Pairings: 1x2x1, 3x4x3
Warnings; yaoi, citrus of all kinds, some angst, a little more mundane than the last part , but important plot stuff.
Rating: NC17 at parts

Summary: Picks up where Endless Waltz left off. Peace has finally come to the Earth and the colonies, and the Gundams have been destroyed along with all mobile suits and weapons of war. After a year apart, Heero and Duo try to settle down, and figure out civilian life and each other. Quatre is finally able to make peace with his past mistakes and steps up to claim his place as Winner heir. The end of the war leaves Trowa nameless and reeling, and with Quatre so absorbed in business, Trowa's wanderlust sets in.

AC 197
Part 6
by Granate

Heero and Duo lie on their backs, side by side, both trying to catch their breath and clear the heads.

Thought processes gradually came back online as blood returned to the brain. Duo began to think about how normal people would have greeted each other.

"So, how did it go?" he asked Heero.

Heero still seemed a little bewildered. "I thought it was amazing," he blinked.

Duo grunted in laughter and whacked Heero on the arm. "I meant the talks!" he laughed.

"Talks…" Heero pondered. The talks seemed lightyears away now that he was back with Duo. It was cool and scary at the same time that Duo could make him forget like that.

"Yes, TALKS," Duo continued, now rolling over on his side to look at Heero.

"Very good," he answered, "I believe everyone is reassured. It seems to me that the Barton Foundation's views are a novelty these days. People geniunely want peace. Did you catch any of it on TV?"

"Yeah," Duo answered, "I'd agree with you there. Everyone was quick to say they abhore the revolts. I was relieved that no one seemed discouraged from peace or arms reduction, you know? No crazy bastard stood up there screaming about we need to raise a huge army and rebuild the Gundams to keep the peace."

"Yes. I talked to Agent Une, I'm sure she will be pleased when you are ready to take the first of the mobile suits. How were things here?"

"Got the garage all settled," Duo recounted, "I'm starting to put out help wanted ads. I'm worried it may be tough to keep the project low-profile, but I'm gonna do my best. I also gotta look into a deconstruction factory for the mobile suits once the first plans start getting patented and bought. The garage is more for tinkering, you know? Me playing around with shit and prototyping. Luckily, Quatre said he'd take care of the marketing and purchase deals, so at least I don't have to worry about that."

"I saw Quatre at the conference. He sounded excited about your project," Heero told him. "Things between him and Trowa have changed, I think. I became a little worried," Heero admitted, "But he didn't seem to want to talk about it. Maybe you could get him to tell you more when he comes next week."

Duo frowned. "I'd really hate to see them break up," he said sadly, "I'll ask him about it. Was Wu Fei there?"

"Yes, Une said he was, but I didn not see him. Maybe next time," Heero said, "I met Mariemaia, though."

"Really? What was that like?"

"She is a very smart little girl. I don't feel right even calling her a 'little girl.' She is very aware and very poised. I believe she will become a very powerful force in politics yet. With Relena and Lady as guides she will be able to make better choices. She'd like to meet all the pilots, you should come with me to earth sometime."

"Sometime," Duo repeated with a smile.

"How were you while I was gone?" Heero asked heistantly.

Duo half-shrugged in a sad sort of acceptance. Heero watched his shoulders move under his hair. "Missed you," he said, "I've been through it before. I just kept busy. Hilde took me out twice. We really got into the club scene here last year. It was really weird, I was out with my second best friend, having a good time, but I was still missing you!"

"I experienced something similar," Heero admitted, "I was focused and alert, and performing my job, but sometimes, I was thinking about you at the same time."

Duo grinned and leaned in to kiss him. "I like how you use the word 'performing'…" he practically purred.

Heero laughed out loud, something he only did when he was very relaxed and happy. "Duo, I just 'performed' for you! Did you enjoy it?"

"Uh huh…" Duo breathed in Heero's ear. If Heero had not just had sex, he would be wanting to. Maybe in about ten minutes, if Duo did this ear-thing again… His own lips found Duo's ear, and his teeth played with the small but thick silver hoop there. It was something Duo had acquired between wars, he had liked it immediately.

Duo backed off a little. "You know, I've thought about asking if you ever wanted to go clubbing with us, but I don't think you'd like the atmosphere. Dark, smoky, loud, poor visibility, crowded… you know, all the things that make you incredibly paranoid."

"Club," Heero thought out loud, "As in 'nightclub,' an entertainment establishment. Is that anything like a bar?"

"Sort of," Duo tried not to laugh at Heero's encyclopedic nature, "Most clubs have bars as part of them, but they are more centered around dancing and music."

Heero input this data and then asked a question. "Did you do any drugs?" He knew Duo had occassionally partaken in mild recreational drugs such as marijuana and alcohol with other students at the the schools they had attended in 195. He had absolutely disapproved and they'd had several arguments about it. He was assuming Duo had most likely continued this behavior while they were apart.

Duo looked uncomfortable. "Not this time," he said. Heero understood that as an admission that he indeed had done it while Heero was away for the year. "Not since you came back."

"I do not mean to nag or make you uncomfortable, Duo," Heero sighed. He did not want to be Duo's parent, or make it so that Duo would hide things from him. He just wanted to be Duo's lover and friend. "I suppose it is none of my business if you do it with Hilde when I am not around. I was just wondering, but I won't ask again." During the war, he mostly diapproved because Duo was a Gundam pilot, but now, well, he didn't really have the same responibility.

Duo looked him in the eye to see if he was serious. "Heero, I just get lonely without you here, you know?" Duo tried to explain, "I mean, between wars, it was different, I missed you, but I had accepted that you needed to be away, and you were out of reach. But here, in this place, it's like you're supposed to be here. But it's ok!" he ammeded quickly, "I know your job is important, and I wouldn't ask you to quit or anything." He didn't want to sound like a needy boyfriend, he just loved Heero was all.

Heero took a deep breath. "So you are loney here? … Do you like cats or dogs?" He could not believe he was actually saying this.

"WHAT?!" Duo exclaimed, bolting upright., "You want a pet? Are you SERIOUS??"

He had thought about it on the way home and it seemed like another step in his qwest for normalcy. Normal people had animals that lived with them. "Yes, I am serious."

"Dog!" Duo decided gleefully, "I like both, but I want a dog! How about you?"

"I do not know," Heero admitted, "I have not had much experience with either." That was pretty much the truth. The most contact he's had with a dog was that little girl's puppy, and it was dead when he found it. He tried not to think about it. He hoped this would not be difficult for him.

"Wow, I can't believe this! I've never had a pet before!" Duo raved on.

"Don't get too excited, Duo, we have to think about what kind we want, and what sex we prefer, then we will have to contant local breeders -"


"And hopefully someone will have a recent litter. We'll have to visit of course, and look around for a suitable veterinarian - "

"Heero," Duo said again.

Heero stopped talking and looked at him.

"Let's just see what they have at the animal shelter, huh?"

Heero mentally smacked himself in the forehead. OF COURSE Duo would want to go to the animal shelter. He should have thought of that.

"Can we go today?" Duo asked excitedly.

"If they are still open," Heero agreed. He had not anticipated they would get the pet right away, he was hoping he'd have a few days to get used to the idea, but Duo seemed ready to just jump right in.

Duo tumbled ecstatically out of bed and back into his clothes. "I never dreamed you'd agree to this! I wasn't even going to ask!" Duo didn't really expect any kind of answer to that statement, so Heero just continued relaxing in bed as Duo sat down in front of the computer in the kitchen. From the bedroom, Heero heard him dialing the number and asking the hours.

Duo popped back into the room and started throwing Heero's clothes at him. "They close at five, but since they know we are coming and serious about taking a dog home, they're going to stay open until we get there!" he told Heero.

Heero dressed quicky and stopped Duo in the kitchen. "Duo, since they know we are coming, can I take a moment to give you a gift?"

"What I got before wasn't the gift?" Duo grinned.

Heero grunted a laugh. Duo always made everything about sex. May as well play along. "No, that was the start of Mr. Maxwell's three nights with me," he answered slyly.

"No fair! We didn't discuss it first!" Duo exclaimed.

"Would you have done anything differently?" Heero challenged.

"Well, no," Duo admitted with a laugh.

Heero smirked.

"Ok, so what about this present?" Duo remembered.

Heero went to where he had dropped it on the floor in his haste to get Duo to the bedroom before he just took him to the floor.

Duo had not noticed that when Heero came in, he'd had not only his computer case, but a parcel as well.

"I thought you'd look hot in this," Heero said, handing him the unmarked box.

"Hmmmmm, too big and heavy to be skimpy underwear," Duo mused and shook it, "And no rattling or clanking, so it can't be S&M gear. What else would I look hot in?"

"Open it!" Heero encouraged with exaggerated exasperation.

Duo broke the tape and lifted the cover. "Holy GOD," he cursed, lifting it out, "A REAL leather jacket!! Heero, I can not believe you got this!" Real leather was expensive and rare in the colonies, and given the range of realistic synthetics, hardly any colonials wore real leather.

"I got it on earth," Heero explained.

"It's GORGEOUS!" Duo breathed reverently. It was biker style, with zippers everywhere like the fake one he always wore. Even the fake one he had was pretty expensive compared to most, but THIS was in a different world completely.

"Put it on!" Heero insisted.

Duo did. "How do I look?"

"Like you'd be good in bed," Heero answered. It was strange how a coat might convey that. But then again, Heero knew first hand, so maybe it wasn't just the coat. It was Duo Iin the coat. "You look dangerous," he continued, "Like my mother told me I shouldn't play with the likes of you."

"Doesn't that make you curious?" Duo asked, swaggering over to Heero.

"Yes," Heero replied in a low breathy voice, "It makes me want to know why they all say that about you."

"Shit, Heero!" Duo exclaimed, tearing his mind from how he was going to show Heero that he was as bad as everyone said he was. "Save that fantasy, baby, we've got a dog to get!"

"Oh yeah," Heero agreed, snapping out of his naughty thoughts. He realized it was an inopportune time to bring up his fantasy, but he couldn't help it when he'd seen Duo in the jacket. He'd thought it up as soon as he'd seen this coat, the perfect coat, and he knew Duo would have fun with it. He'd meant to give the coat to Duo right away and play out the fantasy, but… well, it had not happened quite that way.

Fantasizing was something Heero had started doing between wars. It had sort of started by accident one day. For a while, he'd thought he might want to finish high school, so he was hiding out in yet another boarding school. He was sitting in class one day when he was struck with the classic teacher/student fantasy for the first time. That night, he'd played it through his mind as he masturbated, and it had been so intense, even more so than his regular thoughts about Duo. Heero had imagined the teacher/student situation both ways and it was all over from there.

While they were apart, Heero kept tabs on the political situation, Relana's activites, the Preventers, the President, and other important issues, but he also did a lot of thinking about Duo. School didn't interest him. Other people didn't interest him. Even then, he knew it was stupid that he was staying away from Duo, but he stuck to his guns. Duo had to have a chance to build a life without him, at least for a while. Sixteen was too young for both of them to settle, and they both had things to figure out on their own. During the war, sometimes he'd thought he was not right for Duo. If Duo didn't want him back, then he'd been right all along, and if Duo did want him, then great. Seventeen wasn't really a much better age, but there was no way he was letting Duo go again. Duo would have to change his name, move to a different colony, and cover his tracks to get rid of him now. And even then…

Duo halted in the hallway and Heero almost ran smack into him.

"Heero, how will we get the dog home?" he asked. A dog would certainly not fit on his motorcycle, it was a compact racing style Ducati that barely fit two.[1] It was some sort of antique that Duo had fixed up, and it looked sleek and was very fast. It was black of couse. Duo constantly got comments on it. Heero liked sitting close to Duo and holding his waist.

"How far is the shelter?" Heero asked.

"Far side of Hamilton."

"That's only 10 blocks, we could walk," Heero suggested.

"Yeah, we should be able to buy leashes and stuff there," Duo agreed.

When they arrived, a petite blonde woman greeted them at the door.

"Duo, right?" she smiled. She recognized him from the vid. "I'm Denise," she continued as she opened the door.

"Duo Maxwell," he said, shaking her hand, "Nice to meet you. This is Heero Yuy."

"Pleasure," Heero said.

She nodded at him, still smiling.

"Were you interested in a puppy or an adult?" she asked.

Duo looked at Heero, who shrugged. This was all up to Duo. "Let's look at both," Duo opted.

She led them to the puppies first. Heero lingered back a bit as Duo played with them and Denise pointed out various personalities. Heero could not help being a little nervous about getting such a small dog. He was not experienced at giving so much care to something so dependent, although he knew Duo could probably do it.

"I bet the puppies go fast, huh?" Duo asked as the one he was holding yipped and licked his face.

"You bet," Denise laughed, "Who can resist?" She let one go and it bounded over to Heero and tripped, landing on his shoe. He bent down to nudge it back toward Duo.

Feeling his cheek thoroughly cleansed, he held the little dog away slightly so it couldn't reach him with it's tongue. He thought about attacking Heero with the puppy and making it lick him. It would be so funny to watch Heero's reaction. But then Duo thought that he would like to lick Heero all over, and then he decided he should not do either of those things at this time.

"What about the older dogs?" Duo asked, "Do you have more trouble finding homes for them?"

"Unfortunately, we do," she nodded, "Some of them have been here for years."

"Let's go see them," Duo suggested, shooing the last puppy back into the pen.

As Denise led them to a different room, Duo fell back with Heero and whispered, "When I was a kid, nobody wanted to adopt me." Then he hurried to catch up with Denise before Heero could question him. Heero did not know much about Duo's life at Maxwells except it was the only place he'd ever called a home and ever been happy. It had been all too brief. Duo did not talk about it, probably for the same reason he did not talk about his own younger years. They were best forgotten. Well, his were anyway. It made sense to him that Duo would want to adopt a dog no one else wanted.

Denise led them down the rows of the adult kennels. There were way more than Heero had expected. They greeted Denise with excited barking. She went down the line, naming them and telling the two young men about each one. Sometimes she stopped to pet them or feed them treats. Tails wagged all over the place except for one.

"Who's this?" Duo interrupted Denise to ask about a medium-sized dog with a short, blondish-white coat. It was mostly hiding inside a doghouse.

Denise approached the kennel. "She doesn't really have a name, we just call her Little Girl. Come here, Little Girl!" she coaxed in a gentle voice. They could see the dog raise her head and look out. Denise procured a treat from her pocket and waved it enticingly. "Come here, baby," she cooed.

Little Girl cautiously exited her house, but she stopped before reaching Denise. She cowered and looked nervously between Duo and Heero, her brown eyes flicking back and forth, torn between fear and food.

"She was picked up by animal control about three months ago. We know nothing about her, except she's about a year and half old and was badly abused. I'm really sorry about her behavior, but she's very afraid of men," Denise apologized, a little embarrassed.[2]

"Come on, honey, these boys won't hurt you," Denise spoke to the dog, "If you're lucky, they'll take you home!"

The dog didn't move from her cowering position. Denise turned back to the boys.

"I know she seems pretty bad, this is really a lot better, believe it or not," she said regretfully.

Duo crouched slowly and motioned for Heero to do the same. He did. Duo spoke to the dog very gently in a low voice, "It's ok, Little Girl, come here."

The dog regarded Duo wearily, and keeping her eyes on him, she crept forward to receive the bisquit.

"Good girl," Denise praised her, now holding her gently but firmly so the boys could pet her. She let Duo stroke her fur, but trembled when Heero reached out. Duo shot him a look he understood. 'Say something!'

"It's ok, girl," He said softly, "I won't hurt you." He pet her as lovingly as he knew how, like she was a fragile thing. She stopped shaking and calmed down. When he looked up, Duo was smiling at him. Denise gave them both a treat to offer to her. She took them both with little hesitation.

"Well, that's a breakthrough!" Denise remarked, "You don't know how long it's taken us to be able to touch her. You are doing so good! Yes you ARE!" she cooed to the dog and scratched her neck.

She said to the boys, "You know, it could really benefit her to be in a real home, but she needs a lot of love and attention."

Heero met Duo's pleading eyes. He nodded. Duo Maxwell had already saved the world on a grand scale, and now he was going to do it again, one canine at a time.

"I think we've got enough love and attention for her," he told Denise, "Would you let us take her?"

Denise smiled. "She seems ok with the two of you, just give her a few days. Please be good to her, I'd take her myself, but my husband said no more dogs."

Duo laughed. "We'll need a leash and other dog things," he told her.

"No problem. Let's go do the paperwork, and I'll set you up with everything you need," she answered. They followed her to the office.

"What should we name her? I don't like Little Girl," Duo told Heero.

Heero's mind flashed.

* * *

"I'm not lost at all! I'm taking my dog Meri for a walk!"

The bombs

the explosion

the mobile suit…


* * * * * *

Heero practically stopped dead in the hallway and his eyes went blank. Duo recognized he was having some sort of flashback. He nearly panicked, but Heero slowly turned and looked at him. An intensity burned behind his eyes that Duo had not seen there in a long time. Duo did not realize he was holding his breath.

"Can we name her Meri?"

Duo let out his breath. "Mary, that's pretty," he agreed. If it was this important to Heero, he'd agree to just about anything.

"M-e-r-i," Heero whispered.

"Ok," Duo nodded. He did like the sound of it.

Heero's eyes still burned into his. "Once, when I was… When I was younger…" Heero stammered.

"Sshhh," Duo said. Heero swallowed hard. "You don't have to tell me now." He leaned up and kissed Heero's cheek, then trotted off to meet Denise while Heero got a chance to collect himself. His intensity could frighten people who did not know him well.

Heero joined them just in time to hand Denise his bank card while Duo dug for his. She thanked him and went to run the card thru and get the leashes and various other dog parafenalia. Duo shot Heero a disgruntled look.

"What?" he asked, like he didn't know what it was for. "It was my idea to get a pet, and she is my gift to you so you will not be lonely while I am gone."

Denise returned before Duo could protest. She loaded Heero down with a doggie bed, food and water bowls, leashes, chew toys, bisquits, a veterinarian's number, and a collar with tags spelled correctly. Then she and Duo went to retrieve the dog. Meri was nervous and skittish on the leash, but Duo was reassuring. Heero carried all her things home and Duo led her.

"Bye!" Denise waved after them, "Call if you need anything!"

Heero <disgruntled>: Did you have to make the animal shelter 10 bocks away?

Granate <laughing>: YES!

Hahahahaha, can't you just imagine Heero carrying all that stuff for 10 blocks!

[1] Go look up Ducati bikes! ::drroooool:: I was considering Kawasaki or Honda, but then I thought 'No, Duo MUST have a sexy Italian bike!'

[2] Not trying to be sexist here, most of the abused animals I've worked with are much more afraid of men than women.

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