I should have come right out and said it. Told him that I loved him - or at least thought I did. It's not like I've had enough experience with it to recognize it, at least not in myself. Still, the feeling was pretty strong.
I didn't have the guts to back then. I guess I still don't. I came close, but the way he reacted... it hurt. Duo probably figured out what I was going to say, and didn't seem to like it. I let it go. The last thing I wanted was to push him away - lose him again. I wanted him there - or rather, I wanted to go with him. To jeopardize that was unthinkable.
Being close would have to do, for now.
Then he brought me out of my contemplation. "Heero?"
Duo grinned. "You kinda spaced out there - what were you thinking about?"
I shrugged. "Nothing."
Soft snort. "Right... Anyway, I was asking if you could check your bags? I packed them for you while you were sleeping, but perhaps there's something else you'd want to bring that I didn't notice."
Nod, mission accepted.
"Oh, and I take it you don't have a phone here?"
I gave him a grunt and a slanted smirk at that.
"Figures..." Duo searched his pockets for his cell phone. "Gonna call Sally to let her know I'm taking you back to the yard. She'll probably be pissed at me since I didn't stay put until she got here, but-" Then he shrugged. "Oh, and I have to call Hilde too - need to tell her to fix the guest bedroom."
Without thinking, I frowned just a little. I will vehemently claim I did not pout.
He chuckled. "Don't worry - I'll take the couch. You can have my bed, until we fix something more permanent."
I was torn between wanting to say I'd gladly share his bed, and that it wasn't the sleeping arrangements I'd reacted to. Instead, I put my stoneface mask back on. "So... You and Hilde are still living together...?"
Grin. "Yeah... We get on each other's nerves all the time, but we have fun together."
I studied shapes on the torn wallpaper. "I... see..."
Duo must have reacted to the sad tone in my voice, or my earlier remarks, or both - at any rate, he dispelled one of my greatest fears in a hurry. I wasn't sure if he did that on purpose - but I hoped so. "Not like that, Heero. Sheesh. Hilde and I are friends, that's all."
Remarkable how that simple word could sting so much. "You mean like us?"
"Well, yeah - well, not exactly like us, since you're a guy and all, and you've been gone for-" He bit his lip, and stopped short. Combined with his rambling, it was obvious he was nervous. "Anyway - we're friends, Heero. I wouldn't be here if we weren't, you know that, right?"
Slowly, I nodded. "Friends..." I practically whispered.
If anything, that only made Duo more skittish. It wasn't as if I couldn't understand that. The word had gotten loaded to me too. I wanted to use something stronger, but I was afraid it'd push him away, permanently - make him want to leave me here. It was an intolerable thought. Depressed, I made the huge mistake of mumbling it out - those simple words you never want to hear from an alcoholic, recovering or otherwise.
"I need a drink..."
Duo froze instantly, and gave me the harshest look I could ever remember having received. Perhaps that's because I was much more sensitive to them now. He took quick steps towards me, fists clenched.
I rebuked the little phrase immediately, terrified it might do irreparable damage. "Duo, I didn't mean-"
He stopped barely a few feet away, and his eyes mellowed over. I let a quiet sigh of relief go. "I know, Heero. I know."
Then he surprised me by taking one more step, hugging me. Or rather, hugging my head, as he pulled me close a little early. "I'm sorry," he mumbled. I swear he was caressing my hair, not just... combing over it with his palm. "I shouldn't be so quick to judge-"
I smiled faintly to his chest. "You have every right to," I offered. "I'm glad you're here to look out for me, though." Tentatively, I reached around him to hug him back. It wasn't as if it could be called an even thing; my knees were threatening to give out for more than one reason.
He was cradling me as if I were a baby - but I didn't care. With my ear pressed to his chest, I could only think of what I heard; the steady rhythm of his heart.
And for that blissful, short moment, I was happy - I'd found the place where I wanted to be.
Never have I hated a cell phone more than his a few seconds later, when it called him out of our uneven embrace. The only reason it continued to exist afterwards, was because it was his.
At least I'd gotten a taste of the closeness I dreamed of. I didn't have an addiction - I had two.
And I wasn't sure which would turn out to be stronger.