Duo rummaged through the refrigerator for something to make for lunch. Heero had been gone all morning, and Duo had finally broken down and phoned Miss Noin. She informed him that Doctor Po had tended to the wound, and that was all she knew.
Duo had been mad as hell when he'd discovered the injury and Heero's lack of sense. So, maybe Heero was staying away on purpose.
The missions were becoming more dangerous as Heero's experience and capabilities grew. This was the first he had been injured, but it could happen again, and probably would. Duo did not want to be around for that. He cared for Heero, and it hurt to see the abuse he submitted himself to in training and missions.
He had gotten out of bed when Heero left for the medical clinic, unable to fall asleep again after their heated discussion. He showered, dressed in jeans and an eggplant colored dress shirt, and finally settled for staring out the loft window. He daydreamed of a different life-one that allowed him and Heero to be together far away from this place and the Project.
But now, Duo was hungry and an omelette sounded damn good. He took out eggs, cheese, olives and jalepaños and set them on the counter next to the stove. He cracked a few eggs in a bowl and began beating them when he heard the sound of the door. Heero was back. He set the bowl down and stood in the kitchen doorway, peeking into the living room.
"Hey," Duo said.
"Hey." Heero crossed the room to him. He always stood inside Duo's personal space; something Duo had gotten used to over time. Today, like usual, he was just inches away.
"Get all patched up?"
Heero nodded. "And the lecture about not being Superman."
"I'll bet that was a shock to learn," Duo said, chuckling.
Heero smiled, but didn't seem to register the joke.
"Everything else okay? You gonna heal fine?"
"Yes, everything is okay. You're not still mad are you?"
Duo gave a fiendish grin. "Mad as hell, but I got no game."
"You've got more game than you know." Heero leaned in for a slow kiss, touching Duo's cheek with his hand.
Even a tender kiss like this made Duo's toes curl. Heero had a way of kissing him that sent goosebumps over his body. Chemistry like this could not be forced.
Catching his breath, Duo nodded to the kitchen. "I was just about to make an omelette. Want to join me?"
"Sounds good." Heero followed Duo into the kitchen. "Anything I can do?"
"How about opening a bottle of wine?"
"Sure." Heero took one of the bottles from the rack and popped the cork, surprising Duo when he poured two glasses.
"Since when do you drink?"
Duo's brow scrunched. "You sure you're okay?"
He gave Heero a once over, but decided not to argue with him. The guy had been through enough in the past couple of days.
Duo set about doubling his recipe and making one, giant omelette in a large pan. They shared the meal at the dining room table. Even though it was only mid-day, the cloudiness prompted them to turn on the art deco chandelier to illuminate their meal.
"To you, Duo," Heero said, raising his wine glass.
Duo blinked. "Uh... okay. And to you." He tilted his glass to meet Heero's in a little clink and took a sip of the red wine.
Maybe Heero was trying to make things better between them. The tension had reached a new high with the revelation that Duo's belongings were on site, and gotten worse with their conversation that morning. Duo's plea for them to escape together was becoming his mantra. He wanted to get out of here with Heero, but decided not to mention it again until after their meal-lost cause that it was.
After lunch, they went upstairs to the loft and settled on the sofa. Heero turned to Duo, taking him in his arms and kissing him soundly. His hands came up, unbuttoning Duo's shirt while Duo slid his hands under Heero's blazer pushing it off his shoulders. The kisses warmed Duo's body quickly. He had grown accustomed to this pattern, but how much longer could it continue?
Heero licked around Duo's ear. "I want to feel all of you."
As usual, Duo's response was a resounding "yes." He wanted to feel Heero, too.
They stripped off each other's clothes, hands exploring naked skin as garments dropped onto the wood floor. In consideration for Heero's bandaged wound, Duo pushed him back into the couch, straddling his thighs. This position would put less strain on the stitches.
Heero settled into the cushions, his muscular shape silhouetted by the deep pomegranate color of the couch. He brushed his thumbs over Duo's nipples until they were as hard and erect as both of their cocks.
Fingers slicked with saliva, Heero pushed them inside Duo, causing him to lift off his thighs in a dramatic arch. It felt good to have Heero touch him there. His own fingers never quite did the trick. It didn't take long to prepare him for the main act and he was soon sinking onto Heero's hard sex. He wove his fingers into Heero's hair, making it even more disheleved than normal.
Every inch of Heero was inside him, and he moaned with each greedy thrust. The rhythm increased gradually, perfected by countless times together. At last, Heero wrapped his powerful arms around Duo drawing their bodies close and making the final charge to climaxing seconds apart. They held each other, breathing hard with Duo's face buried in Heero's hair, and Heero's face in Duo's chest.
Duo's skin prickled as his body calmed, the cool air drying the light sheen of sweat on his body. They separated and re-settled on the couch side-by-side for a nap; Heero keeping his arms around Duo.
It was difficult to tell how much time had passed before Duo woke. He snuggled into Heero's warmth, waking his lover with all the wiggling. Heero kissed his ear and nudged his ass with an impressive erection.
"You're insatiable," Duo said, pressing into the hardness.
"Mmm," Heero moaned into his ear.
Ding-dong. Knock, knock, knock.
The sound of an impatient visitor surprised them both, but it was Heero's body that tensed.
"Do you know who it is?" Duo asked.
"What time is it?"
"I don't know..." Duo frowned as he watched Heero ease himself off the couch and into his jeans and blazer.
"You'd better put something on," Heero said.
"Nah, I'll just stay up here."
Heero stood in front of the couch staring down at him, his emotions unreadable. "I'd rather you were dressed."
Duo shrugged. Same old possessive Heero didn't want anyone to see the goods.
Heero went on ahead to answer the door. In the meantime, Duo dressed in his jeans and slipped his shirt on, but left it unbuttoned. By the time he came down the stairs the visitor was gone and Heero was standing in the dining room holding a brown envelope, staring at it.
"What's that?" Duo asked as he crossed the carpeted room barefooted. "Can't be new marching orders, you just got back and you need time to heal---"
The serious almost stern tone in Heero's voice stopped Duo mid-sentence and mid-step. Had he said something wrong?
"There's something I need to tell you." Heero held up the envelope.
"Oh, yeah?" Duo blinked, not liking the sound of that.
"This is for you." Heero practically pushed the envelope into Duo's hands.
He took it, reluctantly, feeling his stomach knot as he did.
"It's a surprise, huh?" Duo asked, lightly, even as nervous energy sizzled between them. God, this wasn't his death warrant, was it? He unwound the string that held the envelope closed and peeked inside. It was filled with official looking documents and a passport. He pulled the passport out and opened it. His eyes widened as he saw his employee picture, but it wasn't his name next to it. "Who's Max Solo?"
Duo looked up at Heero, shaking his head. "Solo is my father's name. What is this for?"
"You're being released, and Max Solo is your new name."
"What?" Duo asked, stunned and breathless. "That's not possible."
"Turns out it is. Treize Khushrenada authorized it."
"But what about all the threats? Is this a set-up to run me over with a bus when I step foot out of here?"
"The threats were real, but things have changed. We can't keep you here any longer. You're free to go wherever you choose."
"You mean anywhere on campus?"
"No, I mean anywhere in the world."
The concept overwhelmed him. He dropped to his knees and the contents of the envelope spilled onto the floor. After weeks of captivity and struggling with his fears and feelings, he was suddenly being released, and these papers were all he needed.
"You should familiarize yourself with this information," Heero said. "It'll be like being in a witness protection program."
Duo pushed the papers around, numbly looking over the passport, birth certificate, high school and college diplomas, credit score, and work history.
"Fuck," he said, splaying his hands over the documents. These were more precious than gold, because they made him somebody again. He had been wiped off the face of the Earth one minute, and inked back in the next.
Heero crouched down next to him. "I'm sorry, Duo."
The apology spiked through Duo as though the rug had been pulled out from under him. "This is just some elaborate joke, right?" He tried to sound cocky and not scared.
"No, it's very real. A helicopter is waiting to take you to a private airstrip where you'll be flown anywhere you'd like to go." Heero set his hand on Duo's knee. "Take anything you want with you."
Duo stared at the hand. "How long have you known this?"
"Only since this morning."
Duo nodded. "I'd like to shower and then I'll pack."
He swept all the papers together once again, putting them back in the envelope. He stood and took a deep breath, watching as Heero got to his feet. They stared at one another, but Duo felt too dazed to speak and nothing seemed right to say. So, he turned, retreating into the bathroom.
He set the envelope on the counter next to the sink where he could keep an eye on it. His thoughts were a jumble, and his movements a nervous jitter as he stripped the clothing away and stepped into the shower. Under the spray of hot water, Duo leaned forward placing his hands on the tiled wall. The world seemed to be spinning, tilting at a severe angle. If he didn't hang on, find some sturdy ground and quick, he might just fall off.
The news seeped into his psyche like the water into his skin. His freedom was within reach and it was incredible, unbelievable and frightening all at once. After weeks of being told there was no way out, except in a pine box, his freedom had arrived in a plain, brown envelope. Had Heero grown tired of him? Had he stopped wanting him? Duo's hands trembled at the thought and he swallowed back tears.
He bent his head down to let the pulsing water jets ease the stiffness that had formed in his shoulders and neck. That's when the wave of sadness hit him like homesickness coiling around his heart. They wouldn't be leaving together.
Since the moment he had awoken to find himself cuffed and helpless in Heero's bed, he had been desperate to leave. But in the course of weeks, thoughts of leaving began to include Heero. Now he knew that was only a dream. His freedom was reality, and the Project was reality, but never the two shall meet.
After drying off, he dressed in the clothes he had been wearing when he was kidnapped. He didn't mean it as anything more than trying to pick up with his life where it had left off. Of course, that didn't include returning to his IT job at Bremen Enterprises or to his cozy apartment. No, they wanted him far away from this place, never to return.
He didn't put much thought into what he packed into his duffel, besides the forged documents. It was probably best to travel light, until he found a place to plant his feet. He also knew he should hurry or they might change their minds.
Heero was waiting for him, dressed in a stylish navy suit, beige shirt, and brown leather shoes.
"You're my escort?" Duo asked, slinging the duffel over his shoulder.
Heero nodded, but made no indication to what he was thinking. Was he glad to see Duo go or was his stomach twisted in knots, too?
They walked shoulder to shoulder through the corridor to the elevator. Then took another elevator and corridor into a part of the complex Duo had never been. Along the way, Heero reminded Duo of the importance of the Project and that he wasn't to discuss it with anyone or return to this region of the country again. Duo nodded, but his thoughts were elsewhere. He felt oddly torn as though part of him was racing towards freedom and the other part was desperate to drop anchor. He had never been this nervous in his life. He didn't know what to expect or where he would lay his head to sleep that night and that simultaneously elated and frightened him.
About fifteen minutes later, they emerged on the helipad located on top of the corporate tower. The concrete pad was marked with a white letter "H" in a circle, and a sleak, corporate helicopter was waiting with its' rotor blades in motion.
Duo's heart pounded and he suddenly felt sick. This was it. He was mere steps from freedom. He turned to Heero whose bangs were blowing from the chopper's blades. Heero grinned, but it seemed forced. For the first time Duo thought that maybe Heero didn't want him to leave.
"I guess this is goodbye," Duo said, clearing his throat.
"Have you decided where you'll go?"
"Somewhere warm. I'll send you a postcard."
Heero shook his head. "Please don't. Any contact---"
"I know," Duo said, exasperated, remembering the brief lecture on the way here. "Any contact will be regarded as a threat."
"You were listening."
Duo nodded. "At least that part. So, you gonna have a big bachelor party when I'm gone?"
"No, we'll be taking a different approach to abating my tension."
"Ah... Well, good luck with that." Duo hoped his words were sufficiently light. He didn't want to appear weak or needy at this stage of the game, just meters from freedom.
The pilot signaled for him to board, and Duo knew there was no reason to delay this.
"It's gonna take me awhile to sort this all out, but like I said before I don't hate you, Heero. I could never hate you."
This time Heero's smile reached his eyes. "I never meant you any harm, Duo."
"I know," Duo said, feeling like he couldn't hold it together much longer. "How about a kiss for old time's sake?"
Heero stepped forward, placing his hands on Duo's forearms. There was a slight hesitation as they looked at one another and then leaned in, lips coming together tentatively at first. Duo pressed forward needing a little more, used to so much more. With his eyes closed he could almost imagine this kiss was like any other they had shared, but with the helicopter loud behind him that fantasy was easily broken. So, he focused on absorbing the warmth and gentleness of Heero's last touch.
The kiss ended and they pulled back mere inches to look into each other's eyes. Heero's were steady blue-gray pools, reflecting the cloudy day.
"Take care of yourself," Heero said.
"You, too." Duo took a step back, slipping from Heero's touch. "Say goodbye to Miss Noin for me."
He turned quickly to hide the tears that stung his eyes and walked to the helicopter, his braid whipping behind him. He climbed on board and the pilot directed him to buckle up and put on the headsets to muffle the noise and to allow communication. When Duo was ready for lift-off, he looked out the window to find Heero still standing there.
"Damn it, Heero."
The helicopter ascended, but Duo's eyes remained fixed on Heero. At last, it turned and flew away from the tower, giving Duo one last look at Bremen Enterprise's corporate campus.
"There's a package for you," the pilot said.
Duo blinked back tears and looked to the seat next to him. There was a Gucci men's carryall and a small flat box next to it. He opened the box first to find a wallet containing a wad of cash and a credit card. There was also a note with instructions on transferring money to his bank account once he was settled. So, they were paying him off for services rendered. It figured.
He tucked the wallet into his duffel and then pulled the Gucci bag onto his lap. It was heavier than he expected. He unzipped it and gaped when he glimpsed an apple green color. It couldn't be.... He reached inside with both hands and withdrew his family photo album. He knew who to thank for this gift and smiled as his lips trembled.
Heero had returned Duo's memories along with his freedom.
~ ~ ~
Heero watched the helicopter take Duo away from him. Once it was out of sight he turned and made his way back to his quarters. It was a long, lonely walk, and each step was more difficult than the last. Treize had made it sound right and noble to negotiate Duo's freedom. But the reality tore Heero apart.
In his quarters, he stripped off his suit jacket and shirt, letting them fall to the floor. He walked into the bedroom thinking he would shower, and instead was drawn to the armoire. He ran his hand over the fine teak wood, slowly grasping the door handle and opening it. He scanned the contents of the tall cabinet, confirming that Duo had taken very little with him, probably wanting to put this sad episode of his life behind him.
Just like that... Duo had gone. Once he had gotten over the shock, he had left in a flash. No hesitation. Who could blame him? And yet, Heero had struggled setting him free. As he watched Duo walk away, he had felt part of himself ebbing away, too.
Blinded by emotion, Heero clenched his fist and punched the armoire's door, crying out in rage. "Fuck, the ultimate sacrifice!"