by Dev-Aki Basaa
The day couldn't have been more perfect. The sun shone bright against a pale blue, cloudless sky. A small flock of birds rose and arced over the countryside, heading for a cluster of trees in the distance. Zechs watched them fly, a slight breeze ruffling his bangs, stirring the length of his hair. He sighed for a moment, squinting in the sunlight as he lost sight of the birds, and then continued on his way. He climbed a hill situated in the center of this patch of land. A beautiful piece of property that had survived the wars unscathed, as unspoiled today as when he'd first set foot on it all those years ago in his youth.
He approached the peak of the hill, two gravestones coming more into view with each step. There, overlooking the landscape, stood two simple, identical, gray granite markers side by side. He came to stand before one, shoving his hands in the pockets of his slacks and staring down at the unmarked granite. Treize's grave. He stared at it, the breeze swelling and blowing his hair all about his shoulders. Strands blew in his eyes and wrapped around his neck, tucking into the collar of his shirt. He didn't move to tame it or brush it away, though; he stayed frozen, his gaze fixed to the stone before him. He hadn't brought anything to offer in remembrance - not the flowers that Dorothy often brought, nor the little notes that Marimeia laid against the stone, messages to a father she never knew. He came only with himself and his conscience, and if asked his reason, he would have said he'd come for a moment of peace, for a kernel of understanding. But even as he would have spoken it, he would have known that was a lie. In truth, he'd come to remember. To remember when times had not seemed so daunting - always hard, perhaps, but never so bleak and lonely.
However, all this visit served to remind him of, was what he'd lost.
Zechs sighed, finally raising his hand and brushing back the wild strands of his hair. So many hard decisions made in his life; so many sacrifices, so many disappointments. That he'd even been given this chance to be a Preventer and not hauled off to jail for his war crimes said much for friends he didn't expect to have. The only friend he'd counted on was the lone friend he'd lost - Noin. Her expectations were ones he couldn't fulfill.
He'd fulfilled Treize's expectations, though. Treize knew - prophetically early - that their love would end badly; that they were doomed from the start. Perhaps he'd seen where Romefeller would take him, or easily understood Zech's empty loyalty towards OZ even before he'd realized it himself. But either way, there were no moments of blindsiding revelations, no earth-shattering confessions. It was as it was, the changes never tainting the love they'd had the chance to share.
But RethÖ Did Reth hate him, sitting in his cell now, under the highest security and surveillance Preventers could lay on him? Did he now doubt the depth of Zech's kiss once he learned that his words were hollow? Or did he recognize the truth and irony of their shared passion and pain? Zechs closed his eyes and let the swell of crippling emotion pass him by. In the end, he didn't want to know. He couldn't face either the accusation or the forgiveness in Reth's eyes - acknowledging yet another bittersweet failure. That was why he couldn't go see him. This was what he couldn't tell Heero when they'd spoken in his hospital room.
Zechs turn away from Treize's headstone at the sound of nearing footsteps. Maybe it was a touch of prescience, but somehow he'd known he would not be making this visit alone. He half expected Heero to come looking for him, knowing too well where he'd go. He'd heard that the chances were good for Heero to be released today and would therefore have the freedom to trek up this way. Zechs shook his head at himself. No, that's not true. This would be Heero's first day home with Duo after so long and *that's* what he should be concerning himself with, his lover and partner and best friend. Not him and his tortured psyche.
A lone brown-haired head came into view, hair flying wildly in the stronger breeze. She smiled as she crested the hill, a small bouquet held tight in her fist.
"Preventer Wind," she said as she approached him, offering a nod in additional greeting. She was dressed in her uniform, most likely having left the office early to make this visit. She passed him by and came up close to Treize's grave, crouching low to the ground and placing a hand on the stone to steady herself, her fingers curling over the edge. She paused a moment, her gaze transfixed by the marker as Zechs' had been upon his initial arrival. Then the spell seemed to break for her and she placed the bouquet she'd brought - a dozen brilliantly red baby rosebuds - along the beveled edge of the granite. She then stood up and stepped back, gaze still resting on the gravestone, but not hypnotized by it as she'd been before.
There were no illusions between Une and himself. When it came to Treize, they understood each other perhaps too well. He knew right away why she'd come and she probably expected to find him here.
"He reminded me of His Excellency during the questioning," she said, folding her hands before her, demure in a way the OZ soldier in her never was. "I think it would have been interesting to have met him, removed from all of this."
Zechs shook his head and moved to stand at her side, joining her in staring down at the featureless stone. "Be thankful you didn't," he told her. "He was too familiar. I was drawn to him for it, and then forced myself to be distant. In the end, I jeopardized the mission, trying to keep from betraying him for the better cause and risk loosing myself in the process." He paused to sigh before he continued on. "Once was enough, or so I thought. I guess I wasn't the one to make that decision."
Une didn't respond right away. He wondered who would speak next: the woman who shared his love for Treize or his superior, having heard the confession of his near failure. He was ready for neither and therefore equally prepared for both. In the end, and to his surprise, it was a friend who responded.
"Did you love him? Reth?"
He didn't hesitate to answer and saw no reason to hide the truth.
"No. But I could have."
The image of Reth's face flashed in Zechs' mind and he closed his eyes, trying not to think of him, locked up at Headquarters - a tiger in a cage, a serpent behind glass. But he didn't want his mind to wander either. He didn't want to think of Heero and Duo and the enviable love that they had or the extended reunion they were enjoying. He didn't want to think of the pity in Wufei's eyes when he'd less than skillfully avoided discussing the mission outside of his official report. And though he'd come here to remember - now with Une at his side - he found he could only think about OZ's rise and Treize's and his end.
Perhaps after today he'd never need to come back here again. Dorothy had stopped coming not that long ago, but it had taken her three separate tries to finally stop.
When Une spoke again it actually startled Zechs; he'd thought they'd said all that they would. Beyond speaking of work, they so rarely had much to say to each other.
"Your grave marker," she began, and he glanced over to see that she was staring at it. "Why have you left it?"
Zechs almost wanted to laugh; to him the answer seemed so obvious. He stopped himself though, fearing that Une might misunderstand. His laughter would hardly be one of humor and he didn't want her to think he was mocking her. He glanced at his own stone and shook his head.
"A part of me died when Treize did," he said, bringing a hand up to thread through his bangs and then shoved it back into the pocket of his slacks, "it's only fitting to have that part buried next to him."
Une simply nodded, probably understanding only too well. Then she turned to look at him.
"You can take a leave, if you need it."
Zechs shook his head again. "I think not. I don't think solitude is what I need right now."
Une looked at him a moment longer then turned back to gaze at Treize's grave, taking a step closer to Zechs, their arms brushing.
Zechs shifted his stance and slipped his arm around Une's waist, brining her flush to his side. The wind swelled again, tangling strands of their hair together behind them and in silence they stood, remembering what they'd lost.
"It's the least I can do!"
Duo had a comment for that, but held it in check at Heero's warning glare. He instead stooped into Relena's waiting limo and held out his hand to guide Heero in. They settled together on the long seat, facing towards the driver and waited for Relena. She was still standing at the open door, giving a wave to the small gathering of press that always followed her, even on this day of escorting Heero home from the hospital. She knew each one of the press corps by name and they adored her for that.
Duo sniffed in the compartment. A scent was distracting him. It smelled fresh, like flowers, but very light, perhaps Relena's perfume. Only, a second too late he realized he shouldn't have sniffed so hard. His nose twitched, a tickle started somewhere deep inside. Ah. Ah... Ahhh...
Relena stuck her head in the door, her expression concerned, and looked right past Duo. "Heero, are you all right?"
Duo swiped his hand under his nose and scowled at her. "It was ME, Relena."
She blinked at him and looked back at Heero, still with an expectant expression on her face. Heero slipped his arm around Duo's waist and pulled him close, their hips and thighs pressed together. "Aside from my eardrums, I'm fine," he then answered her.
She smiled, "Good. We'll be going in just a moment." She ducked back out and turned to speak with her driver.
Duo raised his hand before his face, peering at it with narrowed eyes. He flipped it back and forth - looking at his palm, then the back of his hand. He did it a few more times, knowing Heero was watching his display and if he stuck with the behavior long enough, he would ask - which was just what he was fishing for.
After a few more stern, studying looks at his hand, spreading his fingers apart and then pressing them together, Heero did finally ask.
"What are you doing?" He sounded a tad annoyed.
Duo spread his fingers apart, peered at them, and then closed them again, flipping his hand to stare at his palm. "I swear I'm not invisible," he said, still staring, "but it's a phenomenon that whenever Relena's around us, I am."
Heero shook his head, but tightened his grip at Duo's waist. "Baka," he said. After another flip of Duo's hand, Heero reached out and grabbed his fingers and forced them down into Duo's lap, holding them there, glaring at him.
Duo wiggled a little in his seat and then waggled his brows at Heero.
"Oooh, getting frisky, Yuy?"
Heero grinned, but looked away. "Just you wait."
Duo wiggled in his seat again and felt Heero's fingers at his waist brush lower, slipping down his hip and making a pass at his backside. Already, Duo could feel his heartbeat quicken - the anticipation giving him a slow death. Heero's arm was still bandaged, but no longer in the sling and he had almost full range use of it. The doctor's had made a few mumbled comments about Heero's amazing recovery speed, but Duo had been ready with Sally's suggestion. "If you have any questions regarding Mr. Yuy's recovery history, you're more than welcome to speak with Dr. Po of Preventers," he'd said. Whether they'd actually gone to Sally with their mumblings, he didn't know or care. They'd released Heero earlier than expected - that was enough for him - and when the doctor had left the hospital room, sling in hand, Heero had turned to Duo and whispered to him a promise.
"We're locking that apartment door and not re-surfacing for weeks. I have two years worth of making love to you to catch up on."
Duo shivered again, just thinking about his words and what they foretold. But now, with all Relena's *help*, he had to wait that much longer before wrapping himself around Heero and never letting go. And what if she wanted to see them up to the apartment? What if she wanted a cup of tea!? How long could she drag this escort home out?
At the slam of the car door, Duo looked up to see Relena perched on the seat across from them, beaming, hands folded in her lap.
"Oh Heero, it's so wonderful to see you." The limo started to move; they were finally headed home.
Duo tried to raise his hand, to peer through it again as before, but Heero held tight to his fingers, pressing both of Duo's hands into his lap.
Perhaps it was the first time Relena had gotten a good look at Heero, or maybe she still struggled to reconcile the ideal of her 'fallen prince' with the peircings, tattoos and hair dye that adorned Heero now, but the longer she grinned at Heero from her seat across from them, the more that joy faded from her eyes. The grin stayed in place, though. Duo knew that trick only too well and appreciated her technique.
"It's wonderful that you've recovered so quickly." Her gaze focused on the curve of his left ear and the glints of gold and silver there.
"And I'm so glad that I could be here to escort you home." Then she peered at his blonde locks
Duo wanted to reach over and pinch Heero's shirt, tugging at one of the nipple rings and making it stand out against the fabric. Relena didn't know the half of it.
"Heero, do you have something in your mouth?"
But she was about to find out.
"It's a tongue piercing," he answered her with the blandest of tones. Relena, however, seemed to jolt in her seat.
"Oh," she said, looking a bit shell-shocked. Duo wanted to laugh. The dear princess had no clue. Could she even imagine how good that little metal post felt against skin, rubbing against the most sensitive of spots? The way you could play with it when your own tongue was shoved deep in his mouth?
No not likely, her prim and proper world would rock at such revelations. Duo allowed a slight grin, relaxing into the seat a little more. Maybe some day her real prince would come along and do just that. For as much as Relena bugged the hell out of him, everyone deserved love and he did hope she found it. He just wished she'd stop thinking that she was going to find it with a certain person he was rather attached to. Just because she'd accepted their relationship, Duo never felt that she'd ever stopped hoping. Heero seemed to sense his relaxation and releasing his tight grip on his fingers, threading them between his own instead, his touch so warm and as familiar as his own hands. It was moments like these that reminded Duo how it didn't matter if Relena hoped until her deathbed, some bonds didn't get broken.
But even for as comfortable as Duo and Heero felt, fingers twined together, bodies touching, it was an awkward drive - no matter how you sliced it. The only questions Relena seemed to have, in her strive to make small talk, were about the last two years of Heero's life. And with each question, he would just cut her off with, 'sorry, that's classified,' even when Duo was pretty sure the answer wasn't THAT classified. This was the Vice-Minister, after all. He'd never seen Heero like this with Relena; he'd always treated her with such kid gloves. Well, after he got over trying to kill her. This was proving to be an even more uncomfortable drive than he'd already anticipated and when they'd finally pulled up in front of their apartment complex, he wasn't all that surprised that Relena declined to see them up. Though, he did note that the Pink Monstrosity didn't pull away immediately, but waited until she must have lost sight of them through the stairwell windows.
Their fingers were still twined, fused maybe, which was fine by Duo. He was going to make Yuy keep that promise of weeks of catch up togetherness. And sex. Lots of sex. Duo fumbled with the door, one handed and all, and prepared to have a bundle of blonde super-energy come bounding out at them. What came flying out at him instead had him speechless.
A red balloon.
And then a green one, and then blue, rising up to the ceiling in the hall, streamers flowing down like graceful frozen waterfalls. Duo pushed open the door further to the sound of balloons bumping against the wood and rubbing against each other.
"Did you do this?" Heero asked, pushing aside streamers and ducking into the apartment. You couldn't even see the other side of the room! Heero dropped the bag the hospital gave him, stuffed with the meager possessions he'd been admitted in, and reached up, pulling down a yellow balloon by its streamer and then releasing it, watching it float back up and bounce off the ceiling until it settling into place.
Duo shook his head, pulling at a purple balloon and releasing it just as Heero had, watching as intently as well. "Nope, but I must say Iím somewhat impressed that they're not all pink."
"Relena," Heero realized. Duo didn't miss that his lips curled into a smile for a moment. And maybe for the first time, that didn't make him frown. He smiled for Heero and the flattery in this gesture. He had no reason to feel threatened by Relena just because she was generous in her friendship. Because that's all this was, a surprise by a friend.
Heero turned towards him, holding aside a mass of streamers to see clearly. "How did she even manage to get in?"
Duo waved his hand, dismissing the question and hitting a low-flying balloon in the process. It soared away and bounced against the sofa. "Please, it's Relena. I'll bet the super didn't have our door unlocked before he asked for her autograph."
Heero nodded. "Point."
Duo turned, batting balloons as he went, trying to see if she'd done more than drowning them in balloons. In a momentary gap between floating colors, he caught a glimpse of a banner - he saw just a bit of the loopy script - hung above the kitchen door.
Duo quirked one eyebrow and grinned. Nice. The pretty princess had thought of everything. He only hoped she was also thoughtful enough to spare filling the bedroom with her special brand of decoration. That would make it really hard to hold his tongue on all the latex jokes spinning in his mind and the only groaning he wanted from Heero tonight was of the erotic kind.
At the sound of Heero's whistle, Duo turned back around, tugging streamers out of his way. A little shiver ran down his spine, hearing Heero call Mari like that. It'd been so long. Everything had been so long, even seeing that sweet expectant look Heero was giving him now, asking a question without speaking the words. Mari wasn't coming to his call, why was that?
"If I had to venture a guess, " Duo answered him, "I'd say she's in her favorite hiding place and not likely to brave these elements."
"The linen closet," Heero agreed and gave a sort of resigned nod, probably thinking he could have his reunion with their beloved mutt later. Heero then turned, moving slowly, scanning the room as Duo had earlier, taking in all these balloons and probably wondering where in the world they all ended. It did seem like they went on forever. But Duo decided he wouldn't even let him turn his back. He pushed through the streamers and elbowed deflating balloons out of his way. His finger caught the side belt-loop of Heero's jeans, tugging him back around and straight into his arms. Heero was grinning as he wound his arms around his waist, twisting his hips against him, reveling in the warmth of Heero's body pressed so close.
"C'mere," he said, waggling his brows. "I may not be able to hardly see you through all of this, but I sure as hell wanna kiss you."
And with that, he leaned forward and captured Heero's lips, eager and pliant under his own, their tongues sliding together, the tongue ring so enticing as it rubbed the length of his tongue. It felt amazingly good. Everything did. After so long nothing else could feel better that this. The familiarity, the heat, the intimacy. How could being apart make them feel so much closer? But it did, Duo realized. He'd never felt so in love as he did right now. He pulled back from the kiss, licking his lips and grinning.
"Welcome home, Heero Yuy" he said with a sigh "I do love you." Duo barely had the words past his tongue before Heero's mouth descended on his again, urgent, drawing a deep moan from him with ease. Duo shivered as he felt Heero's hands slide up under his shirt. They seemed to scald him like flames against his skin, so hot, so intense.
His passionate Heero was back.
"I need you," Heero mumbled against his skin, now tracing his jawline with his mouth and dipping his tongue down the arch of his neck. "Bedroom?"
Duo's hand flexed in Heero's hair and he gasped as Heero yanked down the collar of his shirt, busting a button free, and grazed his teeth across one nipple. "Well, I can't see it from here," Duo managed to say between moans, "but I seem to recall it being over this way."
He stepped away from Heero, backing his way towards the bedroom, balloons parting as he passed. He lead Heero with his eyes, with his body, pulling his shirt the rest of the way off, kicking off his shoes and making a show of unbuttoning his jeans. Heero looked like a panther, stalking his prey, his eyes as wild as any jungle animal as he followed Duo through their bedroom door. He closed it behind him and seemed to pounce, his hands diving into Duo's jeans and his mouth latching on his earlobe.
"Thank God, there are no balloons in here," Duo said, working the zipper to Heero's jeans and pushing the denim down his hips. Little quivers of delight thrumming through him as Heero sucked and nibbled on his ear.
Heero mumbled an agreement, the sensation tickling Duo's skin. "I'll call Relena tomorrow and thank her," he then added, "and apologize as well."
Reminded now of earlier, Duo leaned back and caught Heero's gaze, even as Heero grunted a complaint at being interrupted. "Yeah, what was that all about?"
Heero shrugged, slipping his arms around Duo's waist "I'm not sure. I guess I felt like she was imposing on our time together." He then ran his hands up Duo's chest and neck until he cupped his face in his palms. "I feel like the whole world has imposed on our time together, but that stops here, now, today."
Duo grinned, touched by the sincerity in those lovely blue eyes before him. "Is that so, Yuy?" he said.
Heero nodded, circling his thumbs across Duo's cheekbones. "As I promised. Nothing but us for weeks."
Duo leaned back close again, sliding his arms around Heero's waist as well, pressing his arousal against him and making him moan. "Well, then, what's stopping you?"
Heero's small smile spread into a fuller grin, the panther in him making his final claiming victory. "Nothing, nothing at all."
And their lips met again, their bodies pressed against each other, their minds in lustful sync. The mission was over, Heero was home, and reality was very clear. Distance - be it time or space - had never really succeeded in keeping them apart, even for those two years. No matter what, their hearts always beat together.