“Are you sure about this, Duo?” Quatre asked, looking dubiously at his surroundings.
“Absolutely!” Duo nodded emphatically. “Since I’m too much of a chicken-butt to tell Heero how I feel, I’ll let my skin do the talking for me.”
Quatre sighed. Duo was determined to get a tattoo and Quatre had agreed to accompany him. In truth, the blond was hoping to talk his friend out of the irreparable act. But Duo was resolute. So there they sat, in a questionable-looking tattoo parlor on L2.
A door at the back of the room opened and a burly man stepped into the waiting area.
“*Maxwell*!” he barked.
Duo shot up from his chair. “Yo, that’s me!”
“What design did you want?” the large man asked.
Duo reached into his back pocket and pulled out a piece of paper. Quatre stood and went to look over the braided boy’s shoulder. On the paper was a drawing, ostensibly done by Duo himself. Quatre’s eyes widened at the artistry of the image. He peered at his friend.
“Duo, I had no idea you could draw?”
Duo threw a smile over his shoulder before turning back to the man. “So, can you do this?”
The man looked at the drawing for a moment. “Yeah. No problem. That’ll be 200 bucks.”
Quatre blinked and Duo blanched. Neither had expected that tattoos could be so expensive. Still resolved to his course of action, Duo sighed and reached into his back pocket, pulling out a wad of money. He counted the bills then looked at Quatre sheepishly.
“Uh, hey Q-man, could you spot me a few bucks?”
Quatre nodded. “Sure thing. How much do you need?”
Quatre handed Duo the cash and Duo paid the man.
“Come on to the back,” the guy said, gruffly.
The man turned and walked to the back door, Duo in his wake. Quatre followed until the man turned back around.
“Only customers are allowed back here,” he grunted.
Duo shot Quatre a confident smile. “It’s cool. Just wait out here for me.”
Quatre nodded and watched the two disappear into the other room. He sighed and dropped back into his chair. The door was left cracked open and Quatre heard some muffled speaking and then what sounded like a drill. A moment later, he heard a shout.
“Son of a *bitch*!”
Recognizing Duo’s voice, Quatre stood up, planning ignore the big man’s edict and make sure his friend was alright. Then he remembered that tattoos are supposed to hurt. He sat down again, keeping his eye on the cracked door.
After about twenty minutes, and a few more pained shouts, the door opened. The man appeared, followed by a rather pale and sweaty, but pleased looking Duo.
“Duo, are you okay?” Quatre’s voice indicated his concern.
Duo nodded. “Yeah! More than alright. Take a look at this.”
Duo pulled up his right sleeve, baring his upper arm. Quatre gasped, amazed. (1)
The picture that had been on the paper was now faithfully reproduced on Duo’s upper arm in vibrant color. A violet-colored heart was bracketed on either side by a beautifully detailed pair of white wings. The edges of the wings were tipped with ebony. Overlaying this stunning backdrop, a single word was written in deep-blue calligraphy.
“Heero,” Quatre read with a whisper. He looked up at his grinning friend. “Wow, Duo. That’s lovely.”
“Why, thank you. Now all I have to do is go home and let Heero conveniently see my arm. Even a kindergartener would get the message.”
Quatre felt a pang of doubt in his heart. “Duo,” he repeated, “are you sure about this?”
“Totally! Come on, let’s get out of here. I want to put some ointment on my arm. This thing stings like a bitch!”
Duo found Heero in the hanger, working on his gundam. One of the best things about staying with Quatre was the wonderful facilities they got to use. Duo climbed up giant mecha to stand beside his soon-to-be unsecret crush.
“Hey, Heero? What’s up?”
The crouching, dark-haired pilot didn’t bother to look up from his work. Undaunted, Duo pressed on.
“Guess what, man. I got a tattoo! Wanna see?”
Heero paused long enough to glare at Duo over his shoulder before turning back to the wiring he was tinkering with. His monotone voice rose to Duo’s ears.
“Baka. You often have undercover missions. You can’t afford to have any distinguishing marks. It will make you stand out.”
With that, Duo was admonished and dismissed from Heero’s notice. Duo stood, blinking down at the Japanese boy, his arm aching and his heart breaking into a million tiny pieces.
‘He doesn’t even care enough to look at it,’ Duo’s stunned mind mused.
Duo shook his head and gathered himself, wanting to at least keep up the appearance of his usual self, even though he knew it was just a pathetic act.
“Yeah, well, you’re probably right. After it’s healed, I’ll have it removed.”
“Hn,” was Heero’s only response.
Duo backed away, unable to stay in Heero’s presence for another second.
“I’ll see ya around.”
With that, Duo climbed down the gundam and raced out of the hanger.
Heero looked up and turned to watched the braided boy’s hasty exit. “Hn, I forgot to look at it,” he murmured. Shrugging, he turned back to his work. ‘I’ll take a look before he gets it removed.’ Although he wouldn’t admit it under torture, he was curious as to how a tattoo would look against Duo’s smooth, pale skin.
Five days later, Heero still hadn’t seen the tattoo. In fact, he hadn’t seen much of Duo at all. It was clear that the amethyst-eyed pilot was avoiding Heero like the plague.
Whenever Heero entered a room, Duo would suddenly remember something he just had to do at the far end of the mansion. Whenever Heero knocked on Duo’s door at night, the braided pilot was already asleep. When Heero sat down to dinner with the others, Duo would decide that it was a lovely night and that he should eat his dinner up on the roof, under the moonlight.
After nearly a week of this, Heero was becoming frustrated and was completely confused. Duo had never shunned Heero’s company before. In fact, the complete opposite was usually the case. Duo always found an excuse to be wherever Heero was. Several times, Heero had found his partner looking at him with an odd expression, only to turn away when he realized that his observation was being noticed.
Heero had begun to suspect that Duo might, just might, actually like him. Although Heero doubted that Duo’s feelings towards him could come anywhere near the feelings he’d developed towards the outgoing, cheerful, talkative pilot. Just being near Duo somehow gave him hope, hope that one day this war would end and that there was truly something worth fighting for. But now, Heero didn’t know what to think.
Quatre observed his two companions with growing concern. Heero was more taciturn than ever and Duo was being atypically unsocial, lately preferring to keep to himself rather than mix with the others. But his newly acquired reticence was the most noticeable with Heero. Quatre couldn’t understand it. He knew that Duo had gone to show Heero the revealing tattoo the moment they’d returned from the tattoo parlor.
Had Duo chickened out? Had Heero not understood it’s meaning? What exactly had happened?
Finally, Quatre decided to confront Heero. That evening, he cornered the Wing pilot in one of the small sitting rooms. Heero was sitting in a chair by the window with his eyes closed, seemingly lost in thought. Quatre walked over to him and stood by the arm of the chair.
Sensing Quatre’s presence, Heero opened his eyes and met the blond pilot’s worried, aquamarine gaze.
“Heero? What’s going on with Duo? I’ve never seem him so quiet and withdrawn.”
Heero sighed. “Honestly, Quatre, I have no idea.”
“Well,” Quatre said, exasperated at Heero’s seeming obtuseness. “It started when Duo showed you his new tattoo. What happened, Heero? Didn’t you like it?” Quatre felt comfortable asking the question, knowing through his empathic gift how Heero felt about his usually loquacious partner.
Heero’s brow crinkled in confusion. “The tattoo? What does that have to do with anything? I never even saw it?”
Quatre’s eyes widened in disbelief. “You didn’t see it?”
Heero shook his head, still wondering at the importance Quatre seemed to place on such an insignificant matter.
“What did you say when he tried to show it to you?”
Heero folded his arms across his chest in an unconscious, defensive posture. He suddenly had the feeling that he’d make some grievous error.
“I told him that it was a mistake for him to have gotten it since we do so many infiltration missions. He said he would have it removed.”
Quatre closed his eyes in utter exasperation. With a slight growl, he opened them and glared at the seated pilot.
“Heero, go look at that tattoo. Make Duo show it to you. Don’t take no for an answer and don’t come back down here until you’ve seen it!”
Heero blinked at Quatre’s commanding tone. It called to the soldier in him and he found himself obeying it without question. Rising from the chair, he left the room without another word, heading towards Duo’s room.
“Damn! Dumb ass brush...”
Wearing only a towel, having just taken a shower, Duo sat in front of the mirror at his dresser, trying to brush his unbound, half-dry hair with his left hand. His right arm was still sore from the tattoo and raising the arm caused the skin to stretch uncomfortably.(2) But Duo was right-handed and the awkwardness of the usually effortless activity was driving him crazy. He was still hurt and pissed at Heero for his callousness and was taking it out on the defenseless brush.
There was a knock on his door. Duo was so distracted by what he was doing that he absently called, “Come in,” thinking it was probably Quatre. The door opened and his visitor stepped in.
“Yeah, Quatre. What do you w-wa...”
Duo stammered to a halt when he looked up at his guest in his mirror and his eyes unexpectedly met cobalt-blue. The two boys stared at each other in the mirror, Heero standing motionlessly by the still open door, Duo’s hand raised in mid-brushstroke.
Heero broke the silence first. “May I come in?”
Duo shook his head slightly, causing his hair to brush against his now unwanted marking. Moving hastily, he lowered his left hand and made sure his right arm was completely covered by his hair.
“Um, yeah. Sure. Come on in.”
Entranced by the never before seen sight of Duo’s unbraided hair, Heero walked forward slowly, his eyes fixated on the shining mass.
“What are you doing,” he asked absently.
Unnerved by Heero’s intent stare, Duo swallowed. “Uh, just brushing my hair.”
Heero stopped by Duo’s chair and tore his gaze away from the wealth of chestnut strands long enough to meet Duo’s wary, amethyst eyes. Heero just looked at his partner for a moment, Duo’s overwhelming beauty imprinting itself on his mind. His eyes returned to the loose hair.
“Can I help?” he asked softly.
Duo lips parted in surprise. Surprise at Heero’s request and surprise that his first impulse was to grant it. No one other than Sister Helen had ever touched his hair but he yearned for Heero to be the one exception.
“Sure,” he whispered, never taking his eyes off of Heero’s striking features.
Heero met Duo’s gaze once more before moving behind the seated boy. He reached down and gently pried the brush from Duo’s grasp. Then he took the brush and ran it through the strands on Duo’s left side. Duo closed his eyes, captivated by the feeling of the man he’d come to love carefully brushing his hair.
Heero marveled at the silky feel of the mass in his hands but he refused to be diverted from his task. Rather than asking Duo to see the elusive tattoo, Heero decided to find it for himself. After brushing the hair away from Duo’s left side, he examined the revealed skin. ‘Nothing there,’ he thought, struggling to keep his mind away from the fact that Duo sat in front of him in nothing but a towel.
Heero lifted Duo’s hair away from his back as he continued to brush. However, nothing was revealed on Duo’s back or neck. Undiscouraged, Heero moved on to Duo’s right side.
Duo strained to keep from melting into a puddle as Heero continued his gentle ministrations. Duo wasn’t usually this careful when brushing his own hair and he was finding the cautious attention very soothing, not to mention very arousing. The occasional feel of Heero’s strong hands against his scalp was having a definite affect on him. In fact, Duo was so captivated by Heero’s attentions that he completely failed to realize that Heero was uncovering his right arm.
Heero paused as he finally found what he’d been seeking. A multitude of intense and unfamiliar emotions ran through him as he took in the careful detailing of the design and the obvious intent behind it. After a moment, the feelings settled down into one definite sentiment. Praying that he wasn’t misreading the tattoo’s meaning, Heero decided to take a chance.
The comfortable calm engendered in Duo by the brushing was shattered when he felt something soft press against his arm. Turning his head slowly, afraid that what he desperately hoped would not be. But it was. Heero’s lips were pressed against his tattoo. Duo gasped, unable to speak a word. Nearly overcome by the sight, he turned his gaze away and regarded his shocked features in the mirror.
Heero looked up at Duo’s image in the mirror. He’d been half afraid that Duo would deck him or at the least push him away. But the boy’s flushed cheeks, dilated pupils, and elevated breathing was a much more desired reaction.
“Duo,” Heero rumbled in a deep voice, “why did you get this tattoo?”
Unable to answer, Duo shook his head. A moment later, a helpless moan issued from him when Heero placed his lips against the back of his neck. Duo closed his eyes and leaned his head forward, offering Heero better access.
“Tell me, Duo.” Heero placed his lips by Duo’s ear. “What does it mean?” he whispered.
Duo whimpered, incapable of any meaningful response. Heero put his hands on Duo’s bared shoulders, caressing them lightly. He placed a kiss on the side of Duo’s neck and continued to whisper in the now trembling boy’s other ear.
“Why, Duo? Why did you get it?”
“Because,” Duo moaned, caught up in the sensations Heero was causing within him.
“Because what?” Heero continued, relentlessly.
Duo sighed and surrendered, bearing his soul. “Because I wanted to imprint you on my body the way you’re imprinted on my heart.”
Heero’s chest tightened at the declaration. He took Duo’s chin in his hand and turned the boy’s face towards him.
“Duo, look at me.”
No longer able to deny Heero anything, Duo opened his eyes, immediately falling into a dark-blue gaze. Breathlessly, he waited for Heero to speak.
Heero searched Duo’s face for a moment before returning to the boy’s wide, nervous eyes. Then his lips quirked up in a tender smile.
“Duo, mo aishiteru.”
Duo inhaled on a shudder, hardly able to comprehend the words that Heero had spoken. Words that, up till now, Duo had only heard in his dreams. But indeed they were real. Duo watched with wonder as Heero moved towards him until he was close enough to claim Duo’s trembling lips.
(1) Actually, you have to wear a bandage over a fresh tattoo for about an hour. However, I didn’t feel like making Quatre wait.
(2) It doesn’t really hurt after the tattooing itself is finished. For all those who are considering getting a tattoo, don’t let me scare you! ^_~