Another Version of Events
by Karan Seraph
When he saw the young man in his dream he had Duo's face and so he thought of him as Duo, though Heero's subconscious had assigned the features to this man. Heero, or whoever Heero dreamt he was always told Duo that he should stop fighting. "When you fight back they hurt you more. I cannot bear to see them beat you. Stop fighting them. If you love me, do not fight back."
And then the soldiers came and took them both from a cell... and this time Duo did not fight back. He surrendered completely because Heero had asked, because he loved him. And then a soldier held Heero's hair and pulled if he did not watch as another soldier opened his pants and forced his dick into Duo's mouth.
Duo didn't fight. He took one and then another until Heero realized that they both should have fought all of this. The beatings shortened their lives, but their lives were already forfeit. Better to resist. At least if they resisted, their souls were free. They did not have to watch each other submit to... that.
In the dream Heero would realize that his words had trapped Duo and he would fight and scream. "Fight them! I was wrong! I should never have made us both submit. God, fight them!"
And then, even when he had dreamed it before, the bullet passing through Duo's skull and splattering blood and brain on the wall was always sudden and shocking. It seemed to happen in slow motion. Duo's eyes still stared at him as the bullet swept through his brain.
Heero woke from the nightmare into another nightmare. His body was restrained and a hand was sealed over his mouth. He swallowed down the acid in his throat and forced his eyes to focus.
Duo was covering his mouth. After that, Heero noticed the flight looking down at him with concern. They were on their way to Hawaii and he was just dreaming.
Heero relaxed back into his seat, realizing then that his right hand had a death grip on the armrest and his left hand was twisting Duo's arm. He quickly drew his hands toward his chest.
Duo released a slow silent breath and then casually examining his left arm with his opposite hand, he smiled up at the flight attendant. "We're OK. We're all OK here. A Gundam flew this close to a plane he was in during the war..." Duo indicated a very small distance with the fingers of his right hand. "He gets nervous about flying. Think you could get us some water?"
"Of course. Are you all right?" He was speaking to Heero.
"Yeah, fine," Heero said, reflexively disguising his own voice.
The attendant left and Duo turned toward Heero. He was wearing a black baseball cap with a pink triangle on it but Heero could see his mouth clearly. He mouthed words silently. "Nightmares?"
Heero nodded once. He looked at the way Duo cradled his left arm. He frowned. Heero looked up then. "Can you take off that hat?" He whispered.
Duo probably glared, but with the hair and cap casting shadows beyond the dim lighting of the passenger jet's interior Heero only say a glimmer of his eyes. "What's wrong with my hat?"
"I am dreaming about Nazi's."
Duo pulled the hat from his head and sighed at it. "So much for appropriating discriminatory iconography!" He sighed again, dramatically. "It's gotta be a past life, 'cause I don't know who else remembers all that shit."
"I think quite a lot of people are aware of the history of that century. Advent of nuclear weaponry and all," Heero whispered back to Duo. "You did pass History?"
"Yeah... but morbid and freaky as I am, I wasn't the kid writing term papers on lamp shades made of human skin and that shit."
"There is one of those in every school."
"Yeah, mostly they're harmless."
Duo mouthed words again. "You screamed in your sleep."
Heero had guessed as much once he woke fully. He whispered, "How is your arm?"
"No permanent damage. If I was smarter, I'd probably be afraid to get close to you."
Maybe that was a joke, but Duo had thought it, and it hurt. It hurt because it was exactly what Heero feared about himself: that he was too strong or too wrongly socialized to be close to someone without hurting them. He had hurt Duo a lot that morning, and it had not been the first time.
"It was a joke. I thought you were one to defend my intelligence."
Heero said nothing.
The flight attendant returned with a plastic bottle of water and a small cup wit ice in it. Duo thanked her as he took them. He pulled down a tray before him and put the cup there. He offered the bottle to Heero.
Heero opened the bottle and held it so that the bottom rested on his leg. He did not drink. He noticed that Duo maneuvered round the tray and reached to the storage compartment above. He retrieved a blanket and then sat down again.
Duo scooted across the pair of seats to be closer to Heero and he lay half of his blanket over Heero's body. "It gets pretty boring on these flights if you aren't in the cockpit or plotting to have sex in the WC. If you want to sleep I'll stay up and watch you," Duo whispered close to Heero's ear. "I dozed off last time. I think you scared people before I stopped you screaming."
Duo said that so lightly, but Heero was hurt when he thought about being the scary person on an airplane. "They shot you."
"In my dream. I saw them shoot you. It was my fault. I watched you died and it was all my fault."
"Stay up if you want, but I can take care of myself."
"It was a dream. Besides... unless you pulled the trigger meaning to kill me yourself, it wouldn't be your fault. Now, I've already made the agents placed on this flight and we're probably the most dangerous people on the plane, so I'm going to go back to sleep before we really frighten the eavesdroppers."
Heero stayed awake, just to make sure nothing happened to Duo.
The plane landed in Honolulu in evening. They had gained hours traveling west. They were directed through narrow corridors, past a light customs check that enforced preservation of the island eco-system more than anything, and into the somewhat less secured Arrivals area. Greeter girls put lays on them and now large panes of glass provided their first unobstructed views.
They were on the Eastern side of Oahu, within the boundaries of sprawling Honolulu and they had a view of the easternmost part of the island and the Kaiwi Channel. There were palms lit by the sunset. It was beautiful.
"Howard!" Duo called.
Heero turned and saw the older man. He had known they would meet him and he knew that Duo worked with him, and had known Howard before the period of the Eve Wars and had never lost contact, but Heero had not seen the sole-surviving member of the Tallgeese design team since the Eve Wars.
He might have seen him across the room at some award ceremony, but he had not really spoken to him. Seeing the old man still in the same style of sandals, shorts and loud shirt brought back so many memories.
Heero thought he envied Howard. Surely, the war had left no one unaffected, but Howard seemed as laid-back as ever. Here was a man who had contributed to the building of the first prototype mobile suit and to the Space Battleship Peacemillion, which he had placed at the disposal of Relena's brother and then of the Gundam pilots and their assorted female supporters and finally seen crashed apurpose into Libra, to keep its cannon being fired on the Earth again. He had been a secret supporter of Peacecraft and of Duo.
And somehow, Howard's name was not easily found in historical archives. He had never been given medals nor tried for any action taken during the wars. Most people did not know who had really build Tallgeese or how it was connected to the Gundams or where Peacemillion had come from.
Howard had escaped notoriety.
"Don't just stand there," Duo called.
Heero moved toward them. "I was just noticing the scenery."
Howard laughed. "Went back to the brown, I see." He paused as Heero looked puzzled. "I do watch the news."
Heero nodded. "You look the same."
"I try not to let myself get too stressed out."
Duo laughed. Heero wondered if Duo would be anything like Howard when he was old.
"Baggage claim is this way. I got a Jeep here and the rest of your luggage. Guess you boys don't travel light anymore."
"Do you know, Heero always had more than one outfit? They were all just identical!"
"What about you?"
"I really did wear the same clothes over and over." Duo glanced from Howard to Heero as they were both silent. "I washed them."
They collected the luggage they had brought with them from San Francisco and then walked to the parking areas outside. Heero had thought that Howard was speaking of the make of his vehicle, but he actually had one of the old military vehicles.
"Where are you staying in Honolulu?" Howard asked as Duo hefted baggage into the rear of the Jeep.
"Heero got us a discount, 'cause he did security work for their parent company or something," Duo explained.
"Do you know which tower you are in? It's a nice place. Big. Too contrived and planned out for my tastes. Duo did tell you that I offered to let you stay with me. He doesn't believe me, but it's really a nice house."
"What is it? A two bedroom shack?" Duo teased. "He's got some beachfront property on Maui, but the land is a lot more valuable than the house."
Howard just shook his head to say he would not bother arguing with Duo.
"Beachfront property in Hawaii is likely very valuable," Heero stated, "He might have a mansion that is worth a lot less than the land it's on. You know what they say."
"Location. Location. Location."
Howard chuckled as he climbed into the driver's seat and pulled his sunglasses from his hair.
"Guess you could sit in my lap, Heero. You can't weight that much."
Heero watched Duo hop up into the Jeep. "I might. I have generally high muscle density."
"Freak," Duo teased. "Just sit with me."
Heero climbed up and sat down across Duo's legs. They made conversation on their way to the resort, which was directly off Waikiki beach. Howard offered that if they tired of the resort after a few days they could give him a call and he'd fly over and pick them up if they could not find their own means of shuttling between Oahu and Maui.
Heero said that he was surprised that Howard actually lived on Earth, because when Duo spoke of him and their working together it had sounded like they saw each other often. Duo explained that Howard had a little pad near the garage and was often on Luna with his Sweeper group but that the majority of his time was spent on Earth, between his house on the beach and his salvage barge.
Heero had known that Howard had long been affiliated with the Sweepers and decided that he must be a very active and senior member.
Howard admitted that his house in Hawaii was not his own investment but something that he had inherited. Heero thought it was likely Howard did have a very nice house, as the land and house could have been purchased long before they had reached their present value.
"Here we are," Howard said. They came to a number of high-rise hotel buildings surrounded by cultured gardens and tall palms.
"We are in the Kalia tower. I have seen a picture... it is that one." Heero pointed out the tall white building. Howard drove them to the door, where uniformed young men came to load their luggage onto a cart.
Heero whispered to Duo. "I will go get us checked in." He climbed down to the paved area in front of the lobby.
"Howard, you want to hang around and get a drink with us or something?"
"No. I told a friend I would meet them, but I'll be on Oahu tonight. If you need a guide, or you want to borrow my Jeep, give me a call. A buddy of mine lets me park it over here, as I usually do more driving on this island."
"I may want the car," Duo said.
Heero saw the last of the luggage loaded and turned to Howard. "I think we will see you before we leave. Good to see you."
Heero went into the lobby to the reception desk. He scanned the cart for his bags and was scanning when Duo arrived.
"In here," Duo said, pointing out a duffel. "The pocket."
Heero reached inside and found all his official identification. He found the gold chain with Duo's class ring on it. Heero approached the desk. He put the various printouts and cards on the counter and looked them over as he fastened the chain about his neck.
Heero picked out his universal ID, a separate company bank card, a print-out on foil that gave his code for discounted rates. Duo placed the printed reservation confirmation on the desk. "That's everything?" Heero asked.
"Yes, Sir. Just a moment and I will get your room assignment from the computer."
Heero nodded. Duo's fingers were stroking the back of his neck, just above the chain. Heero glanced at Duo, eyes barely slit open and suppressed a shiver.
"Yes?" Heero asked, focusing. Duo did not stop tickling his neck.
"You are in room 2302, that's an oceanside view on one of our executive floors, as requested. Here is your keycard."
"Our porter will see you to your room."
Heero nodded. He turned to see the porter waiting with the luggage cart. He looked past Heero.
"2302," the desk attendant called.
"This way, please," the porter said. He led them to an elevator in the lobby.
Duo fell into step beside Heero. "So, you like it so far?"
"Hawaii was your idea."
"Yes," Heero answered cautiously.
"Everything's going to be OK."
Heero tried to smile for him. The elevator rose.
"When we get up to the room, why don't you just," Duo's fingers pointed toward his eyes for a split second, it would have looked like he was just talking with his hands to another observer, "take a shower." His fingers twirled a lock of hair. "I'm sure you'll feel much more like yourself, after our flight." The left hand, with that claddagh ring, paused for a moment at his chin. It almost seemed Duo kissed the ring. "We should probably get to bed early tonight so that we can get up early tomorrow."
Heero was not sure if he read all of Duo's hidden meaning as he intended. "What about you? How do you feel?"
"You know I got off to a bad start this morning? I'll tell you the story later."
"Maybe we will both feel better after we unpack."
For a second, Duo appeared startled, as if he was unsure of the meaning behind Heero's words. "Well I am sure you would like to organize everything. I just want to relax."
"OK." Duo had read something more into Heero's words, something he disagreed with.
"The room will be on your right from this elevator. Past the Executive Lounge."
"I'm sure that will serve our business needs during our stay," Duo said. He rolled his eyes as the porter passed him with the cart.
"Breakfast/snack/Hors d'oeuvre buffet, coffee, and media center," Heero said explaining the main assets of paying for the Executive Level room. He unlocked their room and waited for Duo as their luggage was wheeled into the room. Duo slipped the porter money to forgo pointing out the features of the room and just leave them.
He left the bags near the closet and took the cart.
It seemed a nice room, it had one of those sort of Colonial looks, in the older sense of the word that meant furniture had caning in it and had sort of traditional shapes but was made of tropical materials. There was a large bed, a sofa, a coffee table, several potted palms, workspace for two with pair of hardline connections, an armoire concealing electronics, a wall mirror, and closet storage. There was, of course, an attached bathroom and also an additional vanity near the closet.
Heero started unpacking, putting clothing in the closet, setting toiletries on the vanity, taking computers and peripherals to the desk and laying out everything else on the large bed.
Duo opened the drapes and stood looking out onto their balcony and the ocean. He turned into the room as Heero was going through the luggage. "You really just meant unpack then?"
"You thought I meant something else."
"Yeah." He smiled, "But it doesn't matter now. Are you going to get a shower?"
"I have had a shower and a bath today. I thought of trying to just wash my hair. How would you do that?"
"You just lean over a sink, like washing your face, except you wash your hair."
Heero nodded and went back to work. "You really packed a lot of clothes."
"I was not exactly sure what you would want. You do not have shorts except for those clingy things."
"Short pants are for boys."
Duo laughed. "Well, anyway, you didn't seem to own a bathing suit of any kind. I didn't think the shoes you had would be good for the beach either. I was thinking, it's not too late. Maybe we should go shopping after you get yourself together. That way we can go right to the beach in the morning."
"If that is what you want."
Duo went on talking, listing the things they should buy, like sunblock and beach towels.
"It seems a lot to buy for a week of vacation."
"Oh. Well... I just. I thought we'd use it again some other time."
"I did not say I refused. Hawaii was my idea... because I have not experienced a beach vacation before. I have never been to a beach under very pleasant circumstances. I know that other people had."
"I never really went on vacation, except with you. I have participated in leisure activities of course."
"So, we can go buy some things?"
"Are you still determined to have me wear that... suit?"
"Oh, yeah!" Duo grinned, "I'm just not sure we need to go into the dressing room together now."
Heero pressed his lips together, but he nodded understanding.
"Do you know Beauty and the Beast?" Duo asked.
"What is that?"
"A faerietale, like Little Red Riding Hood, or Goldilocks and the Three Bears."
"I do not think so. I may have heard of it, but I do not know the story."
"Can I tell you?"
"It's kinda relevant."
"While I wash my hair?"
Heero had finished unpacking. He stood at the vanity and he removed the contacts he was still wearing. He put them in their container. He took a towel from the bathroom and placed his shampoo near the sink.
"OK, well first of all, it's pretty much based on the Greek Myth of Eros and Psyche, with some differences. So, you can look on it in a way that The Beast represents Love, in the way that Love can be fierce and hurt you and well... I'm kinda getting ahead of myself. Psyche would represent the soul, naturally. But you can look on the story in a more real, or less metaphorical level. It's just a story about this guy, The Beast, and this chick, Beauty."
"I am listening," Heero said. He removed his shirt.
"Right, so The Beast comes off a bit different depending on what version you heard, but basically you need to know that he is, or at least considers himself, cursed. He's not much to look at, or he's mean, or whatever. No one else that he knows thinks otherwise. They seem to think him ugly and horrible. But, he is rich. In fact, he lives in some wonderful castle or palace."
"Like a Prince?"
"Sorta, but isn't meant to come off as a very good prince in the beginning."
Heero turned on the water and then began wetting his hair as best he could by ducking his head into the sink. Duo continued with the story, explaining that through some series of events that vary with versions of the telling Beauty finds herself in the beast's palace as a sort of prisoner.
Duo saw that Heero was having difficulty, so he stepped in close to him and showed Heero how he could use one of the drinking glasses to gather water and pour it over his head.
Usually, Duo said, the circumstances of Beauty's imprisonment involved some action of her father, who was generally well meaning but likely not strong, and sometimes other jealous females and sometimes a handsome young man who wished to be with Beauty but who had been rejected.
Duo explained that Beast did not want to hurt Beauty. In some versions he believed that she would be someone who could free him from his curse from the start, other times he was motivated just by his desire to be near her. He did not want Beauty to see him, because he was hideous, but he wanted her to be happy. Fortunately, he had magical servants or an enchanted castle and so her every bodily need was seen to.
Eventually they spent enough time in the same castle that Beauty saw the Beast and got to know him. Eventually she understood that though he was different from other people, he was beautiful inside. There was beauty in him. Sometimes he lost his temper and she might even be hurt because of him, or by him, but still, Beauty realized that The Beast was acting on his own frustration and insecurity and that he intended her no harm. She still liked him.
Then events outside the castle came to their attention and they learned of some misfortune about to happen to Beauty's father. Beast wanted Beauty to stay as per their original agreement and he wanted her to stay because she made him feel he was worth something, that she was the only one who could find good in him, and he wanted to believe he was good for something. But, he understood, that if he returned her kindness and loved her, he could only set her free and let her go help her father.
Beauty promised that she would return to fulfill her original obligation, but the Beast did not really believe it. He still had some doubt. He thought that she would leave for good. Still, he let her go. In some versions, he gave her special magic gifts.
Beauty went to confront those who were threatening her father and in the process others learned that she had been to the enchanted castle and been allowed to leave alive and that there were many wonderful magical things there. They learned that Beauty liked the Beast. Other people, being greedy and suspicious and maybe jealous or disgusted that someone who looked like Beauty could want to be with The Beast.
Those people went to the palace to attack the Beast and steal his treasure. And then, details depending on the version, the spell was broken when Beauty realized that she loved the Beast and/or the other people's greed and prejudice proved that they were truly the beastly ones.
The Beast was no longer considered a beast, and he and Beauty loved each other and lived happily ever after.
"There seem to be a lot of different versions of the story. It makes it confusing," Heero said as Duo rubbed his hair with a towel.
"But you get the important part?"
"I am not sure," Heero said honestly. "Was the Beast ever really cursed, or did he just believe that he was?"
"Well, I think that when you tell the story to kids he actually is a beast with horns and fangs and lots of fur, but you can understand it the way you understand horror stories and faerietales, as metaphor. Then he just represents a man who is considered worthless and horrible, perhaps even by himself, until someone can see the good in him and love him and he is able to return their love, then he is not considered worthless or horrible. Then, he is a man that is loved and a man who loves in return. He always was potentially that person. He always had that goodness inside, he just didn't see it. And, there were times when he really did beastly horrible things, but that never made him unlovable. Beauty did come back."
"Oh," Heero said. Now he thought he understood. "That is a nice story. It rather has the same message as Moulin Rogue. The most important thing that one can learn is just to love and to be loved in return."
Duo grinned. "Yeah, I like both stories a lot. There's this version of Dracula that is almost like Beauty and the Beast." He handed Heero his comb. "But, um, you know what I'm saying?"
Heero pulled the comb through his hair as he looked up at Duo. "I really did not want to hurt you."
"Yeah. I think I can see how in a way, it probably seemed logical to you. It concerned you that I did not have control and you thought they it was only logical and that the end would justify the means if you forced me into realizing I had control..."
"And that is so very you... Heero. It is very like you to think that way. It is not the way I think. I mean. I do love you..." He said it as if he was embarrassed to admit it.
"I know. I love you too."
"So, I love you the way you are, that includes sometimes having logic that to me just seems wrong. That wrongness hurts, but that doesn't mean..."
"You can help but see the good things in me. Duo, I am grateful." Heero sighed and looked in the mirror. He looked like himself. The hair was brown again and in the shape he had trained. The eyes were that stormy shade of blue. He was wearing Duo's ring. He was not in someone else's clothes. "I have felt like I have been falling apart for days."
"I know. You've been doubting yourself, at least since that night you... saw how you shouldn't tune into what I was feeling, but maybe before that. Heero, I'm not sure undercover missions like that are good for you. Blending is one thing. You know how to deal with that. But, pretending to be someone else, it's no good for you. What if I hadn't been there? Would it have been easier, or even harder?"
Heero thought about that. "Harder, maybe. Why am I so bad at it?"
"No, it's not that you are bad... I think it's partly that you had to stop communicating with the people that care about you. You'd been all alone before, but if you remember, you were not really OK then."
"Some of the time I was, but I know what you are getting at. I need the people that care about me. I need to see the good part of me reflected back at me through their eyes. And they need me. It is like your story. If you cannot love people, really, then you are worthless."
"Yeah," Duo whispered. "It wouldn't be like this every time. You know?"
Heero saw what Duo feared: that when they were alone together without others to be social with things would always go bad. "It was just that... I hurt you that night."
"And today. And you had that dream. I think..." Duo shrugged. "I understand why you get freaked out if I talk about being married, but it wouldn't be like this all the time. You just need to understand, that..." Duo threw his hands up and sighed deeply. "Well, I don't want you to hurt me, but I love you, and if you make some mistakes, I can take the pain. I don't want to, but let's be honest, I can take a beating like nobody else!"
Heero scowled at Duo's reflection then turned and shoved him in the chest. "I do not want to hurt you at all!"
Heero walked away, to the balcony.
Duo caught up with him there. "Minage?"
Heero turned to glare.
Duo laughed. "Listen to me, I think if you just could relax and understand that all people make mistakes and hurt each other that you might hurt me less. I can't be a push-over for you, I can't say it's completely OK and that there will be no consequence; I can only say that whatever happens, I'm not leaving. You could go completely ZERO on us all and try to blow up the Earth and I would still be there at the end saying, 'I love you Heero. I know putting us all out of our misery seems a logical idea to you right now, but it's wrong. I love you even now, so step away from the beam cannon and let me love you.'"
"You would do that?" Heero asked, his voice cracking. He hated that he felt so very emotional and that his voice left him. "How could you love me if I was going to destroy the Earth?"
Duo shook his head and smiled. "Don't you get it? Heero, I see inside you. I don't need special powers. I just know you. If you were planning to destroy Earth, it would be because you were mistaken. Why did Noin go to Mars with Zechs? Or, ask Relena if she doesn't love her brother when she thinks about it. I can forgive you for hurting me because I know you don't enjoy it. If you hurt me just because you enjoyed doing it, that's when I'd leave."
Heero extended a hand to Duo and then, when Duo did not move, he stepped up to Duo and put his arms around him. "I need you," Heero told him, quietly, "I hate being weak, but I need you."
Duo put his hands on Heero's back. It was comforting. "Hey, weird thing is, you have to be strong to admit your weakness and say you need help. You are strong Heero, and I will still be your backup, always."
"Duo, I do not feel well. I feel terrible."
"That's regret, Heero. It's good you feel terrible. It's normal. You're doing penance, Heero, so you'll feel better soon. I forgive you. You understand? Oh, could you just, back off a little."
Heero made his body pliable and Duo turned and moved from his embrace. He stood still and watched Duo walk slowly into the hotel room. Heero moved inside and shut the doors behind. "It felt better..."
"I'm still here, Heero, but I can't completely be your bitch."
"What do you...?"
"I'll be with you, always, but if I let you hurt me without consequence then I'd be your bitch. If I was that weak, you wouldn't love me, really. There has to be consequences for negative behavior."
Heero nodded understanding. He smiled then.
"It sounds like you might make a good father. You could even get a dog of your own."
"Not looking for a dog, but, ya know, I had a good teacher." He waved a hand toward Heero. "It's still not easy. Punishing you means I can't have sex tonight either."
"You mean it was just for today?" Heero asked suddenly, not having realized this before.
"Yeah! What do you think I am, a monk? Your boy is only seventeen. You know what I'm sayin'?"
Heero smiled. "Oh yes. Sometimes I am completely exhausted and I want to do it just one more time. Sometimes we've just finished and I want to start again!" Heero's eyes fixed on Duo, on his jeans, on the way they fit. Heero swallowed. Duo had an erection.
"What?" Heero asked, raising his eyes.
"Look at me that way."
"I made up my mind about this, Heero. That hair color looks good on you and it brings back memories and you are half dressed... we are lovers... I am feeling very attracted to you right now, but I am not going to do anything about it, or let you."
"I will get dressed so we can go to the shop. Do you know where we will go?"
"There is a guide on the desk." Duo moved slowly to the desk and looked through the paper pages.
Heero went to the closet and looked through their clothing. Duo had packed Heero's many tanks, tees and sleeveless shirts but the most casual clothing Heero owned in the way of pants were jeans. Duo had packed these, but Heero wondered if he was correct about how impractical they were in the Tropics.
He decided to put on a sleeveless black shirt with the bluejeans he was wearing. Heero pulled the necklace up from beneath the mock-turtleneck. He had been wearing the loafers they he had thought Maxwell would wear and now he looked though the shoes Duo had packed for him. He also had his two new pairs of boots. Heero decided on an old pair of military surplus OZ boots, because they were comfortable and difficult to ruin.
He went over his identification, cash cards and such. He would need to carry the room key, of course. "Did you find a shop?" Heero called.
Duo walked into view. "I think we should go to this Rainbow Bazaar. Sounds like it's the Village's outdoor shopping center. The majority of their restaurants and shops are there."
"Do you know how much stuff there is to do here?"
Heero smiled. "We did decide to stay at an inclusive resort so that we could find many things to do in a new place. We are here until next Friday morning. That is a lot of time to pass without work or school."
"Mmmm, it does sound kinda brilliant."
"Expensive. I better write that report for the cruise line so they will pay their balance to me."
"It'll be OK. I saved up for this. I'm going to change my clothes real quick."
Heero gave a nod and stepped out of his way. Duo switched the clothing he had left San Francisco in for that pleated skirt that made him look like a Sith Lord and a long sleeved, but very thin and clingy, white shirt. He fussed with his jewelry and added a belt. "'K, Ready!" He chirped.
Heero took Duo's hand and they left their room together to go from their tower to the bazaar.
It smelled very good outdoors. Not that it had smelled bad inside their hotel, but the flowers and trees smelled more strongly outside. Heero thought he could smell the sea. There was music playing from several directions and a general hum of conversation everywhere they went. They passed people of every shape and coloring it seemed, some dressed almost formally, others still in their revealing bathing suits.
They hardly spoke, not because they did not want to, but because they were both too busy taking in their surroundings.
"It's romantic here. I can see how it's contrived, but I still feel it's romantic. Anywhere else I would find those torches tacky, but they work here. They fit," Duo said.
"The air feels strange on my skin."
"I think it's humid."
"Moist and warm. Yes. I can feel humidity." He smiled to himself. "It is never this warm in my Colony."
"It is in mine, but the air always seems more stale then."
They came to the bazaar and its many shops filled with warm weather apparel and souvenirs. There were restaurants too, everything from hot dogs to teppanyaki.
"It's like you could spend several days just here, buying gifts and eating," Duo said.
"Maybe we should plan for a few less days."
"Oh, I know you're on the verge of typing up a schedule."
"You do know me."
"That's what I've been saying." Duo laughed. "Let's go in here." He led Heero by the hand into a shop that clearly sold men's and women's bathing suits and active wear. "You can look around. I need to find you a sunbathing suit!"
Heero growled and did not even look where Duo went. Instead, he scanned for garments that were more substantial. Heero had many shirts that would be acceptable for this environment but he supposed that here some form of shorts would be appropriate. Else, he might wear a sarong. Heero wondered if they had sarongs in Hawaii or only on islands further west.
At that moment, Heero saw an ad on the wall showing two surfer boys one of which was wearing a sarong. He did not even look like a Pacific Islander, so Heero supposed he had stumbled upon a fashion trend. There were lengths of patterned fabric hanging nearby.
Heero decided almost immediately on the pattern of black floral silhouettes against deep green and then moved to look at some board shorts. They could be worn in or out of water and Heero had to admit the young males they had seen on their way to the bazaar, and those in the store for that matter, looked seriously cute in these shorts. They way they hung low on their hips was just sexy.
Heero knew the colors in his wardrobe, so he chose one pair of green shorts with black trim and another pair with blocks of solid black with others of blue and black palm motif.
He did need some shoes. Heero was just not sure if he wanted shoes that would stay on when swimming or surfing or whether he wanted simple thronged shoes.
After looking, Heero decided to go with inexpensive black thongs and a higher quality boarding shoe to wear according to the occasion.
A beach towel and some sun tanning lotion with light UV screening should take care of necessities. He found shelves stocked with towels and selected one with an abstract print rather than a picture. He just needed the sunblock. Heero saw some bottles near the cashier. Just as he selected one Duo appeared at his side.
"I found one," He grinned.
"Let's just buy it and leave."
"No. You have to try it on. It has to be the right size."
Heero frowned for a moment. "Let's see it."
Duo produced the garment. Not only was it very skimpy, but it seemed to be a sort of blush color, like tanned skin colored with blood.
"Oh, yes. We had a deal. I get to pick your sunbathing suit."
"This deal was much better when I got to take you in the dressing room." Heero snatched the offending garment.
Duo shrugged and tried to look innocent, but of course, he was not. He chose a bottle of sunblock from the display then followed Heero to the dressing rooms. He stood near the door while Heero went inside.
"Do you know it says here not to try these on without clothing underneath?"
"They always say that in 'intimate apparel'," Duo said, "Is it your size?"
Heero checked the tag. Unfortunately, Duo knew his sizes. "Yes."
"So, I'm gonna buy it. Just try it on."
"Someone else may have tried it on before me."
"I examined it carefully, Heero."
Heero shook his head, but he got undressed and then stepped into the little bathing suit. It was really like a pocket of fabric and several strings. It would probably be semi-transparent if wet. He adjusted the straps until they were as comfortable as he could make them and then forced himself to look in the mirror.
Heero was aware of his body and so he noted his fitness and attractiveness coldly. The suit he really hated. "I look naked," he growled. The garment was pretty close to his skin color, if flushed with blood. "I look worse than naked."
Duo laughed through the door. "How can you be worse than naked?"
"I look like a creepy plastic doll."
Duo opened the door and peered inside. Heero looked the other way. "Baby, you do not look plastic to me!"
"Duo, I hate it."
"C'mon, it's sexy as Hell! Turn around."
Heero turned in a circle.
"Nnnn, I'll come right here if I keep lookin' at ya." Duo raised his eyes to Heero's face, though Heero only looked at him from the corners of his eyes. "I'm buying it. You can wear something over it to walk to and from our sunning spot."
Heero made himself not think about what Duo had just said. He stripped off the sling-like garment and tossed it to Duo's waiting hand. He made himself not think about Duo still looking at him while he was naked. Heero pulled on his shirt, then the blue board shorts and then slipped his feet into the thongs. He collected everything off the floor and then left the dressing room. Duo was still shopping for himself, it seemed, so Heero went to the cashier alone. He took the tags from the clothing he was wearing so that he could pay for them. When they gave him his shopping bag he placed his own shorts, socks, jeans and boots in with the new purchases.
Duo was in line by the time Heero was finished paying. There was a pocket on the side of his shorts, and he put the key and ID from his jeans into it then zipped it closed.
"You're blending," Duo said as they left the store with their purchases.
"You look good, Heero."
"Want to get some food. I'm thinking noodles." He swung his shopping bag in the direction of the Japanese noodle shop.
"Should be better than airline snacks," Heero agreed.
Duo ordered noodles in a shrimp broth for each of them and some soybeans to eat on the side with a dipping sauce, plus some sodas. They sat at a small round table.
"I don't think it was really big in the Colonies for some reason, but it's good."
Heero opened his bottle and tried the soda. "It is good. I think they should have Strawberry Coke."
"They have Cherry," Duo said, licking his lips.
"That is completely different."
"You think strawberry goes with cola?"
"Maybe. If Cream soda is Vanilla and Red Cream soda is Strawberry-Vanilla and they have Vanilla cola..."
"Yeah, but next you'll be telling me they should have Sweet Milk Coke."
Heero laughed and shook his head. "I like that stuff about as much as I like matcha."
"Guess you don't fit the stereotype."
"I like Kvas, though. Not everyone appreciates its taste."
"So," Duo said. He sucked a soybean from its pod before speaking again. "When do you think we'll go to Saint Petersburg?"
Heero rolled his eyes. The honeymoon. "Maybe in two or three years." He shrugged.
"Winter of 200. We should be at least 20 before we marry. Assuming we can still tolerate each other by then."
"Heero! Two years?" Duo complained.
Heero growled. "Do not bring up this topic if you do not like to hear my opinion. I..."
"You want to know that you are truly sane and stable enough to make a vow of that severity. That is only right. I respect that."
Heero was surprised that Duo did know his reasoning. "Well, yes," Heero answered slowly.
"I was kinda joking anyway."
"You were mostly serious," Heero accused, as kindly as he could. "Duo, I do not understand why you keep bringing this up. It seemed like it was a joke at first, to get a reaction out of me, but it is not, anymore. You are 18 this year. You should not want to be married to anyone. You should probably be trying to cheat or asking me to have threesomes with cute guys we meet."
"Where the fuck do you get that idea?" Duo whispered across the table.
Heero shrugged as he ate some noodles. He looked up again. "Is that not normal for guys?"
"Maybe, but you were the one with that whole 'guy' vs. 'man' thing, Heero."
"I did not mean that I seriously thought that you would cheat. I know, Duo, how you feel."
"OK, then don't say shit like that. It's just like you said. The war aged us. Neither of us are normal or like other people who are 18."
"'The war aged us?' You were listening..." That night, when Heero had spoken while Duo was in the shower. Duo had heard everything.
"You were talking to me," Duo said calmly.
"Yes." He was still stunned to realize it.
"I guess I just wanted to know if you felt better yet, ready."
"No," Heero said plainly.
"You could have just said 'I do not know yet.'" He actually tried to imitate Heero's voice, though Heero did not think it was a good impersonation.
"Why do you want to do it? I know how you feel, but... we could go get married tomorrow and it would not change how we feel or whether we were more or less likely to hurt each other."
"You have to mean the vows when you say them. Of course, if you just go and say them without being ready it changes nothing. In fact, it would make things worse. Can we just drop this? You are telling me that you know you can't say the vows. I understand."
"It started out as a joke, Duo, but now when you say it, you make me feel like I'm hurting you if I cannot say it."
"No. You know that's not what I mean. It really is unconditional. But, I just get curious to know." Duo sighed. "You're right. I shouldn't tease or keep asking about it. You're right."
"I cannot force you to wait."
Duo nodded. "I'm waiting, Heero."
"I am not suicidal, if that's what you worried about."
Duo shook his head. He laughed. "We are so screwed up."
"Which is why I am not ready to make vows like that to anyone."
"Which is why I'm paranoid about loosing people I love. I just want to make you stay somehow."
"I am staying. It just will not be easy. I am doing my best."
"Would it be completely cruel if I asked you to get in bed with me and let me hold you but not to have sex tonight?"
"Not completely. We have been here before. Do you remember that night, in the small bedroom? I think your braid covers more of your body than the underwear you prefer, and I had never seen you like that before. I had never felt that attracted to anyone before."
"Yeah. You looked pretty tasty in my old gym shirt, as I recall. I had the hottest dream about you!"
Duo definitely blushed. Heero could see the change in his skin.
"I noticed you packed that shirt. Do you think...?"
"Oh, don't you know what I'm thinking?"
Heero closed his eyes and willed the information to come to him. He smiled. "Yes."