Duo thought he would know Heero's kiss, even in his sleep, and this one felt a little too chaste to be Heero. When Duo opened his eyes, however, it was indeed Heero leaning over him. He was sitting on the edge of the bed, with one hand on either side of Duo. His dark hair was damp, he smelled freshly showered, and he was wearing a clean, pressed uniform. Duo was severely tempted to roll Yuy over and not let him up again until he was good and disheveled, but then he realized why he'd received a closed-mouth kiss. His breath could stop a charging rhinoceros.
He cringed and pulled the covers up to his nose. "Why didn't you make me brush my teeth?" he groused, voice scratchy from sleep and drinking the night before.
"How are you feeling?" Heero asked placidly.
Blinking a few times, Duo propped himself up on one elbow and took stock. "Not bad," he replied. "Thanks for taking care of me."
"Not a problem," Heero said as he sat back.
Heero was typically awake before Duo was. Duo could remember, during the wars, wondering if Heero ever slept. Even now he didn't sleep much. Duo had learned how to go without sleep, and could still do it to some extent, but not the way Heero could. Regardless, it worked in Duo's favor since he much preferred being woken up by Heero over waking up to an alarm. He would love it even more if they had a little time to fool around. He stretched his arms over his head and glanced at the clock.
"Agh! Yuy! Do you know what time it is?" he sputtered, kicking covers away. "I've got to be at HQ in half an hour!"
Heero put a hand on both his shoulders and pushed him back down on the bed, saying, "Relax. I called Quatre's personal assistant and she had your first meeting rescheduled for a lunch meeting. You now have an hour and a half to get ready."
"You did? I do?" Duo asked, calming down.
"Yes. So, why don't you take a shower and I'll make you breakfast," Heero suggested.
"Egg sandwich!" Duo whooped in a childlike manner. He couldn't help it. Heero's egg sandwiches were ten times better than any fast food place.
"My claim to fame," Heero snorted as he stood up.
"Pfft," was Duo's response. As if that was Heero Yuy's claim to fame. Duo looked down and smoothed his hand over the sheets. "Sadly, the sheets are still so clean and white," he sighed. He vowed right then and there to get Yuy to the bed tonight before they got too carried away. That particular window of opportunity was probably less than two and a half minutes, so he'd have to think quick.
"That would not be my fault," Heero said from the door and gave him a look.
"Yeah, yeah," Duo retorted. Remembering something, he rolled onto his side and propped his head up on his fist. "What was it you were going to tell me last night?"
"Oh, ah, nothing," Heero said quickly. It wasn't often that you heard Heero Yuy stammer, even a little bit. "It was nothing. We can talk about it later. Can I make you some coffee?" Heero asked.
Duo thought about pushing the subject, but was distracted by the promise of coffee. "I didn't know you had a coffee maker," he said as he sat up again.
"Just got it," Heero said casually.
"But... you don't drink coffee," Duo reminded him as he pushed his bangs out of his face.
"And I don't intend to start," Heero replied cryptically and disappeared to the kitchen.
Duo was still a little confused about why Heero had a coffee maker when he didn't drink coffee. Heero had this weird thing about not using stimulants of any kind. Even caffeine was out of the question unless he was really desperate and in the middle of a difficult assignment or something like that. He avoided anything that might alter his physiology in any way, even temporarily, and anything that could cause a dependency even in moderation. He would drink alcohol occasionally but Duo didn't know anyone who had seen him drunk before. He would famously put up a fuss about taking even simple drugs like pain killers.
So what was he doing with a coffee maker? Was it because he knew Duo liked coffee? That would be ridiculous because Duo was only here a couple days every few weeks. Maybe Heero had picked it up from a neighbor who was moving or at a garage sale. Heero Yuy garage sale-ing. What a thought, Duo snickered as he threw the covers off and padded to the bathroom. And what was Heero Yuy's coffee going to be like, he wondered as he brushed his teeth. Probably so strong it could bend steel bars and survive an exploding Gundam. Well, at least he would be awake for his meetings this morning.
Heero really did take good care of him, and Duo knew it wasn't just because he was Heero's assignment while he was on L1. At times it occurred to him that maybe he shouldn't enjoy being babysat by Yuy and Barton so much. Getting picked up at the spaceport, being driven around, someone getting him coffee, someone making sure he ate lunch, someone reminding him of the name of the next bureaucrat he was supposed to meet with. Though they were fulltime Preventers Agents, he wished he could take them home. They were better than his aides on L2 sometimes.
Duo got out of the shower and towel dried his hair in the small bathroom. People who thought of Duo Maxwell as a bigshot would be very surprised to learn that when he was on L1, he slept on a couch in the modest, one-bedroom apartment of a Preventers Agent. Sure, the couch was exceptionally comfortable, the apartment was cozy, and the Agent was Heero Yuy, but it was unusual. It had started about a year ago. There had never been a problem with his hotel rooms, which were much more convenient to where he did business. During one of his visits, Heero had been on an assignment and got back the night before Duo was supposed to leave, so Trowa brought Duo to his apartment for a visit. The three of them started drinking a little and Trowa had to leave, so Heero promised to bring Duo back to his hotel later. They drank a bit more and talked and then it got so late, Duo just stayed over and slept on the couch.
When planning Duo's next visit, Heero had jokingly offered him the couch again and he took it without second thought, even though he knew the offer wasn't serious. When Heero picked him up at the spaceport, he must have asked fifty times if it was really ok with Duo, if that's what he really wanted, but Heero never seemed to regret offering. Even if the private rooms had been some of Quatre's special accommodations for important guests, Heero's apartment was still much more welcoming and homey. Duo felt like he was visiting a friend and not just doing business on L1. He tried his best to make it clear to Heero that he didn't have to play host just because Duo was staying with him, nor did he expect Heero to entertain him. Occasionally, during extremely busy times, they didn't even have time to visit; they just hit the sack after a long day. Other times, they had a couple drinks and hung out.
Now, Duo no longer slept on the couch of Agent Yuy's smallish apartment. Duo remembered the exact day of that change because it had been so excruciating. The Sweepers had hauled in something the Preventers viewed as extremely sensitive and dangerous, and getting the red tape cleared was tedious and drawn out. At the end of the day, they dropped Trowa off and went back to Heero's, almost too exhausted to eat anything. It was late; they settled for beer and leftover take-out. Heero ended up sprawled on the couch and Duo seated on the floor in front of the couch. They were talking, just trying to relax and unwind. Duo turned around to say something funny and Heero laughed, and Duo just ended up watching him. He didn't quite recall when Heero stopped laughing, but then Heero's fingers were tucking stray hairs behind his ear and he had the most blatant 'Kiss Me' eyes Duo had ever seen in his life. He didn't think Heero had ever allowed so much emotion to be so obvious in his eyes.
So Duo kissed him and when he did it felt like something fell into place. From the beginning, he had wanted Heero's trust and friendship but it more than that. Always had been. There was yearning inside too deep-rooted to be erased, even after all this time. That night, he got a whole lot more from Heero. They couldn't make themselves go slowly. Once they started, there was just no stopping it. Heero gave Duo his lips, his arms, his mouth, his cock, his growled words and shuddering groans. Duo didn't regret not taking it slower, not for one second. He'd only had a persistent crush on the guy for 10 years or so. There were still just a couple of things Heero had not given him yet. He hadn't gotten Heero on the bottom yet, and he still had to obtain a promise of commitment. Duo was fairly certain that these few things were still up in the air not because Heero didn't want to give them, but only because Duo simply hadn't asked for them yet. Duo also had yet to secure Heero's bed, but that was more a matter of self-control, which it seemed they had a problem with.
If he hadn't been Heero's first, then he'd been darn close. He wasn't quite sure and didn't really want to ask. It wasn't that Heero had not been sure of himself. He did seem to know what he was doing, but there was something in the way he reacted to everything that suggested to Duo that maybe he wasn't very experienced. Either way, it hardly mattered - it had been the best night of Duo's life in an embarrassing amount of time. His life wasn't exactly optimal for romance of any kind. He lived on L2, but spent a good portion of time in space, on L1, and occasionally on Earth. He'd learned early on as a Gundam pilot that his life would be isolated, and he never really got past that. Now that he had fame and what some would construe as influence, he had even more reason to be suspicious of the intentions of potential lovers.
There were no such concerns when it came to Heero. There was little awkwardness the next morning, either, which made Duo realize what intimacy they already had between them. There had been no time for awkwardness, anyway, since he had to rush to make it to his shuttle back to L2. Before he could bustle out to the car, Heero trapped him against the door and gave him a goodbye kiss that made it more than clear that it was not to be a one-time thing. Ever since then, he'd been looking forward to his trips to L1.
He wondered, after the first time, how long Heero had been interested in him. He really had no idea, since Heero was impossible to read. He wondered, too, how long it would last. Duo's greatest fear nowadays was that Heero was going to end it as suddenly as he'd started it. Duo was afraid that one day, he was going to get to the L1 spaceport and Heero would be waiting there, eyes gone flat, and then he would drop Duo off at one of Quatre's apartments. Duo knew that this was getting serious, at least on his part. Heero was not the kind of guy a person could just have a little crush on. Well, not Duo anyway. He'd been so attracted to Heero during the wars, and all those years away hadn't changed a thing. The last couple visits had sent Duo head over heels into the stratosphere. He was in serious trouble.
When his hair was dry, he braided it and then went back to the bedroom. Not wanting to risk getting his suit getting stained, he put on clean shorts and a teeshirt and hurried to the kitchen. He had the one and only Heero Yuy making him breakfast, after all.
He sat down in one of the two chairs at Heero's small, square table. Needless to say, Heero was not big on entertaining. Both places were already set with utensils and full glasses of orange juice - just like every morning that Heero made him breakfast. This was going beyond babysitting, Duo was getting downright spoiled. He never ate this well at home, but he also had to wonder if Heero ate regular meals when he was alone either.
"Yuy, if you don't stop feeding me so well, I'm not going to stop taking advantage of you," he said with amusement.
"That's the plan," Heero replied from the stove.
"So do the Preventers comp you for this? Do you save your receipts and stuff?" Duo joked.
Heero threw him a look as he moved to start the toaster. "Every single one. I get a bonus every time you visit, too," he deadpanned, "since I'm the only one who will take you in. No one else will accept such a loathsome assignment."
Duo laughed and took a gulp of orange juice. At least it wasn't fresh-squeezed or anything, then he'd know that Yuy had really gone off the deep-end.
He watched Heero finish the eggs and slice the cheese. The toaster popped right on cue. As he'd noticed countless other mornings, Yuy had the whole thing down to a science. Or an art. He didn't know why he was so fascinated by watching Heero do mundane things, like assembling their egg sandwiches. It reminded of him of when he would hang around while Heero fixed his mobile suit during the wars. Nowadays, it was watching Heero cook while they were talking on the vid. It wasn't as good as a live show, but the vid sufficed when a live show wasn't an option. It was silly, but he liked doing domestic things while he talked to Heero, things along the lines of eating and cleaning, because it felt like Heero was there with him. He was getting downright surreptitious with it, doing things like flossing in front of Heero now. He figured when he got brave enough to clip his toenails, they may as well move in together.
"So, tell me," Heero said as he set plates in front of them and sat down opposite Duo, "the celebration last night wasn't so bad, was it?"
"I love how you phrased that question fully anticipating a negative answer," Duo snorted. Heero just looked at him with an esoteric half-smirk. "Yeah, ok, it was fun," Duo admitted. "I was really shocked."
"Then mission accomplished."
Duo considered calling him a traitor again for the lack of a decent warning, but he knew he'd be rewarded with another smirk so he bit into his breakfast instead. He chewed and thought.
"If they choose me for the position, I don't think I can take it and keep up my current job as Sweepers Liaison. Space salvage isn't likely to slow down any time soon, that much is for sure," he said after swallowing.
"Knowing you, you'll try to do both first."
"Yeah, that's what I was thinking."
"Perhaps someone else could take the position of liaison."
"Maybe. Most of those guys don't know how the system works, though."
"How much time do you think you devote to Sweepers now versus the health care work?"
Duo winced. "Heero? I don't think I'm ready to think about all that yet."
"I suppose you need some time to get used to the idea," Heero acquiesced.
"And it's just a nomination," Duo reminded them.
"True," Heero admitted after a pause.
All this stuff, the negotiations, being the Sweepers permanent liaison, the health care stuff, Duo didn't know how long he wanted to be doing this. That's why the nomination scared him so much. Could he make such a commitment? Sometimes he wanted to go back into space and hide on a Sweepers ship for a while, though he doubted he could get away with that again.
Trowa picked them up and Duo was delivered to his first meeting right on time. Duo's first appointment of the day was just a meet and greet with a woman recently voted into one of the Preventers' Military Advisory positions. Along with other duties, Preventers' Military Advisors were key in deciding what became of military salvage retrieved from space, and Duo made it a point to get to know each one personally and maintain good relationships. Mobile suits and other space salvage went to plants to be processed into just about everything from can openers to space colonies. The advisors worked with teams of both private and ESUN-employed engineers to make proposals on how to use the scrap. The proposals were voted on by the ESUN Senate on Earth. Duo had met this new advisor briefly last night, and as Relena had explained to him when they were introduced, she had worked in weapons design for OZ and came highly recommended by Lucrezia Noin for her understanding and knowledge of mobile suits and their armaments.
Duo also had a very thorough understanding of OZ's mobile suits, but only because they had once been his enemies. It nibbled at him a little as he sat across the table from her. Here in this same room, getting along together, were two people who had spent years trying to figure out how to destroy each other. However, now they were discussing ideas for disposing of and reusing mobile suit parts. During their friendly talk, the woman mentioned briefly that she had piloted OZ mobile suits from time to time, but did not mention if she had ever fought Gundam 02 or any of the others.
After the short meeting, Duo took a moment to collect his thoughts and organize his belongings. There were many reasons Duo had left for space after the wars, and this situation was one of them. The odds were high that a Gundam pilot was going to run into soldiers he had met in battle, and if that wasn't bad enough, there were thousands who had lost friends and family members fighting Gundams. It wasn't so bad now, ten years later, but he had to hand it to Trowa, Heero, and Wu Fei for sticking around. Quatre perhaps even more so. Quatre had done more damage than any of them while under the influence of the Zero System. There had been those who opposed his ascension in Colonial Preventers for that reason among others, yet he held his head up high and performed brilliantly in his job even under intense scrutiny and pressure. Duo knew that Quatre had confidence that he had, for the most part, acted correctly in the defense of the people of the colonies and he placed a lot of importance on looking to the future instead of the past.
Duo felt the same way. Battles during the wars were kill or be killed, there had really been no choice but to kill. However, unlike Quatre, he had needed to get away from everything when it was over. Their reactions to the end of the war were probably due to a distinct difference between the two of them. Even though he knew despair, loss, and some hardship, Quatre had known a mostly peaceful life before the wars. He also had the breeding and upbringing of a leader and politician. Duo's life, on the other hand, had been one losing battle after another. Not being wholly prepared for peace, he had no desire to be part of the endless negotiations and restructuring that had followed the end of the war. What did he have to contribute now that his skills as a pilot were no longer needed? He didn't know anything about government, politics, and law-making. He was used to taking matters into his own hands, fighting with his own sweat and blood, not waiting around for politicians to make decisions.
He had never been bitter about working himself out of a job, not in the way that had driven Wu Fei to Mariemaia's army. Making the Gundams irrelevant had always been his goal to begin with. If there was peace, he wouldn't have to fight anymore. He
willingly gave Deathscythe to Quatre, even helped him load the Gundams up and get them ready for what was supposed to be their final flight into the sun. That whole year in AC 196, he had been trying to move on, put his life on a new track. He really thought he had been doing well. He had a successful scrap business on L2 with Hilde, he had neighbors and made friends, he didn't do anything suspicious, he didn't even work at keeping his piloting skills up, and he only owned a few small fire arms which he never even used. He was making the transition to civilian life, and he was doing well, damn it.
There was really no putting his training behind him, though, not completely. As soon as the need arose, he jumped back into action. As he sat behind the controls of his Gundam that last time, he remembered thinking that this was where he truly belonged, this was who he really was. When it was over, he knew he had to destroy Deathscythe forever, or he would never stop using it. Disheartened, he began to think that they would never truly reach their goal - a world in which the Gundams were unnecessary - because peace would always be something precious that was constantly on the verge of being lost.
It was his decision to detonate the suit. Authorities may eventually have tried to force him to do it, but standing there in that field with Quatre and Trowa had been his choice. He didn't regret it; it signified the change of an era. The citizens of the Earth Sphere United Nation were going to use other means to protect peace. In essence, he was free. He had no obligations, no responsibilities. But at the same time, he felt as alone as he had only a few times in his life. He shouldn't have felt that way. He had Hilde and the shop back on L2, Director Une nearly begging him to enroll in Preventer's Academy, and Quatre, kind soul that he was, offering help of any kind that he might need. But still Duo felt lost.
That was when he left for space. Peace was a cause near to his heart and it was a hard decision for him not to be part of the effort to defend it, but he needed some time away until he was ready to fight without his Gundam. He cut his hair short and joined the Sweepers. It wasn't that he no longer liked his hair, or his friends and his life for that matter, it was simply the need to purge. Completely. He needed a total change. If he stayed near the Earth, he knew he would be sucked into the fight again because that's just the kind of person he was. If he knew there was a need or a threat, he'd jump right back into the fray. Even L2 was too close to the action. Working with the Sweepers was ideal because he would be far out in space with infrequent contact with anyone else, and it was a job he liked. So, he gave away everything he owned, even his clothes, and bought just the bare necessities to take with him.
Duo believed in the Earth Sphere United Nation, in Lady Une and the Preventers, and in the dedication that bound the Earth and the colonies that was represented by the Vice Foreign Minister and her supporters. He knew he would be back, and he knew he would have a home to come back to. When he left, he had no idea that when the time came for him to fight for the people once again, it would be in a way he never imagined.
For his next appointment, Duo was taken two floors up to the office of the man who ran the facility that safely processed mobile dolls disabled the Zero System. Dolls were under special regulations and Duo gave his report about how many the Salvagers had retrieved directly to the division head so he could know what to expect and how to organize his team for the shipment. This man had once worked closely with Howard, and to Duo that suggested he may also have known the five scientists in charge of Operation Meteor - possibly Dekim Barton himself. It was never confirmed, but either way the man knew mobile suits inside and out and understood the full capability of the Zero System. He had been one of the primary voices behind salvage regulations. For the most part, Duo agreed with him, especially after his own experience with the Zero System, but he had made Duo's original salvage negotiations difficult at every turn. Despite this, Duo knew the truth was that he despised the Zero System and that was why Duo respected and trusted him. As a courtesy, he gave Duo a brief report on what had become of the last batch of dolls brought in by the Salvagers. Occasionally, Duo got a tour of the plant, but he would not have time on this visit to L1.
After that, Duo was driven to the Ministry of Finance for a fiscal meeting that encompassed budgeting for space salvage operations. This was the meeting Duo had come to L1 for. He would be giving a short speech on progress and estimations of the amount of material still unclaimed in space. This was a very large meeting, Senators and representatives had traveled from Earth to be here. Relena would normally have attended something like this, but she had prior engagements on Earth to attend to. The meeting was held in a cavernous, tiered hall. It was really just the opening for a series of committees that would be formed to decide the budget. Duo only had to be present for his speech, so he was just there until they broke for lunch.
An aide showed Duo to his table and Heero and Trowa took the seats on either side of him. Duo understood that this was a tactic employed by Quatre very much on purpose. The presence of an escort made it clear where the Colonial Preventers threw their support, and this escort in particular carried a lot of significance. Together were three ex-Gundam pilots, the youngest people in the room, attending this meeting in order to back demilitarization and the recycling of mobile suits into things that would greater benefit the citizens of the Earth Sphere. Even though they were technically his escort and would not be speaking, having Trowa and Heero at his side made quite a statement.
There had been a lot of good things about Duo's return to the Earth Sphere; most significantly his reconnection with the other Gundam pilots. It wasn't as if he hadn't missed everyone and thought about them while he was gone with the Sweepers. In fact, he had missed them to a surprising degree. He was overjoyed at any letter from Hilde. She was the only person who knew how to get in touch with him and the source of most of his news. He was happy when he heard that Trowa went to Preventers Academy with Heero and Wu Fei instead of going back to the circus. He was proud when Quatre took the role of Director of Colonial Preventers. It made him grin to know that Wu Fei - WU FEI - had gotten himself a girlfriend and was now, in the words of some, totally whipped. He got a warm, nostalgic feeling when he thought about Heero in Academy and then as a Preventers Agent. Heero had really stayed, he hadn't disappeared this time. Duo would wonder how Heero was getting along, how he felt about the training, whether he was satisfied. Every now and then, he wondered if Heero ever looked at the moon, and then he felt as silly as the first time he'd wondered that.
His reunion with the other four had come piecemeal over a period of months, which probably helped his adjustment. All at once might have been overwhelming. He had gotten involved with the salvage negotiations of AC200 hesitantly, but the immediate friendship and support he'd received from Relena was reassuring, if a little unexpected. Quatre would be the first Gundam pilot he would see in four years and at the time he couldn't help but feel a bit awkward after leaving without so much as a word after detonating his Gundam. The look on Quatre's face, however, had allayed any apprehension he'd felt. He remembered extending his hand for a hearty handshake, and Quatre using it to yank him into a hug in front of cameras, press, and officials from both Earth and the Colonies. But then, Quatre could get away with those kinds of things simply because he was Quatre.
When Duo had been on Earth frequently for negotiations, Wu Fei had played a part similar to Trowa and Heero's current role. He was not Duo's official escort, but he had opened his free time and even his home to Duo. Again, Duo had been surprised by the friendly way in which Wu Fei had met him. Since Duo's negotiations had little to do with Wu Fei's work, it would have been easy for Wu Fei to have stayed out of it, but he didn't. He, Sally, and Relena kept Duo sane during negotiations on Earth since politics wasn't exactly his cup of tea.
Despite having nearly died together in the same dank jail cell, Duo never felt like he had known Wu Fei very well during the wars. Granted, he hadn't really known anything about Heero or Trowa either, but he understood them well enough, he thought. Heero could be convinced into working together by logic or eventually out of habit and the fact that they knew each other's skills and fighting styles. Trowa seemed to have an attachment to Quatre and immediately recognized his leadership and strategic abilities, and was usually willing to work as a team. Wu Fei operated on a different plane. He cooperated when he felt like it; he went off on his own when he felt like it. There was just nothing obvious determining how he would choose to fight. In some ways, he was a bit like Heero, but Duo's impressions of the two of them were distinctly different.
When negotiations were over and he was asked to be the Sweeper's Liaison with Colonial Preventers on L1, Duo knew he would probably run into Heero and Trowa. Heero was the one ex-pilot he was actually a little nervous about meeting. Of anyone, he'd always wanted Heero's friendship and approval the most during the wars. It had seemed like he was finally getting it just before he decided to leave. Of anyone, it was Heero he wanted to explain himself to, tell him that he wasn't some coward who had just run away. Duo couldn't deny that part of his nervousness had to do with seeing Heero at video meetings during the salvage negotiations.
Of course he'd known very well that Heero was a top agent with the Colonial Preventers, so it was no great shock that he should be there, but it was a good thing Duo was so well-practiced at public speaking by then, or he might have stopped mid-sentence. For a second, the room was just Heero, even though he was sitting toward the back of the hall and only observing the negotiations. He looked just like himself, only older. Instead of being an impressive kid, Heero had grown into the kind of young man who radiated intensity and strength just sitting quietly. All the feelings Duo had ever had for him came rushing back - the desire to earn his trust, the desire to have him as a friend, the desire to be seen as an equal. It had only ever been like that with Heero. Everyone else could just go fuck themselves if they had a problem with Duo Maxwell.
He and Heero would not meet in person or even speak until six months later in AC201 when Duo had his first visit as Sweeper's Liaison and Preventers Agents Yuy and Barton were sent to meet him at the spaceport. It was probably a good thing that meeting Heero had been a complete surprise and he'd had absolutely no chance to worry over it. He'd simply walked off the shuttle and there was Heero. He hated to admit this, because Trowa was a good friend, but it was Heero who had stood out from the rest of the room that day. Duo was sure his own face had probably registered pure shock, but he was more concerned with watching the subtle shifts in Heero's expression as he approached. In person, Heero's presence was even greater than in a video conference, but it was offset by the friendly manner in which he shook Duo's hand. Trowa, too, had an air of familiarity, even though Duo had never felt particularly close to him during the wars.
Duo had never expected Heero to be so friendly to him when he returned to the Earth Sphere. They had shared a kind of camaraderie during the wars, and they freely trusted and relied on one another. Heero had even asked for his help and complimented his piloting. But Duo wouldn't have called them friends. What had started out as rivalry had transformed into partnership, but it never made it past that stage. So when Duo received a hearty handshake and a real smile in the spaceport after five year's absence, it might have been the shock of his life. And, yes, for the record, Heero Yuy DID smile. It would have looked like a smirk on anyone else except the eyes were different. Those striking blue eyes had finally learned how to smile.
From what little he knew about Heero's life prior to the war, Duo gathered that he hadn't known what it was to live in peacetime either, but unlike Duo he joined the Preventers almost immediately. Later, when they were closer friends, Heero had confided to Duo that he had experienced a pivotal moment during the Eve Wars when he was forced to decide whether he was going to be useful in the new peaceful era, whether he had anything to continue fighting for. If the answer he discovered inside himself had been no, he would have ended his life right there. The story gave Duo chills because he knew that Heero would not have hesitated to kill himself. The answer, however, had been yes, and Heero had only been moving forward since then. Heero was just the kind of person who made decisive changes like that. If he identified a goal, he would stretch himself to the limits of his abilities and beyond to attain it - and that included goals of changing himself.
Duo knew that Heero secretly prided himself in how much he had grown since the wars and it was indeed impressive, but changes? Heero Yuy had not changed as much as he liked to think! Peace had dulled Pilot 01 only in the sense that he was less likely to pull a gun on you for knocking on his door. Not an impossibility, just less likely. If anything, Heero was MORE himself. He had grown up, yes, but it only made him more formidable and intimidating. He still maintained his god-awful high standards for himself and took failure extremely hard. He still had that razor sharp mind. He may be more willing to share his thoughts and opinions these days, but he was just as likely to be frank, abrupt, and considered rude. He was no longer expected to be a robot who simply took orders or a weapon programmed from behind the scenes. He thought for himself, he listened to his own instincts, he made his own decisions, and he was pretty damn piss-poor at following directions most of the time (as Director Winner frequently complained), but he managed to get away with it because he was amazing at everything he did. It wasn't that he didn't have flaws or that he didn't make mistakes or fail now and then, but he was still a cut above the rest. THAT was Heero Yuy.
From the moment the three of them met in the spaceport, Yuy and Barton had assumed the role of not just Duo's escorts, but his secretaries, his confidants, his aids, his guard dogs, and above all, his friends. They didn't trail him through the endless hallways, they walked beside him. What was this unwavering support? First Relena and Quatre, then Wu Fei and Sally, and now Heero and Trowa. Confounded, Duo asked Quatre about it once. Quatre's reply had been a mixture of amusement and surprise. Why shouldn't they help a friend? They were happy to see Duo again after so many years in space. Besides, Quatre told him, they admired what Duo was doing and wanted to be of some assistance, whatever they could individually do. That really didn't help explain it, in Duo's opinion, but there wasn't a day he didn't appreciate it.
The budget meeting broke for lunch at 12:10 and a car was waiting to take Duo to his lunch meeting with a hospital supplies distributor. Heero slid into the driver's seat and Trowa and Duo buckled themselves into the back. His escort was not officially invited to lunch, so after making sure Duo met his party, they left until they were called for.
Duo shook hands with the man and his aides and then they sat down. This was an important meeting for Duo because he was hoping to start a medical supplies recycling program. Since the larger, well-maintained public hospitals on the colonies had strict rules dictating how often their equipment had to be replaced, a lot of functioning supplies were being thrown away. Duo was starting talks with hospitals and manufacturers to get their assistance in collecting discarded, yet still operational equipment for smaller clinics on poor colonies. Even simple things like stethoscopes and centrifuges would benefit some of the impoverished hospitals Duo had visited during his travels.
"I'm glad we could meet, thank you for being flexible," Duo said graciously.
"Lunch meetings are always best for friendly talks anyway," the man said agreeably and Duo smiled. It looked like the fellow had enjoyed more than his fair share of lunch meetings. "Say, those were some bodyguards you have," he said. "Preventers Agents?"
Duo chuckled a little. "Yeah, Director Winner insists upon it when ever I'm visiting L1," he told the man. "They snag me right off the shuttle and stuff me in their car. Sometimes I feel like I'm under arrest, but at least they carry my bags," he joked.
The man laughed.
"Was that... Heero Yuy?" one of the aides spoke up.
"Yeah," Duo grinned, "I've got Heero Yuy carrying my bags. You'd think my underwear and socks were a matter of national security."
The entire table laughed and eventually got down to business. Duo had another meeting to get to, so he made sure they wrapped up in under an hour and called his car back. Heero was driving and Trowa opened the door so he could get in. Duo thought Heero would like his underwear and socks quip, so he shared it with them as they drove back to Headquarters.
"I don't know, Yuy," Trowa said seriously, "ARE Duo Maxwell's underwear a matter of national security?"
Heero was silent from the front seat.
"Well, I certainly feel safer knowing that you're handling the situation," Trowa said with a distinctive smirk.
"I knew there was a reason they kicked you out of the circus," Heero shook his head without taking his eyes off the road. "Not funny at all."
Heero returned the car while Trowa got Duo set up in a private video conference room for a meeting with Relena and the vaccine research branch of a large pharmaceutical company, both on Earth. He spoke with them about the recent round of Drug and Chemical Safety Administration tests for a new drug they were developing, placing orders, and other topics of business. When they were through, he had enough time to have a short, private conversation with Relena.
Trowa was waiting for him when he came out of the room, but Heero was no where to be seen.
"Where's that other guy? You know, the short one with the dark hair," Duo asked.
Trowa's eyebrow twitched. "You know what he'll do to you if I tell him you called him short," he said.
"Uh huh," Duo grinned, "which is why you're not going to tell him I called him short." Heero wasn't short, he was normal. Now, Heero Yuy could scarcely be called 'normal' in any respect, but in his height he was perfectly normal. He wasn't short anymore, it was just that Duo was taller and thoroughly enjoyed rubbing it in.
"We'll see about that," Trowa said. "Yuy was called out on some business."
"Did something go boom?" Duo asked. Heero was the Colonial Preventers' premier specialist on explosives and ballistics. Most of the ballistics investigation was done in the Preventers crime lab, but he frequently traveled for the explosives work. Whether it was reconstructing or dismantling a bomb, lifting chemicals, or calculating the power of an explosion, if it was something no one else could figure out, Agent Yuy was called in. Duo had noticed that about every fourth or fifth visit, Heero was summoned for some reason or another. Rarely was it terrorist activity or attempted murder, usually it was industrial accidents or problems at power plants.
"I can't say yet, HQ didn't know how long they'd need him," Trowa said, purposefully giving away that Heero was at least still on the colony.
"Uh oh, my entourage is shrinking. What will people think?" Duo joked. "Ok, where to next, Agent Barton?"
"Planning meeting for new Preventers space fleet schedules. We'll take the skyway."
"Got it," Duo said, following. "There's a coffee shop on the other side of the skyway, right?"
"Affirmative," Trowa said. "You know, Duo, you don't have to go to this one if you want a break," he added suddenly.
"But it will effect the pick-up schedules for the salvage operations," Duo said.
"Right, but you could just get the new schedule after the meeting and inform the salvagers," Trowa said.
"But I'm here on L1, so I may as well sit in," Duo shrugged, casting a quick smile at his friend.
Trowa shook his head. "I don't know how you do it," he said. "I don't have this many meetings in a month."
"That's because no one wants to meet with you," Duo joked. "I've heard you throw paper at people."
"Yeah, but I make great origami animals," Trowa countered. "Doesn't that count for something?"
"Uh huh, I bet you're the life of the meeting," Duo grinned.
The line was long at the coffee place, so Trowa waited and Duo went ahead to the meeting. Trowa was known for stealth and had no trouble delivering Duo's coffee and retreating to the back of the room. By the end of the meeting, only a few changes to the fleet schedules had been made, mostly to stream-line the freight routes. Duo's input had not been necessary, but the Chair took him aside after they were excused and thanked him for coming.
"Science department," Trowa said and led Duo to the elevator. "Here," he said once they were in the elevator, and handed Duo a veritable zoo of origami animals.
"Hey, you weren't kidding, these are great!" Duo exclaimed. "A lion, a bear, a fox, and a frog! Thanks! I hope they make it home in one piece so I can put them on my desk." He carefully secured them in his briefcase.
"One more," Trowa said, handing him a flatter, 2-D version that looked perhaps like a person's head and shoulders.
"What's..." Duo began to say then tipped his head back to laugh. "It's Heero! Oh my god, how did you get the hair so perfect?" he puzzled, touching the little folded paper spikes.
"Years of keen observation," Trowa replied.
The elevator dinged and Duo went to a short meeting with a couple military engineers who had questions about the quality of salvage being retrieved from space. Duo answered what he could and put them in touch with the right people to address what ever questions he couldn't answer.
"Now we're off to Preventers Human Resources?" Trowa said uncertainly and checked their schedule again on his mobile.
"Oh, that's right," Duo remembered.
"This is a new one," Trowa commented.
"The mechanics unit has a new guy in charge of their union and their contract is coming up for renewal. He asked if I would share some contract negotiation wisdom with him, you know, since I'm in town," Duo said with a weary smile.
"He only gets you for approximately an hour," Trowa said, "there's a retirement party for Senator Cuthbert at seven o'clock."
"Right," Duo nodded. "I sent the gift ahead of time. That's my last thing, right?"
Trowa read the mobile closely. "It says: Billy's, half off tap beers, nine to eleven."
Duo grinned. "I don't remember scheduling that."
"Then perhaps you should consider it fate," Trowa advised.
The Billy's crowd was almost exclusively Preventers and government officials due to its proximity to Prev. Headquarters, which wasn't to say it never got rowdy, but it was a place agents felt they could relax. Duo was very comfortable there too, and relished the opportunity not to have to talk shop. The retirement party had decent company and good food, but everyone wanted to know about his nomination to the Colonial Public Health Commission. He and Trowa found a small table in the back of the bar since it would be just the two of them. Apparently, Quatre was busy with whatever was keeping Heero busy.
"How was the coffee this morning?" Trowa asked when there was a lull in the conversation.
"The coffee? Uh, it was fine," Duo answered, casting him an odd look.
"Well, at least someone benefited from him torturing all of us for weeks learning to use his coffeemaker properly," Trowa said dryly. "You know what a perfectionist he is. We were scared to go over to his house, Duo, and when he couldn't get anyone to come over, he started bringing it to work."
"I'm sure it wasn't that bad," Duo said.
"There was an incident resulting in the hospitalization of an intern."
"Yeah right," Duo snorted. Trowa could deliver a joke with the straightest face Duo had ever seen, but Duo was sure this had to be a joke.
"All right, I exaggerate," Trowa admitted. "The intern was hospitalized because he saw Agent Yuy coming with the silver thermos and tried to flee. He hurried around a corner and collided with an open filing cabinet. Still, I blame the coffee."
Duo broke out into laughter. This time he couldn't be sure it was a joke.
"But still, it is good that someone is reaping the rewards of our suffering," Trowa said again.
"Yeah, you don't have to be scared to go to his house anymore, it's pretty darn good coffee."
Trowa leaned his elbows on the table and sat forward. "So Duo. When do you and Heero plan on telling people?" he asked casually.
"Wh-what? What are you talking about, Trowa?" Duo asked, doing his best clueless impression.
"Oh come on. I'm not dumb," Trowa said with the lift of one auburn brow. "How long have you two been sleeping together now? Six months? Seven? It's really time to bring it out in the open."
"Six months?! No, it's only been like three! Yeah, the last three times I've been to L1," Duo stuttered, seeing more sense in correcting Trowa than trying to deny it.
"Only three? Huh. I could have sworn..." Trowa regarded him from across the table and then started snickering. He sat back in his chair, saying, "Only three months? You guys are so dumb."
"H-Hey!" Duo sputtered.
They were interrupted by a buzzing and Trowa checked his mobile phone. "Oh, it's your boyfriend," he said before answering.
"He's not - " Duo tried to say but Trowa ignored him. Duo just glowered into his beer.
Trowa snapped the phone shut momentarily, saying, "Your boyfriend says he'll be here soon."
"He's not my boyfriend," Duo replied dryly.
"Oh, I see, he's just your fuckbuddy," Trowa said flippantly.
"He is not just my fuckbuddy!" Duo hissed, glancing around to see if anyone had overheard that.
"Ok, so he's your boyfriend."
"No, he is not!" Duo growled
"Well, then. How convenient for you, Duo," Trowa said as he propped his elbows on the table. "Come to L1 for business, screw around, go back home. Must be nice. Yuy would make a lousy boyfriend anyway, he's not good enough for you."
"Hey, it's not like that!" Duo said in his defense. "I want Heero to be my boyfriend, I just haven't... I haven't," he trailed off when he saw the smug face Trowa was making at him. Of course he should have known Trowa knew him better than that. The former Heavyarms pilot was just a manipulative bastard who liked to back people into corners and make them admit things. He hadn't become one of Prev's best interrogators overnight. Maybe that hadn't been the most subtle of traps, but it was late; it had been a long day, and maybe the topic of Heero threw him off guard a little.
"I just haven't asked him yet is all," Duo finished with a huff and gulped down the rest of his beer. Damn it, he'd walked right into that one.
Trowa nodded in understanding.
"I mean, I don't know if he even wants a boyfriend," Duo blew a sigh. "Especially one like me, I can't be around much."
"Only one way to find out."
"I know, I know," Duo sighed again, quickly adding, "and don't you say anything!"
"My lips are sealed," Trowa said.
Heero arrived shortly and pulled a chair over to their table.
"Anything serious?" Duo asked when he didn't offer any information.
"It's not an emergency, I just can't say anything until they write up the press release," Heero said, signaling the waitress.
Duo watched as he loosened his tie. The top button of his shirt was already undone, but he tugged his collar open a little more. Something about the sight made Duo's throat go dry so he ordered water when the waitress came by. His mind had gone straight to the gutter with no chance of recovery. In one day, he had to sit through as many meetings as most people would have in a month. What better way to unwind then have a drink with two friends, and then be taken home by Heero Yuy and fucked senseless? And that was exactly what he needed right now. His mind was going numb; he didn't want to talk anymore. He'd had enough of this job and this suit and the demands and always making everyone happy. Right now, he wanted to only have to think about one thing. He wanted to be alone with Heero, let Heero make his day disappear.
"You've been kind of quiet, everything ok?" Heero asked a little later while Trowa was in the bathroom.
"Just ready to go home," Duo said.
"To L2?" Heero asked.
Duo grinned. "No, I meant to your home," he hinted.
Heero looked at his lager and shifted in his seat. "Duo..." he mumbled, but clammed up when Trowa sat down again.
They paid their tab, Heero finished his drink, and then they went their separate ways for the night. The car ride was quiet. Duo felt like he'd already made clear what was on his mind and didn't have much else to say. Heero wasn't saying much either, but Duo did notice his tight grip on the steering wheel. If Heero was stressed about something, Duo was dead set on making him forget all about it.
Heero parked the car and they went to his apartment. It seemed to Duo like he was wound tight as a spring. As soon as the door was open, Duo shoved him inside. He kicked the door shut and trapped Heero against the wall with a forceful kiss. Heero's fingers dug into his shoulders as he kissed back. Duo quickly unzipped Heero's jacket and slipped his hands inside, pressing his palms against Heero's hard body. Heero's hands settled behind his ears, fingers twining in his hair.
Duo only broke away to throw off his own jacket and pull Heero in the direction of the couch, though he couldn't see it in the dark room. One of their feet knocked into the leg of an end table and the lamp clanked, but neither of them seemed to notice as they kissed madly. Duo thought he was at the couch and pulled Heero down, but he landed on the edge of the cushion. Heero collided with him and they toppled to the floor.
"Ow," Duo laughed when he banged his elbow on the coffee table, but then all words stopped because his mouth was full of Heero's tongue. The way Heero's body settled over him made his breath hitch and his cock leap. This was what he had been needing, this solid weight, this unrelenting force that was Heero. He didn't give a shit if they did it on the floor again, he just wanted Heero.
His knee rattling the coffee table was ignored, but when his arm knocked it several inches over, Heero started to get up. Duo stuttered some kind of dazed protest and tried to clutch at Heero's clothes, but he couldn't get a grip to hold him down.
"Light," Heero was mumbling as he rose. It sounded like he bumped into the couch and then the light went on.
Duo was already sitting up and blinking in the light. Heero was staring at him and running a hand through his unruly hair. His clothes were rumpled and Duo was sure his own looked much the same way. Duo got up and sat on the couch.
"Oh, that's right we didn't want to do it on the floor this time," he chuckled, not sure why he felt a little nervous suddenly. Heero moved to straighten the coffee table and Duo took the opportunity to grab him by the belt and pull him onto the couch. He slid his hand up along Heero's jaw and guided him into a kiss. Heero's kisses started out reserved, so Duo tugged his hair and held him still while he explored his mouth. Heero's hand grasped at his arms and shoulders as they kissed. Duo caressed down his chest and stomach and further to his lap, looking for his cock. When Duo found it, he stroked it and savored its reaction.
Heero pushed him roughly onto his back and kissed him harder. He moved one leg so that Heero settled between them and he could feel Heero's cock against his thigh.
"Heero," he gasped, "I want you inside me."
The last thing he was expecting after saying that was for Heero to pull away. Heero clambered to his feet, avoiding eye contact.
"I - I need some water," he rasped and hurried into the kitchen.
Shocked, Duo sat up. Two seconds ago, he'd had Heero on top of him, grinding against his leg and now he was alone on the couch wondering what the HELL had just happened. He heard the water running in the kitchen and then silence. He leaned over to peek through the doorway and saw Heero just standing there facing the counter. Was he not feeling well? Duo frowned, growing concerned. Every time things started to get more intense, Heero jumped away. Duo couldn't figure it out, usually he was so aggressive. They should be fucking under the coffee table by now. Did he not want to have sex? Was he still thinking about something from work?
"Do you want some?" Heero called from the kitchen.
"Uh, sure," Duo replied.
It was another moment before Heero came back with a glass of water for him. Duo took it when it was offered and then Heero sat down on the couch with a good two feet of space between them. Duo had some of the water and then set the glass down.
"Feeling all right?" he asked.
"Hm? Oh, no, I'm ok," Heero said quickly, wiping his palms on his thighs.
Duo gave him a smile before leaning closer to kiss him. He kept it light and playful until Heero started to relax again. He stroked his hand over Heero's cheek and down his neck, and Heero exhaled hotly into his mouth. Heartened, Duo reached for his belt, only to have Heero seize his wrists.
"Ok, ok," Duo sighed, putting his hands up in surrender. Maybe he'd been a little forceful about what he wanted and not sensitive enough about what might be going on with Heero tonight. He sat back and looked into Heero's eyes apologetically. "If you don't want to have sex tonight, it's ok, Heero. You can just tell me, I understand. We all have days like that. I can even sleep out here if you'd like a good night's sleep."
Heero closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He looked at war with himself. "No, Duo, I..." he said without finish.
Duo remembered that Heero had been trying to tell him something. A hollow feeling started in his chest. Was this it? Was this the moment he'd been so afraid of, the moment when Heero said they were through? "All right, Heero," Duo said, trying to keep the lump in his throat down, "you've been trying to tell me something since yesterday. Why don't you just tell me? I can take it."
Heero's face reddened in a way that Duo had never seen before. He swallowed and opened his mouth, but no words came out. Duo was starting to get annoyed. Why couldn't he just say it? Who would have thought Heero Yuy would be so timid about breaking up with someone?
"Fine. You know what, Heero? I can take a hint, so - " Duo said as he moved to stand up, but Heero caught his wrist and kept him on the couch. When Duo looked over at him. Heero looked angry. His eyes burned with something Duo couldn't quite name.
And then Heero Yuy was crawling into his lap. This was definitely not the reaction he had expected, Duo thought in bewilderment as large hands pushed his shoulders back on the couch and held him there. Almost clumsily, Heero straddled his thighs, and 'clumsy' was not often a word anyone would associate with Heero. Maybe he was a little awkward because he'd never done anything like this before, Duo thought and then all thought ceased because Heero was kissing him.
His mouth was hot and demanding, which was typical of the way Heero kissed, but there was a feeing of urgency that raced like a current through every movement. Heero dug his fingers into Duo's shoulders and filled his mouth with his tongue. It felt extra strong, lapping and curling around his own. It was over-whelming, as if what ever he'd been trying to say, he was trying to convey it even now.
Just when Duo thought he would pass out from lack of oxygen, Heero tore himself away. They were both panting, and the words finally came tumbling from Heero's swollen lips.
"Fuck me, Duo," Heero exhaled, just on the verge of sounding desperate. His face reddened all over again and his fingers clutched at Duo's shirt collar. "I want you to fuck me, Duo," he repeated, only a little more steadily as he unconsciously shifted to rub himself against Duo's groin.
Duo just stared at Heero's flushed face. Quite suddenly, his objective for the evening changed completely. All want for Heero to make him forget his day simply dissolved, seared away by a molten desire to make Heero forget not just the day, but his own goddamned name.
"I've been... trying to tell you, but I - I just..." Heero's hoarse voice was saying.
"You want me to fuck you? You want that?" Duo asked.
"Yeah, I want it," Heero whispered, lips hovering millimeters from Duo's
Duo thought about telling him to ask nicely, make him beg for it, but decided not to. He'd show Heero how good it was and make him beg for it next time. He grabbed Heero by the jaw and gave him a long, bruising kiss. Heero reacted with all the heat and strength Duo was used to. Duo kissed down his neck, nipping and biting at his hot skin. Heero's body jerked and he threw his head back. He ground his hips against Duo again, and Duo somehow managed to get his hand between them and unzip Heero's pants. He got his hand inside and Heero gasped, moving into the touch. He finally pushed Duo's shoulders back against the couch again, putting some distance between them.
"Let's go to the bed," he suggested, voice thick and rushed.
"Oh sure, you remember when it's your back at stake!" Duo said with a lop-sided grin.