When One Door Closes
by Dyna Dee
Duo managed to make it back into the house and through the crowd of guests without being stopped or catching sight of Heero. He moved as inconspicuously as possible up the stairs and to his room, which was empty. Jim, apparently, was still downstairs at the party. Hurrying, began the process of re-packing his bags when a solid knock on the door interruped him, causing him to jump at the suddenness of the sound. He paused, waiting to see if the person on the other side of the door would announce themself.
Damn, it was Heero. He remained motionless, holding his breath and hoping his former lover would move on. Several long, drawn-out moments passed before the door knob turned. He noiselessly dropped down behind the bed, hoping Heero would simply take a peek in the room, see that he wasn't there, and move on.
Hidden from view, or so he hoped, he listened as the door opened and sounds of the party downstairs flowed into the room. The door shut again with a click and he nervously waited until he heard Jim mutter, "What the hell?"
Popping his head up from his lame hiding place, Duo watched his friend jump back, wide-eyed and startled. "Shit, Duo. What are you doing hiding behind the bed?"
"I thought you were Heero," he explained as he rose to his feet, feeling ridiculous.
"And hiding behind the bed is how you choose to avoid him?"
"It was a spur of the moment decision."
Jim broke out in a laugh. "I'd have thought a former gundam pilot could have come up with something better than that?"
"Well, it was the best I could come up with in a two second time span," he replied defensively. And then it hit him. "Hey, who told you I was a gundam pilot?"
Jim's blue eyes narrowed as he gave the shorter man a look of disappointment. "Did you honestly believe I wouldn't learn the truth about your past, especially in this company?" he answered, one hand gesturing towards the bedroom door. "I have to admit I was shocked after learning my friend, currently employed at a Park City resort as the fix-it man, had been the pilot of the deadly gundam known as Deathscythe." The man shook his head in disbelief as he added, "I still find it hard to accept, especially after learning that Quatre Winner and his new husband were also gundam pilots. From your association with them, I'm guessing that Heero and Wufei were also gundam pilots?"
With a reluctant nod of his head, Duo asked, "Can you now understand my need for secrecy?"
Jim nodded that he did understand. Then looking towards the bed he asked, "So what's with the suitcase? Are we going somewhere?"
"Ah.... yeah, if you don't mind. Just a slight change in our plans. I thought I'd show you around Sanq."
"Running away from something again, or rather someone?"
Though Duo expected Jim to be disappointed with his running yet again, he was surprised to see a look of concern on the other man's face. He recalled Dwight, the truck driver he'd met in a truck stop so long ago, saying something similar to him. He had been running then, and had every intention of running now. Would he ever grow up and face the hardships in his life, or keep living like the street brat he'd once been, who ran and hid from the ugliness of his childhood? His shrink in Utah firmly believed his dreary past was the reason he habitually removed himself physically from potentially painful situations. Running was a defense mechanism he'd developed from necessity, in order to survive on the streets of L2, and he'd honed that escape tool to perfection over the years, much to his own determent. And even though he had been told all of this by his shrink, and knew that running away wasn't the most logical answer to his problems, he hadn't been able to find any other effective way to deal with his fears.
"I'm just not ready to face him," he muttered softly, justifying his leaving as he returned to his packing.
"I think you're making a big mistake."
"Maybe so, but it's what I've gotta do."
He was more than a little relieved when Jim dropped the subject altogether and pulled his own suitcase out of the closet and began to pack his belongings. "I know where there's a bed and breakfast place in the next town," Duo said in his most upbeat tone of voice. "We can rent a room somewhere outside the capitol and do some sightseeing until our flight leaves in three days." It was an olive branch that Duo was extending, though a very small one. He really didn't want to ruin Jim's first trip to Sanq, and felt badly about having to change their travel plans so abruptly.
"Sounds good," Jim replied in a flat voice, avoiding looking at Duo while carefully placing several pairs of pants into his largest suitcase. Duo realized the artist was upset with him and promised himself to make it up to the other man, after they got out of there.
Having finished his packing, Duo left Jim to finish up and removed himself from the room. After which he move towards the nearest phone, conveniently located at the far end of the hall. The voices of the happy celebrants below floated up the grand staircase as he called information, asking for a taxi service.
Several ladies were standing at the top of the stairs, carrying on a private conversation. From their blond hair and the elegant mode of their dresses, Duo gathered that they were some of Quatre's relatives. The group had glanced his way as he'd neared them, but once their curiosity had been sated, they promptly returned to their conversation when it became clear he was heading for the phone table.
He turned his back to them and kept his voice low as he dialed the number he'd been given and ordered up a taxi, all the while keeping an eye out for Heero. It was risky, trying to leave the house during the reception. It seemed almost impossible that he and Jim would make it out of there without Heero or Wufei catching them in the act of leaving.
Having completed his call, Duo quickly returned back to the bedroom, but before he could open the door, a female voice called out, coming from below the staircase. "They're about to leave, Farrah, get the rose petals." The three women promptly disappeared down the stairs in a rustle of satin and taffeta, leaving behind the lingering scent of expensive perfume. Duo recognized the moment as an opportunity to leave without being noticed. When the newly married couple made their public exit, he and Jim could slip away unnoticed, by way of the back door entrance. After that, they could make their way to the street to await the taxi. He re-entered the bedroom smiling, pleased with his plan, which he promptly explained to Jim and told him what he wanted him to do.
"You have got to be kidding me?" the blond asked with a look that was somewhere between being surprised and exasperated.
"Just open the window and wait for my signal."
Jim looked at him with disbelief. "This is ridiculous, Duo. There's no reason why we can't walk out of here with some dignity, like adults."
"Dignity is overrated, my man. Just do as I ask, alright?"
Jim rolled his eyes. "I feel like a ten year old running away from home."
Duo shrugged and gave the man a wicked grin. "Then just consider me the fountain of youth. I pull this kind of shit all the time."
"You need to grow up, Duo. Face up to your responsibilities like an adult and accept the consequences of your own actions," Jim said, frowning in disapproval.
"Your age is showing, Dad," he replied sarcastically. "I'll be sure to buy you a rocking chair for your next birthday." Sobering he continued. "Listen, Jim, we only have a small window of time here. Just work with me and keep an eye out of the window for my signal, will ya?"
Duo ended their little tit-for-tat conversation by promptly walking out the bedroom door, before Jim could protest their means of leaving. His traveling companion was seriously beginning to wear on his nerves, and he certainly didn't want to waste time listening to Jim's criticism, not when he needed to move fast in order to escape Heero's sharp eyes.
The downstairs foyer was packed with guests trying to get outside through the front door. While the crowd's attention was diverted, Duo moved swiftly down the staircase and skirted the wall as he made his way towards the back of the house. He'd successfully covered half the distance when a hand firmly grabbed hold of his arm, bringing him to an abrupt halt.
"Going somewhere?" Heero asked, one eyebrow raised questioningly. "I think the party is in the other direction."
Flustered, Duo came up with the best excuse he could think of on the spur of the moment. "Thought I'd sneak back to the kitchen and grab some of that raspberry dessert everyone was talking about. Didn't get a chance to earlier, and there's no better time than now, when everyone else is going in the opposite direction."
Heero looked skeptical, which happened to be a pretty damn sexy look on the man, if anyone asked Duo's opinion. He was spared the other man's response when Quatre and Trowa stepped out of a door just down the hall from where they stood. The couple came down the hall hand and hand, trailed by Wufei, Relena and a number of other well-wishers, all of them heading towards the front door.
"Let's go see them off, shall we?" Heero tightened his grip on the captured arm and began to pull Duo along with him as he headed towards the retreating couple.
"Heero. Stop!" Duo pleaded, digging in his heels while pulling his arm out of the other man's firm grasp. Heero turned to look at him, clearly puzzled by his actions. "Look," Duo began again, nervously combing fingers through the hair hanging over his forehead, "I don't want to see them off, alright? Besides, I already said goodbye."
"Why?" Heero's dark blue eyes searched his face for understanding.
"Because it hurts," Duo answered honestly. "I'm sincerely happy for them, but it just hurts, ya know?"
It took a moment before the handsome face in front of him registered Heero's understanding of what he meant. "Oh," the other man said softly, then nodded. "If you don't want to see them off, maybe we could find a room and talk."
That was the last thing Duo wanted, to be alone in a room with Heero. Even now his hands itched to reach out and touch the other man's face, to grab him by the back of his neck and pull him into a passionate kiss. No, he couldn't risk being with Heero behind a closed door. "No, not now. Jim is waiting for me." Which was the truth.
"When can we talk?"
Shoving his hands into the pockets of his pant, Duo muttered, "I don't know.
""I could come back tonight."
"No. Not here. Somewhere neutral."
Despite looking cool and calm, the twitch of Heero's left eyebrow told Duo his former lover was becoming annoyed, but whether it was with him or the situation, he couldn't tell. Then Heero said, "Fine. Tomorrow, ten a.m. at the coffee shop on the corner of Brighton and Javore." Duo remembered the place well. It wasn't far from Quatre and Trowa's place, and they used to meet up there once in a while when they had the same day off. The braided head nodded in agreement. "And leave the painter behind," Heero admonished.
After pausing, Heero hesitantly reached out and took hold of Duo's braid, which was hanging over his right shoulder. He gently let it slide through his loose grip until he'd gone down the entire length, feeling every bump of the braid. "I'm glad you didn't cut it," he said in a soft, subdued voice. Then without another word he turned and moved down the hall where a loud chorus of cheers went up, as the wedding guests prepared to send the happy couple off on their honeymoon.
The next breath Duo took was relieved but shaky. The slight touch of Heero's hand on his hair had set his heart racing and breaking at the same time. He turned on his heel and moved quickly in the opposite direction, passing through the chaos in the kitchen to the back door, leading to the patio. Once outside, he moved to stand beneath the open window of his assigned room, where he hissed Jim's name, hoping not to draw any undue attention. The man's blond head popped out the window just far enough that Duo could see his frown and the disbelieving shake of his head. He disappeared for only a moment before Duo's suitcase was pitched out of the second-storey window. He let the full, green shrub, set against the side of the house, catch the falling case. It bounced to the cement, where Duo quickly retrieved it, barely missing being hit by his falling duffle bag. He looked up in time to see Jim leaning over the windowsill, preparing to gingerly drop his own suitcase.
Once he had all of their luggage at his feet, Duo looked upwards and motioned Jim to come down.
"I'm not jumping," the blond stated firmly.
"Chicken," Duo murmured under his breath, but in a louder voice he said, "Of course not. Come down the stairs and walk as casually as you can to the back of the house. And whatever you do, try to avoid Heero." Despite the distance between them, he could clearly hear Jim's dramatic sigh.
"Drama Queen," he muttered while keeping an eye out for Heero or Wufei.
No more than two minutes later, Jim stepped out of the back kitchen door and spotted Duo to his left. As he approached the braided man, having repositioned himself to hid behind some bulky patio furniture, the luggage behind him, he stated, "I feel like a juvenile delinquent."
"You're looking at the poster child for that title," Duo said, striking a pose not so different from the one in the painting. With a wink he added, "One day I'll have to fill you in on what my teenage years were like. Juvenile delinquent doesn't even begin to cover what I was." Amused by the thought of Jim's reaction to his teenage misadventures, the braided man realized he was probably irritating Jim further by chuckling darkly to himself all the way around the mansion, but the artist followed him, regardless. They paused behind the front corner of the house, peering at the waning crowd out front, and waiting until everyone re-entered the house after the departure of the happy couple. Once the coast was clear, the two men ran with their luggage towards the street as if an army of Leos were hot on their heels. Duo managed to flag down the taxi before it turned into the driveway to the mansion, and off they went, to the nearest car rental agency.
As he drove them out of the city towards the nearest hamlet, a mere six kilometers, Duo was able to push aside most of the tension he'd been feeling all afternoon. They drove around the village for a little while, debating on a place to saty, then stopped at a quaint inn. The prices, he quickly learned, were anything but quaint. Maybe if he'd known how expensive a couple of nights at an inn was going to be, he might have reconsidered leaving Quatre and Trowa's place. He cringed inwardly after checking in. Having shown up without reservations, the room selection was limited, and there was no choice than for he and Jim to double up and share a bed, which was something Duo was not looking forward to.
They dropped their suitcases off in the room and spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the village and visiting the shops. When they felt hungry, they ordered a light dinner from a posh bistro where the prices had been inconveniently left off the printed menu. Duo's heart almost stopped when the exorbitant bill was set on the table. He was definitely going to have a lean wallet by the time he got back to Park City.
With his wallet much lighter than when they'd entered the small village, the two men returned to their rented room and watched a little bit of television before getting ready for bed.
Duo won the toss to be the first to use the bathroom. After getting ready for bed, he exited the room dressed in lightweight sweat pants and a T-shirt. Jim then took his turn and returned five minutes later wearing only his bikini bun huggers. Duo rolled his eyes, wondering if the other man thought strutting towards the bed in that lame excuse for underwear was going to turn him on. His question was answered the moment he turned out the bedside lamp and settled onto his pillow, preparing for sleep. Almost instantly, Jim pressed his long and lean body against his own and commenced nibbling on his ear.
"Not gonna happen, man."
"Come on, Duo. It'll be good."
"We've been over this, Jim. We're better friends than we'll ever be lovers. Just let it go and get some sleep."
With a huff, Jim pushed away from the braided man and rolled over to rest on his back. After an annoyed huff he asked, "Did you at least talk to him?"
Duo knew he was referring to Heero. "He wants me to meet him at a coffee shop near Quatre and Trowa's place tomorrow at ten."
"Are you going?"
A long pause followed that question. When he finally answered, Duo's voice was uncertain. "I don't know."
Jim gave one last exasperated huff then turned again, facing away from Duo this time, and pulled the blankets up over his shoulders. It wasn't very hard to tell that Jim was mad at him, but this time Duo knew there was nothing he could do about it other than to close his eyes and will himself to sleep, hoping Jim's anger would blow over by morning. Of course, sleep was slow in coming, and it wasn't until he decided to drive back to the city in the morning and meet with Heero that Duo was finally able to rest.