by Dev-Aki Basaa
Duo sighed, his bangs ruffling and then falling still
again against his forehead. Dropping his chin in the
palm of his hand, he watched Heero retrieve his coat
off the entryway hook, that mysterious tote-bag in his
hand. He didn't even let go of it as he pulled on his
jacket, passing it from one hand to the other, keeping
it in his steady grip. The bag's contents had weight
to them - that much Duo could tell by how it swung
from Heero's hand. But what was actually in there?
He really wished he knew.
"Will you be gone long?" he asked as Heero opened the
front door to the apartment they shared. An icy
breeze swirled in, blowing the long black drapes Hilde
had made for them as a home-warming gift. A shiver
raced down Duo's spine.
Heero turned around, hand still gripping the doorknob.
He only shook his head in response and shrugged
slightly, then he turned away and closed the door
behind him as he left. Duo sighed again, running his
hand across his face, massaging, wishing that alone
could wipe away the sorrow and stress from his
features and his burdened mind.
He rose from his place at the kitchen table and walked
over to the vid-phone desk, sat down and hovered his
hand over the 'receive' button.
The call should come through any...
Duo let his finger drop on the button and Quatre's
face flickered into view.
Quatre's image looked as world-weary and stressed as
his own probably did. Duo managed a small grin. At
least with Quatre, you never felt like you were ever
experiencing anything alone.
"Well?" Quatre asked, impatient. His fingers were
steepled just below his chin.
Duo let his gaze dart to the door, as if perhaps what
he'd witnessed had been some kind of a mistake and
Heero's coat would still be hanging there on its hook.
No such luck.
He looked back to Quatre's image on the vid-screen and
"He left again," he said
Quatre's expression crumbled and he bit his lip. "I'm
sorry," he said, after a pause.
Duo winced. He hated pity.
"Have you gone looking for the bag?"
Duo wanted to say 'no', that he had more confidence in
his relationship with Heero than to resort to snooping
through his things, that this was just some bizarre
communication problem as all their other problems had
been. With patience on his side and effort on
Heero's, they'd resolve this issue as they had all the
others. But, so far, no explanation was forthcoming
from Heero, and today would mark the six-month
anniversary since these weekly 'night-out alone'
things began. If Heero would just explain things
better... Duo shook his head at himself. But Heero
hadn't explained, would get angry about it if pushed
and so, yes, Duo had gone looking for the bag.
It wasn't something he felt proud of.
"I don't know what he does with it, but he hides it
damn well. I couldn't find a thing."
Quatre sighed, chewing on his lip and peering at Duo
with the clearest pity. Duo had to look away, his
fists clenching against his thighs. Christ, he didn't
want his pity! He wanted to punch something, wanted
to rip that damned tote-bag to shreds and demand Heero
tell him what's inside. He wanted to steal and hide
Heero's coat from him as if that might keep him from
taking off, his little 'leaving Duo' routine
disrupted. But that was absurd. Duo shook his head.
Why would his coat have any bearing on whether he
walked out that door or not? Why wasn't it enough
that Duo didn't want him to leave? And, dammit, it's
not like he meant to hold him prisoner, why couldn't
he just explain himself? What was his goddamned
"Duo, have you considered just following him?"
Duo looked up to see Trowa peeking over Quatre's
shoulder, his eyes looking starkly green on the vid
screen. It caught Duo off-guard to see Trowa's
interest. He didn't doubt that Quatre had told him
what was going on, giving him regular updates on the
ups and downs of his and Heero's relationship, but
since Duo'd brought his concerns about these nights
out to Quatre two months ago, Trowa had not been
directly involved. But there he was, settling in next
to Quatre, sharing his seat in front of the vid
screen. This did not bode well. Duo felt himself
quiver, trembling. If Trowa was concerned enough to
involve himself then things were very, very bad,
weren't they. Duo closed his eyes. Fuck.
"I..." He began to answer Trowa's question, but his
voice choked off. Where had he gone wrong? What had
happened that he found himself considering taking a
trail on his own damned boyfriend!?
"Listen, Duo." Trowa's voice was at once his familiar
soft tone, but also commanding and stern. Duo opened
his eyes and took a deep breath. Trowa had a way of
cutting across even the most distracting of elements.
Quatre probably knew that better than any one of them.
"There's something going on. You have a right to
know. It shouldn't have had to come to this, but we
all know how the two of you together has been an
adjustment for him."
"Like I had any standing knowledge of how a
relationship's supposed to work." Duo folded his arms
across his chest, pulling them tight against him. He
could feel his heartbeat and then the answering throb
of his pulse in the crook of his arms. He hadn't
meant to sound so bitter, but he and Heero as a couple
were like the blind leading the blind, groping around
in darkness and trying to hold on to each other
through one misunderstanding after another. He felt
just as confused and unsure as Heero did, yet he
always ended up being the sane one in all of this, the
one who played the patient-compassionate role while
Heero adjusted and coped and, sometimes, didn't cope
very well at all. Duo learned quickly he wasn't
staying with Heero for his health. If he desired
stability, he'd heard good things about the priesthood
for that. But what it all came down to was how much
he loved Heero. Goddamned, he loved him and he'd be
as patient and compassionate as he had to be to make
this all work out. There was hope, that'd never
changed, he just wished he didn't have to be the
strong one every time.
Just once he'd like to have Heero assuage him of *his*
"I think Trowa's right," Quatre's voice broke through
Duo's thoughts. "Do you want me to hire someone?"
Duo let the tension in his arms relax, his fingers
slipping along the sleeves of his shirt. He shook his
head, feeling his resolve firm. "No. If there's
trailing to be done, it'll be done by me." He raised
his hand and rubbed his face again, hard, letting his
fingers thread up into his hair until they hit the
beginning of his braid. He felt weary and it had
nothing to do with the lateness of the hour, but it
did make a good excuse.
He stretched his arms high above his head, feeling the
stress in his back pop and crack down his spine. "I
gotta hit the hay, guys," he said as he settled back
down in his seat.
Quatre cocked his head to one side. "You don't wait
up for him?"
Duo gave a little snort, devoid of any real humor. "I
gave up on that four months ago," he said, shrugging
one shoulder. "Goodnight, Quatre, Trowa."
He hit the 'release' button before Quatre could say
anything more. He didn't want to see the pity in his
Duo could sense it, Heero's presence beside him in
bed, and he could hear it, a soft sigh escaping his
lips. He was watching him sleep again. Duo didn't
wake fully, his dream still swirled around him, a red
mist that haunted his mind often, but he knew that
Heero was home and, per his ritual, propped up on one
arm, looking down on him, watching him sleep. It gave
Duo such a sense of peace, the red whorls receded from
the fore of his mind, the tension in his body bled
away with the mist, leaving him relaxed enough to
realize he'd been tense before.
That's when he knew. He couldn't lose this. He had
to know where Heero was going on those weekly nights
out. As sleep drew back around him, darkening the
edges of his mind, he saw himself already, dressed in
black, trailing his lover. Heero was unaware and
didn't even seem to sense him, walking slowly
sometimes, jogging ahead others. They traveled
through the center of town. Heero turned a corner,
out of sight and with a flash of understanding, Duo
knew the answers he sought laid just around that bend.
His heart pounded, his breath quickening. What would
he find around that corner? He took a step like a man
stepping off a cliff, pivoting to turn around the
building. He gasped. It was a vast nothing. Pure
white, like an untouched canvas, spread as far as he
could see. Not illuminated, just white. Just
nothing. He didn't even see Heero, he was lost in the
whiteness or he had simply vanished. What did it
mean? If this meant there was nothing to fear then
why did his heart still pound in his throat? The
panic pulsing through his veins roused him out of the
Duo opened his eyes and tried to slow his breath. His
vision was filled with a head of dark mussed hair and
the sleep-slackened features of his lover, the details
lost in the cover of the darkened room. He watched
him for a moment, seeing his shallow breaths and his
eyes twitching just slightly, the beginnings of his
own dream. He looked so peaceful and so beautiful.
With a sigh, Duo shifted and moved to rest his
forehead against Heero's, sharing his pillow, sharing
his breath. He closed his eyes
What the fuck was he going to find? What kind of
secret did Heero hold?
The questions didn't leave him, even as he lost
himself to sleep once more.
He lowered his book to his lap, letting it close with
his finger holding his page. Heero had just come down
the stairs, tote-bag in hand - right on time.
"Will you be gone long?" he asked, keeping his tone as
exasperated and worried as he always did. He didn't
need to rouse Heero's suspicion, just stay with the
ritual. Heero shrugged into his coat, keeping his
precious cargo ever in hand. He turned and reached
for the door and paused. Lifting his head a little,
his gaze caught Duo's. He was hesitating. Duo saw
the unsure glimmer in Heero's eyes, the one he'd come
to know far too well these past several months.
Months? No, try a year and a half. Oh, Heero. Why
couldn't he just talk to him?
The routine already broken, Heero didn't just shake
his head in response to Duo's question, he opened his
mouth and actually spoke, soft, but firm.
"No. Not long."
And then, like a breeze caught the door and whisked it
shut, he was gone.
Duo folded the page corner in his book and set it
aside. What did that mean, anything? Heero had never
deviated from his routine before and it made him
wonder if that was perhaps a flash of conscience, if
maybe Heero would come around himself and he wouldn't
have to resort to stalking him.
But even as he thought that, he was already in motion,
pulling on his boots and rushing forward to grab his
jacket. He didn't want to lose Heero.
Guess he'd lost patience for even seeming flashes of
He'd kept a very long distance. With the streets
clear and the blocks long, he didn't have any trouble
keeping him in sight. Heero walked to the edge of
town, leaving the cluster of the downtown. Just
before Duo thought he might be heading onto the empty
road out of town, he turned and marched into a
run-down old diner that sat back from the road just
enough to make room for a parking lot.
They'd never even eaten there before.
Duo stopped and waited, still several yards from where
Heero turned in. He allowed Heero the chance to
settle into whatever it was that he did when out on
these nights. He wanted to catch him in the act, not
get caught before he even saw anything. After a few
very long, agonizing minutes, Duo walked up to the
building and saw Heero though one of the windows,
sitting in a booth with a woman. Duo froze at the
sight for a second and then snapped to attention,
looking around quickly for a place to both hide and be
able to watch. There were bushes at the edge of the
parking lot that still gave him a perfect view between
the cars. Crouched down, Duo watched Heero talk with
the woman, sitting across from him in the booth. Duo
didn't recognize her; she was blonde, busty, older.
Duo frowned. He knew Heero well enough to know that
this woman was not any kind of competition and he
didn't feel any answering pangs of jealousy seeing her
sitting and talking with Heero.
Already Duo felt exasperated. Who was she?
As if to answer his question, the woman stood and
nodded at Heero, scribbling on a small pad of paper as
she did. Duo let out a breath of air. The waitress.
She was the waitress, complete with a dingy brown
uniform and paper half-apron!
Duo dropped his forehead into the palm of his hand and
realized what a sense of relief he felt. He didn't
know what he expected to find, but the potential of
*anything* made his heart beat in a Morse-code type
rhythm that spelled out 'fear' over and over again.
Duo looked up and settled on his haunches for this
newest, somewhat twisted, pastime of Heero-watching.
Thirty minutes passed and Duo knew nothing more.
Heero had been reading the entire time, occasionally
nibbling on his salad like a rabbit, distracted by the
book in his hands. Far less frequently, Heero would
pick up a pen and scribble something in the book, but
nothing more went on. He never even spoke to the
waitress again. Was this it? Did he just want to get
away and read alone for a little while? Duo's hand
clenched, snapping a branch of the bush he'd steadied
himself with. What the Hell!? This was nothing, why
couldn't he tell him about this? He still didn't
And there was only one way he was ever going to
Duo stood, brushed the leaves and twigs off his jeans
and strode up to the diner's entrance.