Of all the countless numbers of scenario's that Heero had played out in his mind the night before, attempting to figure out exactly what could be going on in Duo's head, this is the one that never, not an even an inkling of, ever dared cross his mind.
"This isn't just something that came up since the incident, Heero." Duo continued softly "I thought about it often while you were away on your mission. And I wanted to talk about it as soon as you got home, but things just.......kinda took off, but none of that has really changed anything."
"I don't understand, Duo. What happened while I was gone ?" Heero asked, the hurt and confused look on Heero's face prompting Duo to become uneasy and rise from his chair, not allowing Heero to make eye contact with him.
Biting hard on his lower lip, Duo continued, his gaze now falling at the large meadow outside their bedroom window. "I'm not sure, Heero, I guess I changed. I just know that….I don't love you anymore…….I'm sorry……I know that hurts you, Heero….. I can't go on with our relationship. It's over Heero."
The large black suitcase lay open on the bed. Heero crossed the room, folding each of his belongings slowly before placing them gently onto the ever-growing pile within the roomy space. Returning from the bathroom with only a handful of items, Heero placed them carefully into the suitcase and taking one last look into his empty closet, closed the door and sat on the bed.
He wasn't angry. He wasn't upset. He wasn't sad. He wasn't anything. He was numb, still in shock from Duo's casual dismissal of their life together just minutes ago. He didn't know why he hadn't pushed Duo for more answers to his seemingly endless string of unanswered questions. 'I'm Duo Maxwell. I may run and hide, but I never lie. That's me in a nutshell.' ……….Duo's words just keep repeating in his head 'I don't love you anymore' 'I can't go on with our relationship' 'It's over, Heero'
Rising from the bed and closing the suitcase, Heero took one last look around the room and closed the door behind him.........
Quatre hadn't asked any question regarding Heero's inquiry into preparation of another room further down the hallway. It was painfully obvious to everyone and Quatre simply ordered his servants to ready the room next to his and Trowa's.
Entering the room and placing his suitcase on the floor beside the closet, Heero took short inventory of his new life, one small tear unknowingly running down his cheek.
Heero and Duo were both absent from lunch, Quatre filling Trowa and Wufei in on what little details he had.
"No, Heero didn't look upset." he told the other two.
"Has anyone seen Duo since it happened ?" Trowa asked the others.
Shaking their heads in dissent, Wufei offered "I know we are all a little upset about this sudden turn of events, but I suggest that we try to stay out of this."
Trowa nodded in agreement.
Quatre opened his mouth widely, in obvious protest of Wufei's suggestion, but held his tongue despite his objection.
Duo sat, legs dangling from the swing adjacent to the gazebo, some 500 feet from anyone's casual gaze. He felt a strange peace gather within himself, the inevitable burden having now been lifted from his shoulders. He likened it to the calm after the storm. The analogy pleased him, causing him to smile. He sat there quietly for sometime, still unwilling to face the others and their eminent barrage of inquiries. He was surprised that Heero took it so well. Expecting at least some resistance, Duo frowned slightly as he recalled Heero's emotionless acceptance of Duo's hurting words. It crossed Duo's mind that Heero too wanted out of the relationship, but was unable to bring himself to that juncture just yet, Duo's words perhaps almost coming as a relief to Heero.
Shrugging his shoulders slightly, Duo got up and headed for the house.
Returning to his now solemn room, Duo entered, closing the door softly behind him. The room didn't feel any different. Heero, unlike Duo, had never left many of personal belongings scattered around the room. Smiling as his eyes took in the almost barely noticeable differences, Duo's eyes fell upon the small black desk in the corner of the room. There, sitting beneath the frosted glass gooseneck lamp, lay Heero's still glowing laptop. Frowning, Duo crossed the room and standing above the desk, reached forward to turn off the power and closed the lid, then running his fingers gently over the smooth gray metal surface, closed his eyes.
Moments later, he carried the small metal rectangle out into the hallway, gently laying it down on the floor outside of Heero's bedroom door.
"School will be an adequate distraction" Heero thought. Summer vacation, while not exactly summer weather this far north, was a welcome relief, and Heero was more than ready to throw himself back into his studies. Deciding that totally engrossing himself in school was a good idea, Heero thought now would be an appropriate time to set up his September schedule.
Crossing the room to the small black desk in the corner, Heero stopped some 3 feet from the desk, noticing his laptop was absent. Duo's words rang out in his head. How many times had he tried to drag Heero away from that computer ! "I swear, Heero, you love that computer more than you love me !!" Duo would kid him. 'See Duo, I do love you more than I love my computer.'
It wasn't long before Heero exited his room in search of satisfying his stomach's need. There outside his door was his laptop. Heero smiled at the familiar rectangle and carrying it inside, set it up on the desk in the corner. Deciding his hunger could wait a bit longer, Heero logged onto the school's site and began making a list of the possible courses. Satisfied that his list of options included a wide range of interests, Heero hacked his way into the school's computer.
Knowing he would be unable to tolerate the torture of sitting through an entire class with his ex-lover, Heero pulled up Duo's schedule and proceeded to cross those courses off his list of possibilities. Pleased with his remaining options, Heero entered his course requests for the upcoming semester. 'There' he thought 'Now I just have to see him during lunch.' And with the knowledge that the school's cafeteria was large enough to get lost in, Heero shut down his computer and headed for the kitchen.
Avoiding Duo would be easy once school started, his studies would keep him sufficiently busy, but the next two weeks here in the house would be a challenge and Heero hadn't decided how he was going to proceed. Since Duo was most likely trying to work out the details of *his* avoidance, Heero decided to give it no more thought.
Duo's voice rang throughout the house as Heero made his way down the stairs and into the kitchen. Heero paused slightly and taking a deep breath entered the kitchen.
All eyes were on him, as stood in the doorway.
"You're just in time for dinner, Heero." Quatre told him.
Grabbing a slice of mushroom and olive pizza, Heero sat in the seat located the furthest from Duo and started eating.
There was an awkward silence in the room now, as Duo had stopped talking.
"Mmmmm......Good pizza." Heero mused, attempting to get the conversation started again.
"Yeah it is." agreed Wufei, "It's from that new place in town."
"Anyone decide on which classes they are going to take in September ?" Trowa asked
Heero nodded "Just finished choosing them a few minutes ago."
Duo added "I did mine last week. It's gonna be a good year !" smiling.
Despite the flow of forced conversation, there was a thick tension in the room that everyone was very uncomfortable with. Heero thought it best to bring everything out into the open and let the three pilots in on things.
"Uhmmmmm......listen..." he started slowly, all eyes now glancing at his very serious face, Heero continued "I guess it's no secret that Duo and I are no longer......involved."
Duo's eyes fell to stare at the empty plate before him.
Heero went on "I'd very much like.......and I think Duo would like….everything to just get back to normal." Heero glanced over to Duo, who nodded slowly.
"It's not the end of the world. We functioned fine as a group before our involvement. I'm okay with this....really .....I am." his words obviously attempting to convince himself more than anyone else.
Trowa, Quatre and Wufei smiled at his words and Heero returned to eating his pizza.
While Heero's words did little to break the tension, everyone felt slightly relieved at the subject being brought out into the open.
Dinner continued in silence.
Heero politely excused himself several minutes later and bidding goodnight to everyone, made his was back up to his room.
He was tired, and while it was only 9:00, Heero removed his clothes and sank onto the bed, lifting his body up slightly, covering himself with the mound of soft blankets. He lie there for several minutes, his eyes staring at the light fixture clinging tightly to the ceiling above him. The bed was so still and the room was unnaturally quiet. And while he didn't want to, Heero knew he would gradually become accustomed to these new sensations.
The next two weeks hurried by, everyone caught up in getting ready for school. Lots of hours were spent at the mall, despite the fact that uniforms made up the bulk of their school wardrobe.
The five had decided to go shopping together that afternoon, as it was something they normally enjoyed doing....and today was no different, the five boys laughing at each other's very predictable taste in clothing.
"Ohhh.........Heero....Don't you *ever* get sick of spandex ?!?!?!" Quatre groaned, his hand covering his giggle. Heero ignored him for the most part, then added "About as sick as you get of wearing those purple ruffled shirts, Quatre !" Heero responded smiling, tossing a pair of the small black shorts in Quatre's direction.
Duo wandered off slightly ahead of the group, eyeing the elaborate window dressings. Catching up to him several minutes later, the four found him standing in front of a hair salon. Duo announced "I think it's about time I got a decent haircut, don't you guys ?"
Heero stopped dead in his tracks, his face was frozen.
Trowa grabbed Duo's wrist as his hand reached forward to open the heavy wooden door. "Duo ?" he questioned, his voice more than a little concerned, his hand still tightly gripping Duo's wrist "Your........braid, Duo ?" he managed to stutter.
Duo smiled at Trowa's concern "Yeah, Trowa" he replied, almost laughing at the reaction his announcement was receiving. "My braid.......it's a lot more trouble than it's worth, and besides..." he continued "I spend way too much money on shampoo." and winking, he stepped through the door.
Heero stumbled backwards slightly, Wufei grabbing his arm and seating him on a nearby bench.
Heero was speechless as he stared, mouth open, at the wooden door in front of him. Quatre and Trowa were now seated on either side of him, Trowa's arm fell lightly over his shoulder.
"Heero...." Quatre started, unable to think of anything that could possibly comfort his friend, eventually letting his hand come to rest on Heero's knee, noting the lack of color in Heero's face.
Sitting that way in silence for several minutes, Heero finally stood, his voice low and slightly trembling "I'll meet you guys back at the house." and turned to take one last glance through the large window of the salon.
Standing before the large glass window, his outstretched fingers resting on the cool pane, Heero took one last glance at Duo's beautiful hair, now dripping wet, falling magnificently down his lanky frame, as he made his way to the chair across the room. Heero closed his eyes and silently prayed to every deity whose existence he had ever doubted. Almost afraid to watch, Heero reluctantly open his eyes, unable to draw himself from the horror he was about to witness. Heero cringed as he watched the cold steel blades make their way through the thick mass of chestnut silk, the long strands tumbling effortlessly to the tile floor below.
Heero felt nauseous, his mouth was dry, his insides were turning and he stumbled slightly then made his way as fast as he could to the mall's exit. Once outside, his shaking form quickly finding refuge in the wall behind him, his breathing labored. Bringing his hand up to cover his mouth, Heero's body slowly slid down the cool brick of the façade before finally collapsing on the sidewalk.