Beating the Odds
by Dyna Dee
After taking five quick swallows of the cold soda he'd purchased from the vending machine, Duo Maxwell lowered the plastic bottle and uttered a soft sigh of contentment. There was nothing quite like a shot of carbonated caffeine at ten fifteen in the morning to give him a boost of energy that would last until lunchtime.
The break room was quiet during this time of day, with only one other table being occupied by a guy he thought was from accounting. The tall and thin man was dressed in a white shirt, tie, dark pants and wire rimmed glasses and appeared oblivious to him, being totally immersed in the morning newspaper while nibbling absently at a sweet roll from the vending machine. Duo had chosen this particular time of morning to take his break, purposely avoiding the crowd that usually gathered around the coffee and vending machines around ten thirty each morning. It wasn't that he didn't feel like socializing, quite the contrary, but his recent job-related injuries made him a bit more cautious about being jostled in the crush of employees during the more popular hours for morning and afternoon breaks.
Setting his soda down, he reached for his crutch and stretched it out to hook the top of it behind the chair on the opposite side of the two-person table and pulled it closer. Setting the walking aid down again, he bent at the waist and, grunting slightly for his efforts, used both hands to lift his weak and cast-heavy right leg and set his foot on the supporting chair, elevating it like the good doctor ordered. Because of the severity of his injury, he was told he'd have to endure wearing the cumbersome cast for another six months. The simple movement hurt, but after surviving a terrorist bomb he counted himself lucky that he still had legs and the ability to feel pain. It was hard to believe, he thought as he leaned back in his chair and took another sip of his soda, that three months had passed since that nightmarish day.
Despite his best intentions not to do so, he couldn't stop himself from thinking back to that day, though most of it remained a blur. He vaguely recalled the man that the Preventer investigators labeled as a religious/political extremist who apparently disagreed with the role Sanq and the Preventers played in world politics. Pacifism apparently didn't jell with the guy's way of thinking. Dressed in a dark suit and looking very much like a businessman or lawyer, the terrorist had walked calmly into the foyer of the Preventer building just before noon with at least ten pounds of explosives strapped to his chest and quickly secured hostages. Being the agency's top negotiator, Duo had been sent to try and talk with the fanatic who held three Preventer employees captive, using them as a shield against sharpshooters. Negotiations went nowhere fast because the guy wouldn't stop his ranting long enough to listen. After only fifteen minutes of trying to negotiate and reason with him, the bastard showed the world his last act of defiance. With his right fist raised against pacifism, his left thumb pushed down on the button of the device clutched in his hand, blowing up himself, the lobby of the Preventers' building and the three terrified secretarial hostages he'd handcuffed to himself. And that's were his memory got blurry. He'd been told that fragments of the bomb, parts of the building as well as human blood, flesh and bone were sent with unbelievable speed into himself and the better-shielded bomb squad. If he hadn't had on his protective gear and employed the blast shield just in time, he no doubt would have died along with the terrorist and his hostages. His body, he was told, was thrown through the glass front door of the building. His right leg had caught on the metal door frame and was shattered. All in all, he'd been lucky. A concussion, gashes and cuts from glass embedding where ever his protective gear wasn't covering and his mangled right leg were the worst of his injuries. Still, he'd almost completely bled out from his leg wounds.
He sighed as the horrific scene played out in his mind for the umpteenth time. He really didn't want to think about it any more, nor those dark moments after he'd regained consciousness inside the ambulance during the frantic race to the hospital. The medic had been arguing loudly with Heero while the unbearably loud siren urged cars and pedestrians to get out of its way. Though the pain was almost blinding, he'd caught the look of deep worry etched on Heero's face and the fear in his eyes as his partner argued with the paramedic over his care. It had been such an unusual display of emotion for the normally confident and stoic Preventer that for the first time in a long while Duo worried that he wasn't going to survive.
A shudder worked its way through his body as a result of those dark memories. Hoping to shake it off, he picked up his bottle of cola and drank half of it without experiencing his usual enjoyment of the carbonated sweetness. He then took in a deep breath and forced himself to relax and set the past aside. It wasn't surprising that he'd been required to see a shrink before he returned to work, and Dr. Reid was still helping him work through some of the issues and nightmares that came from having been though what he had, not to mention the anxiety of sitting on death's door for several days and worrying about losing his severely damaged leg. Despite being diagnosed as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, he'd been given the green light to return to work, but only to light desk duties. Hell, he'd suffered worse lapses in sanity-- before and during the war -- but now he had a top-notch shrink who put a label on his nightmares.
From his favorite place in the break room, Duo surveyed the small space as a distraction from his thoughts. He was situated at a small table that was neatly tucked between two vending machines near the room's entrance. Anyone passing by and glancing through the open doorway wouldn't be able to see him sitting there, enjoying his morning indulgence. Being constantly asked after his health and progress, he was glad for the small amount of privacy the niche gave him.
The partitioned space that had been set up for morning and afternoon breaks was anything but restful, however. Though a new building was under construction, the Preventer organization had little choice but to bide its time in the small four storey building that was its original location. The terrorist's bombing had made the normally cramped situation even worse. The first and second floors were still undergoing re-fortification and reconstruction, while the third and a portion of the fourth floor had basically been stripped down and partitions set up to temporarily support those sections of the agency that had been previously housed below. The partitions had been set up to cut down on visual distractions, but they were only six feet tall and the sound of voices and conversations from the entire floor were easily overheard. Duo was immensely grateful that he and his friends still had their much envied offices upstairs, with ceiling-to-floor insulated walls and doors that could be closed, giving them the privacy they required. A luxury very few Preventers had at the moment.
Duo's wandering mind caught the sound of someone at the copy machine, located behind the break room's left partition. Despite the noise the much used copier made, he could clearly hear a conversation beginning as another person entered the area to wait his turn.
"Morning, Liz. How are you today?" He recognized the voice of Bob Mitchell from Narcotics, most likely talking to Liz Phelps.
"Pretty good. How about you?" the woman asked pleasantly, and Duo could picture the secretary for Internal Affairs: thirty-ish, red hair, blue eyes, of medium build and wearing perfectly proper secretarial garb consisting of a skirt, matching jacket, a coordinated blouse and sensible yet stylish shoes.
"What's new on your side of the floor?" Mitchell, a young, not so handsome but likable hotshot in his division asked, and if Duo wasn't mistaken, he detected a flirtatious quality in Bob's voice.
"Same old thing," Liz answered with a vocal shrug. "Just making sure you guys keep you noses clean."
"Morning." Another voice entered the copy cubicle. From the short greeting Duo thought it was Reg White, an older agent who'd come on board the Preventers from the highly acclaimed Scotland Yard to head the Organized Crime Investigation Unit. The man was well respected and did a damn fine job at ferreting out those involved in illegal trafficking and money laundering schemes.
"You owe me twenty, Mitchell." Yup, it was Reg White. He was renowned for winning friendly wagers with his colleagues. It was one of the ways he earned his reputation of knowing what he was talking about. He was hardly ever wrong when it came to his job or a friendly wager.
"What was it this time?" Liz asked with a light laugh, knowing Mitchell had lost yet another bet with the older man.
"He bet against the possibility of Agent Peacecraft and his wife getting pregnant within the first year of marriage," Reg said a tad smugly with his distinct British accent. "I confirmed it with Peacecraft this morning. The baby is due in six months."
"Damn. I shouldn't bet with you any more. You're too bloody lucky for my wallet," Mitchell said sullenly, and Duo could only imagine he was going through his wallet to pull out the amount he owed the other man.
"Luck has very little to do with it," Reg said, a smile in his voice. "Wisdom gained by experience is my edge. You'll get there one day, Mitchell, don't worry."
"Hey, did you hear the latest tidbit about the hotshots upstairs?" Liz asked, her voice lowering a little, causing Duo's ears to perk up, listening more closely knowing some juicy gossip was about to be shared. Upstairs usually referred to Director Une and her top agents, namely himself, Heero, Trowa, Wufei, Milliardo and Noin, whom he guessed would be assigned to desk duty now that she was expecting.
"Something new?" Mitchell asked, a bit too eagerly for Duo's taste.
"Maxwell and Yuy are involved, romantically. That's why their partnership was changed and Chang's been paired with Yuy and Barton with Maxwell."
"Pfft," Reg snorted. "Like we didn't see that one coming." Duo blinked like an owl, his eyes wide with shock. He couldn't have been that obvious about his feelings for Heero, could he? He'd always tried to hide how deeply he felt about Heero, fearing not only what his best friend would say, but also the reaction of his co-workers. He guessed that maybe he might not have been as discrete as he'd thought.
"They're gay?" Mitchell gasped, trying to catch up.
"Shh!" Liz shushed them. "I don't think everyone knows about them. You should respect their privacy." Duo had always kind of liked the woman, even though she'd been the one to share the gossip with the two men in the first place. He made a mental note to send her something on Secretary's Day, and that decision was underscored when she added, "Yes, they're gay and in love, and I say more power to them."
"I'd wondered why they were no longer partners and yet were obviously still friendly," Mitchell said, sounding thoughtful.
Liz's voice, though low, was still audible as she added more to the gossip mill. "They've been together ever since Maxwell was hospitalized from the bomb blast. You know it was touch and go there for a while and Agent Yuy never left his side. Evidently the brush with death brought them both to a point of confessing their feelings for each other, and they've been together ever since. It's pretty darn romantic if you ask me."
"I give them six months to a year," Reg stated suddenly as the copy machine stopped and a shuffling of papers indicated that more was being set into the loading tray. Little did he know that his prediction brought a stunned expression to the face of the young man sitting on the other side of the partition, listening to their every word.
"Is that a wager?" Bob Mitchell asked.
"You're such a cynical man, Reg," Liz said with a slight tone of disgust.
"I'm not cynical," the older Preventer answered, sounding slightly affronted.
"Then how could you say such a thing?" she demanded, keeping her voice low. "I think it's wonderful they finally found each other."
"Look at the statistics," Reg said calmly and unemotional. "They're both young, still in their teens. When have you ever known someone their age have a relationship work more than a year or two? Statistics show that the odds are against them, that they'll end up with someone other than the one they had their first relationship with. Young love rarely lasts. I'll stick with my guess of six months to a year."
"I'll take that bet," Bob jumped in.
"You shouldn't wager on someone's happiness," Liz said, obviously unhappy with the subject of the bet.
"Less than six months or more than a year?" Reg asked as the copying machine started up again.
There was a pause and Duo gripped the side edges of the table as he waited for the answer. "What do you think, Liz?" Bob asked the woman he'd been hitting on for the last six months. A wise move on his part, Duo thought.
"Betting is a waste of time and money," the ever practical secretary stated. "However, if I were to bet, I'd put my money on love any day, that they'll make it well past a year."
Both men laughed at the sentimental statement. "All right," Bob said, that smile back in his voice. "I'll take Liz's advice and bet twenty credits on love."
"I'll mark my calendar," Reg stated. "I've got to get back to work. I'll see you two later."
"All right. See you around, Bob," Liz replied, but this time her voice held a tinge of warmth to it that had not been there earlier when she'd first spoken to Mitchell.
"Hey, Liz?" Duo could hear the nervousness in the other agent's voice.
"Would you like to go to lunch with me today? There's a new deli two blocks down and the guys in my division say it's pretty good. Want to try it out?"
There was a pause and even Duo felt nervous for the other man. "Sure, that would be nice. Thanks, Bob. See you at twelve fifteen?"
"I'll come by your cubicle. See you then."
Duo was glad the conversation had ended on a happy note, but his stomach was churning from the bet and Reg's comments. Finishing up the remainder of his cola, he eased his injured leg down to the floor again and reached behind him for his cane, which he'd hooked on the back of his chair. Leaning on it as well as the chair, he pulled himself to his feet and began the slow, hobbling and painful trek back to his office.
Ignoring Trowa as he entered the room they shared as partners, he limped over to his desk and turned on the vid phone, calling up his long-time confidant.
The blond's face appeared on the screen, looking serious until he saw who had called his private line. "Duo!" A pleased smile grew on the Winner executive's face.
"Hey, Quat. How's it shakin'?" Duo asked, forcing himself to smile as normally as possible.
The blond's smile faded a bit. "What's wrong, Duo? Did you and Heero have a fight or something? New relationships aren't perfect, you know. You have to give him a little leeway until you get used to living together."
"Quatre," Duo said, clearly exasperated by his friend's runaway imagination. "Will you stop jumping to conclusions. We didn't have a fight. In fact, we're doing great."
"Is that Quatre?" Trowa asked, rising from his chair and moving towards his new partner's desk to see for himself that it was his favorite blond person.
"Yes, it's Quatre," Duo huffed, looking up at the auburn haired man as he gazed lovingly at the man on the screen. "Jeeze, this is my quarter, Trowa, and I need to talk to my buddy here. Do ya mind?"
Both Trowa and Quatre look startled at Duo's behavior. Then Quatre gave Trowa a small apologetic smile. "Would you excuse us, Trowa. I'll call you during lunch, all right?"
The tall Preventer nodded his head in agreement, then gave Duo a penetrating look of concern. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," Duo sighed deeply. "Can I just talk to Quat for a few minutes? I promise not to flirt with him or make any kind of sexual advances via the vid phone."
Trowa couldn't help but smile. He reached out and playfully ruffled the fringe of loose hair that hung over the braided man's eyes. "I'll go get a drink in the break room. You want anything?"
"Yeah, get me a cola."
"How many have you had this morning?"
"What do you care?" Duo asked, his eyes narrowing with suspicion. "Heero got you spying on me now?"
"It's only because he worries about your health," Trowa answered calmly.
"Just get me the damn drink," Duo growled irritably, mentally putting Heero's name on his new list of grievances for the day. He was pleased, however, to see the former Heavyarms pilot turn and exit the room.
He could hear the scold in Quatre's voice as he said his name over the vid system. "Sorry, Quat." He turned to face the screen again and looked upon the image of his trusted friend.
"What's this about?"
"Have you ever known anyone who's fallen in love when they were teenagers and it lasted throughout their lives?"
The large, blue-green eyes blinked with surprise at the question. "Um... My father and mother married when she was a teenager, eighteen to be exact."
Duo shook his head, a frown on his face. "That was an arranged marriage. I meant people who truly fall in love. Do you know any like that?"
"I'm sure if I thought about it that I could come up with someone," the blond answered thoughtfully. "But off the top of my head, no. Why are you asking me this? What's wrong?"
"How are things between you and Trowa?"
The blond's face fell a bit as he contemplated his answer. "It's hard, Duo. I have to live on L-4, close to the business for the time being, and Trowa likes his job there with you guys." His frown deepened as he added, "Long distance relationships suck."
The braided young man's shoulders slumped slightly in hearing his friend's answer. "Have you ever heard the saying that young love never lasts?"
There was a pause before Quatre answered. "Yes, and unfortunately it's usually true. Statistics have shown that most relationships that begin early in life, the teenage years, rarely last through adulthood.
The two friends looked at each other, their eyes reflecting the sadness that they could be one of the statistics since they'd both found their lovers as teenagers. Duo was the one to break the heavy silence. "Don't give up on Trowa, Quat. We both know he loves you. You guys just need to find a way to compromise, to meet half way."
"We've tried, Duo." Quatre leaned back in his black leather chair that made his near-white hair and fair features stand out even more. Duo noted that his friend suddenly looked very tired. "But it's hard when you live so far away from each other. We're both lonely."
Duo was at a loss for how to comfort his friend. Try as he might, he just couldn't come up with a solution to their current working and living dilemma. "I gotta go," he said despondently. He realized that not only was he getting depressed, but that he'd made his friend unhappy also. "Sorry, buddy. Didn't mean to bring you down."
"What's wrong, Duo? Can't you tell me?"
"There's a bet in the office that Heero and I won't make it over a year, mostly because of our age."
The sea-green eyes blinked. "Is that all that's bothering you?" Quatre asked, astonished.
"It was made by Reg White," he added.
"Oh? And who is he?"
"He just happens to be someone who's never lost a wager." Now he was really getting depressed and knew he had to end this demoralizing conversation before the both of them ended up bawling all over their keyboards. "Sorry, Quat. I gotta go. I'll call you later, okay?"
The blond nodded, his face a picture of concern as the connection blinked to black. Duo folded his arms on his desk and buried his head in them, trying to figure out what to do to save his relationship with Heero.
A moment later, Trowa's return was marked by a strong but gentle hand settling on his shoulder. Duo turned his head to look up at his new partner. "You worry too much," stated the tall man.
"And you worry too little," Duo snapped back, suddenly feeling angry that his friends' relationship seemed to be on the rocks, proving Reg's theory that young love was doomed. But the flash of pain in Trowa's green eyes had him regretting his cranky comeback. "Sorry, Tro. It's not completely your fault, I guess."
Trowa settled his hip on the edge of Duo's desk and looked thoughtfully down at him. "Want to tell me about it?"
Duo shook his head. "If I know you, and seeing the lack of coffee or my soda, you listened to the whole conversation anyway, so I don't need to repeat myself." He looked up to see a sad smile on the auburn haired man's face, confirming his suspicions. "What happened to you and Quat, Trowa? You two seemed inseparable, but now look at you. You don't even live on the same planet."
A distant look came into Trowa's eyes as he stared at the black gundanium bolt that had a prominent place on top of Duo's computer. Everyone knew it had once belonged to Deathscythe Hell and that Duo now called it a sentimental paperweight. With his green eyes transfixed on the bolt he answered, "I guess we both need different things."
"Like what?" There was a tinge of anger and resentment in Duo's tone. The whole situation was making him feel both frustrated and angry.
"He needs to help out his family's business, and I need to do something I'm good at."
Duo blinked at the answer and sat up straight in his chair in order to give his friend a look of disbelief. "You've got to be kidding me! Do you love him?"
"Of course I do. Who wouldn't?"
"You're an idiot!" The braided agent folded his arms over his chest and didn't bother to hide his displeasure.
"It's really none of your business."
Trowa's disapproving frown was accompanied by his practiced calm demeanor and proved to be the last straw for Duo's attempt to understand. Looking up at his friend he let his anger leak out. "The hell it isn't! You two are my friends and you're both hurting. So what if you have different job goals, does that mean you have to live on Earth while he lives on L-4? Couldn't you have found something to do on L-4 that you were good at?"
"You don't understand, Duo," his partner said firmly. "This is between myself and Quatre and you shouldn't interfere. It took you and Heero years of dancing around each other to finally get together. When we tried to help out, you both told us to mind our own business, and we did, respecting your wishes. I'm asking for the same respect in return."
"And who says I don't regret saying that," he shot back angrily. "If I'd let one of you tell Heero how I felt after the first war, maybe I wouldn't have spent so much time thinking he just didn't want me. Do you know how horrible it is to love someone so much that it physically hurts, especially when I believed he could never care for me in the same way?"
Trowa remained silent, staring at the damn black bolt. From his apparent apathy, Duo got the message that he'd given up on his relationship with Quatre. Well that was too bad because he hadn't. He decided to try another tactic. "Maybe Reg was right. Maybe young love, a person's first love, is doomed to fail because of inexperience. I've heard somewhere that you never forget your first love, that years later you'll be haunted by thoughts of things you could have said done to change the fact you lost the one person you can never truly replace."
Struggling to stand up again, he wobbled to his feet and picked up his cane, then took a few steps around Trowa before stopping to turn towards his contemplative friend and partner. "I don't want to live with any regrets or 'what ifs'. Heero's the only person I want, the one person I need more than anyone or anything and I'll do everything in my power to keep him, including giving up my career, moving back to L2, cutting my hair or having people call me Nancy. Nothing's gonna break us apart if I can help it."
He paused as Trowa looked away from him to stare out the window, then took a deep breath to force himself to calm down. After a moment, he softened his tone and continued. "I thought that was the kind of love you and Quatre had, but I guess I was wrong. You're right, Tro, when you said who couldn't love Quatre. He's a wonderful person who happens to be very sad and lonely at the moment. He's not gonna be able to go forever without someone sharing his life. There are a lot of wonderful people out there, and one of them is going to find Quatre and he'll eventually let himself fall in love again, hoping to forget his first love, even though it's said you never do. I guess the question you need to ask yourself is whether or not you can really let him go. Can you stand by and watch someone else takes your place, someone who will love him and share their life with him?" With that question left hanging in the air, Duo limped quietly to the door of their office.
"Where are you going?" Trowa asked, his voice barely a whisper.
"To make sure Heero knows how I feel."
He shut the door quietly behind him, feeling depressed about the conversations he'd just had with his two friends. He didn't really want to hurt Trowa, or Quatre for that matter, but they'd gone on with this separation for far too long. A decision needed to be made as to whether they would try to work things out or get on with their lives. He was unquestionably depressed as he limped toward his next destination.
Thank heavens his old office was just down the hall from the one he now shared with Trowa. His healing leg was beginning to ache and throb as he quietly opened the familiar door and entered the orderly and quiet office. Wufei was standing at the file drawer, looking for something within it, and Heero was at his desk working on his computer. His shaggy haired lover glanced up at his entry, smiled warmly, then returned his eyes back to the screen.
Duo moved slowly but with purpose as he approached his lover's desk and came to stand next to the Japanese man's chair. Without even looking up, Heero asked, "Aren't you supposed to be staying off your feet?"
His question went unanswered, but without warning the former Wing Zero pilot found himself spun around in his chair and hauled to his feet by two hands grasping the front of his Preventer issued shirt. Before he could ask his lover what the hell was going on, his question was stymied when he was suddenly and quite thoroughly kissed. It was clear from its inception that there was an urgency to Duo's kiss and that the arms that were shifting to wrap around his shoulders seemed to clutch at him as if his lover was fearful he would slip away. Sensing that something was wrong, Heero brought his own arms up and held his lover firmly while deepening the kiss.
When the kiss came to a slow and reluctant end, Duo leaned forward to press his face against his lover's shoulder. He felt unusually emotional from the overheard conversation and his talk with Quatre and Trowa. From the reflection in the window, he watched as Heero motioned for Wufei to leave the office. A moment later the slight snick of the closing door signaled that they were alone.
"You're trembling," Heero stated quietly, obviously worried. "What's wrong? Are you in pain?" His hands moved in a comforting manner up and down the slender back and beneath the long braid that tickled the tops of his knuckles.
"Did you know that because we're teenagers the odds of us making it as lovers are against us?"
"Who told you that?" Heero frowned at his lover's distress.
"A couple of guys at the copier made a wager that we wouldn't make it as a couple for even a year. One said that teenage love never lasts."
A dark chuckle from Heero caused the braided agent to pull back slightly from the protective embrace to glare at his lover. "I don't think it's funny," Duo said, his eyes sparking a warning to not take his feelings lightly.
Heero's hand came up to brush his knuckles gently against the pale cheek under them. "Of course it isn't. But I don't see why you're so worried. I know what I want and so do you. We finally have each other, have love, and I can't see either one of us giving this up."
Duo embraced him again. "Never," he whispered fervently. "I love you so much, Heero, that even the thought of us not being together hurts."
"I feel the same."
"Still, the odds are against us," Duo persisted.
Another snort. "What were the odds that we'd survive our childhoods?"
Duo leaned back , just enough to look into the deep blue eyes once more and with a thoughtful tilt of his head he answered. "Pretty bad, I guess."
"And that either one of us would be chosen to be the pilot of a gundam?"
"And that you'd escape after being captured and imprisoned by OZ?"
"Slim to none." A small smile began to appear on the braided man's face.
Heero's voice lowered as he continued. "That I'd survive not only Wing's detonation but that we'd come out sane after experiencing Zero? What were the odds that five fifteen year old boys could save the Earth and end a war? That we'd survive a second war or that a crazy American who claimed to be Death could actually love a cold-hearted soldier? That you'd survive a terrorist bombing?"
"Stop!" The braided man pleaded as he once again wrapped himself around his lover, not able to bear hearing how slim the chances had been that he and Heero actually managed to find each other and, in the end, their own form of peace. Into his neck he mumbled, "And you are not cold hearted."
Heero held Duo as tightly as his lover's healing body could allow, stroking the long braid that lay against his back. "I'm only trying to point out to you that we've managed to survive all of that and have found unbelievable happiness together no matter how slim the odds have been. Why should we care what others say now when we finally have each other? We're together against all odds and I, for one, plan to keep on foiling those who say we can't succeed." They stood pressed together in that fourth floor office, holding onto each other as the steady ticking of the clock on the wall signaled that the morning hours were slipping by. "Who was it that made the bet against us?"
"Reginald White? From the OCI unit?"
Duo nodded and felt Heero become still under his embrace. "He's never wrong. I can't remember the last time he lost a bet with anyone."
Heero snorted in his ear and Duo felt himself being pushed back. He watched as Heero reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet. He opened it and took out a one-hundred credit note and gave his lover a knowing smile. "I'm going to have Wufei bet against Reg's prediction, and with my winnings I'm going to take you out to dinner, any place you want to celebrate."
"Celebrate what? Winning the bet?" Duo guessed.
"How about celebrating the fact that we're continuing to beat the odds."
Giving his lover a smile and nod of his head, Duo felt his mood lighten considerably. "Yeah, we'll show 'em. When we're celebrating our twentieth anniversary, we'll invite all the skeptics to a big party and rub their faces in it."
Heero leaned forward and with his eyes closing said, "Why wait twenty years?" He then closed the distance between them and kissed his lover tenderly yet thoroughly, insuring that his walk back to his office, already an uncomfortable task with his bum leg, was going to be a bit more uncomfortable and embarrassing if anyone noticed the tightness of his trousers.
When at last their lips parted, they held each once more, and Duo rested his head comfortably against his lover's supporting shoulder. "What?" Heero asked, sensing something else was wrong.
Duo held Heero close as he spoke of his other worry. "It seems as if Quatre and Trowa are going to be one of those statistics, the ones who don't make it."
"They're being obstinate."
"They'll work it out, eventually. And if not, we'll support them in any way we can."
"I'd go anywhere you wanted to go, Heero." Duo pledged quietly but firmly. "No job is ever gonna be more important than you."
Heero gave him a grateful squeeze, finding himself at a loss for words in describing how he felt about the man in his arms. He could had stood there for the rest of the day holding Duo and reassuring him, but a knock at the door brought an end to their private moment together.
Wufei stuck his head in the door. "Done yet?" he asked, looking a bit worried.
"We're fine, Wu. Just needed a little reassuring," Duo said with a growing blush on his cheeks. He watched Heero bend to retrieve his dropped cane and then rose to set it in his hands. "Are we all doing lunch together? I hear there's a new deli a couple of blocks from here."
"You can't walk that far yet," Heero reminded him. "Doctor's orders."
"I'll get Trowa to take me on his motorcycle."
"Like hell you will," Heero said, half teasing but serious at the same time. Their new relationship had yet to overcome a bit of possessiveness on Heero's part, but so far Duo didn't mind.
He grinned with a new idea. "Then ask to borrow it yourself and you can take me."
Wufei snorted. "If that happens, then the chances of seeing either of you for the rest of the day become slim to none."
"Wanna bet?" Duo said, giving Heero a wink. "I feel like beating the odds today."
Wufei blushed as the two men gave each other another passionate kiss. "Get out of here, Maxwell, so we can get some work done. We'll see you at lunch."
The sound of lips smacking as they separated was Wufei's signal that the love fest was finally over. He looked over to see Heero gently turn his lover around and give him a gentle nudge towards the door.
"All right already, I can take a hint," Duo groused, but any real hint of complaint was diminished by the fact that he had a goofy smile on his face as he hobbled towards the door.
Entering his and Trowa's office once again, Duo noted his partner was back at his desk, looking over a file that had to be very important for him not to glance up at his entrance. He went to his own desk and thought for a moment about what he could say to make things better between them. He failed to come up with anything witty or appropriate. He carefully sat down and placed his cane on top of his desk. "We're going out to lunch today, Tro. You up for it?"
Duo frowned, sensing the downturn of Trowa's mood and that it was all his fault. "Look, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you. I'm just worried about you guys. You're both my friends and it's painful to watch you drift apart."
After a moment, Trowa finally answered him. "Quatre said he'd call at noon. I'm going to stay behind and see if he can come for a visit so we can talk things over."
Hope began to leak into Duo's heart. "Really?"
Trowa looked up from the file in front of him and a slow grin formed on his handsome face. "Yes really, you love-sick sap. Now get back to work so that if Une comes in to check on you, you'll have something to show for having been at work for three hours."
"Love-sick sap, eh?" Duo raised an eyebrow at the term, but he couldn't keep the smile off his face. "Yeah, I guess I am. I've finally found some honest to god happiness, Tro. Ya can't blame me for wanting the same for my friends."
Trowa shook his head. "Work," he said again, chuckling.
Duo turned to his computer and immediately brought up his e-mail and sent off a quick note to the executive on L-4 to not forget his promise to call Trowa at noon. With any luck, his two friends would find a way to a compromise, ending their loneliness, and maybe, just maybe, they too would beat the odds.