Disclaimer: The boys belong to Bandai/Sotsu/Sunrise, honest.

Notes: Detailed notes are provided with the Prologue to this fic.

"Daydreams...like books in the shelf of my mind"
--Lolah Burford, 'Edward, Edward'

Chapter Thirteen
by D.C. Logan

Trowa was just flipping the sign from Open to Closed when Heero skidded to a halt outside of the door. Surprised at his sudden and late appearance, he unlocked the door and opened it to hear what Heero wanted at this hour.

"Hey, I know it's late, but can I have a moment of your time?" asked Heero.

Trowa looked puzzled, no that wasn't right Heero's brain corrected, he looked stunned. "Trowa?"

Trowa shook his head to clear his thoughts and the piercings along his ear chimed in response. Yes, that was Heero at the door, with only three minutes to closing, and wearing... "Cowboy boots Heero?"

"Look, it's a long story, but I'll tell you about it if you'll just let me in for a minute or two okay?"

Quatre had just turned off the main lights and was approaching the door, curious about who was speaking with Trowa, when the two of them entered the store. Trowa closed and locked the door behind them and moved down the stair and over to the counter.

"I need to prove out the register while Quatre fills out the deposit forms. If you want to talk, we can usually do both at the same time." Heero noted that, as usual, Trowa had included his partner in the request without conscious thought. It was good to see, and it reinforced his belief that he was in the right place and asking questions of the right people, finally. To hell with Wufei, he'd get his research done the way he'd done when he first started writing--by going out and talking to his sources first-hand, unfiltered, and without the aid of someone else's data. In this case, no two men could be better suited to the series of questions he had in mind tonight.

He looked nervous, Quatre thought. Now that Heero had their attention, he couldn't seem to find the words attached to the questions he wanted to ask. Quatre, who suspected that his appearance was less threatening than Trowa's, walked over and sat in the armchair next to Heero. Trowa glared at him for abandoning the stack of deposit receipts, and Quatre smiled back in response, knowing full well that Trowa couldn't resist that.

"So Heero, what brings you to Daydreams tonight? There's not something wrong with Duo is there?" said Quatre.

Heh, 'something wrong' he'd asked, Heero swallowed his doubts, checked to make sure Trowa was listening as well, and launched into his list of carefully practiced questions. He didn't pause to draw breath as he was afraid of losing his momentum and stranding his thoughts before he got them all out. He wondered, looking at the two other men, if maybe he should have written the questions down and asked them one at a time in progressive order. Both of their jaws were hanging rather slack by the time he was finished.

Quatre regained his composure first. Trowa fiddled with one of his many silver rings and looked nervous about saying anything that touched upon his friend while Duo was absent from the room--which was the whole point as far as Heero was concerned. He wanted, no *needed* to know where he stood before making either an irrevocable decision--or a total and complete fool of himself, and he found it easier to ask the questions of this third party instead of the man himself. He'd have to engineer a way of telling Duo later.

He sat, waiting expectantly for either of them to say something. Trowa won the honor, but he didn't answer. Instead he posed a direct question back at Heero.

"Why do you want to know, Heero?" His tone was quiet and serious in a way Heero hadn't heard since the day they'd first met. There was an inherent warning there, for the protection of a good friend he didn't want to see hurt.

Heero sat back, trying to compose a response that would placate both of them. It wasn't difficult once he decided that the simple truth could stand on its own.

"He is someone I can be myself with. Not the person I want to be, or the one he might want me to be for him, or a reflection of who I want to represent. Just me. I find myself curious about him in a way I've never been about anyone before him. Why does he whistle Bach? How did he manage to get to this point in his life? Where did that old baseball cap that he has come from and why does he wear it all the time?

"I don't know that I could tell you where the desire for more information comes from. Some days I think it would be enough to just watch him sleep for hours, most days I know that I want more from him then that. A lot more. And that awes and frightens me as well, because it's such a large step to go from a hopeful fantasy to try and pursue a possible reality. The problem is that I don't know if I am up to the task, or if I will be well received or summarily kicked in the face."

Trowa threw a wry grin in Quatre's direction..."When he's nervous, he even talks like a fancy writer, doesn't he?"

Quatre glared at Trowa, and turned back to Heero. "Heero... I don't mean to pry here, but have you ever, um, been attracted to a man before?"

Heero laughed, apparently he'd hid his preferences a little too well. He'd have to relay that bit to Wufei, he had a running bet on that one that he could cash in.

"Well, I'm not open about it, but yes, I've been in a few short relationships before, nothing that lasted longer than a few months though. Once the interest had been satisfied, or they got tired of who I was and what I did and the notoriety wore off, well, no one stayed for long. So yes," he swallowed deeply, admitting it in front of people he hadn't known long or well was entirely different to having an oblique reference passed in front of Wufei, "I've always been interested in men, was attracted to women for a while and for all the wrong reasons, but realized what my preferences were fairly early on." He paused then, waiting for the reaction, or denial. He wasn't expecting the broad grins on both of their faces. Not at all.

Trowa stopped counting the coins and itemizing the receipts and walked around the counter to lean possessively against it and participate undistracted. Heero swallowed, thought about saying something else, but realized that he'd already dug a rather substantial hole and that it might be prudent to wait for one of the others to comment on what he'd just said. It wasn't working though, the silence was just stretching uncomfortably among them.

Trowa was looking thoughtful again. "You know, one thing I've found since I met Quatre is that the small moments of my life carry more meaning and have a greater impact for me when I can take the time to share those moments with him. It's... I don't know... opening in a way. I know that I can turn and enjoy Quatre's enjoyment, can share in it at the end of the day; get his impression, focus, or view of the same event. He widens my sphere of the experience. I think that it's important to live your life in a way that you can live with yourself."

"So, you're telling me that it's okay to show my emotions?" asked Heero.

"I'm saying that it's not enough to show them; they need to be shared. And it's who you choose to share them with and live your life with that's important."

Heero looked over at Quatre, who looked stunned at what Trowa had just said, but glowed with pride just the same.

Heero sighed, getting the point that Trowa was trying to get across, and felt the strength of it pull from deep within his chest.

"I miss him, and I never expected that I would. One day he was just there, unexpectedly complicating my ordered life. It was an odd and uncomfortable thing. I'd been living alone. Boring. Predictable. No surprises in the refrigerator. Nothing in the cupboard that hadn't been bought and stacked in neat, orderly rows by yours truly. Nothing impulsive, nothing unscheduled, nothing unusual. Rote. A quiet, determined life.

"Then I had a misfortune that turned into a good fortune in disguise. Duo moved in, and with him he brought his talent for turning even simple everyday tasks--showering, brushing teeth, doing dishes, trimming toenails, picking up keys on the way out the door--into small memorable events. His life, and the way he lives in and experiences it is a kind of ongoing, long running improvisational show, where I feel that I am both an active participant and an objective bystander." He looked down at the pattern on the armchair and idly traced the patterned weave with his fingers. "I need him, and I never expected that I could ever need someone that much in such a short period of time. I want to know more, I want to explore more, and I am very truly afraid that I will fail without your advice and help."

He remained quiet after that, having pleaded his case the best he knew how. Relying on their opinion of him and whatever Duo had let through to them in passing.

Quatre was the one that broke the stilted silence then, quietly, with "So, what are you afraid of? What's holding you back then?"

Trust Quatre to get right to the point without revealing his position. This was _not_ someone he ever wanted to meet across a chessboard. He had to wait a second for the answer, the true answer, to rise where he could speak of it. "I fear that I need him more than he will ever need me."

He let that rest for a minute and thought to himself, and thought of something he'd said to Wufei's answering machine a few nights ago that might bend his two jurors to his case. "It's like I had my own comfortable tiny little world, and was content to live small and within that world, and then Duo entered it and expanded that focus out like a lens, and changed my way of viewing the world around me forever. That world included areas beyond which I was comfortable. He showed me what a relationship *could* be like, and how it could be greater than the sum of its parts; two people creating a whole greater than themselves. I didn't realize what he'd done to me, how he had expanded my horizons in such a way, and how it has given me a new set of expectations for living my life. I didn't stop to think about how closely tied this great and new piece of my life was tied to one person. When Duo left last week, I noticed the change in myself for the first time. And no, I'm not talking about simple gratitude here...I don't think there was anyone else I would have been willing to even *try* doing this for. No one."

He stopped then, his words stumbling to a halt, and Trowa and Quatre looked conspirationally at each other, yeah, Heero was serious. Trowa smiled first, which delighted Quatre. It looked like Heero was going to get his chance all right, plus a little help if *he* had anything to do with it. The man deserved a break after baring his soul and hopes like that. It took an amazing amount of guts...or sheer blind hope... to do that. It was impressive as hell to witness.

Trowa took pity on the man and dragged a third chair over to where Heero and Quatre were sitting. He sat down as well, propped his foot up on the edge of a display table, and crossed his other leg over the first. Only then did he look at Heero and start conversationally with: "He's been entirely fixated on you and talked of little else since you first came into his shop you know." Bomb dropped, he sat back to enjoy the show.

It involved a gasp, a swallow or two, and a couple of mis-starts before Heero got his vocal chords back into gear. He realized he was spluttering and stopped. He sat back in his chair and looked back at Trowa, doing his best to mimic his casual posture and tone. "You don't say?" He grinned like a fool; he couldn't help himself. It was the only way to express the, yes he could say it, giddy joy he felt. Life was most definitely looking up.

"So Heero, what are you planning to do next?"

It was a call to action, and this required careful planning as intricate and complex and fullproof as any plot he devised for his espionage thrillers. He hadn't a clue where to start. He'd been unwilling to get his hopes up if he hadn't made it this far... too prudent and insecure to put his heart out on the line without some support or confirmation.

"I'll come up with something..."

It was well past midnight before Heero crawled back into his apartment. Contrary to the string of good luck that had plagued him over the past few hours, his phone was ringing. Only two people had the number to his apartment: Duo and Wufei. The fact that he'd automatically placed Duo's name before that of his lifelong friend caught him up short and he paused to consider and then enjoy it. He picked up the screaming phone. There was no time to slip in a hello before Wufei's voice came over the connection.

"Heero, dammit, you said that it was an emergency and that I should call as soon as I got in. So? I'm in, you're on the phone, what's your problem?"

Heero couldn't help himself, he laughed at Wufei's irritated tone. "Where have you been? Out boinking your secretary?"

There was silence on the line. It didn't go away by itself either.

"Hey! I was kidding. I take it back alright?" He hoped he sounded vaguely apologetic instead of manically charged and amused, but what were the odds? "I was out."

"You were what?" asked Wufei

"Out," said Heero

"It's what? Midnight there? And you never go out."

"I do now."

"Oh." There was a considering pause on the line. "Since when?"

"Since I decided that I want Duo Maxwell... and found out that he may be just as interested in me..."

Stunned shock traveled over the line before a stilted "You're kidding?"

Heero's voice lost the giddy overtones, "Never about this..."

"What are you going to do about it then?"

I don't quite know yet. You up for helping me with some brainstorming tonight?"

"Tonight? Isn't it morning?"

"Not where you're sitting it's not."

The responding chuckle came through the receiver loud and clear.

on to chapter fourteen

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