The storm thundered outside, and the wind whipped rain and tree branches against the windows. They held each other, but neither drifted into sleep. To sleep was to dream and maybe to find that this encounter hadn't taken place after all. Instead, each listened to the other's slowing breaths, and felt the beat of hearts pressed together.
Heero rolled off Duo carefully, settling on his back next to his lover. Duo cozied up to his side hooking a leg over his, and an arm across his stomach. It was familiar, but so much better than it had ever been, maybe because of their time apart and maybe because this was the first time they were meeting on Duo's terms.
Heero's body tingled from the lovemaking. He needed to lay here a good while to soak in Duo's presence and the warmth of his body. He had made it just in time, in so many ways.
"There's no flying out tonight," Heero said.
"You're gonna stay the night no matter what."
Heero nodded. There was no chance he wanted to leave this bed anytime soon, but at some point he would have to make contact with the mission team.
"Were you serious when you said you didn't know where I was?" Duo asked.
"For the longest time I looked for you in crowds. I thought you'd show up on my doorstep one day."
"You wanted me to come?"
Duo lifted his head to look into Heero's face. "Yeah. Part of me did."
"And the other part?"
"That part was all about self-preservation. We couldn't be together so why hang onto those feelings?"
Listening to Duo speak of feelings, and trying to hang onto something that they couldn't have, made Heero realize they had been caught in the same trap - wanting and loving, but needing to let go. Heero hadn't been successful at letting go, but in time his heart would've demanded it or broken in two. Had he completed this mission he would've had no heart left at all.
He wrapped his arms around his lover and buried his nose in Duo's hair, breathing him in. In the intervening months since Duo's departure, Heero had never dreamed that this would be possible. He never allowed himself to believe that he would have Duo's scent in his nostrils again or feel his naked sinewy body. Setting Duo free and giving him privacy had been his penance for wrongs deliberate and not. All too often his thoughts had drifted towards fanciful images of Duo out in the world, truly happy to be rid of him. Discovering those assumptions had been wrong made Heero angry at these wasted months, but he wondered if in some way the separation had been necessary. Holding Duo in his arms as his willing lover was what he had wanted from the start, but there had been too many barriers for either of them to overcome.
"I should have gone after you," Heero said in a moment of clarity.
"Maybe." Duo's face was on Heero's chest again, rising and falling with his breathing. "I still would've needed time to think." Duo's hand ghosted Heero's side. "Your wound... is just a scar now."
Heero closed his eyes, concentrating on the hint of touch to his skin. Duo's long fingers had always delighted him, but they seemed especially reverent tonight.
"How you gonna explain not killing me?"
Heero's eyes blinked open, and he sighed. He almost had killed Duo. "Maybe I won't need to explain. Treize knows that I love you."
"And he sent you here anyway."
He caressed Duo's naked shoulder. It wasn't that simple, not that black and white. "Treize is a man of his word, and I've learned from his example."
Duo leaned up, his brow furrowed. "You gave him your word you'd kill me."
He stared into Duo's deep violet eyes, a little frightened at how close they had come to not having this moment. He had gone through the motions, following mission procedures to the letter, but he had also spent plenty of time enjoying the view. Duo was a sight to behold, bewitching, in fact. But it was Duo's admission of love that had truly saved them both.
Maybe Treize knew this would happen? Sometimes his mentor was difficult to decipher.
"His directive was to 'see this through to its rightful conclusion.' And that's what I've done."
A hint of a smile curved Duo's lips. "He gave you an out?"
"You don't think he'd send that other guy to finish the job?" Duo's Adam's apple bobbed as he swallowed hard.
"No," Heero said, simply. In his heart he knew he'd protect Duo if it came to that, but he doubted that Treize would risk the Project and his own lover in a deadly face-off of operatives. He pulled Duo to him for a kiss, his groin stirring as their lips met. "I don't want to be separated from you again."
Duo wriggled and repositioned himself so that he was lying fully on top of Heero. Their noses were barely an inch apart. "How's that gonna work? Can you sneak away between missions to be with me?"
Heero blinked. He hadn't thought it through, but that was not how he imagined his future with Duo - sharing weekends together. "I'd rather you lived with me."
"What?" Duo asked, harshly.
"It's the only way, Duo. You can fly back with me in the morning."
Duo's eyes widened and he pulled back. "You think I'd go back there? You're nuts, man!"
"But you said, 'this ain't living out here.' We can make a home together---"
"It ain't living without you, but how can you expect me to go there?" Duo slid off him, scooting to the edge of the bed like he was about to bolt.
Heero sat up and grabbed Duo's arm. "I'll give you whatever you want... do whatever it takes to make you feel at home. You can re-decorate the apartment anyway you like."
Duo looked back at him, torment in his eyes. "God, I want you more than anything, Heero, but don't ask me to go back."
He moved to the side of the bed and put his arms around his lover. "Duo, now that you're free you can do what you want, but I was hoping you'd want to be with me. It'll be different this time, because you're my equal now. I don't expect you to forget what happened, but we're on new ground."
"And what if I wanted to stay here to get my degree?"
"Then I'd see you as often as I could."
"You'd do that, huh?"
"I'd do anything for you."
"Then stay with me," Duo said, his face brightening.
Heero's heart sank. Ask anything but that, he thought. "I'm afraid you've found the one thing I can't give you."
A frown shadowed Duo's face and he looked away. "It's okay, man. I shouldn't have asked."
"Duo..." Heero nuzzled his lover's braid. "We can do this. You can get your degree some other way. I don't think I can survive another day without you."
Doubt played in Duo's eyes. "I don't know."
"Tell me what's stopping you from coming with me."
"Isn't it obvious?" Duo snorted sarcastically.
Heero nodded. "There are a thousand reasons why you wouldn't want to come back with me, and I'm sorry for every one, but if you give me a chance---"
"You'll dump me."
"You'll get tired of me and dump me. Then where will I be? A liability again?"
"Is that what you think?"
"People fall out of love every day, but most of them don't have to worry about being dumped on the side of the road when they do."
Heero's eyes narrowed. He wanted to shake some reason into Duo, but he knew Duo was right. Not that they'd fall out of love, but that Duo had a right to these fears.
"My batting average with you isn't good," Heero said. "And the Project hasn't been good to you either." He took Duo's hands and squeezed, wanting Duo to understand his conviction. "I need you in my life, and loving you means that I'm risking my heart as well. Maybe you'll be the one to walk out on me, and if you do, I'll respect that."
"And no one's gonna hunt me down?"
"That's right. You're free to do as you like. Stay here or come with me. It's up to you."
Duo's eyes were wide again, great violet orbs blinking at him with equal parts of curiosity and doubt. At least he'd diluted the doubt, the tricky part would be to make Duo believe him.
"You'd be accepted if you came back with me. We could start again and work side-by-side."
"Whoa. I'd be working for the Project?"
"Not as an operative, but we could certainly use your skill with computers. Obviously, our system has some flaws."
Duo snickered. "I'll say."
He was feeling emboldened by his strong feelings for Duo, and that little laugh was a great indication that he was breaking through. "There's a place for you if you want it... in my heart and in the Project."
"God, Heero..." One of Duo's hands came to rest on Heero's chest. "I want that place in your heart, but I don't know if I belong in your world."
Heero was relieved that Duo's fear had shifted to something more manageable. "You already belonged more than you know. Lucrezia considered you a friend, and G and Dorothy respected your skills. We would make a great team. An unstoppable team."
"And they'll be okay with that? With you deciding that for all of them?"
"Say yes, Duo, and I'll make it happen."
Duo cupped Heero's face with his hand, a slight tremble revealing his nerves. He leaned in and took a breath. "Yes," he said, and kissed Heero's lips. "Yes, yes, and yes."
Heero took Duo into his arms, kissing him thoroughly, and thrilling with the acceptance and promise of a life together.
They made love again. Slow, deep love that made Heero's toes curl and his body overheat. He kissed every part of Duo's body from fingertips, nipples and calves to all the important places, having missed every inch of the man. With each touch he hoped to impress his love into Duo's skin, his mind and heart. Help Duo to trust when he had a right to fear. Help to wash away the bad memories and create new, more meaningful ones.
"I want to know everything you've been doing these past months," Heero said. He held Duo by the hips and licked a long, wet path up the middle of his torso to his lips.
"Don't they have it all on tape?"
Heero laughed. "Maybe they do, but I'd rather hear it from you."
"All right," Duo said, leaning up to nip Heero's nose. "But I want to hear about your adventures, too."
They quieted then, concentrating on each other's bodies and the pleasure of heated sex. Moving as one; writhing and moaning, and thrusting toward one another. Sex was the reason they had been brought together, but somewhere along the way it had become more. Love had won a place in their hearts and with it a chance for a new life.
~ ~ ~
Duo watched as Heero stood next to the bed, gloriously naked and uninhibited as he was about to call the Project and put their plan in motion. All Duo could think about was how incredible the last round of lovemaking had been. He could still feel the traces of Heero's hands on him, and the sense of fullness of Heero's hard sex inside him. There was no way either one of them was going to get any sleep tonight. Duo wanted to explore the liberation of being able to express all his emotions, the incredible centering force of being on the same plain as Heero.
It was nearly one o'clock in the morning, and Heero should've made contact with the Project hours ago. Duo had wondered why they hadn't contacted him, and Heero explained it was for his own safety. In case he was undercover. They had both laughed at that. Now, Heero stood with a posture conveying the seriousness of the moment, but all Duo could think about was getting that muscular body next to his again.
He heard only half of the conversation.
"I'll be bringing Duo back with me," Heero said. "Alive."
Duo held his breath, waiting for Heero's next words. Maybe Heero had calculated this all wrong and his failure to complete the mission would trigger a nasty response.
"That's it? What did they say?"
"I was speaking with the mission coordinator. It's not her place to worry about this."
Duo blinked. "So... you don't know if this is okay?"
"It will be, but it's the first time I haven't done what I set out to do. There could be consequences."
"That's not what I was hoping you'd say."
Heero tossed his mobile back into his duffel and got under the sheets. Duo's body sizzled with the contact and he climbed on top of Heero, needing more of him desperately and humping his lover to prove it. This could well be their last night together, but he really didn't want to be thinking about that.
"We have to meet with Treize."
Duo's humping stopped as he stared into Heero's eyes. "No joking?"
"He controls everything."
"But he's gonna be okay with you and me?"
He wished he could tell Duo that he was 100% certain of the outcome, but no matter what they had to face Treize. Running was out of the question. Heero believed in the Project and he believed in his love for Duo. Surely Treize could understand that.
"Yeah, it'll be okay," he said, caressing Duo's back. But his words lacked the surety they both needed to hear.
"Okay," Duo said, grinding his cock into Heero's thigh. "Guess that means we fuck like there's no tomorrow!"
~ ~ ~
When dawn came, along with the two of them many times over, Duo wasn't sure he could physically get out of bed to meet the firing squad. Heero, of course, was already up, showered and dressed.
"How fast can you pack?" he asked as he stared down at Duo.
"Uhn," Duo moaned, holding his arm over his eyes. Slivers of early morning sun had found their way through the tree branches and the window to his face. "We gotta do something about you being a morning person."
Heero chuckled. "I'll make breakfast while you get ready. How's that?"
Duo sat up and stretched. "Can you make something with eggs? I hate to waste them."
"That's a joke, right?" Duo asked and started to laugh. "Pretty good."
Heero stood by the bed until Duo got out of it, as though he didn't trust Duo not to fall back to sleep. When Duo rose, he slapped his behind, propelling him toward the bathroom. The smack warmed Duo and he immediately thought about sex—wet, soapy shower sex—but that would have to wait until they returned to Bremen and hopefully received Treize's blessing.
Dressed in dark blue jeans and a navy striped dress shirt and loafers, Duo was given his breakfast in the bedroom. It seemed that Heero was in a hurry. He held the plate before Duo, letting him cut into the eggs and swirl his toast in the runny yolk while throwing a small selection of clothes and his photo album into a suitcase. Once again, he was leaving his life behind, but this time there was much more promise. Even if he and Heero faced death together it was a far better fate than living apart.
Heero looked like any other college student in his jeans, white muscle shirt, and olive green paramilitary jacket and boots. There was something edgy about him today. Maybe he was in mission mode, or maybe he was worried about the outcome of this gamble.
As they exited the apartment building via the front door, Heero noted that it didn't matter if they were seen. Duo wasn't disappearing again he was only moving on to another phase in his life. He could tell his friends that he had reunited with his lover. There would be no missing person's report, and more importantly no dead body.
It was like being in a movie, walking down the street with a suitcase in one hand and his lover's hand in the other. Heero's car was parked down a side street, and was a huge disappointment. Duo asked twice if it actually was his car.
"A beat-up old Honda?" Duo asked, scratching his head. He slid into the passenger's seat and stared at the dashboard. "Where's the button for the booster rockets?"
Heero laughed. "Even your Mr. Kaplan didn't have all that."
It seemed that spies liked to blend into their surroundings. Phooey on that. But when Heero drove them to a private airfield, miles outside of town, and they entered the hangar, a beautiful jet was waiting.
"This is yours?"
"Sort of," Heero said with a smile. "It belongs to the Project."
"Finally! I was beginning to think you worked for a second rate organization."
Duo stepped out of the way as the stairs lowered. All joking aside, there was an underlying nervousness as they headed into an unknown future together. But the rightness of being with Heero dimmed any misgivings.
Luggage stowed, Heero directed Duo into the co-pilot's seat.
"Don't worry, I'm not going to ask you to fly the plane, but if you ever want to learn I'd be happy to teach you."
"Man, would I!"
Heero's hands moved on the controls with a surety that conveyed self-confidence and familiarity. Duo imagined that Heero had done this many times, flown jets all around the world during his espionage adventures. But this flight was much different for the both of them. Even though they would be soaring to a great altitude and covering a distance of thousands of miles, Duo felt more grounded than he ever had in his life.
He watched Heero proceed through the pre-flight inspection. His serious, professional demeanor impressed Duo. He liked Heero's focus, and easily one hundred other things. That list was sure to grow.
They taxied out of the hangar and were quickly speeding down the runway, and lifting off. In several hours, Duo would be right back where he had started. Well, not exactly. This time he would be Heero's partner. That had a nice ring to it.
"You look good flying a plane."
"So will you," Heero said, glancing at him.
"Yeah, I think I would." Duo grinned, letting his cocky side show.
Maybe this thing they had for each other was complete madness, but something deep in Duo's gut told him it could work. There was something in the way they communicated in words, glances and touch that spoke of truth and rightness. Of course, that didn't guarantee anything, but it made for good odds.
Duo held his breath as they landed on the Project's runway on the other side of the mountain from Bremen Enterprises and the Project's main facilities. The mountain looked vivid and alive, but Duo cringed at the monumental idiocy of coming back here. But he had to try - no, they had to try. He loved Heero enough to walk back into the lion's den with him.
Heero turned the key, shutting off the engine. Duo was breathing again, but his stomach was in knots. Treize would never allow them to make a home together. And that J fellow had hated Duo from the start.
"You okay?" Heero asked.
"What?" Duo blinked, looking over at Heero to find he was already standing.
"I know there are a lot of ifs in this equation, but we'll find a way to convince them that you plus me is a good thing."
Duo laughed. He liked the sound of that, and liked it even more when Heero leaned down to give him a kiss.
"You that confident?" Duo asked.
"I have to be. There's no point in going into a negotiation if you're not sure of what you want."
"Is that what this is... a negotiation?"
"Well, it's not standard procedure."
They grabbed their bags and exited the plane to find they had visitors. The support staff had arrived to meet the plane.
"This is normal," Heero said.
"Normal for you," Duo said, climbing into the van and sitting beside Heero.
The driver looked at them in the rearview mirror. "Welcome back, Mr. Yuy. You and Mr. Maxwell are expected in the rose garden."
Duo looked at Heero to gauge his reaction, but he didn't even flinch.
"Thank you," Heero said. He curled his hand around Duo's and smiled. "It's a good sign. Only VIPs are invited to the rose garden."
Duo smiled back, but he knew from history that even Very Important Persons were wined and dined before their heads were lopped off.