It'd snuck up and hit me between the eyes one of those warm summer mornings. I'd been sitting at my place at the breakfast table, reading the entertainment section, looking for topics to discuss that day over the air. Heero had his part of the paper folded neatly and propped against the coffee carafe while he ate.
Coffee cup to my mouth, I experienced a small flash of insight. Stunned, I lowered the paper, gaped at Heero and demanded, "When did this happen?"
He looked up from spreading jam on his toast. "What?"
I hadn't been sure exactly how to explain what I'd been feeling at that moment. I could only wave my mug around vaguely. "This … this routine." At Heero's blank look, I added in frustration, "You know, breakfast? You fixing our eggs and toast? You having tea, me having coffee every morning?"
Heero leaned forward over the table, peering at me in puzzlement. "You don't want eggs and coffee?"
My coffee splashed over the side as I tried to explain, "No, it's not that." He handed me extra napkins, and watched as I struggled to find the words. All I could manage was a simple, "When did we have this routine?"
Visibly relaxing, Heero nodded once. "That's what couples do." He went back to his toast, the matter finished.
It took a moment for the word to sink in, but once it had, I blinked in shock. Heero had actually referred to us as a couple. And in that matter of fact way he has.
In a low voice, I asked hesitantly, "Are we?"
He'd paused, knife held just over the bread. "Are we what?"
I couldn't look at him, but stared intently at the eggs on his plate. "A couple." My voice just above a murmur.
When he sat his knife down, I raised my eyes to his face. "Aren't we?"
Staring hard, serious and quiet, I offered an out. "Friends, a couple of friends."
"Obviously," Heero nodded, picking up his knife again. "Like Catullus and Shonnessy... more than friends."
"More than friends," I repeated softly, watching him spread jam on the other piece of toast. In the past month, Heero has mentioned these two several times. I'd yet to find out just who they were, and why they seemed to be important to him. Other than knowing one was a poet and the other an engineer, and both colonists to L3, I knew next to nothing about them.
Work drove thoughts of the breakfast discussion from my mind, and it wasn't until dinner that I remembered.
Heero prepared his meal to eat by cutting his chicken into equal sized bites, and told me he'd stopped at the home store after work. "I noticed last week some of the shingles had come loose. I think we could fix them this Saturday." He paused, raised his gaze, his eyes asking a question. "If you don't have anything planned."
I shook my head thinking how this night could have been any other night of the week and could have happened last week, last month, even last year.
It'd been these little things interlocking our lives together, falling into a pattern and catching me completely unaware. Our days began with Heero making breakfast while I showered; I'd clean the kitchen while he got ready. We'd leave for work together, taking different routes once at the highway. One or the other would be home, starting dinner or that day's scheduled duty. Another meal, another discussion on the day, the neighbors, improvement projects or weekend plans.
Our free time, usually spent in one another's company, added a variant scheme to the pattern. Though lately I'd been trailing Heero to the attic to read while he puttered, it'd just been another thread among the many. They seemed to fit and weave in such a way, I couldn't be sure where his life differed from mine.
Heading for the computer room, I'd mumbled something about researching a feature story for work. I felt his eyes watching as I entered and closed the door. Not that I didn't want him to know what I hunted for; I didn't know what I'd find or how I'd react when I did find it. After my questions were answered, I'd join him.
A few key words later, and a short list of data made itself available. In no time, I'd skimmed a half dozen sites, most contained information on Catullus. It appeared he'd been a fairly prolific writer and poet, winning several awards during his life. Of Shonnessy, I'd found incomplete references, and very few of the two together. If it'd been this hard, I wondered just where and how Heero'd come by his information.
I clicked on another site, believing I might be wasting my time, and hit pay dirt. A university student's thesis, published on the web, outlined the varying difficulties on each of the colonies as they were being constructed. Within the report, it had been noted Shonnessy lost his life to save his friend, Catullus, and other inhabitants in that section of the colony. He'd been twenty-two. I don't know how long I stared at the screen. Heero's word played on repeat in my head - we would be Catullus and Shonnessy.
Without question, I knew Heero thought me to be the Catullus of the partnership. After all, I wrote and often dabbled in poetry. Of the two of us, he already worked as an engineer at the dam. Heero'd taken the hero's role. My vision faded, greying along the edges thinking of the parallel - not to mention his conviction we were those two.
Suddenly I had to see him, I had to know he was alright. Irrational, I knew, for Heero had to be puttering in the attic, hunched over his workbench in the attempt to put value in junk. I didn't stop even as the chair fell to the floor behind me.
Standing in the doorway, relief washed over me. Heero was where I'd expected him to be, doing what I knew he'd be doing.
He must have felt my presence, or heard some slight noise, for he turned in his seat, one hand still clutching a tool. "Duo," his expression changed from a pleasant welcome to concern in a flash. He stood and took a step. I left the doorway, moving unsteadily toward him. "What's wrong?"
"I don't want us to be them," I knew I'd whispered. The screwdriver hit the floor, and somehow, my face was pressed to his chest. How, why, for whatever reason, I didn't care, for Heero was there, and for the first time in our long friendship, he held me.
Heero pulled back. "Who?" I heard the confusion in his voice.
At the recollection of words read only moments ago, a chill settled and I shivered involuntarily. My expression naked and opened, my hands still on his arms, I replied in a tight voice, "Catullus and Shonnessy."
The unconscious tension eased out of his muscles under my hands, and he smiled sadly. He pulled me close, and I relaxed in his embrace.
"Don't ever do that," my voice muffled against his shirt.
Heero understood without me having to elaborate. "I'll do what I have to... when it's needed."
I shook my head, pushing against him, trying to look at him, make him understand. "No, Heero. Not for me. Never for me," I said harshly.
He held me tighter, and told me softly, "No one is more deserving if needed."
My hands gripped his biceps fiercely. He wasn't releasing me, but I still was able to see his expression. "Damn it! No. You will not give up your life - even for me!"
Fingers were in my hair, pulling me closer, pressing me against him. "Duo," he murmured.
"Just promise me, Heero." Not quite ready to give in, I conceded enough to hug him back.
His sigh blew softly along my neck. "I can't what I don't know."
I knew I wasn't going to win. Instead, I chose to hold him tight and try to steer him away from his conviction. "How about if we're just Heero and Duo? No Byron and Shelley. No Catullus and Shonnessy. Just us."
Through the material covering his back, I felt the chuckle. "We are, Duo."
Somehow, hearing him say so I believed. Our lives were our own. We had an established pattern, a comfortable routine. Understanding this morning's discussion and the subsequent thoughts, I nodded. "We are."