Illusions of Love
The caress of his lover's hand melted into his dream. It became one with the water that swirled around him in the warm pool in his unconscious mind. He delighted in its touch, letting the liquid hand swirl and grasp him.
From the edge of the pool his lover watched, dipping his toes, but not wading into the depths.
"Come on, Heero. The water's perfect," the boy spoke in his dream, holding out his hand invitingly.
"Too deep," Heero said, shaking his head.
"Can't you swim?" he asked, floating over to the edge and hanging on to his lover's ankles.
Another shake of the head.
"Don't worry. Everyone's got to learn sometime," he said, now tugging at the slender ankles.
"No," came the simple yet firm response.
"Please? I'll be right here with you."
"I... can't," the boy said, pulling out of his grasp and standing. He looked down at the boy in the pool. "I can't," he repeated and turned.
"Where are you going? Heero? Heero!"
The moaning and kicking was finally too much.
"Duo," Heero said softly, as he leaned up on an elbow. He had tried to decipher the incomprehensible murmurs, but the knit in his lover's brow told him the boy needed to be released from his dream now. "You're dreaming, Duo," he said, giving a nudge. "Wake up!"
The push dislodged Duo from his restless sleep. "Huh?" he asked, as his eyes blinked open.
"You were dreaming again."
"Oh," Duo said, closing his eyes and wriggling closer to Heero as he pulled the sheet about them.
"Want to tell me about it?" Heero asked as he slid back down into bed, pulling Duo into his arms.
"Nah, it was nothing," Duo said, not really sure what the dream had been about.
They held each other for a long moment, caressing each other's nakedness under the covers. It was a simple pleasure, but even these languid attentions were enough to arouse.
We don't have time for another round, Heero thought as he looked at the digital clock on the bedstand. "We have to get up."
"Not yet," Duo said, nuzzling Heero's neck.
"Quatre is expecting us downstairs for dinner in less than an hour."
"Plenty of time," Duo said, as he rubbed his growing hardness against the other boy's thigh.
Heero's face warmed at the provocative touch. He knew Duo could easily seduce him into making love for the third time that afternoon, but he would make an effort to resist. "We both need a shower... especially you."
"Why especially me?" Duo asked, as he hooked a leg over Heero's.
"Because you can't go down there smelling like you do."
Duo nipped his lover's earlobe. "Oh, really? I thought you liked me smelling of sex. And besides, Quatre and Trowa know what we've been doing."
"And what's that?" Heero teased, as his groin stirred from the nibbling at his ear.
"You know..." Duo said, letting his tongue map a wet line from Heero's ear down his jaw and to his lips. He pressed his lips to Heero's and the other boy accepted them in a slow, deep kiss. A fire was smoldering in each of their bellies, but they would play this game a little longer.
"Sorry," Heero said, as he pulled out of the kiss. "My memory seems to have lapsed. I can't remember a thing from this afternoon."
"Oh, you can't, huh? Another side effect of the war?" Duo asked, a smile tugging at his lips. "Maybe you need reminding?"
"If you insist," Heero said with a smirk.
"You bet I do," Duo said, and moved more fully on top of his lover. "Does this ring any bells?" He proceeded to kiss a path down Heero's neck and across his chest to a nipple.
"Vaguely," Heero said, even as his heart quickened from anticipation and sensation.
It pleased Duo that in moments like this, when they were alone, Heero could be playful. He knew this playfulness was reserved for him, and yet as close as they were, as intimate as they had become, Heero was still a bit of a mystery.
Maybe that's what turns me on so much, Duo thought as he sucked the nipple into his mouth. He rolled his tongue around it, bringing it quickly to a firm peak.
"Hnnnn," Heero moaned, grabbing Duo's partially unraveled braid.
It amazed him how Duo knew all the right buttons to push even though they had been together for only a short time. What had started out as mutual annoyance had quickly turned to attraction, but the demands of the war and their missions to free the colonies had taken precedence over personal desires. Heero suspected that Duo had been open to a relationship much sooner than himself, and yet Duo had not been the first to make a move in that direction.
He got under my skin, the former Wing Gundam pilot thought.
The moment of truth had come when Heero had held a gun to Duo's face with every intention of killing him, but could not. He had seen Duo as an impediment to the completion of his mission, but when he had stared down the gun's barrel at those bright, round eyes and heard the disbelief in Duo's voice, something had clenched inside of him... around his heart. He had suddenly realized that Duo was not just another player in the war, he was something more... something that Heero was still trying to define.
Now that the war was over they were greedily spending their days feeding on each other's desires. "Yes," Heero said, moaning. "That's it."
"Now you remember what we did this afternoon?" Duo asked, as he pulled off the nub and rubbed his cheek over it.
"Yes, yes," Heero relented, happily. His resistance had ended, as it always did, and in a move reminiscent of those on the battlefield, Heero flipped his lover off and pinned him under him. "Now I'm going to remind you," he said, and dove in for a hungry kiss.
Duo accepted the kiss eagerly, opening his mouth and tangling his tongue with Heero's. From their first kiss, hell, from the first time Heero had looked at him with those intense blue eyes, Duo had known this boy was passionate. The fact that it had taken months to release that passion was of little concern to him now as he wrapped his legs around Heero's waist and ground their hard cocks together.
In moments, Heero was slipping inside, feeling the deliciously tight grip around his shaft. "Ohhhh," he moaned, moving slowly as he savored the sensation.
Duo arched under him, moaning with each gentle thrust. "Oh, yeah," he said, letting Heero guide the rhythm of their lovemaking.
It was so much better now that the war was over. They had time for each other. They could make love as slow or as fast as they needed and in a real bed instead of in closets or on cold, metal floors.
"Need to... speed... this up," Heero said, increasing the pace of his thrusts.
"Worried we might... miss dinner?" Duo asked, as the harder thrusts pushed him further up on the bed.
"They're expecting... us... uhnnnn," Heero said with a moan.
"That's my Heero... you even come... on time," Duo said, chuckling.
To ensure that they both would come soon, and be satisfied, Heero changed his angle of entry. Now each thrust rubbed against Duo's prostate, sending tingling, sizzling messages up and down the other boy's spine and nestling in his cock.
"Oh, you are in a hurry!" Duo said, but he could hardly complain; it did feel wonderful. The combination of that slick, hard fullness inside him and the growing desire to reach orgasm had Duo wanting to rush to the end with Heero. "Come on, Heero. Let's do it together!"
The words of encouragement had barely passed Duo's lips when Heero felt his orgasm breaking free. "Ah!" he cried out as he plunged inside his lover, emptying himself.
Duo was just a heartbeat behind with his own forceful orgasm. They cried out together as their bodies instinctively moved harder and tighter against each other as they spent themselves in these final moments of passion. At last, when they could move no more, they lay on top of one another, sweat-slicked and out of breath.
It was several minutes before even Heero had the strength to disentangle himself. Duo did not seem to notice as he rolled over and fell to sleep. Heero shook his head and made his way to the shower. He made quick work of getting clean, then put the stopper in the drain and filled the tub with warm water. He padded back into the bedroom where the sound of Duo's soft snoring confirmed that he had indeed fallen back to sleep.
Well, at least this time he's not dreaming, Heero thought, as he bent down and scooped the other boy into his arms.
"Wh-what?" Duo asked, waking to the sensation of being nestled in a strong embrace.
Heero carried his lover into the steamy bathroom.
When Duo focused his eyes he was surprised to see the tub filled and ready for him. "You made me a bath."
"Very observant," Heero said, as he set Duo down on his feet. "Get in," he ordered, and then turned to grab a washcloth.
The water was just right as Duo slipped down into the tub without hesitation. "Perfect," he said, flipping his braid over the edge and leaning back. "What's the occasion?"
"I don't want you to be sore... I was a little rough that last time."
Duo watched as Heero knelt next to the tub. "You weren't too rough," he assured him.
"Well, then... good," Heero said as he dipped the washcloth into the water and proceeded to rub one of Duo's arms. "Usually we take turns."
"Oh," Duo said. Now he understood. Normally they took turns topping, but today for some reason, Heero had seemed hungrier, needier than usual, and so Duo had let him top each time. "It's okay. You needed it more today," Duo said with a shrug. "But I appreciate the bath. You can do this anytime!"
Heero grinned and then turned his attention to cleaning Duo. The boy definitely smelled of sex, but as Duo had said, Heero enjoyed the smell on him. It sent his own pistons to firing again, but now they were most certainly out of time for such play.
Being bathed by one's lover was definitely a treat. Duo mewled and stretched and jabbered away about nothing at all as Heero soothingly and thoroughly washed him. This was definitely above and beyond Heero's norm of attentiveness. Though he had on occasion braided Duo's hair and was always a generous lover in bed, Heero had never been one to follow Duo around doting on him. This bath certainly ranked with doting.
What's gotten into him today? Duo wondered as he leaned forward so that Heero could wash his back. But he knew he should not ask. That would only ruin things and he never liked Heero's explanations anyway.
Twenty minutes later, Heero and Duo were downstairs standing in the formal dining room of the Winner estate house. Though they had eaten in this room nearly every night for the last three weeks, this was the first time they had seen it prepared with all its finery.
"I think I'm underdressed," Duo said, as he moved to his chair.
"You look fine," Heero said, noting that Duo looked very tempting in those tight fitting black jeans and snug red turtleneck.
Heero was also dressed simply in blue jeans and a light blue shirt, but did not feel bad about his casualness when he saw Trowa and Wufei come into the room dressed just as comfortably.
"What's with all the silver and candelabras?" Heero asked, looking to Trowa for an answer.
"I think Quatre's decided we're housebroken enough to bring out the good china," Trowa said with a laugh.
"That or he's going to ask us to leave," Wufei said pessimistically.
"What... like this is our Last Supper?" Duo asked as he reached across the table for the figs in a shining silver bowl.
"Of course it isn't," Quatre said as he came into the room. Everyone sighed in relief when they saw that Quatre was also dressed casually, wearing a white shirt, tan trousers and loafers. "It just occurred to me that we never really celebrated the end of the war," he said and gestured for everyone to take their seats as he sat down at the head of the table. "I've even got that non-alcoholic champagne we talked about!"
"You're kidding?" Duo asked, laughing. "Well, I'm just glad we all made it through the war."
"And I'm happy that everyone accepted my invitation to come to my home, but I should have prepared this banquet weeks ago," Quatre said and clapped his hands for the servants to begin with the first course.
"Your offer was very generous, Quatre," Heero said, grabbing a fig off Duo's plate. "We needed a place to think about the things that happened."
Duo looked over at Heero. If his lover had been thinking about the war, he had not shared any of it with him. In fact, Heero had seemed to go out of his way not to mention the war. After that last battle in which Zechs Merquise had nearly succeeded in his warped vision to destroy the Earth in order to obtain peace, Duo could not blame Heero for wanting to put it all behind them.
Five courses later, Quatre bid his guests to join him for more conversation and after-dinner drinks on the patio outside the dining room. Two large double doors opened onto the brick patio where torches had been lit and placed at intervals. Each of the former Gundam pilots was seated in a wicker chair and given flavored coffee.
Duo chose amaretto coffee in keeping with his romantic mood. His body still vibrated with the memory of Heero's touch. And now, after sharing a savory meal with friends and sitting here under the stars, he was thinking of how this perfect day would end with a perfect night in his lover's arms. He looked over at Heero dreamily, envisioning the new heights of passion they might achieve.
It seemed that Trowa and Quatre had much the same idea, for they were making eyes at one another as well.
"While all of you have been looking deep into each other's eyes and doing... what you do," Wufei said, fidgeting a bit in his chair, "I've been coming to terms with killing Treize."
That snapped everyone out of their private reverie and back to the horrors they had seen.
"And have you... come to terms?" Quatre asked, remembering the rivalry between the two men.
"It was a mistake," Wufei said firmly.
"How can you call killing Treize Khushrenada a mistake?" Heero asked abruptly.
"He was not the monster I thought he was. There was no justice in killing him," Wufei said, lowering his head.
"You killed him in battle. You did what you had to do," Heero said, matter-of-factly.
The tone in Heero's voice sent a chill through Duo. It reminded him of the war, too much of a time when Heero was more machine than boy. To hear him speak so now jolted Duo back to the reality that the war was still fresh in everyone's minds. Not everyone was so quick to shed their memories or their ways as Duo had hoped.
He shook off the ill feeling and focused on Wufei. "What made you change your mind? About Treize?" he asked, feeling a terrible tightness form deep in his belly.
Wufei raised his eyes to Duo, appreciative of the other boy's interest. "He knew how many soldiers had died for his cause, nearly a hundred thousand, he knew all their names."
"He did?" Quatre asked, his brow knitting. "Heero, you also came face to face with Treize. What was he like?"
"Arrogant," the dark haired boy said, simply.
"And a worthy opponent. I never meant to kill him..." Wufei said, his head dipping again.
There was a moment of silence, not so much for Treize, but for the war in general. Each boy had seen and done so much in the name of the colonies that it was still overwhelming to consider. As fresh as the memories were in their minds and hearts, it was unusual for them to speak of it. It was as if it had been too much and none could put it into words.
At last Wufei broke the uneasy silence. "Sally has asked me to join her. She's rebuilding villages in China that were destroyed in the war. I think the work will do me good. It will be my penance."
"Penance? Like you committed a sin?" Duo asked, surprised that any of them would feel a need to atone.
"Meditation has not brought me the peace I seek, but maybe work can. Maybe it can cleanse me of this injustice."
The other pilots stared at Wufei, confused and surprised to hear him call killing Treize an injustice.
He's really broken up about this, Duo thought. It was a difficult thing for him to understand. For Duo the war had been a chance to make amends, take revenge for Maxwell Orphanage and do the right thing... for a change. As best he could figure he was a lucky guy, he had survived the war and even found a lover in the process.
"Then you're leaving?" Duo asked, saddened that the team would be separated.
"Yes," the Chinese boy said and stood.
"Now, Wufei?" Quatre asked, noting the rigid stance of his friend.
"Yes, I'm catching a flight tonight," he said, and bowed to Quatre. "Thank you for your hospitality. I hope one day to return the favor."
Quatre stood as well and held out his hand. "I wish you didn't have to go, but I understand."
Each of the pilots stood and wished Wufei luck in his journey. A short time later, he was gone.
The four remaining pilots returned to their chairs on the patio, taking up their drinks and sipping quietly. Under the deep blue night sky each boy came to the same conclusion. The war was truly over. The Gundam team that had been united in the final battle was now disbanded.
Wufei's taken the first step toward the future, Quatre thought as he let his eyes drift to each of his friends. They were all deep in their thoughts and probably thinking the same thing. The past three weeks had been necessary and good, but very soon each of them would need to choose his future path.
"I'm glad Wufei stayed as long as he did... even though he spent most of his time alone," Quatre said, trying to sort this out.
"He was never comfortable being part of the group," Trowa pointed out as he took Quatre's hand in his.
Quatre smiled at his lover's reassuring touch. "Well, at least we know we'll all be together for a while."
"Actually, I have an announcement," Heero said, looking to Quatre. "I received a message from Relena yesterday. She's asked me to become her security advisor."
"Huh?" Duo asked, gaping. This was the first he had heard anything about it.
Quatre exchanged a glance with Trowa and then looked back to Heero. "And what did you tell her, Heero?"
"I accepted her offer."
"You did what?!" Duo asked, jumping up from his chair.
"She needs my help," Heero said matter-of-factly. "There are still threats against her and the pacifist movement."
"And you're the only one who can help her?" Duo asked, sarcastically.
"I'm the only one she asked, and I'm leaving in the morning," Heero said, reaching over and giving Duo's thigh a little pat.
Duo smacked Heero's hand away, not wanting any contact when he felt so betrayed. "When were you planning to tell me?"
"Now," Heero said, simply.
Duo took a step back, faltering as this new reality took root in his mind. "You can't be serious. We never discussed this."
"Was I supposed to ask your permission?" Heero asked, bristling at the thought.
Before Duo could answer, Quatre rushed to Duo's side. "I'm sure this happened very suddenly," he said, trying to ease the growing tension.
"Not for Heero," Duo said, bitterly. "These weeks without a purpose have been eating at him... Haven't they, Heero?"
"I'll admit to some boredom, but we all needed a break..."
Duo crossed his arms over his chest as his lower lip began to tremble. "Your mind's made up?"
"Relena needs me," Heero said, standing to face Duo.
"And I don't?" Duo asked, clenching his hands as he looked into Heero's eyes.
"You can take care of yourself like you always have," Heero said, not backing down from that determined gaze.
For Heero the choice was clear. Relena was important to the stability of peace in the EarthSphere. She needed help in order to maintain that peace, but Duo had never needed him. What he and Duo had was of a physical nature, a sexual hunger for one another, but it was something they could live without. Or so he thought.
"Taking care of myself isn't the issue," Duo said, setting his fists to hips, his face flaming with a building anger.
"Then what is?"
"If you don't know by now, then what's the point of me telling you?" Duo replied in a huff and turned tail back into the house, his braid whipping behind him.
By the time Duo's feet stopped moving, he was standing on the upstairs landing, looking down the unlighted hallway. His breath was coming in quick, short intakes. He bent forward, holding his hands on his thighs, trying to regain his calm.
"I... can't... breathe," he gasped out, even as he continued to take in quick draughts of air. "Shit!"
He was hyperventilating, and as soon as his head started spinning, he knew he needed to lie down. Somehow he managed to move forward, making his way into the room he shared with Heero. There he collapsed on the bed face down, still sucking air into his lungs in quick, shallow breaths.
He replayed the conversation in his head. Heero was leaving to work for Relena. And in true Heero fashion he did not think to mention it beforehand to Duo, or even to ask him to join him in Sank.
He's leaving me, Duo thought as tears began to fall down his cheeks.
During the war their relationship had been tentative and even antagonistic at times, but since the war's end they had spent every day together and never once argued. The sex was great, but Duo believed their relationship was about more than that. They respected each other and had become a couple. Or so he thought.
He wiped the tears away with his sleeve and chuckled at the notion that Heero thought he was strong. In this moment, Duo was anything but strong. He had faced death innumerable times during the war, but he had never been afraid or weak until now. There had been so much loss in his life, but he had thought he was past that all now. He had thought he and Heero would be together from now on. Obviously, he was wrong.
Downstairs, Heero's eyes were fixed on the door Duo had disappeared behind. He had not blinked or moved a muscle in over a minute.
"Heero? Aren't you going after him?" Quatre asked, feeling powerless to help.
"Duo probably needs to be alone right now," Trowa cautioned.
Quatre turned bright aquamarine eyes to his lover. "But this isn't right," he said and then looked at Heero again. "You should go after him."
"He'll get over it," Heero finally said.
The little Arabian gasped at the apparent insensitivity of that remark. "And I called you the Heart of Outer Space! Was I mistaken, Heero?"
There was no response.
Trowa slipped his arm around Quatre's shoulder and pulled him close. "Let's give him some time alone. I'm sure he'll talk to Duo again... won't you, Heero?"
That was enough to assure Trowa that Heero would manage the situation, but Quatre was not as confident. He reluctantly let his lover guide him away to take a walk in the cool night air.
Heero's eyes drifted up toward the second floor of the house. He knew Duo was up there, in their room. He was disappointed, but not completely surprised at Duo's reaction. The boy had grown accustomed to the leisurely lifestyle Quatre had given them, and it was only fair that he would be upset to see this little world come crashing down. But Duo also knew of Heero's strong sense of duty, especially to Relena.
She's the EarthSphere's best chance for a lasting peace, Heero thought, as he set his mind to mission mode once again.
He needed to speak with Duo, but he could not do it just yet. He wanted to be calm, and Duo made him anything but calm. If this was to be their last night together, he did not want them spending it apart.
Over an hour later, Heero made his way upstairs to their room. The door was unlocked, but when he went inside all the lights in the bedroom were off. Then he noticed a light coming from under the bathroom door. He walked over and put his ear to the closed door. All was quiet.
He was not worried that Duo would do anything rash like killing himself over this, but he did want to talk again. He tapped on the door. "Duo?"
Inside the bathroom, Duo was immersed up to his chin in warm bath water. He was trying to find his "calm center," a term Wufei had taught him, but he was not having any luck. And now Heero was here. He sat up, but did not answer.
Heero heard the sluicing of water and slowly opened the door. His eyes met those of his lover's at once and he stepped inside the room.
"I thought we could talk," he said as his eyes drifted down the long fall of unbound hair hanging over the tub's edge.
"You're leaving. What else is there to say?"
"Relena is important to the continued demilitarization of the Colonies and the Earth, and to the pacifist movement..."
"Hey, if you've come here to lecture don't bother," Duo said, cutting him off and turning his back on Heero.
Heero watched in fascination as the long chestnut hair trailed into the water behind him. That damn hair, he thought as he felt a tingling in his groin.
During the war, he had decided that Duo's demonstrative personality and girlishly long hair were weaknesses. They would attract unwanted attention and get the boy killed. But Duo had survived the war just fine, maybe better than any of them, and his hair had since become much more to Heero.
An image of Duo straddling him with his hair unbound and covering their nakedness sent another jolt straight to Heero's groin. He was the one with the weakness now.
"Let me..." Heero said, as he knelt next to the tub and picked up a brush and then reached in for a lock of wet hair.
Duo looked over his shoulder and held his breath as Heero began to brush out his hair. "Don't..." he started to protest and wanted to pull away, but it would have been a lie. He wanted this touch, needed this touch. "Why, Heero? Why didn't you tell me you had talked to Relena?"
Heero brushed through the lock once more before answering. "I knew it would upset you."
Duo turned to face him. "You're acting like we don't mean anything to each other... like this is supposed to be easy."
Heero set down the brush and looked into Duo's violet eyes. "Look, I don't want to argue with you. I've gotten out of the habit these past weeks."
"Yeah, it's been nice," Duo said with a small grin.
Those words and that half smile prompted Heero to take Duo's face in his hands and kiss him. When Duo did not push him away he took the kiss deeper, parting the other boy's lips with his tongue. They fed on each other's mouths, emitting little hungry sounds and raising the temperature between them.
Their differences seemed forgotten, and Heero stood, bringing Duo with him as they continued to kiss. The water rushed off Duo as he stood with his hands clenching the front of Heero's shirt to keep from losing his balance in the tub.
Heero's hands drifted over Duo's slender, wet frame, settling finally on his bottom and giving it a firm squeeze. The possessive grope reminded Duo of the moment immediately following Heero's announcement. He had patted Duo's thigh as if everything was fine. The memory jolted Duo out of the seduction. He pushed Heero away.
"Oh, I get it," he said, panting from the intensity of the kiss. "You don't wanna argue, because you wanna get laid tonight! One last tumble before you leave me behind like some outmoded mobile suit."
Heero's body was thrumming with arousal and he was in no mood to battle wits. "Then come with me if you want. I'm sure there's work for you, too."
Duo shook his head as he stepped out of the tub. "Come with you if *I* want? Well, what the hell do *you* want?"
"To do my duty," Heero said, sounding like a paid advertisement for the youth corps, even though he meant it.
"You mean your duty to Relena," Duo said, resentfully.
"Yes, what's wrong with that? She's the symbol of peace..."
"I know, I know!" Duo said, holding up his hands to stop the familiar chant. "I guess nothing's changed. The war might as well not even be over."
Heero narrowed his eyes on Duo, frustrated more than ever. What does he want from me? he wondered as he reached for a towel on the rack and tossed it to his friend. "That's your problem, Maxwell. You could never see how important Relena is to peace."
"Fuck you!" Duo shouted as he threw the towel back at him. "I risked my life everyday, fighting for peace, and what did Relena do?"
"She was brave enough not to fight."
Duo closed his eyes and turned his head away. That declaration hit him as hard as if Heero had slapped him across the face. It felt as if a terrible weight was descending, and Duo could do nothing to stop it.
"Go," he said, barely above a whisper.
"What?" Heero asked, tilting his head to see the face hidden by the unbound hair.
"You heard me," Duo said, clenching his jaw.
Heero stood for a moment, unmoving. This was not how he had pictured this night ending. "This is what you want?" he asked, unable or unwilling to comprehend what was happening.
Duo's face turned to him with a dark intensity burning in his eyes. "Just get the fuck out of here!" he shouted and pointed to the door, his hand trembling slightly.
The former Wing pilot flinched at the power of emotion conveyed in that one sentence. As a soldier he knew when he was outgunned and when it was best to leave the field of battle. And so Heero left.
As he stepped into the hall and closed the bedroom door behind him, he felt the finality of the act.
It's over, he thought, bowing his head. It's over.
The soft click of the bedroom door cracked Duo's hard facade. He fell to his knees on the tile floor and squeezed his eyes shut to fight back the tears.
Heero, he thought, angrily. How is it that Relena has so much power over you and I have none?
Images from the past months flooded his mind: Relena protecting Heero from Duo that first day on Earth, Duo and Heero attending class at Relena's fancy boarding school, and Duo telling Heero that Relena was aboard the Libra, knowing that he would want to look out for her. The girl had been intertwined with their lives from the beginning and yet Duo had never been jealous before now.
Minutes passed as he tried to sort things out. What was he jealous about? He knew that Heero was not attracted to Relena, it was perfectly clear each time they made love. Could it be that Heero actually did put duty above all else... even love?
I don't even know if he loves me, Duo thought, cringing at the hard truth. "But I know I love him," he whispered shakily.
Hearing the declaration from his own lips jolted Duo. His eyes shot open and he suddenly realized just how quiet the house had become.
Maybe it would not be such a bad idea to make love again, he thought as he got to his feet and retrieved the discarded towel. It would be better than this silence.
As he walked into the bedroom while drying himself off with the towel, the empty bed stirred memories of the many times he and Heero had lain there together. They never argued in bed. Heero was a damn good lover, too, generous and skilled, and always saw to Duo's needs.
"And he liked to talk afterward," Duo remembered fondly with a little smile.
For some reason, sex made Heero talkative and even a little romantic. After they climaxed he would hold Duo and either start talking right away, or wait until Duo had taken a short post-coital nap. Either way he would talk about things that interested his lover such as motorcycles and comic books.
"Oh, God," Duo said, suddenly. "He did want to talk... and making love always made it easier for him. Shit!"
In a rush, Duo grabbed a pair of jeans out of the dresser and nearly tripped over himself getting them on. He burst into the hallway and slid down the banister to the bottom of the stairs, his hair flying behind him. As he hopped off the end of the carved wooden rail he nearly ran smack into Trowa.
"Whoa!" he cried out as he skidded to a stop.
Trowa took a half step back, but did not seem startled.
"I gotta find Heero. Have you seen him?"
The taller boy looked towards the door. "Maybe you should talk to Quatre."
"He's with Quatre... Outside?"
"I'm right here, Duo," Quatre said as he rounded the corner. He looked his friend over, surprised by his state of undress and his unruly hair.
"Where's Heero? Trowa said he was with you."
"He was..." Quatre answered and then felt a twinge inside him. His eyes slipped away to his lover, then down at the marble floor.
"What is it?" Duo asked, even as his heart began to pound hard against his chest. "Why won't you tell me where Heero is?"
"He's gone, Duo," Quatre said softly, raising his eyes. "Heero's gone."
Duo gave a little snort in disbelief. "Yeah, right. He's not leaving until the morning," he replied, and then padded off down the hall to the library where Heero liked to spend his evenings.
"Heero?" Duo called as he peered inside the room. It was empty and his heart sank. Hell, it felt like the damn sky was falling on him. "When..." he asked, turning back to see the pity in his friends' eyes, "... did he leave?"
"About twenty minutes ago," Trowa explained. "He drove himself to Quatre's private airfield... and took one of the planes."
"We thought you knew, Duo," Quatre said, apologetically.
"Did he say... anything?" Duo asked, feeling smaller by the moment.
"He thanked me for letting him stay here, but that was all. Oh, Duo, I'm so sorry..."
"No, Quatre, it's not your fault," Duo said, trying to reassure his friend. "I told him to leave, but I didn't think he would. He didn't even take his things."
"Maybe that means he'll be back soon!" Quatre said, optimistically.
"He's not coming back," Duo said, and turned as a tear slid down his cheek.
"Where are you going, Duo?" Quatre asked as Duo began to walk away.
"Nowhere, I guess," he replied, and his shoulders slumped.
For the next week, Duo was just a shell of himself. He spent most of his days sitting alone in his and Heero's room, staring out the window as if half-expecting his lover to return. Other times he walked through the house until he come upon a place that reminded him of Heero and then he would sigh and return to his room.
Quatre and Trowa both tried to talk to their despondent friend, but Duo rarely said more than a few words to them. After three days, Trowa diagnosed Duo as being in a "funk" and advised Quatre to give up his efforts, but the Arabian could not completely abandon his friend. He made sure Duo ate each day, even if only a few spoonfuls of soup and one or two bites of falafel.
Finally, after seven days, Quatre decided they had all had enough.
"I'm sorry Duo, but my hospitality ends today." It hurt Quatre to say that, but it seemed the right words to stir a reaction.
Duo snapped out of his Heero-daze long enough to turn curious eyes on his friend. "What do you mean, buddy?"
"Do you realize that's the most you've said to me in four days?"
"Uh, sorry," Duo replied, ducking his head. "I guess I haven't been myself lately."
Quatre gave a little smile, pleased that at least Duo was talking again. "I know Heero leaving was a shock to you, but you've got to start living again. Listen, I shouldn't need to tell you that. You were always the one who could handle anything."
Duo clamped down on a sob. He was not about to start crying again. He had given up on it days ago.
Quatre knew Duo was still struggling emotionally. He could feel it. "Have you thought about contacting him?" he asked, tentatively.
"No way. I'm not crawling back to him."
"Then what are you doing? You've been staring out that window for a week."
Duo exhaled deeply and lowered his head. "I've done a lot of thinking, Quatre, but no matter how I look at things I still get the same answer."
The boy looked up, turning wide blue eyes on his friend. "I guess I never knew him. Heck, the guy's as far from normal as you can get, but I thought I could figure him out."
"You would have... in time," Quatre said, placing his hand on Duo's arm.
Duo smiled at his friend's touch. "Things would've been a lot easier if I had ended up with you," Duo said, chuckling and watching Quatre's cheeks color. "Oh, don't worry, I know you and I are too much alike to get along that way. I think that's what attracted me to Heero in the first place. He couldn't be any more different than me."
"It's good to find someone who balances you," Quatre admitted.
"You did good by Trowa. So you two got any plans?"
"Actually, we've done a lot of talking and have decided to return to outer space."
"No kidding. Well, I wish you all the best."
"We'd like you to come with us, Duo. I'm going to have my hands full running my father's corporation, and Trowa will be working with the Colonial government. We could use your help and I know how you've missed outer space."
"Yeah, outer space..." Duo said, smiling, but then turned his face away and frowned. "I can't."
"Then what will you do?"
"I haven't decided. I think I'll just... wander. Check out the planet a little before I settle down."
Quatre was silent for a moment contemplating his friend being on his own. He knew Duo could take care of himself, but it saddened him to think of Duo alone. Of course, the boy would probably make new friends in a hurry.
"You'll always be welcome on L4," he said, and impulsively leaned in and gave Duo a little kiss on the cheek.
"Hey, what was that for?" Duo asked, putting his hand over his cheek and looking more than a little surprised.
"You're a good friend," Quatre said, standing. "Trowa and I won't be leaving for a few days. You're welcome to stay until then."
"Thanks buddy," Duo said with a smile, peeling himself out of the chair he had been sitting in all morning. "You're a great friend, too, and I'd love to hang around, but I think you're right... I need to be going. I'll just pack my things and be on my way."
True to his word, Duo left that day, taking a flight to Europe and then beginning his journey. There was freedom in roaming, in knowing that he could go anywhere and not have to worry about being tracked by the enemy or attacked by a squadron of Leos, but there was more to it than that. He needed time to sort things out, to come to terms with what had happened between him and Heero, and hiking along country back roads gave him that.
When he had started out it was a bit of a forced march. If Quatre had not pushed him out of the nest that day, he would probably still be sitting there in Arabia... waiting. It was not like him to be such a wimp, but the way things had ended had really thrown him, knocked him down in the worst way. It was similar to the emptiness and displacement he had felt when Maxwell Orphanage was destroyed... only worse. He had not planned on giving his heart to Heero, but it sure felt like he had.
He missed Quatre and Trowa, and even Wufei, but their friendship could not compare to the loss he felt over Heero. No matter how many miles he put behind him he still ached for the other boy. More than once he had changed direction and started northeast toward the Sank Kingdom, and each time he had stopped himself. The conflict between his heart and his head just too much.
What soured him more than anything was not Relena, or Heero's half-hearted invitation to come along, but the fact that Heero had not contacted any of them the week following his departure. Now, nearly three months later, Duo was still stumbling about the countryside, searching for direction and trying to forget the pain that gnawed in his belly.
On top of everything else, he was tired. He had walked most of the way or hitched rides, and his body ached from physical and emotional exhaustion. He needed to plant his feet somewhere or run the risk of walking in circles for the rest of his life.
The notion of going to America crossed his mind. It was not the first time he had thought of his ancestral home, or wondered about the parents he had never known. If he was searching for direction, for a place to settle, maybe the most logical place to start was at the beginning... at his roots. The decision to go back also had the added benefit of putting more distance between him and Heero.
His mind was made up. He would call America home.