All These Things
The light came in great wide shafts from the many, tall windows lining the long wall of the cafeteria. As she turned away from him and walked to the door, it wasn't her words he thought of, but of how the light shimmered gold in her hair and made the browns coppery. He watched her leave through the double glass doors; watched as she receded from sight down the sidewalk, disappearing in a crowd of passing students.
He gave a slow sigh and turned toward the cafeteria interior. His eyes sought the table in the far corner; his feet already headed in that direction. He shoved his hands in his front pockets, pulling on the shroud of indifference. After all, they'd only been seeing each other for less than two weeks. He'd barely had time to memorize her phone number. No love lost.
But, looking up, he caught the sudden movement of his friends, the usual gang that populated the same table every day at some time between eleven and two. They had been watching him, talking about him and his latest. Now they all seemed to have something better to talk about, to watch. All but Heero. Heero still watched, his expression the one he reserved for these break ups. His eyes concerned, his mouth turned down in the slightest hint of a frown. Duo gave him a tiny smile to show that he was good. That his world would be righted before nightfall, and not to worry. Heero gave a nod in return, and went back to the opened book in front of him.
Reaching the table, he dropped onto the empty seat between his two oldest friends, and waited. He knew it was coming, and they didn't disappoint.
"She dumped you?" Hilde started, nudging his shoulder with hers.
"Yeah," he answered with a nod. Heero barely glanced up, but pushed the waxed paper cup in his direction.
"What was it this time?" Trowa asked, and dodged the elbow his boyfriend aimed his way.
"Trowa!" The blond frowned at him before turning to Duo. "She wasn't suited for you, Duo. It doesn't matter what her reasons were."
His lips twitched, but instead of replying, he sipped at Heero's drink even knowing it to be Heero's preferred iced tea without sugar.
"Bet she was jealous of his hair," Hilde threw in, stirring the last of her cup of cracker with soup mush.
"Or his varied and exemplary wardrobe," Relena added with a lifted brow and the tiniest of smirks. Trowa turned her way, laughing, and even Heero snorted, looking up from his book.
Chuckling in spite of himself, Duo shook his head. "Nah, she said she liked me in black." He did look himself over and shrugged. It worked, and he didn't have to worry about clashing colors or mixing stripes with plaids.
"It is your color." Hilde smiled and winked. Quatre nodded, and Relena added her agreement. Heero marked his place with a finger, gave him a quick up and down, and a single eyebrow lift before turning back to his reading.
"Ah gee, thanks guys," Duo mustered a slathering of sarcasm. "If you really want to know, she thought I wasn't 'into her'," he brought his hands up to make quotation marks. The sudden silence at the table had Duo glancing around the table. In varying degrees, each expression reflected an agreement with the recent 'ex'. "What? You think I didn't like her? If I wasn't into her, I wouldn't have gone out with her. I wouldn't have-"
"No, Duo, that's not it," Quatre hastened to say, holding out a placating hand.
"Oh, we know you liked her," Hilde added, giving up on her soup and taking Heero's tea from Duo.
"But, it might be..." Relena began, her cheeks pinking as she sought for the right word. "It might be best if maybe you paid more attention to your class work, and less to being in a relationship."
Duo felt his jaw drop, and as he looked around the table again, he saw nods of agreement from all present. Except for Heero, who seemed to be ignoring the conversation with a little more focused intensity than usually displayed. He closed his mouth and took a deep breath. What the hell!
"Easy for you to say. 'Cept for Hil here, you're all in a relationship, and I'm not supposed to have one?" Three sets of negatives where thrown at him at once, all conciliatory.
"Heero's not dating anyone," Trowa said when the others quieted. The shaggy, brown head rose, and a pair of dark blue eyes glared across the table. "In fact, I don't think he's dated since... high school? And Heero's happy that way. Isn't that right, Heero?"
"Leave me out of this," Heero ground out, turning a page with more force than needed.
"Okay, okay. So maybe I've dated some-"
"A lot," Hilde added.
"Some," Duo emphasized. "But they all knew it wasn't serious, like a life-time commitment or something." He sighed and lowered his head to his hands. "I just want someone to be with, to have fun with, you know?"
A murmured chorus of agreements went round the table, ending with Quatre's, "But, you don't have to be... romantically involved with someone to have fun with them, do you?"
"Of course not," Hilde jumped in immediately. "He has fun with me, and God knows we're not romantically involved."
"But you were, once," Relena pointed out with a smile.
"Until I got smart!"
"Hey!" Duo glared at the girl. "We were like ten..."
"Fourteen," Hilde corrected. Her lips twisted in a grimace. "But it was like what Cheryl said - you weren't into 'us'. It was like we were for show, and not for real."
"Oh God," Duo moaned, closing his eyes. "Ancient history, Hil. Get over it."
In answer, Hilde hugged his arm to her, and gave his cheek a quick kiss. "I am," she said, beaming. "But I still don't think you're going to find whatever it is you're seeking going from girl to girl..."
"There hasn't been that many!" Duo protested, pulling away. "Maybe six or seven-"
"Eleven," Heero supplied, not looking up.
"Elev-that many?" Duo slumped in his seat at Heero's nod. "Damn. What the hell's wrong with me?"
"Nothing," Quatre said at the same time Trowa replied with, "Everything."
"Asshole." Duo glared, but lost the energy to do more. "There's got to be a girl out there who'll like me, would like to spend time with me. Hang out and stuff."
"I'm sure there is, Duo," Relena smiled softly. "You just haven't found the right person yet-"
"Could be someone right under your nose, and you're too busy chasing after those girls to notice," Trowa interrupted.
"Yeah? You think so?" Duo asked without much interest.
"I'm going to the library," Heero announced abruptly, standing up. He had his books stacked, and was turning from the table before anyone could protest.
"Heero?" Duo asked, watching his friend walk with a clipped pace away from the table.
"Oh!" Relena exclaimed. "I have a class in five minutes and it's at the Kewitt building!" She began gathering her lunch items, but left them when Hilde waved her off with the promise to clean up after her. "See you tomorrow," she called, dashing from the building.
"Speaking of class," Quatre began, rising to his feet. "I have to go as well." He turned to Trowa with a smile. "Walk me to the door?"
"Of course," Trowa answered with a grin.
"Oh geez, you guys," Duo grumbled. "You have the same class."
Trowa wagged a brow in Duo's direction. "Makes it easier that way to walk him there, then, doesn't it?" Quatre picked up his tray smiling, and Hilde laughed out loud, turning heads.
"Whatever." The two hadn't taken a half dozen steps before Duo called out, "You guys going to be at Heero's tonight?"
Quatre looked at Trowa before answering, and with Trowa's shrug, Quatre told him, "I don't know. We were going to go to the music hall to watch the Festival of Spring rehearsals."
"Besides, all you do at Heero's is drink and bit-" Trowa bent with a whoosh of breath; Quatre's elbow had landed true.
"Maybe after rehearsal, but it'll be late," Quatre said cautiously.
"Yeah, okay. See you if you can make it." With an apologetic smile and a wave, the pair moved off, heading for their next class.
Hilde sighed and leaned against Duo's arm. "They're so cute it'd make you sick if you didn't know them well."
With a rude snort, Duo rolled his eyes. "I do know them well, and they do make me sick, thank you very much." But he leaned his head on hers. "Ever wish..." but his voice was soft as it was faded without finishing.
"What?" Hilde prompted.
"Nothing," Duo said, nudging her off of him and starting to rise. "It's not important, and I have to run."
"You don't have a class," Hilde said, frowning but getting to her feet as well, and clearing the table off with him.
"No, no class." Duo picked up the remaining stacked trays with the trashed piled on top. "Want to go find out what's up with Heero. He ran off so quickly."
"Ah." Hilde nodded, following Duo to the trash disposal. "You know, he's doing a lot of studying for that graduate program-"
"Yeah, the test is next week, I get that, but..." Duo dumped the trays and stood frowning in the general direction of the campus library. "He's usually not so touchy."
"I wouldn't worry about it if I were you." Hilde touched his arm with a grin. "I'm sure you'll be able to distract him from whatever's bothering him this time."
"That's my plan." Duo shared her grin.
Predicable as sunrise, Heero was ensconced at his usual table in front of the Dewey two-thirty to two-sixty non-fiction section. He always said few people read those books, so he was rarely disturbed. Duo watched his friend for a moment; his mouth twitched at the intense concentration Heero maintained.
"Here you are," Duo said by way of greeting, dropping into the chair closest to Heero.
Heero glanced at him with a slow turn of his head. Two-three heartbeats passed before Heero replied, "I told you where I was going. I don't think you're going to win the young sleuth award, Sherlock."
Duo grinned. "Never know. I look damn good in a deerstalker." He received a snort in response, and Heero was already back nose deep into his book. Duo shifted in his seat and looked around quickly, making sure no one was near. "So, uh... everything okay?"
His pen paused over his notebook and Heero gave Duo a raised-brow look. "Yes. Why wouldn't it be?"
"Uh, well, you left kind of abruptly at lunch, and I..." Duo gave a shrug of a shoulder.
The frown that had started, eased away, and Heero gave Duo a slight smile. "I couldn't concentrate fully with everyone talking. I thought it best to study in the library instead."
"Oh." Duo picked up a wadded piece of paper and began to smooth it out. "I thought you might be upset or something." He wasn't looking at Heero, keeping his eyes on his hands, watching his fingers unfold the creases.
"No, not upset," Heero said, keeping his voice soft.
A minute passed, and Duo heard the quiet scratch of pen on paper; Heero was taking notes again. Heero's crumpled page now flat, Duo began to fold it into smaller and smaller squares. When it was roughly the size of an ID card, he shot a glance at Heero and took a breath. "What Trowa said... didn't bother you?" Heero was looking at him with that sort-of frown again. "I mean, was it... true?"
"Was what true?" Heero asked slowly.
Back to concentrating on minimizing the paper again, Duo could feel his ears burn. "Are you happy?"
Duo chuckled silently. "That sounded like a question, not an answer."
"Then you'll have to define what you mean by happy."
"You know." Duo gave up on the puffed square and turned in his seat to face his friend. "Girls, good times, good food... doing stuff you like, being around people you like... stuff like that."
Heero seemed to give his explanation some thought before giving a nod of his head. "By your definition, I am happy."
"But you don't... I mean, Trowa said you didn't date. I've never seen you with a girl."
"I-" Heero stopped speaking, and his attention moved to something over his shoulder. Duo turned to look and spotted another student passing through the area. "I haven't dated," Heero concluded softly.
When Duo faced him again, Heero was still watching over his shoulder. "Haven't found anyone interesting?" he asked quietly, knowing that Heero was particular about people knowing his business. "If that's the case, I can introduce-"
"No!" Heero said sharply. Duo leaned away from him, surprised. "I don't have time to date right now. You know that."
In the flick of his eyes, Duo knew. "The graduate study program," he said in answer, his lips twisting sourly.
"It's important that I study as often as I can. I wouldn't have time to...be in a relationship."
"Yeah, I guess." Duo relaxed the glare he was aiming at the stack of books, and notepads. He knew from back in high school that this was Heero's thing. "Are you going to be studying tonight?"
"Probably." Heero cocked his head slightly. "Unless that's your way of inviting yourself over."
Grinning in answer, Duo stood up and braced a hand on the table before leaning in close. "I'll be there at about seven. Quatre and Trowa might show, but they're doing some music thing, so it's not a definite."
"Should I make dinner then?"
Duo straightened. "You don't have to. I'll pick something up."
"Alright," Heero agreed. "Just, please, no Taco Bell or ramen."
"You got it, buddy." Duo smiled and gave his shoulder a light punch. "See you at seven."
He was walking away, and didn't see Heero reach out and pick up the small square of paper. He didn't see the square being tucked into Heero's pocket, even as Heero continued to watch him walk away, leaving the Religion and Theology section.
In a slow release of air, Duo let his head fall back on the futon he sat against. The ceiling above seemed too far away and he had to close his eyes. He was having trouble feeling his lips, and his clothes felt strange against his skin. His cheeks had to be flushed, he knew, and by the tingling along his arms to his fingers, across his forehead, and down his nose, he'd had more than enough to drink. Not quite drunk, but just on the cusp of too much. Any more and he'd be waking with a hangover, cursing this night.
A toilet flushed, and Duo rolled his head to watch as a minute later, the door across the room opened and Heero walked out. He grinned for him, and then frowned, letting his eyes cross to peer at his own face.
"Muh 'eps er guon," he mumbled, still trying to see them with his own eyes.
Heero was frowning as he sat next to Duo. "Stop that," he commanded. "You'll make yourself sick."
"M'K." Duo smiled affably. He let his head lay on Heero's futon, his face inches from Heero's shoulder. He was warm, content, and ...thirsty. "Gim'me another?" The urge to move was non-existent, and Heero was closer anyway.
"I think you've had enough," Heero answered with a short grin. "You would regret it in the morning."
"Yeah, but it feels good now." His hand rose, and he poked at his cheeks with a finger, pushed at his lips. "Numb," he muttered.
"Numb feels good?" Heero's question was filled with amusement.
Duo let his hand fall back to the floor with a nod in answer. "Yeah, don't hav'ta worry 'bout anything then."
"Worry-" Heero started and stopped, his brow clearing. "Oh, Cheryl."
"Uh huh," Duo agreed, closing his eyes again. "Girls suck." His eyes flew open and he rushed to clarify, "I don't mean that way." Then he grinned. "Yeah, well, some do that way, but none do-did with me." He sighed and closed his eyes once more, missing the soft smile Heero was giving him.
"What? You've never kissed a girl?" Heero sounded amused. Again.
"Nah." Duo was shaking his head. "Kissed, and stuff. Petted some, but..." He cracked an eye open to stare at Heero. "Uh, haven't, you know."
"Okay." Heero nodded, understanding. "You're a virgin."
Duo couldn't help the blush. "And you're mister playboy?" He managed to glare at his friend.
"Not at all." Heero's tone was mildly reproving. "I've never dated, remember?"
"Never?" Now both his eyes were opened, curious for Heero's response. At the man's nod, Duo whistled softly. "You ever kiss anyone?"
Heero's look softened, and he was wearing a tiny smile as he answered. "Once."
"Once?" Heero nodded again. "Wow, man. Never kissed anyone else?"
"No." Heero's reply was quiet. "I never felt like kissing anyone else."
Duo's eyes closed, but he had another question. "Why?"
"Why have you never had sex with any of the girls you've dated?" Heero countered.
"Yeah, well," Duo stammered. "Never seemed right, you know? Should be about more than sex."
Heero grunted, and quiet seconds passed. "Maybe those girls only 'suck' because they're the wrong ones for you to be seeing?" Heero asked softly.
"Not you too," Duo groaned, not bothering to open his eyes. "Get enough of that from the others."
"They could be right, you know-"
"Yeah, yeah...and the cafeteria will serve Porterhouse tomorrow." Duo shifted, putting a little distance between them.
"A Porterhouse is still just a slab of beef if what you really want is a slice of pepperoni pizza."
Duo opened an eye to peer at his friend, not missing the smirking smile he was giving. "You can be seriously weird sometimes, Heero."
"And dating the wrong person just because she has perky breasts and smells nice isn't weird?" Heero was giving Duo his patented raised brow look.
His eyes blinked open and he had to sit up to stare at Heero. "I can't believe you just said 'perky breasts'." And cracked up laughing when Heero blushed. He quieted, watching his friend avoid looking at him for the moment. A sudden shiver ran through him, and he yawned. Heero was staring at him now. "Getting sleepy," Duo murmured, letting the laissez-faire take over.
Nodding his chin to the futon, Heero told him, "Lay up there for awhile."
Duo nodded, and slid upward to lie on his back across Heero's bed. His eyes closed and his breathing slowed. It was in this sightless fog that Heero quietly announced his intentions of cleaning up their mess. Duo grunted agreeably, listening to Heero move about through his blind filter. Heero's place was relaxing, comfortable. Like always. He could feel the smile, but the lack of energy kept him flat.
"You let me stay over?" he mumbled, throwing an arm over his eyes. "Friends don't let friends walk home cross campus drunk, right?"
"Right," Heero answered somewhere above and in front of him. "I'll turn down the lights for you," Heero was saying. His voice was still sounding amused, but Duo didn't care. He'd worry about that later. Duo heard him moving about, heard the snap of the bedside lamp, followed shortly by the click of the overhead light. The dim lighting was instantly better.
"You're a good friend, buddy. Always taking care of me," Duo rambled. "Letting me stay over, sleep in your bed..."
"Wouldn't be the first time we've shared a bed."
Duo grunted, and a flood of memories invaded his thoughts in a handful of seconds. From kindergarten they'd been friends. Back then, weekend stay-overs were frequent. At least until he discovered girls, and how much time and energy and money it took to make them happy. Not like Heero. Heero was content with him just being there. Didn't take talking, or 'going out', or pretty wrapped packages to make him happy. Heero was a good guy. The best. If Heero were a girl-
"...too bad you're not," Duo muttered, his smile growing. "Perfect, then. Wouldn't hafta date again."
"A girl." His tongue was thick in his mouth, and his lips barely moved. But he heard Heero's snort.
"I'm perfect but for the fact I'm a man?" Heero was sounding oddly amused, strange.
"Yeah," Duo sighed, scooting closer when he felt Heero resuming his seat on the floor. His foot tapped against Heero's side. "You take care of me-remember when I was sick? You brought me soup and made me drink juice."
"You would have starved otherwise," Heero grumbled. "Besides, you were here when I had my wisdom teeth pulled."
Duo hummed softly, remembering. "You're happy just watching TV, and don't care if I forget your birthday," he told Heero.
"But I'm a man?"
"Uh-hmmm," Duo agreed, his smile slowly fading.
"You don't think a man could turn you on? Make you happy?" Heero was asking, that strange tone back in his voice. He was shifting about, and Duo felt Heero's hand on his leg.
"Nope. Man can't," he agreed, not wanting to think too much about it.
"So, if a man were to touch you, kiss you, it wouldn't get you excited?" Heero's hand was sliding up the length of his jeans, fingers skimming the inside track of his thighs.
No, Duo mouthed without sound. His heart thumped, feeling those fingers through the thickness of the denim and cotton of his briefs.
"But, if a girl were to kiss you." Heero's voice was a soft whisper, husky velvet as his other hand gently pushed the hem of his shirt upward, exposing his belly. "If she were to kiss you here," warm lips touched his skin, and Duo let his breath go in a rush. "She would turn you on?" Heero's words were hot, moist, fire.
"Ye-ah," Duo whispered back, voice cracking.
"And if she were to do this." Heero's hands were on his fly, unbuttoning, opening, exposing. "You would get hard at her touch, at the promise of what she could do?" His hands didn't stop as he was speaking, running down Duo's thighs and back to his groin. Heero's fingers burned a path through his briefs, and Heero's thumbs set flame to his cock.
"Oooh," Duo moaned, giving a short thrust of his hips. Heero's hands felt so good. He licked at his lips, wishing for more moisture there. "I wo-would," he stammered out.
"And you would enjoy it if she were to... lick you?" Even as he whispered the words, Heero pulled his briefs down, and his tongue lapped at Duo's erection.
Gasping, Duo lost any reply he would have made; Heero's mouth descended over his cock and all thought fled. Minutes passed, his hands found their way into Heero's hair, and the only sounds were the moans, the half grunts forced from his throat, and the rare liquid slurp when Heero proved how far he could swallow a man-sized cock. And Duo lost the fight to control his body, allowing his hips to thrust at will. He was fucking Heero's mouth.
It was quick, and it was hot, and it was over far too fast. Duo fisted Heero's hair, holding him still, and gasping out, he arched his back as he came. Collapsing back onto the bed, his hands relaxed their grip and moved instead to stroke the head that brought him such pleasure.
"Oh fuck!" he exclaimed softly, fighting to catch his breath. Distantly, he felt Heero's hands again, felt his briefs being pulled back into place, his jeans re-buttoned.
"A girl could do that, but a man couldn't?" Heero asked softly.
Duo struggled for a moment to rise and lean back on his elbows. Heero was still kneeling between his legs, his hands resting lightly on both of Duo's thighs, and his look... Duo's breath caught at that look. He licked his lips again, and swallowed hard. But he nodded anyway.
"Duo, a man just did," Heero told him reasonably.
"A-a..." Duo stammered, and in a rush, the past few minutes swept through his clouded thoughts. His eyes widened and he was on his feet, backing away from Heero still on the floor. "I-I- What..." A hand jerked through his bangs. "How... when... You're gay?" He finally forced out in a choked voice.
Heero paled and sat back on his heels. "I don't know." His answer was subdued.
"What do you mean "you don't know"?" Duo was shouting now. "You just had my dick in your mouth, and you don't know?" This was insane! This was a nightmare.
Giving a slight shrug, Heero answered in that same subdued voice. "Then, I guess I am."
"God, Heero! Doesn't that creep you out?"
"No," he answered honestly. "Does my being gay creep you out?"
"Yes!" Duo shouted again. Then he shook his head. "No... I-I don't know." He turned away, unable to look at his friend who was still kneeling there, with the scent of himself still in the air.
"Duo," Heero began, and Duo could hear him standing.
"I've got to go," he cried out, and nearly ran to the door, opening it and shoving his feet into his shoes in passing.
"Duo!" Heero called out, a hint of desperation in his tone.
"I'll... I'll call you later," Duo said, hand on the door, and without looking back, he fled.
Mindless at first, Duo ran, only slowing when clarity began to return, showing him he was a mile opposite of where he wanted to be. He'd have to backtrack and hope that Heero hadn't followed him to talk. Thinking about... about what had happened was the last thing he wanted to do, let alone talk about it.
Heero was gay.
Stopping abruptly, his hands closed into fists and his body vibrated with suppressed emotion. Heero was gay and did that with him. He barked out a rough growl, startling a couple out from under a tree in shadowed seclusion. Throwing a glare in their direction, Duo stalked away, his anger crumbling with each step.
Heero, was gay.
His feet slowed once again. Standing in the middle of the sidewalk, he stared at the concrete, words circled, pounding in his head. Feeling the prickling sting in his eyes, Duo blinked rapidly. He refused to cry. Sissies cried. Gay men cried. Jaw tightened in cramping force, Duo started walking again, slowly, staggeringly.
Heero was, gay. He had had a sexual encounter with Heero. Heero was his best friend. His oldest friend. And he was, gay.
The urge to crack his head open against the nearest brick wall was overwhelming.
He was back on campus now, crossing through the short stretch of 'park'. Off to the left, the admin buildings were clustered, windows dark and doors locked waiting for Monday and the start of another chaos-driven week. Academic buildings circled and lined that side of the park. To his right, the gymnasium and beside it, the athletic building. The student athletic center was still open and Duo paused, weighing the benefits of a through, mind-numbing workout against just going the hell to bed and forgetting the whole thing happened. He continued his walk forward toward the dormitories and 'home'.
There had been a time between frosh and sophomore years that he and Heero had talked about sharing a place. But Duo backed out; funds were too uncertain, the cost of the dorm room came with his scholarship. He wasn't about let his friend carry him, even if Heero's trust could cover the rent a hundred times over, and never make a dent. There were times when Duo hated his tiny room up on the fourth floor; this wasn't one of them.
It was while he was crossing the footbridge over the creek that he heard his name called. Recognizing that the voice did not belong to Heero, Duo stifled the instinct to run. He waited at one end of the bridge for the figures to reach him. Logically, he knew it had been Trowa and Quatre to call out to him; the relief on confirmation surprised - and confused - him.
Heero was gay. But... Heero was still his friend. Right?
"I thought we were meeting you at Heero's?" Quatre asked as they neared.
He rocked on his heels, and glanced back the way he'd come. "Yeah, uh... I left."
"We can see that," Trowa interjected quietly. He was frowning slightly, his head tilted to the side. "Everything all right?"
Duo nodded and shot a glance in Trowa's direction. Trowa's stare deepened and his arms folded over his chest.
"Are you sure you're okay?" Quatre asked softly, his brow puckering.
"Yeah...no," he gave in softly. "I'm not okay."
In a swift movement, Quatre was at his side, arm around his waist. "What is it? What's happened?" Duo was shaking, and couldn't stop. Quatre's arms came about him and held him tight, and he was murmuring comforting words.
"Heero," Duo whispered, remaining stiff in Quatre's arms. In his peripheral, he saw Trowa jerk and take a step.
"Heero's hurt?" Quatre demanded, pulling back to peer into Duo's face. Trowa was half-way cross the bridge before Duo could force out the words stuck in his throat.
Quatre's "oh" sounded small and deflated, and Trowa began drifting back their way.
Pulling himself free, Duo shook off Quatre's arms and wrapped his own across his belly. "Yeah, oh. I-I had no idea. Never even crossed my mind."
"This bothers you," Trowa stated, leaning a hip against the bridge handrail.
"Yes!" Duo's eyes flashed. Immediately, his anger cooled, and he dropped his gaze shaking his head. "No. Fuck... I don't know." He pressed his lips together and fought the urge to say more.
"You..." Quatre started, "You've never had a problem with Trowa and I, or Mitch and Steve."
"But it's Heero!" Duo barked, "And he-" His lips clamped shut again and he turned away.
"What'd he do?" Quatre asked softly, his touch on Duo's arm barely there.
"We'd been drinking," Duo offered an excuse, heat climbing in his cheeks. "Talking shit-" He flicked a look back at Trowa, seeing the taller man nod. "The usual." His voice thickened and he stopped talking, clearing his throat with a harsh cough.
"What'd he do?" Quatre repeated.
"I don't want to talk about it," Duo declared. "Let's just say that Heero made it clear he has no trouble living the lifestyle and leave it at that."
"And you do have trouble with that?" Trowa asked softly, taking a step closer. Without looking in his direction, Duo nodded two sharp shakes. "Did Heero say anything to you about it? About... you?"
Duo turned confused eyes his way. "About me? No, just some bullshit about not dating the right girl, and how he's a man..." His expression became troubled.
"He did tell you how he feels?" Trowa persisted.
"Trowa," Quatre rebuked. "That is not for us to tell."
Interest perked, Duo looked past Quatre to ask, "How Heero feels?"
"You are so dense," Trowa chided. "He's been in love-"
"-with you since the sixth grade."
Duo sat suddenly, falling where he stood on his butt. "What?"
Quatre glared at his boyfriend, sighed, and sat down beside Duo. "He doesn't know for certain, Duo. But to all of us, it's obvious how much Heero cares about you. And when Hilde told us about how the both of you grew up together, we all agreed-"
"Wait," Duo held up a hand. "You all talk about us? Heero and me?"
Even in the dim light, Duo could see Quatre's cheeks burn red. "Not maliciously," he rushed to reassure. "Just as friends concerned for other friends-trying to see if there was anything we could do to help-"
"Meddle in your lives-" Trowa contributed.
"-make things better." Quatre tossed another glare over his shoulder. "Why don't you be useful and go to see if Heero is all right?"
Hearing Trowa's mission acceptance, Duo felt a short stab of guilt. Heero must be feeling-but, he was the one who started this mess. But. Not really. He was the one who told Heero he was perfect. He was the one who didn't say 'stop'.
"Oh God," Duo croaked, burying his face in his hands. He had a virgin's remorse. But, it was more than that. "I just left him, Quat. God, I'm such a bastard."
"It's going to be okay, Duo," Quatre soothed, his palm rubbing circles over Duo's back. "Regardless of what happened, Heero is first and foremost your friend. Your best friend, and no matter what, he will continue to be so."
A tumble of years reversed, and Duo could almost hear Heero declare his undying friendship. Could almost hear his heartfelt vow in return. Involuntarily, his lips twitched up in a short smile at the memory. "I hope so, Quat. I hope so."
Duo's weekend passed in a fog; he'd never spent more time sequestered in his room. He passed the hours with an opened text in front of him, whole pages read without understanding a word. But midterms were approaching, and he used this as an excuse for whenever anyone dropped by. Despite his distraction, he managed to finish one term paper, and had made advanced headway on another. It wouldn't wind up being the last minute rush these papers usually were.
Monday, Duo went only to his classes and avoided the cafeteria altogether. He spent the evening in the athletic center, working his body into an exhausted sweat. Tuesday nearly followed suit, but with Quatre's insistence, Duo join them for dinner. Despite his apprehension, Heero was not around and he felt the lack of Heero's quiet presence keenly.
For an hour he managed to listen to his friends talk around him, trying to include him in their conversations. Questions were sidestepped or ignored outright, though none were too intrusive. Both Quatre and Hilde let him know without being asked, without being obvious, how Heero was doing, what he was doing. Two words answered most questions on his mind: Graduate program. Others would take more time and one particular person to answer.
Heero's test was on a Thursday. Duo could hold out for another couple of days, give Heero the time he needed to study, to concentrate on this one thing. He didn't need Duo mucking in his life again.
Lunchtime on Wednesday found Duo slinking along the edges of the cafeteria walls, eyes peeled for a certain blue-eyed man. Their usual table in the back corner held one occupant, and she seemed too engrossed in the book in front of her to notice his approach. By the scattering of napkins, crumbs, and a double handful of wadded paper left behind, Duo knew the others had been and gone already.
"Hey," he said quietly, taking a seat next to Hilde.
The girl's head jerked up, her expression going from alarm to excitement in less than a heartbeat. "Hay yourself, jackass," she told him smiling.
"Yeah, that'd be me," Duo agreed, peeling up the top slice of bread to his sandwich. "That's supposed to be ham." He pointed at the whitish lump. "That look like ham to you?"
She made a point to look. "Looks like colored lard laced with string," she answered with a smirk.
"Now who's the jackass?" Duo scowled at his plate. It was the tail end of the lunch cycle, and there hadn't been much left to choose from. He picked up one half and took a tentative bite.
"Have you talked to Heero yet?" Hilde asked, closing her book and setting it aside.
Glaring at her over his sandwich, he chewed cautiously and swallowed. "No, and I'm not going to." He drank from his soda glass and added, "not until Friday, after the test."
"Oh," Hilde said, and sat watching him chew through another bite. "I think you should go see him today, before the test."
At least she waited until he'd swallowed that bite. "Why?" Another bite and half the sandwich was gone.
Hilde looked away from him and twisted a short lock of hair around a finger. Duo was reminded of a time when she wore her hair long; curling strands around a finger had been a habit then, too.
"He misses you."
Duo grunted around his sandwich and swallowed the lump nearly whole. A quick wash of soda forced it down. "He tell you that?" he demanded.
"No." Hilde drew out the word. "Not exactly. But when I saw him earlier, he spent half the time looking around for you, and the other half acting like his best friend had died." Duo grunted again, and pushed what was left of his sandwich away, hunger long gone. "Did you?"
"What?" Duo asked, raising an eyebrow. "Die?" Hilde grinned and Duo had no qualms punching her in the arm. "Do I look like a cadaver to you?"
"Well, you sort of smell like one." He mocked another punch and she laughed, jerking away. "Seriously though, I think it would help his mental state if you showed him you don't hate him or anything."
"Yeah, I'll take that under advisement." Duo drank down the last of his soda and set the glass down on the table before turning his head slowly to give her a look. "What do you know about what happened?"
"Huh?" she asked in wide-eyed cluelessness.
"Give. What do you know, and how'd you find out?"
She gave him a searching look, her own expression softening. "I really don't know specifics." She let him know, keeping her voice low. "But it wouldn't take an Einstein to figure out something happened between you and boy wonder. You've become the invisible man and Heero's Droopy Dog."
Duo said nothing, only adding the empty cup to his tray and sweeping the few crumbs on the table surface to the floor.
"Now you give. What's going on, Duo? Seeing the two of you like this is seriously knocking my world off-kilter."
He shrugged and continued looking at the tabletop. "If I told you Heero... Heero had feelings for me, would it surprise you?"
"No, you two have been friends for a long time."
"More than friends," Duo stressed. He could feel the heat climb up and out from the collar of his shirt. He was going to be beet red in less than a minute.
"No," Hilde repeated, her hand covered his on the table. "Did he say something to you then?"
"No," Duo croaked out, and cleared his throat. "Stuff happened, okay, and I just didn't handle it well."
"Duo," she whispered softly, leaning into him and giving his cheek a quiet kiss. "How do you feel?"
"Confused." He leaned into her, accepting the comfort she was offering.
"And about Heero?"
"Confused?" he said with a short laugh. "I... I just don't know, Hil. I mean. God. He's my friend - always. But... I don't know how else to feel."
"Then maybe you should wait until Friday to talk to him."
He nodded, having had this conversation with himself already. "If you see him before then, tell him... tell him we're still friends, okay?"
"Yeah, I can do that for you." She gave his hand a squeeze and nudged him upward. "I've got a test in fifteen minutes," she said by way of explanation. He nodded and rose with her, helping her clear the table and carry the trash to the bin.
"Duo," Hilde said quietly, pulling him aside. "I'd like you to do something for me between now and Friday, okay?"
"What?" He asked guardedly.
"I want you to remember back when you and I first got together. When we used to date." Now it was her turn to avoid looking at him. "Remember what we used to talk about, what we did." Her eyes cut over in his direction and away. "And remember where Heero fit in all that. How he fits into your life now."
"Okay," Duo said slowly. "I can do that." She glanced at her watch, and he asked quickly. "Why?"
Hilde gave him a wry grin. "Because I didn't give up on you to have you fuck it all up, jackass."
"What?" But she was hurrying away, and Duo stood just outside the cafeteria doors watching yet another 'ex' walk away from him.
Fridays were Duo's 'light' days, having only two classes. On the much anticipated day, one of his two was cancelled. If this had been a week before, Duo would have found Heero and hung out with him. Even if the man had done nothing but study for the past six months, he was still the one whose company Duo preferred over any other.
But this wasn't the week before, and Duo found himself at the athletic center for the fourth time in five days. He'd done what Hilde had asked; had done little else. After a frustrating hour of recalling every word and situation he could gleam from his memories, he was still no closer to knowing what Hilde wanted him to understand.
In the end, Duo wound up in his dorm room, showered, dressed, and sitting on the edge of his bed, counting down the minutes until he was sure Heero would be home from dinner, finished with studying for the night, ready for the beginning of his weekend. Though, on a normal day, Heero's weekends usually began with Duo dropping by to watch a movie, have dinner with him, or drink into embarrassing situations.
At a quarter after seven, Duo deemed it close enough and headed out for Heero's. He was half-way there when he nearly turned around. It'd been a week with nothing from Heero. His mind didn't put the brakes on thoughts of Heero never wanting to see or hear from him again. As confused as he'd been, as he still was, that response was the one he dreaded most.
Logically, he knew Heero had been studying nearly non-stop for this test. And, based on what Hilde had alluded to, Heero was as lost as he was. Clearing the air could only make things better between them, right? Put them back on the road to being best friends again? He hoped to God it would.
And he was there, standing outside the door to Heero's studio. Rubbing his palms on his jean-covered thighs, Duo took several steadying breaths. Hands dry, heart rate still not calm, but it was time and Duo forced his hand upward into a fist and knocked.
Particles of time dragged by for an eternity. Seconds became hours, and not even two dozen had passed before Heero was there, opening the door. The neutral expression on Heero's face died, and Duo could feel his own face mirroring Heero's surprised look. Time did the eternity thing again, stopping only when Heero began breathing again.
"Come in," he said, stepping back and letting Duo pass in front of him.
Duo entered, his eyes going immediately to the futon before shifting away. "I hope I'm not interrupting anything..." he started, and his sweep of the room brought him back to the occasional table in front of the futon. The table he'd sat at so many times in the past, playing games, eating meals, doing homework. The table held a couple of wine glasses, still containing wine, and a bottle half full. His glance turned back to Heero and he took in the dress shirt, the one Heero liked to wear 'out'. Though it looked rather odd accompanied by the pair of gym shorts Heero wore.
"No, you're not interrupting anything," Heero was saying, door closed and Heero now stationed in front of it with his hands cupping either elbow. "How have you been?"
Duo wanted to cuss - damn stilted conversations. It was like they were strangers, or bare acquaintances meeting for the first time after years apart. "Good," he replied. "And you? I see you lived through the test." He gave Heero a smile that refused to hold for long.
But Heero smiled in return. "Yes, I survived. And I just heard-"
"I think it's come out enough so it won' stain," a voice interrupted, coming from the now open bathroom door.
He had a moment to take in the flush on Heero's cheeks before seeing the man to the voice emerge. His mouth dropped; he felt it, and could do nothing to stop its descent. If Duo were so inclined and were asked to choose attributes of a model male, this man would be the epitome: long - long blond hair, gym sculpted abs, chiseled pectorals, and a handsome face with a killer smile. And in his shirtless state, there were no doubts about many of those attributes.
"Oh, company?" The man came to a halt and looked between Heero and Duo, his shirt in his hands, an obvious wet circle waist-high.
"Zechs, this is Duo," Heero introduced him, his tone carrying a curious edge to it. "Duo, this is Zechs, otherwise known as Millardo Peacecraft. He's a-"
"Friend," Zechs supplied, suddenly at Heero's side, his arm circling Heero's shoulders. "A good friend." The man's mouth was smiling, but Duo saw little geniality in the man's eyes.
His own eyes narrowed, zeroing in on the arm slung casually about Heero's shoulders. "Funny how he's never mentioned you before," Duo said, and nearly bit his tongue to keep anything more from escaping.
"Duo, he's-" Heero started, shrugging off the arm and taking a step forward.
"So very pleased to meet you," the man interrupted again. "And while Heero has neglected to tell you about me." He shot a rebuking glance at Heero before smiling back at Duo, "he has had no qualms about not talking about you."
Replaying the man's sentence again, Duo couldn't find fault in it. He frowned and stuck a hand in his pocket, glancing back at Heero. But Heero was looking at Zechs 'also known as Milliardo' and in that speeding particle of time, he knew now, without a doubt what Hilde had meant, why Trowa called him dense. And he couldn't be in the same room as the two of them.
"Ah...guess this is a bad time and all," he started saying, inching for the door. "I'll just go now and leave you two alone-" his voice caught, and as Heero was turning to him, he was at the door, opening it and ready to run.
"Duo!" Heero cried, behind him in a flash. Heero's hand slammed against the door, keeping it from opening any wider. "Don't go." Startled at the pain in his tone, Duo looked at him. "Please, don't leave."
Another fraction of a moment and Duo knew he wouldn't leave, couldn't leave. His mouth worked silently and Heero's moved into a smile. Tender and hopeful, and his. With a sigh, Duo released his hold on the door and let Heero close it again.
"Heero?" A woman's voice this time.
In near unison, they turned from the intimate tableau they'd struck. The woman was standing in the kitchen doorway, Heero's dress pants dangling from her hand. The invisible wire was cut and Duo began to smile. He nudged Heero with his shoulder and nodded his head in the woman's direction.
"I thought you said I wasn't interrupting anything." He put a mock harshness in his tone.
"But you were-"
"And yet you're here with a half naked man and a beautiful woman with your pants in her hands."
The trepidation in Heero's expression bled away. His lips quirked up in a grin and he gave Duo a snort. "If you're so worried about it, you could lose a piece of clothing or two yourself."
"Don't mind if I do," Duo took the invitation and turned his back to the room.
"Hey now," the woman squawked out. "I enjoy the male form, but-"
"I think this might be our cue to leave," Duo heard Zechs murmur behind him.
His shoes removed, he managed to give Heero a mirrored, eyebrow-arched look before the laughter began. In a moment, Heero's hand was in his and he was pulling his friend into an embrace. "Missed you," he whispered behind Heero's ear. Heero's hold tightened before he released him.
"Duo," Heero said, pulling him forward while continuing to hold onto him. "I'd like to introduce you to Professor Lucrezia Noin, head of the graduate study I've been working toward."
"Professor," Duo greeted solemnly, shaking the hand she held out for him. "It's good to meet you."
"And you must be the Duo I've heard so much about," she said, smiling. "I feel I know you already, so please, call me Lu."
"Know me...?" Duo gave Heero another raised brow look and was faintly amused to see his friend's cheeks flushing. Turning back to the professor, he kept his tone questioning, "I'm assuming that you're here because of the graduate program, then?"
"Oh most assuredly." She was smiling, looking between the two of them.
"Professor Noin and her husband." Heero indicated the blond model of a man now fully dressed, "asked me out to dinner to celebrate."
"You were accepted?" Duo's eyes lit up, and his hands were on Heero's shoulders, clutching at him.
"Yes-" Heero barely began before Duo was pulling him into another embrace.
"Unofficially," Lu was saying with a laugh. "It will be formally announced on Monday."
"But you made it!" Duo hugged his friend again. "That's great man!"
A quiet throat clearing broke them apart; the professor and her husband were standing together, wearing twin smiles of amusement. With a small squeeze of his hand in apology, Duo moved away, giving Heero room.
"I was able to remove the stain," Lu said, holding out Heero's pants to him. "A good dry cleaner can remove any residue and block them back into shape."
"Thank you," Heero said politely, taking his slacks. "And thank you both for dinner, and letting me know the outcome early."
"It's been a pleasure working with you," Zechs said with a smile. "I am hoping tonight will be the first of many." His gaze took in Duo. "Your friend is more than welcome to join us at any time, of course."
"Thank you," Heero said again. "But if you ever put your arm around me again, I will break it." Duo stared in shock, and Lu choked back a startled laugh. But Zechs bellowed in laughter, a sound so completely in contrast to his aristocratic air that Duo couldn't help joining him.
"Then I shall endeavor to foster my company on your handsome companion," Zechs stated, recovering from his merriment.
"You so much as look in his direction and I will break both your arms," Heero growled.
"I believe I'll have to keep you at home," the professor mused, laughter tinting her tone. "Chained to the bed."
"Now, cheri?" Zechs inquired.
So it was with an amused air that the two departed, and Duo found himself still smiling after the door had been shut behind them.
"She seems nice," he ventured, wandering over to pick up the bottle of wine. "Good choice in booze."
Heero snorted. "She is nice." He took the bottle from Duo's hand and picked up the glasses with his other. "Zechs managed to spill his glass on the both of us," Heero explained, heading off to the kitchen. "Which is why you saw him like he was, and why I'm in this."
"It's oddly appealing," Duo said, trailing behind Heero. "Kind of a classy rebel look." Heero stopped rinsing glasses long enough to roll his eyes at Duo. "And that is such a sexy look for you."
A flick of his fingers and water splattered across Duo's tee-shirt. "And that is a good look on you," Heero said with a smirk.
"Watch it college boy," Duo warned, brushing droplets from his shirt. "Revenge can happen when you least expect it."
"Warning me has me expecting it, therefore negating your threat," Heero reasoned, shutting off the water and drying his hands.
In the sudden silence, the little room grew even smaller. Duo's grin started to fade and his palms began to sweat. There was nothing and no one to distract either of them from the other.
"Would you like a soda?" Heero offered. "I have beer left from last week, but," he shrugged and gave Duo a half grin, "I'd rather neither of us drink for this."
"No, soda's fine," Duo rushed to answer. "I'm swearing off beer for life." At Heero's look, he amended, "for the time being, anyway."
Two cans of cola and a sweeping invitation to take any seat in the studio, Heero lead the way back into the main room. Duo settled on the futon, his back propped against the wall and his legs drawn up and crossed. Heero waited until Duo opened his can before making the head of the futon his seat, his pose mimicking Duo's.
"I'm sorry," Heero said quietly, his gaze steady.
Duo swallowed a mouthful of soda and dropped his own gaze to his lap. "You have nothing to be sorry for, Heero," he contradicted in an equally quiet voice. "It was my fault-drank too much, talked too much." His eyes flicked upward and back down, "pushed too much."
"I knew-know you aren't gay, aren't into men," Heero protested. "I shouldn't have." His hand tightened on his can and he forced himself to relax it. "I went too far and won't do it again."
Another quick glance upward and back and Duo shifted, straightened his legs out. Time lengthened and the minute extended to five. Duo set his soda aside and leaned his head back against the wall. He stared at the ceiling as the seconds ticked by. When he started to speak, his voice squeaked and he gave a nervous grin.
"You remember Heero, when we were about five, or maybe six, and I used to stay over at your house?" Heero answered his non-question with a slow nod. "We used to pretend the living room floor was hot molten lava, and the couch and chair were 'safe' zones." He smiled softly and Heero voiced a soft affirmative. "We'd huddle in that chair under the blanket from your bed and tell stories all night."
"I remember," Heero's voice was a whisper of wind between them.
"It was my safe place there, with you." Duo lifted his head and looked at Heero, his eyes clear and his voice firm. "You always have been."
Heero frowned questioningly, his head giving a slight shake.
Duo was smiling softly now, his path laid out in front of him. "Hilde reminded me that I've always had a problem dating others. But it was only a few hours ago that I realized it was because none of them were you."
"Duo?" Heero questioned. "I... I'm not sure I understand. What are you telling me?"
"And Trowa calls me dense." But Duo's smile widened and he began to crawl in Heero's direction. "I don't know if I'm 'gay' or not," he was saying, "but, I know that there's only room for one person where it matters, and I'm afraid you're it, buddy." Sitting on his knees at Heero's side, Duo tugged the soda can from Heero's hand and leaned over to set it on the floor.
"You... love me," Heero verified, wonder beginning to lighten his expression.
Duo offered a half grin and a shrug.
Heero's eyes darkened briefly. "And you want to...to have sex with me?"
Only then did Duo drop his gaze. A heartbeat passed and Duo raised his head. "I know that I get turned on by you, a man and not some girl. I know that I want more of what you started last week." He shrugged unconcerned. "I guess we'll figure out the technical aspects of it together."
"Or you can ask Quatre," Heero said with a smirk.
"Not on your life," Duo vowed. "Can you imagine what he would come up with for visual aides?"
"Personal home videos?" Heero quipped, and smiled when Duo laughed.
"Or better yet, a live demonstration!" Heero snorted, casting the visual away with a shake of his head. The companionable amusement lingered and Duo moved again only to settle with his back to the wall next to Heero. Once he was close, Duo found himself staring at Heero, unable to look away.
"What?" Heero whispered softly.
"Who was it that you kissed?" He asked, almost sure he knew the answer.
"You," Heero's response came immediately. "Third grade, Miss Teirney's class. Bobby Ackerman dared you to kiss me and you did."
Duo's brow puckered slightly. "You've had a crush on me since third grade?" Heero nodded slowly. "You know, that's kind of sad, Heero."
It was Heero's turn to shrug. "It just means you have a lot of catching up to do."
"Oh?" Duo grinned and leaned closer. "I plan to do a lot of catching up." His words ended as his mouth met Heero's. A dozen years after their first, and only, Duo kissed Heero for the second time.
"I think I'm going to like this plan," Heero murmured against Duo's lips.
This time, Heero initiated the kiss. Time moved into a non-existent plane where couches and blanket forts saved little boys from living room lava and kisses between best buddies didn't count except when it did and friends became lovers in that instant of comprehension.
As an after note: A couple of years ago, a young lady [ jade_sage ] gave me a song and mentioned it would make a most excellent story involving Heero and Duo (of course). That song, Of Montreal's 'Tim, I wish you were born a girl'. I attempted to stay true to the song and it was close enough for my daughter to recognize where parts of the inspiration came from.