Sated, dried and dressed they headed back to Heero's apartment, but not before taking a detour to the Summit Café.
"What are we doing here?" Duo asked as they stood outside the darkened and closed café.
"You wanted ice cream, right?"
Duo blinked. "It's closed. Or do you plan on breaking in?"
Heero smirked and input his special access code, disengaging the door's lock, and illuminating secondary low lighting in the café.
"I should've known," Duo said, following him inside.
It occurred to Heero that since he wasn't actually buying Duo an ice cream he should make this more of an effort on his part.
"Wait here," he said, walking around behind the ice cream counter. He found a scooper and looked across the glass and metal counter to Duo. "What flavor would you like?"
Duo gave a hearty, sincere laugh. "Gee, I don't know. What flavors do you have?"
"You ate here all the time..." Heero started saying, but seeing a frown appear on Duo's face, he opted to keep the scenario going. "There's vanilla, chocolate, mint chocolate chip, butter pecan, cherry fudge vanilla, and java chip." Luckily, the flavors were listed on the back of the counter.
"Mmm... They all sound good." Duo practically had his face pressed to the glass looking at all the choices. "I think I'm in the mood for cherry fudge vanilla."
"Great choice. It's our best seller."
"How do you know that?"
Heero shrugged and scooped two round balls of ice cream into a cup. Duo's eyes brightened as he came back around the counter holding the cup of ice cream and two spoons.
"Where do you want to sit?" Heero asked.
"How about outside?"
Heero led the way, handing off the treat to Duo as he secured the café on their way out. They settled at a table on the balcony. During the day, the view was spectacular, but at night there was only darkness beyond the white and gray stone wall at the edge of the balcony.
"I used to eat lunch here a lot," Duo said, taking a spoonful of ice cream.
Heero nodded and took a spoonful of the treat himself.
"Sometimes I just stopped for coffee." Duo took another slow mouthful. "I had just gotten a coffee and was heading back to my office when I saw you across the fountain. It was the last time I saw you before..."
Heero stared at Duo and the far away look in his eyes. Duo was remembering that day at the fountain and what followed not long afterward.
"I had wanted to talk to you," Heero said. He remembered that day well, too.
"What stopped you?"
"It wasn't permitted."
Duo cocked his head and snorted. "Yeah, right."
"It's true. The Project team didn't even like that I walked across campus where people could see me."
"So, you went against them, but you stopped short of talking to me?"
"It was enough just to look at you."
Duo's breath caught, and even in the relative darkness sitting just beyond the security light, Heero could see that his eyes had widened. But Duo quickly recovered by turning his focus back to the ice cream. "If you had talked to me, maybe we would've come here together." Duo took another spoonful and grinned, but the moment had turned awkward.
"I'm sure you have a lot of questions, so why don't you ask me one?"
Duo put down his spoon and looked up, his shoulders straight with determination. "Okay... Do you ever think about telling those bastards you don't want to live this way anymore? That you want a normal life?"
Duo's voice was edged with emotion, and the question sounded oddly like it pertained to them both. He wasn't just asking about Heero's life, but his own.
"I would've liked talking to you and sitting here on our own terms," Heero said. "But I've worked hard to achieve the goals of the Project. I'm right where I want to be."
Duo gaped at him. "You seriously think this is normal?"
"My life may not appear to be normal to the majority of the world's population, but it's all I've known. I believe that qualifies as normal for me."
There was a long pause as they sat in the dark, staring at each other's silhouette, and then Duo sighed heavily. Heero tensed, expecting another verbal barrage that he no doubt deserved, but instead, he felt the warm touch of Duo's hand covering his.
"Hey," Duo said softly, squeezing his hand.
Heero's heart thumped as the silhouette moved closer. Duo leaned forward over the table and Heero was pulled to him like a magnet. Their lips touched, parted briefly, and touched again in a full kiss.
"I don't want to argue tonight," Duo said against his lips.
Their faces were inches apart, and Heero could see the vibrant blue of Duo's eyes. He wanted to say that they should never argue again, but he knew they would, of course. They were both caught, one by choice and the other by circumstance, and that could only lead to more frustration. But they had the now, and centering himself, Heero leaned in and took Duo's lips in another kiss, the warmth spreading from his lips to his cheeks.
"I'm glad we finally came here together," Heero said.
~ ~ ~
Duo twined his fingers with Heero's and kissed him again, trying to pretend this was a date. He had wanted to argue his point that Heero's life was anything but normal, but it would have spoiled the fantasy this evening had become. They were having fun, getting along, and clicking in a myriad of ways. It was exhilarating getting out of the apartment even if being on campus made Duo uneasy. He was reminded of the awe and pride he had felt when he started working for Bremen Enterprises. His future had been so very promising, and now he wasn't sure how much of a future he had left. This couldn't possibly go on indefinitely. Like the old saying, "The only constant in life is change," something was bound to give.
They were standing together now, leaning against the balcony's stone wall, embracing as they kissed. Heero's kisses were as intense as his personality, filling Duo with warmth and a growing sense of belonging. But Duo didn't want to get carried away by this new intimacy when there was no place for their relationship to go, no matter how much he wanted Heero. If only they could be together far away from this mountain and the Project, then Duo would show Heero the true meaning of a normal life, and they could explore their feelings naturally.
Hand in hand, they walked back to the apartment. Duo was like a bird returning to its cage after being allowed to spread its wings, and yet this abode had become comfortable to him. It was familiar and it was the place to which Heero always returned. They stumbled into the bedroom, kissing as they removed clothes, and fell onto the bed in a tangle of limbs. Making love changed everything. The sex had always been pleasurable, but now it was meaningful and sensual, and tonight it was slow.
Heero's hands moved up Duo's legs from his calves to his thighs. They touched like lovers wanting to please each other. Heero's hands were warm, his fingers long and their touch light. He used his tongue to tease Duo's nipples, causing Duo to arch and moan. It was wonderful, but too much. These loving touches should be shared between equals.
Duo nudged Heero's shoulders to stop the torture. "Just fuck me."
Heero looked up with confusion in his dark blue eyes. "I thought you liked this."
Yes, he most certainly did, but they were taking this lovers thing too far. It was one thing to give Heero his body, and very enthusiastically, and quite another thing to give Heero his heart. Duo knew why he was here and that reason hadn't changed just because they had made a more personal connection. A quick fuck would be easier on his heart than this slow lovemaking.
"Go on," Duo said, giving an encouraging nod. His tone seemed to have the right amount of desire and command, because Heero didn't question him.
They were far enough along in the foreplay that the transition was swift. Heero was slicked and thrusting inside him faster than a jack rabbit on a date. Still, it felt good, and Duo suddenly realized that it would never be just a fuck with Heero again. They had crossed a line, and even quick, hard fucks would mean something more from now on.
He set his feet on the back of Heero's calves, enjoying the feel of tight, working muscle as Heero used his legs, his entire body to thrust. Duo gripped those calves with his toes, meeting the thrusts, hanging on, and taking it all. The long, hard slide of cock shoving inside him battered his senses, making him want Heero more and more. This fuck, this lovemaking, whatever they wanted to call it connected them in the most primal, passionate way. But just when he wanted it to go on and on, to meditate on the feel of Heero's body on him and in him, Heero shoved hard and tensed.
"Duo!" Heero paused for a split second as though the pleasure of his climax was too much, and then thrust again. His next words were gritted out through barred teeth, "Come on."
Duo obeyed, rocking into Heero's body, taking him to the hilt again and again. He concentrated on the image of them interlocked, sweating and fucking on the bed. Maybe he could talk Heero into getting mirrors installed in the bedroom then they could watch themselves fuck.... That was enough to send Duo over the edge into oblivion, spurting his release between their bellies.
They sank back into the bed, exhausted. Heero reached for the towel on the night stand. They had started keeping one there for moments just like this. He lifted himself to wipe his stomach and chest, and Duo's.
"What a night," Heero said, flopping onto his back on the bed.
"Yeah?" Duo asked, looking over at him.
"You ran me ragged around the basketball court, then gave me a workout in the shower, and now this. You're spoiling me."
Duo nodded. It was a compliment, but he wasn't exactly sure how to take it. "And now you'll sleep like a baby."
Heero turned on his side, draping an arm over Duo's stomach and flashing a wicked grin. "For a few hours."
~ ~ ~
The next morning, Duo was awakened by the sound of an alarm ringing and a light coming on. He put his hand over his eyes to block the light, just as Heero reached over him to answer the phone on the night stand.
"Yes," Heero said. There was a pause and then, "I understand. Twenty minutes." Heero hung up the phone and snuggled up behind Duo.
"What is it?" Duo asked.
He could feel Heero's nod against his hair. How was it that Heero could take the news of a mission so calmly when it made Duo's heart beat faster? He didn't think he would ever get used to this.
"I thought you had one more day off," Duo said.
"The remainder of my furlough's been cancelled. It can't be helped."
"Can't they send someone else?"
"If they did I wouldn't have a job." With that, Heero sat up.
The loss of warmth was disappointing. Duo didn't want Heero to leave... again. He rolled onto his back and looked up at Heero sitting naked with the sheets about his waist, and his hair matted every which way.
"Want a quickie?" Duo asked, running his hand up Heero's spine.
"Can't. I've got to be in the briefing room in less than twenty minutes."
Duo's hand reached into Heero's thick hair. "Are you rescuing a princess this time?"
Heero looked over his shoulder at him. "Princesses stopped needing to be rescued centuries ago."
"Yeah, I guess this isn't a fairytale, huh?"
"If it was... who would you be?"
"Little Red Riding Hood?" Duo chuckled.
Heero's brow tightened. "Does that make me the big, bad Wolf?"
"Maybe just your appetite," Duo said, taking his hand from Heero's hair. It was suddenly getting hot in here and he doubted that Heero would like being late. "Do you know anything about the mission?"
"I'm retrieving stolen documents. I won't know more until I get to the briefing."
Heero got up and went into the bathroom. Moments later, Duo heard the sound of the shower. It was easy to imagine Heero naked and under the spray of hot water, but this morning Heero would be efficient, not languid. It wasn't long before he was back in the bedroom, a towel around his waist and one to dry his hair. Duo swallowed hard as he watched droplets of water on Heero's chest. His attraction was fueled by the fact that Heero seemed oblivious to his own sex appeal.
He sat up, leaning against the headboard. "Do these missions really make the world safer?"
Heero tossed the towel he was using to dry his hair into the bathroom. "Yes."
"You know that for sure?"
The surety and lack of hesitation in Heero's answers gave Duo a chill. What did it feel like to have that much conviction about something?
Heero sat next to him on the bed. "I hate to leave just when we were finding our groove." His hand caressed Duo's cheek as he looked into his eyes. "I won't be long."
"How do you know that?" Duo asked, resisting the urge to purr at Heero's touch.
"Just a hunch." Heero leaned in and kissed Duo, the corners of his mouth curling into a grin.
As Heero pulled back and stood, Duo grabbed his hand. "Are you worried? You know... another mission so soon after..."
"You mean, the girl?"
"I haven't forgotten her, but all I can do is move forward. I've got to trust my team... and myself."
Heero sounded like an old soul that had lived too many lives, and seen too many things. Duo squeezed his hand tight and raised it to his lips, kissing the knuckles.
"Always," Heero said.
Once Heero had gone, Duo fell back to sleep for nearly an hour. It was difficult not knowing when Heero would return, and not having a sense of the process. Was he still somewhere on site getting his orders or had he already jetted away?
Showered and dressed, Duo padded into the kitchen for breakfast. He opened the refrigerator and stared at its contents. Heero was right that it wasn't as fun cooking for one. He opted for a fruit smoothie, taking pineapple juice, a banana, strawberries and ice and blending them together. With his shake in hand he went into the living room and turned on the stereo. His head bobbed to the music, but when he happened to notice the time-it was only nine o'clock-he sighed. It was going to be a long day.
He had spent years on his own, enjoying his independence and his own space, but in this world everything revolved around Heero. When Heero was here the focus was on his needs, and when Heero was gone it was all about waiting for his return. He gulped the rest of his smoothie, and around ten o'clock decided to exercise that independent nature once again. He dialed 339 on the intercom.
"Hey there, Miss Noin. How's your day going?"
"It's going fine. And yours?"
"Not bad. You know there's always a flurry of activity here."
Lucrezia laughed. "And now Heero's away. What will you do with your time?"
Duo picked up the handset, switching the intercom's speaker off to make the call private, despite there being no other ears in the vicinity. "I was kind of thinking maybe... we could do lunch."
"Oh," she said, her voice conveying every bit of the surprise he had expected. "Well, that sounds like a nice idea. But our options are rather limited."
"I've got it covered. How about you come here and I fix you the best pasta primavera you've ever had?"
He could practically hear her smile.
"Is half past twelve all right?" she asked.
"Perfect. See you then!" He disconnected the call and smiled. Company would do him good.
~ ~ ~
Sally stepped into her assistant's office and caught the tail end of a phone conversation. She glanced at the clock. It was barely past ten. "Making lunch plans already?"
Lucrezia nodded, and shuffled some papers.
"Let me know before you leave," Sally said. "I might have you bring me back something. I've got to get Heero's metadata sorted."
"Maybe I shouldn't have said yes," Lucrezia blurted out, her eyes reflecting a curious guilt.
"I didn't mean to imply that you shouldn't go to lunch," Sally said. Now she was the one feeling guilty. "I'm number crunching and you know how that frustrates me."
"Sally... Do you think it's okay for me to have lunch with Duo?"
Sally blinked. "Duo Maxwell?"
Lucrezia nodded. "That was him on the phone just now."
"Interesting." Sally considered this a moment and shrugged. "He's probably a bit lonely with Heero gone on another mission."
"Well, you said you enjoyed your time with him at the training salle. It's good that Duo's reaching out to you. He's a resourceful young man. He's finding ways to acclimate."
"Then you think it's all right? That I'm having lunch with him?"
"Yes, and a great opportunity to further assess his condition. I have plenty of bio physical data, but I've only been able to make a couple of brief observations."
"But I'm not a psychologist."
Sally smiled. Maybe she was putting too much on Lucrezia's shoulders, but the success of the liaison program had become foremost in her mind. "You'll find out much more about his state of mind than I ever could. I don't think he likes me very much."
Lucrezia's brow furrowed. "So, this will be a working lunch?"
"Take as much time as you need, if the two of you get to talking."
She grabbed a file and went back into her office, pleased with this turn of events. As she passed the large window with the view of the plaza she hesitated. Heero had stood here many times, gazing endlessly onto the world of Bremen Enterprises. He was so serious that she never guessed his thoughts to be fanciful. But as it turned out, he had been standing here longing for a young man he had seen only from a distance. She sighed, knowing that Heero would have continued to suffer in silence if not for her unorthodox idea of giving him a bed partner.
Though Treize wholeheartedly backed the program it was still scrutinized and mired with complications. There had been many mistakes early on. Now she feared that the one thing she had wanted for Heero-companionship-would be the undoing of them all. Heero and Duo were now lovers, and her woman's intuition told her that they could be falling in love. For most anyone else that would be a cause for celebration, but under these circumstances it could not end well.
Heero was far too valuable to the Project and the worldwide operative network. He had become exactly what Treize had worked so hard to create-the perfect, human weapon. At nearly twenty years old, Heero was a marvel, a complete success, but he had many years of duty ahead of him. To leave the Project now would be a crime against the world and all the Project team had hoped to accomplish. His voluntary service did not change one immutable fact: Heero Yuy was as trapped as Duo Maxwell, and for that reason alone Sally grieved.