Disclaimer: I've never claimed to own Gundam Wing or its characters and I've never made a darn cent from my writing about them.

Warnings: yaoi, angst, romance and probably some sap thrown in for good measure.

Coming Home
Part 2
by Dyna Dee

Heero couldn't help his eyes from looking down as Duo walked away. There was no doubt about it, Duo Maxwell had a perfect ass, even in slightly baggy jeans. Somewhere in the distance the sound of bells tolling began to fill the air, ten times total, marking the hour.

Left alone, Heero began to survey his surroundings and strolled through the dining room and into the living room. He wasn't surprised to find a tall Christmas tree set in front of the bay window. It was a real tree, with a variety of ornaments and lights decorating its branches and an unlit star sitting on top. His gaze wandered from the tree to the rest of the living room, and he was quite surprised to find that little had changed since his departure eight years ago. The furniture, which had been new when he and Duo had purchased it, was a bit worn, but still in fairly good condition.

The house itself was tidy, though he could see traces of dust here and there. He walked closer to the table behind the sofa where Duo had numerous pictures set out for display. There were several photographs of people he recognized from when he'd lived in this same house and a few children he didn't know. There was a picture of Quatre and one of Trowa, and another, surprisingly, of those two standing together, dressed in black suits, smiling broadly and wearing matching rings. He knew the two former gundam pilots had shared a mutual attraction during the first war, and when he left he'd known that something more than friendship going on between them. Whatever it was, it had been kept quiet, probably because the legal crisis Quatre was tackling at the time overrode their personal lives and interests. He hadn't read anything about them becoming legal partners, yet from the picture on the table it looked like they'd overcome whatever problems they'd once faced and had married.

Next to that happy picture was one of Wufei, also dressed in a dark suit and wearing a restrained smile. The photo appeared to have been taken on the same occasion, the marriage of the other two men. There was another picture of Wufei on the table, but in this one he had Duo by his side. Both men were dressed in similar attire and stood several inches apart, smiling happily at the camera. Wufei's hand was on Duo's elbow, as if he were holding him up. Curious, Heero picked the picture frame up and studied his former lover a bit closer. It was clear that something wasn't right. Duo, though he was smiling, was thin, pale and sickly looking. His hair, though, was the most shocking of all. The long hair he'd religiously worn in a braid during his youth was gone. It was disturbingly short and dull in color. "What the hell?" Heero muttered to himself, dumbfounded by what he was seeing. It occurred to him that Duo's hair, though long and in a braid once again, was shorter than he'd worn it during the war. What had caused him to cut it in the first place and why did he look so terrible at this memorable event?

He reluctantly put the picture frame down and began studying the remaining photos on display, catching a glimpse of Duo's life over the course of eight years. Duo was featured in a few pictures, but rarely alone. Heero noted that the majority of the pictures were people who were strangers to him, and there were very few of the other pilots, though there was one where they all stood together in front of some building with white granite stairs. Duo, still thin and pale, held up a piece of paper while wearing a dazzling grin. He was flanked all around by the other three former pilots. They, too, wore bright smiles, their eyes suspiciously bright. Whatever moment the camera had captured, it obviously meant something important to each of the men in the photograph. His heart ached at the realization that he'd missed many such moments in Duo's life.

Breathing deeply he caught the subtle fragrance of Duo's home, a masculine scent and very pleasing. There was the smell of the wood-burning fire in the fireplace, of pine from the Christmas tree and just a hint of musk cologne or aftershave that had to be Duo's. From that moment on he would forever associate those three scents with his former lover, just as during the war, when they were separated by great distances, the smell of gunpowder, mechanic's grease and strawberries conjured up images in his mind of the pilot of the gundam Deathscythe.

Returning to the kitchen, he put the kettle on and searched through the cabinets for the offered coffee or tea. In his search, he came upon a cabinet, located near the refrigerator that was filled with vitamins. Frowning, he clearly recalled that Duo had never like taking pills of any kind. What was the reason for all these pills? Had Duo or Wufei become a hypochondriac during his absence? The Chinese teen had always been conscientious about maintaining his health and what he put into his body. Yes, he could see where vitamins would fit into his approach to good health, but the amount of vitamins in the cupboard seemed like overkill.

He listened closely for any sound indicating the other man was returning to the house. With no hint that he would be interrupted, Heero let his curiosity get the best of him and began to make a quick search of all the cabinets and refrigerator. When he finished, he concluded that Duo had changed, either that or Wufei had managed to overcome every bad habit the American teenager had and turned him into a health conscious man. Whole wheat bread with flax, organic labeled fruits and vegetables, lean meats and soy milk, the whole kitchen smacked of a complete change of lifestyle for the American.

The kettle began to whistle, signifying the water was boiling. Heero made himself a cup of tea and sat down at the table while it steeped to ponder the unexpected changes he'd observed so far. It appeared that Wufei's influence over Duo had been strong enough that his former lover had completely given up on his former cravings for salty and sweet treats, not to mention that the house was much tidier and organized than he would have believed possible for Duo to maintain on his own. Then again, he thought, Wufei had always seemed a bit finicky, no doubt he orchestrated the home's maintenance as well as the food they consumed.

Finishing his tea, he glanced down at his watch and realized a half hour had passed since Duo had left him in the kitchen. His foot tapped with impatience on the wood floor; he hated waiting. He quickly put the mug and spoon in the sink and rinsed them out before wandering back into the warm living room.

Without too much effort, he found the switch to turn on the Christmas tree lights. He stood back to appreciate the effect. Tiny white lights filled every branch of the tree, from trunk to the tip of each bough. It was like looking at a thousand stars at close range. Though small in size, their ample number helped to illuminate and showcase the many ornaments hanging on the branches, and as far as he could determine there wasn't a duplicate in the bunch. At the top of the tree was a star. If he remembered right, he'd heard once on a PBS holiday program that the star atop a Christmas tree represented the Star of Bethlehem. Had Duo, during his absence, turned religious also? He recalled the mock priest outfit the American had dressed himself in during the first war, and the cross hanging from the delicate chain he'd worn around his neck, but he couldn't recall the teenager from L2 espousing any religious beliefs.

"We never did have a Christmas together, did we?"

Heero almost jumped, startled by Duo's unexpected arrival. He hadn't even heard the other man enter the house, which meant that Duo hadn't forgotten everything he'd learned during the war. He turned with a sarcastic reply about whose fault that was, but stopped himself from speaking after seeing a look of deep sadness on the handsome face. Perhaps Duo did feel badly about how things had turned out.

"No, we didn't."

The sad look was quickly replaced with a shrug and small grin. "I'm sure you've celebrated the holiday with someone else over the past eight years."

Heero looked the other man in the eye and said, "No, I haven't. Oh, I've been invited to parties and the like, but Christmas Eve seems to be a traditional time for family." He gave the other man a knowing look, silently stating he'd never met that criteria.

Duo's eyes widened with disbelief. "You mean to tell me you haven't had anyone to share your life with these past eight years?"

Heero replied casually, "I've had lovers, of course, but nothing that lasted very long. I'm on the move a lot, and sometimes my writing becomes the most important thing in the world to me. Some people don't like competing with a muse," he added as an explanation for the first statement. The truth of the matter was no one had held his interest nor captured his heart. For the past several years he'd feared the reason why he hadn't fallen in love with anyone he'd been remotely interested in was because he never stopped loving the man now standing before him. How could it be that after so much time had passed his heart still yearned for Duo Maxwell? That his hands craved to reach out and touch him? Suddenly, he wanted nothing more than to hold the other man's body against his own, to be one in heart and soul as they'd been before. How ironic, he thought, that he found himself back where he'd started his journey and wanting the very thing he'd left behind.

"And you're a very successful writer, too," Duo said, deftly changing the subject. "I'm really very happy for you, Heero. Do you like being an author?"

Heero thought about it for a moment, then answered honestly, "Yes, though it wasn't an easy occupation to get into. I worked for several newspapers, as an obituary, wedding and anniversary reporter and eventually an editor. I moved on to a publishing company, then took a job as a book reviewer for a major magazine. I learned step by step, through trial and error how to write and then sell what I wrote."

"I've read all three of your books," Duo admitted with a look of approval. "They're very good."

"I'm glad you liked them," he replied while silently wondering if Duo was being truthful.

"Has anyone suspected you of having been a gundam pilot? Some of the events you mention in Children of War are pretty close to what we went through."

"Not so far. If it's brought up by an interviewer, I simply state that I simply took recorded events and used my imagination."

"Going to write another book?"

"I certainly hope so. I'm currently looking for some inspiration. I'll probably travel some more, speak to a lot of people and read countless news articles until I finally sit down and write my first sentence."

Having Duo's full attention, his blue-violet eyes displaying interest in what he was saying, Heero dared to take a step closer to the other man. He had so many questions to ask, things he wanted to understand. Topping that list was why Duo had married Wufei shortly after his departure, followed by questions about his drastic change of lifestyle including the cabinet filled with vitamins and the apparent lack of everyday groceries in the pantry. Another two steps brought him in front of the person he'd both dreamed about and cursed more times than he cared to count. "Duo..." He whispered the other man's name as his hand rose of its on volition to cradle a clean-shaven cheek. Before he could think better of it, he gave into the undeniable temptation and leaned in slowly with the intention of tasting of those full lips that were slightly open from either shock or surprise. Duo's reaction, however, was different from what he'd expected. The braided man's eyes widened, his breath hitched and his right hand forcefully pushed against Heero's chest, shoving him away and bringing an end to the kiss before it had a chance to begin.

"Don't, Heero."

Of course. Duo was married. Heero took a step back and apologized. "Old habits," he said as his excuse.

"Listen." Duo appeared a bit unsettled and was looking at anything other than Heero. "I've got to deliver those things I told you about earlier. Do you want to come along for the ride?"

With nothing better to do plus the promise of spending more time with the other man, Heero agreed. Five minutes later the back of Duo's old truck had been loaded and the smooth-running vehicle began its short journey. Duo, now wearing a thick winter coat with a knitted hat and scarf around his neck, gave him a smile as he leaned forward to turned on the radio. It appeared as if his attempt to kiss Duo had been forgiven. Christmas music suddenly filled the cab, telling Heero that his former lover had listened to this type of music the last time he was in his truck. He never imagined Duo liking something of this nature. It was just one more thing about the American that had changed since they'd last seen each other.

Even though the drawn-out silence between them was blunted with holiday music, Heero knew that he and Duo needed to talk. He was just about to say something when Duo quietly ask, "Why now?" He could only guess that Duo was asking why he'd come back after so long. Then in a stronger, accusing tone the braided man rephrased the question. "Why the hell did it take you eight fucking years to come back?"

Remaining calm, Heero kept his gaze directed towards the passing neighborhoods as he truthfully answered, "Because your being with Wufei hurt too much. The thought of you together was like salt in an open wound, so I purposely stayed as far away from Sanq as I could hoping to get over you. I put those eight years to good use, going to school, learning to put my thoughts on paper and concentrating on my own career and building a life for myself."

"A life that didn't include me."

Heero sharply turned his head to consider the other man's statement, noting the flat tone of Duo's voice. "How could it include you when you were married to Wufei?"

Duo looked like he was about to reply, but then tightly clamped his lips together and a look of resolve settled on his face. A moment later he pulled the truck into the driveway of an older house that was brightly decorated with holiday lights around the door and windows, and a decorated tree in the center of the front window.

"Be back in a moment," said Duo while putting the truck in neutral and setting the emergency brake before jumping out the driver's door, leaving the engine running and the heater on high.

Heero watched him carry a bulky box up to the front door and turn rather awkwardly to push the doorbell with his elbow. A moment later an elderly woman answered with a bright smile on her wrinkled face as she spoke to the braided man. Duo, along with his box, which Heero guessed was the still-drying rocking horse, disappeared inside the house. He returned five minutes later with a round tin adorned with holiday trim in his hands and a parting wave to the elderly woman who returned the gesture before she closed her front door.

A fresh gust of frigid air swept into the truck's cab when Duo opened the door once again and climbed inside. He handed the tin to Heero. "Those are some of the best cookies I've ever had," he stated as he released the brake and put the truck into reverse to back out of the driveway. "Have one, if you like."

"Maybe I'll wait until we get back to the house." Taking his warm gloves off at the moment was not the most appealing idea.

"That was Grandma Paulina," Duo explained as the truck began to move backwards. "Her daughter and family are coming for Christmas. I haven't seen her this happy in a long time. She's lonely, you know? It's been hard on her having her loved ones living so far away."

Looking up at the house just as they were pulling away, Heero found himself sharing the old woman's feelings. His loved one had lived almost a world away for eight long years. He wasn't sure how many more years it would take for him to finally eradicate his longing for Duo. He had a sneaky suspicion that coming back to confront his ex-lover might have only made matters worse.

"Where next?" Turning to look at the man driving the truck, Heero couldn't help but acknowledge once more how handsome Duo was. He'd forgotten how his cheeks would turn pink when he was either too warm or too cold.

"The Episcopal Church."

"I thought you would become Catholic if you decided to convert to any organized religion."

Duo shrugged. "Well, I just kind of have a hard time with some of their doctrine."

Having studied a bit about world religions, Heero wondered exactly what points of practice Duo had found lacking, but he thought that perhaps he would leave that discussion for when they ran out of things to say. Religion and politics were always topics of conversation that could incite discussion.

"It's the whole praying to saints and before statues. I never did understand that."

"So why the Episcopal church?"

Duo looked at him with a grin on his flushed face. "I didn't say I joined. I just like helping out, and they're a welcoming group of people without being pushy."

"It's hard to imagine Wufei going to church."

Duo's grin faltered for a moment, then returned as he replied. "Yeah, it is. He's not a Christian."

"Are you happy, Duo?"

Duo's eyes remained on the road as he contemplated his answer. For some reason, Heero needed to know if the man sitting across him was happy, even though it hurt to think he had nothing whatsoever to do with that happiness.

"Yes," Duo answered quietly. "I am happy. I might not have a job that's considered important, or make enough credits so that I can travel the world or fly to L4 to see Quatre and Trowa, but I really don't have anything to complain about. Live each day to its fullest, has become my motto"

"I haven't spoken to Quatre and Trowa since the war." Heero said with some regret. "I gather from the picture in your living room that they became domestic partners, but other than that I know very little about them. Do you see them often?"

"No. They've been pretty wrapped up in the Winner businesses and colony politics since the end of the last war. They rarely come to Earth any more, but I always get a vid call on Christmas day and we try to catch up on things." And them more wistfully he added, "I miss them."

"I'm surprised you don't have more contact with them. You were good friends with Quatre."

Duo glanced his way. "As you were with Trowa. Why didn't you keep in touch? I know from Quat that you never contacted them either."

It took a moment for him to phrase the reason for having removed himself from all of his former comrades. "After learning about your marriage to Wufei, I just couldn't bring myself to talk to anyone about it. Contacting Trowa or Quatre would eventually lead to the topic of your marriage and I just wasn't willing or ready to deal with that. It was easier to keep busy and maintain my anger with you instead of accepting the fact that you'd lied to me and chosen someone else to live your life with."

"I'm sorry, Heero." Those three words were spoken so softly that Heero barely heard them.

They pulled up to a large white church with beautiful stain-glass windows, a steeple and bell tower. This was where the sound of bells ringing hourly during the day had come from. He wondered how he could have forgotten that fact. When they first moved to Old Castle, the bells seemed charming, but as days passed, they'd begun to grate on his ears. Duo had always liked them, he recalled.

By the time he left the village he'd become so inured to them he'd rarely even noticed the hourly tolls.

Duo pulled the truck behind the church and backed it up to the double-door entry. "This is where the pageant will be held tomorrow night," Duo explained as he expertly brought the truck into place and shut off the engine. Turning back to him, the braided man asked with a hopeful gleam in his eyes, "Wanna help? Two of us working together will make the job go a lot faster."

"We always did work well together," Heero replied, pulling up the collar of his coat in preparation for going back out into the cold.

It took no more than fifteen minutes to unload the truck, haul the painted wood into the building and place them were an enthusiastic middle-aged woman named Petra indicated. The stout German spoke with a broken accent and a smile that never seemed to dim, especially when she was talking to Duo. She praised his work, his goodness for volunteering to help, and then she had the audacity to pinch his cheek while offering to set him up with her granddaughter. Heero was shocked by the offer. Didn't she know that Duo was married, and to a man at that?

After promising the woman that he would be there the next evening to witness the pageant, Petra let the both of them leave and quickly turned her attention to the group of people coming from another room with talk of lighting and sound set up going on between them.

Having returned to the truck, Duo started the engine once more and drove them towards the direction of his home. "Why did she try to set you up with her granddaughter?" Heero asked.

"I don't know," Duo replied. "She didn't mean anything by it."

"Don't they know about Wufei?"

Again there was a thoughtful pause before Duo answered, "Like I said, I'm not a member of their congregation, so I'm not privy to what they do and don't know."

Why did that answer seem somewhat evasive? Once again Heero had the feeling that there was something going on here that he couldn't quite put his finger on and it was beginning to irritate him. The only way he would figure things out was to get Duo talking and, hopefully, he'd let something slip.

"So, tell me about your life here."

"What's to tell? Life in Old Castle never seems to change. I think that's why I like living here so much. I wake up every morning to the sound of church bells, to children going to school or playing outside. I know the postal carrier by name, as well as those who work in all the stores in the village. We don't worry too much about crime here, especially the violent sort, and that's as far from my childhood as you can get."

"And for entertainment?" Heero recalled that Duo used to like going out to the movies and to eat. Occasionally, they even went to a nightclub so he could socialize and dance, if the mood struck him.

"There's a local theater here, a movie rental place, plenty of good restaurants, art in the park as well as a gazebo where a local band plays old people music each Sunday afternoon in the summer. That's plenty to keep me busy."

"And Wufei?"

With a huff, Duo turned an irritated eye to him. "Why do we always come back to the subject of Wufei?"

"Why do you avoid talking about him?"

"Because, frankly, he's none of your damn business."

And he was right, Heero conceded, if only to himself. It really wasn't any of his business, but he couldn't help wanting to know how Duo and Wufei got along. It was beyond him to understand how two men, who seemed to be merely comrades and barely friends, managed to fall in love and get married.

"You can't blame me for being curious, can you? When I left here you and Wufei barely spoke to each other, and I wouldn't even have labeled you as being friends. I can't help wondering at what point did you fall out of love with me and turn to him. Were your feelings for me so shallow that you managed to fall in love and marry him so soon after I left?"

"People marry for all kinds of reasons, Heero, and frankly, I just don't want to go into the reasons why I married Wufei. Not now and not with you."

"I'm just trying to understand," he stated with a touch of anger in his tone. "This has weighed on my mind for eight long years and I can't seem to get past it, that you married him instead of me."

Duo glared at him. "You never asked me, did you? You were too intent on finding yourself, I guess."

Heero felt his anger rising, but he held it in check, knowing from past experience that getting Duo angry just made him more belligerent, and if that happened he'd never get the answers he wanted.

"I wasn't in a position to ask you. Neither of us had jobs and I was confused about my place this world, almost as much as you were at the time."

Duo shot him a challenging look. "I knew the moment we came to Old Castle and bought our home where I belonged. I knew this was where I wanted to put down roots, and I wanted to do it with you. You were the only one who wasn't content, Heero. I might not have had a job, but I knew this was where my future lay."

"I'm sorry I wasn't as sure of myself as you were." He inwardly flinched at sounding so defensive.

Duo sighed wearily. "Why did you have to come back here and hash this out? I made my past decisions based on need, just as you made yours. Now, eight years later, we live completely different lives, Heero, and maybe in the long run it's better this way. I couldn't have followed you all over the planet while you found your niche in life, just as you couldn't stay here and help me when I needed you."

"If I'd known you needed me, I would have come back."

"It's all a moot point, Heero. Just let it go."

"That's what I'm hoping to accomplish with this visit. I want to let you go once and for all, but I don't think I can do that until you're honest with me about what happened after I left here."

The truck pulled up the driveway of the familiar white with blue trim house that was Duo's home. Shutting off the engine, the braided man leaned forward, his hands gripping the top of the steering wheel while his forehead leaned against it. From the back of the house came the yellow lab, barking happily, his tail wagging as he greeted his master.

With a deep sigh, Duo said in a fatigued voice, "Listen, I've got more work that I need to finish today, and I can't do it with you distracting me with these heart-to-heart conversations. Come back tonight for dinner, around seven, and I'll try to answer at least some of your questions. Then you can go back to where ever it is you came from."

Knowing it wasn't even eleven, Heero wondered what he was going to do with the rest of the day. He'd come here to see Duo, and he had. But with questions still lingering between them, he couldn't leave Old Castle yet.

"Are you staying at the Rose and Crown?" Duo asked without lifting his head from the steering wheel.

"Where else?"

Duo chuckled. "Yeah, stupid question. Need a lift?"

"No. I walked here, I can walk back."

The two men climbed out of the truck and Heero walked around the front while Duo greeted his dog. "What's the dog's name?" He thought Duo had said it that morning, but he couldn't recall what it was.


"That's an unusual name. When did you get him?"

"Shortly after you left."

"Is there some significance to his name?"

Duo grinned fondly at his dog while he scratched the happy canine behind a golden furred ear. "Let's just say he's not the best watch dog," he said with a chuckle. Then in a more serious tone he added, "But he was a big help in brightening some very dark days and nights."

Before he could say anything in response to that cryptic statement, Duo walked away from him, towards the back of the house. "See you at seven," he called out over his shoulder. Heero reluctantly watched him disappear around the back corner of the house, his heart twitching back to life and aching with an old familiar need to chase after the other man. He paused to wonder about the "dark days and nights" Duo mentioned and what exactly had happened after his departure eight years ago. Of course he'd thought about Duo during his journey, but he'd never really given much thought about how Duo would take his long absence. He'd assumed that the American, a former gundam pilot and L2 survivor, was self-sufficient and would be fine during his absence. He'd left him the house, after all, and knew that Duo had a decent amount of savings in the bank. Had he been wrong? Had Duo succumbed to depression? That certainly seemed to fit the term dark; as in dark moods, dark thoughts. He'd need to be careful to ask the right questions if he wanted Duo to fess up about his life during the past eight years. And dammit, if Wufei was in any way responsible for those dark times, he'd make sure the Chinese man would suffer for hurting the American.

He stopped at a café, close to the Rose and Crown, and ordered some hot soup along with rye bread topped with butter and some coffee. He took his time eating, knowing he had all afternoon, and observed the other café's patrons and the citizens of Old Castle as they hurried about their business on the day before Christmas Eve. He didn't recognize anyone, which wasn't surprising considering he'd been gone for so long, and for the fact that those on the streets were completely covered from head to toe in order to protect themselves from the frigid outdoor temperature.

His waitress, dressed in a denim skirt and white cotton blouse with a thick Scandinavian-style wool sweater keeping her warm, seemed to be about his age. She was friendly without being flirty, efficient though personable in serving him his meal. On an off chance, he decided to question her. If anyone had recalled his and Duo's moving there eight years ago, it was likely to be a young woman interested in two newcomers who happened to be near her same age.

"Excuse me," he said as politely as he could manage. "You seem familiar. I moved here about eight years ago with Duo Maxwell. Did I meet you back then?"

The young woman looked at him with surprise, and then she took a minute to study him. "I don't think we've met," she began in a thoughtful manner, "but I remember you. You and Duo bought the old Hirshburg house."

"That's right."

"Are you here visiting Duo?"

"Yes. I wanted to see how he was doing. I haven't seen him since his marriage to Wufei."

"Ah. Wufei. I almost forgot his name, but I'll never forget his scowl, nor how well he took care of Duo during the time he was here, even though we didn't see much of either of them for a long while. I guess he moved on because I haven't seen him around here in years."

Heero blinked, not sure he'd heard the woman correctly. "Wufei doesn't live here anymore?"

"No. I'm not sure what happened between them, but he returned to New Port City after living here for a year or two. I think I overheard Duo telling another customer who asked that his former-husband was doing well. Were you friends with him also?"

Dumbfounded. That was the only word to describe how Heero felt. Wufei and Duo weren't together. Wufei had left, and apparently they were on somewhat friendly terms. Why hadn't Duo said anything? Why would he let him go on believing he and Wufei were still married, that Wufei was going to be home for dinner? No, wait. Duo never said Wufei was coming home. He never really said anything about the other man at all. But when he'd asked, it had to have been obvious that he believed they were together. Why would Duo let him go on believing he was married?

"Are you all right?" The waitress asked with a look of genuine concern on her wide and pale face.

Heero blinked, coming out of his thoughts and looked at her with a question on his lips. "Is Duo presently involved with anyone?"

"Romantically?" Heero nodded and she answered, "No, not that I know of. He's a great guy, though, not to mention good looking. Too bad he's not into women."

"Who does he hang around with?"

"The men, especially the old ones. He meets them down at the pub on Saturday nights. After a couple of hours he takes all of them to their homes because he's the only one who is sober."

"He doesn't drink?"

"Never. Not even soda. He always asks for bottled water, the expensive kind."

Heero could hardly believe that he was listening to a description of Duo Maxwell. The boy from L2 had been trained for operating his gundam aboard a sweeper vessel, where beer was the drink of choice with meals and in-between-meal snacks. Duo, though underage for purchasing alcohol, always had a craving for beer. That he was known for abstaining from alcohol was rather alarming. What had changed Duo? The people Heero was acquainted with how turned down alcohol were usually religious or had a problem with the substance, recovering alcoholics. The last reason made more sense to him than the first. Had his leaving or Duo's breakup with Wufei served as a catalyst for the braided man turning to alcohol? Had he become an alcoholic and that's why he now avoided alcohol altogether? The more he learned about his former lover the more he realized he no longer knew him very well.

He left the café with these thoughts filling his head. Instead of spending the afternoon strolling through the shops with their garish and beguiling holiday decorations, he returned to his room and opened his laptop with the intention of writing. He sat for the longest time with fingers poised over the keyboard, stuck in a stupor of thought, wondering what else was Duo trying to hide?

on to part 3

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