Just As You Are
Epilogue to the 'I Love You' series
by Dev-Aki Basaa
Heero felt hot, but he dare not tell Duo. He'd only
win himself a lecture about wearing jeans and a long
sleeve shirt on a sweltering July day and then be
pressed for a confession that it was because of his
scars that he'd dressed the way he had.
They both knew that was the reason, but it's one thing
to know it. It's quite another to say it aloud.
At first, he'd hardly cared about his scars or the
discoloration of his skin. He'd always measured his
attractiveness through Duo's eyes and since he didn't
seem to care, then Heero didn't either. His recovery
continued to go well, the pain from the skin grafts
was tolerable, and he'd managed to avoid any major
infection. Just one bout with high fever, and while
it panicked Duo more than warranted, he came out of it
without even being dragged to the ER.
However, the first time a small child - a little
red-headed girl with whom he'd shared an elevator ride
- looked at him with wide and fearful eyes, her gaze
fixed to his warped and marred skin, his whole
At home, he felt safe. Outside was another matter.
He'd first resolved to simply never leave home.
Preventers even accommodated his request to work from
home by creating a hacker position where he could
gather assignment information and search out holes in
HQ's firewalls - all while wearing cut-off sweats and
a t-shirt in the comfort of his bedroom. Duo had
probably suspected then, but said nothing, not even
about leaving the Team.
He didn't say anything either when Heero had suggested
they switch the chores they used to have. He'd
claimed he didn't really feel like doing the grocery
shopping anymore; he'd rather do the laundry instead.
Never mind that Duo knew he hated to do laundry and
had once complained that Duo always bought crap for
food. Regardless, their chores were switched without
However, when the weather had warmed and Duo made the
suggestion of pulling out his camera and going to the
park on such a beautiful Spring day, Heero had felt
something he'd never experienced before.
He'd wanted to go, badly. He missed his camera and
beloved hobby. Between his lapse (as he'd come to
call it) and then his recovery, he'd not lifted his
lens towards anything since before Relena had died.
He even suspected that the last picture he'd taken was
He and Relena had mended a few things by the time he'd
begun his relationship with Duo. However, that last
photo session was the first time being with her had
felt natural, losing the slight awkwardness that had
dominated all previous encounters since the breakup.
Relena, as a Peacecraft, was expected to have a
portrait done to hang in the Sanc Memorial Hall -
beside the salvaged one of her biological father and
the one her brother, Millardo, was also being
pressured to have done. Relena, though, didn't have
the time to sit for a portrait; so she'd asked Heero
to take her picture and the artist could do her
rendering from that, letting Relena go on with her
busy schedule. He'd wanted to make sure his picture
would be worthy of her portrait and so the session had
gone on and on with him adjusting light and seating
and focal points until he found just the right
That was, perhaps, the last time his life had made
sense to him. Even now - even being back where he
belonged with Duo - he found he still had the odd
demon that rose up to strike him at the worst possible
Like on that bright sunny Spring day when his lover
asked him to go to the park with him and bring his
The park had children. Easily frightened children.
He hadn't been sure even his beloved hobby was worth
the thought of unintentionally traumatizing some poor
child. Only, this time Duo didn't let this avoidance
pass with a knowing look. He'd given him Hell.
"Dammit, Heero! It's your camera! You love your
camera. Don't you miss it?"
The 'but' was that Duo would not budge on this one.
"Put on your shoes, I'll grab your gear. Let's go."
He had given himself away by looking straight down at
his legs. Duo'd stopped cold, realizing, and Heero
had wanted to crawl in a hole, curl up and die -
anything to get away from the pity he saw in Duo's
But his gaze had softened and he leaned first to give
Heero a deep kiss and then kneeled and kissed his
shins. He'd looked up at him from that spot and had
the most determined look on his face.
"If anyone gives you even an odd look, they'll have ME
to deal with."
Heero couldn't bear to tell him it was children he
worried about. He could hardly see Duo bullying some
kid for looking at his lover wrong.
So he had not tempted fate. He'd changed his clothes
and went to the park. He had gotten some beautiful
shots of the newly bloomed Spring flowers and
wonderful shadow studies of the caretaker planting
tulip bulbs in the shade of massive oak tree. While
Duo seemed mollified that Heero had at least gone to
the park, that knowing look returned at the sight of
his attire. Heero, though, felt this was as good as
the compromise was going to get.
Later, in his dark room, Heero had found that his last
picture was not of Relena - though, that picture
turned out as well as he'd hoped and he made sure he
gave it to the Sanc Memorial Society to still have
that portrait done. No, the last picture had been of
In the kitchen.
It had been a dare. Oddest spot, or something like
that. They'd planned on doing more - one in the
basement while sitting on the dryer. Another in the
hall closet where they stored their camping equipment.
They'd even talked about trying to pull off one at
Trowa or Sally's house.
He'd decided then to resurrect that game (to which Duo
heartedly agreed) and the next picture ended up being
at Quatre's house. In the middle of his dining room,
in fact, while a delegation of pacifists milled in the
drawing room after the dinner they'd just had.
They were rather proud of that picture.
Today, though, he was back at the park with Duo,
taking pictures of sunlight through leaves. Wufei had
a 'Green Room' for mediation and was 'commissioning'
green inspired photos. Heero suspected it was just
another excuse to get him out of the house, but he
liked the concept of a color themed spread, so he'd
However, dressed in his now token long-sleeved shirt
and jeans, he was beginning to get too hot to stay out
much longer. He didn't know what excuse he was going
to give Duo, but he'd need to come up with something
believable enough to not kick in Duo's 'tough love'
attitude that would make him grin and bear it.
Stalling on that impending conversation, Heero
crouched down and looked through his lens at the
grass, trying to gage the effectiveness of a shot this
close. Another time, he would have stayed in that
spot for hours waiting for just the right picture, the
right sun angle, maybe even the luck of a small green
bug venturing into the area - the contrasting green
hues of the bug and the grass making a perfect
addition to his contribution to Wufei's room.
However, he didn't think he had 'hours' in him today.
He was already so hot. Deciding to wait it out as
long as he could stand it, he shoved up his sleeves
quickly and settled on his haunches for the wait.
He didn't even notice the little girl until her
fingers brushed his skin.
Heero jerked his head up and almost dropped his
camera. She was standing right next to him, no taller
than him in his crouched position. Her pink dress
fluttered in the slight breeze and her gaze was fixed
to his mottled and marred skin. Her fingers traced
the ridge of one of the more pronounced scars.
She finally looked up at him, her eyes wide. "What
happened to your arm?"
Heero opened his mouth, but no sound came out at
first. He wanted to warn her to go back to the
gym-set, her mother, her friends. Whatever. She
didn't need to see this, see him. However...
"I... I was in a fire," he whispered to her instead.
She cocked her head to one side, her fingers still
brushing the length of his arm. "Why were you in a
"I was carrying a boy out of his house. It was on
fire." He didn't know why he was telling her all
this. There was something in this little girl's eyes
that seemed to demand his confession.
Her voice was hushed when she asked her next question.
"Were you scared?"
The yell startled them both and he looked over the
girl's head as she too turned towards the cry.
A tall brunette stood not far from them, resting her
fists against her hips, but looking the other way.
She turned and her expression flashed with recognition
when she saw the little girl.
"Cinda!" The woman trotted towards them, already
bending down to scoop the child into her arms.
"Honey, are you bothering this poor man?"
The little girl wrapped one arm around her mother's
neck, the other she kept pointed down towards Heero.
"He's not a man, momma!"
'He's a monster', Heero heard her little voice cry in
his head and almost winced at what he was already
"He's a hero!" she said instead. "He saved a little
boy from a fire! Look, he even has the marks to prove
it!" She looked at him again, beaming in that way a
child does, where the smile seems to consume her whole
"I'm so sorry!" the woman said, shaking her head and
giving Heero an apologetic smile. "She's just a very ...curious child."
"It's fine," he said as he stood. The mother didn't
look convinced, frowning a bit. "Really," he assured
her, giving her his own smile.
The woman then beamed like her daughter and, shifting
the weight of Cinda to one arm, she reached out her
hand to Heero.
"Hello," she said. "I'm Shaya, it's always nice to
meet a hero."
Heero took her hand and squeezed. "I'm... Duo" he
answered her. He decided it was simpler than fielding
the reaction to his name. The locals sported an
American dialect and could never quite pronounce his
name right. To follow her remark with, hello my name
is 'hero' seemed more complicated than he felt like
dealing with at that moment. Besides, it wasn't
wrong. Duo was certainly a hero in his own right, so
he was hardly misleading the woman.
"It's nice to meet you, Duo," Shaya said, then nodded
towards the camera in Heero's hand. "Please don't let
us keep you from your photography. Sorry again for
"It's all right."
He watched as they walked away. The little girl
leaned over her mother's shoulder and waved back
towards Heero. "Goodbye Mr. Duo!" she shouted. "I'm
going to tell all about you at school tomorrow in my
Heero waved back to her as they headed for a laid out
blanket and a young blonde man waiting there for them.
They seemed like a sweet family.
Heero sensed Duo's approach and smiled when his hand
rested on his shoulder, giving it a squeeze.
Heero nodded. "Everything is fine." He meant that,
in a way that he'd not in a while. It really
was... fine. Heero then turned to face Duo, cocking
his head to one side. "Do you mind if we go home?"
Duo's face fell, but Heero only grinned in response
and continued. "I'm hot in these clothes and I'd like
to get changed and come back to finish up Wufei's
Duo's face lit up like a child's upon seeing his
birthday loot. Heero half expected him to reach out
and give him one of those choking hugs where Heero
couldn't decide if he wanted to grab on and squeeze
even tighter, or laugh and pull back, covering how
overwhelmed Duo could make him feel. However, Duo
only nodded, a broad smile on his face.
"Sure," he said. "Let's go before you lose anymore
Heero took Duo's offered hand and walked with him back
up the hill towards the road and their condo. He knew
there would still be children whose reaction to him
would be reminiscent of that little red-headed girl,
but because this girl - this little girl with long
blonde hair and big blue eyes - saw him as a hero, he
could accept the other reactions in greater stride.
Somehow, he'd finally received the benediction he