Tangled In the Web
by Dyna Dee
The faint, early morning light peeking through the window of the bedroom was not what woke Heero up at 6:04 a.m. It was without a doubt the feeling of nimble fingers lifting the front of his tee-shirt that did, and he woke further as warm lips and a wet tongue began to map out his chest and tease his nipples into responding. He wasn't surprised in the least as he'd expected this and knew exactly where it was going and why. In the past, whenever Duo experienced one of his "episode", reliving a flashback of his past where once again he found himself deserted by his friends, left alone, unarmed, and pursued by criminal predators, he'd wake the next morning with an overwhelming need to regain some sense of control in his life. It usually came down to a matter of sex. His lover would initiate it and control what they did in whatever manner he needed in order to recover his sense of equilibrium. Heero had learned to go along with it as the act really did seem to help his lover to recover more quickly from an episode.
He opened his eyes to see the messy head of warm brown hair just below his chin and brought his hands up to rub at Duo's shoulders, causing his lover to stop what he was doing. The head of chestnut-colored hair lifted and troubled blue-violet eyes rose to meet his own and they were filled with both need and uncertainty. Heero nodded his head, silently giving Duo permission to do what he needed to regain his balance. His lover immediately went into motion, almost frantic to remove the clothing from off both of their bodies.
With Duo's sweat pants, tee-shirt and boxers joining his own clothing on the floor, his long-haired lover pressed his trembling body up against his side. Heero knew he couldn't reach out just yet; Duo had to be in total control or what they were about to do would be in vain. He made himself pliable when he was urged by gentle hands to turned onto his side, and then lay still as he heard the drawer of the bedside table open. Though Duo was usually driven by an almost primal need and urgency in these situations, he was never cruel or wished to intentionally cause him pain.
The body that lined up against his back was lean and Duo's skin felt chilled. Heero knew every inch of that body and never grew tired of exploring it. But today it was Duo's turn to do as he wished, and he knew from past experience that there would be no gentle exploring or languid lovemaking. If Duo followed his usual pattern, their joining would be hard and fast.
The slightly trembling fingers, coated in gel, found his entrance and began the stretching process. He knew it wouldn't last nearly long enough to have him completely ready, but it was acceptable when he considered the outcome. With little warning and one quick and vigorous thrust, he gasped silently as his lover filled him. Duo's hands immediately sought for purchase by sliding his arms underneath his own and clamping his hands painfully over his shoulders for better leverage. It was painful at first, but he endured it. Heero knew he would endure a gauntlet of gunfire for the man behind him. In some odd, cathartic way, he found the somewhat impersonal act they were engaged in to be some sort of penance for his leaving Duo in the first place, nearly four years ago. If he'd consulted with his friends about Relena's blackmail threats, maybe they could have helped him to find a way to protect Duo. Yet all his speculation and "what ifs" didn't change a thing. Duo had been framed, tried and served a prison sentence that was most likely engineered by his heinous dead wife. He knew from Trowa's account of his visit to the prison that she was responsible for Duo having being sent to the harsher area of the penal colony where he'd suffered nearly every day that he'd spent there.
He felt his lover's right hand unclasp his shoulder and move quickly down to his groin in an attempt to bring him to a point where he'd receive some satisfaction from their joining. It didn't matter to him if he came or not, and because this wasn't the type of lovemaking they usually engaged in and enjoyed, he remained relatively unaffected. All that mattered to him at the moment was for Duo to be emotionally satisfied at the end of his climax.
The breath on his neck and shoulder was more rapid now, but Duo remained silent as he continued with his task, taking over and dominating the sexual act. Lips desperate to remain silent latched onto his neck and began sucking, almost painfully so, but he would endure that also, sensing that his lover was nearing the end. Near silent grunts and a final, painful thrust that accompanied the stiffening of the body behind him alerted him to the fact that it was over. The hands on his body slumped, finished with their task. The moment Duo slipped away from him, Heero turned and enfolded the smaller man in his arms and held him securely against his chest.
It took a good five minutes for Duo's trembling to lessen and his ragged breathing to even out. Heero backed away, but only just enough to study his lover's face, which he noted was pale, slack and had drying trails of tears on it. "Duo?"
The dark, moist eyelashes fluttered before sad, red-rimmed eyes opened and sought his own searching gaze. "I'm sorry, so sorry," Duo whispered in a shaky voice, his breath hitching as he struggled to keep his emotions in check. "You okay?"
"I'm fine and there's nothing to be sorry for," Heero said as he brushed the messy, loose hair away from the handsome, stubbled-chin face. "How about you? Are you alright?"
Heero quickly pulled up the several blankets that had been kicked aside and placed them over their naked bodies. He then ran his hands over the pale skin that was chilled to his touch and pimpled with goose bumps. "Better?"
A long sigh followed and Duo buried himself against the solid warmth that anchored him to life. "Better?" Duo asked weakly. "Will I ever be better, Heero? Shit, I'm so pathetic."
Heero was also used to this phase. After Duo recovered from an episode there always came a period of self-loathing. He knew that if he tried to reassure Duo that he was worth while, worth everything to him, they would be there all day and his lover really wouldn't feel any better. They would have to take this up with Duo's doctor. He'd give him a call when Duo took his shower and tell him of this latest episode, but that would have to wait until he got an explanation from his braided lover as to what had set him off. For the moment, though, Duo needed him close by and understanding. He'd learned from past experiences that his lover needed to be reassured, but that he also needed that reassurance to be kept short and simple. Heero also realized he'd had the perfect distraction to get them past the subject once they'd discussed what was wrong.
"You're not pathetic, you're recovering," he began, his voice purposely low, calm but firm as his hands moved up and down his lover's slender and bare back. "You're going to have a few set backs now and then, but we'll deal with them. You are getting better, Duo, we both know that. Just have some patience with yourself." And now for that distraction. "Besides, Trowa and Quatre are going to be here bright and early, and they promised to bring you a treat."
Silence passed between them for several moments before Duo sheepishly asked, "What kind of a treat?"
Heero couldn't help but smile. Hearing the mild curiosity in Duo's husky morning voice meant that he was recovering more quickly from the episode than he had in the past. At least he hoped that was true.
"A breakfast treat is all Trowa said."
Heero pushed back from his lover once again, studying his face. "In a minute. First, I want you to tell me what set you off."
A visible shudder shook Duo's body and he seemed to curl in on himself again as he recalled watching the television. "I turned on the T.V. 'cause Trowa said he'd tried to get you to wink at me and I saw the reporter ask Quatre some questions about me." Frightened eyes looked up into Heero's. "He more or less confirmed that I'd been treated in Brussels, then they showed a picture of me. Heero," his voice was thin and strained as he continued. "They know where I am now. They'll come after me."
"Who?" As if he didn't know.
"The guys in prison who attacked me. They saw my picture and know where we live."
"Duo." Heero's voice sounded of reason. "Those men are most likely still in prison, and even if they weren't, why would they come after you?"
Duo lowered his eyes and turned his head away and Heero knew he was hiding something. "Answer me, Duo. Why would they come after you?"
The long-haired man just shook his head, not yet willing to divulge his acts of retaliation against the men who had hurt him.
A huff of exasperation came from Heero. If Duo wasn't ready to speak, he knew he wouldn't, and any pushing and prodding on his part would only make his lover withdraw further. He drew the anxious man back into his arms and held him close, his hands rubbing his back once again. "It's alright," he soothed. "I'm here. The chances that they saw that news clip and are free to act on it, for whatever reason, are incredibly slim."
Duo knew Heero was trying to give him comfort, but his deep-seated fears seemed to override the more reasonable part of his mind. He buried his face against his lover's neck, breathing in the scent that he'd come to equate with being safe and loved. Just being held by the strongest man he'd ever met was more reassuring than any words could ever be.
Their bodies remained entwined for several minutes before Heero's low-spoken voice rumbled in his ear. "How about that shower before the guys show up?" Duo nodded, then reluctantly let go of the security that Heero's body provided and moved to the edge of the bed. Blue-violet eyes turned to watch as his naked lover rose to his feet and walked with purposeful strides to their bathroom, and he couldn't help but admire the well-toned body that he alone had been privileged to touch. The bathroom light and fan clicked on and Heero disappeared from view. Immediatekly following was the sound of the shower running and then Heero's head peeked out of the open door. "Are you coming?" he asked, his eyes glimmering anticipation.
Duo nodded and slid out from under the covers. Even though he and the other man had shared countless intimate moments, seen each other at their best and worst, he still found himself feeling self conscious when Heero watched him with such intensity in his own natural state. He'd had a hard time keeping weight on after all of his surgeries, and though he was heavier than the starved condition Trowa had found him in when he rescued him from the penal colony, he was still slim, almost skinny. It was a condition that was a constant concern to his doctors and his friends. It didn't seem to matter that his appetite had increased sufficiently and would normally help him gain some weight, but his metabolism, it appeared, was working overtime. He'd more or less resigned himself to remaining in a waif-like state for the rest of his life. If Heero felt any repugnance at touching or viewing his thin frame, his smile and eyes, filled with desire, denied it.
No sooner had he entered the warming bathroom, then Heero had him in the hot spray of water and hands filled with foaming suds began to caress his body, cleansing his skin and messaging his shoulders, arms and legs, loosening his muscles and easing away the lingering fears that had him petrified him the night before. He closed his eyes and enjoyed Heero's tender touch, relaxing further and setting aside all his worries for the time being.
Heero left Duo in the shower to finish the task of rinsing the conditioner out of his hair. Dressing quickly in jeans and a t-shirt, he exited the bedroom and went downstairs to the phone in the living room. He had two calls to make that morning, one to Duo's shrink and one to Wufei. The phone rang on the other end, and in only two rings, it was picked up. "How's Duo?" Wufei's alert voice asked. With caller ID, the Chinese man was always one step ahead of the conversation, sidestepping the normal pleasantries.
The other side of the phone remained quiet while Heero explained what had happened the day before to trigger Duo's episode. "Damn those reporters," Wufei growled angrily. "Why can't they just leave us alone?"
"My sentiments exactly," Heero answered, still feeling angry over the information on Duo's medical information being let out. They had worked diligently together to secure all information on Duo and their whereabouts. There had to be a mole within the hospital system to have let that information come into the hands of a reporter. Since the war, it had always been a natural inclination on all their parts to keep their lives from public scrutiny and to avoid being made public figures. The press, however, didn't seem to care about their needs or desires. They had turned out in great number when he and Relena had their farce of a wedding and, of course, when Duo had been arrested. With the problems that hung over his head, his lover had, for the most part, been unaware of the media circus his arrest and trial had been. Even in the entrapped cocoon Relena had kept him in, he'd been aware of Duo's predicament but was constrained by the constant surveillance on him to do anything about it.
"Would it be alright if I came over?" Wufei's voice was filled with concern, but Heero knew their friend would stay his distance if he thought it would be better for Duo to deal with his latest episode with only him for support.
"I think he'd like that," Heero answered. "Trowa and Quatre are coming this morning with food they thought Duo would like."
A snort of disdain sounded from the other end of the line. "That probably means doughnuts. They know that's one of his favorite foods."
"If you can call it food," Heero agreed. He'd never developed the sweet tooth that his lover had.
"If you can keep the joined-at-the-hip twosome there long enough, I'll come around eleven and bring lunch, something more substantial than flour, sugar and lard."
"Tell Duo..." Wufei paused, trying to think of what to say that would help his still recovering friend. "Tell him we're here for him, and we're here for you too, Heero. Just don't forget that."
"Thanks, Wufei. I'll tell Duo you're coming."
"See you at eleven."
The phone went dead and Heero hung it up. He could hear the faint sounds of his lover moving about in their bedroom, probably rummaging for clothing. He turned to the kitchen to make some juice when the sounds of footsteps on the front porch were heard and three solid knocks on the entry door sounded. The call to the shrink would have to wait.
Heero opened the front door to greet his two friend bearing smiles, two large pink boxes screaming 'I've just come from the bakery', and two large containers of milk, one of them chocolate. He frowned at the items then gave his friend a strong look of disapproval.
"Your scowling is not going to make them go away, Heero," Quatre said with obvious amusement. "Besides, they're for Duo's benefit, not yours. So invite us in before he comes out here to eat on the front steps with us."
Backing up, he gave the two enough room to enter the house then closed the door behind them, locking it out of habit. The sound of running footsteps brought their eyes up to the top of the stairs. "Is that what I think it is?" Duo asked, eyes wide at the sight of the two boxes. He stood on the top landing with his damp hair pulled back into its usual braid and slung over his shoulder. He was wearing his typical attire of dark gray sweat pants and an oversized yellow tee-shirt; now slightly damp on one side, and his feet were covered by thick white athletic socks. Duo's pale face and red eyes were tattletale signs to the two newcomers that it had been a rough morning, no matter how his bright smile tried to hide it.
"Yes," Trowa answered, a slight smile on his face. "They're from Nadia's Sweet Shop." They'd learned from past experience that this was Duo's favorite bakery, one of the few that made American-style doughnuts in Brussels.
Duo quickly made it down the stairs and pulled the boxes from Trowa's arms. "You guys are the best," he said grinning, then turned and went to the kitchen.
"You do know that he's probably going to make himself sick, don't you?" Heero was clearly not happy about the amount of doughnuts they brought.
"We'll just have to eat enough to keep him from overdoing it," Quatre replied. "Though Duo could certainly use a little more weight on his bones." He handed one of the gallon cartons of milk to Trowa, then followed after Duo. Trowa shrugged, dismissing Heero's frown as he followed the other two, leaving the former Wing pilot to scowl all he wanted.
The four of them sat at the table with plates littered with doughnut crumbs and tall, empty glasses that had once contained cold milk. Duo was slowly chewing his last mouthful, his eyes closed in either bliss or misery; it was hard to tell. Heero's own stomach wasn't feeling so good after three doughnuts. He'd noted that his lover had downed no less than five before slowing down and he wasn't sure about the other two, only that they had stopped eating about the time he had. There still remained three quarters of a box left.
All eyes turned to Duo as he slumped back into his chair and his head dropped back. "Oh, man," was all he could muster.
"That good?" Trowa asked, amused.
"I'm a glutton for punishment, aren't I?" Duo asked, a humorous grin on his lip as his hand massaged his flat stomach as if he could make it feel better.
"Just a glutton, I think," Heero answered with a snort.
Duo didn't move as he responded, sounding slightly petulant, "Well, if you'd let me have doughnuts once in a while, I wouldn't freak out when I finally got some."
"They're not good for you."
"Umm, but they're so good," the braided man purred languidly.
The kitchen grew quiet as the four enjoyed a comfortable moment with each other. Being this relaxed and comfortable was a rare and unique experience they shared with very few people, and each one of them was grateful that, after all they'd been through, they'd been able find it again.
Trowa's voice was the first to break the silence. "So is anyone going to tell us what happened last night? Duo?"
The braided man's head straightened and he shot a glance at Heero, giving his lover permission to speak for him. Heero understood, then began to tell them of the news report Duo had seen. Quatre's eyes widened with horror at the realization that he'd been the cause of Duo's latest episode.
"I'm so sorry, Duo," the blond man said quickly at the end of Heero's explanation. "I was shocked by the reporter's questions and answered them in the best way possible. I should have just denied the information straight-out. I can see how you saw my not doing so as acknowledging your presence here. I'm sorry this lapse on my part frightened you."
Duo's eyes took in the blond's sincerity. "If you'd denied it, you'd have been lying, Quatre." And they all knew how Duo felt about that.
Heero leaned forward in his chair. "I want to find out who leaked the information. That reporter had to have a source in the hospital or medical clinic who either sold or willingly gave out the confidential information about Duo's illness. I want that person caught and prosecuted."
All eyes turned to Trowa, who frowned. He still had some influence at Preventers, though he wasn't an active agent any longer. The shifting of the green eyes to Quatre signaled to the other two that something else was going on. "I'd like to help with this, but I'm afraid I won't be around to do it."
That simple statement brought Duo up from the slump he'd been in to sitting straight-backed and tense. "What do you mean?" he asked, his eyes shifting rapidly back and forth from the brunet to the blond. Quatre, looking guilty, was the one who answered. "I have to go to L-4 for an annual board meeting," he began, then turned to give an apologetic look to Duo. "I know this couldn't have come at a worse time, but I've persuaded Trowa to come with me. We haven't gone anywhere together for the last three years and I thought it was time for us to have a little time away." A look of hesitance crossed his fair features. "If this will be too difficult right now, Duo, I'm sure we can mange to do it another time."
Duo's eyes had focused on Trowa while Quatre spoke and had stayed there until he finished. His mind screamed for him to say something, anything that would keep his protector on Earth, in Brussels. Though they lived only a couple of miles away from each other, Duo had always been comforted by the fact that Trowa was only a phone call away. If he and Heero got into an argument, Trowa was on the other end of the phone, a calming and stabling influence. Quatre was going to take him not just on a vacation, but off planet. His heart was tripping with trepidation at the thought even as his mind was busy countering that his two friends deserved to get away. Trowa had saved him from the horrors of the penal colony, had sheltered, nurtured and cared for him in a time he desperately needed someone to do just that. He was more than indebted to Trowa and he knew he couldn't ever really repay him for what he'd done on his behalf. But the thought of him being so far away was frightening.
Seeing the tug of war going on in Duo's mind, Trowa leaned forward and took one of his friend's clenched hands, resting on the tabletop. "It's alright, Duo. You can call me anytime you need to. I might not be just down the street, but I'll always be available to you and to Heero."
Duo swallowed, and it sounded so loud in his head that he was sure the others must have heard it also. Knowing he was expected to say something in reply, he struggled to come up with the right words. He felt his other hand being clasped firmly and, seeming to move in slow motion, he turned his head to see Heero watching him, worry etched on his handsome face. "I promise, it will be alright, Duo. I think they deserved some time away from all our craziness, don't you?" Somehow Duo managed to nod, his eyes remaining on Heero's face.
"Again, I apologize for the bad timing," Quatre said in a repentant voice. "But we had no idea Duo would have an episode and our shuttle leaves for L-4 in three days. We didn't want to spring it on you at the last minute."
"Duo?" Trowa squeezed the hand under his own, needing reassurance that his leaving with Quatre was alright. Slowly the other man turned to look at him, wariness in his blue-violet eyes. "It will be all right. Heero is here and Wufei as well. Mrs. L. is only a short distance away and she'll be sure to call you everyday if you need her to. I think it's time for a little independence on both our parts, don't you? I really believe we're ready to do this." He gave a knowing look to Duo, silently reminding him of a conversation the two of them had had several weeks previous when they'd spoken seriously of their dependence on each other. Duo's need for Trowa's reassurance and security, and Trowa's equal desire to provide that comfort sometimes got in the way of their relationships with their life partners.
Duo could see that Trowa really wanted this, needed this chance to be away from all the drama of the last couple of years and to concentrate on his relationship with Quatre. And he really did want him to be happy, wanted them both to be happy. He answered with a simple nod of his head and a shaky smile. His slight gesture brought immediate grins of approval from the couple before him.
"Thank you, Duo," Quatre said sincerely, his eyes shining with gratitude. "We'll check in all the time to make sure Heero isn't putting too much fiber into your diet."
That crack brought a truer smile to Duo's face. "Just stock me up on enough junk food for the duration and I'll take all the fiber Heero shovels down my throat. That way I'll have a balanced diet we can both be happy about."
Heero gave a sharp look of warning to their friends to not let him catch them bringing any more junk food into their home, but their laughter and teasing soon eased the frown from his face and the former good mood that they'd had while eating the doughnuts slowly returned.
Wufei, after he'd arrived at exactly eleven sharp with deli sandwiches for all, greeted the news of Trowa and Quatre's departure with a thoughtful expression on his face. After lunch was over, he asked Duo to show him the backyard, a source of pride to the American. Once they were separated from the others, Wufei put his hand on Duo's arm to get his attention.
"Are you okay with Trowa leaving?"
Closing his eyes, Duo sighed. "Yeah, I guess so. We talked a couple of weeks ago that we should try to be more autonomous of each other. Quatre's good at hiding it, but it worries him that I depend on Trowa so much and he hates that he feels that way." He snorted and added, "And it doesn't make Heero feel great either."
Wufei nodded, having observed the same responses in the partners of the two men that had bonded as brothers after Trowa retrieved Duo from the penal colony. "The trip seems rather sudden to me, and it will be for a long period of time."
Duo shrugged. "Not the first time I've had to go cold turkey on something for Heero's sake."
Wufei frowned, remembering a turbulent time in his and Heero's relationship after the first war. Duo had begun smoking and drinking heavily, trying to drown out his survivor's guilt. It took Heero threatening to move out of their apartment and live separately, despising the destructive habits, that got Duo to quit both, almost overnight.
"Well, I'm here for you, if that's any consolation," Wufei offered, giving his friend an encouraging grin.
Duo managed to return one of his own. "Yeah, it is, actually."
The Chinese man put his arm around the other man's slender shoulders, a gesture that had been foreign to him before he'd moved into Mrs. L's house to help Trowa care for their ill friend. "I mean it, Duo. If you have an argument with Heero or just need someone to vent your frustrations at or to reassure you, I want you to feel you can call me. I'll listen and I'll be there for you. I know I can't replace Trowa or Heero, but I am your friend."
Duo turned and embraced his friend, who stiffened for a moment before he relaxed and returned it. "You've been a good friend to me and Heero this last year, Wufei, and I know I can count on you. I'll call when the need arises, alright?"
Wufei released his friend and stepped back so he could look at the other man. He smiled, happy to have Duo's word to call if he was needed. "I brought my motorcycle today. Want to go for a ride?"
Duo's eyes lit up. "Hell yeah. Did you bring an extra helmet?"
Five minutes later the two of them left the house with Duo in the front of the bike and Wufei right behind him, hanging on for dear life while the other three waved goodbye and called out for them to be careful.
Two days later the phone rang, waking the two men tangled up together on the large bed. Heero answered it, his voice groggy and irritated. "Who is it?" he asked.
"Morning, Heero. It's Trowa," the familiar voice announced. "Quatre and I wondered if we could drop by this morning. We have a surprise for Duo before we leave for the shuttleport."
"No more doughnuts," Heero snapped. "He's had too many sweets this week."
"You're getting to be worse than an overprotective mother," Trowa replied, his tone lacking any real humor. "But don't worry, it isn't anything to eat. We'll be there in a half hour." The phone clicked in his ear and Heero looked at it with an unhappy expression on his face.
"Who's that?" Duo said with droopy eyes struggling to stay open as he lifted his head off of Heero's shoulder.
"Trowa. He and Quatre are coming over in half an hour."
"Some sort of surprise for you."
"Me? A surprise?" The long-haired man seemed to suddenly come awake. "You said no doughnuts, could it be cinnamon rolls?"
"No food? Then what the hell could it be?"
Heero yawned lazily, then answered, "I don't know, but we'd better get up and get dressed. I wouldn't put it past them to break into the house and present it to us in here."
Even though he knew their presently naked state probably wouldn't bother their two friends one bit, Duo moved to get out of bed. It wouldn't bother them, but it would make him feel uncomfortable. He didn't get far before Heero grabbed his wrist. "Wait," he said in a soft, commanding voice.
Duo paused to look back and saw that Heero was smiling at him. "Where's my kiss?" he asked, reminding them of their pleasant morning ritual. Moving quickly, Duo crawled back onto the bed, straddled his lover's hips and gave him a deep, passionate kiss that threatened to delay their getting showered and dressed before the doorbell rang.
Coming down the stairs after hearing the doorbell chimed moments before, Duo was treated to the sight of his two friends standing in the front foyer, shoulder to shoulder, hands behind their backs and cheesy grins on their faces. It was a comical picture and he wished he had his camera. "I'm thinking this is a pretty good surprise," he said, turning his head to see Heero standing next to them appearing not quite as pleased as the other two. Now his curiosity was piqued.
A scratching sound was heard and the two men separated, each maintaining his hold on the plastic carrier they'd hidden behind them. "What is it?" Duo asked, his eyes brimming with excitement.
The box was set down and Trowa opened a side door and pulled out a small gray dog with shaggy, wiry fur. "Hey, it's Toto!" Duo laughed and went immediately to Trowa's side and began to pet the happy looking creature. "What's his name?"
"He's had several owners and as many names," Trowa answered, smiling at Duo's infectious grin. "This is the dog I told you about the other night, the one Cathy brought with her when she visited. One of the circus people had an elderly relative that died and he inherited it. It seems the little fella doesn't do well with all the other circus animals and the constant moving. Cathy left him with us when she returned home and Quatre and I were wondering if you would like to give him a home."
Duo's eyes shot to Heero. "Can we?" he asked, his eyes practically begging for permission to keep the dog, something he'd always wanted.
"It will be your responsibility to care for him," Heero said, obviously unenthusiastic at the prospect of having a dog in the house. "That means feeding, training, bathing and cleaning up the yard after him. Can you do that?"
"Are you kidding?" Duo answered with a huge grin, knowing he was getting his wish. "What the hell else do I have to do? It'll be great!" He turned to Trowa and held out his hands. The dog nearly jumped from one man to the other, and in an instant Duo thought this was the best thing to happen to him in a very long time. "Hey, fella. How are ya? Do ya wanna be my dog?" He scratched the panting dog behind the ear and smiled fondly as the small animal leaned into his touch.
"He's a Cairn Terrier," Quatre said, reaching out to pet the wiry-furred back. "He's a really nice dog. We'd keep him ourselves if we didn't have to leave the house so often. Do you like him, Duo?"
"Yeah," Duo looked up into Quatre's eyes and offered his friend a grateful smile. "I do, thanks." He then looked back down at the dog. "And we're going to be pals, aren't we, fella? But I guess we need to find you a name first."
"Would you like some coffee?" Heero asked their guests.
"No," Trowa replied. "We really are pressed for time. We just wanted to drop the dog off to see if he'd be acceptable. We had other arrangements made in case you didn't want him."
"Didn't want him?" Duo said to the dog in a voice that sounded as if he were talking to a child. "You've got to be kidding. Who wouldn't want a wonderful dog like him? He's great! I can tell just by the way he's looking at me."
Trowa didn't want to point out that the dog looked at everyone with the same adoring expression. Better to let Duo think it was just for him.
"Goodbye, Duo. We'll call."
The braided man looked up from the dog and realized the moment of parting had come. He was not going to get emotional, he firmly told himself. But for a moment, Trowa blurred in front of him. "Bye, Trowa. Have a good trip." Despite having a dog in front of him as a barrier, Trowa still managed to take him in his arms and give him a long, reassuring hug.
"It'll be fine, Duo. You're brave and strong. You just keep telling that to yourself and one day you'll know it's true. We love you."
"Love you, too." Duo replied, his voice muffled from his face being pressed into Trowa's sweater.
The two separated and then it was Quatre's turn. "We'll miss you," the blond stated, then he too hugged Duo and held him for almost as long as Trowa had, silently demonstrating that his feelings for him were as equally strong as Trowa's.
"Call, and come back safe, alright?"
Quatre then stepped back, his eyes looking bright. "We will." He and Trowa then made their farewells to Heero, and before he was fully aware of it, they were gone. He felt a reassuring arm circle his shoulders and he looked up to see Heero looking at him with concern. He gave his lover a shaky smile, then looked down at the dog.
"You're sure this is okay with you, Heero?"
"If it makes you happy," his lover answered.
Duo knew Heero probably didn't want the dog, but was willing to make yet another sacrifice on his behalf. He would make sure that the dog wasn't a burden. "He does make me happy," he replied. "But what are we going to name him?"