managed to quell the nausea, but his mouth still opened and gasped for air like that of a drowning man. As he splashed to his knees beside Duo, he continued to hyperventilate, instantly drawing his hands across the inert body to check for respiration, heartbeat, and extent of damage. Heero was becoming light-headed, and his own heartbeat pounded in his ears, but he was able to locate a faint pulse in the blood-dampened hollow of Duo's throat.

The nearby splish of a boot alerted Heero to William's presence, and without a blink of an eye, he whipped his gun out toward the man. "Ge...get an...ambulance...now," Heero wheezed a stern command between hitched breaths before the lack of oxygen took its toll and tried to pull him away from the grisly scene. With the gun still trained on Noventa to brook no argument, Heero attempted to pull Duo's head out of the muck and onto his lap, but black and white dots narrowed his vision until it deepened to a dead black.