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 3
by Dyna Dee

Heero arrived back at his former home at 6:15 p.m. unable to wait any longer in his hotel room. It was a dark winter night, and after spending the afternoon pondering the many unanswered questions regarding Duo, he felt as if his mounting suspicions and anger were leaking out from his pores. He stood rigid before the familiar front door, unmindful of the bay window and the bright, twinkling Christmas lights that brightened the front of the house while waiting for it to open. With his fists clenched and arms stiff at his sides, he struggled with the urge to reach out and throttle the man opening the door.

"You're earl..." Duo was cut off and a startled sound escaped his throat when Heero pushed him inside the house and firmly slammed the door behind him, rattling every window in the house. Continuing his momentum, the writer pushed forward, causing Duo to stumble backwards, only managing to keep his feet under him because Heero's fists were firmly holding the front of this flannel shirt.

Unfortunately, neither man was aware that Boo was in the way until they stumbled over him, causing all three to yelp in surprise. Amongst flailing arms and legs they tumbled to the floor, the large dog barely managing to dart out from beneath the two men at the last moment.

Pinned beneath Heero's weight, Duo struggled to push the other man off. His efforts abruptly ended when Heero rose up only enough to look him in the eyes, their faces mere inches apart. At the same moment, both men stilled, becoming acutely aware of the compromising position the fall had caused, with Heero's lower body nestled between Duo's spread thighs. He could tell that Duo was about to ask him what the hell did he think he was doing, so he beat him to the punch.

"Why didn't you tell me your relationship with Wufei was over?" the Japanese man demanded, anger distorting his handsome face.

Defiance lit up Duo's eyes. "Like I said before, it's none of your business."

"Dammit, Duo, it is my business!"

The braided man winced at the statement being shouted in his face. "I'm not your business, Heero, and neither is Wufei. Eight years without a word from you negates even friendly concerns you might have for your former friends' welfare."

Heero ground his teeth together as he strove to curb his rising frustration with the other man. "I want the truth from you, Duo. And so help me, if I don't get it I'm going to wring it out of you."

"Get off of me," Duo hissed through clenched teeth, his eyes blazing with anger.

"No, not until you tell me what happened. Did you become an alcoholic after Wufei left?"

Duo stilled and his large blue-violet eyes blinked with confusion. "An alcoholic? Where the hell did you get that idea?"

Relief washed over Heero as he replied, "I guess that's a no."

"Damn right it's a no. Who have you been talking to?"

"A waitress down at the Sassy Seagull café."

"What? You were gossiping about me with a stranger?"

Heero frowned. "If you won't give me a straight answer, then how else am I going to find out what's been going on? I'm telling you the truth, Duo, when I say I'm not leaving Old Castle until I have my answers."

"Then you're only going to get them from the local gossips, because I don't share my business with just anyone."

Heero took a deep breath, reminding himself not to back Duo into a corner. In a much softer tone of voice, he looked into the other man's face, so close to his own, and with a touch of the sadness he asked, "And when did I become just anyone? Please, Duo, tell me what I need to know."

That did it. All the fight and belligerence in Duo vanished when he saw the pain in Heero's eyes. The braided man shook his head, now resigned to answering some of Heero's questions, "I thought we could talk over dinner. But first, do you think you can get off me? You're crushing me."

Feeling obstinate, Heero gently ground his hips into the other man's lower regions and was pleased to find evidence that Duo wasn't that adverse to his attentions. His heart sped up after hearing Duo moan. "I rather like this way of communicating," Heero said softly, and taking advantage of the intimacy of their contact he lowered his head to nuzzle Duo's pale neck.

"Wha... what are you doing?" the braided man gasped.

Pleased that Duo wasn't pushing him away, Heero allowed himself to get caught up in the smell and taste of Duo. It was coming back to him now how addictive the natural scent of the American was, and always had been. With Duo pinned beneath him, and the scent and taste of him pleasurably filling Heero's senses, he came to the realization that no one had or could ever compete for his affections and come out favorably with the man he'd first fallen in love with in his youth. Knowing that Duo was now single, that he apparently had no husband or even lover, he would be a complete fool to let him slip away again.

Slow and hot open mouth kisses covered Duo's neck, jaw, cheeks and ears. The braided man felt paralyzed by Heero's touch and his intoxicating nearness. He knew he should put an end to this and push Heero away, but it felt so incredibly good. I'll stop him in a minute, he told himself. And then that minute passed, as did several more, and he thought his heart was going to burst it was beating so rapidly in his chest. "Heero," he whispered, his voice little more than a moan as his hands desperately gripped the other man's shoulders.

"When did you stop loving me?" Heero whispered, returning to the question asked earlier that morning.

A fraction of a moment later Duo managed to gasp out, "Never. I never stopped loving you."

So many conflicting emotions coursed through Heero's mind. He covered Duo's mouth with his own, frantic to recapture what he'd lost so many years ago.

Duo reciprocated in kind, now desperate to have this moment, this night with Heero, regardless of what regrets tomorrow might bring. His arms rose of their own accord to hold Heero's body tightly to his own, never wanting to let the other man go.

Reluctantly, Heero broke the kiss, only to ask, "Why did you marry Wufei?"

Duo's reaction to that question was sudden, and it was as if a bucket of cold water had been tossed over them the way the braided man's face closed off, and he immediately turned his head away from Heero's gaze. Catching his breath he answered, "I had a very good reason, Heero, but I just don't want to talk about it, at least not now."

Heero's anger came back in an instant. "Well when in the hell are you going to feel like talking about it? I have to leave here in a couple of days and I don't want to go away with my questions being unanswered."

It was a surprise to the Japanese man when Duo turned to look at him once more. His facial expression had changed from anger to something altogether different. It seemed to him those blue-violet eyes were pleading for something as Duo raised his hand to cup his cheek tenderly and said. "I know you'll be leaving soon, Heero, but for old time's sake, do you think we can put the past aside for the next two days? We never had a real Christmas together, and that's what I'd like most of all. Can we do that? Build a new memory to replace the old hurts with something better?" Without waiting for an answer, Duo leaned up and kissed his former lover, tenderly at first, and then more aggressively as the need for something more took over.

It took only one stunned moment before Heero could react. His demand for answers evaporated and he pulled Duo's body against his own, deepening the kiss the other man initiated. He suddenly knew, not having realizing it before, that this was what he'd wanted from the moment he'd seen Duo working in his shop. The touch, taste and smell of Duo was a physical homecoming that surpassed any other welcome he could imagine. Soon their limbs were entwined, and hands began moving as the two men began to rediscover each other. They would have stripped off each other's clothing within minutes if it weren't for an unexpected and unwelcome interruption. A warm, wet tongue was applied to Duo's face, while an equally wet nose brushed Heero's cheek.

"Boo!" Duo chided with a grin.

Heero looked at the dog, who seemed to be smiling. "Maybe we should take this somewhere a bit more..."

"Dog proof?" Duo guessed with a grin.

"Yes. And also private and more comfortable. I definitely feel a draft coming from under your front door."

Truning to look at the entrance doorway, the braided man frowned. "It must need new weatherstripping. I'll fix it later."



"You can fix it tomorrow. We've got other plans for tonight."

Duo's smile did something to Heero's insides. He felt a stirring in his belly that touched his heart as Duo combed his fingers through his hair and said, "Let's go upstairs."

After giving the Boo the command to stay, no further words were spoken between the two men as they climbed the stairs hand in hand. Nearing the top landing, Heero recalled the way to the room he'd formerly shared with Duo. He frowned at the thought that it was most likely the same room the long-haired man had also shared with Wufei. Instead of being jealous, he set a goal in his mind to erase any memory Duo might have of his former husband by making new, unforgettable memories tonight.

The moment they'd crossed the bedroom's threshold Duo was back in his arms, their mouths joined while their hands were busy pulling and peeling off the layers of warm clothing.

The lights emanating from shops, streetlights and the homes of Old Castle reflected off the low cloud cover, casting something close to moon glow into the second story bedroom through the open-curtain window. Once the barriers of clothing were shed, Heero gently eased Duo down onto the double bed. In the soft, light Duo's face was even more stunning as their passion rose. "I want to taste you Duo, to touch every part of you."

"Want you," Duo whispered in return as Heero placed himself on the end of the bed, near his feet. The darker-haired man picked up the bare right foot and kissed the slender ankle and proceeded to do the same up the inside of the slightly furred calf to the knee, which led his lips to creamy, pale and soft thighs. When Duo was squirming, needing more, he began on the left foot, following the same path as the other.

Ignoring the part of Duo that seemed to need his attention the most, Heero placed kisses on the flat stomach, chest and neck, feeling the rapid beat of Duo's heart against his lips and tongue. That he could cause the man beneath him to respond so ardently to his touch was exhilarating, and made Heero more determined than ever to make this night the best either one of them had ever had.

Duo arched upward, desperately needing Heero to touch him before he died from frustration. His former lover's kisses were both sweet and searing, branding his flesh with each touch. As Heero moved those teasing lips up his neck, he could stand no more. With fingers threading through chocolate locks, he pulled upwards, easily coaxing Heero's mouth to meld with his own. That warm, caramel skin pressed against his own helped dispel some of the cold that permeated the upstairs room. Contrary to the air's temperature, Duo felt like he was ready to combust.

"Heero." The neediness of the other man's voice when he moaned his name gave notice that Duo was about to come undone.

"Just a moment," he said, hating to stop for even a moment but he had to ask. "Do you have what we need?"

After a long pause and a disappointed groan, Duo mumbled unhappily. "Yeah, but it's in the bathroom. Hold on and I'll go get it."

The moment Duo moved away from him, Heero became aware of how cold the bedroom was. He remedied the situation by climbing under the down comforter. He watched Duo leave the bed and make his way to the adjoining bathroom, the warmth of his body and passion they shared lingering on his skin. Even so, the Japanese man wondered why he suddenly felt so bereft. That feeling of being lost was aching familiar, something he'd felt all too often during the past eight years. The pang of emptiness caused by Duo's temporary absence reminded him of how lonely he ‘d truly been over the years, and he had no one to blame but himself. He'd deliberately kept past lovers at arms' length, quickly courting and bedding agreeable men and women without extending promises of, or desire for, a future with them. Love them and leave them had been his motto, and though the phrase was trite, he'd adopted and practiced it with a carefully constructed barrier around his heart. He'd always been up front with his bed companions, telling them he wasn't ready to commit to a relationship. His emotional detachment - something he'd learned in his early youth, during his training as an assassin's protégée - had made it easier for him to enjoy others' companionship and intimacy for physical release without commitment. In retrospect, those with whom he'd had sex with since his departure from Old Castle had never stirred within him the overwhelming feelings of desire, need, protectiveness and, yes, love that being with Duo caused him to feel. The American had always had an uncanny way of breaking through his defenses.

The sound of cabinets being opened and shut in the other room brought a slight, amused smile to Heero's face. Duo was obviously searching for the items they needed, giving Heero another minute to think about the situation. He slowly stroked his erection, keeping himself ready for his lover's return. Lover. It had been years since he'd assigned such a title to anyone, and Duo had been the first and last. As the long-haired man exited the bathroom, his lithe silhouette moving closer to the bed, Heero knew he wanted more from Duo than just sex or a one or two night journey down memory lane. He wanted Duo, lock, stock and barrel. The thought of having Duo to go to bed with each night, to wake up with the next morning, to turn around and share a thought, a joke or the occasional frustration of writer's block had more appeal than anything he'd ever desired before. What an idiot he'd been to leave Duo in search of a future knowing that the American was the best thing to have ever happened to him. Perhaps it was true that with time came wisdom, for he had no intention of repeating the mistakes of the past. Now, all he had to do was convince Duo to take him back and agree to spend the rest of their lives together.

The bed dipped and then Duo's chilled body was pressed up against his side. "Burr... It's cold," the braided man said, his teeth chattering slightly from walking around naked in the cold room.

Heero took him in his arms, determined to warm the slender man's body as quickly as possible. He leaned over and captured Duo's soft and willing mouth while his hands began again to stoke the fires of passion once more.

When Duo's body was as hot and ready as his own, he pried the tube of lube and condom from his soon-to-be lover's hand, and while they lay on their sides, facing each other, he pulled Duo's upper thigh over his waist, giving him access to the place he'd soon be pleasuring with something better than his fingers. With great care he began to prepare his lover. Duo's muscles were tight and he was tense. Heero had to wonder if he'd been with anyone since his divorce from Wufei. He would take things slow, he decided, in order to assure the braided man would feel no great discomfort or regret for what they were about to do.

Duo moaned and arched his back as Heero pleasured him in a way he hadn't experienced in a long time. If the other man didn't take him soon, it was going to be all over before they got to the best part. "Enough, Heero," he gasped. "Take me already."

Duo was eased onto his back and Heero positioned himself over him and kissed him until he could hardly breathe. Hands strong and sure caught him behind his knees and urged them upward, and Duo responded by lifting and then wrapping his legs around Heero's back. And then he felt it, the easing of Heero's member into his body. Though he'd been stretched, it was still a bit uncomfortable, and he vaguely recalled that this was how it had always been. Yet if his memory served him well, the minor discomfort would soon be gone and he was going to feel pretty damn wonderful in a minute or two.

The caution and gentleness Heero exercised reminded Duo of a similar night nearly ten years ago. It was on Peacemillion, before one of the space battles. There was fear on his part that they were running out of time. Their enemies were coming after them with all they had, and there was no guarantee that either he or Heero would survive to see the outcome of the next battle, much less the war. Having several month's worth of desire and teenage lust building up, Heero proposed they not wait any longer to physically explore the strong attraction that could no longer be denied. In light of the constant battles, the agreement they'd made, to wait for the end of the war before beginning physical relationship, no longer seemed quite so important. On that night, with cooking oil stolen from the galley and a condom swiped from sickbay, Heero had made love to him for the first time. Then, just as it was on this winter night, their love making was unhurried and cautious. The tender memory made the moment even more meaningful, bringing tears to Duo's eyes.

Concentrating on moving slowly to lessen any discomfort Duo might be feeling, Heero didn't open his eyes to look at the man beneath him until he was fully seated. When he did, he was stunned by seeing moisture seeping from those beautiful eyes. "Am I hurting you?" he asked, alarmed by the thought.

Duo's hand came up to lovingly cup his face. "This is like before, on the first night we made love," Duo replied in an emotion-filled voice. "I'd forgotten how gentle you were, how kind and loving."

Heero nodded. He remembered that night, too. Turning his head, he kissed the open palm that was resting on his cheek. "I loved you then, but it was only the beginning to what I would come to know of love." And how he loved Duo. "Let me show you how I feel about you now, what this night means to me."

After receiving a brief nod of the braided head, giving his permission, Heero swooped down to take Duo's mouth in a heated kiss that was intended to arouse and curl the other man's toes with the strength of his love, leading them towards the next step.

As Heero began to move within his lover's body, he was almost lost to the overwhelming feeling of pleasure coursing through his mind and body. The feel, smell and taste of Duo was intoxicating, but it was those eyes, beautiful and filled with passion and glimmering with unshed tears that urged him to go slowly, to make this moment last forever. Heero recalled the past as well, also thinking of the first time they made love on his bunk on Peacemillion. It had been his need to share something other than violence and war with Duo, as well as anxious feelings for the battle to come that prompted him to break his agreement with Duo to wait. Not knowing whether either of them would survive the impending battle the next morning, he wanted to make love to the American, to have no regrets should one of them perish in the fight. They had been clumsy, being the first time for both of them, but he'd researched what to do and had improvised on the items necessary for their joining.

Duo had been a short and lean teenager with more attitude and spunk than his small frame could hold at times. He was taller now and almost as slight of build as he had been as a teenager, with the same smooth and unblemished skin. Beneath his fingers and in the dim light, he saw a man's body instead of a boy's, still slender but with muscles more pronounced. Heero's breath caught in his throat as he looked down on the long-haired man, finding Duo to be as beautiful now as he'd been when they were teenagers making love for the first time.

Drowning in wave after wave of pleasure as Heero touched him in all the right places, Duo met each thrust eagerly, his hands gliding over Heero's shoulders and back, memorizing everything he could about the other man. As the primal need for more grew, the long-haired man reached up to thread his fingers through the dark brown hair and pulled Heero's head down to his own, fusing their lips together, wanting to be completely consumed by him. His other hand slid down the strong and firm back, feeling undulating muscles moving rhythmically beneath his palm as Heero pleasured them both. Moving that hand even lower to the curve of Heero's bottom, he applied pressure, urging the man above him to move more forcefully and quickly.

With Duo's hand urging him on and their mouths and bodies so intimately joined, Heero found it impossible resist his efforts at prolonging their lovemaking. He quickened the pace and the two men raced together towards a joint completion. In a burst of breathless rapture, both men gasped and froze the instant they toppled over the edge together.

Heero collapsed onto Duo's chest a moment after he'd reached Nirvana, his trembling body covering the man beneath him. He paused to catch his breath and calm his heart and body, and to relish the moment as one of the most significant in his life. As soon as he caught his breath, he began to rain kisses of gratitude on Duo's neck, shoulders and as much of his face as he could reach while his sated member remained buried within his lover.

Duo's body was completely relaxed. For a long, wonderful moment, he'd lost himself in Heero's arms, feeling as if he were touching something almost sacred when he'd climaxed along with Heero. Absolute contentment filled him, and he promised himself to never forget this moment or this night. When Heero was gone, as he expected him to be within a day or so, he would recall everything that had gone on between them, every touch, kiss and feeling, and memory that would remain with him for the rest of his life.

Butterfly kisses on his shoulders, neck and face brought him back to the here and now. Heero was a wonderful lover, and it was obvious that during the past eight years he'd learned a thing or two about the intricacies of lovemaking. He had no doubt that Heero had been with others, with his good looks and well-known accomplishments as a writer he'd be a target for many seeking his attention and bed. After all, wasn't it Heero's physical attractiveness and ability to fly a gundam and bend steel that had captured his attention as a fifteen year old kid? When he'd gotten to know the boy from L1 better, he'd fallen hopelessly in love with him. He could easily understand how others would also fall under the same spell Heero unknowing cast.

He worried for a moment that his own attempt to give Heero pleasure in return hadn't appeared clumsy or childish. He wasn't like Heero any more. He lived a simple, uncomplicated life in a small village that was ever watchful of everything that went on. Their moving into Old Castle over eight years ago had certainly stirred things up, and then after Heero's departure and the sudden appearance of Wufei, he'd become the main source of gossip once more. Their divorce had been a quiet, amicable affair, but he had no doubt the gossips of the village speculated on what had gone wrong between himself and the Chinese Preventer agent. He'd spent years trying to be a contributing member of the village, making friends and doing his best to live a good, meaningful life. He'd put all thoughts of having another relationship, like the one he'd had with Heero, behind him. He hadn't allowed another man to get close enough to share his life, to help shoulder the burden of uncertainty that he carried with him from the moment he woke up each and every morning.

"I love you." The words spoken softly by lips touching his jaw sounded sincere, and with equal sincerity Duo responded with all honesty, "I love you, too."

With Heero still inside of him, they began their lovemaking anew until once more they were able to recapture the feeling of euphoria that had taken them earlier. There was very little sleep to be had that night, and it was only an hour or so before sunrise that their exhausted bodies demanded a reprieve and they both fell into the dreamless sleep of the well sated.

When Heero finally awoke, his body was the first to remind him of the long and wonderful night that had just passed. With a smile on his lips he turned to his right and opened his eyes only to find that he was alone in the bed. He sat up, feeling the ache that accompanied a night of passionate lovemaking and of having been taken. It was a good feeling, one that he'd hope to experience on a regular basis.

The room was cold, and though he loathed the thought of getting out of the warm bed, he did so, quickly picking up his scattered clothing and moving

into the adjoining bathroom. Heero helped himself to a quick shower, letting the hot water warm his chilled body before he donned his clothing and used some of Duo's toothpaste and mouthwash to freshen his mouth.

Climbing down the stairs, he glimpsed out of the front bay window that the predicted snow had arrived. They'd be no getting over the mountain pass to New Port City for a couple of days, not that he was in any hurry to leave. Sounds of movement came from the kitchen, and so it was in that direction he turned.

The sight that greeted him wasn't unexpected, but it warmed him from the inside out to see Duo in the middle of making breakfast while his dog lay on a braided rug next to the stove. The table had been set for two, with a bowl of cut-up fruit sitting atop a matching plate. There were two mugs as well as glasses at the top of each setting. "Good Morning," he greeted the cook, who turned his head and presented him with a dazzling smile.

"Morning. I was just about to come and wake you when I heard the shower turn on. Did you sleep well?"

Continuing forward as Duo spoke, Heero now approached the man at the stove and hugged him from behind. Seeking out skin beneath the collar of the blue flannel shirt with his lips he replied, "I slept better than I have in years."

Taking Duo's chin in his hand, he turned the other man's face enough to have access to his mouth and kissed Duo deeply, trying to convey once more how much he loved him.

Duo kissed back with equal enthusiasm, but then chuckled and pulled away, much too soon for Heero's liking. "Sit down before I burn the oatmeal. Would you like eggs or something else?"

"Oatmeal?" Heero was dumbfounded. "If I remember right, you used to hate oatmeal or anything remotely healthy."

The braided man shrugged. "I did, but it's a natural food and a good source of fiber. I eat only whole grains for breakfast now, maybe an occasional poached or boiled egg. Everything else I eat is organic and lean meats."

Heero thought it was very odd that Duo had made such a drastic change in his diet, from his former junk food ways. No doubt Wufei had something to do with that change. Rather than bring up Duo's former husband, always a tetchy subject, he answered the other man's question. "I'll just have some oatmeal."

Soon two steaming bowls of oatmeal were placed on the table to cool, and while the wheat bread was in the toaster, the two men sat down and began to eat the bowl of fruit that had been set out for them.

Duo glanced up several times while eating with a look that seemed oddly shy. He shifted in his seat, and Heero noted that he'd done it several times in the space of two minutes. "Are you alright?" he asked.

"I'm fine, why do you ask?" Duo asked with his spoon of melon poised half way between the bowl and his mouth.

"Your shifting suggests you're uncomfortable."

The blush on Duo's cheeks deepened. "I'm feeling a bit tender. It's been a while since I've been with anyone."

Guilt assailed Heero. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have pushed for more than one round."

The braided man stopped in mid chew, and with one eyebrow raised he asked, "Did you hear me complaining?"

"Well, no, but..."

"No buts, Heero. I wanted you, and you gave me everything I'd ever dreamed of. Thanks, by the way, for staying."

"Thanks for letting me," Heero replied with a teasing grin.

"So, what have you got planned for today?"

Heero watched as Duo pushed the empty fruit bowl away and replaced it with the full bowl of oatmeal. The toast popped up from the toaster and quickly brought to the table. As Duo proceeded to pour milk and sprinkle brown sugar on top of his hot cereal, Heero answered his question, "My initial thought was to take you back up to the bedroom for the rest of the day, but now that I know you're sore, we might have to delay my plans for a day or two."

Duo swallowed down his first spoonful before answering. "As good as that sounds, I've got too much to do today to go back to bed. I'm afraid you'll be on your own until this evening. Is that alright?"

Though he was disappointed at not having Duo to himself for the day, Heero forced himself to smile and say, "I'm sure I can find something to do."

Looking a bit sheepish, Duo said, "I've a confession to make. I called the Rose and Crown earlier and told Franz that you might be spending the holiday with me. He said if you checked out by noon there would be no charges for today. If you'd like to stay here at the house, why don't you go back there this morning and settle your account and then bring your luggage back here. Maybe we could have lunch together before I head back to my workshop and you can hang around here or in the village until it's time to head out to the church for the Christmas Eve program. You're invited to that as well, if you'd like to come."

"Sounds good. But are you sure you don't mind my staying?"

"I don't mind," Duo said, grinning in a roguish manner that had Heero's stomach doing slight flip flops. "How long do you think you can stay?"

"My return ticket for London is set for the evening of the twenty seventh," he answered. He held back from say that he was thinking about postponing his trip if things continued on the way they were.

Duo grinned. "That gives us a couple more days." The prospect of spending more time together caused the blue-violet eyes to brighten considerably. He then began to eat in earnest. Watching the cereal rapidly disappear, Heero smiled to himself, thinking that at least one thing about Duo hadn't changed from when he was a teenager. He'd never seen anyone pack so much food and so quickly in one sitting and remain unbelievably thin. It came as no surprise that Duo finished before he did, and in a flash Duo jumped up and out of his chair to place his dishes in the sink.

While filling the sink with hot water and dish soap, Duo looked over his shoulder. "How about I meet you at the Village Square at noon? It's a little café about two blocks north of the Rose and Crown."

"Alright," Heero answered, picking up his empty bowls while standing from his chair. He placed his dishes next to the sink then moved behind Duo to wrap his arms around him from the back. The braided head tilted to the right, giving Heero access to a temptingly long and pale neck.

Leaning back into the firm chest, Duo moaned, finding Heero's embrace and kisses too good to resist. Then swiftly spinning, he held his wet hands out in an effort to not get Heero wet, and gave him a quick and fierce kiss before stepping back and laughing. "Now go, while I have the strength of mind to let you out of my sight."

Leaning forward for a brief peck on Duo's lips, Heero nodded. "All right, but I expect to have you all to myself later tonight."

"As soon as we get back from the church," Duo agreed.

It was bitterly cold outside and yet so beautiful despite the dark sky promising more snow. Other than the newly plowed streets, the ground was covered with a thick layer of pristine while snowfall and the air was crisp and clean and the below freezing temperature caused his sinuses to crackle. Pulling his collar closer to his neck, Heero could see by the shoveled sidewalk that Duo had been busy that morning. Wearing his sturdiest shoes, he began the short walk to the village center, vowing to buy some proper water-proof, extra warm footwear as soon as possible.

As he made his way to the Rose and Crown, eyeing people passing by with their hands full of purchases, it came to him that he didn't have a Christmas present for his lover. Duo lived a pretty simple life, which made gift buying a bit more difficult. What could he give the man who seemed utterly content with what he already had? He recalled the inside of Duo's house and an idea suddenly came to him. He wondered if the small village had a shop that carried vid phones. He noticed Duo was using a standard phone, but a vid phone would give him contact to his other friends, people he cared about who lived too far away to see on a regular basis. Though even the more simple vid phones were too expensive for the average citizen, the cost was nothing to Heero in light of the happiness it would bring the other man. A vid phone. Yes, that's what he would buy Duo for their first celebrated Christmas.

As suggested, he checked out of the Rose and Crown and asked the clerk to hold his luggage while he spent some more time shopping that morning. Leisurely wandering though the festive shops and buying a couple of needed items, Heero could sense an air of anticipation and excitement in the air as the hours began to count down until the Christmas celebrations began. It was the first time in his 25 years that he shared those same feelings.

As the time to meet Duo neared, Heero walked towards the Village Square café in his new insulated boots and carrying several large packages, all covered in holiday wrapping, thanks to the store's customer service.

He entered the café and scanned the interior. Despite the fact that the village streets seemed to be filled with people, there were relatively few seated at the tables. A server escorted him to a table for four, and he carefully set his purchases on the two extra chairs and calmly looked over the menu while waiting for Duo to arrive.

Ten minutes past the designated hour, a blast of cold air and a bundled up man burst through the front door of the café. Heero looked up to see a long braid hanging over the thick down jacket, the only recognizable feature on the bundled up man. Removing the woolen cap from his head and the scarf from around his face and neck, Duo immediately spied him and made his way over to the table, a bright smile on his face. The shifting of the violet eyes told Heero that Duo had seen the gift packages on the chairs.

With a less brilliant smile, Duo pulled out the chair to his left and sat down. "Looks like you've been busy," he said, nodding toward Heero's packages while pulling off his jacket.

"Just a little last minute shopping."

"For me?"

Heero wondered why Duo looked displeased. "No, for Mr. Jenkins at the Rose and Crown," he answered facetiously.

Duo looked embarrassed. "Ah.. That's real nice of you, Heero, but I don't have a lot of money and..."

"Stop!" Putting his hand on Duo's forearm, Heero looked with earnest into the other man's eyes. "I wanted to get you something to celebrate our first Christmas together. I don't expect you to give me anything. What we shared last night meant more than anything you could buy me. You have my word, Duo, I have never received a better gift than that."


"I know you would if you could," Heero interjected. "Please, let me do this without having you feel badly."

"I don't know what to say," Duo said, and he certainly looked like he was at a loss for words.

"Say, I can't wait for tonight."

The beginning of a grin grew on the braided man's face. "I'm counting every minute between now and then."

The waitress took that moment to approach their table and take their lunch orders.

After finishing their lunch, the two men returned to the Rose and Crown to collect Heero's luggage. Powdery, white snow fell heavily from the low clouds while Duo carried the two pieces of luggage and Heero hauled the heavy presents down the street and finally into the two-story house. Boo enthusiastically greeted them and was promptly let out to do his business. Once the front door was closed behind them, Heero paused as the most wonderful aroma hit him. "What is that?" he asked, having closed eyes to appreciate more fully the smell of spices and fruit.

"Um.. my Christmas gift for my neighbors," Duo replied a bit bashfully.

"Smells like baked peaches."

"It's peach pie." Heero opened his eyes to see his lover was blushing with embarrassment.

"Can I see?"

"Sure." Setting the luggage down in the foyer as well as the gifts, both men took off their outerwear before Duo led the other man into the kitchen where Heero was surprised to see five wonderfully aromatic pies sitting out on the counter top.

"You did all of this after I left?"

"Yeah. I have to deliver them tonight, and I've still got four more pies to go."

"Where the hell did you get peaches this time of year?" Heero felt like he was drifting on a cloud of fragrance as he moved closer to the five pies.

"I bought fresh peaches last summer and froze them together with the sugar and spices with today in mind. Grandma Paulina showed me how to make a decent pie crust a couple of years ago. I know it's probably not the most manly thing to do, but this way I can give something to the people I care about without spending a lot of money."

"Any chance there will be one left?"

Moving forward, Duo wrapped his arms around the blue eyed man. "I'll see what I can do," he whispered with a smile.

For as long as he lived Heero knew he'd always associate the smell of peach pie with Duo and this moment. He returned the other man's embrace, and would have been happy to spend the rest of the afternoon in the kitchen with the aromatic sweetness filling the air, but it was clear Duo had more to do.

Pulling away, the braided man gave him a chaste kiss before turning him towards the living room. "Go, and let me finish this. I've only got a couple of hours until we have to leave for the church. You are coming, aren't you?"

Not a religious man by any means, Heero would normally stay as far away from a church full of people as he could. But the hopeful glint in Duo's eyes swayed him enough to agree. "Yes. We'll go together."

"Great!" Duo's eyes sparkled with happiness. "Now go let Boo in and entertain yourself for a couple of hours. You can put a couple of logs on the fire if it's not warm enough in there."

Having been dismissed, Heero reluctantly left the kitchen. He went to the front door as instructed and let the anxious dog in. Boo quickly went towards the fireplace and lay down on the rug provided for him. Heero thought the room did feel a bit chilly, so he added two logs to the simmering, faintly glowing logs in the fireplace. A small television sat on a table across from the sofa. Heero turned it on but found the channel selections limited. Slouched comfortably on the sofa, he mindlessly watched a new version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, while half listening to the sounds coming from the kitchen and snores of contentment coming from Boo.

Around four, the phone rang. "I'll get it," Duo called out a moment before he appeared and picked up the cordless phone from off the hall table. "Hello?" he answered. After a moment he quickly left the room, returning to the kitchen.

Curious, Heero couldn't help wanting to know who Duo was talking to, though he figured he probably wouldn't know anyone other than their three former comrades from the war. He silently rose from the sofa and tip-toed to the kitchen door with the intention of catching a few words of conversation, just to see if he could figure out who was calling.

"... scan and blood work a couple of days ago. I'm expecting the clinic to call with the final report anytime now," Duo said to the mysterious caller. "I can't help being tense. You know how anxious I get waiting." There was a long pause when it appeared the person on the other end of the line was saying something. "I swear I'm all right. No, I don't want you to change your plans. I'm fine. No, Wu, and I mean it!" Duo said more firmly. "Besides, I've got some company for the holidays and you've got a proposal to deliver. Did you get the ring?" Pause. "Of course she'll say yes. She's crazy about you." Another pause. "Call me tomorrow and let me know how it went."

Shortly after that Duo ended the conversation with a heartfelt Merry Christmas and a softer goodbye, signaling Heero to quickly return to the sofa. He sat in the same spot he'd left only a few moments before with his mind in a turmoil over what he'd just heard. It was fairly evident by the one-sided conversation and tone of Duo's voice that he and Wufei were still on pretty good terms after their divorce. Wufei, apparently, was worried about his former spouse. And from the sounds of it, the Chinese man was going to propose to someone tonight. A female. And what was this about a scan, blood work and results? Was Duo ill?

He didn't have time to ponder the phone call any further because Duo burst through the closed door with the phone in hand, which he placed back in its place on the table. "Almost done," the braided man stated as he turned around to retrace his steps back to the kitchen.

Not wanting to lose his chance to talk about what he'd overheard, without letting on the he had done so, Heero asked as casually as possible, "Who called?"

Duo slowed to a halt, and with a guilty look on his face replied, "Ah... that was Wufei. He just called to wish me a Merry Christmas."

"Did you tell him I was here?"

Duo shook his head. "You didn't say whether or not you wanted anyone to know, so I thought I'd better not say anything."

"I don't mind."

"No, I don't suppose you do, but I think Wufei might."

Perplexed, Heero stood and approached the other man. "Why would Wufei care whether I'm here or not?"

A guarded look crossed the handsome American's face. "I'm not comfortable discussing Wufei with you, Heero. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to finish these pies."

Reaching out to grab Duo's arm to prevent him from stepping away, Heero turned the other man around to face him. "Why did the two of you divorce?"

Duo's eyes narrowed. "I don't think that's any of your business."

Heero's anger began to seep out from his control as he snarled, "You should have married me, Duo, not a man you didn't even know during the wars. Screw the reason why you divorced, why the hell did you marry him?"

Duo yanked his arm free and took a step back, his eyes sparking with anger of his own. "We hashed all of this out yesterday."

"And I still have no answers," Heero said hotly.

Duo's ire was evident when he asked, "You want to know why I married him? Because he was here when I needed him, not off trying to ‘find himself' and completely unreachable. I married him because he had what I needed and, frankly, I married him because he asked me to."

As the braided man turned and stormed off into the kitchen, Heero followed on his heels, his anger simmering dangerously. "I told you I'd be back for you. I was only gone a couple of months before I found out that you'd married him. Do you know how much that hurt, Duo? How betrayed I felt? You said you understood why I left, you that you stood by my decision. How could you turn around and marry a person you hardly knew? I can only think that what you felt for me back then was not love, because if you truly loved me you wouldn't have hurt and betrayed me like you did."

Duo looked like he was about to burst. His face was reddening and his breathing came out harsh through his gritted teeth. And then suddenly that infamous Maxwell temper was gone, deflated. Heero watched as Duo took several deep breaths, becoming calmer with each passing moment. When those blue-violet eyes raised to meet his own, the anger that had been there only a moment before had been replaced with an expression of sadness. "I think you should go, Heero. I don't want to fight with you, and really, you don't have any right to ask me all these questions."

"I beg to differ," Heero replied, forcing himself to follow Duo's example by calming down. "All these years I've wondered why you married Wufei and whether you ever loved me at all."

"What does it really matter now? It's all a part of the past, and there's nothing either of us can do or say that will change what happened. "

Stepping closer and putting both hands on Duo's forearms, Heero looked into the other man's eyes. "Just tell me, Duo. Did you love me?"

There was a hitch in Duo's breath and his eyes misted over as he leaned forward and set his forehead against Heero's. "Of course I loved you. You were everything to me. It just about destroyed me when you left but I knew I couldn't keep you here when you didn't want to stay."

Drawing Duo into his arms, Heero held him tightly, the ache in his chest matching the burning in his eyes. "I was so restless back then, feeling both too young and old at the same time. I was unsure of myself and what I should do, but I never had any doubts about you, Duo, nor the way I felt about you. That's why it's been so hard for me to understand why you married Wufei."

"Can't you just be content knowing that I had my reasons? Would it help you to move on if I told you that I've never loved anyone the way I loved you?"

Pulling back just enough to look at Duo's face and seeing the pain in his eyes, Heero sensed that pushing the other man to answer any more questions would only cause more friction between them, so he reigned in his curiosity, hurt and anger, at least for the time being. It seemed they were at an impasse. "Do you still want me to leave?"

Duo dragged the moment out, considering what would be best. "No," he decided with a shake of his head. "I don't want you to leave tonight, but I meant it when I said I don't want to fight with you. This started out to be the best Christmas ever, let's not ruin it by quarreling, okay?"

Leaning forward, Heero brushed his lips against the other man's, hoping to sooth him further to a more peaceful state. "Go," he said once he pulled back. "Finish your baking."

A small smile appeared on Duo's face. "All right. I'll be done putting the pies together in about a half hour, then I just need to wait until they come out of the oven.

Heero checked his watch, it was after three. "What should we do about dinner?"

"I've already got it covered, that is if you don't mind soup."

"I don't mind soup at all," Heero replied, though he had thought Duo would have been held to a traditional holiday meal seeing that he was doing just about everything else he'd read about in books or magazines. If Duo wanted a simple supper, then who was he to complain?

on to part 4

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