disclaimer: yes, they do own me

this is a sequel to 'a change in the weather'... and the last of an unintentional trilogy
pairing: 2X1 for the most part. the 1X2 already snuck in...
rating: NC-17
warnings: yaoi, au, homophobes, heero pov, angst, language, lemon and the end
spoilers: not a one

note: reading the two fics that came before this one might make the experience a better one...

thanks: massive amounts of gratitude are due granate for her love, support and beta. you rock!!

torrid zone
by jana
chapter 11

I woke on Saturday morning feeling anxious and had no difficulty discerning why.

The party itself would have been cause enough for anxiety, but there was also what Duo was intending to do. While I could hopefully manage to sneak away from the party from time to time, it would not be possible for me to avoid what Duo was planning.

Even though Duo's announcement last night had taken me by surprise, I didn't ask him why he wanted to do it. He had hinted at it several times in past months. He knew that I had only minor reservations about my parents finding out. He was the one who had decided against outing us last Christmas. I failed to see what was different about him going though with it today.

Maybe he thought the timing was good... or as good as it was ever going to be. I hadn't said anything to discourage him, but I had thought about it once I had gotten into bed last night and decided it was something I wanted to talk about further.

I was sure that he had already debated the pros and cons; probably several times over. I had to agree that telling his parents outright, and therefore mine, was a much better option than having them find out accidentally. We were usually cautious when we were out in public, but there was always the chance someone could see us do something that might have implied we were more than the friends we pretended to be. The longer we were together, the more likelihood there was of that happening.

I took my time showering and getting dressed, and it was just past 9 when I headed downstairs. There was no one in the kitchen, no dishes in the sink and the coffee pot was empty.

I decided to brew only half a pot, glancing out the window while I filled the stainless carafe with tap water. The rear yard was a flutter of activity; amidst it, I was able to pick out both of my parents and Duo as well. The first of the huge white tents was already set up and there were several workers staking out the area where the second tent would be placed; still others carrying poles from the truck and laying them on the ground at the site.

Duo was out by the pool, leaning against the front door of the guest house, watching as table and chairs were being set up on the lawn surrounding the pool. I had never asked how many guests were coming, but judging by the number of chairs that were still stacked and in the driveway, I had to guess it was near 60. My parents had always been very social and I could recall them hosting at least a dozen parties of this magnitude since we had moved here.

It made me wonder how it was possible for me to have turned out the way I had.

. . . . . . .

Once I had finished my coffee, I ventured outside to see if there was anything I could do to help. Everything seemed to be under control and although I had offered, I was pleased that neither of my parents had any tasks for me at that particular moment. My mother did remind me that they had given Cynthia the weekend off, though, and that she might need my help later on. I assured her that I would be available all day and headed back toward the pool to see if Duo could use a hand with anything.

He was still outside by the time I made my way back there, verbally assisting in the placement of the tables.

"Morning," I said as I approached him.

He looked me up and down, smiling when his eyes met mine. "Skipping your morning swim?"

The guests weren't due to arrive until noon, so I technically did have time, but had opted to dispense with my routine this morning. Besides, I had taken an unexpected swim last night.

"I did a few extra laps last night."

He laughed and looked toward the guest house. "You wanna help me inside? I need to straighten up the kitchen a bit and clean the bathroom."

The guesthouse would be well used today and I imagined it wasn't anywhere near ready for public scrutiny. Not that Duo was overly messy, but he was a 22 year old male; a sexually active and slightly kinky one at that. There were numerous things I could think of that needed to be kept well concealed. His sketchbook, for one.

"Sure," I said, following him inside.

"You mind starting in the kitchen?" he asked, "There are some dishes in the sink that need to be washed and put away."

I told him I didn't mind and went into the kitchen, leaving him to work on the bedroom.

There were only a few glasses and cups and what I supposed was his bowl from breakfast. It took me about 10 minutes to clear the sink and I spent another couple of minutes washing the countertop and table down. I tackled the refrigerator next, imagining there were a few things that I would probably need to discard and rearrange what was left to make room for soda and beer. I tossed out anything I deemed questionable without asking Duo for permission and replaced the bag in his trashcan with a new one, tying up the old one and leaving at the door.

Duo entered the kitchen just as I completed the last of what I determined needed to be done.

"Look okay?"

"Yeah, looks great. I'm done in the bedroom. Wanna tackle the bathroom together?"

I nodded and followed him into the tiny room, noting that like the kitchen, it was relatively clean. I left Duo to do the honors of cleaning the toilet and the shower, while I focused on the sink and replaced the towels on the rack with fresh ones.

"Quick vacuum and I think we're all set in here," he said, surveying the room from just outside the doorway.

"Still planning to go through with it?" I asked, knowing that he would know what I was referring to.

He laughed. "Yeah," he said, "I was a little surprised you didn't say much about it last night."

"I wanted some time to think about it," I admitted.


"And I'm okay with it for the most part."

"But you rather I didn't."

It wasn't an entirely inaccurate statement; there was some validity to it. I didn't feel that strongly about it one way or the other. Apparently Duo did.

"It's your choice," I finally told him, knowing that while it was true, it was going to have quite an impact on me as well, not to mention our parents. I had to assume that Duo had thought that through too.

"I figured they could talk, you know? Our folks," He shrugged then, "Maybe my Dad won't be such an ass in front of your Dad. Give him some time to get used to it."

It did seem to make some kind of sense. It was probably a good idea to get it all out in the open now instead of waiting. Maybe it would be better for Duo to talk to his Dad here, on neutral ground, such as it was.

"Sounds like a plan," I said, deciding to keep my apprehensions to myself; it wasn't as if he probably didn't have as many, or more of his own.

Perhaps later, when it was all over, Duo and I would get drunk and spend the rest of the night celebrating.

. . . . . . .

Duo hadn't given me any indication of exactly when he planned to drop the bomb, and the anticipation was making me uneasy.

By five o'clock the party was in full swing and despite the fact that Duo was technically a guest, he spent a lot of time running around and playing self-appointed host. He sought me out throughout the day, requesting my assistance several times for pool related activities. I never mentioned that I felt awkward coaching some of the younger children on how to effectively serve a ball in the water, but it was Duo and I supposed it wasn't necessary.

"Tell me again why we're doing this."

"Playing volleyball?" he questioned me with a grin.


"You still thinking about it?"

I had to admit that there were moments during the day when I was preoccupied and didn't think about it. Duo was currently standing next to me as we watched the kids play, and there was no one else in the immediate area.

"Yes," I acknowledged, "I am."

"If you really don't want me to Heero, I won't," he said, "but this is as perfect a time as there's ever gonna be. We're all here and everyone is in a good mood. It's not like I'm going to make a scene or anything."

I nodded. It hadn't entered my mind that he would. I really did want it all out in the open. I had been reluctant to admit that to myself and had certainly not mentioned it to Duo. It was only natural that I was feeling more apprehension as the time drew closer.

"I'll wait until almost everyone is gone if that makes you feel any better," he offered, smiling at me. "K?"

I nodded again, sighing as he ran off to retrieve the wayward ball as it bounced across the patio and into the bushes.

. . . . . . .

It was nearly 11 o'clock before there was a noticeable decrease in the number of guests.

The Maxwells were still there, as were a dozen or so families from the neighborhood. My parents seemed fully relaxed as they sat around the table and chatted. I was feeling the effects of the long and active day and I imagined that they had to be as well.

The DJ was still playing music, though the songs were noticeably slower and it was being played at a much lower volume than it had been earlier.

Duo approached me with a plate full of food and stood beside me while he finished the last of it. Several of the neighborhood kids were still in the water with their parents watching from one of the poolside tables.

"I guess it's now or never," Duo said, tossing his empty plate in a nearby trash can and brushing his hands off on his shorts.

I stopped myself from admitting to him that at the moment, never was fine with me.

"You want me to come with you?" I had not planned to make the suggestion, but it somehow felt wrong leaving him to do it on his own.

He appeared to be surprised by my offer, but shook his head no without even considering it. "I got it covered, Heero."

I nodded, not meaning to imply he couldn't handle it on his own and watched from the distance as he walked toward the table his parents were sitting at.

Mrs. Maxwell was the first to notice Duo's approach and smiled as he pulled out the chair next to her and sat. His father turned toward the pair within seconds, and I could see they were clearly engaged in conversation. I doubted that Duo planned to just blurt out what he'd gone over there with the intention to say and imagined they were talking about the party or school or any number of things that were not 'I'm gay and Heero Yuy is my boyfriend'. It would probably be obvious when he did.

I walked around the yard, collecting trash and straightening up chairs, but staying within viewing range of Duo and his parents. It felt almost as if my heart was in danger of leaping out of my chest and I found myself taking deep breaths to keep the rising tension under control.

I didn't know what I expected to happen when Duo actually told them, but when I turned to look at them again, both Duo and Mr. Maxwell were on their feet. Mrs. Maxwell was looking up at Duo and I knew that he'd done it. I looked away, keeping up the charade of cleaning the yard, trying to be discreet as I glanced over in their direction every few seconds.

Taking a deep breath through my nose and exhaling rather loudly, I leaned against the nearest tree and closed my eyes. I could physically feel a rather immediate sense of relief pass through me, but the knot that had formed in my stomach was an insistent reminder that this was far from over.

Neither Duo nor his father looked particularly pleased, but I hadn't expected them to. The next time I glanced over at them, Mr. Maxwell was looking in my direction and I quickly diverted my eyes and moved off to another area of the yard.

It wasn't until I noticed Duo's mother was standing as well that I ventured a little closer, slightly disturbed that I could hear their voices as I approached. I ignored the fact that Duo had made it clear earlier that he didn't want me there and walked toward the three of them, stopping when I was shoulder to shoulder with Duo.

His father gave me only a cursory glance before turning back to Duo, lashing out into a series of personal attacks, some of which made me cringe. Duo was unusually docile and very much unlike how I had pictured him to be in this scenario. He remained silent as his father's voice rose and I reached down for Duo's hand, squeezing it tightly after I'd managed to entwine our fingers.

I hadn't planned on saying anything, but listening to Mr. Maxwell was making me furious and unlike Duo, I could not bring myself to hold back.

"Mr. Maxwell..."

He turned his gaze to me then, visibly angering Duo. "I said I would handle it, Heero!" Duo cut me off sharply, giving me a warning glare.

I looked him in the eye as I let go of his hand and started walking toward the house, ignoring him as he called out my name, but turning toward them as I neared the back door of the house. Mr. Maxwell had a hold of Duo by his wrist and neither of them was looking in my direction.

. . . . . . .

I went directly upstairs and into my room, closing and locking the door behind me. My hands were visibly trembling and I was as angry as I could ever recall being. There was no way I could have known what to expect, but I had to assume that Duo did.

Why hadn't he warned me?

Saying that his dad was an ass was a gross understatement. I couldn't help but wonder if Duo had any idea of how much hatred his father harbored toward homosexuals. He certainly didn't seem reluctant to share his views with us tonight. I had not been prepared for his personal attacks on Duo either, though I suspected Duo was all too equipped to handle those.

I sat down on my bed, glancing out the window and into the yard. Duo and his father were still standing in the same place as they were when I'd left. I could not tell from my vantage point who, if anyone was speaking, but I imagined they were still talking. Rather Mr. Maxwell was talking and Duo was listening.

I was not angry at Duo for his reaction to my attempt to intervene. He had said he would handle it alone and I had not only gone over to where I was clearly not wanted, but I had been planning to set his father straight on a few things as well.

It would all blow over, I convinced myself. His parents would be leaving shortly and Duo and I would be left to deal with my parents and the aftermath. I was anxious to talk with him and looked out my window again, noting that Duo and his mother were no longer at the table, but that my father had joined Mr. Maxwell and the two appeared to be talking. I felt slightly ill at the realization of what was transpiring and reached for my cell phone to call Duo.

He answered on the second ring. "Duo?"

"I have to call you back," he said upon answering and quickly disconnected.

I closed my phone and sat it back on my bedside table. There was a hint of something in his tone of voice that I could not identify. He didn't seem angry, though he had been very curt. Anger would have been understandable, though I doubt it would have been directed at me. I wondered if his mother was with him and if that was why he couldn't talk. I made the assumption that he had gone back into the guest house. I didn't see him anywhere in the yard and it seemed the most logical place to retreat.

Only several minutes had passed before Duo called back and I reached for the phone, answering it before it the final note of the first ring tone finished playing.


"Can't really talk," he said and I looked out the window again, seeing the door of the guesthouse open. "I'll talk to you in a couple of days."

Talk to me in a couple of days? What the hell was he talking about?

I watched as someone exited the guest house with a suitcase in hand. It took me only seconds to realize that it was Duo's mother.

"Duo... what the hell is going on?"

"Looks like you're gonna have to find yourself another pool boy. I'm heading home to Westchester."

"You're leaving?" I asked, "Why?"

"Something about you being a bad influence on me," he chuckled, "Didn't I tell you he was an ass?"

That he had. Several times. I still didn't quite understand what was happening, but I ventured a guess. "He's making you leave?"

"'fraid so. I'm driving back with my mom."

Why did he sound so calm? So resigned...

"I gotta go, baby," he whispered, "I'll call you when things settle down."

I closed my phone once he had disconnected, staring down at it clenched in my fist and then back out the window. Duo was exiting the guesthouse and walking toward the driveway with a bag in each hand. The cars were all parked in front of the house - I had moved Duo's car out of the driveway and onto the street myself last night and parked it behind my own.

I started pacing as my thoughts began to race.

This was not what was supposed to happen. I was certain that Duo hadn't been expecting it either. I couldn't imagine that he would have gone through with it had he thought this was a possible outcome. I had caught only part of their conversation, though it had been more than enough; more than what I had wanted to hear. What *had* Duo been expecting to happen when he told them? Did he have any idea how revolting his father found the concept of homosexuality? If he didn't, he surely did now. I imagined too, that Mr. Maxwell had shared at least some of his opinions with my father.

I reached over and closed my blinds to block out the light coming from the rear yard and lay down on my bed.

This was very much unlike how I had envisioned tonight would end. It didn't make me feel any better knowing that Duo was probably thinking the same thing. I was feeling a mild wave of guilt for not attempting to dissuade him. I still didn't think that anything I had to say would have changed his mind, but he had come right out and said that he wouldn't tell them if I didn't want him to. At the very least, I should have reminded him that waiting until I was ready to move out was a viable option. He had been so determined to do it tonight - so headstrong.

I rolled over to lie on my side and closed my eyes. I was exhausted, both mentally and physically in a way that I rarely was. Had my body not given into the temptation to sleep, I might have lain awake for hours thinking about it.

. . . . . . .

When I woke on Sunday morning, I was surprised to find it nearly 10am. My internal clock had always been fairly consistent and I rarely slept late, not even after a night out.

I was relieved that I had missed breakfast, though I wasn't sure if my parents would keep any kind of morning schedule without Cynthia here. There was a chance, albeit an outside one, that they were sleeping in as well, given the unusually long hours they'd kept the day before.

For obvious reasons, I was not looking forward this morning. I had seen my dad speaking with Duo's father last night, assuring me that everything was out in the open. My parents had probably talked to each other last night and I hoped there would little they needed to speak with me about aside from my confirmation.

I wondered how Duo was faring on his end.

I imagined there was a lot of tension between Duo and his mother on the ride back to Westchester. I wondered if she felt the same way his father did and if they talked much during the ride. I hadn't gotten any sense of how she reacted to the news last night. I imagined that Duo was upset as well as being angry. I hoped for his sake that his mother was at least a little sympathetic. I hated to think of him having to deal with the same treatment he'd gotten from his father during the nearly two hour ride home.

Returning to my room after I showered and dressed, I found something to occupy myself with for the next hour or so, while I worked on my resolve. I had gone over several scenarios in my head and was nearly ready for the confrontation when I heard my mother call my name from out in the hallway.

I turned toward the door and called back, inviting her in, but was met with a quiet request for me to join her and my father in the living room.

I told her I would be right there and took a deep breath, exhaling softly before I stood and opened my bedroom door to venture downstairs.

. . . . . . .

The discussion, if you could call it that, was short.

They didn't ask me to confirm or deny whatever it was they heard last night, so I had to assume they were taking whatever Mr. Maxwell had told my father as fact.

I answered a question or two concerning how long Duo and I had been involved, though not volunteering anything else. I didn't think they were particularly concerned with the details of what was happening between us, rather that they were uncomfortable with the situation and didn't know quite how to deal with it.

My mother seemed to have difficulty looking me in the eye, only doing so when she questioned me directly about whether or not this was a phase; and if I had been merely experimenting with my sexuality. It was not something I had expected her to ask, but I assured her that it was nothing of the sort, stopping just short of using the 'g word'.

I glanced over at my father, who was standing just inside the room. He had barely moved since I'd entered the room, but I was easily able to discern his disappointment. I had seen the look before, though I had never been the one responsible for putting it there.

. . . . . . .

Once it was clear the conversation was over, I headed back upstairs and into my bedroom.

I closed and locked the door behind me before sitting down at my desk. I had put my swimsuit on earlier, but found the idea of going out to the pool for my morning swim less than appealing.

I reached forward to turn my computer on and watched the monitor as it went through the booting sequence.

My parents' reactions were pretty much what I had expected. They didn't look particularly surprised by the news, but I imagined they had more than enough time to accept it, given they had known since the night before.

I was curious what Mr. Maxwell had told my father and I felt a sudden tinge of guilt over how all of this would impact their friendship.

The cursor blinked on the screen, and I moved forward in my chair to type in my password.

I couldn't help but wonder if what Duo said was true - that his Dad thought I was a bad influence on him. I smiled at the notion and went on to speculate whether or not that particular piece of information had been passed on to my father. While Duo had been the one to initiate things between us, I had encouraged him every step along the way.

What I had not expected, was how I was feeling having gotten everything out in the open. I imagined that things would have gone differently if Duo were still here. Maybe not the talk with my parents, but certainly the aftermath. It should have felt like a victory of some sort. It felt like anything but.

on to chapter 12

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