I see a spark of light shining
I hear a young minstrel sing
Beautiful roaring scream
Of joy and sorrow, so extreme
The first thing Duo noticed when he woke was that he hurt. Everywhere. Not one single part of him, but his whole body. Some parts hurt more than others, of course. His left shoulder was throbbing quite persistently--he suspected it was that which had woken him up--and his right hand ached with a cold, unforgiving stiffness. He had a headache he wouldn’t wish on his worst enemy. Every joint seemed affected in some way. Whatever the morphine had done to quell the pain of his injuries, the effects had long, long since worn off.
The second thing he noticed was Heero.
They were lying very close together, Duo on his back and Heero his stomach, and someone, presumably Heero, had pulled the covers over them both in the night. With his head turned against his pillow but the rest of him motionless, it took Duo a moment to notice that they were only touching in one place: Heero’s hand rested lightly on his forearm, fingers just curling into the inside of his elbow.
He hadn’t forgotten anything that had happened the night before. Most memories of the hospital were blurred at best, but the images of every scene played out in the small hotel room were crystal clear. No, Duo hadn’t forgotten.
He suddenly felt very sick. Ignoring his screaming body, he scrambled out of the bed in the direction of the bathroom, closing the door behind him and turning on the fan to drown out any noise. He might not have eaten for nearly two days, but that didn’t stop him from dropping to his knees, hanging his head over the toilet bowl and heaving for a considerable amount of time.
A good five or ten minutes passed before Duo finally climbed to his feet, hitting the handle on the toilet and wondering of the contents were worth flushing. Gastric juices? Hydrochloric acid? Again? Whatever it was, it wasn’t meant to see daylight. He filled a glass with water and swirled the metallic-tasting liquid around in his mouth, then spat it back into the sink. Inventory time. He lifted his eyes to meet his twin’s in the mirror, then swept his eyes over the reflection’s body, mentally going over his own.
Everything about his appearance screamed SEX! in bright, flashing, neon lettering. His hair was still mostly braided, but much of it had come loose in the previous night’s activities, and it floated in a tangled halo around his head. His lips were swollen and almost bruised, and if he hadn’t spent the last several minutes throwing up and washing his mouth out, he would also have been faced with the dry taste of saliva not his own on his tongue. He licked his lips, and scowled at the mirror. The mirror scowled back.
Distracted, Duo scratched irritably at the flaking white mess on his stomach, more damning evidence. He turned to grab a washcloth from the rack, intent on getting the stuff off, and was rewarded by a dull pain from behind. Ok, so sitting down would be awkward for the time being. Let alone walking normally. He soaked the cloth in cold water and idly bathed his torso, giving his body a final once-over.
There was a glaring red mark on his neck, just above the joint of his collarbone. Duo’s scowl deepened even as he washed the last of the gunk off his stomach and rinsed the cloth again. God, he hated hickeys. Hated them with a passion. Sex was one thing. Bruises, bite marks, even (godammit, was that one on his chest?), but hickeys were so blatantly obvious. He hated them.
It became very obvious very quickly that Duo needed to get the hell out of that hotel room, and he needed to do it now. He splashed a few handfuls of water over his body, his face, under his arms, and over his head to smooth his errant hair. He tiptoed back into the bedroom and rummaged through Trowa’s bag for a moment before pilfering a pair of jeans and a dark blue hooded sweatshirt. They were the only things that looked small enough to fit him--even then they were too big. Jamming his bare feet into his runners, he reached for the doorknob.
He looked over his shoulder at Heero’s still sleeping form. A resigning sigh pushed out of him and he walked back to the bed, eyeing the boy in it. Despite his mood, despite the memory of the previous night--or perhaps because of it?--he couldn’t help but stare.
Duo’s gaze was drawn first to the other boy’s face, namely his closed eyes. The dark lashes stood out sharply against his cheek, the distorted slash of his eyebrows set in a slight frown, even in sleep. It was a comfort to see that Heero’s lips were as puffy as his own, and he had a definite bite mark on the side of his neck. Duo couldn’t help the lecherous smirk that twisted his mouth. Old habits die hard.
He wouldn’t have thought such a complexion was possible. Heero’s skin was gold, oaken, flawless over hard muscles and contrasting breathtakingly with his dark, tousled hair. Duo’s eyes swept down the perfect shoulders, the powerful arms he had seen bend steel bars, wincing at the tiny white mark on his bicep. It was a souvenir of their first meeting, when Duo had shot him in Relena’s defence. That had long been at the top of his list of the stupidest things he’d ever done--but after last night, it would have to settle for second place.
Christ, Maxwell, he grumbled inwardly. How do you get into these situations?
Heero shifted in his slumber, sighing into the pillow and demonstrating just how rippled his back could be. The sheet slipped lower over his hips, giving just the tiniest peek of the beautiful body they hid.
Something tugged painfully in Duo’s chest. He didn’t deserve that sculpture-perfect work of art. Didn’t deserve the privilege of sleeping beside him, didn’t even deserve to look at him. He pulled the covers deftly back over Heero’s body, even going so far as to tuck them in at the other boy’s sides. He took a step backwards, then another, until his back hit the door into the hallway.
The door closed behind him with a snick behind him. He walked a few cautious feet, refamiliarizing himself with that particular brand of pain, before picking up his pace hurrying out of the hotel.
Heero’s eyes snapped open. They darted around the room warily, trying to remind him of where he was, and whether or not he was in danger. What had awoken him?
The remembrance of the previous night came back to him in a rush, and he bolted upright, throwing the covers back, looking for Duo. But the other boy was nowhere to be seen, in the bed or anywhere else in the room for that mater. The sweats he had been wearing remained where they had fallen beside the bed. Beyond that, the only hint that he had been there at all was the scent that clung to the sheets--partly cheap hotel shampoo, partly a heady musk, and partly just Duo, a scent all its own.
A noise caught his attention, and he turned to see Trowa closing the door as he stepped inside. The taller boy eyed him inquisitively as he toed off his shoes.
"How did Duo manage to get past you without waking you up?"
Heero’s mouth opened and closed several times. "Expert of stealth," he finally answered. "He can get past anyone if he tries hard enough."
"He didn’t look like he was trying to do much more than just get out," Trowa remarked as he made his way to the other bed--which was pristine and unused, seeming to mock Heero with its neatness--and lay on it with a tired sigh.
"You saw him?" Heero demanded. "Where? When?"
"Just now," came the muffled response, the sound slightly impaired by Trowa’s hands as the worked to massage away a headache or some such. "He said he was going out for a coffee."
It took almost all of Heero’s Perfect Soldier instincts to keep him from launching out of bed right there. Instead, he leaned over the edge, looting around on the floor for his jeans, pulling the boxers out of the legs and surreptitiously onto his own body. That done, he allowed himself enough leeway to peel back the covers and get to his feet.
Trowa sat up and yawned, not bothering to cover his mouth. "There’s a task force out to sweep the old mall and the area around it later today," he said, misinterpreting to questioning look on his friend’s face. "They had me there nearly all night, but I didn’t know anything they could use--they should have asked you, or Duo even." The taller boy broke off his uncharacteristically long sentence and looked him over. "Though it looks like you found something to do to occupy your time."
Heero felt his usual scowl creeping into his face. He didn’t need a mirror to know he looked like shit. His hair was even messier than usual, his stomach itched, and his whole mouth just felt weird. He looked away and pulled his jeans and t-shirt back on, not bothering to try and summon enough patience for a shower. If he smelled, he didn’t care. "Where did he go?" he demanded.
Trowa shrugged, an awkward motion as he was on his back with his hands behind his head. "Check the coffee shops around the hotel. Not many are open this early, so if you find one that is, that’s where he’ll be."
A curt nod and a pause to find his runners, and Heero was out the door.
Trowa didn’t even look up.
He was right--there were almost no cafés open at this hour, not to mention there weren’t many cafés to begin with. God, this colony was a piece of junk and no mistake. How could Duo live here? Anyone would go stir-crazy before a few months could pass. But then, he reasoned, Duo had grown up here, and had survived much worse.
He was getting desperate. None of the few places he had stuck his head into showed any sign of the boy he was looking for, and he was sure he had gone into some of them twice. At last, he came across a tiny, humble little place, nestled in between two buildings. The air around it was flavoured with coffee and chocolate, and despite its haphazard appearance, the little shop seemed to reach for him with open arms. Steeling himself, Heero pushed the door open, starting at the tinkling of chimes beside his ear, and walked inside.
Duo looked up at the sound, and across a small sea of empty tables and chairs, violet eyes met blue.
Duo was very tempted to just get up and try to make it out the back door, but he knew Heero had seen him. Those blue eyes pinned him in his seat, and instead he opted for simply pulling the hood of his sweatshirt over his dishevelled hair and pushing back into his chair. He didn’t bother to acknowledge the other boy’s presence further. Heero would find him.
He watched Heero move the through the small shop, looking around at the cozy sofas, the gas fireplace in the corner, the cheerful artwork that adorned the brick walls. He almost smiled. Heero looked so out of place in that little café--it was just too homey for him. Dr. J may have made him the perfect soldier, but he would always be conspicuous.
Heero finally picked up a small Styrofoam cup at the counter and pushed a lid onto it, and Duo managed to look away as the boy paid the cashier and resumed his trek across the shop. He stared resolutely at the wall as long as he could, only resetting his gaze on Heero when he set the coffee on the table and sat down.
"Morning, Heero." He managed to say it without his voice catching.
Duo stared at his cup of hot chocolate--he hated coffee--and pushed the whipped cream around with a stir stick. He could feel Heero’s eyes on him, burning him, and he hunched into his sweater. For once in his life, he could think of nothing to say.
Heero raised his coffee to his lips and took a cautious sip at the hot liquid. Duo watched his golden hands wrap around the cup, warming against it, slowly releasing as the Japanese boy leaned back in his chair and ran his hands through his wild hair.
"That wasn’t you first time, was it?"
Duo looked up slowly. "First time what?" he asked, stalling.
"Having sex. With another guy."
Trust Heero to cut straight to the point. "No." He paused. "Was it yours?"
There was no hesitation when Heero answered. "Yes."
Duo looked his friend over. He didn’t look any different--even sluggish and confused, Heero managed to look nothing short of gorgeous. Damn him. He wasn’t making Duo’s job any easier.
"Are you sore?"
Gah! Did he see no awkwardness here? "Yes." Duo threw back a mouthful of hot chocolate as though he wished it was alcoholic. It wasn’t, but it was hot enough to burn his throat as it went down. He swore.
Finally, he met Heero’s eyes. The other boy was watching him carefully, like Trowa watched his lions. "Do you regret it? What we did last night?"
This time, Heero took time to consider his answer. When he did speak, he did so with conviction. "No." He searched Duo’s face. "Do you?"
Here it comes. Duo sighed. He knew Heero wouldn’t leave him alone until he got an answer, and this would take more than one or two words. But Shinigami never lies, and running and hiding had failed. He sat up straighter, wincing at the persistent reminder of his actions, and pushed off his hood. He looked the boy across from him straight in the eye.
"I’ve been here for two years," he told his friend. "In case you haven’t noticed, this place is as boring as they come, I’m only here ‘cause it’s cheap. But I can tell you now, there is NOTHING to do here. Nothing. So what do I do? I play with my scrap, and I sleep around."
Heero’s expression didn’t change. He merely kept watching Duo with the same intensity he had since he got there. It was disconcerting.
"There’s a continuum, Heero. See, some people will meet, date, fall in love and then have sex. On the other end, there’s people who meet, have sex and likely never see each other again. Needless to say, these ones usually don’t involve love, or if they do, its disastrous. But listen up, buddy, ‘cause what we did doesn’t even register on the spectrum: Meet, fight, be best friends on and off for two years, alienate for a year and a half, meet out of the blue, experience major crisis, and have sex… It kinda doesn’t fit. It’s just--that’s not the way it usually goes, you know?
"I’ve been having casual sex for two years. With anyone. I had one person I actually dated for a month or so. It fell through. Everyone else I saw once or twice and then never worried about again. The whole ‘no strings attached’ thing, got it? No one got hurt.
"But you’re my friend, Heero. My best friend, when you’re not holding a gun to my head. There will be strings attached here. I’ll see you again, talk to you again. I know you. I like you. I--"
Duo stopped himself before the last of that particular phrase could get out of him mouth. Those troublesome words could wait. He took a few deep breaths, recirculating the blood around his brain, trying to figure out a way to say this without getting himself in over his head.
"I wasn’t thinking. Usually I’ll make sure no one’s getting into anything they don’t understand, including me. I don’t put sex and relationships in the same category, you know? They don’t go together. They are independent of one another. Sex goes in this box, relationships in that box. Don’t let ‘em mix, it’ll just cause problems.
"So do I regret it? Yes, by God I regret it! It is now officially at the top of the list labelled ‘Great Big Fuck-Ups of Duo Maxwell.’ I do not have sex with my friends, and I sure as hell don’t have sex with the one person that I--"
Damn. There he went again. When would he learn to shut up? Duo bit his tongue and closed his eyes. Not soon enough, he hadn’t quite stopped soon enough. The cat was out of the bag. And boy, was it an ugly cat, all teeth, claws and hissing.
Heero, being the Perfect Soldier and up to any challenge, seized the cat by its tail. "Duo." Something in his voice gave him no choice but to open his eyes and meet Heero’s. "Are you in love with me?"
"I don’t lie, Heero," Duo replied, not letting any emotion colour his voice. The result had him sounding disturbingly like the boy he was talking to. "I am. Yes. I‘m in love with you."
There was a long, long moment of complete silence. The small café was almost empty, and it seemed that even the cashier had taken a smoking break.
Heero opened his mouth, but Duo got up, staring out the window beside him, and started talking before he could say anything.
"You’re an idiot if you didn’t know that. I’ve only ever loved you, that’s why I avoid relationships. I know what happens when you love someone and they don’t love you back. I thought if I kept you separate from the sex, I would forget that I wanted you so badly--and it worked for a while."
His voice had dropped to a whisper. "I’ve always loved you. Just, until last night, I’d forgotten what that meant."
Heero released a long breath. He felt like a separate entity watching the scene from a third chair. This was not happening. "And you feel like you’ve wrecked it."
"That’s quite a speech."
The other boy pouted. It would have looked ridiculous on anyone else, but on Duo it stood out in dark irony, a childish expression contradiction his earlier jaded words. "Hey, that could have been a term paper. I got it into a few paragraphs. Be proud."
Heero bit his lip. "Are you finished, then?"
"No." Duo now greatly resembled a toddler, spent after a temper tantrum. Drained. Deflated. No longer caring what happened. He leaned forward in the window frame and pressed his forehead to the glass. "Damn it, Heero, you gave me a hickey. I hate hickeys."
He nearly laughed. Whatever he expected Duo’s last comment to be, it wasn’t that. He decided against it.
Well, now what? Heero felt helpless, and it wasn’t a feeling he liked. He got somewhat dizzily to his feet and joined Duo at the window. It was as though he was dreaming. Very, very hesitantly, he reached out, took the smaller boy by the shoulder, and pulled him into his arms.
The gesture was met by no resistance. Duo folded easily and pliantly into the embrace, even if he made no move to return it. Instead, Heero held him tightly, very unsure of what to do next, but not willing to let go. It should have been awkward. But it wasn’t, really. It was natural.
"Duo, you’re crying." The shaking of the slender body beneath his hands had caught his attention.
"I am not."
Heero tightened his arms as Duo swiped at his eyes with the back of his sleeve. "I thought you didn’t lie."
"I don’t. Fine. I’m crying. Don’t rub it in." Duo turned his face into Heero’s shoulder. "Why are you doing this?"
"What else am I supposed to do?" Heero asked honestly. "Isn’t this what they do in the stories?"
Duo sighed. "Real life isn’t like the stories, Heero."
"I know." He brought a tentative hand to the back of Duo’s head and pulled his half-unbound braid out from underneath the shirt. "But we can pretend sometimes, can’t we?"
That left only one thing left to do. If he was going to do it like the stories, he was going to do it right. He pulled away slightly, put a finger under Duo’s chin and lifted his face. And then he kissed him.
The boy in his arms melted. Maybe it was the lethargy of the early morning, or the creamy sedative of Duo’s hot chocolate. Or maybe this really was how it happened in the stories. But it was sweet. So sweet.
"Come back with me and Trowa," Heero whispered when they drew apart reluctantly. "We can work this out. I’ve missed you, Duo."
Were those leftover tears or fresh ones? "And… can we pretend it’s like the stories, sometimes?"
Oh, Duo. Such an adult. But such a child. Heero touched the other boy’s wet cheek, and pressed his lips to the golden-brown hair. "Why just pretend?"
Duo didn’t answer. He just kissed him again.
There is a love in me raging
A joyous, magical feeling