When One Door Closes
by Dyna Dee
"So what will you do?" Quatre asked after they'd spent an hour talking over the situation later that morning.
"I'm not sure," Duo answered in a glum tone. "Jim is definitely easy on the eyes, a talented artist, a nice guy and attentive. I'd be stupid not to try and make something work with him. But I don't know."
"How far can a relationship go if you're not willing to tell him about your past? If you can't tell him your secrets or reveal the truth about your past, how do you know if he'll accept you once he finds out? If you can't trust Jim enough to be honest with him, how can you possibly let him into your heart?"
Quatre's arguments were always logical, aimed at making him think before acting, but right now he'd had just about enough of thinking. He didn't have an answer to the honesty question, in fact, he was pretty much convinced that he knew jack-squat about anything, relationship wise. "I don't know," he snapped irritably, letting Quatre know he'd reached his limit.
There was a pause from the other side of the line before his friend said, "I don't say these things to hurt you, Duo. I hope you know that."
"I know, Quat. I'm just sick of being alone, ya know? I really hoped things would work out between Jim and I."
The idea had its appeal even as it filled him with dread. Waking up a short while ago after yet another wet dream about Heero made it pretty clear that he wasn't over his former lover. Facing his former lover and not making a fool out of himself was too much of a risk. "I can't," he replied dispiritedly and with a touch of apology in his voice.
"It's time to quit running, Duo. We miss you. Come home and we'll work things out."
"Don't you understand that I can't?" he asked, anguished. "I still love him, Quatre, and until this hurt and longing for him eases and I find someone to fill this gaping hole in me I can't see him. Besides, things will never be the way they were before. Heero needs you guys as much as I do. If I came back there you'd have to make a choice between us because I don't think I could pretend to be indifferent to him, not when he's in the same room. Who would you invite to holidays and to celebrations like birthdays? Would it be fair to invite me and not Heero?"
"I'm sorry," the blond replied quickly. Duo could only nod his head in reply to the apology. He was sorry too. "I won't push it any more, all right?" Quatre added.
Then pausing a few moments to let the tension between them ease, the blond spoke again, but this time he sounded much calmer though a bit hesitant. "I didn't know whether to bring this up or not, Duo, but it's only fair to warn you ahead of time that Trowa and I are going to make things legal between us. It's been a couple of years and it's time we did this. We've actually been holding out for you to come back because it won't seem right if you're not here to celebrate with us. I know you just told me that you're not ready to come home, but I can't put our future off forever, Duo, and I don't want to. We're considering September for the ceremony. Do you think you can come home by then, even if it's just for a couple of days?"
"Three months probably won't make a difference in how I feel about Heero," he answered, feeling his stomach flutter at the mere thought of returning to Sanq.
"If you feel that way, then why are you even seeing Jim?"
Shit, he had a point. "I can't promise I'll come, but I don't want you to put this off just because I'm too immature to get my act together. Set your date and I'll let you know."
"If it makes it any easier, you can bring a date."
"I'll think about it, okay?"
The blond sounded relieved when he said, "That's all I can ask. It really would make Trowa and I happy beyond words if you could come. I'll make the airline reservations if you'll look at your calendar and see what weekend in September you can get away."
Duo resigned himself to seriously considering going back to Sanq for the special day. Quatre was his closest friend and Trowa had been his partner, and he didn't want to let them down or miss out on seeing them legally married knowing how much it meant to the both of them. "Alright, I'll think about it. Just make sure those tickets are refundable."
The call ended shortly after that and he could tell by the sound of Quatre's voice that he was very pleased and hopeful. His friend promised to call again the following weekend to get the dates he would be able to take a leave from work so that he and Trowa could begin preparations for the ceremony and set up plane reservations.
Jim called on Tuesday night with regards to the next weekend. Duo had received an offer from a couple of people he worked with at the lodge to go boating at Bear Lake on Saturday. They reported having a friend with a large boat, water skis and something called a banana boat. He asked if he could bring a friend along and received the jovial answer, "The more the merrier." He figured spending a day outdoors with a group of fun people would be a good way to get to know Jim better without sex being part of the date. Now that they'd crossed the line into a physical relationship, it was going to be harder to make excuses to not have sex when they went out together.
As an aftereffect from the war, Duo practiced caution when revealing anything about his personal life, like the fact that he was gay, and especially in the work place. So he was somewhat nervous about how Jim would be perceived by his co-workers. But he needn't have worried. Jim never had acted overtly gay, and he immediately made a good impression during the first introductions to his co-workers/friends, offering a friendly smile and firm handshake. Duo was further impressed when the slightly older man made everyone feel at ease by engaging in a variety of conversational topics with the same ease he'd employed when they'd first met in the gallery.
It just so happened that Jim happened to be a great skier, and Duo appreciated the artist even more when he refrained from laughing at him when his turn came to put on the skis and line up behind the boat for the first time.
It took several disastrous tries before Duo actually made it up and out of the water, and even then he didn't last too long. Jim and the others in the boat shouted out corrections on what he was doing wrong as well as encouragement, and before long he was able to stand up on the skis long enough to be pulled a fairly good distance by the boat. It was getting caught in the wake when the boat turned sharply that upended him and plunged him back into the chilly water. He was told he performed a rather spectacular cartwheel, head over skis before he belly flopped on the lake's surface.
Jim brought several disposable cameras with him and handed them out to everyone to ensure they had a visual reminder of that summer day. Duo caught his date snapping pictures of him off and on throughout the afternoon before he playfully wrestled the camera out of the other man's hands and took several snapshots of the artist in retaliation. Jim promised to give him printed copies.
All in all, the day had been a good one. He and Jim joined the others for a barbeque at the lake's picnic area as the afternoon edged towards evening. It was after the sun had set and the sky grew dark that the two men finally got into Jim's car for the long ride home.
"That was fun," Jim said, turning his eyes from the road to grin at the braided man.
"Yeah, it was," Duo agreed. "Thanks for coming."
"Would you like to come to my place or are you too tired from your first day water skiing?"
"I'm actually pretty tired," Duo replied with a look of apology.
"I can imagine. I remember my first day skiing when I was thirteen. I felt like I'd been worked over by a bunch of bullies and slept until three in the afternoon the next day."
"What kind of childhood did you have, Jim? Were you a happy kid?" Duo decided to try and get to know the other man better. Jim really did seem like a great guy, and maybe if he learned more about the man some deeper feelings for him might form. And maybe, if he fell in love with the handsome artist, it would help the situation in the bedroom.
With his eyes on the road, Jim replied to his question by stating that he'd come from a broken home. It seemed rather cliche, he said, that his Dad had been having an affair with his secretary, and after having discovered this, his mother divorced him. The custody battle was a long, extended one with each parent trying to win him over. He confessed to siding with his mother, seeing her as the injured party, but that he was smart enough to milk both parents for everything he could get out of them. He'd been eleven years old when his mother discovered his father's betrayal.
Duo really couldn't relate to Jim's past, not having had parents himself, and he wasn't overly impressed about Jim playing his parents off of each other. But then again, he'd heard that was a fairly common thing for children experiencing the trauma of having their parents divorce.
Jim then turned the tables by asking Duo about his childhood. Not knowing how the other man would react to his own story, he gave him an edited version. Admitting he was an orphan, Duo left out the fact that he'd lived on the streets of L2, the notorious slum colony. He spoke of the orphanage, but neglected to mention his time with Solo and the street gang. He briefly mentioned the burning of the church and orphanage and the deaths of Father Maxwell and Sister Helen and the other kids, pointedly leaving out the reason for it, then told him he'd joined the war effort. Leaving Deathscythe out of the tale as well as his having been a gundam pilot somehow felt necessary. Jim seemed to accept what he was told, offering the proper words of sympathy and amazement that Duo had turned out so well, considering his unfortunate past. Then Quatre's words came back to him, that if he couldn't be honest with Jim about his past, how could he let him into his heart. Maybe he couldn't. At the back of his mind Duo began to worry that he might never be able to fully trust someone with his past, other than his fellow former gundam pilots.
Jim dropped him off in front of his apartment building, but not without a kiss to remember him by. The blond promised to call him to set up something for the next weekend. For a day that had gone fairly well, Duo entered his apartment feeling somewhat depressed. He blamed his downturn in mood on talking about the past. Deceiving Jim by omitting some rather vital truths about his life left him feeling like a liar and sneak. Being a sneak he could live with, but a liar was something he'd always despised.
Quatre's call on Sunday morning was a welcomed event. A date was set for the formal ceremony marking the day when Trowa and Quatre would become legal partners. It was to take place on Saturday, September 17th, a little over two months away. Quatre was already knee-deep in the planning stages and Duo promised to ask for an entire week off. At that time of year, with schools back in session and winter several months away, he was fairly certain Brian would give him the necessary time off from work.
Jim called on Wednesday to invite him to a well-known summer film festival. It sounded fun, so Duo accepted. The artist also asked if he would come back to his place and stay the night. Of course Duo knew what that would entail, so he psyched himself up for it, thinking that he'd give sex with Jim another try. Everyone deserved a second chance, he thought. Even in bed.
They managed to view two movies that night. One was a odd-humored flick about pre-pubescent, trouble making teens whose parents were stationed on a tropical airbase. The second film was a moving documentary entitled, "The Streets They Owned." Little did Duo know before the lights dimmed that the film was about the poverty and slums of L2. He squirmed in his seat and fought down the bile rising in his throat as he viewed scenes similar to his own past. While the storyline followed a teenage girl who had to make the decision about whether to steal or turn to prostitution in order to survive, Duo couldn't help but imagine himself in that very same position had he not stowed away on the Sweepers' barge. Halfway though the film he decided he couldn't take any more. He shot up out of his seat and fled the theater. Jim had the good sense to follow.
"What's the matter?" The tall blond easily caught up to Duo, grabbed hold of his arm and pulled him aside on the busy sidewalk. There was concern in the pale blue eyes as they studied the shorter man.
"That film was just too close for comfort. I'm afraid I tend to like action pictures more than documentaries."
"An escapist, huh?" Jim grinned at him, helping to ease a bit of the tension that had built up during the last movie. Then for some reason, Jim's statement hit home. In some odd way, he was an escapist. He'd escaped L2 only to become a gundam pilot and then escaped death in Deathscythe and as a prisoner of war several times over. He escaped death and Deikum Barton's prison in the second war. More recently, he had fled from his dysfunctional life with Heero. "Yeah, I'm an escapist alright. Escaping reality every chance I get."
"How about I take you out for a late night snack, and then home for a blow job... I mean night cap." Jim's smile was infectious when he shifted his eyebrows suggestively.
"Sure," Duo nodded his head. He was in the mood for a good romp between the sheets. "Sounds good."
A car ride, apple pie ala mode, and a heavy make out session later, Duo found himself back in Jim's bedroom. After a good thirty minutes of Jim getting him in the mood, he moaned deeply as the artist used his talented fingers to finish prepping him. "I'm ready," he whispered with a husky voice, desperate for Jim to hurry up and get the ball rolling, so to speak. Then suddenly the man above him shifted away. "What the ..?"
The artist stood up from the bed, just as blessedly naked as Duo was, and gave his guest a mischievous grin. "I want to make this last, make it good for you."
"It's good," Duo insisted, his cock standing at attention like a good soldier was proof that he was telling the truth.
"Just wait." Jim strolled over to the closet, opened it, and bought out a silver box that appeared to be the same size as one made for men's boots. He came back to the bed carrying it in his two hands and sat down on the mattress next to him. With his hand on the lid of the box, Duo saw a spark of excitement or was it anticipation light up the other man's eyes. He recognized that look, having worn it himself whenever he was given the materials to build a bomb. Damn, he was good at building bombs and missed that part of his past, especially the blowing up part. Watching something he'd created make such a big bang excited him almost as much as flying Deathscythe had. Jim had that look in his eyes now and Duo wondered what in the world was in the box.
The blond made a production of opening the lid and Duo followed his gaze down to see the contents... and froze. "You like?" There was excitement in Jim's voice, but Duo couldn't drag his eyes away from the contents of the box to glance up at him. Within the box lay an assortment of... toys: padded handcuffs, vibrators, dildos, nipple clamps and several things he could only guess came with kinky sex. His so-called soldier, standing at attention, collapsed.
"No way in hell!" he gasped before rolling swiftly toward the other side of the bed in a hurry to get up.
"What's the matter?" Jim sounded confused and came after him. "It's just for fun, you know, to spice things up."
"Spice things up!" Duo shouted. "It's not like we've been together for years and have grown bored of each other. Dammit, Jim, if this is how you start a relationship, what the hell are you gonna to do to spice things up down the road? I'm sorry, but that's just not my thing."
On the defensive, Jim asked, "Have you ever tried to vary your love life? You shouldn't knock it unless you've tried it."
Duo hurried to pull on his boxers with his pants following quickly after. As he straightened, zipping up his fly, Jim came up from behind and pulled Duo's back up against his bare chest. "Don't go," he whispered seductively into his ear then teased the tender lobe with his tongue. "We don't have to play, Duo. We'll just make hot, passionate love. I've dreamt about being inside of you for two weeks. I'm about to burst from wanting you."
Duo was stunned, unable to believe what he was hearing even though he could feel Jim's persistent and firm erection pressed up against his backside. Shaking his head, he pulled himself out of the other man's embrace. "It's no good, Jim." Quickly throwing on his shirt, Duo more or less forced himself to turn and face the tall artist with the truth. "Look, I really like you, Jim. You're a great guy, but we're just not compatible in bed. You'd be better off with someone who shares your taste in... fun."
The good looking blond combed a hand through his hair and uttered a deep sigh of disappointment. "All right. Let me get dressed and I'll drive you home." Duo turned and walked into the front room and began putting on his socks and shoes, all the while dealing with his own sense of disappointment.
Jim came out dressed a few minutes later and sat on the sofa next to him to slip on his own shoes. Looking up with sadness in his eyes he said, "I really like you, Duo. Are you sure?"
Pausing only a moment to give careful consideration to Jim's question, Duo knew the answer and nodded his head. "From the beginning of my last relationship, my lover and I had great chemistry. We were in every way compatible in bed and never needed anything else to enhance our lovemaking. Our sex life was great, probably the only thing that was great in our relationship at the end."
"And still you let him go?"
He looked at Jim and saw the artist was honestly shocked.
"No, he let me go. I just ran like the devil was after me so I wouldn't have to watch him fall in love with someone else."
"You loved him?"
Duo sighed as he answered, "Desperately. Still do, I guess. But things changed and we couldn't get along. He left the Preventers, where we worked together, to study at the university while I remained on the job. He met new people, became friends with them and, after meeting me they made no bones about the fact that I was uncouth, obnoxious and uneducated and definitely not good enough for my lover, especially since my job involved, in their words, 'oppression and suppression of the masses'." He shrugged, trying to dismiss the pain and humiliation that came from recalling the snide whispers that judged him inferior in comparison to his lover, unworthy of the brilliant university student who shunned anything to do with war or violence. Over time he had managed to turn a deaf ear to the barbs Heero's friends directed at him, but even after all this time it still stung.
"They were probably right, ya know. I don't have a university degree or certificates stating how smart I am, but I'm anything but stupid. I'm probably smarter than all those snot-nosed, stuck-up students put together. I've done and experienced things in my life that would have them pissing their pants and bawling their eyes out."
"You were a Preventer?" Duo turned at that question to see Jim looking at him with wide eyes and a shocked expression.
Oops. "Ah... yeah, I was."
Several times the other man began to say something, but nothing came out of his mouth. Having finished tying his shoes, Duo stood up and declared, "I'm ready to go."
The short car ride back to his place was a quiet one. Jim, no doubt, was trying to sort out all he'd been told, and Duo was beating himself up for having said too much. As the car stopped, Jim set the parking brake and turned in his seat. "You're sure about this?"
Duo nodded, regretting that things hadn't work out between them but knowing he was doing the right thing. "I hope we can still hang out once in a while," he said. "You really are a good guy, Jim, someone I'd be glad to call a friend."
"I'd like that, too," the artist replied, wearing a sad smile. He then leaned forward and gave Duo a chaste kiss on the lips.
"Call me when you show your new pieces?" Jim been talking about several paintings he'd been working on, and Duo was curious to see how they turned out.
And suddenly there seemed to be nothing left to say, so Duo got out of the car and watched Jim drive away. Left alone once again, he sighed wearily, acknowledging that another relationship had come to an end. Tilting his chin upward, he gazed at the starlit heavens above. "My life sucks," he told the great unknown, in case someone up there didn't already know that little fact. The stars were bright in the dark, moonless sky and he could easily make out the Milky Way, the constellations and those colonies that were in view, and suddenly he longed to be in space once again. Shoving his hands into the pockets of his jeans, he made his way back to his small apartment, wondering if maybe it was time to move on, to catch a shuttle back to space.
The red blinking light on his answering machine indicated he had a message, but in his less than stellar mood he knew better than to try and talk to anyone. He ignored it and went to the bathroom, intending to take a long hot shower before turning in for the night.