At first, I felt rotten for forcing Heero to answer like that. Even if he said 'like', it was pretty damn obvious he wanted to use a more powerful word.
Yet, I was glad. I didn't have any doubts about him anymore - but I gained a few about myself. I had never really thought about being with another guy. I mean, even with Hilde, it was just empty flirting - poking at each other's soft spots, having a good time without making a messy love life out of it. Flirting, I could cope with, maybe even with guys - but it was easy to see Heero wasn't looking for that. He wanted - no, needed something solid; support that never wavered. Love.
I couldn't give him that. In my mind, Heero was a friend, and I couldn't think of him as anything else. How I would have reacted if he'd kissed me right on the lips that first night? The thought alone was weird.
His face suddenly turned so saddened, so afraid, so.... vulnerable. There was something about it that just tore at my insides. I could so easily say something to give him false hope, or honestly try to give him what he craved, just to give an incentive for him to stop drinking. It'd be so easy to exploit that - but I knew it'd only backfire, sooner or later. I had to be a friend, a loyal friend. I had to get him permanently sober. It'd be cruel to accept his love and make a fake reflection out of it to use as a carrot.
Finally, it dawned on me that my own brooding expression was causing his almost despairing one. With it, without saying a word, I slowly strangled the hope he clung to. I don't think I could have lied to him, even if I wanted to. I sighed. It was my turn to answer the unspoken challenge.
"Heero, look - you're a nice guy, but... You're my friend, okay? As a friend, I'd do anything for you, but I'm not sure..." I bit my lower lip, caught myself looking away, not wanting to see the pain I caused. I forced myself to face him again. "I'm not sure I could... like you back - not like that..."
For the longest time, he hesitated, sitting perfectly still. Then, he gave a few slow nods.
I turned away, feeling worse than ever. Without even thinking, I mumbled "...not yet, anyway...."
Heero noticed, and took the carrot for all it was worth. I caught the flash of steel behind the shimmering blue of his eyes. I knew I'd just become one of Heero's mission objectives; another trial to be passed.
Maybe giving him a little false hope wasn't such a bad idea. If it helped Heero recover, or at least strike a balance with his drinking problem, perhaps the outcome justified the means.
And it wasn't a lie. I simply wasn't ready.
But I kept thinking.