Duo sat on the couch a good twenty minutes after Heero left. Stewing, replaying their conversation. What was up? Had Heero decided he liked talking better than sex? It didn't add up.
Unable to decipher his lover's actions, and still perturbed, Duo popped in the video they had rented. It was a comedy, but ten minutes into it Duo wasn't finding it very funny. He wanted Heero here with him, cozy on the couch, watching the movie together. That was one nice benefit of dating---he had re-discovered how very much he enjoyed Heero's company.
When they had just been friends he had known that. Not that they had gone out together, but from talking at the office and on missions he knew he was comfortable with Heero and very much attracted to him. Then when they started up, they got caught up in the sex. It felt good to finally release all the sexual tension that had built up between them, but that quickly became the focus of their relationship.
"I guess we forgot about the rest..."
Duo turned off the TV and got up from the couch. Maybe that was what Heero was trying to say. He saw wisdom in Quatre's words and wanted to put them into practice. But it was still so confusing. Why couldn't they have sex and enjoy the other stuff, too? Why couldn't they find that balance?
He padded into his bedroom and quickly undressed. Getting into bed, he pulled the covers over his head and after a long while fell asleep.
At half past two the phone rang. Duo shot upright, wide awake. The phone so rarely rang in the middle of the night.
"It's Noin. We need you at Headquarters immediately."
"The Siberia mission..."
"Two of our agents have been captured."
Duo swallowed. "I'll be right there."
He jumped out of bed as his mind raced back to the conversation the other night at Quatre's. Heero had worked late tracking chatter in the Siberia region. When asked about a possible mission, he had said that Une would probably send a team of junior agents to investigate. That was three days ago. And now two of those agents were missing.
Duo was dressed in his black and tan uniform and on his way to Preventers' Headquarters in three minutes flat. At this late hour he was able to speed through the streets on his motorcycle with almost no traffic to slow him down.
When he walked into the conference room Une, Sally and Heero were already there.
"Good. You made it." Une nodded for Duo to take a seat. He declined.
"What's the status?"
"I'd like to wait until the rest of the team arrives." She looked to the door impatiently.
Duo looked over at Heero who barely glanced at him. He was in mission-mode, scrolling through data on the Ops computer, so there was no sense in getting huffy over the lack of greeting.
A couple more minutes ticked by and then Wufei arrived, and seconds later Trowa and Quatre.
"We're all here." Une stood and nodded to Heero to begin.
"At 1154 hours, three of our agents engaged in gunfire." Heero looked around the room at the intense faces. "Looks like they stumbled on a cell of the weapons ring we've been tracking." He typed something on the keyboard and an enlarged map of the Siberia quadrant appeared on the overhead screen. "At 0030 hours, two of the agents were reported missing. It is believed they are alive, but injured, and have been taken by the weapons ring."
"When we moving out?" Duo asked.
"I'm taking a small team. Agent Barton and Agent Sterns will accompany me. Sterns is running the pre-flight check as we speak."
Duo blinked. Agent Barton and Agent Sterns? "What about me?"
"This mission will require stealth and speed. They'll be expecting us."
"No kidding," Duo said with a snort. "Exactly the kind of mission I'm made for!"
Une cleared her throat. "Agent Yuy is leading this mission. I trust his choices. You'll be staying behind to head up a team with Agent Chang, monitoring intelligence and ops coordination."
"You're grounding me?" Duo was indignant. He had never been left behind on an important mission before.
"Ops coordination is critical to the success..." Wufei began to explain.
"Oh, stick it, Wufei."
"That's enough Agent Maxwell." Une put her fist down on the table. "Are you going to be a part of this mission or not?"
Duo's brow was tight. Of course he'd do his duty, he just couldn't figure out why he'd been overlooked this time. Then he looked to Heero. The boy had yet to make eye contact.
"Then it's settled. Good luck team!" Une said.
Duo watched as the room cleared. Trowa and Quatre went off together, no doubt for a last cuddle, and Wufei, Sally and Une left together. The last to get up was Heero and Duo followed him into the hall like a kicked puppy.
"Would you care to explain why I'm not included on this mission, Agent Yuy?"
Heero stopped and turned to him. "You'll be a distraction."
"I've never been one before."
"You will be now."
Duo took a half step back. "You mean because we're..."
"That's ridiculous. We're professionals. We can handle..."
Surprised by the admission, Duo laughed. "You're joking?"
Heero looked Duo over, and then shook his head and turned to leave.
"Oh, come on, Heero!" When Heero didn't look back, Duo felt his heart sink. Heero was walking away from him---without a goodbye, without so much as a see you soon or a peck on the cheek. What had he done to deserve this? He rushed after the boy, catching up to him in a dozen steps and grabbing him by the arm. "What's going on?"
"I don't have time for this."
"But Quatre and Trowa do?" Duo nodded to the couple embracing just twenty feet away.
"Is that what you want? A goodbye kiss?"
"Well not if I have to beg for it!" Shit, this was not what Duo wanted. He needed an explanation and more of one than, "you'll be a distraction."
"We can talk about it when I get back."
"Fuck off!" Duo turned on his heel, his braid flying behind him as he stormed down the hall towards the ops center.
A moment later, Trowa joined Heero on his way to the hangar.
"That was a tough decision not taking Duo on the mission."
Heero glanced at his friend. "The only possible decision."
"You've been on missions together since you started..."
"Things have changed."
Trowa stopped walking. "Whoa. You want to tell me something?"
Heero looked over his shoulder as he continued to walk. "Yes...." He looked forward again, his mind wrestling between mission-mode and thoughts of Duo. "Our flight leaves in eight minutes."
+ + +
In the Ops Center, Duo sat down hard in the seat next to Wufei. Before them was a large and very detailed map of the Siberia quadrant. Every street, every building and every tree represented. Highlighted on the map was the site where the agents had encountered gunfire from the weapons cell and where the two missing agents had last been seen.
"Flight PV-9603. You are cleared for take-off on runway Alpha Charlie 08."
The sound of the Preventers' control tower made Duo's stomach clench. From the Ops Center he could hear all communications between the tower and the plane, and he could see the plane on a small screen, taxiing towards the runway.
"Roger that tower," came the voice of Agent Sterns.
"That should be me," Duo growled.
Wufei looked over at him. "You're in complete denial."
"I think it's fairly obvious why Heero didn't choose you for this mission."
Duo held his breath. Did Wufei know about his relationship with Heero?
"You've been combatant and openly arguing with him at staff meetings. He was wise not to take you along."
Duo blew out a breath, relieved. "Oh, ya' think so?"
"Your rebellious attitude is finally catching up with you."
Duo rolled his eyes. Well, if that was all Wufei thought it was about that was fine with Duo. He and Heero had gone to a lot of trouble not to let anyone know about their relationship, and if things were on the rocks now, then he certainly didn't want the office gossiping behind his back.
Just then Quatre came into the room, setting down the latest decoded messages in front of Wufei. He placed a hand on Duo's shoulder. "Do you have a minute?"
Duo glanced up at his friend and then back to the image on the screen. The flight was about to take off. The mission was about to begin.
Quatre squeezed Duo's shoulder. "I promise not to keep you long."
Duo nodded and got up from his chair, following Quatre into an adjacent office. As Duo closed the door behind them, Quatre spoke up.
"You had sex, didn't you?"
Duo gaped at his friend. "What?"
"I didn't get a chance to talk to you yesterday... after your date. You must've had sex. Why else wouldn't Heero put you on his team?"
"First of all, I have no idea what that has to do with anything, and secondly I really don't want to talk about it right now." Duo turned for the door, but Quatre snagged hold of his jacket, pulling him back around.
"You were right...." Quatre said, anxious to sort this out. "You are made for this mission. So there must be a personal reason why Heero didn't take you."
"You wanna know the reason?" Duo put his hands on his hips, posturing for all he was worth. "I'll tell you the reason. You fucked up our relationship!"
"Yes, you! We were going along fine until you butted in with your dating rules and now Heero doesn't want to have sex. Our relationship is so.... restrained now."
"Then you didn't have sex?"
"Yes, we did! Just not last night. Oh, why am I telling you?" He threw his hands up in the air. "You're the one who got me into this mess!"
"But everything was going so well..."
"Then why do I get the feeling that Heero's rethinking the whole thing? I don't even know if he wants to see me anymore."
"That's ridiculous. He cares for you. If dating has shown you anything surely you can see that..."
"What I see is a guy who doesn't want sex. You can't tell me something's not wrong with that!" He snorted and tossed his head, sending his braid swishing across his back.
Quatre stumbled for a reply. If Trowa's libido was any gauge then Duo was right. "You have a point..."
"You're damn right I have a point!" Another toss of the head and the hands were back on his hips.
"Please, Duo. You don't have to shout. I'm trying to help you."
"Well, if it's all right with you I'd like to pass on that help for awhile. And right now I've got a mission to coordinate."
"No more meddling, Quatre." He wagged his finger at the other boy. "The only help I need from you is to get our boys safely there and back."
Quatre nodded as his eyes watered. "Whatever you say."
Duo deflated a little at seeing the tears. "Hey..." He leaned over and patted his friend on the arm, forgetting his own troubles for the moment. "You're still my best buddy... okay?"
Quatre sniffled. "Okay."
+ + +
Fifty-nine hours later.
Duo stood in the control tower, looking through binoculars at the distant sky. The mid-day sun was so bright it was hard to make out any blue let alone an approaching plane.
"Anything?" Quatre stood just a hair's breath away, peering out the window.
With the mission successfully completed, the team--including the two formerly missing agents-- were returning to Headquarters. Just minutes ago their plane had been picked up on local radar, and anxious for any sight of their partners, Duo and Quatre had come up to the tower to watch the plane land.
"Ah... just a sec... Yep, there they are!" Duo grinned. The plane was just a speck on the horizon, but it made his heart beat faster to see it. Heero was home.
"Let me see!" Quatre practically ripped the binoculars from Duo's hands before the other boy relinquished them. He sighed deeply when he saw the plane for himself. "Just a few minutes now."
Duo knew that Trowa would welcome Quatre's warm homecoming, but Heero... that remained to be seen. The only contact they had shared over the last two and a half days was strictly related to the mission and completely devoid of any affection. As much as Duo had needed some reassurance from Heero that things were all right between them, he had needed the mission to run smoothly even more.
In minutes, the plane landed, and Duo and Quatre headed downstairs to meet up with everyone. But as they came out of the stairwell, Une nabbed Duo by the arm, asking him to finalize the data she had requested nearly an hour ago.
“Uh, can it wait just a few more minutes?” Duo looked up at her with large, hopeful eyes. He was seconds from his first glimpse of Heero.
“I needed those statistics fifteen minutes ago, Agent Maxwell. And I’m not going to ask you again.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Duo’s shoulders slumped. He threw Quatre a disappointed look as he returned to his office to finish the report.
It took ten minutes to format and double check the statistics, another thirty seconds to print the damn thing, and two minutes to make his way back downstairs to the debriefing area. When Duo arrived with the report in hand, only Trowa and Quatre remained.
“Where is everyone?”
Trowa looked up from the couch where he was cuddling with Quatre. “Gone. Wufei went with the injured agents to the hospital, and Une took our mission report back to her office.”
“He followed Une.”
Duo looked to the door.
"I think he was disappointed that you weren't here to greet him." Quatre wriggled free of Trowa's embrace to stand.
"Oh, that's great." Duo sighed.
"No, it's okay, Duo." Quatre walked over to him, smiling. "I told him that you wanted to be here, but Une intercepted you to finish that report."
Duo looked from Quatre to Trowa and shook his head.
"You had a fight, didn't you?" Trowa asked, getting up from the couch now, too.
"It's my fault." Quatre took Trowa's hand. "You told me not to meddle, and I didn't think I was..."
"It's not your fault," Duo said.
"Oh, but Duo, you said as much the other day. And I take full responsibility for any rift I may have caused between you and Heero."
"What rift?" came the familiar voice from the direction of the door.
All eyes turned to see Heero standing there, his features serious and tired from the difficult mission and long flight home. He still wore his Preventers' uniform, but it was looking crumpled and just as tired as the boy wearing it.
"Hey... welcome back." Duo smiled.
"What rift is Quatre talking about?"
"Uh..." Duo stammered for an answer.
"I think we better be going." Quatre wrapped an arm about Trowa's waist.
"Right. Let's go home, babe." With a quick kiss to the top of Quatre's head, the couple made their escape from the room.
Heero's eyes followed their retreating forms and then looked back to Duo.
Feeling guilty and nervous, Duo stalled for more time. "I'm glad you're back."
Heero nodded and then turned, making a quick exit.
"Where ya' going?"
"I need a drink."
"A drink?" Duo scratched his head as he followed close behind, leaving Une’s report on the table. "Yeah, air travel can dehydrate you if you're not careful."
Heero didn't respond, he just continued to walk at a clipped pace.
"Got somewhere in mind?" Duo walked double time to keep up. "Hey! What's the hurry?"
They exited the building on the civilian side which put them just blocks from downtown. Since it was a weekday afternoon the streets and sidewalks were congested with cars and pedestrians. For a moment, Duo lost sight of Heero. He maneuvered through the crowd just in time to see Heero duck into a bar. It was one of the trendy bars that were so packed on the weekends a guy couldn't find a place to sit let alone get a drink. He couldn't imagine why Heero had gone in there, but dutifully followed.
Inside, Heero walked past empty barstools and over crushed peanut shells to an empty booth along the far wall. The place was only about a third full, since it was between the lunch and dinner rush.
Duo slid into the seat across from Heero. "I know you're the strong, silent type, but you gotta say something to me."
Heero stared a moment and then looked up at the waitress when she approached.
"Can I get you boys something to drink?"
"I'll have a beer."
Duo's eyes widened. "Since when do you drink?"
"I'm thirsty," he said, looking at Duo intently.
"Domestic or imported?" the waitress asked.
She smiled and then turned to Duo.
"Oh, uh, I guess I'll have a Shirley Temple."
"Cute. You the designated driver?" She laughed.
"Something like that."
When the waitress moved on, Heero looked back at Duo, his eyes narrowing. "What's in one of those?"
"Just 7-Up and cherry juice, but they put it in a cocktail glass so you don't look like a total loser."
"You're not a loser if you don't drink."
"Thanks, but when did you start?"
"A beer just sounded good right now."
"Well, if it keeps you talking then it sounds good to me, too."
In a flash, their drinks were set down in front of them. Duo frowned when he saw the umbrella stuck in his.
"Why'd they have to do that?" He pulled the offending pink and green paper umbrella out and set it aside.
"I'm glad you think it's funny." Duo flicked the little umbrella across the table.
"It's not, but your reaction is."
That sounded remotely like a compliment. "Then you're not mad at me?"
"I have no reason to be mad at you... Frustrated, yes."
"A-ha! I knew there was something wrong!"
"Considering the way we left things the other night and the fact that I didn't select you for the mission, that's a logical conclusion."
"But what happened the other night? Why'd you pull away from me?"
Heero looked down into his beer, wrapping his hands around the iced mug---his hesitation, his silence made Duo shiver.
"It's this damn dating thing." Duo put his fist on the table. "I told Quatre he messed things up. Everything was fine until..."
Duo stared at him, stunned. "No?"
"I enjoyed our dates."
"I did, too, but that's not the point."
"It isn't?" Heero lifted the mug to his lips and took a small sip. The beer was smooth and cool, and smelled of malt.
"The point is that we were doing fine before Quatre stuck his nose into our business. The guy really knows how to throw a wet blanket onto people's sex lives."
"Sex on the fly."
"Nothing." Heero shook his head. "Just something Trowa said to me."
Duo shrugged. "Well, we need to sort things out, 'cause I don't want to be left behind on the next mission."
"Is that what's important to you?"
"Hell, yeah. What else would I be doing in the Preventers? If I'm not going on missions I might as well head back to L2 and start up that salvage yard again."
Heero slumped in the booth a little, taking another swig of his beer.
"What? Wrong answer? You want me to be happy about being left behind?"
Heero's eyes remained downcast.
"You're not... breaking up with me, are you? Is that what this is about?"
The other boy shook his head.
"Then what? 'Cause you're really starting to freak me out."
"Dating has changed things."
"Tell me about it. It's making me nuts. We used to be on the same page, but now I don't know what to expect."
Heero ran his finger around the edge of his mug. "What if... we didn't date anymore?"
"Damn, you are breaking up with me! I'm gonna choke Quatre for his meddling..."
"Duo, I already told you, I don't want to break up."
"Well, Quatre will get what's coming to him, just wait and see."
"You're not listening."
Duo blinked. "Then spit it out, man!"
"I want us to move in together."
Duo's mouth dropped open. "What?"
"You heard me."
"No, I don't think I did." Duo was shaking his head, his mind spinning. "Moving in is like doing each other's laundry, and sharing a bathroom, and seeing each other in the morning before you've had your coffee..."
"It's also making dinner together, and sharing the same bed---all night, and waking up in each other's arms."
Again, Duo's mouth dropped open. "You can't have thought this through. What do you know about living together?"
"I see Trowa and Quatre go home together every night... and I want that with you."
Duo laughed. "I haven't even been to your apartment. How can you expect me to move in with you before I know if you live like a slob?"
Heero cocked his head.
"All right... you're probably not a slob. But geez, Heero, can't you see this is out of the blue?"
"I thought we felt the same way about each other."
"And how do we feel exactly? Because I don't remember either of us saying." Duo waited for a response, but none came. "Thought so." He got up from his seat and tossed a few dollars on the table for his drink. "Get some rest, okay? You look like hell and you're not making any sense."
With that, Duo turned and left Heero sitting in the bar, nursing his beer.
+ + +
The next morning Duo was at work bright and early. He hadn't slept a wink, but he was determined to start the day off right, and that meant processing the mission data. It still irked him that he hadn't been selected for the mission, and the way things were going between him and Heero, he would never be selected again, but he had a job to do.
Sitting at his desk, he scrolled through hundreds of pages of mission data on his computer. Even though he had coordinated the mission at this end, there were any number of details he did not know. Details that only came to light in the field agents' reports. He would read them all, compare them and compile a mission summary.
He started with Agent Sterns' report. Nothing unusual there. Sterns was a good man, young and a bit over eager, but a solid, trustworthy agent. Next he pulled up Heero's report. It was more in-depth and encompassing of the mission, partly because he was a more seasoned agent, but mostly because he had led the mission. It was while reading Heero's report that Duo first realized how very close this mission had come to failure. As expected, the rescue had been anticipated by the enemy, but the enemy's level of preparation was surprisingly good. The weapons cell was more than just a group of fanatics, and more than just a small branch of the weapons ring---they were well organized and very well funded.
Duo looked up from the computer screen to his office door. "Hey, Quatre."
"Hi, Duo. Sorry to bother you."
"No bother. I could use a break." He stretched his arms over his head and got up from his chair.
Quatre came into the room, smiling timidly. "How did things go yesterday?"
"You mean with Heero?"
The blond nodded.
"Not so good. He's got this kooky idea about moving in together."
Quatre's eyes lit. "Oh, that's wonderful!"
"Maybe if he meant it, but he doesn't know what he's talking about. We're not ready for that."
"But why not?"
"Lots of reasons."
Duo smiled at Quatre’s challenge. "Okay, how about we've only been involved for three months, not to mention we've been on only five dates?"
"But you've known each other for two years. And you're the best team the Preventers have."
Duo came around and sat on the edge of the desk. "And now Heero won't take me on missions. He says things have changed since we've been dating."
"For good or for bad?"
"The worst! He's confusing the hell out of me. It’s like we’re not sure what we can and can’t do. It’s just not flowing anymore.”
Quatre reached his hand out, placing it on Duo's arm and smiling sympathetically. "I think you're misreading him, Duo. Maybe it’s confusing right now, but that's only because your relationship is in flux."
"Yeah, flux right down the toilet."
Quatre chuckled. "I think your own uncertainty is making things difficult."
Duo shrugged. "I just wish he’d let me know what he’s thinking. One minute he’s going on a mission without me and the next he’s asking me to move in with him. What am I supposed to make of that?"
“Maybe that he wants to spend more time with you? That’s generally a good thing.”
“You would say that.”
Quatre sighed sympathetically. “What is it about moving in together that has you so scared?”
“Who said anything about being scared?”
“Well, you did, but not in so many words.”
“Oh, right, the God of Death, who’s faced countless mobile suits in fierce battles is afraid to move in with Heero Yuy. That makes sense.”
“Actually it does.”
“I’m beginning to see a pattern.”
“What pattern? Where?” Duo looked around the room, confused and frantic all at once.
“Don't you see? The two of you finally get together, but what do you do? You just have sex. Nothing more. And now that you’re dating, Heero realizes he wants to take things further, but you’re putting on the brakes. Why is that?”
“Hey, I was the one who wanted to try the dating thing, remember?”
“I think you’re afraid of commitment.” Quatre folded his arms over his chest.
“That’s ridiculous.” Duo folded his arms over his chest, too.
“Okay, Doctor Winner, I’ve had about enough of your psychoanalysis for one day.”
Quatre grinned. “I guess I am analyzing you, but I just want you to be happy, and I think Heero makes you happy. So why not move in with him?"
Duo opened his mouth to spout more of his so-called reasons, but decided against it.
"Well, at least I've got you tongue-tied. Now I have to get back to my desk. If you want to talk later you know where to find me. Okay?"
Duo nodded. "Yeah, thanks, Q... I think."
Quatre gave Duo's arm a pat. "Things will work out fine."
"Ever the optimist."
"That's me!" And with that, Quatre left Duo to his work.
+ + +
Back at his computer, Duo continued to read through Heero's report, but could not get his conversation with Quatre off his mind. Quatre seemed convinced that Heero's "strong feelings" were a good thing, but Duo knew that Heero's intensity could go either way. He'd seen the boy's soldier side many times and in many respects was more comfortable with that than Heero's off-duty persona, since the latter was not nearly as predictable.
He supposed it was the same for Heero. A boy that serious and focused, and trained for the sole purpose of assassination, couldn't have expected to survive either of the Eve Wars let alone spend evenings at the arcade and making out with his boyfriend.
There was that word again... boyfriend. The first time Quatre had called Heero, Duo's boyfriend, Duo had laughed. How very strange that had sounded. Now he supposed that Quatre was right. Their relationship had been through many stages: from adversaries to fellow pilots, to friends and partners in the Preventers, and finally to a level of intimacy Duo had only dreamed of sharing. But could the boyfriend status survive this latest test? Duo was convinced it could not. They had been capable of sharing a purely physical relationship, but once they'd been forced to expand on that idea things had begun to crumble. Though, oddly, Heero was adamant he did not want to break up, despite stating that "dating had changed things." And what did that mean exactly?
The sound startled Duo out of his funk. He looked up, blinking, to see Heero standing in front of his desk. The boy had entered his office unnoticed, and knocked on the hard wood to get his attention.
"Oh... Heero. I was just reading your report." The same sentence of the report over and over, but still it was no lie.
"I know you're busy..."
"No, the interruption is good." He stared up at Heero. The boy looked handsome in his Preventers' uniform, but he could see shadows under his eyes. "Didn't get much sleep last night?"
"It's hard coming off a mission."
Duo nodded, remembering. "It might've helped had I talked to you longer yesterday. Sorry I left you sitting there..."
"It's fine. You said enough."
"I did? 'Cause I think things are still out of whack with us..." Duo's words trailed off as he watched Heero reach into his pocket, fish out a key and set it on the desk with a thwack. "What's that?"
"The key to my apartment."
Duo chuckled. "Your apartment?"
Duo crossed his arms over his chest. "Did Quatre put you up to this?"
Heero blinked, confused by the question. "No."
"Then I suppose you want me to feed your goldfish while you're out of town."
"I don't have goldfish."
"Then what am I supposed to do with your key?"
"You've never seen my apartment. Now you can. Any time you want."
Duo raised an eyebrow. He was suspicious, but charmed by the notion. "Any time?"
"Day or night."
He reached for the key, dragging it across the desk. He held it in his hand. It was your average key---average in weight, size and color, but it possessed one special quality: it made his heart beat faster. He curled his fingers around it and looked up at Heero with a tentative smile. "You sure Quatre didn't put you up to this?"
Heero left without another word.
The key was set back on the desk where Duo could study it. So maybe Heero had been serious about wanting to move in together?
Glancing at the clock, Duo could see the day was getting away from him and he had a lot of work yet to do. Though the key called to him to abandon his work and go to Heero's apartment to investigate, he turned back to the mission reports.
Deep into his work once again, Duo pictured how the mission had played out. He saw Heero and Trowa arriving at the warehouse where it was suspected the enemy had taken the wounded agents. He saw the gunfire, the panic, the blood, and finally the rescue, but he felt there was something missing. It was the way Heero had written about their attack, as though he had censored himself.
Duo clicked the mouse, opening Trowa's report for comparison. He quickly scanned its contents. What Heero didn't say, maybe Trowa would.
The reports mirrored each other in many ways. Both young men had been in the same situation and both explained it with the same efficiency. But there was one difference, one very significant difference: Trowa's report went further in detailing the initial assault on the warehouse, and it was this description that so fascinated and alarmed Duo.
Heero took a chance, dived and rolled and came up on the other side of the docking bay, drawing fire away from me so that I could get into position. He drew heavy fire... the bullet holes on the wall behind him, testament to just how close he came to injury or death.
Duo's breath hitched. Suddenly his world seemed very small. He knew their jobs were dangerous, but usually he was at Heero's side, backing him up. Reading about a mission after the fact, long after he had any chance to put things right made him angry, but more than that it made him realize that he wanted to be with Heero---on and off the job.
He grabbed the key from the desk and held it tight in his hand. At first it was cold, lifeless, but it quickly warmed from the contact. It reminded him of Heero---the boy who had seemed emotionless during the war, but who had blossomed afterward. They had grown very close and now Duo held the key to Heero's apartment.
Obviously, Heero didn't want to give up on the relationship. In fact, Heero had been much more patient with the new arrangements than Duo had anticipated. It was remarkable how well he had adapted to the rules of dating---giving Duo flowers, opening doors for him, only taking things so far... and now the key to his place.
Quatre was right, Duo thought. I'm the one who's uncertain and afraid.
The sudden realization that Heero had been on target all along, following the rules, but also growing in their relationship elated Duo and made him feel like a jerk all at once. He saw now that his hesitation to take things more seriously was out of fear. He'd lost so many close to him in his short life that he was afraid to believe that he could have something more permanent with Heero.
Duo's mind flashed on the conversation with Quatre, little more than a week ago, when Quatre had asked him what kind of a relationship he wanted with Heero. His answer had been surprisingly defensive when he had said, "I don't want to live with him like you do with Trowa." Now he saw the lie for what it was. Of course, he wanted that and more, but to admit it, to grasp it and hold onto it might make it disappear like his parents, his best friend Solo, and the Maxwell Orphanage had.
With the temptation of that key staring him in the face, the day couldn't end soon enough, but when five o'clock finally rolled around, Duo decided not to go immediately to Heero's. He was still unsure of himself and thought that dropping in later in the evening would be more of a surprise and more of a test of his new privileges. He went instead to the hospital to visit the wounded agents. They were glad for the company and anxious to tell their misadventure once again. When visiting hours were over, Duo headed to the Little Bear Diner for a quick bite, and then lazily, almost hesitantly drove in the direction of Heero's apartment.
He knew exactly where Heero lived. He'd cruised this street a dozen times checking out the neighborhood, but without a clear invitation, Duo had never stopped. It was an older part of town with small, brick apartment buildings, holding no more than four units each. Far more cozy than Duo would have guessed for Heero.
He parked his bike on the street and went inside to the common vestibule. He looked at the mailboxes to verify Heero's apartment number. No surprise there, it was number one. Another several steps and he stood in front of Heero's door. His first instinct was to knock, but then why did he need a key?
"Screw knocking," Duo said, and fished the key out of his pants pocket.
Part of him hoped he would catch Heero in the middle of something. He didn't know exactly what---maybe painting his toenails or beating off. Either would put Duo more at ease from the other boy's embarrassment.
With a deep breath, he inserted the key and turned. The door opened soundlessly onto a tidy room. Duo stepped inside, closing the door behind him. His eyes were wide as he tried to take it all in. It was orderly, as he had expected, but it was also... cheerful. There were no dreary colors, instead it was all rich burgundy, forest green and soft mocha.
Mouth open, Duo further surveyed the landscape. It was a small apartment, but well planned. There was a living room, kitchen with breakfast nook, and down the hall he assumed one bedroom and a bath. The lights were on, but where was Heero?
"Hey, Heero! You home?"
It felt a little funny shouting to an empty room, but then it felt a little funny having just let himself in.
He heard a creak and craned his neck to look down the hall to its source. There was Heero all bare feet, jeans and an untucked green tee, coming his way.
"That was fast," Heero greeted.
"What fast?" Duo looked at his watch. "It's 8:45. You think I should've held out 'til tomorrow?"
"No, this is good. I'm glad you came."
Duo smiled. "This place looks like it’s out of a catalog."
"Close. It's from the store's showroom. I liked the colors, so I bought the display."
"Damn, that's a good idea." Duo walked over and caressed the leather sofa. "Nice."
"Thanks." Heero noticed Duo was still holding the key in his hand. "I'm glad you used it. I wasn't sure you would."
Duo looked down at his hand and then back up at Heero. "No chance of that. I'm way too curious to pass up an opportunity like this." Again, Duo was trying to make light of things even though he could hear the sincerity in Heero's voice and see it in his eyes. "Damn..."
"What is it?"
"Just nervous I guess. It means a lot that you gave me this key."
Their eyes locked and Heero stepped forward, reaching for the hand with the key. He took it in his and slowly uncurled Duo’s fingers, and then smiled. “You’re holding it so tight it’s made an imprint in your palm.”
“I guess I was worried I might lose it.”
Heero smiled more brightly. “Then I would have given you another.”
Duo swallowed, feeling his face go warm. There was so much he wanted to say, but so much he couldn't yet explain. “Heero, I…”
Heero leaned in, silencing Duo with a kiss. Duo stood stunned momentarily and then melted into the embrace, their arms easily going around one another as the kiss deepened. It was the first they had connected since the mission, no, since the night when Duo had asked Heero to leave his apartment. It felt good to be back in each other’s arms.
When the kiss ended, Duo took a breath and grinned sheepishly. "I've been such a jerk..."
"I wouldn't say that."
"Oh, yeah? But half the time I wasn't listening to Quatre's advice. All that topping from the bottom crap, and telling me not to have sex with you, that we needed to talk more than hump."
Heero chuckled. "And Trowa was telling me just the opposite. He thought I should go for it... have as much sex as you wanted to give. But I wasn't listening to him either."
"So if we're not listening to our friends then who are we listening to?"
"And your instinct was to pull away from me the other night?"
Heero shook his head. "No, that was something else."
Heero ran his hands through his hair and went over to the couch to sit down. He leaned his elbows on his knees, hands clasped before him. "I need to know something... before we go any further."
"Okay." A lump formed in Duo's throat.
Heero took a deep breath and slowly looked up at Duo. "Is it just about the sex? I mean... is that all there is?"
"I don't understand."
"Yesterday you said you wanted us to sort things out, because you don't want to be left behind on the next mission."
"Is that the only reason?"
The plea in Heero's eyes made Duo falter and take a half step back. There was an incredible weight to Heero's words and a sadness in his tone. "God, no, that's not all." Duo sat on the couch next to him and put his hand on the other boy's knee. "Geez, is that the impression I gave you?"
Heero nodded. "Look... I don't want things to end between us, and if what we're about is sex then fine. At least I can still see you."
"God, Heero, you're making me sound like a nymphomaniac."
Heero looked over at Duo, meeting his eyes and then looking back to his clasped hands. "Trowa tried to tell me how complicated his life is with Quatre... I think he was trying to warn me."
"Hey, I'm not Quatre, and you and I are about more than just sex."
"That's not how it looks."
Duo jumped off the couch. "I can't believe we're arguing over sex! Don't you have any idea what you mean to me? You go traipsing off on a mission and nearly get killed and I'm supposed to be okay with that?"
"I wasn't nearly killed..."
"Don't lie to me, mister. I knew damn well when I was reading your report you'd left something out. Turns out it was a pretty big something."
"Not this time." Duo stared him down with his fists on his hips. "You're not a super hero. You're flesh and bone just like the rest of us."
Heero grinned. "The God of Death is admitting to being mortal?"
Duo grinned right back, but his fists tightened with anger. The bastard is trying to bait me, he thought. "This isn't the office, Heero. You don't need to put on a show."
"Then let it drop, Duo. The mission was a success."
"You really think you're invincible. You haven't changed a bit. You're the same old Heero from the wars."
"You know better than that."
"Do I?" Duo turned away with a wave of emotion.
"This is why I didn't take you on that mission." Duo shook his head and took a step for the door, but Heero jumped up and grabbed him by the waist, turning him in his arms. "Don't you walk out on me. We've got too much invested in this relationship."
"Oh, yeah?" Duo tried to wriggle free, but Heero's hold was strong. "Didn't you just get through telling me all we've got is sex? Or is that the investment you were talking about?"
"If you'd rather be a smart ass than fix this, then maybe it's better that you go." Heero released him, causing Duo to stumble back before finding his balance again.
"You're fucked up, you know that, Yuy? And you can keep your fuckin' key." He tossed the key onto the coffee table and turned for the door.
Heero watched as Duo crossed the room, swaggering for all he was worth, giving him a last glimpse of that sexy ass and braid before he was out the door.
"Forget it!" Duo turned and held up his hand like a stop sign. "So it's perfectly clear come Monday morning, this ends more than just the sex fest. Our partnership in Preventers is over."
"It doesn't have to be..."
"Oh, it be," Duo said, sarcastically. His hand was on the door now, curling around the knob. "Obviously you don't need a partner who cares for you and would lay down his life for you. You're the invincible Heero Yuy."
"You care for me?"
Duo rolled his eyes. "L2 to Heero! Of course, I do... I mean, I did."
"I guess I knew that, but you've never come right out and said it."
"And neither have you." Duo tightened his grip on the doorknob, ready to bolt from the room.
Not one to back down from a challenge, Heero walked the ten paces to stand before Duo and look him in the eye. "I care about you, too."
Duo cocked his head suspiciously, even as his face warmed. "Are you parroting me?"
"You know, repeating what I say. Because if you're just saying that to stop me from walking out this door..."
"I wouldn't do that."
"I'm not so sure about that. You tops know a good thing when you see it."
"This isn't about sex, Duo." He reached over and covered Duo's hand on the doorknob. "This is about us."
"Us?" Duo gulped.
"Would you really lay down your life for me?"
"Of course, anybody would do that for his partner..."
"No, not anybody."
Duo looked down at Heero's hand and swallowed. Being this close to Heero and seeing his determination was a huge turn-on, evidenced by his racing pulse and burning face, but it also scared the hell out of him. Where was this all leading? "I'm not afraid."
Duo blinked. Had he said that aloud? "Quatre said I'm afraid of commitment."
"Maybe, but I don't want to be."
“Then say yes, Duo." Heero inched closer, putting his lips to Duo's ear. "Move in with me.”
Duo's breath caught from the fire in those words, but he pulled back to look into Heero's eyes. "You really want that, don't you?"
Heero nodded. "You can stay the night and we'll bring your things over in the morning."
"But my place is bigger than yours."
"Then we'll bring my stuff to your place."
Duo laughed nervously. "Whoa. Slow down. I haven't agreed to this yet."
Heero's face grew serious, his blue eyes darkening. "What's stopping you?"
Duo put his hand on Heero's chest. "I don't have a very good track record. Everyone I've ever cared about has..."
"Nothing's going to happen to me."
"Bullshit, Heero. You don't know that." Duo turned to leave, but Heero's hand was on the door, holding it closed. Duo pulled on the knob with both hands, but the door wouldn't budge. After several tries, Duo sighed, giving up and turning back to face Heero. "You're a damn pushy top, you know that, Yuy?"
Heero grinned, victory within reach. "Then you'll move in with me?"
With his defenses worn down and his heart pounding, Duo smiled. "Yes, I'll fuckin' move in with you!"
Duo leapt into Heero's arms, wrapping his arms about the other boy and kissing him fervently on the lips, cheeks and lips again. They held each other tightly, kissing more passionately as the embrace lingered and the joy of the moment seeped into them.
Heero pressed Duo against the door with his hard body, begging entrance into his mouth with his questing tongue. Duo moaned as he willingly acquiesced, sliding his hands under Heero's untucked shirt and up his smooth belly and chest.
Heero licked a path to Duo's ear, sucking the lobe into his mouth and then licking the shell of the ear. "No more locked doors between us," he said, breathing heavily, his body burning with want and freedom.
"No more locked doors." Duo happily repeated. In his heart he knew that things would be different, that he didn't need to be so afraid, that Heero was here to stay.
"Want to see the rest of the place?" Heero asked as he kissed and licked Duo's neck.
Duo swallowed, finding it hard to concentrate. "But the only thing I haven't seen is the bathroom and the bedroom... Oh!"
Heero smiled as he nipped Duo's neck. "Tour's leaving..." He took Duo by the hand and gently pulled him away from the door. "Are you coming with me?"
Duo grinned devilishly. "This is one tour I don't wanna miss."