Disclaimer: I don't own nor profit from my GW stories

Warnings: Yaoi, some language, mild angst, possible NCS

Second Chances
Part 6
by Dyna Dee

Even though he was part of the group conversing, Heero stood to the back of it and watched the interactions between Duo and his adoptive family as well as with the other guests, many of whom were strangers to the young man newly returned to Earth. The former street kid from L-2 showed none of the brash forwardness he might have previously displayed in front of a group of people. Instead, he greeted everyone with a polite handshake, a proper and polite salutation and carried on a brief, slightly formal but friendly conversation with each new acquaintance, gracing every one of them with a pleasant smile. Heero fought back the urge to grab his former lover's slender shoulders and shake this imposter until the real Duo Maxwell came back to his senses.

He purposely held back from approaching Duo, the crowd of people surrounding him making any type of personal conversation impossible. He contented himself to stand back for the moment as a bystander and listened with half an ear to the inane conversations coming from all directions around him. The topics were varied but always polite and non-intrusive, the kind of conversations he always heard at the social and official receptions that he'd been required as part of his job to attend with Relena.

Heero's one consolation in having to bide his time before he could speak to Duo was to notice that, every once in a while, Duo's remarkable eyes would lift up while in conversation with someone else to meet his own, scrutinizing every detail of his person. A slight look of confusion would flitter across the long-haired man's face before it was replaced by a pleasant, proper smile before he returned to look at the person he had been speaking to.

In all his imaginings, Heero had never dreamed that this was how he'd find Duo again. He had envisioned opening the door to his room to see his lover slouching lazily against the door frame with a saucy smile on his face that always spelled wonderful and delicious trouble. He even dreamt of it happening by a chance meeting at a coffee shop or even in passing on the street. But his very favorite daydream found him rolling over in bed to find Duo sleeping peacefully next to him.

Eventually, the crowd around the family thinned as the evening wore on and food, wine and music became the entertainment. Heero observed Quatre speaking at length with Duo in a low tone that made it impossible to follow the conversation from the short distance from where they stood and where Heero positioned himself. But from the looks on their faces, it looked like broken fences were being mended.

"I still can't believe it." Relena's voice came softly from his right side as her hand moved with familiarity under his arm to led her hand rest on the sleeve of his jacket. "I'm Duo's aunt," she said with amusement mingled with a tone of the ridiculous. "Guess I should take back the model airplane kit I bought for Maximilian."

"The one with the workable engine that actually flies?" Heero asked and Relena nodded.

"Give it to him anyway. Duo would love it," he replied, then let a momentary doubt cloud his mind as he rethought his suggestion. "At least I think he will. Duo might finally be past the toy put-it-together-by-yourself stage."

"Maybe," Relena said, looking thoughtfully at the young man in question. "But this is Maximilian, not Duo. Did you know he's been taking college courses while on Mars?"

Heero shook his head. He knew that during the war Duo had expressed a desire to go to college one day and the thought made him frown, wondering how he'd managed to forget that small, important detail.

"He's only got one semester to go before he graduates in the field of Mechanical Engineering."

"That's a good field for him," Heero said. "He always loved tinkering on the gundams and could figure out the mechanics of almost anything."

"Really?" Relena asked, looking surprised at this new information about her nephew.

Heero nodded when suddenly his attention was brought to focus on a new person breaking through the crowd and bounding over to Duo's side. A young man that Heero estimated to be in his early twenties with sandy colored hair and standing at about six feet tall. Heero took in the man's handsome face that had two large dimples in his cheeks that deepened with his growing smile as he approached the long-haired former pilot, giving him a dazzling grin.

"Max!" he called out enthusiastically, then embraced the young man, laughing at the surprise on the face of the recipient of his hug. Duo, to his credit, managed to quickly extricate himself from the other man's arms and blushed with embarrassment. "You're all grown up and looking better than ever, if that's possible," the stranger announced loud enough for the people standing around them to hear.

Heero's eyes narrowed. He definitely did not like this...interloper.

"Marcus, you made it." Duo smiled congenially up at the still smiling person whose arm clamped around the smaller shoulders in a friendly, possessive manner. "It's good to see you again."

"I told you I'd be here, didn't I? Though I had a devil of a time with the commuter jet." Marcus replied with a haughty air.

"That you did," Duo said, then turned to his former friends at the sound of Quatre politely clearing his throat. He smiled apologetically then faced the newcomer. "Let me introduce you to some of my old friends." He motioned to Quatre first. "Marcus Standish let me acquaint you with Quatre Winner and standing next to him is his partner Trowa Barton."

Marcus held his hand out to both and shook their hands while stating his pleasure at making their acquaintances. "Are you the Winner heir from L-4 then?" he asked Quatre with great interest. Once it was confirmed he was indeed that Winner, Duo drew his attention to the others in the group before Marcus could ask about their how he became acquainted with the multi-billionaire Winner.

"And this is Wufei Chang." Duo motioned to the stern and disapproving looking Chinese man who look anything but pleased in passing such pleasantries with the stranger. The two nodded their heads in greeting other than offering their hands.

"I assume you know my Aunt Relena?" Duo said with a sparkle of mischief in his eyes at labeling the girl his own age as his relative while Marcus took the young woman's small hand into his.

"Of course," Relena spoke with a shy smile. "We've met briefly at the country estate over the past few years."

Duo then motioned to the Japanese man standing at Relena's elbow, looking as welcoming as Wufei had been. "And if I'm not mistaken, Heero Yuy here is still Relena's bodyguard." Duo noticed the forbidding look on Heero's face. "He doesn't do handshakes," he said quietly aside to Marcus, alerting him with his voice and a look not to offer his hand to the intense young man unless he wanted to lose it.

"Where do you know each other from?" Heero spoke up for the first time since the five former friends had gathered around to talk to Duo. He found it disconcerting to see someone touching Duo and not knowing how he fit into his former lover's life.

"We met at Milliardo and Noin's estate several weeks before the trip to Mars," Duo answered. "Marcus took pity on me and decided to get me out of my slump by attempting to teach me how to ride a horse and play tennis." He chuckled at some memory that amused him. "I was pretty bad at both if I remember right."

"Yes, you were," Marcus piped in, still smiling handsomely. "But now you're back and we can resume your lessons." The taller man winked at Duo and Heero stiffened.

"I'm sure now that you've graduated from the University and are well into your career that you're too busy for such pastimes." Duo countered lightly, dismissing the offer in a very socially correct manner.

"Well, that's true." Marcus agreed. "But I still have some evenings and weekends for which I'll make myself completely disposable to your every whim."

Duo blushed at the not so subtle suggestion.

Milliardo approached from behind and stepping between them and clapped a hand on both Duo and Marcus's shoulders. "Marcus, glad you could make it. What do you think of my son? Isn't he great?" The blond man was either unaware or ignoring the surprised or angry expression on the other spectator's faces as Marcus gave "the son" a devouring look that traveled up and down the smaller young man's body."

"Definitely great," the sandy haired man purred.

Duo's blush increased as Heero's fists balled up as he watched, unable to do anything about the stranger's forward behavior.

Relena sensed the tension in his body and gave the sleeve of his suit jacket a tug to bring him back into focus. She leaned up to whisper in his ear. "Not here, Heero. Duo doesn't seen to want a scene."

From all he'd seen that night, he had to agree. Duo had been everything proper and respectful, but it took a lot of willpower to not knock the smug possessive grin from off the newcomer's face.

"What is it that you're doing now, Marcus?" Relena wisely changed the subject and the uncomfortable direction it was taking them.

"I'm in finance," he told her. "I work in Paris with the firm of Shelling and Boroughs."

"Is that Laura Shelling's father?" Relena inquired.

Marcus's eyes widened in pleasure. "Yes, I'm well acquainted with Laura."

"She was a classmate of mine." Relena smiled at the happy coincidence. "How is she?"

The conversation drifted to the boring and mundane social topics of friends and acquaintances within the upper social circles. Some guests who had lingered around them began to drift off, seeing the conversation was no long centered on the newly returned family.

Duo's eyes strayed once again and caught Heero's gaze resting on him. With a lift of one dark eyebrow and a nod of his head to the side, Heero invited him to step aside with him. He smiled at his former lover and nodded his acceptance, then excused himself from the small group.

Marcus continued with the conversation he was engaged in, but kept his eyes on his smaller acquaintance as he left not only the conversing circle, but joined the bodyguard near the garden door and left the room.

Heero had to school his reactions in order to hide all the emotions that were going on inside him. He was feeling upset at the change in Duo, yet was secretly thrilled to have him back. But that guy Marcus, his attention to his former lover was definitely disturbing, he could see the possessive nature of the guy and that he was focused solely on Duo; that angered him also. Then, as he watched Duo walk towards him, he felt his heart begin to race. Damn but he was beautiful. Having lost some of the look of boyishness had not taken away any of his physical beauty. There was a strange wave of pleasure that coursed through Heero at the realization that Duo as still a bit shorter then he was, though he was slightly taller then when he had last seen him. He didn't know if that was because of his male ego, or the idea that their two bodies would fit perfectly together standing up or lying down. Inwardly laughing at his thoughts, he looked up to analyze further changes. Duo's face had become a bit more angled, his shoulders a bit broader, and he was still as trim and lovely as ever. The suit he wore fit as it if was handcrafted just for him and, as with almost everything he wore, Duo wearing the suit made it a work of art. The beautiful young man came to a stop in front of him, one eyebrow raised questioningly.

"Let's walk out to the gardens." Heero suggested, happy that his voice was steady and didn't give away his nervousness.

With a slight nod, the long haired twenty-year old agreed and side by side the two left the noisy gathering for the dimly lit gardens.

The air of the cool spring evening was filled with the fragrance of roses and jasmine in their first bloom. Duo took in a deep breath trying to will his rapidly beating heart to slow down. He had been totally unprepared to his body's physical reaction to not only seeing Heero again, but in being so physically close to him. He could smell his former lover's cologne, and he could almost swear that the eyes that he'd emotionally drowned in as a fifteen year old were even more intensely blue than ever before. "Ah," he exhaled happily. "I've forgotten how great the Earth smells." He inwardly smiled to himself, thinking Heero smelled even better.

"Most of the time," Heero replied with a crooked smile. "You should be here when they fertilize this place."

Duo smirked. "Yeah, well, most of the time then."

"You cut your hair." Heero stated, careful not to let his disappointment come out in his voice. Duo's long hair had always been so alluring and such an intricate part of the boy from L-2. He used to love undoing the perpetually braided length of hair and comb his fingers through the long, rippling mass to which he was one of the very few people to have ever see it down.

"Yes," Duo replied in a slight tone of sadness with a trace of self chastisement. "I acted impulsively, thinking that by cutting it off I would put my past completely behind me. I hacked it off in anger while standing in my bathroom aboard the ship to Mars, and regretted it immediately." He paused to sigh deeply at the loss and his stupidity at cutting it off. "I still have it, my braid that is," he continued. "I couldn't toss it, not with all the memories it contained." He reached his hand up and pulled it through his long hair that cascaded down to the middle of his back, thinking that Heero was certainly a part of the memories in that length of saved hair and the main reason he had acted so unwisely. "It wasn't five minutes after it was cut off that I realized I missed it and I haven't cut it since. I still wear my hair a braid but thought that for tonight I'd leave it down." He sighed deeply. "Now when I braid it, I have better memories attached to it then I did before."

They walked in awkward silence for a few minutes before Duo spoke again. "So, how are you Heero? What have you been doing for the last three years?" he asked.

"Honestly?" Heero asked, wondering how much he should tell the young man walking beside him who seemed so different and yet the same as the boy he knew during the war.

"Yes, honestly," Duo said with his smile fading slightly at his former lover's somber tone of voice.

"Looking for you," Heero said unabashedly open while looking into the familiar and painfully missed blue-violet eyes that looked back at him with surprise. Heero took Duo's elbow and led him to the gazebo in the center of the garden. The white strand of lights surrounding the roof line of the structure was the only illumination in the darkened structure and it cast a soft glow onto the two young men facing each other.

"I told you not to worry about me." Duo spoke again as he moved to one of the pillars and leaned against it. "Was it guilt that spurred your pursuit?" he asked with a frown.

"Partly," the Japanese young man said as he stepped closer and stopped only inches away from the other.

"Well, what other reason was there?" Duo asked squirming, feeling slightly uncomfortable at the close proximity of the person who set his pulse to racing.

"This," Heero said before he quickly moved forward and captured Duo's lips with his own. He heard the long haired young man take in a quick breath of surprise, but after several moments of re-claiming the lips he'd dreamt of tasting again, Duo responded in kind, tentatively at first, as if reluctant, but soon he kissed back with no small amount of enthusiasm. Heero moaned into his lover's mouth as Duo's arms came up under his jacket to feel the lines of his back through his dress shirt and pressed in, pushing them closer so that their bodies came together in a more intimate manner. Their mouths devoured each other's, each starving for the taste and feel for that which had been so long denied.

When at last the kiss ended, Heero pressed even closer, brushing back the thick, heavenly smelling hair to whisper into Duo's ear. "I've missed you so much," he said in a quiet voice full of passion. "Let me take you to my room and show you just how much." He was being honest, revealing his feelings and making himself vulnerable for Duo's sake. Because of that, it came as a surprise when Duo's body became tense, and he blinked in startled surprise when he felt two hands press against his shoulders that thrust him away.

Confused, he stared at the person he'd given his heart to years ago to see Duo, his eyes narrowed in displeasure and breathing so deeply that Heero could see the heaving of his chest.

"What?" Heero asked, wondering what he'd done wrong now.

"No, Heero. No." Duo said with conviction.

"What's the matter?" he asked, his eyes becoming hooded as he tried to figure out what was happening.

"I'm not just your convenient lay any more." Duo spat out in mild anger. "I've got a name and a family now and I'm almost out of college with a future in front of me. I'm no longer that pathetic, needy kid who would have rolled over and let you have your way with me just so you could be relieved of your hormonal stress and for me to feel wanted, even if it was for only an hour or two. I need more than that, Heero. I deserve more than that."

Heero's anger was rising along with Duo's. "You think that's how I felt about you? Hormonal stress release?" He yelled back in disbelief.

"What else was I suppose to think?" Duo continued to shout. "When did you ever tell me that you cared for me other than a friend or that there could be anything else between us after the war other than casual sex? Your actions at the Celebration Ball certainly spoke loudly enough." Duo pointed his finger accusingly at the other. "You made it perfectly clear that night where I stood, that you had no room in your life for me. Relena wanted me gone and you were gladly going to have me shuffled off, happy to be rid of the troublesome hanger-on that had to have Wufei as a babysitter. I realized that night that I was still your dirty little secret, someone to use in the bedroom and to keep at a distance in public." Duo's voice had lowered and his anger had calmed somewhat so that only his sadness at remembering the past lingered. "You made me ashamed of myself Heero," he said in a quiet and hurt voice, "and after making love to you I was left feeling dirty." He took in a deep, calming breath of air and slowly let it out. "I came to earth looking for a home. I desperately needed to find someone or something to ground me, but everyone of you dismissed me from your lives."

As angry and hurt as Duo's words sounded, and as much as he wanted to dismiss Duo's view of that night and their relationship, Heero grudgingly knew that his former lover's view of their past was true from his perspective, and it was totally his fault; he hadn't told Duo how he really felt. It was the biggest mistake of his life not to have told him, and without meaning to, he and the others had deeply wounded the insecure heart of the boy from L-2.

"What you say is partially right, Duo," Heero said in a contrite voice, having calmed along with Duo. "But it's also wrong in that I never gave you all the facts." He took Duo's shoulders in his two hands and waited until the large, beautiful and sad eyes raised up and focused on his own. "I love you, Duo. I have for years," he confessed firmly so there would be no doubt of his sincerity. "I just had a hard time dealing with how vulnerable it made me feel, how weak I felt in having so many tumultuous feelings for not only another person, but for another boy. I didn't tell you and I'm sorry. I was wrong. And I never thought of you as an easy lay. Good in bed, yes, but ever easy."

He was rewarded with a slight twitching of the corners of Duo's well-kissed lips. Encouraged, Heero continued. "I'm sorry for that night and so are the others. I didn't want you to go," he stated firmly. 'But this isn't my home, it's Relena's. If she wanted you gone, there wasn't much I could do about it. From the moment I was told you needed a place to go, I regretted that I hadn't a home to offer you."

"It still hurt," Duo mumbled, his eyes focusing on Heero's tie clip. "You chose your position and Relena's wishes over me."

"If it helps to know, we were all guilt ridden and ashamed of ourselves the next morning when we discovered you'd gone, especially me. And after you'd been missing for several weeks, I realized the enormous mistake I'd made in not telling you how I felt, for not having been prepared to keep you by my side, and I knew then just what it was that I'd lost. I swear to you, Duo," he paused to make sure his newly returned friend saw the earnestness in his eyes. "I have never been more filled with regret than I have been these last three years. All the things I hated doing in the war never compared to the remorse I've felt at how badly things turned out at the ball, so different from what I'd planned."

Duo looked up at him, his curiosity piqued. "What did you plan? I had no hint of anything from you."

"I originally planned on finishing my duties in guarding Relena that night and speak to you first thing in the morning, when we woke up together in my bed." His eyes studied Duo's, seeing his former lover trying to figure things out. "I didn't want us to be separated any more. I was going to suggest you come to Earth and we could get an apartment, though with my job it would have been difficult. But I was even prepared quit my job and move to L-2 if that was where you wanted to stay. I just wanted us to be together, Duo. But all of my plans changed when you got drunk and we left you in that room, talking over your not-so-sleeping body. I went to get you the next morning and you were gone, I had missed my chance." He shook his head, pushing back the loneliness and pain still echoing in his heart. "Three years is a long time to run, Duo. I had begun to think you would never forgive me."

Several moments of silence passed, and the long-haired young man started to look a bit uncomfortable. "Well," he drawled dragging his eyes away from Heero to look off into the dark garden. "As you say, it's been three years. I guess we should try to put the past and all the hurt to rest, don't you think?"

The words were like manna from heaven to Heero's heart and hopes, and he moved forward again with the intent to capture his lover's lips when Duo's hand pressed up against his chest to stop him.

"I'm different now, Heero." Duo began to explain with his hand staying on the strong chest that was giving off a delicious warmth. "I have a family and a name that carries some weight in the world."

"Yes?" Heero wondered where this line of thought was going.

"I can't besmirch the gift Milliardo and Noin have given me by having a brief affair with someone."

Heero blinked in shock at Duo's words. "Brief, what are you talking about?"

"I mean," Duo said in an exasperated huff and letting his hand fall to his side, "that like Relena or any other person with a name to protect, I can't act carelessly or wantonly. I'm expected to conduct myself with proper decorum at all times."

"What antiquated etiquette book have you been reading?" Heero asked, his own voice rising. "Who told you this?"

"My adoptive parents," Duo said defensively. "I owe them so much for all they've done for me. Acting proper is a small price to pay in return."

"So you won't go to bed with me and let me make love to you because it would harm the Peacecraft name?" Heero asked, re-stating Duo's answer as his eyes narrowed unhappily on the equally frowning man in front of him.

Duo's hands went on his hips. "Heero, you don't know me any more. I've changed," he replied hotly. "It would be as if we had just met and I went to bed with you. Would you allow Relena to make the same mistake?"

Heero paused to consider his answer. "I would probably try to talk her into waiting."


"To make sure the other's intentions were honorable. That the other person was trustworthy and sincere."

"Exactly!" A hint of Duo's smile came back.

Heero's eyes widened in hurt disbelief. "You don't trust me or think I'm sincere?" he asked in a harsh whisper.

Duo saw the look and silently cursed himself for leading Heero to that conclusion. Time to do some damage control. He reached out his hand and set it gently on Heero's forearm. "I'd trust you with my life, absolutely," he said in an adamant tone so Heero would clearly understand what he was saying. "And I've never known you to say something you didn't mean. But," he continued slowly. "I don't know if I can trust you with my heart."

The feelings of hurt didn't diminish in Heero's heart nor in the pained look displayed on his face at the last comment. His anger slowly welled up inside him as a defense mechanism. "Do you trust that...that Marcus?" Heero spoke abruptly and peevishly, his hand raised to point towards the noisy room they'd left a short time before. "He was all over you in there."

"No!" Duo snapped back. "I don't know him well enough to trust him. As I said, I met him briefly three years ago and we exchanged letters. But I have to admit Heero, that it is kind of refreshing to know someone wants me and is willing to openly pursue me even if we are of the same gender."

Inwardly, Heero winced as a strained silence fell between the two former lovers. That subject had always been a bone of contention between the two of them during the war. At the beginning of their relationship he made Duo promise to keep it a secret, saying it might interfere with how the other pilots interacted with them.

Things changed after he had self-detonated and Duo, thinking him dead, had not only told the blond Arabian of their relationship, but also carried on a brief affair with Quatre. Once they re-gathered in space, he quickly reclaimed the beautiful, wild boy from L-2 after freeing him from an Oz prison and a likely death sentence. He was anything but happy when a wounded and guilt ridden Duo confessed his affair with Quatre. His lover had said it happened only because he believed Heero was dead and that Quatre had been trying to ease his heartache. He promised, with his hand on his cross, that it was over between he and Quatre, that he and the Sandrock pilot were just friends. Believing Duo, knowing he never lied, Heero had decided to let bygones be bygones, though a lingering jealousy hovered over him whenever he saw Duo and Quatre with their head bent towards each other in quiet conversation or sharing a joke.

It was after a heated argument with Duo one night on Peacemillion that things between them began to change. In the privacy of their shared quarters, Heero had reprimanded Duo for hugging him in the mess hall in front of Howard's crew. Feeling hurt at the rebuff, the long haired teen accused Heero of being ashamed of him, and if he felt that way they needn't continue their sleeping arrangements any further. Heero had already decided he wasn't about to let Duo go, so he came up with the concession that they could tell the other pilots, leaving Duo's anger and hurt somewhat appeased.

Heero had always kept to himself the real reason for his decision to tell the others; the reason that was painful for him to admit to anyone, including himself. He had an unnatural sense of possessiveness when it came to the Deathscythe pilot. In confessing his relationship with Duo to the others, he could stake his claim on the beautiful teenager whose eyes sparkled with an unparalleled brilliance when he was impassioned or angry. Informing the other three sent a silent message to them to stay clear of what was his, especially Quatre, who maintained a close bond with Duo. He was determined that he was going be the only person to ever intimately touch Duo again. He would not, no, could not ever share the gregarious Deathscythe pilot with anyone else in an intimate way. Duo could have the friends and the independence he craved as long as he always came back to Heero and to his bed.

It was after this joint confession to the others that Heero made his next mistake. With the other three informed of their relationship, Heero had made it clear to his teenage lover that what went on in the confines of their bedroom was still their business alone and that outside of that room they would continue having absolutely no display of affection or hint of their relationship other than being friends.

He frowned with the remembrance, knowing he was the one responsible for Duo feeling ashamed after their lovemaking. His narrow parameters on their relationship was most likely what distanced them after the first war when they each went their own way. At the onset of their separation, he had come to believe it would be good for the two of them to be away from each other for a short while. He felt the need to somehow purge himself of his possessive attitude towards the long haired boy that he craved more than air itself, sensing it wasn't healthy in a long-term relationship.

The need to possess Duo did become more tolerable with his absence, but soon Heero found himself making up legitimate sounding excuses to visit L-2 where Duo lived and worked, and he was delighted when Duo reciprocated, visiting him on Earth. Both made frequent trips to visit each other when they could manage it, enjoying each other's company and bodies during that year between wars.

It was during the Barton attempted coup, on the colony that had been destined to fall into Earth, that he sucker punched Duo and left him with Trowa as a prisoner. That action caused a change between the two of them. And after the war concluded, Duo had gone back to L-2 without visiting him in the hospital or saying goodbye. He never did get a chance to explain to his lover that the punch was to keep him safe. If it was at all possible, Heero wanted the spare Duo any more pain and the nightmares that another war would bring.

When the Celebration Ball was held three months later, Heero had been nervous and excited about Duo's coming. Ahead of time he saw to it that his former lover was housed in his room and even special ordered the tuxedo with the cummerbund and tie that matched Duo's unforgettable eyes. Heero found himself tense and stressed with the security being greatly stepped down to a more comfortable level, as per Relena's adamant request, and had asked Wufei to make sure Duo was kept under control, knowing his propensity for getting into trouble at parties. He felt things would go smoothly until the ball was over, then he and Duo could talk and figure out their futures together. He had it all planned out, scheduled the time in his head for the next morning. But when he'd come into his bathroom and found Duo sensually luxuriating in the large, bubble-filled bathtub, he was unable to resist until the proper, scheduled time and he'd taken possession of the trim and well-toned body, claiming the boy from L-2 again right there in his bathroom.

He mentally smacked himself in the head. He'd made so many mistakes with Duo in the past that he just wanted to make sure he didn't bungle things again when it was clearly imperative that he figure out what Duo wanted and needed and then meet those needs in order to have the boy, now a stunning young man, at his side again.

This wasn't going to be easy, he told himself as he looked at Duo patiently waiting for him to continue. He wasn't used to displaying affection in public. His feelings for Duo had always been a private matter, almost sacred to him. But this Marcus, a clear challenger for Duo's affections, had upped the ante. Even the thought of the other man's hands on Duo and his pointedly possessive manner towards his former lover made Heero's blood boil at the memory of it.

His eyes narrowed as he reached out and gripped Duo's shoulders. "You will not let that...Marcus touch you," he ordered sternly.

Duo brought his hands up and knocked Heero's from off of him and looked him square in the eye. "You can't tell me what to do anymore, Heero. We're not together any longer."

"I want to be, but you're just being obstinate." He growled back in frustration.

"I am not being obstinate!" Duo protested with his hands on his hips. "I'm being practical. I want more than an occasional roll in the sheets."

"What?" Heero shouted, not caring who heard. "Is that really all it was to you? Our times together certainly meant more to me than just sex, but now you make me wonder what your true feelings were." He paused, eyes searching the startled ones before them and forced himself to calm down. "What precisely is it that you want, Duo? What do I have to do?" he added in weary desperation. These emotional exchanges with Duo had always left him mentally exhausted and it seemed that hadn't changed in three years.

"I need more than what I think you can give me, Heero." Duo stared up at him, his incredulous expression slowly melted into a look of loss and sorrow. "I want to be loved and not have my partner feel ashamed of me. I want commitment, not an infrequent bout of sex in your large bed, but a lifetime promise that love won't fade or leave me. I want a home, a place to call my own." He paused watching the confused look on Heero's face and sighed forlornly. "Maybe it's better to just put our relationship in the past, Heero. It might hurt less than if we pursue this any further and fail."

The former Wing pilot looked up through his long, dark bangs that fringed over his forehead. "I just can't give you up, Duo. I need you too much"

"Then I suggest you think this conversation over and if you come to the conclusion that you can provide for my needs as I've laid out for you, then you have only one thing more to do."

Heero tilted his head a bit to the side. "And what's that?" he asked.

Duo moved forward and lifted up to put his lips gently against Heero's and whispered, "Win me." With a quick kiss on the lips, he turned and promptly darted off, disappearing into the darkness of the garden in the direction of the ballroom, leaving Heero to ponder his words.

Heero watched the person who held his affections scamper down the garden path. He thoughtfully brought his fingers to his lips and not only felt the place Duo had just teasingly kissed, but also the small smile that began to form. An old saying came to his mind, and he rephrased it to fit the person and the occasion. You can take the boy from L-2 out of the street and away from the war, but you couldn't take them and all the experiences that came with that past out of the boy. To all appearances, Duo looked the picture of high society, all cleaned up, properly dressed and socially acceptable, but down underneath the expensive suit and cultured tone of voice, he was still the fiery, scrappy kid from L-2, the former gundam pilot and his own Shinigami lover.

on to part 7

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