When One Door Closes
by Dyna Dee
Ten o'clock Sunday morning found the braided man sitting in his rental car, half a block down from the coffee shop where he was supposed to meet Heero. He was grateful the car's windows were tinted, blocking anyone passing by, including his former lover, from seeing him sitting there, watching. He pulled his billed cap down a bit further, covering the upper half of his head, just in case. Slumped down in the driver's seat, Duo kept a sharp eye out, and in the rear view mirror he caught sight of the arrival of an eye-catching red motorcycle. After pulling into a vacant parking spot, the motorcycle rider, definitely male and dressed in jeans and a black leather jacket, took off his black helmet. He wasn't the least bit surprised to see that Heero was the owner of the motorbike. Out of the five of them, Quatre was the only one who didn't find pleasure from flying down a highway on two wheels at breakneck speed, weaving in and out of traffic and cutting the curves so close that you were inches from the pavement. What a rush!
He sank a little lower in his seat as Heero approached from behind and passed by his car. It seemed his precaution to remain unnoticed wasn't necessary considering the other man's eyes were fixed on the coffee shop where they were scheduled to meet. Duo continued to covertly watch the man who still, after all that had passed between them, set his heart racing as he strolled down the sidewalk and approached the shop. The familiar mop of messy hair tilted forward as Heero peered into the large front window. After not seeing who he was looking for inside, he turned to scan the street in both directions.
Duo had driven to the agreed meeting spot that morning with every intention of speaking with Heero, having spent most of the night trying to convince himself that clearing the air between them would get everyone off his back. But looking at Heero now, so handsome, strong and appealing to him in every way, he felt his resolve slipping away. The very sight of his former lover brought back all the longing he'd tried so hard to run away from. Heero was someone he would probably have been attracted to even if they'd never met before, had never shared war-time experiences with or a bed. There was just something about the other man that drew him in, an undeniable attraction that went far beyond mere lust. Besides the strong physical attraction they'd once shared, the man currently looking up and down the street, anticipating his arrival, knew him better than anyone else. The plain and honest truth was that Heero owned a part of his heart that would always belong only to him.
A sudden and familiar ache bloomed within his chest with the realization that he would always feel this desperate longing for Heero, that he would always want and need him. And there it was, plain as day came the revelation that he still loved his former lover and always would. "Oh God," he moaned and hung his head, feeling miserable. "What the hell am I doing here?"
Closure. That's what Heero and everyone else wanted them to have. Well maybe he didn't want closure. Did anyone ever ask him about whether or not he wanted fuckin' closure? Once he and Heero said their piece and bid each other a final goodbye, what was left of them then? Nothing. Absolutely, positively nothing! It would be the end of all hope for them. The hope he didn't even realize he still harbored until that moment.
And what the hell was he hoping for?
Unable to pinpoint the answer, he simply knew that he still loved Heero and wished to God the other man had some feelings left for him other than anger. Perhaps he was holding onto the hope that they might end up together, some how, some day, even though it now seemed impossible. Could he bear to lose that precious, thin thread of hope in exchange for learning that Heero really didn't want anything more from him other than an explanation for why he'd run?
Leaning forward until his head came to rest against the steering wheel, he wondered why it was so hard to let his former lover go. Perhaps hearing from Heero's own lips that there was nothing left to salvage of their relationship would be for the best, but he just wasn't ready to hear the final goodbye, not yet at least, and maybe not ever.
He remained slouched in his rental car, watching Heero as he waited for nearly an hour for him, entering the cafÃ© momentarily only to return a few minutes later with a cup of coffee in hand. Twenty minutes after his arrival, Heero pulled out his cell phone and made a call, probably to Quatre's place. Even from half a block away Duo could see the other man's frown as he closed his phone and put it back into the pocket inside his jacket.
His rising sense of guilt grew as he watched Heero's shoulders slump. Then combing his fingers through his messy brown hair, he could tell the moment Heero finally gave up. Plunging his hands into his pockets of his jacket, the Japanese man walked dispiritedly back to his motorcycle, put on his helmet and, after starting the engine, drove off. Duo watched him disappear from sight and in a shaky voice he whispered, "Bye, Heero." It took him a couple more moments to compose himself enough to turn the key in the ignition and start the drive back to the hotel where Jim was waiting for him to return.
With a heavy heart and eyes stinging with unshed tears, he drove away, believing he had just had his last look at the man he loved.
Four very glum and tiring days later found Duo back in Park City. His trip to Sanq now felt like a long, disjointed and surreal dream, except that he was depressed as hell, evidence that it had been all too real. It hadn't been all bad, he grudgingly admitted. Seeing Quatre, Trowa and even Wufei had been wonderful; he really couldn't have wished for a better reunion with them. Yet when he returned to his small apartment, his heart was aching more than ever despite the good reunion.
He spent a good part of the first day home going through the motions of moving on with his life: grocery shopping, doing laundry and getting ready for work the next day. He could only hope the ache and loneliness that was dragging him down would eventually fade away into a more livable feeling of numbness.
Duo felt some measure of relief in returning to work at the inn the next morning, needing something to keep his hands and mind occupied. He began by painting all the planters at the lodge, made repairs where needed, did a little plumbing on a leaky toilet and sink in the public restrooms, visited the local nursery and returned to the resort prepared to plant a truckload of late season perennials, intended to brighten up the fall landscape. All in all, the eight hours he put in had been productive, but as the day came to a close his despondency returned.
It was almost dark by the time he returned home, carrying a take-out bag in one hand that contained a French dip sandwich and cherry turnover, and a tall cup of soda in the other. He sighed wearily as he turned the key in the lock of his front door, dreading the quiet evening ahead of him, having resigned himself to being alone tonight. Calling Jim was out of the question because the other man was still upset with him about not talking to Heero when he told him he would. Quatre was still on vacation with Trowa and he definitely wasn't up to calling Wufei and having yet another heart to heart with him, especially after he'd ignored his advice in regards to Heero. He felt rotten enough as it was about standing Heero up, but he wouldn't let himself regret it.
He entered his dark apartment and couldn't help but feel the weight of silence it held. With the kick of his foot, he shut the door behind him then hit the light switch with his elbow, immediately brightening the living room and helping to dispel at least some of the gloom he'd been feeling. Picking up the remote, the T.V. went on, and the noise that accompanied the irritating game show filled the air. Duo set the bag of food down on the table and began to empty out the contents while kicking off his shoes.
Switching the channel to the evening news, he settled down on the comfortable sofa and was just about to take a bite of his warm sandwich when a knock sounded on the front door. With a heavy sigh he set his sandwich down and wondered if one of his neighbors was dropping by, hopefully bringing him some leftover dessert. His apartment complex was filled with do-gooders, especially the more elderly residents. If he happened to say a friendly hello to them in passing or lent a steady arm as they climbed up or down the stairs, they instantly considered him someone worth caring about. He hoped to be as thoughtful when he got old instead of some crotchety old man he could, at the moment, easily envision himself becoming.
Swinging the door open without checking the peep hole, he was fully prepared to be faced with a short, white-haired person with a wrinkled face and a plate full of goodies. Instead, he was shocked to find his former lover standing in the hallway, dressed in blue jeans topped by a white oxford shirt beneath a blue blazer and wearing an expression Duo used to refer to as "mission mode."
He was gawking at the man standing on the other side of his doorway; he knew he was and yet there didn't seem to be anything he could do about it in his stunned state. His jaw hung slack from shock while his mind was caught up in a whirlwind of thought as he frantically tried to figure out why Heero was there. He didn't get the chance to formulate a coherent response before Heero rudely brushed past him, entering his apartment uninvited. That unexpected action helped Duo shake free of his inability to act.
"What the hell?" he asked, spinning around to face Heero, now standing in his living room. Heero ignored him for a moment while taking his time to survey the apartment. He then began to remove his blazer and unbuttoned the cuffs of his sleeves. "What do you think you're doing, Heero?" Duo demanded, his heart racing. "How did you find me?"
"It was a little hard to miss the Ski Utah T-shirt you wore at Quatre's house and Jim was very forthcoming about where he works and lives. Once I pinpointed Park City it really wasn't difficult to find â€˜the good looking guy with the long, brown braid.' I told you we needed to talk, Duo, " the other man said, leveling his deep blue eyes on the man before him. "And frankly, your running and hiding habit is wearing old with everyone and isn't going to get you out of talking to me this time."
Duo's face began to heat up right along with his anger. "We don't have anything else to say to each other, so save yourself any more effort and get the hell out of here."
With a feral gleam in his eyes, Heero advanced on him, forcing Duo to make the choice of either standing his ground or backing away in defense. "I've got plenty to say and you are going to listen, even if I have to tie you up and sit on top of you."
Duo snarled, "You could try, but I guarantee you'll not be in one piece if you do."
Exercising a bit more caution, Heero slowed his step as he came to stand directly in front of the braided man. He was close enough that Duo could clearly see the black irises centered in his deep blue eyes. The two of them were only inches apart now, and Heero's intense focus was centered on his face. He could only hope that Heero couldn't tell he was having a hard time catching his breath because his heart was beating so rapidly.
"I want you to leave," the braided man said, abruptly cutting into whatever Heero was about to say and now hoping the other man hadn't noticed the slight quiver in his voice. He was expecting his former lover to either begin a round of heated arguing or leave, as he had asked. Whatever else he expected, Duo wasn't prepared for Heero to lunge forward and grab hold of him. Before he could react Heero's mouth was pressing against his own, kissing him soundly.
Duo's first instinct was to shove the accosting man away, and he did manage to grab hold of the front of Heero's shirt, intending to do just that. But somewhere between his intentions and the rest of his body, something short circuited, and damn if he wasn't kissing Heero back. Lips and tongues began a more successful form of communication than any words could presently manage. There was little fineness about the way they kissed, but it was a steamy, wet and desperate joining that became more and more urgent the longer it continued.
Duo was suddenly a corporeal mass of need, only minimally aware that he was clawing at the fabric beneath his hands. His mouth separated from Heero's for a brief moment as shirts were pulled over their heads, but the instant they were freed of the cotton barriers their lips sought out each other again, like two magnets inextricably drawn together. Duo lost all sense of himself, of his surroundings and whatever intentions he had before he'd become engaged in this delightful war with the lips that seemed hellbent on dominating his own.
Gasping for air, Duo threw back his head as those pleasuring lips moved to his throat. "Heero..." he moaned. "I... I want..." He paused for a scant moment to contemplate what it was that he wanted. Was he going to tell Heero to go to hell, that he should leave his apartment and never come back? Or was he going to ask Heero to keep on kissing him, to never stop kissing him, or beg him to stay and never again leave?
"I want..." he began again only to falter a second time. He was spared trying again to articulate what he was feeling when Heero stopped for a moment and pulled back, and with eyes that reflected the same undefined need he whispered, "I know, Duo. I want it too." And then Heero's mouth claimed him once more and Duo was lost in a haze of growing desire.
Happily drowning in the wonderful sensations, Duo was only dimly aware of a shifting in position and the feeling of roughness against his bare back. He vaguely acknowledged that it was the Berber carpet he was lying on, which had always been rather scratchy on his feet. He dismissed the fleeting annoyance as his mouth eagerly re-engaged in the delicious duel with Heero's mouth.
Suddenly, he was free again and in his ears was an answering echo of harsh breathing while hot, wet lips once again began to trail down his jaw, pausing at the pulsating vein in his neck. It seemed only natural to tilt his chin up and to the side, allowing better access and welcoming the pleasant sensation of kisses on his neck to continue while a moan of pleasure escaped his bruised lips. The kisses moved downward still, burning a trail over clavicle and chest, stopping to tease his left nipple before continuing down once more. He felt a tug at the waistband of his pants just as the blessedly wonderful lips left his skin completely, leaving him reeling, both mind and body.
The almost mindless pleasure that had overtaken him began to fade away, allowing a feeling of hesitancy to seep in. What the hell am I doing? With a desperate need to recapture those wonderful feelings that had carried him away only moments before, Duo reached down and threaded his fingers through a thatch of thick and coarse hair and pulled, dragging that perfect, pleasuring mouth back to where it belonged. He was quickly swept up into the consuming pleasure as a hot, skillful tongue entered his mouth once more and happily tangled with his own. They were two well-matched opponents, he thought, as he continued his own attempt to command and conquer.
He was putty in the other man's hands as another shift occurred and the body pressed against his own pulled back slightly as hands much steadier than his own removed the remaining fabric separating them. Duo didn't resist the nudge to roll onto his side moments before those hands, equally as talented as Heero's lips and tongue, began stroking his bare back, caressing the fleshy globes of his bottom and bare thighs. His own hands, moving without forethought, mimicked their counterpart's movements, mapping or perhaps claiming the heated flesh they caressed.
Duo felt his upper leg being drawn over the top of a bare thigh, pressing the two fevered bodies even closer. He worked his arm under the head still attached firmly to his mouth, closing the minute distance between them even more. Then a hard, heated length pressed against his own pulsing need, and a jolt of desire surged through his body, commencing in his groin and pulsing upwards. A hand, smooth and un-calloused, grasped hold of both rigid members and began pleasuring them at the same time.
With every passing moment, Duo felt something happening within him. A change for the better. A healing had begun, and a warmth he hadn't felt in two years began to chase away the cold despair that had taken a hold of his heart. The emptiness that had been a part of his existence from the moment Heero walked out the door was being chipped away, as well as the hopelessness he'd felt after deciding to flee Sanq five days ago. He was being healed, his broken heart was being put back together, and his craving for intimacy, far deeper than mere physical touching, was being assuaged.
He placed his hand on top of the one coaxing him towards a breathtaking release, not wanting to receive something so wonderful without giving something back. The tongue in his mouth stilled for a moment and Duo pressed for the advantage before plummeting over the edge. The hand under his own jerked suddenly as the body pressing against him stiffened and a low, throaty growl signaled a victory, setting off his own climax. It was only then that he released the mouth that had been pressed over his own to throw his head back and release a long moan as the orgasmic wave coursed through both his body and mind.
The euphoric sensation lasted only a few short moments before the overwhelming feelings began to wane and the reality of what had just happened came crashing down on him. He fell away from Heero's slackened grasp, rolling onto his back to rest on the scratchy carpet once more. Flinging his left arm over his eyes, he squeezed them tightly shut. What the hell did I just do? he mentally berated himself."Duo?"
How could he have let Heero come into his home and take advantage of him like this? His heart had been reawakened, and with that awakening came all the hurt and longing he'd tried to suppress over the last couple of years. And to what end?
Heero's concerned voice was so close. Duo felt the other man's moist, warm flesh pressed against his chest as he hovered over him. Slowly dragging the arm away from his face, he opened his eyes, letting Heero get a good look at the regret and pain within them while he took aim. Then, as Heero's concerned eyes were locked on his face, his right fist flew upward and with enough force and speed that when it connected perfectly with the other man's jaw, successfully catching Heero off guard and knocking him from off his chest.
Duo jerked upwards in an attempt to get up from the floor, intending to give Heero hell for taking advantage of him and for bringing back all the pain and misery he'd tried so hard to escape. He only managed to sit halfway up before being firmly knocked back to the floor with Heero jumping on top of him, straddling his hips. The two of them wrestled for a moment, but having the advantage of position it didn't take long for Heero to capture both of his wrists and firmly press them onto the floor, next to his head, effectively pinning him to the carpet.
"What the hell was that for?" Heero snarled, eyes darkened with anger and his jaw displaying red imprints from Duo's knuckles. For a long moment the American remained frozen, unable to drag his gaze away from the other man's face, thinking that Heero, flustered and angry, was both breathtakingly beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time.
Closing his eyes, unable to bear looking at the other man any longer, he tried, without success, to hide the misery in his voice as he asked, "Why did you come here, Heero? I was doing okay, getting over you, and now you've come and ruined it all."
There was a moment of silence before Heero quietly commanded, "Open your eyes and look at me, Duo."
He didn't want to do as Heero asked, knowing that just looking at the other man, in all his naked glory above him, would start the aching and craving all over again. When Heero spoke again, his voice had calmed considerably to a softer tone as he entreated him once more, but this time there was a note of pleading in his request. "Duo, please. Open your eyes and look at me."
Honestly, how could anyone refuse Heero when he sounded so desperate? He slowly opened his eyes to gaze at the handsome face mere inches above his own. It was a face he would never be able to forget. "Are you over me?" Heero asked, looking more vulnerable than Duo had even seen him look before.
He swallowed with some difficulty, acutely aware of the contrast between the rough carpet against his shoulders and ass and of Heero's soft and warm flesh resting on his lower abdomen. With misery choking his voice he answered, "I'll never be over you, Heero. But until last week's trip to Sanq, I thought I'd reached a point where I could go on without you, and now that's ruined."
"I'm not over you either," Heero whispered in a strained voice. He then leaned down to lightly press his lips against Duo's in a gentle kiss, reminding the braided man of the bliss they'd shared only a few short moments ago. "And I never will be," he added softly.
Heero pulled back once more, though he remained close in proximity; his chest resting against Duo's torso and those tantalizing lips hovered over his mouth, leaving Duo feeling bereft and desperately wanting more. Behind half-lidded eyes, Heero studied him, probably looking for answers that Duo didn't feel he had. Moisture gathered in his eyes, and there was nothing the braided man could do, pinned down as he was, to stop a lone tear from escaping out of the corner of his right eye. In a voice that sounded as weak as he felt, he whispered, "I don't know what you want from me, Heero, but I'm not strong enough to watch you walk away from me again." He lifted his head slightly in an attempt to press his lips against Heero's mouth, unable to stop himself.
Heero's lips ghosted over his own as he said, "Then I give you my word that I will never again walk away from you, away from us."
Duo turned his head, escaping Heero's mouth altogether, desperate to clear his head so that he could think properly. This can't be happening, he thought. Did Heero really say he still wanted him? Could he believe him or trust him again?
"What are you saying, Heero?"
"I'm saying that I want another chance. That I love you and need you."
Duo shook his head in resignation as yet another tear followed the first. "It's no good, Heero. We just aren't good together, other than sex."
"No more tears, Duo. Please don't cry," Heero pleaded, stroking his face. "I can't bear to see you cry."
"I can't help it," Duo replied, keeping his eyes turned away from Heero while sniffing back more tears and struggling to compose himself. "Why does loving someone have to hurt so damn much?"
"I don't know," Heero replied with a weary sigh. "But I have to believe there remains enough love between us to try and figure out how to make the hurting stop."
With a bitter chuckle, Duo said, "Unfortunately, we can't spend the rest of our lives in bed, and that seemed to be the only time and place where we were good together and didn't argue."
"Maybe that was true during the last few months we were together, but you've forgotten that not everything we shared was bad," Heero replied. "And I'm not talking about sex. We were good, very good for each other for a long time, before I became dissatisfied with my job at Preventers and confused about my place in the world. But I'm not the same man I was when things fell apart on us," Heero insisted as he shifted his weight from off the man beneath him and let go of his wrists. Settling down next to Duo's side, Heero's warm body became a source of comfort to the braided man's quickly chilling skin. Fingers, no longer calloused from flying Wing Zero or prying apart metal bars, begin to gently brush the long hair away from his eyes and forehead, fully exposing his face.
With reluctance, Duo turned his head to look at Heero and made an honest effort to push his doubts aside to ask, "Why couldn't we talk like this before?" It was a question that had troubled him. "How come we're so good in bed and rotten in every other aspect of our relationship?"
Heero's face bore a look of sadness as he shook his head. "We're both stubborn men, and prideful as well as inexperienced in interpersonal relationships. Sex was a non-verbal way we chose to express what we felt for each other without the risk of being rebuffed. Making love was sometimes the only way we could communicate, and it often calmed you down after an argument, enough for you to talk to me in a more rational way, like now."
Duo knew Heero was right about that, his being more reasonable after sex. It was something his shrink had brought up in a couple of sessions. But since he'd never felt their sex life to be a problem, he didn't want to spend his hard-earned money talking about it with the man. He wanted to ask Heero if calming him down now was the only reason he'd seduced him after entering his apartment, but he didn't have a chance to voice that question before Heero began speaking again, addressing the past once more.
"It took awhile, but I now understand that I was the main source of our problems, that I initiated many of our past arguments," Heero admitted in a remorseful tone. "For the past two years I've worked with my therapist to understand the motive behind my actions. She helped me to see that after the last war and the destruction of my gundam, I'd slowly developed a compulsion to conform with society's idea of what was normal, to fit in to a world I could barely understand. I became unhappy with my job at Preventers, unable to bear failure or the need to raise my gun to kill, even when it was aimed at an enemy.
"So I quit my job and began to set aside anything that reminded me of my training and the wars by entering the university and concentrating on my studies. I enjoyed the learning atmosphere of the university and knew with each passing day that I'd made the right decision. I listened and observed everything and learned to mimic the behavior of the other students I attended classes with and adapted my thinking process.
"Unfortunately, I hadn't counted on how difficult it was going to be to put the past behind me while living with a Preventer. Every time you unloaded your frustrations, told me of your accomplishments and all about your assignments: the bombs you detonated, the weapons you used as well as the details of the scheming, subversive enemies of the government and their apprehension, all help to widen the gulf between us. Every time you wore your uniform I was reminded all over again of the violent life I had left behind, and it made me more determined than ever to be free of my past, and that meant finding friends to share my new interests with."
"The pseudo intellectual shit heads from school." Duo said knowingly, bitterness still evident in his tone of voice. Then looking into Heero's eyes he said, "You could have said something, you know? That you were uncomfortable with me talking about work issues."
Heero grimaced. "I know that now, after years of therapy, but at the time I was acting on pure instinct. And with regards to my friends, they weren't that bad, Duo, and they weren't the ones at fault, it was me. I let my need to identify and be like them override the most important relationship in my life. I thought I was being subtle, pointing out to you what my university acquaintances considered your faults. I know I nitpicked in a ridiculous attempt to improve you, to make you acceptable to my new friends, especially when I recognized the same faults in myself that they saw in you. I now fully understand that it wasn't my job to "fix" you. You didn't deserve any of my criticism and I am sorry, Duo, more than I can express for my behavior and for the way I made you feel."
"It hurt, Heero. Every time you criticized something I'd either said or done, it felt like you loved me less and less." Duo spoke frankly while letting the other man witness evidence of the pain he spoke of in his eyes as well as in his words. "I lost count of how many times you hurt me, and then you just about finished me off when you gave up on us and walked out the door."
"I'm sorry," Heero repeated emphatically while placing light kisses over Duo's face.
Trying desperately to ignore Heero's affection in lieu of clearing the air between them, Duo continued, trying to explain his confusion. "During the war, when life was at its shittiest, we were inseparable, united in our hardships as well as the war. You made a promise to me, Heero, that you'd never voluntarily leave me. Why is it that after the war, when we finally had a place of our own, I had a good job and you were attending school, with my blessing I might add, things went to hell faster than I could blink? Yeah, things weren't peachy in the last few months, but when does Heero Yuy, gundam pilot, give up the fight before the war is over? You broke your promise and my heart when you packed up your stuff and left me as soon as I agreed to the stupid separation."
Heero absently stroked the smooth, pale skin beneath his fingers, moving in a circular pattern over the slender hip as he attempted again to explain his actions. "Wufei thought that my leaving the apartment as soon as we returned from L3 was for the best, but I swear to you that I never intended to let you go permanently." He paused only long enough to sigh wearily. "I was just frustrated, and so damn tired of the constant arguing. I just wanted it to stop, Duo. I thought our therapists might be right, that we just needed some space and time to step back and deal with our pasts before dealing with each other. Our fighting had escalated to an alarming level and our friends were right to intervene. But don't think, even for a moment, that walking out of the door of our apartment was easy for me, especially after the way we parted."
Heero closed his eyes and a pained expression crossed his face, as if he were recalling that moment in time. "The image of you standing in the living room, with your hair down, tears in your eyes and misery written across your face has haunted me ever since."
Opening his eyes once more to focus on Duo's face, he asked, "Did you know that after I shut the front door I sat down in front of it and waited at least a half hour, hoping you would come after me and tell me not to go? My suitcase even banged against the wall after the door closed, and still you didn't come out. It took every ounce of strength I possessed to finally get up and walk to my car. Even then I waited another fifteen minutes, hoping for... something."
With soulful eyes searching for understanding Heero asked, "Why did you run away, Duo? I can understand your wanting to get away for a few days, but when I realized you weren't coming back, that no one, not even Quatre, knew where you were, I felt as if I'd lost everything."
The truth of what Heero had disclosed was evident in his sad eyes. Unable to resist offering some comfort, Duo lifted his hand to gently cup the other man's cheek. Heero hadn't changed much during the time they'd been separated, but his lover's face had become a bit more angular, more masculine. Now, being in such close proximity, he found the old familiar longing for the man before him back in full force. Taking a deep breath he answered Heero's question in a choked voice, "I couldn't bear to watch you get over me, Heero. To stand back to watch you find someone else and fall in love with them."
Heero shifted to pull Duo into his arms once more. With his eyes tightly shut, he held that braided man against his bare chest as he also struggled to regain his composure. "I was lost, Duo. So lost without you," he whispered into the brunet's hair. "I turned to my friends at the university after learning from Wufei that you had no intention of coming back, and that's when Daphne came into the picture and wheedled herself into my life in the guise of a friend. Even now I'm not sure how she manipulated me as effectively as she did. I took her at face value, thinking she was simply acting out of friendship when she offered me a place to stay."
"Needing to be around other people in order to keep myself busy and distracted, I accepted her seemingly harmless invitations. We socialized with the same people, went out in the evenings, took our meals and studied together. I don't know if it was because I was naive to a woman's wiles or too focused on school and distracted by your absence that I didn't notice she had designs on me. The night before Christmas Eve I hit a very low point. I desperately missed you, Duo, and I was so angry with you for running away, thinking I'd never see you again. Daphne saw the state I was in and offered to stay at the apartment with me. She made dinner and supplied a large assortment of alcohol, of which I drank too much, trying to forget everything. When I awoke the next morning, I was surprised to find myself naked and in an unfamiliar bed. I turned over only to find Daphne, in a similar state of undress, lying next to me."
Heero's frown deepened and his eyebrows drew together, the memory he was recalling was obviously not a pleasant one. "I still can't recall anything from the night before, other than eating dinner, and Daphne led me to believe that we'd physically gone well beyond the line of friendship. I had never been attracted to her in that way, so I was at a loss to explain my behavior. While I was suffering a terrible hangover, she seemed excessively happy, a rarity for her. She kept telling me how happy and excited she was. Why she felt that way, I couldn't fathom, and my splitting headache prohibited me from questioning her further. It wasn't until later that night that I learned the reason for her odd behavior. She persuaded me to take her as my date to Quatre's Christmas Eve gathering, and I relented, thinking it was better than going alone. It was while we were sitting down to dinner that out of the blue she informed the others we were engaged to be married."
Duo pulled out of Heero's warm embrace, but only enough to study his facial expression. "And you had no memory of proposing?"
"Not a clue. I didn't want to embarrass her by challenging her claim of our being engaged in front of my friends, so I waited until we returned to the apartment." Heero's face turned grim as he continued. "I won't go into the details, but that conversation is something I never want to think about again. Ugly doesn't begin to describe what happened when I told her I wouldn't marry her. Not under any circumstances and not ever. The week between Christmas and New Year was a nightmare, and I don't know who was more relieved by my announcement that I'd moved out of Daphne's apartment and that there would be no marriage, me or our friends.
"If anything good came out of the unfortunate episode, it was that I got back on my own two feet and had a renewed determination to find you. I spent the first part of this year searching for you, but you'd covered your tracks too well. I tried to move on, thinking you had, by seeing other people, sometimes out of loneliness and other times just to spite you for leaving me."
Heero's gaze was focused on the braided man. All the hurt and loneliness he had gone through during the past couple of years was as clear as day in those deep blue eyes, and Duo recognized that pain because it matched pretty much what he'd felt for far too long. "No one ever came close to taking your place in my heart, Duo." Heero continued softly, his hand gently stroking a pale cheek. "I had just about decided to accept the fact that I'd never have another relationship that equaled what we shared when Quatre mentioned that he'd invited you to their wedding." With an expression so sad that he wrenched Duo's heart, he added, "But even then you wouldn't sit down and let me explain, let me tell you that I love you and want you back in my life." Then leaning forward to place his forehead against Duo's, he whispered, "I need you so very much, Duo. Please, tell me I don't have to live the rest of my life without you."
Swallowing down the lump in his throat, Duo hesitated, giving himself a moment to assess what was happening between himself and Heero. Was Heero's declaration for real or simply a figment of his vivid imagination? With Heero's warm, mint scented breath ghosting across his lips, he knew this wasn't another fantasy he'd conjured up.
Not wanting to over-think his next step, he wrapped his arms tightly around Heero, burying his face in the other man's neck and breathing in his natural heady scent. Heero had always smelled good, he recalled. Swallowing down any pride that might hold him back, he confessed in a shaky voice, "I'm scared, Heero. I need you like I've never needed anything else in my life. God, I'm so empty inside without you, but I can't go through another break up like the one we had. I'm just not that strong."
"I swear to you that we won't fall apart again," Heero said firmly. Then in a softer tone he said, "I'm certainly not infallible, Duo. I've made mistakes and so have you, but I am capable of learning from those mistakes. If you'll give us a second chance, say you'll take me back, I'll give you my word I will do whatever it takes to keep us together."
Duo pulled back to study Heero'face once more. "You weren't the only one at fault in our breakup, Heero. It's been pointed out to me that I had some bad habits, and resisted any effort you made to correct me. I'm a stubborn little shit, overly sensitive at times, as well as willful, and those are what my shrink calls my better traits." A snort and slight smile tugged at Heero's lips, and Duo couldn't help a wobbly smile of his own. "Hey look, we're talking, not arguing."
Heero simply nodded his head, his smile was also somewhat shaky. "My therapist worked with me on my communicating skills. I think it will help us avoid some of the problems we had in the past."
Duo chuckled. "Mine has me counting to ten in my head and weighing my word before I speak," he confessed. "I haven't mastered it yet. I guess I just need someone to practice on." Heero's inability to communicate his feelings and his own jumping to conclusions were two of several factors that had led to their problems. Maybe with the help they'd gotten from the professionals, they'd have a better chance at making it this time. Hope, that thin thread he'd felt five day ago, blossomed in his chest.
Heero leaned closer, his nose playfully circling Duo's own for a moment before he kissed the very tip. "I think there are quite a few things we can â€˜practice' on each other," the sexy Asian man murmured, and Duo became acutely aware of something wonderful and firm pressing against his upper thigh. He smiled as his thoughts went down the same road as Heero's, thinking of the many possibilities their "practicing" might entail. Though somewhat distracted by Heero's fresh onslaught of kisses, he wondered to himself how long the other man could stay in Park City.
Hold on a minute! What was he thinking? Were things settled between them? Could their getting together again be as cut and dry as that? It seemed as if Heero was thinking along the same lines when he said, "Will you take me back, Duo? After all that's happened, do you still want me?"
Tilting his chin up to give the other man better access to his neck, he answered, "I've always wanted you, Heero, and I do love you, more than anything. But do you honestly think it's possible for us to be together without tearing each other apart?"
Heero stroked his cheek with his thumb before answering in a thoughtful tone, "I can't guarantee we won't argue from time to time, but I can promise you I will never address you in a derogatory manner, that I'll never try to change you. I will love you no matter what challenges arise or differences of opinion we have, and I give you my word that I will never walk out on you again."
"And I promise," Duo interjected as Heero finished, "that I'll be better. I've discovered that I don't need a dangerous job to be happy, Heero, I only need you in order to feel that way. I'll try to think before I speak, to not say the first thing that pops into my mind." Then gazing into Heero's eyes he said, "As for loving you, I'm fairly certain that I was born to be yours." Leaning forward, he wrapped his arms around the man he loved and soundly kissed him.
After several long and heated moments, the two men pulled back, only to rest their foreheads together again, both wearing smiles of happiness. Then Duo recalled that Heero had a job, no doubt in Sanq. "Um.... How exactly are we going to do this?"
Heero delayed answering for a moment while his mouth began leaving a trail of kisses beginning at the tip of Duo's pert nose and continuing down his jaw to his ear and neck. With his arousal quickly returning, he realized their conversation about the future was going to be short-lived.
"We're going to take it slow and easy this time," Heero mumbled in reply as his lips moved to tease a rosy nipple, obviously mistaking what Duo was asking.
"No," Duo moaned, reluctantly pushing Heero away so that he could think a bit more clearly. The other man glanced up from underneath the fringe of wild, deep brown hair, his face displaying honest puzzlement. "I mean the logistics of us being together."
Lifting one hand to bush the hair off of Duo's forehead again, Heero answered, "I took a week of personal time from work in order to track you down. I figured it might take the entire week to convince you to give me a second chance." With his face taking on a more serious cast, he continued, "I've got a good job, Duo, and I like teaching. I think I have a lot to offer those who want to know the true history of the colonies. But if you don't want to move back with me to Sanq, I'll get the credentials necessary to teach here in the states and seek a position at a local high school. Once I've completed my masters, I hope to secure a teaching position at a university."
"I don't doubt that you're good or that you're an excellent teacher," Duo said with sincerity. Heero had always been a student of history, especially when it came to his favorite subject, the establishment of the space colonies. Adding to his knowledge and enthusiasm for colony history, his experiences as a gundam pilot had the potential for opening the minds of so many about the life and struggles of those living on the colonies.
"I really like it here, Heero," he continued, thinking of all the people he'd met at the lodge and the enjoyment he'd had from working and playing outdoors. "The people are nice and I've learned to love the mountains and the sports that are available all year round." He paused, framing the handsome face in front of him with his hands. Having Heero's full attention and seeing a flicker of worry growing in his eyes, Duo took pity on the other man by being more forthright as he continued. "But I love you more than anyone or any place. If we stay here, we'll have three very pissed off friends, so I guess we'll need to shack up in an apartment in Sanq, if that's what you want. Or did you want to really start over by living in separate apartments and doing the whole dating thing everyone else thinks is necessary?"
Heero shook his head. "No, I absolutely do not want you living anywhere but with me. I think we should leave the dating experience to those who don't know what they want." A smile grew on Heero's face as he said with some pride, "I bought a home, Duo, with some of the money left over from the war. We'll never have to live in a place where we have to share the walls again. The house is nice and in a good neighborhood. Respectable enough for a school teacher and a Preventer agent, if that's what you'd like to do."
"Will it make you uncomfortable if I return to Preventers?" Duo asked, uncertain about approaching the touchy subject. "I was good at my job, Heero, though I have to admit it was stressful and I wasn't crazy about field work because it took me away from home for long periods of time." Then with honest sincerity he added, "I never liked that, being away from you, even when we weren't getting along."
Heero swooped down and kissed him again, and Duo was beginning to think he should keep saying the things that caused this type of reaction from his lover. When they paused for breath, both men were flushed and aching for more contact. A bit breathless, Duo said, "I'll see if Preventers has a job in security, or mechanics. Any nine to five job that will allow me to be home in the evenings."
"Is that what you really want?" Heero asked with a look of concern.
"I want you and a life together. That's all that matters, isn't it? A job is just a job, and no matter what I end up doing, it's not going to be my life or define my happiness, you are."
"Then your plan sounds perfect," Heero purred and began where he'd left off a few moments before.
Regardless of the fact that he was enjoying Heero's attention, the chaffing of his bare back on the rough carpet became a nagging distraction. "Mind if we move this to the bedroom? This isn't the best carpet for certain bare-ass activities."
Heero immediately leapt into action, jumping to his feet and pulling the braided man up with him. Then clasping their hands together, he motioned for Duo to lead the way.
A sudden loud knock sounded on the front door. Heero looked to Duo. "Are you expecting company?"
"Nope. I had plans to eat my take out, watch T.V. and crash."
The knock sounded again, and this time it was more persistent and was accompanied with a familiar voice. "Duo! Are you in there?"
The braided man rolled his eyes. Jim's timing was less than stellar. He paused to give Heero a reassuring kiss, then whispered, "Give me a minute, okay?"
Heero didn't look pleased by the request, but with a resigned look on his face he nodded and moved quickly to pick up his and Duo's clothing from off the floor. With his eyes on his lover, he reluctantly moved to the sofa to wait.
Duo turned to the door before allowing a wide grin to grow on his face. He loved it when Heero showed a possessive side. Acutely aware of his naked state, he placed his body behind the door as another knock came. "I know you're in there, Duo. Open up. We need to talk."
Curious about what Jim had on his mind, he put his hand on the doorknob and opened the door just enough to peer out. "Hey, Jim. What's up?" he greeted the other man in a cheery voice.
"Can I come in?"
Duo shook his head. "Ah... I don't think that would be a good idea. I'm in the middle of something here."
Jim frowned, obviously wondering what was going on. "Are you with someone?"
Duo cleared his throat and answered, "I guess you could say that."
The artist put his hands on his hips and huffed with exasperation. "I wanted to talk about what happened on our trip, but seeing that you're busy, I guess it will have to wait."
"Just say what you came to say," Duo said, not unkindly, but hoping this conversation wasn't going to take too long. Still, he didn't want to just brush Jim off, especially since he came all this way to talk to him.
With a quick glance up and down the hallway to make sure no one was listening to their conversation, the blond lowered his voice. "I think you made a terrible mistake, not talking to Heero. It wasn't fair of you not to hear him out, especially when he went out of his way to speak with you. Listen, Duo," Jim entreated as he took a step closer to the door. "I'm your friend, and it's obvious you're not over the man. If you couldn't speak to him in person, then give him a call, clear the air between you and then do what you think is best. I realize you and I can never be anything more than friends, but that doesn't mean I don't want you to be happy. Don't let your fears or stubborn nature keep you from finding that happiness, whether it's with Heero or not."
Touched by the man's concern, Duo opened the door just a little bit more. "Thanks, Jim. I appreciate you coming over here and saying that, but you really don't need to worry about me any more."
The blond man's eyes widened. "Are you naked?"
Duo ducked behind the door. "Ah.. well, here's the thing..." But before he could begin to explain the situation, he felt a warm presence behind him and then Heero's face nestled up against his own, his body pressed firmly, possessively against his back.
"Heero?" Jim asked, looking astonished.
"Hello," Heero soberly greeted the other man. "As you can see, Duo and I have talked and there's no need for you to worry about him any more. I'll see to his happiness from here on out."
Jim blinked, closed his mouth and nodded. Then a hint of a smile began teasing the corners of his mouth. "In that case, I guess I'll leave you to seeing about his happiness." Casting a glance at the violet eyes, peering through the slight opening of the door, he added, "Have fun, and call me when you come up for air."
With a push of his hand, Heero decisively shut the door, prohibiting any further comments from passing between the two. "Why does he want you calling him?"
"Relax," Duo said, turning within Heero's embrace to throw his arms around his neck. "Jim's just a friend. I've no interest in him other than that. So, now that you have my full attention, how do you plan on 'seeing to' my happiness."
Heero's frown slowly turned into a sly grin. "Actions speak louder than words, don't you think?"
"I'm thinking I like how you think," Duo grinned back.
Before he could blink, Heero bent and hoisted him over his shoulder then headed for the bedroom, which was easy to find since there was only one in the apartment.
"My turn to top," Duo called out to his lover from his upside down position, his arms flailing in an attempt to find a good hold while his braid dragged on the floor.
"We'll take turns," Heero said over his shoulder, playfully swatting the bare ass that was so handily available.
Duo yelped, more startled than from any pain. "Careful of the door," he cautioned. "And watch out for my hair." And as Heero playfully tossed him on the bed, Duo couldn't keep the smile from off his face. He was happy and reveled in the feeling he had, not so long ago, doubted he'd ever experience again.
Heero playfully dove over his body, smiling with the same happiness Duo was feeling. Once the bed settled again, and their laughter subsided, Heero rolled over to soundly kiss his lover again. Wrapped in each other's embrace, the two men paused before going further to simply enjoy the moment. And suddenly everything in the past melted away, and all of the heartache, regrets and doubts disappeared. They were together again.
With his grin softening, Duo placed his hand on this lover's face, stroking his cheek with his thumb as he gazed into the deep blue eyes before him. In them he saw love and adoration, and something even more precious.
Heero turned his head to the side. "What?" he questioned the look of wonder on the braided man's face.
"Your eyes," Duo whispered with a touch of awe in his voice.
"What do you see?"
"I think I see forever in your eyes."
Heero smiled back reassuringly, then said, "You do, love. You do."
"Love you," Duo said softly, combing his finger through Heero's perpetually untamed hair.
With his smile quickly turning to a wicked, playful grin, Heero threw out a challenge. "Prove it."
Duo threw his head back and laughed the laugh of a very happy man. "Don't say you didn't ask for it," he warned as he rolled Heero onto his back with every intention of granting his lover's request.