Heero jogged up the two flights of granite steps and wove through the library stacks in the direction of the reference section. It was past lunchtime and he had emerged from his cave for something to eat, but first a quick visit to see Duo. The man lived on his couch, so it wasn't like he was lacking in opportunities to see him, but Heero liked to stop by while he was at work now and then. Duo had been living with him for two weeks now, and he thought it was going pretty well. The truth was he'd never lived with anyone before. Even in college dorms, he'd always had single rooms. There were some things to get used to, like longer hairs in his shower drain and breakfast dishes in the sink, but for the most part Duo was a good roommate. He was quiet and considerate, and cleaned up after himself most of the time. The apartment was small, but they hadn't killed each other yet.
Quite the opposite, he might be starting to like it too much. He'd been reserved at first, trying to figure out if his attraction to Duo was just left over from years ago, but he was becoming positive that his feelings for Duo were real. He wanted the current Duo, even if he wasn't the same Duo he used to be. Although he tried not to let it show when they were together, he very much wanted to let Duo know how he felt. He wasn't the shy teenage boy he'd once been, but he was hesitating because he wanted the timing to be right. No, he needed the timing to be right. Too soon, and it could ruin things even if Duo reciprocated. On the other hand, he didn't want Duo to slip away not knowing how he felt about him.
When they had known each other before, Duo had always been the more aggressive one, initiating kisses and letting Heero know when it was time to stop working. Even though Heero had liked it very much, he had been so shy and unsure of himself at the time. Back then, it was Duo who was more experienced, but now Heero was pretty sure it was he who had more experience. He had been with two men and it was likely Duo had been with no one. There were certainly priests who broke the rules, but Heero doubted Duo had been one of them given the way he was reacting to all this.
The biggest problem came with gauging Duo's receptiveness. He was putting his faith on the hope that Duo still found him physically attractive, but his emotional state was more difficult to determine. Even coming to terms with the fact that he was no longer limited in the romantic sense might take a while, not to mention the possibility that whatever homosexual tendencies he might have were no longer forbidden. Duo had just been through a dramatic change in his lifestyle, and Heero didn't want to be some "rebound" or mistake made too soon after such an adjustment. He constantly reminded himself that Duo still had a long way to go, and he was determined to wait it out. Mentally, he was willing to wait, but Duo had a way of making him a slave to his emotions, whether intentional or not.
He found Duo sitting on a stool behind the large wooden reference desk. He was leaning his elbows on the desktop and engrossed in a book, in what language Heero could only guess. Honestly, if women in the past had accused Heero of only loving archaeology the same could probably be said for Duo and books. His apartment was now full of books. He had to hurdle stacks of them just to get to a chair sometimes. Duo tried hard to keep them contained, but Heero suspected he now had more them he'd originally brought with him. He hoped some of them were on loan from the library and would be returned eventually. Duo was always studying something, he had a natural curiosity and a drive to learn, which was probably how he managed to teach himself languages. He could take classes in language studies come fall if he stayed, which would help him get the speaking and conversational practice the books could not give him.
As usual, the tables in Duo's section were full of students. Heero had tipped off the undergrads that the guy with the ponytail in the reference section might be able to help them with their Greek and Latin. As Heero approached, a student got up and took a book over to Duo's desk. They talked quietly and Heero just hung around for a moment until the student sat down again.
"And what can I do for you?" Duo asked, leaning his direction now.
"Just saying hi," Heero said.
Duo glanced at the clock on the wall. "Taking a late lunch break?" he asked.
"Where ya goin'?"
"Deli on 4th," Heero replied, leaning his hip on the desk.
"Great, now I'm craving their egg salad."
"How's it going here?" Heero asked as he picked up Duo's book. Shockingly, it was in English. Something about the evolution of scripts through time.
"Good," Duo said, "everyday I get someone new up here who shuffles over, eyes darting, and says to me, 'Heero Yuy said you could help me with Greek.' Like I'm some kind of black market language teacher!"
"I thought it was dumb that King's wouldn't let you tutor," Heero shrugged, setting the book down again. "Don't try to tell me you mind it," he added.
"No, I like it," Duo confessed. "How's everything going down in the basement?"
"Same as always. Don't forget there's a Classics Society lecture tonight."
"I haven't! Howard Greentraub versus Kenneth Dunaway - the match of the century!" he announced as if it was goine to be a wrestling smackdown. "We'll have to go early to get good seats!"
Heero snorted, fairly sure that Duo was kidding about the seats.
"Oh, I'm cooking tonight, aren't I?"
"Great, what are you going to subject me to this time?" Heero asked dryly.
Duo stuck his nose in the air. "You know I don't give my creations names until I'm done with them," he said.
"On that note," Heero said, straightening up, "I'm going to go have a really big lunch."
"Har har," Duo said after him.
Duo made palatable chicken that night, but they hurried through dinner to get to the Classics lecture. There was open discussion afterward, and they continued it between themselves all the way home through the drizzle. They bustled through the door, shaking off wet jackets and kicking off shoes.
"Got any of that red wine left?" Duo asked.
"I think so," Heero said, going to the fridge. "Only one glass for you this time," he added, shooting a look at Duo over the refrigerator door.
"Yeah, so I'm a light weight and two glasses put me to sleep," Duo stuck out his tongue at the refrigerator.
Heero joined him on the couch in a moment and handed him a glass.
"You really railed that guy," Duo commented, relaxing back against the arm of the couch.
"He's the quintessential Armchair Anthropologist," Heero shook his head. "I just can't bring myself to believe anyone who creates theories based purely on philology. I need to see the physical evidence backing it up."
"You are such an archaeologist," Duo snorted before trying the wine.
"Damn right I'm an archaeologist," Heero asserted. "Everyone knows the Classical written record is deeply biased because it was the higher classes who were more literate."
"Precisely," Duo agreed. "Always question your source. Written works can't be taken out of context."
Heero nodded as he picked up his glass. "I just don't get why people are still buying his books," Heero said and continued on about the man's latest book. When he had drained his glass, he leaned forward to set it on the coffee table. He sat back again, sure he had more to say, but he forgot what it was when he saw the way Duo was looking at him - and had probably been looking at him for quite some time had he stopped his ranting long enough to notice.
He swallowed. All thoughts about the lecture just vanished, even the apartment fell away as Duo's hand reached out slowly to brush back the hair that hung in his eyes.
"Your hair, it's just like I remember," Duo said quietly.
"Never could do anything with it," Heero said, finally remembering to breathe. Was this an invitation? There were so many things he wanted to ask, was it time now? He moved closer to return the gesture. He touched the feathery ends that escaped the ponytail and fell around Duo's face. "You cut yours," he said, so softly it was almost a whisper
Duo looked down, breaking their gaze, and a faint, sad smile curved his lips. "Yeah, a long time ago," he said, "when I got back from Askelon." His summer in Israel seemed like a different lifetime.
"Did they make you?" Heero swallowed.
"No, I did it myself," Duo shook his head.
"Tell me about it," Heero breathed, "please, if you can." Duo's gaze shifted back to his face. "You don't have to," Heero started to apologize.
"What we did in Ashkelon
I thought I had finally crossed the line, gone so far that they would kick me out of the orphanage or something," Duo told him. "I decided I was going to be good, I was going to conform. The hair was one of the first things to go. I cut it by myself at first, didn't even unbraid it, just hacked it off. And then I threw it away. I didn't sell it for charity, or give it to cancer patients, I just threw it away and asked one of the Sisters to help me finish the haircut."
Heero's face pinched with concern and sadness.
"It was a different state of mind," Duo sighed and shook his head. "When I thought
when I thought that Jay had kicked me out, I thought I had lost my only opportunity in archaeology. I thought I was a bad kind of person. A greedy, ungrateful person who ruins everything he's given and takes advantage of people. I purged myself, hair included. Everything went. I was so afraid to let me out, because that meant bad things would happen. I kind of shut off."
Heero exhaled heavily. He couldn't understand how that had happened to the boy he knew in Ashkelon.
"It was like autopilot, or that feeling of walking through a dream or something that's not real," Duo continued. "I switched out of the public school and into the Catholic high school and then I went to seminary. I did what they told me and I didn't question or complain. It's like I wasn't even in my own body, I was just so empty.
"The hair, though
We cut it real short, but it wasn't long until it reverted to its natural state," Duo cracked a rueful smile and ran a hand through his bangs. "Recently, I've been letting it grow a little, more out of laziness than anything else."
Heero reached to finger his hair again. "Do you think you'll ever grow it out again?"
Duo shifted and their eyes locked. He blinked. "I
I don't know," he stumbled, eyes caught by Heero's. That unbelievable shade of blue
He noticed Heero's eyes flick down to his lips. God, he knew what was happening, he knew what this was! He remembered it from that other lifetime. He felt Heero's hand move to cup his jaw and he saw him move closer. Duo closed his eyes.
Both young men jumped when the phone rang. Heero's eyes darted to his mobile phone on the kitchen counter, and then back to Duo, who was already fiddling with his shirt sleeve and looking quite embarrassed. Damn it, moment ruined. Heero stood to get his phone from the counter.
Heero got up and Duo took a deep breath. They had almost kissed. It wasn't that he didn't want to kiss Heero, he just wasn't sure it was the right thing to do. There was no question that he found Heero attractive, but was this really the right time for that? He was getting along fine and felt like he was adjusting well, but he still had this empty feeling like he wasn't a real person. It felt as if he was wandering around a huge mansion in the dark, trying to find all the rooms and turn the lights on. How could he be any good for Heero if he didn't know himself? Another false start with Heero was the last thing he wanted.
He didn't know what he wanted, that was part of the problem. Could he really be accepted into Heero's world so easily? Over the last two weeks, he'd met some of Heero's friends, teachers, and colleagues. He'd been introduced to some of the other people who would be on the dig this summer, Relena, Heero's ex-girlfriend, even the neighbors in the building. Heero had a life that he'd earned for himself; Duo wanted to do the same. He was only beginning to figure out where to start.
He was glad he'd been able to say the things he had to Heero just now. Since that morning when he showed Heero the box of letters, he had wanted to find the words to explain. What he'd said tonight, however, was only part of it. There was more still jumbled up inside that he had yet to find a way to put into words. He knew so many languages, so why was it that words could be so difficult? He tucked his hair behind his ears and glanced at the other man, who was picking up his phone.
"Hello?" Heero said gruffly.
"Trowa? It's been a long time. How've you been?" he continued after a pause. Duo drank the last of his wine and then tried to burrow into the couch.
oh? Jay? Well, no, you know we haven't really - " There was another pause and something about the way Heero inhaled drew his attention again.
Heero's fist balled on the countertop. "What?" he rasped. "Where was he?"
"You don't - ! Damn it, Trowa! I'll be damned if I'm going to - "
Duo watched the muscles in Heero's jaw bunch. "I'm getting on the first flight. I'll be there tomorrow morning. Can you get me cleared by then? Good. Uh huh," he grunted and snapped the phone shut.
"What's going on?" Duo asked timidly when Heero set the phone down.
Heero turned slowly to look at him. "Jay is missing."